Archive for Home Sellers

Home Staging on a Budget

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Home Staging on a Budget

It’s no secret that home staging is a key component to selling a home quickly and for top value. But what if you don’t have the budget to hire a professional home stager? Here are some simple tips to help you stage a home attractively:

Choose Wisely
If you cannot afford to stage your whole home, why not focus on key areas? What areas of the home do you think will dominate the prospective buyer’s attention? Parts of your home that are the most likely to appeal to buyers can be given special attention to enhance their appeal. On the other hand, areas of your home that may be seen as less appealing may benefit greatly from some simple decorative staging.

Keep It Fresh
Oftentimes it’s the simplest things that make a house feel like a home. Having fresh flowers in an attractive vase is one of the most basic but effective ways to create a warm, inviting feel in your home. While your home is on the market, plan on always having fresh flowers on display.

Be Inconspicuous
Potential buyers need to be able to easily imagine themselves living in your home, making it their own. This will be harder for them to do if they see a lot of personal items everywhere they look. When they see walls covered with pictures of your family, they think of it as your home, not their own. Make it easy for them by keeping personal touches to an absolute minimum.

Cleanliness is Next to…
The simplest but inarguably most important advice you can follow when preparing your home for visiting buyers is to keep it as clean and decluttered as possible. This will undoubtedly require a lot of vigilance, since we all know how difficult it can be to keep our homes clean when we have guests filtering in and out constantly, as will likely be the case once your home goes on the market. But your diligent efforts to keep your home neat and tidy will surely pay dividends.

Virtual Reality
Technology has made it possible to stage a vacant home without purchasing a single item! Many companies now offer virtual staging services that digitally stage your home. The photos they create can then be used in both print and online marketing for your home. These photos can really help a buyer visualize the possibilities for design and decoration that are possible in your currently vacant home.

Need advice about preparing your home for market? Our agents are happy to help! Leave a reply in the comments section or write us at with any questions you have.

The Blackstone Mystery – Questions Answered

Monday, April 15th, 2013

The Blackstone Mystery – Questions Answered

Lately it seems you’d have to be hiding under a rock not to hear something about the mysterious Blackstone and all the real estate they’ve been scooping up in recent months. What are Blackstone’s objectives? How are they affecting the current real estate market? And what is behind their recent slow down in purchases? These questions and many more were recently addressed in an excellent article by Sacramento Real Estate Appraiser Ryan Lundquist. The following are some particularly noteworthy excerpts, shared with Ryan’s permission:

The Local Market: Blackstone has been targeting cities throughout the country, and their presence has definitely been felt in the Sacramento area since they began buying tenaciously last August. Let’s take a look at some stats and areas of focus to help understand what they are doing locally.

Blackstone activity in the Sacramento real estate market - by Sacramento Appraisal Blog

Has Blackstone Been Slowing Down? Blackstone appears to have slowed down a bit over the past few months compared to the previous quarter. Their 96 purchases under $200,000 in Sacramento County on MLS during 2013 represent 4% of all sales under $200,000, which translates to 8% of all cash purchases under $200,000. Previously Blackstone had 324 purchases under $200,000 from August 2012 to December 31, 2012, which was almost 13% of cash sales for the time period. Blackstone has been a big player in the market, though ultimately they are really only one piece of the investor pie since 53% of all sales under $200,000 last quarter were cash deals. However, we must ask of course whether their recent slow down is a result of strategy or a lack of inventory. That is the critical question.

Blackstone Purchases in Sacramento County - Graph by Sacramento Appraisal Blog

Blackstone’s Strategy: As you can see, over 80% of Blackstone’s purchases have been under $200,000. It seems they have been primarily focused on the first-time buyer market, and they’ve purchased traditional sales, flipped properties, foreclosures, short sales, private sales, trustees sales, non-performing loans directly from banks and really whatever they can get their hands on. They are buying as “THR California LP”, and Tax Records indicates they have purchased 548 properties since August 2012. However, some local media outlets state they have picked up over 1000 homes since last year. That could definitely be the case since there may very well be many private sales off the books, but since Tax Records only shows 548, I’ll stick with that and consider it a representative sample.

(Ryan updated his blog shortly after his original post with this message: “I talked with a Sacramento Bee Reporter about their data that shows Blackstone has purchased 1000+ properties since August. The Bee reporter stated that Blackstone confirmed this number and his search of the Sacramento County Recorder also confirms this number (it is very tedious to do this search – I didn’t confirm). All things considered, it looks like only about half of Blackstone’s sales are recording in Tax Records for whatever reason. I am only using Tax Records because that is what I can control best. Nonetheless, despite a difference in numbers in my post, the data in Tax Records still appears representative of the overall trends when comparing the data in this post with The Sac Bee data. The SacBee also reported a huge downtrend in 2013 so far.”)

What are the implications of this data? How can both real estate professionals and potential home buyers use this information to their benefit? Read more from Ryan’s article here for some practical suggestions.

What are your thoughts about Blackstone and the effect they are having on the real estate market in your neck of the woods? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

New Program Allows Short Sale Sellers to Stay Home

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

How You Can Short Sell and Never Leave Your Home

If you’ve been contemplating short selling your home, there are likely several pressing questions weighing on your mind: Where will we go? What will happen to our credit? What fees will we incur? How long will it take? It can be overwhelming just anticipating what lies ahead.

Beyond just dollars and cents, though, what is the true cost of short selling a home? For most homeowners, the true impact of a short sale won’t simply be financial. For most of us, our homes operate much like the center of a wheel. All the spokes that come off that wheel – what schools our children attend, our relationship with our neighbors, our civic affiliations, etc. – are directly affected if we have to move. For this reason and many others, many homeowners are desperate to find a way to stay in their homes, even when the odds seem stacked against them.

Fortunately, there is some good news for homeowners who are facing this difficult situation. A new program, called the NeighborStay Short Sale Leaseback Program, allows homeowners to short sell without ever having to leave their home. How is this possible? Note this paragraph from the HAFA (Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives) guidelines:

“Section 7.3 of Chapter IV of the Home Affordable Alternatives Program (HAFA) Handbook requires that a short sale be an arm’s length transaction. In March 2011 this provision was amended to allow servicers (banks) the discretion to approve sales to non-profit organizations with the stated purpose that the property will be rented or resold to the borrower, so long as all other HAFA program requirements are met.”

How Does It Work?

How does the NeighborStay program help short sellers stay in their home? NeighborStay CEO Don Harris explains: “Under the HAFA Program, the general prohibition that a short sale seller cannot lease the home that they have sold does not apply if the property is acquired by a nonprofit organization with the stated purpose to sell or lease the property to the borrower.” The Leaseback program works by teaming private investors with community-based non-profit organizations who then work together to acquire short sale properties and lease them back to qualified short sale sellers. Qualified tenants will be given the opportunity to repurchase their homes.

What about buyers who are underwater on their mortgages? As of November 2012 the FHFA (Federal Housing Finance Agency) introduced a new short sale program that allows borrowers who have not strategically defaulted or fallen seriously behind on their mortgages to qualify to short sell their homes, even if they are underwater. The NeighborStay program is able to help homeowners regardless of their credit or financial position.

So…do you want to stay in your home? Now is the time to see if the NeighborStay Short Sale Leaseback Program will work for you!

For more information about NeighborStay, please visit their official site:

Why Should Sellers Get a Home Inspection?

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Why Should You Get a Home Inspection?
Part Two: Home Sellers

Last week on the blog, we talked about the invaluable benefits of home inspections for prospective homebuyers. Since a home inspection is a buyer-driven need, responsibility falls on potential buyers to arrange for a home inspection during a real estate transaction. Some may be inclined to think there is no point in a home seller getting their home inspected. However, while they may seem less obvious, there are still some compelling reasons for home sellers to take the initiative to get their home inspected prior to putting it on the market. What are they?

Control Leverage

Having a home inspection performed prior to putting a home up for sale allows the home seller to be fully aware of the condition of their house. This gives them the chance to make repairs ahead of time if they choose to do so and makes it easier to price the home appropriately – a huge factor in determining saleability.

Additionally, when the seller can make a home inspection report available to potential buyers before any offer is made, it allows the buyer to make a fully informed offer. Why is this important? If a potential buyer makes an offer on a home after they’ve seen a home inspection report, this drastically reduces the chances they will want to re-negotiate the deal later on. In contrast, if the buyer has a home inspection done after they’ve made an offer and some defects are discovered, they will likely want to re-negotiate their deal. If the seller has an inspection done before taking offers on their home, they will be able to retain the upper hand throughout the transaction.

Attract Attention

The fact of the matter is that few sellers in today’s market take the initiative to have a home inspection performed prior to putting their home on the market. When a seller does take this step, though, it enables them to advertise their home accordingly. Since listings that make mention of a home inspection having been recently performed are quite rare, this will really make their listing stand out and attract attention. Real Estate Agents will be especially inclined to show a home that has already been inspected, as this increases the chances that the home will be desirable to their clients and decreases the chances that the deal will ultimately fall through due to disagreements about repairs.

Eliminate Fears

Many buyers, particularly those who are buying a home for the first time, will naturally have certain fears about the huge commitment of purchasing a home. When a seller has had an inspection performed prior to putting their house on the market, it gives prospective buyers a chance to be fully informed right from the get-go. The fact that the home seller has been so proactive will send a message to potential buyers that the seller is responsible and honest, not someone who is trying to hide something or take advantage of them. It also gives them confidence that the transaction is likely to go quickly and smoothly.

Next week on our blog we will present the third part of our Home Inspection series: Why should you get a home inspection even when purchasing a new home?

Why Should You Get a Home Inspection – Part One

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Why Should You Get a Home Inspection?
Part One: Homebuyers

The process of purchasing a home can be stressful, especially for first-time homebuyers. There are so many different recommendations on a myriad of subjects that you will receive from friends and family, from your real estate agent, and from others, that you can end up feeling overwhelmed. But there is one piece of advice you should never ignore when shopping for a home: Get a home inspection!

Since home inspections are not cheap, many are tempted to skip this process. They might assume they know enough about home repair to do their own inspection or that if they are purchasing a new home they don’t really need an inspection. What are some good reasons that all homebuyers, and even home sellers, should get a home inspection? Over the next few weeks we’ll be publishing a four-part series on our blog related to the following questions: Why should a homebuyer get an inspection? Why can a home inspection be valuable to home sellers?  Why should you get a home inspection even when purchasing a new home? How can you ensure that you are getting a quality inspection? This week we will consider the question:

Why should a homebuyer get an inspection?

Remember that Tom Hanks movie from the 1980s – The Money Pit? It tells the story of a young couple who are buying their first home on a budget. They think they’ve found the home of their dreams – until the stairway starts collapsing, and the bathtub falls through the floor, and the chimney breaks into a million pieces, and…well you get the picture. The point is, without a proper home inspection, that could be your future life story!

It can be a challenge for some homebuyers not to get emotionally attached to a home as soon as they see it. Shopping for a home can feel like falling in love – you feel convinced you’ve met the home you want to grow old in! However, it’s best if you can keep your emotions in check until after a home inspection has been performed. An inspection will help you see things in your prospective home that you may not notice at first blush, things that are under the surface. This is invaluable in helping you make a truly informed decision to purchase.

Unexpected repairs are one of the things that all homeowners, especially new homeowners, dread. A thorough home inspection from a qualified professional will give you the peace of mind of knowing exactly what you are buying. An inspector will not only be able to tell you about the overall condition of the home but about potential trouble spots or aspects of the home that might need repair down the road. This can really set your mind at ease as you proceed with your purchase – or conversely, help you avoid a money pit of your own!

But home inspections aren’t just for homebuyers. Next week on the blog, we’ll discuss this question: Why can a home inspection be valuable to home sellers?

Blog Post: Protecting Yourself from Real Estate Scams

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

Protecting Yourself from Real Estate Scams

In recent years, stories about real estate scams have become all too common. Many people have made the mistake of putting their trust in a so-called expert who turns out to have only their own best interests at heart. The financial and emotional repercussions of falling victim to these scams can be truly disastrous. How can you protect yourself from falling prey to greedy real estate scammers?

Be careful who you trust
It has been reported that a large percentage of real estate scams are perpetrated by the victim’s family members, friends, or long-time business associates. With this fact in mind, it is important to be objective when considering any business proposition. This is not to say you need to become overly suspicious of every person in your life who may want to do business with you. What it does mean is that you need to carefully evaluate every business offer, regardless of who is approaching you with the offer. Don’t allow blind trust or fear of hurting someone’s feelings lead you into making a bad decision.

Do not easily part with personal information, goods
Many mortgage scams require borrowers to pay advance fees for whatever services are being offered. Be wary of any requests to pay fees before any services have been performed. Also, NEVER give out personal information, such as bank account information, social security numbers, etc., until you know exactly who will be receiving the information, how it will be used and who it will be shared with.

Trust your gut
The old adage, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” is never more true than in reference to real estate scams. When considering a real estate transaction, ask yourself these questions: Do I fully understand the details that are involved in this transaction? Does it seem too simple, too easy? On a gut level, any real estate or mortgage deal you’re thinking of making should fundamentally make sense. If it doesn’t, that may be a strong indication that something is not right.

But don’t just trust your gut
Our intuition can be wrong sometimes. That’s why it is absolutely imperative that you speak to a lawyer or financial advisor if you are considering a real estate decision. A home is probably the largest investment you’ll make in your life. Be vigilant about protecting it. Don’t let things fall to chance. The time and expense of speaking to a professional before making an important decision regarding your investments is vital.

Although these are examples of simple ways to avoid getting cheated, don’t underestimate their importance! Oftentimes, it’s the simplest precautions that protect us the most – from any kind of scam.

Home Sellers – How Can You Make Your Home More Appealing to Buyers?

If you are anything like me, when you’re expecting guests at your home you spend the hours, sometimes days, prior to their arrival trying to make your home as presentable and pleasant as possible. You probably even fret about tiny details that your guests are unlikely to ever notice (unless you feel compelled to point it out to them, something I am frequently guilty of doing.)

Most people are willing to go to great lengths to present a welcoming environment for their friends. The same should be true if you are trying to sell your home. How can you ensure that potential buyers will see your house as their potential home?

Sweat the Small Stuff – Of course, it goes without saying that we want our homes to be clean and tidy when potential buyers visit. But we can sometimes be oblivious to certain aspects of our own surroundings, including in our own home. Maybe it’s those cobwebs in the corners or the hole in the screen door or the burnt out light bulbs we haven’t gotten around to replacing. We may not be inclined to think those little details are such a big deal, but potential buyers will be carefully scrutinizing everything they see and may come away with an unpleasant impression if we fail to address the “small” things.

Set the Stage – You might think that since potential home buyers are interested in buying your house and not your belongings that the appearance of furniture and the like are not important. Actually the general appearance of your home will factor greatly into a visiting buyer’s overall opinion of it. Before you begin showing your home, think about arranging furniture and other items in a way that leaves your home uncluttered and appealing. If you’re not sure where to start, ask a friend for advice. Oftentimes just a few simple changes can make a world of difference.

Be Invisible – While a few personal touches can add to a home’s warmth and appeal, these should be kept very limited and not showy. The more a potential home buyer see pictures of your family everywhere they turn or your kid’s water color paintings stuck to the refrigerator, the more difficult it will be for them to start visualizing the home as theirs. Make it easy for visitors to see your home as potentially becoming their own.

No, Really…Be Invisible – Of course, the best way to make yourself invisible is to actually be invisible. You might think a potential buyer would find it valuable to have the homeowner following them every step of the way as they tour a home so they can tell them all sorts of details they might not otherwise know. More often than not, this plan backfires completely. Someone who is considering buying your home wants to be able to speak with freedom to their spouse or real estate agent about things they may not like about your home; something they’d likely be uncomfortable doing in your presence. Hard as it might be for your ego to accept this, the truth is the vast majority of potential home buyers will be much more comfortable if you as the homeowner make yourself scarce when they tour your home.

Go Pro – Of course, many potential buyers will get their first impression of your home from pictures they see online. Those pictures may determine whether or not they will want to tour your home at all. Consider having a professional photographer, perhaps one who specializes in real estate photography, come in and take a few shots of your home. Many home sellers have found that having professional photographs of their home for advertising purposes is well worth the extra expense.

Remember, making your home appealing to home buyers does not need be a stressful, expensive process. Oftentimes, just a little simple preparation can be the difference between a house that lingers on the market and one that generates quick and solid offers.

What advice would you give to a home seller about making their home appealing to buyers? Please leave a reply in the comments section to share your thoughts.