Watch Out For These Unexpected Moving Expenses

May 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Watch Out For These Unexpected Moving Expenses

If you’ve got a big move ahead of you, there are certain obvious expenses that you know to expect. These include hiring a moving company, renting a truck and purchasing packing supplies. Unfortunately, many people who move end up paying more in the end because of costs they didn’t anticipate. Here’s a look at some of the unexpected expenses you may incur during your big move.

Short-term storage and housing

Sometimes moves take longer than expected. For example, your closing date could be delayed. If this happens, you may need to put your belongings into short-term storage. Not only will you incur the cost of the storage unit, you may also ending paying again for a moving truck, if you are moving your items yourself.  Delays could also mean staying in a hotel room for a few days or a few weeks.

Replacement items

Most people end up throwing out or donating items that can be difficult to move – especially perishables like food and spices. While it may seem like a no-brainer to just re-purchase an item that only costs a few dollars, that money can add up if you are replacing dozens of items. Be smart about what you keep and what you throw away.

Increased insurance prices

If you’re moving more than a neighborhood or two away, you could see an increase in your auto insurance. Rates are based on data specific to the area where you live which could increase your costs by up to 50 percent. And if you move to another state, the minimum requirements for coverage could drive up the cost of your premium.

Your health insurance costs could also increase, particularly if moving to another state. If it looks like your premiums will increase substantially, it would be wise to do some comparison-shopping once you’ve settled in.

Contract penalties

Do you belong to a gym or have some other kind of annual membership? You should look closely at your contract before you cancel. Some memberships impose fees should you cancel early – although there may be loopholes for events like moving. Be sure to check before absorbing those fines, and be prepared to show documentation of your move, like the purchase agreement.

Unreturned security deposits

Are you moving into a house from a rental? Then don’t forget about your security deposit. Be sure to provide a forwarding address to your landlord, and be clear about what you can be charged for. Landlords are generally not allowed to subtract costs for normal wear and tear, and must return your deposit within a certain time frame, usually by 60 days.

Additional moving fees

Finally, be clear about any other expenses that might be associated with your move. This could include fees the moving company charges for bulky items like pianos or pools tables. You may also be charged extra if the movers have to travel more than 75 feet from the truck to your front door, or move boxes and furniture up or down more than one flight of stairs. Be sure to read the fine print and understand everything you may be charged for.

While it’s impossible to anticipate every expense you’ll incur with your move, you can soften the blow by knowing what some of the more common unexpected expenses are.  If you’re prepared, you may even find yourself with enough spare change to splurge on a nice meal out during those first chaotic days in your new home.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Is Your Neighborhood Dog Friendly?

May 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Is Your Neighborhood Dog Friendly?Whether you’re looking for a new home or selling your current one, it’s good to know whether or not the neighborhood is dog friendly. If you’re buying, you’ll want the peace of mind knowing there are amenities that cater to your best friend. If you’re selling, you can tout all the ways your community is great for buyers with pets. Ask yourself these questions to determine whether or not your neighborhood is up to snuff.

Are there sidewalks?

It might not occur to you at first, but sidewalks are a great benefit to dog owners. Think about it – if you walk your dog in the morning and evening, isn’t it better to walk on the sidewalk than in the street? Many newer subdivisions don’t have sidewalks, making it more difficult and possibly even dangerous to walk a dog regularly.

Is there a dog park nearby?

Obviously, having a dog park nearby signals that your neighborhood is open to residents with dogs. But take a closer look. How do the dogs at the park behave? Are the owners engaged with them, or letting them run unsupervised? Do the dogs that are there seem well socialized? Are fights breaking out, or do the dogs play together well?

How many vets, groomers or pet stores are in the neighborhood?

If your neighborhood is one that cares about its pets, it’s going to have services nearby. How many vets are in the community? What kind of reviews have they received online? Are there pet stores nearby? If so, what kind? Are they all big-box retailers, or are there some smaller, mom-and-pop shops, too? Will you have easy access to a local groomer? Is the groomer well liked by local dog owners?

Are there pet waste stations for dog walkers?

Here’s another good indicator that your neighborhood is dog friendly – common walkways are equipped with pet waste stations. These stations will include a supply of small plastic bags, making it easy for walkers to curb their dogs. Dog waste is considered an environmental pollutant. The presence of these stations shows that not only do the neighbors care about their pets; they also care about each other’s property and keeping it clean.

Are local restaurants and stores welcoming?

Nothing beats an evening out for a delicious local dinner – unless you can bring your dog along, too. How many restaurants in the neighborhood welcome dogs to their patios or outdoor seating areas? Do they offer water or snacks for your dog? Are the local stores welcoming to leashed dogs and their owners?

Does the city offer low cost spay and neuter programs?

Finally, take a look to see if the city offers low cost or subsidized spay and neuter programs for low income residents. This shows a dedication to the health and safety of the entire city’s pet population, no matter their owner’s ability to pay for what may be costly procedures.

When buying or selling, it’s a great idea to think about just how dog friendly your neighborhood is. Because in the end, most people consider their dogs to be members of the family, and who wouldn’t want to make choices that are in their best interest?

Compliments of Virtual Results

How To Hire a Contractor

May 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

How To Hire a Contractor

If you’re preparing to sell, or you’ve recently purchased a new home, you may find yourself with a list of repairs you need to make. Chances are, some of those repairs will require expert skills that you just don’t have. When that happens, it’s time to hire a contractor. But how do you find the best one for the job?

Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind while you’re searching for a professional who will get the job done right.

Get referrals from friends and family

The best place to start when you need to hire a contractor is with referrals from friends and family. If anyone you know has recently completed renovations on their home, then find out which contractor they hired and how they felt about the process and finished product.

Research the contractor

Once you’ve made a list of a few potential contractors, it’s time to do some research. Find out how long they’ve been in business and whether or not they are licensed and insured. Check online sites like Houzz and Yelp for reviews from previous customers. Are most of their reviews positive? You can also contact the Better Business Bureau and the local building inspector’s office for any complaints that have been lodged against them.

Interview each candidate

Once you’ve narrowed your choices, you should make calls to each potential contractor and interview them. Good questions to ask contractors include:

  • How many projects like this have you completed recently?
  • Will I need a permit?
  • Can you supply me with a list of references?
  • Do you have the proper insurance?
  • Do you use subcontractors for any of the work? Who are they?
  • How many other projects will you have going on at the same time?
  • How long does a project like mine usually take to complete?

As you chat with the contractors, you’ll see how well you can communicate and how comfortable you feel with them.

Get estimates

It’s now time to get estimates for your project from each contractor. Although they will likely want to just offer a bottom line price, ask for an itemized bid so you can see exactly what they will be charging you for. This will make it easier to compare each bid. It will also help should the details or scope of the project change down the line.

When it comes to choosing the bid, keep in mind that the cheapest one is not necessarily the best. You may end up spending more money later to fix work that was not done properly the first time. Also find out what type of payment schedule they require. Be wary of anyone who asks for the full amount up front, as they may be having financial difficulties or are worried you’ll refuse to pay once you see the work they do.

Get everything in writing

Once you’ve chosen a contractor based on the information above, you should get everything in writing before the work commences. This includes how long the work should take, the total cost, the payment schedule and how additional costs will be handled.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Don’t Forget These Selling Points

April 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Don’t Forget These Selling Points

Sure, touting that recent kitchen or bathroom renovation will surely attract the attention of potential buyers. But are there other qualities about your home that might entice someone to take a closer look? Here are some selling points that many sellers frequently forget to mention. Don’t be one of them!

Energy efficiency

Purchasing a home is a huge expense. Many buyers will be attracted to homes that feature energy efficient upgrades that will save them money on their utility costs over time. If you have energy efficient appliances, dual pane widows, new insulation or LED lights in your home, be sure to use that information in your listing.

Green features

In addition to energy efficiency, some buyers will be looking for homes that have environmentally friendly features. These could include recycled or sustainable building materials, an organic garden or a backyard composting station.

Chemical-free home maintenance

Buyers with children or pets may have a heightened sense of awareness about what types of cleaning products they use in their home. Many people today prefer to use organic or chemical-free cleaning solutions on floors and countertops, and if you’ve adopted the same methods, you should let buyers know. This also includes touting any hypoallergenic HVAC or air filtration systems you have in place.

Recent upgrades

While upgrades to the kitchen and bathroom can make a deal, there are other upgrades you shouldn’t fail to mention. Have you recently repaved the driveway or installed a new garage door? Has the roof been repaired or replaced? Did you turn the attic into a usable living space? Have you put in new carpet or flooring? These all deserve to be mentioned in your marketing materials.

Storage space

While it could be argued that Americans have too much stuff, you can be sure most people won’t be letting it go anytime soon. Most buyers place a premium on ample storage space, so you should emphasize it. This includes walk-in closets, a pantry in the kitchen, a storage system in the garage or any built-in shelves or cabinets around the house.

Senior features

Buying a home is a huge undertaking, and some buyers know that they would rather not have to do it again. If there are features that would appeal to buyers looking for a home for the rest of their lives, you should let them know. This could include a lack of stairs, extra-wide hallways, a front door level with the sidewalk, low-maintenance landscaping or even a mother-in-law unit that could double as a space for a caretaker.

Nearby amenities

Lastly, is your home located near amenities like a supermarket, restaurants, or even a state or national park?  Is there a gym that is within walking distance? A popular performance venue just down the road? A commercial district that features every big-box store anyone would ever want to visit? These are all selling points that could appeal to the future tenant of your home.

The bottom line is – if you’re getting ready to sell, don’t overlook some of the smaller details of your home. It could be just the thing that attracts the perfect buyer.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Selling Your Condo

April 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Selling Your Condo

Is it time to sell your condo? While you may think that selling a condo is the same as selling a house, there are distinct differences that are important to know before putting yours on the market. Check out these pointers to ensure you sell yours quickly and for a profit.

Consider the timing

Generally speaking, most real estate experts agree that spring is the best time to put a home on the market. While that may be true for a single-family residence, it isn’t always the case for a condo. If your condo is in an area that is a popular tourist destination, you’ll want to take that into consideration. Are you near the beach or a ski resort? You’ll likely have the most luck selling your condo right before the tourist season begins, when many potential buyers may be looking for a vacation home.

Know the comps

Pricing a single family home can be challenging, especially if there are no suitable comps nearby. This is one area where condo sellers have a leg up, as recent sales data from units identical to yours can be used to determine your selling price. However, you should keep in mind subtle differences that can affect your listing, such as where your unit is located in the building and what amenities you may or may not have compared to other units.

Make the most of staging

Condos tend to be smaller than most single-family homes. They are also very similar to all the other units around it, making it difficult for yours to stand out. Staging becomes very important when selling your condo. Do a thorough sweep to clean, repair and de-clutter. You don’t want excess furniture hanging around making the space feel small. Use staging to highlight any qualities that make your unit special, such as a great view or upgraded, custom cabinets.

Market it right

Condo living appeals to a certain kind of buyer, so it’s essential to market your condo in a way that will emphasize what potential buyers are looking for. Condos offer ease of living and access to community amenities that are typically not found in single-family homes. They often appeal to those who travel, who don’t want to spend time maintaining a yard or who would like the advantage of having a pool without the tedious maintenance. Know your audience and speak directly to them.

Work with a qualified real estate agent

Finally, work with a qualified real estate agent who has experience marketing and selling condos in your area. When interviewing agents, be sure to ask how many condos they typically sell in a year and how they intend to market your condo to potential buyers. Having an experienced agent in your corner will ensure that your condo shows well so that you have the best chance of selling it quickly and for a great price.

By understanding the unique challenges of selling a condo, you’ll set yourself up for success from the outset. Follow the steps above and you’ll be well on your way to a favorable sale!

Compliments of Virtual Results

Painting Walls 101

April 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Painting Walls 101

Whether you’re staging your home to sell or updating the look of a home you just purchased, chances are you’ll be painting some walls. While painting seems easy, there are some steps you should take to make sure the finished product is one you’ll be happy with. Follow these tips to get a flawless finish that even a professional would be proud of.

Step 1 – Clean and Prep

One of the best ways to ensure a great paint job is taking the time to thoroughly prep. Start by cleaning all the walls with warm water and a little soap. This is especially important when painting bathroom or kitchen walls, as they can be coated with a layer of grease that may not be immediately obvious. Once you’ve cleaned, move furniture away from the walls and cover with sheets. Place a drop cloth on the floor to catch any paint spills. Remove all outlet and switch covers and any other items that aren’t permanently attached. Patch holes with compound or caulk.

Step 2 – Tape Trim

After cleaning and prepping, tape the areas you don’t want to paint with painter’s tape. This includes trim, windows, baseboards and molding. The outside edges of the tape should line up with the edge of the wall.

Step 3 – Cover Walls With Primer

If you are going from a dark to a lighter color, it’s always a good idea to put on a coat of primer first. Primer also helps if you’ve repaired damage to the wall or if you’re painting over glossy paint. Pour the primer into a paint tray and roll onto the walls. Let dry.

Step 4 – Prep the Paint

Once the primer is dry, it’s time to prep your finish paint. One gallon of paint covers approximately 400 square feet. If you need more than one gallon of paint, pour them into a 5-gallon bucket and mix them so that you get a consistent color. Always mix your paint thoroughly.

Step 5 – Paint Edges

Using an angled brush, paint all the edges of the walls, about two inches thick. Use caution and try to work the brush just up to the line of painter’s tape in order to achieve a crisp line. Load the top 1/3 of the brush with paint and tap it against the side of the bucket.

Step 6 – Roll the Paint Onto the Walls

Next, pour paint into a painter’s tray and work the paint onto a roller. Begin in a corner and paint in a “W” pattern. Keep the roller loaded with paint. Once you’ve painted an entire wall, roll lightly in the same direction to even out the paint. Let the first coat dry thoroughly and repeat with a second coat of paint.

Step 7 – Remove the Tape

Before the second coat dries, remove the painter’s tape. It is helpful to go over it with a razor to ensure you get a smooth edge. Try not to let the paint dry before you remove the tape, as you may also remove some of the paint with it.

Step 8 – Clean Up and Enjoy!

Clean up your paint and brushes, remove sheets from the furniture and the drop cloth from the floor. Replace switch and outlet covers, furniture and hanging pictures. Stand back and admire a job well done!

Compliments of Virtual Results

Easy Garden Projects for Spring

April 18, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Easy Garden Projects for Spring

Spring is finally here! There is no better way of getting through the last few grueling weeks of winter than knowing that you’ll soon see spring flowers dotting an otherwise grey landscape. But what if you have no time to garden? No worries! There are still plenty of projects you can do to give your garden that spring feeling. Here are a few of our favorites.

Make colorful stepping stones

If you’re ready for a little color in the garden, but the daffodils have yet to bloom, add it with some colorful stepping stones. You can easily and quickly make your own with store-bought pavers. It’s even a great project to do with kids. Tape out some geometric designs and paint them with weather-resistant paint in a variety of colors. Place them throughout your garden to give it a pop of color and whimsy.

Create a gazing ball

Do you happen to have an old bowling ball gathering dust in the basement or attic? Why not turn it into a gazing ball for your garden? Using adhesive, you can cover it with any number of embellishments, including glass beads, mirrored tiles or even pennies. Place it in a bare patch in the garden to add a colorful focal point.

Invite the birds

Maybe the flowers aren’t ready to make their appearances yet, but that doesn’t mean the birds aren’t. Mother Nature is waking up, and many species of birds are migrating for the spring season. Attract some to your yard by setting out bird feeders. Place them near a window so you can enjoy them throughout the day. Better yet, install a colorful birdhouse or two, and see if any of your feathered friends decide to make it their home.

Clean and tidy

It may not sound exciting, but cleaning and tidying your garden for the upcoming season can put a little “spring” in your step. Clean up any remaining dead leaves and debris from winter. Clear out the garden beds and spread a fresh layer of mulch. Trim back bushes and sweep sidewalks and driveways. When you look outside and see your garden poised and ready for spring, you’ll know warm, sunny days are just around the corner.

Visit the garden center

If you use the same flowers and plants in your garden year after year, why not change things up this spring? Go on a scouting adventure to your local garden center. Talk with employees about what plants and flowers will do best in your spring climate. Browse and imagine what your garden could look like with these new additions. Enjoy the time spent amongst all the beautiful plants and flowers, and let your imagination run wild.

Plant a container herb garden

When all else fails, bring the outside in! If you don’t have time to invest in a full- blown herb garden, create a smaller version in a container for your kitchen. Choose a brightly colored container and add a variety of herb plants, including rosemary, basil and thyme. Not only will the plants look and smell like spring, they’ll add the fresh flavor of the season to your meals.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Strategies for Unpacking After Your Move

April 13, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Strategies for Unpacking After Your MoveYou did it! You packed up all your belongings, loaded them onto a truck, and unloaded them into your new house. That is no easy feat. But the work isn’t quite over yet.

If you’re staring at piles of boxes and just can’t imagine how you will ever get organized and settled in, follow these strategies for unpacking. You’ll be feeling right at home in no time!

Start with the essentials

If you were smart, you packed up a couple of boxes of essentials and loaded them on the truck last, or took them with you in the car or on the plane. This includes all the basics you’ll need in the first few days, such as toiletries, the coffee maker and bedding. These items will get you through those first couple of nights, where chaos seems to reign. Your essentials will make sure that you are fed, clothed, clean and rested. Which is good considering how much focus and energy you’ll need to tackle the rest of the house.

Set up the beds

Once you’ve gotten your essentials unpacked, set up the beds for each family member. You’re going to need a place to sleep right away, and having a comfortable and familiar bed to slip into after a long day will help keep you and your family in good spirits. It will also help kids to become adjusted to their new home, and they can begin settling into their new rooms while you unpack the rest of the house.

Create a sanctuary

Next, focus on one space or room that you can quickly get set up and make functional. Depending on your needs this could be a living room, dining room or office space. Paint, organize the furniture and do a little decorating. Display a family photo or two. Get the television or stereo set up. By creating a sanctuary, you give yourself a tiny space to retreat from the chaos. Watch a movie, listen to some music or take a nap.

Take it room by room

You’ve now gotten to the point where you can focus on unpacking the rest of the house. Instead of doing a little bit in each room, focus on one room before moving to the next. Consider unpacking in this order:

  • Kitchen – Get all the essentials out and in order. Nothing beats being able to cook at home after a long moving process. The kitchen is also a great place for the family to congregate while the rest of the house is in progress.
  • Bathrooms – Get at least one bathroom up and running. Clean and unpack all your toiletries.
  • Living room, dining room, bedrooms, and office – Once the kitchen and bathrooms are ready, you can begin unpacking all your other rooms. By this point you should be feeling a little less stressed and can continue moving in and getting settled at a more leisurely pace.

Get to know the neighborhood

The best way to start feeling at home is to connect with the community. Get out and explore! Take walks, visit the local park, check out your new grocery store and introduce yourself to your new neighbors. Welcome home!

Compliments of Virtual Results

Keep Your Home Show Ready – Even With Kids!

April 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Keep Your Home Show Ready – Even With Kids!When you’re selling your home, keeping it spotless for showings can be tough. But making sure it stays clean, especially when you have kids, can seem downright impossible. But there is hope! By having a plan and sticking to it, you can keep your home ready for visits, even at a moment’s notice. Here’s how.

Have a checklist

Trying to live in your home while you’re selling it can be a little chaotic. Tame that chaos by knowing exactly what to do before a buyer comes over. Create a simple checklist of tasks you need to do each time you have a showing. Ideally, these tasks should take you no longer than 15 minutes to complete. Knowing what to do will save you the headache of frantically running around at the last minute, trying to remember everything.

Start clean

You never know when you’ll get a call at 9 a.m. with a new showing for 9:30. Treat yourself to a less stressful morning by making sure the house is clean before you go to bed. That way, if you have to leave even before you’ve had your coffee, you know the house is ready and looking its best.

Pack up toys

Kids and toys – LOTS of toys – go hand in hand. It’s unbelievable how quickly those toys can get out of control. And the truth is your kids probably don’t play with all of them all the time. Save their favorites and pack up or donate the rest.  Keep the unused toys out of sight, either in bins under the bed or offsite at a storage unit.

Have more picnics

Little kids make messes. It’s just what they do. Keep your kitchen and dining room clean and ready to show by eating outside whenever possible. Set up a picnic area and treat it like a special occasion. Chances are, you’re kids will love it, and it will save you precious cleaning time.

Create a stash zone

Make designated areas in your home where you can quickly stash things like toys and dirty laundry before a showing. The best places are the ones least likely for buyers to look, like bins stored in a closet or empty dresser drawers.

Only use one bathroom

Bathrooms are probably the most difficult rooms to keep consistently clean. If you have more than one bathroom in your home, choose one bathroom that everyone in the family will use. This will cut down significantly on the amount of time you spend cleaning them.

Know where to go

Finally, have a list of places you know you can go to when you need to quickly leave the house. Some great choices include a local museum or park, story time at the library, grandma’s house or even just a nice long walk around the neighborhood. If you choose activities that are fun, you’ll get less resistance from the kids when it’s time to go.

Although selling a home while you and your family are living in it can be a challenge, it is not an impossible one. By preparing ahead of time and adhering to some timesaving tricks, you’ll make sure your kids are happy and your home is always ready to show.

Compliments of Virtual Results

How to Survive Your Home Sale

April 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

How to Survive Your Home SaleLet’s be honest – living in your home while you have it on the market can be tough. Not only do you need to keep it spic and span at all times, but you also have to be ready to show it on a moment’s notice. This can cause quite an upheaval in your daily life if you aren’t prepared. Although it can be stressful, it can be done. Here’s our best advice for how to survive your home sale.

Pack it up

Once your home is on the market, you may start to feel as if you’re on a speeding train and you can’t quite keep up. Do yourself a favor and get a head start on cleaning, de-cluttering and packing up your belongings. Since spring is on the way, it’s unlikely you’ll need heavy-duty winter gear for much longer, so pack it up and move it out. Consider investing in a short-term storage unit to store packed boxes and unneeded items until moving day.

Remove all personal items

Think about it – strangers will soon be looking in every drawer, cabinet and closet in your home while you aren’t there. Don’t make it easy for someone to steal personal information by leaving it out. Protect valuables like sensitive financial documents or precious jewelry by locking them in a safe. Password-protect all computers. Remove prescription medication from the medicine cabinet. When in doubt, keep it under lock and key.

Get into a daily routine

If you’re living in your home while you’re selling, the best thing you can do for your well-being is to get into a daily routine. That way, if your agent calls with a last-minute showing, you won’t be scrambling to be ready. In the morning, make the beds and pick up any clutter in the house. Clean the kitchen and empty the kitchen sink. Tidy the bathroom and vacuum the floors. When the phone rings, you’ll be ready to leave at a moment’s notice if necessary.

Have a plan for showings

Talk to your agent about how showings will be handled, and be upfront with any requests you have. This could include scheduling showings during certain times of the day, or giving you at least an hour’s notice before potential buyers come by. Make a plan for what you’ll need to do to the house before you leave for the showing. This might mean turning on basement lights, opening curtains and taking a quick walk through your home to make sure it all looks good. If you have pets, have a plan with what you’ll do with them during the showing.

Take time outs

If managing showings while living in your home is stressing you out, be sure to take time outs for yourself. Go out for dinner. See a movie. Take a walk. Treat yourself to a massage. Selling a home can be very stressful, and it’s normal to feel anxious about it. Take care of yourself during the process. Your health is important, too.

Hire a professional

The best thing you can do to survive your home sale is to enlist the help of a professional real estate agent. An agent can be an indispensible ally and a powerful advocate for you during the process of selling your home. They can tell you what to expect and help you navigate through each step of the journey. And working with an agent will help ensure that you sell your home quickly for the best possible price.

Compliments of Virtual Results