Blog :: 08-2013

Simple Tips for Better Home Showings

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Open Houses are a great way to showcase your home to interested buyers. Make sure it looks its very best and leaves a lasting impression by following these 12 easy steps.

1. Remove Clutter and Clear Counters. When buyers attend an open house, they want to see a spotless, 'blank canvas' home where they can imagine themselves. To prepare, get rid of stacks of magazines and newspapers that might be laying around and take notes and photos off of your refrigerator. Next pack up most of your collectibles and small decorative items; you don't want buyers to be distracted and less clutter makes your spaces look and feel better. Put extra furniture and stored items in temporary storage to make your living and closet spaces appear larger. Don't forget to give your garage a thorough once over as well!

2. Wash Windows and Screens. You will let in more light and impress buyers with your attention to detail.

3. Deep Clean Everything. A clean, neat house will make a solid first impression and send a message to buyers that your home has been well taken care of. Wash fingerprints from appliances and light switch plates, mop and wax floors and clean your kitchen and bathrooms extensively. If you can afford to hire a cleaning service, it would be well worth the investment.

4. Make Sure Every Room Smells Fresh. Clean your carpets, draperies and upholstery to remove any odors and freshen up. Open your windows to air out the house and add scented candles or plug-ins strategically throughout.

5. Brighten Your Rooms. Switching your light bulbs to a higher wattage will help brighten rooms and are especially important for basements and attics. Replace any burned out bulbs, including those in closets. Clean your walls and consider having them freshly painted in a neutral color.

6. Minor Repairs Are Important. Small issues such as sticky doors, torn screens or a dripping faucet may not occur to you every day, but buyers will take not. Fix any issues around the home and their confidence in the quality of your home will rise.

7. Tidy Your Yard. Mow the grass, rake stray leaves, add fresh mulch, trim hedges and clean gutters in the warmer months. During the winter, make sure all pathways are shoveled and clear of ice and debris. For added curb appeal add a pot of bright flowers near your entryway or hang a festive wreath on your door.

8. Patch Holes. If your driveway has large pock marks or holes, repair them and apply a sealant.

9. Add Pops Of Color. A colored throw and a few accent pillows will really add a lot to living areas.

10. Add Flowers. Purchase a flowering plant, if you don't own one to place near windows you walk past frequently. Little details like this go a long way for buyers.

11. Add Centerpieces. Fill a decorative bowl with brightly colored fruit, or add a bouquet of flowers to dining tables for an extra 'wow'.

12. Set The Scene. Set the table with your best dishes and add candles. Buyers will want to picture themselves living in your space, so make them feel at home!

8 Tips to Guide Your Home Search


1. Research before you look. First and foremost, decide what features are most important to you. Are there things your home must have to satisfy your family's needs? Next look in your preferred neighborhoods for homes that fit your description

2. Be Realistic. It's a good thing to have high expectations and know what you want. Just remember that there is no such thing as the perfect home...unless you are willing to build one from scratch. Keep in mind what your needs are compared to what is available in your area of choice. Use your priority list to help you evaluate and 'grade' each property.

3. Get your finances in order early. Run a credit check on yourself (and significant other if the purchase will be made together). Next take a serious look at your savings--do you have enough to cover a down payment (normally about 20%  of the total cost of the home) and closing costs (normally between 1-1.2% of the home's cost). When you have a general idea of your financial standing, meet with a lender to be pre-qualified for a mortgage. Doing this early on will show sellers you are serious and know how much you can afford.

4. When it comes to opinions-more is less. Ask one or two people you trust and whose opinions you value for their thoughts when you narrow down your list of homes. The more people you involve, the more confused you will be. In the end it will be you living in the home and you who has to be satisfied day in and day out. Gathering qualified, knowledgeable information is very important, but don't be swayed by the personal preferences of friends and family.

5. Decide your moving timeline. Are you currently renting and tied to a lease? Are you allowed to sublet? Will moving in the Fall interfere with your child's school schedule? These are all questions you should think about. If you realize your moving options are limited, plan accordingly.

6. Think long term. Are you planning to start small and move to a larger home in a few years or looking for a long term family home? Your decision here will dictate the type and price of the home you will buy as well as impact your mortgage options. See our Mortgages Simplified post for detailed information.

7. An Inspection is essential. Do not pass up your option of a home inspection. Having a professional go through a house top to bottom and vet it completely will uncover any issues that need to be addressed. You need to be aware of the condition the home is in. It could make you re-think the purchase or confirm that you are making a solid choice. Either way, it's best to know up front than to find out later.

8. A Realtor will be your best advocate. Having a professional to guide you and help you make informed choices will be a lifesaver during the home buying process. As a buyer's agent, your realtor will be working for you to find the home you want. You want someone on your side to actively work toward your goal so that you can relax, enjoy the search and be sure your best interests are being looked after. Our Signature Agents are always available to offer advice and consultations and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

5 Need to Know Facts About House Hunters

1. The Web is Stop #1: 90% of home buyers use the internet at some point during their search, but recently a study by the National Association of Realtors found that 52% begin their search online. Take away: Online presence is paramount. Consider staging your home for even greater appeal. Be sure your realtor takes high quality pictures-the more the better-sites filter by # of photos, so the more you have, the higher on the list your home will be.

2. Tried and True Methods Still Work:  45% of home buyers found open houses to be a valuable source of information. 53% were initially drawn to homes after seeing a realtor's sign in the yard and 27% used newspaper ads to find property information. Takeaway: Internet may be king, but don't discount the effectiveness of tried and true methods.

3. Buyers Hustle:  Modern house hunters are not willing to sit back and wait. Not wanting to miss out on an opportunity, buyers are immediately acting upon properties that grab their interest: 75% drove by the house and 62% walked through it before ever enlisting an agent's help! Only 32% contacted the listing agent first. Takeaway: Curb appeal is important! With home buyers scoping out houses on their own time, it's crucial that yours provides a great first impression.

4. Financing is NOT Their Top Priority: Mortgages were surprisingly low on the list of buyer concerns, NAR found. Even with rising interest rates, buyers are more worried about finding the right home than financing it. Only 13% reported problems getting a mortgage, overshadowed by the 16% of respondents who reported NO problems at all during the entire home buying process.

5. Online Marketplace:  42% of home buyers found the home they ultimately purchased online. Real estate agents found the home purchased 34% of the time while 10% were bought as a result of seeing a yard sign initially. Takeaway: Make sure your realtor is tech savvy and aware of the latest technology. Your home should be found online easily and look as attractive as possible (think large, high quality photos, virtual tours, videos etc).


Expect the Unexpected: Moving Costs

There's the boxes, the truck, the movers... and more


There is more to moving than the usual, expected costs. Prepare yourself for the unexpected costs and plan how to save yourself some money in the process. Beware of these commonly overlooked costs.

1. Moving Expenses: Be aware of extra fees movers charge for things such as carrying items up and down stairs, or pitching in to pack last minute items. The more prepared you are in advance, the faster (and cheaper) your move will be. Have kids? You may find it necessary to hire a babysitter while you pack and on moving day-don't forget to plan for the expense. When you arrive at your new home, unpack your kitchen first and hit the grocery store as soon as you can. You'll avoid days of expensive take out and make fun new memories right away.

2. Yard Maintenance/Landscaping: If you have been a long-term renter, you may forget that yard work is no longer the responsibility of a landlord. The lawn looks beautiful the day you move in, but in 2 weeks that grass will need a trim. You can hire out your landscaping, but in the long run it will be cheaper to purchase your own equipment. Common needs: lawn mower, weedwacker, rakes, shovels, mulch, fertilizer and garden hose.

3. Furniture/Decorating: Remember how lovely your home looked when you first walked through it? Reality may sink in when you unpack and realize you are in need of furniture to fill those spaces. If you can get by with what you have, you will save money by waiting for sales instead of rushing to buy new things. That way you can also choose pieces you really love instead of "fillers".

4. Cost of Living Changes: Moving out of state, or even to a new neighborhood, could dramatically affect daily spending. This could either work to your benefit, or leave you scrambling to adjust. If you find the latter to be true, make a budget of your expenses to find where you can cut back and allow yourself extra wiggle room.

5. Pest Control: Most homes are subject to a thorough inspection prior to closing, however, that does not mean the home will forever be pest free. For the first year (at least) it is smart to have quarterly professional checks and maintenance completed to ensure your home is clear from destructive insects and rodents.

6. Utilities: Until you have lived in your home through all four seasons, you will not be able to accurately predict utility costs. An exceptionally cold winter or a summer heat wave can dramatically change your heating/cooling costs. If you can afford the initial investment of energy efficient appliances, you will save in the long run on monthly bills.

7. Routine Maintenance: When you're renting and something breaks, you call your landlord and someone comes to fix it for you. Being a homeowner means you are your own landlord and all of those responsibilities become your burden. Read your manuals to get an idea of routine maintenance and repairs on your appliances and septic system. Keeping on top of little things before they turn into big problems will save you money and energy.


School Districts Top Family Priorities



60% of Home Buyers are swayed by school district choices.

Kids are housing game changers. Growing families face new and often unfamiliar concerns. The home that once was comfortable for a couple can soon become overcrowded as little ones grow. Children also bring up other concerns for parents including neighborhood safety and educational opportunities. A recent study by found that 3 out of 5 buyers say school boundary lines were a deciding factor in their purchase decision. Buyers were also shown to be willing to give up other luxuries and go above and beyond to secure their children seats in premier classrooms.

Of those home buyers who ranked school boundary lines as deciding factors:

Pay More For Schools


Those same home buyers were willing to forego entirely:

Give Up

Vermont is fortunate to boast a 90% high-school graduation rate-one of the nation's highest! now offers a search by school district function.

Have a school in mind? Contact a Signature Agent to help find a home in that area!