Category Archives: Homeowner Tips

Get Ready to Sell!

Get Ready to Sell!

If you are thinking of selling in the next few weeks, or even months from now, there are things you should do to get your home into tip-top shape. Here is a list of the most common items that I check when getting a home ready to sell:

  • Review walls and ceilings for small cracks. Repair these throughout. If there are larger cracks in the ceiling, walls, foundation, or driveway, these might be a sign of a problem that you may want to look at or fix before coming on the market.
  • Check the paint in each room. If the rooms need to be freshened up, paint is one of the cheapest ways to have big impact.
  • Wipe down all baseboards and trim. If there are scuffs, dents, or marks, if your trim has a wood look, you can touch up the stain and if they are painted and the scuffs won’t come off, you may need to touch up the paint.
  • Make sure your ceiling is free of cobwebs and dust.
  • Clean all vents.
  • In the kitchen, cabinets (both inside and the doors) need a cleaning. I encourage sellers to declutter while they are at it. Buyers will look inside the cabinets, so I recommend boxing up the extra dishes, Tupperware, and spices while you are cleaning and making the insides nice and neat.
  • While you are in the kitchen, clean and tidy up the fridge. Again, less is more, so use up or toss all those extra salad dressing containers, mustard, and hot sauce packets.
  • Give appliances a thorough cleaning including the inside of the stove, the stovetop, grease traps, vacuum the back of the fridge, etc.
  • Remove all the papers and magnets that might be on the fridge.
  • Kitchen counters seem to attract a lot of clutter. I recommend clearing everything off and only putting back a few things that you are going to need for the next 90 days and that aren’t visually distracting. For example, you might need a toaster and a coffee maker. As long as those look neat and in working order, they can stay. But don’t leave a can of coffee on the counter. That goes in a cabinet.
  • The same type of cleaning you did in the kitchen cabinets need to be done in the bathroom. Clean out all drawers and cabinets and only replace what you need in the next 90 days. Remove everything from the bathroom counters except for soap or nicely-organized jars with Q-tips and cotton balls. Everything else should be stowed in cabinets neatly.
  • Edit your shower collection of shampoos, conditioner, body soap, etc, to only one bottle of each and remove extra razors and scrub brushes.
  • Edit your towels to a single color that enhances the bathroom décor and make sure all family members know how to hang up the towels properly after use.
  • Check tile grout and replace if necessary. Do the same with the caulk.
  • Clean the bathroom fan.
  • Clean out the shower and tub drains.
  • Check all the light fixtures in the house to make sure they are working property and to replace all burned out bulbs.
  • While you are doing that, check each light switch and clean the switchplates. You can also make sure that the plates for the outlets are in good working order.
  • Service the furnace and water heater. If you live in a rural area, it might be a good idea to have the septic inspected as well, although rules in different areas may affect when exactly you want to do this.
  • Usually I suggest that carpets get cleaned.
  • If wood floors are scuffed up, they may need to be refinished.
  • Clean all blinds and window treatments.
  • Clean out the fireplace and have the chimney inspected. Stage a log or two in the fireplace if you like. Clean glass doors and remove excess materials from the hearth and mantel.
  • Review your houseplant situation. Any that are barely hanging on should be removed or replaced.
  • Wash all windows and outside doors and make sure they slide freely. You may want to replace all windows that have a broken seal.
  • Analyze each room to make sure the function is clear. Any items that don’t support that function should be removed. For example, if in the master bedroom, there is workout equipment, a desk with piles of paperwork, and a dog crate, I would suggest removing the workout equipment, dog crate, and packaging up the paperwork. We want a nice, calm space.
  • While you are analyzing each room, declutter as much as possible. That means removing extra artwork that is cluttering up the walls, removing family tchotchkes and photography, and removing collections of things. For example, if you have collections of plates, Star Trek memorabilia, bells, etc, I suggest packing those up so the buyers can picture themselves in your home.
  • If you have kids, getting the house ready to sell can provide you with a great opportunity to go through their toys and clothes and get rid of things they have outgrown. Since toys can create a lot of clutter, give them a choice of perhaps 10 things they can keep while the home is on the market, and then make sure they know how to put those away when they are done playing.

  • Is anything broken or in need of repair? Believe it or not, the cost to fix these items now may be less than the perceived value the buyer may put on disrepair when making an offer. If your dog has scratched up a door beyond repair, there are deck boards broken, or a kitchen door is missing a handle, get it fixed before the home goes on the market. We want the buyers to feel that your home is well-taken care of.
  • If there is a challenge with odors in your home, you can possibly use room deodorants or disinfectant sprays (but beware that some buyers are sensitive to these so don’t overuse). There are also products out there specially-designed to handle pet odors and you may want to rent an ozone system if the smell cannot be otherwise overcome or identified.
  • If the weather has done some damage to your home outside, repainting and caulking the seams is a good plan.
  • Make sure the front door looks especially, clean, freshly painted if applicable, and inviting.
  • Verify decks and railing are in good repair and are freshly stained and/or painted.
  • Get the roof cleaned of moss and dust and make sure there are no issues that should be addressed before the home goes on the market.
  • Clean the gutters.
  • Remove webs and bird droppings from eaves.
  • Pressure-wash all cement surfaces such as driveways and walkways.
  • Prune plants and trees so there is at least six inches or more of space between the plant and the house.
  • Prune or remove plants that are partially dead or don’t look great and make sure to deadhead all dead flowers.
  • If your trees need work, such as removing dead branches, go ahead and get this taken care of.
  • Determine if mulch (bark, rocks, etc) needs to be replaced and do so.
  • Make sure all container plants and pots look fresh and organized neatly.
  • Areas that are graveled may need a fresh coat of gravel.
  • Wind up the hose neatly.
  • Keep the grass trimmed neatly. If there are bare patches, cultivate some grass and keep it green.
  • Apply the same decluttering principles to the deck and outdoor living spaces. If furniture and décor is mismatched, this will distract the buyer.
  • Make sure outdoor furniture cushions are cleaned. Add a pop of color with outdoor pillows, freshly-potted plants, and hanging baskets.
  • Clean the BBQ.
  • Make sure garage door opener works.
  • Remove excess clutter from garage. Belongings should be neatly organized on racks or in cabinets wherever possible.
  • Clean the garage. Keep the floor swept. Depending on what you have in the garage, some people will use a leaf blower to clean out dust that is sitting on belongings and in corners.
  • If applicable, make sure crawl space under the house is clear of garbage, pests, etc. We may want to put down new plastic sheeting on the ground if needed.
  • And of course, give your home a thorough cleaning!

There may be additional custom items for your home that need to be added to this list. Although this may seem overwhelming, addressing each item will bring in more potential buyers. If you are ready for your custom plan, give me a call: (425) 260-0715 or email: jay@jayagoado.net.

Should I Waive The Inspection?

Jay,

The house I want to buy looks great and some of my friends are saying my offer stands a better chance of being accepted if I waive an inspection. Should I?

While I applaud your friends trying to help you get the home you want, in short, I do not recommend waiving an inspection. I have seen too many structural deficiencies hiding behind fresh paint to feel an inspection is superfluous.

Having an inspection gives you the opportunity to get to know the bones of the home and discover the minor or major issues of the property – important information for any future homeowner.

Even if a home is being sold “as is”, it is worthwhile to have an inspection done so you can get an idea of what it would cost to do the needed renovations.

One strategy that buyers in highly-competitive markets are employing is getting a pre-inspection. In this scenario, the buyer would pay to have an inspection done before making an offer on the property so they can know the possible fixes the property needs ahead of time and decide whether they want to move forward with an offer or not.

There are pros and cons to having a pre-inspection. First, not all sellers will agree to a pre-inspection. Second, the buyer pays for the inspection out-of-pocket and the seller may not even choose their offer to accept, causing the buyer to walk away empty-handed.

However, a pro is that the inspection itself no longer is a contingency in the offer, making the sellers feel more at ease.

A buyer may be faced with a seller who indicates they have already had a professional inspection done of their property and therefore a buyer inspection is not necessary. However, I still advise buyers to have an independent inspection completed. Just because a seller may have had a pre-inspection done does not mean they have fixed all the issues the inspector found – or they may not have fixed them in a way that is up to the buyers’ standards.

If you are thinking about moving and want to know more about inspections and the buying or selling process, please contact me at 425-260-0716 or jay@jayagoado.net.

Kitchen Remodeling

Jay,

We are thinking about remodeling our kitchen but are not sure how much it could cost or if it is worth it if we try to sell in 5 years. Does it make sense to remodel our kitchen?

When thinking about doing a kitchen remodel you have to identify the reason for the remodel. Some people remodel their kitchen to suit their current lifestyle needs while others do it for the purposes out bringing extra value to their home. They type of remodel you do will depend entirely on your budget. And most people fail to plan a budget that they can live with. Often they start with choosing appliances or cabinets they have fallen in love with and then they build from there. This can cause budgetary nightmares down the road so it is recommended you start with your budget and work with kitchen remodeling pros who can give you a reality check on what is possible within that budget.

According to Remodeling Magazines national remodeling costs, professional kitchen remodels range from $56,000 for mid-range remodels to $110,000 for upscale remodels while the do it yourself remodel averages $24,000.
When investing this kind of money pay particular attention to the following kitchen remodeling budget tips:
1) Keep the kitchen layout the same to save money
2) Avoid using expensive upscale materials like exotic woods for the cabinets
3) When trying to save money don’t scrimp on plumbing and electrical
4) Get multiple bids and negotiate for what you need

When a kitchen remodel is done right it can bring an excellent return on your investment and provide you with a state of the art kitchen for you to enjoy for years to come.


SOURCE: http://www.remodeling.hw.net/

Thinking About Moving in a Few Years – Remodeling The Bathroom

Jay,

My family will likely be moving in about three years from our home. We have done nice updating throughout the house, but our master bathroom is woefully in need of some updating as it was last updated in the early 80’s. Does it make sense to remodel?

While you will likely not recoup everything you put into your bathroom remodel, it may indeed be worth the time and effort. Furthermore, if your home can stand out from the competition when it does come time to sell, you may benefit from a shorter time on the market and higher sale price. Of course, until then, you can enjoy your bathroom.

According to Remodeling Online, their Cost Vs. Value Report, if a bathroom were remodeled and the house sold within one year, an average rate of return was 84.9%. The average spent was $12,918 with $10,970 recouped.
However, if the floorplan of your bathroom doesn’t need attention and your cabinets are in good shape, you may be able to get away with a much less-intensive remodel. Simply re-facing the cabinets, adding new countertops and hardware, and updating fixtures such as the sinks, toilet, shower and tub can save a lot of money.

SOURCE: http://www.realtor.com/home-garden/remodel/remodeling-projects/top-7-roi.aspx

Homeowner Tax Tips

Tax Time Blunders Every Homeowner Should Avoid

 

It’s tax time again, but DON’T PANIC…you can itemize your deductions without drawing the ire of the IRS. Tax experts have identified six of the most common homeowner tax mistakes they see. Here is the full scoop on these pitfalls and how to avoid them…

 

1. Forgetting To Deduct Your Mortgage Interest

Deducting the interest you pay on your mortgage can save a bundle on your taxes, but many people automatically take the standard deduction instead. Hang on to that nifty little Mortgage Interest Statement you receive from your lender and see if going the line-item deduction route might maximize your savings. Calculations can get complicated, so it’s a good idea to consult an accountant.

 

2. Assuming All Things House Related Are Deductible

Deductions are awesome, but make sure everything you’re writing off is, in fact, allowable. Examples of non-allowable deductions are homeowner/condo association fees and landscaping services. Over-deducting can raise red flags with the IRS and ultimately lead to audits, back taxes, penalties and interest.

Mortgage interest and points charged on the mortgage in the year you purchased your home are usually allowable. You may also be able to deduct mortgage insurance premiums and certain energy-efficiency upgrades. Get advice from your tax pro, and check out this article on legit home tax deductions you may be entitled to.

 

3. Forgetting About Your Home Office

Did you know there is a home office deduction you can take if you work from home, even just on a part-time basis? While there used to be challenging forms to fill out, now there’s a simplified option available: take $5/sq. ft. up to 300 feet (or $1,500). That’s it! Before you get too excited though, check with the accountant to make sure you wouldn’t save more using the old, long method. There are also strict rules about what counts as a home office. Learn more from this article on deduction options when you work from home.

 

4. Not Understanding Rental Income

Renting a portion of your house out changes how you can claim deductions. For example, you can only claim mortgage interest and property tax deductions on the part of your home that isn’t rented, BUT you can deduct rental expenses (such as proportionate utility and maintenance costs) for the area that was rented out during the time it was rented.

As an illustration, say you lived in a duplex and rented out the other half. In this particular year, it had been occupied by a tenant for 9 months. You could only deduct half of the total mortgage interest & property taxes on Schedule A (for your non-rental area). However, you could deduct utility and maintenance costs for the rental unit during the time it was occupied…or half of the total cost, multiplied by 0.75 since it was only occupied for 75% of the year. Make sense? No? Maybe this article on tax deductions for rental homes will help.

 

5. Paying a Relative’s Mortgage

Helping out someone in need by making their mortgage payments for them? Wow, you rock! Just make sure you help in a smart way that still allows the mortgage interest to be deducted. One great way is by gifting the beneficiary cash (up to $14,000 per year without incurring a gift tax) rather than paying the lender directlyówhich will still allow them to deduct the interest from their taxes. Depending on the situation, you may also be able to claim a relative who doesn’t live with you as a dependent and deduct the mortgage interest from your own taxes. Ask your tax expert what the best option is for you.

 

6. Never Challenging Your Property Tax Assessment

Property taxes represent a fairly large expense, and sometimes are even higher than they should be due to an overestimation of your home’s value. The problem is that property value reassessments are often done in bulk, meaning they are based on averages for the areaóand can vary a LOT from your home’s actual value. How can you make sure you’re not paying too much?

First, check the assessment data and make sure it’s correct; incorrect facts such as square footage and number of rooms can impact your assessed value. Begin the appeals process right away if you notice any errors.

From there, talk to me to see if the valuation seems reasonable. I can pull up market data to see how your property compares to others that have sold recently. Hiring an appraiser is another option if the $350-$600 cost is worth it to you.

You’ll find instructions for starting an appeal on your annual tax assessment notice. More info is also available on the King County Tax Advisor Office web page.

 

 

©2017 Windermere Real Estate/Mercer Island

Sources:
https://www.houselogic.com/finances-taxes/taxes/6-homeowner-tax-mistakes-accountants-say-watch/

https://www.houselogic.com/finances-taxes/taxes/home-tax-deductions/

https://www.houselogic.com/finances-taxes/taxes/tax-deductions-when-you-work-home/

Does It Pay To Remodel???

 

Pondering a remodel? Did you know some projects actually pay for themselves when it’s time to sell? Remodeling Magazine just released its 30th annual Cost vs. Value report, which provides a detailed analysis into how much popular remodeling projects costóand the value they add to your homeóin various regions across the county. Thanks to our robust housing market, the Pacific Region beat the national average for recoup on every single project.

A few key takeaways we learned from this report are:

  1. Exterior “curb appeal” improvements generally pack a bigger payback than interior projects
  2. Inexpensive improvements are easier to recoup than pricier remodeling projects
  3. Replacement projects usually net more than remodeling/expansion projectsówhich may explain the relatively low returns on kitchen and bath remodels/additions

For the full Pacific Region report on all 29 projects, including project descriptions and scope, click here!

 

 

 

Cost vs. Value data © 2017 Hanley Wood Media Inc. Complete data from the Remodeling 2017 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded for free at www.costvsvalue.com

Appliance Lifespan – What Homebuyers Need To Know

Appliance Lifespan – What Homebuyers Need To Know

If you are considering purchasing a home, it is smart to find out the age of the different appliances and systems that come with the property. The first step is to make a list of the appliances that come with the home and the date purchased. Then compare that to the list below:

Appliance Average Lifespan
Refrigerator 13 years
Dishwasher 9 years
Gas Range 15 years
Electric Range 13 years
Washing Machine 10 years
Dryer 13 years
Air Conditioner (room) 10 years
Central Air Conditioner 15 years
Freezer 11 years
Garbage Disposal 12 years
Microwave Oven 9 years
Water Heater Electric 11 years
Water Heater Gas 10 years
Tankless Water Heater 20+ years

These lifespans are just an estimate, of course. The true lifespan will vary by model, manufacturer, and how well the appliances have been maintained.  I like to help my buyers with tips like this that could save them money down the road. Questions? Give me a call or text: (425) 260-0715 or jay@jayagoado.net

Sources:

Listing Tips For The Holidays

Home Listing Tips for the Holidays

If you have your home on the market right now, you may be wondering what you should do about decorating your home for the holidays. In my experience, a modestly-decorated home feels fresh and cozy, so don’t be afraid to break out the garland and garnish!

Here are my five tips for holiday decorating when your home is on the market:

  1. Avoid adding clutter. Your home may be staged and decluttered before introducing holiday décor, so don’t just add décor without removing some of the items already in the room. As you are adding décor items to a room, keep focal points in mind. If you add a focal point with décor, make sure you remove something that was already a focal point. For example, if you have a dining room table scape with a runner, two candlesticks and a centerpiece, don’t just add a poinsettia to the table without removing the other centerpiece.
  2. Consider a smaller tree if a larger one will make a room feel cramped. Since a seven foot tall tree can take up 20 square feet at the base or more depending on the type of tree, you may be better off either opting for a tree with a thinner base or a shorter tree put on a small coffee table or sofa table-height table.
  3. If you put holiday lights on your house, make sure they are the same type and color. If they twinkle, make sure it is in a harmonious way. Having whole sections of your house blinking on or off at once while other sections are marching to the beat of their own drummer can be distracting to potential home buyers. You want the whole house to be what the buyer is focusing on, not the lighting show.
  4. If baking is part of your holiday traditions, by all means, put on the oven mitts. It goes without saying that you should do a good job of cleaning up afterwards. I also suggest having a good storage plan in mind if you usually stage extra goodies on the counters. Find additional storage in the cabinets or pantry for those holiday treats to avoid clutter.
  5. Beware of lit candles. If you have a last-minute showing and need to leave the house in a hurry, be prepared to blow out all the candles before you do. I recommend having someone in charge of this activity and having a reminder by the door to check all candles before walking out.

Also please remember that many people are sensitive to strong smells from potpourri and candles, so please use sparingly. If you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to give me a call at (425) 260-0715 or send an email to jay@jayagoado.net

What is a Home Warranty?

The term “home warranties” can refer to a number of different types of warranties. When buying or selling a home, different types of home warranties can provide benefits to buyers or sellers – and sometimes both. For sellers, a home warranty increases the perceived value of their home by providing an extra incentive. For buyers, a home warranty purchases a little extra peace of mind.

A home warranty is sometimes purchased independent of a real estate transaction by a homeowner simply wanting extra protection in the event of appliances breaking down or other issues that can come up in a home that are not protected under standard homeowners insurance.

However, sometimes home warranties are supplied by the real estate agent hired to sell the home protects the seller in the event an appliance breaks or other pre-existing, undetectable defects cause havoc during the listing. The warranty company that I tend to recommend is American Home Shield as they have great customer service.

Hands and little house over sky background.

In some cases, the eventual homebuyer may choose to extend this warranty once the property changes hands.

Covered items vary widely on these types of warranties, so it’s a good idea to carefully review the warranty to be sure you’re receiving the coverage you need. In many cases, after-market warranties can be created from an “a la carte” menu, allowing you to select the coverage most important to you.

Be clear on the exact resolution process when a problem arises with each covered item. For example, if the fridge breaks down, what is the process for getting it fixed?

Regardless of the type of warranty, there’s no doubt that they are an excellent tool to build trust and comfort between buyers and sellers.

For more of the nitty-gritty details on home warranties, give me a call at 425-260-0715 or send an email to jay@jayagoado.net. Let me show you how to use this strategy to your advantage.

Lighting While Listing

I received an interesting question from a homeowner last week who was concerned about some information he had just heard from a neighbor. He is ready to sell his home this winter and his neighbor warned him that his real estate agent had a mandatory rule about the lights staying on all day every day. Naturally, this homeowner wanted to hear from me, his future listing agent, about my rules regarding keeping all the lights in the house on while the house is on the market.

Let’s start with the facts – a house with its lights on shows better than one that doesn’t. And in the winter, it is more critical to have the light sources on and putting your home in the best light. Imagine potential buyers driving up to your house after sunset and your home is completely dark. Not a great sight to behold. But now think about how warm and inviting your home is when the exterior and interior lights are on – curb appeal is key!

267003-new-home-lighting

Although agents who are going to be showing your home will usually provide a few hours of notice before doing so, you or your agent may not be in a position to get to the home and turn on all the lights. Unless you can, and are willing, to get home within about 15 minutes of a call from an agent indicating he or she is going to show the property, I do indeed recommend that the lights stay on. Even during the day when there can be uneven sunlight or shadows, additional lighting in necessary.

According to the US Energy Information Administration’s publication Energy Saver: Tips on Saving Money & Energy at Home, lighting only accounts for 5% of the average home’s energy usage. You will probably see an increase in your bill, but my experience is that a lit home is appealing and will result in a quicker sale than the house down the road, everything else being equal.

If you would like to learn more about my listing recommendations to make a home show its best, please give a call at 425-260-0715 or send me an email: jay@jayagoado.net.