Do’s & Don’t: Prepping your house for sale

taxidermy wall

I see at least a dozen houses that are for sale each week. If and when you ever sell your house, remember these tips below.

  1. Give your house a deep clean- including bathroom grout, oven, fridge, all the “hard” things you don’t clean on a regular basis. If you aren’t a good cleaner, pay someone else to do it.
  2. Declutter, declutter, declutter!
  3. Use closets for their designated use. For example, no kitchen appliances in the front coat closet. You don’t need your buyer realizing right away that the huge Kitchen Aid mixer they got for a wedding present won’t find in your tiny kitchen cabinets.
  4. Your clothes belong in the master closet…ONLY…no matter how small it is. (I’m talk to you, bungalow owners.)
  5. Clean out the old nasty food in the fridge- it will be opened and people will judge you.
  6. Keep religious décor to a minimum or remove completely. You may think it’s tasteful but other do not. Take it down.
  7. If you must keep a litter box in the house, it needs to be cleaned every day if not more. Better yet, let your best friend babysit your cat while you show your house.
  8. Keep personal pictures to a minimum. People will look at them. And please take down your professional pregnancy photos. Please.
  9. Take everything off your fridge.
  10. NO ANIMAL HEADS. None. At all. (And it doesn’t make a difference that “you harvest the meat from the animals you kill.” People still get offended.)
  11. Make your closets and pantry look spacious. If that means you need to rent a storage unit or donating all those random canned goods then do it.
  12. Rent a carpet cleaner (less than $50 a day) and clean your carpets. They will look so much better and it will help with any pet odors.
  13. Speaking of pet odors… Ask someone who doesn’t have pets if your house smells of animals. You are used to it and aren’t a good judge.
  14. All the stuff (crap) your baby, toddler, kids need/use/play with should go in their room. Get some bins or large baskets  for their room and stick all that stuff in them. You don’t need your living room to look like a playroom because that’s when they realize you don’t have a playroom and they might need a playroom.
  15. Take all the teenie bopper stuff off the walls (and ceilings, believe it or not) of your pre-teen or teenager’s room.
  16. Refrain from cooking fish, Indian, Asian, or Middle Eastern food while your house is on the market.
  17. Don’t smoke, duh.
  18. Take all those expensive energy efficient light bulbs and store them for your next house. Do this for ALL the lights in the house. Replace them with normal, cheap bulbs that do not take 15 minutes to “warm up.” While those lights are warming up, your buyer is thinking your house doesn’t have enough light.
  19. Remove anything from your house that lives in an aquarium that is not a fish.
  20. Keep the pool clean even if that means hiring a pool boy. You don’t need the buyer to actually know that taking care of a pool is a major expense and pain in the ass. And we certainly don’t want them realizing that the beautiful tree in the back drops thousands of leaves a day into the pool.
  21. Don’t leave your dog(s) at the house during showings even if you leave them outside/in a kennel/in the laundry room/etc. I agree that anyone who doesn’t like dogs are terrible people but lots of people out there have a serious problem with them.

The goal is to make people look at your home and not your stuff. You obviously don’t think you or your lifestyle is strange or distracting because it is YOU. However, potential buyers might not feel the same way. You want your home to appear as if it’s easy and comfortable to live there. You are trying to create a neutral palate for buyers to walk into and picture themselves living there. Selling your house and keeping it “show ready” is not an easy task. Nor is it always inexpensive. Follow the tips above and hopefully your house will sell quickly so you can go back to leaving the bed unmade and the dirty coffee mug in the sink each morning.

2012 Recap

2012

2012 blew me away when it came to my job. Almost 3 years ago, I took a huge risk and a major pay cut to quit my job and start working as David’s assistant at New Leaf. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would work so hard, be part of such an amazing company, and love my job as much as I do. The chance I took has paid off in more ways than I can count.

The real estate market here in Houston was insane in 2012….not just for us at New Leaf but for all buyers and seller across Houston. Here is a look back at some of our highlights from the year:

- Completed over 60 transactions between representing buyers and sellers
- Those 60 transactions came out to over $45 million in sales
- Dealt with multiple offer situations on over half of our transactions (you can’t just throw together an offer and send it over these days, there are tricks to the trade)
- Sold a house through a Facebook post so I never had to list it on HAR
- Lowest mortgage rates in HISTORY
- Created this blog
- Completed over $10 million in NON-MLS sales (meaning we represented either buyers or sellers on homes that were never listed on HAR)
- Lots, New Construction, Condos, Townhomes, and Single Family resale…sold it all
- Represented buyers or sellers in River Oaks, West U, Memorial, Spring Valley, Braes Heights, Old Braeswood, Southampton, Southgate, Heights, Shady Acres, Timbergrove, Memorial West….not to mention in Austin, Galveston, and Lake Livingston….just to name a few
- Still awaiting the results, but we expect that David will be ranked within the top 5 realtors in Houston according to the Houston Business Journal

And to save the best for last, we were able to offer our clients over $750,000 in savings this past year. Houstonians are more real estate savvy then ever these days and they are demanding a business model that rewards them for their efforts. If you STILL don’t know what I am referring to, check it out here.

This business is a constant roller coast. Looking back over what we accomplished this past year makes me feel really thankful and blessed to be in this “housepeeping” industry we can real estate. It really is a neat experience to work with people as they sell their home or to help people find a place to become their new home. It’s an exciting and stressful time in people’s life and I hope that my role in the process provides them with knowledge, comfort, and guidance. I am super excited to see what opportunities 2013 has to offer me as I keeping working alongside David while continuing to building my own book of business. Thank you for visiting my small section of cyber space. I wish you all a happy and healthy year!

Home Safety Tip: Your Weekend Homework

As a realtor, I learn the most about home maintenance, safety, and repairs during inspections. General inspections should be done once a contract has been negotiated during the buyer’s option period. We always recommend that a buyer get a general inspection. Based on what is found by the inspector, you can decide if a specific tradesman should come and inspect anything further. An example might be that the general inspector tells you there are some electrical issues with the home. So we decide to bring an electrician over to the home to a) confirm there is a problem, b) address how this affects the electrical system and overall safety of the home, and c) how much it will cost you to remedy the problem.

I have been in the real estate business almost 3 years. I listen to inspectors probably once a week. You would think that if I hear of a common problem in homes over and over and over, I would check to see if such a problem existed in my own home. Nope. It took me three years to discover (aka walk into my closet and take one look) that I have a certain brand of electrical panel that is now considered to be a fire hazard.

Your homework for the weekend: Walk over to your electric panel…aka breaker box…aka that thing you go to when a fuse blows and you open a little door and flip one of many black switches. If your panel says “Federal Pacific” on the outside, you have an electric panel that is not up to code and considered a fire hazard for today’s standards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To replace an electric panel will run you about $1500 with a reputable electrician. Does it totally suck to spend $1500 on a new electric panel? Absolutely. But it would suck more for your house to burn down. If you live in a rental, I would still suggest checking out what is in place and alerting your landlord that you heard from a random friend (me!) that those panels can cause fires. There’s a good chance they won’t care. But go ahead and try!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to do if you are purchasing a home that has a Federal Pacific electric panel? Your realtor needs to ask that it either be replaced or there be some sort of concession for you to replace it. In my opinion, this is just a given and should not be negotiable. Most importantly, your inspector and realtor should not allow you to purchase a home without alerting you of the potential hazard prior to your option period expiring. Knowledge is power, right? And you want to be as knowledgeable as possible when it comes to your home and family.

SIDE NOTE: On the subject of electrical issues…if your lights dim in certain rooms when your AC cycles on, you likely have an electric panel that doesn’t provide your home with enough power. You need a larger capacity breaker to sufficiently “power up” everything in your house (AC, TV’s, computer, 5 phone chargers, etc). When you notice things like dimming lights, have an electrician come look at your system. The lights are likely dimming because your panel is working extra hard to provide power everywhere and a short can easily occur, causing a fire.

Now to get my OWN panel updated….

Design Tips from Domino Magazine

I discovered Domino Magazine in the airport this past week. I loved it!  The current edition is called “Our Favorite Spaces of All Time” and it takes you through different rooms you would find in a house…living room, dining room, etc. What I like most about the magazine is that it has a panel of successful designers who serve as a “council” and give opinions and tips on interior decorating throughout the entire issue. I often feel like I am challenged when it comes to interior design. I know what I like but I don’t know how to get there. Anyone else?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I see some incredibly decorated homes here in Houston that are up for sale.  More often than not I am thinking to myself, “I love everything in this room but would have never picked these things to go together on my own”. Here are some of the tips from Domino that stood out to me the most.  Enjoy…and maybe learn something too!

1.       Every entryway should have a front hall mirror.
                I don’t have one.  Dang.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.       Ceilings should never be painted white, especially if you have lower ceilings. A good choice is a shade of grey.
                 ALL my ceilings are white. Again, dang.

3.       How high should your coffee table stand?  Traditionally somewhere between 14 to 16 inches.
                 I am good here. I just don’t like my coffee table.

4.       Never use fluorescent lights. Your light bulbs should be Soft White. The other high scoring light bulb colors were Pink and Frosted.
                 I don’t even know what that would look like. Who has pink light bulbs??

5.       A perfect all-purpose sofa size is 7 feet long and 38 inches deep.
                  Check.

6.       Wallpaper is back and a powder room is the perfect place to use it.
                  It’s a small space so once you get bored it shouldn’t be that hard to change, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7.       Indian bedspreads are great for decorating.
                  I am obsessed with anything from India or with that general look so that little tip really made me excited.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8.       A 60 inch round table is the perfect size. It comfortably sits 2 people as well as 8 people.
                  I need to remember this one. I like the idea of that.

9.       Your chandelier should be 33 inches above the table.
                 Time to lower those.

10.     Recess lighting (aka canned lights) should never be in a home.
                 I literally paid an electrician to ADD recess lighting to our house when we bought it. I have a hard time with this one because I see canned lights all the time in houses. If someone wants to tell me canned lights are acceptable, I would love some reassurance.

11.     Put something special on your mantle. It’s better to have nothing than something that has no meaning to you.
                 Sigh…we have a mahi mahi that my husband caught. At least it’s special to one person in this house.

12.     Every home needs a reading chair somewhere. And every reading chair needs an awesome throw blanket draped across it.
                Agreed!

13.     Everyone looks good in a red room.
                I finally got one right…I have a red dining room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below are some quotes from the magazine that resonate with me….

“I like a collected look, not a decorated look. And dogs don’t hurt either.” –Nathan Turner

“You should be able to put your feet up on every surface.” –Jonathan Adler

“Decorate for who you are, not who you want to be.” –Phoebe Howard

“The best rooms can handle many things at once. They’re for sleeping, playing, and dressing. They can stage an art show on one wall while a train makes its appointed rounds on the floor below. They’re homes for friends both real and imaginary. Best of all, they’re places to hide, seek, and (of course) be found.” –Domino Magazine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And lastly, here are some awesome sites that this design “council” listed as their online addictions that I found really cool. Enjoy and be inspired!

www.stylebeat.blogspot.com
www.unhappyhipsters.com
www.mrslilien.com
www.designsponge.com
www.sfgirlbybay.com
www.quintessenceblog.com

I’m Baaaaack!

I’m back from the ultimate summer of blood, sweat, and tears. Literally…blood, sweat, and tears.

First, I tripped down three porch steps while showing a house back in June. I took a knee AND an elbow (how is that even possible??), ripped my pant leg and got a strawberry.  Awesome.  Second, I have officially taken the prize for sweatiest real estate “professional” in Houston. However, I feel anything but “professional” as I stumble through someone’s backyard in high heels to find a hidden key on a back fence that I am told only opens the rusty pad lock on the garage door that I must manually open to get into the house. In 100+ degree Houston heat. And then the house is vacant and the AC hasn’t been turned on for months. I look really good at this point. And lastly, the tears. I only cried over the strawberry. Of course, I would never let work get me so stressed, frustrated, irritated, or exhausted that I actually cried.

For everyone else’s enjoyment, below are some texts between David and me this past weekend. Since he doesn’t read the blog I started to promote his business, he will never know I posted these. We are discussing holding an Open House on Labor Day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My goal for the fall is be more dedicated to this blog by posting on a regular basis. If you have any real estate topics or questions please send them my way at housepeeping@gmail.com.

 

How to: Win a bidding war.

I have been neglecting my blog lately because I have been so busy. The market has been insane lately here in Houston, which is a great problem to have as a realtor. In the past three weeks we have put 9 homes under contract, totaling in over $7 million in escrow right now. If I had the time, I would calculate how much money we are saving our clients in commission rebates, but time is precious and I don’t have that luxury right now. It would be a LOT though.

 This crazy selling environment has led me to write this post. In the past few weeks we have been on both sides of multiple offer situations. I want to give buyers some tips on how to present a strong offer in the event that there are multiple offers being presented on a particular property. If you are a seller right now, pay attention to this as well. It’s not ALL about list price.

 1.       Price - Ok so I just said it’s not all about price, but let’s be real here. Price is going to be the first thing a seller looks at. In the event that a home just came on the market and there are multiple offers, you need to offer list price or above. Yes, or ABOVE. With that said, please listen to your realtor and carefully review the comps that are available. If you are uncomfortable paying list price or above because you don’t think the value is there then offer what you feel is appropriate. Just don’t get super emotional about it and try to outbid everyone else. If it goes for a price higher than your feel is appropriate, let this one pass.

2.       Close Date – Your realtor needs to speak with the listing agent and get the seller’s “story”. Find out their time frame on moving out and what their ideal close date would be. If the seller has already purchased a new home and can close as soon as possible, then take that into consideration. If the sellers are building a home and it won’t be completed for two months, take that into consideration as well. To the best of your ability, make the close date appealing to them and make sure your realtor relays that you are trying to accommodate them…”My clients are allowing the sellers to lease back the property for two months while their new home is being completed”.

***From the seller’s perspective – Let it be known when you want to close! People will bend over backwards to make that happen right now if they really want your house.

3.       Option Money – This is a fee that is given to the seller from the buyer and is non-refundable. You are basically paying for the right to take this house off the market while you inspect it and make sure you really want to move forward. Present a large option fee knowing that if you back out you will lose this money. Typically on a $500K home, a buyer might offer $150-$200 as an option fee. In this scenario, I would suggest increasing that to $600-$700 to show the seller you are serious about this purchase.

4.       Earnest Money – The earnest money is refundable if you terminate the contract within your option period. Make this a high number too! A typical earnest money check would be for 1% of the price of the home. Increase it to show you are a serious buyer.

5.       Option Period – The option period is typically anywhere from 7-14 days. This is the time in which you get the home inspected and have the undeniable right to terminate the contract for any reason. Keep this number as low as possible.

***From the seller’s perspective – The option period is a time when your home is basically taken off the market to other potential buyers. In the event that your buyers terminate the contract, wouldn’t you rather they do it after 7 days versus 14 days?

6.       Non-realty Items – These are items that are not fixtures to the home. So for example, refrigerators, curtains, washer/dryers. Have your realtor ask what your sellers plan to leave behind. If the listing agent says the sellers plan to take their refrigerator, then don’t present an offer asking for it.

7.       Warm fuzzies – Make sure your realtor presents a nice, strong cover letter with your offer. Let it be known to the sellers why you love their home so much…it is very well maintained, decorated beautifully, on the exact block I have always want to live on, I can’t wait to raise a family here, blah blah blah. Give some information about yourselves…we are native Houstonians and got married two years ago, blah blah. People want to feel GOOD about who is buying their home. They love their home and don’t want to think some jerks are buying it.

The takeaway for sellers- don’t JUST look at the list price. There are other to items to consider if you get mutliple offers on your home.

 I know this is a lot of information and it isn’t always possible to adjust everything into a perfect scenario for a seller. But if you really want that house, I would take all these tips into serious consideration. It’s crazy out there right now so stay on your toes if you are a buyer and looking in areas like West U, the Heights, Memorial, Spring Valley, Wilchester, Montrose, and Southgate. And lastly, TRY not to get your panties into a wad. Keep your wits about you, another home will come along, and trust your realtor. Unless you don’t trust your realtor – then call me!

Stump’d ya!

Remember when Hurricane Ike hit Houston and the entire town looked like this?

When Ike hit, Mac and I were renting a house in Afton Village behind Ikea and it was one of the most miserable experiences ever. This is how it went down in our house – - Bored, hot, restless, scared, sweaty, beyond freaked out, irritated, exhausted, confused. By this I mean our electricity shuts off around 7pm way before the storm is even close to hitting Houston. BORED. The AC is out so it quickly gets steamy. HOT. What the heck is there to do with no TV, this battery operated radio sucks, I guess I will try and sleep, oh wait I can’t because I am too damn hot. RESTLESS. It’s now midnight and the storm is in full force. SCARED. Only getting hotter at this point. SWEATY. Can’t sleep, Rocky and Kirby are having total meltdowns, I am standing at the window watching two huge pine trees sway back and forth in the backyard. BEYOND FREAKED OUT. Mac keeps telling me he is not scared and that he’s asleep. IRRITATED. Sun starts to come up and I haven’t slept yet. EXHAUSTED. Go outside and cannot believe the damage, can’t call anyone because cell phones aren’t working, not sure what is going on around town because there is no power anywhere, um… what do we do now, I want my dad. CONFUSED.

That pretty much sums it up at our house. Oh wait, don’t let me forget that we didn’t have power for 17 days and had to stay with my in-laws. My in-laws are wonderful, but still.

Anyway, enough with walking down memory lane. Back to my point. The two huge pine trees that were swaying in the wind fell down that night. Luckily they took down all the fences around the backyard and not our house. Once the trees were finally chopped to pieces and removed, we started getting flyers in our mailbox for stump grinding services. I had never even heard of stump grinding until I realized that after the pine trees were taken away, we were still left with two huge stumps in the backyard.

Here is a really neat idea on what you can do with those large stumps if you have a tree fall on your property or need to remove one that is dead or diseased. I currently have a dead tree that desperately needs to be removed in our backyard. Of course, we are putting that off indefinitely because spending money on something like tree removal is about as fun as owing the IRS on your taxes. But when we finally bite the bullet and remove the tree, there will be no stump grinding in my backyard!

How to make a planter out of an old stump:

1. Wearing safety glasses, chip away at the center of the stump with the pointed end of a sharpened mattock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. As the hole gets bigger, switch to the mattock’s wider end. Work your way toward the edges of the stump, leaving at least a 3-inch border, to create a hole 4 to 8 inches deep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. With a 3/8 to 1/2 inch wide auger bit, drill drainage holes into the side of the stump so that they slope toward the ground. Add some free-draining material, like gravel, then top it with a mix of 30% compost and 70% potting soil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Now fill the planter with some eye-catching blooms.

Utility Rates

Happy Hump Day! Just a quick tip for both buyers and seller….

 In today’s market, buyers are demanding as much information about listed properties as possible. I am often asked to get a year’s worth of utility payments from sellers because potential buyers want to know what they can expect to pay for electricity, water, and gas if they purchase a certain home.

I was just asked for utilities on a listing of ours in Bellaire. This is a 5,775 sq foot home. Our sellers sent over a spreadsheet of their past 12 months of water, gas, and electric bills. Their electricity bill is August of last year was $800! Yikes! I don’t know about you but $800 in HIGH to me, even for a large two story home. So I asked them what was their rate per KwH? They are paying 14.6 cents per KwH.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I pay 8.6 cents per KwH.  My bill would be almost half of their bill with my current electric plan. So this is head’s up to both buyers and sellers. Buyers, make sure you know ALL the facts when reviewing this type of information on a potential purchase. And sellers, have this information ready for buyers who ask for it. (And please get a better rate than 14.6 cents!)

It happens.

“It” meaning shit. I stepped in it. On my way to show a $2.4 million  dollar house.

Sigh.

Within a one hour window, I showed a $2100/month rental in Bellaire and raced over to West University to show one of the nicest homes ever. With poop on my shoe. Thankfully I noticed it before I got there. But to make it worse, I was wearing espadrilles. Ladies, you know what I’m talking about. For the guys out there, it means these shoes are a total loss. You can’t wipe poop off an espadrille wedge heel. You just can’t.

I got home at 8:30 last night only to send over lease applications for our Bellaire rental and to put together a contract for the West U house. So I guess losing the shoes to a little poop is all ok. It’s ok IF we make it to the closing table. If not, David owes me some new kicks.

I was told once that stepping in dog poop brings good luck. I sure hope so. Have an awesome weekend!

Hoops at Home

Anyone else about burnt out on basketball? Sorry, I said it. It’s true.

I do get really excited to watch Baylor, but I don’t understand why Mac insists on watching EVERY SINGLE game in the tournament. Even the totally random teams. He almost had a meltdown last week because Apple was having trouble getting him an app where he could watch the game live from his phone. Because it’s totally necessary to watch the game while at work, right? 

Speaking of basketball, I recently showed some clients a home in West University. The lot directly across the street was a full basketball court that belonged to the next door neighbor. The listing agent said they have three boys and bought the lot next door for their kids to use. They allow the other kids on the block to play there and put a bunch of picnic tables out there too. Talk about a cool dad. That’s around a $400,000 court you’re playing on, kids!

In honor of March Madness, here are some pictures of the coolest basketball courts ever. Eat your heart out boys.

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