What All Buyers and Sellers Should Know About Easements

When you buy a home, it’s exclusively yours to use, right?

Not always.

If there are specific easements on title, you may have to share the use of your property with others.

An easement is the legal right for another party to use your property for a specific reason. There are so many factors to verify when you buy a home, especially when considering how much you’re paying for it, and easements are one of them.

When you’re purchasing a property, you’ll definitely want to find out if there’s an easement on title. If there is, you’ll also want to know what type of easement it is and how it will affect your enjoyment of your property.

Types of Easements

There are several different types of easements that exist for different purposes, including the following:

Utility easements – These are very common easements and essentially give utility companies the right to use your property in order to access specific areas where work is required. Whether it’s telephone cables, hydro lines, or gas lines, utility workers will need to get access to specific parts of the lot in order to do their repair or maintenance work.

Express easements – In this case, the owner of one property would give express consent to another landowner for a specific reason. For instance, let’s say your next-door-neighbor doesn’t have the best access to a public road. You could give them consent to cross over your land to access the public roadway. If you agree to this, you’ll be providing an express easement, which needs to be in writing in order for it to be enforced.

Implied easements – Unlike an express easement, an implied easement is one that can exist without a formal contract in writing. Usually, these are involved when a larger piece of land is divided up into two or more.

In order for an implied easement to exist, it must be proven that owners of some parcels of land require access to another parcel in order to experience reasonable enjoyment of their property. Also, there must be a need for the easement to exist before the land was divided or sold.

Let’s say one large piece of land has a paved driveway leading to a public roadway. If that land is divided leaving only one parcel of land with this driveway on it, the other divided parcel may require the use of the driveway in order to access the roadway. An implied easement would exist if both owners intended to continue using the driveway when the land was divided.

Easement by necessity – Also referred to as a “right-of-way,” these are somewhat similar to implied easements in that they are necessary for the enjoyment of one landowner. The difference between the two, however, is that an easement by necessity can only be created if there is no other alternative to crossing someone else’s property. With an implied easement, there may be the option for the landowner without the driveway to construct one of their own to gain access to the public road.

For instance, if you sell part of your land to another and they don’t have any access to the public road other than by crossing your land, the courts in California could create an easement by necessity because the other landowner has no other way of gaining access. If there was a possibility for the other landowner to build a driveway of their own, an easement by necessity wouldn’t apply.

Prescriptive easement – This type of easement occurs when a person uses someone else’s land for a certain period of time without the landowner knowing about it. The key here is that even though the property owner may not have known that another party was using the property, the landowner still has the ability to be aware of such use.

Another important component to this easement is continued use. In California, the property must have been used in the same way by another party for a continuous period of five years in order for this easement to exist.

Can Easements Be Terminated?

Easements may be terminated if a judge deems that access to another property is unreasonable, particularly if it gets in the way with the landowner. These can be hashed out in court if the landowner finds that their enjoyment of their property is being compromised by other parties for reasons that are not necessary.

Some easements also have expiry dates, after which they’re no longer in effect. In other cases, both parties may agree to terminate the easement. But in most other cases, terminating an easement can be a bit more challenging and would require a judge to intervene.

You Could Be Legally Liable if You Infringe on Right-of-Ways

If you buy a home that has an easement by necessity and blocks others from accessing your property for specific reasons, you could be taken to court. Let’s say you buy a property with an easement that allows your neighbor to cross over your property to gain access to the public roadway. If you build a fence after you move in that blocks such access, you would be considered to be trespassing this right-of-way and could be taken to court as a result.

What if You Want to Build or Expand Your Home?

If you have intentions of expanding your home, renovating, or building an addition or separate structure, you’ll want to know if an easement exists on a property beforehand. If there is one, that could affect your plans for construction.

For example, you wouldn’t be able to build a shed that would block access to a roadway for your neighbor. In this case, you may have to abandon your plans for construction or come up with an alternative option.

The Bottom Line

It’s very important to know if there are any easements on a property before you sign on the dotted line. If any exist, find out exactly what type they are. Easements can definitely impact your enjoyment of your property, so it’s crucial to conduct a title search to find out if any exist. Your real estate agent will be able to help you identify any easements that there may be on title and how they may impact how you use and enjoy your new home.

10 Home Maintenance and Repair Skills All Homeowners Should Be Familiar With

It might be easy to change a light bulb or tighten a loose cabinet handle, but there are several other tasks that will need to be done around the house over time. If you constantly call in a handyman to take care of these little jobs for you, you’ll be spending a fortune.

Instead, handling these jobs yourself can help you get better acquainted with your home and save a few bucks.

Here are a few skills you may want to become familiar with in order to keep your home in proper working order.

1. Shutting Off the Main Water Source

Imagine the kitchen sink pipes bursting, or the toilet valve leaking. Such scenarios can quickly lead to flooding, which can wreak major havoc on your home. When this happens, shutting off the main water source can help to put a stop to the gushing water and minimize any damage that may occur. But what if you don’t know where this source is?

Knowing where to shut the water off can help you prevent water damage that can end up costing you dearly.

2. Turning Off the Gas

If you smell gas in your home, call the gas company right away. In the meantime, knowing how to turn off the gas can help to minimize the dangers you may be exposed to. The shut-off valve for the gas running into your home is typically located at the gas meter outside of your home. You’ll need a wrench or something similar to turn it off.

3. Fixing a Leaky Faucet

Faucets tend to drip, but you don’t necessarily have to call the plumber just yet if the issue is minor in nature. Not only is a leaky faucet annoying, it also wastes a ton of water, which you’ll quickly notice when you get your water bill.

4. Cleaning Your Gutters

The gutters outside of your home play a crucial role in protecting the structure. Namely, they’re responsible for directing any water from rain away from the home. If they’re not working properly, they can allow water to pool near the foundation of the home, which can then seep into your home and cause water damage.

Your gutters should ideally be cleaned out every year and inspected for any signs of damage. If you’re comfortable climbing a ladder, you can clean these gutters out yourself to make sure they’re free and clear of any debris that could be blocking proper drainage.

5. Powering Off the Circuit Breakers

It’s not uncommon for a fuse to blow every so often, and when this happens, it’s helpful to know where your circuit panel is and how to switch the breakers on and off. Some homeowners may mistakenly think that there’s a power outage when the power goes out in one room but not another. But if power is still on in certain parts of the home, most likely all that’s needed is a flip of a switch in the breaker box.

Sometimes all that’s required is a reset of the breakers to help power up small appliances without having to call in the electrician. Grounded outlets tend to come with reset buttons, especially those in kitchens and bathrooms where they may be exposed to water.

Be sure to check out the circuit breaker and all grounded outlets when you first move into your home to get familiar with them so that if there’s ever a problem, you’ll know how to deal with it.

6. Changing the Temperature on the Water Heater

Do you really need scalding hot water flowing out of your faucets? Probably not, but your water heater is working hard to keep the water hot, which costs money and uses energy. You can save some money by turning the temperature down. If you know how to turn the thermostat on your water heater down to a lower temperature, you can not only save money and energy, but you can also prevent any chances of scalding.

7. Changing Your Air Filters

In order to ensure high air quality in your home, your air filters will need to be changed every so often. You might notice your home being dustier than it should be, and changing the air filters can help alleviate this issue. Every three to six months should suffice, but they’ll probably have to be changed more frequently if anyone in the home suffers from allergies or respiratory issues.

8. Caulking Cracks and Air Leaks

Caulking is highly used in home construction and is used to seal up cracks and gaps that may allow air and other elements to enter or escape the home. You’ll notice caulking around your windows to prevent any cooled air from escaping or hot air from seeping in. You’ll also notice caulking around your faucets or shower heads to prevent any water from going anywhere other than out into the sink or shower stall.

But over time, the caulking can break down and loosen. When this happens, the affected areas will need to be recaulked. You can easily do this yourself with the right tools, including a caulking gun and caulk material.

9. Fixing a Running Toilet

Toilets that don’t stop running are noisy and waste water. Instead of calling a plumber, you can easily fix this yourself by getting familiar with the flush valve assembly. In order to gain access to this component, you’ll need to lift the top of the toilet tank, then simply reposition part of the assembly until the running stops.

10. Cleaning the Refrigerator Coils

Think about how hard your fridge is working to keep all of your food products chilled. After all this work, this major appliance will need a little attention once in a while, and that includes having its coils cleaned.

Filthy coils can cause the fridge to work harder than necessary, which can lead to a breakdown sooner rather than later. To clean the coils, all you need to do is pull the fridge off the wall, unplug it, and vacuum the coils (which are usually under or at the back of the fridge).

The Bottom Line

Getting acquainted with certain home maintenance and repair tasks can help ensure your home is working as smoothly as possible without constantly having to call in the repairman to deal with these issues for you. Not everyone is necessarily handy, but you can still learn a trick or two to keep your home in tip-top shape.

7 Tricks Real Estate Agents Use When Negotiating

While you might not necessarily be doing any of the wheeling and dealing at the negotiating table when buying or selling a home, it’s still interesting to know how your real estate agent handles these talks in order to get their clients the best deals possible. In fact, one of the many reasons to hire a real estate professional is to have them negotiate for you.

This is an art form that’s not always easy and takes some amount of experience and training to nail down. That said, there are a few tricks that agents often employ to seal the deal, and here are a few of them.

1. Using Market Value As the Starting Point

Rather than using the asking price as the starting point, savvy buyer agents will calculate the true value of a property. Many sellers purposely price their homes over what the current market value of their property actually is. At the same time, many buyers attempt to lowball sellers, which often sends the deal nowhere, particularly in hot real estate markets.

In seller’s markets, buyers may want to offer slightly over the present market value in order to get the seller to accept, even though the offer price may be under the listing price. Offering just under the minimum amount that the seller is probably willing to accept is a better approach than lowballing in an effort to snag a deal. This will often coerce the seller into making a decision to accept an offer that’s only slightly under what their minimum is.

The idea is to engage the seller and get them to be a willing participant, and oftentimes lowballing too far will just kick buyers out of the game.

2.  Add an Escalation Clause to the Offer

If you’re on the buying end of a real estate transaction, you may want to consider including an escalation clause in the contract. An escalation clause is often used in scenarios that can possibly lead to multiple offers and is intended to eliminate most – if not all – of the competition. These clauses state that the buyer will pay a certain amount of money above the highest offer that the seller receives and usually includes a cap.

An escalation clause can help give you the best chances of winning a bidding war if you ever find yourself in one, which is pretty common in many sizzling markets across California. Basically, you promise to pay an ‘X’ amount more than the highest offer (but not over a certain amount). Sellers are often intrigued by these types of offers and are obviously more willing to keep buyers in the game as a result.

3. Making it a Win-Win Situation For Both Parties

Rather than going into a negotiation as a fight to see who can come out with the best deal, savvy agents create a situation that makes it look as if both parties are coming out on top. Buyers and sellers who go into a negotiation looking to squeeze every dollar out of each other can hurt each other’s position. Instead, striking a deal that leaves both sides satisfied is the best way to go.

4. Negotiating Over the Phone First

Many times it pays for agents to negotiate over the phone first to discuss pertinent points of the deal with the other agent before bringing the negotiations to the table. This can help start the process and get both parties on the same page before meeting in person and can help avoid much of the back and forth bantering. Too many counteroffers can confuse the situation. Instead, keeping things as simple as possible is the best way to go.

5. Giving Something to Get Something in Return

Sometimes it pays to offer up a little something in order to persuade the other party to sway in your favor. This is especially helpful for sellers and works by throwing in a little something to sweeten the deal and get buyers to meet them where there want to be. For instance, sellers can offer to pay down part of the closing costs, buy down the interest rate, provide an allowance for improvements, or throw in some furniture or other goodies as an incentive for buyers to keep their offer price higher.

6. Stay Somewhat Aloof

In a buyer’s market where there is plenty of supply to go around, buyers can use the strategy of being somewhat nonchalant about the whole thing, making sellers feel as though they’re possibly interested in other homes. With this strategy, it’s important for buyers not to let the sellers think that they’ve fallen for the home and that there are other properties out there that they may have their eye on.

7. Use Exclusions as Negotiable Items

It’s common for appliances to “automatically” be included in a real estate deal, but there’s no rule that says washers and dryers, for instance, should necessarily come with a home. Rather than including them in a deal, list items as exclusions and use them as negotiating tools instead in situations where a couple thousand dollars will mean the difference between a deal or a dud. 

The Bottom Line

Savvy real estate agents have a number of tricks up their sleeves when it comes to negotiating real estate deals. That’s exactly why it’s incredibly useful to have one in your corner. And the more deals your agent has on their track record, the more experience they have at the negotiating table, which will work in your favor when it’s time to strike a deal.

8 Simple Landscaping Ideas to Minimize Yard Maintenance

A good landscaping job can exponentially increase the aesthetic factor of a home and boost its curb appeal. Imagine the same home without any landscaping versus a front yard that is decked out in lush green grass, bushes, trees, flower patches, and walkways. Landscaping can definitely increase the value of a home by tens of thousands of dollars.

But all that landscaping requires work to maintain. If you neglect your yard for a little while, you’ll see the negative effects shortly after.

The good news is, you don’t have to be a slave to your yard to keep it looking clean and crisp. Here are a few landscaping ideas that can minimize the amount of time and effort needed to keep your yard in spiffy condition.

1. Replace Small Patches of Grass With Riverstone

If you want to keep your grass-cutting to a minimum, consider replacing small patches of grass with riverstone or other decorative rocks. This is especially helpful in areas where the grass is intertwined with flower patches and bushes.

It can be a real pain to have to take a weed wacker to cut these little grassy areas which would otherwise attract weeds, so you might want to consider getting rid of the grass altogether in favor of decorative stone. Plus, they can serve as aesthetic elements and actually add to the visual appeal of your yard.

2. Add Mow-Resistant Tall Grass

Instead of traditional grass (which needs to be cut on a regular basis), you can opt for tall grass species which will never need to be mowed. If completely obliterating grass altogether is not your thing, consider tall grass species that are native to California to minimize the amount of attention that you need to give them. All you’ll really ever need to do is trim them in the fall if they need some pruning, and they’ll do the rest by prettying up your garden.

3. Add Walkways to Minimize Grass Cutting

Walkways are wonderful decorative elements that you can add to your yard to create visual interest while providing a comfortable platform to walk on. Plus, laying pavers can create areas that require very little maintenance, and they come in a variety of types to choose from to compliment your home’s architecture and style.

4. Add Color Without Flowers

Flower beds are fabulous for adding pops of color throughout your garden and landscaping, but they can be a bit of a nuisance when it comes to keeping them hydrated. Flowers tend to need watering on a regular basis, which can definitely be time-consuming.

But in place of flowers, you can infuse some color into your outdoor space with objects that require no maintenance at all, such as pots, planters, tables, chairs, bird baths, and fountains, to name a few. There are literally hundreds of items that you can incorporate into your landscaping that can add color without having to devote time to tend to them.

5. Prevent Weeds From Growing Between Pavers

If you decide to lay pavers or interlocking stone throughout your outdoor space, you’ll want to take measures to prevent weeds from growing between the stones. It can be incredibly frustrating to see those little green heads popping up between the stones, and it can take a lot of manual labor and time to slough those buggers out.

The best way to deal with this issue is to prevent it from happening at all, and a great way to do that is to apply polymeric sand, which prevents weed growth between patio stones. It can even stop bugs from dwelling between the stones and eventually make their way into your home.

6. Consider Fake Grass

Some people might cringe at the thought of laying fake grass in place of the real thing, but it’s definitely a way to dramatically cut down on lawn maintenance. The great thing is that fake grass is so authentic looking that most people probably wouldn’t notice a difference unless they closely inspect it. The turf of today is much more like the real deal compared to the turf of yesteryear.

If you’re comfortable with parting with real grass in favor of something man-made, fake grass can help you scratch off mowing, fertilizing, and watering off your list of to-dos.

7. Use Mulch Around Garden Beds

Bark mulch is one of the best things you can add to your landscaping to create a clean look without the maintenance. Mulch is a great alternative to grass and barely requires any attention at all. It’s also inexpensive and can even prevent weeds from growing.

8. Plant Perennials

If you’re looking for low-maintenance plants, consider perennials. Once you plant them, you’ll be able to enjoy their beautiful colors and scents without the maintenance that other flowers and plants need. They’re easy to care for and drought-resistant, making them the perfect plants for the California climate.

The Bottom Line

There’s no reason why you can’t have an amazing yard without the need to spend all your free time tending to it. If you incorporate the right elements, you can create a gorgeous outdoor space that you can enjoy year-round without dedicating much time to caring for it.

6 Tips For Choosing the Right Mortgage Lender

Most buyers need a mortgage to purchase a home, and when you finally secure financing, you’ll be stuck with it for a long time. The most common amortization period is 25 years, so that’s a long time to be tied to a mortgage. As such, you’ll want to make sure you get the best mortgage with ideal terms to best suit your situation and work with the right lender who can give you what you need.

Taking the time to shop around for the right mortgage lender can help you secure the right home loan for you, so it pays to carefully assess lenders before settling on one.

Here are a few ways to help you pick the right lender.

1. Get Your Credit Score Up to Snuff

Before you start shopping around for a lender, you’d be doing yourself a favor by making sure your credit score is strong. Lenders prefer to do business with borrowers who have a high credit score, which will make them less of a risk. Borrowers with low scores usually have a financial past that’s littered with late or missed debt payments. Lenders want to recoup the money they lend, and extending credit to people who have a tendency to miss payments will make their investment less attractive.

Pull your credit report to find out what your score is and what has influenced it to be where it’s at. If your score is less than 680 (which is what conventional lenders usually set as their minimum before approving mortgage applications), it would be in your best interests to take a few months to give it a boost. That means making all of your credit card payments on time, spending no more than 30% of your credit limit on your cards, resisting the urge to apply for additional loans, and paying down your debt.

The more you diligent you are with your finances, the higher your credit score can climb. The best time to apply for a mortgage with a lender is when your credit score is up to par, which will increase your odds of getting approved for a home loan at a favorable interest rate.

2. Understand the Different Types of Lenders Out There

Not all mortgage lenders are the same, and you’d be well advised to get familiar with the types out there. This will help you determine which type of lender will be best for your particular situation. Here are a few lenders that are available that you may want to get familiar with before choosing one to work with:

Banks – Lenders who deal directly with banks work for a specific financial institution and are only able to offer that particular bank’s mortgage products.

Credit unions – Credit unions differ from banks in that they are owned by members and are not out to make a profit for investors. They also have mortgage lenders that work with them to offer borrowers mortgage products.

Fintech lenders – These lenders have become increasingly popular over the recent past because of how easy and convenient they can be to interact with, as well as the more lax lending criteria required to get a mortgage. Fintech lenders are those who deal with borrowers directly online, such as Lending Tree, LendingHome, and Better, to name a few.

Private lenders – If you don’t have all the traditional requirements to secure a home loan – such as good credit or a sizeable down payment – private lenders may be available to help out. There are many private lenders who deal specifically with bad credit borrowers, though it should be noted that the interest rates associated with these mortgage products are usually much higher than those from conventional lenders.

Mortgage brokers – Brokers aren’t actually lenders. Instead, they do the legwork for you to find a lender who is willing to extend a mortgage to you at terms that are best suited for you. They are usually paid by the lender and charge a small percentage of the loan amount. In many cases, it makes sense to work with a mortgage broker, because these professionals will take a lot of the work off your hands and do it for you to help you find the best lender to work with.

Get to know the types of lenders out there before you start shopping for one.

3. Compare Interest Rates

When shopping around with different lenders, one of the most important things that you should compare between them is the interest rates offered. Even a fraction of a percentage point can make a big difference on the overall amount of interest that you’ll be paying over the life of the loan. Obviously, a lower rate is best, so finding a lender who’s willing to offer you the lowest rate is usually ideal.

That said, the interest rate shouldn’t be the only thing you look at. A lender who charges the lowest rate might have a bunch of hidden fees that could actually make their mortgage product more expensive when all is said and done. Also, don’t forget that the quoted rate is just a starting point. That rate could change once the lender assesses all of your financials.

4. Check Out the Little Details

There’s always fine print involved with services, and you’d be well advised to carefully review it before settling on one particular lender. Some of the details you may want to look at include:

  • Early repayment penalty fees
  • Lending fees
  • Underwriting fees
  • Application fees
  • Down payment requirements
  • Pre-approval and final approval turnaround times
  • Whether or not lending fees can be rolled into the mortgage or paid up front

Read over the contracts and ask as many questions to get the answers you need to make the right decision about which lender to work with.

5. Get Pre-Approved

It’s always a good idea to get pre-approved for a mortgage before you decide to buy a home. That way you’ll know how much house you can afford and can speed up the process after you find a home you love.

But getting pre-approved for a mortgage with a handful of lenders will also help you compare each one against the other. You can simplify this process by having a mortgage broker do this for you – this will allow you to fill out one application that can be distributed to several lenders. Either way, getting pre-approved for a mortgage can help you narrow down your choices about which lenders to work with.

This will give you the most accurate comparison because each lender will thoroughly review your finances and credit report. Be prepared to hand over a number of documents and paperwork, including pay stubs, tax returns, bank accounts, employment letters, and statement of assets and debt, among others. While this might take some time, it can give you a head start when it’s time to get final mortgage approval.

6. Ask Your Real Estate Agent

Perhaps one of the best places to start looking for a solid mortgage lender is to speak with your real estate agent and get their opinion of who to work with. These professionals typically have a network of mortgage lenders that they deal with on a regular basis, and they’ll be able to recommend someone for you. Besides, mortgage lenders who are referred to by real estate agents will make sure to take care of their customers, particularly after getting a referral. 

The Bottom Line

Your mortgage lender plays a critical role in your ability to secure financing and purchase a home. Considering this fact, it’s important to do your homework and choose one to work with who can provide you with ideal mortgage terms that best suit your financial situation. There are several ways to go about finding the right lender to work with, and in the worst case scenario, your real estate agent will be able to point you in the right direction.

Is Your Home Really Ready For the Market? 7 Ways to Tell

You might be emotionally ready to part with your home and are already on the prowl for a new place to call home, but is your house truly ready for the market? If your property is not adequately prepped before you list, you could sabotage the process.

Before you list your home on the market, ask yourself the following questions first and make any necessary adjustments.

1. What Does the Home Look Like From Outside?

Aside from photos online, the first glance that buyers will get of your home is from the exterior. When buyers pull up in front of your home, will they be “wowed” or will they want to walk away? It’s common for buyers to be so turned off by some properties simply based on the curb appeal that they refuse to go any further with the showing.

Take a good, hard look at the exterior of your home. Does the lawn need mowing? Are the trees and shrubs growing out of control? Are there dead leaves piled up on your doorstep? Is the front door paint peeling? All of these factors – and more – go into curb appeal, which is a crucial component to selling a home in a reasonable amount of time. Be sure to tackle all necessary tasks to help get your home looking spic and span from the curb so that buyers will be more enticed to walk through the front door.

2. Is There an Accumulation of Clutter?

One of the first suggestions that real estate professionals and home stagers will make to sellers is to de-clutter. You might be accustomed to toys piled up in a corner, magazines stacked on the coffee table, or an excessive collection of knickknacks, but buyers don’t necessarily want to see all of that. What they want and expect is to walk into a home that is neat, tidy, and free of clutter.

Even the closets, drawers, shed, and garage should be de-cluttered, as buyers will almost certainly go through these spaces. Stuffing your closets with all of your belongings to get them out of sight is not going to cut it. What you need to do is get rid of excess items that are adding to the clutter and taking away from buyers’ ability to visualize the space as it could be.

Whether you toss some things in the trash, put them in storage, or start packing them for the move, eliminating certain items can help create a much cleaner-looking space that flows nicely.

3. How Does Your Home Smell?

Some smells might be obvious, but others might not be. Homeowners get used to the smell in their homes, whether or not they may be pleasant or offensive to others. You might want to bring in an unbiased person who doesn’t live in your home to come in and give you an honest opinion and assessment of what the interior of your home really smells like.

It could smell like the dog, cigarette smoke, last night’s dinner, or anything else that might potentially turn buyers off. If there’s a foul odor in the air, this will need to be addressed and dealt with before the first buyer walks through the front door.

4. Are Improvements Needed?

Unless they’re specifically looking for a fixer-upper, buyers typically want to see a move-in ready home before they decide to put in an offer. If they start walking around and notice that a number of upgrades are needed, they might not be so keen to buy.

Take a look around your home – is there anything that could use an update or repair? If so, you might want to consider making the necessary improvements before listing your home. That said, there are certain upgrades that you should focus on and others you might want to leave alone. After all, you don’t want to sink more money into improvements than you’ll get back.

Upgrades that tend to bring in a decent ROI are painting, new or refaced kitchen cabinets, new countertops, new light fixtures, and even new hardwood flooring. You should also keep in mind what the competition is like and if there are any specific upgrades that other properties on the block typically have, such as granite counters in the kitchen or hardwood flooring instead of wall-to-wall carpeting. In this case,  you might want to consider keeping up with the Joneses. Your real estate agent will be able to guide you as to what upgrades should be done and the maximum amount you should spend.

5. Do You Have Renters?

If all or part of your home is being occupied by renters, you’ll want to make sure that they’re on board with helping to keep the place neat, tidy, and well-maintained. Ideally, you’ll have a good relationship with your renters and they’ll respect the fact that you’ve got your home on the market.

Unfortunately, some tenants don’t exactly live the way buyers will want to see the home. Oftentimes they’ll even be unwilling to keep the home up to a certain standard that you’d expect. If that’s the case, you may want to wait until their lease has expired before putting the property up for sale. That way you’ll have total control over how the house looks.

6. Is Your Home is Filled With Family Portraits and Religious Artifacts?

One of the goals of effective home staging is to depersonalize the space to help buyers easily see themselves living in the home and calling it their own. But if you’ve got dozens of family pictures hanging on the walls and on shelves or a bunch of religious articles on display, these might make it harder for buyers to envision the home as theirs.

When prepping your home for the market, be sure to take these down and have them packed and ready for your move.

7. Has Your Home Been Professionally Staged?

It’s one thing to clean, de-clutter, mow the lawn, and remove personal artifacts. But it’s quite another to furnish, arrange, and decorate a home to suit the tastes of buyers in an area. Not every neighborhood is the same, and neither are the buyers looking in them. Professional home stagers study the specific types of buyers in an area and understand what they’re looking for in a home.

When they stage a property, they keep these needs and wants in mind and stage a home appropriately so that buyers find them as attractive as possible. Professionally staged homes typically sell faster and for more money than homes that have not been. And the money that you would spend paying a professional stager will likely be fully recouped – and then some – when it comes time to sell. If you haven’t had your home staged by a pro, consider doing so before you list.

The Bottom Line

A lot goes into getting a home ready for the market, and the pre-listing tasks should not be skipped or rushed through. It’s important to make sure that your home is really ready for the market in order to garner as much attraction as possible and sell within a reasonable amount of time.

How to Buy a House Before it’s Listed

If you want to find and buy your dream home, you’ll have to wait until it hits the market and is advertised on popular mediums like the MLS, right?

Wrong.

In fact, it’s very possible to find a home before it’s even listed, and sometimes that can be the key to buyers finding the right home when they’re in the midst of a particularly competitive market. With the right tactics and real estate team on your side, you can find and buy the perfect abode before it ever hits the market for all other buyers to see.

So, how can you stay a step ahead of the game and find a home before other buyers become privy to it? Here are a few tips to consider.

Work With an Agent Who’s Got Their Finger on the Pulse

Perhaps the best way to snag a home before it’s had a chance to be listed is to work with a real estate professional who is in-the-know about homes that are about to surface on the market. Experienced agents who regularly network with a large pool of listing agents will be able to gain insider information about properties that are being prepared for buyers.

Your agent may also have a seller client that they may be working with who is selling a home that’s right up your alley. Ask your agent if there are any listings being worked on that the seller hasn’t yet completed the paperwork to get listed. It’s possible that a deal can be made without other buyers getting involved. If the seller knows that there is already an interested buyer, they may be willing to lock in a deal if what you’re willing to offer is what they’re looking for.

Leave Notices on Door Handles

This is an old-school tactic, but it can still work. Leaving notices on doors in the neighborhood you’re interested in could turn into a successful real estate deal. While many homeowners are simply not interested in selling, others may have already given it a thought and haven’t yet taken the plunge.

Write a quick note informing homeowners that you’re in search of a home just like theirs and ask whether they may be interested in selling at any point in the near future. Mention the fact that you’re willing to offer a handsome price (that’s in line with what the current market dictates), and leave your name and contact information.

Look at Expired Listings

Not all listings inevitably end up selling. Some listings expire for whatever reason, whether it’s because they were overpriced, the seller had a change of mind, or too much time elapsed while the home was on the market. Regardless, some listings end up expiring before ever being sold.

Many expired listings wind up being relisted at some point shortly after, entering the market once again with a completely new MLS number. Before these listings are placed back on the market, your real estate agent can get in touch with the listing agent to see if the seller is willing to sell to you and strike a deal.

If there are certain listings that pique your interest, your agent can find out more about the property and what the seller’s motivations are. While this might take a number of phone calls, you just never know if one of these expired listings might turn into a new home for you.

Inquire at Open Houses

Visiting open houses in the neighborhood that you’re interested in can be a great way to get the scoop on any potential up-and-coming properties that are sitting on the fence. Inquire with the listing agent hosting the open house as well as neighbors about any homes that they know of that might be coming available soon.

Contact HOA Boards

If you are looking to buy in a specific HOA community, there’s no harm in contacting the board to see if they know of any unit owner who may be interested in selling some time soon. People in HOA communities talk, and word often gets around pretty quickly. You’d be surprised at how much insider information you can obtain just from contacting people who are part of an HOA board.

The Bottom Line

While the traditional way to find a home to buy would be to check out recent listings, you just might be able to snag the perfect house before it reaches the market. Doing so can help you get your foot in the door and avoid having to deal with potentially fierce competition.