Don’t Get Snowed Under by These 6 Winter Open House Blunders
Summer open houses are easy-breezy. The sun is shining, the air is warm, potential buyers are out in force, and your curb appeal is on point thanks to blooming flowers and a lush green lawn.
Winter is a very different beast when it comes to open houses. Buyers huddle inside, wary of the cold and snow. Foot traffic can slow to a trickle during the holidays, when folks spend time with family and friends and suspend their hunt for a home.
And if you create additional hurdles for potential buyers before you even open your door, it could be a long slog through the snowy months. Avoid these seven gaffes when throwing a winter open house, and make buyers feel the warm fuzzies for your home.
1. Not clearing a path, for goodness’ sake
No one’s going to be happy at your open house if you make them trek through a month’s worth of built-up snow to get there—or worse, if they slip and fall on an icy surface. Of all the open house mortal sins, causing a potential buyer to fracture a hip is definitely up there.
And clearing a path isn’t just about shoveling: Try laying down rock salt to keep any melted snow from refreezing.
And make sure to look beyond your sidewalk. Snow buildup on your street might make your home less visible, or it could mean potential buyers will have to park farther away—and have ample time to snap out of the buying spirit. Shovel out plenty of parking spaces for visitors.
2. Skipping the ‘landing zone’
In most places, winter means snow and rain. And snow and rain mean scarves, jackets, gloves, and muddy shoes. Try as they might to be polite, potential buyers are tracking in all kinds of muck—all over your professionally cleaned or staged home.
Create a landing zone by your entrance to keep the mess at bay. Add extra hooks and a coat rack so no one is forced to tote around a heavy parka. Put up a placard kindly requesting guests to remove their footwear, and provide baskets or cubbies to stow the items. Don’t forget an umbrella stand.
Want to be really nice? Purchase inexpensive slippers so guests won’t have to shuffle about in their socks. They’ll love it.
3. Overheating the place
Piles of snow cover your yard, icicles dangle from your trees, and you can’t step outside without six layers of clothing. Winter isn’t coming—it’s here. But a serious chill doesn’t mean you need to turn your home’s interior into a sauna.
Find a reasonable temperature for your thermostat – and that does not mean 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Remember your potential visitors will be entering your house from a much colder outdoor temperature. Buried in hats, coats, and boots, they will find the 80-degree temperature downright steamy. Stick to 68 degrees to keep everyone comfy.
4. Phoning it in
Don’t limit yourself to the standard plate of supermarket cookies and bottled water. A winter open house requires more effort — and will be appreciated by those who had to abandon their warm spot on the couch to come see your home.
Hiring a caterer or investing in warm chaffing dishes to provide seasonal treats, snacks, and hot chocolate will make your guests feel right at home. And that’s exactly what you want.
And make sure to flaunt that fireplace to give things an extra cozy feel. After all, you can’t (or at least shouldn’t) light that sucker for a summer open house, so you might as well take advantage of the season.
5. Lacking light
Darkness and dreariness rule during winter, but you want visitors to find your open house bright and cheerful.
Lighting can be one of the most important factors in selling a home. Second only to location, lighting is the one thing that every buyer cites as a necessity.
Sure, you’ve survived with your lights as is for long enough, but are they enough to entice your buyer? Give each room a long, hard look. If it lacks can lighting or any kind of built-in light fixture, double up on lamps to make the room pop.
Adding more bulbs isn’t the only way to brighten a room. Try removing drapes, scrubbing the windows, increasing your wattage, and trimming outside bushes to let the sun shine in.
6. Forgetting to keep an eye on the weather
You can host an open house in a flurry, but if those flakes become a full-strength blizzard, be prepared to reschedule. Know the forecast. A little flexibility can mean the difference between a low turnout and a house full of happy potential buyers.
Ever get snowed in by these Open House Blunders? Or were you able to bring buyers in from the cold? Sound of on The Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICE eNewsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.
Home Staging Ideas for the Kitchen to Make Buyers Bite
If you’re selling your house, staging—the mysterious practice by which you prep and prettify your home before its debut—can make a huge difference in catching the attention of buyers and ultimately reeling in an offer. And the room you’ll really want to focus on here is the kitchen: After all, it’s the crown jewel that buyers ooh and ahh over—except when the counters are packed with stacks of mail, near-empty boxes of Cheerios, and a hulking Cuisinart you rarely use.
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To make sure this critical area is perfectly poised to woo buyers, try these home staging ideas for your kitchen and get some offers cooking.
1. Clear off counters
Put it away—put it all away. We’re looking at you, coffee maker, blender, knife block, standing mixer, and toaster oven. “nd don’t forget the top of the refrigerator. Home staging in this room is all about making your kitchen look bigger, cleaner, and more streamlined. Sometimes you become accustomed to your own clutter, so much so it may become invisible to you.
And while you’re in purge mode, remove every bit of paper and those souvenir magnets from the refrigerator and cabinets. The only thing you should keep on the counter is a pop of color, such as a pretty bowl of bright green apples or lemons.
2. Scour for hours
Well, no one’s actually logging the time spent, but cleanliness is critical here. Not only must you clean the countertops, but the grout, faucet, and grimy drain rim, too.
Try CLR (calcium, lime, and rust remover) on the faucet to make sure water flows through it smoothly. Clean cabinet fronts to remove dust and grime, and scrub greasy spatters on the stove and backsplash with a vinegar-water solution.
And if you have a stovetop with burns or food rings, remove them with a soft soap product and a razor blade—it’ll look almost like new.
3. Light it right
Let as much natural light into the space as you can, by either opening heavy drapes or replacing them with sheer panels. Have a kitchen that looks out to a patio or deck through glass doors? These must sparkle in order to illuminate the space.
And if you don’t have under-cabinet lights—get them. You can purchase battery-powered puck-shaped lights for very little money and stick them under the cabinets (it adds that extra glow that every cook covets).
4. Organize the insides
Potential buyers are going to open the fridge and pantry, so don’t neglect these spots when you’re staging the kitchen. People who are looking for a new home will imagine how their pots, pans, and food items might fit into your cabinets.
Consider stacking cookbooks or displaying clear storage containers to drive home the kitchen’s function. Plus, clear containers take up less space visually.
5. Set the scene
Some experts recommend setting the table with colorful plates and napkins to give the kitchen a homey feel.
Consider presenting a picture of everyday life by having a unique planter on the countertop wit blooming flowers alongside a carafe of orange juice for color and a rolled-up newspaper.
Are you selling or have you recently sold your home? How did you make your kitchen the WOW factor? Sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds or on Instagram. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICE email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
What Is a Real Estate Agent’s Commission?
Ever wonder what exactly a Real Estate Agent does? Are they worth the commission? Ever wonder if you’re paying too much for commission? Even consider going it your own via FSBO or using one of these new apps that are long on promises and short on results?
You may have a great Agent and they don’t communicate with you all they’re doing. Or, you may also have a rock star agent and who’s doing so much it hasn’t even occurred to you all the fine details going into your home sale.
Here are a few facts that might help you sleep at night and have some peace about residential real estate commissions:
1. Real estate agents are sole proprietors
That means that even if they are a part of an agency, they are small business owners and cover all their own costs and carry all the risk. Do you own or have you ever owned your own small business? Then you know you wear ALL the hats and all the responsibility falls to you. Not to mention, your rather high tax rate!
They invest in you and your home. If they take on a listing, that means they’ve calculated the cost of marketing, photos, and time – lots and lots of time. High quality marketing – online and offline – and maybe even virtual tours. All that cost money. There’s considerable overhead if you are active in the field.
They have no salary and no real predictability in income. One deal may have to last them many months or maybe even longer.
2. The sale of your home may be covering for the loss of another
Deals fall through ALL. THE. TIME. Your particular sale may go pretty smoothly – great! I guarantee you it has ended up covering for a major loss on another deal. It’s the nature of business.
3. The real work begins once a contract is accepted
It may feel like all an agent does is show up sometimes for an open house here and there and put a sign in the yard. Or every time they come over, they’re telling you things you need to spend money on. But the real work is done behind the scenes and is intensified once an offer is accepted. Getting to the closing table is more and more challenging.
Pat Vredevoogd-Combs, a former president of the National Association of REALTORS, testified before the House Financial Services Committee on Housing to stark federal complaints about residential real estate industry pricing.
She submitted a list of 184 things that Listing Agents do in every real estate transaction as a part of her testimony to the committee. She stated, “By all accounts the general public is not aware of all the services that agents provide to sellers and buyers during the course of the transaction, probably because most of the important services are performed behind the scenes.”
Here is the list of (just) 184 things residential real estate agents do:
1. Make appointment with seller for listing presentation.
2. Send a written or e-mail confirmation of appointment and call to confirm.
3. Review appointment questions.
4. Research all comparable currently listed properties.
5. Research sales activity for past 18 months from MLS and public databases.
6. Research “average days on market” for properties similar in type, price and location.
7. Download and review property tax roll information.
8. Prepare “comparable market analysis” (CMA) to establish market value.
9. Obtain copy of subdivision plat/complex layout.
10. Research property’s ownership and deed type.
11. Research property’s public record information for lot size and dimensions.
12. Verify legal description.
13. Research property’s land use coding and deed restrictions.
14. Research property’s current use and zoning.
15. Verify legal names of owner(s) in county’s public property records.
16. Prepare listing presentation package with above materials.
17. Perform exterior “curb appeal assessment” of subject property.
18. Compile and assemble formal file on property.
19. Confirm current public schools and explain their impact on market value.
20. Review listing appointment checklist to ensure completion of all tasks.
Listing Appointment Presentation
21. Give seller an overview of current market conditions and projections.
22. Review agent and company credentials and accomplishments.
23. Present company’s profile and position or “niche” in the marketplace.
24. Present CMA results, including comparables, solds, current listings and expireds.
25. Offer professional pricing strategy based and interpretation of current market conditions.
26. Discuss goals to market effectively.
27. Explain market power and benefits of multiple listing service.
28. Explain market power of Web marketing, IDX and MLS.
29. Explain the work the broker and agent do “behind the scenes” and agent’s availability on weekends.
30. Explain agent’s role in screening qualified buyers to protect against curiosity seekers.
31. Present and discuss strategic master marketing plan.
32. Explain different agency relationships and determine seller’s preference.
33. Review all clauses in listing contract and obtain seller’s signature.
After Listing Agreement is Signed
34. Review current title information.
35. Measure overall and heated square footage.
36. Measure interior room sizes.
37. Confirm lot size via owner’s copy of certified survey, if available.
38. Note any and all unrecorded property lines, agreements, easements.
39. Obtain house plans, if applicable and available.
40. Review house plans, make copy.
41. Order plat map for retention in property’s listing file.
42. Prepare showing instructions for buyers’ agents and agree on showing time with seller.
43. Obtain current mortgage loan(s) information: companies and account numbers
44. Verify current loan information with lender(s).
45. Check assumability of loan(s) and any special requirements.
46. Discuss possible buyer financing alternatives and options with seller.
47. Review current appraisal if available.
48. Identify Home Owner Association manager is applicable.
49. Verify Home Owner Association fees with manager–mandatory or optional and current annual fee.
50. Order copy of Home Owner Association bylaws, if applicable.
51. Research electricity availability and supplier’s name and phone number.
52. Calculate average utility usage from last 12 months of bills.
53. Research and verify city sewer/septic tank system.
54. Calculate average water system fees or rates from last 12 months of bills.
55. Or confirm well status, depth and output from Well Report.
56. Research/verify natural gas availability, supplier’s name and phone number.
57. Verify security system, term of service and whether owned or leased.
58. Verify if seller has transferable Termite Bond.
59. Ascertain need for lead-based paint disclosure.
60. Prepare detailed list of property amenities and assess market impact.
61. Prepare detailed list of property’s “Inclusions & Conveyances with Sale.”
62. Complete list of completed repairs and maintenance items.
63. Send “Vacancy Checklist” to seller if property is vacant.
64. Explain benefits of Home Owner Warranty to seller.
65. Assist sellers with completion and submission of Home Owner Warranty application.
66. When received, place Home Owner Warranty in property file for conveyance at time of sale.
67. Have extra key made for lockbox.
68. Verify if property has rental units involved. And if so:
69. Make copies of all leases for retention in listing file.
70. Verify all rents and deposits.
71. Inform tenants of listing and discuss how showings will be handled.
72. Arrange for yard sign installation.
73. Assist seller with completion of Seller’s Disclosure form.
74. Complete “new listing checklist.”
75. Review results of Curb Appeal Assessment with seller and suggest improvements for salability.
76. Review results of Interior Decor Assessment and suggest changes to shorten time on market.
77. Load listing time into transaction management software.
Entering Property in MLS Database
78. Prepare MLS Profile Sheet–agent is responsible for “quality control” and accuracy of listing data.
79. Enter property data from Profile Sheet into MLS listing database.
80. Proofread MLS database listing for accuracy, including property placement in mapping function.
81. Add property to company’s Active Listings.
82. Provide seller with signed copies of Listing Agreement and MLS Profile Data Form within 48 hours.
83. Take more photos for upload into MLS and use in flyers. Discuss efficacy of panoramic photography.
Marketing the Listing
84. Create print and Internet ads with seller’s input.
85. Coordinate showings with owners, tenants and other agents. Return all calls–weekends included.
86. Install electronic lockbox. Program with agreed-upon showing time windows.
87. Prepare mailing and contact list.
88. Generate mail-merge letters to contact list.
89. Order “Just Listed” labels and reports.
90. Prepare flyers and feedback forms.
91. Review comparable MLS listings regularly to ensure property remains competitive in price, terms, conditions and availability.
92. Prepare property marketing brochure for seller’s review.
93. Arrange for printing or copying of supply of marketing brochures or flyers.
94. Place marketing brochures in all company agent mailboxes.
95. Upload listing to company and agent Internet sites.
RELATED: Your Custom Home Marketing Plan
96. Mail “Just Listed” notice to all neighborhood residents.
97. Advise Network Referral Program of listing.
98. Provide marketing data to buyers from international relocation networks.
99. Provide marketing data to buyers coming from referral network.
100. Provide “Special Feature” cards for marketing, if applicable/
101. Submit ads to company’s participating Internet real estate sites.
102. Convey price changes promptly to all Internet groups.
103. Reprint/supply brochures promptly as needed.
104. Review and update loan information in MLS as required.
105. Send feedback e-mails/faxes to buyers’ agents after showings.
106. Review weekly Market Study.
107. Discuss feedback from showing agents with seller to determine if changes will accelerate the sale.
108. Place regular weekly update calls to seller to discuss marketing and pricing.
109. Promptly enter price changes in MLS listings database.
The Offer and the Contract
110. Receive and review all Offer to Purchase contracts submitted by buyers or buyers’ agents. 111. Evaluate offer(s) and prepare “net sheet” on each for owner to compare.
112. Counsel seller on offers. Explain merits and weakness of each component of each offer. 113. Contact buyers’ agents to review buyer’s qualifications and discuss offer.
114. Fax/deliver Seller’s Disclosure to buyer’s agent or buyer upon request and prior to offer if possible.
115. Confirm buyer is pre-qualified by calling loan officer.
116. Obtain pre-qualification letter on buyer from loan officer.
117. Negotiate all offers on seller’s behalf, setting time limit for loan approval and closing date.
118. Prepare and convey any counteroffers, acceptance or amendments to buyer’s agent.
119. Fax copies of contract and all addendums to closing attorney or title company.
120. When Offer-to-Purchase contract is accepted and signed by seller, deliver to buyer’s agent.
121. Record and promptly deposit buyer’s money into escrow account.
122. Disseminate “Under-Contract Showing Restrictions” as seller requests.
123. Deliver copies of fully signed Offer to Purchase contract to sellers.
124. Fax/deliver copies of Offer to Purchase contract to selling agent.
125. Fax copies of Offer to Purchase contract to lender.
126. Provide copies of signed Offer to Purchase contract for office file.
127. Advise seller in handling additional offers to purchase submitted between contract and closing.
128. Change MLS status to “Sale Pending.”
129. Update transaction management program to show “Sale Pending.”
130. Review buyer’s credit report results–Advise seller of worst and best case scenarios.
131. Provide credit report information to seller if property is to be seller financed.
132. Assist buyer with obtaining financing and follow up as necessary.
133. Coordinate with lender on discount points being locked in with dates.
134. Deliver unrecorded property information to buyer.
135. Order septic inspection, if applicable.
136. Receive and review septic system report and access any impact on sale.
137. Deliver copy of septic system inspection report to lender and buyer.
138. Deliver well flow test report copies to lender, buyer and listing file.
139. Verify termite inspection ordered.
140. Verify mold inspection ordered, if required.
Tracking the Loan Process
141. Confirm return of verifications of deposit and buyer’s employment.
142. Follow loan processing through to the underwriter.
143. Add lender and other vendors to transaction management program so agents, buyer and seller can track progress of sale.
144. Contact lender weekly to ensure processing is on track.
145. Relay final approval of buyer’s loan application to seller.
146. Coordinate buyer’s professional home inspection with seller.
147. Review home inspector’s report.
148. Enter completion into transaction management tracking software program.
149. Explain seller’s responsibilities of loan limits and interpret any clauses in the contract.
150. Ensure seller’s compliance with home inspection clause requirements.
151. Assist seller with identifying and negotiating with trustworthy contractors for required repairs.
152. Negotiate payment and oversee completion of all required repairs on seller’s behalf, if needed.
153. Schedule appraisal.
154. Provide comparable sales used in market pricing to appraiser.
155. Follow up on appraisal.
156. Enter completion into transaction management program.
157. Assist seller in questioning appraisal report if it seems too low.
Closing Preparations and Duties
158. Make sure contract is signed by all parties.
159. Coordinate closing process with buyer’s agent and lender.
160. Update closing forms and files.
161. Ensure all parties have all forms and information needed to close the sale.
162. Select location for closing.
163. Confirm closing date and time and notify all parties.
164. Solve any title problems (boundary disputes, easements, etc.) or in obtaining death certificates.
165. Work with buyer’s agent in scheduling and conducting buyer’s final walkthrough prior to closing.
166. Research all tax, HOA, utility and other applicable prorations.
167. Request final closing figures from closing agent (attorney or title company).
168. Receive and carefully review closing figures to ensure accuracy.
169. Forward verified closing figures to buyer’s agent.
170. Request copy of closing documents from closing agent.
171. Confirm the buyer and buyer’s agent received title insurance commitment.
172. Provide “Home Owners Warranty” for availability at closing.
173. Review all closing documents carefully for errors.
174. Forward closing documents to absentee seller as requested.
175. Review documents with closing agent (attorney).
176. Provide earnest money deposit from escrow account to closing agent.
177. Coordinate closing with seller’s next purchase, resolving timing issues.
178. Have a “no surprises” closing so that seller receives a net proceeds check at closing.
179. Refer sellers to one of the best agents at their destination, if applicable.
180. Change MLS status to Sold. Enter sale date, price, selling broker and agent’s ID numbers, etc.
181. Close out listing in transaction management program.
Follow Up After Closing
182. Answer questions about filing claims with Home Owner Warranty company, if requested.
183. Attempt to clarify and resolve any repair conflicts if buyer is dissatisfied.
184. Respond to any follow-up calls and provide any additional information required from office files.
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7 Mega Tips for a First-Time Home Seller Success
Homeowners don’t generally think about filling the shoes of a first-time home seller until they decide to buy a new home. Usually, the motivating factor is the need to move — due to work-related issues or the needs of a growing family — and that generally involves buying another house. It’s when the homeowners stop to consider the move that it may dawn on them, yes, because they need to sell, they are now a first-time home seller.
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Selling a home is very different from buying a home. Whereas buying a home generally involves emotions and feelings, selling a home typically centers on what listing agents like to call maximizing profit potential.
Here are the key steps to keep in mind as a first-time homeseller to sell your home fast and for top-dollar:
1. Price Your Home Accurately
To price your home accurately you need the assistance of a reputable Listing Agent. This is not the time to choose your cousin’s sister-in-law, for example, who dabbles in real estate. You’ll fare much better if you select an experienced real estate agent who sells a fair number of listings, preferably in your neighborhood.
RELATED: What’s My Home Worth? Find Out Now!
Your Agent will analyze comparable sales and prepare an estimate of value often called a CMA, for comparative market analysis. It is OK to use real estate websites to get an idea of this figure, but you’ll soon learn the variances your agent will point out because your they have the experience and education to provide you with a more accurate opinion of value.
2. Prepare Your Home For Sale
Ask your Listing Agent to advise you on preparing your home for sale. Most homes show better with about half of the furniture removed. If a buyer walks in the door and wonders if anybody lives in the house, you’ve done your job correctly. Consider home staging to boost your selling power and appeal.
Painting is the single most effective improvement you can make. Don’t let dings in the woodwork or scraps on the walls make your home reflect deferred maintenance.
3. Be Flexible with Showings
If home showings are too much of an imposition, consider going away the first weekend your home is on the market. Yes, it can feel a bit intrusive to allow strangers to trek through your home and check out your soft-closing drawers in the kitchen. The best way to sell your home is to let a buyer inside with her buyer’s agent to tour in peace and quiet.
Leave the house when buyer’s agents show up. Anything you say can and will be used against you, plus, buyer’s agents prefer to show without interference
4. Allow An Open House
Not every home is a viable candidate for an open house. If your home is located in an area close to major traffic, that is generally indicative of a reasonable expectation that the open house signs will pull in visitors.
Ask your Listing Agent if they advertise the open houses online. Many a home buyer has had no desire to buy a home until she spots an open house and subsequently falls in love.
5. Review Your Listing Online
Look at your home listing on various websites to make sure the information conveyed is accurate. Agents do their best to ensure accuracy, but since it is your home, you know the details better than anyone. If you spot a feature that is missing, contact your agent and ask for an inclusion.
6. Try to Respond Promptly to A Purchase Offer
Many offers contain a date by which the offer expires. Notwithstanding, it can drive buyers crazy if they are forced to wait for a seller to decide whether to accept their offer or to issue a counter offer. Remember, if you are selling because you need to buy a new home, you are no different when you are a home buyer yourself.
7. Line Up Your Movers Early
If you are thinking about moving during the summer, for example, which is a very busy time of year for movers, you might find it is impossible to locate movers for the day you want. You can start packing before your home hits the market, which will give you a head start on the process. It will also give you peace of mind to be prepared. Selling can be stressful enough.
Are you a first-time home seller? What tips do you have to add to our list? Sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or our Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICE email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
Top 10 Native Plants that will Thrive in Your New Jersey Garden
The key to gardening success in the northeast, with its variably cold, snowy winters and short, humid summers, is choosing plants already adapted to the local climate and soils, as well as the specific conditions in your yard.
By learning to read the varied conditions of your landscape — and you may have multiple habitats that are very different from one another — you can then look for plants that grow naturally in those conditions without needing water over the average 40 to 60 inches of annual precipitation in this region.
Instead of impulse-buying plants that strike your fancy in bloom at the nursery, first take a good look at what you have to work with.
Here are 10 plants, from herbaceous perennials to woody vines, shrubs and trees, chosen for their multiseason beauty and interest, wildlife value and adaptability to a variety of garden conditions found across the Northeast, from dry sun to moist shade. Other than irrigation in their first year or two and an annual weeding, once these plants are established in conditions to their liking, they should require little else to thrive in your Northeast landscape.
Native to rich Eastern forests and woodlands
Best shade perennial. Foamflower, shown here, is a beautiful semievergreen ground cover that blooms in a sea of pink and white foamy flowers in spring. Fairly deer resistant (definitely not a deer’s first choice), it is perfect for growing in shady areas underneath trees or in the shade of a house. In rich soil, foamflower can spread annually a few feet in each direction from stolons (underground roots), but it is never invasive like Vinca and Japanese pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis), commonly planted ground covers that can escape into nearby woodlands.
Choose spreading varieties if you’re looking for a ground cover effect. Named cultivars found in nurseries are often labeled incorrectly as Tiarella cordifolia and are actually the clumping Appalachian species, Tiarella wherryi. These don’t spread from underground stolons, so read labels carefully if you prefer a spreading plant to fill an area.
2. Butterfly Milkweed
Native to open, sandy soils and uplands across eastern North America, but a rare species in most New England states
Best full-sun perennial for sandy or well-drained soil. This gorgeous native plant sports neon-orange blooms in early summer, attracting many butterflies and pollinators to its sweet nectar. Butterfly milkweed thrives in any sunny spot with well-draining soil, especially sand. As a milkweed, it’s an occasional food plant for monarch butterfly caterpillars, although swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), which leafs out and blooms later than the orange milkweed, is preferred as a host plant.
3. New England Aster
Native to moist meadows and fields on the East Coast and south to Virginia
Best full-sun perennial for moist soil and late-season blooms. The purple flowers of New England aster, along with goldenrod (Solidago spp), signal the summer’s end here in the Northeast. An important nectar and host plant for butterflies and late-season beneficial insects, it loves full sun and moist soil, but it will put on a great show in any reasonable garden soil. Allow it to self-seed and create large drifts of fall color, and watch for monarch butterflies drinking nectar from the flowers, essential fuel for their long flight south to Mexico.
Some species are native to low woods and swamps, and others are adapted to high and dry exposed areas
Most adaptable flowering shrub. Serviceberry, also called shadbush, shadblow and juneberry, is a beautiful multistemmed shrub or small tree that grows in sun or the understory of larger trees. Clouds of white flowers cover serviceberry in April, and the early-season nectar is valuable forage for many pollinators. Birds flock to feed on the pink and purple edible berries that ripen in June. The fall foliage is a striking orange and yellow, especially when grown in the sun. Plants sold in nurseries are usually natural hybrids of local species.
5. New Jersey Tea
Native to sandy pine barrens and rocky soils of eastern North America
Best full-sun shrub for dry soils. This shrub makes it into the top 10 for its ability to thrive in the leanest and driest soils without wanting or needing fertilizer or watering. Planted in these conditions, it’s as close to a zero-maintenance flowering shrub that exists in the north. Billowy, white early-summer blooms attract hordes of pollinators and beneficial predatory insects that help control garden pests. New Jersey tea is hard to find for sale; look for it at native-plant nurseries in your region.
6. Highbush Blueberry or Lowbush Blueberry
(Vaccinium corymbosum, Vaccinium angustifolium)
Native to a variety of habitats, ranging from swamps and bogs to woods, fields and rocky outcrops
Best edible plant. Blueberry is an essential Northern garden plant because of its delicious berries, fiery fall foliage and, depending on the species, ability to grow just about anywhere with some sun.
7. Trumpet Honeysuckle
Native to forest edges, woodlands and ledges in southern New England and south
Best flowering vine. Trumpet honeysuckle, also called coral honeysuckle, is a well-behaved flowering vine that attracts hummingbirds and won’t take over your house or yard the way Asian wisteria (Wisteria sinensis or W. floribunda) or English ivy (Hedera helix) can. Trumpet honeysuckle is perfect for twining up an arbor or along a fence line.
Important note: Don’t confuse trumpet honeysuckle with trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans) or crossvine (Bignonia capreolata), which are also vines with trumpet-shaped flowers but should be avoided, due to their aggressive spreading through underground runners.
8. Gray Birch
Grows wild in abandoned fields and disturbed areas of the East
Most adaptable small tree. Gray birch is an attractive and fast-growing tree for sun or shade, wet or dry soil. It’s more resistant than other birches to the bronze birch borer pest. Grow gray birch to add quick and easy wildlife habitat to your property — its seeds and catkins feed birds, and its foliage hosts many butterfly and moth caterpillars, which in turn become a protein-rich food that birds use to feed their babies in the nest.
9. Red Maple
Native to swamps, forests, fields, and river and wetland edges
Most adaptable large tree. Grow red maple, also called swamp maple, for its fast growth when young and its multiseason interest. Its red flowers in early spring feed native bees, and its brilliant orange and red fall foliage rivals the iconic colored foliage of sugar maples, which are beginning to die out due to a warming climate.
10. Creeping Juniper
Native to dunes and sandy, gravelly or rocky outcrops, often seen growing on highway embankments
Best evergreen ground cover for full sun and dry soil. What it lacks in showy blooms, juniper makes up for with its tough disposition, growing in the toughest, driest soils. Its low, spreading habit creeps nicely around rocks and into awkward spaces, highlighting nearby showy plants and unifying landscape designs large and small. Easily the most drought-tolerant evergreen ground cover for Eastern gardens, juniper grows in any well-drained soil in full sun, including sand and on steep slopes.
Do you have a Jersey Green Thumb? What can you share about the plants thriving in your garden? Sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or on our Instagram or Twitter Feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
8 Maintenance Tasks All Homeowners Should Do Once a Year
You have the basics of homeownership maintenance down. You change the ceiling blade direction every summer and winter, you scrub the inside and outside of your windows each spring, and you remove every drop of water from your sprinkler system before the first frost.
But are you sure you’re getting everything done?
These eight annual maintenance to-dos are easily forgotten—but checking them off once per year can save you some major headaches, heartaches—and money!
1. Salt your water softener
You’ll need to take a trip to your local home maintenance store for this project. If your water heater features a rad built-in water softener, skipping regular maintenance can cause irreversible damage.
Let’s say you’ve purchased a home with a 2-year-old hot water heater. Pretty new, right? Well, if the previous owner skipped salting the softener, letting mineral build up inside the unit, it will sound like a rock tumbler.
Should that happen, a few intense flushes should do the trick. But don’t wait.
At the end of the day, regular maintenance will prevent damage and will help you avoid a major expense down the road.
2. Test your well water
Having your own well can be a perk—sweet, fresh-from-the-earth water, with no bill! But in-ground water is subject to all sorts of contaminants, including high levels of nitrates, sulfates, or microorganisms. To keep your gut happy and prevent nastier health issues, make sure to test your well water every year. (Shallow wells can require more frequent testing.)
Many municipalities offer free water screening. If yours isn’t so kind, you can send samples to a nearby laboratory for analysis.
3. Update your disaster kit
You don’t have to be a prepper to be prepared. Even minor storms can knock out power for a days. Darkness is a lot less miserable with basic supplies. Every household needs a disaster kit—essential supplies that can keep you going in an emergency. Include necessities such as a first-aid kit, a three-day supply of nonperishable food, plenty of water, printed maps, and a whistle.
Dig through your kit once a year, and check the expiration dates of all of your food, look for broken seals, and make sure none of your necessities have been used or gone missing in the previous 365 days. Check your stock against Ready.gov’s extensive list of basic disaster supplies.
4. Know your humidity
Humidity—especially in the basement—is an early warning sign of future problems. High humidity can cause mildew and black mold. Left unchecked for a significant period of time, it can even cause structural damage. So pick up a hygrometer, and check your levels at least once a year.
If the reading is low, don’t assume you’re in the clear. Too little humidity might not be as dangerous as high levels, but it can still cause sore throats and itchiness—and damage the house. Wood might crack, paint can chip, and electronics could be permanently damaged. Shoot for humidity levels that fall between 30% and 50%.
5. Check for termites
Many homeowners tend to take an “out of sight, out of mind” approach to these wood-eating buggers—but once a year, make sure termites are on your mind.
Ultimately, an annual termite inspection is typically less than $100, and can save you thousands.
6. Take a photo
You’d never skip snapping a shot of your kid on her first day of school each year—so why wouldn’t you do the same for your house? On the anniversary of your purchase, step outside with a camera and shoot a picture of your home in its current state. Over the years, you’ll be astonished by how much your home has evolved.
7. Save 1% of the home’s value
The typical rule of thumb is that a home costs 1% of its value in maintenance fees each year. For example, if you’re purchasing a home worth $300,000, expect to pay $3,000 each year to keep it in shipshape condition.
While you should be regularly saving throughout the year, taking the time once annually to investigate your bank accounts can keep you out of hot water. And, of course, the 1% rule is only an estimate—when it comes to homeownership, anything can go wrong.
A new roof might cost $7,500 (or more—way more). Serious foundation issues could ring in at $40,000. And new siding might require a $10,000 payment. Adding more to your home savings account is never a bad idea. But at the very least, make sure you have the bare minimum.
8. Create a donation pile
After a few years in your home, you might be astounded to find out just how much unnecessary stuff has piled up. Once a year—perhaps around spring-cleaning—do a deep dive into your closets, drawers, bookshelves, and garage. Toss or donate anything you haven’t touched in the past year.
RELATED: Do I Have Too Much Stuff?
Here’s what not to do with all that newly empty space: Fill it up again. But if you fail, well, you’ll be sorting through it again next year when you do these steps all over again.
As a homeowner, what annual home rituals do you keep? What advice might you have to new homeowners when it comes to ongoing home maintenance? Sound off on The Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or our Twitter or Instagram feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
7 Pricing Myths to Stop Believing If You Ever Hope to Sell Your House
Pricing your own home is hard. Of course, you want to make a profit. Of course, all that money you spent installing a swimming pool or a half-bath will be recouped, because you’re leaving your digs in better shape than when you bought it, right?
Well, not necessarily. Too many home sellers fall prey to myths about home pricing that seem to make sense at first, but don’t jive with the reality of real estate markets today. To make sure you haven’t bought into any of this—since the buyers you’re trying to woo sure haven’t—here are some common pricing myths you’ll want to rinse from your brain so you kick off your home-selling venture with realistic expectations.
1. You always make money when you sell a home
Sure, real estate tends to appreciate over time: Home prices increased by approximately 5% by the end of 2017 and continue rising 3.5% in 2018. But selling your home for more than you paid is by no means a given, and your return on investment can vary greatly based on where you live.
2. Price your house high to make big bucks
We know what you’re thinking: “Hey, it’s worth a shot!” But if you start with some sky-high asking price, you’ll soon come back to Earth when you realize that an overpriced home just won’t sell.
While the payday might sound appealing, you’re actually sacrificing your best marketing time in exchange for the remote possibility that someone will overpay for your home.
RELATED: Home Won’t Sell? Check The Price
While certain buyers might be suckered in, this becomes far less likely if they’re working with a buyer’s agent who will know all too well when a home is overpriced, and advise their client to steer clear. And this can lead to problems down the road (as our next myth indicates).
3. If your home’s overpriced, it’s no big deal to lower it later
Sorry, but overpricing your home isn’t easily fixed just by lowering it later on. The reason: Homes that have lingered on the market for months make buyers presume that something must be wrong. As such, they might still steer clear, or offer even less than the price you’re now asking.
Bottom line: Price your home appropriately from the beginning for your best shot at having a quick and easy sale.
RELATED: The Importance of Proper Pricing
4. Pricing your home low means you won’t make as much money
Similarly, sellers are often leery of pricing their home on the low end. But as counterintuitive as this seems, this strategy can often pay off big-time. Here’s why: Low-priced homes drum up tons of interest, which could result in a bidding war that could drive your home’s price past your wildest dreams.
5. You can add the cost of any renovations you’ve made
Let’s say you overhauled your kitchen or added a deck. It stands to reason that whatever money you paid for these improvements will be recouped in full once you sell—after all, your home’s new owners are inheriting all your hard work.
The reality: While your renovations might see some return on investment, you’ll rarely recoup the whole amount. On average, you can expect to get back 64% of every dollar you spend on home improvements. Plus that profit can vary greatly based on which renovation you do.
6. A past appraisal will help you pinpoint the right price
If you have an appraisal in hand, from when you bought or refinanced your house, you might think that’s a logical place to start to price your home. It’s not!
An appraisal assigns your home a value based on market conditions at a specific date, so it becomes old news very quickly. In fact, lenders typically won’t accept appraisals that are more than 60 days old because lenders know markets can change quickly.
7. Your agent might overprice the house to make a bigger commission
Don’t even go there.
While it’s true that an agent’s commission is based on the selling price of a house, the disparity will end up being negligible. For example, the difference in commission between a $300,000 house and one that’s $310,000 is about $150.
No real estate agent is going to lose a sale for the sake of a couple hundred dollars.
Do you have any home selling myths to add to our list? Sound off on The Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or our Twitter feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
Access Is An Important Factor In Getting Your House Sold
So, you’ve decided to sell your house. You’ve hired a real estate professional to help you with the entire process, and they have asked you what level of access you want to provide to potential buyers.
FREE DOWNLOAD: Home Selling Essentials
Everything You Need To Know To Sell Your Home Fast For Top Dollar
There are four elements to a quality listing. At the top of the list is Access, followed by Condition, Financing, and Price. There are many levels of access that you can provide to your agent so that he or she can show your home.
Here are five levels of access that you can give to buyers, along with a brief description:
1. Lockbox on the Door This allows buyers the ability to see the home as soon as they are aware of the listing, or at their convenience.
2. Providing a Key to the Home Although the buyer’s agent may need to stop by an office to pick up the key, there is little delay in being able to show the home.
3. Open Access with a Phone Call The seller allows showings with just a phone call’s notice.
4. By Appointment Only (example: 48-Hour Notice) Many buyers who are relocating for a new career or promotion start working in that area prior to purchasing their home. They often like to take advantage of free time during business hours (such as their lunch break) to view potential homes. Because of this, they may not be able to plan their availability far in advance or may be unable to wait 48 hours to see the house.
5. Limited Access (example: the home is only available on Mondays or Tuesdays at 2pm or for only a couple of hours a day) This is the most difficult way to be able to show your house to potential buyers.
In a competitive marketplace, access can make or break your ability to get the price you are looking for, or even sell your house at all.
Did you recently sell your home? How did the access you allowed to buyer’s impact your sale? We want to hear from you! Sound off on our Facebook Page or on our Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm eNewsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
Top 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t FSBO
In today’s market, with home prices rising and a lack of inventory, some homeowners may consider trying to sell their home on their own, known in the industry as a For Sale by Owner (FSBO).
FREE DOWNLOAD: Critical Info For FSBOs
There are several reasons why this might not be a good idea for the vast majority of sellers. Here are the top five reasons:
1. Exposure to Prospective Buyers
Recent studies have shown that 95% of buyers search online for a home. That is in comparison to only 17% looking at print newspaper ads. Most real estate agents have an internet strategy to promote the sale of your home. Do you?
2. Results Come from the Internet
Where did buyers find the home they actually purchased?
• 49% on the Internet
• 31% from a Real Estate Agent
• 7% from a Yard Signs
• 1% from Newspapers
The days of selling your house by just putting up a sign and putting it in the paper are long gone. Having a strong internet strategy is crucial.
FREE DOWNLOAD: Home Selling Essentials
Everything You Need To Know To Sell Your Home Fast For Top Dollar
3. There Are Too Many People to Negotiate With
Here is a list of some of the people with whom you must be prepared to negotiate if you decide to For Sale By Owner:
• The buyer who wants the best deal possible
• The buyer’s agent who solely represents the best interest of the buyer
• The buyer’s attorney (in some parts of the country)
• The home inspection companies, which work for the buyer and will almost always find some problems with the house
• The appraiser if there is a question of value
4. FSBOing Has Become More And More Difficult
The paperwork involved in selling and buying a home has increased dramatically as industry disclosures and regulations have become mandatory. This is one of the reasons that the percentage of people FSBOing has dropped from 19% to 8% over the last 20+ years.
The 8% share represents the lowest recorded figure since the National Association of Realtors began collecting data in 1981.
5. You Net More Money When Using an Agent
Many homeowners believe that they will save the real estate commission by selling on their own. Realize that the main reason buyers look at FSBOs is because they also believe they can save the real estate agent’s commission. The seller and buyer can’t both save the commission.
A study by Collateral Analytics revealed that FSBOs don’t actually save anything, and in some cases, may be costing themselves more, by not listing with an agent. One of the main reasons for the price difference at the time of sale is:
“Properties listed with a broker that is a member of the local MLS will be listed online with all other participating broker websites, marketing the home to a much larger buyer population. And those MLS properties generally offer compensation to agents who represent buyers, incentivizing them to show and sell the property and again potentially enlarging the buyer pool.”
If more buyers see a home, the greater the chances are that there could be a bidding war for the property. The study showed that the difference in price between comparable homes of size and location is currently at an average of 6% this year.
Why would you choose to list on your own and manage the entire transaction when you can hire an agent and not have to pay anything more?
Before you decide to take on the challenges of selling your house on your own, sit with a real estate professional in your marketplace and see what they have to offer. Did you go the FSBO route? What did you learn? Are you considering going FSBO? What questions or concerns do you have? Sound of on our Facebook Page, Twitter or Instagram feeds or connect with us on LinkedIn. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm email newsletter for great tips for homeowners and sellers delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
10 Top Secrets To Selling Your Home
So you’ve decided to put your house up for sale. Now what? Aside from hiring a real estate agent, there are a few other important matters to address before your home is listed and potential buyers start coming through the door. Some of these items, more important than others.
FREE DOWNLOAD: Home Selling Essentials
Everything You Need To Know To Sell Your Home
It’s important to remember that while you may look around your abode and see your dream home, not everyone will agree. After all, potential buyers aren’t buying your aesthetic. They’re after square footage, closet space, great light, and up-to-date—maybe even brand-new—appliances and fixtures. Thinking like a buyer, we uncover the Top 10 Secrets to selling your home fast for top-dollar.
Selling Secret #10: Pricing it right
Pricing is the most important aspect of selling your home and you need an experienced Listing Agent with extensive market knowledge. Your Agent will consider up-to-date information on what is happening in the marketplace and the price, and condition of competing properties. These are key factors in getting your property sold at the best price, quickly and smoothly.
RELATED: The Importance of Proper Pricing
Selling Secret #9: Half-empty closets
Storage is something every buyer is looking for and can never have enough of. Take half the stuff out of your closets then neatly organize what’s left in there. Buyers will snoop, so be sure to keep all your closets and cabinets clean and tidy.
Selling Secret #8: Light it up
Maximize the light in your home. After location, good light is the one thing that every buyer cites that they want in a home. Take down the drapes, clean the windows, change the lampshades, increase the wattage of your light bulbs and cut the bushes outside to let in sunshine. Do what you have to do make your house bright and cheery – it will make it more sellable.
Selling Secret #7: Play the agent field
A secret sale killer is hiring the wrong broker. Make sure you have a broker who is totally informed. They must constantly monitor the multiple listing service (MLS), know your marketplace and understand the latest available marketing methods.
Look for a Real Estate Agent who embraces technology – a tech-savvy one has many tools to get your house sold.
Selling Secret #6: Conceal the critters
You might think a cuddly dog would warm the hearts of potential buyers, but you’d be wrong. Not everybody is a dog- or cat-lover. Buyers don’t want to walk in your home and see a bowl full of dog food, smell the kitty litter box or have tufts of pet hair stuck to their clothes. It will give buyers the impression that your house is not clean. If you’re planning an open house, send the critters to a pet hotel for the day.
Selling Secret #5: Don’t over-upgrade
Quick fixes before selling always pay off. Mammoth makeovers, not so much. You probably won’t get your money back if you do a huge improvement project before you put your house on the market. Instead, do updates that will pay off and get you top dollar. Get a new fresh coat of paint on the walls. Clean the curtains or go buy some inexpensive new ones. Replace door handles, cabinet hardware, make sure closet doors are on track, fix leaky faucets and clean the grout.
Selling Secret #4: Take the home out of your house
One of the most important things to do when selling your house is to de-personalize it. The more personal stuff in your house, the less potential buyers can imagine themselves living there. Get rid of a third of your stuff – put it in storage. This includes family photos, memorabilia collections and personal keepsakes. Consider hiring a home stager to maximize the full potential of your home. Staging simply means arranging your furniture to best showcase the floor plan and maximize the use of space.
Selling Secret #3: The kitchen comes first
You’re not actually selling your house, you’re selling your kitchen – that’s how important it is. The benefits of remodeling your kitchen are endless, and the best part of it is that you’ll probably get 85% of your money back. It may be a few thousand dollars to replace countertops where a buyer may knock $10,000 off the asking price if your kitchen looks dated.
The fastest, most inexpensive kitchen updates include painting and new cabinet hardware. Use a neutral-color paint so you can present buyers with a blank canvas where they can start envisioning their own style. If you have a little money to spend, buy one fancy stainless steel appliance. Why one? Because when people see one high-end appliance they think all the rest are expensive too and it updates the kitchen.
Selling Secret #2: Always be ready to show
Your house needs to be “show-ready” at all times – you never know when your buyer is going to walk through the door. You have to be available whenever they want to come see the place and it has to be in tip-top shape. Don’t leave dishes in the sink, keep the dishwasher cleaned out, the bathrooms sparkling and make sure there are no dust bunnies in the corners. It’s a little inconvenient, but it will get your house sold.
Selling Secret #1: The first impression is the only impression
No matter how good the interior of your home looks, buyers have already judged your home before they walk through the door. You never have a second chance to make a first impression. It’s important to make people feel warm, welcome and safe as they approach the house. Spruce up your home’s exterior with inexpensive shrubs and brightly colored flowers. You can typically get a 100-percent return on the money you put into your home’s curb appeal. Entryways are also important. You use it as a utility space for your coat and keys. But, when you’re selling, make it welcoming by putting in a small bench, a vase of fresh-cut flowers or even some cookies.
What home selling secrets do you have to add to our list? We want to hear from you! Sound of on our Facebook Page, Twitter or Instagram feeds or connect with us on LinkedIn. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm email newsletter for great tips for homeowners and sellers delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
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