Thursday, November 19, 2015


Step Seven - Preparing to Close

Now that you have accepted an offer on your home it's time to prepare for closing. Your agent will lead and guide you through each step, but it's important that you make yourself as available as possible. There will be time deadlines for each step and it's important to meet them if the sale of the house is to go through. 

The Inspection - Generally the first step is for the buyer to have the house inspected for any problems. Once they receive the results they can choose to 
  1. Ask you to repair the problems found by the inspector
  2. Choose to repair the problems themselves
  3. Walk away from the deal
Negotiations will open up again at this point. If you are asked to make repairs you can agree to all, some, or none of the requests. Choosing not to make any repairs could result in the buyer walking away from the deal and ignoring repairs marked as a safety concern can cause problems later. Your agent will go over the inspection report with you and help you come up with a decision that makes everyone happy. 
If you decide to make repairs on your home you must hire a bonded and certified professional, you cannot make them yourself. The buyer will expect to have receipts to prove the repairs were  made. 

The Appraisal - Once the terms of the inspection have been worked out the buyer's lender will have the home appraised to be sure it's worth the amount they'll be lending. If the appraiser finds any safety concerns that were not taken care after the inspection he can halt the proceedings until they're addressed. This is why taking care of safety issues brought up at inspection is so important. 
If the home is appraised for less than the agreed upon purchase price there are a few steps you can take.
  1. Your agent can fight the results by gathering info on similar homes in the area which sold for a higher amount, but this doesn't work very often.
  2. You can terminate the deal, but keep in mind this problem will most likely come up again with the next buyer.
  3. The buyer can agree to pay the excess balance in cash.
  4. You can agree to lower the price to the appraised value. 
 Your agent may have other ideas or suggestions for dealing with this problem so be sure to discuss alternative methods with them. 

These are the two major events that will happen before the closing date. Once they're worked out you won't have too much to do other than be available. It isn't uncommon for forms to be misplaced, or for random signatures to be needed, so it's important that your agent be able to reach you for anything they may need. Chasing someone down while trying to get a home sale to close isn't fun for anyone, and missing a deadline can result in the termination of the contract. 

Friday, November 6, 2015


Step Six - Negotiations

Now that you have received an offer it's time to negotiate your terms. The goal here is to create a win-win scenario for both you and the buyer, not to simply get everything you want. Your agent will work with you to ensure you get the best deal possible in the current market. 

Almost every part of a contract is negotiable, but the most commonly negotiated areas are:

  • Price - In a buyer's market you may not get as much as you'd like for your home, but in a seller's market you may find your home in the middle of a bidding war. 
  • Financing - There are many different ways a buyer can find the funding to purchase your home, but you don't have to accept all of them. Discuss with your agent which loan types you're comfortable with, and which ones you'd rather not deal with.
  • Closing Costs - It is very common for buyers to ask sellers to pay all or some of the closing costs. Your agent can guide you with this decision based on the current market. 
  • Appliances and Fixtures - Sometimes buyer's will want to keep certain things you planned on taking with you when you move. They can always ask but you don't have to say yes. 
  • Move-in Date - In general, the move-in date is the day of closing, but this can be negotiated if it doesn't work for you or the buyer. However, remaining in the home after closing could result in you paying rent to the new owner.
Your agent will write up a new offer with the changes you ask for and send it back to the buyer's agent. The buyer can then accept the changes, or make further changes that will be sent back to you. This can go on indefinitely until both parties agree, or one party rejects the offer outright. 

Once an agreement has been made and both parties have signed the offer becomes a legally binding contract. However, there may still be some negotiations to come in Step Seven.  

Friday, October 23, 2015


Step Five - Receiving an Offer

Written offers from potential buyers will not be received by you personally, instead they will be sent to your agent, who will then forward them to you. If your agent believes your home will be highly sought after they may set up a date and time for all offers to be reviewed. This allows all buyers an equal opportunity to get their bids in and reviewed. 

Your agent is required by law to show you every offer they receive, even if the offer is really low or if it comes in after you have accepted another offer. Only you can decide to accept or reject an offer, your agent does not have that power.

Once an offer, or offers, are received, your agent will sit with you and go over all the terms, which must include, but not be limited to, the following:

  1. Legal description of the property
  2. Offer price amount
  3. Down payment amount
  4. Financing arrangements
  5. Who will pay certain fees
  6. Deposit amount (not the same as a down payment)
  7. Inspection rights
  8. Method of transferring title
  9. Escrow agent who will handle closing
  10. Appliances that will stay in with the house
  11. Closing date
  12. Contingencies
Once the offer has been reviewed you have three options:

  1. Counter the offer - If there are parts of the contract you agree with, but parts you don't, you can discuss with your agents which changes you would like made and she will write up the counteroffer and send it back to the potential buyer. The buyer can then accept your offer, reject your offer, or counter your offer with a new one. Countering can go back and forth as many times as needed until an agreement is reached or one party walks away.
  2. Reject the offer - If you feel the offer is unfair or so low that there is no point in countering, or if you have better offers to choose from, you can reject the offer. However, you CAN NOT reject an offer based on the potential buyer's race, religion, sexual orientation, marriage or family status, disability, or any other form of discrimination. If the offer is at full price, and the buyer has proven he is financially capable of purchasing the home there is no reason to reject the offer (unless a better offer has been presented). Rejecting an offer based on a discrimination can lead to substantial fines and legal charges.
  3. Accept the offer - If you feel the offer is fair and no changes are necessary you can accept it as is. 
Once you sign an offer it becomes a legally binding contract, so it is very important that you understanding what you're signing. If you are uncertain or confused about any aspect of the contract be sure to ask your agent questions BEFORE signing. 

Back-up offers - If, after you sign an offer, a better offer comes in you can save it as a back-up offer if the potential buyer who sent the better offer agrees. If the original offer fails to close for any reason the back-up offer will automatically come into play. However, it the back-up offer buyer finds another home while the first contract is still active, they can terminate. 

Remember, all offers are not the same, and there are a myriad of different contingencies that can be added or removed. This post describes the most simple of contracts for Washington State. The rules for what must be in included may differ from state to state.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Step Four - Marketing

Now that your house is prepped and ready to sell your agent will design a marketing plan specifically for your home. A good marketing plan generally includes all or some of the following:

Internet Advertising - This includes listing your home on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) as well as on the agent's personal website or brokerage website. Once your home is listed on these sites it will automatically appear on popular home search sites such as Zillow and Trulia. Your agent may also make ads for Facebook, or post your listing on Linkedin groups. Internet advertising is the most important aspect of marketing.

Yard Signs - The "For Sale" sign in the yard is what generally comes to mind when people think of selling a home. Yard signs are important because they often bring interest from people who might not have even been thinking about buying. However, they can also bring in a lot of looky-loos and if you're selling a high priced luxury home your agent may choose not to hang a sign. This will prevent people who aren't serious or capable of buying your home from traipsing around the property. 

Agent to Agent Marketing - It's common for agents to mass email your listing to other agents who may have buyers interested in your home. This is a very cost effective and efficient way of bringing in potential buyers that For Sale By Owner sellers don't have access to. 

Direct Mail Campaigns - This type of marketing can be costly and hit or miss. Out of every 100 people to receive a mailer about your home, maybe 1 or 2 will be interested. 

Open House - A lot of sellers believe in order to sell their home the agent must hold it open. The truth is, only 1% of homes actually sell at an open house. A more efficient marketing strategy is to hold a broker's open. This is an open house in which only other agents are invited and they're usually served drinks and a light lunch. The agents will then tell their buyers about the home and bring in a lot more traffic than an open house for the public would generate. 

Media Advertising - Advertising in newspapers or magazines typically yields the lowest results, but can come with the highest cost, so most agents no longer utilize this method. 

Photography - I personally believe your agent should always bring in a professional photographer to shoot your home. I have specific photography packages that I offer for free based on the price the house is selling at. If the seller would like additional photos they are required to pay for them, usually at $10 a photo or whatever price is set by the photography company. Some agents feel that snapping a pic with their cell phone is sufficient, but when a buyer is deciding which homes they want to look at they will almost always choose the one with the professional photos. 

How many of these methods your agents uses will depend on the price range of your home. Remember, your agent has to pay for all marketing costs in the hopes they will make the money back once your home sells. If your house is selling for $250,000 your agent probably won't do a direct mailer or media advertisement simply because the price is too high for such minor results. 

If you think your agent should be using a certain method and they are not, ask them why, but remember they probably have a good reason for doing so. Ask to discuss their marketing plan in detail before they begin so you have a firm understanding of what they will be doing. Keep in mind your agent does not want to simply bring in a lot of people, they want to bring in the most qualified buyers. 

Finally, your home should be marketed to it's strengths. If you're selling a luxury home all printed materials should appear luxurious. You can also market your home to the decade it was built (such as my favorite, Mid Century Moderns) the location it's in (urban, city dwelling, country living) or any historical significance that may be attached to it. 

Your agent's main goal should be to make your home stand out from the rest and bring in the majority of traffic within the first 3 to 6 weeks your home is on the market.  

Monday, October 5, 2015


Step Three - Preparing Your Home

When trying to sell a house, first impressions mean everything. When you have lived in your home for a long time it's easy to get used to minor imperfections, such as doors that stick or a missing section of baseboard, but potential buyers will notice immediately. 

The condition of your house can and will affect how long it takes to sell, and how much buyers are willing to offer, so let's get it in showroom condition!
  1. Clear the Clutter. Begin by packing up and removing anything you don't need to use on a daily basis, such as knick-knacks, excess books and movies, piles of mail, and anything else that causes clutter. De-cluttering kitchen and bathroom counters is especially important. You want potential buyers to be able to move freely around your house without bumping into things and you want their focus to be on the house, not the stuff on your shelves!
    2.  Remove Personal Items. Removing items such as family photos and drawings your children              made will help buyers picture their own family living in your house. People often think keeping
         family photos up will give the house a homey feel, but it actually makes buyers feel as though            they are intruding in someone's home. Take them all down and give the buyers a clean slate to            work with.

    3.  Clear the Way. Remove or rearrange furniture to create open walk ways around your home.              Pull all furniture away from windows and walls and remove anything that makes a room feel              tight. This is also important for the garage, which is often used by sellers to store their things            before moving. Buyers love looking at the garage and it always excites them to see a clean,                open space just waiting for their car and new work bench.

    4.  Make Minor Repairs. This is the time to fix all those little things around the house you've                been meaning to get to for years. Leaking faucets, doors and windows that stick, and that                    cracked tile in the bathroom are all simple and affordable fixes. Changing light switch plate                covers so they all match, replacing light bulbs, and laying out a new welcome mat will make a            huge difference in how a buyer views your home. Major renovations, such as a new kitchen, are          usually unnecessary and won't raise the value of your home by much. Keep it simple and focus            on the small things.

    5.  Paint. A fresh coat of can make a world of difference in the land of first impressions. Choose            neutral tones that are easy on the eyes and keep it simple. Buyers can be finicky and as silly as            it sounds the wrong shade of blue on your walls can turn away a potential buyer.

    6.  Garden. The front yard is usually the first thing a buyer sees, so don't forget to work on that              curb appeal! Sweep the walkway and trim back any hedges or plants that may be growing over            it. Rid your doorway of spider webs and add a nice hanging basket of seasonal flowers. If you            can, plant some flowers, add some mulch, and above anything keep the lawn mowed! The same          can be done with the backyard to create a relaxing and inviting feel. 

Your home is now ready to sell! If you don't feel up to doing some of the things on this list you may want to consider hiring professionals, such as painters, gardeners, and home stagers. Spending a little money on prepping your home will help it sell faster and may even yield you a bigger profit in the end. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015


Step Two - Name Your Price

Pricing your home is not as simple as deciding how much you want for it and slapping on a price tag. The value of your home is determined by the follow:
  • the current market
  • the condition of your house
  • what similar homes are selling for in the area
The value of your home is NOT determined by the following:
  • what you originally paid for it
  • what your neighbor, friends, co-workers say it's worth
  • what you need or want it to be worth
  • what it would cost to rebuild it today
In order to determine what your home is worth your agent will perform a Comparative Market Analysis, or CMA. To do this the agent will find a list of similar homes in and around your neighborhood that are currently for sale or that have sold in the last few months. She will then compile the data to show you a low and high price range of homes selling in your area. A good CMA will also include photos of the comparative homes as a visual example of what low end and high end homes look like. This will give you a good idea of how your home compares in the current market and will help you determine a fair asking price. 

Just like your neighbors, friends and co-workers, your agent should not decide what your home is worth simply by looking at it. It is common for agents to make an educated guess based on the current market and the condition of your home, but it is in your best interest to ask that a CMA is performed.

If you want an extremely accurate price point you can have an appraisal done on your home. This is something you would arrange with a home appraisal professional and typically costs a few hundred dollars.

The Market

The housing market fluctuates like any other market, and like any other market, this fluctuation is caused by supply and demand. 

When very few homes are on the market the supply is low and the demand will be high. This is known as a Seller's Market because the demand for homes will cause the prices to rise, thus being more profitable to the sellers. This will lead to more homeowners deciding to sell in order to reap the benefits of rising values. 

As more people begin to sell the supply begins to go up until the market becomes saturated. Now the supply is high and the demand will lower, making it a Buyer's Market. During this phase of the market the buyers get to call the shots. Sellers will be offered much lower prices for their homes because the buyers know they have plenty more options if the sellers turn their offer down. 

Pricing Too High

Pricing your home too high is one of the biggest mistakes that can be made when selling a home. Unless your home is truly unique, no one will pay above market value if they can purchase a similar home down the street for a fair price. 

Studies show that homes priced 3% above market value take longer to sell. If your home sits on the market too long buyers will begin to think something is wrong with it, and they will avoid it. This generally leads to homeowners dropping the price of the home way below market value and receiving less of a profit than they would have had they priced it fairly. 

This may seem like it would only be a problem in a buyer's market, why be worried about pricing too high in a seller's market when prices are rising anyways? In a seller's market, buyers know they will be paying a pretty penny for their home, so they are always in search of a deal. Pricing your home fairly will bring a flock of buyers to your door and could even result in a bidding war. This will have a much more beneficial outcome for you than pricing so high buyers simply walk on by.

If you are unsure about the current market and whether or not you should wait to sell, many agents will perform free CMAs to give you an idea of what your home is currently worth. Once you have that information you can determine a fair price and move on to step 3, preparing your home!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Step One

Selling a home can be one of the most emotional things a person ever does. Homes are filled with memories of family and friends, memories that aren't easy to let go of. Unfortunately no one can make the process of selling a home less emotional, but an agent can help simplify the entire process and make the business side a lot less stressful. If you are considering selling your home these next 8 posts will give you all the info you need to get the ball rolling.

Define Your Goals and Needs

The first step to selling a home is understanding why you want to sell. Before you call an agent take a moment to answer the following questions.

Why do I want to sell? Do you have a growing family? Do you have a job opportunity in another city? Would you like to live closer to family? There are a myriad of reasons to sell your home, make sure your decision is based on the right one. 

What do I hope to accomplish with the sale? Is your main goal to make a profit, or do you need to sell within a certain time frame? Perhaps you have no emotional attachment to the property and you're just trying to rid yourself of a burden? While the ideal goal in any home sale is to sell quickly for the most money, it may not always be realistic. If you want to make a good profit but the current market is a buyer's market, you may need to wait awhile for the prices to go back up. However, if you have accepted a job in another city and need to sell fast, you may not be able to wait for as high an offer as you'd like. 

Are you being persuaded? Friends and family love to give advice, and they usually do so with the best of intentions. But if someone is convincing you to move when you really don't want to it's in your best interest to put a stop to it. If you think this may be happening to you, take a step back and assess the situation. Why do they want you to move, and are their reasons really what's best for you? Confronting the people closest to you can be difficult at times, but doing so will be better for everyone in the long run.

Take your time answering these questions and get the opinion of anyone else who may be involved in the sale. Once you have a good idea of why you want to sell and what goals you'd like to accomplish, it's time to contact your agent. Together you can map out a strategy to help you meet your home selling goals. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Door Knocking

A couple times a month another agent and I go door knocking in a few different neighborhoods we have selected. We like to leave the residents little goodies and information about ourselves, and we're always up for a friendly chat. We never know how many people will be home, or how many spider webs we'll walk through, but one thing is guaranteed, we're going to get a nasty email from a not-so-happy homeowner. 

I'm writing this blog post to answer some of the most common questions and comments we receive in these emails (I'll clean the language up a bit) and hopefully dispel the most common myth about door knocking; that we're trying to force you to sell your home. 

"I told you I don't want to sell my home, why do you keep coming back?"

A lot of people are under the impression that if an agent knocks on your door, they're going to try to force you to sell your home. Let me start by saying this; there are bad apples in every business, and if you have experienced a pushy agent on your door step I am truly sorry. However, this is not the goal of most agents who knock on your door. Our goal is simply this: We want you to know who we are. That's it! 
Real estate is a referral business, we need people to know our names in order to make a living. So you're not planning on moving, but maybe your co-worker is and they ask you if you know any good agents. If you say "Why yes! Two lovely ladies come to my door once a month, you should give them a call!" Then our door knocking goal has been met. If you don't refer us, that's OK too! We'll still come say hi once a month. 

"I don't want your flyers, stop delivering them to me!" Signed - Anonymous

Printing hundreds of flyers is pricey and we prefer to leave them with people who enjoy them or find the information useful. If you aren't that person then we will happily stop delivering them to you, but first we have to know who you are! Most agents don't enjoy making people upset, and we really don't like being called nasty names in emails, but if we don't know who you are you will continue to receive our flyers. Simply stating that you have no need for our flyers and leaving your address is all it takes to remove yourself from our list. 

"Why are you littering my doorstep? Put it in the mailbox!"

A lot of people don't know it, but it is illegal for anyone other than a postal worker to put anything in your mailbox. By leaving our info in your mailbox we risk charges and fines from the government, and no one wants that. We do, however, make a conscious effort to secure our flyers, usually by placing them under a welcome mat, so they don't blow into your yard. If you enjoy receiving the flyers but would prefer they be left somewhere specific simply send an email or give the agent a call with your request, we would be more than happy to oblige. 

"Why do you want to talk to me? Just leave your info and go."

Once upon a time, in the not so distant past, people had conversations and they made the world a better place. When we choose neighborhoods, we choose ones we love and we assume that since you live in these neighborhoods that you love them too, so we already have something in common. We enjoy talking with homeowners about why they love the area they're in, how long they've been there, what's changed, or anything else they'd like to share. If you don't love your neighborhood we'd like to hear about that too, please share your concerns with us! Taking a few minutes out of your day to connect with another person, without the aid of an electronic device, helps to relieve stress and anxiety, and we can all do with a little less stress in our lives. 
If you don't agree, or if talking to strangers raises your stress level, please let us know and we'll leave you be!

"This isn't my house, I'm just renting."

As I stated above, we aren't trying to make you move, and you could still be a referral source for us, but we can also be an asset to you. Real estate agents network with many different people in many different business, which makes us great resources for anything you might need. Aside from knowing all the best contractors, roofers, plumbers, gardeners and electricians, we also know the best restaurants, mechanics, florists, coffee shops, doggy daycares, and just about anything else you may need. If you're new to the area, or even if you've lived in the same place for years, feel free to hit us up for some free info! 

At the end of the day, all we really want is to get to know you and your community, we don't want to upset you! Door knocking is simply part of our job and to be honest, it makes a lot of us quite nervous. So the next time you see your neighborhood real estate agent I hope you wave and say hello, it will make their day!

Still have questions or concerns about door knocking? Feel free to leave them in the comments below!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


Step 8

Protect Your Investment

Now that you have your home and you're all moved in, you need to take some final steps to protect your investment. Throughout the home buying process you have probably gotten to know your agent quite well, and hopefully you've been able to build a relationship of trust. That doesn't have to go away just because the deal has closed, your agent wants you to stay in touch! 

After you buy your home your agent can still help you in the following ways:

1. Handle your first tax return as a new homeowner. Filing taxes as a home owner can be quite different than you may be used to, and you may have tax breaks coming to you. It's also important to keep track of your property taxes and your agent can help you with that. 

2. Keep track of your home's current market value. The value of your home will rise and fall with the market and it's good to keep track. If at some point you choose to sell your home you will want to do so when the value is at a high point.

3. Help your friends find or sell homes. Sometimes finding an agent you like can be difficult, but once you do why not let your friends know? It will save them a lot of time doing an agent search and you can feel confident your agent will treat your friends as well as she treated you. 

4. Find contractors to help with home maintenance or remodeling. Keeping up with your home maintenance is essential to protecting the long-term value of your investment. 

There are two things you should be doing to maintain your home:

1. Keep it clean. We're not talking about sweeping and mopping here, although that's important too! It's really important to do regular maintenance and cleaning of your home's systems, such as heating and cooling units, fireplace chimneys, septic tanks, crawl spaces, and attic spaces. 

2. Keep an eye on it. Be sure to do regular walk around inspections of your home and look for any leaks, cracks, damage, and basic wear and tear. 

Allowing any part of your home to fall into disrepair can lead to hefty repair bills. Often times homeowners fail to pay attention to maintenance problems with their home until they choose to sell it, then they find themselves faced with a large inspection report brought forth by potential buyers. Keeping on top of issues as they arrive can save you a lot of hassle, and money, in the future.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


Step 7


This is the final step of the home buying process and your agent will take care of most of it for you. The stages of this process include:

Appraisal - Your lender will send out an appraiser to assure the home is worth what you're paying for it, or at least what you're asking to borrow for it.

Title search - A title search will be performed to assure the seller has a right to sell the home and that no one else claims to own the property. 

Final credit and finance check - Your credit and financing will be looked at one final time to assure everything is in order. It is important you don't make any major purchases (car, new furniture) during the home buying process. 

Your agent will keep you notified of each step and how the process is advancing. Even though most of this stage is in your agent's hands, you will have a small list of pre-closing responsibilities you should be on top of. 

1. Stay in control of your finances. As I mentioned above, this is not the time for any major purchases, it could result in you losing the home of your dreams. 

2. Return all phone calls and paperwork promptly. There are time deadlines during this stage that everyone is trying to meet, don't be the one who keeps the party waiting! 

3. Communicate with your agent at least once a week. Send them a text, email. or give them a call to find out how things are going and if you need to do anything. 

4. Confirm with your agent your documents are in order. This should be done several days before closing. Sometimes documents can be misplaced in the mountains of paperwork and emails, so it's best to double check. 

5. Do a final walk-through - A few days before closing you and your agent should do one last walk-through of the property to ensure it's in the same shape it was when you agreed to purchase it, and that all appliances included in the deal have remained. 

On closing day you will be guided through the process of signing by a closing agent and your own agent. The documents you sign will:

1. Finalize your mortgage.

2. Pay the seller.

3. Pay your closing costs.

4. Transfer the title from the seller to you.

5. Make arrangements to legally record the transaction as a public record.

With these clear expectations, and if you follow directions given to you by your agent, closing should be the exciting end to your home-buying journey! 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Step 6

Perform Due Diligence

Unlike other purchases we make, a house can't be returned if you're unhappy with it, which is why property inspections and home owner's insurance are so important. 

The property inspection is completed before you sign the closing papers and will expose any and all problems the home may have. Here are a few things you should keep in mind about inspections:

1. Structural damage. This should always be your main concern as structural damage is often very expensive to fix, if it's fixable at all. If the cost of repairs will be more than 3% of the home cost you should seriously consider whether or not it would be in your best interest to go through or walk away. Any damage that is not fixed can seriously affect the resale value of the home.

2. Minor repairs. Every home will have minor issues and it's best to over look them. Leaky faucets, nail holes in walls, missing light switch covers, all of these things can be repaired easily for very little money. Don't let these minor inconveniences distract you from any big issues that may be present. 

3. Big problems. If your inspector finds a big problem it's best to bring in a specialist. A specialist will take a deeper look at the problem and let you know just how bad it is. Don't be afraid to walk away from the purchase if you feel the problem is more than you feel comfortable dealing with. 

Once inspection is complete and you're satisfied and ready to move on, the next step will be to purchase homeowner's insurance. Insurance will protect you in the following ways:

1. Loss or damage of the property. Although unpleasant to think about, unfortunate things can and do happen. Fires, earthquakes, floods, these are all potential disaster that can happen and you should be sure to get insurance that covers all possibilities. 

2. Liability for injuries. The insurance will also cover any injuries that may occur to people while on your property.

Remember, your home will be one of the biggest investments you will ever make and protecting that investment should be top priority. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Summer is finally in full swing! Garden parties, barbecues, and cook outs are surely taking up some space in your schedule, so what better time than now to give your yard a mid-century makeover? Grab some gardening gloves and let's make your yard the talk of the town!

Getting Started

First thing's first, how do you want your outdoor space to be utilized? Will it be your own private oasis, or a gathering spot for all your friends? Are you going for a woodsy look with a lot of trees and foliage, or do you prefer a wide open space spotted with colorful garden beds? Unlike furniture in a room, plants can't be moved around on a whim once they're in the ground, so have a game plan and know what you want before you begin. 

When choosing plants be sure to do a little research first and make sure they can survive in the climate where you live. Just because a local nursery sells a particular plant does not mean it will thrive in your yard (I found that out the hard way).

There isn't too much difference between the gardens of the 50s and our gardens today, and there really aren't any rules to follow in order to obtain your perfect mid-century yard. Below are some examples of what outdoor living looked like in the 50s, I hope they inspire you to get outside and make the most of your outdoor space. 

Front Yards

It's common practice today for people to erect 6 foot fences around their entire properties, blocking the yard from their neighbors view, but this form of privacy was not popular in the 50s and definitely wouldn't be considered very neighborly. Wide open front yards with inviting pathways, and maybe a white picket fence for decoration, was much more common. 

Flowers, especially roses, were planted around perimeters of the home, creating accent points. 

Depending on the size of the home, and of the yard, garden beds could be small and modest, or large and flowing, Small beds were often planted close to the front door to enhance the entrance and make it more inviting 

In larger yards the gardens might spread out away from the home along fences or walkways, inviting people to enter from the sidewalk.

These homes have utilized the natural slopes and hills of their lots to create cascading gardens, and to give the yard a bit of privacy while still keeping it open and friendly. 

This type of gardening may seem like a lot of work, but adding this type of curb appealing can add quite a bit of value to your home! Look carefully at the space you have and maybe make a few sketches to help you decide how best to accent the natural appeal. Then head to the nursery and start getting dirty!

Back Yards

In my opinion, this is where outdoor renovations get fun. The backyard is often much more secluded and it offers much more opportunity to really make the space yours. Here a few ideas people of the 50s had for their spaces.

All the color!! Give your patio a makeover by painting it in fabulous mid-century pastels. And why not add a sporty yellow convertible in the driveway, just for fun?

This is a great example of a Pacific Northwest yard. This family opted for concrete slabs over grass, which can be a great idea if you hate mowing the lawn, or if the pine trees on your property prevent grass from growing.

 A very simple outdoor space for anyone who doesn't do a lot of outdoor entertaining, but would like the option to once in awhile.

Another simple outdoor space, with a lovely concrete and stone table! The barn-style split door is a nice addition to this home.

If you'd like the space to be all yours, consider installing a koi pond. The staggering stone slabs give this pond a lovely modern look.

Building your very own brick barbecue was very popular in the 50s and could be a fun summer project. If Lucy and Ethel can do it, anyone can!

This yard is my favorite and comes from an article titled "How to build a guest house and yard for $2000!" Wouldn't that be nice? This little area features a brick "rug", plenty of seating, and the strategically placed shrubs gives it a lot of privacy. Three of the concrete slabs have been replaced with aluminum pans to create reflecting ponds, which is something I hope to do in the future! 

I hope these photos have given you some inspiration for your own yards! Happy gardening! 

Monday, July 6, 2015


Step 5

Make an Offer

You've spent the past month viewing many marvelous homes, and you've finally found the one for you. It's time to make an offer! As fun as the viewing process was, it's time to get serious now and put your business cap on. There are three basic components to to an offer; Price, terms, and contingencies.

1. Price

The price you offer for the home does not have to be what the seller is asking for, but it should reflect the market value of the home. Your agent will do market research and guide you in this process, but the price you offer is your decision alone. 

2. Terms

There are six basic categories that terms fall under;

1) Schedule - This is a schedule of events that happens, and that both buyer and seller must abide by, before closing date.

2) Conveyance - A list of items that will stay in the house when the sellers leave.

3) Closing costs - Generally buyer's will pay their own closing costs, but if you would like the sellers to cover these costs, or if you want them included in the sale price, you will need to write it into the contract.

4) Commission - The commission fee for both your agent and the seller's agent must be written into the contract. It is standard for the seller to pay the commission fees, not the buyer.

5) Home warranty - This covers repairs or replacements for major appliances and systems. You may ask the seller to pay for this. 

6) Earnest money - This protects the seller in the event you back out of the offer. It also shows how serious, or earnest, you are about the purchase.

3. Contingencies

Once your offer is agreed to and signed by the sellers it becomes a binding contract known as a Purchase and Sale Agreement. However, there are still ways for a buyer to back out of a deal without losing their earnest money. By adding contingencies to your offer, you are protecting yourself against unfavorable circumstances that may arise and which would cause you to change your mind about purchasing the home. There are many, many contingencies that may be added to an offer, but I will go over the most common.

1) Inspection contingency -  The buyer is given 10 days to perform an inspection on the house with a licensed inspection company. Once the results are received the buyer will have 3 days to either:
  • Accept the report and continue with the home purchase,
  • Ask for repairs to be made at the seller's expense and continue with the home purchase, or
  • Reject the report and back out of the home purchase. 
The buyer can back out of the purchase in this 3 day time period for ANY REASON. There does not have to be anything wrong with the home in the report, and the buyer does not have to give a reason for backing out. However, once the buyer has agreed to the report as is, or agreed to repairs being made at the seller's expense, the contingency is removed and the buyer can no longer back out of the deal. 

2) Financial contingency - This makes the offer contingent on the buyer's financing coming through. If for any reason financing is denied, the buyer may walk away from the deal.

3) Title contingency - This makes the sale of the home contingent on the house having a clean title. A title search will be done and if there are any liens (money owed) or if the seller does not have the right to sell the home, the buyer can once again walk away from the deal.

As I mentioned before, there are many different contingencies which can be added, but adding too many can hurt your chances of a seller accepting your offer. Too many contingencies may make the seller feel you are not serious about the home purchase, because you are giving yourself too many ways out. Discuss with your agent which contingencies you should use to give your offer the best chances of being accepted, while still keeping you, the buyer, protected. 

The Process

You may be thinking "I have no idea how to write a contract like this!" Well don't worry, you don't have to. In fact, unless you're a lawyer, you aren't allowed to. Your agent will use a legal contract pre-drafted by a lawyer and simply fill in the correct information on the spaces provided. Your agent should explain each and every section of the contract with you, and if at any point you do not understand you should speak up and ask that it be explained again. 

Once the offer is complete it will be sent to the seller's agent, who will in turn present it to the seller for consideration. Legally all offers MUST be presented to the seller, their agent can not choose to ignore your offer. There will be a time limit in which the seller must reply to the offer, usually 3 days. If the buyer changes their mind within that time period and BEFORE a response from the seller is received, the buyer can retract the offer. 

The seller will likely respond to the offer in one of three ways;

1. They can accept your offer as is and sign it, making it a binding purchase and sale agreement.

2. They can make changes to the offer, such as a different price or removal of contingency, and send it back to the buyer. The buyer can then either agree to the new terms and sign it, making it a binding purchase and sale agreement, or they can make changes themselves and send it back to the sellers. The offer can go back and forth indefinitely until both parties agree on the terms, or a party chooses to walk away.

3) They can do nothing. If the seller does not wish to accept the offer, or make a counter offer, they can simply do nothing and the offer will expire. They do not need to contact the buyer. 

The last thing I would like to touch on are personal notes. I have many buyers who ask me if they can include a personal note to the seller explaining who they are and why they would be the best choice for the home. Notes can always be included, but whether or not they help the offer will depend on the situation. Here are some scenarios in which a note may help an offer:
  • The home in question will be getting multiple offers and the buyer would like to stand out from the rest.
  • The home has been owned by one family for many decades.
  • The buyer is making a fairly low offer on the home.
Agents have differing opinions on this matter, some believe notes always help, some believe they never help, and some believe it depends on the situation. Ask your agent for their advice, but remember they can't deny you if you strongly wish to include a note. One more thing you should know regarding notes is that the seller's agent is NOT required to present the note to the seller with the offer UNLESS the inclusion of the note is part of the offer. 

Good Luck! 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


Step 4

Finding Your Home

So you've made the decision to purchase a home, you've hired your agent and secured financing, now it's time for the fun part, finding your home! Before you jump in the car you need to sit down with your agent and assess your wants and needs in a home. Viewing homes is a lot of fun, but without an idea of what you're looking for, the home search can go on for weeks or months, not much fun!

Before getting together with your agent, prepare by asking yourself the following questions:

1. What do I want my home near? Do you want a short commute to work? An easy walk to school for your kids? Perhaps you'd like a grocery store or your favorite coffee shop within close vicinity? Or maybe you'd prefer a more secluded home far away from everything? 

2. How much space do I need and why? It isn't unusual to want a large home, but how large do you really need your home to be? Are you planning a large family, or will you live alone? Do you often have overnight guests? Do you fancy cleaning large spaces? Consider seriously how much space you need in order to be happy.

3. Which is more important, location or size? Consider your answers to the previous questions, if you can only have one, which would your prefer? Which is more important? How would your life be affected if you were to get a large house with a long commute, or a smaller house with a short commute?

4. Would I be interested in a fixer upper? A fixer upper home may seem like a cheaper option, but repair costs could be through the roof. Do you enjoy home repairs? Do you have the skills to do them yourself, or will you hire a contractor? A fixer upper home can be a fantastic chance to make your new home your own, but consider funds and time carefully. 

5. How important is home value appreciation? A home is an investment, so appreciation is always important, but how important is it to you really? Will you live in your home for 20 years, allowing it to appreciate gradually? Or are you planning on selling in a few years with high appreciation?

6. Would I be interested in a condo? Some people enjoy the privacy and responsibility of a single family home. Others prefer to pay a fee and have problems taken care of for them. What would you prefer?

7. Would I be interested in new home construction? If you prefer move-in ready homes, this could be a good option for you, however there are older homes which are also move-in ready. Consider the type of architecture and design you find appealing and how much work you are willing to put into your new home to help you with this decision.

8. What features do I want in a home, and which do I really need? There are a lot of features you may want in a home, but they may not be what you need. Make a list of both your wants and needs and consider which are most important. 

Once you have a good idea of the home you're looking for, set up a meeting with your real estate agent and discuss your thoughts with them. Present them with your top 5 needs in a home and explain the importance of each. Your agent will do their best to find you a home that matches your needs, but finding a home with all 5 qualities is rare. Finding a home with 3 or 4 of the items on your list is much more likely, so be sure to rate the importance of each.

Buyers are often concerned their agent will show them homes they aren't interested in, or with qualities they don't like, and they might. This isn't necessarily because your agent wasn't listening to you, they simply feel the aspects of the house you could like will outweigh the aspects of the house you won't like. Most agents want their clients to be aware of all their options. 

If your agent only shows you homes you don't like, or if you feel they don't understand what it is you're looking for, ask to sit down with them and go over your list again. If after a second explanation your agent is still showing you the wrong homes consider finding a new agent to work with. You won't need to repeat any of the previous steps and you can often start working with a new agent the very next day. Of course this is something that doesn't happen often, and most people are very happy with their agents. 

Happy searching!

Sunday, June 21, 2015


Summer is officially here! My husband and I spend a lot of time outdoors in the summer, gardening, hiking, picnicking, and we like food that's easy to grab without a lot of mess. Enter the mini pie! These desserts are easy to pack for trips and they look great set out for guests during backyard barbecues. There's no mess of cutting and serving a full pie, and you can make a variety of fillings to satisfy everyone. 

Today I'm making a simple blueberry filling, but you can make any filling you choose, be creative!


Filling                                                                                    Pie Crust

4 cups blueberries                                                                    2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar                                                                           2/3 cup vegetable shortening
5 Tbsp flour                                                                             1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp lemon juice                                                                    4 Tbsp cold water

If you choose to salted margarine or butter in place of the shortening like I did, be sure to leave out the 1 tsp of salt from the crust. 


Begin by making the filling. If you're using fresh berries, begin by washing them thoroughly and removing all stems. If you're using frozen make sure to thaw them out and drain excess liquid. Add the lemon juice and stir.

In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar, flour. Add to the berries and mix gently until all the berries are coated. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425°

In a large bowl mix together the salt and flour. Add the shortening in chunks like so:

Mix together with your fingers until no large chunks remain and you get a sand-like texture.

Add the water and work into a dough with your hands. You may be tempted to add more water just keep kneading until a dough forms. Adding too much water will making your dough soggy and sticky. 

The original recipe suggests you use individual tart pans, so if you have them use them! If you don't, like me, simply use a muffin tin. Since there's so much shortening in the dough you shouldn't have to grease your pan, but I do it anyway just to be safe.

Roll out your dough on an UN-FLOURED surface to about 1/8" thick. Adding flour to your dough will make it tough and less flaky. Roll your dough gently and quickly, try not to push down too hard with your rolling pin. 

Cut out 12 circles with a 4" cookie cutter. 

Place your circles of dough gently into your muffin pan and fill each with about 1.5 Tbs of the berry filling. 

With your remaining dough you can cover each pie as you'd like. This recipe doesn't give enough dough to completely cover each pie, so I just cut out shapes with my tiniest cookie cutters. Today I've included a Zelda triforce and a Pac Man ghost for my husband who loves retro video games. 

Bake for 25 - 35 minutes, or until they're golden brown. Allow them to cool before removing.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015


Step 3

Secure Financing

Many first time home buyers find the financing step to be confusing, complex, and a little intimidating. In fact, it's the main reason people back out of home ownership, but it doesn't have to be scary! Here is a simple six-step plan to financing that anyone can follow.

1. Choose a loan officer or mortgage specialist. You may be thinking that is easier said than done, how do you simply choose a loan officer? Don't worry. Simply ask your real estate agent, they will have at least a couple of mortgage specialists they know well. If you don't have an agent you can consult your financial institution as well. Ask the loan officer about programs for first time home buyers, they should be able to explain all your options, including the different types of loans available to you. 

2. Get pre-approved. This is simply a matter of giving your loan officer any information and documents they ask for and filling out some paperwork. The loan officer will determine the amount of the loan you can get based on your income, debts, and assets. 

3. Determine what you want to pay and select a loan option. You don't need to spend the max amount of money you have been approved for. Consult the loan officer about what your monthly payments will be and decide a price range that's right for you. This is also when you'll decide which type of loan you'll be going with, such as FHA, Conventional, VA, etc (your loan officer will explain each of them to you in detail).

4. Submit to the lender an accepted purchase contract. To put it a simpler way, find a house you would like to purchase, your agent will write up a contract between you and the seller, and that contract will be sent to the lender. 

5. Get an appraisal and title commitment. Now that your lender knows what the agreed upon purchase price is, they will apply for you to get a loan in that amount. To do this they will make sure the title of the home is clear of liens (no debts attached to it) and they will send an appraiser to the home to make sure it's worth the amount you've agreed to pay for it. 

6. Obtain funding at closing. At the end of the home buying process your loan funds will be released to the sellers as payment for the home purchase. 

That is your entire financing process from beginning to end. If it still seems sort of complex just keep in mind most of these steps will be handled by your real estate agent and your loan officer. While going through the steps you won't be expected to do anything without an explanation of exactly what is needed from you. Remember, first time home buyers purchase new homes everyday, if they can do it so can you!