10 Low-Cost Tweaks to Help Your Home Sell

Many homeowners won’t even consider listing their home, because they can’t afford extensive remodeling to get it ready for sale. But sometimes it’s not the major renovations that buyers notice.

Consider this checklist of cheaper to-do’s before hanging that for-sale sign.


1. Quick-clean the exterior and landscape.
They don’t call it curb appeal for nothing. Check for loose or clogged gutters and broken or missing flashing materials, which help prevent leaks behind the gutters. Cut the lawn and trim the bushes. Make sure the garage doors open and close properly. Wipe down lawn furniture. Fix any dangling shutters.

Estimated costs: Completely replacing gutters can be expensive; replacing just parts is more economical. A 10-foot gutter starts at $6; downspouts start at $8. High-end garage doors cost $1,000, but a decorative garage door hardware kit starts at $19.

2. Make that door (and doorbell) stand out.
Many homeowners don’t come in through the front door, but prospective buyers do. If you’ve ever gone house hunting you know it takes a moment for your Realtor to get inside that lockbox to get the door open. During this time, buyer’s are sizing up the immediate exterior. Fix cracked or peeling doorways with a fresh coat of paint and be sure the bell actually rings.

Estimated costs: Exterior paints start at $30 a gallon; doorbells are $10 and up.

FREE DOWNLOAD: The Ultimate Guide to Selling Your House

3. Evaluate every entrance.
It’s not just the front door that will get the once-over. Doors offer a huge bang for the buck visually, so update interior doors or at least replace hinges and knobs. Junky bifolds with double-swing or heavier solid-core doors can also stand to be replaced.

Estimated costs: Bronze door hinges can cost $3; solid-core, unfinished pine interior doors start at $99.

4. Look down.
People walk in and wipe their feet. One of the first things they’ll notice is the condition of the floor, says Goode. Stained carpets, raggedy rugs and scratched floors are fairly easy fixes.

Estimated costs: You can rent a carpet steam cleaner for $60; the cost of area rugs varies significantly.

5. Select the right scent.
Beware the four most dreaded words in real estate: “What is that smell?” Buyers will associate musty odors with mold damage or disrepair, so eliminate any nose agitators. Clean out litter boxes, make sure your animals are bathed, banish the kids’ stinky sports equipment to the basement or garage, and throw out that science experiment in the fridge. Find one scent (or complementing scents) you love and use it throughout the house to avoid scent overload.

Estimated costs: Scented candles can cost $10; plug-in odor eliminators start at $17.

6. Spot treat any blemishes.
Walls are an excellent canvas, but they also clearly display age, dirt, indifference, even foundation issues. Fix any scuff marks, nail holes and paint cracks. Remove all peeling wallpaper and repaint in neutrals to maximize the natural light.

Estimated costs: Spackling paste starts at $18; interior paint costs $28 a gallon and up.


7. Have a place for everything.
If buyers see that your stuff doesn’t have a home, they won’t want your home. Make sure anything that’s not on display — shoes, coats, papers, pots, pans — is tucked away and neatly organized.

When closet space is at a premium, repurpose other areas for storage. Finish the garage walls and floors and add some simple storage to make the room part of the home. This can yield great return on investmet!

Estimated costs: Attractive bins and baskets cost $20 and up; basic shelving systems start at $200.

RELATED: Creative Storage Solutions You’ve Never Thought Of

8. Check the tracks. You may no longer notice that lopsided utensils drawer, but potential buyers will. New cabinetry may be out of the question, but fix bent drawer tracks and slides, replace dangling pulls and tighten screws and handles.

Estimated costs: Basic rail-drawer-track kits start at $3; decorative cabinet knobs start at $4 each.

9. Give the appliances some elbow grease.
Buyers want stoves that shine, not evidence of last week’s tuna casserole. Clean the oven, refrigerator, microwave, sink and any other appliance that will be included in the purchase of the home.

Estimated costs: Most cleaning products start at $4; elbow grease is free.

10. Finish with finishes.
Bathroom gut jobs can be pricey, but replacing finishing elements such as faucets, showerheads, towel racks and toilet paper holders can significantly brighten a room. If you have polished chrome faucets or shower valves, you can pick up any chrome accessories and they will match, unlike satin nickel or oil-rubbed bronze. New shower curtains, towels and mats will also help the room look updated and clean.

Estimated costs: Showerheads can cost $40 and up; bath towels start at $10; faucets are $70 and up.

RELATED: Home Renovations That Yield The Greatest Return On Investment


What tips do you have for sprucing up the home on a budget?  Sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, on our Twitter feed or on LinkedIn. And don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Patrick Parker Realty HOME ADVICE eNewsletter for articles, tips and guides like this delivered straight to your inbox.


A Quick ‘Cover Your Bases’ Home Prep Checklist

Selling a home doesn’t happen overnight. To maximize your sale price, stand out from the competition and sell quickly, your home needs to go on the market in tip-top condition.

You only get one chance to make a good first impression in real estate. Once your home’s listing goes live, the days on market start ticking. In the Internet age, with access to so much information, buyers will punish a seller whose home has been on the market for many months. If you can’t make the effort to get your home in it’s best condition, hold off on listing it.

Prepping the home rarely happens in one weekend. It takes time and thoughtful planning. If you intend to sell your home this season, here are a few steps you should take now:

1. Research

Today’s buyers have research in their DNA and will investigate all they can. Check with your local building department and ensure there are no outstanding issues with your home.

RELATED: To Sell Your Home Think Like A Buyer

Verify that property records reflect your home accurately, and prepare to remedy any discrepancy. Make sure your title report is clean, and talk about potential disclosure items with your agent. Banks won’t lend if there are outstanding issues, and you don’t want to jump through hoops at the eleventh hour. Researching now will keep you one step ahead of the buyers.

2. Inspect

It may seem counterintuitive to spend money on a property inspection, but you need to know about your home’s condition. If there are issues — big or small — you need to address, it is better to know about them early so you can either remedy them prior to going to market or account for them with a lower listing price.

RELATED: The Benefits of An Advance Home Inspection

The last thing you want is for the buyer to uncover flaws once they are under contract. You will
get stuck paying more under those circumstances than it would cost you to address the issues now.

3. Stash

As you prepare to sell, think of your home as an investment and start to see it through the eyes of potential buyers and the market. When you’re trying to sell your home, the less-is-more approach applies.

RELATED: Stunning Storage Solutions for Your Home

Put away big furniture and personal items. Store or put away all the things you won’t be using until you move into your new home. In the kitchen, make space in the cabinets for items you will need to use daily, but will want to put away for showings.

4. Improve

It’s common for sellers to make cosmetic improvements before they list. Kitchens and bathrooms sell your home. Plan to have the bathroom grout cleaned and have some parts of the house painted to give it a fresh look.

Consider cleaning rugs, refinishing hardwood floors or painting kitchen cabinets. If you plan to list in the spring, you likely have a good local real estate agent on your side by now. Get their advice and ask for referrals to do the work. There are lots of inexpensive contractors who can help spruce up your home quickly.

5. Consult with An Agent

The sale of your home is likely one of your biggest financial transactions. Get a real estate agent on your team early, and make a list of all the tasks you need to complete before listing this spring. Contact one of our experienced Agents to request a complimentary consultation.

Now is the time to have those discussions. Smart planning and a good strategy will ensure a quick, painless and profitable home sale.

Your Turn

If you’re thinking about selling your home, we’re hoping you’ll find all the content being shared this month useful. Join the conversation throughout Staging Month by engaging with us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

And don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Patrick Parker Realty email newsletter for articles like these delivered straight to your inbox!

Trust Us: You Need an Open House Safe Word

safe-wordIt could be anything from “cornucopia” to “tarpaulin” — just make sure it’s memorable (and that your real estate agent is in on the plan).

Open houses are totally fun. You get to walk around in someone else’s place and pretend it’s your own. You’re not thinking about mortgage payments or roof repairs. You’re there in the moment — dreaming of the possibilities and just loving the current owner’s choice of decor.

However, it’s not always all floating bookshelves and Eames rockers. What do you do if you show up and the house is a hellscape of living nightmares? As much as you’d like to, you can’t just say, “Forget this noise,” hop in your muscle car, and spin doughnuts in the yard on the way out of there.

No, you need something subtle and elegant: a safe word.

Better safe word than sorry

A safe word is a single word (or phrase) that you and your agent agree to drop when you see a deal breaker and need to hit the eject button. The word can’t be “bedroom,” “fireplace,” “pied-à-terre,” or anything you might normally say when walking through an open house. Instead, think unusual or even exotic, like “cornucopia” or “tarpaulin.”

Here’s how it works: When you see something you don’t like, just toss your safe word into casual conversation and your agent will know it’s time to get out. It doesn’t matter if what you don’t like is decor, layout, smells, or even vibes. Your reason is your own.

The important part is that your agent will hear you and then start the fancy footwork needed to make a quick escape. Once you’re safely in your car making your getaway, you can talk over the whys and wherefores.

Make it memorable — and unmistakable

“Say, is that a tarpaulin I see tucked under the deck?” or “This living room layout really presents a cornucopia of options.” These are unique and unmistakable ways to make your safe-word plan of action beforehand, your agent will hear the word and execute the escape.

That short statement can get you out of all kinds of undesirable house dismays and you’ll be glad to have it in your arsenal. The desire to put your time to good use is pretty universal, but never is it more important than in the pressure-packed, time-sensitive world of house hunting.

Ultimately, the seller doesn’t want you wasting time in their house any more than you want to be wasting time in a house you’re definitely not going to buy. A safe word is an easy way to maximize your limited house-hunting time — without hurting a single feeling.

So grab a dictionary, a thesaurus, or maybe the random article button on Wikipedia and start scouring. You’re going to want a good one.


What creative safe words can you come up with? Use it in a sentence.  Sound off in Comments, on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook or Twitter pages and don’t forget to sign up for the monthly Patrick Parker Realty eNewsletter for more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Disclosure of Property Conditions When Selling a Home


Selling a home and wondering what physical conditions at the premises need to be disclosed to a potential new buyer? Everyone wants to present a positive picture of their home, especially during a slow real estate market. But it is usually in a seller’s best interest to thoroughly disclose any defects which are not readily observable.

Most residential resale properties are sold in “as is” condition. This is usually intended to mean that the buyers have a right to make whatever inspections they seek and the sellers are not responsible after closing for any conditions later discovered by the buyers.

However, selling a home “as is” does not mean that a seller can deliberately misrepresent the condition of the property. Sellers may be liable for common law fraud if they make a material misrepresentation of any present or past fact which they know or believe to be false, they intend the buyer to rely on, the buyer does rely on it and damages result. The Jewish Center of Sussex Cty. v. Whale 86 N.J. 619, 624-25 (1981). In such instances, a buyer may be entitled to rescind or terminate their contract with the seller, or may seek damages from the seller.

Our New Jersey courts have defined misrepresentation to include the failure to disclose certain conditions. In Weintraub v. Krobatsch 64 N.J. 445 (1974) the buyers inspected a home during the day and found it acceptable. Prior to closing, however, the buyers visited the property when it was dark and were astonished to discover that the house was heavily infested with crawling insects. The buyer refused to close. When the litigation which later ensued reached the New Jersey Supreme Court, the Court held that a seller is not only liable to a buyer for affirmative and intentional material misrepresentations, but also for non-disclosure of defects known to a seller, unobservable by buyers, and where the facts not disclosed would be of significant materiality to the buyers’ decision to purchase. In such situations, a buyer would be entitled to rescind their contract.

Thus, our courts have indicated that sellers risk a contract being rescinded, or incurring liability for damages, if sellers do not disclose a defective condition which is 1) latent, 2) not reasonably observable to the buyer and 3) significant to the buyer’s decision to purchase Correa v. Maggiore196 N.J. Super. 273 (App. Div. 1984).

Real estate brokers have similar responsibilities concerning disclosure issues. In addition to possible claims of common law fraud, realtors may also be subject to the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act N.J.S.A. 56:8-1 et seq. Under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, a real estate broker representing a seller of a home previously occupied may be liable (in addition to affirmative acts of misrepresentation) for acts of non-disclosure of a defective condition if the condition was known to the broker, but not readily observable to the buyer. Strawn v. Canuso 140 N.J. 43, 58-59, 65 (1995). (Subsequent to this decision, a statute was passed to address disclosure obligations for newly constructed residential real estate. N.J.S.A. 46:3C-1 et seq.) In instances of non-disclosure, it must be shown that the broker knowingly concealed a material fact about the premises with the intention that the buyers would rely on the concealment. N.J.S.A. 56:8-2, Leon v. Rite Aid Corp. 340 N.J. Super. 462, 469 (App. Div. 2001).

Other examples of failure to disclose conditions which created liability for sellers or realtors and which have been addressed in New Jersey court cases include:

  • Failing to disclose that a tennis court would be constructed on an adjoining property. Tobin v. Paparone Construction Co. 137 N.J. Super. 518 (Law Div. 1975)
  • Concealment of a defective septic system. DiBernardo v. Mosley 206 N.J. Super. 371 (App. Div. 1986) cert. denied 103 N.J. 503 (1986).

In response to the potential pitfalls involving disclosure issues, most real estate brokers now provide sellers with an extensive disclosure form to complete and sign. This form is then provided to potential buyers. Completing this form accurately and thoroughly helps to protect the seller (and the realtor) from claims of misrepresentation or non-disclosure.

Download the New Jersey State Seller Disclosure Form

Your Turn

As a homeowner, what have you experienced when it comes to disclosures? As a buyer did you have a negative experience? How did you handle it? As a seller did you face challenges or questions? What did you do? Tell us in Comments, on Facebook or on Twitter. And don’t forget to subscribe to the Patrick Parker Realty monthly eNewsletter for tips, guides and articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Source: Stark & Stark 

“The Watcher” and Seller Disclosure

By now you have probably heard about the family in New Jersey allegedly being scared by a stalker who calls himself “the Watcher” clearly obsessed with the family’s new Westfield home. The Watcher has been after the family for the past year, ever since they purchased their new six-bedroom, $1.3 million home. Three days after buying the house, the family began receiving regular letters from the Watcher.

The family are suing the previous owners, claiming that they knew of the The Watcher’s letters but failed to disclose any information while selling the property. They still haven’t moved into the million-dollar house and don’t plan to. They also can’t sell the house because the Watcher is watching it, and now everybody knows it.

So, were the previous owners who sold their staulked home required to disclose this information to the buyers?

Jack Feinstein, a lawyer and director of the Rutgers Civil Justice Clinic at Rutgers Law School in Newark, said the sellers are required to disclose latent defects in the house, that involves such issues and termite infestation. This kind of claim, about a possible stalker, is something completely different, said Feinstein who has 40 years of experience in real estate law.

“I’ve never seen this kind of allegation,” He said of the claims in the lawsuit.

To make a case, the plaintiff would have to show how long the prior owners had known about the letters, and whether the messages appeared to be credible and could be taken as a serious threat, Feinstein said.

Charles Sullivan, a law professor at Seton Hall Law School, said some states have laws requiring the disclosure of tragic incidents that occurred in a house such as murders.

“There’s a duty on the part of the seller to disclose to the buyer any defect that would impact the marketability of a property,” Sullivan said about laws in those other states.

But New Jersey does not have such laws, he said. “There probably would not be a duty to disclose this,” Sullivan said referring to the letters in the Westfield case.

Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, here are six things you should know about real estate disclosures:

1. What is a disclosure?

Disclosure statements, which can come in a variety of forms, are the buyer’s opportunity to learn as much as they can about the property and the seller’s experience in it.

Potential seller disclosures range from knowledge of leaky windows to loud neighbors to information about a major construction or development project nearby. Not only do disclosure documents serve to inform buyers, they can protect the sellers from future legal action. It is the seller’s chance to lay out anything that can negatively affect the value, usefulness or enjoyment of the property.

Leaking windows — bad coincidence?

A buyer once called after the first rainstorm of the season. The windows in the master bedroom were leaking. We checked back on the disclosure documents from the sale and there wasn’t any mention of the leaks. Nothing showed up in the property inspection report at the time of escrow, either.

Unfortunately for the buyers, this is part of homeownership. This could be the result of something that was building over time. I thought that was the end of it. The same client called back a few weeks later. They had workers out to check on the siding. That prompted their neighbor to inquire what they were up to. According to the neighbor, the previous owner of my client’s property had the same siding issues and had discussed it with the neighbor.

Given this new information, it was clear the previous seller had not properly disclosed. The buyers do more investigation, got bids and understand what the issues were. Armed with the knowledge of the neighbor and the approximate costs, they went back to the seller, through his agent. Though it did not turn into a lawsuit, the seller took responsibility and the situation was resolved quickly and fairly.

But too often, the lack of proper disclosure can result in a lawsuit. We know of a story in which a buyer bought a house, with the seller disclosing that a kitchen renovation was done without permits. A few years later, that buyer went to sell the property but didn’t disclose that the previous owner had renovated the kitchen without a permit. The new buyer wanted to do some electrical work with a permit. The city inspector discovered that some things had not been done to code. The inspector dug deeper and realized that much of the kitchen renovation (both plumbing and electrical) was not to code. The new buyer was on the hook for ripping out the kitchen and doing it over. A lawsuit arose between the current owner and the second seller for not disclosing. The original sellers had covered themselves, but the second seller had not.

2. How does a seller go about making a disclosure to the buyer?

Disclosure laws vary from state to state, even down to the city and county level. California has some of the most stringent disclosure requirements. Often, sellers there are required to complete or sign off on over 50 pages of documents, such as a Natural Hazards Disclosure Statement, Lead Based Paint Disclosure, Advisories about Market Conditions and even Megan’s Law Disclosures.

Depending on where you live, sellers can be on the hook for what they disclose (or fail to) for up to ten years. I’ve seen agents and sellers take all types of approaches when dealing with property disclosures. More than anything, I always tell sellers to err on the side of caution. If you know it, disclose it. If you try to hide something, it can come back to bite you long after the sale and it is just not worth it.

Disclosure typically comes in the form of boilerplate documents (put together by the local or state Realtor association), where the seller is responsible for answering a series of yes/no questions detailing their home and their experience there.

Download the New Jersey State Seller Disclosure Form

Aside from the boilerplate documents a seller is required to complete, if there is any written (or sometimes verbal) communication regarding something negative about the property, it should be disclosed to the buyer. For example, there was a property for sale with a dispute over a tree on the property line and whose responsibility it was. The neighbor faxed a letter to the seller’s real estate agent documenting the dispute. This immediately became a disclosure item that both the seller and buyer needed to sign off on.

Bottom line: Disclosure statements are legal documents that can stand up in court.

3. What do sellers typically disclose to potential buyers?

The work and upgrades sellers have done to their property are a common disclosure, whether the work was done with or without permits. If done with permits, buyers are advised to cross check the seller’s disclosure with the city building permit report. Doing work without the city signing off with a permit is a key disclosure. If the work was not approved by the city, it may not have been performed to code and may cause a fire or health hazard. Buyers should independently investigate any non-permit work that was done.

Other common disclosures include the existence of pets, termite problems, neighborhood nuisances, any history of property line disputes, and defects or malfunctions with major systems or appliances. Disclosure documents often ask sellers if they are involved in bankruptcy proceedings, if there any liens on the property, and so on. Failure to disclose can result in a messy conflict with the buyer after the sale.

Some disclosure documents are very detailed. For instance, among the questions posed by the San Francisco Association of Realtors disclosure statement are:

  • Is there any non-tempered glass on shower or sliding doors?
  • Have there been any unusual odor problems in the neighborhood?
  • Was there any death on the property in the last three years?

RELATED: Disclosure Legality When Selling a Home

4. Is a disclosure the same as an inspection? Are the two related?

A disclosure is something given to the buyer by the seller documenting their knowledge of the property. It is not the same thing as an inspection; because there are things the seller may not be aware of that an inspection brings to light.

This is why a property inspection should always be done by the buyer while in escrow. The inspector will check the property out from top to bottom, many times verifying what the seller has disclosed but sometimes bringing to light new issues. Often, we will see sellers hire a property inspector before going on the market. It seems backwards, but this is the sellers’ opportunity to hire an independent party to inspect the property, in case they missed or were not aware of something.

5. When does the buyer typically receive a seller’s disclosure statements?

In most markets, disclosure documents are provided to buyers once the seller has accepted their offer. In addition to their inspections or loan contingency, the buyer has an opportunity to review the seller’s disclosures. If the buyer discovers something negative about the property through disclosure, he can usually back out of the offer without losing his escrow deposit.

In some markets, sellers provide these disclosures to the buyers even before they receive an offer. Some sellers prefer to have buyers know everything they need to know up front. This is also smart because it saves everyone time, hassle and expense by preventing deals from falling apart once they’re in escrow.

Buyers are required to sign off on disclosure documents and reports. So it’s important to review them carefully and ask questions if you need to.

Furthermore, most disclosure laws require that you disclose information beyond basic facts about the state of repair of your home. Toxic mold, unused old fuel oil tanks buried in your yard, and termite damage must be disclosed in many states.

And because lead paint has become a concern in older homes – built before 1978 – federal law requires that sellers must disclose any information they know about the possibility of lead paint in the home. That means that if you’ve had tests done on the paint, you must disclose the results. If you know only that your house was built before 1978 and that it has not been painted since, you must also disclose that.

6. It’s a Local Thing: Disclosure in New Jersey

Disclosure sounds daunting, and it should be taken seriously. But don’t think of it as an obstacle to selling your home. And don’t think of it as a legal quagmire. Sellers who immediately offer potential buyers a written disclosure report generally get an excellent response from buyers, who like the idea that the seller isn’t trying to hide anything. Couple the state-required disclosure report with a report from a certified home inspector, and you’ve just added to the desirability of your home. It helps if your home is in perfect shape. But even if it’s not, buyers will appreciate your honesty.

Disclosure Tips:

  • Get a copy of your state’s disclosure form. Most states now have them on a Web site for easy access and downloading.
    Download the New Jersey State Seller Disclosure Form
  • If you have a real estate agent or lawyer, have them help you with any questions you have about the form. If you’re selling on your own and you really are baffled by the state’s disclosure form, you can always pay an experienced real estate agent or lawyer for 30 minutes of their time to help you fill out the form. In general, however, the forms are not complicated and they’re not intended to be tricky.
  • Full disclosure upfront is the way to go. In some ways, providing full disclosure can actually help a seller. As a Realtor reviewing disclosures with potential buyers, I like to see a comprehensive set of disclosure documents. It shows that the seller is thorough and upfront. This goes a long way toward giving buyers peace of mind, and in this market, anything you can do to move buyers off the dime is worth considering.

Your Turn

What do you think about the Watcher? Should the seller have disclosed this information? What should the buyers do now? Tell us in Comments, on Facebook or on Twitter. And don’t forget to subscribe to the Patrick Parker Realty monthly eNewsletter for tips, guides and articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Patrick Parker Realty.

How to Tell the Fixer-Uppers From the Flops

how-to-buy-a-home-jersey-shoreBuying a place that needs some upgrades is a tried-and-true formula for getting more house for your money.

Not all “fixers” are the same, and not all of them are going to be right one for you.

Buying a place that needs some upgrades is a tried-and-true formula for getting more house for your money — especially if you’re pretty handy and willing to trade in some “sweat equity” for a great deal that just needs a little TLC.

However, not all “fixers” offer the same value proposition, and not all of them are going to be the right one for you. How do you know which house is a potential moneymaker and which house is a money pit?

Most fixer properties generally fall into one of these three categories, which can help you tell the difference between a worthwhile fixer and a flop.

1. The cosmetic fixer

This is the house that just needs a bit of cleanup. The sellers didn’t want to invest any more time or money in the house prior to listing and have slightly discounted the sales price. New paint, carpet, countertops, lighting, landscaping, and a few new appliances will give this cosmetic fixer the face-lift it needs. A few dozen trips to the home improvement store should do it!

2. The downright ugly fixer

It may be ugly, but it’s beautiful to you! This house has all the right things wrong with it. This is the fixer that needs more extensive repair and remodeling work than the cosmetic fixer.

If you can see its hidden beauty, and are willing to commit to the work, you will get the deal that others overlook. These are some of the hallmarks of a downright ugly fixer:

No curb appeal   It’s easy to create curb appeal with a freshly painted front door, new house numbers, mailbox, flowering plants, and fresh landscaping.

Great bones in bad shape   Quality construction and architectural lines that have been underutilized or unaccentuated.

Dark interiors cloaked in ugly decor   Ugly decor is a huge turnoff to most buyers. But remember that this issue disappears as soon as the moving vans pull away with the seller’s possessions.

Outdated kitchens   Upgrading your kitchen will be one of your biggest remodeling expenses. However, it also gives you the biggest return on your dollar.

Outdated bathrooms   There are so many great options for bathroom upgrades now at your local home improvement store. You may need to bring in skilled professionals for more nuanced plumbing projects, but it will be worth the effort.

Downright foul odors   Whether it’s from pets or cigarette smoke, or just plain smelly, an odoriferous home will turn off the average buyer. Since you’re above average, you know that a revamp of carpets and drapes plus a fresh coat of paint will usually take care of that issue.

Leaks in the roof and a water-stained ceiling   These can really turn away potential buyers — but you will most likely be putting on a new roof, so that will usually eliminate the source of the problem.

Small rooms that create a choppy or claustrophobic feeling   Look for potential to remove a non-load-bearing wall that could open up a kitchen to a living room or den, providing a desirable open floor plan.

3. The fixer teardown

When it’s said “a house with the wrong things wrong,” this is what is meant. This teardown house has broken bones (so to speak) and is a money pit.

If a house has major structural, geological, or severe foundation or environmental problems, you don’t want it. Repeat: you don’t want it.

Even if you purchase the house on the cheap, some problems never go away and are sometimes impossible to fix, no matter how much money you invest. This is a Pandora’s box you do not want to open, because you will never see a return on your investment.

Below are some telltale signs of a fixer teardown:

  • Structural problems that are beyond repair economically
  • Major shifting caused by poor foundation work
  • Unsolvable drainage issues and flooding of the basement
  • Illegal room additions that appear to not adhere to building codes, especially bathrooms
  • Major fire, earthquake, or flood damage
  • An unstable hillside near the house or slipping/shifting of the house due to soil erosion or flooding
  • Overwhelming asbestos or severe mold issues

Your Turn

Buying a fixer home is a great real estate tactic and can be extremely profitable. How did you spot the right fixer when you saw it?  Are you on the fence about buying a fixer-upper or a turn-key?  Leave your feedback in comments, or on Facebook or Twitter an don’t forget to subscribe to the Patrick Parker Realty monthly eNewsletter for more tips, guides and articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Buyer Beware: 5 Things Sellers Try to Hide

home-Buyer-bewareFound your dream house, made the right offer, and you’re ready to make a down payment? Not so fast. That fantasy home can turn out to be a real nightmare after you sign on the dotted line if the seller failed to disclose that cracked foundation or pest infestation.

Here are five things sellers commonly try to hide during the sales process, and the questions you can ask to suss out the truth.

1. Leaks

Leaky faucets, radiators, ceilings, roofs — you name it, real estate agents, brokers, and sellers might try to temporarily plug that drip to attract offers.

But sometimes honesty is a better policy and shows you that the property is well maintained. New York City – based real estate agent Jennifer Breu once showed a home in which the ceiling was falling down; she still got a ton of offers on it and made the sale by being honest that the repairs would be made soon.

“Leaks are very common, but they can be fixed very easily before the close,” says Breu, a licensed salesperson with Charles Rutenberg Realty who also represents buyers. “It doesn’t pay to mask something that isn’t a huge issue and can be fixed. Transparency increases value.”

2. Pests

The entire house looks wonderful, but believe it or not, termites could be eating away inside the walls. Disclosure laws about pests vary from state to state. Texas, Michigan, and North Carolina require that sellers tell buyers about potential infestations during the sales process.

3. “Emotional defects”

Depending on the state, sellers don’t necessarily have to disclose whether a property is haunted or if “emotional defects” such as a death or a murder occurred there. Last summer, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in favor of the team that sold buyer Janet Milliken a house and did not tell her it was the site of a murder-suicide in 2006.

4. Issues with the roof or foundation

Great Neck, New York based Ian Aronovich and his wife fell in love with a house last year. Unfortunately, they spotted major cracks in the foundation that would’ve cost tens of thousands of dollars to repair.

“We smelled some mold in the basement, and asked the owner if we could cut a small section of Sheetrock to check for the source of moisture,” Aronovich says. “As we peeled away the Sheetrock, we noticed the crack. In the end, we did not buy that house.”

5. Age of systems

Atlanta Realtor Maura Neill sees a lot of sellers try to hide the ages of water heaters and HVAC systems with two simple words: “Don’t know.”

But a home inspector could find out that information very quickly. Neill says she and her buyers tend to get a good sense of the selling side from the property disclosure.

RELATED: Benefits of Advance Home Inspections

“When it states the bare minimum, we know we are either dealing with a disconnected or uninvolved seller who doesn’t really know their home or with a seller who knows there are issues and doesn’t want to disclose them.”

Questions you should ask:

  • Don’t just limit your questions to the real estate agents — ask your potential new neighbors about the home as well, says Rhonda Duffy, a top real estate agent in Atlanta. “Buyers should first ask three sets of neighbors key questions, including: ‘Why are the sellers moving?’, ‘Have you seen any repair trucks there lately?’, and ‘Are there any construction problems in the neighborhood?’”
  • Ask to see references and get a C.L.U.E. Report — that stands for Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, a claims information report — from your homeowner’s insurance agent.
  • If a buyer wants to make a quick offer but still has questions, Maura Neill suggests that she can actually write that as a condition of her initial offer that those inquiries be answered at a later date but before the close. “Being diligent in getting questions answered is an important piece of the puzzle for buyers, who should take every opportunity to get to know as much about the house they are buying from the person who knows it best: the seller.”

RELATED: 10 Questions to Ask During An Open House

Your Turn

What is your biggest buying concern? Tell us in Comments, on Facebook, Twitter, or Subscribe to the Patrick Parker Realty monthly eNewsletter for more tips, guides and articles like this.

5 Home Buying Deal Breakers

jersey-shore-home-insuranceWhile a house may look in pristine condition on the outside, there can be costly repairs hidden beneath its walls. Even in a seller’s market, it’s still important to get a home inspection. A home inspection is money well-spent – it can help you avoid buying a “money pit” that could end up costing you thousands of dollars in repairs. Here are 5 Home Buying Deal Breakers you should seriously consider walking away from.

1. A Sinking House
You don’t have to be a certified home inspector to notice a home is sinking. If you see large cracks in the basement concrete walls, it’s a telltale sign of costly repairs. The house could be sinking into the ground for any number of reasons, including poor soil or water drainage issues. Sometimes foundation problems are so obvious – if the windows won’t open properly, it’s a clear sign something is wrong. While hairline cracks aren’t a reason to walk away from a home, if you notice a wide crack you should get an estimate from a contractor to see how costly it would be to repair.

RELATED: 5 Questions to Ask Home Inspectors

2. Septic
If the home you’re thinking about buying has a septic system, it’s important to get it tested to make sure it’s functioning properly. An inspector can test the septic system by sticking a dipstick into the soil to make sure it’s not oversaturated. If the wastewater isn’t draining properly through the pipes, it can cost between $10,000 and $30,000 to move the drain field.

3. Old Wiring
If you’re buying an older home, it’s important to make sure the wiring is up to code. Not only can rewiring your home be expensive, some insurance companies won’t cover your home until you’ve upgraded the wiring. Knob and tube is prevalent in older homes and can cost you an arm and a leg to upgrade. You should also watch out for DIY wiring; poorly done wiring can be a fire hazard and will need to be replaced. You should make sure the home has at least 100 amps – anything less means you might blow a fuse by simply running your electric range and dishwasher at the same time.

RELATED: 5 Myths about Buying a Home

4. Mold
Mold is most common in damp places like basements, bathrooms and fruit cellars. Not only is mold unappealing to look at, it’s unhealthy to inhale. Many people are allergic to mold, especially those with repertory problems. Unfortunately, cleaning up mold won’t solve the problem – you’ll have to uncover the root case. Mold can be as simple as poor venting in your bathroom, while sometimes it can require a complete gut job of your newly-renovated basement.

5. Roof
A roof is one of the most costly things to repair on a home. While a roof that needs re-shingling shouldn’t necessary be a deal breaker, if the roof sags that’s another story. A sagging roof can mean the roof line isn’t straight. Replacing the rafters can put you back several thousands of dollars.

Working with a real estate professional will help identify these deal-breakers.  Contact a Patrick Parker Realty Buyer’s Agent today to help avoid these home buying money pits.

Navigating Short Sales: What to Do When the Sale Price Leaves You Short

short-saleIf 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.

Woo Shore-Area Buyers Through Luxury Add-Ons (Without Luxury Price Tags)

When the Jersey Shore-area real estate market undergoes the kind of wide changes we’ve seen recently, you would expect changes in how prospective buyers approach their choices. No surprise there.

In the wake of Sandy, many of this summer’s Shore-area homebuyers are seeking ‘move-in ready’ properties… homes that require little or no out-of-pocket cash before moving in. That growing segment of the buying public has grown weary of bargain-hunting – and just want to be able to settle into their new Jersey Shore home as-is. They want a bottom line cost that’s nailed down.

Automatically qualified to interest such homebuyers are today’s local luxury homes: homes with features that bring a higher-end “feel” – even if their size or location would seem to indicate otherwise. Adding some of these features can send the ‘luxury’ message…and adding some of those features can cost less than you’d think!

luxury-kitchenLuxury homes almost always have a well-planned, open kitchen.  One step in the right direction is to simply remove everything from counters to create the look of more space. The current tendency is to value kitchens with a multitude of storage and counter space. Where that’s not possible, actually more important will be adding new appliances with a modern feel: go for stainless steel to create the feel of luxury – possible even in modest spaces.

Another feature qualifying luxury homes is at least one luxury bathroom.  Here, it is hard to get past the need to provide ample space for comfort, though spa-style baths are one item that can do the trick. You may also consider a tile mosaic backsplash: that kind of tasteful design touch goes far toward creating a feel of luxury. More simply (and economically), just changing out the faucets to a brushed nickel or other metal surface (please – not gold!) can do the trick. Add fluffy white towels, an orchid or two, and great smelling candle and voila! Instant luxury. Depending on the layout of your bathroom, changes can be pleasingly inexpensive.

DIY: Mosaic Backsplash

Luxury homes may also include green features.  New windows, added insulation, and solar heating are prime examples, but without the budget for major improvements, it’s also possible to take a more modest approach. New energy-efficient LED light bulbs can be one minor feature that can add appeal to today’s luxury homebuyers. You may also consider getting your home LEED rated through a national or local institution. Not only will your family benefit from installing green features, but it will encourage most buyers to consider your home a notch above the local competition.

Learn More about LEED Rating for Homes

Of course, there is no substitution for good old-fashioned personal advice. If you’re mulling over your own home sale summer or fall, contact us online or call us anytime at 732-455-5252 for a custom consultation about practical ways you can create that luxury feel without that luxury price tag.

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