Nobody Puts Baby (Stuff) In A Corner

As your family grows, your belongings increase exponentially. When you have kids, walking around your living room may feel more like navigating an obstacle course as you try not to trip on toys or knock over piles of books. And if you have a newborn, every surface can resemble a changing table.

Looking around your home, you may find that you’re outgrowing it faster than you expected.

If it’s time to sell your home, you’re going to need to figure out what to do with all the stuff you’ve accumulated. You may just want to pile everything in the corner and hope no one notices, but home buyers notice everything.

Homes that sell quickly are neat and organized, but kids and their belongings don’t fit into those categories easily. Before you can start showing your home, you’re going to need to find a place for all your things. This idea may seem counterintuitive. Let’s face it, the primary reason you’re moving is that you don’t have enough space for all the items in your world. So why should you have to create space when you don’t have any?

Why Is It Important To Declutter Before Selling Your Home?

When potential buyers come to see your property, you don’t want them to see your home. You want them to be able to imagine theirs.

When you examine your home, you may be reminded of all of the reasons you’re ready to move on and move out. However, you don’t want home buyers to be aware of any of the issues that are motivating you to sell. So if you’re selling because you’ve outgrown your home, you need to ensure that anyone viewing your property for the first time is oblivious to your lack of space.

“When a room is filled with too much furniture, knick-knacks and just clutter, it is difficult for potential buyers to envision themselves in the environment,” says Denise Supplee, Licensed REALTOR®, Property Manager and Co-Founder of

Homes that are overflowing with belongings aren’t just distracting, they’re also discouraging to potential buyers. If there isn’t enough space in the home for your family, potential buyers will question whether there’s enough space for them.

Furthermore, Supplee adds, “Clutter could also give off the message that the home is unkept, and may have buyers contemplating that the house is not well cared for all around.”

If the amount of stuff you have in your home causes buyers to question the condition of your property, you’re in for a rocky experience. Even the most ideal homes can be challenging to sell.

You don’t want your home sending any mixed messages. But how are you supposed to create space when you don’t have any?

Begin To Sift Through Your Belongings

“Many of us live with what I call ‘toxic accumulation’ in our homes – i.e., years of accumulating not only dust and dirt but clutter and chaos as well. This accumulation shows and can be, well, toxic (both figuratively and literally). Whether it’s kids’ stuff or other stuff, paring down and getting rid of old items can minimize such accumulation within your home and thereby brighten it up,” says Luis Perez, a moving and storage expert for 5miles, a local marketplace app.

It’s this “toxic accumulation” that leads buyers to view homes as stuffy. Sorting through your belongings and figuring out what you no longer need is the first step in making your home feel bright, airy and attractive to home buyers.

As consumers, we’re much better at amassing things than we are at getting rid of them. Therefore, it can be challenging trying to determine what to throw away.

But according to Perez, “The average American home contains roughly 35 unused items, so most of us have plenty of stuff that we can get rid of. When deciding what to do with an unused item, ask yourself: Does it improve your life? Does it really hold sentimental value? Would it be hard to replace? If the answer to those questions is ‘no,’ it’s time for that item to go.”

Yet, once you go through the obvious items, there will still be many more that require your attention. So where do you go from there?

Rebecca Langman, an interior designer and owner of Revision Custom Home Design, suggests, “Take a day (or weekend) to go through each room and remove any items which are not necessary for the function of that room.” For example, she says, “Even if you always paint your nails in the living room, you should store those items in the bathroom while the home is on the market. Then go through and remove any items you won’t need between now and moving day.”

As we run out of space in our rooms, we tend to find creative places to put any items that don’t fit where they belong. By pulling these items out of their creative hiding places, you’ll naturally begin to clear away the clutter from each room. Throw away the excess, box up everything you won’t be needing for a while and then find a permanent home for everything you use regularly.

Create A Home For Everyday Items

As you eliminate the clutter and restore your rooms to their original purposes, you’ll want to start thinking like a stager. Stagers prepare homes for sale by stripping away distracting personal items and reinvigorating rooms to reflect the ways that new owners can enjoy them.

“Any space in a home for sale should look intentional. Kids’ backpacks hung in the mudroom highlight that space. Toys in a playroom look appropriate and emphasize storage options. Toys and kids’ clutter all over the kitchen or dining room are distracting,” says Lisa Dooley, organizing coach and author of “More Space. More Time. More Joy!: Organizing Your Best Life.”

When potential buyers come to see your home, you want them to see the possibilities. You want their eyes to travel around the room, stopping only to appreciate the advantages of the space. This means not only finding a proper home for every item but also creating the impression of order in each room. To achieve this effect, you should ask yourself: What items can I display here that will emphasize the utility of the room?

Pick out the items that are most representative of the function of each room and store them neatly and visibly. Seeing that your belongings have a proper place in your home will signal to buyers that the house not only works for you but that it will also be perfect for them.

How To Store Toys For Kids

Although playrooms are the ideal place to store your kids’ toys, not every home has enough space for one. If you don’t have a playroom, you’ll need to work a bit harder to find an appropriate place for your kids’ playthings.

You should aim to store as many toys in your kids’ bedrooms as possible since their rooms are the logical place for their toys to be kept. Yet, you can get away with storing select toys in the family room. But you can’t just throw your kids’ toys in the corner of the room and call that their play area.

“Filling corners of rooms that are not intended for storage will give the impression that the home is smaller than it actually is,” says Langman.

You need to create purposeful storage places for your kids’ stuff to properly show off the square footage of your home. “Storage cubbies are ideal for toys. Use a combination of bins and boxes for smaller items and open shelving for games, puzzles, etc.,” says Dooley.

Group your kids’ toys by category – dolls, blocks, action figures, electronics, etc. – and put like items in the same storage cubby or bin. This will not only create a semblance of order in kids’ chaotic rooms but it will also help you remain organized while you show your property. When every item has a clear home, your kids will have an easier time putting their things away after they’ve used them.

A home with empty rooms is just as difficult to sell as a home with cluttered rooms. So organized storage cubbies and tidy shelves have a decorative purpose as well as a practical one. Your storage solutions will give kids’ bedrooms a polished look that will entice potential buyers to make an offer on your home.

How To Organize A Shared Bedroom

If your kids share a bedroom, you’ve probably discovered that their room feels very cramped. Having two kids in one room means that you have twice the stuff to deal with. Therefore, you’ll need to spend extra time trying to make their room feel less claustrophobic.

“Shared bedroom space is going to look smaller because there’s more furniture in that space. By getting as much off the floor as possible, it highlights floor space and makes the room look more open and therefore bigger,” says Dooley.

The storage solutions that work in a single child’s room or a family room won’t work in a shared bedroom because any furniture you add will make the room look that much smaller. Instead of bringing in storage cubbies and hanging more shelves, you’ll want to find existing spaces to stash kids’ items.

“Give each child a large toy bin or plastic storage box that they can quickly throw their mess in and store in their closet or under their bed for showings or open houses,” says Langman.

Closets are a great place to conceal the overflow, but you need to be strategic when utilizing the space. Potential buyers tend to open all doors, and crammed closets indicate that a home has limited storage options. If you don’t have a shelf above your kids’ clothes rack, you’ll want to add one so you have a place to put toy bins.

Anything that doesn’t fit in the closet should be hidden under beds. Storage containers that fit under the bed are especially great for housing art supplies, linens and bulkier clothes that can look sloppy in drawers or on shelves.

While clearing off the floors of your kids’ shared bedroom will do wonders for opening up the space, you should also pay attention to the walls of the room.

“Taking down anything distracting or oversized on the walls (assuming the paint or wallpaper underneath are in good condition) will also make the room look bigger,” says Dooley.

You want potential buyers to be impressed by how much space there is in the bedroom, so get rid of anything on the floor or walls that isn’t essential.

Make Room For The Baby

If one of the reasons you’re moving is that you don’t have space for a nursery, you may be panicking about where you’re going to put all of your baby’s necessities. Don’t worry. You can do it. You’re just going to need to get a bit more creative.

Baby furniture can take up a lot of space in a room, so you’ll want to streamline the number of pieces you need. A baby’s crib, dresser and changing table are the mainstays of any nursery. You can’t get rid of the crib, but you can use the space below it. Store extra diapers, wipes, powders and other items neatly in a bin and slide them under the crib.

Instead of having a separate dresser and changing table, use one piece of furniture for both. Having a changing pad above the drawers you use to store your baby’s clothes will enable you to cut down on cumbersome furniture and further open up the floor space.

Stackable furniture is a great way to utilize space more fully, but every extra item of furniture you have in a room makes it feel smaller. So when your floor space begins to get too tight, it’s time to go vertical.

Hanging items that typically clutter the ground will make your rooms feel more spacious. Create wall mounts for your stroller and high chair in your mudroom or hall closet. Add a hook on the wall for the diaper bag.

By paring down your baby’s furniture and creating wall space in closets for bigger items, you’ll be able to squeeze your nursery into the corner of your master bedroom. By adding some minimal decorations to your makeshift nursery, you’ll make this space look more intentional. With these embellishments, potential buyers won’t think of the makeshift nursery as an issue with lack of space but instead as a calculated way to keep your baby close for late-night feedings.

What To Do With Everything That Doesn’t Fit

Even after you’ve sorted through your belongings, found places for your kids’ toys and made room for your baby’s necessities, you’ll most likely find that you still have a lot of stuff you don’t know where to store.

While the basement, attic or garage may seem like a reasonable place to store excess furniture and boxes of items you don’t need at the moment, you want those areas to look expansive and uncrowded.

If you’re worried that these commonly cluttered areas are already overused, it may be time to enlist outside help. Self-storage units can be the perfect solution for getting those sentimental, seasonal or bigger items out of the way before you start showing your home.

Furthermore, getting a storage unit will help minimize the stress of your impending move by allowing you to start packing up your things early on in the process. Simply label boxes to make things easy to find and unpack later.

Adam Pogoda, Director of Acquisitions for Pogoda Companies, a large storage operator in the Midwest, says, “Over 10% of American households utilize a storage unit to declutter their homes and closets. When selling a home, a storage unit can be helpful as clean, organized and decluttered homes sell faster and at higher numbers. People who buy new homes dream of what their lives could be, and they don’t want the image of their new life to be a mess.”

It may be difficult for you to part with the many items you don’t need between now and when you move into your new home. Yet, having those items lie around the house as you show it will turn off potential buyers. Getting a storage unit provides the best of both worlds: a neat, spacious home to sell now and a treasure trove of your belongings to fill your new home with later.

While the added expense of having to rent a storage unit may put you off at first, you’ll find that it’s worth the cost. While selling her home, Mary Pitman, a writer and publisher for Do the Right Thing Publishing, rented a storage unit and believes that it made all the difference.

“The price of the storage unit more than paid for itself simply by the speed of the sale,” she says. After removing unworn clothes from closets and bulky furniture from overcrowded rooms, she received an offer in 2 weeks and closed 2 weeks later.

Pitman adds, “The most telling effect of clearing out the clutter was my real estate agent’s comments as we waited at closing for the buyer: ‘I have to tell you … I cannot believe you got that much money for that house.’”

Sometimes a storage unit is all you need to close quickly and get the highest price possible for your home. If you believe a storage unit is the right option for you, you’ll want to start looking into the storage facilities in your area. Not sure what to look for?

Pogoda says, “There are over 50,000 self-storage facilities in America, so chances are there is one close by. You should look for a facility that is well-kept with a security system that includes gated access and cameras. Most facilities have websites, so it’s easy to shop online to find the best combination of convenience and price. Check the reviews of a store online to make sure there are no pest or mold problems. Property managers are well-trained to help you find the right size unit and will tell you about a store’s features.”

Self-storage has become a modern convenience that most households use anyway. So after you rent a unit for your move, you may find that you enjoy having your belongings out of your home but close enough that you can always retrieve them. You can even invest in a climate-controlled unit that will protect your most valuable belongings from extreme temperatures.

No matter how you choose to do it, clearing out your home is a monstrous task. It requires you to sort through all of your belongings and remove any personal touches or oversized furniture that distract from the space. But it’s well worth the hassle. If your rooms are tidy and well-organized, it will tell buyers that your home has been well-maintained and has enough storage options to suit their needs.

But once you’ve finished clearing away the clutter, you may feel so burnt out that you can’t imagine going through the process of selling alone. Just take a deep breath. You’re not alone. If you feel like you could use a little guidance, we’re here to help. We have the tools you’ll need each step of the way.

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Becoming Three: How to Create Household Harmony as Parents with a New Baby

Everything changes when the baby comes. The joy of becoming three is something no parent can truly prepare for. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare for when the baby arrives.

To achieve true household harmony you need to start getting ready. From making room for your brand-new baby and his or her things to finding calm during a tantrum now is the time to prepare.

Here’s what you can do to instill a little serenity as you transition to life as a family.

Create a Separate Nursery
Most new parents question whether they should share a room with the baby. Room sharing can be beneficial for the first few months, especially for feeding and resolving fussiness in the middle of the night, but there are downsides. Sharing a room with your baby can cause them to develop bad sleeping habits, especially if you’re waking up at every sound to settle or feed them.

Eventually you’re going to need a separate nursery so you and baby can get the sleep you need. Creating the perfect nursery takes work, but it’s well worth it days, weeks or months after the baby comes.

Make Extra Storage for Baby Gear
An added benefit of having a separate nursery is that there’s a place to store the baby gear. In addition to a crib you’ll have the stroller, furniture, car seat, clothes and toys and it all needs to go somewhere.

If you’re living in a small home or apartment, you’ll need to get creative with your storage solutions.

  • Use a wall mount for bicycles to store your stroller
  • Find furniture that folds and flips
  • Use wicker baskets and suitcases to store what you’re not using
  • Securely stack cabinets to the ceiling to make room

Taking Care of Baby (and You)
Between changing, feeding, playing and putting your child down it’s easy to forget about your needs. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself while caring for baby.

  • Shower – Getting in a shower might seem almost impossible as a new mom. You don’t want to leave your baby and he or she cries as soon as your foot hits the tile. Bring the bouncy seat into the bathroom, add a clear shower curtain if you don’t have a walk-in shower and get scrubbing. Your baby and your partner will thank you for it.
  • Media – In the few minutes that you’ll have alone you’ll want to be ready. The last thing you want is to lose your precious alone time to channel surfing. Find some of your favorite books, shows, or music to help relax you during the downtime. When the next tantrum, changing or feeding comes you’ll thank yourself for it.
  • Meditation – Meditation is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety as well as aid in sleep and decrease the risk of postpartum depression. If you’re not in the habit of meditating already, try it during pregnancy. All it takes is to sit in a comfortable chair and focus attention on your breath for a few minutes. You can even try doing it with your baby instead of trying to find time to do it alone.
  • Postnatal Yoga – If you’re suffering from headaches, back pain or fatigue then postnatal yoga may be able to help you relax and treat your aches and pains. Some yoga positions can even help babies get through colic, upset stomachs and bouts of crying.
  • Connect with Your Partner – Sleep deprivation, work and hectic schedules can lead new parents to feel disconnected. Take at least twenty or thirty minutes each day to connect with your loved one. Talk about things outside of work and the baby. Spend it cuddled up on the couch or before bed.
  • If you’re struggling to find serenity as three, it might be time to find a bigger home. Luckily, ForSaleByOwner has everything you need to sell your starter home and save. With tools, guides and services to help you price, prepare and market your home to millions of buyers, ForSaleByOwner makes it easy to sell and find household harmony. List your home for sale with ForSaleByOwner.

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Creative Ways to Save for Your Dream Home

You know what it looks like. You know the size of the master suite, which appliances fill the kitchen, and how the deck looks on a summer morning. It’s your dream home and it’s out there waiting for you.

Instead of tolerating that awkward closet, mornings sharing the sink with your partner and a bedroom too small for your newborn, start saving for the home of your dreams. With some dedication and planning you can have your dream home. Here’s how to make it happen.

1. Pay Off Your Debts
It can be hard to save for your dream home when your money’s going to interest on credit cards or monthly car payments. Clear out as much debt as you can before you start saving. If you have a partner and can get by with only one car, it might be worth boosting your down payment by selling your car.

2. Track it with an App
Personal finance apps are great for tracking where your money goes and showing you where you can cut the fat. Apps like Mint, Wally, and HomeBudget are free or low cost and can make saving simple.

3. Get Rid of Grey Charges
Grey charges are those things you see on your bank or credit card statement each month and say, “What was that for, again?” Those small subscriptions and renewals take small bites out of your finances each month sometimes adding up to hundreds of dollars over the year. That money could be going to your dream home. Go through your monthly fees and eliminate those grey charges.

4. Make Your Meals
How much do you spend every day on lunch? How about dinner? Are you eating out most nights of the week? You can cut down on your spending by packing your lunch and cooking dinner at home. Going to the grocery store once instead of multiple times a week will help you budget your food spending.

5. Put a Pin in It
Sure a spice container that automatically measures and dispenses your spices is clever, but is it better than finally having your own sink for your morning routine? Start a Pinterest board for the things you want and wait 30 days to buy them. If after a month you really can’t live without it then buy it. Most likely that spice carousel won’t seem like such a necessity.

6. Go Old School in a New Way
When was the last time you went to a library? For a few bucks you can borrow movies, books, music and more. You don’t have to give up your Spotify or Netflix subscriptions, but with libraries offering lots of digital content as well as hard copies you might find you don’t need them as much as you thought. Especially when it can save you a few hundred dollars a year.

7. Protect Yourself
Web browsers and apps like Apple Pay and Google Wallet remember your credit card information and make it easy to spend. Put a layer of security around your purchases by clearing your cookies and deleting your apps. When you have to take the time to pull out your card and enter your information you might rethink what you buy.

8. Find Discount Deals
Online retailers offer special deals to companies like Groupon or BeFrugal and they’re a great way to save without actually having to clip coupons.

9. Go “By Owner”
Home sellers save an average of $14,000 on their home sale using ForSaleByOwner. With interactive tools and guides, marketing exposure to millions of buyers and services that help you photograph and price your home, selling isn’t just easier than trying to share the shower, it’s easier than you think. List your home for sale on ForSaleByOwner.

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Newly Pregnant? Why You Should Start a 529 College Savings Plan

Being newly pregnant is an exciting time with a lot to do. It’s easy to overlook financial planning when you’re choosing a physician and planning your announcement, but those first few months are perfect for looking ahead. Before the showers, baby-proofing and endless doctor visits kick in, use these simple steps to start a 529 college savings account for your baby.

What is a 529 College Savings Plan?
A 529 college savings plan allows parents to save for tuition and other educational expenses. It uses a method that’s more like a 401(k) than a savings account. In most cases the plan is provided by a state or educational institution and managed by an investment firm. Contributions are invested in mutual funds in one of the following ways:

  1. An age-based option that adjusts your mix of assets so that they becomes less risky the closer your child is to college age
  2. A static option that maintains the same asset mix throughout the lifetime of the plan

Although contributions to a 529 college savings plan aren’t tax deductible, the plan offers numerous tax benefits. The most important benefit is that the income from your investment isn’t subject to federal tax or, in some cases, state tax.

Almost all 50 states offer at least one option for a 529 plan. Many states offer 529 plans to non-residents, allowing parents, grandparents or students to find a plan that’s best for them regardless of where they live. These plans can be used at most accredited colleges, graduate schools, trade schools and professional schools across all 50 states.

How Much You’ll Need to Save (and How to Do It)
According to the private nonprofit College Board, costs for tuition and fees during the 2015-2016 school year ranged between an average of $32,405 for a private institution and $9,410 for in-state tuition at public colleges. In 2030, tuition is expected to cost between $92,869 and $130,428 per year for a private university and between $41,228 and $57,609 for in-state public college.

That’s a lot of money, but you don’t have to save $30,000 a year for your child to go to college two decades from now. If you can save at least one-third of expected college costs you’ll significantly reduce debt for you and your child.

The website has a helpful tool to calculate college costs. For example, if your child attends a college that currently costs $22,000 a year (roughly the average cost of tuition between private and public colleges both in and out of state) you would only have to contribute $186 a month to save one-third of your expected costs.

The key is treating this savings plan just like any other bill and contributing to it regularly.

The Real Cost of a 529 Savings Plan
529 college savings plans can be a great investment, but they aren’t free. Depending on the plan you purchase there are a number of fees you may have to pay, including broker commissions on some state-sold plans.

Make sure that whatever plan you choose, you’re aware of any hidden fees including wire transfer fees, administrative fees for out of state residents and application fees among others.

Which 529 Plan Should I Choose?
Finding a 529 plan that’s right for you means doing your research. The best place to start is with those named the best 529 plans. The investment research firm Morningstar gave Gold ratings to four plans including the T. Rowe Price College Savings Plan issued by Alaska, Maryland College Investment Plan, the Vanguard 529 College Savings Plan issued by Nevada and the Utah Educational Savings Plan.

And the best way to get a head start on a savings account for your baby is using the money you’ll save selling your home with ForSaleByOwner. Home sellers save an average of $14,000 in agent commissions with ForSaleByOwner. And with interactive tools and guides, 24/7 support, and our Home Selling Guarantee, selling your home isn’t just easier than saving for college; it’s easier than you think.

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8 Easy Home Selling Tips

Why sell your home yourself? Selling a home by yourself, without an expensive real estate broker, is easier than most people think, but it will take some work on your part. You will be doing a lot of things that a real estate agent might normally do. Follow the step-by-step selling guide, and you’ll not only save lots of money, but we’ll help you make the house selling process as easy as possible.

1. Make Your Home Look Great
Presentation is everything. Home buyers are attracted to clean, spacious and attractive houses. Your goal is to dazzle buyers. Brighten-up the house and remove all clutter from counter tops, tables and rooms. Scrub-down your house from top to bottom. Make it sparkle. Simple aesthetic improvements such as trimming trees, planting flowers, fixing squeaking steps, broken tiles, shampooing rugs and even re-painting a faded bedroom will greatly enhance the appeal of your house. Also, make sure your house smells good. That’s right, clean out the cat box and light mildly scented candles.

Invite a neighbor over to walk through your house like a buyer would. Get their opinion on how it “shows.” The stuffed donkey in the family room may have to go to your in-laws for a while.


2. Price Your Home Right
Careful not to over price your home. Over-pricing when you sell a home reduces buyer interest, makes competing homes look like better values, and can lead to mortgage rejections once the appraisal is in. Over-pricing when selling a home is the single biggest reason why many “for sale by owner” (FSBO) home sellers don’t sell their homes successfully. The home selling market dictates the price (not what you think it should be worth).

One of the best ways to correctly price your house when selling is to find out how much other homes, similar to your own, recently sold for in your neighborhood. Talk to home sellers, buyers and check out the real estate listings in your local newspaper.

Typically, if you set the price of your home at 5 to 10 percent above the market price, you are likely to end up with an offer close to your home’s true value. Also, you may try calculating the cost per square foot of your home compared to the house selling prices in your area (divide list price by square footage of livable space). If your house has more features or other desirable qualities, you may want to set a slightly higher house selling price.

The easiest way to accurately price your home is to contact your local home appraiser.

Finally, set your house selling price just under a whole number, such as $169,900 rather than $170,000.


3. Hire a Real Estate Lawyer
Even though it’s an additional expense, it may be wise to hire a lawyer who will protect your interests throughout the entire transaction. An experienced real estate lawyer can help you evaluate complicated offers (those with a variety of conditions), act as an escrow agent to hold the down payment, evaluate complex mortgages and/or leases with options to buy, review contracts and handle your home’s closing process. They can also tell you what things, by law, you must disclose to buyers prior to a sale and can also help you avoid inadvertently discriminating against any potential buyers.

In some areas, title companies will handle all aspects of the transaction and have in-house legal departments that can assist you with legal issues that may arise. To locate a title company in your area, visit our Find a Pro page.

Unless you’re significantly experienced in the home selling process, having a real estate lawyer at your side provides peace-of-mind. You know you’ve got someone looking out for your interests, not just the buyers. To locate a lawyer in your area, visit our Find a Pro section.


4. Market Your Home for Sale
Exposure, exposure, exposure. That’s how sellers sell their home fast. provides extensive listing exposure because hundreds of thousands visit the website every day. In fact, is one of the top 25 most visited real estate websites in the U.S. getting millions of visitors looking to buy or sell a home every month.


Write Your Listing Ad
While For Sale By allows you a longer description of your house than you could afford that in a newspaper ad, your advertising copy should be thorough yet short, simple and to-the-point. Long, flowery prose will not make your house sound more appealing. It will simply make it harder for the home buyer to read. Make sure to provide the critical facts buyers are looking for such as the house’s number of bathrooms, a re-modeled kitchen, etc.

Most home buyers quickly scan ads, so it is important that your house stands out. For example, you may want to add a theme-line such as “Priced below market” or “Great schools.” Stay away from industry jargon and use language that makes home buyers comfortable. Survey our web site and see how others have written their ads. You will quickly see which are “buyer friendly.” Copy their approach for your ad.


Home Photos: Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words
If you are taking a photo of your home, be sure that the home’s yard/driveway is uncluttered. Remove bikes, garbage cans and parked cars. The same applies for interior shots. People are looking to buy your house, not your possessions. Think of furniture as props and the room a stage. Move things around if you have to. Also, take lots of house photos. Film is cheap…your home deserves quality. The more you shoot, the better the odds are that you’ll get a few really good shots.


Yard Signs
Lawn signs are one of the most important marketing tools for home sellers. They attract attention to your home. Professionally-produced yard signs (like the ones we can send to you) telegraph to home buyers a “quality” image of your house. Directional signs also help drive buyers to your property, especially if you do not live on a busy street.


Open Houses
Open houses are sometimes a good way to attract buyers to your home. Typically, real estate agents conduct open houses for two reasons; 1. Clients expect them 2. They are a good way to attract buyers, not just for the open house but for all houses for sale in the Real Estate Agent’s area (yes, your competition). The fact is that very few houses sell due to a open house itself.


Home Brochures/Information Sheets
It is a good idea to create an information sheet (with a photo) about your home to give potential buyers. Consider printing copies of your ad from For Sale By to give to people who visit your home.


The MLS or Multiple Listing Service can also help market your home, particularly to real estate agents who may know of buyers seeking a property like yours. The MLS is a directory used by real estate agents to announce to other agents that they have a home for sale. In many selling markets, For Sale By can put your house on the MLS (for an additional fee). However, if a real estate agent finds you a buyer after seeing your home on the MLS, you must usually pay that agent a 2.5% to 3% commission (the law states that all commissions are negotiable, however).

You are your home’s best salesman. As every salesman knows, to be effective you have to really know your product. And who knows your home better than you? Certainly not a real estate agent, who, in all likelihood, has spent only a few moments in your house before showing it to prospective buyers.

Sell your neighborhood as well as your house. Show enthusiasm, but don’t get caught-up talking too much about how “your daughter spent the best years of her life in this very room.”


5. Negotiate and Accept an Offer
When a home buyer makes an offer (this is often presented to you directly from the buyer or through their lawyer), you should consult with your attorney. Buyers and sellers have an Attorney Review Period, which is usually three days, to cancel or amend the offer. The offer becomes a contract at the end of the Attorney Review Period, and is binding. Many of your home’s offers can be complicated and contain special clauses that favor the buyer.


Purchase Price Isn’t Everything
Carefully consider the purchase contract’s other terms and conditions. Too many contingencies can leave loopholes and cause a deal to collapse. Especially avoid contingencies that favor the house’s buyer, such as linking the escrow closing date to the buyer’s sale of their current home. If the buyer insists on such terms, include a so-called kick-out clause in the contract that will allow you to consider other offers if the buyer isn’t able to sell within a certain period of time.


Assess Your Buyer’s Financial Qualifications
Is the buyer pre-approved? How much of a loan is the buyer seeking? Unless you are in an active market, lenders tend to shy away from underwriting a deal in which the purchase price is higher than the nearest comparable sale and the buyer is putting less than 10% down. If this is the case, your buyer may not be able to obtain financing.


Know the Home Selling Market
How you judge an offer also can depend on market conditions. If the selling market is slow, you may feel vulnerable, especially if circumstances are pressing you to sell. Make sure any offer you accept does not keep you in escrow longer than 30 days. In a hot market where multiple offers are likely, be wary of countering more than one offer at a time (you could end up in legal trouble if two buyers both accept your counter offer). Also be wary of offers that promise more money but contain poor contract terms (long escrow, multiple contingencies, etc.).

If you feel the home’s offer is insufficient, make a counter offer. Rarely is a first offer the buyer’s absolute highest price they are willing to pay. Negotiating is part of the home selling process.

Again, your lawyer should review the details of all offers.


6. Home Inspections
All standard real estate contracts are going to give the prospective home buyer the right to inspect your property – so be prepared. Under a general inspection you are obligated to make major repairs to appliances, plumbing, septic, electrical and heating systems – or the buyer may cancel the offer. The inspection will also include your property’s roof, as well as a termite inspection (in some states, house sellers must provide proof that the home is termite free).

If you are concerned about how your home will fare when inspected, you may want to visit your local inspector. They can conduct an inspection for you before a potential buyer has one done. This way, you can address the problems before a buyer stumbles upon them.

Once the inspections are complete, the buyer makes an application to a mortgage lender.


7. Buyer Appraisals and Other Details
The mortgage lender will order an appraisal of your home to make sure they are not paying more than the house is worth. They may also order a surveyor to make sure that the property boundaries are properly laid out. They will also order a title search to determine if there are any liens against your property. These tasks are all the responsibility of the buyer and/or their attorney.

At this point too, the mortgage company will issue a commitment. Again, the buyer (and their attorney) must complete all conditions listed on the mortgage commitment.

Prior to closing, you should notify your lender that you will be paying off your mortgage. After a closing date has been agreed to, you should contact your utility providers and advise them of your final billing date.


8. Closing Time
The day of the closing, the home’s buyer will do a “walk through” of the property to make sure all agreed repairs are completed and that the home is in the same condition as when the buyer made their offer. If problems arise at this point, the closing can still take place with funds held in escrow to remedy the problem.

Closings usually occur 30 to 45 days after you have signed the sales contract. Depending on what state you reside in, you may close with an attorney, or with a title company. At the closing, all monies will be collected, any existing loans or liens will be paid, the deed will be transferred, and insurance will be issued insuring a free and clear title. The home seller will receive the proceeds of their home in one to two business days after the closing.


Don’t Forget to Do Your Home Work
This step-by-step home selling guide is a general overview of the process when selling a home. Each state has slightly different laws and customs as they relate to the transaction process.

Selling a home yourself can be time consuming, but the financial rewards can be tremendous. With help from, the process of home selling a home by owner as easy as possible.

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The New Path to Homeownership [Infographic]

Most property purchases now start on the computer (or tablet or smartphone) screen. Here’s the data you need to know before sharing your home listing with the world.

The New Path to Homeownership

To view, download and print The New Path to Homeownership [Infographic] as a PDF, click here.

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Broaden Your Buyer Audience with Social Media

If you are selling your home by owner, you are the primary marketer of your home. One of the best ways to broaden your appeal these days is communicating through social media.

Facebook is a great place to start. You probably already have a Facebook account, and it’s a place to instantly recruit your friends and family to help you get your message out. The keys are to post often about your home and to do it in interesting ways.

Just posting a link to your home’s listing isn’t going to be as effective as posting a picture with a great caption and then the link.

Even better, you can tag pictures and posts with your friend’s names. Tagging gets you more exposure because now their friends will see your posts in their news feeds too. For example, you could take a picture of your back deck, tag a few neighbors and say something like: “This deck is one of my favorite things about our home. Hey David, remember when we had that neighborhood cookout back here? Great community, great neighbors for whoever buys our home.” (Add a link to your home’s listing at end.) Now your friends and David’s friends know your house is for sale, and that it has a great deck and great neighbors.

Be creative and don’t just limit your reminders to pictures of your home. Maybe there’s a local event coming up, so comment about it. For example: “One of my favorite things is our city’s fireworks show on the 4th of July. I love that I can sit on my back deck and have a spectacular view.”

Also, advertise your open house on Facebook – take pictures of balloons or snacks and say, “Having an open house this Sunday 1-3 pm, everyone’’s invited to come by and visit the house and even have some yummy treats.”

A tip: If you post regularly on Facebook about your home, be sure that your privacy settings are set to public on those posts. And always include a photo or video in your post plus a link to your home’s listing page.

Carrie Richardson is Director of Client Development for South Oak Title, located in Birmingham, AL. Learn more about South Oak Title and the services it offers.

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