7 Questions to Ask Your Agent Before Selling Your Los Angeles Home

Runyon Canyon

A home is often a person’s largest asset, and selling it is one of the most detailed and important transactions they’ll face. Potential sellers in Los Angeles need to be able to put their trust in the knowledge of a real estate agent who is skilled at making these complicated transactions, and knows the answers to common questions typical home sellers have.

According to real estate agents Tracy Do and Mark Mullin, both with Tracy Do Real Estate and Compass, “It’s important to ask how active your agent is in today’s market, because there are constant changes and nuances going on all the time.” They note that an experienced agent will know how to navigate changes in the market, which is a huge part of managing the transaction.

For potential home sellers, asking the right questions and finding an agent who can answer them is key.

We contacted some of Los Angeles’ top real estate agents, as identified by Open House Realty, an agent referral company (and a U.S. News partner), to find out which questions are necessary for sellers to ask their agents, and why.

What are some red flags I should look for in a potential offer? Many times, sellers expect to get multiple offers and want to immediately go with the highest price. But Adam Bray-Ali, a real estate agent with Podley Properties, advises sellers to ask their agents if they see any red flags.

“One of the major red flags is [the] incomplete presentation of information,” Bray-Ali says. “If a buyer has not completed the loan application with a lender, that is already a bad sign.”

Of course, other signs are more subtle. If an agent picks up on some little things that, together, become a big red flag, it is important for a client to listen and trust the agent’s expert advice – no matter how good the offer may be.

What does a typical escrow look like? Based on the current market conditions in Los Angeles – as well as seller and buyer conditions – terms of escrow are variable.

“We look at transactions we’ve recently closed to give clients an indication of the pricing and escrow elements that [they] can expect, but yesterday doesn’t exactly reflect today,” Do says.

As the flipside to looking for red flags, sellers should also ask what a typical escrow looks like at this moment. Some sellers need to stay in their current home for a specific length of time, which may be longer than it takes to sell the house. While that’s usually a tough sell in a buyer’s market, it’s easier to include the condition in the escrow agreement in a competitive area like Los Angeles, which is something a good agent will know how to negotiate.

In addition to negotiating a favorable escrow agreement, a selling agent should also be able to answer follow-up questions like ” How long should you remain in escrow?

What are the tax implications? Getting into the weeds of California ‘s unique property tax system can be dicey, but a good real estate agent should be able to tell you key details that could be game-changers for your sale. One example, Bray-Ali says, is a law that tiesproperty taxes to the purchase price of a house. That means that over time, long-term homeowners get a tax discount.

But there are other implications for some buyers over 55, too. “Property tax appreciates slowly, at a fixed rate, which is always much slower than the typical market value of a property – especially in Los Angeles,” Bray-Ali notes. “If you’re an owner over 55, in some cases you can transfer that slowly appreciating property tax from the home you’re selling to a new home that you’re buying, which is a really powerful tool for someone who is downsizing or retiring.”

What will buyers object to? Homeowners want to highlight the most positive elements of their property, but even when a seller puts their best foot forward, buyers won’t be shy about pointing out what they don’t like about a house. When an agent or agent team has a lot of experience, they will be able to pinpoint potential buyer objections and give the seller advice on how to mitigate those objections, either by offering staging solutions or providing neighborhood research.

“We get feedback every time we hold an open house, and we know the things sellers like and don’t like,” Do says. Sellers need to ask for this valuable feedback to increase their chances of a better price for the property.

What can I do to get the best price for my house? To get the best price for your home, as a seller you will often need to make some upgrades, but you should also be smart about how you spend.

A common mistake Los Angeles sellers make is not taking care of termite control before putting their houses up for sale, Bray-Ali says. Taking care of this ahead of time will give the buyer one less piece of leverage to negotiate in escrow.

He also recommends using the same title insurance and escrow company, which can ultimately save sellers money during the sale. Consolidating these fees is something many sellers don’t realize they can do until they break down all of the costs that go into the sale.

How much will it cost me to sell my house? Sellers are often unaware of how much it costs to complete a home sale. At the beginning of the process, Bray-Ali recommends sellers ask their agents to carefully review the Seller Net Sheet with them. The Seller Net Sheet is a comprehensive cost breakdown, usually created by the agent and the escrow company, which provides detailed estimates of all the costs that go into selling the home, including transfer taxes, escrow costs, loan payoff, termite control, agent and other company fees.

“It’s a much more nuanced way to look at the price,” Bray-Ali explains. “While the sale price is usually a point of great pride for the seller, the Seller Net Sheet is the more accurate description of the sale.”

Is there anything you want to ask me? Do, Mullin and Bray-Ali all agree that a seller’s most important strategy is to go with an agent who asks plenty of questions of his or her own. “Every individual has a unique way of looking at things, and my responses to all their questions are based on what I see their perspectives and their priorities are,” Bray-Ali says.

Mullin agrees: “A good listing agent is going to, first, listen to the buyer’s needs. If you’re interviewing an agent who is doing all of the talking and not asking you any questions, I’d be worried.”

5 Reasons That Are Making Kolkata Real Estate Market Boom

Kolkata is not just the city of sweets and writers, but it has become the real hub of IT and real estate sector. In past few months, when the rest of the country was facing ups and downs in the housing market, Kolkata witnessed the actual estate boom in that crucial period. What makes Kolkata rise in the real estate sector? Let’s find out in this post.

From the past one decade, the real estate industry in Kolkata has been dynamic and is increasing consistently. If the real transformation has occurred anywhere, then it is in Kolkata; both in the commercial and residential estate. What can be the precise reason behind such an appreciable growth and the transformation? Read ahead to know it!

  1. Low Land Cost-

If you compare the prices of lands of Kolkata with the prices in other metro cities, you can see a radical difference. The cost of the property is likely to be cheaper as compared to other cities. This factor helps people to buy the property without any hassle.

  1. Enhanced Infrastructure-

The ancient and British architecture is the thing that usually defines Kolkata. But, lately, one can see a lot of enhancement and improvement in the infrastructure that resides in the periphery of Kolkata. This is another reason for the sky touching real estate demand in Kolkata.

  1. Improved Transportation & Communication-

There was a time when people found it difficult to travel from suburban areas to the central Kolkata, as there were very few options for the transportation. But, since the last decade, the transportation has improved as well. In fact, Kolkata might be the only city to provide cheap transportation as compared to the other big cities of the country. Besides, the ways of communication have boosted up as well; therefore, it has become easy to get the hands on the property for sale in Kolkata. Another reason for the hike!

  1. Industrialization

One of the prominent reasons for the boom is the rapid growth of industrialisation. Kolkata is one of those cities that resides the hub of information technology and other major industries. This growth encourages the employment and hence, the rising demand for residential property.

  1. Good Education Facilities-

Apart from all the other things, Kolkata also provides excellent education facilities. These facilities charm the students from around the country. That becomes another reason for the demand for residential property. Moreover, many of the NRIs and Indians from the eastern states decide to settle down in Kolkata, hence the increment in the real estate sector.

So, these are some of the reasons for the boom in the real estate sector of Kolkata. If you are trying to buy any property and you want to consider practical aspects more than emotional, then Kolkata city can become your new abode. Also, because of the low cost and availability of land, you will surely get to grab a great deal!  Search your shining dream habitat today!

Exerpeutic LX7 Training Cycle with Computer Monitor and Heart Pulse Sensors Review

How often you desire to buy a bike that is tough and rough and will last for a long time but on a smaller budget? The Exerpeutic LX7 Indoor Training cycle is one of the toughest built indoor spin bike cycle you will find in the market today. Also, it fits very nicely into anyone’s budget. The spin bike is quite affordable and is can fulfill most almost all your needs from the spin bike – burn fat, lose weight, build muscle or tone body – the LX7 training cycle can do all of that.

Features and Functionalities of Exerpeutic LX7 Training Cycle:

The Exerpeutic LX7 is fitted with a number of excellent features which have impressed a lot of customer over the years. These include:

  • The handlebar is divided into 3 parts providing it with a multi-grip design.
  • The pedals are also fitted with special toe cages to provide an added safety precaution.
  • The spin bike is also fitted with an emergency brake to stop the bike.
  • The seat and handlebars are easily adjustable to make sure anyone can fit on the spin bike.
  • The machine has a chain driven system with a 3-piece crank feature.
  • The flywheel is made out of iron and has chrome rims.
  • The machine is fitted with an LCD screen. The screen is well-lit and allows you to adjust the workout setting according to your needs.
  • The handlebars also include a heart rate sensor fitted across them which helps to monitor your heart and pulse rate.

Exerpeutic LX7 Training Cycle with Computer Monitor and Heart Pulse Sensors Review

The machine is also fitted with a small LCD display which is well-lit. The screen is useful to adjust your workout settings and display info about your routine. Also, the training cycle is also fitted with a heart pulse sensor which is able to monitor the intensity of your workout.

The machine is constructed using a metal and steel frame which almost guarantees you with a smooth and quiet workout session even if you are of a slightly heavier built. The heart rate monitor is fitted on the handlebars which are unusually designed. The design of the spin bike is quiet attractive and the machine is able to deliver a reliable performance.

The Exerpeutic LX7 is the best indoor fitness cycle you will find in the world and with a decent price range along with a build that will last really last long, the spin bike is one to be watch out when in market to buy a new one.

The Good

The LX7 is quiet sturdy, highly durable and has a strong built. The seats and handlebars of the bike are fully adjustable to give you a comfort level you won’t have on other bikes. The machine also included an added safety level with the presence of toe straps. The machine is also fitted with a LCD screen and a heart rate monitor which allows you to measure each and every info regarding your workout session. The machine is quite stable due to the metal and steel structure and is able to support a weight upto 300lbs. The machine is also very lightweight at 90lbs which makes it easy to move around.

The Bad

Well you would find it really difficult to search fault with this machine, but to some hardcore critics, people might feel some unease while riding the bike due to a tough and hard seat. Although you can easily buy seat covers for your spin bike to make your workout session somewhat comfortable. Also the bike doesn’t come with preset workout settings. You will always have to manually set out your workout routine every time you step on the spin bike.

Final Verdict

The Exerpeutic LX7 is a premier spin bike which allows giving you complete control on your workout routine. The spin bike is fitted with a number of features which will make your workout easier and is probably the best spin bike available in the market today for your home comfort. If you are on a lookout for a spin bike, you should definitely keep this one on your list.

How to Make a Mediocre School Great Within a Year

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How to Walk to School via Facebook

For home buyers with kids, settling in a good school district is a must, right? Not according to Jacqueline Edelberg. In 2006, when she was deciding where to send her child to school, Edelberg checked out Nettelhorst, the local public option in her Chicago neighborhood. The problem: It was run-down and failing. Most of the students were bused in from outlying low-income areas; even local city officials recommended that Edelberg send her child elsewhere.

But after touring the school, Edelberg and another parent were asked by the principal what it would take for them to enroll their kids. So they submitted a list of must-haves—and they insisted that these changes be completed within nine months. Some of the demands were low-hanging fruit, such as replacing the motivational posters in the hallways with kids’ artwork.

“We knew if it took longer, neighborhood families would make other plans for their kids’ education,” says Edelberg. She and the other parent also agreed to help the school meet these challenges.

Although it was a tall order, it didn’t take long for Edelberg’s changes to make a palpable difference. Within a year, Nettelhorst had a waitlist and the school was on its way to being designated “high performing.” And within a few more, developers started building condominiums in the neighborhood and boasting in promotional materials that they were located in the Nettelhorst district.

“The school has absolutely given families a reason to stay in the neighborhood,” saysBrad Lippitz of Chicago’s Brad Lippitz Group. “It’s become the nucleus of the whole area, and home buyers now seek it out.”

“The important takeaway is that we’re not a boutique example or an urban myth, and we’re not rocket scientists,” says Edelberg, who went on to co-write “How to Walk to School: Blueprint for a Neighborhood School Renaissance.” In fact, she says communities all over the country are improving mediocre schools so quickly that their own kids can reap the benefits.

Here’s how Edelberg and others achieved these goals in case you’d like to follow in their footsteps.

It takes a village

For Edelberg, the key to improving her school started with making it a more welcoming place. For one, she asked that the intimidating “No Loitering” signs in the playground be removed, and that the classroom shades stay open, day and night, to show off classrooms filled with kids’ artwork.

“That way neighbors on the way home from work would see joyful classrooms,” she says. “It’s very hard to invite your neighborhood in when everything is locked down and shuttered tight.”

From there, Edelberg galvanized local parents, assigning tasks to members of the school community with relevant experience to improve the school—piece by piece.

“Our success depended on being a place where people wanted to be, and a place that locals felt invested in,” recalls Edelberg. So to cultivate that connection, they invited local artists to make over the walls and asked neighborhood tradespeople (electricians, plumbers, etc.) to each do one thing, pro bono, at the school site. They also made the school’s space available after hours to community groups and began hosting community festivals. On weekends, they set up a farmers market; within the classrooms, they had parents volunteer to help support teachers.

It didn’t take long for this influx of community involvement to make a difference. Some teachers weren’t in tune with the new vibe at the school and opted to leave. Others upped their game to meet the new expectations of the students, their parents, and the school administration.

The whole movement was led by a core group of eight parents—some working full time, others occupied with young children—that used a local diner as its headquarters for biweekly meetings.

“You wouldn’t believe what even the busiest parents can get done with some training and strategizing,” says Danielle Asher, director of the Parent Leadership Initiative in Commack, NY, which offers training in public speaking and organizing to parents interested in making changes in their school system.

A school’s online impression matters, too

Another essential step to transforming a school: Improve the impression it makes online, because that’s how many parents will research a school.

“The trick is to talk about the school in the light in which it wants to be perceived,” saysMatt Archambault, who works in online brand management for BrandYourself.com. A killer website, active Twitter feed, and a blog with real stories about the people and events of a school can all burnish a school’s image.

Communication is also key when it comes to making change, whether it happens over coffee at a local diner, as in Edelberg’s case, or by using new options such as Tendle, which offers school communities an online space for discussions and sharing ideas.

“Whether it’s school performance or other trends that are circulating at an institution, knowing about the issues and having a place to discuss them is the first step to solving them,” says Melanie Lekkos, Tendle’s founder.

Show me the money

Of course, to raise a school’s standing quickly, money is also important. Instead of “shaking parents down,” Edelberg and her team opted to create a dozen or so proposals for projects they desperately wanted funded, including a new gymnasium and science lab. Over time, as donors and organizations expressed interest in helping out, the proposals—with precise requests and guidelines—were made available so people could pitch in. Other creative methods abound, too.

“Parents often think raising money isn’t worth it, because it won’t affect change quickly enough to benefit their own kids while they’re still at a school,” says Sarah Barrett, author of “A Mom’s Guide to School Fundraising” and “The Party Book Kit,” which outlines innovative suggestions for fundraising events. “But if the fundraisers are genuinely enjoyable and therefore popular, they’ll raise money that can be used toward visible things like new playground equipment—and that can improve the school’s standing.”

Barrett suggests partnering with local businesses to offer an evening that parents would most likely pay to participate in elsewhere, such as a wine tasting. Or for an event with more family-friendly appeal, she recommends cutting a deal with a video game truck at a time when it probably isn’t booked, like a weekday afternoon.

Lastly, there are always the old-fashioned ways of getting things done, such as running for a seat on the school board.

“It’s great for parents to be involved by showing up at parent-teacher nights and PTA fundraisers, but it’s better for parents to get control,” explains Regina H. Paul, president of Policy Studies in Education, an organization that provides consulting services and technical assistance to both public and private educational institutions. “And being elected to the school board is the best way to do that.”

Ultimately, it is possible to turn a school around. But it takes serious commitment and vision.

“Nettelhorst’s transformation was not all smooth sailing all the time,” cautions Edelberg. In fact, during one early volunteer shift when she was helping paint a mural near the lunchroom, a teacher spit on her while passing by. Yet somehow, Edelberg and her team remained resolute.

“The school wasn’t fit for any kid, let alone my own,” she says. “But we just kept asking people to help by doing a little of what they already did professionally, like advertising or communications. And it worked.”

Why You Should Never Buy the Best House in the Neighborhood

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Dimitri Otis/Getty Images

When you’re house hunting, finding an amazing house in your location of choice that doesn’t require much additional investment seems like a huge score.

But is it really? Before making an offer on that picture-perfect home, take a look at the surrounding houses. If they’re all in disrepair—or just obviously less nice than the one you’re considering—you might be buying the most expensive house in the neighborhood.

Maybe that seems awesome because you’ll get bragging rights and price of place! But more than likely, it’s going to hurt you. Here’s why.

Someday you’ll need to sell it

When you’re in the throes of buying a home, it’s easy to forget that the place you’re busy buying will someday be the place you’re selling. And when it comes time to sell, unloading the priciest home on the block will be a challenge.

Please, Mr. Postman

Send me news, tips, and promos from realtor.com® and Move.

“A lot of buyers forget a home is an investment,” says Brendon DeSimone, a real estate expert and author of “Next Generation Real Estate.” “The world changes. Things happen fast. People transfer, people lose their jobs. Now imagine yourself as the seller of that home.”

So you’re hanging by a thread: As it is, someone might buy it—after all, you did—but there’s no way to increase your equity in the home. With your house already significantly nicer than its neighbors, any upgrades (however minor) will send it into the stratosphere. That quality mismatch between your home and the surrounding homes will lead most buyers to pass on it. If they’re going to spend that much money, why wouldn’t they buy a home in a more desirable neighborhood?

The best you can hope for is your home holding its value. The worst-case scenario: You can’t sell it.

“You can change your house, but you can’t change your location,” DeSimone says.

You need to leave room for improvement

As we said before, a home is an investment—and the best investments have the most room for improvement. Ideally, you’ll be adding to the home during your ownership, building equity in hopes of a payoff when you (eventually) sell.

That’s why DeSimone actually recommends buying the worst house in the best neighborhood. Yes, you read that correctly.

“You can add value on your own,” he says. “If you’re choosing between an awesome house in a crappy location or an awful house in a great location, I would choose the latter.”

Note that “improvement” doesn’t necessarily entail a complete renovation. Even the small changes that happen when you—a responsible person—move in will increase its value. We’re talking about things such as regular maintenance, refreshing the paint, and fixing the odds and ends that might go ignored by another occupant. But if your home is already priced well above the rest of the neighborhood, those tiny changes won’t make a lick of difference.

You can’t bet on the neighborhood to improve

If you’re buying the nicest house on the block hoping the neighborhood will improve, you’re putting a lot of stake in a volatile market—and you’re more likely to be disappointed (and possibly even go broke).

Ideally, the chain of events goes like this: You buy your nice home in an up-and-coming neighborhood. Over time—thanks, gentrification—the homes around you improve until all of your neighbors are pretty much on the same footing. Because the area has improved so drastically, your home’s value will still increase.

It’s a wonderful idea, and it is certainly realized occasionally. Too bad Magic 8 Balls don’t really work. For each time this strategy works, there are a dozen others in which homeowners end up with an overpriced, unsellable home in a middling neighborhood.

If you’re eager to live in a neighborhood with potential, “buy a bad house,” DeSimone says. “At least you can improve the interiors and make it more valuable. If that neighborhood doesn’t actually ‘up-and-come,’ your expensive home is already as viable as it can be.”

Sometimes, betting on your home can pay off—but risking your home? That strategy might sacrifice everything.

Selling Your Home This Winter? You Can Still Make Your Yard Pop

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Add some frozen tundra or gray-brown slush, and you might be tempted to put that “For Sale” sign away until spring, when budding flowers and lush lawns entice buyers on their own. But waiting isn’t an option for everyone. If a job transfer or family circumstances have you on a tight timeline, you might be stuck trudging through the wintertime sell.

Don’t lose hope—winter can be a fabulous time to sell if you know how to capitalize on the market. High on the priority list: Know how to make your home stand out from all those other sad, cold houses on the block.

Winter landscaping is far from an oxymoron—it’s a necessity. Here are some easy solutions to improve the appearance of your snow-covered yard this winter.

Put in the work

Before you throw up your hands and call it a lost cause, remember this: To achieve a winter wonderland of a yard, the most important ingredient is some good old-fashioned sweat equity.

“Simple yard maintenance can go a long way,” says Steve Firlit, president of Firlit Landscape Design in Rochester, NY.

If the leaves are still falling, get out your rake; if it’s winter, make sure to neatly shovel your sidewalks, porch, and driveway. And don’t neglect your bushes and shrubs during the cold months—pruning them occasionally gives the landscape a “tidier, neater look,” Firlit says.

“If you’re making the effort to sell the house, put in a little bit of elbow grease,” he says. “You want to show off your landscaping on the front of the house.”

Dress up your garden beds

Your beds may not be filled with flowers, but that doesn’t mean they should look dreary. While adding mulch won’t help plants grow when the ground is frozen, it will give your garden a visual makeover and help you catch a buyer’s eye.

Firlit recommends re-edging your garden beds and giving them a light coating of mulch, covering up dead material and making the landscaping pop.

“It gives the appearance that the planting beds are kept up and neat-looking,” he says. “That goes a long way.”

Mix in color and greenery

Just because your flowers are dead for the season doesn’t mean your home’s exterior should be, too.

There are a number of hardy plants that can survive the winter. Some require forethought—shrubs such as the vibrant, red flowering quince need to be planted no later than fall, and the imposing boxwood requires time for growing and shaping. But others, such as Christmas greens, can be found at your local nursery and do well potted on porches.

Firlit suggests trying a seasonal wintertime arrangement. Winter greens such as holly and pine hold their color throughout the winter, which means you won’t be rushing out to refresh your plants every time your agent hosts an open house. Intertwine these with colorful fabric from a crafts store and dried flowers to create attention-grabbing arrangements.

“Color makes people feel warm and fuzzy,” says Firlit.

(Pro tip: Stop by your garden center shortly after Christmas to get some great deals on seasonal greenery.)

Add lighting

As the days get shorter, lighting up your home’s exterior becomes more important. Start with path lighting—which helps with navigation—and build up your lighting scheme to highlight your home’s best features.

“If you want the house to pop out from the roadside, temporary lighting can go a long way,” Firlit says.

Spotlight obvious focal points, and add small lighting at the bottom of your water features or showstopper trees such as the Japanese maple.

Don’t leave your home in the dark, either. If you’re lucky enough to have beautiful brick or stone veneer, Firlit recommends soft spotlights to highlight the architectural details.

“When you drive by along the road, it’ll grab you,” Firlit says.

When it comes to winter home sales, any method to attract the attention of prospective buyers is a worthy investment. Lights aren’t only a great idea—they’re a necessity.

Don’t ignore the backyard

After a big snowfall, we’re sure you at least try to keep your front yard in order, but when was the last time you took your shovel out back?

If you’re trying to sell your home during the snowy winter, this is a vital step. You should even consider hauling out your patio furniture during open houses to help visitors determine how they would use the space.

Sweep off other features, too, such as fountains, decorative paving, or the pool area. Mentioning them in the listing isn’t enough—if you want every advantage possible in a difficult winter market, you need to make buyers understand the glory of the home in the spring and summer.

“If there’s snow on the ground, it’s hard to visualize what’s underneath it,” Firlit says. “It’s one thing to show off the inside of the house, but families with kids or who want to entertain will want to see the landscaping.”

The Sneaky Science of Selling Your Home Revealed!

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Selling a home isn’t just about slapping down a fresh coat of paint—you need to delve into home buyers’ brains and figure out what makes them tick. From the moment they spot your listing to the instant they walk through your door, what persuades them to make an offer, and stick around to close the deal? To find out, we culled the most recent scientific studies that examine the home-buying mind to find out what turns it on—and off—and how you can use this information to your advantage.

Buyers know within seconds if they want a home

With a decision as weighty as a home purchase, one might think that buyers deliberate over all the pros and cons before they decide to sign on the dotted line. Yet studies show this is not the case.

According to the “Psychology of House Hunting” report by BMO Financial Group, 80% of prospective buyers know if a home is right for them within seconds of stepping inside. The reason? Researchers theorize that our minds process far more information in less time than we think, so a lengthy deliberation process may be a waste of time.

Take-home lesson: Since buyers know within seconds of entering your home whether it’s The One, you’ll want to spiff up the area they’ll see in that time frame—namely, your foyer.

“It can be a challenge to keep this area tidy since that’s where homeowners put their mail, keys, coats, shoes, dog leashes, and other items,” says Sissy Lappin, a real estate broker in Houston.

Containers are key for keeping this mess under control: baskets or racks for shoes, bowls for keys and change—and, unless you have a nearby closet, you can never have too many coat hooks. Be sure to stash any seldom-used items elsewhere. Anywhere else.

They find aromatherapy confusing

It’s not all about what home buyers see; what they smell matters, too. But that doesn’t mean you should fill your home with potpourri or freshly baked cookies.

These “complex” scents can actually backfire in homes, according to a study by Eric Spangenberg at Washington State University, who found that shoppers will spend 32% more in stores where he piped in a simple orange scent rather than a multifaceted blend of orange, basil, and green tea. The reason? Complex scents may be nice, but they’re also more distracting as people try to figure out what they are.

As Spangenberg explained to the Wall Street Journal, “They are not there to process the smells. They are there to process whether this is a place they want to live.”

Take-home lesson: If you go for a scent, keep it fresh and simple. Spangenberg recommends lemon, basil, or pine. You have no time to grab scented candles?

“As a quick fix, I splash Pine-Sol down the sink,” says Lappin. “While certain scents might appeal to one gender but turn off the other, everyone loves the smell of clean.”

They’re wary of the number 9 in a price

On just about any shopping spree, we’re wooed by “charm prices”—in other words, T-shirts or towels priced at $9.99 rather than a round $10—because consumers tend to think that prices ending in 9 are a way better deal. Only with big purchases like homes, charm pricing makes buyers wary.

According to a study by Old Dominion University, 9’s near the end of a home price—say, $199,000 versus $200,000—are a turnoff. Why? Because these homes appear to be trying too hard to look like a bargain, and buyers don’t like that whiff of desperation when it comes to such a big purchase.

Take-home lesson: Avoid 9’s near the end of your asking price, because buyers may have a knee-jerk impulse to turn away.

“Charm pricing may be fine for T-shirts, but it looks sleazy on a home,” Lappin says. “You feel like you need a shower after seeing the price.”

Prices with round numbers are a turnoff, too

Another number no-no? Pricing your home with round numbers with lots of zeroes, like $200,000, seems like you pulled this number out of a hat. A more specific number like $217,000, on the other hand, makes it look like you’ve really done your homework and know exactly what your home is worth.

One study by Columbia Business School found that negotiators who ask for specific amounts are more successful than those who make rounded offers.

Take-home lesson: Avoid the round number trap and make sure your asking price is specific.

“It will sound like you’ve run the numbers on your home, right down to the exact square footage,” says Lappin. “Oftentimes buyers will ask, ‘Where does this number come from?’ and I’ll say, ‘This seller has done their research and it will take an hour to explain it.’ That’s usually enough to convince them to fall in line.”

Buyers fall hard for staged homes

Staging a home to sell is all the rage these days, and research shows it works: A study by the Real Estate Staging Association looked at 63 unstaged homes that sat on the market for an average of 143 days. Once those houses were professionally staged, they sold, on average, 40 days after their makeover.

Take-home lesson: Pay attention to presentation. But you may not have to open your wallet for a professional stager; the basic premises are simple ones that anyone can put into practice. For one: If you’re already moved out, get some furniture back in the house.

“Seeing a house without furniture is like seeing someone naked in bright light: You can see all their flaws,” says Lappin. Or, if your home does have furniture, make sure it’s the right furniture for each room.

“If you turned your college kid’s bedroom into an office/workout room, change it back to a bedroom,” says Lappin. “I don’t care if it’s four-bedroom—if you only have a bed in one room, it will be perceived as a one-bedroom house. It may sound weird, but that’s how people think. They may say they have imaginations, but they really don’t. On a subliminal level, they take what they see to heart.”

The Perils of Taking Possession Before Closing

fish-going-to-new-house

Timing your move out of one house and into another is a delicate feat that might seem as tricky as determining the next GOP presidential nominee. Trickier, even! In addition to the usual stress of packing and arranging to have your things transported (we’re talking about housing again), you also need to coordinate with the current owners of your new home and the incoming residents of your current home. And since no one wants to pay another month’s rent or mortgage, it’s awfully tempting to move into your new place even if the closing isn’t quite final yet.

But taking possession of a home before your name is on the title could open a Pandora’s box of problems—for buyers and sellers.

Why buyers should move in with caution

Buyers who move into a house before closing lose some of their bargaining power, saysDaniel C. Price, president and CEO of OneTitle National Guaranty Co. in New York City.

“Any unresolved title issues could be problematic for buyers moving in before closing,” he says. “Buyers might lose the leverage necessary to clear issues like judgments, liens, and even old mortgages, since they will have a much harder time walking away once their possessions are in the house if these title issues are not resolved.”

Buyers also lose the ability to voice concern or negotiate over any last-minute issues with a home’s condition.

“A final walk-through prior to moving in should always be conducted,” says Price.

The question of who pays for what also comes into play. If you move in early, the seller might expect you to fork over cash for utilities used before the closing. Even if that doesn’t amount to much, the squabble could delay closing.

Another concern: coverage in the event of theft, fire, or other calamities.

A home insurance policy on a new home doesn’t take effect until closing, and a property is legally in the possession of the buyer, says Ken Davidson, principal at Eagle Independent Insurance Agency in Dallas.

So any damage that happens to the structure is covered by the seller’s home insurance, he says—but that doesn’t include damage to, or loss of, your personal property.

However, such damage or loss could be covered if you have a homeowners insurance policy on your current home that has “off premises” property coverage. The coverage limit, however, is usually 10% of the total personal property limit.

Why sellers face risk, too

Price says sellers who hand over the keys before closing could also be in trouble if the deal falls through.

“If something happens and a buyer backs out last minute, sellers could face the costly and lengthy process of eviction proceedings. Not only is that a hassle, it will delay the ability to relist the home.”

Sellers also run the risk of having their home insurance claim history dented.

If the buyer’s movers damage the house, or if their buddy slips down the stairs while helping out, you as the seller are liable. Your insurance covers this kind of damage and injury (to the extent dictated by your policy), but the fact that you’ve had to file a claim could jack up the premium for the policy on your new home.

Davidson recommends talking to an insurance agent and the real estate agent and attorney, if applicable, handling the sale before shaking hands on any preclosing deals.

“One five-minute phone call could prevent a huge headache.”

7 Ways to Get Top Dollar for Your Home During the Off-Season

money-fanned-in-front-of-house

After a record-setting summer selling season in many parts of the country, home sales have quieted down for the fall. If you’re putting your home on the market, you might see that as an obstacle, but it can be an opportunity. Even if there is less traffic, there’s less competition from other sellers. In a market where inventory is already tight, that gives you an even greater advantage.

Fall is a particularly good time to sell if you’re marketing to retirees, millennials, or those with very young children—they’re less concerned about tying a purchase to the school calendar. Going into winter, you’ll find that buyers who are willing to trudge through snow to see a home tend to be much more motivated to make a purchase than those who spend a sunny Saturday dropping into open houses.

If you’re thinking of listing your home in the next few months, follow these steps to ensure a quick sale at a great price:

1. Skip the holiday décor

Staging basics such as decluttering and depersonalizing still count during the holidays, so it’s best to keep the inflatable Rudolph and the tinsel in storage.

“You never know who your potential buyer is,” says David Peterson of Synergy Staging in Portland, OR. “We don’t want to pigeonhole or potentially turn someone off.”

2. Update your photos

Even without holiday decorations, photos can quickly look dated as the seasons change. It’s fine to lead your listing right now with a gorgeous photo of crimson- and gold-leaved trees on the front lawn, but once the leaves have fallen, you’ll want a new photo to keep the listing looking fresh, says Jan Niebauer of Niebauer Realty in Milford, MI. Try to snap photos on days when there’s a blue sky, which will pop against a blanket of white snow.

3. Keep the outside neat

Curb appeal is just as important but slightly more difficult to achieve in fall and winter. A leaf- or snow-covered lawn can be beautiful, but it can also get messy quickly.

“Make sure it’s neat and tidy,” Peterson says.

Put an added focus on raking and removing leaves, and consider hiring a snow-removal service to be sure that your driveway and walkways are clear and safe for visitors at all times.

4. Clear the entryway

You’ll want to make sure there’s space for a few people (like a couple and their agent) to stand in the foyer, shed their winter clothes, and stomp off the debris on their shoes, Peterson says. Provide an umbrella stand and shoe covers to keep visitors from tracking mud and snow through your home.

5. Make it warm—literally and figuratively

If you’re going to be out of the house, be sure that your Realtor® arrives early to crank up the thermostat before a showing (or leave it at a warmer temperature when you leave in the morning), which will help potential buyers feel more comfortable.

“It’s vital that a house be warm,” Peterson says, but “not too warm that people have to peel off all their clothes, but definitely not so cold that they want to get out as fast as possible.”

If you have a gas fireplace, make sure it’s lit, and enhance that warm, hospitable feeling with a tasteful throw blanket or area rug.

6. Be more flexible with showings

There are fewer hours of daylight, when your home looks its best, in the winter months, so try to accommodate potential buyers who want to come for daytime visits, Niebauer says.

7. Light it up

Even during the day, cloudy gray skies can make window-lined rooms feel gloomy. Adding floor lamps and turning on all the lights will make the property feel more welcoming.

“Light up every dark corner because they can make a room feel smaller than it is,” Niebauer says. If visitors are coming at night, you’ll want to turn on all your exterior lights as well.

The Essential Real Estate Lessons I Learned From Stephen King

actress Shelley Duvall, recoils in shock as her husband chops through the bathroom door with a fire axe in a scene from 'The Shining', directed by Stanley Kubrick

You can probably tell by now that we have a lot—I mean, a lot—of advice to give you about buying, selling, and owning a home. We have lots of hands-on experience, a broad base of knowledge, and an army of experts who can find answers to just about anything we (or you) can throw at them.

And then, sometimes, we find real estate wisdom in the unlikeliest of places. Perhaps on the couch, on an unseasonably brisk autumn night, with the lights dimmed and a movie on TV. A scary movie, actually.

Yep, that’s right. Stephen King is our real estate spirit guide.

Don’t believe us? Here are six ways that classic fright flicks based on King’s novels helped teach us the do’s and don’ts of homeownership.

‘Pet Sematary’ (1989)

Film recap: Shortly after Dr. Louis Creed moves his family to a small town in Maine (of course), his son is killed in a tragic accident. Grief-stricken, the good doctor decides to bury his son in the “pet sematary” just beyond their property—an abandoned Native American burial ground that he’s learned can bring the dead back to life. Not pausing to ponder why it was abandoned, he soon discovers the problem with his plan: The dead may come back to life, but they don’t come back quite the same.

Real estate lesson: Know the rules of disclosure

We learned more from this flick than how not to spell “cemetery.” There were two morals to digest. The first? Don’t bring people back from the dead, idiot. And the second? Always read the disclosure forms.

Look, if the doctor had actually done his homework, then he might have been better informed about the unearthly goings-on in his backyard.

Now, if the seller didn’t disclose, that’s another story. Understandably, sellers may not want to reveal certain facts about the property—if it was a crime scene, if a death occurred there, or if pets and people come back to life and wreak havoc until everybody’s dead. But in some states, they’re required to.

Plus, if buyers find out the truth later, they can sue if they think the property’s history will hurt its resale value.

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‘The Mist’ (2007)

Film recap: After a violent storm damages their home, David Drayton and his son head into town to get food and supplies. While they’re in the store, a thick fog engulfs the town, leaving the townspeople trapped inside the store. It’s not long before seriously scary stuff starts to happen outside—and in.

Real estate lesson: Prepare your home for disaster

Just going to throw this one out there: If our pal David had planned ahead and packed a home emergency survival kit to have at the ready, would he really be in this situation? With a proper disaster plan, David and family would have had enough food, water, batteries, and other supplies to last them at least a few days at home. Thus, no reason to go to the store, aka the death trap of human sacrifices, aka the portal to another dimension. (No spoilers here, but this thing makes “Requiem for a Dream” seem like a laugh riot.)

Look at us, saving lives.

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‘The Shining’ (1980)

Film recap: Writer Jack Torrance takes a gig as winter caretaker at the remote Overlook Hotel in Colorado, hoping to cure his writer’s block. He settles in with his wife and son, but the isolation soon begins to take its toll. Jack discovers the hotel’s dark secrets and begins to morph into a homicidal, classic movie line–spewing maniac. 

Real estate lesson: Maintaining a vacation home can be murder

Man, Stephen King put together a real gold mine of real estate wisdom here. I firmly believe this is not a film about ghosts or murder. It’s not about the Holocaust or Native Americans or the moon landing. And the hotel isn’t a metaphor for hell.

This piece of sheer brilliance is actually about how dang hard it is to maintain a vacation home! Who wouldn’t go a little nutso if you had to vacuum and dust that whole place all winter long, and your kid won’t quit demanding rum? Red rum, no less!

While a second home can be a fantastic retreat or investment, King uses “The Shining” to show us the perils of hacking off more house than you can handle.

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‘Secret Window’ (2004)

Film recap: Amid a messy divorce, writer Mort Rainey relocates to a remote cabin in upstate New York. But he’s soon approached by a farmer who claims Rainey plagiarized his work—and the farmer has no intention of just letting it go, man. Cue some next-level psycho stalker stuff. 

Real estate lesson: Don’t buy rural property

(Just kidding! You totally should. But you should think about it. A lot.)

After all, as Mort’s wife tells him, “You’re out there all alone. Anything could happen and nobody would know.”

If the mere idea of being stalked, tormented, murdered, and left to die alone doesn’t scare you away from a remote lifestyle, consider the really scary stuff: You might not have trash removal (the horror!). You might have to deal with well water and septic tanks (gross!). And if the power goes out or you need assistance at home, there’s no guarantee you’re going to get help any time soon.

Living rural can be quite serene—if you’re eager to embrace nature, be flexible and take on a DIY attitude. If not, you might want to reconsider staying in the big city—or at least the ‘burbs.

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‘Cujo’ (1983)

Film recap: Cujo, a gentle Saint Bernard, is bitten by a bat and eventually becomes vicious and weirdly invincible (can rabies even do that?!). As he turns into a killer canine, he goes on a rampage through town.

Real estate lesson: Make sure your home inspector checks for pests

It’s easy to blame Cujo here, but was it really the poor guy’s fault? Let’s instead turn our attention to the bat attack that resulted in rabies and turned Cujo psycho. (OK, I know Cujo’s trouble started when he strayed from his owner’s property and stuck his head in a cave—in hindsight, fencing would have been a good idea).

But in general, you should ask your home inspector to check for pests before you submit an offer, especially if the home has been vacant for a while. On the other hand, if you’ve been there a few years, call in a pest professional to give the property a good sweep. For the health and safety of you and your pets, you’ll want to deal with rodents, insects, snakes, and, yes, bats—pronto.

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‘Salem’s Lot’ (1979)

Film recap: Ben Mears returns to his hometown to write a book about a long-empty and supposedly haunted estate. When he discovers someone has bought the home, his project is put on hold. But then people around the house start dying and, of course, Ben uncovers the truth: Kurt Barlow, the owner of the estate, is a vampire who’s turning his victims into an army of undead slaves.

Real estate lesson: Know your neighbors

Let’s be honest: We don’t quite know how Sir Vampire scored his sprawling abode. Maybe he had some pretty solid home financing. Maybe it was an all-cash deal. Maybe he waived all the contingencies (do the undead really care whether the HVAC system is in good condition?). Regardless, when it came time to choose the best offer on the house, the seller’s agent probably didn’t check to see whether Barlow was a vampire.

So if you’re moving into a new neighborhood, or someone just moved in, it’s always a good idea to do a little recon. If you have the time—and the money—you can actually dig up quite a bit of dirt.

A caveat: Be careful not to alienate anyone—a good neighbor can be the magic ingredient for making a neighborhood feel like home. Even if they happen to be undead.