Category Archives: homeowners

Should I Sell or Remodel?

Anything that gets as much use as your home shows wear and tear after a few years. Colors and decorative styles look tired and outdated, or you may need more room due to an addition in the family. So do you sell or remodel and stay?

Image resultAsk your favorite Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed Realty professional to show you homes for sale that have the size, features and finishes you want, and create a comparative market analysis of homes like yours so you’ll know what you can reasonably expect to net if you sell.

You’ll pay about 12% of the sales price and more in closing costs to sell and purchase another home. Moving costs are about $2,300, (if you have 4 movers at $200 per hour) for an intrastate move and about 7,400 pounds of household goods, according to the American Moving and Storage Association.

If you decide to remodel, make sure your design will meet your needs for years to come. You’ll need the right team – contractors, kitchen planners and interior designers to help you put it all together. Talk to your lender to learn how much you can borrow and if that sum will help you meet your remodeling goals.

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Household Cleaning Tips That Save Time and Money

Household Cleaning Tips That Save Time and Money

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Spring – a time for new beginnings – is just around the corner. It’s time to air out the winter blahs and let the sun shine in. But there’s no need to knock ourselves out or over-spend on cleaning supplies. The home editors at Good Housekeeping magazine offer tips on cleaning every corner of your home without exhausting yourself or your wallet:

One simple solution: No need to spend money on specialized cleaning products. Fill an empty spray bottle with a quart of warm water mixed with four tablespoons of baking soda, and use it for most surfaces, including windows, counters, tile, and appliances.

Toothpaste trick – If your kids are a little too creative, a dab of toothpaste will remove colored marker stains from wooden tables.

Wipe out wall doodles – A good sprinkling of baking soda on a damp sponge should wipe your walls clean of ‘artwork.’

Funky cutting board? – Rub the cut side of a lemon over it to remove old stains and odors.

Wake up patio furniture – add a squirt of dish soap to a bowl of warm water. Wipe down surfaces and hose them off with plain water.

Soften scratchy towels – Get rid of mineral build-up by washing scratchy towels in the hottest water possible with nothing but a cup of ammonia added.

Easy copper cleanup – A little ketchup – yes, ketchup! – will get those copper-bottomed pots and pans shining.

Dishwasher duty – Once every few weeks, especially while flu season hangs around, get rid of bacteria by adding a quarter cup of bleach to the regular dish cycle.

Disinfect the disposal – Run a few lemon peels, a little salt, and a few ice cubes through it to sanitize and banish odors.

Don’t forget the sponge – Keep that wet sponge clean and bacteria-free by zapping it in the microwave for one minute.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

Five Best Kitchen Remodeling Tips

When you shop for a home, what do you look for in the kitchen? Granite counters? Storage? Breakfast bar? Sparkling stainless appliances? If you’re buying an older home like most buyers, you may have to update to get the look and features you want. Here are five tips to get started:

  1. Work with a kitchen design professional. They’re trained to help you solve the most challenging kitchen problems and to work within your budget. A kitchen designer can recommend contractors and oversee all installations to make sure they are done correctly. Some can serve as contractors for a turnkey job.
  2. Hire qualified contractors. Cheaper isn’t necessarily better. Check references, licenses, and make sure their subcontractors are also bonded and insured.
  3. Consider the age of the home for a more organic look. For example, mid-century linoleum floors are more in fashion now than ever before. New patterns and colors in tile can mimic wood or stone for easy upkeep. Try porcelain instead of wood on cabinets for a sleek minimalist look.
  4. Be willing to compromise on costs or space. Cut the expense of new cabinetry by replacing some uppers with trendy open shelving. Splurge on granite for the island, but finish the other countertops with a workhorse stone-like laminate or tile.
  5. Don’t try to save money by doing work you aren’t qualified to do. You may be able to install flooring or a backsplash with a friend and a tutorial, but if a job requires a license like an electrician or plumber, it’s best to hire a professional.

Of course, always remember to call your favorite Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed Realty agent at 703-836-1464 for tips, suggestions, and referrals to our list of vetted contractors.

The Seller Who Tests the Market

When you see the market rising, it’s tempting to price your home even higher than nearby homes that recently sold. So you tell your listing agent that you want to “test” the market to see if you can get even more for your home.

Sometimes, it’s appropriate to choose a list price higher than recent comparable sold homes, but that strategy seldom works unless the market is climbing rapidly. If you’re looking for a quick, hassle-free sale, you need to decide which is more important – getting more for your home or moving on to your new life somewhere else.
Let’s say your neighborhood’s highest, most recent home sale was $500,000, and your agent suggests a listing price of $510,000. You want to test the market at $530,000 – which is $20,000 more than your agent recommends, and $30,000 over the latest comparable.

Your home hits the market at $530,000 and has tons of showings the first week. Your strategy is working, except that you don’t receive any offers. By the second week, there are few to no showings. Agents are reporting back to your listing agent that their buyers said your home “needs work,” or that they “found something more suited to their needs.”

After months of making two mortgage payments, your home finally sells at $518,000. Meanwhile, you paid months of overhead to get $9,000. You actually lost peace of mind and threw away a lot of money.

Overpriced homes simply take longer to sell. If you’re tempted to “test the market”, remember that the market will test you.

For accurate pricing, staging, and home selling assistance, always remember to call your favorite Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed Realty agent at 703-836-1464.

Five Lawn Mower Maintenance Tips

If you are anything like me, you look a the lawn mower and just hope it magically starts… when it does not respond to mind control, I close my eyes and pull the cord as hard as a can and home the drat thing does not take off without me!  This article is perfect for all levels of lawn mower users… and even if you cannot change the oil yourself, you will at least know when to find someone to change it for you!

The lawn mower is the workhorse when it comes to outdoor maintenance. To keep your machine in working order all season long, continued care is essential. One of the most important maintenance tasks is changing the mower’s oil, say the experts at Briggs & Stratton, an outdoor power equipment provider. Oil from the previous season may be mixed with grass and other debris, inhibiting its use and the machine’s overall performance. Generally, oil should be changed at least once a year, or after 50 hours of operation for a push mower and after 100 hours of operation for a ride mower.

Most homeowners can conduct an oil change for a push mower in less than 15 minutes—a significant savings compared to having it serviced by a professional. The steps:

  1. To allow oil to drain more easily, run the engine for a short time to warm it up.
  2. Shut the engine off and disconnect the spark plug. Remove the oil fill cap or dipstick, and place a pan (or other container) under the oil fill. Tip the mower on its side, with the air filter side facing up and the oil fill facing down, to drain the oil.
  3. Once oil has been collected, fill the mower with new oil. Pour in an amount (and specific type) recommended by the manufacturer; this information can be found in the operator’s manual. Screw the oil fill cap back into place, and wipe up any drips with a rag or towel.
  4. The oil may also be changed using the oil drain, which is located on the underside of the mower deck. Consult the operator’s manual for instructions specific to the mower.
  5. For a ride mower, unscrew the plug from the drain funnel located at the bottom of the engine, and let the old oil flow through the hose into a pan or bucket.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2016. All rights reserved.

First Look: Home-Buying Season Is Already Booming

The 2016 home-buying season is in full swing, with homes in April moving 7 percent faster than one year ago, even as asking prices continue to break records. This, according to new data released this week by Realtor.com.

Median age of inventory is now 68 days, moving five days faster in April than a year earlier and 6 days faster than last month – pointing to solid momentum this spring. The median-priced home was listed at $245,500, 9 percent higher than one year ago and 2 percent higher than March. For-sale housing inventory is increasing on a monthly basis, but remains lower than one year ago.

“A robust buying season has already fully bloomed this spring, clearly demonstrated by our preliminary read on April inventory and activity on realtor.com,” says Jonathan Smoke, chief economist of realtor.com. “Pent-up demand, lower mortgage rates and strong employment continue to power the strongest and healthiest real estate market we have seen in a decade. Close to 550,000 new listings came onto the market in April, which helped total inventory grow 2 percent over March. However, we know that sales are picking up faster than inventory since the median age of inventory fell again by six days after falling a whopping 22 days in March. As a result we have 4 percent fewer homes available for sale compared to last year and homes stay on the market five fewer days.”

The median age of inventory for April is expected to be 68 days, down 7 percent year over year and down 8 percent from March.

The median listing price for April will likely reach a record high of $245,500, a 9 percent increase year over year and a two percent increase month over month.

Listing inventory in April showed a 2 percent increase over March. However, inventory decreased 4 percent year over year.

Realtor.com’s Hottest Markets receive two to three times the number of views per listing compared to the national average. In terms of supply, these markets are seeing inventory move 17-45 days more quickly than the rest of the U.S. They have also seen days on market drop by an average of four days from March.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2016. All rights reserved.

Use the power of “magic showing moments”

By Laurie Moore-Moore, Founder

The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing

Recently, I had an “Aha! Moment”– one of those times when the light bulb flashed and my understanding of something clicked to a new level. Here’s what happened, I had an opportunity to interact with the wonderfully outrageous South Florida home builder, Frank McKinney.

Just to set the stage for you, McKinney’s personality is as big as the 60,000+ square foot spec mansions he builds. He bills himself as a real estate “artist,” and there is no doubt that he is the force behind some of the Florida’s most interesting mansions priced in the double digit millions.

McKinney, who designs his homes in a tree house office, is a master of creativity.  On each property homepage, you’ll find a countdown-to-completion clock ticking away.   His new homes have theatrical “unveilings” (rather than grand openings) and draw hundreds of invitees who pay to preview the properties.

Here’s the light bulb that went on for me. We all know the importance of effective staging. But “McKinney’s marketing approach moves past staging and aims at creating a desire to live in the home from the time the prospect pulls up in front.  He works to take staging and showing and turn it into a powerful selling experience.

First, he considers when and how the prospect will arrive at the house. He tries to schedule showings at a time when the home will show to best advantage. If sunset is spectacular from the poolside terraces, he wants the prospects to experience those views.  Then, with the use of strategically placed cones, he influences exactly where the prospect and agent will park.  He blocks the drive so they are forced to approach the home in the most desirable way.  The prospect sees the full expanse of the front yard, takes in the dramatic architecture, sees the guest house which appears to be floating in a lagoon, smells the freshly cut grass and feels the marble pavers underfoot.  Anticipation heightens with the approach.

When the door opens, a memorable front door experience begins. While McKinney builds-in many of his front door magic moments — including in one recent home, a “water floor” that curves into an arched aquarium wet bar with exotic fish overhead — you can stage your own memorable front door openings by being creative. It’s the concept that’s important.  McKinney carefully furnishes and stages the home so there is a pleasant surprise or positive feature around every corner. He appeals to multiple senses using music and scent.  He has chocolate and champagne waiting. Prospects are qualified in advance, so McKinney has even been known to hand them the keys and suggest they spend the evening at the house (giving new meaning to the old puppy dog close!).

His goal is to open “the window of desire” for the home and close the deal.  What’s sitting by the front door on departure?  A contract.

McKinney’s sales track record would indicate that this approach works. He tells the story of meeting buyers after closing to walk them though their new multimillion home and demonstrate all the features.  His buyers asked, ‘Can we see the upstairs now, Frank?”  They had purchased based on only seeing (and falling in love with) the main floor.

In short, McKinney’s showings are designed to be memorable experiences that result in sales.  How can you do that with your listings?  Your homes don’t have to be multimillion dollar extravaganzas for you and your sellers to make every showing a memorable experience. This is turbo-charged staging.

Think about the questions McKinney must ask himself with every property.  What times of day does the home show best?  How can I take advantage of that?  What approach to the house is most favorable?  How can I enhance that approach? Where should prospects park?  Can you create a WOW the moment the front door opens? How can you keep the positive impressions happening?  What about sound and scent?  How can you stage to best highlight the lifestyle(s) the home represents?

Then, there’s the question of how you get the buy-in and cooperation of your seller.  The reality of today’s market is that some homes are selling.  Successful sales are generally the homes which have proper pricing, effective staging, and creative marketing. If your seller understands this and YOU can create magic showing moments, the probability of sales success rises.