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Simple, Affordable Ways to Increase your Home's Resale Value

According to most sources, the housing market has still not fully rebounded from the 2008 recession although there are some positive trends (prices rising, low interest rates) as well as some negative ones (sales growth flat). That said, spring is traditionally a big season for real estate sales and the season is just revving up. Increasing the value of your home is always an advantage and thanks to a recent article by ConsumerReports.org, we discovered five ways to efficiently boost that value by 10%.

Consumer Reports conducted an online survey of 303 professionals across the country (from all areas and market sizes) and gathered some very eye-opening insights. Asking questions such as "What are the costliest mistakes sellers make?", Consumer Reports found that maximizing the value of your home is simpler than most people thought.

Get Thee to the Dump
According to the experts, nothing drives away potential buyers like clutter. The potential return on clearing out and cleaning up ranges from 3% to 5% and can cost you nothing if you do it yourself. Home buyers apparently have a difficult time imagining themselves in your home if it is filled with personal effects and piled high with junk - even if the junk is valuable. If the task is too daunting to go at it alone, think about hiring a professional organizer. It may cost upwards to $2000.00 to get the job done, but selling items online or at a swap meet can help offset that cost. Opening the blinds and permanently getting rid of any odors that may be lingering from years of cooking or pet ownership is also essential.

A Mini-Makeover in the Kitchen
The kitchen has always been reported to be the single most important room in the house when it comes to selling - even for folks who aren't particularly interested in cooking or entertaining extensively. Whether meals are painstakingly prepared or nuked on the way out the door, the kitchen is a convening place - a place that needs to appear efficient, comfortable and, of course, good looking. If the kitchen is painfully outdated, it is probably a good idea to do some major renovations, but simple solutions can often reap returns ranging from 3% to 7%. A fresh coat of paint, new hardware on cabinets, an interesting light fixture and even just a fancy new faucet can draw the buyer toward the good points and diminish the not-so-good.

Give your Bathroom a Day at the Spa
If we consider how most if us think of bathrooms, we see them at once as spaces of cleansing, renewal and relaxation - but also as veritable Petri dishes of every germ imaginable. When showing and selling a home, this is a paradox, however, that is very easily overcome. An excellent tip from the folks at Consumer Reports, is to apply fresh caulk around all of the relevant places. People don't want to just know that the bathroom is clean on the day of their visit, they want to know that it has been well-maintained all along. Maintenance is vital throughout the entire home, but sometimes folks can be more forgiving of a leaky roof than they can a leaky faucet. The way a property is kept over the years is a personal reflection of the previous homeowner, but there is a difference between not having the money to fix certain things - and just not having the desire. If a home is perceived to have been impeccably maintained, they feel more confident in the integrity of the seller and this goes a long way in increasing the value of your home. New fixtures on the bath and sink are pretty much a no-brainer, but creating a relaxing feel is also of vital importance. For many people - especially those with children - the bathroom is elevated to the level of sanctuary and achieving this effect couldn't be easier. Removing as much cloth-clutter as possible - especially layers of brightly-colored towels - is a great way to lighten the space . Rolling white towels in a yard-sale basket lends to the look of a spa and hanging one clean, white or neutral towel on each bar screams tidy, clean and best of all - sanitary. Bamboo accessories finish the spa-effect and these can now be purchased a places like TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Home Goods for very little money.

Selective Painting
When it comes to interior painting, the Consumer Reports survey indicates that re-painting the entire home is not always necessary. Kitchens and baths are the priority second only to brightly-colored walls. Colors are extremely influential on people's moods and are very much a matter of taste. Not everyone will think that your burnt-orange phase was charming, nor will many find the custom periwinkle in the nursery as pleasing as you do. Let the buyer's imagination run wild by painting with clean neutrals - and for rooms that are already quite neutral - leave them be. Leave artwork to a minimum and as universally pleasing as possible. And, for all of the holes left by taking down the clutter - a little spackle and touch-up paint should do the trick. If you do not have back-up of matching paint, most hardware stores have sample sizes for just a few bucks. Selective painting does not yield the highest in terms of resale value (between 1%-3%) but in relation to cost, it is very much worth it.

How Does Your House Say Hello?
It goes without saying the exterior of your home is the ultimate first impression. Over the years, many of us begin to take the exterior for granted as we busily live our lives inside. We also tend to overlook certain things like dirt build-up because it is something that develops almost imperceptibly. A good power wash is almost always in order and never, ever show a home with dirty windows. A great bit of advice from Consumer Reports is a fresh coating of mulch around the trees to make the landscape pop and with all of the new colors now available, you can really coordinate the look with the rest of your exterior. Many real estate professionals advocate a new front door to heighten the curb appeal and to further instill confidence that the home has been well-maintained. The great news about all of the above suggestions, is that the entire cost - when taking a middle-of-the-road approach - can be implemented for less than $2500.00. And, who knows, perhaps once you give your home this easy min-makeover, you won't mind waiting until it sells!

Foreclosures Down in Housing Rebound

The rate of new foreclosures has hit its lowest level in eight years, according to Bloomberg's website. Rising home prices brought homeowners "above water," enabling them to sell without a loss.

The rate of foreclosure fell to its lowest since the third quarter of 2006, which was about the time when home prices started their decline.

Rising home prices, loan modifications and approval to sell for less than what is owed all play a part in the easing of the foreclosure crisis, according to the article. A current low mortgage rate and anemic inventories bolster the current recovery. (That is, unless you live in LA County.)

Are you seeing signs of a housing recovery? Let us know in the comments below.

An recent ruling could affect over 5 million homes across California.

Lead Paint Ruling Could Send LA Home Values Into Nose Dive

When a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge ruled recently requiring three major companies to pay $1.15 billion in lead paint remediation, the Los Angeles real estate industry took a collective breath. Roughly 2.6 million LA County homes could be affected by the ruling, and about 5 million statewide. The implications to the real estate market are still unknown, but some experts feel the worst.

The National Mortgage News reported that the remediation efforts could lead to massive disruption to the market as homes built before 1978 (when lead paint stopped being used) would suffer from disinterested buyers when placed on an open market. There is also concern among homeowners and realtors that lenders, insurers and title companies may label such dwellings "public nuisances."

Though the real impact to the market still remains unknown, LA County braces for the waves of inspectors that will descend soon, spending the $400 million the judge allocated for investigation of lead paint in pre-1979 homes.

Are you living in LA County? Will your home be affected by the ruling? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Your Open House should be empty...of you!

Open House Checklist

We can't all afford to stage our homes, so for those of us who have to make do prior to open house day, Charter Homes put together this helpful checklist chock full of valuable advice.

A few of the tastier tips include:

  • Use Natural Light. Bright homes look bigger and more welcoming. Open the curtains and drapes and let the sun in. (As an add-on tip, consider scheduling the open house during hours when the sun is going to hit it just right.)

  • Make Yourself Scarce. Prospective buyers want to imagine themselves living in the home, not see you currently living in it. Schedule yourself to be elsewhere during the open house and stick to it. FYI this goes for everyone else in your family, too!

  • Odorize. Or de-odorize, if the home needs it. Smells can be powerful memory triggers, and god forbid your home triggers some trauma in your guests! Okay, that may be a bit alarmist, but you do want your home to smell pleasant. But go easy on the air fresheners and sprays -- it may seem like you're trying hard to cover something up.

  • Head on over to CharterHomes.com for the full list, and don't be afraid to share some of your tips below!

    Top 10 Home Improvement Fixes for Return on Investment

    Are you looking for the most bang for your home improvement buck? Then you'll be interested in this recent infographic by Nationwide Insurance, which details the top 10 home improvement for getting a return on your investment.

    The infographic breaks down the ROI of your classic home improvement jobs, like a kitchen or bath renovation, as well as some not-so-classic investments, such as landscaping or flooring.

    So where can you get the most bang for your buck? Click the link above to find out.

    Is it cheaper to buy?

    Buying vs. Renting - The Tipping Point

    It may be a wildly overused phrase, but "tipping point" applies to the Buying vs. Renting comparison, particularly as mortgage rates start to rise. And according to a finding published recently in Trulia, we're still a little ways away (nationally) from reaching that point, which is to say, it is still cheaper to buy than it is to rent.

    That's the short answer, at any rate. The long answer is that while the national tipping point is somewhere around 10.5%, each local market has its own marker, influenced by the cost of renting in that location and the nature of the real estate market. In San Jose, for example, it becomes cheaper to rent than to buy when the mortgage rate rises above 5.2%. But with current rates around 4%, it is safe to say that nationally it is still cheaper to buy than to rent

    Trulia's Rent vs. Buy analysis takes identical sets of properties and factors in maintenance, insurance, taxes, closing costs, down payment and sales proceeds on a 30 year fixed rate loan. It also assumes that the properties would be lived in for 7 years, with mortgage interest and property tax payments deducted.

    For the full finding, head over to Trulia.

    An aging baby boomer eyes down-sizing in a market without demand for the large, single-family homes that defined a generation.

    Will an Aging Baby Boomer Population Lead to the Next Housing Crisis?

    The baby boom generation is heading towards retirement, which means a sizable slice of the housing pie could be hitting the market soon. And demand is not shaping up to meet the expected supply.

    This according to a recent article in The Atlantic Cities, which suggested that baby boomers, who were largely responsible for the growth in larger, big-lot single family homes that defined suburbia, are going to be looking to downsize as the move into retirement over the next ten years. This means selling those suburban homes to the next generation of families.

    The only problem? That next generation of households with children has a larger percentage of buyers who are inclined towards condos and townhouses (around 25%, according to the article).

    A growing lower class unable to afford the large suburban homes will further exacerbate the problem.

    So when's the next housing crash going to happen? The article points to 2020 as the year to keep an eye on.

    Read the entire piece here.

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