Friday, October 11, 2013

The Little Things

Sometimes the smallest things can turn out to be some of the most important. Recently, I had a property listed for sale.  It seemed like a no-brainer to sell in the current La Grande market.  It was a great buy for the price range. It was in the price range ($135,000) that is in the bull’s-eye of buying activity.  It had 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a partial basement with a family room and a big yard. The seller was even going to leave the play structure! Everything seemed to indicate that this house would be sold quickly and the owner could move on to Portland to the new job and life would be good for them.  Everything went according to plan.  We got an offer in the first 60 days of having it on the market. Not just an offer, but a really good offer from pre-qualified buyers.  The owner was ready to pack his bags and wave good bye to La Grande.  Told ya! What a great real estate agent I presumed myself to be.  The home inspection was ordered and we all assumed it would pass with flying colors. After all, this house is in great shape and there very little that could go wrong, right? Wrong.
Out of the blue, the seller and I got slugged right in the gut (figuratively, of course!) as we read through the paperwork informing us the buyers had unconditionally withdrawn from the transaction, citing the inspection as the reason. As with any transaction that fails because of an inspection, the report was delivered to us to review.  The home inspection indicated there was water in the crawl space under the house.  Not a huge issue, but something we needed to address in order for the bank to loan on the house.  Then we saw the notes in the report about a substantial wet spot in the carpet on the floor of the basement family room. NOW we started to worry a little.  What the heck is causing that? Then, we read on into the report as the inspector described a large break/crack in the foundation wall and he advised the buyer to get a structural engineer’s opinion.  That was enough for the buyers.  They walked away from an otherwise beautiful home, and rightfully so.  I certainly would have advised them to do the same.
After the seller and I gathered ourselves and got over the shock of the report, we began pondering the potential cause.  The house looks so good.  It’s super clean. The paint is fresh. This appears to be a model home and yet we lost a great deal and had an inspector tell someone to get a structural engineer.  Those things can be the kiss of death when trying to sell a home.  We contacted a building contractor to look at the house and give us an opinion of what caused this.  Do you know what the problem was? You’ll NEVER guess…  The cause of the problem was a missing elbow at the bottom of the rain gutter downspout! Really? That little thing that got thrown off when the seller hit it with his lawn mower?  Really?  Yes, really.  The downspout had been draining water straight down the side of the house and it was running into the ground right next to the foundation wall.  Over time, along with the hot and cold of the seasons, the foundation broke and started letting water into the crawl space, which in turn soaked the carpet in the family room downstairs.  It all could have been prevented with a $3.00 downspout elbow.

 Don’t let this be you.  Fall means more rain.  More rain and falling leaves. Check your gutters for clogs from leaves and visually inspect them to make sure they are all there and working properly.  If they aren’t, get ‘em fixed!  It’s usually not costly and will prevent disasters like this one.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Top 5 Ways to Improve Your Home's Showing Power

People always ask, “What can I do to make my property worth more if I decide to sell?”  The answer is not always so easy.  I usually respond with, “It depends.”  It does.  It depends on many things that can affect what I recommend.  I do have a few things I always look for and have tried to put these into a “Top 5” list of things that will add value.  I’m sure this list will not be perfect, but it’s a good start.  Here we go:

1)      Do you have only one bath?  If so, look at your floor plan and see if there is a place to add a second bath, or even a half bath.  For the money it costs, especially when you have some skills to do the work on your own, this is of good value when selling.  A second bath is important to most people with families, people who want families and even empty-nesters that want room for guests.  For the cost, this is a great way to add to your selling price.

2)      What is the first thing you notice about a house?  If you notice it, others will notice it too, good or bad.  Most likely that would be the front of the house, whether from the photo on MLS or from a drive by.  A lot of people make decisions on whether to see a home by their first impression. We call this “curb appeal.”  There are several ways to improve curb appeal. Check the landscaping and spruce it up where it needs it. Trim the hedges, mow the lawn, kill the weeds.  Look at the paint. Is it looking rough?  Is the house dirty? Making the front of the house look like a home that people love is a big advantage when selling.

3)      Walk in your front door.  What do you notice? Does it smell? Is it cluttered?  It’s important to be realistic about what you notice because buyers certainly will be.  The first impression of the interior of your home will be as important as the curb appeal.  Buyers will decide whether they want to see the rest of the house based on their first impression.  If it stinks, maybe you need to deal with your cat.  Maybe the carpet needs to be replaced. Figure out what it is and fix it!  Clutter is easy to fix. Don’t get caught with the attitude of “I live here. They can deal with how I live.”  Until it is sold, you need to live in a way that sells the house, even if it isn't very comfortable. Make it as easy as possible for buyers to imagine themselves in the space.

4)      Kitchens are a big deal to most buyers.  Look at yours. Is it dated?  Does it need a thorough cleaning? Are there dirty dishes piled in the sink? Are the counter tops cluttered? Are the cupboards organized? Buyers will open cabinetry. Clutter is indicative of limited space, so take the time to clear out excess and organize! If it’s dated, maybe think about changing the hardware and/or painting the cabinets. Don’t remodel it to sell it. The cost is prohibitive related to the return. Do simple things and make it look brighter and clean!

5)      Does it look well maintained inside?  Clean things up! That’s free. Look around. Are the blinds dirty? If so, clean ‘em.  Are there dirty hand prints around the door casings?  Paint ‘em. Did the dog scratch up the wall by the back door?  Fix it.  Those little things will add up to much more interest for a buyer.  People want to think a home has been taken care of. It creates comfort.  Comfort creates offers.

Follow these few tips and you will sell your house for more money than if you left it alone.  If they are already done, good for you!  You are light years ahead of the competition.