The Top 5 Home Features That Save Time and Money

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Everyone wants to save money on energy bills every month. But did you know that having today’s popular energy-efficient features in your home can also save you time and stress when you sell your home?

two home buyers surrounded by moving boxesMore and more first-time home buyers are searching for homes in the area, so there is more of a demand for move-in ready homes or homes with certain features.

As Millennial Magazine notes, what buyers are looking for in a home include open floor plans, homes with great cell service, and energy-efficient features.

Having the best energy-efficient home features now means you won’t need to upgrade your home later when you sell. Plus, these features may also add value to your home.

5. Programmable Thermostats

Programmable thermostats let you control when you want the heat and air conditioning to be running in your home, saving you money on your monthly energy bills. Some thermostats, such as Nest Learning Thermostats, even let you control the temperature remotely on your phone, an appealing feature for today’s home buyers.

upgraded kitchen with bright spring flowers4. Energy-Efficient Appliances

There are plenty of cost-saving options for the appliances throughout your home. Energy Star offers many appliances and equipment from kitchen appliances to water heaters that are popular energy-efficient home features.

3. Green Home Construction

Materials involved in home construction can be also be energy-efficient. Different types of insulation and energy-efficient windows, such as low-emissivity (low E), can be installed to reduce your heating and cooling costs.

2. Low-Flow Plumbing Fixtures

A way to save money on your water bill is to replace your toilet, faucet, or shower head with a low-flow toilet and water-conserving features.

LED light bulb on a white surface1. LED Lightbulbs

A simple switch from incandescent lighbulbs to LED bulbs will not only brighten your home but save you money on your energy bill.

Using these bulbs can also help you as you’re selling your home, too; brighter rooms are more appealing to buyers who are scrolling through online listing photos and viewing homes.

Today’s Buyers are Searching for Your Home

Not all home buyers are searching for new construction homes in the area. In fact, the National Association of Home Builders found that less than 9% of Millennials and only 12% of older home buyers bought a new home.

Today’s home buyers may be searching for a home that is similar to yours, and if you have the energy-efficient home features they are looking for, they may value your home more.

But Before You Upgrade Your Home…

person using an iphoneAs the real estate experts in this area, we know what features home buyers are looking for. So before you completely upgrade your home with these features or other home improvements, talk to us about whether you need to spend the time and money installing them.

All your home may need is expert marketing to attract buyers.

We’d be happy to talk with you about the best energy-efficient home features and what today’s buyers are searching for. Just give us a call.

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Is Renting Truly Cheaper Than Buying a Home?

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Owning a home is a dream for many people. You have the opportunity to invest in a place of your own and build equity, not to mention carve out a space that reflects who you are and what you love.

However, worries about down payments, property taxes, maintenance, and insurance (and student loans) can make buying a home seem like wishful thinking, which is why you may prefer to rent a home or apartment.

But is renting cheaper than buying a home? There are more than just financial costs to consider. Let’s discuss the advantages and disadvantages of renting.

a person holding a wad of cashYou Receive No Return When You Rent a Property

As a renter, you’re paying hundreds of dollars a month to live in your community, and if you want to move, it’s much easier. But renting a home doesn’t offer you investment opportunities.

Unlike paying off your home loan and building equity, the money you pay when you rent goes straight to the property owner or manager.

You Don’t Build Credit When You Rent

As this recent Forbes article explains, your credit score often does not factor in your on-time monthly rent payments, so renting a property is not a great way to build credit.

Additionally, renting doesn’t provide you with any tax benefits. If you own a home, however, you can deduct mortgage insurance and property taxes, and exclude capital gains when you sell.

You Cannot Customize Your Living Space

upgraded kitchen with bright spring flowersNot all costs are financial. There are opportunity costs of renting a home instead of buying a home, and customization is one of them.

There may be rules and regulations in your rental community that prevent you from changing your space to fit your style, such as painting the walls or upgrading the kitchen. These rules may also prevent you from living with a pet.

Owning a home means you can create your own space (with your choice of countertops and kitchen cabinets), you can invest in home improvements, and you can live with your furry companion.

You Have a Harder Time Connecting with Your Community

Forming deep connections with your neighbors is likely not high on your priority list if you’re a renter, especially when you consider that you will only be living in the community for a short time. If you desire to get to know your neighbors, homeownership is a better option.

buyer holding house keys to new homeRenting vs. Buying: The Bottom Line

Renting gives you flexibility and little maintenance to worry about. Buying a home is a long-term investment that gives you a space you can customize, helps you build credit and equity, and connects you with your community.

We want to help you make the best decision, and we have important real estate market resources that you can use to help you decide if renting is cheaper for you than buying a home. Just give us a call and we can talk about your plans.

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7 Best Strategies for House Hunting

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Spring is almost here! The warmer weather, beautiful flowers, and longer days are perfect for viewing homes in person, and it’s no wonder that the spring season is a popular time for home buyers to start looking at homes and neighborhoods.

But before you start driving around and visiting open houses, you should follow these important house hunting tips.

a buyer getting preapproved for a mortgage with a lender1. Get Preapproved for a Mortgage

Getting preapproved for a home loan is one of the best tools you have when searching for a home, especially when you have competition.

If you are preapproved, the home seller takes your offer seriously and may end up accepting your offer over another interested home buyer who is not preapproved.

2. Get to Know the Neighborhood

If you have a specific home in mind, it’s best to visit the area more than once, at different times of the day and week.

3. Have a List of Your Wants and Needs

Have a detailed house hunting checklist outlining your wants and needs, and make sure that your list covers the type of home (e.g. house or condo), the location, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and home features that you are looking for.

One mistake that home buyers make during their home search, however, is having a wish list that is too strict. You don’t want to get stuck searching for the perfect home that may not exist.

Hand holding magnifying glass. Plain background4. Don’t Be Afraid to Examine Everything

If you have narrowed your home search and are viewing homes in person, it’s time to examine everything: doorknobs, cabinets, windows, faucets, light switches. Now is the time to find out if there is anything that needs repair, not after closing.

5. Consider the Weather

Relocating from another state or country? When buying a home in a new area, considering weather conditions and seasonal temperature changes is important.

For example, you may value a home that has a covered garage if you move to an area where snow is more common, or you may want to choose a home with a shaded backyard in an area with warmer temperatures.

6. Order the Home Inspection

It’s crucial to have a trained professional examine the home you are interested in buying, even a home that has just been built. This is the best way to identify any major repairs that need to be made.

a home buyer meeting with a trusted real estate agent7. Have the Best Real Estate Agent on Your Side

If you are feeling frustrated and overwhelmed while house hunting and competing with other home buyers, your real estate agent is there to guide you through the process and keep you focused on the next steps.

We want you to be able to find the best home in the best location, and we are here to help. So if you are searching for a home this spring, talk with us about what you are looking for in a home and we can find it together.

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10 Easy Spring Cleaning Ideas

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The month of March brings spring, and with spring comes bright budding flowers, longer days, warmer weather, and spring cleaning. There is no better way to shake off the dreariness of winter than a freshly cleaned home ready to welcome the season. Here are 10 easy ways you can clean your home for spring.

homeowners on a couch in front of open windows1. Open the Windows

There’s nothing like the sun shining through your windows to usher in the feeling of spring.

Throw back the curtains, part the blinds, and open up the windows to let the fresh spring air waft through your home.

2. Organize Your Closets

If you are running out of closet space, you can put away many of your bulky winter clothes to leave room for your spring wardrobe. You can even take a few extra minutes to sort out any clothes you no longer wear to donate, giving you even more room for the upcoming season.

3. Use Detergent as an All-Purpose Cleaner

A little bit of laundry detergent can go a long way. Warm water, laundry detergent, and items that you may have around the house can help you clean:

  • oil spills
  • carpets
  • cabinets
  • stovetops
  • sinks
  • toilets
  • walls
  • countertops
  • bathtubs
  • and more!
a cup full of laundry detergent used in cleaning supplies

These recipes for all-purpose cleaners recommend just 1/4 cup of detergent for 5 gallons of water. Simple and effective.

4. Brighten Rooms with Simple Changes

A simple change of pillows on a sofa or comforters on a bed can make a world of difference. You can rotate these household items seasonally, keeping your décor fresh and rooms feeling like new with very little effort.

5. Reorganize Living Areas

Again, small changes can make a big difference in the look and feel of your home, and rearranging the furniture in main living areas can leave your home feeling fresh and ready for spring.

6. Clean Light Switches and Fixtures

Take a few minutes to wipe fingerprints off light switches, dust your lamps, tighten the screws on any loose door hinges, and replace any incandescent light bulbs with brighter and more energy-efficient bulbs.

clean kitchen with bright spring flowers7. Clean Kitchen Appliances

Give your microwave and fridge a fresh look by cleaning any old food remnants from inside the appliances. An easy way to clean the microwave is by heating a bowl of water — the steam loosens the residue for easy clean-up.

8. Bring Plants Indoors

A few indoor flowers and plants can bring the fresh blooms of spring into your home, brightening living rooms, kitchens, or windowsills with ease.

9. Check Your Cabinets

Look in your kitchen and bathroom cabinets to see if anything has expired, is almost empty, or needs to be thrown away. This is a simple way to declutter your home’s key features without spending a lot of time cleaning.

a new welcome mat in front of a door10. Put Out a New Welcome Mat

What better way to welcome spring than with a new welcome mat outside your front door? This fresh feature not only adds another focal point to your entryway, it makes an excellent first impression for visitors.

Cleaning to Sell Your Home This Spring?

These spring cleaning tips can help you prepare your home to sell. Home buyers love to see homes that are bright, clean, and inviting from the front door, and these easy tips can help you get started. We can also recommend other home staging tips and home selling resources to help you make the largest return on your investment this spring; just contact us and we can talk about selling your home.

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Are You Taking Advantage of These Homeowner Tax Breaks?

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a stack of coins gradually increasing in heightThere are many benefits to owning a home: A home is an investment that can earn equity, is often cheaper to buy than to rent, and is your own place that you can fill with wonderful memories.

But another great benefit about owning a home is the financial benefits that you can take advantage of during tax season.

Major Tax Breaks for Homeowners

Owning a home, and eventually selling it, can offer you opportunities for deductions on your taxes, and we wanted to outline the major tax breaks for homeowners today. Are you taking advantage of these tax benefits?

Deduction for Mortgage Interest

In many cases, you can fully deduct the amount of your mortgage interest on your taxes. The IRS has a chart you can use to help determine if your mortgage interest is fully deductible.

mortgage interest credit is available for lower income homeowners for part of the home mortgage interest that they pay.

Credit for Energy-Efficient Home Improvements

Available until the end of this year, homeowners who have installed solar hot water heaters, solar electric systems, wind turbines, or qualifying energy-efficient home improvements can take a tax credit as part of the Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit.

The credit is for 30% of the cost for these energy-efficient home improvements.

Deduction for Property Taxes

In addition to deducting your mortgage interest, you can also deduct the annual taxes you pay on your home’s value, called real estate taxes.

Deduction for Capital Gains

calculator and financial worksheet for taxesIf you have used your home as your primary residence when you sell, you can exclude up to $250,000 in capital gains from the home sale on your taxes (or $500,000 if you are married filing jointly).

To learn what other tax benefits you may take advantage of, visit the Credits and Deductions page on the IRS website or read this MarketWatch article about other tax breaks for homeowners.

Let Us Help You Find the Perfect Home

If you have been considering buying a home and are ready to start your search, we can help you find the perfect home that falls within your budget and provide you with helpful real estate resources to make the journey to homeownership as smooth and enjoyable as possible.

Contact us today and let’s talk about your goals for owning a home.

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5 Ways to Host the Perfect, Mess-Free Super Bowl Party

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If you are hosting a big party to celebrate Super Bowl 50, you probably want it to be an event that you and your guests remember for years to come.

But Super Bowl parties can be messy: Crumbs and dirt from your guests’ shoes can embed themselves in your carpet, drinking glasses and plates can pile up, and the late-night messes can leave you feeling frustrated. But not to worry, we have a few Super Bowl party ideas that can help you minimize the mess.

Game-Changing Super Bowl Preparations

table cloth with appetizers and party itemsBefore you place the perfect decorations and put the snacks out on the table, prepare for game night with these helpful tips.

1. Buy Disposable Table Covers

Protect your coffee table from scuffs and crumbs by covering it with a disposable cover, whether it’s a plastic tablecloth or a roll of brown paper. For extra security, you can tape the edges to the underside of the table, and all you have to do is scoop up whatever’s left — including broken chips, bits of salsa, and water rings — and toss it out.

2. Put Everything in Easy Reach

Every second counts during the Super Bowl, both during the game and during the commercials, and no one wants to miss any of the action while heading to the kitchen to grab another drink or handful of chips.

Let your guests stay glued to the TV by keeping the food within easy reach on a large table in front of the couch. (The disposable table covers will definitely come in handy here.)

bite-sized pizza, fries, and dipping sauce 3. Go Bite-Size with the Snacks

Keep the mess to a minimum and select the best snacks that are bite-sized. You can stick toothpicks into your appetizers, too, to add an element of style to your snack selections.

Check out these recipes for bite-size snacks on the Food Network or these appetizer recipes from Better Homes and Gardens for great bite-sized snack ideas.

4. Prepare Your Stain Removers

It’s always helpful to prepare for spills, and having carpet cleaner on hand can help you prevent stains from forming on your carpet or on your sofa.

A little bit of dishwashing detergent can go a long way to clean up soft drinks, wine, and beer. Visit Good Housekeeping for easy cleaning solutions for just about any kind of stain, including beverages.

5. Stick with Disposable Plates

Avoid any mishaps and broken dishes by buying disposable plates, bowls, cups, and silverware before game day, and have your guests personalize their glasses with a permanent marker to prevent any misplacing. Then, instead of having to wash dishes, you can toss everything into the trash bag and stick it in the garbage.

Preparing to Sell Your Home? We Have Your Covered!

clean and decluttered living room ready for a home saleThe home selling preparations don’t stop even during the Super Bowl. We hope these mess-free party preparations can help you stay on track and avoid having to clean massive messes, and we can recommend other helpful tips for cleaning and decluttering your home that can save you time and money.

We’re available to talk if you need any advice, resources, or real estate information, and we can help you sell your home for top dollar and in a short time. Just give us a call today and let’s talk about your goals.

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5 Home Selling Tips for Homeowners Who are Not Selling (Yet)

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Selling your home may be an idea you are seriously considering, but that does not mean you are ready to put your home on the market just yet. You may be waiting to pay off your mortgage, you may be waiting for the kids to move out, or you may not be ready yet to part with all the memories you have made in this home.

But that does not mean you don’t have to start preparing to sell.

What to Consider Before Listing Your Home

personal belongings cluttered in a home's attic, a DO NOT home selling tipMany home sellers feel overwhelmed when they are preparing to sell their home for a number of reasons: There is the daunting task of decluttering, the sometimes unexpected repairs that have to be made, and the seemingly endless list of squeaky doors and minor fixes that buyers would notice almost immediately.

And all of this happens in a short time. (Read this Popular Mechanics article about what surprises this first-time home seller experienced to get an idea of what can happen.)

Prepare Now, Feel Less Stressed Later

You are in the perfect position right now to do what many home sellers do not have the chance to — slowly start to get your home in order. Here are ten home selling tips you can try now so you won’t feel overwhelmed when you are selling your home later.

1. Start with the Necessary Repairs

Free yourself from future stress by making any major repairs now, whether that is repairing the HVAC or replacing the hot water heater.

paint roll and paint brushes2. Go for Neutral Colors

If you want to give your walls a fresh coat of paint, opt for more neutral colors. During home showings, neutral colors and décor make it easier for home buyers to picture themselves living in your home, which is your ultimate goal.

3. Start Decluttering Now

Home sellers often find that decluttering is one of the more frustrating and overwhelming tasks, but if you start cleaning the clutter now, you will thank yourself later. A good rule of thumb: If you don’t love something and use it, lose it.

4. Deep Clean Your Home Periodically

small vacuum cleaner on dark floors in a homeSometimes it feels like the little things pile up quickly, don’t they? Try to stay ahead of minor maintenance and cleaning tasks by:

  • cleaning fixtures and light switch covers
  • fixing broken doorbells
  • repairing squeaky doors
  • dusting high and low
  • cleaning floors and windows

Check out our previous blog post for more ways to clean, organize, and declutter your home.

5. Refresh Your Front Entrance

During the home selling process, making a fantastic first impression is the key to getting buyers in the door. Refresh your home’s curb appeal by purchasing a new welcome mat, painting the front door, and polishing or replacing the doorknob.

List Your Home with Us for a Smooth Experience

We hope you found these home selling tips helpful. We know that selling a home can be overwhelming, especially if the unexpected happens. But we want to make sure that you have as painless of a sale as possible, so we will do everything we can to help you sell your home for top dollar and in a short time. So when you do decide to list your home, just give us a call.

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Home Organization Tips for the New Year

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dining area with four chairs and a tableHappy New Year!

Now that 2016 is here and the busyness of the holidays is over, many people are setting New Year’s resolutions — whether personal, professional, or real estate-related. It is the perfect time to set goals and welcome the new year with a fresh start. And what better way to start the new year fresh than by cleaning and organizing your home?

10 Ways to Get Rid of Last Year’s Clutter

“Out with the old, in with the new” as the saying goes. To help you start fresh with a clean and organized home, here are ten tips for kicking out the clutter and keeping it out in the new year.

1. Tackle Holiday Messes First

The busyness of the holidays often brings messes — shredded wrapping paper, loose Christmas tree needles, half-eaten leftovers in the fridge. Cleaning up from the holidays is a great place to start, and HGTV offers a great article about how to clean your home in 45 minutes.

small vacuum cleaner on dark floors in a home2. Vacuum the Floors

Now that the holidays are over and the constant flow of guests has diminished, give your floors a little TLC with a thorough vacuuming. Even this simple cleaning task can make a world of difference in the look and feel of your home.

3. Open the Windows

Freshen up your living spaces by letting in the natural light. Opening the windows helps make your home seem more inviting to both you and your visitors.

4. Refresh and Rearrange

Tired of the layout in your living room or bedrooms? Mix it up for the new year to add flow and a fresh look to your home.

5. Dust in High and Low Places

Give your rooms a thorough dusting to get rid of last year’s grime, starting with the lowest shelf on the bookcase and moving up to the ceiling fans and the hardly seen areas behind your shelves.

6. Replace Light Bulbs and Fix Squeaky Doors

Have a minor fix that you haven’t gotten around to correcting yet? Maybe it’s the burnt-out lightbulb in your bathroom or squeaky door to your closet. Make those tiny repairs now and your home will start to feel new again.

7. Organize and Declutter

We all have that one space we use as a catch-all for our miscellaneous clutter, whether it’s a closet, a chair, or a table. This year, keep the clutter at bay by getting rid of unused items, removing the clutter catch-all, or organizing everything in labeled bins.

8. Donate or Discard Old Clothes

What better way to say “out with the old” than to get rid of any shirts, jackets, pants, or shoes that you no longer wear? Now you’ll have more space in your closets and more room for new clothes.

bathroom clean of grime and clutter9. Deep Clean Your Bathroom

A clean shower door and bathroom wall can do wonders to enhance the overall appearance of your bathroom. DIY Network has several easy cleaning tricks for bathroom sinks, shower heads, and toilets that you can use to get rid of the built-up soap scum and grime.

10. Put Out a New Welcome Mat

What better way to welcome the new year and your guests than with a new, clean welcome mat? You’ll impress your visitors from the moment they walk in, and that curb appeal can do wonders for how even your neighbors perceive your home.

Decluttering Works Well During Home Staging, Too

These home organization tips can work wonders when you sell your home, since the foundation of home staging includes decluttering and cleaning to give buyers the best first impression. If you are selling your home in the new year, we can recommend other home staging tips and resources to help you sell your home quickly and for top dollar.

We hope you had a wonderful New Year’s and are looking forward to what 2016 has in store. Let us know if there is any way we can help make the home selling process easier on you in the new year.

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2015 Year in Review: The Economy and National Real Estate Market

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This time of year, many people like to take a moment and reflect on the year that has passed, whether it’s reflecting on good memories or how the nation is doing financially. Today, we would like to take a moment to reflect on the economy and what this year’s trends meant for real estate.

A Brief Look Back on the US Economy

The economy has done well in 2015 — personal income is increasing, new construction homes are on the rise, and the job market is strong. And looking to the new year, now is the best time to buy a home. Here are three main real estate-related takeaways from the United States’ past economic performance in 2015.

1. Unemployment is Decreasing

laptop at an office workplaceThe job market in the United States is doing much better than in previous years following the Great Recession.

Unemployment this time last year was at 5.6%; the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics states unemployment is at 5.0%. With more jobs and disposable income, home buyers have been able to spend more on their dream home than in past years.

2. Interest Rates May Increase

The Federal Reserve is expected to raise the interest rate tomorrow, December 16th, for the first time in nearly a decade. This is a good sign — the economy is doing well and the job market is strong.

For home buyers, however, these forecasted interest rate increases mean it will soon cost more to finance your home, and that now is the best time to buy the home of your dreams.

3. The Cost of Renting is Increasing

modern rental propertiesThe rental market has been surging, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard, reaching a 20-year high this past year.

New apartment complexes have been built all over the nation to provide more housing, and due to this high demand for rental properties and lower vacancy rates, rent costs have increased.

For former renters looking for a place to call their own, now is a great time to purchase a home.

Now is the Best Time to Buy a Home

With forecasted interest rate increases, current rent cost increases, and a growing economy in 2015, now is the best time to buy a home. As local real estate experts, we can help you find the home of your dreams and direct you to the best home buying resources, including a mortgage calculator, that can help you purchase the home of your dreams with confidence.

Connect with us and let’s talk about your home buying goals for the new year.

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3 Benefits of Selling Your Home During the Holidays

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evergreen wreath with christmas decorations on a doorAs the holidays are approaching, many people are busy decorating their homes, lighting the tree, and marking their calendars to visit friends and family.

With all the busyness of the season, you might be wondering if now you should even attempt to sell your home. Any potential home buyers are also busy attending get-togethers or traveling out of town, right?

After all, that is how it has been in the past.

Yes, You Can Sell Your Home During the Holidays

The reality is that home buyers today are always looking at properties, including during the holidays.

Smartphones and other mobile devices have made it easier and quicker to search for homes on the go, and home buyers can search anywhere — including at a holiday party. So in light of this modern development, here are three main benefits of selling your home during the holidays.

3. You Have Less Competition

Many home sellers believe that the holidays are not the best time to sell, so they would rather wait until spring when the weather is nicer for home viewings.

This means that there is less competition for sellers who do list their home, so you don’t have to compete with other sellers for a buyer’s attention.

Buyers also have fewer properties to choose from, so you’re less likely to receive multiple offers on your home. For buyers who do find their dream home — your home — they may end up purchasing your property at or above market value.

2. Buyers are Serious

Unlike springtime, when many home sellers decide to put their property on the market, the weather is not as pleasant during the winter holiday season.

That means that potential buyers who are not serious about buying a home will opt for the comforts of their own home over viewing properties in cooler weather. They may also opt to attend a holiday party rather than view a home for sale.

Home buyers who are actively searching and viewing properties are generally more motivated, and may even want to buy their new home before Christmas or the new year rolls around. If a buyer for your home wants to get moving quickly, this can often translate into a quicker home sale.

christmas wreath in a frame on a red wall1. You Can Really Appeal to a Buyers’ Emotions

One of the most important tips about staging your home is that you need to appeal to the buyer’s emotions, and what better time to do that than during the holidays?

Selling your home means that you can leave the heat on, have cookies baking in the oven, and leave your holiday decorations up.

The holidays bring joy and warm feelings, and this seasonal atmosphere is perfect for setting the stage for your property with minimal work on your part.

We Can Help You Sell Your Home

Bottom line, selling your home during the holidays gives you the perfect opportunity to sell your home quickly and for more money. And we can help you make sure that your home sale goes smoothly, even during your busy holiday season.

From offering you a free home evaluation to advising you on further home staging tips, we have all the resources you need to make sure you home sells for more money in less time. Contact us and we can talk about a strategy to sell your property during the holidays.

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