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How to Pack Like a Pro!

by The Hat Team

Congratulations!  You have successfully sold your home!  What a relief, right?  Now comes the hard part. Moving.  Moving is one of the 10 Most Stressful Life Events along with job loss, death of a loved one, divorce and major illness. Sounds fun, huh?  That’s why it is important to go about moving in a thoughtful and organized manner.  The more prepared you are, the less stress.  Packing up your house can be overwhelming, but you can make it easier by spreading it out over several weeks rather than trying to do it all right before you move.  Here is a general timeline for packing that you can use as a guide:

FOUR WEEKS BEFORE MOVING DAY: PRE-PACKING - Hopefully when you sell your house, you won’t have to immediately vacate.  About a month before moving you can begin to pre-pack items that you won’t need or use before you move.  Out of season clothing, tools and small appliances, and collectibles/knick knacks are items that you won’t miss. Hint: if your house is still on the market you can take this step as well, and it will help with staging your home for prospective buyers.

THREE WEEKS BEFORE MOVING DAY: NON-ESSENTIALS - Among the items that you didn’t pre-pack, choose those that you know you likely won’t need before moving.  Books, extra linens, and kitchen items can be packed up because you likely won’t be doing much reading, and you only need enough linens, plates, and utensils for the number of people living in the home.  CDs and DVDs can go as well.

TWO WEEKS BEFORE MOVING DAY: THE SERIOUS PACKING BEGINS - Yes…now it is time to start paring down the amount of “stuff” still in your home. If you have children, allow them to choose a few toys/games to keep out, and box up the rest. If you have a home office, clean it out and pack what you plan to take with you.  Any jewelry and shoes that you don’t wear daily can go as well.  You may feel that two weeks is a long time to go without these items, but trust me, before you know it you will be unpacking them in your new abode! 5 Ways Children Can Help During a Move

ONE WEEK BEFORE MOVING DAY: SEVEN DAYS AND COUNTING - Now it is time to pack up all but the few things you will need to get through the last few days at your current home.  The rest of your clothes and kitchen items can go (leaving yourself what you will need until the move, of course).  Go through your medicine cabinet and toss any expired medications. Pack the rest except for the ones you take daily.

TWO DAYS BEFORE MOVING DAY: IT’S GETTING REAL YA’LL - At this point your stress level may be peaking, but if you have been following the time-line and packing a bit each week, you should be almost finished!  Box up your electronics (in their original packaging when possible), bathroom items, and any miscellaneous items that are left.  Keep a box for essential items that you will keep with you as you are moving.

MOVING DAY: IT’S HERE! -  All that should be left is furniture and appliances.  Whether you have hired movers to load the large items or you are doing it yourself, it will be so much more manageable with everything else already boxed up and ready to go.

IMPORTANT TIP - Label every box.  You can either write what is in the box or what room the box should go to.  Or both.  You will be glad you did when you are unpacking!

Remember that this is simply a general guideline.  You should do what is right for you and your family when it comes to packing and moving. But hopefully this will make what can be a trying and overwhelming time a little less stressful.

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs! Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Cleaning Your Home After Selling

by The Hat Team

SOLD!  What a relief!  Your house is sold and soon you will be moving out.  Pride in ownership means that you will likely want to leave your house in good shape for its new owners. In some states, the Real Estate Purchase Contract may stipulate that the home is to be “swept clean”, meaning the seller should at least sweep the floors and leave walls and ceilings bare.  But the language can often be vague.  Here is a list of cleaning tips for home sellers to help you leave the house reasonably clean and to create a feeling of goodwill toward your buyer:

Cleaning the Interior of the Home Before Moving Out:

  • Remove all personal property.
  • Vacuum the floors.
  • Clean kitchen appliances including the inside of the refrigerator and over.  Wipe down the counters.
  • Scrub sinks and tubs.
  • Wipe down interior cabinets and shelves.
  • Wash tile/vinyl/wood flooring.

Cleaning the Garage Prior to Closing:

  • Remove personal belongings.
  • Throw away trash.
  • Properly dispose of toxic chemicals.
  • Sweep the floor.
  • Stack items pertaining to the home such as paint cans, roofing materials or extra flooring.  Check to make sure the buyer wants the extra materials first.

Basically, you want to leave the home in the condition that you would like to find your new home.  Your buyers will appreciate it!  What Are House Cleaning Expectations When a Seller Moves

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: tm-cleaning.com

Buyer & Seller Guides Fall 2018

by The Hat Team

Selling in the Fall is a Great Idea - Here’s Why!

by The Hat Team

While summer is considered by many to be the hottest time for selling a house (both literally and figuratively), sometimes circumstances require you to sell during a different time of the year.  This fall might be exactly the right time to sell.  Homes are still in demand and there is a good chance you will find a buyer before the end of the year.   Here are some perks to selling in the fall:

- Buyers are seriously looking in the Fall. They want to get settled into a new house before the holiday season begins.  The pressure is on for them to find their new home quickly and this puts you (the seller) in the driver’s seat when it comes to negotiations.

- There is less competition in the fall. Many sellers need to close and move before school starts, so fewer houses are for sale.  With less to choose from, buyers can’t afford to be quite as picky.

- You will be dealing with different types of buyers.  Families often move in the summer to accommodate school schedules. Empty Nesters and Millennial Home Buyers are more likely to be looking in the fall. In addition, employers who need to relocate their workers often wait for fall to avoid the hot market during spring and summer.  A speedy closing is the goal of most of these buyers, which means you are more likely to get the best price possible for your house.

- Fall is pretty.  The weather is cooler; the leaves are changing colors and fall décor can make homes look and feel warm and cozy.  This is a great time of year to dress up your house to entice buyers.

So, if you have been thinking about putting your house on the market, don’t wait until spring.

Contact Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of Professional Realtors at 334-834-1500 and get your house listed and sold this Fall!

Retirement - A Time to Sell

by The Hat Team

With more and more Baby Boomers reaching retirement age, they will be asking themselves if they should sell their homes. This is a time in their lives to finally enjoy the fruits of their labor and the last thing many want is to have to take care of a large home or be tied down to a big mortgage. Today’s housing market has low inventory of starter and trade-up properties, meaning there are a lot of buyers out there competing for homes.  So, the question retirees need to ask themselves is, “should we sell now?”.  Consider these questions to find your answer:

  1. Will you be able to afford your home once you have retired?  It’s important to think long term about the monthly costs of staying in your home.  Even if you have paid off your mortgage, you will still be responsible for Property Taxes, insurance, HOA fees, and utilities.  Then there are home repair costs.  If you are living on a limited monthly income, an unexpected, costly home repair can be devastating. 
  2. How much Equity  do you have in your current home?  If you have a lot of equity built up in your current home, you can use that to purchase a retirement home and have little or no mortgage, freeing up your monthly income for other things. 
  3. Can you keep up with home maintenance? Maybe you are someone who enjoys yard work and other home maintenance tasks, but depending on your age and health, these chores can become more challenging with time.  A condo with an HOA fee might be the way to go so that you can enjoy your golden years with the peace of mind in knowing that you don’t have to do maintenance work yourself.
  4. Do you feel secure in your home?  Criminals prey on the elderly.  It’s a sad, but true fact.  Elderly homeowners are often targets for scams and break-ins.  Home security systems are helpful, but living somewhere that has 24-hour security, such as a manned gate-house and resident only access can provide you the security you need to be able to relax and enjoy retirement.
  5. Is your current home set up property for limited mobility?  As people age, getting around can get more challenging.  People are living longer, more active lives these days, but that doesn’t mean that you will always want to climb the stairs to your bedroom. And what if you must use a wheel chair at some point?  Are your doorways and hallways wide enough? Will you have easy access to a bathroom and shower?  Homes in retirement communities are built with these things in mind and often offer the best of both worlds…activities to keep you busy and entertained and accommodations for any physical needs you might have in the future.
  6. Is your current home in a convenient location?  There are many things to consider about location.  Are you close to a hospital and drug store?  Can you easily get to shopping and entertainment venues?  Are your grandchildren close by?  Maybe you are living in a fantastic school district, which was great when your kids were growing up, but doesn’t really serve you now.  If that’s the case, take advantage of the resale value that will give you and sell so that you can find a home that is more conveniently located for you.

If you are considering selling so that you can find your perfect forever home, contact Sandra Nickel, a Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES), and her Hat Team of professional Realtors and let them help you get your house on the market and sold for the best possible price. Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: forbes.com

The Price is Right - How to Price Your Home to Sell

by The Hat Team

When preparing to put your home on the market, there are a lot of things you need to think about: deciding if you should make home repairs and improvements, staging your home to impress potential buyers, keeping your lawn and house in prime condition for viewings and prepping to move.  But one of the most important decisions you must make is how much you should ask for your house. Determining the asking price for your home cannot be taken lightly. There needs to be some psychology and strategy used to decide the price that will sell your home in a timely manner and for the most profit.  You and your Realtor should identify and agree upon the approximate value of your property. You can use Comparable Sales of similar properties sold in your neighborhood to help you make this decision.

Next, you need to understand the price range for your list price.  Depending on market conditions, competing properties, time of year or inventory, the price range can fluctuate.  For example, a house with the asking price of $500 K can have a price range of $480 K to $520 K.  Once you have determined your home’s value and have a price range in mind, it’s time to conclude what your asking price will be.  This is where pricing strategies come into play.

- Appeal to multiple buyers - It may be tempting to ask for the highest price you think you can possibly get for your home.  But if you price your property on the lower end of the value range, you will likely appeal to more than one buyer and you might even have a bidding war amongst buyers who want your home.  Chances are you will get more than your asking price if this happens.

- Utilize psychology when choosing your asking price - Be careful of too many zeros.  For example, it is easier for a buyer to process $250 thousand than it is $250,000 - and $250,000.00 is even worse on the eyes. Buyers feel like they are being asked to pay more when there are more zeroes included in the price. It doesn’t change the actual price, but the perception of the price changes.

- Make sure it’s visible in real estate searches - If buyers are looking for three-bedroom homes under $400 K and you have your property priced at $405 K, an automated buyer search for properties under $400 K will exclude your home, meaning you will miss out on a lot of potential buyers. Experienced Realtors  will set up search parameters for buyers that include properties listed a little bit more above their price ceiling.  Keeping in mind that home prices are flexible, buyers could find the perfect match on a home above their limit, but with the possibility that it is in within a reasonable range of price or that it will be reduced.

- Have a price contingency plan before listing your home - You may have very high expectations regarding the worth and appeal of your home. If you insist on asking top dollar for it, you may get lucky (depending on the current market) and get it, or you may not get any full price offers at all. In that case, it’s important to have a contingency plan lined up before you list your home. That way, if you must lower your asking price, you will already be prepared for it and it won’t catch you off guard.

- Be flexible -  Setting an initial asking price is just the beginning of your home selling process.  A lot of different factors may come into play when selling your house, and you won’t be able to anticipate all of them.  Being flexible will allow you to react quickly to changing Market Conditions or new information and you will be more likely to get the best price for your home.

If you are planning to sell your house, contact Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professional Realtors and let them assist you in pricing it right for the current market.  Call them today at 334-834-1500.

Home Improvements that Don’t Increase the Value of Your Home

by The Hat Team

Preparing to sell your home can be a stressful process.  Often you will find yourself making improvements just for the sake of the sale.  While some of these enhancements may boost the look of your property and make it easier to sell your home, you will be surprised to discover that they do not increase the value of your home.  In fact, some improvements might actually detract from it.  Here is a list of 6 “home improvements” that do not increase the value of your home:

EXTENSIVE PROFESSIONAL LANDSCAPING

Landscaping choices are a personal preference.If you are going to invest in elaborate landscaping, you should do it for your own enjoyment, because no matter how grand your yard is, it’s not going to bring you big bucks upon resale.

NEW ROOF, GUTTERS, SPRINKLERS OR HVAC

There are certainly buyers in the market who will be looking for homes that have newer features, but they won’t pay more for them.Replacing things that are broken or past their life expectancy is considered and not something buyers expect to pay for.

SWIMMING POOL AND/OR PERSONAL SPA

While water-related improvements can provide a lot of fun and entertainment for your family, the cost of installing a pool or spa never finds its way back to you. In fact, some buyers will ask that you take the spa with you or won’t purchase a house with a swimming pool.Installing a pool or spa should only be done for your own pleasure.

MAKING DATED IMPROVMENTS

If you think you might be selling your house, you need to be careful about making improvements that are not in style. For example, you might love white appliances and countertops in your kitchen, but because these are not currently trendy, potential buyers are not likely to feel the same way.

PAINTING YOUR HOUSE

Painting may be the single most cost-effective improvement you can make before selling your home, but it won’t return any bang for your buck unless you do the painting yourself. Fresh paint on the exterior or interior of your home absolutely makes the home more saleable, but an appraiser will not give you a credit boost for it.

SOLAR PANELS

The people selling you those solar panels will tell you that they will improve the value of your home and add to your bottom line profit, but it’s not true. You get zero approved value for solar panel installation.

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs.  Call them at 334-834-1500 today!

Photo Credit: centrestaged.com

Whether moving for a job or just relocating for personal reasons, you still must decide what to do with your current home.  Should you rent it out?  Or sell it?  There are many circumstances to consider before making that decision.  How long do you have before you move?  What is the housing market doing in your area?  And do you have someone you can trust to manage your property?

Of course, the biggest motivator in your decision is which option will be most financially profitable.   If you have a lot of equity in your house and can sell it, you’ll walk away with some cash to put toward your new home.  If the house is paid off, you’ll walk away with A LOT of cash.  However, if your equity is built up and you have low mortgage payments (or no mortgage payment), you could bring in a substantial monthly income by renting the house for more than your monthly payments.  You do have to consider the costs involved with renting the house out.  If you’re relocating to another town, you will likely have to hire a Property Manager to collect rent and take care of issues that come up.  You might also have to pay to advertise the home.

There are going to be risks involved either way.  If you put the house up for sale, you run the risk of not selling it quickly and possibly ending up with two mortgage payments or a house payment and rent payment on a new place. But, renting out your house could be a bigger risk. There’s a chance you will rent it to people who you think will be good tenants, but wind up paying the rent late or not at all.  There is also the risk that renters will not take care of the house and lower its value.

Another issue to consider is that housing markets can greatly fluctuate from year to year. You must question whether your neighborhood is in the kind of shape to support a quick sale.  If other homes haven’t been selling, for example, you might not get as much for your house as you might if you could wait a year or two and rent it out in the meantime.  On the other hand, if the housing market is hot in your neighborhood, it might just be the best time to take advantage of it and sell to get the best price possible.

Finally, you have to think about whether you can afford a new mortgage while you still own the first house.  Per Kiplinger, lenders count about 75 percent of the income you receive from renters when figuring out if they’ll give you a new loan, but that’s only if you have a signed lease and your salary is sufficient to cover the rest of the mortgage requirement.  Selling your house will make it much easier for you to qualify for a new loan.

The bottom line is that, after doing your research, you can decide whether selling or renting is the best and most financially sound choice for you.

If you’re thinking about selling your home let experienced Realtor Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you in getting your home listed and sold for the best possible price!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: hawaiilife.com

Renovating Before Selling - Worth it or Not?

by The Hat Team

If you are preparing to list your house for sale, you may be wondering if the financial reward will be worth the time, effort and money to fix up things that are in disrepair or that are dated.  The answer to that question depends on a myriad of circumstances such as the current real estate market, the condition of competing inventory and whether the renovations that need to be made generally provide a return on investment.

Some home buyers are looking to purchase a "Fixer Upper". They are looking for properties priced to sell, perhaps because they don’t qualify for more expensive homes or maybe because they want to make a profit by fixing the home up themselves.  Most fixer buyers want to do simple repairs such as painting walls, replacing light fixtures and putting in new carpet. Only a few want to take a house down to the studs and completely redo it.  These potential buyers will want a price for the home that will allow for all the repairs, the inconvenience of doing the work, and often a bit more.  For example, if a home is worth $200,000 fixed up but needs a new roof, and the roof costs approximately $10,000, a buyer most likely will not offer $190,000 for this home.  The reason is that they can probably find a similar house that already has a new roof for $200,000 and save themselves the headache of replacing it themselves.  A buyer in this situation might offer $175,000 or less, in which case it would make more sense for the seller to replace the roof and sell it for $200,000.

It’s important to note that many buyers are looking for "Turn Key" homes.  They fear having to make major repairs because they might be costlier than anticipated or other problems might be revealed.  Even if the price is right, homes listed for sale in “as is” condition might not attract as many buyers.

However, before doing major renovations, there are many things to consider.  Smart sellers will research what their home’s market value will be once improvements are made and compare it to the cost of the renovations. If an upgrade won’t provide return on the investment, it probably doesn’t make sense to do it.  Knowing the condition of your competition is helpful.  For example, if other homes for sale in your neighborhood all have modern kitchens, it might make sense to update yours.  This doesn’t mean you should tear it down and start from scratch.  Often a minor kitchen remodel will suffice.  Also, keep in mind that kitchen and bathroom remodels are known to bring the best return on investment.

Start by making a list of the things in your home that are dated or in disrepair and then prioritize.  Here is a list of 10 minimum improvements to make before putting your house on the market:

  • Patch all holes and cracks in walls and ceilings.
  • Fix all appliances and HVAC systems.
  • Repair leaky faucets.
  • Replace worn carpeting.
  • Repaint dark or marred walls in neutral colors (not white).
  • Replace broken windows.
  • Repair the roof.
  • Change dated light fixtures/ceiling fans.
  • Replace old linens/window coverings.
  • Fix any code violations.

If your real estate market is a sellers’ market and homes are moving quickly, you can get by with fewer fix ups, however a home that needs repairs will still deliver a lower price.  If it’s a buyers’ market, people might not even be willing to look at homes that need repairs.  Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of Professional Realtors can help you understand the current market in Montgomery, AL so that you can make informed decisions about whether to sell your house “as is” or not. Give them a call today at 334-834-1500!

Home Seller Checklist - How to Know You’re Ready to Sell

by The Hat Team

It’s a seller’s market right now folks. Demand for homes is high and inventory is low.  So, it seems like the perfect time to list your house, right? Slow down. The market may be prime for selling, but you need to look at your personal situation. Before you put that for sale sign in your yard, it would be wise to consider all the factors that will determine if you are ready to sell.

Here are signs that you are ready to sell your house:

  • You have positive equity.  It’s vital that you are financially prepared to sell your house.  If you have built up equity, that means your home is worth more than you owe on it. Ideally you want to have enough equity to pay off your current mortgage and to make a down payment on a new home.  It’s even better if you have enough to cover closing costs and moving expenses.  If you don’t have positive equity, it is a bad idea to sell.
  • You have cash in the bank and zero debt.  It’s important to have all your financial ducks in a row before selling your house.  Remember, you’re not just selling a house, you are likely buying one as well.  Take time to analyze your finances and budget. If you have paid off your non-mortgage debt and have funds saved, you are ready to enter the home selling/buying process again.
  • A home that better suits your needs is within your reach.  Perhaps you are downsizing, but you want a nicer home or you are looking to move up into a larger home for your growing family. Either way, there is no point in selling your current home if you can’t afford a new one that better suits your needs.  Remember that, ideally, your mortgage payment should be no more than 28% of your income.
  • You are aware of the extra costs involved in moving.  It’s exciting to get approved for a mortgage. Chances are you will get approved for more than you thought you would.  But there is a lot to think about before deciding to sell.  Remember that you will need to probably do some work on your house to get it ready to put on the market.  You will also have to pay the moving expenses.  Make sure consideration of these costs go into your decision-making process.
  • You are emotionally ready to sell. Hopefully you are selling for the right reasons. You have to be ready to put the work into your home that it will take to sell it.  You must be committed to keeping it “show ready” for as long as it takes.  You must be prepared for what might be a tough negotiation.  And finally, you need to be ready to let go of the home where you have created memories with your family.
  • You have an experienced Realtor.  Real estate transactions should be handled by experts. The professionals at Hat Team Realtors understand the market and can provide you with a clear picture of what goes into selling a house. Their advice will assist you in making this very important decision.

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Archive/Page/1?c=Selling

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Dont-Let-These-Deal-Breakers-Ruin-Your-Home-Sale

http://www.homesforsaleinmontgomeryalabama.com/Blog/Preparing-to-Sell-Your-House-Getting-Organized

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