Prepare Your House for Listing Day

As Winter drags on here in Iowa, continued cold temperatures and more snow mean more time spent indoors. While there are downsides to being cooped up, if you’re in the market to sell your house soon- now is a great time to prepare the inside of your house for its upcoming listing day!

Although the task of prepping your home might feel overwhelming, some thoughtful planning and a little bit of elbow grease can go a very long way. You will never get a second chance to make a first impression after all, and you can follow some simple concepts to get your house ready to sell and make a positive impression on your future home buyer prospects.

Paint-
Interior paint colors are very important. Paint colors invoke feelings and affect our moods so it’s generally best to use neutral shades and steer clear of any potentially offensive colors that evoke bad feelings.

Prospective home buyers typically have a difficult time visualizing a home’s potential so do not assume “they can just repaint it if they don’t like it”. We are a busy people. If a buyer sees a room he will need to repaint, that will translate into work. If a buyer sees door dings and scuffed baseboards he will need to touch up, that will also translate into work.

If you were a buyer, how much money would you pay for a house that needs work? Work equals time and money so impress your future home buyer with your home’s current condition. If you’re unsure about paint colors, just ask me!

Depersonalize-
When a potential home buyer walks through a home, he is trying to envision “could I live here”? Buyers are easily distracted by personal items left out in view such as family photos, personal documents with names on them, and knickknacks or collectibles.

The goal is to make your home buyer prospects envision your house as their new home. This is not the time to show off your affinity for pets with your ceramic cat collection or flaunt your impressive hunting skills with your antler collection. Failing to remove personal items will leave buyers with visions of who the people are that live there and make them unable to envision it as their future home.

Clean/Declutter-
Home buyers are very curious creatures who tend to complete a full investigation before making the big decision to purchase. When was the last time you wiped down your ceiling fan or cleaned your refrigerator coils? Is there dust on your windowsills? Unsightly things such as these can be red flags to buyers and lead them to believe the house has been neglected.

Do you have multiple seasons of clothing in your closet? Do you have extra pieces of furniture in your living room? Too much clutter is another red flag to prospective purchasers who may begin to wonder “will all of my belongings fit here”?

Don’t rely on a buyer to overlook that space you’ve been neglecting. Clean any area in your home that is dirty and pack up and label any unnecessary items or furnishings in boxes or totes. If you have a lot of extra furnishings, consider renting a storage unit. Preparing these things now will not only make your house appear more attractive, it will also make the upcoming move and closing day easier for you.

Repair-
If the storm door screen is torn, replace it. If the hinges on the door are loose, tighten them. If the caulk in the bathroom is peeling, reapply it. While these repairs may seem insignificant, nothing screams house neglect more than visible issues.

Replace your furnace filter and ensure the house appears to be lived in, yet cared for and well-maintained. There are many resources online for do it yourself repairs. If it’s something major or beyond your skill level, hire a repairman.

Final touches-
Remember: it’s human nature for us to view our homes subjectively. When you believe you’re ready to list yourFor sale sign house, invite your real estate agent and some trusted friends over to walk through and point out any remaining areas of concern. They can view your home objectively so don’t take criticisms personally. A well-planned presentation will soon payoff in intrinsic rewards and financial gains for you!

Which Flowers to Send This Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and a popular time for gift giving. In fact, the average American spendsRose image resized approximately $140 on Valentine’s Day, according to the National Retail Federation.

While a lot of money is typically spent on gifts of jewelry, chocolate, cards, and dinner, flowers are a popular gift due to their versatility of use.

A gift of flowers can be used for your spouse or sweetheart, friend, family member, neighbor, or even co-worker. Flowers are also a great gift idea because they have a special language which allows you to communicate specific feelings to someone else.

Some flowers, such as the white daffodil, yellow carnation, and black rose have negative associations so before you go out and purchase flowers for someone special in your life this Valentine’s Day, know the special meaning behind your gift.

Below are some common Valentine’s Day expressions and their corresponding flower:

Say: I Love You
While the red rose is probably the most popular flower to communicate love, red tulips are an affordable alternative with a similar meaning. White roses and daisies are used to signify innocent love specifically while white gardenia, alstroemeria, sunflowers, and forget me nots are all additional options to reflect general feelings of love.

Say: I’m Intrigued by You
Blue roses represent the mysterious and unattainable and are often associated, like the purple rose, with love at first sight.

Say: I’m Sorry
The purple hyacinth and white tulip are great ways to request forgiveness as they are generally associated with regret.

Say: I Miss You
Say I miss you to an absent friend with zinnias or choose pink or red carnations, the most popular ‘I miss you’ flowers. Azaleas are another option if you and your special someone are in love- but apart’.

Say: I Want You
Orange and coral roses are associated with desire and a great way to tell someone “I want you’. Pink roses mean passionate love, making them another appropriate choice to reflect desire.

Say: I Appreciate You
Pink carnations and peach roses represent gratitude and are an ideal way to communicate your appreciation to someone else.

REALTORS Fight For Your Right to Home Ownership!

Each year, REALTORS from across the state of Iowa go to DesMoines to the Capitol to talk to legislators about issues that could affect Home Ownership.  This year was no different and we braved the winter weather last week to go visit the State Capital.  Over 200 REALTORS from across the state gathered at The River Center for lunch and to hear DC Political Commentator, Kevin Madden, give his views on where the US is heading and what to watch for over the next two years.  We also heard the REALTORS amazing lobbyist, Jennifer Kingland, talk about a few of the issues facing agents and home owners in Iowa.

bus in4 (2)                    homies on the hill                         iowa capitolbus in 1

A few of the issues that are important to our industry in this Legislative Session are regarding Private Property Rights, Service Animals in Rental Housing, Groundwater Hazard Statements, and Electronic Notorization.

Private Property Rights are being taken away in some Iowa towns by local ordinances limit a property owners ability to rent property due to cap limits.  We are working with legislators to prevent these local ordinances.

The right for people to have assistance/service animals is being taken advantage of by some renters.  Currently anyone can go online and and register a pet as an assistance animal.  We support a bill that is currently in the senate that says a patient/client needs to request the assistance of a licensed medical professional to find that they do have a disability and need an assistance or support animal.

Groundwater Hazard statements are currently required to be recorded with a deed at the time a property is transferred to a new owner.  These let the county and buyer know if there are any underground storage tanks, burial sites, wells, septic systems, etc.  We are currently working with legislators to determine the usefulness of this document and if there is any other way to disclose this information.

Electronic notorization is the other legislative issue that affects REALTORS and others.  Several other states are considering or have already enacted legislation that allows for the remote electronic notorization of documents including deeds and other documents used in a real estate transaction.  This would especially be helpful for out of town buyers and sellers.

This is the 8th year that I have gone to legislative days at the capital.  Our voices are heard when we go there, and we have helped make many things happen with regard to protecting your rights as home owners!

Choosing the Right Real Estate Agent

I was approached by someone recently who said- there are so many real estate agents. So- if you’re in the market to buy or sell a home, how DO you choose who to have represent you in one of the biggest transactions of your life? The answer quite simply is this: do your research. Real estate agents are not all equal, but with a little forethought and planning, you can avoid potential disaster and identify a trusted partner who will advocate for you.

 

Is he/she licensed?
The first step in choosing the right real estate agent is to verify their license status. Make sure the agent is active and has no history of disciplinary action. There are numerous laws that govern real estate so you’ll want to be sure that any potential candidate is licensed to practice and hasn’t been in trouble before for improper practice.

Is he/she a REALTOR?
A real estate agent may or may not be a REALTOR. The term REALTOR is used to describe “a member of the National Association of REALTORS”. REALTORS are licensed real estate agents who subscribe specifically to a strict code of ethics and are required to complete additional training and education. Would you rather choose an agent that subscribes to a strict code of ethics or one who does not?

What are his/her credentials?
It’s important to choose a person who is professional, knowledgeable, ambitious, and resourceful. Choosing an agent who has twenty years of experience over someone who has only five is fine, however experience does not always necessarily translate into knowledge. An ambitious agent will work tirelessly to study real estate laws, tools, and industry trends regardless of her years of experience.

Has your prospective real estate agent earned any awards or designations? Is he/she involved in civic groups or other professional organizations? Does he/she know the area and study the market data? Does he/she have good working relationships with lenders, business professionals, and other real estate agents? An agent with a strong network may be able to offer you resources which another agent cannot.

What do others say about him/her?
If you interview a real estate agent, she’s going to tell you that she’s great, right? She would probably be crazy not to!Business woman resized Reading testimonials, online reviews and ratings, visiting with a prospective agent’s past clients, and reviewing social media accounts are all great ways to find out more about an agent. Does the agent work with buyers, or sellers, or both? Are the agent’s past clients happy with the service they received? A strong real estate business is contingent upon referrals and happy clients. If in your research you observe poor professionalism or discover a history of unhappy clients, you may want to continue your agent search.

Are you compatible?
Will the agent answer the phone if you call? How does the agent feel about Open Houses? Communication styles and preferences, hours of accessibility, personal value systems, and chemistry are all important components of compatibility.

One of the most important criteria in choosing the right real estate agent is finding someone you can trust. You want to hire someone truthful and trustworthy to fight for your goals, and not for theirs. An agent who just seems pushy or disregards your needs might very well be an agent just looking for a sale. Listen to your instincts and always trust your gut.

Leaving Home for Winter Vacation

While we who live in Iowa know the many reasons that we love it here, we also understand that the cold Winter temperatures often leave residents in Northern states seeking short term escapes to warmer climates. Some of our residents escape for days, some for weeks, and some for the entire Winter season! Airplane wing

I mean- we can only take so much, right? Winter can be l o n g! While you and your spouse are making plans for a week on a beach in February, don’t forget to also make plans for your home while you’re away. Returning from a wonderful vacation only to discover a dirty or damaged house, or one with foul smells, fruit flies, or rodents is not something anyone wants to do.

Here’s a simple checklist I’ve put together so you can return home from your Winter vacation as happy as the day that you left:

• Make sure your doors and windows are all locked and outdoor furnishings are secured. Strong Winter winds can blow your unlocked doors open and your patio furniture down the street!

• Adjust or program your thermostat to vacation mode or a cooler temperature when you’re away. 55 degrees should be the minimum. Be sure to program the furnace to a warmer temperature the day before you return so the home has a chance to heat

• Lower your risk of fires by unplugging small appliances and electrical items such as TVs, stereos, computers, routers, phone chargers, microwaves, toasters, coffee pots, etc..

• If you have a gas-powered furnace, make sure your fuel tank has plenty of gas. If your furnace stops working while you’re away, you’re likely to have more problems than just the indoor temperature!

• Deter potential burglars by programming a timer to turn different lights on in your home at different times. Arrange for your mail to be held at the post office and close your curtains so no one can see inside.

• Check the dishwasher and sink for any forgotten dishes and check your washer/dryer for wet clothes

• Arrange for a trusted friend to handle snow removal, check on the house, water the plants, and- if the water has not been shut off- run water down all the drains to prevent dry traps

• Empty the refrigerator of any food or milk that will spoil while you’re away and dispose of any fruit that might be sitting out.

• Clean counters, sinks, and toilets and take out all of the trash!

Am I at Risk for Frozen Pipes

The weather is dangerously cold this week and we’ve all heard stories of homes with burst pipes. Those storiesIcy pipe resized always seem to happen to someone else, but do you ever wonder: am I at risk?

Water expands in pipes in cold temperatures causing them to potentially freeze or even rupture or burst if the pressure becomes too great. It is possible for frozen pipes to occur when outdoor temperatures reach 20 degrees so generally speaking, those of us that live in a cold climate where temperatures often drop to 20 degrees and below are in fact at risk for frozen pipes.

Certain conditions in a home make water pipes more vulnerable to freezing such as the pipe’s location or its exposure to cold air.

The damage that can potentially result from burst pipes can be catastrophic, but there are things you can do. Here are some simple strategies to reduce your risk of frozen pipes:

• Run faucets to keep the water line from freezing
• Open cabinets to expose pipes to warmer air
• Seal drafts around windows and doors and foundation cracks in basements
• Lock your windows and close your curtains
• Replace your furnace’s air filter so it runs more efficiently
• Cover pipes with foam insulation or heat tape
• Inspect pipes for frost
• Always maintain a minimum indoor temperature of 55 degrees in vacant property

My Home Still Feels Cold

Ahh Winter. Do you ever feel like you’re just freezing in your home- only to check the thermostat and find there doesn’t seem to be any reasonable explanation?

Have you checked your humidity? Temperature and humidity go hand in hand. When the indoor relative humidity is high, there’s more moisture in the air and the warm moisture stays on our skin making us feel warmer. Conversely, when the indoor relative humidity is low, there’s little moisture in the air and that dry air will start stealing moisture from your body.

Have you noticed static electricity in your house? Static electricity in a home is a clue that the air is too dry andman in blanket image dryman in blanket image air can result in chapped lips, dry skin, sore throats, bloody noses, and an overall feeling of being chilled. Asthmatics and people who suffer from sinusitis or other respiratory problems can also suffer more in conditions with dry air.

During the Winter months, the ideal indoor relative humidity is between 40-60%, which can be achieved by use of a humidifier. If you discover your indoor humidity is low, you may want to consider investing in a humidifier to increase the moisture in your home.

As we’re all spending more time indoors, ensure your conditions are optimum for comfort and warmth. Once you’ve addressed the indoor humidity level, try some of these additional tips:

• Add insulation to your home and apply weather stripping to air leaks
• Dress in layers and use electric blankets
• Replace your furnace’s air filter
• Set your ceiling fans to reverse to mix the warm and cold air
• Consider purchasing insulating curtains
• Have your blood tested for low iron and eat iron rich foods
• Get some exercise

2019 Winter Games is this weekend!

If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, consider checking out the U of O Winter Games- a long standing tradition in the Iowa Great Lakes area enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. snowflake

This weekend, people of all ages have an opportunity to participate in indoor and outdoor activities throughout the area including ice skating, sledding, human dogsled racing, broomball, snow pong, bowling, flag football, zip lining, horse drawn carriage rides, kids pony rides, helicopter rides, bingo, painting, beer and wine tasting, and more.

The popular Polar Plunge event always draws a lot of attention as bystanders watch individuals plunge into a hole in the lake into freezing, ice cold water! Jumpers pay a $20 registration fee, with the proceeds going to benefit the Arnolds Park/Okoboji Fire and Rescue whose volunteers are available at the Plunge to assist jumpers.

Live music and a variety of eating events such as the annual Chili Cook-Off will be offered at different times throughout the weekend by local businesses.

If you want to keep the kids indoors or just need to warm them up, a free children’s carnival will be held Saturday offering carnival games, inflatables, and face painting.

An event for everyone, and one not to miss, is the “Burning of the Greens and Fireworks Extravaganza” to be held Saturday night, where an abundance of discarded Christmas trees and greenery will be set ablaze with torches.

Enjoy all of the community fun, but use safety on the ice, staying clear of potentially dangerous areas such as near open water.

View the complete 2019 U of O Winter Games event schedule here

Clean Your Home After Being Sick

Have you or someone else in your home been sick? Many illnesses including colds, strep, and the flu occur frequently in the Winter months. Germs love warm, moist places and when someone in your home is sick, germs can linger behind for days. The flu virus, for example, can remain on surfaces in a home for up to Coughing48 hours increasing the risk of germ transmission.

The term convalescence is used to describe the period of recovery after an illness or injury. SO- even when you’re feeling better after a particular illness, your body is still recovering and vulnerable to new illness.

Try controlling the spread of germs and illness in your home with the following tips:

1. Linens-
Wash all bedding and throw blankets on the warmest temperature tolerable- preferably hot. Lightly spray the top and all sides of your mattress with an antibacterial or disinfectant spray and allow it to air out for several hours. (Using a double set of fitted sheets and pillowcases during illness can help to prevent body fluids from contaminating your mattress and pillows).
2. Surfaces-
Use an antibacterial spray, wipes, or disinfectant on shared and frequently touched places including door knobs, toilet handles, light switches, remote controls, cell phones, computer keyboards, pens, notepads, steering wheels, and gear shifts.
3. Trash can-
Use a trash bag or liner in your trash can for all those germ-filled tissues! Replace the bag and disinfect the surface frequently.
4. Toothbrush-
Boil the patient’s toothbrush for at least 10 minutes or just replace it.
5. The Air-
Ensure everyone in your household is exposed to the cleanest air possible by opening your windows for a few minutes each day and replacing your air filter.
6. Children’s Items-
Clean and disinfect surfaces of high chairs, booster seats, changing tables, computer tablets, and all other contaminated toys. Stuffed animals can be wiped down with a wet cloth and placed in the dryer for a few minutes on the hot setting.
7. Wash your hands and don’t touch your face!-
It’s important to wash your hands often AND correctly, spending at least 20 seconds per wash. Avoid sharing and reusing hand towels. Use disposable paper towels for drying instead. When washing isn’t available, apply hand sanitizer.

Housewarming Gifts

Someone you know just move? Or buy their first house? And you don’t know what to get them? Wanting to get someone a great housewarming gift can be a challenge. You don’t want to bring the same gift everyone else gives, but you still want to give a great gift. A gift that is both unique and practical. There are many different things to consider, but don’t worry, we came up with a list of cute and unique housewarming gift ideas to give!

Classics

If you don’t want to get too creative, and are just looking for a nice gift, you can’t go wrong with any of these gifts!

  • Wine & Wine Glasses
  • Salt & Pepper Shakers – They can be an easy gift and inexpensive! Try get some shakers that most people don’t have. Find unique ones that would fit in with the personality of the homeowners.
  • Plants – Plants are a classic house warming gift. Any plant will do, but we are big fans of succulents! They are low maintenance and so cute in any room!letter board

Decor

If you are going to give some home decor, give something that they probably don’t have! Consider a wreath for the front door or a letter board that the new homeowners can make their own!

Personalize it

By getting a personalized gift, I always think it means so much more! The new home owners will see you put thought and time into getting their gift and they’ll appreciate it greatly! You could get them a framed portrait of their home so that no matter where they go, they’ll always be able to remember their first home! Personalized door mats or a personalized return address stamp are both extremely practical and adorable! By using a map of their location you could give custom map coasters or serving trays.

If you don’t like any of these suggestions, just keep looking! Let your friends and family know you are thinking of them and are happy for them by putting a little thought into your gift! Thoughtfulness will always trump extravagance.

For more gift ideas, visit Perfect Gifts for New Homeowners

 

Source: Gowen, Zoe. “Perfect Gifts for New Homeowners.” Southern Living, www.southernliving.com/christmas/gifts-for-new-homeowners.

Image retrieved from: www.etsy.com