Adding Value

Which items will add value to your home and help with resale when the time comes to sell?

The answer is: “Only the ones that future buyers will also want and be willing to pay for.”

As a general rule, choosing the functional over the merely cosmetic and choosing neutral over unusual or exotic will pay at resale. Taste and current trends can also affect the value of an update. Unusual colors have a limited appeal.

Which updates will add the most value to your home?

  • Updates that increase usable space (an extra bathroom, larger and/or upgraded kitchen, master bedroom suite, more closet space, conversion of unused space to a home office).
  • Updates that will lighten and brighten your rooms (white or light color paint and floor coverings, light woods, skylights, larger windows, French doors).
  • Updates that will open your home to the outdoors for fresh air and entertaining (French doors to the patio or garden).
  • Updates that will increase privacy and security (fencing, landscaping).

Do one improvement to your home per year – minimum!

 

One of the things I’ve learned over my 35-year career is that many property owners maintain rather than improve their homes.  Don’t get me wrong – maintenance is very important – but if you really wish to keep your property always at its best, I recommend that you just do one upgrade each year. 

 

For instance, light fixtures really date a house.  What if each year, you upgrade a couple of key light fixtures?  It will make a noticeable improvement that will catch the eye of your guests.

 

Another easy upgrade is a new bathroom vanity and top.  Add a few new towels and a new shower curtain and your bathroom can look like it just stepped out of a magazine.

 

The front door is the first thing people notice as they wait for you to answer your door.  Does it present the look you want it to?  Lots of property owners enter their homes through their garage or back door.  They don’t really see the front door very often.  Go take a look.  Is it clean and inviting?  Are there some flowers nearby to welcome your guests?  Is there a nice seasonal wreath or door piece?

 

Little improvements do add up!

Home Care Reminders from Realtor, Fran Evola

 

  • Annual termite inspection
  • Annual radon test
  • Fall gutter and downspout clean out
  • Fall yard cleanup
  • Fall exterior painting or touch up
  • Fall furnace service
  • Fall shingles, flashing, chimney and mortar joint check
  • Occasional bathroom grout and caulking check
  • Inventory of contents for insurance purposes
  • Spring and Fall closet and drawer reorganizing
  • Spring and Fall yard sale or donations
  • Spring A/C service
  • Spring yard cleanup and planting
  • Key tagging
  • Organizing and decluttering of basement and garage
  • Update list:

                Paint

                Carpet

                Light Fixtures

                Kitchen

                Bathroom

                Windows

Call Fran Evola for your real estate needs – 502-445-3040.

 

Is my toilet tank taking a leak?

 

An easy way to tell if your toilet tank is leaking is to put some red die into the tank and let it sit for several hours.  If the water in the bowl turns pink, there’s a slight leak.  It doesn’t cost much to replace the parts inside the tank, but if you let it continue to leak, you may be increasing your water bill significantly.  In areas such as ours, where the sewer bill is tied to water usage, you may also be increasing your sewer bill.

 

Fran Evola, owner of Real Estate Unlimited, is always available to consult with you on how to improve your home and save you money.  812-288-6080

Save big on your sewer bill!

Your sewer bill is tied to your water usage.  Unfortunately, that means that when you wash your car, fill your pool or hot tub, water your garden or your lawn, your sewer bill will reflect this higher usage, even though the water isn’t going into the sanitary sewer system.

A partial solution is to get a portable water meter from the sewer dept.  Hook it up between the house and the hose.  The portable meter will then record how much water goes through it.  Every so often you take the meter into the sewer dept. to get the usage read.  They will then credit you for that usage and lower your sewer bill.

If you don’t want to get a portable meter, wash your car at a car wash, then bring it home and do the detail work, water your lawn as little as possible and install a rain barrel for watering the garden.

 

Fran Evola, owner of Real Estate Unlimited, is always available to consult with you on how to improve your home and save you money.  812-288-6080

Termites - They may be chewing on your home right now. 

 

I’m always surprised that buyers who wouldn’t consider buying a home without having a satisfactory pest inspection, will move into the new home and never again think about termites. 

 

Some think the ground was pretreated before the house was built, so they can’t possibly get termites.  Wrong!  The chemicals only last so long, and the ground may have been disturbed after the chemicals were applied.

 

Treatment Options:

  • Having the chemicals pumped underground to form a protective shield around the house.
  • The Sentricon-style treatment that kills the termite colony.

 

I highly recommend that you have your property inspected by a reputable pest control company on an annual basis.  Stop the little critters before they cost you a lot of money!

 

Fran Evola, owner of Real Estate Unlimited, is always available to recommend reputable pest control companies.  812-288-6080

 

Top 10 Ways to Enhance Your Home's Curb Appeal

From HGTV and Fran Evola

 

Make buyers or your neighbors say “Wow!” before they're even through your door with these 10 tips:

 

#1: Spruce Up Your Lawn

 

You only have one chance to make a first impression on buyers, and you don't want to make it with a patchy, unkempt lawn. Before putting your home on the market, take some time to whip your yard into shape. Do as much as you can based on your budget and timeline: If you're stretched for cash, start by keeping the lawn mowed, raking up leaves and pulling weeds. If you can fit it in your budget, have your soil tested for any chemicals needed to promote healthy grass and reseed bad areas.  Trimming your shrubs and trees is another low cost improvement.

 

#2: Clean and Declutter

 

The fundamental rules of staging also apply to your home's exterior. You want buyers to focus on your home -- not your lawnmower, the kids' toys or your extensive collection of lawn ornaments -- so these distracting items should be stowed out of sight before you show your home. Once the clutter is cleared away, your next objective is a spick-and-span exterior. Remove grime and cobwebs by pressure washing your home's siding, and clean your windows inside and out. The windows are the eyes to the soul of the home.

 

#3: Add a Focal Point

 

A tidy lawn will impress homebuyers, but a vibrant lawn will really wow them. Adding colorful flowers and plants is one great way to make an average yard pop. For an easy, inexpensive fix, install flower boxes in your windows or place low-maintenance, potted plants around your front door. If you have a green thumb, look into attractive perennials and evergreens that thrive in your region. Besides adding flowers, you can also liven up your landscaping by incorporating eye-catching accent pieces, such as a water feature or an arbor.

 

#4: Refresh With Paint

 

If your home's exterior looks a little dull, a fresh coat of paint can work wonders. Be sure to choose colors wisely: Muted, earth tones are usually a safe bet, but you should take a drive around your neighborhood to see what's standard. If you don't have the time or money to paint the entire house, freshen it up and add a splash of color by painting the shutters, trim and railings.

 

#5: Light It Up

 

Not only can outdoor lighting highlight your home's best features, it can also provide safety and security at night, a feature potential homebuyers will appreciate if they tour your home after dark. Landscape lighting used to be difficult and expensive to set up and maintain, but pre-packaged lighting kits now cost as little as $40 and only take an hour or two to install. Consider adding decorative lighting along walkways or flood lights over entrance areas to brighten up your home.

 

#6: Focus on the Front Door

 

If you want to get potential buyers through your door, your front entry should be the main focal point of your home's exterior. A new door can be a great investment, but you can also make a dramatic difference just by adding a fresh coat of paint to your existing door. A vivid red or blue that stands out against the rest of your home can really create an eye-catching entrance. Complete the look with a new welcome mat, a seasonal wreath and a new or freshly polished doorknob.

 

#7: Home in on Details

 

If the thought of overhauling your home's exterior sounds overwhelming, take a deep breath and find comfort in this: Many of the most effective ways to add curb appeal to your home are both easy and budget-friendly. Small updates like a new mailbox, distinctive house numbers or stylish door hardware can make a big difference in your home's exterior appearance. When choosing these items, make sure they complement the style of your home for a pulled-together look.

 

#8: Inspect Your Gutters

 

While you probably won't find homebuyers oohing and ahhing over your well-maintained gutters and downspouts, these features do send an important message about the rest of your home. If your gutters are overflowing with leaves and other debris, buyers will think you've slacked off on interior maintenance as well. Gutters that are in good shape may just need a thorough cleaning, patching and rehanging, but if you notice signs of water damage or mold on your home's exterior, your gutters may need replacing. Consider vinyl gutters, which are an inexpensive, DIY-friendly option, or galvanized steel gutters, a trusted choice for their durability.

 

#9: Address Driveway and Walkways

 

Often overlooked by sellers, driveways and walkways play the crucial role of leading buyers to your front door, effectively setting the tone for every tour of your home. At minimum, you'll want to repair cracks in your driveways and walkways to make a good first impression. If you have cash leftover, consider upgrading typical asphalt with a higher-end material, such as stone or brick pavers.

 

#10: Restore the Roof

 

Your roof is the most important part of your home's weatherproofing and insulation system, but it's also a crucial element of your home's exterior appearance, and buyers will notice if it's in bad shape. Start by replacing or repairing missing and broken shingles -- not only do these look shabby, but they expose your roof to water damage and rot. Roofs generally last 12 to 20 years, so if yours is nearing the end of its lifespan, consider replacing it. Composite asphalt shingles are the most commonly used roofing material, but wood or clay shingles offer a unique, higher-end look.  There are also companies that will treat your shingles if you have those ugly black stains on them.

 

Be a good neighbor.  If you have an elderly neighbor, considering doing a couple of these items for him or her, or offer to assist them with the chore of their choice.

 

Fran Evola, owner of Real Estate Unlimited, is always available to consult with you on how to improve your curb appeal.  812-288-6080

Is your siding growing moss?

Siding can be a wonderful exterior covering. It's light and attractive - as long as it's clean.

Take a stroll around your home. Check the sides you don't often see. Look up high, too. If you see moss growing, it's time to clean it off. Using a pressure washer is easiest, but make sure you spray downward. You don't want to force water up underneath your siding.

Your property may look fine, but the next door neighbor's siding is awful. This can adversly affect your sale. Options: ask the neighbor to clean it; offer to help the neighbor clean it; or ask permission to clean it for him. It's that important!

Fran Evola, owner of Real Estate Unlimited, is always available to consult with you on how to improve your curb appeal.  812-288-6080

Should I replace the Carpeting?

 

There a few things to consider:

Is everything else in great shape?  If yes, you probably should replace the carpeting. Be careful, though, when you select the replacement.  Choose neutral but not too light. Don’t choose the least expensive carpeting available if you are doing a main living area.  Do choose a California Berber or nice cut pile for ease of cleaning.  You want the new carpeting to become a nice selling feature.

Does pretty much everything in the house need to be updated?  If yes, then you probably should not replace the carpet because that might make everything else look worse.  And if everything has to be redone, the buyer will have the opportunity to totally remodel and possibly do a whole new décor.  Many buyers now want to put in hardwood or laminate flooring. 

So, really, it’s an all or nothing situation sometimes.  If you start, you will need to finish.  If you can do the painting yourself, you will save $2000 to $3000 on the typical interior painting job.  If you can install new light fixtures, go for it.  If you can clean up the yard, do it.  But, if you are going to have to hire contractors to do everything, let the buyer do it.

Call Fran Evola, Principal Broker of Real Estate Unlimited.  She will be happy to consult with you about how much you should or should not do to get your home ready to put on the market.  502-445-3040

Unsightly neighbors?  Hide 'em or help 'em!

No matter how nice your home is, your neighbor may be adversely affecting the sale of your property. Do something ASAP.

What are your options?

  • Privacy fencing sometimes works to hide their backyard.
  • Asking them to clean up their mess might work.
  • Offering to help them might be better; asking if you could do it for them, or pay for it, will probably work best.

If all else fails, there are legal remedies sometimes through homeowner's associations, etc.

This topic involves a legal matter.  Please seek the advice of an attorney specializing in real estate, in the state where the property is located.  We are happy to provide a list of attorneys, if you need to consult with one.

Fran Evola, owner of Real Estate Unlimited, is always available to consult with you on your options.  812-288-6080

Wooden decks are high maintenance!

Wooden decks can be very pleasant spots for enjoying by yourself or with friends, away from the insects and up where you have a nice view or breeze, but when you are selling your home, be sure your deck is ready for a new owner.

Examine your deck. Does it show its age? Now is the time to get it pressure-washed, repaired, restained, etc.

Make it look like the added amenity it was meant to be!

Fran Evola, owner of Real Estate Unlimited, is always available to provide you with a list of reputable contractors who can improve your deck.  812-288-6080

Yuck! Roof stains.

This is a common problem with several potential causes:

                1. Mold

                2. Mildew

                3. Rust

But if you are in a competitive market, those ugly roof stains could be sending a false message that the home needs a costly new roof.

If it doesn't need a new roof, consider hiring a company to treat the stains and make the roof look new again.

If it really does need a new roof, consider putting one on if you can. You'll get more for your home and remove the risk of having to put one on anyway after you have negotiated a price with you buyer.

 

Fran Evola, owner of Real Estate Unlimited, is always available to help you find contractors to get rid of those ugly stains.  812-288-6080

Should you refinance, or pay more toward your mortgage?

Want to pay your mortgage off faster, but don't know if you should refinance to a shorter-term mortgage or make extra payments? We talked to some experts for their advice.

 

You dream of a debt free life, and the biggest hurdle is your mortgage. You wonder, though, what the best path is to paying it off: Refinancing to a shorter-term loan, or just adding some extra cash onto that monthly mortgage payment? Well, the answer isn't necessarily black and white; it will depend on your specific situation.

"Before deciding whether to refinance or make extra mortgage payments, you need to determine what you want to accomplish," says Howard Dvorkin, CPA, founder of Consolidated Credit.org. That means looking at your long and short-term goals and deciding how long you'll likely stay in your home, he says.

To give you a head start in your research, we did some digging to uncover what some of the benefits are of refinancing to a shorter-term loan vs. making extra payments.

When You Should Refinance to a Shorter-Term Loan

"If your goal is to pay off the mortgage, refinancing to a shorter-term loan could make the most sense," says Ian Giebeig, loan originator with Bayway Mortgage Group in Florida. "Typically shorter-term loans offer better interest rates." And a better interest rate could save you a lot of money in the long run.

One important thing you'll want to keep in mind, however, is that the shorter the loan term, the higher the monthly mortgage payments. So, refinancing to a shorter-term loan is ideal for a homeowner with a stable income who is willing to commit to a higher monthly mortgage payment. 

If you think you have the means and commitment to refinance to a 15-year loan, here's how much you could save:

Let's look at an example of a $200,000, 30-year fixed-rate loan. We'll use average interest rates from August 15, 2013 for a 30-year fixed-rate (4.40 percent) and a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage (3.40 percent), according to Freddie Mac.

And let's say you waited one year to refinance your mortgage. After making the minimum payment each month on your 30-year mortgage, your balance at the time of refinancing will be $187,981.76.

 Standard 30-year 15-year with refinance
Interest Rate:   4.40 percent 3.40 percent
Loan Amount:  $200,000  $187,981.76
Monthly Payment: $1,001.52 $1,338.32
Total Interest Paid: $160,547.86 $52,915.26

If you decided to refinance to a shorter, 15-year term, you'd save more than $100K over the life of the loan.

[Ready to refinance your mortgage? Click to compare mortgage interest rates now.]

When You Should Make Extra Payments, Instead of Refinancing

We've told you about the benefits that come with refinancing to a shorter-term loan. But refinancing might not be the best solution for everyone. 

Here are some scenarios where you may want to think twice about refinancing to a shorter-term loan, and consider making extra payments instead:  

You're unsure about the stability of your income: "One pitfall to refinancing to a shorter term is if the person has a change in circumstance; for example a job-loss, income change, or medical crisis," says Dvorkin. "If the new loan amount is higher than what they had previously been paying and for some reason they are not to be able to afford the higher payment that the shorter-term mortgage requires, this may endanger their home."

Instead, if you simply make extra principal payments, it gives you flexibility to pay it off when you have the necessary means, he says. 

When you can't afford the closing costs that come with refinancing: "A hefty price can be paid in a trail of closing costs if the homeowner refinances numerous times," warns Dvorkin. Closing costs can run anywhere from 3 to 6 percent of the total amount of the loan, according to the Federal Reserve.

You're close to paying off your mortgage: "If a person has a low interest rate already and is near pay-off then it would not make sense to refinance, and they should just make extra payments when they can," says Dvorkin. This is particularly important to remember as refinancing to a new loan resets the clock and prolong your payoff date.

So, How Much Can You Save by Making Extra Payments?

Wondering how much of a dent extra payments can make?

Let's go back to our previous example of a 30-year loan at 4.40 percent. The mortgage amount is $200K. Your monthly payment (interest and principal only) will be $1,001.52. Over the course of your 30-year loan, you'll pay $360,547.86 for your home.

But take a look at how much you could save if you added a few more dollars to your monthly payment:

  • If you pay just $50 more every month, you'll pay the loan off two years and 10 months sooner. And you'll pay $343,429.39 over the life of your loan - a savings of $17,118.47.
  • If you pay just $100 more every month, you'll pay the loan off five years sooner, and you'll pay only $329,814.39 for your home. That's a savings of $30,733.47!

So, the more money you can afford to pay toward your principal each month, the sooner you'll pay your mortgage off - and the more you'll save in interest.

[Click to shop around and compare interest rates from lenders now.]

The Bottom Line: What's Better?

As we discussed, that will depend on your individual situation. But one thing to consider if you decide to refinance is that interest rates are rising. And the higher they go, the less you save. 

In fact, just a few months ago rates were substantially lower than they are now. According to historical data from Freddie Mac, the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage in January 2013 was 3.41 percent, while the average for July 2013 jumped to 4.37 percent.

The risk of not locking in a lower interest rate is that you'll pay more of the life of your loan, since your interest rate is higher, says Allen.

But, if you don’t want to commit to the higher monthly payments that come with a shorter-term loan, keeping your 30-year mortgage and making extra payments might be a better idea.

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