Staging Your Home For Autumn and Halloween

Your efforts to sell your home this fall season can be aided by some simple decorating that reflects autumn and/or the popular holiday of Halloween. Some effective touches can not only ’round out’ your staging; they can also encourage potential buyers to imagine decorating the home themselves by creating a warm, inviting atmosphere.

The first rule of Halloween decorating is: don’t go overboard! You’re staging your home, not throwing a Halloween party. No skeletons, NO fake blood and nothing that is meant to jump out and startle people! You want people to enjoy their tour of your home; not have a heart attack when the fake bat drops onto their head.

A fall staging theme can be as simple as warm fall colors being featured in the decor. Or, it can be tastefully elaborate, with some kind of decoration in every room that ‘ties’ the rooms together.

In homage to the holiday, you can use pumpkins and the small pumpkin-like gourds to accent your porch, tables and mantelpieces. Pumpkins are definitely an attention getter, both in terms of size and color. Use them wisely.

If you decide to carve your pumpkins, make sure that they are carved in harmless, “happy” expressions, if they have faces. One idea is to use your jack-o-lanterns to highlight the numbers of your address. Or, you could carve a tiny house into one.

If you do decide to go the jack-o-lantern route, use candle substitutes. The last thing you want is to find the perfect buyer, only to have your home burn to the ground because a candle fell over. Flameless flickering lights are available cheaply from local stores, especially around Halloween.

Flowers and plants are popular with home stagers and you can make them work for you. Chrysanthemums and dried leaves are good fall choices for the home stager. A vase of these in a room can provide some attractive natural color that calls to mind the crisp warmth of fall. Planting hardy fall flowers like mums can also add some color to an otherwise fading garden.

One idea for home showing is have business cards printed up with a picture of your home and contact information. Tie these to Halloween candy bags and put them in a fall/Halloween themed bowl for prospective buyers.

Halloween and fall provide you with a great decorating scheme to bring your house together with warm, inviting colors and decorations that reflect the fall harvest/Halloween season. This can help prospective buyers imagine decorating your home for their seasonal celebrations and encourage them to think of your home as their own.

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Excuse Me, Are You Visiting or Have You Moved In? The Freeloader Nightmare

Shanty towns or squatter communities known as “Hooverville’s” during President Hoover’s term as President (or back in the day as my son might say) began to sprout up all over the United States because of the fallout from the Great Depression. These ragtag “communities” were composed of people who had been evicted from their homes or their farms. These individuals, labeled hobos, were forced to live a degrading existence among grotesque piles of accumulated trash, made of discarded public scraps of food they had to eat or of various items of value that they could sell. The poor and disposed would cook their meager portions of food in tin cans over open fires, covering themselves with old newspapers while wearing Hoover shoes with holes in the soles. The only scenery was blurred by dust in the summer and mud in the winter as they inhaled the stench from all of the trash and the extremely unsanitary dilapidated outhouses. These poor Depression era hobos, though, are no comparison to today’s modern freeloaders, lazy, selfish people who are calculating in their tactics, and who by no means suffer as much as those displaced victims of the Great Depression.

Yes we’re suffering, and indeed the times, they are a changing, but eating banana peels and wearing newspapers is not the same as eating all of your family or friends potato chips while you watch a re-run of Friends on their cable TV. With today’s economic crisis, many people have had to depend on family, friends and relatives to help them out until they get over their financial set back. However, the thing is, too many find this life of “luxury” very accommodating, and so they remain as permanent guests taking advantage of a loved one’s hospitality. This is no new occurrence, it’s just happening more often today thanks to our lovely crumbling economy, but I, for one, think free-loading is wrong, and it must be stopped. There’s a difference between visiting a loved one and commandeering their home.

Here’s, an example. Several years ago my husband and I moved to Florida. Every year we would come back to New Jersey to visit family and friends. Well, my husband was always inviting everyone to come down to Florida and stay at our house, so they didn’t have to spend money on a hotel, forgetting that we were only renting a small 2 bedroom apartment. Naturally everyone jumped at the opportunity, including his drinking buddies, who came in a car loaded with suitcases and booze. I was working the graveyard shift at the Post Office and needed to sleep during the day. Well, one time, it seems that our bedroom was offered to his drinking buddy and his buddy’s wife, while I had to make do crammed into my two little kids’ room. These moochers came empty-handed and ate as there was no tomorrow. One week turned into two weeks, which looked as if it would be extending to more. I told my husband to kick them out which he refused to do saying that they were his guests, and that would be rude on his part. I was furious, working nights, and not getting proper sleep. During the day, they went down to the beach or explored the area, having a grand old time. The woman did nothing to help me. I couldn’t take it anymore. I called around to hotels in the area and asked what their prices were, and when the couple returned that afternoon, I told them that they had to leave, it was two weeks already, and I needed my room back. The man said he was paying my husband $20.00 a week for the room, which was ridiculous… Imagine thinking that $20.00 a week was going to cover the cost of 3 square meals a day plus my room for two people. No way Jose, has he had to be out of his mind. Well I must say after they saw how mad I was, they got the message loud and clear immediately calling a nephew who lived in the area. That annoyed me even more, knowing that they had a nephew that lived nearby, and I had to be inconvenienced by this pair of moochers. So instead of going to a hotel where they had to pay, they ended up in their nephew’s house. Good riddance, finally, but that still didn’t stop the flow of guests coming and going and free-loading off of us. This created a lot of hostility between my husband and me. Finally, after 7 years of acting like a drunken bed and breakfast, we moved back to New Jersey. That stopped the family and friends from visiting.

The thing is, all of the moochers and freeloaders acted in the same rude, selfish manner. No one understood why I’d get irritated, working, sacrificing living space, cooking, doing all the shopping and being imposed upon for far too long. I suppose there’s a moocher’s guide out there that they all swear by.

The Moocher’s Guidebook:

Law Number 1: Find a nice, giving, trusting friend or relative and arrange a “short” but indefinite visit.

Law Number 2: Convince these marks to become your personal ATM.

Law Number 3: Always manipulate others to get out of paying your fair share, stiff drinking buddies with the check, bum rides, sponge cigarettes, meals and so forth.

Law Number 4: Never, under any circumstances, clean up after yourself. This sets a dangerous precedent.

Law Number 5: Always raid any unattended refrigerator. Leave nothing.

Law Number 6: Never be courteous. Assume it is yours by natural law, consume and destroy.

Law Number 7: Have fun while the marks are working. What are vacations for?

Law Number 8: Make yourself scarce when chore time arises.

Frankly, freeloaders are a menace to society. People that have freeloader problems rightly become depressed and angry. To make the situation worse, moochers often don’t bathe, don’t flush the toilet or wipe the seat when finished or don’t wash their own clothes. What moochers do in fact is use the phone all night, leaving it off the hook when they’re done. They leave the TV on all night and are loud while you try and get some sleep to avoid them. If subtle hints and veiled insinuation won’t work, then throw all their belongings outside and change the locks. The following is my own handbook, listing problems with moochers and ways to deal with them.

Miriam’s Handbook:

PROBLEM: A friend or loved one shows up uninvited, looking for sympathy and a place to stay.

SOLUTION: If someone shows up uninvited, you can tell the person in a courteous way that you were just leaving and don’t have time to chit-chat. The strongest weapon that a freeloader has is using guilt to get what they want from you. Be prepared for this. Don’t feel guilty. Always be leery of those who love to tag along but who always seem to forget to bring their wallet. Always mention before you go anywhere involving a cost, that if the other person has his or her wallet with them. Or you can simply say its best that you go Dutch. If the person then says they don’t have any money, you tell them, ‘I’m sorry I don’t have enough, to pay for you too so we will have to skip it.’

PROBLEM: A friend or loved one always wants to visit you but doesn’t invite you to visit them. Always try to interchange home visits.

SOLUTION: If someone was at your house this week watching the game and eating all your goodies and drinking your beer, then you recommend doing it at their house the following week. If they are uncooperative, don’t bother with them. If they are taking advantage of you, begin to control your dealings with them or stop it altogether. You want to tell them that you are not a money tree nor are you their restaurant, hotel or maid service. You have to nip this behavior in the bud, because the longer you wait, the more tensed you will get, and the more difficult it will be to get rid of these people. Then it becomes squatter’s rights. They have all the rights and you get squat.

PROBLEM: Your relative wants to stay with you until they get ‘back on their feet.’ If they live with you, you have to give them some time frame to get out of your house.

SOLUTION: One way to prevent moochers from staying in your home is to keep the fridge or the cabinets as bare as possible. Hide your supplies somewhere; give them a list of chores to do. If they complain then tell them to buy their own food or they can leave.

PROBLEM: You feel like a maid with all the mess left behind and get sick of things like your guest leaving dirty linens, damp towels on the bed or the bathroom counter.

SOLUTION: House-guests should clean up after themselves. If they are there for one week or so, then they should offer to take the host out to dinner for their trouble. If they plan to return, then tell them that you already have plans for that time and that no one will be home. Try to make your apology seem sincere and convincing as best as you can.

PROBLEM: Relatives will come to your house and stay as long as they want, in order to save on hotel expenses. So the longer they stay, the more resentment builds, which will eventually damage family relations.

SOLUTION: Relatives don’t have the right to barge in because they are family, they must first call or write. If they happen to show up unexpectedly, then take them to a hotel or give them a ride to the nearest transportation. Do not let moochers have the run of the house; they need to help by cooking, doing their own laundry and throwing in some cash. They have no right to take advantage of you to save on expenses because somewhere up the family tree, you inherited some of their blood or your spouse did.

PROBLEM: The guests who won’t leave when it’s getting late.

SOLUTION: If you feel your eyelids are starting to get heavy or like you have a severe case of the hives, start yawning, scratch and get up quietly and in a polite way; mention that you had a lovely evening, that you must repeat the visit at ANOTHER, more convenient time. If you continue to stand, they will get up, at least you hope so, then start walking to the door. If they don’t take the hint, then come right out and tell them that you have to go to work the next day and that you are tired and want to go to bed. My mother swears by the broom. She said when you wanted the company who were over-staying their welcome to leave turn the broom upside down by the door, and you will see that it works. Yeah, right mom, like in your dream, that’s not going to happen.

PROBLEM: The friend or relative who always sponges money off of you and never pays it back or who considers you their personal, unpaid taxi service.

SOLUTION: Just say you don’t mind taking them where they are going, but that you don’t have gas in your car or money to pay for gas to get there and NEVER lend anyone who has stiffed you money twice.

Follow these simple tips and you’ll soon be free of freeloaders. Good luck!

Tips To Sell Your Home For Top Dollar In A Slow Market

How long is too long? In a dry market, a sales period of six months to one year isn’t unusual. Look at recent sales reports of similar homes nearby to determine a reasonable selling interval. In a hot seller’s market, a house that hasn’t sold within one month indicates a problem. In either case, there are several steps you can take before putting up the white flag.

  • Videotape your house, inside and out, and watch the tape as if you were a prospective buyer. Is the lawn weedy or the garden bare? Is your home uncluttered and spotlessly scrubbed? Sparkling-clean houses sell faster than those that look too lived-in or show an abundance of the owner’s personality.
  • Take a second look at your listing price. Visit open houses in your neighborhood. Are similar homes priced lower? Selling prices may have dropped since your first comparative market analysis. In a hot market, if you haven’t sold your home within one month, chances are good that you’ve overpriced it. If you do lower your asking price, consider a figure slightly below those of other comparable homes if you are interested in a speedy sale.
  • Do whatever it takes to be away from your home during showings and open houses. The presence of sellers makes it difficult for prospective buyers to take their time or talk openly with their partner and agent. Leave some treats out to make potential buyers more comfortable: beverages, nuts, cookies — anything that won’t lose freshness or be too messy.
  • Pay close attention to feedback from showings. The feedback can guide you in making home repairs, toning down your décor, making landscaping improvements and the like.
  • You can offer perks to buyers, such as cash bonus, closing costs or buy down their interest rate to lower monthly payments. You could also consider owner financing.
  • Neutralize your color scheme. Most buyers prefer pale, neutral colors that make it easier to imagine a new home as their own. Houses with white exteriors are the highest sellers; for interiors, try whites, off-whites or pale grays.
  • Expose Hardwoods and buff them until they shine. It’s amazing how many buyers will not even look at a house without hardwoods.
  • If you have dogs, cats, old carpeting, mildew or smoke problems chances are that a potential buyer may offended by the odor. Ventilate the home and invest in an air cleaning and deodorizing product to remove odors. Another option is a cleaning product with living enzymes that consume the odor causing agents and remove the smell permanently.
  • Staging your home is one of the very best ways to sell your home the quickest and for top dollar. Staging sets the scene throughout the home to create immediate buyer interest in the property. The way you live in your home and the way you sell your house are two different things. One idea is to pack up several large pieces of furniture and as much clutter in each room as possible. Don’t just shift to another room or garage, rent storage space and get it out of the house before showing.
  • Pay attention to lighting. Make sure light sources are clean. Cleaning them isn’t enjoyable, but the sparkling lighting will pay off. You may even increase the brightness factor of your rooms by adding brighter bulbs, or by placing accent lamps or cabinet lighting. Be sure and pull back the curtains and lift the blinds. For the best effect, use a balance of natural, overhead, and table or floor lighting.
  • Try readjusting your sights. Determine the lowest price you find acceptable, and consider anything more as icing on the cake. In a longstanding dry market you may even have to sell at a loss, so it’s important to take every offer seriously. You don’t want to alienate a potential buyer who has solid financing because you’ve set your sights unrealistically high.
  • If the market is underwater, consider offering an increased commission or a bonus for your listing agent as extra incentive. If you do sweeten the pot for your agent, amend your listing contract to reflect the change, and be sure it’s added to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) book — buyer agents will also be inspired to give your house extra attention.

Top 10 FSBO Tips to Selling Your Home by Owner

By using some simple FSBO (For Sale by Owner) tips and techniques, the average homeowner can sell his or her own home without the assistance of a real estate agent. Just as many others have done in the past. You can sell your own home and save thousands, but it takes work and commitment.

Below you will read some simple strategies that can stack the odds in your favor, greatly increasing your chances for success when selling on your own.

FSBO Tip 1. Understanding the real estate market.

Getting an idea of your local market conditions makes good sense. Just like any other product getting a feel of what’s hot and what’s not can help you make decisions that affect the sale of your home. Consider your neighborhood and the features that distinguish it from others. If you’re comfortable, contact a real estate agent to discuss what the current market environment is like.

FSBO Tip 2. Timing is everything.

Timing the decision to sell and gauging the current market conditions could be two of the most critical decisions you make. If you need to sell your home quickly, the less flexibility, you’ll be able to have. Conversely, if you’re not in a big hurry you can sit back and wait for the perfect buyer. Just remember the real estate market is a cyclical environment. If it’s a slow period now and you’re in a position to wait it out then it might be a good idea to wait for the next upswing.

FSBO Tip 3. Assemble a team of professionals to help you.

While it’s nice to think that you can handle things on your own, selling a home takes specialized knowledge. It’s more than just writing up a sales agreement. Depending on what part of the country you’re in you’ll either need to find a real estate attorney or a title / escrow company to help with the legal details. As a rule of thumb, if you’re east of the Mississippi it’s usually a real estate attorney. If you’re west of the Mississippi, it’s a title company. Either way they’ll be an indispensable part of your home selling process. Another important partner to consider is a reputable mortgage banker/lender. They can assist in helping you prequalify buyer prospects. We’ll talk more about qualifying prospects as you read on.

FSBO Tip 4.How to determine the fair market price of your home.

This always seems to be a real tricky one. For many home sellers this typically reveals itself as a major point of contention. When trying to decide on a price guessing or basing your asking price on hearsay or nontraditional methods immediately reduces your negotiating advantage. Basing your price on what the house down the street sold for or what media outlets perceives as increased market value is not the way to get a legitimate price either. There are only two legitimate and well-recognized ways of determining a fair market value. One way is to contact a real estate agent or broker to provide you with a CMA otherwise known as a comparative market analysis. The best and most accurate way of determining price comes from a full-blown appraisal done by a professional real estate appraiser.

FSBO Tip 5. You’re selling a house not a home.

While it’s important to become emotionally detached, you don’t have to become a robot. After all this is your home, be objective but don’t be cold. Keep in mind that people are going to perceive your home differently than you do. Either way remain positive and ultimately the right person will walk through the door and buy your home.

FSBO Tip 6. Preparing your home for sale.

Today’s real estate market rewards those homeowners that place a high-value on neatnessas well as cleanliness. It not only adds value but alsogenerally promotes a quicker and more profitable sale. Once again the depersonalizing of your home helps your prospect with such an emotional decision. Decluttering the inside of a home is also key to your preparation. If necessary, rent out a small storage space and store some household items there. Just as a side note, having a garage sale is also a great way of getting rid of items that clutter up the house. Not only do you get rid of the items but also you make a little money in the process.

FSBO Tip 7. Start spreading the news.

It should be understood if you’re going to sell your home and you’re going to do it yourself, the easiest way to get the word out is to put a sign in your yard. This will immediately get the attention of anybody that happens to ride by. Naturally, this is the essence of selling on your own. Coming up with a highlight sheet to outline the key features of your home is a must. With the readily available use of word processing programs putting together a simple highlight sheet is easy.

FSBO Tip 8. Knowing a few, negotiating skills will get you a long way.

It’s not necessary to become the next great diplomat. You will want to keep in mind that it’s necessary to keep your emotions and personal feelings regarding the negotiating price of your property in check. When discussing the selling price it’s important that your calculations and numbers are correct. This allows you to have greater flexibility and leverage and you can negotiate from a position of strength.

FSBO Tip 9. Qualifying buyers and stopping the lookie loos.

So what’s a lookie loo? A lookie loo is a person that comes to your house and looks in everything. They,look in cabinets,closets and drawers check everything out but never make you a serious offer. You need qualified buyers looking at your home or it’s going to get very discouraging. One of the best ways of getting qualified prospects is to have them referred by your mortgage broker/lender. You can also take the direct approach. If you’re arranging a showing over the phone, go ahead and ask them if they are pre-qualified. Don’t be too shy when it comes to your prospects. If you’re holding an open house and someone expresses interest in your home go-ahead and ask. Most of the time if they’re pre- qualified they love to tell you. So don’t worry about asking, it’s the right thing to do.

FSBO Tip 10. If all else fails go to where the realtors hang out.

If after a while, you’re not getting the results that you were hoping for you can always go to the MLS option. This doesn’t mean that you have to list with a real estate agent or broker. As a private party, you can list your home with your local multiple listing service. Usually this cost a fee but by doing this you automatically expose your house to thousands of potential prospects all over the country. The upside is that you should be able to sell your home in short order. The obvious downside will be that you will have to pay co-op to an agent. Only in unique situations would the cost of co-opting be virtually impossible, due to low equity or some other extenuating circumstance.

These FSBO tips should give you a solid foundation to successfully selling your own home. There’s many specific ideas and recommendations that are beyond the scope of this article when it comes to pricing, preparing and staging your home, and all of the items previously outlined. You should definitely research and prepare yourself for the selling of your own home process. In the long run,it will make things easier and could either save you or even make you thousands of dollars.