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7 Tips for Staging Your Home

By: G. M. Filisko

Make your home warm and inviting to boost your home’s value and speed up the sale process.

The first step to getting buyers to make an offer on your home is to impress them with its appearance so they begin to envision themselves living there. Here are seven tips for making your home look bigger, brighter, and more desirable.

1. Start with a clean slate
Before you can worry about where to place furniture and which wall hanging should go where, each room in your home must be spotless. Do a thorough cleaning right down to the nitpicky details like wiping down light switch covers. Deep clean and deodorize carpets and window coverings.

2. Stow away your clutter
It’s harder for buyers to picture themselves in your home when they’re looking at your family photos, collectibles, and knickknacks. Pack up all your personal decorations. However, don’t make spaces like mantles and coffee and end tables barren. Leave three items of varying heights on each surface, suggests Barb Schwarz of www.StagedHomes.com (http://www.StagedHomes.com) in Concord, Pa. For example, place a lamp, a small plant, and a book on an end table.

3. Scale back on your furniture
When a room is packed with furniture, it looks smaller, which will make buyers think your home is less valuable than it is. Make sure buyers appreciate the size of each room by removing one or two pieces of furniture. If you have an eat-in dining area, using a small table and chair set makes the area seem bigger.

4. Rethink your furniture placement
Highlight the flow of your rooms by arranging the furniture to guide buyers from one room to another. In each room, create a focal point on the farthest wall from the doorway and arrange the other pieces of furniture in a triangle around the focal point, advises Schwarz. In the bedroom, the bed should be the focal point. In the living room, it may be the fireplace, and your couch and sofa can form the triangle in front of it.

5. Add color to brighten your rooms
Brush on a fresh coat of warm, neutral-color paint in each room. Ask your real estate agent for help choosing the right shade. Then accessorize. Adding a vibrant afghan, throw, or accent pillows for the couch will jazz up a muted living room, as will a healthy plant or a bright vase on your mantle. High-wattage bulbs in your light fixtures will also brighten up rooms and basements.

6. Set the scene
Lay logs in the fireplace, and set your dining room table with dishes and a centerpiece of fresh fruit or flowers. Create other vignettes throughout the home-such as a chess game in progress-to help buyers envision living there. Replace heavy curtains with sheer ones that let in more light.
Make your bathrooms feel luxurious by adding a new shower curtain, towels, and fancy guest soaps (after you put all your personal toiletry items are out of sight). Judiciously add subtle potpourri, scented candles, or boil water with a bit of vanilla mixed in. If you have pets, clean bedding frequently and spray an odor remover before each showing.

7. Make the entrance grand
Mow your lawn and trim your hedges, and turn on the sprinklers for 30 minutes before showings to make your lawn sparkle. If flowers or plants don’t surround your home’s entrance, add a pot of bright flowers. Top it all off by buying a new doormat and adding a seasonal wreath to your front door.

More from HouseLogic
Spring cleaning guide (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/spring-cleaning-guide/)

Green cleaning products for the bathroom (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/green-cleaning-products-for-the-bathroom/)

Green cleaning products for the kitchen (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/green-cleaning-products-for-the-bathroom/)

Other web resources
How to make a small room look larger (http://www.lowes.com/cd_Ten+Ways+to+Make+a+Small+Room+Look+Larger_506205068_)

How to arrange bedrooms (http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/arranging-your-bedroom-furniture.html)

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who occasionally rearranges her furniture to find the best placement-and keep her dog on his toes. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

Common Closing Costs for Buyers

You ll likely be responsible for a variety of fees and expenses that you and the seller will have to pay at the time of closing. Your lender must provide a good-faith estimate of all settlement costs. The title company or other entity conducting the closing will tell you the required amount for:

Down payment
Loan origination
Points, or loan discount fees, which you pay to receive a lower interest rate
Home inspection
Appraisal
Credit report
Private mortgage insurance premium
Insurance escrow for homeowner s insurance, if being paid as part of the mortgage
Property tax escrow, if being paid as part of the mortgage. Lenders keep funds for taxes and insurance in escrow accounts as they are paid with the mortgage, then pay the insurance or taxes for you.
Deed recording
Title insurance policy premiums
Land survey
Notary fees
Prorations for your share of costs, such as utility bills and property taxes

A Note About Prorations: Because such costs are usually paid on either a monthly or yearly basis, you might have to pay a bill for services used by the sellers before they moved. Proration is a way for the sellers to pay you back or for you to pay them for bills they may have paid in advance. For example, the gas company usually sends a bill each month for the gas used during the previous month. But assume you buy the home on the 6th of the month. You would owe the gas company for only the days from the 6th to the end for the month. The seller would owe for the first five days. The bill would be prorated for the number of days in the month, and then each person would be responsible for the days of his or her ownership.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Keep Your Home Sale from Falling Apart

By: G. M. Filisko

After finding a buyer, all you have to do to make it to closing is to avoid these five traps.

Finding a buyer for your home is just the first step on the home selling path. Tread carefully in the weeks ahead because if you make one of these common seller mistakes, your deal may not close.

Mistake #1: Ignore contingencies
If your contract requires you to do something before the sale, do it. If the buyers make the sale contingent on certain repairs, don’t do cheap patch-jobs and expect the buyers not to notice the fixes weren’t done properly.

Mistake #2: Don’t bother to fix things that break
The last thing any seller needs is for the buyers to notice on the pre-closing walk-through that the home isn’t in the same condition as when they made their offer. When things fall apart in a home about to be purchased, sellers must make the repairs. If the furnace fails, get a professional to fix it, and inform the buyers that the work was done. When you fail to maintain the home, the buyers may lose confidence in your integrity and the condition of the home and back out of the sale.

Mistake #3: Get lax about deadlines
Treat deadlines as sacrosanct. If you have three days to accept or reject the home inspection, make your decision within three days. If you’re selling, move out a few days early, so you can turn over the keys at closing.

Mistake #4: Refuse to negotiate any further
Once you’ve negotiated a price, it’s natural to calculate how much you’ll walk away with from the closing table. However, problems uncovered during inspections will have to be fixed. The appraisal may come in at a price below what the buyers offered to pay. Be prepared to negotiate with the buyers over these bottom-line-influencing issues.

Mistake #5: Hide liens from buyers
Did you neglect to mention that Uncle Sam has placed a tax lien on your home or you owe six months of homeowners association fees The title search is going to turn up any liens filed on your house. To sell your house, you have to pay off the lien (or get the borrower to agree to pay it off). If you can do that with the sales proceeds, great. If not, the sale isn’t going to close.

More from HouseLogic
How maintenance adds to home values (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/value-home-maintenance/)

Reducing closing stress (http://buyandsell.houselogic.com/articles/7-steps-stress-free-home-closing/)

Other web resources
More on calculating closing costs (http://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/ramh/res/sc3sectb.cfm)

More on the closing process (http://www.homeclosing101.org/closing.cfm)

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who wanted a successful closing on a Wisconsin property so bad that she probably made her agent rethink going into real estate. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

7 Tips for a Profitable Home Closing

By: G. M. Filisko

Be sure you’re walking away with all the money you’re entitled to from the sale of your home.

When you’re ready to close on the sale of your home and move to your new home, you may be so close to the finish line that you coast, thinking there’s nothing left for you to do. Not so fast. It’s easy to waste a few dollars here and for mistakes to creep into your closing documents there, all adding up to a bundle of lost profit. Spot money-losing problems with these seven tips.

1. Take services out of your name
Avoid a dispute with the buyers after closing over things like fees for the cable service you forgot to discontinue. Contact every utility and service provider to end or transfer service to your new address as of the closing date.

If you’re on an automatic-fill schedule for heating oil or propane, don’t pay for a pre-closing refill that provides free fuel for the new owner. Contact your insurer to terminate coverage on your old home, get coverage on your new home, and ask whether you’re entitled to a refund of prepaid premium.

2. Spread the word on your change of address
Provide the post office with your forwarding address two to four weeks before the closing. Also notify credit card companies, publication subscription departments, friends and family, and your financial institutions of your new address.

3. Manage the movers
Scrutinize your moving company’s estimate. If you’re making a long-distance move, which is often billed according to weight, note the weight of your property and watch so the movers don’t use excessive padding to boost the weight. Also check with your homeowners insurer about coverage for your move. Usually movers cover only what they pack.

4. Do the settlement math
Title company employees are only human, so they can make mistakes. The day before your closing, check the math on your HUD-1 Settlement Statement.

5. Review charges on your settlement statement
Are all mortgages being paid off, and are the payoff amounts correct If your real estate agent promised you extras-such as a discounted commission or a home warranty policy-make sure that’s included. Also check whether your real estate agent or title company added fees that weren’t disclosed earlier. If any party suggests leaving items off the settlement statement, consult a lawyer about whether that might expose you to legal risk.

6. Search for missing credits
Be sure the settlement company properly credited you for prepaid expenses, such as property taxes and homeowners association fees, if applicable. If you’ve prepaid taxes for the year, you’re entitled to a credit for the time you no longer own the home. Have you been credited for heating oil or propane left in the tank

7. Don’t leave money in escrow
End your home sale closing with nothing unresolved. Make sure the title company releases money already held in escrow for you, and avoid leaving sales proceeds in a new escrow to be dickered over later.

Other web resources
(http://www.realtor.com/home-finance/sellers-basics/closing.aspx) Closing costs explained (http://www.homeclosing101.org/costs.cfm)

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has survived several closings. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

Checklist: 17 Service Providers You ll Need When You Sell

  • Real estate attorney
  • Appraiser
  • Home inspector
  • Mortgage loan officer
  • Environmental specialist
  • Lead paint inspector
  • Radon inspector
  • Tax adviser
  • Sanitary systems expert
  • Occupancy permit inspector
  • Zoning inspector
  • Survey company
  • Flood plain inspector
  • Termite inspector
  • Title company
  • Insurance consultant
  • Moving company

Used with permission from Kim Daugherty, Real Estate Checklists and Systems, www.realestatechecklists.com.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

What to Have on Hand for the New Owners?

Owner s manuals and warranties for appliances left in the house.
Garage door opener.
Extra sets of house keys.
A list of local service providers  the best dry cleaner, yard service, plumber, etc.
Code to the security alarm and phone number of the monitoring service if not discontinued.
As a courtesy, you could provide numbers to the local utility companies.
If it s a condo, leave information on how to contact the condo board.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Short Sales Tips for Sellers

If you’re thinking of selling your home, and you expect that the total amount you owe on your mortgage will be greater than the selling price of your home, you may be facing a short sale. A short sale is one where the net proceeds from the sale won’t cover your total mortgage obligation and closing costs, and you don’t have other sources of money to cover the deficiency. A short sale is different from a foreclosure, which is when your lender takes title of your home through a lengthy legal process and then sells it.

1. Consider loan modification first. If you are thinking of selling your home because of financial difficulties and you anticipate a short sale, first contact your lender to see if it has any programs to help you stay in your home. Your lender may agree to a modification such as: Refinancing your loan at a lower interest rate; providing a different payment plan to help you get caught up; or providing a forbearance period if your situation is temporary. When a loan modification still isn t enough to relieve your financial problems, a short sale could be your best option if:

* Your property is worth less than the total mortgage you owe on it.
* You have a financial hardship, such as a job loss or major medical bills.
* You have contacted your lender and it is willing to entertain a short sale.

2. Hire a qualified team. The first step to a short sale is to hire a qualified real estate professional and a real estate attorney who specialize in short sales. Interview at least three candidates for each and look for prior short-sale experience. Short sales have proliferated only in the last few years, so it may be hard to find practitioners who have closed a lot of short sales. You want to work with those who demonstrate a thorough working knowledge of the short-sale process and who won’t try to take advantage of your situation or pressure you to do something that isn’t in your best interest. A qualified real estate professional can:

* Provide you with a comparative market analysis (CMA) or broker price opinion (BPO).
* Help you set an appropriate listing price for your home, market the home, and get it sold.
* Put special language in the MLS that indicates your home is a short sale and that lender approval is needed (all MLSs permit, and some now require, that the short-sale status be disclosed to potential buyers).
* Ease the process of working with your lender or lenders.
* Negotiate the contract with the buyers.
* Help you put together the short-sale package to send to your lender (or lenders, if you have more than one mortgage) for approval. You can t sell your home without your lender and any other lien holders agreeing to the sale and releasing the lien so that the buyers can get clear title.

3. Begin gathering documentation before any offers come in. Your lender will give you a list of documents it requires to consider a short sale. The short-sale  package that accompanies any offer typically must include:

* A hardship letter detailing your financial situation and why you need the short sale
* A copy of the purchase contract and listing agreement
* Proof of your income and assets
* Copies of your federal income tax returns for the past two years

4. Prepare buyers for a lengthy waiting period. Even if you’re well organized and have all the documents in place, be prepared for a long process. Waiting for your lender s review of the short-sale package can take several weeks to months. Some experts say:

* If you have only one mortgage, the review can take about two months.
* With a first and second mortgage with the same lender, the review can take about three months.
* With two or more mortgages with different lenders, it can take four months or longer.

When the bank does respond, it can approve the short sale, make a counteroffer, or deny the short sale. The last two actions can lengthen the process or put you back at square one. (Your real estate attorney and real estate professional, with your authorization, can work your lender s loss mitigation department on your behalf to prepare the proper documentation and speed the process along.)

5. Don’t expect a short sale to solve your financial problems. Even if your lender does approve the short sale, it may not be the end of all your financial woes. Here are some things to keep in mind:

* You may be asked by your lender to sign a promissory note agreeing to pay back the amount of your loan not paid off by the short sale. If your financial hardship is permanent and you can t pay back the balance, talk with your real estate attorney about your options.
* Any amount of your mortgage that is forgiven by your lender is typically considered income, and you may have to pay taxes on that amount. Under a temporary measure passed in 2007, the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act and Debt Cancellation Act, homeowners can exclude debt forgiveness on their federal tax returns from income for loans discharged in calendar years 2007 through 2012. Be sure to consult your real estate attorney and your accountant to see whether you qualify.
* Having a portion of your debt forgiven may have an adverse effect on your credit score. However, a short sale will impact your credit score less than foreclosure and bankruptcy.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

5 Feng Shui Concepts to Help a Home Sell

To put the best face on a listing and appeal to buyers who follow feng shui principles, keep these tips in mind.

1. Pay special attention to the front door, which is considered the  mouth of chi (chi is the  life force of all things) and one of the most powerful aspects of the entire property. Abundance, blessings, opportunities, and good fortune enter through the front door. It s also the first impression buyers have of how well the sellers have taken care of the rest of the property. Make sure the area around the front door is swept clean, free of cobwebs and clutter. Make sure all lighting is straight and properly hung. Better yet, light the path leading up to the front door to create an inviting atmosphere.

2. Chi energy can be flushed away wherever there are drains in the home. To keep the good forces of a home in, always keep the toilet seats down and close the doors to bathrooms.

3. The master bed should be in a place of honor, power, and protection, which is farthest from and facing toward the entryway of the room. It s even better if you can place the bed diagonally in the farthest corner. Paint the room in colors that promote serenity, relaxation, and romance, such as soft tones of green, blue, and lavender.

4. The dining room symbolizes the energy and power of family togetherness. Make sure the table is clear and uncluttered during showings. Use an attractive tablecloth to enhance the look of the table while also softening sharp corners.

5. The windows are considered to be the eyes of the home. Getting the windows professionally cleaned will make the home sparkle and ensure that the view will be optimally displayed.

Source: Sell Your Home Faster With Feng Shui by Holly Ziegler (Dragon Chi Publications, 2001)

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Forms You ll Need to Sell Your Home

1. Property disclosure form. This form requires you to reveal all known defects to your property. Check with your state government to see if there is a special form required in your state.

2. Purchasers access to premises agreement. This agreement sets conditions for permitting the buyer to enter your home for activities such as measuring for draperies before you move.

3. Sales contract. The agreement between you and the seller on terms and conditions of sale. Again, check with your state real estate department to see if there is a required form.

4. Sales contract contingency clauses. In addition to the contract, you may need to add one or more attachments to the contract to address special contingencies  such as the buyer s need to sell a home before purchasing yours.

5. Pre- and post-occupancy agreements. Unless you re planning on moving out and the buyer moving in on the day of closing, you ll need an agreement on the terms and costs of occupancy once the sale closes.

6. Lead-based paint disclosure pamphlet. If your home was built before 1978, you must provide the pamphlet to all sellers. You must also have buyers sign a statement indicating they received the pamphlet.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Moving Checklist for Sellers.

___Provide the post office with your forwarding address two to four weeks ahead of the move.

___Notify your credit card companies, magazine subscriptions, and bank of your change of address.

___Create a list of friends, relatives, and business colleagues who need to be notified about your move.

___Arrange to disconnect utilities and have them connected at your new home.

___Cancel the newspaper, or change the address so it will arrive at your new home.

___Check insurance coverage for the items you re moving. Usually movers only cover what they pack.

___Clean out appliances and prepare them for moving, if applicable.

___Note the weight of the goods you ll have moved, since long-distance moves are usually billed according to weight. Watch for movers that use excessive padding to add weight.

___Check with your condo or co-op about any restrictions on using the elevator or particular exits for moving.

___Have a  first open box with the things you ll need most, such as toilet paper, soap, trash bags, scissors, hammer, screwdriver, pencils and paper, cups and plates, water, snacks, and toothpaste.

Plus, if you re moving out of town, be sure to:

___Get copies of medical and dental records and prescriptions for your family and your pets.

___Get copies of children s school records for transfer.

___Ask friends for introductions to anyone they know in your new neighborhood.

___Consider special car needs for pets when traveling.

___Let a friend or relative know your route.

___Empty your safety deposit box.

Put plants in boxes with holes for air circulation if you re moving in cold weather.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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