Selling Your Real Estate Property – Be Sure It Shows Well

Whether you are selling a house, townhouse, condo or apartment, there are universal tips that will help it sell. Primary among those tips are making sure your home “shows well.”

First impressions of a home go a long way to determining how quickly it will sell. Here are a few suggestions that will make your home show well.

1. Be sure the approach to your home is clean, tidy and well groomed. Any brass should be polished, paint on the door should be in good condition and the door should be washed clean of fingerprints and paw marks.

2. If your home is a single family house, be sure the grass is cut, leaves raked, plant beds mulched and weeded, etc.

3. If your home is in a multi-family building, be sure the approach and hall to your home is clean even if it is not your job!

4. Be sure your home is tidy and uncluttered. This includes closets, cabinets, garages, and other storage areas. When “stuffed,” no amount of storage “shows” as adequate. When really messy, no room looks charming.

5. Make any repairs that are noticeably needed. Door handles and locks should fit well and firmly. Exterior doors should shut and lock solidly. Drains and downspouts should be firmly attached and clear of debris so water flows freely. Attached light fixtures should be firmly attached. All switches should turn on whatever they were designed to turn on — light, fan, disposal, etc.

6. Conventional wisdom dictates your home should be “neutralized.” You can’t really go wrong following this advice. You know the drill — beige or soft gray carpet, beige, gray, or taupe walls, white or off-white woodwork and ceilings. Sometimes a very soft gold or a soft sage green can also “read” as neutral.

7. If you have a sure sense of decorating (you probably do if family and friends frequently ask your advice and you enjoy making decorating decisions), and especially if you plan to leave color coordinated window treatments, you might leave more definite colors in place understanding that a potential buyer with no imagination might be put off by them and not think to request a “redecorating allowance” in a contract offer. Still, beautiful decorating which is not neutral undeniably attracts some buyers.

8. If your carpet is in poor condition, but you cannot afford to replace it, get several neutral samples in a mid-price range from a local carpet store, spread them on the floor, and add a note stating that you will be glad to provide a carpet allowance from the proceeds of settlement.

9. Dark homes show badly. Make sure lamps are on and lampshades are straight with the seams toward a wall. Make sure there is as much natural light as possible; have curtains, shades and blinds open.

Buyers are looking for a home they can see themselves living in. Follow the above tips and you will position your home to sell quickly.

Preparing for an Appraisal – Plan For It

A critical part of selling a home is the appraisal. Here’s how to plan for it. 

You have a contract to sell your home and now the appraiser is coming. The appraisal needs to come in at a good price in order for your buyer to get his loan. What should you do?

The Appraiser Says

Appraisers typically tell people not to do anything special before they come. They tell the owner they see lots of houses and they can look past a little clutter and dust. “Don’t be nervous,” they counsel. Appraisers are sincere people. I’m sure they mean what they say. 

I Say

On the other hand, appraisers are human. They respond to cleanliness and order and to good maintenance the same way buyers do. If you’ve let your hair down, get your home back into “show” condition before the appraiser comes.

Everything you know about a tidy approach to your home, well mulched flower beds, door knobs that are attached firmly and work smoothly, lack of finger prints, lack of clutter, and all the rest applies. Take a look at a “Uniform Residential Appraisal Report” form if you doubt me. The age of the home and the “effective age” are asked for under the “General Description.” Don’t you think how well your home appears to be cared for affects the number that appears under “effective age?”

The Uniform Appraisal Report requires information about materials (and their condition) used for floors, walls, trim and finishing elements, bathroom floors and wainscots, and for interior doors. Appraisers train themselves to notice these details. If yours are dusted, polished, and free of scratches and fingerprints, don’t you think you might be giving your appraisal a nudge in the right direction?

The Report also asks about kitchen equipment (refrigerator, range and oven, disposal, dishwasher, fan and hood, microwave, and washer and dryer). Do you think it’d be a good idea to have them clean and purring?

The Report asks about amenities such as fireplaces, patios, decks, porches, fences, pools, and sheds. If an appraiser is going to take special note of such things, shouldn’t they be swept, cleaned, and have paint in good condition? Also, clean out the gutters if they need it. If it should be raining on the day your appraisal is done, you want your house to handle the rain water well.

Let me share the “comments” section of an appraisal which got the owners what they wanted. I think it’ll give you a good feel for what you need to do. “The subject is well maintained and no physical, functional or external inadequacies were noted. Marketability is enhanced by hardwood flooring throughout a majority of the home, an updated kitchen, fresh interior and exterior paint, transom windows, built-ins, a front porch, a rear patio, a large storage shed, 4 fireplaces, etc.”

The appraiser is a human being. Make sure you do everything you can to appeal to them and you’ll get a good appraisal.

So you want to be a rental property developer?

If you’re like most people, you’ll have had the dream at one of two key times. Either you have just sold your own property and made a small fortune, despite the fact you did very little work on the property when you owned it. Or you’ve been watching one of the very popular TV property shows, where a couple of amateurs have blown their budget, made a series of basic mistakes, yet still made a small fortune.

Yes, life as a property developer seems romantic, and probably better than the daily slog you currently face at work.

Yet there can be few occupations as risky as being a property developer. Where else would you be asked to invest tens of thousands of pounds into a project, dedicate months of hard work and only then find out if you had made a profit. Even running your own business isn’t that risky, as you can measure your profitability along the way.

The reality is that it’s quite hard to make it as a full-time property developer. The money you made on the sale of your last house may have come from the growth of the housing market while you owned it. That’s not something you can rely on as your main source of income.

And as a property developer you are reliant on being able to turn enough of a profit from a property to cover your living expenses for a few months, plus help to fund your next purchase.

So before you jack in your job and start scouring local estate agents’ windows for suitable houses to do up, here are a few things to think about.

First off – are you really suited to this? Many of us are risk averse; that’s why we like going to work and getting a regular salary. It makes it easier to live your life knowing you have that monthly income. 

Being a property developer means the end of regular income (unless you decide to rent your properties out, anyway). And the financial risks are higher. If you can’t sell a property you’ve just finished, that’s not only going to stop you feeding your family, but will make it hard for you to move onto the next project. This is not an insurmountable problem, but an issue you should consider before making the leap.

Still sure you want to go ahead? Then the next thing is to look at the marketplace you are going to develop for. Look around your local area and try to work out where the greatest demand for property lies. Are there a lot of commuters wanting a well connected area or a virtually new property? Wealthy executives demanding four bedroomed detached houses? Families wanting lots of space for very little money? Retired people who want low maintenance bungalows within walking distance of shops?

Find the demand and develop for it. Try not to get hung up on the developer’s dream. If you want to create the perfect home, then do it in your own. Keep your developing as a business.

Once you’ve done your targeting, it’s time to do some hard work. You should be prepared to do as many unskilled labouring jobs in your projects as you can. In fact, to be a successful property developer you should be prepared to learn how to do the things you currently can’t. It’s a key attribute that will help you maximise your profits. Just remember to get qualified people in for the skilled work.

And the final part is to do whatever it takes to get a quick sale at the right price. It’s the goal you’ve been working towards all along.

The Quitclaim Deed. You Can Sell A House That You Don’t Own!

Normally, when you put your property up for sale, you have to present a document, called a warranty deed, which states that you are the legal owner of the property and that the title you have on hand is the original copy. But what if you don’t have the title of the property yet you have the legal rights to it? What document can you, then, present to prospective buyers? For situations such as these, the appropriate form to use is the called the Quitclaim Deed form.  

A Quitclaim Deed is a document which states that, although you may not own the property in question, nor have its title in your possession, you do have the legal right to use it and are authorized to dispose of it (through sales).  Quitclaim deeds are used you acquired the property in question through other means such as receiving it as an inheritance or when you became a co-owner by virtue of marriage. Quitclaim deeds are also for properties owned by the state but you are authorized to use through leasehold.

Quitclaim deeds are fairly straightforward. A quitclaim deed should include the names of both the buyer and the seller, the amount the buyer and seller agreed the property is worth, the location of the property, and of course, a notation wherein the seller waives or releases all his rights, interests and claims on the property. In addition to these basic information, for a quitclaim deed to be considered legal, it should bear the signatures of the parties involved, those of the witnesses and, must also carry a notarial seal and signature.

In the past, home sellers had to request lawyers or real estate agents to prepare quitclaim deeds for properties they want to put up on sale, but this has all changed now. In recent years, several real-estate related sites have been established and these sites assist those involved in real estate transactions by providing not only great tips on selling or buying a property; but also the necessary documents that will be needed to formalize any real estate arrangement.

Most real estate websites carry all sorts of real estate related documents and these can easily be purchased and downloaded by web users. The format and content of these forms have been well researched to ensure that these will be recognized by local, state and federal agencies. In each site, there is a listing of standard / generic forms but there are also forms that follow the requirements and content of specific states. 

If you need real estate documents, real estate websites usually give you the option to either download forms by bulk or set, or you can purchase forms on a per piece basis, buying and downloading as the need arises. In addition, these downloadable forms, although these conform to a certain format, can easily be modified to suit your requirements. Should you wish to include more or limit the information on your Quitclaim Deed, for example, you can easily do so.

Real Estate Owner Financing – Safety Tips

Why offer owner financing when you sell? A higher price, to start with. Add to that a good return on your money, a faster sale, and an easier sale of a “problem property.” Good reasons, but how do you do it safely?

 1. Ask for a large downpayment. This is the most obvious way to be safe, but not always possible. The point of owner financing is to help the buyer get the property, and downpayment is one of the areas most buyers need help.

 2. Ask for other security. If a buyer wants it with little down, and you like the return you’ll get, make it safe by putting a mortgage on other property that the buyer owns. Agree to release the mortgage when they’ve paid down the balance to a certain level.

 3. Credit checks. Ask them to pay for and bring you a credit report. Bad credit might be okay, but type of bad credit is important. An unpaid hospital bill they’re disputing is obviously not as relevant as their unpaid loans.

 4. Use your instincts. Are you usually right about people? If so, give some weight to your judgement of your buyer’s character. Personally, I’d trust a man who felt morally obliged to pay his debts over a playboy that happens to have decent income at the moment.

 5. Look at the whole picture. Let’s suppose that a bank will loan your buyer 90%, and is okay with you taking back a second mortgage for up to 5%, allowing the buyer to get in with only 5% down. If you’re getting 6% more than you expected by accomodating the buyer’s needs, where’s the potential loss? You’re okay if he never pays, right?

 6. Talk to a lawyer. In some areas it may take two years to foreclose on a mortgage through the courts, and only six months to foreclose on a “contract for sale.” Knowing these things can help you structure the deal in the safest way.

Owner financing makes it easier to sell, and to get a higher price. You just have to be safe about it. Let a real estate lawyer review your paperwork, and use the tips here.

Selling Your Home on Your Own – Examples of Problems and Solutions

What can go wrong? About a gazillion things, but this is true if you’re working with a broker, too. A broker is probably more experienced than you, and may well have confronted and solved your problem on a previous home sale. If you can stay calm and think under stressful conditions, you can be your own problem solver without the need for a broker. Plus, there is no guarantee the broker will get it right.

A longer list of possible problems from real life are for a later article. I will include a couple here just to help you size up your willingness to cope on your own.

Problem One

You have a contract with a buyer, but the buyer gets cold feet.


Be calm, matter of fact, and pleasant. Encourage your buyer to open up and tell you what’s in the way. “I don’t want you to buy our home if it’s not right for you, but you seemed to really like the house (condo/townhouse/whatever), and now you’re not sure you should go forward. What’s changed? What’s troubling you?”

If they level with you, you have a shot at helping them overcome their objections and solve their issues. You may even find they’ve misunderstood something. If so, correct information may be all that’s needed.

However, if this approach doesn’t work, and the buyer no longer wants to buy, let them go and move on. As long as the buyer wants to buy and the seller wants to sell, most problems can be sorted through. If one of them changes his mind, it’s over. (You can probably sue for “specific performance” under the contract, but do you really want your property off the market while you deal with that?)

Problem Two

Your buyer has made an inspection by a home inspection firm a contingency of the contract. The home inspector comes up with a laundry list of items to be repaired or replaced. Your buyer requests that they all be done prior to settlement.


Don’t let your ego get in the way. It’s not personal. It’s real estate, and big bucks are involved. Take a deep breath. Go over the list. How much money is really needed to make the repairs? Can you do any of it yourself? Call a plumber, carpenter, roofer, electrician, or whatever trades you need and get a ballpark idea. If the result looks reasonable, get closer estimates and agree to have the work done.

If it’s too expensive, explain to the buyer that the price of the home takes into account the condition. If the repairs are too expensive, can you and the buyer agree to “split the difference?” That is, can you do some items on the list and not do others because (you will explain to your buyer) the home was priced accordingly, but you are willing to compromise if he is.

If the repairs are too time consuming (the trades can’t take care of it before scheduled settlement), you are going to have to give it some thought. Can you agree to provide a sum of money to the buyer at settlement with which he can have the repairs made?

The key to coming up with solutions to the particular problem is to stay calm and thoughtful. The buyer is not your enemy. With any luck you can work out a win/win solution.

The Perfect Addition To Your Home: A Kitchen Island

The kitchen is the heart of the home and you want it to be a room that is welcoming and cozy for family and guests. But kitchens tend to be busy places and can get messy and cluttered up pretty quickly with all of the appliances and gadgets, not to mention décor items, which can diminish the nice atmospheric state you’re going for. One good solution is to install a kitchen island. Not only are they convenient as a means of additional workspace, but many are equipped with their own cabinets and drawers to help you prevent that untidy appearance.

Your first consideration when deciding on a which type of kitchen island you’d like should probably be how you plan to use it and their functions are as varied as the wide range of design options. They can be a utilized as a food preparation area, a baking center, a serving spot for an informal meal or buffet and the perfect setting to sit and nibble a snack or sandwich. An island even can provide a quiet spot for children to do their homework, close to mom while she gets after school snacks or dinner together.

Take the opportunity to make your kitchen island mutli-functional because there’s lots of options to choose from. Just about any appliance can be built into it including cook tops, under-the-counter refrigerators, sinks, dishwashers and trash compactors. Deep drawers provide a place to store bulky cookware and pullout shelves allow for more easy access. Pick a countertop for your island that matches your other counters or make it stand out by using a contrasting material. Also, your choice of cabinetry and decorative elements can make your island into a real quality item, similar to a fine furniture piece.

The dimensions and placement of your kitchen island will depend on the shape and space available in your kitchen. Professionals say that the island should be positioned at least 36″ from existing cabinets and 42″ from the range, refrigerator or dishwasher to allow plenty of room for opening doors and easy maneuvering around your workspace area. The height of your kitchen island can vary to suit your individual needs. If you can’t make up your mind on that one, a multi-level island might be the solution.

With all of the new trends in home design, kitchens have become an important part of the family’s living and entertaining space. If you don’t have the time or money to design your own island, there are many terrific ready-made islands you can order also. Take your time and choose the island that best suits your needs and taste so you are sure to enjoy it for many years to come.

The Australian Real Estate Market

Australia has led the worldwide real estate boom and enjoyed record price increases over the past three years, but as 2006 gets underway many fear that the recent success of the Australian real estate market is not sustainable.

While the Australian housing market may well face a short period of economic adjustment, there are still ways to profit from the real estate sector in Australia.  Real estate investors examining the market just need to look a little further afield than Sydney!

Perth in Western Australia is one city where real estate prices remain affordable and where demand for quality accommodation to buy and rent is increasing which is creating an exciting micro property investment market opportunity ripe for exploration in 2006.  

The reason for Perth’s sudden popularity from a real estate perspective springs from the fact that the city is enjoying a period of economic advancement led by a vast improvement in employment prospects.  Local residents in Perth are benefiting from better paying employment and an abundance of opportunity, and the city is attracting a steady flow of inward migration as job seekers move to the city to take up offers of employment.

Historically Perth’s real estate prices have lagged well behind those of Sydney and Melbourne for example, and the average home finance sought to purchase in Perth is around 30,000 Australian dollars less than the average mortgage taken out elsewhere in Australia.  The lower priced accommodation is attracting more interest from investors from across Australia as well who are all seeking a housing market with legs left to run.  Furthermore the real estate sector in and around Perth is enjoying interest from international real estate investors who can see the long term prospects available.

As demand for accommodation in Perth increases as the city welcomes new residents, so the prices being charged for rental housing are on the up as well.  Anyone who purchases real estate to let out in Perth right now can cash in on this boom in rental rate rises and retain their property while the predicted period of property price growth develops.

Across the rest of Australia many first time home buyers have been temporarily priced out of the housing market as property prices have exceeded affordable levels.  While the market readjusts over the short term there are fears that a rental accommodation crisis is looming in some of Australia’s most popular cities such as Brisbane and Sydney.  This concern is of course leading to sharp increases in rental rates being charged by landlords who are well aware of how valuable a commodity they own.

While this is an unfortunate situation for those caught in the rental trap it is a perfect situation for an investor seeking immediate returns on real estate investments in Australia.  Anyone who makes a real estate investment purchase in Australia with the intention to let out that property will not only make a strong income currently but they will continue to enjoy property price growth over the longer term as the market readjusts and begins to grow again in Australia in the medium term.

And finally, if you’re interested in the real estate market down under and are not an Australian citizen, overseas buyers are free to own real estate in Australia that has been granted permission for sale to foreign purchasers; and you can rest assured that the purchase process will be straightforward because it is so well regulated in Australia.

Cut Utilities Bills By Auditing Your Home

Most people are shocked these days when they open their utility bill. By auditing your home, you can turn a monstrous utility bill into a minor annoyance. 

Home Energy Audit

It happens every month. You pick up the mail and see an envelope from the utility company. Oh, the agony! Should I open it now and ruin the day or just wait. An energy audit can make the pain of getting your utility bill go away or at least become a dull ache. 

Unlike a tax audit, you can conduct an energy audit by yourself. Simply walking through your home and paying close attention to energy issues can really pay off. Let’s take a look at some obvious problems that can save you a bundle. 

The number one energy waster is a leak. Much like a leak in the tire of a care, even one leak from the interior to exterior of the home can raise your utility bill by as much as 30 percent. The most common area you will find such leaks are windows and doors.

Windows and doors are undisputedly the area where most air leaks occurs. The first issues is whether air is actually leaking out through the framing of windows or the area around the bottom of the door. You can typically tell this by feeling for a notable temperature difference in these areas. If is significantly cooler, you have a leak. 

As people in cold climates know, having sealed windows is simply not enough to control heating costs in the winter. Most windows on homes are designed for year around use, which makes them huge energy wasters in the winter. Going with energy-efficient windows can make a huge difference in keeping the heat in and the cold out. 

If you’ve walked through your home and haven’t found any significant problems with your windows and doors, you may still have one. To really give your home an efficiency test, you can hire contractors to perform a pressurization test. The test essentially raises the pressure in your home and looks for leaks.

Fixing any leaks you find will depend entirely upon the nature of the problem. Some fixes only require additional caulking or insulation while others are unique. Regardless, making your home more energy efficient will significantly cut your utility bill this year and for years to come.