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February Newsletter

How to stage your home for a quick sale

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.

How the home warranty saved our sale!

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.

How to be safe when selling your home

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.

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

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