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Billness' Blog

By Bill Ness | Broker in Chicago, IL
  • Can’t Sell Your Home? Try Staging It.

    Posted Under: Home Selling, Remodel & Renovate, Property Q&A  |  March 23, 2012 6:29 AM  |  3,897 views  |  1 comment
    Home StagingAnyone involved in real estate knows that we are currently in a buyers’ market. There are many homes for sale, and, while they are selling, they aren’t selling quickly. This makes it a great time for those looking to buy, but a frustrating experience if you have a home that just won’t sell. If you want to generate interest, it’s time to give staging a try.

    While you may have already cleaned, repaired and de-cluttered, staging your home takes your preparation to the next level. A staged home looks more like a magazine set-up than a home that’s been lived in. It has design appeal, yet is neutral enough to let potential buyers imagine themselves — and their belongings — in your home.

    When you are ready to try staging your home, your Realtor may be able to recommend a staging expert. Someone who is a professional home stager is trained in home design, but also understands what it takes to make a home more appealing to buyers. After assessing your home, a stager should be able to give you an upfront estimate for how much the job will cost. Often a stager can make a big improvement for less than $1,000.

    If you want to save some money, you can try staging your home yourself. Generally speaking, you can get started by following just three simple guidelines:

    1. Keep it neutral and impersonal — Tone down any wild wall colors by repainting with light, neutral shades. Lighter colors will reflect the light and make rooms feel more spacious. Removing personal items like family pictures will make it easier for buyers to imagine themselves owning the home.

    2. Clear out clutter and excess furniture — Keeping knickknacks, furniture and other decorative items to a minimum will make a home feel more open. It lets buyers see the potential space instead of focusing on your belongings. Rearrange your furniture to make sure that it’s easy to walk from one room to the next, and put excess items in storage.

    3. Add magazine-style touches — Once your home is more neutral and sparsely furnished, it’s time to bring in some thoughtful touches. Take a look at some home magazines and see how the rooms are pictured. Try setting a bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter, adding fresh flowers to the front hall, and setting the dining table with attractive dishes and cloth napkins.

    To get more ideas for staging your home, pick up some interior design magazines or watch some of the popular TV shows about selling real estate. Exterior curb appeal will bring buyers through your front door, but a staged home may be the final push to help them make an offer.

    This article originally appeared on 55Places.com. For more articles like this or for information about hundreds of 55+ active adult retirement communities across the country, please visit 55Places.com.

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  • Downsizing Is Easier Said Than Done

    Posted Under: Quality of Life, Home Buying, Home Selling  |  August 18, 2011 6:52 AM  |  1,904 views  |  No comments
    Downsizing and Active Adult CommunitiesAfter a lifetime of accumulating a houseful of “stuff,” empty-nesters often want to de-clutter their lives. This may be the perfect time to move toward retirement plans, and downsize to a home that requires less maintenance. Yet downsizing is often easier said than done.

    While you may think it will be easy to get rid of your excess belongings, most of that stuff is stored around your house for a reason. Maybe it was a gift, or it has sentimental value. Maybe it’s clothes that are a bit snug, but are sure to fit after your next diet. You may know that you don’t need these things, but find it hard to give away items that are still in good working order.

    When downsizing, you have to start by looking at your reasons for keeping all of your stuff. Examine each item individually and ask yourself, “Do I really love this? Does it add value to my life now?” Be honest with yourself. Even if you do lose ten pounds, wouldn’t you rather celebrate by buying something new?

    Downsizing is not an easy process, and it will likely take much longer than you expect. To minimize your stress, it’s often best to start small and give yourself plenty of time to go through your belongings at a comfortable pace. Set a goal of sorting through one box (or closet or drawer, etc.) each week. Little by little, you will reduce your belongings until you are only left with the items which you really want to keep.

    Fortunately, there are plenty of options for what to do with the items you no longer want. You can donate gently used clothes and household goods to local charities, or give them to friends. You can pass down items to your children or other relatives. You can sell items in a garage sale or on eBay. You can even simply throw things away.

    If your kids are older and establishing their own family homes, it’s a good time for them to go through their childhood memorabilia. This can be a little harder when your kids are still in college dorms, or in their first apartments. If they aren’t ready to part with their childhood items, you could rent a small storage space to hold them. But do have your kids share the expense until they are ready to either take their things or get rid of them.

    Having help when downsizing can make the process much easier. Family or close friends might be able to lend a more objective eye, and offer moral support throughout the process. However, a professional company which offers home organization and downsizing services can be invaluable. You will want to check references before hiring, and ask to see proof that the company is licensed and insured.

    Downsizing is difficult, but it is worth the effort. Begin looking around for your low-maintenance dream home, and keep reminding yourself just how much easier moving will be after you’ve gotten rid of your excess clutter.

    This article originally appeared on 55Places.com. For more articles like this or for information about hundreds of 55+ active adult retirement communities across the country, please visit 55Places.com.

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  • Smaller Homes Selling Faster in Active Adult Communities

    Posted Under: Market Conditions, Home Buying, Home Selling  |  June 25, 2011 8:29 PM  |  4,462 views  |  No comments
    Active Adult Community TrendsA recent study by the National Association of Home Builders shows that the homebuyers of today and tomorrow are more likely to buy smaller homes than in past years. By 2015, the average size of single-family homes is expected to be around 2,100 square feet. This trend certainly applies to active adult homebuyers as well, and 55+ community builders are adjusting their development plans accordingly.

    There are several reasons behind the popularity of smaller homes. For one thing, the recent economy has caused homebuyers to reevaluate their living needs and opt for more affordable homes. This generally means smaller floor plans without extras like “bonus rooms,” spacious foyers or additional bedrooms for out-of-town guests.

    Smaller homes are not only more affordable to buy, but also more affordable to maintain. Less space makes for less expensive utility bills, and fewer rooms mean buying less furniture and decorative items. It is easier to clean a smaller home yourself, and it’s cheaper if you decide to bring in a maid service to clean it for you.

    However, choosing a smaller home does not necessarily mean living in tiny rooms. Current design trends call for open floor plans which make the most of space without adding unnecessary square footage. Formal living rooms have been disappearing from floor plans, and many homes feature a larger great room which combines the kitchen, dining room and family room in one flowing space.

    Those who have occasional overnight guests often find that a roomy den is more important than a dedicated guest room. Quick to inflate airbeds can be easily stored away and brought out when guests come to town, and today’s more comfortable sofa beds are another convenient way to let a den or home office double as a cozy guest room.

    Active adult communities across the country are noticing the demand for smaller, more efficient homes and are adjusting their plans to meet this need. Edgewater, a Del Webb community in the Chicago area, is a good example of this trend. While this popular community’s fourth and final phase was originally designed for homes ranging from 2,000 to 2,500 square feet, it has recently been redesigned to feature single-family homes sized between 1,200 and 1,900 square feet.

    For many active adults, a smaller home makes good financial and practical sense. Newer designs use efficient floor plans, large windows and multi-functional rooms to make smaller homes feel more spacious. They let you save money upfront and during day-to-day living.

    What do you think? Is a smaller home an attractive option during retirement? Do today’s open floor plans seem to be a more efficient use of space, or do you miss having options like formal dining and living rooms? Let us know in the comments below.

    This article originally appeared on 55Places.com. For more articles like this or for information about hundreds of 55+ active adult retirement communities across the country, please visit 55Places.com.


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  • Foreclosures? Not in 55+ Communities

    Posted Under: Home Buying, Home Selling, Foreclosure  |  June 20, 2011 9:43 AM  |  3,286 views  |  No comments
    ForeclosuresGiven the current housing market, potential homebuyers expect to find fabulous savings on their dream retirement homes. While there is no doubt that this is a buyers’ market, and home prices are significantly lower, many active adult communities have not been hit as hard as other neighborhoods. Foreclosures are few and far between, and many would-be homebuyers are wondering why.

    The city of Phoenix, which was home to the country’s first active adult community, is a good example of an area where active adult communities have weathered the housing downturn far better than their surrounding neighbors. As discussed in a recent Fortune Magazine article, there are many theories behind this trend. The most common reasons involve the differences in the ways older adults approach home buying.

    Retirees, or soon-to-be retirees, tend to put more money down when buying their retirement homes. These larger down payments have given current active adult community residents more equity in their homes and lower monthly payments. This has helped to keep many homeowners from finding themselves “upside down” on their mortgages, if they have mortgages at all.

    A surprising number of retirees, including a reported 61 percent of the residents in Phoenix’s original Sun City community, own their homes outright. In most cases, those who do have mortgages were experienced enough to avoid the risky variable-rate loans that were the downfall of many homebuyers. Instead, they chose fixed-rate mortgages and were careful to not borrow more than they could afford to pay back.

    Homes in active adult communities have also held their values relatively well because residents are often not worried about moving again. For residents who plan to stay in their homes for the rest of their lives, affordable monthly payments become more important than the home’s total worth.

    Active adults who purchased their homes before the housing bubble find that their home values have simply returned to what they were when they moved in. Those who purchased homes at the height of the market are likely to have lost money on their investments, but in many cases substantial down payments have protected them from the threat of foreclosure.

    As the housing market begins to stabilize, homeowners who weathered the storm may be rewarded by rising home values. Some real estate professionals expect that the homes in active adult communities will rebound faster than in other communities because they offer additional amenities which appeal to homebuyers. And, with more Baby Boomers retiring every day, the demand for homes in active adult communities is likely to increase.

    While foreclosures are harder to find in active adult communities, home prices have been drastically reduced in communities throughout the country. This means that the current market is a great time for potential buyers to look for homes in active adult communities.

    This article originally appeared on 55Places.com. For more articles like this or for information about hundreds of 55+ active adult retirement communities across the country, please visit 55Places.com.


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  • 7 Awesome Tips to Sell Your Home Fast

    Posted Under: Home Selling  |  April 18, 2011 6:15 PM  |  2,023 views  |  1 comment
    Sell Home FastFor most homeowners, moving into a new home is dependent on selling their current home. This means that those who have contingency contracts may lose a chance to buy their new home if they can’t sell their current home quickly enough. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to sell your home fast.

    1. Clear out the clutter.
    Having too much “stuff” laying around will make your house look smaller. Clutter is off-putting. It draws attention to your belongings and away from your house. When clearing clutter, don’t stop with just throwing out junk mail and magazines. Putting knickknacks, accent furniture and extra area rugs in storage will give your home a more open, spacious feel.

    2. Finish those forgotten weekend projects.
    Every homeowner has a list of small repairs that they plan to finish someday. These little items, like chipped paint and squeaky door hinges, are easy to overlook during day to day living, but they are sure to stand out to potential homebuyers. If you want to sell your home fast, you should first look at it with a critical eye. Make those minor repairs or hire a handy man to fix them for you.

    3. Stage each room or hire a professional home stager.
    Staging is a process used to showcase your home’s best features and make your home more appealing to potential homebuyers. You can hire a professional home stager or read up on staging tips designed to sell your home fast. For example, depersonalizing your home will make it easier for homebuyers to imagine themselves living there. Essentially, you want your house to look less lived-in, and more like a model home.

    4. Clean, clean, clean.
    Selling your home is an ideal time to break out the vacuum and scouring pads, or bring in a professional cleaning service. Remember that a grimy oven, a mildewed shower or even a thin layer of dust will make your home appear neglected. Even when potential buyers are willing to see beyond the dirt, they may consider your home as more of a fixer-upper instead of a home where they can quickly move in.

    5. Enhance your home’s curb appeal.
    Your home’s exterior makes the first impression on potential homebuyers. If you want to sell your home fast, make sure its first impression is a good one! Regular maintenance like trimming the hedges and mowing the lawn is essential. You can also enhance your home’s curb appeal with small touches like planting some colorful annuals or adding a hanging flower basket to the front porch.

    6. Have a pre-sale home inspection.
    Savvy homebuyers are sure to want a professional home inspection before buying. Paying for a pre-sale home inspection is money well spent if it helps you sell your home fast. A pre-sale inspection will let you know upfront if there are any repairs that you will need to make. You can then leave a copy of the inspection out for potential homebuyers to review when touring your home. Be sure to include receipts for any new repairs that were based on the inspection.

    7. Hire the right Realtor.
    A good Realtor will use a variety of marketing strategies to sell your home fast and get the best price for it. This includes many steps, such as analyzing the market to set the best sale price, advertising your home with pictures on websites or flyers, and planning open houses to bring in many potential homebuyers. When choosing a Realtor, be sure to ask specific questions about his or her plans for marketing your home.

    This article originally appeared on 55Places.com. For more articles like this or for information about hundreds of 55+ active adult retirement communities across the country, please visit 55Places.com.


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  • For Sale By Owner – Can It Work For You?

    Posted Under: Home Buying, Home Selling  |  January 6, 2011 11:29 AM  |  2,034 views  |  No comments
    For Sale By OwnerWhen selling your home, the For Sale By Owner route may seem like an attractive way to save money. By cutting out the middleman, you could keep the entire profit of the sale for yourself. However, choosing to sell your home yourself comes with certain risks, and it may not be the most effective approach in today’s challenging market.

    As a homeowner, there are several areas you should consider before taking the For Sale By Owner route. First of all, the over-saturated housing market likely has you at a disadvantage. Sales may be starting to pick up, but in most areas, it is generally still a buyer’s market. This means that homebuyers are often in a great bargaining position and sellers may have to work a bit more to seal the deal.

    If you want your home to stand out in the sea of other homes for sale, it must be marketed properly. This includes making minor changes that will make it more appealing, setting a competitive sale price and getting the word out to potential buyers. With their years of experience, Realtors can offer recommendations for making your home more buyer-friendly, and do a thorough analysis of the area before setting a competitive sale price.

    Most importantly, Realtors know how to draw buyers to your home. Remember, there is more to marketing than placing an ad in the newspaper or online. In fact, overexposure through the wrong marketing approach can backfire. When a home is over-advertised, potential buyers may think there is something wrong with the home, or assume that the owner is desperate to sell.

    According to studies by The National Association of Realtors, 82 percent of real estate sales are the result of agent contacts through their previous clients, referrals, friends, family and personal contacts. Homeowners who choose the For Sale By Owner route will miss out on all of these powerful contacts that a Realtor could bring.

    Choosing to sell without a real estate agent also opens a homeowner up to many potential legal problems. The rules for buying and selling real estate are complicated. It can be easy to make a mistake that will lead to costly legal fees.

    For example, many of the offers a seller receives will be contingent upon the potential buyer first selling their own home. While this is common in real estate, it can make the transaction more complicated—particularly if more than one buyer is interested in the home. Handling this situation incorrectly could land you in a lawsuit.

    When it comes to negotiating the sale, there is much more to consider than the price of your home. All of the associated fees for home inspections, warranties and other closing costs must also be settled. Trying to go it alone makes you more vulnerable to either losing out against the buyer’s more savvy agent or scaring off the buyer in your attempt to protect your interest.

    For homeowners with real estate expertise, the For Sale By Owner route may be a viable option. However, most homeowners will benefit from having an experienced Realtor help them negotiate the sale. In fact, according to the National Association of Realtors’ Don’t Try This at Home public awareness campaign, “sellers who use a real estate professional make 16 percent more on the sale of their home than do sellers who go it alone.”

    This article originally appeared on 55Places.com. For more articles like this or for information about hundreds of 55+ active adult retirement communities across the country, please visit 55Places.com.


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  • South Florida Real Estate Showing Signs of Life

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Florida, Home Buying in Florida, Home Selling in Florida  |  December 26, 2010 7:18 PM  |  2,744 views  |  No comments
    South Florida real estateSouth Florida has been a popular retirement spot for decades. The sunny beaches, spectacular golf courses, fantastic attractions and resort-style communities draw active adult retirees year after year. However, as in other parts of the country, South Florida’s housing market has been hit hard. As the economy begins to slowly rebound, is South Florida real estate showing signs of life?

    According to a recent report by Zillow.com, about 45 percent of homes sold in September in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties went for a loss. Yet, despite this gloomy news, local real estate agents are seeing positive signs in some South Florida markets.

    Michele Harrison, a Realtor in the Naples area, finds that inventories in the Naples/Bonita/Estero market have continued to decline over the last 20 months and that, in some areas, equilibrium has been met. She says, “there are even a few pockets that have actually gone well below the 12 month equilibrium inventories.”

    Real estate sales in Florida often pick up during the winter months as retirees that held off on purchases come back into the market. As winter approaches, Harrison expects to have a healthy selling season. “Buyers that want to be in the Southwest Florida area understand that the market is stabilizing, and that the great deals are becoming more scarce,” Harrison explains. “While there are deals to be had, the deep cuts have been taken and the prices are more in line with where they need to be.”

    Wilma Pinstein, another South Florida Realtor who specializes in 55+ communities in the Boynton Beach and Delray Beach, feels that the active adult communities are faring well in a tough time. “These communities have taken a hit, as did all real estate,” she says. “Although prices have come down, homeowners in these communities are not giving their homes away—they are selling!” Pinstein notes that home buyers are often retirees who are relocating to the area or purchasing a second home.

    Potential home buyers in South Florida may be tempted by the idea of saving money on a foreclosed property. While foreclosures can be a steal, Harrison warns that buyers beware. “With the debacle in the foreclosure arena it is wise to have confidence in the bank holding the paper and ensure that the title is clear. Legal counsel is recommended. We are treading in unfamiliar waters with what is happening out there and I cannot stress enough the importance of knowing who you are dealing with, from broker right through to the bank.”

    Though South Florida’s housing market has been hit hard, there does appear to be signs of a life in some popular active adult markets. As winter begins, retirees and snowbirds will return to Florida’s sunny climate. For those looking to buy, this may be the right time to make a deal.

    This article originally appeared on 55Places.com. For more articles like this or for information about hundreds of 55+ active adult retirement communities across the country, please visit 55Places.com.


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