Winter Home Selling Strategies

History tells us that the spring and summer months are the best times to sell, but many homeowners are finding success listing their properties in the winter. While the changing weather can take a toll on a home sale, savvy buyers are on the lookout for the right home year round.

“Chances are, buyers looking for a home during the winter holiday season are serious about buying and not simply shopping around,” said Robin Peterson, president of Coldwell Banker Burnet. “Showing off some of the home’s finer features isn’t easy covered in a blanket of snow, but there are a number of things sellers can do to attract buyers.”

Less competition.

In the winter season, there are fewer homes on the market, so your home will have less competition. Encourage buyers by offering attractive pricing and incentives.

Interior focus.

Providing photographs from the summer months is important, but now is the time to highlight the inside of your home. Furnished homes and those that are organized have more appeal, so make sure the beds are made, the furniture is well placed, and the counter tops and closets are clear of any clutter.

Exterior demands.

Snow can alter the look of the overall property. Shovel and de-ice all paths and doorways. The driveway should be plowed, along with the sidewalks. Make sure that all outside lights and doorbells work. Consider more lights that could be installed to effectively highlight the best areas of the house.


Winter warmth.

The holiday season is a time for being at home and enjoying family. You can stage your home to showcase winter warmth with such sights and smells as crackling fires, scented candles and holiday wreaths to appeal to buyers and make them feel like your home could be their own.


Information courtesy of Coldwell Banker Burnet

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9 Overlooked Items to Prep Your Home For Sale

So you’ve prepped your home cosmetically for sale in every imaginable way – fresh paint, a deep cleaning, new landscaping, decluttered closets and even organized the garage!  Your house looks better then it ever has and you are ready to hit the market!  Before you proceed with the “For Sale” sign in the ground, there are several key pieces of information that you should consider gathering that today’s savvy buyers are going to want to know.

1.  Survey – Do you have a copy of a current survey on your home?  Have this document available and provide to your listing agent so they can include in the information about your home.  Buyers want to know about property lines, easements, conservation buffers, if there is room for a pool, if the property line extends to the water behind your home, etc.  Having a survey to provide upfront will help to eliminate these types of concerns vs. waiting until a property is under contract.

If you’ve made any changes that would affect your property such as adding a pool or fence since you took ownership and are not shown on your current survey, it’s important to advise the buyer.  A new survey will usually need to be ordered prior to closing in this scenario.  If you don’t have one from when you purchased the home, try contacting the title company or attorney’s office that handled the closing of the property.  Depending on how long ago that was, they may be able to retrieve from their archives.


floorplan 9 Overlooked Items to Prep Your Home for Sale

Floor plans are helpful for buyers.

2.  Floorplan or Appraisal Sketch – Buyers often need to know room dimensions as it helps with determining furniture placement and to ensure how what they have will fit (or have to be reconfigured) in the new space.  As any real estate agent can attest, many hours have been spent measuring spaces while looking at a home and comparing that against the existing buyer’s furniture dimensions.  I’ve encountered entire home searches that revolved around a great room accommodating an entertainment center and the garage size so a motorcycle could fit in addition to the cars!

An appraisal is helpful as it can confirm the exact square footage of a home vs. relying on tax records which may not be accurate.  We’ve all heard stories where the appraisal showed the actual square footage that was smaller than what was initially represented in a listing sheet.  Having an appraisal will help to ensure that does not happen.  You should have received a copy of the appraisal if you obtained a mortgage loan from your lender or if you refinanced.  If you don’t have either, consider having a floorplan drawn up or home measured by an appraiser when prepping your home for sale. Your agent can assist with resources to this effect.


electricbill 9 Overlooked Items to Prep Your Home for Sale

Don’t throw away those utility bills.

3.  Utility Bills – Buyers want to get an idea of what they can expect the heating and cooling bills to be in a home.  Review your bills over the last one to two years to get an average in the various seasons, or call your local utility provider as they can often provide you with information on the high, average and low costs.  This information can be very beneficial when a buyer sits down to number crunch their total costs of owning a home.  If you had an unusually high or low bill, provide some explanation to accompany the numbers.


4.  Termite Bond – In many markets where termites are alive and well, it is common place for homes to have some sort of protection plan in place which is also known as a bond.   InFlorida, where I live and work, this is a primary concern and often one of the first questions buyers and their agents want to know.  Prior to listing your home, obtain a copy of your termite bond policy from the provider, know exactly what type of bond you have – repair or treatment bond and up to what dollar amount of coverage is it good for.  Also know how long the bond is in effect, when it is up for renewal and what the renewal fee is, if there is a transfer fee and what does it provide protection for – not all bonds provide protection against all different types of termites.


5.  Pest Control – If you maintain any type of pest control on your property, compile information as to who the provider is, what you have done, how much you pay and how often does the company come out to treat the property.  A copy of your service agreement is helpful in this instance.


6.  Insurance – Buyers especially want to know who a seller uses for their homeowners insurance and how much they pay.  This is particularly the case in higher risk areas (where there are hurricanes, floods, fires, etc.) With homeowners insurance potentially more difficult to obtain in some areas, going through the existing seller’s insurance company can help streamline the process, particularly on an older home.


dishwasher 9 Overlooked Items to Prep Your Home for Sale

Do you still have the manual for this?

7. Product Manuals and Warranty Documents – Now is the time to gather the various product manuals for all items that will be staying in the home such as appliances, water heater, heating and cooling system, ceiling fans, pool equipment, etc.  If your home came with any warranties, be sure to include these for the new owner as well.  Putting all of these in one large envelope makes it easy for everything to be readily accessible in one place for the new buyer.


 8.  Service Providers – Compile a list of all service providers/vendors and their contact information who you have used on your home – lawn service, pool service, A/C company, etc. While a new buyer may or may not choose to use these services, they will certainly appreciate having resources available to them and may elect to initially use them as they make the transition to living in your home.


9.  Covenants and Restrictions, Neighborhood Rules and Information – This is key critical information for a new owner to have on hand.  A contract may likely hinge on the buyer’s review of this information, so easiest to have it available ahead of time.  If you don’t have these, contact your neighborhood’s association president or management company for assistance in obtaining a copy. Many of these documents are matters of public record and are available by going online to the appropriate municipality’s website.


Work with your agent to create an informational package or binder that you can provide to prospective purchasers that come through the home with the information mentioned above.  Gathering this information before you put your home on the market will save time and make the process that more efficient once you find a buyer.  It may even help your home to sell faster as all of this information is available upfront, eliminating the need for guesswork and waiting on answers while another property could possibly come on the market to grab the buyer’s attention.  You want to help keep the buyer focused on your home, so make it easy for them to buy by giving them what they want.  Happy selling!


Information courtesy of

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13 Tips for selling your home in the winter months

What makes selling a home more stressful? Selling it in the middle of winter.

The lawn is brown, the weather is usually bad and, unlike the longer days of summer, you have less time to show it off during daylight hours.

But not everyone has the luxury of waiting until the traditional spring or summer home-buying season to plant that “for sale” sign. And while it’s true that in most areas you’ll probably have fewer buyers during the winter, you will have less competition from other sellers.

The season makes staging — the concept of showing your house at its best — even more important.

Be prepared to put a little effort into it. “It’s more difficult to make something look really appealing this time of year,” says Ron Phipps, broker with Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I.

If you do it right, you can really make your house stand out.

1. Keep snow and ice at bay.
The top tip from agents: If the buyer can’t get in easily, the house won’t sell. That means keeping walkways and driveways free of the frozen stuff. Just like trimming the lawn in the summer, you want to make the home look like it’s been maintained. If you’re away frequently or live in an area that’s subject to bad weather, it can pay to hire a service to regularly salt or shovel the driveway and sidewalks.

2. Warm it up.
If you’re showing during the winter, think “warm, cozy and homey,” says Ken Libby, owner of Stowe Realty in Stowe, Vt., and a regional vice president of the National Association of Realtors.

Before a buyer comes through, adjust the thermostat to a warmer temperature to make it welcoming. “Sellers like to turn the temperature down because of heat costs,” says David Ledebuhr, president and owner of Musselman Realty in East Lansing, Mich., and a regional vice president of the National Association of Realtors. “But buyers who come in and aren’t comfortable won’t stay long.”

If you have a gas fireplace, turning it on right before the tour can give the house a little ambience, Libby says.

With a wood-burning fireplace, you’ve got to be a little more careful. If the house is vacant, don’t chance it. But if you’re still living there and will be there during the tour, it can be a nice touch.

Many times, sellers leave right before the agent and prospective buyers arrive. In that case, adjust the heat to a comfortable temperature and have the hearth set for a fire. Buyers feel the warmth and see the potential, and you don’t have to worry about safety concerns.

3. Take advantage of natural light.
“Encourage showing during the high-daylight hours,” Ledebuhr says. At this time of year, “if you show after work, you’re totally in the dark.”

Make the most of the light you do have. Have the curtains and blinds cleaned and open them as wide as possible during daytime showings. Clean all the lamps and built-in fixtures, and replace the bulbs with the highest wattage that they will safely accommodate. Before you show the house, turn on all the lights.

4. Get the windows washed.
“Buyers act on the first impression,” Ledebuhr says. Windows are one thing that many sellers don’t even consider. In winter, that strong southern light can reveal grime and make it look like the home hasn’t been well-maintained.

5. Play music softly in the background.
To create a little atmosphere, tune the radio to the local classical station. Turn it down so that you barely hear it in the background. “It’s soothing,” says Libby, who finds that soft classical music tends to have the most appeal to buyers. “I think people tend to stay around a little longer and look a little longer.”

6. Make it comfortable and cozy.
Set the scene and help the buyers see themselves living happily in this house. Consider things such as putting a warm throw on the sofa or folding back the thick comforter on the bed. Tap into “the simple things this time of year that make you feel like you’re home,” Phipps says.

7. Emphasize winter positives.
Is your home on a bus route or some other vital service that means it’s plowed or de-iced regularly in bad weather? Be sure to mention that to the buyers.

8. Set up timers.
You want your home to look warm and welcoming whenever prospective buyers drive past. But you’re not home all the time, so put indoor and outdoor lights on timers, Phipps says.

Look at the outside lighting around the door. Is there enough illumination to make it inviting? If not, either get the fixtures changed or have new ones added.

9. Make it festive.
Even if you’re not actually going to be present, greet your buyers as if they were going to be guests at a party, Phipps says. Set up the dinner table with the good china and silver. Have a plate of cookies for your guests, some warm cider or even chilled bottles of water.

“First impressions are so powerful,” Phipps says. “If it looks like you’re expecting me and greeting me as company, that’s a powerful impact.”

10. Give the home a nice aroma.
The No. 1 favorite? “Chocolate-chip cookies,” Libby says. “Just about everybody likes that smell.”

Other popular scents: cinnamon rolls, freshly baked bread, apple pie, apple cider or anything with vanilla, cinnamon or yeast.

“But don’t overdo it, either,” Ledebuhr says. Scented candles in every room or those plug-in air fresheners can leave buyers wondering what you’re trying to mask.

Watch the bad smells, too. Pet smells, smoke and musty odors can cling to curtains and carpets. Ask your real-estate agent or a friend to give it a sniff test. Then clean the house, air it out and replace drapes, carpets or rugs before you show it.

11. Protect your investment.
Some sellers (or their agents) will ask buyers to either remove shoes or slip on paper “booties” over their footwear before touring the house. Many buyers like that, Phipps says. It indicates a “pride of ownership and meticulousness that resonates with buyers,” he says.

12. Use the season to your advantage.
While the holidays are over (and the Christmas and Hanukkah stuff should come down), you can still use winter wreaths and dried arrangements around the door to spark interest. “Anything seasonally appropriate is fun,” Phipps says.

In the winter, with the leaves off the trees, you might also have a nice view that isn’t as apparent in the spring and summer months. It’s a great time to sell waterfront properties, Phipps says. “You can see the views better this time of year.”

13. Consider the area.
In some parts of the country, such as ski areas or warmer regions where the snowbirds flock, winter weather can actually be a selling point. “We’re right in the middle of our selling season,” says Libby, who is located in Vermont. “It’s not always spring and summer.”


Information courtesy of and

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Coldwell Banker® Home Protection Plan

What is a home protection plan?

A home protection plan is a service contract that covers the repair or replacement of many of the most frequently occurring breakdowns of home system components and appliances.

Why do I need a home protection plan?

Unexpected repair or replacement costs can easily strain your budget. Plus, finding a qualified professional to solve your problem can be stressful and inconvenient. A home protection plan cannot prevent systems or appliances from breaking down, but it can help make handling covered repairs or replacements easier and less costly.

Why choose American Home Shield?

As the industry leader, American Home Shield, the administrator of the Coldwell Banker® Home Protection Plan has a respected reputation and a reliable nationwide network of approved and independently insured service contractors.

Key advantages for home buyers

  • Relief from some of the expenses of unexpected breakdowns on covered items
  • Sensible, affordable coverage
  • Flexible, customizable plans
  • Access to a network of service contractors
  • Improved confidence in your home purchase

Key advantages for home sellers

  • Can help homes sell faster and closer to the listing price*
  • May discourage downward price negotiation
  • Can help distinguish properties from other listings
  • Coverage can be added during the listing period and can last all the way through inspection and closing
  • Helps boost buyer confidence
  • Can help reduce post-sale issues

Information courtesy of

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Housing starts rise to highest level since 2008

Construction of new homes and apartments rose 6.9 percent in June, reaching the highest level since October 2008. The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s New Residential Construction Report shows privately-owned housing starts were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 760,000. The increase put total housing starts 23.6 percent above last year’s level. Building permits, which are an indicator of future construction, fell 3.7 percent in June but remain 19.3 percent above 2011. The drop in permits was largely due to a decrease in multifamily permits. Single-family authorizations were virtually unchanged from the month before at a rate of 493,000, 0.6 percent above May’s figure of 490,000

Information courtesy of Tom Lehmann – PHH Home Loans

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Real Estate Outlook – 2012

Real Estate Outlook-July 2012

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New Listings -3.7%
Pending Sales + 19.8%
Overall Inventory – 31.0%
(total homes for sale)
Housing affordability + 6.2%

Current Interest Rate:
Conventional: 4%
FHA: 3.75%

Information current as of week ending 6/16/2012

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Affordable ways to decorate your home for summer

The transition from spring to summer can lift everyone’s mood, and many homeowners get the urge to spruce up their properties.  From changes are as simple as replacing linens and rugs with brighter colors to planting a beautiful garden, there are several small summer upgrades for homeowners with different goals, and many of these improvements are extremely affordable.


Sunshine and warm weather often prompt homeowners to brighten up their homes, and putting a fresh coat of paint on the interior or exterior of a house can make a large difference. In some cases, owners may simply want to retouch their current color palettes. In other cases, repainting the living room or kitchen area a mild color can open up an area and make it appear more spacious. When the weather is nice, many homeowners also take the initiative to improve the exterior of their homes by repainting the house or painting window shutters and the front door.

In addition to painting the house, switching up the accent pieces of a home can also give it more life. Small purchases, such as new throw pillows, a chaise lounge and plants and flowers, are simple touches that can go a long way in making a home more welcoming, according to Yahoo Real Estate.


Few people want to spend the summer months indoors, and many homeowners focus their attention on building an outdoor oasis. Small projects, such as adding new stone steps, laying down new flower beds or installing a fountain, can make a backyard both beautiful and calming. Those who have been dreaming about a backyard deck to host summer barbeques and family gatherings have the perfect opportunity to consult a professional and start the building project. Some people may not want to make large-scale changes to their homes. Instead, consider purchasing a new patio set, lanterns, colored lights or a fire pit, to enjoy the outdoors.

While some homeowners may opt to hire a landscaper, individuals can visit a nursery to purchase several different variations of low-maintenance flowers, shrubs and other foliage to improve their curb appeal.


Information courtesy of

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