If you are thinking about selling your home, one of the top things to think about is staging it. When you have your home staged and decluttered, it gives the potential buyer the opportunity to visualize themselves and their furniture in their future home. This video shows the difference staging does make in the before staging and after staging shots.
You have decluttered, cleaned and done little touch-ups here and there. Now, how do your keep your home looking show ready.
Here is a great post from Realtor.com that hits on a few quick cleaning hacks to help you be prepared for that unexpected showing.
When you’re selling your home, you must be ready for people to pop in at a moment’s notice. And no, it’s not like when your neighbor drops by to ask you to water her plants while she’s on vacation, and leaves in five minutes without noticing how many dishes are stacked in your sink or the layer of dust on your coffee table.
Nope, these people will scrutinize. And they will judge. But you’re still living in your home—how do you keep it clean enough to make a good impression, no matter the time or day?
It turns out you don’t have to hire a live-in housekeeper, and your life doesn’t need to come to a screeching halt just because you’re showing your house. Try these hacks to get the job done quickly and easily, so you can free up your time—and save your sanity.
1. Work the room
Half of my cleaning problems come from not knowing where to start. I walk into a room, picture myself trying to clean all the things at once, get overwhelmed, and suddenly feel the urge to sit down for a while. Apparently I’m doing it wrong (no big surprise there).
But if you know how to work the room, cleaning will go much faster.
“Then focus on the top eye-catcher places and things like floors, ovens, and bathroom [fixtures],” she says.
While your instinct might be to clean everything, you might also go crazy trying to pull it off before every showing. Instead, zero in on what the potential buyer is likely to notice, Haynes recommends—cleaning it every day or two, and then doing a deeper clean once a week.
2. Use mobile storage
As soon as you know you’re going to show your house, pack up everything you don’t normally use.
“Remove all the nonfunctional stuff or things which don’t contribute to the overall look of the property,” Haynes says. It’ll feel weird to live like that at first, but the more stuff you have, the more stuff you have to clean.
Once you’re down to the stuff you actually need, find a way to quickly and easily hide it when it’s time to show the house.
“When we had a viewing on short notice, we used plastic and cardboard boxes where we stored our belongings,” says Harriet Jones, supervisor for Go Cleaners London. “Pick a box with a different color for each room so you can find and return those items to the respective rooms easier. You can place the boxes in the garage during the viewing.”
3. Fake the good habits
Sure, it might take a lifetime to actually develop good habits, but you can always fake it until you sell your house.
By taking small steps throughout the day, you’ll save yourself a ton of time and keep the house clean around the clock. In the living room, pick up as you go (or at least as soon as your kids leave the room). In the bathroom, make it a habit to keep your toiletries under the sink and not on the counter. In the kitchen, unload the dishwasher as soon as the drying cycle is done so you can start loading again right away.
Granted, it probably won’t go perfectly smoothly (especially if you have kids), but every little bit helps.
4. Give the illusion of clean
Running short on time? You can easily make a room look clean without actually having to clean everything—as long as you focus on the stuff people notice the most.
Focus most of your effort on two rooms: the kitchen and the bathroom, Jones recommends.
“Countertops should be free and clear of clutter, and clean,” she says. “Same applies to your refrigerator’s door and your floor. Make sure your shower and tub are clean and neat. Tiles and floor should be sparkling.”
If you have time, give rooms an extra boost by wiping down the fixtures and faucets, running a dry mop over the floors, and dusting the window treatments. Fold white towels neatly on the towel rack in the bathroom for a classic look.
5. Add flair
Don’t forget those little touches that make your house look clean and presentable. Throughout the home, create inviting sitting areas and intimate spaces. In the bedroom, make sure the bed is made evenly every day—lumps and wrinkles in the comforter can make the whole room look messy. Put out a bottle of wine and a couple of wineglasses in the master bedroom or living room. And in the kitchen, add a bowl of fruit or a vase of flowers to the countertops to give a touch of color and freshness.
You don’t want to do too much—or you’ll be heading back into clutter territory—but a few little touches here and there can create a scene charming enough that no one will notice the spots you forgot to clean.
Source: Angela Colley – https://www.realtor.com/advice/sell/cleaning-hacks-show-ready-selling/
Have you thought about the possible legal considerations regarding the listings you may have that have audio or video devices? Here is a great article written by Wes Bearden that touches on those issues.
Selling a home can be frustrating to homeowners. They’re asked to allow strangers into their home. They may never receive feedback and are left to wonder, “Why didn’t that last buyer bite?” What do anxious sellers do? They get an extra set of ears. Many homeowners have installed security cameras and smart-home devices. These installations can be an ultra high-tech security system or a simple baby monitor, and they all can be abused. A number of notable cases have emerged where sellers listened to a potential buyer’s showing. Sometimes it’s to gain advantage in negotiations, while other times it’s simply to better stage the property. So, can a seller covertly record or monitor a buyer’s showing?
The rules in Texas
Both the Federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and Section 16.02 of the Texas Penal Code prohibit audio recordings without the consent of at least one individual who is part of the conversation. The Texas rule, commonly referred to as the one-party rule, requires at least one party to consent to recording conversations. What that rule allows is any individual to covertly-and legally-record his own conversations with a broker, neighbor, or other party. Whenever you speak, it’s best to follow the old saying: Say what you mean and mean what you say. The other person in the conversation may be recording everyone.
If a seller is not present and participating in the showing, he cannot record audio … even if the conversation happens inside the seller’s home.
Why a seller cannot record audio of a showing
Texas law does not allow audio recording or audio monitoring of conversations that you are not a part of. If the seller is not present and participating in the showing, he cannot record it. Even though the conversation happens inside a seller’s home, he is prohibited from recording any conversations that he is not a part of.
But what about video?
Many homes today have security cameras installed that record video. Some have audio recording, similar to a baby monitor, and some without. The ECPA docs not prohibit video recording. In fact, silent video-like from security cameras-is generally allowed as long as it isn’t in an area where an individual would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. For instance, silent bathroom video recording is not allowed. But silent video recording of the foyer, kid’s playroom, exterior of a home, and a garage arc likely permitted.
Is your listing breaking the law?
Most professional alarm and security cam-era installers are familiar with the law. Normally, they install video cameras with-out audio and arc leery to place inside cam-eras in any location other than a foyer. However, when your seller is a do-it-yourselfer, you may want to ask questions. Have sellers tell you what the system will record. If audio is recorded, the seller may have a problem. If it is silent video, have sellers show you where the cameras are located. Make sure they aren’t video recording in a private area, such as a bathroom. Courts have traditionally upheld individual privacy rights over the property rights in a residential home. Consider limiting the use of cameras to the exterior of the residence. Violating state and federal recording laws can involve criminal penalties.
ln addition, Texas, like many states, recognizes several types of common law invasion of privacy claims. At its essence, invasion of privacy protects a person against unreasonable intrusion upon his seclusion, solitude, or private affairs. Even though recording may be in the seller’s house, courts have found that a visiting party can have a valid claim when the homeowner overreaches.
Illegal recording is a felony offense in Texas, and anyone who has been recorded in violation of the law can bring a civil suit to recover $10,000 for each occurrence, actual damages in excess of$10,000, punitive damages, attorney’s fees, and court costs.
Help your sellers avoid criminal or civil liability by encouraging them to concentrate on feedback given with consent and leave the mics and hidden cameras out.
Help your buyers be smart about surveillance
- Don’t discuss confidential negotiations within a home.
- Be careful about over-enthusiasm of particular features in a residence.
- Realize that most video recordings are legal. You and your client’s body language and gestures sometimes tell more that you think.
- If talking on the telephone, make sure that the owner’s neighbors can’t overhear your conversations. Neighbors are often nosier than the owner.
- If you are really worried that someone is playing unfair, turn on a faucet. The audio tones from the running water create white noise that masks voice tones and makes it difficult for micro-phones to do their job.
Don’t be too paranoid. Be security smart, but don’t let it ruin your real purpose to be at the house.
The information contained herein first appeared in the November 2017 edition of Texas REALTOR® Magazine and is being reprinted with the permission of Texas REALTOR® magazine and the author, Wes Bearden.
Please click here for a printable version of this great resource.
Here is a great post from Texas A&M Real Estate Center regarding home sales.
Texas housing sales reached record highs as lower mortgage rates and the healthy labor market spurred demand across the price spectrum. Increased activity is quickly eating away the marginal inventory expansion that occurred last year. Housing starts continued to fall short, but momentum is building in the residential supply pipeline as loan values and permit issuance increased. Pricing pressures picked up but held well below peak growth levels. Waning affordability and the shortage of homes priced below $300,000 remained the biggest challenges facing the housing market. Texas’ robust economy and population growth, however, support a favorable outlook.
The Texas Residential Construction Cycle (Coincident) Index, which measures current construction activity, inched downward as construction values trended downward. The Residential Construction Leading Index, however, ticked up for the fourth consecutive month amid falling interest rates and increases in construction permits. The extended economic expansion in Texas and across the nation bodes well for the housing market.
First-quarter private bank loan data indicated a rebound in residential construction investment after a sluggish 2018. Loan values for one-to-four-unit properties jumped 4.4 percent quarter over quarter (QOQ), and multifamily loans increased 1.7 percent after three consecutive quarterly declines. Single-family construction permits followed loan values upward, rising 9.1 percent year to date (YTD). Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) remained the national leaders, issuing 3,346 and 3,068 monthly permits, respectively. Austin ranked fifth nationally with 1,790 permits, posting its fifth consecutive monthly increase. In San Antonio, permits stabilized around 705 after significant first-quarter volatility.
Total Texas housing starts flattened around a four-year trend despite increased population and a growing economy. Starts in the single-family sector trended upward, particularly with development in Central Texas. In contrast, single-family private construction values fell across the state. While luxury-home construction has stalled over the past year, the new-home price distribution does not explain the persistent decline in construction values. That said, Texas’ single-family construction value-per-start ratio hovered around its lowest level since the Great Recession.
Flat housing starts held Texas’ months of inventory (MOI) below four months. Last year’s stretch of slow and steady inventory growth has stalled amid rebounding demand. A total MOI around six months is considered a balanced housing market. The MOI for homes priced below $300,000 retracted after marginal relief in 2018. The supply of active listings dropped below 2.9 months for homes priced less than $200,000 and approached 3.2 months in the $200,000-$300,000 range. A slowdown in the rate of Multiple Listing Service (MLS) listings hitting the market weighed on inventories at the lower end of the market.
The MOI reversed downward in all of the major metros. Austin’s MOI dropped to a YTD low below 2.5 months. Fort Worth followed closely behind at 2.6 MOI. Houston and San Antonio posted their first MOI decline of the year, dropping to 4.0 and 3.6 months, respectively. Dallas was the exception, where inventories inched above 3.4 months, nearly a month higher than in April 2018.
Texas surpassed a record-high 30,000 total housing sales in April as lower mortgage rates provided some relief to waning affordability. Sales increased across the price spectrum, but a third of the growth occurred in the $200,000-$300,000 price cohort. The luxury market, consisting of homes priced more than $500,000, accounted for a quarter of the growth with more than 2,800 single-family units sold.
Housing sales reached record highs and double-digit YTD growth in all of the major metros. The existing-home market, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of sales activity, generated the positive momentum. Dallas and Austin led the way with 10.3 and 9.0 percent total sales growth, respectively. Houston sales jumped 7.1 percent, while Fort Worth and San Antonio posted monthly growth above 3 percent.
Robust demand pulled Texas’ average days on market (DOM) down to 60 days, but market movements were mixed across the major metros. The Austin DOM sank below 55 days, while Dallas’ metric trended up to that level for the first time since 2013. Houston’s DOM dipped below 59 days, and San Antonio hovered around the statewide average. In Fort Worth the DOM plateaued in December and has since hovered around 43 days.
Continued concerns of global economic growth and trade uncertainty pulled interest rates down for the sixth consecutive month. The ten-year U.S. Treasury bond yield fell to an annual low of 2.5 percent, while the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation’s 30-year fixed-rate dropped below 4.2 percent. Texans capitalized on lower rates, pushing mortgage applications for home purchases up 17.8 percent YTD. These data corroborate the uptick in sales activity across the state, particularly in affordability constrained markets. Refinance mortgage applications, which are more sensitive to interest rate fluctuations, increased 38.2 percent over the same period.
The recent spurt of demand pushed prices upward after a relatively calm start to the year. The Texas median home price increased $2,000 to $238,000, surpassing 4.1 percent YOY growth for the first time since October. While still increasing, home prices are no longer soaring at double-digit levels YOY as in 2017. Austin and Dallas maintained the highest median price at $303,800 and $288,800, respectively, but remained on a flat trajectory. The Houston ($241,250) and Fort Worth ($237,100) median maintained steady YOY growth at 2.2 and 3.0 percent, respectively, while San Antonio ($227,300) posted 4.3 percent YOY growth.
The Texas Repeat Sales Index suggested stronger home price appreciation in Central Texas with Austin and San Antonio posting 4.6 and 5.2 percent YOY growth, respectively. The Houston and Fort Worth index increased 2.9 and 3.7 percent, respectively. On the other hand, YOY growth decelerated to 2.1 percent in Dallas, the lowest level since 2012.
Source – James P. Gaines, Luis B. Torres, Wesley Miller, and Paige Woodson (June 11, 2019) https://www.recenter.tamu.edu/articles/technical-report/Texas-Housing-In…
DFW Real Estate, Housing Market, Title Insurance, Title Company
Instagram has become one of the most popular social media platforms for businesses. Here are some ideas to use for marketing your business.
- Add professional-looking photos.
Instagram is a photo-sharing social media platform, so it’s important to share visually pleasing content. Generic photos won’t cut it. Take photos, edit them, and take the time to make sure you’re creating a cohesive grid on Instagram. [Read related article: 10 Best Photo Editing Apps for Business]
To add a new photo, tap the camera button at the bottom of your screen. You can take a new photo or select one from your camera roll. On the next screen, there are multiple options to personalize your post. You can add a filter, tag other users, write a caption and add a location. You can also turn off comments on this page with the advanced settings.
- Use Instagram Stories.
Instagram Stories is one of the channel’s most popular features. These photos and videos disappear 24 hours after they’re posted. Instagram offers many tools that make it easy to create engaging and creative stories.
“Small businesses should leverage Instagram Stories to market their products and services, getting their messages to followers that otherwise might not see regular Instagram posts in their feed because of the latest updates to the algorithm,” said Laura Kenat, content coordinator at Jo Chicago.
On Instagram Stories, you can post recorded videos, still photos, live videos, boomerangs (videos that loop back and forth), basic text, music and focused photos. You can also add stickers such as your location, the temperature, user tags and hashtags.
The stickers for polls, questions and sliding bars make it easy to interact with your users and get feedback. Some accounts use the questions feature to hold a weekly Ask Me Anything, which is a fun way to answer common questions.
Another way to draw attention to your brand is with Stories Highlights, which stay on your profile until you remove them.
- Stream live videos.
In addition to Instagram Stories, users can take and stream live video that disappears – sort of like a cross between Facebook Live and Snapchat. You can give customers a live look behind the scenes of interesting aspects of your business, show products or answer live questions through the comments.
Once the video ends, it lives in your Instagram Stories for 24 hours. If you want a video to remain on your Instagram feed, you can upload video you’ve taken or shoot video directly through the app to post. If you choose to shoot or upload video, you can still add filters and change the cover.
- Interact with other Instagram users.
As with any social media platform, it’s important to engage and interact with your followers on Instagram. Here’s how.
Liking: Liking is a simple way to connect with other users. To like a photo, either double-tap the image or tap the heart button under the post.
Commenting: Next to the like button is a comment button – just tap it, and the app will take you to the comments page for that photo, with a text box where you can enter what you want to say. Hit Post when it’s complete.
Mentioning: As on Twitter, you can use the @ symbol to tag other users in your Instagram comments or post captions.
Tagging: Instagram allows you to add tags before you post content. To do so, tap Tag People before sharing your photo, and then tap where in the photo you’d like to add a tag. The app then prompts you to type in the person’s name to search for their account. Once you’ve tagged other users in your photo and shared the image, other users can tap on the photo to see the people who are tagged.
Direct messaging: To access Instagram Direct, go to the homepage and tap the button in the top right corner. Here, you can send private instant messages, photos and videos to other users. To send a new DM, tap the + button in the top right corner and select Send Photo or Video, or Send Message. Once you’ve sent the message, you and the recipients can message back and forth. Users who are not already following you will be asked whether they want to allow you to send them photos and videos before they can view your DM.
Facebook, which owns Instagram, plans to integrate Facebook Messenger, Instagram direct messages and WhatsApp to create one messaging platform, according to a January 2019 New York Times article. When this is done, you’ll be able to connect with your followers on Facebook and Instagram through one application.
- Use hashtags.
Hashtags are a great way to help users find content on Instagram. Hashtags can include letters and numbers, but they can’t contain any non-numerical characters. For example, #DaveAndBusters works as a hashtag, but #Dave&Busters does not.
Because users can both search for hashtags and click on hashtags they see in posts in the app, relevant hashtags can be a highly effective tool for getting noticed. However, make sure you’re using the right hashtags for your brand.
Hashtags such as #nofilter (a photo that hasn’t been heavily edited with filters), #selfie (a picture of yourself), and #tbt or #throwbackthursday (old photos) are popular on Instagram, but they may not work for you or your brand. It’s a good idea to look at other established brands or even personal users and bloggers in your industry for examples of what hashtags to use.
Instagram allows a maximum of 30 hashtags in a post or comment, but that many would be excessive. The fewer hashtags you can use to get quality responses, the better. Using a lot of popular hashtags might earn you a lot of likes from other users, but it probably won’t increase your following all that much, and the interactions you get will likely not be from people who are interested in your brand but rather those who just saw and liked your image.
Once you understand hashtags, you can branch out and experiment to find which ones work best for your brand. It’s also smart to create a custom hashtag for your business or even an event you’re hosting. This way, customers can follow along with an event, even if they aren’t there in person.
- Advertise on Instagram.
Like on other social channels, businesses have the option to advertise on Instagram. There are three formats for advertising:
Photo ads: These look like regular photo posts, but they have a Sponsored label above the photo. They also have a Learn More button in the bottom right corner under the photo.
Video ads: Like the photo ads, these look like regular video posts, but with a Sponsored label on top.
Carousel ads: These ads look identical to photo ads but feature multiple photos that users can swipe through.
All three ad formats appear in users’ home feeds. These ads support four objectives: video views, click-thrus to your website, mobile app installations and mass awareness.
For more information about advertising on Instagram, go here.
- Sell products on Instagram.
In May 2018, Instagram added a payment feature for select users. It has now started to roll Checkout on Instagram out to all users. And it could potentially have a big impact on small businesses. With the feature, users can buy things without leaving Instagram. In the coming weeks, you’ll see a blue Checkout button under images of products from an initial group of 20 brands, including Burberry, Nike and Warby Parker. All that will be required to complete a transaction will be a name, email address, billing info and shipping addresses. Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, will then save that data for future transactions. Users can pay via Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover and PayPal. While this remains in closed beta, small businesses do not have the ability to sell via the platform. But, we anticipate that will change in the next year.
Currently small businesses can take advantage of Shoppable Posts to sell products through Instagram. A business simply creates a product catalog connected to their account. Then you tag the product, similar to how you tag a person in a post. To create a shoppable post you must have a business account and you must sell physical goods that comply with Instagram’s merchant agreement and commerce policies. You can create your catalog through Facebook, Shopify or BigCommerce.
Other Instagram tips and tricks
To get the most out of your Instagram account, keep these tips in mind.
Links don’t work in Instagram captions. The only place you can share a working link that takes users to a website is in your profile. Links don’t work in captions or photo comments, so if you’re trying to direct people to a specific webpage, you can change the default link in your bio to that page and note in the caption that the link is in your profile.
Make sure your posts relate to your brand. It can be tempting to share photos of food, fashion and animals because they’re popular on the platform. But if your business has nothing to do with those things, it could make you look disjointed and confuse your followers.
Run giveaways and promotions. Post an image advertising your giveaway, sale or contest, and ask users to repost that image with a specific, custom hashtag to enter. You can then search that hashtag to see who has reposted it and pick a winner. Promotions like this allow your customers and followers to market your brand for you by talking about your promotion on their personal pages, and it drives more people to visit your profile. If you do decide to run a contest or sweepstakes, though, make sure you’re following rules and guidelines.
Respond to other users’ comments. When people comment on your photos, reply to them. Interacting with customers and followers shows that you are paying attention and care about what they say. They’ll be more likely to continue following you and interacting with your pictures if they feel like they matter.
Embed Instagram posts on your website. From the desktop version of Instagram, you can get an embed code to add specific images and videos to your company’s website. This shows visitors that you’re active on Instagram and can help you gain more followers. Just select the photo you want to embed, click the ellipsis button in the bottom right corner, and select Embed. This pulls up a box with the embed code and gives you the option to display the caption. From there, copy and paste the code where you want it to go on your website.
Use Instagram influencers to promote your business. Influencers are people who have large followings on Instagram. You can pay influencers to market your products to their followers in a natural way. These sponsored posts typically are subtle and don’t look like ads. This is helpful because people typically hate advertisements.
Share posts directly to your story. In May 2018, Instagram announced a feature that allows users to share posts directly to their stories. With this feature, small businesses can interact with their followers while promoting their product or services. If a client posts a photo of your product, you can share the post directly to your story to highlight the product and your client.
Use polls and other features in your stories. Instagram offers many interactive features that you can use to build online conversations and relationships. For instance, you can use the interactive questions sticker in Instagram Stories. This feature lets followers submit questions for you to answer. This is a fun and simple way to interact with your followers.
Use IGTV. Launched in June 2018, IGTV is a feature that shows long-form, vertical videos. IGTV is available in a stand-alone app and within Instagram’s app, and each video can be up to an hour long. If you get creative, you can use IGTV to market your business in several ways, including by hosting FAQ sessions and conducting how-to chats. For more ways to use video marketing on social media, check out this Business News Daily guide.
Click here for full article and other helpful information.
Two types of Title Insurance
There are two basic types of title insurance:
• Loan Title Policy
• Owner’s Protection
Most financial lenders require a Loan Title Policy as security for their investment in your property, just as they require homeowners or other types of coverage for their protection. Title insurance gives the Lender assurance that there are no other claims to the property and that their lien is secure.
Owner’s title insurance lets the new home owner feel safe and confident there are no other claims as to the ownership of the insured property. Among other matters it insures access to the property, gives the homeowner the right to occupy the property, provides good and indefeasible title which shows there are no specific liens against the property. The policy is purchased at the closing and lasts as long as you have an interest in the insured property.
What does your Premium Cover?
Title insuring begins with a search of public land records affecting the real estate concerned. An examination is conducted by the title agent on behalf of its underwriter to determine whether the property is insurable. We have a highly qualified team of abstractors and examiners that review your property to be sure you have clean and clear title to your new home. Some of the items they review are:
• They review prior owner’s wills and deeds to be sure the wording and names are correct.
• They look to make sure all outstanding mortgages and/or judgments are released or will be released at closing.
• They check on liens against the property because the seller has not paid his/her taxes.
• They search to be sure there are no lawsuits or legal action that would affect the property.
• They examine the records to be sure and make note of any easements and utility lines that will cause any issues.
Protecting your Investment
Title insurance is not as commonly understood as other types of insurance. However, it is just as important. When you purchase a home, in addition to purchasing the actual land or building structure, you are actually purchasing the title to that property as well as the rights to occupy and use the space. Having an Owner’s Title Policy insures and protects claims asserted by others on your property.
Other types of insurance that protect your home may focus on possible future events and charge an annual premium. Owner’s Title Insurance is a one-time purchase and following a careful examination and research of past ownership of your property, it protects you on claims or issues on your property before you were the owner.
Your home is probably your most important investment. Before closing on your home, inquire about your title insurance protection. Be sure to protect your asset with an Owner’s Title Policy.