Virginia Real Estate Blog

What stays (Conveys) with the home?

What Stays with The Home?

More than one seller has been surprised to find that their favorite chandelier is not theirs to take when they move. First-time home sellers might be especially confused when confronted with an exclusion form presented by their agent, but understanding what is, and is not included in the sale by statute is important to avoid disappointment on both sides.

The first rule of thumb is to consider if the item is nailed down, bolted, mounted, or planted. This covers a wide range of items both inside and outside the home. This might seem simple enough, but the debate about what constitutes a “fixture” has caused many post-sales lawsuits. Fixtures will stay with the home unless specifically excluded. This includes light fixtures, shelves, cabinets, built-in shelves, and more.

Consider the mount for the big-screen TV. It might seem logical to assume the mount would go with the TV when the sellers leave, but technically it’s likely considered a fixture as it’s bolted to the wall. What about a window-mounted air conditioner? If it’s sitting in the window, it’s typically personal property, if there is a hole in the wall to accommodate it, then it’s a likely fixture.

Outdoor items are subject to the same rules. Anything planted in the yard goes with the home, as does furniture or other items bolted to the ground. In that scenario, an arbor or patio cover bolted to a concrete slab would stay. Contrary to everything just outlined, however, curtains typically go with the home.

Clearly, it can be confusing.

If you are ready to buy or sell a home, make sure and discuss with your agent what you want to add or exclude to the sale. This is the best way to avoid disappointment at best or a courtroom at worst....

Selling A Tenant Occupied Property

Selling a Property with Tenants in Place

The strong seller’s market has prompted homeowners across the country to consider selling their homes. What if your property is a rental unit with tenants in place? Can you still sell and take advantage of the rising home values? Yes, by understanding the steps and following a few tips, you maximize your profit in this strong market.

The first step in selling your home with tenants in place is to understand your rights and responsibilities. The kind of lease you hold will determine if you can simply give notice to the tenants or if the new owners will buy the home with a lease in place. Only month-to-month leases can be terminated unilaterally with proper notice.

Next, meet with the tenants and discuss the situation. Explain your reasons for selling and assure them that you wish to make it as easy as possible. Offer to sell the home to the renters first, and then discuss any future plans they may have. If they can’t or don’t want to buy the property, you may be able to offer them money to move. Your goal must be to have the cooperation of your tenants so they will help facilitate showings and maintain the home.

When you have tenants, who will remain in the home after the close due to their lease, then you must disclose the lease terms to the buyer. The new owner will be legally obligated by the lease. In a strong market, you may find a buyer willing to wait for the expiration of the lease, even if they intend to occupy the home.

Selling with tenants in place doesn’t have to be difficult. Do your homework, understand your obligations and be transparent with the renters and potential buyers. This way, you make it easy on all parties and can reap the reward of high home values.

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Do's and Dont's of a Kitchen Remodel

Do’s and Don’ts of a Kitchen Remodel

Kitchen remodels are the most popular project among homeowners. Who hasn’t dreamed of the perfect kitchen? Most of us, however, don’t have the budget to hand the entire design off to a professional and choose the fixtures, appliances, and extras ourselves. As a result, we don’t always end up with the chef’s kitchen we imagine.

Here are a few dos and don’ts from the experts.

Do Add Dark Accents - Your kitchen does not need to be monochromatic. Adding dark appliances or doors provides a pop to the space and makes it appear larger.

Don’t Ruin the Island – A kitchen island can add usable workspace and visual appeal. However, an island placed in the wrong spot can ruin the appearance and availability. Designers suggest placing the island 2 1⁄2 - 3 feet from the counters. This allows for easy movement between the two. In a small kitchen, skip the island altogether.

Do Splurge on the Lighting – Proper lighting in the kitchen sets the mood. The kitchen has become a place to entertain, so the space needs to merge brighter light for cooking with softer, ambient light for relaxing.

Don’t Skip Proper Prep Work – It may be tempting to rush or skimp on prep work and materials; Afterall it’s not going to show when completed. The fact is that substandard prep work can cause damage to the final product, causing more money and time in the end.

A beautiful kitchen is the centerpiece of the home. Whether your remodel is a complete do over or weekend DIY project, follow these tips for the perfect result you want.

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Finding The Best Home Builder

How to Buy from the Best Home Builder

Whether you plan to buy a single-family home, condo, or townhouse, buying in a new development can cause years of issues if you don’t choose a property with a solid, reputable home builder.

It’s exciting to consider buying new construction, a brand-new home suited to your specific needs and taste. Yet unlike the resale homes, there are no previous owners to provide disclosures detailing issues with construction, lot, or property. In this case, one is relying on the builder to provide a high-quality home in both construction and materials.

As with any home purchase, doing your homework ahead of time can save you thousands of dollars over the long run. Start by researching the builder of the subdivision. Check for other projects, both current and past. Visit any projects still available and drive by the other properties to see how the homes have weathered. Watch for signs of repairs, such as new roofs or paint.

When visiting the model homes, watch for the qualify of construction. Do the doors and drawers open and close smoothly? Are the floors finished at the baseboards neatly? Ask for a tour of unfinished homes as well. Check to see if the workmanship is uniform and careful.

Finally, have a home inspection before closing on the property. A staple of the resales housing market, few homebuyers of new construction consider it. By taking the time to do your research ahead of time, you can make the right choice in a new home.

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Should you save 20% for a down payment?

Should You Save 20% for a Down Payment?

If you’re planning to buy a new home, you may be wondering about the down payment. Loan programs require down payments as low as 3.5% for FHA loans and conventional offers as low as 5%. While you have a lot of options, there are 4 strong benefits to making a 20% down payment on your home.

1. Lower Interest Rates – A borrower who can put 20% down on a home is considered a lower-risk buyer. In addition, the lender only needs to recover 80% of the home’s value in the event of a default. Therefore, the interest rates will be more favorable than that of a higher loan-to-value program.

2. Less Interest Paid – A lower loan amount means there is a smaller amount of money subject to interest. Over the life of the loan, putting 20% down on the home will save you thousands of dollars in interest.

3. Your Offer is Stronger – In a highly competitive market, sellers are more likely to accept an offer with a higher down payment. You will be considered more financially stable and thus better able to close on the loan and sale.

4. No PMI – PMI (private mortgage insurance) is an additional fee added to all home loan payments where the value of the home is under 80%. This provides insurance to the lender in the event of a default.

Ultimately, work with your lender to understand your options and identify the best loan program for your needs, but putting 20% down on a home loan can provide some nice perks.

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Liens That Can Stop A Sale

Property Liens That Can Stop The Sale

One of the most common reasons for a home sale to fall through is the presence of property liens. Often the sellers are not even aware they have a lien on their home and the delay caused by having them removed can cause a qualified buyer to look elsewhere.

Along with other pre-listing tasks, such as repairs and curb appeal projects, sellers should order a title search to determine if any liens are on the property. Some liens are expected, such as the mortgage lien which ensures any home loan is paid off at the time of close, but others might come as a surprise. Here are a few liens which can derail your closing.

· Mechanics Lien – A contractor may place a mechanics lien on your home to make sure they are paid after a home project.

· Divorce Lien – Even if you and your spouse have agreed on the sale of the home, the court may need to approve the sale before the lien can be removed.

· Homeowner’s Association – Past due HOA payments and assessments can lead to a lien on the home.

· IRS and Property Taxes - A government legal claim against your property when you neglect or fail to pay a tax debt.

· Judgment Liens - Is a court ruling that gives a creditor the right to take possession of a debtor's real or personal property if the debtor fails to fulfill his or her contractual obligations.

· Credit Card Liens – If you default on a credit card and the issuers get a judgment, they can attach...

5 Signs You Should Take Your Home Off The Market

5 Signs That You Should Take Your Home Off The Market

When you first list your home for sale, the goal is to see an offer or two from a highly qualified buyer quickly. Unfortunately, sometimes days and weeks go by without much interest. When this happens, it may be time to reevaluate the listing and cancel the listing. Here are 6 signs that it’s time to take your house off the market.

1. Your Financial Situation Has Changed – If you are planning to buy a new home and you are no longer able to do so, then it could be time to cancel the listing, job loss, major expenses, etc.

2. Lowball Offers – Lowball offers could mean either that the house is priced too high, or buyers see the home as a fixer-upper.

3. Repair Needs – If you discover major repair needs, such as a new roof or slab leak, it might make sense to repair and then relist.

4. Needs Updating – While most real estate agents discourage making updates before listing if you are getting feedback from buyers that your home is too dated, performing targeted upgrades may help sell when you relist.

5. Too Much Competition – Even in a seller’s market there can be too many options for buyers. If you can wait for a slower market, your home will stand out more and garner more interest.

A seller’s market does not guarantee that every listing will sell quickly and for a good price. If your home is not attracting the offers you’d hoped for, consider removing it from the market and adjusting your approach.

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Still Renting?

Still Renting Your Home? 4 Facts That Might Change Your Mind

Each year, home renters face the question of whether to renew their lease for another year or determine it is time to buy a home of their own. Over the past couple of years, the US housing market has changed dramatically as home values have soared and interest rates have remained low. So, if you are still renting your home, it might be time to buy instead.

4 Facts About Renting your Home

1. Rents Are Rising Quickly – Higher priced home values drive higher rent costs. While a 30-year fixed home loan will provide steady monthly payments for the duration, most renters are shocked to see their housing payments rise each year.

2. Paying for Your Landlord’s Equity – As home prices rise, so does the equity in the property. As a renter, you are making the loan payments for your landlord, while they reap the benefit of increased equity.

3. You Get What Your Get – A homeowner can paint, renovate, and customize the home to their heart’s content. A renter must live with the choices the landlord made about décor.

4. No Tax Benefits – Homeowners can deduct the home mortgage interest and property taxes off their gross income, offering huge tax savings.

With a wide variety of home loan programs available, buying a home may be more affordable than you think. If your lease is up for renewal, this could be a good time to consider the benefits of homeownership instead.

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5 cool home tech gadgets

5 Cool Home Tech Gadgets

There are so many new tech gadgets on the market these days. Technology should make your life easier and more enjoyable. Here are 5 of the hottest tech gadgets to try right now.

5 Cool Home Tech Gadgets You Should Try Now

  1. Motion Sensor Night Lights - Hate walking down a dark hallway at night? What about navigating the landmine of kids toys in the living room. These night lights have motion sensors built-in so they turn on as you walk by them.

  2. Logitech Harmony Elite - One stop shop for your home smart devices. Harmony Elite is one control that handles all your devices in one place; lowering blinds, dimming lights, Alexa, Apple TV, Sony and much more.

  3. Rubold Dog Dematting Tool - Make Rover happy and keep unwanted hair off your furniture and clothes. This device has rounded teeth to avoid scratching and reaches the undercoat without yanking the hair.

  4. Ring Beams Home Security Lights - Ring is a household name for home security. Now Ring Beams cameras and doorbells add motion lighting to enhance security when using the system.

  5. Smart Thermostats - A smart thermostat can not only put your home on a schedule, saving money and offering comfort, but also allows you to turn on the heat or air conditioning to prepare the home for your arrival.

Home smart devices and technology are improving all the time. With all the exciting products on the market, there’s never been a better time to experiment with smart technology.

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7 Home Mistakes During the Winter

7 Mistakes Homeowners Make During Cold Weather

Winter weather is a wonderful time to huddle by a warm fire and enjoy some well-earned relaxation. The cold weather invites you to ignore home projects and wait for spring to beckon you outside again. Unfortunately, maybe homeowners don’t realize that they are making critical mistakes which can cost thousands of dollars to correct.

7 Mistakes Homeowners Make During Cold Weather

  1. Skimping on Small Protection - A little frozen water can do a lot of damage. Faucet protectors, foam insulation, and leak detectors are an easy weekend DIY to protect your home for little cost.

  2. Enjoying the Icicles - Icicles are picturesque, but before you put them on your Facebook feed, it would be better to remove them and clear the gutter; icicles are evidence of a stoppage in the gutter.

  3. Ignoring your Gutters - While we’re talking about gutters, if you see water pouring down the side of your house, the rain and snow is missing the gutters entirely and soaking the foundation and walls.

  4. Cold Air Gaps - It’s not too late to seal those gaps that drain your house of heat and inflate your energy bills.

  5. Program Your Thermostat - BE intentional about the temperature and invest in a programmable thermostat that allows for comfort and controls costs.

  6. Skipping HVAC Tune-ups - Service your furnace before winter to maintain its efficiency and maximum performance.

  7. Missing a Fireplace Cleaning - A dirty or blocked fireplace can be dangerous. Annual cleaning is...

Benefits of Owning a Second Home

The Benefits of Owning a Second Home

As the world emerges from the pandemic era and begins to look for a new normal, we’ve all changed the way we look at homeownership and lifestyle. More and more, families are forgoing exotic vacations and using the savings to enhance their home for staycations. In addition to the home improvement boom, the second home market has also exploded. Owning a second home was once a privilege for the rich and famous, but now even those with a modest income can purchase a second home.

There are some great benefits to owning a second home. The first is enjoyment. Many people buy a second home to get a change of scenery. With more companies offering a work-from-home option, spending winter in a warmer climate has become feasible for the average person.

There are financial advantages to buying a vacation home. A second home can help you save money on your taxes. The mortgage and property taxes of a second home can be deducted from your income in the same way a primary home is. The property can also be rented out while not in use to provide extra income or pay for the costs of the home.

Owning a second home can enhance the lifestyle of the family. Building equity in two properties will build wealth more quickly while providing an alternate location for work or fun.

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Home EV Charging: The Basics

The Basics of Home EV Charging Stations

Electric vehicles are becoming commonplace in American households. While these innovative cars may allow their owners to pass the gas station, but they still need fuel which means that access to a charging station is important to keep these owners on the road.

To provide easy access to electricity, many owners are opting to install their own charging stations in their homes. This allows easy overnight charging and less stopping while driving around town. Typically located inside a garage, home charging allows the driver to avoid long waits for on-the-go charging or going out of their way to find a station.

Basics

Unlike a standard electrical outlet, EV stations have a specialized charging cable that allows a quick charge for the vehicle. The charging cable may be generic or brand-specific, depending on the model and make of the car. The stations are connected to the home’s electrical system and the energy used will be added to the electrical bill each month.

Solar-Powered charging stations have also become increasingly popular. This involves adding solar panels and batteries to the charging station and powering only the charging unit. This can be added even if the homeowner does not have solar power for the rest of the house.

As more people embrace EV technology and car companies offer more models and styles, electric vehicles will become more commonplace. By learning about the manufacturer’s specifications and using professional installers, adding a home charging station will make owning these cars an easy transition.

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Can you fire your agent?

Can You Fire Your Real Estate Agent

Buying or selling a home can be a stressful situation. When you are having issues with your agent, it can become untenable. The most common complaint from clients is that their agent does not communicate with them enough and aren’t responsive to their needs. While all relationships can have differences, how do you know if it’s time to fire your real estate agent?

If the relationship has reached the point where it’s unproductive, it’s typically better for both parties to terminate the agreement. If you find yourself dreading a conversation with your agent or if you complain about them to others, then you are wasting valuable time by trying to salvage the relationship and it may be time to move on.

Firing a real estate agent is not as simple as it sounds, however. A listing or buyer’s agent agreement are legal contracts with an agreed-upon time frame. Unless the agent agrees to cancel the contract, you are obligated to continue working with them. One suggestion is to reach out to the broker of the agent to ask to cancel or work with another agent; the contract is held between you and the brokerage, so they have some flexibility. You may also offer the agent a referral fee, paid when the transaction concludes.

Choosing the right real estate agent is a critical component of a successful transaction. Before signing any contract, understand the options for cancellation and add a clause, if possible. If you have a contract and want to fire your agent, stay calm and work with your agent and their broker to find a fair solution.

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Hiring a Listing Agent

Additional Criteria When Hiring a Listing Agent

Most sellers spend a long time considering whether they should sell their home. These same people who have considered all the financial and personal pros and cons of moving hire the first real estate agent they like. While certainly it’s important to find an agent you can communicate with, the right agent brings more than a pleasant demeanor to the transaction and it’s critical to choose the right one.

Before signing with the nice agent who stopped by the community garage sale, interview a few local options. Ask friends and neighbors if they have any recommendations and arrange a sit-down visit with the agents. Ask questions, such as:

  • ·  How many homes have you listed and sold in the past year?

  • ·  How do you handle the marketing of the home?

  • ·  Will you hold open houses?

  • ·  What kind of offer should I expect? How will you handle multiple offers?

    Ask for specific examples of how they have handled difficult situations in the past. What if the appraisal comes in low? How do we negotiate request for repairs? Most importantly, ask what list price they recommend and why. You should expect a full comprehensive analysis and the agent should be able to answer any questions you have.

    Finally, ask for references and call them. Ask the references the tough questions – what did they like and dislike about the agent? Buying or selling a home is typically the largest financial decision of someone’s life, hiring the right listing agent is the most important aspect of a successful transaction. Choose the best agent, not just the one that seems nice.

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What is a kick out clause?

What is a Kick-Out Clause

As the seller’s market continues to thrive across the country, sellers are wondering how to choose the right offer. The frantic pace of the real estate market has resulted in multiple offers on desirable properties. While this may seem like a great problem for sellers to face, how do they know that the buyer they choose can close on the home? Many times, sellers make quick decisions and hope for the best, even as home prices continue to climb.

This is where a kick-out clause can help.

A kick-out clause allows a seller to continue to market the home for sale after accepting a buyer’s offer with contingencies. It also outlines the conditions under which a seller can cancel, or kick-out, the contract if they get a better offer.

Most real estate contracts include contingencies. Most common include loan approval, appraisal, and home inspection. Often buyers will also include a contingency to sell their current home. A kick-out clause protects the seller from an escrow that drags on past the agreed-upon time frames. For example, if a buyer is unable to sell their home or home inspection negotiations continue past the time frames agreed to in the contract, a seller can use the kick-out clause to force the buyer to remove the contingency or cancel the contract.

Once escrow is opened, typically both parties must agree to close the process. This can cause delays that cost the seller both time and money. A kick-out clause is one way to ensure the escrow closes on time, and that there are back-up offers ready to go if it doesn’t.

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Modern Farmhouse Trends

Modern Farmhouse Styles – The Trend Gets an Update

Farmhouse décor has been a trend for the last decade. The look combines functionality with a relaxed, lived-in feel. Pieces look slightly worn, rustic, and inviting. The ease of the farmhouse style is one of the reasons for its lingering appeal as designers look to modernize and update the look.

Modern Farmhouse style continues to emphasize a neutral color palette and sustainable materials, such as reclaimed wood and used brick but adds more sophistication to the theme. Capitalizing on the boho trend, the Modern Farmhouse style might include accent pieces in wicker or kilim rugs and pillows, warming the room and merging it with more traditional elements.

Contemporary designs such as Industrial and Scandinavian also get an update when mixed with Modern Farmhouse. The bright, light rooms of a Scandinavian Farmhouse look might include a rustic kitchen table or distressed flooring. While cold, Industrial design adds warmth with a sliding barn door entry or rich leather chairs.

The farmhouse style focuses on comfort, practicality, and an informal lifestyle. Today’s family enjoys this kind of living environment because it offers an easy and flexible design. Inexpensive accent pieces are also readily available which makes the style accessible to everyone. Modern Farmhouse is an updated version of the original, incorporating fresh looks and merging textures and palates to suit the contemporary homeowner.

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What are dark sky ordinances?

Dark-Sky Ordinances – What It Means To A Homeowner

Dark-sky ordinances are popping up across the country. The movement started when a few amateur astronomers realized that urban lights were blotting out the stars, causing a disruption in sleep for both wildlife and humans alike. This nocturnal light pollution hurts the environment and affects the feeding, mating, and living patterns of local wildlife.

To combat this effect, more and more communities are adopting dark-sky ordinances designed to limit the negative impact of artificial light. Compliance with the dark-sky regulations is the responsibility of not just the city, but homeowners within those zones as well, all designed to illuminate skyglow.

Skyglow is the reflection of light caused by the saturation of artificial light. It’s the orange glow in populated areas that prevents one from seeing the stars. Dark-sky rules are designed to combat this and use a variety of methods to reduce or illuminate this light pollution. In addition to limiting the time and type of lighting, they also employ specific light strategies to comply with the ordinances.

Homeowners in a dark-sky location must also adjust the lighting on their property to avoid citations. As with commercial properties, the use of directional lights, lower “lamp” bulbs, and compliant fixtures allow the homeowner to have adequate lighting, while observing dark-sky practices.

The International Dark-Sky Association, or IDA, offers resources for communities, business owners and homeowners that identify best practices and compliant lighting strategies. As more cities recognize the benefits of dark-sky policies on the environment and their citizens, expect to find more dark-sky ordinances across the country.

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Questions most new home buyers ask.

10 Most Common Home Buyer Questions

Buying a new home is exciting and confusing. There are a lot of steps to buying a home, and people have questions. These are the most common questions home buyers have, and the answers.

1. How do I get started? – The first step is to speak with a lender and get a pre-approval. This will tell you, and potential sellers, how much you can afford.

2. How long does it take to close on a home? – Typically, it takes about 30-45 days once contracts are signed to complete the lending, appraisal, and inspection processes.

3. What does my agent do? – A buyer’s agent will negotiate terms and manage the closing process from start to finish.

4. How much do I pay for a buyer’s agent? – Nothing. The seller’s agent gives the buyer’s agent a portion of their commission from the seller.

5. What credit score do I need to qualify? – A 620 FICO score or higher is required for most home loan programs. Talk to a lender for other options for lower scores.

6. How much money do I need for a down payment? – It varies. FHA loans start as low as 3% and most lenders offer standard programs for a 5% down payment.

7. What other fees will I need to pay? – Closing costs and loan origination fees will add another 2-4% to the costs.

8. What if I change my mind? – Your agent will work with you to build in contingencies for condition, loan...

Home Security Basics

Home Security Basics

News reports all over the country are filled with stories of rising crime. Homeowners and business owners alike are concerned and looking for better ways to safeguard their properties and lives. Fortunately, there is a wide variety of options available on the market; from full-service security companies to DIY smart home systems, there is a solution available for every budget.

Following a few simple strategies can help protect you and your belongings from theft and crime.

· Install a Security System – Security systems are one of the most effective ways to protect your home. Many systems include motion detection video surveillance as well as two-way communication.

· Be Unpredictable – Burglars love routine. Using smart home devices, it’s easy to create unpredictable patterns for lights and sound. Leave a car in the driveway if you’re traveling as well, that makes it look like the home is occupied.

· Think Like a Criminal – Spend some time looking at your home and identify the weak points. Secure all doors and windows. Lock all entry points and be creative with a hidden key. Look for hidden entry points; where would you try and break-in? Do you have dark areas that are not visible from the street?

Finally, don’t make it easy for the criminals to track your movements. Refrain from advertising your trips on social media and consider asking a friend or neighbor to visit your home occasionally while you’re gone. The more your home seems occupied, the less appealing it will be to criminals.

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Has your listing gone stale?

Are Buyers Avoiding Your Listing? Strategies to Revive A Stale Listing

It may seem like every listing sells the first weekend these days, but as the market begins to slow down, more sellers are facing the dilemma of an aging listing. If your listing has been on the market for a while, buyers naturally assume that there is something wrong with the home and avoid viewing the home. Fortunately, there are strategies to renew the listing and re-engage buyers’ interest.

If your listing is losing steam, the first step is to understand why. Typically, if a home is not getting offers, it’s priced too high. Even homes in terrible condition will sell quickly for the right price. In a market where homes are selling quickly, it’s common for sellers to assume they can push their listing price even higher, but savvy buyers and agents will reject overpriced homes.

Another strategy is to put the home on hold and make a few updates. In most cases, simply adding a fresh coat of paint or new carpet can offer a more appealing look to buyers. In other cases, to garner a top price, sellers may need to replace appliances or more. Always weigh the cost in dollars and time before making significant updates.

Finally, some Multiple Listing Services (MLS) allow an agent to refresh the listing by temporarily taking it off the market for a few days and then placing it back on “active” status (with seller authorization). This triggers new alerts to both buyers and agents who are looking for a comparable property. If your listing is not getting the attention it deserves, speak to your agent about your options.

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