Curb Appeal: The Front Doors of Summer

Sunday, May 27, 2018
Summer's a great time to have your home on the market.

School's out and buyers want to move before the next school year begins.

People are generally in a more relaxed frame of mind (goodbye to chilly weather, and hello to vacations).

There are more daylight hours for people to view homes.

And -- most beneficial for sellers -- homes just look brighter, cleaner and prettier in summer than in other seasons.

If the look of your home from the curb hasn't changed since January, what are you waiting for? If it's advice to make the most of your summer staging, I've got that for you.

These photos and suggestions are bound to spark some ideas for staging your front door area.

Do not fear color

We hear so much about neutral colors for home staging, that we might not realize when it comes to exterior doors, the rules change.

The red door on this shingled grey home above is a perfect example of how to make your entry stand out.

These homeowners went beyond painting the front door an extra cheerful color. They added a  friendly "Hello." People on a home tour will certainly remember the house with the yellow door and the hello greeting. Photo: Lolly Lane

The front door doesn't have to be a bright, saturated color to be summery. Cool colors are especially appealing during warmer months. Even though there are decorative props clustered around this beautiful doorway, it doesn't feel crowded because everything is scaled pleasantly. Photo: French Bulldogs.

In Charleston's historic areas, homeowners paint trim like shutters and doors and ironwork with what's called "Charleston green." It's black, but with a hint of green. It's a beautiful background for whatever else you use to adorn your front steps and walkway. Photo: Southern Living.

Flowers make buyers feel welcome 

If it's plain old white, don't feel compelled to paint your front door. You can add some seasonal color and style with plants and a jumbo welcome mat. It's easy to care for container plants that are right outside your front door.

If you're going to have flower pots, why not make them stand-out big and matching? For a formal house -- or to make your home look more formal -- nothing beats a pair, especially when both the pots and the plant selections match. Photo: Drive By Decor.

Summer gives you the chance to play with plants that might not like your climate in winter. These giant elephant ear plants look quirky and dramatic. When a front door area doesn't get direct sun all day, shade-loving tropical plants like these are perfect candidates. Photo: Home Design Inspired.

Artificial plants in containers look hokey, but no one expects you to have fresh flowers in a wreath for your door. These silk daylilies complete a summery rag wreath that's quick, easy and cheap to make.

Even a small entrance or condo door can sport a wreath to celebrate the season and make a home feel tended. Remember that home buyers will be standing at the front door while their broker is unlocking it and they are already judging what the home is worth to them. Photo: Windsor Silks.

Other tips for entrance appeal

Make it a regular habit to quickly sweep away dirt, cobwebs, pollen, and dust around your outside entrance. Clean homes sell faster.

A small landing often has space for a chair or bench. Two chairs look especially friendly, but please arrange them to face each other at an angle that would be convenient for conversation.

A small piece of furniture near the front door gives you a chance to make an impression. A wicker table or anything else that's made of wicker looks wonderfully summery.

Your welcome mat is another chance to add a distinctive touch. Treat yourself (and prospective buyers) to a clean and colorful new one. They're so inexpensive!

If your property is unoccupied, use exterior decorations that are not so valuable that they might be tempting to vandals and thieves.

Is your porch, landing or steps needing a coat of paint? Is the door dented or faded? Deferred maintenance is a red flag to buyers.

If you add flags or signs to your exterior staging, be certain they do not offend or alienate any prospective buyers. Nothing profane or in-your-face opinionated.

If you have room for a bench or chair, set them out near your entrance. Match the furniture style to the architectural style of your home -- modern for a contemporary home, classic for a traditional house, some unique finds for a cottage, mid-century-modern for a ranch house, or rustic furnishings for a farmhouse, for example.

Elevate your plants to give them importance and make them more noticeable both from the street and up close. Use a color scheme that unifies a grouping of various containers and plants.

A little lightheartedness goes a long way towards befriending buyers. Show some personality outside your home by displaying a silly collection of garden art like these frogs, or some unusual containers for your plants, like vintage tinware, hypertufa, baskets, or wooden buckets.

I hope you have some fun staging the entrance to your home on the market, and make it a pleasure and an enticement for people touring homes. Download my home staging eBook for more tips to help you sell your home fast!

Tips For A Successful Home Inspection

Tuesday, May 22, 2018
No matter how well you've cared for your home, the thought of a home inspector examining it to determine if it's a good buy for your prospective buyer can be unsettling.

Unless your buyer is paying cash, the finance people he's dealing with will require a professional inspection. Even if he is financing the purchase himself, he might pay for an inspection to use as a bargaining tool during your price negotiations. And while most home inspections last only two to three hours, they can be some of the most stressful hours of the selling process.

Give yourself some peace of mind and bargaining power by preparing as thoroughly as possible for the exam, just like you did in high school for those algebra tests. You did study, right?

One way to really be prepared is to hire an inspector yourself way in advance of listing with a broker, so you get a heads up on any problems your home has. Still, the buyer will get his own inspection.

Most advice regarding home inspections is aimed not at sellers, but at buyers hoping to ensure their new home gives them no problems after purchase.

But let's look at some tips geared for sellers like you to make sure your home inspection process goes smoothly. You want your home sale to move along without any delays, surprises, or any reduction in your sale price.

What will the inspector check?

The standard inspection covers the important infrastructure systems -- heating and cooling, plumbing, electrical, the roof, chimney, visible ductwork and insulation, attic, walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, foundation, and other structural elements. The inspector also checks to see if all appliances that convey with your home are in working order, including smoke alarms carbon monoxide detectors.

It's important to note that a home inspector is not appraising the value of the property or the cost of repairs needed. Those tasks belong to an appraiser and to specialists, respectively. 

If your home has a crawl space, you should have
plastic covering the soil there. Photo: Today's Homeowner

What to do to prepare

Even though you won't be tagged for having a bit of clutter or messiness here and there, a less-than-tidy home can put a lot of preconceived notions in the mind of the inspector. Cleanliness will inspire confidence.

Clean your house inside and out before an inspection. It's a good idea especially to tidy up areas that the inspector is likely to see first. Inspectors usually start by checking the exterior of the house. His first impression will be based on that. Although the work he'll do is calculated by objective ratings, we're all influenced by our subjective observations.

Tidiness will also make it easy for an inspector to do his work. You want him to be able to see behind appliances like your water heater and furnace. You want him to be able to test all electrical outlets. If you haven't decluttered your home, a good time to do it is before your inspection.

The person paying for the inspection is the party that gets to follow the inspector around (without getting in his way or asking too many questions, please), and that's who will get a written report of the inspection. A buyer may or may not share the report with you the seller, usually not.

If you don't like the idea of vacating your home while an inspection is underway, have your Realtor be present. Generally, it's best if sellers and buyers don't meet up until the closing. Rules about who gets to see the printed report actually vary by state. Your Realtor can advise you.

An inspector will note clogged or leaking gutters
and downspouts, a roof that's mossy, or shingles that are loose. 

Don't neglect the important stuff

Although a professional inspection does not cover the land, or things like outbuildings or pools, an inspector will look at exterior conditions like grading for problematic drainage, and landscaping that is hanging too close to the roof or closer than 12 inches from the siding, or firewood stored less than  30 feet away from the house.

After you've taken a walk around your home to perform a visual inspection of the roof and siding, double check your home's security, particularly, the locks and deadbolts. Did you know that as recently as 2013, victims of burglary offenses suffered an estimated $4.5 billion in property losses, and burglaries of residential properties accounted for 74% of the total reported? Yikes. No wonder inspectors check these things.

Plumbing problems can be a deal breaker. Even minor issues like an incorrectly installed outdoor spigot, slow-draining shower stalls and bathtubs, or a leaking kitchen sink can look serious enough for a buyer to pull back his purchase offer. Some inspectors will check for water quality, especially if the home has a well or water filtration system.

No home is perfect, but you need to be
prepared for a thorough going-over.  

Make his job easier

Be sure an inspector has an easy time of his stay. Utilities should be on, including water, gas, and electric. Are pilot lights working as they should? Will he need the garage door opener? A key to a storage room or an exterior electric box? A remote for a ceiling fan?

Your prep list should also include replacing filters in your HVAC system and checking that all lights have working bulbs.

When an inspector can't check a system or appliance, he has to note that on the paperwork. He's checking off boxes on his boilerplate report. If too many entries note "unable to inspect due to ..." or "recommend further evaluation by licensed... " plumber or electrician or pest control contractor or other professional, a buyer can get discouraged. No one wants to pay for another inspection or worry about what's been hinted at.

Finally, if you have invoices documenting major improvements and repairs, you might as well make them available. You can leave them with your Realtor in case any questions come up about the age or material or capacity of things such as plumbing pipes or electric wiring.

Get more advice on selling your home quickly and profitably in my $4.99 homestaging eBooks. I want you to be happy with the sale of your home!

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