Listing Photos: Your Home's First Showing

BY BRENDON DESIMONE 

A picture is worth a thousand words, and could be worth thousands of dollars when it comes to attracting the right buyers to your home.

Let’s face it, buyers form their first impression of your home based on the online listing. As they say, Web appeal is the new curb appeal.

If you are serious about selling your home, you have to take your listing photo shoot very seriously. If your photos don’t excite buyers, they may not step foot inside.

You should prepare for your photo shoot as much as you would for an open house or private showing. Work alongside an excellent local real estate agent, and follow these tips to make sure your home looks its best.

Never list your home online without photos

Today’s buyers get email and text alerts when a new home that matches their criteria hits the market. There is nothing more frustrating than to see the desired address come across as an alert, only for the listing to be incomplete.

Buyers (and agents) will punish you for jumping the gun. Will they go back later and look again, once you have the photos up? Maybe — but maybe not.

You’re adding an extra step for them, and it comes across like you don’t have your ducks in a row. That’s not a great way to start out with your future customer.

Clean, declutter, organize and remove

You should spend a good amount of time preparing for your photo shoot. This means that you fluff the pillows, put toilet seats down, put Fido’s bowl and toys away, and ensure the home is in impeccable condition.

People can zoom in, zoom out and play with photos in online listings. They’ll notice everything. If your photos don’t show your home well, it sends a message to the buyer that you don’t care, and that you are not a serious seller.

The buyer is your customer. You have a product for sale. Take the time to present it in the best possible light.

Poor photos won’t cut it

Images that are blurry, poorly lit, or distorted are not going to sell your home.

It’s a good idea to hire a professional photographer who will take high-resolution photos, and even bring extra lighting or equipment to enhance their work. They’ll also take dozens of pictures and work tirelessly to show your home in the right light and from the best angles.

Don’t skimp on the number of photos

When it comes to photos, the more, the merrier. You want to make it easy on buyers to get comfortable with and learn more about your home.

Not only are the listing photos their initial impression, but they serve to help orient the buyer after the first or second showing. Once they have been through the home in person, they are better able to relate to the floor plan and how it flows. Going back to the listing photos allows them to make connections and dig deeper. Encourage them to do so by posting plenty of photos.

Ready to put your home on the market? Check out our Home Sellers Guide for more tips and resources.

Related:

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Originally published February 2, 2016.

About the author

Brendon DeSimone

Brendon DeSimone is the author of Next Generation Real Estate: New Rules for Smarter Home Buying & Faster Selling. A 15-year veteran of the residential real estate industry and a nationally recognized real estate expert, Brendon has completed hundreds of transactions totaling more than $250M. His expert advice is often sought out by reporters and journalists in both local and national press. Brendon is a regularly featured guest on major television networks and programs including CNBC, FOX News, Bloomberg, Good Morning America, ABC’s 20/20 and HGTV. Brendon is the manager of the Bedford and Pound Ridge offices of Houlihan Lawrence, the leading real estate brokerage north of New York City.

What to Expect When You're Inspecting

BY BRENDON DESIMONE 

Here’s a guide to each player's roles and responsibilities during a typical property inspection.

If you’re a first-time buyer who just nabbed your first place, you’re likely in one of the scarier places in the real estate transaction. Before choosing paint colors, you’ll need to inspect.

If you’re feeling nervous, you’re not alone. The property inspection is one of the most important parts of the home purchase process, yet many buyers don’t know what to expect.

Here’s a guide to the roles and responsibilities each of the players has during a typical property inspection.

You, the buyer

You’re there to learn as much about the property as possible. But you should have already done your homework before the big day.

Before the inspection, review the seller’s property disclosures or building department documentation you received along the way.  The listing agent may have pointed out some known issues. Write down a list of questions or concerns you have about the home.

Block out a few hours on the day, depending on what you need to inspect.  Ask your real estate agent which inspections are typical in your market. Most inspections go smoothly, but some can be the beginning of tough negotiations.

The buyer’s agent

Your agent should be standing by your side to walk you through the inspection.

Good agents have been through dozens of inspections and know the drill, what to look for, and, most importantly, what’s important and what matters in the big picture. Cracked grout in the bathtub tile doesn’t matter when you have a safety issue with the electrical panel.

The listing agent

In some parts of the country, the listing agent won’t show up. But in others, they are present to represent the seller. After all, it’s their home you’re inspecting.

An intelligent listing agent will be front and center as the eyes and ears of the property inspection because they are the most familiar with the property, and are there to address any issues that come up.

For the seller and the listing agent, the inspection is one of the last hurdles to get through, and a big unknown. Issues, questions or concerns could arise during the inspection, which could kill the sale or affect the property’s value.

Though the listing agent is there to be an advocate for the seller, everyone should come with the same goal in mind: to facilitate a clean sales transaction.

The inspector

As the buyer, you hire the property inspector, who should be licensed by the state. You sign an agreement with and pay the inspector. Most buyers get a referral for an inspector from their real estate agent.

The inspector is not a contractor, though some inspectors were contractors in their previous careers. While they may be able to shed light on what you can or can’t do to a property and its potential costs, their objective is to inspect the property, its systems and the overall state of the home.

A good inspector will remain impartial and not be an alarmist, though they will point out concerns that need to be addressed. The inspector isn’t a part of the transaction, and shouldn’t get into the nitty-gritty of your deal — nor would they want to.

The inspector should look around, make notes and provide you with a detailed report as well as some feedback on future maintenance.

Be sure to walk around with the inspector. Get on the roof, go into the basement, venture into the crawlspace. It will be helpful for the inspector to point things out to you in real time and demonstrate where the systems are and how they work. Also, some things are better understood in person than read about in a report days later.

Your Uncle Bob

Finally, it’s important to comprehend why having Uncle Bob, a handyman or an electrical contractor on hand during the inspection is a bad idea.

While it may seem logical to bring a relative or close friend who is a contractor, be mindful that these people aren’t licensed property inspectors. Sometimes, the most well-intentioned people will end up causing harmful consequences.

Uncle Bob may feel it’s important to point out as many negative things as possible, just to seem helpful. He’s far from impartial, however, and hasn’t been a part of your home-buying journey or recent negotiations. You run the risk of raising unnecessary red flags.

Time for a huddle

After the inspection, you and your agent will likely huddle to talk about what went on and to strategize next steps. Hopefully, the inspection was flawless, and you’re one step closer to picking out your new paint colors.

If not, you may need to do more negotiations after the inspection. Hopefully, the inspections weren’t so bad that you walk away. But sometimes it happens.

Either way, it helps to know what to expect going in and to prepare for anything.

Shopping for a home? Check out our Home Buyers Guide for tips and resources.

Related:

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Originally published February 13, 2012.

About the author

Brendon DeSimone

Brendon DeSimone is the author of Next Generation Real Estate: New Rules for Smarter Home Buying & Faster Selling. A 15-year veteran of the residential real estate industry and a nationally recognized real estate expert, Brendon has completed hundreds of transactions totaling more than $250M. His expert advice is often sought out by reporters and journalists in both local and national press. Brendon is a regularly featured guest on major television networks and programs including CNBC, FOX News, Bloomberg, Good Morning America, ABC’s 20/20 and HGTV. Brendon is the manager of the Bedford and Pound Ridge offices of Houlihan Lawrence, the leading real estate brokerage north of New York City.
 
 

5 Ways You'll Spend Money on Your New Construction Home After Closing

BY JENNIFER LYONS

Save some room in your budget for expenses after move-in.

By the time you get the keys to your new construction home, you might feel stretched thin in the finance department. From earnest money and design center upgrades, to closing costs and moving expenses, buying a brand-new home is never cheap.

As you take a look at the costs on the horizon, it’s wise to look a little past your closing date. There are a few post-closing costs that are unique to brand-new homes and some that are familiar to all new homeowners.

Set aside a little money for these expenses now, and it’ll be smooth sailing once the “sold” sign is out front.

Appliances

Unless you’ve negotiated a washer and dryer into the price of the home with your builder, your new laundry room will likely be a big empty space when you move in — no washer and dryer to be found.

Many builders don’t include a refrigerator either, opting instead to let homeowners choose a style that suits their needs.

Here’s a tip to ease your wallet woes: Start shopping appliance sales once you know your approximate close date. Many appliance stores will let you purchase ahead of time to take advantage of a good price, then delay your delivery until you move in.

Utilities

If you’re upgrading to a larger home, your utilities will likely increase, especially heating and cooling. And if you’re moving to a new city or a location with a different utility company, you may have to pay a deposit to start service.

If you’re interested in services like cable, satellite TV, or Internet, you may have to install some equipment that would already be installed if you were buying a pre-owned home.

Window coverings

Look at all those big, beautiful windows in your new home! And then notice that they’re bare — no blinds or curtains in sight.

Most new homes do not come with window coverings, and they’re definitely something you’ll want to quickly look into when you move in. There are better ways to introduce yourselves to the neighborhood than through wide-open windows — or bedsheets pinned up for privacy.

Furniture

There’s nothing more exciting than picking up some great new furnishings and decor for a brand-new space. You may have pieces that worked well in your old space but don’t fit your new home’s layout.

Or maybe you have a new guestroom to furnish, a deck that is begging for patio furniture, or beautiful hardwood floors that need area rugs. Set aside some money now so you can start decorating right after move-in day.

Landscaping

Did you know that some builders only landscape the front yard, leaving the backyard unfinished and unfenced? And, if your new neighborhood has a homeowner’s association, the rules may require you to finish your yard within a certain time period.

That means you foot the bill for landscaping your new home’s yard, and whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, it’s still an expense you shouldn’t overlook.

Setting foot in your brand-new, just-finished home is an exhilarating experience, and something you won’t soon forget. With just a little planning and saving in advance, you can spend more time making your new house a home, and less time stressing over how you’re going to pay for it all.

If you’re home shopping, check out our Home Buyers Guide for valuable tips and resources.

Related:

About the author

Jennifer Lyons

Jen Lyons is a freelance copywriter in Seattle, exploring topics including real estate, travel, and retail.

6 Ways to Make a Home for Your Hobbies After You Retire

BY TRACY LAYDEN

Retirement is the perfect time to rev up those hobbies, so don't let your home slow you down.

Retirement is all about doing what you love in the comfort of your own home. But is your home set up to help you with the hobbies you love?

With all the extra time you have to relax, your home should reflect your lifestyle. Follow these six tips to reorganize your home and create new leisure spaces for your hobbies.

Rebuild your reading nook

Turn an old workspace into a refreshing reading nook. That way you can set aside investment newspapers and scholarly journals and turn to a favorite novel instead.

  • Sit comfortably. Place a favorite chair next to the window for natural light.
  • Kick up your feet with a footstool. A small footstool will provide extra comfort for long hours of reading.
  • End the hunt for your reading glasses. Keep reading glasses close at hand with a small side table.
  • Add an overhead reading lamp. When the sun goes down, you can still turn to the next page.

Renovate your garage workspace

Avoid a dark and unorganized garage, and create new space without sacrificing inventory.

  • Raise the height of your workbench. You’re less likely to strain your back when you don’t need to hunch over a low table.
  • Add a pegboard wall for tools behind your workbench. You’ll have a place for all your tools — no reaching for the toolbox required!
  • Organize your supplies by type. Separate motor oil from antifreeze to avoid confusion when working under the hood.
  • Install proper overhead lighting. Don’t stumble in the dark. Add a light switch next to the door to avoid missteps.

Revamp your baking area

Pulling freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies out of the oven is great, but forgetting the chocolate chips is not. Find a place for everything, and you’ll never overlook that crucial ingredient again.

  • Store baking ingredients on a Lazy Susan. Access everything you need for the recipe in an instant.
  • Clip your cookbook to a pants hanger. Hang the cookbook from your cabinets at eye level for easy reading.
  • Invest in lightweight pots and pans. Forgo the struggle to lift heavy cast-iron cookware. Aluminum pots and pans are lightweight and durable.
  • Use a timer. Don’t leave the apple pie in to burn. Set a timer to have perfectly golden brown crust every time.

Reorganize your crafting

Skip piling crafts on the kitchen table, and convert the old office into a craft room.

  • Use a height-adjustable table. Move the table from sitting to standing height whenever your back needs a break.
  • Invest in an ergonomic chair. Proper back and spine support will make it easier to craft until your project is finished.
  • Store all your supplies in one place. This reduces the need to move supplies around, and prevents them from piling up in unwanted areas.
  • Add a pegboard wall. Take a tip from your garage and hang your crafting tools for easy access.
Photo from Zillow listing.

Renew your love of shopping

You don’t need to leave the comfort of your home to go to the store. Stay cozy while shopping from home.

  • Unplug from the desktop computer. No need to hunch over a bulky computer monitor. Invest in a handheld tablet for easy shopping throughout your home.
  • Choose a firm couch. Support your body while browsing — keep a cushion and a soft throw blanket handy.
  • Turn on sales notifications. Never miss a sale again! Sign up for online sales notifications, and jump on them right away with your tablet.
  • Return with ease. Did the order not work out? Schedule a return service pickup from your home so you don’t have to make the trip to the post office.

Restore your napping space

Enjoying an afternoon nap used to be a luxury. Now that it can be an everyday practice, make sure your bedroom is properly equipped.

  • Invest in a new mattress. A firm ergonomic mattress keeps your body supported while you sleep.
  • Hang new window shades. Choose shades that reduce or completely block light to allow your eyes to rest.
  • Add background noise. Soft classical music or nature sounds will help your mind relax.
  • Set an alarm. Avoid post-nap grogginess by resting no more than an hour.

Never stop doing the hobbies you love

Retirement should be easy, so don’t let your home slow you down.

Your redesigned leisure spaces will leave you free to create and explore new avenues with your favorite hobbies.

Related:

About the author

Tracy Layden

Tracy Layden is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist and leads the marketing efforts at Alert-1, a personal safety technology and consulting firm dedicated to helping seniors live safely and independently. Tracy holds a degree in mathematics from Scripps College and is an accomplished ballroom dancer and equestrian. Follow Alert-1 on Twitter and Facebook.
 
 

Why You Need to Get Serious About Going Solar

BY SARAH PIKE 

They're more affordable than you think, and the benefits make them a bright idea.

The decision to add solar panels to your home can seem daunting. The unknowns and assumptions of costs and installation tend to leave homeowners uneasy about going solar.

However, just as home automation once seemed overwhelming, adding solar panels to your home is becoming more of the norm. More than 1 million U.S. homes installed solar panels in 2016, and the industry is projected to triple over the next five years, according to research by the Solar Energy Industries Association.

California already generates more than five percent of its “annual utility-scale electricity generation from utility-scale solar power,” becoming the first state to do so.

The reasons to invest in solar panels are abundant. In addition to increasing your home’s value and saving money on your electric bill, solar panels also help homeowners decrease their carbon footprint. Within 20 years, a residential solar power system can offset literally tons of carbon dioxide.

Addressing the myths

If you’re still skeptical, know that quite a few myths about going solar exist. Here are the most common myths about solar panels.

  • I could never afford solar panels. The average cost to cover a home’s roof with solar panels is $29,000, according to Tech Insider. Ten years ago it was $43,000. That makes the cost of a solar roof “lower than the average price of a new car” in the U.S. This doesn’t even account for renewable energy tax credits you may receive; you can claim a 30-percent rebate for installing solar panels to your home. There are even solar panel leasing program options if you don’t feel ready for such a purchase. This solar panel installation cost calculator will give you the estimated cost of the benefits of using solar power in your home, as well as your expected daily savings.
  • My solar panels won’t work if the weather is bad. False. Germany is the solar energy capital of the world, and often faces long, dismal winters. Solar panels run off of UV light, so a cloudy sky won’t turn off your power.
  • Solar panels will require too much maintenance. Solar panels do not require much maintenance at all, actually. While rain will often do the trick, the general recommendation is to clean your panels by hosing them off annually. Most of your maintenance work involves simply making sure there is no debris on your roof that may cover any part of your panels.

Can your home handle it?

If you’re ready to start thinking more seriously about going solar, your first step is to see if your home can handle solar panels. Surprisingly, approximately only 25 percent of roofs are suitable for solar panels.

Research the following questions as you consider solar panels:

  • What are the measurements of my roof?
  • What are the electrical and building codes in my area?
  • Does my neighborhood have any rules regarding solar panels?
  • Does my state have laws regarding solar access rights in place?

You’ll also want to find a contractor who is certified to work with photovoltaic (PV) systems. A professional can help you determine if your home is a good fit for solar panels. Before you commit to any service, though, find out how long your contractor has been in business, how many installations their team has completed, and what kind of insurance they have. Making sure the contractor is North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners certified is another must. And it’s completely acceptable to ask for a portfolio or a list of recent projects and references.

An alternative to panels

No worries if your home isn’t yet ideal for installing solar panels. Alternatives like solar shingles are also worth considering. Solar shingles are a cheaper option, and look much like tar and sand shingles, blending in with your roof more than solar panels.

Like solar panels, they work by capturing sunlight and transforming it into usable energy. They’re usually only one foot wide, and can be stapled directly to roofing cloth, just like normal shingles.

If you think your home may be a good candidate for solar panels or shingles, give it a shot. With little to lose and so much to gain — and a new solar panel going up every 150 seconds in the U.S. — 2017 may be your year to go solar.

Related:

Originally published on November 5, 2015

About the author

Sarah Pike

Sarah Pike is a freelancer, writing teacher, and new homeowner. When she's not writing, teaching, or obsessively organizing her home, she's probably binge-watching RomComs or reading home decor magazines. She also enjoys following far too many celebrities than she should on Instagram. You can find Sarah on Twitter at @sarahzpike.