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Heather Morris


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 27

Don’t Wait for a Rainy Day- 5 Year Sump Pump Rule

by Heather Morris


Just a week ago, I had a plumber at our home repairing a faucet.  While shutting off the water main in the basement he let me know our sump pump and battery backup were nearing their life expectancy.  My response to him was, “How can that be when they are new?” New to me was a few years ago, 5.  Apparently, five years is the life expectancy for both a sump pump and a battery backup.

 We ordered a new sump pump and battery backup and scheduled the install for a few days later.  It has now rained four days straight and I am thankful to have new and working equipment.  I’ve seen a lot of social media posts of flooded basements and standing water in the yard.  I’ve received a few emergency calls this week for new sump pump installation. 

 The homeowner investment of a working sump pump and battery backup is exponentially less money than an insurance claim.  It didn’t occur to me that I should have a battery backup until we experienced a power outage for 14 hours.  Bucketing water out of our sump pit lit by scented décor candles and flashlights nearly did me in.  With an incredible amount of extension cords running up the stairs and through our house, we plugged in our sump pump into our car outlet.  A temporary solution that saved us with the electricity coming back on within the hour.  While I would love to have a whole house generator, we found the battery backup was the most cost-effective solution in a power outage to keep our home safe and dry. 

I have set a calendar reminder for June 15 five years from now to replace both the sump pump and battery backup power.  As your friend and Realtor, please consider checking the age of your sump pump if it runs during rainfall.  A battery backup may be a good home safety feature to consider.  In some cases, a battery backup may lower your home owner’s insurance premium.  Feel free to call, text, or email for plumber or vendor options. We can discuss your needs or any concerns you have as well. 


Heather Morris

Broker Associate Realtor with Skogman


Pictures Speak A Thousand Words

by Heather Morris

If pictures speak a thousand words, take a look at these before and after home shots!  I SOLD this gorgeous and turn key home in 1 day.  The owner’s home improvements created a WIN for both the seller and the buyer. Whether your home is your nest and safe place or an investment, it's worth keeping it up to date. 


Reusing, recycling, and restoring help
s with your top of mind awareness.  You know where things are.  Neutral and organized home spaces make sense.  Storage solutions are personalized today due to the demand created by Pinterest, HGTV, and other fix it up popularity mediums becoming common culture.  Pink sparkles, dark grey with metal trim, and so many other options in home decor and organizers are available to keep you organized and express yourself. 


 In selling real estate, you need to remember the buyer's NEW reality.  They are expecting what they see online and on TV.  They don't want to see your stuff, your family pictures, and your clutter.  Move in, updated, clean, neutral sells your house for more money faster.  With the heaviest real estate searches being from 8-10 pm (according to the National Association of Realtors) from a mobile device, you only have a few seconds to make an impression.  The "Drive By" era is gone for good. Time is a priceless commodity.  As a seller, spend the time up front preparing your house to sell.  Visit my Pinterest page "Getting your home ready to sell" for ideas. 


If you are considering tan, grey, or greige (that is a word, right...), feel free to contact me and my home stager and I can help you with a few decisions and ideas to keep your home up to date. 


Heather Morris

 Broker, Skogman Realty 

Dirty Homes Don’t Sell

by Heather Morris

Isn’t it interesting how some homes go up for sale and sell almost immediately and others stay for sale for what seems to be an eternity?  Many homes that are on the market for a while even lower their price, and still don’t sell.  From a Realtor’s perspective, homes that are not prepared to sell, DON’T!  I’d like to share a few suggestions we offer to sellers in our initial pre-list appointment. 

Phase one of our plan is to de-clutter and clean.  Organization is key to creating the “feeling” of space.  Bedrooms, closets, cupboards, pantries, garages, and utility rooms all need to be minimized.  If you need help you can take a picture of the clutter in question to a home improvement store.  They will have ideas to store, stack, and organize your personal goods.  Since you are moving anyway, pack fifty percent away.  So many of our sellers tell us they LOVE their new home, and they haven’t even moved yet.  They just didn’t remember how big and nice their current home was before it became cluttered. Remember to remove family pictures and the “wall of fame” from the refrigerator so the buyer can picture the home as “theirs”.  To finish phase one, wipe down surfaces, touch up paint, and clean.

Phase two of our preparing the home for sale is to neutralize.  Flooring and wall color should be Realtor beige or grey to maximize the buyer potential.  Take down any wallpaper or borders.  This décor dates your house and limits buyers.  Once neutralized, add color with accessory towels, pillows and swap out wall art.

The most important step in preparing your home for sale is the face-lift.  Curb appeal can make or break the buyers emotion to move forward.  Most buyers look online at the photos first.  If the photos are clean and appealing, they will download the virtual tour.  If there is still interest at this point, next comes the “drive by.”  To be well presented from the curb, freshen landscape, do not have any chipping paint, clean the gutters and power-wash the home if needed to make sure the home is welcoming. Exterior curb appeal needs to be show quality for the buyer to consider this an option for their home.  Let’s make them “have to” live here.

With spring at our doorstep, it’s time to clean and repair. Call 350-7653 for a free seller pre-list kit. 


Heather Morris CRS, GRI, ABR, CLHMS

Broker Associate

Skogman Realty

The Real Estate Dream Team

by Heather Morris

Buying or selling a home is one of the largest financial decisions of your life. Having the right people on your team, with systems in place is key to you making a smooth move. Take seriously who you hire for a Realtor, mortgage lender, inspectors, and insurance quotes. 

Start your home buying or selling process by interviewing two full time professional Realtors, or one you Trust. Your Realtor will negotiate a legally binding contract on your behalf.  You may also have your attorney advise you on the terms.  Make sure your Realtor works full time, is educated with designations associated to real estate, and has the systems and closing team in place.  You want your Realtor to handle the transaction and concerns that may arise. Experience is priceless! 

There have been hundreds of Federal mortgage lending changes in the last few years, months, even days.  A mortgage lender who is up to date with the closing disclosure laws will ensure your closing will be on time with few surprises. Having a local bank or credit union means faster service. Iowa consumer protection laws protect you against demand clauses or riders that may not be customary for out of state or web lending services.  Your lender will also work closely with your Realtor and closing company. 

What liability or licensing does your inspector have?  Asking for credentials, referrals, and an example report can help you decide the type of service and cost you are wanting to spend.  Hire licensed professionals when inspecting the home for lead base paint, mold, radon, termites, or a full house inspection. You are paying for these services so an accurate report will make you feel more secure about your purchase and be a great selling benefit down the road. 

Home owners insurance has experienced many changes in coverage and riders in recent years.  Cedar Rapids and Marion experienced a 100 year flood in 1993 and a 500 year flood in 2008 leaving many homes non insurable. National Electric code has also been adopted raising the insured cost of fuse boxes, over lugged wiring, and hard wired smoke detectors. Your insurance premium is calculated in your monthly payment so reviewing at least two policies for coverage, riders that may need added, and deductible are important. Your offer on the home should be contingent upon you receiving an acceptable insurance quote for the home.   A flood rider may cost double the money and raise your payment to something you can’t afford.  I have also found with hail roof claims as an example the house may not be insurable.  Without an insurance policy the bank will not give you a mortgage. 

An experienced Realtor will help you navigate through:

Selling or buying real estate with referrals

Negotiation skills

Market knowledge

Mortgage Lender and Down Payment Options

Additional Riders or Insurance concerns

Closing disclosures and Transfer of Title

Any questions you have along the way


Heather Morris

Broker Associate Skogman Realty

Zestimate says I live in a NO bathroom house

by Heather Morris

Zillow’s Zestimates are a bit of the rage. Clients ask me about it and I see people talk about it on social media. Many use the site and even check out homes’ Zestimates. I checked out my own to see how accurate the site is.

According to Zillow, I live in a NO bathroom house. The Zestimate on my home was $75,000 too low.  The second I saw the value of my home my heart started racing and I got frustrated. What's wrong here?

My Zestimate report has data, graphs, and comparable sales.  I noticed all kinds of errors on the report that I manually changed after claiming the listing. Once you do that you can edit.  I added 3 bathrooms. Zillow said my home had none. I also added an additional bedroom, a finished lower level, and corrected the year it was built.  There was no adjustment for amenities or upgrades in the report. Making these changes helped increase the price however it still was not accurate.  Still being frustrated, I viewed the comparable sales to my home.  One sale was in my neighborhood however not comparable in size, lot view, price, or upgrades.  Comparable Home 2 was 60 years older than my house and a split foyer. I live in a ranch. Comparable 3 was on 2 acres of land with outbuildings and 50 years older than my house.

 My point being, there were not ANY houses an Appraiser or Realtor would use to price my home.

 There are 3 major adjustments not considered in the AVM, Automated Value Model.

  1. Location and Lot Characteristics
  2. Upgrades and Home Updated
  3. Condition of the Home

An experienced Realtor will adjust for location based on list to sale price ratio, days on market, and school district the home is offered in.  A more obvious lot adjustment is a golf course view, wooded lot, water view or access, or acreage.  A tract home or high traffic street has the same value as the examples noted in a AVM.

The second adjustment not calculated in the AVM is home owner improvements.  Would you rather have harvest gold appliances or stainless steel?  Yellow counter tops or granite?  The finishing touches and updates in a home add value. A house with three layers of shingles does not have the same value as one layer of shingle.  Furnace, maintenance free siding, flooring, kitchen and bath upgrades are also hot tickets when buying.

The third adjustment not calculated is condition. I learned a long time ago everyone's version of clean is different.  A home buyer will pay a premium for a meticulously maintained and up to date home in lieu of one that has pets, smokers, or visible wear and tear.  I LOVE my dog, but someone with allergies may not want to buy my house.  Since selling your home is a beauty contest, condition does effect home pricing. 

The Automated Value Model may be a good quick reference of home value for mortgage lenders or give you a general look at home pricing, FREE.  When buying or selling a home however it is important to seek guidance from an experienced Realtor who is "in" the market on a daily basis.  I know that I have bathrooms in my house, however AVM says I don't.  While this example is obvious, several thousand dollars can be lost for not having accurate information.

I can provide a professional pricing analysis for your house.

Heather Morris

Broker Associate to Skogman Realty

How the home warranty saved our sale!

by Heather Morris

I can give several examples when buying a third party home warranty wasn't needed in the first year the buyer owned the home and they wondered if the money paid by them or the seller in the offer negotiations was a waste. But I have more examples however where I am notified by the warranty company as the buyer's Realtor that a claim was made by the buyer for a repair and the issue was taken care of or replaced.

More often than not a Home Warranty is worth the relatively small investment.

Negotiating a home warranty in the offer to purchase a home is common place in our Cedar Rapids market, especially for first time home buyers.  Having an unexpected problem with the water heater or furnace as an example could be a big financial burden the first year of owning the home.   Having a home warranty for a year after closing can create peace of mind knowing the deductible (usually around $75-$100) is much less than the repair or replacement cost. 

In a recent negotiation where I was the buyer's Realtor, the home was in the perfect location for the buyer, was clean and in move-in condition, and priced within their budget.  The only concern, the big concern was that the furnace, central air, and water heater were all past their life expectancy.  The seller was not willing to credit or give an allowance for the replacement of these mechanicals in the negotiations.  The buyer was concerned -even fearful - of the potential $6,000 cost of all three failing in the first year of ownership.  This is where the home warranty saved the sale for the buyer and seller.  A 2-year home warranty was negotiated and the seller paid the buyer closing costs.  This successful negotiation netted the seller a fair price and the buyer the peace of knowing there wouldn't be a big financial cost of replacement, only the deductible in the case of failure.  Saving the closing cost funds will also allow replacement when one of the mechanicals needs updated, it is past the 2-year warranty date. 

With manufacture warranties being most likely a year, the home warranty has become a buyer safety tool to avoid additional other costs.  As a listing Realtor, I can recommend the home warranty be purchased at the time of marketing as a buyer incentive and marketing tool. In a few cases I've had sellers make a claim on the home warranty prior to the closing and the concern was repaired or replaced with only the deductible of $75.  In one example, I notified the buyer they were getting a new high efficient water heater because the 16-year old one broke.  Happy buyer, relieved seller. 

There are several companies that offer home warranty policies. Reading the brochures, coverage, initial and deductible cost will help you decide which one meets the price and type of home you are considering selling or buying.

Heather Morris

Broker Associate Skogman Realty

How to be safe when selling your home

by Heather Morris

Protecting your home, family, and Realtor when putting your house on the market is a hot topic in 

today's fast-paced mobile culture. NAR, the National Association of Realtors, states 92 percent of buyers use the internet to view homes before contacting a realtor for access.  Having less than 3 seconds to capture the buyer's attention, Realtors place as many photos of your home online as possible.  Sellers be cautious, that you are opening up your home to the public. I once started working with a seller, a former college football player, and somebody mentioned to him that they saw his home online. The football jersey on a wall identified his home publicly. This is also a reason why home staging is important.

In our pre-listing meeting, your Realtor and Home Stager will guide you through securing your valuables. Examples might be:

  • Mobile devices
  • Jewelry
  • Art
  • Prescription medications
  • Confidential documents. 

Home staging helps us neutralize and get the best photos to maximize the buyer pool.  Remove the photos that are personal and with children in them.  Having your house for sale opens up the potential of allowing complete strangers at odd times into your home.

When interviewing a Realtor to sell your house, safety should be a topic of discussion. Verifying the buyer's identity and loan approval details with the lender before they allow access to your home is a key point of discussion.  Also ask if the Realtor uses a lock box that identifies the agent and company when the lock box is opened.  Your listing Realtor and should always receive an email when the buyer agent enters your home.  This also helps you know what time the realtor arrived so you may gauge when to return home.

Even if you are a seller with a vacant home, there are precautions that should be taken to protect your home and your Realtor.  Call the police department to let them know the house is vacant and ask to be put on a patrol list.   They and your neighbors can monitor any suspicious activity, lights left on, or any maintenance items that need to be taken care of.  Looking vacant attracts unwanted visitors.  The house should be walked through by you or your Realtor at least once a week:

  • Remove buyer agent showing cards
  • Verify doors are locked
  • Verify the temperature in the home
  • Make sure there are no leaks or other concerns. 

One reason I don’t recommend an open house:

Be aware that a public open house invites anyone from a buyer to thieves that may want to harm you.  It is important to ask the Realtor if they host public opens. (I don't for safety reasons). If there is an open house, will they be present personally to protect your home.  Most people don't pick up hitchhikers, yet some agents will allow unapproved buyer showings and public open houses thinking nothing of it.  If you are going to sell your house on your own, ask for written credit approval.  Once you receive it, call the bank to verify the accuracy.  This will also reduce the potential of fraud.  We have all heard the term buyer beware, now it is time to protect the seller as well. 


Heather Morris CRS, GRI, ABR, CLHMS, CREN

Realtor and Broker Associate

Skogman Realty

Selling your home: How to stage your home for a quick sale

by Heather Morris

Did you ever wonder why comparable homes sell faster and for more money than yours?  It might be the other home was “staged”.  Homes that are prepared to show have more buyer demand regardless of the market conditions.  Home staging is trending and one of the most watched television and social media topics.  Staging a house to sell captures the emotional aspect of buying a home and gets the seller more money faster. 

Staging means to allow potential buyers to see themselves in the home. Of course, you do that through the way it’s set up. That means moving out of sight some of your personal items and clutter that could prevent that from happening. The less non-essential things in view the better for the purpose of staging to sell.

Consider one of these three options and levels of staging. 

  1. Ask friends for help!

The least expensive, free, is to ask family or a friend to walk through the house as if they were buying it. They can give you their opinion and point out ideas to de-clutter.

  1. Partner with your realtor

As a Realtor, I have experience with staging and provide references for painters, plumbers, and other potential buyers concerns. I know who does it well in the Cedar Rapids/Marion/Robins/Hiawatha market. We may discuss paint colors, removing wallpaper, or moving furniture to create a more emotional appeal to buyers. Good realtors know the market and the condition of the homes currently for sale.  When listing a home, I pay for the home stager as part of my professional services. 

Call me at 350-7653 or email me at now to set up an appointment to get your home sold quickly.

  1. Hire your own home stager

Find somebody who knows how to stage a home and hire them directly.

My best home staging tips to sell homes quickly!

 A few tips when preparing your house for sale:

Neutralize wall and flooring colors.

De-clutter all kitchen counters, bath vanities, dressers

Ask someone who does not live in the house if there are any smells or dirty items they may see that you may not.

Storage bins, closet organizers, and shelves create more sense of space. 

We want the buyer to picture themselves in their future home. Remember, you are moving! Remember, buyers are buying SPACE!  Since you are moving anyway, start packing. One third less stuff and open closet space will make your house seem larger. 

Once you are ready to sell, I will send the homes you will be competing with by email for you to view. Searching the web in your area and price is another option to view how your competition looks on line.  This will give you a check up on if you are positioned for the market and how to sell NEXT. Looking at the other homes for sale through the buyer’s perspective will help you know if the home is ready and staged according.  

Having the home staged with professional photography will be worth the effort when you arrive at the closing table! 

For home stage photos and checklists, you can view my Pinterest Page.

Staging a home is not about deception. It’s about making it easier for the potential buyer to see themselves in the home. That’s hard to do with too many personal things of the current owners cluttered around. Staging well is a win-win for the seller and the buyer.

Until next time,

Heather Morris, CRS, GRI, ABR, CLHMS

Realtor and Broker Associate

Skogman Realty

Call or Text: 319-350-7653 

Have You Outgrown Your Marion or Cedar Rapids Home?

by Heather Morris

That home in Marion or Cedar Rapids that seemed just right a few years ago might not have the same effect on you now. A so-called “starter home” may have been the perfect fit back then, and it was an excellent way to get into the housing market. On the other hand, that big rambling home with the huge yard was great when the kids were home, but now it’s just one more thing keeping you from what you want to do in your free time. Here are some telltale signs that let you know you may have outgrown your current home.

Your family has grown. Whether you’ve added children to your household or have welcomed aging parents into your home, it may feel like it’s bursting at the seams right about now. The bedrooms have filled up and individuals’ belongings are spilling into the common areas. It’s time to upsize.

You’re getting older. Your children have all left to make homes of their own, and now you have too many empty rooms and extra bathrooms to clean. That big yard that was perfect for football games is now one more never ending chore on your long to-do list. It’s time to downsize.

You have more stuff. Couples and families tend to accumulate items over time, whether it’s more furniture or more toys for children or adults. Maybe you’ve discovered the fun of entertaining, and have a need for both more storage and more common space. As your lifestyle has changed over the years, your home may not have been able to keep up with the increasing demand for space and storage. It’s time for a change.

Now what? Well, you could always sell some of your things, or rent out a room or two, but these aren’t always the best solutions. Sometimes you just need to find a home better suited to your needs.

When the walls are closing in on you, or the echo in the upstairs bedrooms gets too loud, give me a call. With my local knowledge and professional expertise, I can find the perfect buyer for your current home, and find you the perfect home for your evolving lifestyle.


Heather Morris Realtor
Skogman Realty
341 8th Avenue
Marion, IA 52302
319-350-7653 (SOLD)

Top 5 Questions to Ask in Marion and Cedar Rapids

by Heather Morris

If you’re considering selling your Marion or Cedar Rapids home, you’re probably looking for a real estate agent. To make sure you’re getting the best service possible, be sure to ask these simple questions before retaining services.

1. Is real estate a full-time job for you? A professional Realtor who works full-time in the industry will be much better equipped to get the job done. Not only will there be no distractions, such as another job, to work around, he or she will be more likely to stay current on trends and training that will help you get your home sold.

2. How many sales have you completed in this neighborhood? You want someone with a proven track record in your region. Just because someone has been an agent in Las Vegas doesn’t mean they know what it takes to sell a home in Cedar Rapids.

3. What do you do when things go wrong? This question may seem too wide open to be of any real value, but it will help you get an idea of whether the agent knows the industry well enough to plan ahead and create contingency plans to help you negotiate your way around any difficulties that may arise.

4. How will you market my home? A good seller’s agent will have at least a basic marketing plan for your home even before you’ve retained his or her services. Again, strategies that may work in other cities may not be well suited to your hometown, and a good agent will know that. Knowing the region and knowing the region’s buyers are the most important pieces of the marketing puzzle.

5. Do you have your own website? A strong seller’s agent will maintain his or her own website, something that’s vital to marketing your home to the fullest extent possible. A website that’s independent of a large brokerage team’s site will allow the agent to respond to the particular needs of both you, the seller, and the area in which your home is located.

When you’re ready to list your home, give me a call. I’ll answer all of your questions, and help you find the perfect buyer for your home!

Heather Morris Realtor
Skogman Realty
341 8th Avenue
Marion, IA  52302
319-350-7653 (SOLD)

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Heather Morris
Heather Morris Realty Consulting
341 8th Avenue
Marion IA 52302

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