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Stay updated with the latest real estate trends, ideas, and expert advice.

Month: February 2021 (Page 2 of 11)

Real Estate Agent Reviews: Decoding the Good, the Bad, and the ConfusingLori LovelyHomeLight Blog

You’re selling your home. You need a real estate agent. Whom do you choose? Where do you even start looking? In the social media age, a referral from a trusted friend isn’t enough.

Almost everyone checks them. More than half of Americans who read them say they trust online ratings and reviews, with 84% of them trusting those reviews as much as personal recommendations, especially if there are multiple reviews. Choosing an agent with top reviews is reassuring.

A woman reading real estate agent reviews.
Source: (Surface / Unsplash)

Where to find real estate agent reviews

You’ll want to study online real estate agent reviews, but even then, you need to critically assess the value of the review site and evaluate the merits of the reviews. We tracked down the most popular review sites — here’s what you need to know.


Google Business Profile reviews claim the lion’s share of viewers. 88% of consumers consult Google reviews, with 72% of them confirming that positive Google reviews makes them trust a business more. People check Google for reviews more than any other website. About 74% of businesses have at least one Google review, real estate brokerages included. You can scroll through reviews to spot client comments on the brokerage’s real estate agents for intel.

The downside to Google reviews? Google often fails to spot fake reviews and rarely concedes to remove reported fraudulent reviews. Anyone with an active Google account can post a review, leading to potential for misleading data.


HomeLight agent profiles include client reviews and ratings. When you use HomeLight’s Agent Finder, we won’t match you with agents based solely on reviews, though. Our system crunches transaction data to match you with agents with the strongest sales history, based on factors like their average list-to-sale ratio, days on market, and total transaction volume.


Yelp is an established review site for everything, averaging more than 178 million unique visitors each month, second in traffic only to Google. According to an online reviews survey, 45% of consumers check Yelp reviews before patronizing a business. Yelp allows people to customize search terms, so you can find just what you’re looking for. Search for an agent by zip code, neighborhood, or price range. Making the reviews on the site even more valuable, Yelp investigates and removes fraudulent reviews.


More than half (53%) of the 7.6 billion people in the world use social media. That amounts to more than 4 billion users; of those users, almost 55% are on Facebook, the world’s largest social media platform that boasts 2.2 billion active users each month. Because of its high membership, Facebook is now #3 in review popularity, with 49% of U.S. internet users visiting the site to check business reviews. Even Google pulls from Facebook reviews.

97% of real estate agents use Facebook to promote their business, so you’re sure to find real estate agent reviews on their pages. One benefit of Facebook reviews is transparency; everyone can see who posted a review, thus lending more credibility and accountability than websites that allow anonymous reviews. Search for a brokerage or an agent by name.

Angie’s List

Once a subscription-only service, Angie’s List is now free – and that may be part of the problem. Although the site claims to vet reviewers by requiring contact information, using intelligent software, and having moderators read all reviews, some users think the site is slipping.

Consumer Reports questions the fairness of Angie’s List for two reasons: Companies can contact the person who left the review, and the companies who run paid ads have far more reviews.

In 2020, HomeAdvisor’s parent company, IAC/InterActiveCorp, acquired Angie’s List. In HomeAdvisor’s business model, service providers pay the company to connect them with homeowners. It’s too early to know how that may impact reviews on Angie’s List, but for now, you can search a real estate agent’s name or plug in your zip code to find agent reviews.

Better Business Bureau

The old stand-by, the BBB remains a reliable source of information about businesses. Although many people think of them only in terms of filing complaints, the BBB features an accreditation system that vets a company, ensuring they operate ethically and with their customers’ best interests.

The BBB awards a letter grade based on several factors, including the company’s complaint history, how they respond to complaints, the truthfulness of their advertising, and their licensing information. A company can earn a high score despite numerous complaints against it if it addresses them quickly.

Compared to the other review websites on our list, the BBB includes the least real estate agent reviews. However, it’s still worth checking in case your agent’s brokerage is listed.

Real estate agents’ websites

It stands to reason that you’ll probably find only positive reviews on an agent’s professional website. While that doesn’t negate those reviews’ credibility, it also doesn’t give a balanced account. Many agents solicit reviews, but only from happy clients.

Brokerages’ websites

More than 90% of real estate firms have a website, but, like an agent’s website, a brokerage’s site is likely to curate reviews, selecting only those that are five-star. You’ll get a more objective picture from third-party review websites.

Making sense of real estate agent reviews

Reviews influence the decisions of 93% of consumers. “People trust online reviews,” says Brenda Bianchi, a top agent who works with 76% more single-family homes than the average Largo agent. “Even if an agent is recommended by a friend, they’ll rely on reviews. A good review makes [an agent appear] more trustworthy.”

But reading reviews won’t be much help if you don’t know how to crack the code or if you’re not digging deep for details, as Bianchi cautions.

Some advice for deciphering reviews:

  • Read between the lines. A reviewer may claim that an agent is nice, Bianchi says, but you need to know more. “Why is the agent good? Do they negotiate well?”
  • Take the extreme reviews with a grain of salt.  Better yet, throw out the best and the worst reviews and concentrate on the mid-range reviews.
  • Quantity counts — the more reviews, the better. There is power in numbers. The more reviews you read about an agent, the more well-rounded understanding you’ll have about their service. About two-thirds of consumers consider online reviews important in their decision-making process.
  • Recent reviews are more relevant. “Look at the dates,” Bianchi advises. An agent may have improved their skills since a client left a bad review years ago. On the other hand, if an agent has only positive reviews, she would be suspicious. “It looks fake; you’re going to have negative reviews.”
  • Look for skills, not stars. Average star ratings provide a general overview of client satisfaction, but written reviews explain the rating, using examples. Details of an agent’s performance enable the next homeowner to make an educated decision.
  • The devil’s in the details. Look for reviews that weigh pros and cons and include specifics.
  • Look for trends. If several reviews comment on the same thing, it sounds like a legitimate issue. On the flip side, if many reviews highlight a positive quality, the agent is likely consistent in that area.
  • Take notice of the tone. Anger, name-calling, and vulgarity signal a case of sour grapes. Spelling counts, too; it indicates whether or not the reviewer took time to write a thorough, well-thought-out review. How (or if) an agent responds to a negative review can also provide some insight into the agent’s problem-solving skills.
  • Prioritize. Look for reviews that comment on aspects that relate to you.
A street where a real estate agent works.
Source: (Tyler Gooding / Unsplash)

What to look for in a real estate agent review

Don’t get distracted by flowery language. There are certain qualities you should seek in a real estate agent. Here are a few things to look for:


“The biggest complaint [about real estate agents] is lack of communication,” Bianchi says. Communication is vital to the whole process of selling a house, so it’s an important trait. 

Response time

Related to communication, response time might make the difference between scheduling a showing and losing a buyer. A white paper by WAV Group that sampled 384 agents in 11 states indicates that the average response time in 2014 was 917 minutes or 15.29 hours – and 48% of buyer inquiries were never responded to at all! 

Local expertise

Real estate is local. Knowing the local market enables an agent to take advantage of pricing and timing to get the seller the best possible deal. An agent who knows the area like the back of his hand can develop the most effective marketing plan.

Digital marketing skills

Not only is this the digital age, but it’s also a COVID-19 era. Going virtual is becoming second nature. The first step for 43% of home buyers was to look online for available homes for sale.

You want an agent who:

  • Embraces user-friendly apps
  • Runs a popular blog
  • Hosts virtual tours
  • Has a dynamic website
  • Executes eye-catching social media campaigns

Team support

If an agent has a team, find out if you’ll be working directly with the agent or a rotating roster of staff. But don’t shy away from an agent with a team. That extra support helps get your house sold, and, as Bianchi points out, many of the team members may be working behind the scenes on marketing or other tasks.

Are bad reviews ever good?

As Bianchi says, everyone gets bad reviews. If they don’t, it’s a reason for suspicion. A 2017 study revealed that more than 80% of people specifically look for negative reviews and believe that negative reviews prove credibility.

Remember, unhappy clients leave reviews 21% more often than happy clients, so a few negative reviews are to be expected. Don’t worry about a few, but if you see more than a few, it’s cause for concern. 

What’s more indicative than a bad review is how the agent responds to it. A 2018 study shows that 53% of people expect a response to negative reviews within a week, and 45% of them are more likely to do business with a company that responds to negative reviews because it indicates that the business listens to its customers. Furthermore, another study reveals that 33% of Yelp reviewers will improve their review if the business responds within 24 hours.

How an agent responds to negative reviews is critical. Bianchi advises agents to apologize – “even if you’re not wrong.” An agent should address the problem and be cordial. Remember: You can’t please all the people all the time … but you can try, and that’s what counts.

A coffee cup used while reading real estate agent reviews.
Source: (Annie Spratt / Unsplash)

Final advice

Read reviews on multiple platforms to get the best overall picture.

Learn how to spot fake reviews and revenge reviews. Inflammatory language and emotional testimony may indicate a disgruntled client with an ax to grind. Similar wording in reviews on multiple platforms may be a sign of a phony or of a paid review. You can use one of these free apps to identify fake reviews in real-time.

Check out the reviewer: Is she or he affiliated with the brokerage or related to the agent? Objectivity is paramount.

After completing your due diligence in deciphering the online reviews, remember to interview your final candidates to ensure they’re a fit for you.

Header Image Source: (Aleksandra Wantuch / Unsplash)

Find the best sites for real estate agent reviews and learn how to read between the lines to get honest and relevant information.HomeLight Blog

Need More Parking? Here’s the Average Cost of a Garage ExtensionMatthew StalcupHomeLight Blog

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many homeowners feel the urge to expand and enhance their living space. Maybe you need more space now that your kids moved back home, or perhaps you need a designated home office to get away from household distractions. Whatever the reason, you’re considering expanding your garage for some additional square footage.

On average, the cost to expand a garage runs between $16,749 and $38,930. To help you figure out the specifics, HomeLight researched all of the finer points of getting the job done and spoke with two expert contractors who have decades of experience expanding garages.

Break down the cost to expand garage
Source: (vipman / ShutterStock)

Garage expansion cost overview

The average cost to expand a garage ranges since many variables influence project cost. As Pete Baughman, owner and developer of the Seattle contracting firm Better Builders, puts it, “It’s tricky. I like to use the analogy with my homeowners: ‘How much does it cost to buy a white car?’ It’s a hard question to answer without a larger plan.”

Still, we can estimate average cost ranges according to project costs homeowners and contractors report to the following reputable remodeling websites. The data below is primarily based on the cost to roughly double the size of your existing garage:

Source: HomeAdvisor

Average garage expansion cost: $16,749-$38,930

Average cost per square foot: $40-$70

Small extension: $10,500-$27,000

Large extension: $57,000+

Methodology: HomeAdvisor connects people with pros for home projects and has both parties fill out a short survey after completing the job. The above data reflects those survey responses.

Source: HomeGuide

Average garage expansion cost: $23,900

Average cost per square foot: $49

Small extension: $10,800

Large extension: $42,700+

Methodology: The site uses software to track millions of estimates from contracting companies and releases reports on average costs for their website’s home improvement cost calculator.

Source: Thumbtack

Average garage expansion cost: $4,500 – $80,000

Average cost per square foot: $30 – $40

Standard garage addition (26 x 40 feet): $38,000

Upscale garage addition (40 x 80 feet): $80,000

Methodology: Thumbtack receives requests from users for estimates from contractors and routes them to professionals for a quote. The company then crunches data from millions (more than 1 million so far in 2021 alone) of quotes to release accurate reports on estimated prices.

If you’re just looking to add a couple of feet to your garage, construction cost range from about $2,000 to $12,000.

Get to know the materials when figuring out the cost to expand garage
Source: (romakoma / ShutterStock)

These factors have the most significant impact on the final price

Now that we’ve covered the average project cost range, let’s dive into the details of factors that impact your cost.

The complexity of construction

If your garage extension site is on sloped land or offset from your home’s pre-existing frame, you may need to hire a structural engineer to troubleshoot. Gerry Holzapple Jr., partner of Holzapple Construction in Vacaville, CA, shares: “Most contractors aren’t engineers, but if owners want construction that is counter to standard building practices, then an engineer has to be involved.”

Holzapple also tells us that the going rate for a structural engineer is about $150 per hour. HomeAdvisor reports that the average engineering plan costs anywhere from $800 to $3,000, or as much as 20% of the overall construction price.

Construction materials

The materials you build greatly influence the final price. Notice how cost ranges for the following components depending on the chosen materials (all figures reflect price per square foot):

  • Siding: $0.80 to $50
    • Aluminum: $1.50-$7
    • Brick: $5-$15
    • Hardie Board: $0.80-$5
    • Natural Stone: $28-$50
  • Flooring: $0.15-$25
    • Laminate flooring: $2-$5
    • Vinyl flooring: $2.50-$5.50
    • Engineered wood flooring: $3.50-$7
    • Oak: $8-$15
    • Natural tile: $10-$25
  • Roofing: $1-$15
    • Asphalt shingles: $1-$3.50
    • Wood shingles and shakes: $3-$5.50
    • Metal: $3.50-$6
    • Slate: $4-$15
  • Frame: $15-$30 (including materials and labor)
    • Lumber costs fluctuate but are currently about $350.00 per 1,000 board feet
    • Steel frames cost about $1.50 per square foot

Holzapple says, “Most homeowners will try to match the existing construction of their home, so the cost of materials is often determined by what you already have in your house.”

Material cost also varies depending on market availability and national supply. For instance, due to supply chain disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, 71% of U.S. contractors report facing material shortages, and the national average price for lumber increased by 130% in 2020.

The purpose of your extension

The purpose of your garage extension will determine what additional features you need, and these features can have a significant impact on the price. If you’re extending the garage for some extra storage space, you can expect fairly low construction costs. On the other hand, if you’re adding an office with its own bathroom, you’ll need to account for the cost of plumbing, heating, and air conditioning, electrical, insulation, flooring, and a door.

The most expensive garage extension you can build is an accessory dwelling unit. An ADU is a self-contained living unit, complete with a bathroom and kitchen. You’ll likely pay anywhere from $556 to $978 per square foot of new construction, well above the average for a standard garage extension.

Building site conditions

Baughman warns us that building on a slope will often increase the cost of construction and that if the slope is steep enough, the foundation will present contractors with a challenge, and an engineer will probably have to get involved.

Local labor costs and permits

Finally, the cost of labor can vary depending on where you live. The best way to estimate labor costs is to request quotes from local contractors.

Additionally, you’ll likely need to pay for a permit to complete construction. While the exact price depends on your local government, the National Association of Home Builders reports that permit fees usually account for about 1.7% of construction projects’ total price.

Add up the cost to expand garage
Source: (GagoDesign / ShutterStock)

Adding garage space doesn’t just improve your life; it adds value to your home

The money you put into building your garage extension isn’t going to waste. On top of enjoying the benefits of added space, your addition will also add value to your home, increasing your equity and likely netting you a higher price at resale. According to The Nest, a garage extension typically yields a return of about 63.7% of the overall cost. This return is only slightly lower than the average ROI for a kitchen remodel, which recoups about 68.9% of its cost.

“An ADU is an income-generating investment, so it will have a more immediate return on investment,” says Baughman. “Other additions are dependent on the buyer. For example, if you turn your extension into a workshop, and your buyer does carpentry or hobbyist woodwork, that extension will have more value. If you add more garage space, a buyer who likes to work on cars will be willing to pay more for it.”

So, if you’ve found yourself yearning for more space, a garage extension could be a wise investment.

Header Image Source: (Zac Gudakov / Unsplash)

Garage extensions create more space for cars, storage, or even a home office. We’ll share the average cost to expand a garage and break down relevant cost factors.HomeLight Blog

A Comprehensive Guide to Double Sink Vanities: Buyers’ Most Coveted Bathroom FeatureSharon BrandweinHomeLight Blog

In HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights Report for Q4 2020, agents ranked a double sink vanity as the number one bathroom upgrade for 2021, with 64% of agents saying this upgrade appeals to buyers. So if you’re looking for an easy way to improve your bathroom’s functionality and bump your home’s value in one go, add a double sink vanity. 

We’ll walk you through the cost and scope of adding a double sink vanity to the bathroom. For added insight, we consulted top-selling agent Cheryl Coleman, who sells 81% more single-family homes than the average agent in Huntington Beach, CA. Coleman weighs in on the value double sink vanities bring at resale, as well as important considerations homeowners should weigh before taking on this trending bathroom upgrade.

A double sink vanity in a bathroom.
Source: (Huy Nguyen / Unsplash)

Double sink vanities add glamor and efficiency

When remodeling your home, there are endless upgrades to choose from. Since bathrooms are one of your home’s key selling points, it’s wise to give these spaces some TLC. Adding a double sink vanity is a relatively easy project to take your primary bathroom to the next level.

  • You can improve your daily routine: Coleman notes that when you have two people getting ready at the same time, a double sink vanity can mean the difference between getting out the door on time or explaining why you’re late — again. With individual grooming stations, you and your partner will have more personal space and plenty of room to be as messy (or neat) as you want to be.
  • You might gain additional storage: If you’re extending your entire vanity to accommodate the second sink, you may add more bathroom storage in the process. Extra storage is especially beneficial in older homes that do not include large closets or built-in cabinetry.
  • Buyers value double sink vanities: Prior to the 1980s, primary bathrooms were not “a thing.” Bathrooms were purely utilitarian, and that was that. Since then, bathrooms have grown more and more luxurious. While double sink vanities weren’t a selling point just a few decades ago, they certainly are today. In 2019, 71% of home buyers indicated that a double sink vanity was an “essential/must have or desirable” item.”

Double vanities cost $750 to $3,200 on average

HomeAdvisor estimates that adding a double sink vanity can cost anywhere from $750 to $3,200. There are many factors that figure into your final cost. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Remove the existing vanity: $100-$400
  • Replace old plumbing and pipes: $350-$1,800 (plumbers charge between $45/hour and $200/hour, on average)
  • Purchase a prefab double sink vanity: $600-$1,000
  • Add Fixtures: $158-$342

This price estimation is on the conservative side. If you choose high-end materials and finishes, your final project cost will be higher. Not to mention, the project cost may increase if you run into any remodeling issues.

If you DIY, opt for a prefab double vanity

Big box home stores make it easy enough for folks to complete DIY projects in their homes. For example, most people can easily paint the room themselves. However, Coleman advises homeowners to hire a pro if the project involves “plumbing, electrical work, and trying to cut granite or quartz.” Delusions of grandeur can lead to poor workmanship and inflated reno bills.

Prefab vanities with built-in sinks are a good bet for homeowners looking to revamp their bathroom DIY-style. Once you remove your existing unit, all you need to do is connect the prefab vanity to your existing plumbing.

A double sink vanity boosts your home’s marketability

According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2019 Remodeling Impact Report, you won’t recover your total spend for a primary bathroom remodel; homeowners can expect to recoup around 57% of project costs.

While a bathroom might not add as much value as you’d expect, it can significantly increase your home’s marketability. Bathrooms and kitchens tend to be the “make or break” factors in home sales. If these two areas of the home look good, you’re likely to receive more offers on your home. On the other hand, if these spaces look outdated, you can lose prospective buyers interested in move-in ready homes.

“There are two ways to sell a home: either a fixer at a low price or a home that’s upgraded, move-in ready, and it’s gorgeous. There’s nothing in between right now,” shares Coleman.

If your home is a fixer-upper, upgrading the vanity won’t significantly impact your home’s ability to sell. On the other hand, if you’re selling a well-maintained home in a competitive market, a double sink vanity may influence buyers to choose your home over the neighbors’.

A bathroom with double vanity sinks.
Source: (NELbali Photography / Unsplash)

Project considerations

If you decide to add a double vanity sink to your bathroom, there are a few things you’ll want to think about before diving in.

Room size

Before you begin your bathroom remodel, assess the size of your bathroom. You also must ensure that the vanity is to scale with the other bathroom features. If the vanity takes up more than a third of the space, it can make the room appear cramped.

While Coleman acknowledges that adding a double sink vanity is a relatively easy bathroom upgrade, she advises homeowners to skip it if there’s no room. “Sometimes the bathroom is just not big enough to do that, and so you’re not going to get your money back,” she comments.

Counter width

Single vanity counters tend to range anywhere from 24 to 48 inches long. Meanwhile, a standard double sink can run anywhere from 60 to 72 inches; you need five to six feet of wall space to accommodate the vanity.

It’s also worth noting that while there are smaller double sink vanities (48 inches) on the market, they don’t add the same level of efficiency and style as the standard design.

Cost efficiency

As with any remodeling project, it’s wise to consider the project’s overall cost-efficiency before breaking out the sledgehammer.  If you have enough space and it’s just a matter of a swap out, adding a double sink vanity is an ideal way to upgrade the bathroom. However, if you have to create space (i.e., knock out walls) to accommodate a double vanity sink, you might be better off channeling your reno funds into a project with a higher ROI.

Consult your agent before you add a double sink vanity

If you’re still wondering if upgrading to a double sink vanity is worth it, reach out to a local real estate agent. They’ll advise you on whether or not local buyers expect this

feature in homes at your price point. If you’re lucky, they may even refer you to vetted contractors who have strong portfolios of beautiful bathrooms under their belts.

Header Image Source: (Taylor Beach / Unsplash)

Double sink vanities are trending. We’ll walk you through how to add a double sink vanity to enhance your bathroom and up your home’s resale value.HomeLight Blog

6 Essential Tips to Sell Your House Fast In Salt Lake CityStacey KelleherHomeLight Blog

If you’re looking to sell your Salt Lake City home fast, market trends are on your side. With a booming tech industry, world-class outdoor recreation, and family-friendly vibe, Salt Lake City is growing, and its real estate is heating up.

Still, you’ll need to put some work in if you want your home to sell faster than the competition. We talked with local real estate experts and analyzed recent transaction data to bring you six tips to speed up your home sale.

Downtown Salt Lake City, where you can sell a house fast.
(Source: Craventure Media / Unsplash)

Salt Lake City is the next Silicon Valley: Tech boom brings families to the area

Data compiled by the National Association of Realtors confirms what many residents and business owners already know: the Salt Lake City metro area is growing in leaps and bounds. Salt Lake City’s burgeoning tech industry is a big reason why so many millennials call the city home.

Founded by two BYU graduates, billion-dollar analytics firm Qualtrics was the first tech firm to set up shop in Salt Lake City. Many well-known companies were quick to follow, drawn to the wealth of talent and the entrepreneurial spirit Salt Lake City has to offer.

The tech boom in what Inc. Magazine calls Silicon Slopes increased the demand for single-family homes with plenty of space for growing families. The housing market is growing yet remains affordable compared to its West Coast antecedent.

According to the U.S. Census, the current median price for owner-occupied homes is $314,500. For some perspective, consider comparable owner-occupied homes in the Bay Area sold for $1.1 million on average in late 2020.

LinkedIn reports that in 2020, Salt Lake City had the second-biggest gains in new arrivals to the area (+9.6%), just behind Jacksonville, Florida. That growth is impressive in itself. And when you consider that this urban metro significantly grew amid a pandemic, the numbers are even more monumental.

Salt Lake City’s growth is great news for homeowners interested in selling quickly. Here are our top tips to prep your Salt Lake City home inside and out for a quick sale:

Mountain views help sell houses fast in Salt Lake City.
(Source: Eleonora Patricola / Unsplash)

1. Winterize your home

Salt Lake City residents are fortunate to experience all four seasons. And while winter gets fairly cold, it is not as cold as some who’ve never visited might expect. Winter highs generally fall below freezing, though the temperature rarely drops below zero degrees.

The Salt Lake Valley climate produces what’s known as “the greatest snow on earth.” But heavy snow and colder temps wreak havoc on a home’s interior and exterior.

Winterize your home to prevent costly damage that can stall the inspection process and hold up a quick sale:

  • Properly insulate the attic.
  • Add weather stripping to windows and doors.
  • Clean gutters of leaves and debris to allow proper drainage.

Check out this link from Lowe’s for more recommendations on winterizing your home to increase insulation and protect structural materials.

2. Capitalize on the views

Nestled between the Wasatch Mountains and the Oquirrh Mountains, there is no shortage of breathtaking views in Salt Lake City.

According to Kristy Wiser, a top Salt Lake City real estate agent, those stunning views are a huge selling point. Working with 85% more single-family homes than her peers, Wiser knows precisely what buyers want.

“Many of the clients we help are looking for mountain views in areas that offer good commuter access to downtown,” she shares.

Here are a few ways to highlight Salt Lake City’s mountain views in listing photos and for walk-throughs. First, avoid covering windows with large pieces of furniture. Unobstructed windows open up the room and encourage buyers to look outside and enjoy the scenery.

Next, install curtain panels that hang stationary to the sides of the window. This style of curtain gives the room a finished look without blocking the view. Finally, clean the windows before home showings using a dry microfiber cloth and a natural, streak-free glass cleaner.

A fireplace in a house, which helps it sell faster.
(Source: Austin J / Unsplash)

3. Add a fire feature

Balance winter wonderland views with a cozy interior and heated outdoor living space. If your home doesn’t have a traditional, wood-burning fireplace, installing one probably isn’t worth the return on your investment. A new fireplace can cost upwards of $30,000 while only increasing your home’s value by around $1,000.

Fortunately, there are many stylish electric fireplace options to make your home more inviting for a fraction of the cost. Some come with a built-in mantle that you can stage with flameless candles. Other designs, like this electric fireplace, have a more rustic, cabin feel and don’t take up a lot of floor space.

Outdoor fire pits are a growing home decor trend sellers should consider adding to their home. In HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights Report for Q4 2020, agents ranked fire pits as buyers’ most-wanted outdoor feature. A toasty fire pit allows buyers to enjoy the crisp Utah air and take in the magnificent mountain views available all year long.

4. Install a whole-house humidifier

Salt Lake City has some of the driest air in the country. Research shows that, at times, the air in town is drier than that of the Sahara Desert. Low humidity is a problem in the home because it creates the ideal environment for the flu and other viruses to thrive and spread. Dry air also causes sore throats, nosebleeds, and dry, cracked skin. Just as dry air affects the body, it negatively affects the bones of a home. Dry air can dry out plaster, paint, wood floors, and upholstered furnishings.

To make the atmosphere of your home more comfortable, install a whole-house humidifier. Because humidifiers attach directly to the HVAC system, you don’t have to change the water or clean a whole house humidifier daily, like you would with a portable, single-room humidifier.

Moreover, a whole-home humidifier improves your home’s energy efficiency. It helps you feel warmer at lower temperatures, allowing homeowners to lower the thermostat and save big on energy bills. And energy-efficient features do make a difference for buyers. According to a report from the National Association of Home Builders, buyers will pay nearly $9,000 upfront to save an average of $1,000 per year on energy bills over time.

A high-quality whole-home humidifier generally runs a few hundred dollars, plus a few hundred more for installation. That’s a relatively small investment to attract more buyers to your home.

A house with flowers in front, which helps to sell a house faster in Salt Lake City.
(Source: Claudio Schwarz / Unsplash)

5. Boost curb appeal with climate-friendly plants and flowers

More than 94% of the nation’s top real estate agents agree a home that makes a positive first impression from the outside is more likely to grab a buyer’s attention and command a great price.

Salt Lake City family-owned business Millcreek Gardens has been a staple in the community since 1955. Owner LaRene Bautner and her team have learned what works best in the unique Salt Lake City climate.

She shares that you don’t need to spend a fortune to boost your home’s curb appeal. For just a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, you can make your home the most appealing on the block.

“Start by driving by your home and seeing it just as a prospective buyer would. Trim overgrown shrubs and remove dead branches and debris to make a tired yard look new.” Bautner adds that color always sells. “Add bright, quick-growing flowers like zinnias, snapdragons, and cosmos for cheerful pops of color.”

“Every yard should have a few focal points, as well. Consider setting colorful pots filled with a variety of hearty plants and flowers to the driveway or by the front door.”

She also recommends low-maintenance dwarf shrubs with longer bloom times for a simple, budget-friendly way to add depth and texture to a garden. Sellers can head to a local nursery like Millcreek Gardens for expert advice on native plants.

6. Consult a top Salt Lake City real estate agent

These updates are great first steps to sell your home fast. But without the right agent, a beautiful home can get lost in the fast-paced Salt Lake City real estate market. To ensure your home receives the exposure it deserves, partner with a trusted Salt Lake City real estate agent.

Before signing on the dotted line, remember that not all agents are the same. HomeLight’s transaction data analysis reveals that the top 3% of Salt Lake City real estate agents sell homes 21 days faster than the average agent.

You need a real estate agent with a track record of selling homes fast who knows what sells in your local area. Plug your property details into HomeLight’s Agent Finder, and we’ll match you with the three top agents for your home sale.

Header Image Source: (Tanner Crockett / Unsplash)

Homebuyers flock to Salt Lake City for its booming tech industry, mountain views, and family-friendly culture. Follow these simple tips to sell your Salt Lake City home fast.HomeLight Blog

10 Awesome Real Estate Tips for Home SellersAlison BentleyRedfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More

When you bought your first house, you likely felt excitement with a hint of nervousness and maybe you even had a “What have I gotten myself into?” kind of moment. However, those emotions passed and you settled in and made that house your home. Whether you’ve stayed in this home for a couple of years or a couple of decades, when you decide it’s time to sell, you might experience a very similar emotional roller coaster, especially in today’s housing market. To ease your stress, here are 10 awesome real estate tips that will help you get started and possibly even take some of the emotion out of the ride.

An agent discussing with a couple great real estate tips to consider to help them sell their home.

Tip #1 Find the perfect listing agent 

Probably the best real estate tip there is: find a dedicated, responsive, and knowledgeable real estate agent – someone you can trust to guide you through every step of selling your home. A good seller’s agent will make informed recommendations about a listing price, advise you on which repairs will help you sell your home, and make recommendations about decluttering, staging, and maximizing your curb appeal.

A good seller’s agent shines the most when it comes time to negotiate an offer. The goal is to make sure you earn top dollar for your house and to sell it quickly. This process starts by honing in on the right listing price. 

  • If your home is priced too high it will likely sit on the market and possibly longer than most homes in your area. This may cause prospective buyers to second-guess its value.
  • If your home is priced too low, you could leave money on the table and diminish the equity you’d bring to the purchase of your next home.

Your ideal selling agent will have well-developed instincts for what the real estate market is doing in your area. Take your time and speak to several agents to find someone you can comfortably work well with and will work hard for your interests. 

Tip #2 Determine the best time to list your home

Reliable real estate wisdom suggests that spring into summer is when most people start hunting for a new house. Buyers will typically research properties online months before touring their first home in person. This way they can understand how much house they can afford in neighborhoods that appeal to them most. 

Usually, the end of March or the beginning of April is considered the start of homebuying season. However, this year’s homebuying season seems to have hit early as nearly half the homes listed mid-January into February went under contract in under two weeks. Meaning we are currently in a seller’s market and you don’t have to wait to fetch top dollar for your home.

Getting a 3D walkthrough scan of your home is a great real estate tip that will help you sell your home.

Tip #3 Professional photography and 3D walkthroughs are key

Many real estate agents now offer 3D tours of their listings. Virtual walkthroughs are a massive advantage for both buyers and sellers. Buyers can “shop” any time of the day or night, and sellers can “show” their house 24/7. It also cuts down on showings to only the serious buyers. If a buyer is genuinely interested, they will view the virtual walkthrough (probably several times) and then request a showing. 

Professional photography is another great option to show your home in its best light.. Homes listed with high-quality, professional images are known to sell quicker and for more money. A professional real estate photographer will capture each room at the best angle, and highlight its best features. You can also request photos shot at dusk with both interior and exterior lights shining. It’s all about painting those special pictures in your buyer’s mind. 

If you’re selling a luxury listing with a view or large plot of land, consider drone photography to fully capture everything your property has to offer.

Tip #4 Handle the repairs from a pre-listing home inspection

It might be tempting to put off small repairs and let the next owner handle them. Unfortunately, if you list a house with evident and necessary repairs, prospective buyers will also scrutinize your property more closely for larger deferred maintenance issues. If you want to be proactive, one of the best real estate tips for selling your home is setting up a pre-listing home inspection

When you choose to fix everything the inspector finds before you list your house, you gain valuable peace of mind during the closing process. Your buyer will most likely want their own inspection as part of the sales contract, but when that inspector finds everything is in perfect order, your buyer will have confidence in the sale.

Tip #5 Boost your curb appeal

It may feel counterintuitive to work on the outside of your home as you get ready to sell. But when you keep up with lawn maintenance, pull weeds, fix the fence, power-wash the siding, and clean up the cobwebs, your property will stand out and really “wow” prospective buyers. 

Think back to the last time you drove around looking at houses for sale. If the house looked like it was in rough shape on the outside, most of the time, you probably didn’t bother to request a showing. Good curb appeal will draw buyers into your home. They will start to envision themselves playing basketball, grilling in the backyard, or relaxing on the porch. You want to help buyers fall in love with your house and curb appeal will help you do that. 

Tip #6 Declutter… and then declutter some more 

It’s no secret, we all accumulate stuff. However, you want potential buyers to be looking at your home, not your belongings. So another great real estate tip is to have your home appear move-in ready so homebuyers can see themselves – and their things – in your space. To do this, you’ll need to be relentless about removing as many personal items as possible and commit to a minimalist lifestyle, at least until you go under contract on your house. 

Of course, you have items you use daily and weekly. Keep those accessible but out of sight if you can. Remove anything seasonal, like decorations, extra blankets, or anything you won’t use for months. Renting a storage unit or on-site storage container could be helpful and allow you to eliminate extra furniture and other items from your home until you move into your new space. It’s all about perception. A house with minimal furniture, unstuffed closets, tasteful artwork, and a general lack of surface clutter will look clean, spacious, and appealing. 

Staging your home is a great real estate tip to consider when selling your home.

Tip #7 Stage your home

One of the most important real estate tips is staging your home. Key staging tactics involve placing furniture and throw pillows invitingly. You can also set a dining room or kitchen table. And placing a vase or two of fresh flowers around the home is a nice touch. The purpose of staging is to show buyers the home’s potential. You want all the main rooms – kitchen, dining room, living room, bathrooms, and master bedroom – to create the feeling that they are already home. 

Tip #8 Always be ready for a showing

When you list your home, you could get calls from agents within hours regarding potential buyers who want to see your home. It’s easier to handle those calls if you do your best to keep your home “show ready.”Of course, that involves keeping the home clean at a minimum. Before you list the house, do a good deep cleaning in every room. 

Be sure to give extra attention to air vents and ductwork by cleaning out the dust and any debris stuck in the vent. Dust all remaining furniture and artwork. Wash the windows and glass doors so they sparkle, and run the vacuum to help refresh the carpets.

Finally, use an odor remover to eliminate any pet odors or lingering smells from last night’s dinner. You can make an incredibly positive impression if the only scent a buyer remembers is the smell of fresh-baked cookies or fresh flowers. 

Tip #9 Accommodate requests for last-minute showings

Unfortunately, buyers are not always available to see the home when it’s most convenient for you. Here’s a list so you can easily clean up and be out of the house in 20 minutes. 

  • Place any dishes in the dishwasher.
  • Wipe down the bathroom and kitchen countertops.
  • Wipe down the toilet seats.
  • Grab a bin and place any loose toys or books inside.
  • Toss any stray clothing in the laundry hamper.
  • Close all the closet doors.
  • If you have paperwork or other clutter on the countertop, tuck it out of sight in a drawer, or worst case, make an organized pile. Organized is better than scattered. 
  • Make the beds.
  • Sweep the floors. 
  • Take out the garbage as you leave and bring your pets with you.

And real estate tip #10 Respond to offers in a timely manner

Be respectful of all reasonable offers. You know what price you’ll accept and on what terms, including what you’d be willing to negotiate on if asked. Most contracts expect a response within 48 hours, but why wait? Respond with a counteroffer or acceptance as soon as a good offer comes in. 

Selling your first house is not easy. But with these 10 real estate tips, moving on to the next chapter in your life can be just as exciting.

The post 10 Awesome Real Estate Tips for Home Sellers appeared first on Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More.

Whether you live in a home for a couple of years or a couple of decades, when you decide it’s time to sell, consider these 10 great tips for home sellers.
The post 10 Awesome Real Estate Tips for Home Sellers appeared first on Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More.Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More

10 Little-Known Ways to Find a Quality Listing Agent in Your CityEmma DiehlHomeLight Blog

You’re standing at an open house. In the back of your mind, you also know you have a home to sell. Suddenly you’re bombarded by a pushy sales pitch and uncomfortable questions about your moving plans. You think to yourself: This is why many people dread finding a listing agent.

And you wouldn’t be wrong. The quest to find the right listing agent can be fraught with stress and pressure. However, have faith — there are some amazing agents out there who will help you maximize value and navigate selling obstacles. Research from HomeLight shows that the best agents are worth their salt, helping to sell homes for as much as 10% more than the average agent.

What’s more, improvements like client reviews on the web and public sales histories have made it a whole lot easier to find the gems. So, skip the open house hopping, put on your research cap, and follow these tips on how to find a listing agent who you can be sure checks all your boxes.

A man holding a phone to demonstrate how to find a good listing agent.
Source: (Thom Holmes / Unsplash)

1. Focus on the agent, not the brokerage

Do you see a ton of Coldwell Banker, Keller Williams, or RE/MAX signs in your neighborhood? Some real estate franchisors may have more prominent branding in your city than others, making you inclined to trust a certain office simply because you’re more familiar with the name.

While certain brokerages do offer better training and tools to their agents, it doesn’t always translate directly as a better listing experience because real estate agents are independent contractors, not employees. So, the quality of the service you receive is going to depend more on the individual agent. Focus on what the agent brings to the table, rather than which office they’re part of, as you make your decision.

2. Watch out for all sizzle, no steak sales pitch

Some agents will appear engaged and enthusiastic to help you, until you sign the listing agreement. Then they become mysteriously difficult to get a hold of. Others might communicate well but let you down when it comes to market knowledge or business acumen, leaving you with a lot of “what ifs” after a rocky sale.

Once you sign the listing agreement, you’re usually giving the agent the exclusive right to sell your home for the next two to six months. That makes it difficult, legally, to fire this agent and get a new one, which can really set you back.

So avoid signing with an agent on the spot. Instead, listen to their pitch and let them offer you their information. This gives you a chance to do your homework. You can always get back in touch after you’ve done more research.

3. You’re hiring for a job — so call references

This tip comes from John Kriza, a top-selling Chester County, Pennsylvania real estate agent with two decades of experience selling homes: “Anybody can say anything about themselves they want when they’re sitting across the table from you,” Kriza warns. “But having past clients who are willing to go on the record and vouch for you is important.”

Kriza comes to seller consultations with a list of references on hand and encourages potential clients to contact them. Having that list signals that an agent is on good terms with old clients. Plus, speaking with these people who’ve worked with an agent firsthand can give you a more candid idea of what the agent’s work style is like and if it lines up with your preferences.

An image of a couple looking up how to find good listing agents on a laptop.
Source: (Matthew Henry / Burst)

4. Look at an agent’s stats like an athlete’s box score

Numbers don’t lie. Athletes, for example, are measured by what’s called a “box score,” which aggregates performance indicators like their field goal or free-throw percentages.

What you may not realize is that real estate agents have “stats,” too — such as percent of listings sold, average days on market, and number of five star reviews. Yet these key performance indicators are often overlooked by their clients.

Here are some of the stats that would make up your agent’s “box score” so to speak:

Years of experience:

Finance and real estate expert Dave Ramsey recommends working with a listing agent who has no less than two years of full-time experience selling homes. That way, they know the ins and outs of the process, including forms to file, deadlines to meet, and contacts in the area. However, there are exceptions to this if you like what you see from a smart and driven agent who’s newer to the business.

Average days on market:

Compare an agent’s average days on market (DOM) with the average DOM of your market. If an agent sells homes faster than the area average, they know how to price and market homes and keep them from going stale on the market. Keep an eye out for HomeLight’s “Sells Homes Fast” badge, which is awarded to the top 5% of agents based on average DOM for seller transactions.

Transactions per year:

If an agent sells fewer than four homes in a year, they’re likely a hobbyist or part-timer who helps friends and family on the side. A dozen or two sales per year is probably indicative that an agent is more established and has consistent clients. Agents with 50 to 100 plus sales most likely have help in the form of transaction coordinators or a team working below them. In this case, it’s helpful to find out how involved the listing agent is with each of their individual clients, or if you’d primarily be working with someone else on their team.

Homes sold in your area:

When you go through HomeLight to meet your real estate agent, you’ll be able to see their number of transactions isolated by year. In addition, our transaction heat map drills down into the number of transactions at the neighborhood level. To get even more granular, you can do a search for your location using the “Transactions Near You” feature.

An agent who regularly sells homes just down the street from yours could have valuable insight into your specific market. They’ll also be advocates and experts for the area, highlighting perks like nearby shops, parks, and restaurants.

Average over asking price or sale-to-list ratio:

The sale-to-list price ratio is a number assigned to a transaction telling you what percent of the asking price a home actually sells for. If a house is listed at $325,000, and sells at $318,000, the sale-to-list ratio would be 98%. If a house sells over asking, the sale-to-list ratio will be over 100%.

An agent’s average sale-to-list ratio indicates how accurate they are at pricing homes, and how much of a seller’s list price they’re likely able to deliver. The higher their average sale-to-list price ratio for sell-side transactions, the better their track record.

5. Prioritize experience tailored to your home sale

In your search for a listing agent, you’ll likely find several qualified agents with a history of selling homes successfully. That’s a good start. To narrow down your pool further, you should look at the following factors to determine how relevant their experience is to you. Check to see if their previous sales look familiar when it comes to:

  • Price point: An agent with million-dollar listings may be impressive, but they likely won’t be passionate about pricing and marketing your $350,000 home.
  • Location: When an agent has sold homes on your street or within your neighborhood, they’re better equipped to market not only the home but the benefits of the surrounding area.
  • Property type. Make sure the listing agent has expertise in selling your type of property. If you want to list a condo, don’t work with an agent who solely sells single-family homes and won’t understand how to navigate your bylaws and HOA fees.
An image of keys in a door to demonstrate how to find a good listing agent.
Source: (Jaye Haych / Unsplash)

6. Get the agent talking about your home and market

Your home is going to be the biggest topic of discussion between you and your listing agent. So use your home early on in the process as a way to gauge a real estate agent’s skills and acumen.

Use the CMA to get a sense of their knowledge

For one, the listing agent should provide you with a comparative market analysis (CMA). The CMA pulls together pricing information and property details on recently sold homes like yours called “comps” to come up with a pricing strategy. The CMA should be provided free of charge and give you a chance to ask questions like: What do you believe my property is worth? How did you come up with that conclusion?

At this point, a good listing agent will be able to walk you through their thinking as far as what price range your home falls in, what they would list your home for (high end or low end of the price range), and why. Their answer should indicate whether they’re able to speak intelligently to the market as a whole, the nuances of your neighborhood, and what they’re seeing in the comps.

Listen for specifics and honesty

A good listing agent should be getting as granular about the types of buyers your home is likely to attract and how it measures up to your neighbors — i.e., “You have a beautiful sunroom which is unique and adds value, but I had to account for a $20,000-$35,000 price discount for your lack of cosmetic upgrades.” An agent who sugar coats or glosses over your home’s flaws is probably just trying to win your business, and will likely flip the switch once you’ve signed the agreement.

7. Investigate their social media presence

To avoid hiring an agent with the old, outdated “Post and Pray” marketing mentality, you’ll want to scope out how they’ve promoted their listings in the past and whether they have a robust social media presence. When they get a new listing, do they put it on Facebook or Instagram? How much engagement do those posts get? Do the photos they’re posting look professional and like real estate “eye candy?” Would your home get the same treatment?

This type of research will give you a sense of an agent’s general digital savviness, the strength of their social media following, and whether you can trust that they’ll take advantage of all the modern tools available to market your property.

8. Give points for digital offerings like virtual tours

You should also find out how far your agent has leaned into digital offerings. Virtual tours may have boomed in the past year in response to the pandemic, but the technology is here to stay. See if your agent has embraced any of the following tools or practices for making the transaction more efficient and safe:

HomeLight identifies agents who are helping clients buy and sell safely during COVID-19 by giving them a Move Safe Certified badge.

An image of a toy house to demonstrate how to find a good listing agent.
Source: (Sarah Pflug / Burst)

9. Pick the listing agent with a ‘no job too small’ mentality

Traits like flexibility, responsiveness, and humility in an agent could actually be a better indicator of whether you’ll have a great home-selling experience than their level of monetary success.

If an agent doesn’t appear too smug to take care of the little tasks like flipping on the light switches between showings, running out to Home Depot to get wall spackle in an emergency, or answering the smallest question to put your mind at ease, then it’s probably a sign that they’re going to treat this sale — and your home — with dedication, care, and attention to detail.

An example is the case of sellers in Columbia, Mo. whose agent sold their house while they traveled the country in an RV. That level of service exists. You can inquire about how hands-on an agent is when you do your reference calls, or ask your listing agent straight up how involved they tend to be in efforts like home prep, staging, and showing the home.

The best listing agent vs. the best listing agent for you

We won’t sugar coat it: The real estate industry is a mixed bag with lots of people claiming to “do real estate” when they only sell a handful of homes per year. The challenge of finding a great listing agent is actually why we started HomeLight back in 2012.

Now, after nearly 10 years of working with people selling their home and matching them with superior listing agents in their area, we’ve just dished on some of the main clues and signs we’ve seen at HomeLight over the years that an agent is (or isn’t) the right fit for you and your property.

Remember, when you hire a listing agent, you form a partnership. Who do you want in your corner during the stressful moments? Who do you get the sense will make you feel like their only client? Who can speak about your home and location most authentically? These are the questions that will guide you toward the right person. Whenever you’re ready to start your search, HomeLight is here to help introduce you to some fantastic candidates.

Header Image Source: (Matthew Henry / Burst)

You’re tired of the pushy sales pitches. Take back control of your agent search with our guide on how to find a good listing agent you can trust.HomeLight Blog

8 Ways to use Synthetic Turf to Beautify your YardRyan CastilloRedfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More

Choosing between installing artificial grass, also known as synthetic turf, and natural grass can be a difficult decision for some homeowners. While you may be drawn to natural grass for its feel and organic look, there are a number of benefits to choosing synthetic turf that may make you think twice. If you are too busy to upkeep your lawn, turf provides less maintenance and a longer lifespan compared to traditional grass. It’s also typically created from recycled materials, comes in a variety of textures and colors, and even has the potential to increase your home value.

In some locations, it might even make sense to install artificial grass over natural grass. For example, if you live in a city that has a hot and dry climate such as Las Vegas, NV or Austin, TX, having turf can prevent your lawn from wilting and dying due to the amount of sun those cities get annually. However, if you’re set on using natural grass for your lawn, there are still many creative and aesthetically pleasing ways to incorporate artificial grass into your lawn. Take a look at these 8 ideas on how to use turf to beautify your yard.

1. Install a synthetic turf golf green 

Your short game is just as important as your long, so installing an artificial grass putting green is the perfect way to get some practice without leaving your home. Golf greens are easy to install and can be customizable. Typically, they are around 1,000-1,500 square feet. For best results, source out an area that is flat, has minimal bumps and extrusions, and gets just the right amount of sunlight. A local turf company can then help excavate, cut, and install the artificial grass and holes. Finished with the proper landscaping, golf greens can serve as a stunning backyard feature that is both aesthetic and fun for the whole family.

2. Build a dog area for play and potty time

If you own a dog and live in a small place like an apartment, having a synthetic turf potty pad for your dog can be a great solution. Typically, they are built with short bristles for cleaning and a drainage system to catch urine. Turf doggy mats are versatile in size and can fit on a sunroom, patio, terrace, or balcony. They are especially great for training puppies or older dogs with bad bladder control. When not in use, synthetic turf potty pads blend in to look like a patch of grass. Not to mention, it saves your real grass from developing brown spots.

If you have the outdoor space, you can use turf to create a play area for your pet. Pet-friendly synthetic turf is a great option if you are trying to keep your dog away from natural grass chemicals. Installing artificial grass for pets also helps prevent fleas and ticks, worrying about patches and brown spots, and digging unwanted holes. Give your dog the ability to roll around in the grass without the worry of getting sick.

3. Use synthetic turf walls and dividers for privacy 

Fences can be an eyesore. However, they are critical for privacy and to keep intruders out. Installing artificial grass fences or hedges is a great way to maintain privacy, while also elevating the look of your backyard by adding greenery. If you are looking for flexibility, some individual paneled artificial grass fences come on rollers that can be used to section certain parts of your yard if you are hosting a garden party or small get together.

4. Make an entertainment area for backyard hangouts 

Do you love to have people over for bonfires, casual wine nights, or backyard parties? Maybe you want to kick your feet up by the fire while you sip on a glass of wine. If you are worried about your feet suffering from uncomfortable surfaces, installing artificial grass around your bonfire pits and patio is a comfortable and stylish solution. Section off a small area, place patio furniture on top, and enjoy a relaxing hangout area on the turf.

5. Create an elegant driveway

For a touch of added elegance, use synthetic turf in between your driveway to bring in patterns and color to the exterior of your home. Real grass can become compact due to the weight of a car. Installing artificial grass between flagstones or concrete can make your driveway pop and always looks fresh.

6. Cover your outdoor furniture with synthetic turf

If you’re tired of boring patio furniture, a fun and unique way to include synthetic turf in your backyard is by purchasing turf-covered furniture. These pieces are designed for outdoor living, are low maintenance, and can be left outside year-round. They are a great way to blend nature with your home and can be designed to look good under a deck, gazebo, fire pit, or play area.

7. Design a multipurpose sports field

For the athlete looking for a way to get some practice in, installing an artificial grass sports field in a larger backyard can get you the training you need without having to go to the local park. Multipurpose sports fields can be used for soccer, lacrosse, or even spikeball whether you want to increase your skills or just get a friendly game in. 

8. Construct a playground 

When constructing your playground, safety will likely be top of mind. In that case, you’ll want to choose a surface that has some cushion to it and is free of chemicals. Synthetic turf is a great alternative to wood chips or gravel, as it has a soft texture and natural aesthetic feel. You can even include a shock pad underneath turf to reduce fall injuries. 

*Before attempting these projects, consult with a turf professional.


The post 8 Ways to use Synthetic Turf to Beautify your Yard appeared first on Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More.

Choosing between installing artificial grass or natural grass can be difficult. However, there are many benefits to synthetic turf such as less maintenance and a longer lifespan. Check out 8 ways to use turf to make your yard look beautiful.
The post 8 Ways to use Synthetic Turf to Beautify your Yard appeared first on Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More.Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More

How Do I Find a Good (Scratch That — Great!) Real Estate Agent?Christine BartschHomeLight Blog

How on earth do I find a good real estate agent? you’re wondering as you attempt to squeeze in a little research between work meetings or while the kids are still at school. With a sandwich in one hand and your phone in the other, you’re overwhelmed with what’s only the first step in the home-selling process. There are so many in my city, and I don’t know who to trust!

Americans are busier than ever, and finding a good real estate agent is just one more task on a very long to-do list. For many, taking a “this agent will do” mentality might seem like the only way forward, with 77% of sellers resigning to hiring the first agent they contact!

However, a lack of research can seriously hurt your bottom line, as we’ve found that the best agents in a market sell homes for as much as 10% more than average. So who are these rockstars of your market and how can you find them?

Here are 10 pro tips to narrow your search and zero in on your top candidates!

Friends who are discussing good real estate agents.
Source: (Ben Duchac / Unsplash)

1. Don’t go with someone just because they helped a friend or family member.

Thirty years ago, asking friends or family for real estate agent recommendations was the only way to vet a real estate agent — which is why it became the go-to agent-finding method. But that trend is changing, thanks to the agent information available online.

According to the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) “2020 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers,” only 41% of sellers used a real estate agent found their agent through a referral by friends or family.

“Everybody knows someone who has a real estate license. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area we have over 20,000 real estate agents, however not everyone is an experienced professional,” explains Lily Moore, a top-selling agent in her Texas market. “It’s great to ask your friends and family, but that doesn’t mean the agent they recommend is going to be a good match. Maybe they worked with the agent 10 years ago, or they suggest a part-time agent who sells real estate as a hobby.”

Hiring a friend or family-recommended agent can also put a strain on relationships. It’s not so easy to push back if you disagree with your agent on pricing, marketing, or home repair projects — or even fire your agent when you know conflict could damage your friendship. And the last thing you want is to be walking on eggshells with your agent about a transaction that should be objective and free of emotion.

2. Conduct interviews with multiple agents before committing to anyone.

Commitment has practically become mandatory in the 21st-century. Get a cellphone, and you make a years-long commitment to purchase service. Go to a gym once and suddenly you’re stuck in a contract.

So many people feel like when they speak with a real estate agent about selling their house — they’re obligated to list your property with them.

Not so fast.

No company would hire the very first prospect who asked for a job without first running background checks and interviewing them to make sure they’re a good fit, and neither should you.

It’s time to set the pressure of social politeness aside, take your time, and meet with a number of agents before you make any commitment. Remember, every agent you meet with is interviewing for the job of selling your house — and just like any employer you have the right to consider a wide range of candidates before signing.

3. Factor in expertise by property type, whether it’s SFH, condos, or townhomes.

Between searching online and asking friends for recommendations, your list of potential agents may be getting rather long. You’ve got too many candidates to interview them all. One good way to hone down your list is to eliminate anyone who isn’t experienced with selling your property type.

If you’re selling a single family home on an acre of land, you don’t want to hire an agent who specializes in selling urban-area condos.

“You need to be careful about hiring an agent who specializes in condominiums to sell your single family home, because things can get complicated when your Realtor® is unfamiliar with your property type,” cautions Moore.

“The contracts and forms are different, and I have unfortunately seen agents make huge mistakes that cost their sellers thousands of dollars because the Realtor® didn’t check the right box.”

A neighborhood where a good real estate agent works.
Source: (Olivia Hutcherson / Unsplash)

4. Narrow down your list based on neighborhood expertise.

Home buyers aren’t just looking to buy a house, they’re looking to buy into a community with the kind of right atmosphere, amenities, and attractions. So it’s important for sellers to find an agent with experience marketing and selling properties in your specific neighborhood. That’s why every agent profile on HomeLight features an interactive map that indicates an agent’s concentration of homes sold by neighborhood.

“Sellers should ask every agent these questions first, ‘How many houses have you sold in my neighborhood?’ and ‘Where is your office located?’” suggests Moore.

“If they haven’t sold any or many houses in your area, or their office is 45 minutes or more away from your neighborhood, then they don’t know anything about marketing the local schools, the parks, or the community centers to potential buyers.”

Agents with local expertise will also have a network of nearby contractors to call in to help you get your home ready to sell.

5. Gauge industry knowledge on their recommendations for home prep.

The advice an agent gives to guide you in prepping your house for sale can tell you a lot about the effort they plan to put in.

Are they recommending that you put no effort into fixing up your house and just list at a low price? Are they recommending a major overhaul remodeling every room in the house that’ll cost you tens of thousands of dollars? Both are red flags that indicate an agent isn’t the right fit to sell your house.

“There are agents who will recommend listing as-is at a low price because they’re just trying to get a quick commission. A great real estate agent is going to come in, walk the house and let you know what you can do to increase the price by $25,000 to $30,000 just by putting $4,000 worth of work into improving the property,” advises Moore.

A good real estate agent speaking with a client.
Source: (Matthew Henry / Burst)

6. Give more weight to past performance than promises.

Every agent puts on their game face when they meet with prospective sellers, but just because they can talk a good game doesn’t mean they have the track record to back up their sales pitch.

Thankfully, stats don’t lie — which is why checking out an agent’s performance history is a vital part of finding a great agent. Here’s the key stats you need to look at:

Yearly number of transactions: The number of homes an agent sells annually is one good indicator of their success and experience. An agent who sells 30-40 homes each year obviously knows how to market and price a house to sell well.

Days on market: Days on market (DOM) tracks the time between when a house is listed and when it goes under contact with a buyer. If an agent’s average DOM is lower than average, it’s a good sign that they price homes correctly to attract quick offers and come out of the gate with a strong marketing plan for their listings.

Sale-to-list-price ratio: The sale-to-list price ratio tells you what percent of the asking price a home actually sells for. An agent’s average sale-to-list ratio indicates how accurate they are at pricing homes, and how much of a seller’s list price they’re likely able to deliver. The higher their average sale-to-list price ratio for sell-side transactions, the better their track record.

Awards and local involvement: If your agent has received recognition from fellow Realtors® or the local community for their real estate work, that’s a pretty good indicator of their dedication and involvement with your neck of the woods, which can translate into having more informed conversations with buyers about your property.

7. Look for ‘above and beyond’ tendencies in client reviews.

While you’re looking up your agent’s stats on their online profiles, it’s a good idea to take a look through their written reviews from past clients. But don’t just go by the number of 4- and 5-star reviews they’ve received. To find out if an agent you will go “above and beyond for you, take the time to dig into the review details.

What you’re looking for are personal stories that share concrete details on just how the agent went out of their way to help past clients.

For example, did the agent spend time preparing their client’s home for the market while their clients traveled the country in an RV? Have they helped past clients downsize after a medical emergency and helped declutter the home on an impossible deadline? Did the agent work out a complex lien against the property to get it sold?

Believe it or not, these are all real examples of things agents have done in the past to make sure their clients were happy. And you shouldn’t expect anything less!

It’s also wise to count how many times client reviews mention key qualities that all great agents have, like offering quality home prep advice, exhibiting patience, and great communication:

“Communication is important because agents need to move at the speed of the market. It’s a red flag if an agent takes 24 to 48 hours to respond to you,” says Moore.

A client calling a good real estate agent on the phone.
Source: (Andy Art / Unsplash)

8. Ask your agent finalists for references from past clients — and take time to call them.

Online reviews that share concrete details and personalized stories are a great way to narrow down your long list of potential agents, but when you’re getting close to hiring an agent, it’s important to ask your finalists for references who you can talk to personally.

“In the real estate industry, you can get online reviews from pretty much anybody. Family and friends can write reviews saying what a great person you are, but being a great person doesn’t make you a great real estate agent,” explains Moore.

“That’s why I provide references for my prospective sellers, so they can call up past clients and ask about their experience with me.”

9. Evaluate an agent’s additional certifications and specialties.

Just like snowflakes, no two home sales are alike and your unique property may call for an agent who has additional certifications or specializations beyond the standard real estate license.

NAR lists over 25 different specialized credentials that designate agents as experts in working with unique property types, clients, or sale types, including:

Even if you don’t need this level of specialized help, it’s a good idea to take a look at what designations, certifications, and specializations your agent has listed on their business cards, online profiles, or websites. These credentials say that your agent is dedicated to their profession and devoted to meeting their clients’ needs.

A coffee shop where a good real estate agent works.
Source: (Toa Heftiba / Unsplash)

10. Give bonus points to any agent who’s making a big community impact.

Good agents have in-depth knowledge about your neighborhood that’ll help them sell your house fast. Great agents go the extra mile and give back to the community.

There are plenty of ways that great agents show their community commitment, such as organizing charity events, or even making videos about moving to your city. These are signs that your agent has a great local reputation and are focused on building true relationships with their clients rather than treating sellers like transactional acquaintances.

“We personally put time and money back into our community by sponsoring local baseball and basketball teams, and we support the Children’s Hunger Fund in Dallas. We also host an event once a year where we invite the whole neighborhood and provide free ice cream to show that we can all be better together,” says Moore.

It’s worth the effort to find the right agent

Finding a great real estate agent to sell your home – your most valuable asset – is a huge pain point. In fact, it’s the reason HomeLight got started. We are committed to helping sellers fully evaluate potential candidates by providing detailed, stat-based profiles on our agents, interactive maps that track local home sale statistics, and offering multiple agent recommendations that fit your specific criteria. Whenever you’re ready, we’re here to help.

Header Image (Source: (Matthew Henry / Burst)

“How do I find a good real estate agent?” you think as you juggle a million other daily tasks. Use these 10 tips to narrow your search!HomeLight Blog

14 Upgrades and Routines to Be Happier in Your HomeJulia WeaverRedfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More

The pandemic has impacted our lives in countless ways, and many of our routines were flipped upside down as we struggled to wrap our heads around a new normal. From working and exercising, to online shopping and countless home-cooked meals – it may feel as if you’re surrounded by the same four walls day-in and day-out. 

It’s no secret that our surroundings affect our mood, but they might have a bigger impact on our well-being than you think. In fact, according to a recent study, 70% of homeowners said that the design of their home has affected their well-being during the pandemic. So, if you’ve been feeling down and can’t quite put a finger on why, your home may be to blame. Find out what you can do around the house to give yourself a much-needed mood boost to feel happy in your home – and even increase the value of your home.

Learn how to become more happy in your home with paint color

1. Design a home gym to make a happy home

Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and improve your overall well-being. If you were a regular at your local gym before the pandemic, it was most likely difficult for you when gyms across the country were closed to stop the spread of Coronavirus. You no longer have a place to go with weights, straps, or workout machines. Many people had to get creative with their at-home workouts, substituting household items for gym equipment in living rooms and bedrooms. 

It may have been difficult at first to adapt your routine, but if you’ve come to love the convenience of your home set-up, it may be time to make some upgrades. Start by clearing space and creating a dedicated exercise area in your spare room or garage. Next, add shock-absorbent rubber flooring for weighted exercises, gym equipment that’ll help you reach your fitness goals, and a mirror so you can keep an eye on your form. You can even include a fan to keep cool and a TV to follow along with a personal trainer or video workouts. 

The upfront cost of designing a home gym might be expensive, but don’t let that scare you. Did you know that the gym membership costs an average of $700 dollars a year? A home gym will practically pay for itself, considering the hundreds to thousands you can save over the years by no longer needing a gym membership.

2. Create a habit of routine cleaning

It’s hard to get in the right headspace when your home is dirty. A clean home is not only better for our overall health and well-being by reducing indoor allergens, but it also has a positive impact on our mood. Get in the habit of cleaning your home a couple of times a week. Routine cleaning includes vacuuming, dusting regularly, wiping down countertops and surfaces, and cleaning your bathrooms and kitchen.

Keeping your house clean can be a time-consuming task, and let’s face it – sometimes it’s hard to find the time to clean your house from top to bottom. Consider hiring a professional cleaning service. A happy home is a clean home and trust me, it will be worth it. They’ll be able to clean every nook and cranny of your home, plus you can choose the frequency of visits to suit your needs. 

3. Declutter your home and boost productivity

As a homeowner, it’s common to accumulate stuff over the years and not realize it until your home is in disarray. Your mess just becomes everyday junk that you no longer notice. But the piles of paper, boxes of toys, and mounds of clothes can negatively impact your overall mental state. Eliminate this source of stress in your life. Follow these general guidelines as you declutter your way towards a happier home:

  • Break your project up room-by-room, and don’t move on until the room is finished. This way, you don’t end up lost in an endless pile of stuff.
  • Begin categorizing. One for belongings you’d like to keep, one as a “maybe” pile, and another one for items you’ll donate. In a few days, come back to the maybe pile and make final cuts. If you don’t use it, don’t want it, or don’t need it, get rid of it. 
  • Check the expiration date and throw out any expired items. Be especially thorough when looking at items in the kitchen, pantry, bathroom, and medicine cabinet. 
  • Sort through your closet, and donate or toss clothes or shoes you no longer need.
  • Don’t allow papers to pile up. Our countertops can be quickly overrun with bills, flyers, and mail. Sort through these papers immediately, toss whatever isn’t important, and find a suitable storage option for the others

Decluttering is a big task, and attempting to tackle your entire home by yourself could turn disastrous. That’s why it’s best to hire a professional for assistance in sorting through your belongings, especially if you have a big job ahead. 

Home selling tip: If you’re trying to sell a cluttered home, buyers will be distracted and overwhelmed by your things. Hiring a professional to declutter can increase a home’s asking price by up to 5%.

4. Improve your home organization

There are countless benefits to becoming (and staying) organized. Organization doesn’t just mean your belongings are in the right place, it can also be beneficial to your well-being. Living in an organized home makes everyday tasks that much easier, even if it’s something simple like locating your house keys or finding your phone charger. Almost everyone wishes they were more organized, but the task of organizing itself can be daunting for some. 

It’s important to remember that there isn’t one tried-and-true way to organize your home. However, it’s crucial to organize in a way that fits your lifestyle so be sure to keep your everyday items in easy-to-reach places. Once you’ve decluttered, begin to categorize your belongings and store them in labeled boxes, bins, containers, and drawer organizers. A good place to start is your junk drawer. Always return items to their designated space after each use. It sounds simple, but it takes practice and commitment to develop this habit.

Sometimes finding the time to begin organizing, or even knowing where to start, can be the biggest obstacle. Work with a professional organizer to create a system that works for you and your goals.

Staying organized will create a happy home

5. Designate a space for mind and body practices

There’s nothing better than the immediate sense of calm that washes over you when you’ve stepped into a yoga studio or meditation center. If you’re looking for a way to bring more peace and tranquility into your home, think about designating a space for yoga or meditation. 

The best yoga or meditation sanctuary is calm and soothing, helping you to remain happy in your home. It should be a sanctuary you can escape to and where you can give 100% of your focus to your mind and body. Find a dedicated space, no matter how small, and designate it as your “studio.” This could be beside your bed, in the bonus room, or even on your balcony or back deck. 

Be sure to have everything you need in reach, including a water bottle, yoga mat, meditation cushion, blankets, and myofascial release tools. Create a relaxing ambiance with essential oils, and surround yourself with dim lighting, earthy elements, soothing music, and burning candles. This way you won’t have to leave your home to achieve the same sense of bliss you get at the yoga studio or your favorite meditation center.

6. Boost curb appeal to welcome you home with open arms

It’s common knowledge that a beautiful yard and a freshly painted exterior can increase the value of your home. But a home with curb appeal also has the ability to make you feel happier and is an essential ingredient for a happy home. A beautiful lawn with freshly trimmed plants, a stone walkway, and an inviting front porch is sure to make you smile as you pull into the driveway. 

But if you’re greeted by a yard overflowing with weeds and dead grass it may just add to your stress. If you can’t remember the last time you mowed, or it’s starting to wear on you, hire a professional to take care of your yard and trim the shrubs. Paint the front door, add potted plants, and pressure wash the exterior of your home. You’ll thank yourself for it every time you pull into your driveway. 

Home selling tip: Curb appeal not only helps your home sell quicker, but it also increases home value up to 11%.

7. Schedule an annual plumbing inspection

Maintaining a happy home and improving your overall well-being also includes regular maintenance and inspection of your home’s plumbing system. Before any issues spiral out of hand, and to help you save time, money, and heartache, schedule an appointment for a yearly plumbing check-up. A professional will be able to detect small or developing leaks, find the root cause of a clogged drain, and much more.

Home selling tip: A plumbing system that is in bad condition can be a deal-breaker for the buyer. Avoid any future issues by keeping up with your home’s annual plumbing maintenance.

8. Incorporate smart home technology

Thanks to smart home technology, healthy living is easier than ever. COVID-19 has brought to light just how easily germs can spread, which has amplified the demand for clean surfaces and filtered air. From air quality sensors and comfort-focused sleep technology, to water purifiers and UV disinfectant lights, your options are endless and will help you keep a healthy and happy at home. 

Home selling tip: It’s important to appeal to today’s buyers, and as more millennials break into the housing market, incorporating smart home technology will add more value than ever.

9. Reduce monthly bills with LED light bulbs

A happy home can also mean an efficient home. Since you’re probably spending more time at home than ever before, you might have noticed an increase in the time spent with the lights on, and therefore an increase in your energy bills.

Consider switching to energy-efficient LED light bulbs. According to the Consumer Federation of America, opting for LED lights can save you about $1,000 across the span of 10 years. In fact, residential LEDs use 90% less energy per day and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting. 

10. Refresh your space with a coat of paint

You walk into a yellow-painted, light-filled dining room to enjoy your morning cup of coffee and you immediately feel energized. If you’re not a morning person, you may be wondering why you’re suddenly feeling excited and upbeat about the morning.

The colors you choose to surround yourself with have a drastic impact on your mood. White walls can promote positivity and cleanliness, blue instills productivity and tranquility, and green relieves stress and has a calming effect. So, if you’re looking for a change in the mood of a room, consider painting your walls.

Home selling tip: Paint your walls a neutral color. Opt for beige, ivory, cream, or white-colored walls as these hues show best in photos and videos.

Paint in neutral colors when selling a home

11. Increase your vitamin D exposure with a sunroom

It’s no secret that sunshine has a profound effect on our mood and mental health. If you’re looking for a way to enjoy the many benefits of vitamin D and sunshine all year round, consider adding a sunroom to your home.

A sunroom is versatile, allowing you to adapt the space for numerous purposes. It’s most commonly used as a lounging area or sitting room, but a sunroom can easily be transformed into a craft room, office, yoga space, or garden. There’s just something about the radiant and airy atmosphere of a sunroom that can lift anyone’s mood and feel connected to nature without leaving your home.

Home selling tip: Adding on a sunroom to your home’s footprint will increase usable square footage, and therefore increase home value.

12. Instill peace of mind with an alarm system

Everyone wants to feel safe. While installing a home security system isn’t cheap, your peace of mind is priceless. Improving home security should be your first step towards feeling safer and happier at home.

There are countless benefits to installing a home security system. First and foremost, an alarm system can help protect you and your loved ones from intruders, smoke, and carbon monoxide poisoning. You’ll be able to protect your valuables from burglars and help deter crime. It can also lower your homeowners insurance by up to 20%. And, if you’re ever away from home, you’ll have the ability to monitor your home through your smartphone. Knowing that you, your family, and your home are safe will help alleviate worry and stress.

13. Create a reading nook to escape to

For many of us, nothing beats getting lost in a good book. It provides a temporary escape from reality and life’s everyday stresses. It can also improve your sleep, reduce anxiety, enhance social skills, and boost intelligence. If you love to cozy up with a book, consider creating a reading nook in a quiet space in your home. Find a private corner surrounded by bookshelves or a space you can only access by ladder, your options are endless. 

Personalize the space with plants, candles, and wall hangings. Adding pillows and blankets to your new space brings warmth and comfort. If your book nook is away from windows, be sure to add outlets and lighting so you can enjoy the space at any time of day. 

14. Replace your windows for better insulation

The temperature of your surrounding environment plays a very important role in how comfortable and relaxed you feel, and cold spaces can lead you to feel unmotivated. If your windows are drafty, consider replacing them to stay happier at home. After all, a warm home is a happy home. And, a better-insulated home can save you up to 15% annually on energy bills.

The post 14 Upgrades and Routines to Be Happier in Your Home appeared first on Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More.

The pandemic has impacted our lives in countless ways, and many of our routines were flipped upside down as we struggled to wrap our heads around a new normal. From working and exercising, to online shopping and countless home-cooked meals – it may feel as if you’re surrounded by the same four walls day-in and …
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The post 14 Upgrades and Routines to Be Happier in Your Home appeared first on Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More.Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More

The Proof is in the Plat Map: Your Neighborhood, DividedSally TunmerHomeLight Blog

Plat map: file under “things you would never know about unless you were buying a house, and maybe not even then.” A plat map is one of many documents in what seems like a deluge of paperwork a buyer encounters in the homebuying process.

If you’re wondering what on earth a plat map is and what it’s used for, you’re not alone. According to the National Association of Realtors®, a plat map is “a map, drawn to scale, showing the divisions of the piece of land” — that piece of land being where your home is located.

Plat, not to be confused with plot, shows more than the layout of a single property. If a plot is micro, then a plat is macro. It’s a parceled-out map of a defined area, like a neighborhood or subdivision. Essentially, a plat map is a bird’s-eye-view of your property and the surrounding area.

Typically, a plat map can be found somewhere in the pile of papers your title company presents to you at closing. It’s also something you or your agent can seek out ahead of time.

For those of us new to plat maps, which are probably all first-time homebuyers and even experienced homebuyers, what looks like a jumble of shapes and numbers can be hard to decipher.

Not to mention, you’ve surely had a site visit and walkthrough of your home before making an offer, unless purchasing it sight-unseen — not an uncommon practice during the pandemic. At this point, you know the location and have some sense of the area. So the question remains: What’s the purpose and benefit of a plat map?

Once you understand exactly what’s on a plat map and how to read one, it can offer a lot of useful information. We’ve done the research and talked to the experts to give you the critical insight on all things plat maps.

A plat map of Port Richey.
Source: (ghs1922 / flickr)

Plat maps: The what and the why

Let’s dig in further into what all a plat map shows and why it should matter to you, starting with a little history.

The origins of plat maps — also called cadastral maps, survey plats, or plat books — can be traced back to the 1850s as the first maps to document rural land ownership in the United States. Plat maps have evolved with the times, and it wasn’t until fairly recently that you could see a digital plat map.

The first plat map publisher was J.Q. Cummings, who founded Rockford Map Publishers in 1944. He meticulously researched and drew his plat maps by hand. Beginning in the early 21st century, with the help of Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping technology and computer software, plat maps were created digitally and eventually developed for smartphone and Google Earth compatibility.

Not all homes are platted. If the land around the house hasn’t been fully surveyed, or divided into different lots, then your house might not be found anywhere on a plat map until there’s more development around it.

What’s on a plat map and why it matters

A plat map outlines how your property is divided, the boundaries of the property, and all the surrounding property in the designated area, including other houses, residential land, streets, and any public land, like parks and playgrounds.

Sometimes, notes will accompany a plat map. The notes section can identify details like who is permitted to use certain tracts, who is responsible for maintaining public spaces, if there are any reserved areas for future development, and the locations of any protected trees or wetlands.

So, why is a plat map important? For starters, it provides an indisputable legal description of the property you own. Sellers don’t always list lot sizes and parameters accurately, so this is a valuable tool if there are any questions or discrepancies.

Furthermore, plat maps can confirm a lot of features and details about your future home-base, like trespassing lines, if the home is located in a flood zone, what direction each side of the house faces, any restricted areas of the property, and more.

These small details can have big implications. Some ways that analyzing the different components of a plat map could inform your purchasing and lifestyle decisions include:

  • Ensuring the lot size listed by the seller matches what’s on the plat map — a.k.a. confirming you’re purchasing everything that’s legally yours and paying the right price for it. There are instances when a lot size is listed incorrectly, especially for oddly shaped lots.
  • If you need flood insurance, and how to properly prepare for living in a flood zone
  • If the house would be compatible with solar panel installations
  • The available land space to build upon for a carriage house, shed, swimming pool, or another structure or outdoor feature
  • Determining if a neighboring structure or fence encroaches on your property

If you are an investor or land developer, plat maps are super important. Plat maps are essential for developers interested in owning a large piece of land to build new construction property on, or who want to consolidate existing property.

Plat maps will dictate lot sizes and boundaries for subdivisions, show roadways, rights of way, common areas, and other important details to know when developing real estate. They are also used for larger-scale planning and zoning projects, like creating neighborhoods and incorporating official towns or cities.

A plat map of Garden Grove District.
Source (re-sized): (Orange County Archives via Creative Commons Legal Code)

Plat maps vs. property surveys: What’s the difference?

While plat maps and property surveys are very similar, they aren’t exactly the same thing. Plat maps show the legal property lines that belong to the owner, but they offer more of a big-picture view of an entire neighborhood or subdivision, whereas a survey is a more in-depth look of a single property. Typically, the title company will order a survey of the property at the request of the buyer.

Plat maps can indicate a need for a survey if there is any question about a structure or feature of a neighboring property extending past its boundaries, known as an encroachment.

“If we notice any encroachments — fence is off the line, shed’s off the line — we can approach the seller before settlement and have any issues resolved,” says Sue Smith, a real estate agent in Northern Virginia who completes 84% more sales than the average agent in her market.

“I don’t like surprises, and I don’t like my clients to be surprised. I believe the settlement is a time to be happy as opposed to a time when you negotiate your contract. It’s a time to sign your papers and get your keys,” says Smith. Reviewing the plat map and ordering a survey in advance of closing will ensure that smooth and joyful experience.

Easements shown on a plat map could also signal the need for a survey to get a closer look at an individual property.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, the definition of an easement is the “right-of-way granted to a person or company authorizing access to the owner’s land; for example, a utility company may be granted an easement to install pipes or wires. An owner may voluntarily grant an easement, or in some cases, be compelled to grant one by a local jurisdiction.”

Glennda Baker, a real estate agent in Smyrna, Georgia with 29 years’ experience specializing in single-family homes, illustrates just how much easements can affect property regulations.

A previous client of Baker’s was under contract for a home that had a sewer easement by the storm drain runoff on the right and back sides of the house, which is “very common.”

Because of her knowledge and familiarity with the local market, she knew because of a terrible flood that occurred in the area in 2009, her client would need a survey, “because these setback lines on these drains change if there’s been a flood,” and sure enough, the flood map had changed. By a lot.

She pressed her client, who did not want to spend $650 on the survey, and it was a good thing she did, because the survey revealed that the buffer on the storm drain had extended from 7 feet to 25 feet. This decreased the building area on the lot. That meant in a worst-case scenario, if something irreparable happened to the house (like it burned to the ground), they could not rebuild a house of the same size that would be anywhere close to the same value.

There are all kinds of easements that can run through a property and prevent the owner from building any kind of addition, like a pool, fence, or shed.

“That’s why you engage a professional real estate agent — because a professional real estate agent can give you a warning of the pitfalls of buying without a survey,” says Baker.

While plat maps are an excellent reference and legal proof of a property’s ownership boundaries, a survey takes verification a step further for added protection.

A plat map of Bolsa Road.
Source (re-sized): (Orange County Archives via Creative Commons Legal Code)

Where can you find plat maps?

There are three main entities that produce plat maps: the Bureau of Land Management, local government, and title companies. The Bureau of Land Management provides plat maps for federal lands. Those are available to search through in their digital archives and at the nearest federal land office.

Once a licensed surveyor creates a plat map for a residential area, it is recorded as public record. City and county records offices as well as online databases like Q Public will have these plat maps available to search.

Once under contract for a property, buyers will have direct access to the location’s plat map through the title company. The title company will deliver the plat map along with the rest of the documents from the title search.

For history, family tree and ancestry projects, historic plat maps can be found by looking through archives of the Bureau of Land Management, Library of Congress, and searching specific locations and time periods online.

Breaking down the plat map

We know that in general, a plat map shows the layout of a residential area, divided by the individual plots and public areas, but let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of it.

On a plat map, you can expect to find:

  • The street names and the neighborhood or subdivision name will appear where applicable.
  • The orientation will signify the placement of each property by cardinal direction, showing which sides of the house face north, south, east, and west.
  • Plot details: Each plot will have an assigned parcel number, a lot number, a house number, and the measurements of the plot in square feet.
  • Easements will show any parts of the plat area that the city or private companies have the rights to, meaning reserved areas that can be occupied or built on for specified purposes. These types of easements include:
    • Utility easements include access for water, power, gas lines, phone, and internet.
    • Access easements are reserved for certain roads and community trails.
    • Native growth protection: This is an easement granted for the protection of vegetation within a critical area or its associated buffer. Its purpose is to preserve natural resources that benefit “public health, safety, and welfare” by controlling “surface water and erosion, maintenance of slope stability, visual and aural buffering, and protection of plant and animal habitat.”
  • Greenbelts or open space: defines greenbelts as “undeveloped, wild, or agricultural land that surrounds urban areas.” Greenbelts can be any natural land, from wildlife habitats, wetlands, and recreational parks.
  • Recreation areas: Trails, playgrounds, fields, and courts for sporting activities, parks
  • Monuments: Monuments on a plat map are simply any boundary or point on a map, which is physically marked on the land itself by a surveyor.
  • Roads: any roads or streets located within the defined plat area
The legend of a plat map.
Source: (AM Engineering)

How do you read a plat map?

So now we know what’s on a plat map, but how do you find all of these things? Let’s look at where each element is on the map and how it appears.

Keep in mind, all the plots — or each separate property unit — are represented by the individual square- or rectangle-shaped boxes on the map. Symbols and drawings will vary from one plat map to another, so always reference the legend.

Source: (AM Engineering)

To find the directional orientation of the plots, look for a prominent arrow-like figure, usually towards the top or the side of the map. This will show where north is, labeled with an “N” where the arrow is pointing, so you can tell which sides of the plot face north, south, east, and west.

Source: (AM Engineering)

The house number is located right outside the edge of the plot box at the street line.

Source: (AM Engineering)

The lot number is listed inside the plot box. The word “lot” will be listed with the number, or the legend will clarify which number inside the box is the lot number.

Source: (AM Engineering)

The parcel number is the other number listed inside each plot box that is not the lot number.

Source: (AM Engineering)

The plot dimensions can be calculated by looking at the numbers listed with a decimal or with the symbol for feet next to the number. These measurements appear around the plot’s edges, inside of the box. If multiple plots have the same dimensions, the number may be listed only once, meaning it’s consistent with the other plots.

Source: (AM Engineering)

Easements will be labeled along roads for access easements, within individual plots for drainage and utility easements, and anywhere else on the plat map indicated by the word “easement” and the corresponding type. Some easements, like sewer and utilities, will include the dimensions of the exact size.

Source: (AM Engineering)

The legend will indicate how to find monuments, which could be labeled with symbols like small solid black boxes or cross marks.

Source: (AM Engineering)

Recreation areas are labeled usually within a circular shape outside of the main residential area.

Source: (AM Engineering)

As you can see, what might seem like an insignificant document stuffed inside a folder from the title company holds a lot of pertinent information. While we all want to get to the closing table as quickly as possible, don’t sleep on your property’s plat map. It could be a crucial missing piece that shows exactly what you’re buying, which in some cases, might be different than what you thought.

Header Image Source: (Orange County Archives via Creative Commons Legal Code resized)

What is a plat map? While plat maps might seem like just another piece of paperwork, they are a valuable property tool for homebuyers.HomeLight Blog

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