Posts for Syndication

Increase Your Home’s Value

By Virtual Results

If a home sale is in your future, then you may want to start thinking about ways you can increase your home’s value. Getting top dollar is important to all sellers, and by making strategic choices about upgrades and renovations, you can get a handsome return on your investment when it comes time to sell. Follow these tips to help you get the best offer when you sell your home.

Update the basics

A picture of your furnace or water heater is not going to be your primary listing photo, but having up-to-date appliances can help with your home sale. If your furnace is more than 15 years old or your electrical panel is out of date, consider replacing these components before you sell. Many of today’s homebuyers are looking for properties that are move-in ready and don’t want to deal with outdated appliances and systems.

Improve your curb appeal

One of the easiest ways to add value to your home is to improve your home’s curb appeal. The exterior of your home is the first thing that potential buyers will see, and first impressions count. Don’t let a potential buyer be turned off by an ugly, boring, or poorly maintained landscape. Clean up trees, shrubs, and bushes and plant colorful annuals for an instant pop of color. Paint the front door an attractive shade, and update your mailbox, house numbers, and lighting fixtures. A small investment of time and money can make a big difference.

Invest in kitchen upgrades

Kitchens continue to be a big selling point for buyers. If your kitchen is in desperate need of a makeover, consider making the investment. You don’t need to do an entire overhaul. Instead, replace appliances, countertops and flooring. Give the walls and the cabinets a fresh coat of paint and replace hardware.

Increase the living space

You may not have it in the budget to physically make your floor plan larger. But you can use the space you do have to its fullest potential. If you have an unfinished basement, it could be worth it to finish the basement before selling. Attics are another popular option for increasing the amount of living space. Consider the kinds of buyers in your market and stage your home to appeal to them. This could include staging an extra bedroom as an office or child’s playroom or turning an upstairs closet into a small laundry room.

Make it energy efficient

Energy efficiency is becoming more and more important to homebuyers. You can make your home more energy efficient by installing double-pane windows, adding better insulation to the attic, using LED light fixtures, and upgrading to energy efficient appliances.

Upgrade to smart technology

Finally, a great way to increase your home’s value is to invest in smart technology. The types of smart devices that appeal to homebuyers include thermostats, security cameras, door locks, doorbells, lighting, and fire detectors. These devices have become much less expensive in recent years, and can often be easily installed without the help of a professional.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Helping Your Child Buy a Home

By Virtual Results

Helping Your Child Buy a Home

Home ownership is a dream come true for many. However in today’s economic landscape, many young adults are finding it hard to turn that dream into a reality. Whether it’s because of student loan debt, not having enough money for a down payment, or any number of other reasons, many millennials are unable to buy a home on their own. If you’re a parent who is looking for tips to help your child buy a home, then read on.

Give money

Giving your child a monetary gift is often the easiest way to help them buy a home. The money can be used for the down payment or for closing costs. But be aware that there are strict rules about how the money needs to be handled. Most lenders prefer to see that gift of money in the child’s bank account at least three months before getting a mortgage. You will also need to supply proof that the money is a gift and not a loan. Keep all the documents related to the gift because you may need them when applying for and closing on the mortgage.

Be the mortgage lender

If you have the cash to invest, then you can be the mortgage lender for your child. However, you will need to formalize and document the loan according to the IRS guidelines. You must also charge them the Applicable Federal Rate. Anything lower than that is considered a gift. Depending on your circumstances, you can finance the entire amount of the purchase price or just a portion. For more information about how to loan money to your child to buy a home, check out this great article from AARP.

Be the landlord

Another way in which you can help your child buy a home is to purchase it yourself and rent it out to your child. This can be a great option for those who still need their money for retirement. You can collect the rent payments and save them. Your child can then eventually use that money to buy the home from you.

Cosign the loan

Some young adults may have the means to buy a home, but their credit history is keeping them from qualifying for a mortgage. In this case you cosign the mortgage for your child. One note of caution – this is only a good option if you trust that your child will make all their payments. Remember – you will be on the hook if your child defaults on the loan in the future.

Improve your child’s credit score

If your child needs a bump to their credit score, then you might also consider adding your child to one or more of your accounts. Your child then becomes an authorized user of your account, and the credit bureaus will link your payment history with their payment history.

Formalize your agreement

Finally, when you’re offering financial assistance to your child, it is in everyone’s best interests to formalize your agreement. This can mean drawing up a contract, documenting gifts, and disclosing the arrangement with other family members. This helps to ensure that everyone understands their responsibilities and obligations before the process begins.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Staging a Living Room to Sell

By Virtual Results

Staging a Living Room to SellThere’s no doubt about it – one of the most important rooms to stage when you’re selling is the living room. The living room is where family and friends gather and where you unwind after a long day. A great living room will often be at the top of the list for potential buyers, so you want to make it look comfortable and inviting. Here are some of our top tips for staging your living room to sell.

De-clutter and de-personalize

If you do nothing else when selling your home, then make sure you at least de-clutter and de-personalize. Potential buyers will be imagining themselves living in your home. If you have too many personal items taking up visual space, it will be more difficult for them to visualize their belongings in the space. Remove all family photos and personal mementos. Clear off shelves and edit the furniture. Store any pieces that are large and bulky. Remember – the fewer items you have in the room, the larger it will appear.

Don’t go overboard

On the flipside, don’t take de-cluttering to the extreme by removing everything. An empty room can turn off potential buyers. It is more difficult to imagine how furniture and other items will fit in the room if there is no frame of reference. Some buyers may be concerned that their favorite couch won’t fit in the room, and may decide not to put in an offer.

Make repairs

As with any other room, you need to make necessary repairs in the living room before listing it. This includes patching holes in the walls, making sure doors close properly, and ensuring all the lights work. Change out bulbs that have burned out and have the carpets cleaned, especially if there are any stains or odors.

Paint

The next order of business when staging a living room is to paint. This is especially true if your walls are anything other than a neutral color such as beige or light gray. These colors will make your living room feel clean, bright, and more spacious. And a fresh coat of paint can really energize a room so don’t skip this step!

Arrange the seating

Now that you’ve de-cluttered, made repairs and painted, it is time to bring your larger pieces of furniture back in. When you’re staging a living room, you want to create a space for conversation. Most likely, this will include a couch, coffee table, and one or two chairs. Add lighting with table or floor lamps to make the space feel more intimate. And if you have a focal point, such as a fireplace or a great view, arrange the seating to face it. Make sure there is enough space for traffic to flow from one room to another.

Let in the light

Windows in the living room can be a big selling point, especially if they let in lots of natural light. Ditch the heavy curtains and opt instead for window treatments that allow light to pass through. When you’re showing the house, make sure the curtains are open and the windows are sparkling clean. If possible, hang a mirror opposite a window to reflect even more natural light into the room.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Heating Systems 101

By Virtual Results

Heating Systems 101We’re heading into the hottest part of the year, so it’s unlikely you’re thinking too much about your home’s heating system. But if you’re house hunting this summer or you need to upgrade to a new system, now is the time to research and understand your options. In fact, you may find that you can get a break on the price of a new heating system or unit if you have it installed in the off-season. There are several types of heating systems available to homeowners. Here’s what you need to know.

Furnace or forced air

The most common type of heating system in a home is a forced air unit, also known as a furnace. Furnaces can run on different types of fuel including gas, oil or propane. Furnaces are the most popular choice because they are reliable and generally inexpensive. They are easy to install and require little maintenance. However, then can produce and circulate allergens in your home. If you’re particularly sensitive, then consider getting your furnace updated so that it will filter your home’s air. Furnaces are easy to replace, and modern units are more efficient than they have ever been.

Boiler

Another type of heating system that is fairly common in a home is a boiler. Boilers use water to create and distribute heat in your home. This is usually done through pipes and radiators. These devices heat floors and walls to keep the air in your home warm. One great advantage of boilers is that, unlike furnaces, they are very quiet. They are a great choice if you have allergies, as they do not create or distribute allergens in your home. Most boilers run on gas, but they can be expensive to purchase and install. One of the biggest downfalls of boilers is that they can leak, especially as the unit gets older.

Heat pump

A third type of heating system you may encounter in a home is a heat pump. Heat pumps work by taking advantage of current temperatures to heat or cool your home. Most of the time, heat pumps operate on a forced air system that is similar to an air conditioner but run in reverse. Heat pumps are very efficient. In fact, geothermal systems, which use temperatures underground, are among the most efficient heating systems. Although they can save you money over the course of their lifespans, they are expensive to install. Heat pumps can also be quite noisy, and require more maintenance than other systems.

When to change systems

After reading through these choices, you may be wondering if you should change the type of system in your home. Rest assured, however, that it’s most often in your best interest to upgrade the system you have than to overhaul it by installing a new system. In most cases, this type of renovation is expensive and you’ll rarely see a return on that investment. When in doubt, unless you are already making major renovations that affect the layout of your home, stick with what you have and upgrade to a more efficient unit.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Make the Most of a Small Yard

By Virtual Results

Make the Most of a Small YardYards are a great way to extend your living space – especially when the weather is nice. However, if you have a small yard, then you may feel like you’re missing out. But don’t be dismayed! There are many ways that you can maximize that outdoor space and turn it into something both functional and beautiful. Here are several excellent ideas to help you make the most of your small yard.

Enclose your outdoor space

This may seem counterintuitive, but hear us out. You can make your small yard feel more functional if you enclose it. By enclosing your space, you make it feel like a cozy and inviting room that encourages guests to linger. You can enclose your space in a variety of ways, from installing a pergola to creating vertical plantings.

Create a focal point

Does your small yard have a beautiful view? Then capitalize on it by arranging your space around it. If your view is less than desirable, fear not. You can create a focal point with a trellis, a fountain, or a unique piece of garden art. Having a focal point helps to anchor your design and draws the eye.

Create a container garden

Do you have the urge to garden, but you have no room for a raised bed? You can achieve the same effect by gardening in containers. Not only can you create beautiful plantings with flowers, but you can also grow vegetables and herbs. Choose containers that complement your garden design, and use a variety of sizes to create visual interest. And the best part is that when you get bored, you can rearrange them to your heart’s content. Just don’t forget to water them!

Use smaller furniture

One way to make your small yard feel even smaller is to use large furniture. Instead, opt for compact pieces like benches and chairs. Choose lighter looking materials such as metal or bamboo that will blend with the environment instead of blocking it. Having smaller furniture also allows you to easily reconfigure it to meet your needs.

Take advantage of vertical space

If you lack horizontal space, then it’s time to think vertical! Vertical gardening not only helps you to create a cozy environment, it drastically increases the amount of space you have for plants. Use trellises to grow vines, or hang planters on walls and fences.

Think cohesively

When designing your outdoor space, choose colors and patterns that complement what you have inside. By making your yard an extension of your home, you make the entire place feel bigger.

Avoid clutter

One big danger when designing your outdoor space is stuffing it too full. Instead, opt for clean lines and a limited variety of plants. Though it may be tempting to buy one of every plant you love, stick to a handful in a restricted color palette.

Don’t be afraid to use it

Finally, the best way to make the most of your small yard is to actually use it. The more you use your outdoor space, the more you will understand its features and limitations. Then you can begin to conceive of the best ways to use it and maximize its potential.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Creating a Craft Room

By Virtual Results

Creating a Craft RoomIs a personal craft room on your wish list? If you’re house hunting – or you’ve just purchased a home – you may be wondering how you can turn a spare room into a craft room. Fortunately, all it takes is a little inspiration to get started. These are some of the best tips we’ve found for creating a craft room. We hope it inspires you to finally turn your dream of a craft room into a reality!

Choose the right room

Don’t be tempted to squeeze yourself into the smallest room in the house. If you have the extra space, then choose a room that will provide enough space to work and to store your supplies. Consider using a bedroom, a den, or even a section of the basement. You also need to take into account the flooring, especially if you will be painting or using water. Avoid a room with wall-to-wall carpet if this is the case.

Choose the best worktable

The most crucial decision you can make about your room is the worktable. Be sure it is big enough to accommodate your projects. Consider the height as well. Will you primarily be sitting or standing when you work? If you will be sitting, then choose a chair that will be comfortable for your marathon crafting sessions.

Consider the lighting

Another important consideration is the lighting in your craft room. Does the room get much natural light? If not, then invest in good-quality lights so you can easily see your work. Will you be photographing your work to post online? Then either choose a room with good natural light or set up an area with a small light box where you can take pictures.

Use work zones

Chances are you don’t limit yourself to one kind of crafting. If this is the case, then think about organizing your craft room into zones. Each zone will focus on one main type of craft, such as sewing or gift-wrapping. And don’t forget to leave yourself some space for a computer or laptop. You’ll likely want to watch a how-to video or post pictures of your creations to Instagram, so set aside some space for your technology.

Organize your tools and supplies

One of the best parts of having a craft room is having all your beautiful supplies and tools in one place. For that reason, you should take some time to evaluate your storage and organizational needs. It can be helpful to have sturdy shelves or a storage cabinet. Collect storage boxes of various sizes that can easily house all your items, and store like items together. And don’t forget to label all your boxes! Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to locate the tool you need for your project.

Have fun

The best piece of advice we can give you about creating your dream craft room is to have fun! Remember why you want to have a room dedicated to your creativity, and allow yourself the freedom to break the rules. Choose colors, fabrics, furniture and decorations that make you feel good so that you’ll want to spend time in your new craft room. Enjoy!

Compliments of Virtual Results

How to Minimize Your Home’s Flaws

By Virtual Results

How to Minimize Your Home’s FlawsDoes your home feel less than perfect? There are truly very few homes that live up to all the owner’s expectations. Although it’s common for most homeowners to feel some dissatisfaction with certain elements of their homes, it can be more obvious when you’ve just moved in or you’re trying to sell. But don’t worry! There are many ways that you can minimize your home’s flaws. Here are some of our favorites.

Emphasize your home’s features

First of all, one of the best ways to downplay your home’s flaws is to emphasize its features. Even if you feel like the home could use a complete overhaul, it would be surprising if it didn’t already have several things working in its favor. Take note of which features you really like, and play them up. This could mean adding curb appeal to a large front yard, drawing attention to the home’s architectural details, or organizing an open layout to make it great for entertaining.

Maximize your storage

Is your home short on storage space? One of the best ways to make the most of the storage space you do have is to declutter. When you have tons of extra space, it’s easy to hold on to items you think you may use again…someday. But when you lack that space, you need to take time to thoroughly go through your items and discard the ones you no longer need or use. You can make even more use of the space you have by installing double rods in closets and adding shelves. Not sure how to start? Check out Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up to learn how to let go of and organize your possessions.

Upgrade the view

Not every home can have a view of the ocean. But if you’re stuck looking at a parking lot or building, there are ways you can improve the view. Plant trees or shrubs outside the window to create a living fence. If you choose evergreen varieties, they will provide privacy all year long no matter the weather. Another option is to invest in beautiful curtains that will draw the eye away from the view outside.

Create focal points

If you want to draw attention away from a room’s flaws, then create a focal point. Choose a focal point based on the purpose of the room. If it’s a bedroom, then create a focal point with the bed that draws your eyes directly to it. If it’s a living room with a fireplace, then play up the desirability of the fireplace with beautiful art, and make sure all the seating faces it. You can also create a focal point in a living room by creating an accent wall with eye-catching wallpaper or paint.

Let in the light

Lastly, if there are rooms in your home that are too dark, there are many ways you can let in the light. Paint the walls a light color. Hang mirrors across from windows or lamps so they will reflect the light. Decorate using reflective surfaces, such as gold or high-gloss finishes. And if it’s a tree or bush outside that’s blocking the light, trim it back.

Compliments of Virtual Results

When Do You Need a Permit?

By Virtual Results

When Do You Need a PermitSummer is a great time to complete home improvement projects. Both sellers and recent buyers may opt to make upgrades because they can add value to a home. But it’s essential that you understand which projects may require a building permit. If you don’t get the proper permits before completing the work, you could run into trouble when you’re selling. Here’s what you need to know to avoid problems down the line.

Why are permits necessary?

Although obtaining permits can be a real headache, it’s a step you cannot skip. If you fail to get the permits you need, then you may jeopardize your home sale in the future. During the home inspection and appraisal, you will need to show all the permits that you have on file. If you completed a project without a permit, the lender may not finance the loan for the buyer.

Who is responsible for getting the permit?

Even if you’ve hired contractors for the job, do not assume that they’ve secured the proper permits. While the contractor can help advise you on whether or not a permit is necessary and will often pull the permit for you, be sure you follow up so that you know your project follows the letter of the law.

What projects need a permit?

Not all home improvement projects require a permit. Each municipality creates its own building codes, so you will need to confirm with them whether or not you need a permit. If your project changes the structure of the home or if it may create hazardous conditions, then you will probably need a permit. Jobs that are most likely to require a permit include:

  • Structural changes – this includes demolishing a load-bearing wall or making changes to decks, porches, balconies or roofs.
  • Changing the footprint – this includes adding rooms, garages, or decks. It could even include adding a shed.
  • Fences – installing or repairing a fence may require a permit, which is most likely if your fence exceeds the height restrictions.
  • Adding windows – if your new windows are larger than your existing windows, you’ll need a permit to make those structural adjustments.
  • Plumbing and electrical – this includes adding both plumbing and electrical systems.
  • Demolition – you’ll need a permit if you intend to place a dumpster on a public street.
  • Water heaters – if you are installing or replacing a water heater, you need a permit.
  • Siding – this includes making changes to your home’s siding.

What projects don’t need a permit?

While may updates will require that you get a permit, there are many home improvement projects you can complete without one. These could include:

  • Minor electrical repairs.
  • Installing a new roof made of similar materials to the existing roof.
  • Replacing kitchen or bathroom countertops.
  • Painting the interior or the exterior.
  • Installing fences that don’t exceed the height restrictions.
  • Installing retaining walls that are less than four feet tall.
  • Replacing faucets, sinks or toilets.
  • Installing new appliances as long as you do not need to modify the hook-ups.

What do you do if you don’t know?

If you don’t know whether or not your project requires a permit, then you need to ask. The best place to contact is your local permitting office.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Planning a House Hunting Trip

By Virtual Results

Planning a House Hunting Trip

Memorial Day weekend is almost here. This holiday is often thought of as the unofficial start of summer. But it can also be a great time to go house hunting. In fact, if you’re planning to move out of town, then a long holiday weekend can be a perfect time to plan your trip. Here’s how to maximize your time so that you can make the most out of your house-hunting weekend.

Get pre-approved for a mortgage

If you’re serious enough about buying a home to schedule a house-hunting trip, then don’t leave home without a mortgage pre-approval letter. Getting pre-approved for a mortgage signals to a seller that you’re serious about your offer. If you’re visiting a competitive market, then you may end up making an offer during your visit. Make sure your offer isn’t ignored because you failed to get pre-approved.

Know what you’re looking for

When you only have a day or two to look at homes, you need to make them count. Sit down and make a list of what you’re looking for in a home. This will include both your needs and your wants. Know what’s a deal-breaker and what isn’t. This will help you narrow down your choices so that you’re only looking at homes that could be serious contenders.

Create a target list

These days, it’s so easy to browse listings from the comfort of your own home. Before you leave for your trip, make a list of homes that interest you. Communicate this information to your real estate agent so they can make appointments to see them. Talk to your agent about what you’re looking for so they can also schedule appointments for you based on your criteria.

Keep track

As you visit each home, take good notes. Keep a list of what you liked about the home – and what you didn’t like about it. Take photos and videos of each home so you can review them again later. It can be confusing to see many homes for sale in one day, and taking good notes will help you sort things out later.

Be wise with your time

Even if your trip is short, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to explore the homes you’re really interested in. If you happen to visit a home that you know right away isn’t for you, don’t feel obligated to spend much time there. You’re better off heading to the next home that may be a better fit. It’s also helpful to have a little cushion of time to revisit those homes that are high on your list. And don’t forget to schedule time to check out the neighborhood. You may discover that you love the home but that the neighborhood itself isn’t the best fit.

Work with the right agent

When you’re trying to buy a home from out of town, it’s essential to work with an agent who is an expert in the community you’re moving to. Take time to interview prospective agents to find the one that best suits your needs. They will be an invaluable source of information not only when you’re looking at homes, but also after you’ve closed and moved into the neighborhood.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Selling a Home With a Pool

By Virtual Results

Selling a Home With a PoolIf you’re selling a home with a pool, then you may be wondering whether it will help – or hurt – your home sale. Well, we have some good news for you! According to the National Association of Realtors, having an in-ground pool can increase your home’s value by almost eight percent. When it’s time to list your home with a pool, here’s what you need know to make the most of this feature.

Make it look inviting

If your pool has seen better days, then it probably won’t appeal to a potential buyer. Spend time making cosmetic updates and repairs before you put your home on the market. Clean up the grout and trim trees that hang over the pool. Keep the water clean and maintained so that it does not encourage the growth of algae. Nothing is more off-putting than a pool full of green water. If needed, hire a professional pool cleaner to clean and maintain your pool while your home is on the market. And in the summer, have the pool open and ready for swimming so potential buyers can imagine how wonderful it will be to use.

Have all the information ready

Another important thing to remember when selling your home with a pool is to have all the pool’s information ready. Just as with any other home feature, buyers will want to know the history of the pool. Put together a binder that includes details on the pool’s equipment and how it operates. Also include service records, repair records, and the contact information for anyone who has serviced or cleaned the pool. If you are currently using a professional cleaner, be sure to share that information as well.

Include all the necessary tools

Even if you’re planning to move to a home with a pool, you should leave behind all the tools necessary for the upkeep of the pool. This includes cleaning gear, chemicals, covers, removable gates, and even pool toys. Buyers will be much more enthusiastic about the pool if they know they can begin using it on day one.

Be sure it’s up to code

Many municipalities have regulations regarding residential pools. Make sure that your pool meets all these safety guidelines. In many cases, this will include having a barrier that separates the pool from the yard and house. You might also want to install self-latching and locking gates. This will be especially important to buyers that have young children.

Know your buyer

Take time to understand what kinds of buyers will be looking for a home with a pool. Let’s face it – not all buyers will want the added responsibility of a pool. Trying to sell them on your pool can be wasted effort. Instead, focus on those buyers who will be excited about this feature. This could include high-end buyers, families with children, and adults who want a pool as part of their exercise regimen.

List at the right time

Finally, if your home has a pool, then you will want to list it at the appropriate time if possible. Why not capitalize on this great amenity? List in the summer when buyers will be spending the most time outdoors looking at your property. Stage the pool so that they can see how inviting it is to use. In fact, listing at just the right time could make your pool the feature that seals the deal!

Compliments of Virtual Results