April 9, 2020

Forbearance is Not Forgiveness: Navigating Your Mortgage

The COVID-19 virus has appeared to have infected us in many more areas of our lives these days, other than as a profound illness. The economics of the virus has led to millions of layoffs, company shutdowns, and therefore the loss of immeasurable jobs. This burden is requiring many homeowners to search for an alternative or a reprieve from mortgage payments for a few months to help navigate this dramatic period.

The Federal Government recently approved the ability for mortgage lenders throughout the country to offer the option of Forbearance to help homeowners mitigate their mortgage payments during this unusual time frame. Forbearance, in the context of a mortgage process, is a special agreement between the lender and the borrower to delay a foreclosure. When mortgage borrowers are unable to meet their repayment terms, lenders may opt to foreclose. To avoid foreclosure, the lender and the borrower can make an agreement called "forbearance." According to this agreement, the lender delays his/her right to exercise foreclosure if the borrower can catch up to the payment schedule by a certain time. This period and the payment plan depend on the details of the agreement that is accepted by both parties.

Although investor requirements involving forbearance demands are continually evolving as the COVID-19 virus progresses, here are some of the current mitigation options and terms that many lenders might offer during this time:

  • Reduced or suspended payments for 90-180 days with the option to extend additional days if needed (the best option for homeowners is to pay as much as possible each month to minimize past due amounts)
  • Negative credit bureau reporting and late fee assessments are suspended (if the borrower was up to date or under 30 days delinquent for their March 2020 payment due).
  • Prior to the end of the forbearance period, hardship/financial status must be evaluated to determine next actions.
  • Forbearance is NOT payment Forgiveness. All payments are expected to be paid back in full. Payment forgiveness is not an option here.
  • Servicing companies will also make sure that your escrow payments for taxes and home insurance will continue to be paid during this trying time.

Forbearance options can vary greatly between companies, and here is a breakdown of the most common alternatives in technical terms:

Reinstatement: pay all past due delinquent amounts to bring your loan current. There will be no negative impact to your credit bureau reporting.

Repayment Plan: repayment plans for 3-12 months, with no negative credit bureau reporting ot late fee assessment if you are performing on your repayment plan.

Deferment: eligible to those customers who missed no more than 2 payments, and have resumed making regular payments. However, they cannot remit the additional payments that were missed. These two payments may be deferred until payoff, refinance or other liquidation.

Modification: for customers with long term hardship. The investor may modify some or all terms of the original note, such as, interest rate, payment, or amount or term. 

In order to investigate the forbearance process, consumers will want to call their servicing companies directly. This is the company you send your mortgage payment to, not your lender who owns the note. The servicing company handles the full procedure. They will explain and educate consumers on the options available for their particular mortgage. They would then proceed to help set-up the clients with the forbearance agreements who want to move forward.   Be prepared to experience long wait times on the phone to get through to your servicing departments. Expect a minimum of 30 minutes as the volume of calls is overwhelming at this time. 

In summary, please note that though forbearance is an option for some, many will forgo moving forward with this selection. Even though negative credit reporting will not be applied during the forbearance period, please note that how this economic period will be reflected on your credit report has not yet been determined. Although a forbearance is far better than foreclosure, you must follow the repayment plan exactly to avoid ramifications, and the action will be noted on your credit report.

It needs to be mentioned that if you defer payments, and or skip payments at any time, this does absolutely change the loan's amortization schedule and how much is actually owed at the time of payoff. The forbearance is interest free, but since you are not paying off your principal and interest owed each month in a consecutive manner, you will see an additional cost incurred at the end of the note or payoff. Your payoff will be higher and all payments will be due in full.

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Susan Kelly is a Senior Loan Officer at Fairway Independent Mortgage. She is Licensed in MA.

April 2, 2020

Negotiating Home Repairs with a Seller

Buying a home is rarely a simple and entirely stress-free process, and one piece of the process that potential buyers agonize over is the home inspection.

Unless a buyer is agreeing to buy a home “as-is,” many will want to have a home inspection completed prior to making an offer.

It’s up to you and your real estate agent to decide which repairs to push for and how to get them done. This article will provide advice on how to go about this process. 

Getting the Home Inspected 

If you choose to have a home inspection in your offer to purchase as a contingency, you will choose. a qualified home inspector who will be approved by the state and serve as a third party.  There are some inspectors who will do a pre-offer “consultation” and provide you with verbal information on the home. In this case, you will likely be using that for your own peace of mind, and not for negotiation. If you opt for the more traditional home inspection, which is done after your offer to purchase is accepted, the inspector will provide an impartial report of the home’s condition. No matter what kind of home it is, you can expect the inspector to provide a laundry list of recommended repairs to be made. If it’s a newer home, the list may be shorter. If it’s an older home, there will likely be hundreds of issues that the inspector brings to light. Some of these will be as harmless as loose cabinet knobs in the bathroom, but some may be more serious structural issues.

Should you be worried? 

There are certain problems that shouldn’t be overlooked when buying a home. A failing foundation, weak walls or any other kind of structural damage, for example, should be addressed before you make any commitments. Roof problems can  also be serious and expensive to fix. Other major repairs that you want to look out for include electrical, plumbing and HVAC issues. 

Most other, less serious repairs that show up in the inspector’s report can be  best to leave alone and fix yourself once the home is yours. This includes any cosmetic fixes, such as paint defects, stained flooring, holes in the wall and cracked tiles. It also includes any repair that would cost less than $250. It’s better to handle these types of repairs yourself rather than annoy the seller by adding to the overall repair costs.

Negotiating the Costs

Once you’ve determined which defects are of the most concern to you,, you’ll be ready to work out the details with the seller.  Negotiating the price of the repairs and how the repairs will be done is just as important as the inspection itself. Buyers typically have three options in this regard:

  1. Ask the seller to have the repairs done before closing.
  2. Ask for a closing credit for the cost of the repairs. 
  3. Ask the seller to deduct the repair costs from the sale price. 

I rarely recommend that buyers go for option 1 because they will have no control over the quality of the work that is done.  If you do go down that road, though, make sure your agent is exceedingly specific in how the punch-list item is incorporated into the Purchase & Sale Agreement.  For example: “seller agrees to fix roof” can yield very different results than “Seller will have a qualified and licensed roofer of buyer’s choice make all necessary repairs noted in the inspection report. This will be done at seller’s cost and prior to closing”. 

Option 2 is often ideal for both parties, because the seller can move on with their life and you can ensure the repairs are done to your satisfaction. For this option, you should have contractors or specialists give you an estimate for the work that needs to be done, and receive that amount in a credit at closing. This gives you cash on hand that you have effectively mortgaged.  Think of it as a personal loan from the bank at 4% instead of 18%. 

Option 3 can also work for buyers, but you generally want to opt for this only if you have the money to make the repairs yourself. If you’re going to have a $10,000 roof project, it’s usually best not to use the “deduct from sales price” approach.

Nonetheless, either way you go, you want to make sure you’re not getting the short end of the stick.

Negotiating repairs with the seller is paramount when buying a home. Be sure to have the home inspected so that you can determine which repairs the seller should cover and which they shouldn’t, and then work out the best way to have the repairs done. Taking care to do this process the right way can save you a lot of time, money and stress.

March 26, 2020

Seniors: Here's How to Make Downsizing a Breeze

If you’re in your retirement years, downsizing can be both exhilarating and stressful. It can be an exciting time because you’ve decided to move on to a new chapter — you’ll meet new people, settle into a new place, and spice up your daily routine. It’s also a huge undertaking — it can be taxing if it doesn’t go smoothly, and the thought of packing up a home you may have lived in for 20+ years with your family is understandably overwhelming. Some of the following tips and tricks can help you enjoy the transition.  

Choosing the Right Home

Start the house-hunting process as soon as possible. Whether you plan to move to a retirement community or purchase a smaller home, you’ll want to weigh your options and not rush into choosing a new home. Make a list of your needs and wants before you house hunt.

Some items on your list may be:

  • No pool
  • Lower mortgage payment
  • Lower property tax bill
  • Smaller space to clean
  • Equity from your current home for retirement 
  • City center or country locality
  • Close to healthcare facilities 

Bring your needs and wants to a realtor to help you find just the right home. Ask your realtor about current price trends and how close homes are selling to their listing prices. Be honest with yourself about what you must have versus what you want to have. For example, do you require hardwoods in the master bedroom? Or could you purchase a home with a carpeted bedroom and swap out hardwoods yourself?

Sorting and Packing

With a smaller home comes less space to store your belongings. Inevitably, that will mean you can’t bring everything you own with you. In order to avoid stress or regret, give yourself plenty of time to sort through what you want to keep, donate, give away, and trash. Go room by room, box by box, drawer by drawer. Think about one area at a time — rather than the whole house — in order to avoid being overwhelmed. Schedule time to organize and sort. Use a calendar, timer, friends and family to keep you on task.

If you have a lot of mementos you can’t possibly take with you but want to keep the memory, consider having pictures taken or images scanned to be stored on a hard drive. Pass on precious heirlooms to family for enjoyment and safekeeping.

Planning for the Move

A well-planned move makes a world of difference: 

  • Step 1: Decide whether you’re going to pack yourself or hire someone to do it. If you do it yourself, plan for the time and energy it will take, and recruit your loved ones to help. If you choose to hire someone, plan for them to be in your home and to give them instructions for items of particular importance.
  • Step 2: Decide who will move your belongings. If you have a truck or your loved ones have trucks, it’s possible to accomplish the move yourself in multiple trips. If you don’t have transportation, then you can rent a truck. If you’ve hired someone to pack your belongings, they should also be able to move them. Moreover, you can hire a company to transport your belongings from one house to another. A local move typically costs between $500 and $1,400.

  • Step 3: Unpacking is quicker with family and friends. Make it a bit of a celebration with food, refreshment, sweet treats, and music.

Whether you’re moving out of necessity or desire, downsizing can be exciting and overwhelming. Unless you have to downsize due to immediate health concerns, take your time searching for the perfect place and deciding which of your belongings you will keep, donate, trash, or give away. Finally, plan your move thoroughly — from the packing to the unpacking.

Photo Credit: Burst

Guest Author: Michael Longsdon

March 19, 2020

What does 'Pre-Approval' Entail?

Finding a mortgage became easier when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau began mandating that lenders provide a new, simplified disclosure form to help consumers compare home loans, but the process is still no walk in the park!  Before you offer on a home, a seller will want to have certain guarantees that you are qualified to receive a loan and close on the deal. To better your positioning in an offer and avoid miscommunication snarls, you will have to understand the differences between lender evaluations of your creditworthiness. There are three main types of guarantees a bank or mortgage broker will provide, and they each require different up-front evaluation on their part and strength in the market on your part: the pre-qualification, the pre-approval, and underwritten approval. If you're buying in Boston, Brookline, or Newton you're going to want to know what each of these entail.

 

The Pre-Qualification

A pre-qualification is really just to get you started, so you have a ballpark idea of how big a mortgage you can afford. For a lender to pre-qualify you, they may ask for your employer's name and your Social Security number to verify your income and credit score. When a bank prequalifies you, it's giving you a preliminary statement of how much you could borrow, based on income and asset information you've provided. It is not based on any hard evidence, because at this point, you haven't given your bank statements or had bank officers request your credit report.  It’s super basic and is not good for much in the Boston, Brookline, or Newton markets, but will help you wrap your head around what properties to start looking at online if you’re just browsing.

 

The Pre-Approval

A bank will issue a mortgage pre-approval once it has all your documents in hand. These could include income verification from employers, recent tax returns, bank and brokerage statements, and credit reports. That assessment will result in a pre-approval letter from the lender that you can present when you bid for a home.  Having a pre-approval in hand gives you a jump on other potential buyers. It lets the seller know you're a good candidate, and that the bank is likely to award you a loan. It'll also make you feel more prepared to buy. This is the most common document provided to buyers by lenders.  Keep in mind that you're not required to borrow from the bank that issues your pre-qualification or pre-approval.

 

Underwritten Approval

This is the most powerful type of qualification you can have as a buyer, and it even allows you to waive your mortgage contingency with more confidence (please consult your lender, agent, and lawyer if that is the right move for you in any given situation).  Once the bank has all of your information, they will have a specialist call an underwriter to determine how much you're capable of paying and how big a mortgage loan you can afford. This will take into account the city you intend to buy in, and even calculate taxes and other expenses (like condo fee) liberally to give you an approval with full confidence in its legitimacy. The home still needs to appraise at your offer value (especially if you have a lower down payment or cash reserve), but otherwise you are the next best thing to a cash buyer.  With an underwritten approval, your realtor can make offer and contingency timelines incredibly tight--which just might be the thing that helps you edge out other buyers.

Dec. 5, 2019

Unlimited Sotheby's is Proud to Support 'Toys for Tots'

Our offices are proud to be Toys For Tots drop-off locations this year from now until December 15th We are located at:

  • 1290A Beacon Street, Brookline, MA
  • 673 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, MA
  • 767 Beacon Street, Newton, MA

We're open from 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday and 10am to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday.

Please stop by with packaged and unwrapped gifts for children in need this holiday season. The recipients range in age from infant to 12 years old. Toy/Gift Recommendations:

  • Generic coloring books –- no holiday reference
  • Soft baby dolls
  • American Girl Dolls, Barbies, Ken Dolls, etc.
  • Crayons,Colored Pencils, and Markers
  • Interactive crib toys/musicals
  • DVDs, books, magazines, video games
  • Pretend play – i.e. kitchen, baby dolls (plastic), tools, etc.
  • Animals, dinosaurs, people figures, etc.
  • Super hero action figures
  • Lego’s ® and Lego kits
  • Cars and trucks
  • Craft and bead kits
  • Pop-up toys (cause and effect)
  • UNO cards and board games
  • Infant Rattles/ Teething Toys

Learn more about Toys for Tots HERE | Make a monetary donation HERE

 

 

 

Nov. 28, 2019

Clean Up After the Holidays in No Time

The holidays are a time for reflection and love--surrounding yourself with your chosen family and creating new memories.  But for many hosts and hostesses the holiday season also comes with the unwanted quality of stress.  Check out these tips that’ll make your kitchen cleanup faster and easier when you host, giving you more time to enjoy family and friends.

Plan a Potluck

Let your guests share the fun and bring dishes to share. Then make sure they take home their serving bowls and platters, which will cut down on dishes to wash and put away.

Set Up a Soaking Station

Soak pots and pans as soon as you transfer food to platters. But instead of filling the sink with soaking pots, designate a small trashcan as the soaking spot. Fill it will soapy water and dirty pots, and hide it under a sink or in a mudroom. That way, your sink is free throughout the evening to clean as you go and rinse dishes on the way to the dishwasher.

Empty Fridge

Start your holiday with a clean slate, which will make the inevitable mess less daunting than piling clutter onto clutter. Before beginning Thanksgiving prep, pick up depressing home clutter and clean out your fridge to make room for ingredients and leftovers. If possible, designate a shelf for Thanksgiving food, which should be empty when you start your meal, then filled with leftovers when you’re finished. In a week, clean out that shelf again. Make soup from leftover meat and veggies, and then freeze. Compost wilted greens. Toss old dairy products.

Line Garbage Cans

Double- or triple-line garbage cans, which saves time when the cleaning campaign begins. After you toss a trash bag, there’s another waiting for action. 

Pump Up the Music

Up-tempo music will give you a second wind for cleaning. So turn off the soothing dinner tunes and get rocking with a cleaning playlist.

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Don't let the holidays stress you out!  Get the most out of your gathering by planning ahead and using a couple of useful tricks. Any other tricks that help you tackle gatherings with ease? Share them below!

Nov. 21, 2019

3 Ways to Lower Your Winter Energy Bill

Cozying up in a warm house is my most beloved winter activity, but long after the holiday cookies are gone, I'm left with soul-crushing energy bills. The average monthly residential electricity bill in Massachusetts is $94, which is actually one of the lowest in the country. It's certainly easy to feel the pinch of utility bills when you add in water and heating costs (The MA Department of Public Utilities estimates heating costs for this winter for a residential customer using the average amount of fuel for each particular fuel type will be $983 for natural gas and $2,359 for heating oil).

You can reduce energy usage and trim your bills with these tips:

1. Check heating filters

A dirty filter will make your heating system work harder and use more energy (which means it will cost you more). You can extend the life of your heater and cut costs just by changing your filter once a month and having your unit serviced once a year. It’s a small investment for huge year-on-year savings.

2. Set your water heater to 120°

Most water heaters default to 140°F, but many households can still get plenty of warm water when lowering the temperature to 120°F (or even 110°F in some cases). This single change can reduce your water heating costs by 10%.

3. Put ceiling fans to work

Ceiling fans can be as good at warming up rooms as cooling them. Simply change the direction of your ceiling fans so they rotate clockwise—most have a small switch to do so. This will cause air to be pushed upward, helping spread warm air throughout the room.

Nov. 14, 2019

How to Tell if a Home Has Good Bones

The term “good bones” has become synonymous with opportunity when it comes to buying a home in Greater Boston. A house with good bones is a solid structure with good systems that allows a buyer to renovate the interiors and make improvements to create the ideal living space. However, the term can be thrown around too loosely: Is the home you’re considering really just a diamond in the rough, or is your realtor trying to make you feel better about buying a fixer upper? There are a few aspects of a home you will want to examine closely in order to determine whether it is worth the hype.

Foundation

 

For a home to truly have good bones, a solid foundation is non-negotiable. Problem foundations can be costly to fix, and they can cause problems with other elements of the home, such as buckling walls, sinking floors and cracked ceilings. As you evaluate the sturdiness of a home, look for the signs of foundation problems, such as horizontal cracks in the walls or concrete floors, uneven floors, sticking doors and off-kilter walls. If you like a home but are worried about the foundation, you can call in an inspector to determine if the warning signs are cosmetic or true indicators of a bad foundation.

Structure

Moving up from the foundation, the home should have a strong stud and joist system. Many homeowners wonder about the benefits of metal versus wood studs; both have their advantages and disadvantages. If the home’s interior support system is made of wood, the wood should be free of water, termite or fire damage. Metal studs and joists should be rust free and shouldn’t show any signs of warping or buckling. A great sign for the structure is if it was built with insulated concrete form (ICF) construction. ICF blocks are strong and durable, and they eliminate the problems that can come with metal or wood construction. ICF blocks are fire, water, disaster and termite resistant, and they don’t release harmful substances, like volatile organic compounds, to degrade indoor air quality. On top of that, ICF blocks insulate a building to lower energy bills and lower sound pollution.

Systems

Repairing or replacing systems can be costly, and a home with good bones will eliminate this potential for sinking capital. That means that HVAC, plumbing and electrical wiring are up to date, up to code, and free from any damage or deficiencies. The roof shouldn’t need to be replaced or repaired in the near future, and it should be constructed from a durable material. Windows should be leak free and in good repair. The home should have weatherproofed windows and doors to keep home-energy bills low and to keep the home comfortable on the hottest summer days and the coldest winter nights.

Layout

Often, when people refer to the bones of a home, they’re referring to the layout. A home with good bones will have a layout that makes sense. There will be a natural flow to the rooms, and rooms that are used in conjunction with one another will be conveniently located. For example, the kitchen will lead naturally to the dining room, and bathrooms will be conveniently located near the bedrooms. There won’t be awkward design features, such as doors that open into one another, awkwardly small rooms or architectural features that divide a main living space.

Location

Location doesn’t have anything to do with a home’s “bones,” but a home usually won’t have great potential if it doesn’t have a great location. That means the home should be well-placed on its lot, and windows will make the most of the home’s views. The home also should be situated in such a way that it maximizes sun exposure. Finally, if a home is located on a busy road, near an eyesore or near a loud public venue, those are all challenges that typically won’t be overcome by great design or an expensive remodel.

Ultimately, a home with “good bones” has great potential. Its main structure and systems are in good repair, so homeowners won’t have to worry about costly home improvements. The home is well designed to be comfortable and functional. When a home has good bones, homeowners can focus on making cosmetic renovations they’ll enjoy to create a home they love that will have a strong resale value in the future.

 

Corey Tyner is a writer and business owner who helps sell your house fast. He is the founder of Cash land buyers Arizona and Austin Fast Sell Home Buyers. As one of the top real estate investors in Arizona with over a decade of experience, his work has been featured on Bigger Pockets, Real Estate Agent Magazine, and several other mainstream real estate investor publications.

Nov. 7, 2019

Get to Know your Local Bookstores

     With holiday shopping upon us in Boston and the surrounding areas, I thought I'd take the opportunity to bring a little more local cheer to my blog.  One of my favorite things about living in the Greater Boston area is the commitment to local shops, artists, restaurants, etc. And on that note, it shouldn't be a surprise that New England's smartest city has some of the most unique and wonderful book stores around.

     There are still a bunch of us that love the feeling that comes with holding, smelling, and embracing a real page-filled book in a bookstore--especially during the holiday season, there is something about books that makes me feel warm. Just like the books themselves, these local book stores have irresistible charm that pulls you in. Some have cafes, some host events, some are so small that you wonder how they fit books in them at all--but each of these independent book stores are worth a visit.

Newtonville Books

This sweet little literary paradise is tucked away in an unsuspecting location in Newton Centre.  Really, if you don't know it's there, you may never see it.  The store itself isn't gimmicky; it hosts book readings and events and has a small trinket shop up front, but the vibe of this space is magical.  The front desk is literally made out of books, many of the shelves move and shift as event space is needed, and sliding ladders reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast line the exterior shelves.  The current iteration of the store also came about when it was purchased by the owners, who had fallen in love there years before while it was owned by someone else.  When that owner decided to sell, they knew they had to keep it going.

Papercuts J.P.

Papercuts JP Storefront

This is definitely the smallest of the book stores on the list (it's also the newest, having been opened in 2014) but it packs a punch. Because of the tighter footprint of the store itself, I think the owners have chosen to be more selective with what they carry.  The owners also started a printing press so that they could have more control over what they carry, and often publish smaller works by local authors.  They don't have many events, but they more than make up for it for their carefully selected works on the radical-leaning spectrum.

Brookline Booksmith

Located in the heart of Coolidge Corner, Brookline Booksmith is a local mainstay which opened in 1961. The massive, two-level store is "dedicated to the fine art of browsing." The first floor is stacked top to bottom with new books across all fields, and the used book cellar downstairs is a great for getting your favorite books at discounted prices. They also have an amazing gift area in the store filled with stationary, handcrafted jewelry and journals, it’s a great place to purchase thoughtful gifts.

Harvard Book Store

This gem in Harvard Square has been around since 1932, when it opened to sell used and bargain general interest books. Today, they have a wide variety of used, new and bargain books for sale. Harvard Book Store also has a print-on-demand machine that can print million of public domain or print-on-demand books right in the store, which is just pretty cool.  But the best thing about this particular store is their carefully curated schedule of book readings and signings, many of which are free.  The store is a huge advocate for the Cambridge and Harvard community; it's exactly what you would expect of an independent book store.

Oct. 24, 2019

To Stage or Not to Stage: Why Staging and Professional Photography is a Game Changer

A few weeks ago, The Boston Globe published an article decrying the overuse of staging in the Boston real estate market, and in doing so portrayed agents who express the importance of staging as nothing more than uncreative monkeys just parroting quick one-liners like "buyers have no imagination".

But here's the reality:  in today's digital age, 74% of all home buyers use the internet as part of their home search, and if you look at the demographic under 37 years old, it jumps to a whopping 92%. In fact, 44% of home buyers indicate that the first impression of a potential home is made online. That means that listing photos are a critical factor — they will often determine how quickly your home sells and at what price. This isn’t only about homes ranging above $1 million; this applies to all homes priced at $200,000 or more (which is basically everything in the Boston, Brookline, and Newton markets). Primarily, this is done by increasing the number of buyers who remain interested in the home after viewing online. Yes, a good photo can help to get a homebuyer through the door, but perhaps more importantly — bad photography or staging can immediate dissuade a potential buyer from even attending an Open House.

I'm here to double down on my insistence of the value of staging with a case study.

Two weeks ago, my business partner and I closed on the sale of a single family home in Newton for $3,350,000, blowing the community's average price per square foot of $546 out of the water--an even larger feat given that the home is 5,445 square feet. When you look at closed sales for 5000-6000 square foot homes in Newton over the last 3 months, the price per square foot drops to $434. We closed this property at $614/square foot.

Now that's not the whole story. I forgot to mention: the house was outdated and needed aesthetic improvements in the kitchen and bathrooms, and even a couple of bedrooms. So how did we do it? Superior marketing, which starts with two things:  staging and professional photography.

Before Staging & Photography After Staging & Photography


The survey also found that homes that are staged stay on the market for a significantly less amount of time than those that are not. Our case study from above is another solid example of this. Comparable homes are typically on market for ~120 days where the home we listed was on market just ~90 days from listing until closing.

Not every home is going to have a hefty budget for staging, but even small adjustments can make a big difference. A survey done by the National Association of Realtors of buyers' agents reports that 43% believed that the price increase for homes that are staged can be anywhere from 1%-20%. If you are selling a home for $800,000 even a modest 2.5% boost to your sales price is worth $20,000, and the cost to stage such a home (from my experience) is anywhere from $3,000-$7,000. Virtual staging can be done for free by some agencies such as Unlimited Sotheby’s International Realty, and others offer it at a small cost of $250-$500.

Here's an example of another job where home buyers were having trouble envisioning how to use a couple of the rooms, and couldn't tell how their furniture would quite fit. Virtual staging and professional staging helped paint that picture for them in a tangible and clean way. Each of the photos below were taken of the same room by professional photographers, but you can see the difference staging makes:

Before Staging Virtual Staging Professional Staging

Now if you're going to spend the money to stage a home then it's surely for nothing if you're not going to showcase it with high quality, professional photography.

A first impression is essential. If home buyers aren’t sold on images of a property they see online, chances are they will move on. Bad photos will affect their perception of a home prior to seeing it, and may prevent them from visiting in person. A good photograph will have a positive emotion associated with the home. In the event you still need to live in your home while listing it, keep this in mind: bad furniture and design can often be more detrimental than no furniture and design.

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Special thank you to Silk Purse Designs and Laura Graziano Staging & Interiors who did the staging work on the two projects from this post.