When It’s a Good Idea to Accept the First Offer

The art of negotiation is fickle and nuanced. A lot of the time it’s important to use your gut instincts and get creative in order to get what you want. Like with anything, however, there are certain principles that are sacrosanct and need to be employed, such as “never accept the first offer.” 

Anyone who knows anything about negotiating knows that the first offer is usually a lowball offer. Whoever is making the offer knows that no matter what number they put out there, there’s very little reason to expect the seller to accept it. This forces them to purposely make an offer below what they think is fair in order to eventually get close to something realistic.

While real estate negotiations are similar to other forms of negotiating, there are many aspects that set it apart, as any good real estate agent knows. One such aspect is when to accept the first offer.

Generally, unless the first offer is irrationally high, the best thing to do is field offers from other potential buyers to better gauge what the market dictates you can get for your home and in ideal scenarios, precipitate bidding wars. However, because the real estate game is unlike any other game, there are scenarios in which accepting the first offer is a good idea.

1. After Finding Your New Home

In real estate, most purchases are made with contingencies that the buyer sell their house first, as not to be forced to carry two mortgages and a whole host of other potential complications. If you’ve already found your new home and you’re not getting a lot of bites on your current home, this is a scenario in which it may be a good idea to accept the first offer, provided it’s reasonable. The last thing you want to do is put the deal on your new home in jeopardy, finding the right home isn’t easy.

Portrait Of Family Holding Keys To New Home On Moving In Day

2. Relocating For Work

Relocating for a new job opportunity can be exciting, but is generally very nerve-racking. It’s not easy leaving your hometown for somewhere unfamiliar and coordinating all the necessary logistical aspects for a smooth transition. Compounding that stress with a complex home sale is not a good idea. Provided the first offer is reasonable, take it. There are many other things you’ll be inundated with during this stressful chapter in your life.

Happy businessman holding a cardboard box with stuff at the office

3. Cash Offer

Did someone say cash? Accepting a cash offer circumvents many of the issues associated with a complicated closing, like not having to wait for the loan to be approved. Additionally, if someone has that much money on hand, they’re likely not buying on the contingency that they sell their old residence, eliminating uncertainty and complications associated with them selling their current home. As long as the offer is reasonable, accept it, it will make your life easier by simplifying an already complex transaction.

Portrait girl having a lot of flying money around her.

How To Keep Your House Sparkling Clean While Showing It

So, you did a deep clean of your entire house before the first buyer came to see it. You scrubbed and swept and even got on your hands and knees to wipe behind things that no one will ever see. Now comes the hard part: keeping it that way. 

Anyone who has ever sold their house will tell you there is a big difference between “clean” and “show-ready clean.” A show-ready home is supposed to sparkle. And if you are looking to sell, your home might have to sparkle for several weeks or even months.

Don’t worry, here are a few simple ways to ensure your house is always show-ready without driving yourself too crazy.

Pare Down What You Don’t Need

It will be much easier to clean your house when it’s not full of a bunch of junk you don’t want anyway. If you haven’t used something in the past year, what are the chances you will use it next year? If you can’t stand to part with it, find a place to store it where buyers can’t see it. 

Pro tip: Since you’re about to move soon anyway, try to get as much packing done as you can. Buyers will appreciate seeing a closet full of boxes more than a room full of clutter. 

Clean Smarter, Not Harder

The easiest way to keep a house clean is to create a routine and stick to it. Split the week up into chunks and do small cleans every few days and a big clean just before the weekend. You can focus on 1 room for a few days or spend 5 minutes cleaning each room every day. 

If you are struggling to keep the whole house sparkling, focus your energy on the kitchen and bathroom. These are the most important rooms to keep clean because buyers will consider any mess to be unhygienic. Remember, buyers are already anxious about being in a stranger’s house, and the whole point is to make them feel at home. 

Pro tip: Make sure all the visible garbage cans have lids. Hiding your trash is one of the easiest ways to make your place look and smell cleaner.

Close-up of hair clogging a sink drain.

Designate “Dirty Rooms” & “Clean Rooms”

The more space you need to clean, the longer it will take. So, don’t use a room unless you have to. Then, all it will take to make these “clean rooms” sparkle is a light dusting, sweeping, and maybe a quick wipe with a rag. 

If you have more than one bathroom, designate one to be a “dirty room” that everyone uses. If you have kids, make them keep their toys in their room. Also, try to pack certain toys like Legos away for a while if you can. If you have pets, keep their dirty paws out of as many rooms as possible. 

Pro Tip: Place bins or bags at the entrance of every “dirty room.” This way, if a buyer wants to see the place on short notice, you can gather up all the clutter in that room and store it away instantly. 

Messy room with toys spread around everywhere.

Make Cleaning Fun

If Marry Poppins was able to make those English kids clean their room with a spoonful of sugar, why can’t you do the same? Go ahead, blast your happy music, and turn your cleaning routine into a dance routine. Keeping your house clean is only a chore if you make it that way. 

You can trick a competitive partner into cleaning by making it seem like a game. See how quick you can clean a room, then challenge them to beat that record. Or start the first annual “cleaning Olympics,” with special prizes for the winners. 

father with daughter holding vacuum cleaner while mother sitting at sofa at home

Pro Tip: You might not need to give your kids much of an incentive to help out. Often times you can get your kids to clean up after themselves just by making them feel needed and appreciated for their efforts. 

Stay Somewhere Else

When all else fails, and you need a break, you can always pack your bags and stay somewhere else. You can take a real vacation and get some much-needed relaxation, or you can book a night at a local hotel where you don’t have to clean up after yourself for a little while. 

In the end, you’re probably not going to have your house as clean as you expect, but the longer you can get the buyer to focus on the space and not your mess, the quicker you can make the sale. 

How To Hire A Great Home Contractor

So, you’ve decided that you want to renovate, but it’s too big of a job for you to DIY. So you need to hire a contractor, but how do you find the right one? While a good contractor can turn your dream home into a reality, a bad one can turn your life into a nightmare. 

An inexperienced contractor can get in over their head and create a dangerous situation for you and your family. Or a scam artist can steal your money and leave without a trace before doing any work. These are very common situations that you can avoid if you hire the right person. 

Here are some tips to help you pick the contractor that is just right for you. 

Search & Research

Before you decide to hire someone, doing your homework is a must. Most people will start by looking at reviews online, which is a good idea. Go ahead and read reviews from several different sites like Yelp, HomeAdvisor, Google, and more. 

This will allow you to start making a list of contractors in the area, but you shouldn’t trust all online reviews, and you shouldn’t stop there. Ask your friends and family for referrals. If you are friendly with the neighbors, ask them too. If you hear people say positive things about a contractor, add him or her to the list. 

But you’re not done yet. Ask the fine people who work at your local hardware store or lumberyard for referrals too. They can give you the inside gossip about which contractors buy cheap materials and which ones always pay their bills on time. 

Interview & Review

With your list of top candidates in hand, give each of them a call and pay attention to how easy it is to communicate with them. While you are talking to them about the project, make sure to ask them the following questions:

Contractor working.
  • What are your credentials and experience (and your subcontractor’s)?

Even if you already found out a bit about a general contractor from your research, you may not know how long they have been working with their employees and subcontractors. You don’t want a contractor that just hires subcontractors off the street and leaves the work to them. 

  • Are you licensed & insured?

It is essential to ensure a contractor is licensed and insured before you let them start working on your house. You may know someone with a truck full of tools, who tells you they can do whatever a licensed contractor can do, but you won’t have the same legal protections with them as you would with a licensed contractor. 

Specifically, make sure they have workman’s compensation and general liability insurance. Also, make sure they don’t have complaints filed against them or a history of disputes with clients. And don’t just take their word for it, verify they are telling the truth with the state license board, the state’s consumer protection agency, and your local Better Business Bureau.

  • Are you able to take on a project of this size now?

Not all contractors can take on every kind of project. You want to make sure your project is in the contractor’s wheelhouse. Just because they did a good job building your neighbor’s deck doesn’t mean they know how to renovate a full kitchen. 

Some contractors also have multiple projects going on at once, and you want them to focus on yours. However, don’t drop a contractor just because they can’t start right away, the best ones are usually busy. 

  • Can you give me a list of your previous clients?

This is especially important if you were not able to get referrals from lots of people you trust. However, it is a good idea to call a few of their previous clients even if you already have references from people you trust. Previous clients could have valid complaints about a contractor that you wouldn’t find out about otherwise.

Get Estimates

Now you should have your list narrowed down to a handful of contractors. You’re going to want to meet with them at the site and explain what you want them to do. Things will be easier if you have a clear idea about what you want, stand your ground, and only entertain the suggestions you really like. Remember: projects can get expensive when you start changing things.

Make sure to get multiple bids even if you already made up your mind about which contractor you are going with. This will allow you to compare their bids, which might come in handy when you are negotiating prices later down the line. 

Contract

Now that you picked the contractor that is just right for you, you’ll want to write up a contract that you feel comfortable with. This should include a payment schedule, proof of liability insurance and compensation payments, specific materials, and a start and end date for the project. 

The bottom line is: a contractor is going to spending a lot of time in your house, making noise and spreading dust. If the dust settles, and you’re left with nothing but an expensive pile of garbage, you’ll wish you had taken the time to find a better contractor. 

Take Better Listing Photos With These 7 Tips

The first time a buyer sees a house is usually in the listing photos. Good listing photos will stick in a buyer’s mind, increasing the chance they will want to see the real thing. It takes a lot to convince a buyer to take time out of their schedule to see a place based on a bad listing photo. Plus, a bad photo can make the realtor look less competent, depending on how bad they are. 

Here are 6 ways to improve your listing photos:

  1. Buy A Quality Camera

Your phone camera does not compare to a real camera. If you want quality pictures, you’re going to have to use a quality camera. Simply put, the sensor in your phone, which captures light, is not as big as the one in a real camera. So, no matter how many megapixels it has, it won’t capture as much. 

Digital single-lens reflex camera.

2. Add More Light

The whole point of a listing photo is to give buyers a chance to see what the property looks like, so you want to capture as much light as you can. As a rule, natural light always looks better in a picture than artificial light, so make sure to open the windows.

You can also capture some good outdoor pictures during what is known as the “magic hour” or “golden hour.” This is the first or last hour of sunlight when the light is softer and redder. Filmmakers often shoot during this time to get more romantic or emotionally heightened shots. Turn on all the lights in the house to make these pictures pop!

Home captured in the late evening.

3. Use A Tripod

One way to make a photo brighter is by reducing blur. When you are taking a picture by hand, any slight shake will cause a blur, which will make the image look dull and dark. A tripod can also help you make a dark room look brighter by allowing you to take a clear picture with lower shutter speed. 

4. Use Shutter Speed

You can make a room look much brighter by lowering the shutter speed on your camera, which increases the amount of time that light hits the sensor. However, be aware that any camera movements or movements in front of the camera will be amplified during this time (that’s why you need a tripod).

It is usually better to lower the shutter speed than to increase the ISO, which will add noise, or decrease the aperture, which will affect the depth of field. 

Blurred texture.

5. Keep It Horizontal 

The human eye is accustomed to horizontal (landscape) photos more than vertical (portrait) ones. Unless there is no other way to capture an image, you should always remember to keep the camera with the widest side parallel to the floor. 

6. Use a Wide-Angle Lens

A wide-angle lens will capture more of a room in one shot than a normal lens. A lens wider than 50-35mm (the smaller the number, the wider the lens) will also keep the whole room in focus. 

However, the wider you go, the more distorted the image will be. A really wide-angle lens, known as a fisheye lens, does not help a small space look bigger. In fact, a fisheye lens can make a room look so distorted that it becomes hard to judge the size of anything.

Fisheye effect.

7. Hire a Professional 

If you are having too much trouble getting the shot just right, hire a professional to come by. Then, follow them around as they take pictures and see if you can learn something about the way they shoot. 

The only way you’re going to get the best listing photos is by understanding how the camera sees a space. You will probably have to play with it for a while until you start learning, but if you put in the effort, your pictures could end up being worth more than a thousand words. 

How To Remove Stains From Granite Countertops

Nothing makes a kitchen look as sleek as sparkling granite countertops, but it only takes a single stain to ruin that look. If you want to get rid of that stain, don’t reach for those harsh chemical cleaners under the sink; they might actually do more harm than good. It is especially important to stay away from cleaners that eat at the stone, like vinegar or anything made with lemon. 

Here are a few ways to remove any stain from your granite countertops:

Materials

  1. A non-abrasive cloth or pad that won’t scratch the granite countertop (microfiber cloths work great). 
  2. A pH-neutral soap (these soaps are usually labeled ‘mild,’ ‘gentle,’ or ‘great for hands’) or a granite cleaner. 
  3. Plastic wrap
  4. Mixing bowl
  5. Masking tape
  6. Plastic putty knife (optional)
  7. A poultice (See below: different ingredients based on the kind of stain)

Poultice

For each kind of stain, there is a different poultice (a fancy word for a wet mixture). Each of these poultices is made of a solvent (a chemical to remove the stain) and an absorbent material (such as a paper towel, talcum powder, diatomaceous earth, or even flour). 

If you know what caused the stain, it will make things easier to clean up. If you don’t know what caused the stain, try the first poultice on this list before moving on to anything harsher. 

  1. For minor stains, use a mixture of baking soda and water. This will work on many kinds of stains without causing too much damage. You can also try a mixture of flour and soapy water. (Make sure to use a pH-neutral soap!)
  2. For organic stains (caused by coffee, soda, wine, fruit, etc.), soak paper towels in 12% hydrogen peroxide (don’t buy this from a drug store, get it from a beauty supply store). Be careful: hydrogen peroxide can cause dark areas to become lighter, so if you have dark marble, do not let the poultice sit for too long. 
  3. For oil stains (caused by cooking oil, butter, etc.) mix one part water, flour, and pure acetone (make sure to purchase this through a beauty supply shop, do not use nail polish remover, as these can contain other ingredients). 
  4. For inorganic stains (caused by ink, dyes, etc.) use hydrogen peroxide for light-colored stone or acetone for dark-colored stone. 
  5. For metal stains (caused by rust, copper, etc.), use a mixture of diatomaceous earth and a commercially available rust remover. However, be warned that rust stains are very hard to remove, and you may need to call a professional to have these stains removed. 

Removing The Stain

  1. Clean the area thoroughly with warm water and a pH-neutral cleaner.
  2. Let the area dry.
  3. Mix poultice ingredients in a bowl to form a thick paste (the consistency of peanut butter) and use it to cover the stained area with a thin layer. When using a liquid poultice, you can also just soak the liquid in paper towels. 
  4. Cover the entire stain with the poultice.
  5. Place plastic wrap over the poultice and secure the edges of the plastic wrap to the counter with masking tape to ensure it stays put.
  6. Poke holes in the plastic wrap with a pin to allow it to slowly dry. 
  7. Let the poultice sit for at least an hour. (For tougher stains, let the poultice sit overnight and up to 24 hours.)
  8. Remove the plastic and use a plastic putty knife or scraper to remove the poultice completely.
  9. If the stain is still visible after a few days, repeat the process. 
  10. When you are done, make sure to re-seal the area that was cleaned to ensure that the area is protected from future stains. 

Make sure to test this solution on a small, inconspicuous area of the countertop to ensure that there are no adverse effects. Some poultices do cause minor discoloration that goes away after a few days, so make sure to give it time to heal before freaking out. However, if the stain persists, you can always try a professionally-made poultice or call a professional granite cleaner.

3 Home Improvements That Aren’t Worth It For Sellers

Houses are a big-ticket item when selling them most improvements will yield big returns. Proper staging is one of the first things your agent will tell you to get sorted out before officially putting your home on the market. That starts with clearing your house of personal items, out of place furniture, clutter and giving it a deep clean. After that, touch-ups and minor repairs need to be tended to, ensuring the home is pristine. Sellers who are really looking to maximize their profits often include major home improvements.

The logic is major home improvements, while expensive, will yield far larger returns. When it comes to touching up a scuffed up wall, it’s a no-brainer, but once you start investing significant capital, the proposition becomes riskier and can end up coming back to bite you.

Generally, improvements to kitchens and bathrooms are high impact and while you still need to be frugal when executing them, they are generally less risky. If you’re looking at other types of improvements, it’s important to always consult an experienced real estate agent first. Here’s an example of presale home improvements that are not only a waste of time, but they could also easily end up costing you more than you stand to gain.

1. Trendy Design & Decor

It’s always a nice touch to keep up with the latest design trends, it takes any house to the next level. And while it may pique the interest of buyers with sophisticated taste, you’re ignoring the typical buyer which represents a far larger segment of prospects. The key when showing a home is appealing to the widest range of buyers possible, that means nothing flashy. With paint, stick to whites and grey’s, traditional hardwoods and conservative, yet tasteful finishes in the kitchen and bathrooms.

Colorful living room with armchair and coffee table.

2. DIY Projects Better Left To The Pros

When executing home improvements to stage a home, DIY projects are great because you save on the most expensive part of a renovation; labor. There are limitless little improvements you can do to spruce up the place and impress prospective buyers. It’s important, however, not to bite off more than you can chew. If you take on a project that’s better left to the pros, you can end up causing a mess and have to pay someone more to clean it up than you would have had you hired a pro in the first place. Only take on projects you can handle or risk wasting time and money.

Frustrated Woman With Self Assembly Furniture In Kitchen

3. Smart Home Upgrade

Every home these days has aspects that are smart, but are all smart homes? To be considered a smart home, it has to be fully automated, including security, lights, curtains, thermostats, appliances, and on and on. No doubt fully automated smart homes are desirable to almost any buyer, but is it worth upgrading your home to this status before selling? Fully automating your house is expensive and while prospective buyers may think it looks cool, it won’t factor into their offer. Gadgets aren’t as important to buyers as layouts, finishes, and location. Don’t waste your time and money on this home improvement.

Smart house concept. Communication network of residence. Energy management system. IoT. AI.

3 Instances in Which It’s a Good Idea to Accept the First Offer

The art of negotiation is fickle and nuanced. A lot of the time it’s important to use your gut and get creative in order to get what you want. Like with anything, however, there are certain principles that are sacrosanct and need to be employed, such as ‘never accept the first offer’. 

Anyone who knows anything about negotiating knows that the first offer is usually a lowball offer. Whomever is making the offer knows that no matter what number they put out there, there’s very little reason to expect the seller to accept it. This forces them to purposely make an offer below what they think is fair in order to eventually get close to something realistic.

While real estate negotiations are similar to other forms of negotiating, there are many aspects that set it apart, as any good real estate agent knows. One such aspect is when to accept the first offer.

Generally, unless the first offer is irrationally high, the best thing to do is field offers from other potential buyers to better gauge what the market dictates you can get for your home and in ideal scenarios, precipitate bidding wars. However, because the real estate game is unlike any other game, there are scenarios in which accepting the first offer is a good idea.

1. After Finding Your New Home

In real estate, most purchases are made with contingencies that the buyer sell their house first, as not to be forced to carry two mortgages and a whole host of other potential complications. If you’ve already found your new home and you’re not getting a lot of bites on your current home, this is a scenario in which it may be a good idea to accept the first offer, provided it’s reasonable. The last thing you want to do is put the deal on your new home in jeopardy, finding the right home isn’t easy.

Family On Moving In Day

2. Relocating For Work

Relocating for a new job opportunity can be exciting, but is generally very nerve-racking. It’s not easy leaving your hometown for somewhere unfamiliar and coordinating all the necessary logistical aspects for a smooth transition. Compounding that stress with a complex home sale is not a good idea. Provided the first offer is reasonable, take it. There are many other things you’ll be inundated with during this stressful chapter in your life.

Moving for work.

3. Cash Offer

Did someone say cash? Accepting a cash offer circumvents many of the issues associated with a complicated closing, like not having to wait for the loan to be approved. Additionally, if someone has that much money on hand, they’re likely not buying on the contingency that they sell their old residence, eliminating uncertainty and complications associated with them selling their current home. As long as the offer is reasonable, accept it, it will make your life easier by simplifying an already complex transaction.

Cash on hand.

Home Inspection Mistakes to Avoid

Before buying a house, make sure to hire a professional inspector to come to look at the property. Otherwise, you might not know if there are any major problems with the house, which could cause major headaches down the road. It has almost become standard practice for a buyer to have an inspection, but even if you plan on having an inspection, there are some common mistakes you should avoid. 

Not Picking The Right Inspector

An inspection is only as good as the inspector, so don’t just go with the cheapest one. Besides, the cheapest inspector could be inexperienced or they could have trouble finding clients for other reasons. 

You don’t have to hire the most expensive inspector either. They may be charging too much for a job that could be done for less. The bottom line is: make sure you do your research. Even if your realtor suggests an inspector, it can’t hurt to go online and check them out. 

Visit their website, check out reviews and testimonials, and make sure to ask them for a sample inspection report. You want them to include lots of pictures and details that explain the home’s strengths and weaknesses in their report. Then compare their sample inspection report with other sample reports to see how thorough they are. You want as much information as possible so you can get accurate estimates on how much different repairs will cost.

Not Personally Attending The Inspection 

It is important to meet the inspector and shake their hand. Knowing the inspector on a personal basis could come in handy down the line when you have a question about the inspection report. If you know the inspector, you can call them up and ask them about something.

Also, you want to know that your inspection is being done properly, but if you don’t stick around for the inspection, it is pretty hard to tell if they are rushing through the job. 

Skipping the inspection also means you probably won’t get another opportunity to see certain parts of the house until you own it. You might not have seen the attic crawl space or inside the electric box during the open house, and the home inspection is a perfect time to tell if there are any problems with those sorts of areas before it’s too late.

Lastly, you want to be there during the inspection to talk to the inspector about certain problems. It’s one thing to see the inspector’s notes in the report, but those can often be too technical for the average home buyer. If you are at the inspection, there’s a good chance that the inspector will talk you through any problems they find. 

Home Inspection.

Not Letting The Inspector Do Their Job

While it is important to be at the inspection, you should be aware that the inspector is focused on looking for flaws in a house they’ve never been to before. You want to ask them questions, but it’s best to wait until they are done with one area before you start talking their ear off. 

The worst thing you can do during an inspection is hover over the inspector and distract them so much that they end up missing some major problems. An inspector should be there for about 2-4 hours, depending on the size of the house and the problems they find. So, there is plenty of time to talk to them about what they find at some point during the inspection. 

Many times, the inspector will initiate the conversation. Inspectors are not always the most chatty people, but when they find a problem they will usually call you over and explain things to you. It might be difficult to comprehend what they are talking about if they are explaining technical issues, but if you’re not present, it will be much harder to understand an issue while you are reading their report. 

Not Taking Lots Of Pictures

Inspectors will often ask you to take pictures while they are explaining a problematic area to you. These pictures could come in handy when you are trying to get proper estimates down the line. You should take as many pictures as you can, especially when it comes to anything that the inspector told you might need attention. You want to get close-ups from multiple angles and capture all the serial numbers and stickers on anything you can. 

You should even take pictures of things that might not seem important at the moment. You might not need these for getting estimates, but there might come a time when you wish you had them. The inspector will also be taking pictures during their inspection, which will be included in the report, but they are often smaller and might be hard to see. 

Not Reading The Inspection Report

Even if you followed the inspector around and asked all the right questions, you should still read the inspection report. There might be problems that the inspector didn’t talk to you about because they don’t need immediate attention, but you still want to know that information. You may be able to include minor issues in your request for repairs, which could help bring the sale price down. 

The inspection report will also be a good reference when you want to make repairs or have any problems down the line. If you asked questions during the inspection, you will be more detailed when talking to contractors or technicians later. For all intents and purposes, an inspection report should almost be considered to be the user’s manual for your new house, and the people that read the user’s manual usually doesn’t have as many problems as those who skip it.

Home Staging 101: How to Sell Your Home Fast

If you’re planning to sell your house, you’ve probably heard of the term home staging by now. The goal of home staging is to make your house more attractive in order to appeal to a larger number of buyers. Since everything is a numbers game, the more interested buyers, the quicker and higher your home sells for. Sounds simple, right? The concept is, but results can vary based on how well your home is staged.

Some sellers spend a couple thousand for home staging professionals to come in and redecorate the place. If you can afford to do this, by all means, go for it. If that’s not in your budget, there are still basic principles you can follow to help your house sell faster and for more.

Follow these five steps to get your home ready to sell:

1) Declutter and Organize

Declutter household items.

This is a seemingly simple task, but daunting nonetheless due to the amount of clutter we tend to accumulate over time. However, this is probably the most important thing you can do before you sell. It’s also a great way to make some extra cash (sell what you don’t want or donate the rest) and as a bonus, you’ll get to move into a new place with a clean slate, only bringing the items you actually value.

To get started, take it one room at a time. If you hop from room to room, it can become overwhelming. After you declutter, be sure to designate where the unwanted items will go, either donate, recycle (if possible) or sell them. Next, you’ll want to reorganize your remaining items so that everything has a place. Finally, do a deep clean. If cleaning isn’t your strong suit, you may want to consider bringing in professional help.

2) Rearrange Furniture

Newly arranged furniture in the living room of a luxury home.

Unless you run an interior design blog, chances are your furniture is arranged in a comfortable + practical way, as it should be. However, now is the time to style it up for looks — not comfort. This means removing outdated pieces and adding in new, modern furniture. If you simply can’t afford to spend anything, still move around what you have — sometimes that’s all it takes for a fresh look. If you’re not sure how to start arranging the furniture, browse the website or Instagram of modern retailers such as Crate & Barrel or West Elm for inspiration.

3) Paint Works Wonders

Wall paint contrast.

An easy and inexpensive way to update your home is with a fresh coat of paint. The safe bet is to go with light colors, such as white, light grey or blue. These are neutral colors that appeal to most people (remember that’s the goal here) and can help brighten + enlarge the look of a room. Most people are pleasantly surprised by how new paint can transform their space.

4) Accessorize Your Space

Rear kitchen bench styled with cut flowers and colorful saucepans.

You don’t have to go all out here, but adding a decorative plant, candle or even stack of books can warm up the space and add a cozy feel. This doesn’t mean fill every inch of empty space, you just decluttered for a reason. Instead, select maybe three decorative items per room, less if it’s a small space. Also, make sure the items are relevant to the space. For example, you might add a throw blanket in the bedroom or a bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter. The goal is to keep it simple and attractive.  

5) Mow the Lawn

Mulching garden beds with pine bark pieces

It’s easy to get hung up on the interior details, but you can’t neglect the outside either. Keep in mind, your home’s exterior is the first thing buyers see, and if they don’t like it, chances are they won’t make it inside. It doesn’t have to look professionally landscaped, but some general maintenance goes a long way.

That being said, keep the lawn mowed, edges trimmed, and weeds pulled. Give your front door a fresh coat of paint and add a new welcome mat or planter on the front stoop. Clean the windows, gutters, and remove any debris from the yard. If you have plant beds, be sure to clean those up as well and maybe spring for new mulch or flowers. It sounds like a lot of work (and it is), but the reward will be worth it.

Four Ways to Increase Your Curb Appeal

How would you rate your home’s curb appeal? If you’re trying to sell, let’s hope its good!

Curb appeal is crucial to helping your home sell fast and for more. When prepping a home to sell, people often focus on the inside — painting, refinishing floors and staging. This is all 100% necessary, but you can’t neglect the outside either, because first impressions can make or break you.

That being said, you don’t have to hire a professional landscaper to get your home noticed. Most of the work can be done yourself, without breaking the bank.

DIY – painting door.

Here are four ways to make your home’s exterior stand out:

1) Paint the Front Door

If your front door has cracked or peeling paint, it’s time for a fresh coat. Also, color trends often change, if your door hasn’t been painted in a long time, you may want to consider an updated color such as navy blue or maroon. While you’re at it, go ahead and spruce up the entire front stoop. Consider adding a new welcome mat or potted plant to go with your freshly painted door.

2) Yard Maintenance

Everyone’s least favorite chore, but probably the most important thing you can do when selling. Basic tasks like mowing the lawn, trimming edges and pulling weeds can make all the difference. Make sure to remove any debris such as leaves or fallen branches from your yard. Maybe even spring for some new mulch or flowers to add a finishing touch!

3) Light it Up

Proper lighting not only allows potential buyers to see your place at night, but it also adds a level of security. Start off by updating what you have– switch out old lights for new bulbs that are energy-efficient and offer better lighting. If you don’t have much lighting, to begin with, consider pathway lights (bonus points if they’re solar-powered) that will illuminate your walkway at night.

4) Gutters, Cracks and More

This is probably the most labor-intensive category, but necessary nonetheless. As houses age, cracks develop, fences get worn, gutters are over-do for cleaning. Now is your chance to update anything that has developed as an eyesore. Think of it this way, instead of adding new things to your exterior, consider updating what you already have — that’s all you typically need to improve your home’s curb appeal.