Unwritten Etiquette Rules Every Home Seller Should Know

Unwritten Home Seller Etiquette

8 Unwritten Etiquette Rules Every Home Seller Should Know

If you’re trying to sell your home, you’ve probably scrutinized it, staged it, and scrubbed it down from floorboards to rooftop as if the folks from Architectural Digest were stopping by for a cover shoot. OK, so it’s in immaculate shape—but your home isn’t the only thing under scrutiny here. You are, too! That’s right: No matter how nice your home is, your behavior can also affect how buyers feel about making an offer.

Last week we told you the secret etiquette rules that every home buyer needs to know in order to nail the deal. Today we’re focusing on the selling side of the equation. Here are the (previously) unwritten etiquette rules sellers should follow to show their home—and themselves—in the best possible light.


Sure, you’re dying to know if prospective buyers will love what you’ve done with the kitchen, but Realtors® agree sellers should not be there lurking in the shadows during an open house or showing.

“Buyers don’t feel as comfortable when the owner is at the home watching their every move,” explains Nicholas Kensington of Scottsdale Real Estate. “Get out of their way so that they can start to picture themselves living there instead of being spied on.” So take a powder. Or at least hide.

Take your pets with you

You think Humbert is the cutest labradoodle ever, but not everyone is bound to share that opinion. In addition to having allergies, some home shoppers may not be in the market for a run-in with an animal they don’t know.

“Imagine, as a buyer, having the background music set to ‘barking dog’ while you are trying to take in the home’s nuances that you, as the seller, have worked so hard to hone,” says Brenda Hayward, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker. “To say nothing of the stress it puts on your beloved pet. Take your mutt for a car ride, to the dog park, or for a long walk. It will do you both good.”

Betty Clark, who claims an “irrational fear of birds,” says she was shocked by how many open houses she ran from due to unexpected tweeting and chirping from caged and uncaged feathered friends. Don’t alienate would-be purchasers by forcing your pets on them.

Move your car

“Make it easy for visitors to park and view the home,” Kensington notes. “No one likes parking issues. Having them is a sure way to get a viewing off to a bad start.” In fact, if potential buyers have to park a block away and walk, they may just skip taking the tour of your home. Or if they’re willing to make the hike, they may be in a lousy mood by the time they enter your home. Why risk it?

Lay out important documents

If questions arise while buyers are on the premises, it may help them decide to put in an offer that much faster if they can find answers quickly and in writing.

“Leaving necessary documents in an easy-to-find spot isn’t just good for selling, it’s also good selling etiquette,” says Kensington. “Put out the home inspection report, appraisal, home warranty, monthly bill information—gas, oil, electric—and proof of any major repairs are all good things to let people look through when they are considering buying your home.”

Offer some refreshments

House hunters can get parched and peckish. You can help!

“Putting out a few small bottled waters in a small bowl of ice is always appreciated, along with some light, easy grab-and-go sort of refreshments like mints or cookies,” says Cara Ameer, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker.

Be patient waiting for feedback

Of course, you’re dying to know what buyers thought of your home, but that information may not flow back to you instantaneously. Buyers often want to process what they’ve seen and think it over before making an offer. If one comes through, don’t worry, you’ll hear about it!

“It is reasonable to ask for feedback from your Realtor after the showing, but understand it may take a day or two for the buyer’s agent to respond,” Hayward says.

Don’t be greedy

Who doesn’t want top dollar for their home? But an unwillingness to negotiate can kill a possible deal and keep your home on the market long after you were hoping to be unpacking at your new place.

“Focusing on your bottom line is always important, but greed can lead to disaster. Remember a little of something is better than a lot of nothing. Generosity will lead you to your promise land,” says Josh Myler, a Realtor with The Agency.

Listen to the professionals

If your Realtor has some suggestions for improvements that may help sell the home faster, take them to heart but don’t take them personally.

“Don’t shoot the messenger,” says Caroline Gosselin, a Realtor with Sotheby’s Prominent Properties. “Keep emotions out and listen to what a licensed, trained, professional has to say about the house, be it a Realtor or an inspector. It’s immature and unmannerly not to be able to take criticism and be able to move on.”



8 Things You Should Never Say When Buying a Home

If you’re in the throes of house hunting, chances are you’re excited—whether it’s your first home or your fifth. It’s an emotional roller-coaster ride!
Seeing something you love (or hate) can often cause you to blurt all kinds of things, some of which you might regret. Because while you can (and should) always be upfront with your Realtor®, you might not want to be quite so candid around the sellers (or the listing agent working for them). The reason? Just like in “Law & Order,” what you say can—and will—be used against you.
So before you step into a home and stick your foot in your mouth, heed these top things never to say to sellers or their agents when you’re shopping for new digs.
‘This is my dream house!’
You ever play poker? Well then you should know that if you want to maintain a strong negotiating position, never tip your hand, advises Ryan Gibbons. Interested parties who express their unbridled passion for a home are shooting themselves.
“These are the kind of things that can help the sellers snag more money out of the buyers, because they really know how much this house means to them,” he notes. “All discussions about the house and any negotiating strategies are best left in private.” Not that you shouldn’t say a few nice things—just don’t gush. Gushing = bad.
‘That couch is hideous’
“Don’t tell the sellers—or any agent present—that they have poor taste in decor or furniture,” says Naveed Shah, a Realtor with Keller Williams. “Their style might not suit yours, but that’s no reason to insult them. If they hear you bad-mouthing their rug or curtains, then they might just pick another buyer.”
‘I can afford to spend X’
While it’s certainly a good idea for prospective buyers to find out just how much they can afford, they should keep that intel strictly between them and their Realtor.
“A prospective home buyer should never address with a seller or seller’s agent anything concerning their financing or ability to pay a full-price offer,” says Maryjo Shockley, a Realtor with Keller Williams. “This hampers the ability to negotiate the fairest price for the property.” If asked, just say, “Finding a fairly priced home is what matters to us more than the amount we can afford.” It works!
‘I can’t wait to get rid of that’
Even if you’re thinking, “This place will be perfect once I get my hands on it,” don’t let on, notes Betsy Bingle an associate broker with LintonBingle Associate Brokers.
“If the new buyers are going to renovate a home in which someone raised a family and has truckloads of memories, a buyer should never say ‘I can’t wait to rip that swingset out’ or ‘That wall color is horrible—can’t wait to repaint this place,’” she says.
“The seller can easily reject their offer or come back asking for more money upon hearing that someone wants to totally remake the place where they made lifelong memories,” she adds.
‘Why are you selling?’
Yes, you may very well be curious to find out why sellers have put their home on the market. Keep it to yourself! It’s considered poor taste to ask, and it may open a can of worms.
“Never ask the sellers why they are selling,” explains Realtor Klara Madlin of Klara Madlin Real Estate. “There may be personal reasons like divorce or job relocation or something worse—none of it your business.” Opening up a possibly uncomfortable situation will not help you down the road should a bidding war emerge.
‘What’s it really like to live here?’
Sure, you want the inside scoop, but that doesn’t mean you get to interrogate the townsfolk.
“Don’t ask the neighbors intrusive questions. By all means, talk to them and give them a chance to open up, but don’t push if they’re not talkative,” Shah says. If you do wind up moving into the neighborhood, do you really want your first impression to be that of a pest or a spy?
‘You’ll never get that price!’
Though you might be thinking “I wouldn’t give them X amount for that house,” as a buyer it’s best for you to keep your thoughts and opinions to yourself, notes Cara Ameer, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker. Even if a buyer thinks a home is priced on the high side, it could very well be within range of comparables in the neighborhood. Which leads to our next point…
‘I’ll give you [an extremely lowball offer] for this house, whaddaya say?’
“Don’t ask your agent to submit multiple lowball offers,” says Shah. “Take your agent’s advice when it comes to pricing”— because it’s never wise to insult the person whose home you’re trying to buy and you don’t want to appear as a not-so-serious buyer. Please, don’t insult the seller.
Think buyers are the only ones who need to choose their words carefully? Hardly—tune in later to hear what home sellers should never, ever say.

The 5 Biggest Bad Habits Dragging Your Decor Down

Always feel like your home just isn’t quite where it could be? Where it should be? Don’t want 2015 to be another year where your home doesn’t reach its full potential and you don’t meet your design and decor goals? Peruse this list of habits that might be dragging your decor down — you might just find you and your home get an uplift when you leave these bad habits behind!
1. You aren’t considering “home stuff” in your budget
No I don’t mean you’re not budgeting for utility bills and other emergency things — that’s stuff many of us have been trained to consider when working on our budgets. What we’re talking about is not considering how much money you want to invest into making your home better. Considering making room in your budget for these kinds of expenditures (whether decorative or functional, like storage solutions) ahead of time means you’re thinking about it — and that will help those who tend to go a little overboard control their spending better and those who tend to be a little too tight-fisted make sure they meet design goals (by allowing themselves to splurge on decor from time-to-time).
2. You’re not getting creative and thinking outside of the box
Before you buy anything and most especially before you buy anything that kind of works but not quite how you would like it to, ask yourself whether or not you can DIY something better or get a little weird and creative to fit exactly what you’re looking for. It’s about taking a moment (or three) to consider alternatives — not just jumping on the first/easiest/same as you always choose solutions that come to mind. Allowing yourself and your creativity to expand a bit in all directions, design choice by design choice, will make a marked difference on your home in the long run.
3. You’re trying to be like someone else
One of the biggest compliments you can get about your home is for someone to walk in and say “this looks like you,” because that means you’re expressing your true likes and dislikes and crafting a home that fits your personality. The benefit of a home like this? Not only will it be completely unique, but it’ll be ultra peaceful and recharging — you’ll find untold wells of strength in a space you don’t have to pretend to be someone else in.
4. You’re holding on to furniture and decor that no longer serves you
This can be a tough one because like, who out there is made of money and can throw away perfectly decent furniture? We’re not saying throw it away though. But don’t hold on to it if it just doesn’t work for you, either. Sell furniture that you no longer like, even if you don’t have something else you want to replace that hole with. Leaving a spot blank in your home will allow yourself to be open to whatever new and wonderful thing has been waiting to find its way home to your home. Trade furniture with friends if you both have matching needs met by the other person’s stuff. Or hack and saw away at furniture pieces, stripping them of their former styles and functions, to reshape them into powerful symbols of the new look you want to project with your home. The very last thing you want to do is live intimately with a piece of furniture that just only makes you go “meh.”
5. You’re not shaking up your style enough/often
Make no mistake — “shaking up your style” doesn’t have to mean wallpapering your ceiling or painting the baseboards red. We’ve all got our own definitions of what “wild” is. And wild isn’t even what we’re saying you should go for. What you should aim to do is push yourself — stagnant spaces don’t just suck, they suck the energy out of your home a little bit each day. Finding the places that you let fear hold you back or cling to comfort too tightly can help you bust through any self-imposed limitations to find new looks, colors, functions, storage solutions, styles and more that make your life infinitely better.

6 Stellar Reasons to Buy a Home in 2016

Is it really 2016 already? For those of you who happen to be planning on buying a home in the new year—or even just trying to—there’s a whole lot to celebrate. Why? A variety of financial vectors have dovetailed to make this the perfect storm for home buyers to get out there and make an (winning) offer. Here are six home-buying reasons to be thankful while ringing in the new year:
Reason No. 1: Interest rates are still at record lows
Even though they may creep up at any moment, it’s nonetheless a fact that interest rates on home loans are at historic lows, with a 30-year fixed-rate home loan still hovering around 4%.
“Remember 18.5% in the ’80s?” asks Tom Postilio, a real estate broker with Douglas Elliman Real Estate and a star of HGTV’s “Selling New York.”“It is likely that we’ll never see interest rates this low again. So while prices are high in some markets, the savings in interest payments could easily amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars over the life of the mortgage.”
Reason No. 2: Rents have skyrocketed
Another reason home buyers are lucky is that rents are going up, up, up! (This, on the other hand, is a reason not to be thankful if you’re a renter.) In fact, rents outpaced home values in 20 of the 35 biggest housing markets in 2015. What’s more, according to the 2015 Rent.com Rental Market Report, 88% of property managers raised their rent in the past 12 months, and an 8% hike is predicted for 2016.
“In most metropolitan cities, monthly rent is comparable to that of a monthly mortgage payment, sometimes more,” says Heather Garriock, mortgage agent for The Mortgage Group. “Doesn’t it make more sense to put those monthly chunks of money into your own appreciating asset rather than handing it over to your landlord and saying goodbye to it forever?”
Reason No. 3: Home prices are stabilizing
For the first time in years, prices that have been climbing steadily upward are stabilizing, restoring a level playing field that helps buyers drive a harder bargain with sellers, even in heated markets.
“Local markets vary, but generally we are experiencing a cooling period,” says Postilio. “At this moment, buyers have the opportunity to capitalize on this.”
Reason No. 4: Down payments don’t need to break the bank
Probably the biggest obstacle that prevents renters from becoming homeowners is pulling together a down payment. But today, that chunk of change can be smaller, thanks to a variety of programs to help home buyers. For instance, the new Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Home Possible Advantage Program allows for a 3% down payment for credit scores as low as 620.
Reason No. 5: Mortgage insurance is a deal, too
If you do decide to put less than 20% down on a home, you are then required to have mortgage insurance (basically in case you default). A workaround to handle this, however, is to take out a loan from the Federal Housing Administration—a government mortgage insurer that backs loans with down payments as low as 3.5% and credit scores as low as 580. The fees are way down from 1.35% to 0.85% of the mortgage balance, meaning your monthly mortgage total will be significantly lower if you fund it this way. In fact, the FHA predicts this 37% annual premium cut will bring 250,000 first-time buyers into the market. Why not be one of them?
Reason No. 6: You’ll reap major tax breaks
Tax laws continue to favor homeowners, so you’re not just buying a place to live—you’re getting a tax break! The biggest one is that unless your home loan is more than $1 million, you can deduct all the monthly interest you are paying on that loan. Homeowners may also deduct certain home-related expenses and home property taxes.

9 Party Hosting Mistakes You Might Not Even Know You’re Making

So you’re having a holiday party, and you want it to be perfect. Take a look at this list — and make sure to avoid these nine mistakes that even the most well-intentioned hosts and hostesses make.

1. Expecting guests to help themselves to food and drink.
Don’t expect that your guests will know to help themselves to the beer in the fridge, or that they’ll be able to find those cookies tucked away in the back of the kitchen. Guests may not be comfortable enough in your house to go hunting around, so make sure everything is in plain sight.

2. Not thinking about flow.
When you’re arranging furniture and thinking about where to locate food and drinks, consider how people will move through the house. Generally everyone is going to walk in the door and then go straight for the food and drink, so make sure there’s a clear path to the goodies. Think about places where bottlenecks will form and try to eliminate them by creatively moving furniture — if, for example, you have a small kitchen, putting out food in a different room will keep everyone from winding up uncomfortably jammed into a tiny space.

3. Thinking you have to provide seating for everyone.
Unless you’re hosting a dinner party, your guests will probably spend most of the party on their feet, chatting. Usually people will only sit down at the very end of the party, when most guests have already left, so provide one or two conversational groupings of chairs, but don’t feel like you have to have a seat for every single person. You don’t want to wind up with a whole roomful of people, awkwardly standing around a bunch of unused chairs.

4. Serving food and drink that take a ton of prep on the day of.
If you have your heart set on on serving handcrafted cocktails at your party, hire a bartender (or enlist a friend to do the honors) — otherwise you’ll spend your whole party mixing and shaking, secretly resenting your guests for having such a good time. Pitcher drinks will make your guests just as happy, and allow you to enjoy yourself too. The same goes for food that requires elaborate preparation — opt for something simpler, or even better, supplement with some appetizers from the frozen food section. With some creative plating, your guests will never know the difference.

5. Not having a plan for music.
You don’t have to hire a band or come up with the World’s Most Creative Playlist — but you do need something playing when guests arrive. Music provides a little background noise to make people comfortable during those awkward introduction stages, and it also helps set the tone for the entertainment to come.

6. Forgetting to check the thermostat.
A bunch of people all together in a little room = lots and lots of body heat. If you’re having a large gathering, you’ll probably want to do something — turn of the heater, open up windows, maybe even turn on the A/C for a little while — to cool down the room before people arrive, so you don’t wind up with a sweltering apartment two hours later when it’s too late to do anything about it.

7. Leaving your guests to introduce themselves.
Especially if you’ve invited friends who don’t know anyone else at the party, don’t just welcome them and put a cocktail in their hand and then leave them on their own. Make sure to introduce them to one or two other folks at the party so they’re not floating around on their own.

8. Trying to do everything on your own.
Hosting a party is more than a one-person job. No matter how much you prepare ahead of time, you’ll probably find yourself scrambling to get things ready at the last minute. If you enlist help — a spouse, a family member, a close friend — you’ll be able to spend the first few minutes of your party greeting your guests, and not running around in the kitchen while they awkwardly stand about. (And chances are your friends will be happy to help.)

9. Forgetting to relax and enjoy yourself.
Which party would you rather go to — an event with perfect decorations, food, and drink, with a stressed-out, frazzled host, or a less closeup-worthy event where the hostess is relaxed and having a good time with her guests? Your guests feel the same way. You’re the host, and your mood will set the tone for the rest of the party — so relax, have a drink, and let the little things work themselves out.


How to Protect Your Landscape from Wintry Weather

Be it freezing temperatures, snow or ice, wintry weather can damage, and even destroy, the landscaping on your property—no matter how resilient your plants seem.

“When inclement weather is in the forecast, most people focus on stocking up on food, rock salt and other necessities, and don’t necessarily think about protecting their property and landscape investments,” says Missy Henriksen, vice president of Public Affairs for the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP). “The truth is, plants and trees can be especially vulnerable during periods of extreme weather. A few simple steps can make a big difference when it comes to ensuring that your landscaping survives the winter and will thrive again in the spring.”

To protect your trees, shrubs and other plants, the NALP suggests:

Wrapping plants and smaller trees
Sub-freezing temperatures can damage many plant varieties, including roses, butterfly bushes, hydrangeas and crape myrtles. To provide plants with extra protection from the wind and cold, wrap them in burlap or a frost protection fabric and plant them along a building or fence that offers wind protection.

Inspecting newly planted trees and filling in any cracks
If you spot a crack, fill it with soil to prevent cold air from penetrating the root zone. Plant roots are slower to become dormant in the winter than stems, branches and buds, making them more vulnerable to sub-freezing temperatures.

Applying mulch around trees and shrubs
A two- to three-inch layer of mulch will help to insulate roots when the temperature drops. Contrary to popular belief, snow cover will also act as an insulator and keep soil temperatures higher, so there is no need to remove accumulated snow from around plants.

Watering heavily before the ground freezes
If the fall season was particularly dry, watering heavily can help reduce frost penetration. Because moist soil holds more heat than dry soil, watering ahead of cold weather will help to prevent frost from penetrating as deeply.

Pruning tree branches
Trimming back branches will help protect against heavy snow and ice damage. Work with a professional to identify any dead or dangerous tree limbs that should be trimmed to protect your home and property.

Preparing for windy conditions
Wind can be one of the most damaging effects of a winter storm. Secure any potted plants, outdoor furniture, awnings and other items on your property that could get damaged in high winds.

Protecting plants from salt
Rock salt used to deice sidewalks and roads can cause damage to plants. Avoid planting trees and shrubs in areas where salty runoff collects or where salt spray from passing cars could splash onto plants. Consider using burlap barriers to protect plants in vulnerable areas.

Planning your landscape with climate in mind
The best way to prevent damage to your landscape is to select plants and trees that are indigenous to your region, and therefore naturally equipped to survive in the climate. A landscape professional can help you to design a landscape for your home that will suit your lifestyle and withstand your region’s elements.


How to Make Your Home Smell Like Christmas in 2.5 Seconds

This quick stovetop recipe is a holiday game changer

How to Make Your Home Smell Like Christmas in 2.5 Seconds

Aromatherapy. It’s a thing…especially at Christmas. Because nothing puts you in the holiday spirit quite like a pot of Christmas scents bubbling and boiling in your happy home. Here, the definitive stove-top recipe–all you need is five ingredients and 30 seconds.

What you need: 3 cinnamon sticks, 1 orange (sliced), 2 teaspoons nutmeg, 2 teaspoons cloves, 1 cup cranberries, a sprig of rosemary (optional)

What you do: Fill a saucepan with 2 to 3 cups of water and toss in all the ingredients. Simmer on low (add water as needed to freshen).

Cue the nostalgia. It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas.

Read more: Best stovetop Christmas potpourri recipe | Home | PureWow National
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