Don’t underestimate power of online marketing, private showings
By Dian Hymer
Some buyers are looking for a home that’s located in a specific neighborhood. Others have more flexibility regarding where they live. But most buyers share one thing in common: They want a home that’s in move-in condition.
Start working on attracting buyers to your home by putting the property in good condition before it goes on the market. In most cases, it’s not a good idea to show your home to a prospective buyer before it’s ready to be shown. Photos should also wait until your home presents itself well.
Pay attention to “curb appeal”; first impressions are lasting. Some buyers drive by without taking a look inside if they don’t like the way a house looks from the street. The yard should be clean and tidy. Replace the front lawn if it’s dead; the same goes for plants that have seen better days. Flowering plants make your home look festive and inviting.
Peeling paint should be touched up, if possible. If an entire exterior paint job is called for, consider changing the color scheme to enhance the appeal. One seller repainted the exterior of his home before selling without consulting his agent or a colorist. He repainted using the existing color scheme, which was out of date. The house didn’t sell quickly. When it did, the first thing the buyers wanted to do was change the color of the exterior.
Repair deferred maintenance, particularly if it’s visible from the street. You want to convey the impression that your home has been well maintained. If you can’t afford to repair and paint the white picket fence in front of your house, it would be better to remove it than leave it.
Houses that don’t have much architectural appeal can often be improved by the addition of shutters. Houses that don’t show much from the street can be enhanced with an architecturally intriguing gate or entryway. You want to peak buyers’ interest in seeing what they can’t see from the street.
HOUSE HUNTING TIP: List with an agent who can provide wide exposure for your home, including extensive Internet advertising. The vast majority of homebuyers search for homes online. Buyers discount Internet listings that do not have photos, and they gravitate toward those with many photos and quality photos. Make sure that the agent you list with will not put your home on the multiple listing service or Internet without plenty of quality, representative photos — 15 or more is good.
The importance of Internet advertising should not be underestimated. The Internet is global and available 24/7. Buyers often find the listing they want to buy on the Internet before their agent has seen it. After surfing the Internet, some buyers decide to buy outside the area they were focusing on if they see something elsewhere that appeals to them.
Local marketing may work in some cases, but you wouldn’t want to cut yourself short. Broad exposure of your listing to the market is an integral part of selling.
Although the buyer for your home could come from anywhere, you do want it to be exposed to the local agents. Your agent should hold the listing open for real estate agents as soon as it’s ready to be shown. Repeat broker open houses may be necessary to make sure a representative number of agents see the listing.
Public open houses are good exposure. Some buyers still find the home they buy at an open house. However, they don’t pay off like they did during the bubble market. Encourage private showings, which require that you make it easy for agents to show your home to their buyers.
THE CLOSING: The best way to attract buyers to your listing is to price it right for the market. Otherwise, all of your efforts will be for naught.
Dian Hymer, a real estate broker with more than 30 years’ experience, is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist and author of “House Hunting: The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers” and “Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide.”
By Bill and Kevin Burnett
Here’s our checklist to keep you cozy and safe during the winter months:
1. Inspection by a certified chimney sweep is a must. For heavy use, the chimney should be inspected and cleaned annually. Go up to five years if the fireplace is used only occasionally. The sweep should inspect for proper operation of the damper and for cracks in the flue liner, as well as sweeping the flue to remove creosote and other combustion byproducts.
2. Close the damper when the fireplace isn’t in use.
3. Install a chimney cap if you don’t already have one. You don’t want creatures building their nest in your flue.
4. When starting a fire, “prime” the flue by holding lighted newspaper at the back wall of the firebox to start the warm air rising.
5. Burn aged, dry hardwood if possible. Fir or pine burns hot and deposits creosote in the chimney. Don’t burn construction debris. It may contain toxic chemicals that will vaporize in the fire and could enter the living space.
6. Do not clean out the fireplace when the ashes are still hot. And dispose of the ashes in a place where wayward embers won’t start a fire.
Fireplace with gas starter
1. If the flame goes out, wait at least five minutes before attempting to relight the fireplace. This allows time to clear the fireplace of gas.
2. Be alert for unusual odors or odd-colored flames, which are often a sign that the fireplace is not operating properly. In such cases, contact your dealer or licensed technician for servicing. Contact the gas company if you smell gas when the unit is off.
Gas furnace maintenance
1. An annual maintenance check of a gas furnace extends the life of the appliance and ferrets out any hidden problems. A qualified heating contractor should vacuum out the unit, inspect the blower motor, inspect the heat exchanger for cracks, check the electronics and perform a multipoint checklist to make sure the furnace is operating properly.
2. Clean or replace the furnace filter frequently during the heating season. This ensures that air returning from the inside of the house is unobstructed and clean when entering the combustion chamber.
3. Keep vents, space heaters and baseboards clear of furniture, rugs and drapes to allow free air movement.
4. Ensure there is free airflow around your furnace and make sure there are no storage items obstructing airflow.
5. Do not store or use combustible materials, such as chemicals, paint, rags, clothing, draperies, paper, cleaning products, gasoline, or flammable vapors and liquids in the vicinity of the furnace.
6. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and lethal gas that can occur any time there is incomplete combustion or poor venting. Any home that contains fuel-burning appliances, such as a fireplace or furnace, should have a carbon monoxide alarm installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Home owners who fail to get a building permit for a remodeling project can jeopardize a sale.
Home owners using licensed contractors for remodeling work typically don’t have to get involved with permitting. Most licensed contractors will handle the cumbersome process for them—filling out the paperwork with the municipality, collecting fees, and being present for the required inspections, says Michael Hydeck, president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. But when home owners tackle do-it-yourself projects or use unlicensed contractors, they risk problems later.
The permit process varies widely from city to city and state to state). But the purpose of the document is the same everywhere: It offers assurance by a municipal building department that the work being done meets all safety codes.
Ask Sellers Before You List
Home owners may be asked about permits in the process of selling a home. At closing, they may have to disclose any remodeling work they did and verify permits. A home inspector evaluating a property for a buyer may want to know whether a permit was obtained. Furthermore, the buyer’s appraiser may want to see permit records to check the legality of any home renovations.
“If no permits are found and it’s obvious the home has been renovated, the bank will likely refuse to make the loan,” according to the American Bar Association’s book Legal Guide to Home Renovation (Random House Reference, 2006). If the permitless work isn’t discovered until after closing, the home’s value could even be subject to a lawsuit, such as in cases when an addition added extra square footage to the home’s value but the construction wasn’t done legally with a permit.
That’s why contractors and legal experts say real estate practitioners are well advised to ask sellers before they take on a listing for a renovated home: “Did you get a permit for that?”
Remodeling contractor John Price in Merced, Calif., has been called in to help home owners after permit problems have been uncovered. He once worked with a home owner who installed siding by himself, but added it too far down along the wall of the house, so it rubbed up against dirt and picked up moisture. Eventually the poor installation led to mold growing in the drywall throughout the inside of the house.
Some home owners, however, are tempted to sidestep the permit process not wanting to pay the fees (municipalities generally charge a minimum issuing fee—such as $25—as well as an additional fee—sometimes 1 percent—of total construction costs), or they might not want to risk delaying a project or a sale by waiting for city inspections (obtaining permits can take anywhere from a day to six weeks or more).
“People have strong incentives to cheat, and some of that lays squarely on the feet of policymakers who have sometimes created a system that is time-consuming and frustrating,” Price says.
But caught without a permit during resale, home owners may face big consequences. They may have to pay fines (possibly up to quadruple the original permit cost) or may have to tear the project down and redo it.
Virtually No Job Is Too Small
Home owners making any changes to the structures of a home will likely need a permit—and you may need more than one, Price says.
While kitchen and bathroom remodels and housing additions are obvious permit candidates, people may not realize they might also need one for such projects as installing a window, adding a new light switch, or replacing a shower. “There are not too many jobs you don’t need a permit for,” Hydeck adds. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
By Paul Bianchina
Don’t forget about exterior grading, indoor air quality
Fall is in the air already, which means that another chilly winter can’t be too far behind. So before the cold weather arrives, here’s your annual checklist of things to do to get your home ready for the change of season.
Inside your home
Check smoke detectors: Don’t neglect that smoke detector any longer! Take some time right now to check the operation of detectors, and to change the batteries. If you have an older house with a limited number of smoke detectors, install additional ones at each sleeping room, and make sure there is one centrally located on each level of the home as well.
Install a carbon monoxide detector: As houses get closed up for winter, the chances of carbon monoxide poisoning from malfunctioning gas appliances increases substantially. If you have a furnace, fireplace, water heater, or other appliance that’s fueled by propane or natural gas, or if you have an attached garage, install a carbon monoxide detector. They’re available inexpensively from many home centers and other retailers, and offer easy, plug-in installation.
Service your heating system: Perform a complete system check of your furnace annually, either by yourself or by a trained furnace technician. Check for worn belts, lubrication needs or other servicing that might be required; refer to your owner’s manual for specific suggestions, and follow any manufacturer safety instructions for shutting the power and fuel to the furnace before servicing. Check the condition of duct joints and insulation, and of course, change the filter.
Upgrade your thermostat: An older thermostat that’s a couple of degrees off can result in a lot of wasted energy, and so can forgetting to set the thermostat down at night. You can take care of both of those problems with an upgrade to a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats are digital and typically very accurate, and they allow for easy, set-and-forget programming of temperatures for different times of the day, including energy-saving nighttime and workday setbacks.
Outside your home
Trim trees: Trees that are overhanging your home can be a real hazard. They can deposit debris on your roof, scrape against shingles during wind storms, and, worst of all, snap off with potentially devastating results. Have a professional tree trimming service inspect the condition of overhanging tree limbs, and safely cut them back as needed.
Check the gutters: Clear the gutters of leaf and pine needle debris, and check that the opening between the gutter and the downspout is unobstructed. Look for loose joints or other structural problems with the system, and repair them as needed using pop rivets. Use a gutter sealant to seal any connections where leaks may be occurring.
Break out the caulk: A few hours and few tubes of caulking can make a big difference in both your heating bills and your comfort levels this winter. Caulk around windows, doors, pipes, exterior electrical outlets, and any other exterior penetrations where cold air might enter. Use a good grade of acrylic latex caulk, either in a paintable white or, if you don’t want to paint, use clear.
Drain sprinkler systems: In colder areas, now is the time to be thinking about having your sprinkler and irrigation systems blown out. You can rent a compressor and do this yourself, or contact a landscape or irrigation system installer and have them handle this for you. This is also the time to shut off outdoor faucets and install freeze-proof faucet covers as needed.
Adjust exterior grade: Fall is also a great time to look at the grade around your home, and make sure that everything slopes away from your foundation to avoid costly problems with ground water. Add, remove or adjust soil grades as necessary for good drainage.
Change light timers: If you have exterior lights that are controlled by timers, including low-voltage ones, check the timer settings. Change the “on” times to an earlier hour to reflect the earlier winter darkness, so that you always have adequate outside light available.
Downtown’s Oktober Fall Festival kicks off on the 2nd Saturday in Oktober, Oktober 8th. The community family friendly event is from 10:00am to 4:00pm. Think fall festival with a German flair. Events include vendor, food, and arts and crafts booths, a dog parade, and the first “Running of the Wieners” (wiener dogs/dachshunds only please), the chicken dance, and kid activities. Church, school, Relay for Life teams, and local non-profits are invited to reserve booth space as well.
At 5:00pm, Main Street Paragould’s ticketed event, Oktoberfest, begins. Oktoberfest 2011 is the first, of what we hope is many, Downtown Oktober celebrations. The committee is to be congratulated for deciding to deviate from the typical fundraising event…cocktails, dinner, dancing, auction…and to not take itself too seriously. Downtown revitalization and economic development is serious business, raising money to help keep Paragould’s affiliation with Main Street Arkansas is essential. Having a great time while doing it? Extremely possible. Held outside on the 100 block of south Pruett, Oktoberfest will be a celebration of all things German. (Isn’t everyone a little bit German during Oktoberfest? Like everyone’s a little bit Irish on St. Patrick’s Day?) Oompah music, brats, the “chicken dance”, potato pancakes, polka, and Paragould’s own world famous band Everyday Life. Beer and wine tasting bars, and beverages by the drink will be offered. Red Goose is catering the meal…German cuisine of course. Tickets are $25.00 in advance/$30.00 at the door. Thank you to our sponsors: U.S. Renal Care, C & C Distributing, Holiday Liquor Store, Focus Bank, Midway Signs, Image Realty, Community Title and Escrow, Black/Gold Potatoes, Paragould Family Dentistry, and R.Hoskins Interiors for sponsoring Main Street’s first Oktoberfest.
4 types to choose from
By Paul Bianchina
Life would be really easy for the do-it-yourselfer if solid wood were behind all the drywall in your house. Then every time you needed to install a shelf or hang something heavy, you could just drive in a screw and be done with it.
Alas, that’s not the case, and so instead we have a group of fasteners that are lumped together under the general heading of “drywall anchors.” Drywall anchors are designed to be installed into the drywall where there’s no wood, and give you a solid place to attach whatever it is you’re looking to hang.
If you’ve looked on the shelf in your local home center or hardware store, you’ve no doubt noticed there are many different drywall anchors to choose from. Let’s try to clear up a little bit of the confusion.
Plastic anchors are some of the most common of the drywall anchors, and are the ones you’ll often find included free with the hardware packet in different home improvement items you buy. Plastic anchors are also the lightest-duty drywall anchors.
To use the anchor, you first need to drill a pilot hole in the drywall. It’s important that the hole be the correct diameter for the anchor being used, because if it’s too large, the anchor will rotate in the hole and won’t grip correctly, and if it’s too small, it’ll distort as you drive it into place. The pilot-hole diameter should be listed on the packaging.
After drilling the hole, tap the anchor into place until the anchor’s shoulder is flat against the wall. Ribs on the outside of the anchor grip the drywall, and hold the anchor in place.
A screw that’s matched to the anchor in diameter and length is driven into the anchor to expand it inside the hole, locking it in place. Once the anchor is locked, the screw can be removed and reused, and the anchor will remain in place.
Plastic wall anchors are sized according to the length and diameter of the matching screw, so select one based on how big a screw you need for what you’re hanging.
Hollow wall anchors
For medium-duty use, there are the hollow wall anchors, also commonly known as “molly bolts.” Some types require that a pilot hole be drilled in the drywall first, while others have a pointed end and can be driven into the drywall with a hammer.
With either type, once the anchor has been inserted or driven into the wall, the preinstalled screw is tightened. Tightening the screw pulls the end of the anchor forward, toward the back side of the drywall. As it does, the metal sides of the anchor distort into a mushroom shape, locking the anchor against the wall.
Once the anchor is locked, you can remove the screw from the anchor, insert it through whatever it is you want to hang, then reinstall the screw into the anchor. Screws can be removed and reinstalled with this type of anchor.
Hollow wall anchors are sized for the thickness of the material they’ll be installed in, and the length of the screw. They’re available for 1/2-inch-thick and 5/8-inch-thick drywall, as well as thinner materials such as hollow doors.
Drive anchors are very easy to use, and offer both medium- and heavy-duty applications in both plastic and metal varieties. Both types are self-drilling and don’t require a pilot hole — they’re installed by simply screwing them into the drywall with a screw gun. Both types have wide screw threads that cut and grip into the drywall. After the anchor itself is installed in the wall, a screw is driven into it to expand the anchor, locking it in place. The screw can then be removed and reused.
Drive anchors are typically available in only one screw diameter, but can be used with different screw lengths.
A toggle bolt is a long machine-threaded screw with a pair of spring-loaded metal wings at the end. First, drill a pilot hole of the correct diameter. Insert the toggle bolt through the object you wish to attach, then compress the wings and push them into the hole in the wall.
Push the screw into the wall until the wings pop open again inside the wall. Pull back on the screw so the wings are in contact with the back of the wall, and tighten the screw. Toggle bolts work well for heavier installations, but if you remove the screw, the toggle wings inside the wall are lost.
Toggle bolts are sized by the diameter and length of the screw, depending on the thickness of the wall and the thickness of the object you’re attaching.
Another type of toggle bolt is called the SnapToggle. It works in a similar fashion, but has a different design that allows the wing to remain in place if the bolt is removed. SnapToggles are a little more expensive than conventional toggle bolts, but are faster and easier to install, and are a better choice if you intend to remove the item being fastened.
Drywall anchors are available at home centers, hardware stores, lumberyards, and many other retailers. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s specific instructions for installation and load ratings.
Remodeling and repair questions? Email Paul at email@example.com. All product reviews are based on the author’s actual testing of free review samples provided by the manufacturers.