Home Sellers Compare Improvement Ideas With Realtors

Among Realtors there is almost no doubt how small renovations can affect a sale.The services of real estate agents can be invaluable, but it seems that many sellers already know how to sell their homes. And when it comes to home improvements before putting their houses on the market, agents and sellers mostly agree on what is the best course of action, according to a recent survey conducted by Realtor.com.

The real estate site asked 450 Realtors about what type of projects and investments they would recommend, and what they see as the mistakes homebuyers make. Realtor.com also asked 1660 homeowners about the types of improvements they made or plan to make before selling their home and their budget for those renovations. Generally, the answers were aligned.

Recognizing the value of small renovations

Among Realtors there is almost no doubt how small renovations can affect a sale. Nearly 90 percent believe such improvements would help the house sell faster, while 72 percent believe it would help sellers receive a higher offer. Nevertheless, 70 percent of Realtors think a common mistake of sellers is that they underestimate the power of simple home improvements.

Home improvements do not have to be expensive, yet most sellers do not realize they will significantly reduce their (houses’) time on the market.

We have found that homeowners do recognize the value of small improvement projects. Only 30 percent of respondents say they do not plan any improvements. The rest hope their home improvement projects would help sell their home faster or even achieve a higher selling price. Moreover, about 24 percent of sellers plan to keep their home improvement budget between $2,000 and $5,000, some 22 percent plan to spend $5,000 to $10,000, and nearly 17 percent plan to spend $10,000 to $20,000, according to the survey.

The right home improvements

Once again, most Realtors — about 66 percent — say another common mistake among sellers is not making the right home improvements. Happily, renovations they recommend and the ones sellers are doing are generally the same. The top three areas that house sellers focus the most of their time and budget on are the kitchen, bathrooms and the exterior of the home. These are same three areas of the house that Realtors recommend improving.

When it comes to low-cost projects, the top three areas agents recommend are decluttering, painting and landscaping projects that cost less than $500. Keep it clean and organized. Paint it. One-hundred dollars of paint can add thousands to your net. Think of it as makeup for your house.

Sellers, it seems, agree wholeheartedly. While painting is the top low-cost project sellers plan, decluttering is a close second and taking care of the exterior is third.

Agents and sellers also generally agree on what is definitely not important. Only about 8 percent of Realtors recommend spending time on the closets, and only about 5 percent recommend spending time on the garage. Similarly, less than 10 percent of sellers spend time on the closets, while less than 12 percent spend time on the garage. In addition, Realtors selected custom closets, hardscaping (landscaping for paved surfaces such as driveways) and installing new windows as the three least important projects, with all three of those projects in the bottom four of seller priorities.

Sellers and Realtors do not always agree

Despite the similar thought processes, Realtors and sellers had a few disagreements. About 56 percent say touch-ups should start one to three months before the house hits the market. However, nearly 30 percent of homeowners are planning to do the improvements more than a year before the house goes on the market.

There are some small low-cost projects that Realtors recommend doing that sellers are not prioritizing. About 72 percent of Realtors recommend steam cleaning the carpet, but only about 30 percent of soon-to-be sellers have it in the works. Same goes for a professional house clean — only about 20 percent of sellers plan to have this done despite more than half (53 percent) of Realtors recommending it.

Finally, agents and sellers differ on whether the front yard or backyard is more important to spruce up. Far more Realtors recommend spending time on the front yard compared to the back (64 percent to 31 percent). However, more sellers are focusing on the backyard compared to the front (33 percent to 28 percent).

Buyers get a good feeling within the first 30 seconds of seeing the home and that means from the curb. The front yard is critical.

Please look through my other Posts for suggestions on getting your home ready to sell. As a Professional, I’m always happy to give hints and idea.



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Preparing To Buy Your Home

Preparing to buy a home is a bit like preparing to go on a very long journey. You have to have your finances in order, know where you’re going, what you’re hoping to accomplish and how much time and how much money you can afford to spend.

Financial matters. When it comes to owning real estate nothing is more important, for obvious reasons. As we’ve seen, if you get locked into a mortgage you can’t afford, the result can be devastating. But even if you can afford the mortgage, you might not want to be “house rich and cash poor”. You have to consider other things that are important to you such as travel and your spending habits. If for instance, you like to travel for months at a time, it might be wise to consider a smaller house with a less expensive mortgage instead of a large home with a big mortgage, which could cause you more work and less financial ability to spend on other things you like.

Another consideration is the length of time you want to have the mortgage. Many young people choose a 30-year fixed mortgage but if you’re a senior citizen you might want to opt for a 15-year loan. The best thing you can do is make a list of your financial matters and the questions you have about buying a home and then consult with a highly experienced loan officer. A knowledgeable loan officer can be like having a tour guide with you all the time in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language. The jargon used in the mortgage industry documents can be confusing. Having someone who can clearly explain the documents, what to expect, the time frame, and the process is priceless.

Debt-to-income. The ratio of your debt-to-income is vital when purchasing a home. These guidelines have become stricter since the housing crisis so it’s critical to consult with experts about your personal financial situation. Generally speaking, you should have a debt-to-income ratio of no more that 36 percent–meaning all you owe (including your mortgage, taxes, and insurance) should not equal more than 36 percent of your income. Remember there are still monthly expenses of your home on top of your debt. And, of course, the less you owe and the more you make, the better position you’re in for buying a home and creating your own financial freedom.

These days, along with keeping your expenses and debt manageable, a key factor to buying a home is having a healthy downpayment. Most lenders would consider 20 percent a good downpayment. The more you bring in, the less you have to borrow. Remember the collapse of the housing market was brought on by small or no downpayment loans and many buyers who simply didn’t understand the risks.

Know how long you’ll stay. This is really important because the cost of buying and selling a home is expensive and very time-consuming. If you’re not planning on staying in your home more than seven to ten years, think about renting. You may still decide to buy, but you need to understand the cost of purchasing and maintaining a home. Investigate the economic difference between buying and renting. Be realistic about how frequently you’ve moved in the past and whether you’re now ready to settle in for several years. You can always rent your home out but this assumes that you’ll be a landlord (willing to take on all those duties) and then also have to find another place to live and either rent or buy.

After considering all of these factors and making certain that you’re ready to buy, then take the next step and call me. I can help you further prepare to buy the home of your dreams.

Contact me through my website or just call me. I have lenders who I can suggest and Weichert Gold Services can also help you with Title Services, Insurance and even moving! Find me at http://www.NormsSellsNJHomes.com


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Checklist for Selling Your Home (Or Staying!)

This is a great checklist if you’re planning on selling your home. But it’s actually a great list for home maintenance.

If selling, you can significantly influence the selling price of your house by preparing it and your property before putting it on the market! Here are suggestions to improve a buyer’s first impression of your home. By all means, look carefully at walls, floors and ceilings for signs or wear, marks or need for repainting or wallpapering. And, don’t forget to look at trim, including doors and windows.

But selling or staying, still a great list you should review every year!

CURB APPEAL – Property seen from the street:
o Healthy, weed-free, neatly cut, trimmed lawn
o Shrubs trimmed neatly
o Trees, shrubs trimmed to not touch the house
o Sealed black-top driveway
o Weed-free driveway, front walk, shrub areas
o Toys, garden tools, clutter removed from yard 

HOUSE EXTERIOR – Front view from the street:
o Recently painted siding
o Recently painted, touched-up trim
o Repair, repaint fences, gates
o Clean, align gutters, downspouts
o Wash, align shutters
o Wash all windows, storms, screens 

o Clean, wash, scrub front steps, porch as needed
o Check front doorbell and bell light
o Replace welcome mat
o Paint or wash storm door, lubricate hinges
o Polish brass door lockset and brass hinges
o Clean and wash front door tread 

o Clean interior entry area or foyer of all clutter
o Reduce volume, clutter in the front hall closet
o Clean and polish the front entry floor
o Wash, polish and replace bulbs in light fixture
o Remove fingerprints, scuff marks on trim, walls
o Paint to lighten and refresh entrance area 

o Repaint or touch up walls, ceiling and trim
o Repair or replace damaged molding, trim
o Remove electric plates, clean and replace
o Refinish, clean, wax hardwood and vinyl floors
o Shampoo carpeting

o Repaint, repaper, touch up walls, trim, ceiling
o Replace or clean drapes, bedspread, accessories
o Shampoo carpet or clean, polish floors
o Organize, clean out, neaten all closets
o Clear off top surfaces of all bedroom furniture
o Put all clothing away, out-of-sight 

o Paint or wallpaper using light colors
o Scrub tile, bleach, repair grout
o Check to see that drawers/doors open easily
o Clean, polish floor as appropriate
o Clean out medicine cabinet, wash inside and out
o Seal around tubs and showers
o Check for evidence of water at toilet base
o Replace old toilet seats
o Replace shower window curtains
o Buy a set of new, color coordinated bath linens 

o Paint walls, ceiling, trim white or light color, or
o Wallpaper with small pattern and light colors
o Remove wax, scrub, re-polish floors
o Wash, wipe down, wax cabinets/appliances
o Thoroughly clean range, ovens
o Clean out refrigerator and wash interior
o Empty dishwasher, clean around controls
o Check operation of all appliances
o Neatly arrange and clean food storage areas
o Reorganize and clean out cabinets and drawers
o Neatly arrange and display dishes in cabinets
o Clear all clutter from countertops
o Check to see that drawers/doors open easily
o Wash or replace curtains
o Clean or put away pet feeding, watering dishes 

o Check operation of appliances and clean them
o Clean, organize laundry area, remove clothes
o Provide adequate (bright) light to area 

o Remove clutter, papers, unnecessary items
o Replace burned-out bulbs throughout the house
o Remove cobwebs from ceilings, corners
o Remove paint splash on tile, floor, cabinets
o Wash, polish all door hardware, handrails
o Reorganize, clean out all closets
o Replace switches, outlets that don’t work
o Add colorful plants, flowers to several rooms
o Replace or rejuvenate pillows, accessories
o Clean out, sweep, organize garage
o Organize, make neat basement and attic storage

Remember that I’m Certified in Home Staging! If you need help or have any questions, please call me! Visit my website at http://www.NormaSellsNJHomes.com



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Myths and Truths for Winterizing Your Home

The snow is falling — and so is the temperature. As we break out the down comforters and turn on the heat, many of us don’t realize how much we are needlessly spending to keep warm. U.S. households will likely spend about $2,175 this year on home energy, with space heating accounting for about 31 percent, or $674, of that cost, according to the Alliance to Save Energy, or ASE, an organization based in Washington, D.C. But do you know just what will run up your bill and leave you out in the cold?

There are plenty of old wives’ tales floating around telling you the best way to keep your house toasty. We uncovered the truths behind these common myths that wind up toasting your holiday savings. These are the best and cheapest ways to weatherize your home, whether you’re a homeowner or a renter.
Myth: Turning off the heat in your home during the day is the best way to conserve energy.

Fact: Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish, especially if you live in an area with a risk of frozen water pipes. Completely turning off the heat, letting the temperature drop and then reheating your living space could actually be more expensive than lowering the temperature of your home, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA. Keep in mind that repairing burst water pipes and any resulting damage can easily cost thousands of dollars.

The bottom line?”You should not turn the heating system totally off if there’s a chance of freezing

Myth: Using a wood-burning fireplace will reduce your heating bills.

Fact: “Fireplaces are designed primarily as entertainment-oriented appliances. They are not designed for heating large areas,” says Ashley Eldridge, director of education for the Chimney Safety Institute of America, or CSIA. “While there are some modern fireplace designs that do heat, most of your heating will come from a central furnace.”

Solution: Decorate your mantle, but limit lighting a fire to the times when you want to add a cozy touch (s’mores, anyone?).
Myth: Portable space heaters are energy hogs.

Fact: “Space heaters can be an energy-efficient option in a poorly insulated house when it is acceptable to only heat a small area,” says Sherman.

Solution: If your home doesn’t come with central heating, a portable space heater may be your best bet for warming up. However, not all space heaters are created equal; do your research before buying.

“High-temperature heaters have a radiant component and feel warm like a fire does,” Sherman says. “Unvented combustion space heaters usually use a cheaper fuel but emit contaminants that can be hazardous. They are banned in some jurisdictions because of health risks. There are almost always better options.”

If your home already has central heating, using an electric space heater can help save money — if you are willing to turn down the home’s main heating system. Consider using a portable electric space heater if you and your family tend to gather in one room for a few hours. But always keep these safety tips in mind: Clear a 3-foot zone around the space heater, never plug the unit into an extension cord, and remember to turn off and unplug the heater when unattended, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Myth: You have to buy a lot of expensive materials and products to weatherize and insulate your home.

Fact: For renters and homeowners on a budget, redecorating your home during the winter can be an inexpensive way to insulate your home.

Solution: You probably remembered to switch out summer bedding for heavier sheets, blankets and duvets, but did you forget your windows? Heavy drapes can indeed help conserve warmth, but make sure drapes don’t block any floor registers, radiators, or baseboard heating units — otherwise it could be a fire hazard. It’s also a good idea to open drapes, blinds (and) shades on sunny days on the sunny side of the house to get free solar heat.

If you have ceiling fans, remember to switch to winter mode. When looking up, blades in winter mode (and on a low setting) should be rotating clockwise, pushing hot air that rises back down to the floor.
Myth: Electric blankets waste energy.

Fact: Electric blankets use very little energy. They are definitely more energy-efficient than the same-weight blanket and a higher room temperature.

Solution: People can feel cold at different times and at different temperatures. If you or your family members can’t agree on a room temperature, don’t automatically turn to the thermostat to suit everyone’s comfort level. Instead, using an electric blanket may help solve the Goldilocks-like temperature dilemma until everyone feels “just right.”
Myth: Your water heater always works efficiently.

Fact: Heating your water typically accounts for close to 20 percent of your household utility bills. You could save 664 kilowatt-hours per year, or about $72, by lowering the thermostat of a 50-gallon electric water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, down from the manufacturer’s default setting of 140 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the EPA.

Solution: Wrapping the tank with a fiberglass blanket also helps retain the heat longer, says David Slater, an Association of Energy Services Professionals member from CLEAResult Consulting. The blanket slows down how quickly the water heater loses heat, so you’ll use less energy to maintain the tank temperature.

You can find water-heater insulation blankets from about $20 at big-box stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s. Install the fire-resistant blanket with the included safety straps or foil tape, and keep the blanket wrapped around the water heater year-round. “Do not use a bedroom blanket,” Slater says.

Thanks to the contributors for this article!

If you’re looking to buy a more energy-efficient home, remember to give me a call. You can find me through my website at http://www.NormaSellsNJHomes.com


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2014 Will Be Stricter for Home Buyers Looking for a Mortgage

If you’re in the market for a new home, it’s going to become more difficult to get a loan in 2014. If you do get a mortgage, you’ll qualify for a lot less than expected.

Most people are not aware of the problem yet. We’ll all start hearing more about Dodd-Frank Mortgage Reform setting stiffer lending rules for 2014.

The biggest thing is that debt-to-income ratio. It’s going to be tighter. Right now, you can go up to 50 percent of your gross income. That will drop to 43 percent of your gross income in 2014. How does that affect you?

Say for example you make $60,000 a year. Add in a $500 a month car payment and $100 a month credit card payment. Right now, you’d qualify for a mortgage up to $190,000. But when the new reform act kicks in next year, you’ll only qualify for $160,000. And then, you might not even qualify at all. As Realtors, we run into that number quite a bit, where people are in that 46, 47 percent, 48 percent. And if we can’t go over 43 after January, then that’s going to hamstring a lot of people.

So why the change?

They’re really trying to just protect the consumer. Because there was a time when things were just way too loose. In the new year expect to put more money down, or find a cheaper home.

One last thought. There are many programs for first time home buyers. Also, there will be more creative ways to mortgage a home to help buyers. Here in the Hunterdon and Warren areas, most properties can be bought with a USDA mortgage. Before you go out to look for a new home, it is imperative that you first get pre-qualified and pre-approved.

I like being affiliated with Weichert because we have divisions to help both buyers and sellers. If you need help finding the right mortgage for you, give me a call. I have many resources to put you in touch with.

Visit me at my website at http://www.NormaSellsNJHomes.com

Posted in Baby Boomers & Silver Collars, Buying a Home, Family Matters, Selling a Home, Thoughts From a Realtor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on 2014 Will Be Stricter for Home Buyers Looking for a Mortgage

Getting Your Home Ready for the Spring – Selling or not.

To help property owners get the best selling price they can — without burying themselves in expenses — U.S. News created a list of 10 cheap ways to boost your home’s sales price by spring. I like this article because it’s worthwhile even to those who are just staying put. It’s great to get your home spruced up now and in the spring.

 1. Retouch the home front : If your property’s exterior isn’t appealing, no one will want to see your newly remodeled kitchen. Property sellers must first ensure that their home projects a cozy, inviting feeling.

The outside front of the home is probably the most important area for improvement, the area where you can make the biggest improvement with the smallest amount of cash.

Touching up the paint on the front-entry portion of the house can be an inexpensive but effective way to make the entire property more inviting. You would be amazed by the amount of people that drive by a house and say, ‘Ah, that’s not for me.’ And they can tell just by the way the upkeep and the outside looks.

2. Trim the greenery: Ensuring that the lawn, hedges and flowers are well-maintained helps make your home more alluring to prospective buyers. Property owners can hire professional landscapers or break out the lawn mower and get busy themselves.

Many people have landscaping that is overgrown and too heavy, and it is concealing a lot of the house. Trim the trees, trim the hedges and add a little color to the flower beds.

 3. Paint the interior: Putting a fresh coat of paint on the home’s interior is a cost-effective way to make a home more appealing to buyers. When choosing the color, homeowners should be conservative. The caution is that your favorite color may not be the favorite color of the buyer. Instead, homeowners are best off using neutral colors. Go with something that is a very light yellow or a light cream with a contrasting white, so it just looks very fresh and crisp. … Having the paint in good condition is almost more important than the color.While I don’t advocate repainted the entire home inside, just repaint the rooms where the pain has deteriorated or the color is too dark and too garish.

4. Don’t forget the floors: Improving the condition of a home’s flooring is also a smart move for sellers — and you don’t need to refinish wood floors or install new carpets to make them more attractive.

If it’s a hardwood floor, has the floor been buffed? If you have carpets, have the carpets been cleaned?”

 5. Make all major repairs: Because tighter lending standards demand higher down payments, today’s homebuyers won’t have much cash left for improvements once they’ve made their purchase. So it’s imperative for sellers to make all major home repairs — fixing the leaky roof, rebuilding the front stoop — before they put the property on the market.

6. Put appliances under warranty: To give buyers more confidence in a home’s appliances, it’s a great idea that sellers put them under warranty. Sellers can buy home warranties, which cover repair and replacement costs for many home appliances, from several different companies.

For those who list through me, or buy through me, I supply this Home Warranty at my expense.

 7. Make energy-efficient home improvements: Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is another good way to make your property more attractive to buyers. Some improvements, such as adding solar panels, still come with federal tax benefits. In addition, a growing awareness of human impact on the environment means that homes that have these upgrades will stand out from other listings. If you have some cruddy old windows that are leaky and just not energy efficient, you can put in new replacement windows and take advantage of the tax credit Those are really practical things that make your house more sellable. Many contractors will conduct a so-called energy audit free of charge to determine where efficiencies can be created. If your house is more energy efficient — you use less energy, it’s better insulated — it is going to be more desirable for a potential buyer.

 8. New light fixtures: Replacing old or broken light fixtures with new ones can also be a low-cost way to add value. Installing a new light fixture in the foyer can be a particular benefit because it can make a strong first impression on would-be buyers. Creating an inviting feeling in the interior entryway helps get home shoppers more interested in checking out the rest of the property.

 9. New stove & refrigerator: While some homeowners might think the only way to jazz up a dated kitchen is a full-on remodeling job, buying new appliances may be all you need to do. If there are updated appliances in the kitchen, it is amazing how that draws people in, and people say, ‘Wow, this kitchen is going to be great, While upscale homeowners may have to shell out for top-of-the-line appliances to maintain their kitchen’s décor, you just don’t have to go that far for the effect. You can basically have the look of a new kitchen that is going to be really enticing to someone — and what you are really trying to do is differentiate your house from somebody else’s.

 10. Freshen up the bathrooms: Getting rid of mildew stains on the bathroom and caulking can boost a home’s appeal as well. Such stains scream, ‘These people haven’t taken care of this house. It’s going to be a money pit,’

Use a razor blade to remove the old caulk, and replace it with new, mildew-resistant caulk, and rather than remodeling the entire space, homeowners can reinvigorate a worn-down bathroom by replacing cracked sinks.

Remember that I am always available to  come by and look at your home. I may be able to offer some suggestions to make it more enticing to prospective buyers. You can visit me at my website: http://www.NormaSellsNJHomes.com



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2014 New Year Resolution – Buying or Selling a Home

We make a lot of resolutions in the beginning of the year. Some are just the same ones you didn’t keep last year. Sometimes it’s easy just to keep the list and change the date at the top. Like I do.

But when it comes to real estate, it’s a resolution you won’t do annually, so you’ll need to give it more consideration. So don’t resolve to buy your neighbor’s house for half of its value, or sell your $350,000 home for $500,000. Well, you could, but you’d probably be setting yourself up for disappointment right from the start.

Some things are out of a would-be buyer or seller’s control. But, as a would-be buyer or seller, you can learn from and make resolutions based on those who have been there and done that. There exists a former buyer who, if he could, would resolve to have done more legwork before buying. Conversely, there’s a current seller who resolves to take the next under-asking-price offer from a buyer more seriously. We will second-guess ourselves more harshly when dealing with our real estate goals. There is a lot at stake!

Whether you plan to buy or sell, there are some real estate resolutions that buyers and sellers can — and should — make. Here are some to get you started.

Buyers: Resolve to Get Your Financial House in Order

Planning a home purchase takes time and effort, so you should consider meeting with a mortgage professional early in the year. Know your credit score and understand what your financial situation looks like from a lender’s perspective. If you have credit issues, identify what they are and the necessary steps to correct them. Sometimes, it can take six months to see your FICO score move up the much-needed 20 points to get you a better mortgage rate. A good real estate agent can recommend an experienced, local mortgage professional. Local is always important, because many real estate deals are made on relationships, and being able to meet face-to-face with your mortgage professional can be a big plus.

Sellers: Resolve to Think of Your Home as a Product

I can’t stress this enough! Start clearing out old stuff now. If there are things deep in your closets that you don’t think you’ll use between January and the time you move, consider a storage locker or making space in the garage. Does your real estate agent suggest that the maroon bedroom needs a lighter color paint job? Get some painting bids now. Have you always hated how the bathroom vanity takes up so much space? Consider changing it now so buyers will perceive your bathroom as bigger. This will also help you spread out the costs of home repairs and changes over several months.

Buyers: Resolve to Start Feeling Out the Market Early

You may think you only need to go to open houses once you’re ready to buy. But in reality, a buyer needs a couple of months learning the marketing, understanding home values, the prices per neighborhood and the market in general. I love the HGTV show where couples are shown three homes for sale and have to pick one. Yeah, right. I very often hear from prospective buyers that they are “just looking” and buying is many months away. They don’t want me to “waste my time”. Wrong. I love working with people just starting out. My philosophy is that you can’t decide where you want to live until you decide where you DON’T. You can’t think of the type of home you want until you see ones you DON’T.

Once you engage an agent, you may make several offers before you get into your dream home. Having your agent along for the ride will allow you to compare and contrast homes you’ve visited to the home you eventually buy. The homes you see and your experience feeling out the market will serve as the building blocks toward becoming an informed buyer and making your best offer.

Sellers: Resolve to Understand Your Timing and Exit Strategy

One of the biggest stresses on a seller is trying to plan a purchase and a sale at the same time. Can you afford to close on the new home before selling? If so, for how long? Do you need to sell the property first? If so, will the potential sale price support a home purchase in the neighborhood you want to be in? If not, what other areas should you be looking in? Selling and buying at the same time brings up all kinds of financial, emotional and physical stress.

Uprooting yourself from your home is not easy. What if you have to go into short-term housing? How will you get that set up and how long would you need to commit for? If you can afford to purchase and then sell, do they need to happen quickly? Are there things you can be doing in your current home so that once your new home closes, you’ll be ready to list? It’s a lot to think about and plan for, and it helps to have a strategy in place well before you have to take action.

Buyers and Sellers: Resolve to Engage a Real Estate Agent Now

Planning a home purchase or sale takes time. Engaging a real estate agent early in the process will allow you to have an expert on hand as you start to put the pieces together. A good real estate agent doesn’t just show and sell homes: They can be your strategic adviser, even well in advance of any actual transaction.

On the seller side, if you pulled a permit to install some new windows or replace some dry rot in 2005, likely the contractor issued a permit. But did he close it out? A good agent will figure that out and clean it up before it becomes a transaction issue. You should use your agent to literally get your house and listing in order.

For buyers, having an agent with you from the start is like having an experienced second set of eyes and ears. Having so many transactions under the belt and years of market knowledge in their head, a real estate agent’s opinions, thoughts and ideas can save you a lot of time and money. What’s more, they can keep you on the right path toward identifying the best home, and they’ll see you through the process all the way to the closing.

I am a licensed Real Estate agent. I have over 20 years’ experience in Real Estate and also years of experience in banking, finance and credit. I’m a marketing genius (IMHO). I will include photos, flyers, and a virtual tour of your home. I am also a Certified Home Staging Professional. Let me give you pointers on how your home will show in the best possible light.

You can find me through my website at http://www.NormaSellsNJHomes.com

Posted in Baby Boomers & Silver Collars, Buying a Home, Home Maintenance, Hunterdon County & Clinton NJ, Selling a Home, Thoughts From a Realtor, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on 2014 New Year Resolution – Buying or Selling a Home

Inexpensive Home Improvement Luxuries Add Value When You Sell!

When selling your home, or just looking for a little luxury, there are simple and inexpensive additions you can make. Here are a few:

Wine Cooler. No, not the Styrofoam kind! Wine cellars are big sellers in new homes but there are ways you can add this special touch to your home now. Wine coolers come in various sizes. Tabletop coolers can store up to 12 bottles at the correct temperature. Undercounter models are more expensive but do add to the elegance, They’re easy to install and reflect a more affluent, sophisticated consumer (such as yourself) and adds value to the home. 

Yes, you can put beer cans in there, too. If you must. 

Spa Shower. We like to pamper ourselves in the bath. Without a remodel, there are luxurious changes we can make on the cheap. Switch the regular shower head to “rain” style. They can be swapped with your boring old shower head via an extension arm. You can also install a combo shower unit, with both hand-held and stationary heads. Different heads with different options. 

Love a cozy bath towel? Install a heated towel bar. There are models that can be hard-wired or plug-in.

Then decorate your bathroom as if it WERE a spa with extra towels on shelves and pampering gels and soaps. People will notice this. 

Indoor Fireplace. If you’ve always wanted a fireplace and don’t have a chimney (or the one you have can’t be used), you can now use one that gives off heat and flickering flames without the need for a flue. Electric fireplaces are gaining rapid popularity and, as a result, prices are going down. There are elegant ones with a mantle and smaller ones that look like stoves. Gel fireplaces are also gaining in popularity but do require the purchase of gel canisters. The bonus, of course, is that all these fireplaces can be moved from room to room. 

Sound System. Expensive and fancy homes have elaborate movie rooms and sound systems. You don’t need to spend a lot to have a great system. You can buy “Home Theater in a Box” which includes 5 speakers, an amp and subwoofer. You can then plug in your blu-ray, stereo or computer into the system. 

Indoor Bar. A separate entertaining area is always desirable. Create your own area if you don’t have one! Move your furniture to create a space for bar furniture. There are some beautiful pieces in the form of carts, cabinets and so on. There are various styles of wine furniture from armoires to specialized wine cabinets. You don’t need to hook up the water if you don’t want to. This sort of indoor bar adds value and ambiance to your home. 

There are many small luxurious touches you can add on the cheap. These are touches that a prospective buyer can identify with. If you want more info on adding value to your home, just give me call. You can get in touch with me through my website at http://www.NormaSellsNJHomes.com.

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Tradition: Why We Wish on Falling or Shooting Stars

I went to a ‘haunted hayride’ last weekend (had a great time). Being out among the corn fields, I was able to view far more stars than I would from my home in Clinton Town. On one occasion I looked up and I saw the end of a shooting star. I was surprised and also amused that the child in me quickly made a wish.

Later on I wondered about our traditions of making wishes to the heavens. Yeah, I kind of believe in it. I also believe in faeries, sprites and that a butterfly landing on your shoulder will bring good luck (my friends know I have taken permanent steps to always welcome that good fortune).

But people all around the world do wish on shooting stars or ‘certain’ stars. Many believe that this practice is based in different religions. Some believe that is a practice simply because of the beauty of the stars.

One of the oldest references to the practice of wishing on a star is the nursery rhyme we all know, but I didn’t know it was estimated to have been written in 1895. The author is unknown, but the poem reads, ‘star light, star bright, first star i see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight’.

One myth dates from Ptolemy in the 1st century (A.D.) about wishing on a falling star. He wrote that the Gods will, out of both curiosity and boredom, occasionally peer down at the earth from between the spheres where stars could sometimes slip out of this gap, becoming visible as shooting or falling stars. The Gods, it’s believed, tend to be more receptive to wishes made during these times. But you do have to tell your wish out loud when the star is still falling. When it disappears, the ‘door’ is closed.

But many other cultures also revered the shooting star, such as the Jews and Christians believing them to be fallen angels or demons and the Greeks thinking them the rising or falling of human souls.

Another legend from native americans tells the tale that in the land of Kluskap there lived two sisters who loved to watch the stars. One day when they were walking in the forest they became lost and in the evening they watched the stars as always. In two bright stars, one sister saw an eagle and the other sister saw a hawk. These birds carried them up into heaven. They were very lonesome, for they were away from their own people and they prayed to Kluskap to have them returned to their homes. He said, “If I do this, you must not look back once we start on our journey”. But the younger sister could not resist looking back to see if her older sister were following. As she did, she was immediately turned to flame. You can see her today. Look for a shooting star. It is the younger sister still trying to come back to her people in the old land of Kluskap.

In Switzerland, a meteor was considered to possess the power of God.  Modern Hawaiian Japanese are reported to believe that if a meteor comes in your direction, you must open the collars of your kimono to admit the good luck. ;In central Europe, people believed that everyone had a personal star which fell upon his or her death. This led some to say such things as ‘rest in peace’ or ‘may God guide you to a good path’ upon seeing a meteor.

Perhaps the most famous omen was that divined form the Ensisheim stony meteorite which fell in Alsace (now in France) in 1492. The Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian assembled his council to help determine the meaning of the fall. The council determined that it as a good omen in his wars with France and the Turks

Have you been wishing for something and it hasn’t come true? Well you’re in luck. Late night November 16 until dawn November 17, 2013, the Leonids will shower us with meteors.
Radiating from the constellation Leo the Lion, the famous Leonid meteor shower has produced some of the greatest meteor storms in history – at least one in living memory, 1966 – with rates as high as thousands of meteors per minute .

The Geminid meteor shower will be giving us plenty of shooting stars (meteors) to wish upon from Dec. 4-17. There were will be plenty of opportunities to make wishes that week, especially during the peak viewing time on the evening of December 13 and into morning of December 14 when shooting stars will fall at a rate of 80-120 per hour! You only have a few seconds to make your wish as the meteor falls from the sky and you must say your wish out loud!

So that’s it. When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true….so the song goes.

Did I get the wish I made in the dark corn field? Sadly no, but I didn’t say it out loud either. It’s something to plan for during the next meteor shower.

So, why would a Realtor write such an article? Oh, you know it’s coming…

If you’re looking for a new home where you can pay proper homage to the heavens – day or night – give me a call or a click. http://www.NormaSellsNJHomes.com





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Fall Soil Preparation in NJ

The gardener feeds the plant, the organic gardener feeds the soil. Feeding the plant is like applying battery power, which has a limited span of usefulness before it burns out. But feeding the soil with organic nutrients and minerals is like creating a hydroelectric plant that is driven perpetually by the forces of nature. Aldo Leopold wrote of this same link in 1949. “Land, then, is not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants and animals.”

As harvest time arrives, think of spring, when you will be deluged with chores from lawn care to bare root planting. In those muddy early days of the season soil preparation for large-scale planting can be a sticky mess. Tillers bog down in the mire. Earth is still cold, its populations of microorganisms sluggish from the winter cold.

To relieve yourself of a giant spring task and to make it easier by working drier earth, amend your garden soil in the fall. Kitchen gardens and large plots of seasonal color will fare better if you shift your spring soil prep to the fall. Tilling opens up the soil, allowing oxygen to reach the deeper layers after a long season of production. Adding your organic matter, humus and manures to the soil in the fall gives it an entire winter and spring to become biologically active. The remnants of this year’s crop will have plenty of time to break down.

Organic soil amendments are not immediately valuable to plants. When you add them to the soil in spring, there will be a delay until it all “marries” and begins to interact and render its benefits to plants. It can take many weeks, even months before the soil functions at peak levels.

But if you prepare your soil in the fall while the earth is still warm and workable, your spring work effort will be greatly simplified. You won’t have to touch the soil until just days before you’re ready to plant your first seed or seedling. Often just a single tilling or forking-over is all that’s required before you begin planting.

There are just a few simple steps to fall soil preparation, whether you’re working a huge vegetable field or a tiny plot for city tomatoes:

Now is the time to dig out the roots of problem weeds like wild morning glory, oxalis, nut sedge and Bermuda grass. Be sure to remove any others with seed still on the plant. If shed, this seed can easily winter over in the soil to infest the new year’s garden. It’s a common occurrence in spring prepped soils to find weed populations increasing with each new season.

In the fall, spread amendments evenly over the area before you till. You’ll need a lot of manure and/or compost to feed microorganisms and help the soil remain open and well-drained. Then boost fertility with materials such as bone meal for nitrogen and rock phosphate for phosphorous. An easy way to achieve this is to buy a complete organic fertilizer in pellet or granular form, which is easy to transport and apply.

Fall tilling is about opening up the soil to incorporate amendments, relieve compaction, increase oxygen and improve drainage. The deeper you get the better. Because you’re not planting right afterward, it’s best to rough till once in each direction. This leaves the surface irregular with large chunks of earth. The clods will gradually erode over the course of the winter, carrying amendments deeper down with the runoff. You can litter the entire surface with a mulch of shredded leaves, hay or straw to prevent erosion. The ground will flatten out considerably by spring when you’ll need only fine till to prepare for planting.

Come spring, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much easier it will be to put the garden in without all that hauling, spreading and tilling. And best of all, it will be in top biological form to feed your plants with soil-borne energy with all the power of the Hoover Dam.

I can help you find a great garden…with a house next to it! Just contact me at http://www.NormaSellsNJHomes.com


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