Go-big upgrades that can help a lingering home sell at last

 

(BPT) – Everyone knows spring and summer are the best months in which to sell a home. If your house has lingered on the market, you may be eager to find ways to freshen its appeal for potential buyers. Perhaps you're even ready to go big and invest in upgrades that will improve the home's value, curb appeal and interior allure so much that potential buyers just won't be able to walk away from it.

If you're at that point, first figure out how much you can reasonably invest. Will the improvement increase your home value enough to allow you to recoup its cost? Maybe not, but if your priority is a faster sale, return on investment might have a different meaning for you.

Next, look at areas of your home where improvements will have the biggest impact – spots that are the least appealing or those that have the most appeal. Upgrading a less-than-great room can bring it up to snuff, but upgrading a good room could make it absolutely smashing. For example, painting a small bathroom in a bright color could make that cramped space feel bigger. Adding a skylight to your kitchen, bath, or other area in your home however, will really make a splash with abundant natural light and fresh air.

Here's a room-by-room game plan for high-impact upgrades that could make buyers fall in love with your home:

Anywhere

Buyers are, universally, looking for beauty and value. Any improvement that gives both can directly impact your ability to sell your home. Adding a skylight is a great way to enhance a home's visual appeal, livability and energy efficiency while improving indoor air quality by introducing much needed fresh air into the home.

Natural light can make a small room look bigger and brighter, and create a more healthful environment. Adding a traditional or tubular skylight to any room in the house brings more natural light into your home. Plus, Energy Star-qualified, solar-powered fresh-air skylights, like those made by Velux America, can provide fresh air through cost-efficient passive ventilation to reduce humidity and stale air, and heating, cooling and lighting costs. Add remote-controlled, solar powered blinds, and you can boost a skylight's energy efficiency by 39 percent, Velux states.

Finally, this is one high impact investment that can actually put cash back in your pocket. Installation of energy-efficient no leak solar powered fresh air skylights and blinds can qualify you for up to a 30 percent federal tax credit on the -products and installation costs. Visit www.veluxusa.com to learn more and calculate your tax credit for new or replacement skylights.

Kitchen and bathroom

Any Realtor will tell you great kitchens and bathrooms can sell a house. If yours are only so-so, they could be what's standing in the way of getting an offer. If you've already done the basics – cleaning and decluttering, repainting and replacing dated cabinet hardware – it may be time to pull out the big guns.

New appliances and fixtures will cost you a few thousand, but can go a long way toward wooing buyers. New appliances look great, are more energy-efficient, and provide buyers the peace of mind knowing they won't face repair or replacement costs any time soon. New fixtures such as rainfall shower heads and touch-free faucets add an element of luxury to the most common bathroom.

Adding a tile backsplash or new wood-look laminate flooring in the kitchen, and new tile floor in the bath can also create a big impact – and for less money if you do the work yourself. Replacing lower-quality or older countertops is also an eye-catching upgrade. The trick is to find the improvement that will have the biggest visual impact in your space.

Living room/family

When buyers enter your home, chances are the living room or family room will be one of the first rooms they see. Their impression of that room can set the tone for how they perceive the rest of the house. Again, assuming you've done the basics – painting, window treatments and accessories – a major upgrade in this room can have a winning impact.

If your home already has a fireplace, take a close look at it. What can you do to make it more appealing? Does it need a new facade? Larger gas logs or a better blower? Can you upgrade the mantel? If your home lacks a fireplace, adding one can be a great selling point. It's possible to add a gas fireplace for less than $5,000 in most homes. Adding a gas insert to a wood-burning fireplace is even cheaper.

Dress your home to impress buyers this summer

 

Your tastes and personal style have created a beautiful setting for your home until now. But as you prepare for house hunters visiting the space, it might be time to let go of emotional attachment and transform your home into a stunning showpiece that any potential buyer would love.

A touch of color

If your walls need painting, applying a neutral color is usually recommended. But don't be afraid to have some fun with a color that will leave a lasting impression on people searching for the perfect, stand-out home. A bold color like Azalea married with the soft subtle hue of Chiffon and Swiss Coffee, all from Pratt & Lambert Paints, can create an energetic atmosphere while still giving your home a comfortable and relaxing vibe. Apply the bolder colors to an accent wall or on minor architectural elements throughout the home, to breathe fresh life into otherwise dull walls.

Painting is a small project that can create the most impact when selling your home. But if your home is large and the thought of taking on a painting project seems overwhelming, never fear. Skilled painting contractors in your area can offer the talent and know-how to get any painting project done quickly, without sacrificing on quality. Ask a family member or friend for a reference, or visit an online resource like AngiesList.com for a verified list of professionals who can turn your vision into a reality.

Take your space from aged to staged

Another way to inspire potential buyers is by showing off a beautifully decorated and elegantly styled home. To get an expertly polished palace, hire an accredited staging professional, who will assess the space and plan a design that will have homebuyers stopping in their tracks. In fact, homes that are professionally staged spend 83 percent less time on the market, according to a survey conducted by The International Association of Home Staging Professionals and StagedHomes.com.

The first thing the stager will do is de-clutter your home. Prospective buyers don't want to be reminded of the home's current owners, so removing personal photographs, over-the-top decorative items or over-sized furniture is an essential part of the process. They might also reconfigure furniture to improve the home's flow and function.

Lighting is an important factor when showing a home, as well. Stagers will find a way to warm up the space and highlight focal points of the room using strategic light sources, creating an unforgettable space. And since more than 90 percent of potential buyers are searching online prior to visiting a home in person, professionally staged spaces are better able to communicate through photographs than generic shots.

If you've already moved out of your house and into your new home, the stager will bring in key furniture and accessories to help house hunters envision themselves living there. Just like a too-cluttered home might turn off some buyers, a blank ho-hum look can give off a lackluster vibe, so staging an empty house can help any buyer see its true potential.

By investing some time and money into the right kind of home improvement and staging projects, you can be confident knowing you're a step ahead of the competition and a step closer to giving a new homebuyer the home of his or her dreams.

Remodeling for resale vs. impressing your friends

 

It's one more area where we can show our sophistication and good taste. We can, and often do decorate to impress and make a statement about how successful we are.

It's an ego thing. It makes us feel good to show our financial success.

And in one way it's often men who go over the top the most. We can argue about it if you want.

They want imported everything including granite or marble, architectural designs, custom finishes and expensive kitchens and baths, along with lots of garage space for luxury cars.

But some luxury cars hold their value far batter than houses do.

A good many sports stars have bankrupted themselves buying this stuff.

A really unique house may only appeal to one person, the person who remodeled it or built it.

There are several problems when a house like this goes to resale.

1. The really expensive finishes and decorating are too individual to work well at resale. The owner might like orange granite, but no one else does.

2. The costs of certain types of décor can never be recovered at resale. It's something the owner wanted that no one else wants or will pay for.

3. The house may be over improved for the values in the neighborhood. For example fashionable granite that has gone into kitchens all over the country. The stuff costs several thousand dollars to install but houses no longer sell for enough money to recoup the cost.

4. Custom paint is a turn off to buyers when houses go to resale. It's ALWAYS the wrong color. The wrong color, meaning any color that is not neutral, just won't sell.

5. The décor that the owner has spent so much time and money on does not appeal to buyers. Often it might even turn them off and they run from the property to the next one. Decorating styles can really be a disadvantage at resale.

6. Custom houses usually only appeal to the owner/ builder. No one else wants the floor plan that has all the kids sleeping in a one-room dorm or the workshop in the bedroom wing. A poorly done remodel can mess up a perfectly good house plan, too.

7. It can be very difficult to sell a house in an area if it is very different from the other houses in the neighborhood. In the southeast for example, most buyers prefer traditional exteriors. A hard contemporary or mid century modern may take way longer to sell than something more traditional. It's the reason neighborhoods have architectural review boards. They don't want anything really different.

So if you expect to have to resell your home any time in the near future control your spending. Only spring for the expensive stuff that will move with you when you go. The house may still represent something important for your ego without being so individual you can't sell it. Resale means you want to appeal to as many buyers as you can so you can sell a house quick.

That means the property has to be sort of average.

It might be more fun to impress your friends with great food and a feeling of simple luxury. 5 stars for comfort can trump the most outrageous décor with your friends and guests.

by: Paula Stone

http://www.articlecity.com/articles/home_improvement/article_4809.shtml

Five basic steps to making a house your home

 

Owning a home remains a key element of the American Dream. In fact, a recent survey by TD Bank revealed that 84 percent of young renters (ages 18 to 34) intend to buy a home in the future. While it is exciting, home buying can be overwhelming and complicated if you don't have a general knowledge of the process. 
 
Equipping yourself with the right tools will allow you to navigate the complexities of the home-buying process. Here are five helpful steps to follow on your way to homeownership.
 
Step 1: Learn the home-buying ABCs: Build your homeownership knowledge by participating in a first-time homebuyer class at a local non-profit agency in your community to answer any questions you may have. Staying well-informed will help you feel confident and in control of this major financial decision and nip any initial questions in the bud.
 
Step 2: Get out your calculator: Owning a home requires a large investment of time, energy and money, so make sure you are careful when making the decision to buy. If you're like 43 percent of survey respondents, staying within budget is the top consideration. It is important to determine how much you can afford – you don't want to fall in love with a house out of your reach. When applying for a mortgage, the bank will assess your debt to income ratio. By looking at your income and current monthly debts, you can determine your ideal monthly payment. From there, you'll be able to narrow the focus of your house search to homes in your price range. Be sure to include down payments and other upfront costs in your calculations.
 
A few free, helpful online tools can help you determine just how much you could potentially afford. For example, visit TDBank.com and check out its mortgage calculator.
 
Step 3: Shop wisely: Condo? Single-family home? A fixer-upper or new construction? Once you know how much you can afford, determining your housing needs – and selecting a qualified real estate professional – before you start looking, will help make finding your perfect home much less time-consuming. In addition to being able to answer any questions that come up during the process, a real estate professional will work on your behalf to pre-screen houses and guide you through negotiations.
 
Step 4: Pick your perfect match: According to the survey, acquiring a mortgage and making a down payment is the most preferred method of payment for those who intend to own a home. With the variety of mortgage products that exists today, it's essential you choose the right one for your needs. How long do you plan on living in this house? Do you plan on making improvements to the home? Answering these types of questions will help you hone in on your financial strategy. Finding the right mortgage is about more than a rate and terms – it's about finding the right financial partner. Don't get led down the wrong path by choosing a bank that doesn't provide flexible options. Look for a bank that offers a hassle-free mortgage guarantee to ensure your first home purchase is as smooth and worry-free as possible.
 
"As a portfolio lender, we are able to set our own lending guidelines and interest rates," says Michael Copley, executive vice president for retail lending at TD Bank. "This allows us to provide our customers with the most adjustable and affordable financing options to suit their borrowing needs."
 
Step 5: Sign on the dotted line: Once your home has been inspected, your contingencies have been met and your mortgage has been approved, it's time to close the deal. In most cases, a closing officer and your attorney will be present during closing. As the buyer, you should make sure to bring a binder for homeowner's insurance (document proving you have adequate homeowner's insurance), a paid receipt for the first year's premium and a certified or cashier's check for your down payment and closing costs. Before the closing begins, review your mortgage, mortgage note and settlement statement documents to ensure there are no errors or red flags. Remember to ask questions during the closing, as the closing officer is there to help.
 
After you've signed all documents and paid your closing costs and down payment, the closing is finished. Congratulations and enjoy your new home.
 
  To get more information and to download your free TD Bank First-Time Homebuyers' Kit, visit esecure.tdbank.com/net/firsttimehomebuyers/default.aspx.

How to flip a house using project managers

 

With framing subcontractors coming in as scheduled, I all of a sudden realized that the floor that they would be framing over had some very serious issues.

Pounding on my cell phone to find someone… Anyone to help me on literally zero notice, I realized the only person I had that could do it… Was me.

So I dusted off the flooring toolbox, started pulling out the old flooring tools and began ripping up floorboards with my trusty Wonderbar.

Not having done this kind of work in a few years, one of the boards I ripped up broke loose and smashed me square in the jaw.

Dazed and bloodied… And luckily not having to call the emergency crew… I realized something…

When you're first learning how to flip a house, there's lots of different ways to do it.

Especially when it comes to the rehab, there are a number of different paths to take:

Some like to do all the rehab work themselves.
Some don't want to do any of the rehab work themselves.
And some pick the middle path, doing some work and then having others do the rest.

Which way is best?
How to Flip A House – Do It Yourself?

Personally, I don't mind doing some of the rehab work…just as long as I don't have to do all of it.

Unless I feel the overwhelming need to pound a sledgehammer through a few walls in the demo… I'd much rather pay someone else to do it.

Personally, I'd rather spend my time looking for the next deal.

I used to be a flooring guy for years, so if I have to do some of the work on a rehab, I will. And if my experience this past week tells me anything, I think its best to stick to overseeing the rehab work instead of doing the rehab work.

However, when you're learning the basics of how to flip a house, there's no doubt that getting your hands dirty on your first house flip is a great way of really getting to know the business.

Doing at least some of the rehab work yourself to start off isn't a bad idea… But then getting others to do it for you afterward is a great way to scale things… As well as limit potential trips to the Emergency Room.

The Pros and Cons of Hiring a GC to Do Your Flips

In an ideal world, hiring a general contractor (or "GC") to do all your rehab work is the best possible way to go when you're house flipping.

But that's only if you can make the numbers work.

It's certainly nice to have one single point of contact to do all the dirty work for your house flips and rehabs while you're out looking for the next deal or rounding up potential buyers.

This way is far easier on you (and your chin), especially if you're doing it part time or have other real estate deals to tend to.

On the flip side, in many areas of the country it's extremely difficult to get a contractor to do the work for you and still stick to your 70% Rule in hopes of getting the ARV and profit margin to make the deal work.

The issue is that the really good general contractors out there tend to use the same subcontractors and don't bid out each job they do. They have "their guys" who do the subcontracting and they're oftentimes reluctant to try to negotiate with them.

On top of that, remember that a GC adds on 10-20% over what his subcontractors charge him. There's nothing wrong with that because everyone needs to make a profit here.

And believe me, on many jobs, your GC really earns that wage!

A good tip here is if you are dead set on using a specific contractor, you might be able to negotiate a lower management percent or even none at all for a percentage of the profits on the deal. General contractors also can be good sources of potential funding as well.

If you are just learning how to flip a house…everything is negotiable in house flipping!

Should I Do The Rehab Myself?

To answer this question, it's going to depend on a lot of different factors, but the biggest factor of all is you.

For me, it was a logical step to do the rehab on my first few house flips. As I said before, I was in the building trades full time and was used to being on job sites. I love construction and to me, turning a run-down shack into a beautiful place to live is one of the coolest things around.

So I went out and got my state contractor's license, ready to GC my first house flip all on my own.

As I look back on it, despite the challenges, it was great experience. Primarily because I could see firsthand how the whole operation runs. This on the job experience has really helped me in my house flipping career – so much so that when I hired the job out in the future, I knew exactly how to set the rules and how to follow the whole house flipping process.

There's nothing like firsthand experience to teach you that.

In House Flipping…Know Thyself

Do you absolutely need to do it this way?

I don't think so. But think of general contracting your first house flip as a bit of "on the job training". It's not necessary – but it's surely an experience you'll refer back to many times in your house flipping and real estate investing career.

If you have a full time job and are rehabbing one house at a time, then you may very well have the time, but this largely depends on the kind of job you have as well.

If you have a fair amount of flexibility with your job hours, then perhaps it may work.

If you're tied to a desk all day and an hour commute away from the geographic area you do your flip in, then perhaps not.

However, only you can answer that.

Do understand this though; in order to effectively manage any real estate investing rehab, you will have to be available to manage the sub-contractors by phone, early in the mornings or in the evenings. And if you have other things on your plate, like a job, a wife, kids… This gets tiresome.

There will be times when you'll need to go on site and if you are on a business trip a thousand miles away at the time, it might be tough to pull this off.

For me, my flooring business allowed me the flexibility to stop in on the job site and check on things whenever I needed so I was fortunate enough to have the flexibility.

You on the other hand, may not.

Ideally, if you have enough money saved up to quit your day job and become a full time Real Estate Investor then this will be much easier for you to manage. Plus at that point, it IS your job!

So if you're not sure if being the general contractor is right for you, then you may want to try it to see if you like it.

But if you'd rather play it a bit safer, then there is another choice that may be right for you.

Behind Door Number 3: The Project Manager

Short of hiring a full blown general contractor, you could use a project manager instead. We've found this to be a very effective way to rehab house flips, especially where hiring a GC is cost prohibitive.

For example, you could approach a smaller, hands-on type of licensed carpenter who has experience working with other subcontractors. You could then negotiate a fee based on his involvement in the project.

I've found carpenters and other subs very receptive to this arrangement. On top of the money they make doing the other work on the property, he's getting paid an override on how well he manages others.

Like I said before, everything is negotiable in real estate investing and house flipping, so be creative here. And remember it's about "win-win".

For example, you could do any number of these financial arrangements:

    Flat Fee: Simple enough. Pay a flat fee to oversee the job. No real creativity here.

    Partnership: Work out a partnership or an equity stake in the property. This is a very creative way to handle things. I wouldn't suggest this strategy on your first flip, but its one to consider.

    Percentage: Pay a percentage of the overall job that may be smaller than a typical general contractors cut. If he's good, this could really save you.

    Flat Fee and Performance Bonus: Pay the project manager a project management fee of around $2,000 and then assign bonuses for meeting timelines and budgets. The bonuses really keep the project manager motivated because he has a skin in the game. You pay some money upfront, but even more when they hit performance metrics.

Whatever you do though, do your best to establish a fee that works for the both of you. The fee you pay is largely dependent on your location and the going rates that project managers are typically paid.

You can get this kind of information from your real estate investment mentors, from other real estate investors in the area, or at your local REIA meetings.

Where to Find Project Managers

We've found that finding someone young, hungry and motivated is the best profile for success. It may differ for you, but these are the kind of guys (it's usually guys here ladies) who will put in the extra hours and get things moving in the right direction. Young, ambitious and smart is always a good profile to look for.

There may be some ideal project manager candidates in our backyard at technical colleges. These newly graduated students are typically hungry and have a good background that could be ideal for your project. In some cases, if you find a good one and your budget allows it, put them on your payroll and keep them working for you full time.

More often than not, freshly minted students for what they may lack in "real world experience" may more than make up for it with all the background knowledge from school in addition to the computer and technical knowledge for running budgets and keeping things humming smoothly.

Of course, before you go and hire a full time person to manage your flips, make sure you're in the position to afford it as well as have enough projects going on to keep him or her busy on a regular basis.

So whether you do the rehab on your own, hire a general contractor or get a project manager, you can do well and make money any of these three ways.

Author: Mike LaCava

Mike's Website: http://www.houseflippingschool.com