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Quick House Sale: Is Home Staging Worth the Trouble?

Remember the good ol’ days when all that was needed to achieve a quick house sale was to tidy up and put up a For Sale sign?

If you were looking to sell your home say, 20 years ago, there was no such thing as ‘staging’ a home to appeal to buyers.

Times have changed.

Buyers are more sophisticated than ever, and the real estate market is competitive. You need to stand out from the rest.

In fact, research shows that homes staged in the US can reduce their listing time by as much as one-third to even half!

Today’s buyers are looking to invest in perfect, well-kept and ready-to-move-in homes where very little needs to be done in terms of decorating and fixing.

Plus, popular reality shows like Staged to Perfection and Designed to Sell on HGTV are literally redefining the way houses are showcased and put up for sale.

So if you want the best price, you need to show your property in the best light!

How Can Staging a House Help?

Since most sellers see their houses as homes, they are not able to keep an objective eye and get the most out of their property listings.

You probably know that your home has to be neat and clean before you start showing them to prospective buyers.

In fact, you may have already decluttered, cleaned, and packed away most of the stuff that is not really needed.

But staging a house goes a step further and makes your home look even more cozy, comfortable, inviting and colorful.

It’s also about giving a personalized and unique look so it stands out from the rest of the houses on the market!

But It’s Not Only About Decorating!

Staging a house is not only about decorating. It’s also about selecting the right props, moving furniture around, getting rid of worn out furniture, and renting/investing in new furniture to accentuate each and every room.

If you were to hire a professional home stager, they will go through each room of the house and suggest changes to make it more appealing to the buyers.

This may mean investing in color-coordinated accessories, luxurious linens, table settings, cutlery, window treatments, painting, lighting fixtures, and any other repairs that may be required to showcase the best aspects of the house.

Beyond the Interiors…

Staging a house goes beyond the interiors – the exteriors also need to be perfect!

You need to make the outside and entry of your house pleasing too.

When prospective buyers come to have a look, the first things that will greet them are your porch, lawn, and main entrance. If you have broken fences, an unkempt lawn and garden and broken tiles on the walkway, it will instantly put them off.

You need to ensure that everything is fixed, right from mending the fences and painting them, mowing the lawns, planting a few colorful flowers and plants, to patching up the walkway and installing more light fixtures, if needed.

You can also go one step further and accessorize your lawn by placing a few garden gnomes or even hiring a professional landscaper to do up your lawn entirely.

But, if you don’t have the time or the inclination to stage your house, you can always hire a professional house stager.

What do Professional House Stagers Do?

Professional house stagers take the emotions out of the process because they’re not attached to your house. Hence, they are able to look at a home objectively and suggest changes without bias.

Since this is their job, they are more hands on and familiar with the latest interior design trends, as well as what buyers are looking for in the current market.

Most home stagers have their own unique methods and routine, but a professional house stager is likely to follow the steps outlined below.

First, the stager will come over to your house and meet with you. They will do a consultation where they will explain the entire process.

Next, they will observe and evaluate your house. This process involves taking measurements to draw rough floor plans, taking notes of large pieces and taking a lot of pictures of the entire house in different angles.

The stager will then prepare a detailed and comprehensive report, which includes the following:

  • Positive and negative features
  • Suggestions and ideas for improvement
  • Tips and tricks
  • Resources
  • Thorough outline of the steps to take
  • How to complete each step

They will come back to your house and explain the report in detail and walk you through the entire plan room-by-room.

Of course, this will come at a cost. Most stagers offer package deals or they can charge you by the hour, half day or full day.

So, staging a house definitely comes with a ton of benefits and seems like the best thing to do if you’re looking to sell your property and get the best deal.

But – Is it Worth It?

But… is home staging the only way to go?

While effective home staging can no doubt influence first impressions of a property, there is no guarantee that the strategy itself can convince buyers to pay more, or  even that you’ll sell the property faster!

Staging a home and getting it ready to show prospective buyers involves a lot of work. Not to mention the additional cost of refurbishing the entire home by painting, landscaping plus paying for rental furniture and accessories.

If you’re not very careful, the cost of hiring a professional home stager can spiral out of control!

This is a reason to consider looking into investors to buy your property.

Why Consider an Investor?

If you’re looking to sell your house quickly and don’t have the time to wait up to a year for a listing to sell, then contacting an investor would be the best way to move forward.

Investors don’t really need ready-to-move-in houses. They are more interested in the property, not the aesthetics. If they like what they see, they can make you an offer within a few hours, even if your home is in a bad condition.

If you and the investor agree on a price, many can give you the cash within a few days of contacting them. It’s a quick, smooth process.

There’s absolutely no hassle of renovating your house or making it look ‘pretty’ for the buyers.

It’s a great option if you don’t want to spend the extra dollars staging your house and waiting for that perfect buyer.

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Do You Have to Make Upgrades to Sell a Home?

Sometimes you just have to sell your house, but it can be a bit more tricky and involved than selling an old painting on eBay.

(Believe it or not, it couldn’t be easier to find someone in the world willing to pay top dollar for an ugly painting!)

But what about your older home? Truth is, it just may not be a competitive sell in today’s market – and that’s not your fault.

Plus, there can be circumstances beyond your control:

  • You have taken ill and have to move in with people who can take care of you.
  • You need to upsize or downsize, and you can’t wait a year to sell.
  • You’ve inherited a home you need to sell.
  • You have a new job and have to move quickly.
  • After losing your job, you can no longer afford the mortgage payment.

Whatever the reason, you find yourself in desperate need of someone to buy your older house.

Relax. Like that questionable painting, your older home possibly has a buyer who sees potential where you don’t. Plus, the internet can help make it easier to find them.

You just have to know which upgrades you will need to make your house that much more attractive. Here are a few things to consider before putting out the For Sale sign:

Know Your Liabilities

You need to have reasonable expectations about your quick-sale property. There are some things you can’t change at any cost.

At a basic level, the house is what it is. You have heard something describe a house as having “good bones.” This implies that some houses have bad bones. And, there is nothing you can do about that.

You also can do nothing about the neighborhood. Many professional investors will not touch a house that is in a crime-ridden neighborhood.

There is also the challenge of being upside-down on your payment. In this case, there are a few options to consider if you have time on your side. If you don’t have time for other options, a short-sale can be a solution, freeing you of further obligation.

Being realistic about your liabilities will help keep you realistic about what kind of price you can expect.

As Little as Possible

Don’t be so quick to get started on the upgrades. You are selling your distressed property. You want to get as much as you can, for as little work as you can put in, and as quickly as possible.

The best thing for you to do is forget about repairs when dealing with a cash investor. They will build in the cost of repairs into the offer.

This is actually one of the best things about selling an older home – even a distressed property! Cash investors buy as-is. They know what they’re looking for. And they are fine with your home as is. There is no need to try to impress a cash investor. You can relax!

Remember that your priority is to get out of the house, and out from under the debt. Unless absolutely necessary, upgrades are a distraction. Avoid them when you can.

The Don’ts Are Just as Important as the Dos

Before doing any upgrading, you might want to start with a list of things you shouldn’t bother with. This list might include a few things that are meaningful to you, but not so much to the purchasing public.

That means that putting in that life-sized chess set in the back yard is probably a bad idea.

According to the experts, there are other upgrades you should absolutely avoid.

Painting a child-themed bedroom is just one of those fatal errors that seemed like a good idea at the time.

First of all, your child is going to outgrow Pokémon a lot faster than you think. Second, the kid that is due to inherit the room may have very different tastes. Finally, the people moving in may not even have kids, let alone kids that are the right age.

You will also want to avoid things like colored trim, textured walls, and too much landscaping, all for the same reason: It will be perceived as too much work.

Anyone who has ever tried to paint knows how difficult it is to paint trim. Sanding down textured walls can also be a pain.

Landscaping is good. Excessive landscaping is either laborious or expensive work. Take your pick. Both are turn-offs for perspective buyers.

Finally, there are hot tubs. Don’t do it. What you found romantic and exciting is what another person will find gross.

When it comes to upgrades, don’ts are just as important as dos.

Upgrades for All

In the same way that cupholders sell expensive cars, it’s the little things that sell houses. If you must upgrade, focus on the little things that everybody loves (and that won’t bust the budget).

Exterior lighting, bathroom exhaust fans, and ceiling fans are great places to start. These are small things that can make a house feel a lot more like home.

If you already have these features, throw a few dollars at fixing up your porch and gazebo. A fresh coat of paint may be all it takes to make those areas feel like an extension of the house.

A good porch is just a few upgrades away from being a sun room. And, a gazebo is a great place to entertain guests. These are areas that inspire the imagination of the perspective homeowner.

There are also more little touches that can make a house feel more finished and modern. Towel racks and a toilet paper holder in the bathroom goes a long way.

Knobs, handles, and pulls give a kitchen a feeling of completion.

Finally, if you are going to do something expensive, HGTV recommends you put the money into curb appeal.

All the upgrades you make to the inside of the house are meaningless if you don’t succeed in getting people to walk inside the house in the first place.

The way to do that is to make sure the outside of the house looks warm, inviting, clean, and ready for guests.

There’s no place like home until you get ready to sell it. So make sure you can unload it by being mindful of your liabilities, doing as little as possible, being aware of what upgrades not to make, and only doing those upgrades that are universally loved.

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Avoiding Foreclosure is Possible, Here’s How

Over the past decade, a lot of homes have gone up on the auction block. Foreclosure has threatened millions of homeowners and devastated some neighborhoods. It’s always a scary time when a household or property owner has to face the threat of foreclosure.


Foreclosures happen for many reasons. Sometimes there’s an unexpected financial emergency or a death in the family, or some other tragic circumstance. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of losing the household’s main income. In other cases, property owners get underwater when the home’s value crashes below the amount that they still owe on the mortgage.


The good news is that homeowners have various solutions available to them in order to prevent a foreclosure from ever happening. By understanding some of the programs and strategies that are available, those who are paying mortgages can be more confident that they can get out of a bad real estate situation without foreclosing on a home or other property.


Look at Available Government Programs


One of the first steps for many homeowners, especially in low income households, is a series of government programs now available to help with the rash of foreclosures that has been happening across America. There is the Home Affordable Modification Program or HAMP, which will modify a mortgage payment, possibly bringing it down to 31% of the property owner’s verified pre-tax income, according to this government web page which provides more details on the program.


There’s also the Home Affordable Refinance Program or HARP — this is available to mortgage holders who haven’t been able to get refinancing on the private market, mainly because the value of a property has declined.


Those who are underwater on their mortgages can work through HARP or a program called the Principal Reduction Alternative or PRA that will also reduce payments according to the home’s value and what is currently owed. Get more on these federal options here.


Of course, all of these government programs are only applicable in certain situations, and really address mortgage holders who are in default. Many find that selling their home to a private investor is a much simpler solution.


Contact Lenders Up Front – And Keep in Touch


Another very good piece of advice for families threatened by foreclosure is to notify lenders as early as possible, and keep current on communications with the lender. There are many different cases where the lender can actually help out with options, so that they don’t end up having to take someone’s house. Experts point out that lenders are not in the mortgage business to take on distressed properties — in many cases, the lender would rather solve the problem in a different way. In fact, this Bankrate article shows how some houses become “zombie” houses because the lender doesn’t want to touch them – and how this can leave the property owner open to tax bills and other problems.


One of the best ways to get a better chance of surviving the default situation is to talk to the lender early and often. Another big step is to find a buyer for the property! That’s where private property buyers come in. They will help when there’s no time left to coordinate with the lender.


Forbearance and Repayment Options


There are also other types of programs available from some lenders. Some of them will help property owners with a forbearance agreement where a mortgage holder can show a hardship such as a job loss or illness. A repayment plan is similar, except that small amounts are paid out over time to get up-to-date with the loan.


There is also a process called deed-in-lieu of foreclosure and while this can be difficult, it might be a better path than foreclosure. Here the borrower hands over ownership of the property to the lender directly. This resource from government lender Freddie Mac shows how a deed in lieu of foreclosure can help prevent a foreclosure sale, while it does not allow the borrower to keep the property. On the other hand, when you sell a property to a private firm, you’re getting the value for that property, which is really a significant success in resolving a situation that could have involved a default on the loan.


Sell the Home


Another very common strategy is to sell the home. If there is adequate value and equity in the home, the property owner should be able to sell through the regular real estate market. However, the real estate agent’s commission and other factors can eat into the profit margin and cause situations where a deal would actually lose money beyond what the mortgage holder has to pay the lender in a theoretical private market sale.


There’s also a system in place called a short sale which can work with underwater properties. When there is not sufficient interest in the private market due to the low value of the property, a short sale can be a way to avoid foreclosure.


A short sale involves selling the property for the amount that the mortgage order may get, and taking a credit hit for the balance. However, a short sale can be less harmful to a credit score than a full-scale foreclosure and can have different kinds of psychological impact as well.


When there’s no buyer on the public market, the best thing to do is to talk to private investors that may be able to offer value for a distressed home or other property.


Sell Your House with a Private Investor for Faster Results


In a lot of cases, it’s impossible to sell the house quickly enough to avoid being bankrupted by the burden of mortgage payments and going into foreclosure as a result. It can be a question of time as well as a question of money. There may simply be lack of interest in the private market, where the property owner who’s trying to prevent foreclosure just doesn’t get offers in quickly enough to be able to sell the property to pay off their loans.


Third-party investors can be a lifesaver in these types of situations. Often billed as “we buy houses” or “cash for houses” businesses, third-party investors will offer a fair market price for a house or property in order to help the property owner to get rid of the property quickly. Talk to individual private investors to try to get a deal made in order to stave off foreclosure and all of the negatives that come with it. Whether it’s a stand-alone home, a condo, or some other type of property, the potential to sell to a buyer company is there.


Any of the above solutions can help to prevent foreclosures by adequate planning, but in many cases, working with a buyer company is particularly quick and effective. A property is a huge asset, but it can also be a huge liability. There’s a lot of emotional toll that is taken when a property owner goes underwater on a party or is unable to make the mortgage payments.  Using a home buying company helps to cut through the red tape and get a deal done that allows someone who was unable to pay a mortgage to walk away with confidence.