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How to Decorate for Christmas Without Breaking the Bank

by Melissa Thompson

The holiday season is here and if you have your house on the market, you might be packing up everything you own very soon.  The last thing you want to do is unpack all your Christmas decorations only to have to pack them back up again.  In addition, if you are showing your home to potential buyers, you are going to want to keep your holiday décor as simple as possible. You don’t have to be a scrooge though!  You can decorate beautifully without spending a lot of money and without having to unpack all your personal treasures.  Here are five inexpensive ways to decorate for the holidays;

  1. Homemade Garland - A lot of craft stores have great sales and coupons this time of year.  Grab some greenery and then head on over to a dollar store and pick up some pretty ornaments.  You can find DIY instructions for making a festive garland on YouTube.  DIY Dollar Tree Christmas Garland
     
  2. Real Tree - If you have been using an artificial tree and don’t want to unpack it, this is a good time to buy a real tree.  Some can be very expensive, but you can find a pretty tree for as little as $30 in some places.  Consider using a smaller tree and placing it on a table top instead of on the floor.  Decorate with old-fashioned strings of popcorn and cranberries.  And you might be surprised at the sparkly ornaments you can find at very little cost.
     
  3. Wrapped Gifts - Beautifully wrapped gifts can be used to create any aesthetic you desire.  For a more formal look, wrap gifts in shiny silvers and golds.  Want to go whimsical? Try wrapping paper in fun shades of red, green, pink and white. And if you’re going for a winter wonderland look, use blues and silvers.  The point is that you can use the gifts themselves to create gorgeous holiday décor.
     
  4. DIY Christmas Wreaths - All you need is a hot glue gun, some inexpensive ornaments, ribbon, and a coat hanger and you can make pretty wreaths. There are lots of other ways to make them to. Check some out here: 45 Christmas Wreaths For the Most Festive Display on the Block
     
  5. Poinsettias - You can find pretty poinsettias just about anywhere this time of year.  Care for them properly, and they will last the whole holiday season.  Display them in reds, pinks and whites to create a classy ambiance in your holiday home.

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in the Memphis area, contact professional Realtor, Melissa Thompson, and let her help you with all your real estate needs. Give her a call at 901-729-9526 today.

Photo Credit: goodhousekeeping.com

What You Need to Know About Renting Out a Room in Memphis

by Melissa Thompson

Memphis, home of blues, soul & rock ‘n’ roll is a fantastic travel destination. With so many fun attractions such as Graceland, Sun Studio, the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum and iconic Beale Street, homeowners may be tempted to rent out rooms to earn a little extra income.  Why not?  It sounds easy enough.  Clean up that spare room or basement and you can rake in the big bucks from people looking for alternatives to hotel lodging.  But there are things you should know before taking this on.  It may not be as simple as it seems.

- There are several online peer-to-peer marketplaces for renting out your house or a room in your house. Airbnb is one of the largest and most popular. Some others include HomeAway and FlipKey. Your first step should be to investigate the various options and decide which one will work best for you.

- Educate yourself about the laws involved with renting out a room in your home. When listing your home on a website, they might not indicate whether you’re complying with local laws.  You are responsible for knowing the regulations and following the rule of the law.  Don’t get yourself in a situation like the hosts in New York City who were fined thousands of dollars for renting their apartments through peer-to-peer services.  This type of rental activity is allowed in Memphis, but it is subject to rules set forth by city council.  Make sure you know the rules and regulations before placing your room for rent. Memphis City Council Cuts Red Tape for Airbnb Hosts

- There may be taxes involved.  Depending on how much you earn by renting out all or part of your home, you may receive a tax form from the marketplaces that list your property.  Regardless, you must report the earnings when filing your taxes.  This is something to consider when deciding if it is worth the cost to start renting out space in your home.

- Something else to think about when deciding if your profits will outweigh your costs is the expense of having guests in your home.  You will be providing consumables such as soap, toilet paper, shampoo and cleaning supplies. In addition, your utility bills may increase.  You may also want to hire a cleaning service if you don’t have time to clean between guests.

- To increase your chances of being booked, consider listing on multiple sites.  The more people that see your listing, the better the chance it will be rented.  But remember, each site has its own rules, fee structures and insurance requirements, so you need to know this information for every site you use.

Should you decide to rent out a room in your home, the rental site that you choose will help you get started and before you know it you will be welcoming guests to magnificent Memphis!

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in the Memphis area, contact professional Realtor, Melissa Thompson and let her help you with all your real estate needs. Give her a call at 901-729-9526 today!

Photo Credit: memphistravel.com

Preparing to Sell Your House - Kid-Friendly Chores

by Melissa Thompson

There is a lot of work involved in Getting Your Home Ready to be Listed for sale. You want it to be in the best condition possible.  It can be overwhelming and stressful, but it must be done to get the best possible price for it when you sell.  If you have children, they can help!  Don’t underestimate their ability and desire to be a part of the process. Here is a list of kid-friendly chores that will allow your children to assist in getting your home ready to sell:

  1. Putting Toys Away - Have your children gather toys from all over the house.  The last thing you want is a potential buyer tripping over a Lego or matchbox car.  Once they have gathered all their toys in one place, have them go through them to decide if there are any they are willing to part with.  This will help with clearing out spaces.
  2. Depersonalizing - Give your children the mission of finding all the family photos in the home and taking them down.  It’s important that potential buyers are able to envision your home as their own and that’s challenging when they are looking at pictures of your family on every wall.
  3. Painting Exterior Fence - Do you have a wood fence surrounding your property?  Has it seen better days?  Giving it a makeover is a great way to spruce up your Curb Appeal. Depending on their age, children can do a great job giving the fence a fresh coat of paint.
  4. Dusting & Vacuuming - When your house needs to be sparkling clean for showings, you are going to want to vacuum and dust daily.  Little ones love to dust…give them a feather duster and let them go nuts!  Assign vacuuming duty to older children.  If they are tall enough to handle the vacuum, they are capable of helping keep the floors clean!
  5. Cleaning Up the Yard - First impressions are important!  Potential buyers may not even want to go in to look at your house if they outside is a mess. Have your kids help by removing debris such as sticks, branches, and leaves from the yard and flower beds.  If there are any toys outside, have them pick them up and store them appropriately.  Older kids can help with mowing and edging to keep your yard looking nice.
  6. Planting Flowers - Little ones love digging in the dirt!  If you’re going to plant some flowers to enhance your curb appeal, allowing your children to help will make it less of a task and more an activity you can enjoy together!

While you might think that you just want your kids to stay out of the way while you are preparing your house for sale, you might be surprised at how much they are capable of if given the opportunity.  A lot children thrive when given the chance to help their parents. You can kill two birds with one stone by not only keeping your children busy, but also getting things done quicker so you can have your house ready to list and show as soon as possible!

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in the Memphis area, contact professional Realtor, Melissa Thompson and let her help you with all your real estate needs. Give her a call at 901-729-9526 today!

Photo Credit: aptparenting.com

Homeowners’ Association Pros and Cons

by Melissa Thompson

You’ve found your dream home!  The neighborhood is lovely, with well-kept lawns and freshly painted exteriors. There is a resort-like pool and a playground for the kids.  Awesome. Oh, and there is a  Homeowners' Association (HOA) that will cost you $500 a month.  Didn’t see that coming, did you?  It’s important to be informed about the pros and cons of living in a neighborhood with a homeowners’ association.

Pro - The neighborhood will look nice.  Most HOAs establish rules for residents that ensure keeping up the appearance of the neighborhood.  The guidelines might include keeping lawns manicured, whether you can have a fence (and the type and color of the fence), and what exterior paint colors you can use.  You may even have to get permission to remove or add trees and shrubs. What You Need to Know About HOA Rules & Regulations

Con - HOA dues.  They can be expensive, sometimes as much as $1,000 per month depending on what amenities are offered.  These fees need to be taken into consideration when deciding if you can afford a house in the neighborhood.  They will be included in your mortgage lender’s assessment of your monthly mortgage payment, so you will have to qualify for a loan amount that includes them.

Pro - Awesome amenities.  You will enjoy the amenities that come with your HOA fees.  Most HOAs offer luxuries such as a pool, a fitness center, play areas, parks and security gates.  That’s in addition to covering the expenses of landscaping and maintenance of the common areas.

Con - Needing permission to make changes to your property.  If you want to add a room to your home or modify it in some way, you will have to make a request that will go before the HOA board for approval.  If they don’t approve it, you will not be able to make the changes you want.

Pro - Maintenance costs are shared.  You won’t have to worry about the upkeep of the pool, fitness center or common areas.

Con - HOA financial problems could become your problem.  If your HOA is struggling financially, it could damage your ability to obtain a loan for a home and it could be detrimental to home sale prices in the community.

Pro - An HOA will handle disputes between neighbors.  If someone has a dog barking at all hours or loud parties, you can contact the HOA and they will contact the neighbor; especially if HOA rules are being broken.

Con - Keeping up with the dues.  If you fall behind on your HOA dues, it can do great harm to you financially.  You may even end up facing foreclosure. That’s why it is crucial that you include the fees when determining if you can afford a house. You may also be subject to late fees if you don’t pay on time.  In addition, HOAs can fine you for not following guidelines and rules, so it’s imperative that you can afford the upkeep required for living in the neighborhood.

It’s vital that you consider all these pros and cons before deciding to purchase a home in a neighborhood with an HOA.

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in the Memphis area, contact professional Realtor, Melissa Thompson and let her help you with all your real estate needs. Give her a call at 901-729-9526 today!

Photo Credit: conveyco.com

It’s Time to Sell Your Home - Here is Why

by Melissa Thompson

Selling your home is a huge decision and one that should not be made impulsively.  If you are thinking about selling, but you’re not sure if you should, here are some signs to look for that will indicate that now is a good time to sell:

- Space is an issue.  Has your family grown since you bought your current home?  Do you have multiple people sharing bedrooms and bathrooms?  If your house is bursting at the seams, it might be time to let it go and find something a little bigger.  Alternatively, perhaps you have too much space.  If you bought the home when your family was large and now you are an empty nester, you may be ready to downsize.

- Neighbors are selling homes successfully.  If houses are selling like hotcakes in your neighborhood and your neighbors are making tidy profits on their sales, then that’s a cue that you should contact a Realtor to find out what your home is worth on the current market.

- Interest rates are low. When interest rates are low it is an advantage to sellers because a larger pool of eligible buyers can be expected.  Add to that the fact that the current inventory of homes for sale is low, and you have a seller’s market that will make your home even more desirable to prospective buyers.

- Remodeling won’t be worth it.  Maybe you want to stay in your current home and you think that remodeling is the answer.  But will the expense of remodeling to fulfill your wants and needs be worth it in the long run?  Will it add value to your home?  While you might have to do some updates to prepare your home for sale, if the market favors sellers, you might be better of selling and finding a new home to suit your needs.

- You’re confident the market is strong.  It’s important to educate yourself about what’s going on in the real estate market before you decide to put your house on the market.  An experienced Realtor like Melissa Thompson can help you understand the market and determine if now is the time to sell your house.

All signs are currently pointing at this being a good time to sell.  Contact the professionals at Your Key to Memphis and they can help you get your house on the market and sold for the best possible price! Call them today at 901-756-8900.

The Power of Negotiation

by Melissa Thompson

The Lost Art of Negotiation in the world of real estate is unfortunate because the truth of the matter is, if you don’t ask…you don’t get. While sellers want the highest price and buyers want the best deal, they must meet somewhere in the middle for the deal to close. Negotiation is a vital part of selling or buying a home because it is the largest asset people own and there is a lot of money at stake. Here are some guidelines for what sellers and buyers might ask for in real estate negotiations:

Price

Negotiating the best price means different things for sellers and buyers.  The seller wants the highest price and the buyer wants to pay as little as possible.  For a successful transaction, they must compromise and come up with a price that is acceptable to both.

Closing Costs

Prepaid closing costs are paid by buyers for their mortgage.  These are funds that the mortgage lender holds in escrow for expenses like taxes and insurance.  A buyer may ask a seller to cover some or all their closing costs either with a flat dollar amount or up to a percentage of what’s an allowable contribution for a lender.  If a buyer asks the seller to do this, they are likely going to pay a higher asking price.

Closing Date

Sometimes sellers want to get out of a home quickly because they need the capital from the house they are selling to put toward a new real estate purchase.  The closing date will also affect the buyer’s monthly cash-flow because when a buyer closes on a house, they skip the next month’s mortgage payment, therefore they may want to negotiate to close at the beginning of a month.

Financing Contingencies

When there is a financing contingency in place for a real estate transaction, it can tie up a seller’s property for a required 30 to 60 days.  For this reason, many sellers prefer buyers coming to the table with cash offers. If you are competing with cash buyers, you may want to figure out if you can drop the financial contingency, which will shorten the closing time line. You can do this by getting pre-approved for a home loan prior to making an offer.  Mortgage Preapproval shows that your finances are in order and you can afford the home.

Home Warranty

As a buyer, you can request a home warranty. As a seller, you can offer one. This home protection plan covers things like appliances and systems such as the hot water heater or air conditioning, in the event they need repair or replacement.

Leaseback

The moving process is stressful and labor intensive.  Sometimes a seller will need extra time to get into their new home.  When this happens, buyers can offer a zero-cost rent-back for 30 to 90 days to persuade the seller to accept their offer over others. 

Home Repairs

With a home that needs a lot of updating there comes ample opportunity for negotiation. Buyers need to consider the cost of bringing the home up to current standards and use the estimate of that cost to request a lower asking price.  The seller, on the other hand, can specify that the house is being sold “as is” and not offer any repairs.

Appraisal Contingency

A seller can push for a buyer to waive the appraisal contingency, however, if for some reason the appraisal falls short of the expected amount, they need to be prepared for the amount of cash they might have to pay should the bank only be willing to lend them money based on the appraised value.

Furniture

Personal property such as patio furniture, window treatments and chandeliers are all up for grabs. The buyer can ask for these things to be included in the contract. Sellers need to determine what they are willing to leave behind.  And any exclusions need to be specifically listed in the contract as well.

Appliances

Depending on the market, sellers don’t always leave every appliance for the buyer.  They may include the dishwasher, stove and built in microwave in the contract but not the refrigerator, washer, and dryer.  Sometimes they don’t want to give everything away up front so that they can use these as items for negotiation.

Inspection

When sellers waive inspection, they often find themselves with "buyer's remorse", but they can try to shorten the time frame for inspection, from ten days to five.  However, today’s lending practices and the TILA RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) make this hard to do.

Condo/Co-op Assessments

These are fees that are used to maintain common areas in a community. If there is an open assessment, it can become a negotiation between the buyer and seller as to who will pay for it.

If you are looking for a professional Realtor to negotiate the best deal for you, call Melissa Thompson at 901-756-8900 today and let her help you with all your real estate needs!

Photo Credit: slideshare.net

Making House Guests Feel at Home

by Melissa Thompson

Many people travel to visit family and friends during the summer.  If you are expecting house guests, you will want to prepare your home so that is comfortable and welcoming.  Here is a list of things to do before your guests arrive:

  • Buy Fresh Flowers - Even if you don’t keep fresh flowers in your home all the time, it’s nice to splurge a little to have them for your guests. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. You can often find lovely bunches of flowers at your local grocery store.  If you have a green thumb and grow flowers in your yard, that’s even better! Just clip some and place them in pretty vases around the house.
  • Clean Out and Restock the Refrigerator - Get rid of any lurking left-overs as well as any condiments that have passed their expiration.  Plan your meals for the duration of the visit and Stock the Fridge accordingly. Make sure you know your guests’ dietary needs and allergies prior to their arrival.
  • Make a Spare Key - Unless you plan to spend every second of the visit with your guests, you will want to give them a key so that they have the freedom to come and go if you are not home.
  • Have Extra Toothbrushes on Hand - You will be doing your guests a great favor by having extra personal items on hand in case they have forgotten something.  There is nothing worse after arriving from a long trip than having to go back out to purchase forgotten items.  Other items to have on hand: razors, deodorant, feminine hygiene products etc.
  • Clean Out the Guest Room Closet - If you’ve been using your guest room closet for storage, now is the time to clean it out.  Even if you don’t clear it out completely, make sure there is enough space for your guests to store their bags and hang clothes.
  • Clean Up the Clutter -  Having a cluttered home might be ok when it’s just you and your immediate family, but you will want to have a neat and tidy home for your guests.  You don’t have to go overboard.  You can leave out things you use daily, like the bag of dog food or the tv remotes. But put other extraneous items away for the duration of their stay.
  • Wipe the Ceiling Fan Blades - There are some things that often get overlooked in your normal cleaning routine.  Make sure to wipe down the ceiling-fan blades along with other nooks and crannies you might have missed before.  It’s also a good time to change your air filters if they haven’t recently been changed.
  • Replace Shower Curtain Liner - If you haven’t changed your shower curtain liner in the  guest bathroom recently, check it to make sure there is no mildew.  Liners are inexpensive and new one will give the bathroom a fresh feel. 
  • Prepare Guest Bath - Speaking of the Guest Bathroom - make sure it is fully stocked with plenty of toilet paper, facial tissues, shampoo, conditioner and body wash.  Splurge on some fragrant fancy soaps to place on the sink. Provide a stack of freshly laundered towels so that your guests don’t have to go looking for them.

Having guests in your home can be a little stressful sometimes. Preparing for their visit ahead of time will alleviate some of that stress so that you can enjoy their visit to the fullest!

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home in the Memphis area, contact professional Realtor, Melissa Thompson and let her help you with all your real estate needs. Give her a call at 901-729-9526 today!

Photo Credit: littlehouseliving.com

Holding an Open House - Worth it or Not?

by Melissa Thompson

Home owners and Realtors often debate whether having an open house is beneficial or not.  Some sellers will insist that having an open house is the best way to sell their home, while others will want nothing to do with having potential buyers traipse through their home.  Real estate professionals have different views on this topic as well.  Some swear by open houses and feel they are critical to sales, while others never hold them and some just have them occasionally.

So, the question remains…if you are selling your home, should you hold an open house?  Here is a list of pros and cons to help you make that decision:

Pros to holding an open house:

  • Attract buyers who may not know how to start the home buying process. Purchasing a home is a process that many people are not familiar with, especially first-time home buyers. People new to home buying will need a significant amount of guidance and advice.  A positive that may result from having an open house is the possibility of a buyer who doesn’t know where to start coming to see your home.  You may also get the attention of potential buyers who just happen to drive by and see the sign for the open house. 
  • Additional exposure.  One of the most important jobs of a  Realtor representing sellers, is making sure their clients’ home is getting ample exposure.  Open houses can give extra exposure through promotional advertising such as street signs, newspaper ads and internet ads.
  • Allows buyers to look at house without feeling pressured.   With the laid-back atmosphere of an open house, prospective buyers will feel more comfortable looking around with little to no pressure from the Realtor or seller.  An interested buyer might want time to analyze the home in detail without someone looking over their shoulder.  It also provides the buyer time to look at specific details of the home that will help them decide if it is the right house for them.

Cons to holding an open house:

  • Slim chance of a sale.  The truth is that a very small percentage of homes sell as a direct result of an open house.  Honestly, the person that benefits most is the Realtor.  Open houses provide the Realtor with potential clients.  Private showings of your home are much more likely to result in a buyer than open houses.
  • Unqualified buyers.  One of the first steps in the home buying process is obtaining a Mortgage Pre-Approval .  Getting a mortgage pre-approval is essential for knowing what you can afford when buying a home.  At an open house, you may find many people walking through your home who can’t afford it.  It is a waste of time for you and your realtor to have people looking at your home when they cannot afford to possibly purchase it.
  • Nosy neighbors and “Looky Loos”. Open houses often attract inquisitive neighbors who simply want to see your house and compare it to their own.  They also might just want to see how you have your home decorated.  “Looky loos” are people who go to open houses with no intention of buying a home.  They just like to look!

The pros and cons of having an open house should be carefully considered before deciding whether to have one. With today’s technology and social media, there are a lot of other ways for people to see your home, but with the right Realtor holding the open house, it can still be the best way to impress potential buyers.

If you’re thinking about putting your home on the market, contact Melissa Thompson and let her explain how an open house can be beneficial for you.  Call her today at (901) 729-9526 or (901) 756-8900.

Photo Credit:sehatcoy.com

Pool Safety for Summer Fun!

by Melissa Thompson

With summer fast approaching, it’s important to make sure your backyard pool is a safe place for family fun.  Tragically, over 200 children drown in backyard pools each year, so make pool safety a priority by following these guidelines;

- Secure your pool with Appropriate Barriers.  Surround your pool completely with a four feet high fence or barrier that has a self-closing and self-latching gate. Place a safety cover on the pool or hot tub when it is not in use and remove any steps or ladders used for access.  Consider using a pool alarm that sounds if anyone enters the pool area.

- Always actively supervise children in and around the pool.  Stay within arm’s length of young children.  Make sure there is a designated person to watch the water when people are in the pool.  And never let anyone swim alone.  Young or inexperienced swimmers should use U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets.

- Ensure that everyone in the home knows how to swim well by enrolling them in swimming lessons.

- Keep your pool/hot tub water clean and clear.  Maintain Proper Chemical Levels, filtration and circulation.  Regularly test and adjust chemical levels to minimize the risk of earaches, rashes and other, more serious diseases.

- Establish and enforce Swimming Pool Rules such as “no diving”, “stay away from drain covers”, “swim with a buddy” and “walk please.”

- Make sure that everyone in the home knows how to respond to aquatic emergencies by having appropriate safety equipment and taking water safety, first aid and CPR courses from The Red Cross.

Learn more about swimming pool safety by watching this Home Pool Safety video developed by The Red Cross and the National Swimming Pool Foundation.

If you are considering buying or selling a home this summer, call Melissa Thompson at 901-729-9526 and let her help you with all your real estate needs!

Photo Credit: cheatsheet.com

Selling this Summer? Tips for Success

by Melissa Thompson

Spring is flying by and soon summer will be upon us.  Summer is not the most popular time to sell a house for several reasons: people are going on vacation, kids are out of school, and activities keep you busy.  But sometimes the timing cannot be helped.  Life happens and circumstances may require that you move during the hottest season.  If that is the case, here are some tips for attracting buyers during the summer months:

  • CURB APPEAL

Make a great first impression with curb appeal.Mow your lawn twice a week. Grass grows faster this time of year and needs mowing more often.Try mowing diagonally every other time to add dimension to your lawn.Make sure bushes are trimmed and plant flowers.Keep your porch, sidewalk and driveway swept and create a warm and inviting entryway to your home.

  • DECORATE WITH SUMMER ACCENTS

Utilize calming colors such as blues and greens to decorate the interior of your home.If you have dark-colored accent pillows and throw rugs replace them with brighter summer hues. Keep it simple.You don’t have to spend a lot of money; something as basic as an inexpensive blanket draped over a chair can give a room a soothing vibe.

Top 21 Summer Colors and How to Use Them

  • BRING THE LIGHT INSIDE

If you have heavy drapes, remove them. They make a room look smaller.Pull blinds all the way up.Use tie backs to open lighter curtains.The only time you should leave blinds/curtains closed is if there is an undesirable element on the other side of the window such as your neighbor’s trash can…but even then, keep them slightly open to allow light into the room.

  • HAVE FLEXIBLE SHOWING HOURS

Showing your home while still living there is challenging, but the more flexible you are, the more people will look at your house.

  • SPARKLE AND SHINE

Metals give a “summery” feel.It doesn’t matter which ones; gold or silver, brass or pewter.Mix and match them using vases, picture frames, mirrors, utensils, goblets, hanging planters etc. How to Rock a Mixed Metal Decor Palette

  • OFFER SUMMER BEVERAGES AND SNACKS

Fill your kitchen sink with ice and have chilled drinks available for visitors.Have a few light snacks for them to enjoy.Have bowls filled with citrus fruits to brighten up your kitchen and give it a sunny feel.

  • CREATE GOOD SMELLS NATURALLY

There are a lot of ways to bring summer scents indoors. Pleasant, fresh aromas will make your home feel inviting and comfortable.

  • CONTROL THE INDOOR TEMPERATURE

If you are one to be stingy with the air conditioning, now is the time to stop. It will be worth the tiny increase in your electric bill to have your home be at a comfortable temperature for visitors.There is nothing worse than walking into a stuffy, warm house when it is hot outside.

If you’re thinking about selling your house this summer, let the professionals at Your Key to Memphis help you get your house on the market.  Give Melissa Thompson a call at 901-729-9526 today!

Photo Credit: pinterest.com

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 128