Why Real Estate Listing Photos Matter

Before the days of Internet and online real estate listings, a buyer’s first impression of a new home for sale was often the “drive by.” An agent would see the new listing in his real estate book and would call or fax the buyer with the address. The buyer would then go to the address and drive by to get a first look. Or, if a buyer was just starting to look, he would read a brief description of the home in the Sunday paper and decide whether or not to attend that day’s open house.

Either way, curb appeal mattered because it was usually the first glimpse a potential buyer would have of a property. If there were weeds, dead grass, peeling paint or rusty nails that stood out, the buyer’s first impression of the home was tarnished–no matter how great it looked inside. That’s why real estate agents worked closely with sellers on curb appeal before going on the market.

Curb appeal will always be important, but today, buyers are busier than ever and may not have the opportunity to do a drive by (unless they’re seriously interested). Instead, the first impression buyers most often get of a home is from the photos in the MLS listing, which they automatically receive in an email from their agent, or the pictures that accompany an online listing. With limited time and countless listings to review, buyers will quickly move on if photos don’t reflect well on a property.

Proper equipment

Properly lit, high-resolution photos are the only type of pictures that should be used in a home marketing campaign. Like any other sales effort, it’s important to put your best foot forward. If an agent takes property photos with a smartphone, it’s often a red flag to buyers. Smartphone pictures are fine for informally sending photos quickly back and forth between agent and buyer, but they can’t measure up to the quality of pictures taken by an experienced photographer with a good camera.

Don’t have photos of the property yet? Don’t list the home until you do. With so much information available online these days, you only have a few seconds to grab potential buyers’ attention. If hey do an Internet search or check the MLS email and your home is listed without pictures, there isn’t anything for them to look at. Buyers will likely move on and probably won’t come back.

Staging and prep

Because of the importance of a good first impression, sellers and their agents should spend as much time and energy on the photo shoot as they do on creating curb appeal or staging an open house. This means planning the shoot well in advance, sometimes as much as a week.

As a seller, you know when your home gets the best natural light. Make sure the photos are shot during those times. Have the home fully cleaned and in top shape before the shoot, too. As with an open house, clear out all the children’s and pet’s toys and fully declutter the home. Imagine the photo shoots retailers and catalog companies do to showcase their products. Would they release a catalog with photos of stained living room furniture or with improper lighting? Of course not — and neither should a seller. A home is a product for sale, just like any other, and should be marketed as such.

Lasting impression

Often, after buyers have toured your home, they return to their computers and look at the property again online. This time, they can put together the floor plan and understand how the home flows and how each room relates to the next. High-quality photos that show the home well will keep them interested, perhaps even encourage them to go take another look. On the other hand, if you cleaned your home before the open house and got the buyer in the door, but then they go back and look at dark photos online or see imperfections, you can easily turn them off.

If you or your agent don’t have a good-quality camera and real estate photography experience, consider hiring a professional who does. While it’s another expense, consider this: When you put a home on the market, you’re competing against lots of other properties. If those properties are highlighted with attractive, well-lit photos and yours isn’t, you’re going to have more trouble getting potential buyers in the door. This could cause your home to sit on the market longer than it would have otherwise — making what would be seen as a “fresh” property look stale.

Source: Zillow blog, Brendon Desimone

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Go Green With Easy-to-Grow Indoor Plants

Are your orchids withering? Have your gardenias perished?

You may not be a natural when it comes to raising happy, healthy indoor plants, but it’s possible your shortcomings could be conquered by simply selecting the right plants.

It’s true, many houseplants are finicky when it comes to temperature, light levels, soil mixtures and fertilization. If you were not born with a green thumb, or if your life is too hectic to be bothered with routine pruning and watering, those are not the plants for you. Instead, consider adding one — or more — of these low-maintenance plants to your interior spaces:

Cast-iron plant (aspidistra elatior)

As its common name indicates, this is one super-tough houseplant. It can withstand low light, extreme temperatures and irregular watering. Its long, dark green leaves grow directly out of the soil, and its flowers are small and unremarkable.

The cast-iron plant grows slowly, so be sure to purchase a plant that is large enough for the space in which you intend to use it. The plant grows to a maximum height of about 3 feet.

Snake plant (sansevieria trifasciata ‘laurentii’)

The snake plant and its close cousin, mother-in-law’s tongue, has stiff, sword-shaped leaves that grow up to 4 feet tall. The snake plant has green-banded leaves; mother-in-law’s tongue leaves have a yellow border.

The Mother Nature Network praises these succulents for their ability to filter formaldehyde from the air. The nearly indestructible plants can withstand virtually any light conditions, from dark to bright, and require only semi-regular watering.

Heart-leaf philodendron (philodendron scandens oxycardium)

Not surprising, this plant, sometimes known as sweetheart plant, does have heart-shaped leaves. It thrives in either low or bright light and prefers temperatures of 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. There’s no need for frequent watering; in fact, soil should dry out between waterings.

Long philodendron stems can trail from a pot or hanging basket, or climb a moss pole or trellis within its container. If you prefer to manage its growth, you can pinch off stems directly above leaf nodes (the spot where the leaf attaches to the stem). Pinching off stems will create a fuller, bushier plant.

Zeezee plant (zamioculcas zamiifolia)

Also known as the ZZ plant or the eternity plant, this succulent has shiny foliage and stems. It does well in dimly lit rooms, doesn’t require any special soil mix and — thanks to a big underground tuber where water is stored — it can go weeks without watering. The zeezee plant is susceptible to very few disease and insect problems.

This easy-going plant grows up to 3 feet tall but be warned: it grows very slowly. Its thick leafstalks are so durable it almost looks like it’s made of plastic.

Rubber plant (ficus elastica)

Known for its glossy, leathery leaves, the rubber plant is easy to grow and does well in a variety of conditions. If they’re given the space to do so, they can grow 6 to 10 feet tall; they can be pruned to reduce their size.

Rubber plants grow best with the morning light from an east window but are adaptable to low light. They do well in warm to average room temperatures and prefer humid conditions, but tolerate the dry air common in homes and offices.

Source: Zillow Blog

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12 Steps to Packing

Packing is something that most movers look forward to before the big day of moving to their new homes. The emotions are mixed – excited, tiring, and fun. If you are getting ready for a big move and is a little confused about where to start, you just came to the right place. Here are some things that you need to do and remember before your big move to Atlanta:

1. Prepare good quality moving boxes of different boxes. Good quality boxes means strong ones to make sure that your stuff are safe and secured during the move. Aside from the moving boxes, prepare bubble wraps, wrapping sheets, padding supplies, old newspapers or newsprint papers, scissors, packing tape, permanent marking pens and labeling stickers.

2. Have a spacious room for your packing. Make sure that you categorize your small stuff like one box is just books, toys, breakable things and so on. This will make labeling easier and will make your packing organize and easy to place on your new home. If you don’t like this way, you may place heavier items on the bottom and lighter stuff on top.

3. If you have a lot of stuff to pack, you can pack one room at a time and just put a label. Start your packing from smaller things and down to the biggest and the heaviest.

4. Have an “Open First” box. The items that you place here are the ones that you need first when you arrive in your new home like scissors, soap, sponge, paper towels and bath towels, pens, bottle opener, plastic spoons and forks, cutter, toothpaste and so on. Toss in some quick snacks or candies because you might get hungry when you arrive.

5. If your family is big or your children are already teens, pack an “open box” for each and place them on a separate car. Upon arrival and unpacking on your new home, there is a possibility that you will not finish putting everything in place in just a day. In this case, the “open boxes” will come in handy so, have some of these things in our children’s boxes – toothbrush and toothpaste, a small bar of soap, clothes, sweater, towel and other things that they will need in a fees days.

6. Important documents must be placed in a separate box. Don’t forget to pack these things and make sure this does not mix in other boxes. Important files might include your moving company number, mortgage payment records and receipts, your Realtor or agent’s contact information and so on.

7. Don’t just pack everything in your house because some of your stuff may not be needed on your new home. Throw away things that you don’t need or if they are still in good condition, you may have a garage sale.

8. Hardware tools like screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers and so on need to be pack in a different box. If the tools doesn’t have any toolbox, place them in thick Ziploc before putting them in a box.

9. Don’t forget to wrap your items with bubble wraps or old newspapers before placing them in correct position in every box. Fill empty spaces of the boxes with wadded or crumpled newspapers.

10. After packing, taping and labeling, stack the boxes and keep all the packing tapes, scissors and other things you used during the packing in one box. They will come in handy when it’s time for the unpacking.

11. After packing, look around the rooms, drawers and cabinets for others things that you missed packing. All the things that you have found on the last minute and that you still need should be placed in the same box.

12. Packing should not be done in a hurry and that too early for the big move. Set a specific date for packing and involve all family members to make the moving to your new real estate property fun exciting and not that tiring.

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Tips for Living With a Roommate

Sharing an apartment is a necessity for many people, especially those who are just entering the housing market for the first time on an “entry-level” salary. In these tough economic times, sharing costs with a roommate is a great way to help cut expenses. And living with someone can be a lot of fun and a great bonding experience: many roommates remain lifelong friends.

But the success of a roommate relationship is dependent upon two factors – compromise and communication.

Do you really want a roommate?

First and foremost, if you are considering a roommate purely for financial reasons, you may be able to afford an apartment on your own – if you are willing to make the required tradeoffs. For example, a further distance from the city center will lower costs, as well as finding a walk-up building instead of a luxury doorman tower. You have to establish your priorities: privacy, space and independence, living in a prime neighborhood, etc… the decision is yours.

Keep it equal

If you choose to enter a roommate situation, there are a few things you can do to increase the chances of the experience being positive. While it’s not always possible, it helps to start the apartment search on “equal footing,” meaning that both parties are moving into the apartment at the same time. This scenario helps avoid the feeling that the apartment belongs “more” to the first person who got there, which can cause instant tension.

While it may seem cold, it also helps for both roommates to be in similar financial situations. It can cause problems if one party feels they cannot “keep up” with the other or if one roommate feels the other is “pulling them down” (by being late with bills, rent, etc.). In roommate situations, a similar financial status equals a better chance of success

Communication is key

Outline your expectations for the new living situation as soon as possible. Be clear as to your expectations up front and don’t hold back – it’s better to discuss these issues prior to the move-in date rather than six months into a lease. What are your thoughts on visitors, the division of chores and sharing personal items? Everyone has a different idea of what an ideal roommate should be. Do you want a joined-at-the-hip best friend? Or a nearly invisible roommate who works an opposite schedule and locks their food cabinet?

With last two pieces of advice: They tell married couples to “not go to bed angry” and that goes for roommates as well. If something bothers you, address the issue immediately. The last and maybe most important? Don’t sweat the small stuff. Your roommate WILL at some point drive you crazy. So, when things aren’t going so well, remember to put it all in perspective. Pick your battles and dismiss the little things.

Living with roommates will help teach you valuable skills in dealing with people that transfer to every aspect of your life.

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The Closing Process

Many times if you’re a new home buyer, you’re a little unfamiliar with the Real Estate process. It can be very confusing, and without the help of a Real Estate agent, then you wouldn’t know what to do.

After you’ve taken a look around and found your home, you’re ready to take your next step! When you decide on a home that you’d like, it doesn’t always mean that you pick and get a loan and it’s done. There’s quite a few other steps that go along with it. “Closing” consists of all the necessary steps in sealing the home and making it yours.

First Step: The offer to Purchase

Once you’ve found the perfect home, you need to make an offer to whomever is selling. After you’ve decided, it’s wise to move fast and send your offer in as quick as possible. There’s no way to guarantee that your offer is going to be accepted by the seller, however, it’s a good idea to offer anywhere from 8-10% less than the asking price. This sometimes won’t work, but that’s why you gave yourself some lee-way. You can negotiate with the seller to come to your final offer, but make sure that you don’t offer more than you know you can afford.

Second Step: The Deposit

This can also be called: earnest money. This shows the seller that you’re serious about buying the home. A good way to decide how much is proper — around 1% of the home’s purchase price is included in the offer. This money should be held by the real estate agent, or the seller’s lawyer in a trust until the deal closes (or doesn’t). If your offer gets accepted, and then you decide not to close, you may lose your deposit. If the sale goes through, this money is usually applied to your down payment.

Third Step: Contingencies

Contingencies are certain requirements that are made known through a contract that need to be performed before the buyer can close. A very common contingency is the buyer’s securing of financing, and home inspections. Keep in mind that different contingencies require different time periods, so check and see when you need to complete them.

Fourth Step: Home Inspections

It’s a good idea to get a thorough examination of the home that you want to buy. Not only for the seller, but for the buyer and the bank. Professionals can help you know what’s wrong with the home and know what you’re getting into.

Fifth Step: The Contract

This happens after the offer is accepted by the seller, it is a legal and binding obligation on the part of the buyer. If the contingencies are met, the property is then yours.

Sixth Step: Settlement Sheet

A Settlement Sheet can also be called a “Settlement Statement” or “Closing Statement.” It’s a document that the Department of Housing and the Urban Development requires to account for all financial aspects surrounding the sale and purchase of a home.

Seventh Step: Closing Documentation

Some paperwork is required to be completed before you close a home. This includes a title search to make sure that the title is clear. You also need to have title insurance to protect the buyer and the lender.

Eighth Step: Closing Costs

There are quite a few costs when closing a home. Some include: loan origination fee, appraisal fee, lender’s inspection fee, cost of title insurance, credit report cost, mortgage/broker fee, taxes and more. Your lender, however, is required to give you prior notice of fees that you need to pay with your loan.

Ninth Step: Final Arrangements

This can be a no-brainer for some, but you must make final arrangements for moving. Before the deal is closed, you must make some practical arrangements such as utility services, mortgage payments, etc.

Tenth Step: Settlement

Settlement means the payment of the balance of the purchase price the buyer owes on the property, and a transfer of the title.

There you have it! Whether you’re selling a home, or buying a home, you’ll want to read about the closing process before actually completing it. It can be difficult, but a great way to find out more about it is to hire an agent.

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Trendiest Neighborhoods of Orange County

The picturesque scenery of "The OC" has always been a huge attractionOrange County, or “The OC” has long been seen as the idealistic SoCal lifestyle. With Disneyland, long stretches of beautiful beach, blue water, and close-by the mega-city of LA, The OC doesn’t disappoint. So, several lists have been compiled to organize the trendiest OC areas.

Coming in at #1: Dana Point

Orange County’s biggest little town continues to grow, perhaps to support the demands of yachters, whale watchers and surfers chasing the legendary Killer Dana surf break. Although this harbor town only encompasses a mere 6.5 square mile stretch, developers and locals have maximized natural resources to make Dana Point a successful community. Several state parks, beaches, and the Ocean Institute allow residents and visitors to relish seaside living. The town is speckled with public art that adds a finishing touch to its strong cultural fabric. Locals love living in Dana Point because of the number of activities the safe, picturesque little town has to offer.

The Downers? Late night partying and a very small single-population.

#2: Laguna Beach

An artist colony and seaside getaway in Southern California. Framed between the San Joaquin Hills and the blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean, this destination offers Orange County’s best mix of culture and relaxation. This balanced feel is echoed by the vibe of local citizens, who range from business folk to surf fanatics living only for the next wave. With tons of festivals filled with interesting art and miles of soft sand and secluded coves, it’s easy to understand why Italian artist Marco Sassone described Laguna Beach as “a paradise, an inexhaustible source of inspiration”.

The Downers? Not a very big family community, and it’s not very quiet

#3: Huntington Beach

A land of sunshine, shopping, and surfing, Huntington Beach (a.k.a. Surf City) is the perfect image of a SoCal paradise. This super-sized coastal town lies on the western edge of Orange County, with borders touching Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, and Fountain Valley. While no stranger to large-scale events—such as the annual World Surfing Championships—Huntington Beach still maintains a distinct, laid-back vibe. Here you can ride a beach cruiser along Pacific Coast Highway or take your dog to the canine-friendly shores of Dog Beach for a weekend day trip. Whether you’re here to soak up some rays, catch a wave, or check out the buzzing nightlife, Huntington Beach will not disappoint!

The Downers? Almost no public transportation and a small family community

Together, these three communities make up the trendiest and most popular destinations in Orange County. Each one is unique, and I’m sure no matter what you’re looking for, you can find it here.

source: nabewise.com

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5 Ways to Improve Your Real Estate Wealth

A common question that people everywhere often ask is, “What’s the best way to get rich on real estate?”

The answer is actually quite simple:

-Plan to own every property you buy for a long time
-Drop the get rich quick schemes. Go for the get rich slowly, over a couple of decades plan. You will undoubtedly face some difficulties, but you still have plenty of time to let inflation increase the value of your asset.

You have to take a long-term view with property, and if you do, the chances of having significant wealth down the road are much higher.

Here are a few tips for you to consider:

Strive for long-term ownership

Long-term ownership is the key to earning wealth on real estate. If you own for the long term, you pay down your mortgage, hopefully see some appreciate in value and skip paying the over-the-top buying and selling transaction fees that decrease your net wealth each time.

Buy properties that are assets, not liabilities

A personal residence is an asset if you can comfortably afford the payments, along with all the rest of your bills. If you can’t comfortably afford the payments, then it’s a liability. Rental properties are assets as well, if the rents cover all expenses and leave some positive cash flows. They’re liabilities if they are negative cash flows – and many people buy these to their own detriment. So start buying assets!

Carry the proper insurance

Everyone knows that sometimes things go wrong, especially in real estate. Fires, floods, tenant issues, dog bites, the list goes on… and all of it can cause loses to an owner. If you have the proper type and amount of insurance in place, you’ll be covered if there is a loss. It’s not to hard to have the right insurance, talk to your agent and do a yearly review.

Skip fixers or communities where the HOA is in bad shape

Rarely to fixer-uppers sell at a big enough discount to compensate for all the work that you need to do to get them in shape. Additionally, you will add value to a property by doing renovations, but probably not as much value as it costs you to make those improvements. Skip the fixers! Watch out for HOAs in bad financial, operational, or legal shape as well. Higher fees and/or special assessments will come your way in these communities.

Long-term financing

Go long on your loan, especially with the crazy low interest rate in the current market. Lock in that 3.5 to 4% loan, sleep well, and look forward to 30 years from now when you actually own your property outright.

Everything here should help you reduce risk and improve your wealth on the largest, most complicated, and riskiest thing you’ll ever do – buy a home. The more you reduce your risk, the higher the chances you’ll earn wealth.

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