You may think of it as giving yourself room to bargain, but beware. You could just turn off buyers.

Pricing a home for sale is more of an art than a science. Each home’s value falls within a range, and the price the buyer and seller agree on determines the exact value of the property.

If priced competitively from the very beginning, a home will sell at the higher end of the value range. The longer it lingers, the lower it lands in that range.

In fact, “homes that linger on the market tend to sell for significantly less than their listing price: five percent less after two months,” according to Zillow research.

Price: The battle between seller and agent

Homeowners have a very limited perspective on the real estate market, as they are only concerned with one home: their own.

On the other hand, successful agents live and breathe their local markets daily. They have their feet on the street, and possess a great understanding of current market conditions because they work with buyers, tour homes, and have first-hand knowledge of what moves.

Because they have limited knowledge, many sellers over-value their homes. They may assume that the agent just wants to price their home — their biggest asset — at a low price for a quick sale. And so a friction begins.

But agents know that homes that are priced right and show well will sell in good times and bad.

First impressions make the difference

The market typically responds to a new listing in the first few weeks, so do everything you can to make it attractive to buyers right from the start. Price your home right, and take all of your agent’s advice about cleaning, de-cluttering, painting and prepping, and your home should sell without incident, and for top dollar.

List at the wrong price or with the home not in its best showing condition, and you’ll leave a poor first impression on the market. As time passes, a listing starts to lose its momentum as newer, more competitive homes come up for sale. As the number of days on the market increases, interest in your home decreases, and the listing becomes stale.

Next stop: price reduction

A price reduction inevitably occurs after weeks or months of inactivity. If the seller doesn’t price the home within striking distance (say, five percent in many markets) of what the buyer perceives the value to be at the time, the seller has to come down in price. Often, they come down, but still not enough.

If the sellers miss the market twice, buyers won’t take them seriously, and will wait around for the next reduction.

The home will eventually get into the right price range for the market, and a buyer will strike. But they will probably punish the seller by coming in with an offer far lower than they would have, had the home come onto the market at the right price.

Once sellers lose the momentum of being new on the market, they’re at a disadvantage when it comes time to negotiate.

Risk of the market changing

What’s worse is that markets can start to decline over time. A seller may list in March to a healthy market, but their odds of making a top-dollar sale fall as inventory piles up, the economy slows, interest rates rise, or any number of factors come into play.

Come September, the value range of the home is lower than it was in March. A change in market conditions is a risk a seller takes by pricing too high.

Risk of showing poorly

As time passes, sellers may get lazy, and keeping the house clean and organized becomes a chore. Weeds come back, dust bunnies creep up, and the house doesn’t show as well as it did when it first went on the market.

Buyers who show up when the price is right will have even more reason to penalize the seller with a low offer.

Advice to sellers

If you are serious about selling your home and have a game plan and motivation to move on, take pricing very seriously.

If you and your agent disagree about the price, but not by a lot, it’s worth trying the higher number. But have an upfront plan to reduce the price quickly, and use that price reduction as a marketing activity.

The market will respond positively to a seller who shows they are serious about selling.

Related:

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.
 
 

Portable or window unit? Central air or ductless system? Make the right choice to keep your home cool all summer.

Selecting the proper air conditioning system for your space involves weighing several factors: the type of room, its total cubic footage, the number of people typically using the space, and the room’s exposure to sunlight.

A professional heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) specialist can help you evaluate your space and suggest the most suitable system from among these options:

  • Portable and window air conditioners. These units are commonly used for cooling single rooms. Popular for their affordability, portability, and versatility, they enclose a compressor, condenser, expansion valve or coil, evaporator, and cooling coil in a single box, which then fits on a windowsill or in a hole cut into the wall.
  • Central air conditioning systems. Efficient and effective for cooling entire homes, central AC typically includes a large, external condenser unit connected to an indoor air handling unit, which moves cool air in and warm air back out through a system of supply and return ducts. A drain pipe runs from the indoor unit to an outside gutter to carry away condensation.
  • Ductless air conditioners. Also known as mini-split, multi-split, or split-ductless systems, these work well to cool one or two rooms. Multiroom systems are available as well. Like central AC, these units have an outdoor condenser and an indoor air handling unit. Rather than being linked by ductwork, however, the two units are connected by a conduit that houses the power cable, refrigerant tubing, suction tubing, and condensate drain. These systems eliminate the need to tear down walls and ceilings to run air ducts — a huge plus for older or architecturally sensitive homes.

What all those letters mean

When selecting your unit, familiarize yourself with a few abbreviations that distinguish models on the market. First, air conditioners are rated by a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER), which is the measurement of an air conditioner’s efficiency (the ratio of its cooling output to its energy input) over an entire cooling season.

The British thermal unit (BTU) rating, another important figure, indicates cooling capacity — how quickly and effectively a unit can cool a given room.

Most closely tied to your electric bill is the energy efficiency ratio (EER), which is the ratio of cooling capacity to electrical input — this figure tells you how efficiently an air conditioner operates. You can find the EER rating on each unit’s yellow Energy Guide label. A typical range runs from 8 to 11.5, with 10 or higher considered the most efficient.

If energy efficiency is top of mind for you, consider a unit certified under the U.S. Energy Star program, which recognizes models with good SEER and EER ratings. An Energy Star-approved room air conditioner runs about 10 percent more efficiently than an older unit, while an Energy Star-approved central unit might be 15 percent more efficient than its standard counterpart. In addition to the energy savings a higher-rated product provides, your state and local municipalities may also offer rebates or other incentives to consumers for making an energy-smart choice.

Once you’ve chose a unit, operating it efficiently will go a long way toward keeping your home cool and your utility bills low.

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.

About the author

BobVila.com

Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila's Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at BobVila.com. His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content – practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.

Not everyone who walks through the door is a potential buyer.

In real estate showings, the Sunday open house is the gold standard. As the name implies, a property is open to just about anyone who learns of the showing in an online or print ad, drives by and sees the agent’s A-frame sign, or receives a notification postcard in the mail.

But not everyone who goes to an open house is a potential buyer. Here are five types of people likely to pass through a property during an open house.

1. The real buyer

These people are somewhere in the home-buying process. They’re either testing out the market or they’re serious and fully qualified, ready to take action. For the seller, these are the ones you want coming through the door.

Buyers may use the open house as their second or third visit, after having seen the home with their agent during the week. The open house provides them the opportunity to get more comfortable in the home.

2. The nearby neighbor

This guy or gal has been waiting for years for an excuse to get inside your home, for various reasons. Their home may be similar to yours — maybe even designed by the same architect — and they want to compare their property to yours.

There might be other reasons to see it, too. Once, at an open house of a view property in San Francisco, a neighbor came into the house and made a beeline for the back deck. Meanwhile, in the neighboring home across the backyard, the neighbor’s son sat in the window. What followed was a cell phone conversation in which the father instructed his son to move to the right, to the left, go upstairs, and so on. The father’s goal was to determine from exactly which points in this home he and his family were visible to their neighbors.

You’ll no doubt encounter nosy neighbors, too. They live nearby and just want to satisfy their curiosity about your home — or even about you.

3. Agents scoping out the place for clients

Agents constantly check out properties for their buyer clients. The vast majority of the time, they’re professional and courteous.

There are exceptions, of course. Not long ago, in the living room of a packed Sunday open house, an agent sat on the couch and spoke to her client on the phone. The agent summarized the property loudly and in none-too-complimentary terms.

“The finishes are cheap, the floor plan is off, and the bathrooms need updating,” she said. “Don’t waste your time coming over here.”

The listing agent politely asked the other agent to continue her conversation outside.

4. The agent who lost the listing

In many cases, a seller interviewed multiple agents before selecting their listing agent. Sometimes agents spend a lot of time, and even some money, working with a potential seller to secure a listing. Obviously, not every agent interviewed will get the listing.

When the property lands on the open house circuit, an agent who lost the listing may visit. They want to know if the seller took any of their suggestions. Did they paint the orange room a more neutral color, or renovate the kitchen or bathrooms as suggested? It ‘s their chance to run through the property anonymously, as most agents usually won’t know with whom they competed for the listing.

5. A previous owner, or one of their relatives

Over years of open houses, a busy listing agent will surely run into an old seller, or their children or grandkids who grew up in the home. These people come to the open house to see how it looks and to reminisce. Lots of memories happen in a home, and the opportunity to go back in time can be a real treat.

A good listing agent will welcome any and all visitors to an open house. They solicit feedback from buyers and make notes of their comments, reactions and questions.

If you’re attending an open house with no intentions of buying, keep it to yourself. Be as subtle and unobtrusive as possible, and don’t waste the listing agent’s time — unless you have some helpful feedback for the agent or seller.

Looking to buy a home? Check out our Home Buyers Guide for tips and helpful information.

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.

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.

Choosing a ceiling fan may seem simple, but there are a few things you should know to make sure it's a breeze.

Every bit of breeze makes a difference in the heat of summer. A ceiling fan can not only increase your personal comfort but also reduce your monthly utility costs by supplementing (or even substituting for) your hardworking air conditioning unit.

To reap the full benefits of your room’s soon-to-be new addition, you need to know how to pick and place a winner. Getting answers to these questions before you select a ceiling fan will help match you to a model that will meet all of your needs.

What size fan do I need?

The number and length of blades on a ceiling fan determine how much air the fan can move. For an average size bedroom of approximately 12 feet by 12 feet, a standard four-blade fan with a blade span of 42 inches is adequate.

For larger rooms, opt for a wider and longer blade, such as a 52-inch span, to provide better air flow.

Standard ceiling fans consist of four blades, but some models feature five or even six — more blades means greater air movement. If you want increased circulation without having to buy a larger (and likely pricier) fan, look for a fan with five or more blades that’s still in your budget.

How low should the fan hang from the ceiling?

You want at least 7 feet of clearance from the floor to the fan blades.

Of course, ceilings vary in heights and styles, so the same ceiling fan that works in a vaulted room will hang too low in a room with an 8-foot-high ceiling.

Fortunately, fan manufacturers accommodate the wide range of room heights by creating two basic configurations: standard and ceiling-hugger models.

  • The standard model features a 6- or 8-inch-long downrod that extends from the fan’s ceiling bracket to the top of the motor housing — perfect for ceilings that are 8 feet high or so. Higher ceilings might require additional extension rods to lower the fan to a more useful height.
  • For lower ceiling heights, a ceiling-hugger or flush-mount model holds the fan closer to the ceiling in order to provide adequate head clearance.

Check the box for the listed “installed distance,” or the amount of space between the ceiling and the blades. This will help you determine the remaining clearance beneath the fan.

How much do I want to save on utility bills?

If lowering utility costs is a leading reason for installing a ceiling fan, select a model that bears an Energy Star label. These products feature motors that operate 60 percent more efficiently than conventional units, which could save you more than $15 a year on utility bills.

These models also include the functionality to switch blade directions when the seasons change (i.e., counterclockwise in summer for a comfortable breeze, and clockwise in the winter to force heat from along the ceiling downward into the living area).

Do I want an overhead light?

Just because the box for a ceiling fan depicts a product complete with lights doesn’t mean that a light kit comes included.

Unless the packaging specifies that the unit is a combination fan-and-light, you’ll probably have to purchase a light kit separately. Along the same lines, if the box shows only a fan, that particular model might not accept a light kit. Read the fine print before buying.

How do I install a ceiling fan?

A DIY installation may or may not be simple or possible, depending on where you live. In many communities, a handy homeowner can legally hang a ceiling fan in his or her own home.

However, some cities require an electrical permit or even that a licensed electrician do the work. Be sure to check with your local building authority before starting.

Got the go-ahead? You’ll find a wiring diagram, wiring instructions, and fan assembly instructions in the box to guide you. Replacing a light fixture or older ceiling fan with a new model will use existing wiring.

If you’re introducing a new ceiling fan where there wasn’t one before, know that you’ll need to cut through walls and/or ceilings to add the necessary wiring — an extra complication which may persuade you to hire a professional.

Large, heavy fans may require additional support blocking in the ceiling joists in order to hold their weight.

Will the fan rattle?

When installed correctly, it’s rare for a modern ceiling fan to wobble. But that’s not to say it never happens.

If your fan starts to shake as it spins, a balancing kit complete with clips and weights is a quick fix. Your model may have even included one for future use. Otherwise, you can pick one up wherever you bought the fan for about $5.

Related:

About the author

BobVila.com

Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila's Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at BobVila.com. His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content – practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.
 
 

Replace your old windows to save money on energy bills. Do it yourself, and save even more!

It might surprise you to learn that replacing a window in your home is one of the easier DIY projects out there.

It can take as little as one or two hours per window, depending on your skill level, and installing them yourself can save you an enormous amount of money, especially if you need to replace several windows.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to both purchase and install new windows for your home.

Craftsman style home exterior
Photo from Zillow listing.

Window types

There are two primary types of windows in today’s homes: new construction and replacement. Before you install new windows or replace your broken or older windows, you first need to identify which type you have.

New construction

New construction windows are installed on the outside of your home’s structure and fastened into the exterior plywood.

On vinyl windows, there is a wide flange that wraps around the window frame’s perimeter, which features multiple holes that accept screws or nails. This flange gets hidden with flashing or house wrap and then completely covered when the home’s siding or stucco is applied.

Usually, this type of window has a special channel where the edge of the siding can be located.

Replacement

Replacement windows are installed from the interior of the home. They don’t have a perimeter flange. They are sized to slip into the window opening and get screwed into the two-by-four framing around the window.

Replacement windows usually butt up to some sort of exterior trim work that keeps them from falling out of the opening.

Backyard of suburban home with several windows
Photo from Zillow listing.

Choosing between window types

So which windows do you need? It depends on what you have.

Ideally, you should replace a new construction window with another new construction window, if you are comfortable with moving siding out of the way while you work.

If you prefer to not mess with the exterior of your home, or you have a much older home that didn’t use new construction style windows, then you can use replacement windows.

Dimensions

Once you’ve identified the type, you need to figure out the dimensions of the window you need to buy. The easiest way to do that is to measure the length and width of the window you’re removing.

For new construction windows, you can measure the exposed part of the window that sits proud of the siding or stucco.

For replacement windows, you’ll need to remove the interior trim work around the perimeter to expose its edges for an accurate measurement.

Buying

Before you price a new window, you’ll need to pick some functional features like double-hung, grid overlays, tilt for cleaning, etc. Most home improvement stores carry a large number of common window sizes in stock.

If you’re buying a new construction window, make sure it has the appropriate edge for accepting either siding, brick or stucco. Most average-size vinyl windows will cost you between $100-$250 per window. If you hire a professional window installer, you can probably double that cost.

If you have an irregular or custom size, you’ll need to order it, which can increase the cost and add a week or two to the delivery time. Make sure you take that into account before you start removing any existing windows. You want your windows on hand before you begin, plus it will allow you to verify that you received the correct sizes.

Exterior of brick home
Photo from Zillow listing.

Replacing a new construction window

Removing the old window

  1. Remove the row of siding above the window.
  2. Remove the rows around the sides and below the window.
  3. Peel back any flashing tape or house wrap around the window flange. The window fasteners should be visible at this point.
  4. Remove the screws and nails, and cut away any caulk on the inside of the window.
  5. Gently remove the window.

Installing the new window

  1. Slip the new window into the old window opening to make sure it fits properly.
  2. Remove the new window and apply a bead of silicone caulk along the inside of the flange.
  3. Insert the window back in and make sure it’s level.
  4. Secure the window to the exterior of the house by using exterior screws. For more stability, try to use different screw holes than the first window’s.
  5. Apply fresh flashing tape and/or house wrap.
  6. Reinstall the siding rows, starting from below the window and working your way up.
  7. Inside the house, insert some insulation between the house and the window.
  8. Re-caulk the area where the window meets the sill and wall.
Photo via home on Zillow. Click to see on Zillow Digs.
Photo from Zillow listing.

Installing a replacement window

Removing the old window

  1. Score the caulk on the exterior of the house where the window meets the trim or woodwork.
  2. On the inside of the house, remove the trim that covers the gap between the wall and the window. It is usually held in place with caulk and some brad nails.
  3. Once you have access to the whole window, you should be able to see screws from the inside edges of the window into the adjacent window frame.
  4. Remove those screws, and the window should easily pull away from the frame.

Installing the new window

  1. Insert the replacement window into the frame and adjust its positioning with shims and a level.
  2. Pre-drill through the same holes as the first window, but use new shims.
  3. Secure the window to the frame with several screws through those same holes. Make sure to drive the screws just until snug. If you over-drive these screws, you can warp the window frame and either break it or make it hard to open and close the window.
  4. Stuff the area between the window and the frame with insulation. If you use expanding foam insulation, make sure you use the kind specifically designed for windows and doors. Normal expanding foam can over-expand and distort the window, which prevents it from opening.
  5. Reinstall the trim that hides the gap between the window and the frame.
  6. Caulk both the interior and the exterior to close and weather proof any gaps.
Top image from Zillow listing.

Related:

About the author

John Gerard

John Gerard is a full-time engineer who writes about home improvement and DIY projects at his blog, Our Home from Scratch. He focuses on teaching people how to add value to their houses through various projects including custom cabinets and built-ins. He lives in South Jersey with his wife and kids. You can read more of his writing at www.ourhomefromscratch.com