Six Easy Ways to Boost Curb Appeal in Just One Day

Top-notch first impressions of your home can help ensure its successful marketing but also create an inviting feeling to your casual visitors when they step onto your property. Boosting curb appeal doesn’t have to be an expensive undertaking or one that takes weeks to accomplish. As a matter of fact, a whole lot can be achieved in just one day. Here are six easy ways to create a first impression that is a lasting one.

1. Start with a thorough cleaning of the front porch slab, door, windows, walls and ceiling. This will set the stage for your curb appeal makeover.

2. If scrubbing down the front door doesn’t make it visually “pop,” then paint it a color that complements the color of the house but also brings a visitor’s eye to the entry with some brightness.

3. An easy and fun fix is to find a new doormat with a classy look, often incorporating color that coordinates with the front door. What an inexpensive way to take your curb appeal up a notch!

4. While shopping at the home improvement store for paint and a doormat, be sure to check out the aisle with new house numbers, especially if your old ones are dingy and cannot be cleaned up. Be sure the style of the numbers is in tune with the character of the front of your home.

5. If you shop carefully, you can also find reasonably priced new door hardware to harmonize with the new house numbers.

6. To add additional color, introduce well-placed potted flowers on the porch and the entry walkway. Low-maintenance plants will endure through the season without requiring a lot of attention.

If you’d like additional ideas to boost curb appeal, we’re always here to provide guidance. We’re just an email or call away.

Here’s How to Get the Most out of Your Virtual House Hunt

What better way to kick off your house hunt than to log on to your computer to “virtually” check out the availability of homes that will complement your lifestyle? We have tuned into the online needs of buyers, putting comprehensive property information at their fingertips. Search filters, property data, and media production quality are better and easier to access than ever before.

Your virtual house hunt enables you to insert yourself into a prospective home without physically being there, all through virtual tours, 3D images, a multitude of still photos, floor plans, and written descriptions that accurately depict the property you are viewing. Not only can a comprehensive online presentation leave you feeling like you just physically toured the home, it will also give you a great picture of the exterior spaces and the neighborhood and how the house is located by incorporating satellite imaging links.

Be aware of possible “red flags” that result from omissions in the virtual viewing. Missing views of exteriors or some living spaces may be a sign that a property has some deficiencies. This will be an opportunity to have us investigate what is not in view so you can decide if the property is worth pursuing.

Your online tour will often provide uploaded seller disclosures, giving you further insight into a home’s physical being. After you have completed your virtual house hunt, we can help you coordinate safe viewing appointments of the properties that you feel will fulfill your needs. We’re here to help you through every step of the process.

When Is the Best Time to Buy or Sell a Home?

The opportune time to buy or sell a home is not carved in stone. There are three primary factors that will influence you as to when you should move forward with buying or selling a home.

Buyers and sellers can benefit from knowing what their local market activity is at any given time. I can help you with that. Since supply and demand of available properties dictate price and availability, our role is to provide you with the statistics to properly time listing or selecting your home.

As a buyer, you will want to house shop when there are a lot of homes on the market, but that may not always be possible. You will have not only many choices but also more opportunity to negotiate with anxious sellers.

Conversely, sellers will want to list their homes during times of shrinking inventory so they can attract more buyers and be tighter with their pricing.

The direction of trending interest rates will also be key in determining if you can buy more or less of a home than you like and when you should move forward with your search. During times of low rates, sellers can be rewarded with stronger pricing, knowing that more buyers will qualify to buy their homes.

The seasons and where you live play a part in any real estate market. While buying and selling during the late spring through early fall may seem to be the most logical time to enter the market, it doesn’t hold true across the board.

Wintertime markets can even cause attraction in zones with better buying options. However, sellers should always give consideration to listing during these perceived slow market times because their competition will be far less and there will always be a number of buyers on the prowl.

With my experience, I can put the market numbers and the seasons together for your recipe for buying or selling success.

It’s Tempting, but Don’t Do It: The Perils of Moving in Prior to Closing

It is not a given that every sale will close on the contracted closing date. With this in mind, it is important to have contingency plans to cover any delays that will hinder moving plans for both buyer and seller. The buyer who wants to move in prior to a delayed closing and the seller who accommodates such a request may find themselves in a predicament if things don’t go according to plan. Keep in mind that even if there is a written agreement to allow an early move-in, a legal dispute can still evolve from the unforeseen.

Early occupancy by a buyer means that the seller will have to maintain insurance on the property until closing, but there will be a potentially costly change to that policy. The new coverage would be landlord insurance to cover the now “tenant-occupied” home. Part of the closing process is the funding of the buyer’s loan and a final check of clear title. If a final verification of employment is not in order for the underwriter, funding will not occur and may cause the lender to withdraw the loan commitment. If the final title check reveals a last-minute recorded encumbrance against the property, the sale closing could be indefinitely delayed. These are all good reasons for early occupancy to be avoided.

While the buyer benefits the most from an early move-in, the seller potentially suffers great loss in the event of any buyer default. The seller will have vacated their home, thinking it was sold. This, coupled with the house possibly having been altered or damaged by the buyer during early occupancy, could create unanticipated financial hardship. The seller still owns the house and remains liable for activities on the property.

In any of these scenarios, it wouldn’t be long before buyer and seller would find themselves entangled in a legal battle over monetary damages. The message is loud and clear. Both the buyer and seller need to plan their moves with a flexible timeline and avoid early buyer possession in the event unexpected delays cause a late closing.

If you’re considering upsizing or downsizing, let me know what I can do to help make that transition as smooth as possible for you.

Student Debt Could Buy Every Home on the Market

If you wanted to buy all the homes on the US real estate market, you’d need around $780 billion, according to Realtor.com. To pay off all the outstanding student loan debt in the US, you’d need $1.5 trillion.

Why is student loan debt nearly double today’s real estate market? It’s because almost 43 million Americans are shouldered with student loan debt, and this burden is blocking many of them from homeownership.

This statistic isn’t surprising when we compare the typical down payment for a home to average student loan amounts: $26,000 versus $34,500. Twenty-six percent of Millennials say student loans are the main obstacle they face when trying to save up for a down payment on a home.

Fortunately, there are many options for buyers in this situation. If you’re among them, here are some steps you can take to put yourself on the right track.

Improve your debt-to-income ratio: This ratio is key to qualifying for a mortgage. Lenders want to make sure you can handle the additional house debt with your current income. To improve your ratio, pay down (or pay off) any debts where you can, and increase your income if possible. Consolidating your student loans may also help.

Improve your credit score: Your credit score is another critical number that lenders consider. To increase your score, pay all your bills on time, avoid opening new lines of credit, and lower your use of credit. It’s also a good rule of thumb to check your credit report at least once each year to ensure it is accurate. If there are any errors, report them to the credit bureau immediately.

If you or someone you know is facing student loan debt and are interested in learning more about your options, I can connect you to a mortgage professional who can help you make owning a home a reality.

Hottest Housing Markets of 2019 Across America

You might be surprised to discover the hottest zip codes of 2019. The real estate market saw some new trends this year that caused a shift in hot spots. Metropolitan giants like New York and San Francisco are no longer leading the pack. To find the fastest-selling homes in America, we have to set our sights on smaller locales.

Realtor.com reports that Grand Rapids, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska; and Boise, Idaho took the top three slots in 2019 for hottest zip codes. The rankings are based on how quickly homes sell and how frequently they are viewed on Realtor.com. The top ten list, which also includes zip codes in New Hampshire and Kansas, demonstrate growing trends in the real estate market.

One of the most significant shifts is the influx to areas outside the big cities. With prices in the Big Apple and other metropolises beyond many buyers’ budgets, home seekers are looking to markets where housing is less dense and is smaller and more affordable.

Millennials are a big part of the new trends. Making up the largest percentage of Americans taking on mortgages, millennials are seeking strong local job markets and affordable homes.

According to Realtor.com, millennial salaries in the top ten zip codes are, on average, 13 percent higher than the national median millennial income. Additionally, job growth projections for these areas are exceeding national growth projections. Lastly, the average home price in these areas is significantly lower, at $272,000, than the national median price of $316,000. If you’d like to learn more about current housing trends, I’m just an email or phone call away.

Protect Your Privacy (and Your Curb Appeal Too)

A 50-foot fence would provide plenty of privacy. A moat will keep people out of your yard. But I’m guessing you probably want something a little more attractive for your property.

Fortunately, there are tasteful, appealing options that will allow you to keep nosy neighbors at bay. The two main areas to focus on are windows and landscaping.

Windows provide sunlight, outdoor viewing, and fresh air, but they can also provide your neighbors with a play-by-play of what’s going on inside your home. If your property is feeling more like a fishbowl than a house, try adding a privacy feature to the windows.

Window tinting can be a great option. These tints can block visibility from the outside while allowing you to enjoy your views. As a bonus, some window tinting can also reduce sun exposure, which can help keep your home cool and protect décor from fading.

Of course, window treatments such as curtains and blinds can also provide privacy, but these can make your home feel like a cave. To maintain privacy and natural light, choose cellular shades or lightweight and light-colored curtains that keep rooms bright.

The right selections in your yard can also provide privacy. Plan your landscaping to include features that block neighbors’ views into your yard and home.

Attractive trellises are a good choice. These create wonderful privacy screens while adding greenery to your surroundings. Choose your favorite vine or other decorative plant and arrange it so that it adds beauty to your backyard and privacy to your home.

Potted plants are an alternative to trellises and can be just as effective in making your home less visible to prying eyes. Place tall plants strategically in your space to create a private backyard oasis or shield your living room window from the world.

What else is nice about all of these options? They are versatile. While fencing is a fairly permanent fixture and can be expensive to install, these privacy options are easy to switch out at any time, and they can fit budgets of any size.

Remodels: What’s Good for Resale and What’s Not

You want to get the best price for your house. You’re willing to do some remodeling – if it will deliver significant ROI. What’s worth the effort? Here are three projects worth considering and three that you can skip.

The kitchen: Kitchens sell homes. If your culinary center is looking worse for the wear, it will likely turn off potential buyers. Updating your kitchen is a good way to increase the value and appeal of your home.

Bathrooms: These areas are also high on buyers’ priority lists, so they should be on yours, too. Focus efforts on the master bath and the powder room.

Curb appeal: First impressions are important and the front of your home is the first thing buyers see. Make efforts that will boost curb appeal, such as repainting the exterior, adding plants, and sprucing up the entry with a new door. These projects can often be completed at low cost but offer high return.

Pools: While you may enjoy countless hours of fun in your pool, this feature probably won’t pay for itself in home value increase. In fact, it could be a turnoff for some buyers.

Wine rooms: While they may sound elegant, wine rooms or other original-design spaces are often too niche. Their limited audience makes them a poor investment choice.

Removals: Just because you never use that fireplace doesn’t mean you should demolish it. Removing features is typically not a good investment. Potential buyers may wish it were still there, and you aren’t likely to recoup the cost of removing the feature.

For expert input on your remodeling efforts, contact our office. We can discuss the projects that could get the best return on investment and what I’ve seen in demand in your market.

Hey, That’s My Stuff! How to Avoid Mover Scams

4,100 consumers filed moving fraud complaints in 2017, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. How can you avoid negative experiences? Be aware of common scams, and take steps to protect yourself from these fraudulent activities.

Get it in writing: It might be tempting to get a quick quote and schedule your move over the phone. Don’t do it. This is one of the easiest ways to get scammed. Since you have nothing in writing, the movers can easily charge whatever they want once they begin, and they may hold your belongings hostage until you pay an outrageous amount. Always schedule an in-house walk-through to get an accurate quote, and get the agreed-to amount in writing.

Read the fine print: When you sign a contract with a mover, read all the fine print. Make sure you understand the terms of payment before you sign. Unscrupulous movers may include terms that allow them to hijack your belongings after demanding more money. If you’ve signed anything that allows for these practices, the police will be unable to intervene.

Vet the movers: Before you agree to work with a moving company, research its reputation. Contact the Better Business Bureau to check the company’s rating. Ask for recommendations from friends. Read online reviews. Ask movers for proof of registration, proof of insurance and an office address. Take the time to vet the mover, so you know you are working with someone you can trust.

Try a hybrid approach: Consider renting and driving the truck yourself, and hiring movers for loading and unloading only. This will keep your possessions under your control to prevent hijacking scams. (It can also reduce the cost of the move!)

6 Must-Haves to Set the Stage for a Quick Sale

Is your home ready to welcome potential buyers? To create the best appeal (and fetch the best price), it is helpful to stage your home. Home staging refers to preparing your space to make it appealing to the highest number of buyers, with the goal of selling the home quickly and profitably.

While each house offers unique appeal, a few staging tips are helpful for nearly any home. To roll out the red carpet for your potential buyers, include the following must-have items.

Plants: Greenery makes a room feel warm and inviting. Use floor plants, tabletop plants or shelf plants to bring life to the corners of the room.

Candles: These provide a nice touch, but be sure to choose unscented or lightly scented. You don’t want to overwhelm visitors with an aroma or risk choosing a scent they don’t like.

Flowers: Add color and cheer to your yard and your interior with in-season blooms.

Throw pillows: Adding these to your beds, chairs and/or couches can provide a nice finishing touch to your décor that makes the space more appealing.

Towels: Coordinated linens in the bathroom create a clean, crisp, and luxurious atmosphere. Make sure towels are hung neatly and are in good condition. A brand-new hand towel can provide a nice touch.

Artwork: Neutral artwork on the walls is preferable to family portraits. Remember, the goal is to make your space appealing to as many buyers as possible. This means depersonalizing so they can envision themselves in your space instead of you.

Modern Homes Are Getting Smarter by the Second

Innovative technology is transforming the real estate marketplace. As they design and select homes, today’s buyers are weighing options that were nonexistent for homeowners 20 years ago. Modern houses, enhanced with smart technology, have become more than rooms and walls. They are integrated systems of efficiency, entertainment, and security, designed to cater to a high-tech lifestyle.

These technological advances are adding value to homes in creative ways.

Convenience: Control centers allow owners to manage almost everything in the home remotely. They can turn up the heat, turn on the lights, or turn off the television from around the globe. With remote access, homeowners no longer have to worry about misplaced or stolen keys. They can even grant entry to others while they are away from home.

Security: Wireless technology and video surveillance options have transformed home security. Systems can be added without drilling holes and hiding wires. Cameras and video technology allow personal, remote observation of the home inside and out. In addition to securing their home against crime, owners can check on Fido, confirm a package delivery, or enjoy peace of mind that the kids arrived safely home from school.

Efficiency: Smart technology can provide greater efficiency for utilities, which can provide significant savings over the years. Improved temperature control technology, remote access to thermostats, and better utility sensors can create a highly efficient home.

Linkage: The internet of things has added multiple new features to homes. Homeowners can link smart appliances, security systems, and more to connect every facet of their lives. The connectivity a home offers can boost its value to plugged-in buyers who are seeking modern networking capabilities.

These smart technologies are becoming more affordable and more accessible. It’s likely that more and more buyers can expect to find high-tech options listed among standard home features.

If you’re considering a smart upgrade to your home, reach out to our office so you can get the best information to determine which innovations make the most sense for your market.

Real Estate Secrets: Why (and How) Kitchens Sell Homes

The kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s a bustling center of activity where people gather to cook, eat, socialize, and entertain.

As the central hub, the kitchen is one of the most important rooms of the home. This space will immediately attract buyers or turn them off. It’s much easier to look passed a small bedroom or an outdated powder room than to get over an undesirable kitchen. The kitchen must be designed to meet the needs of their lifestyle. If it’s not a good match, the buyer will likely eliminate the home as an option.

To prevent this from happening, homeowners can make strategic efforts that will improve their property’s culinary appeal.

Refurbish rather than replace: Cabinetry is a significant factor in a kitchen’s appeal. Since replacing cabinets is an expensive endeavor, many homeowners are reluctant to take on this project. Fortunately, other options won’t break the budget. Consider repainting the cabinetry or replacing only the doors. New cabinet hardware can also create a brand-new look.

Invest in appliances: Modern, matching appliances offer immense appeal. They look sharp, offer convenient features, and typically provide high efficiency to reduce utility bills.

Make it sparkle: Cluttered countertops have never helped sell a home. Buyers want to see the kitchen, not the mess. Keep counters clear and clean and ensure the entire space shines.

Consider the market: When considering kitchen improvements, homeowners should always consult with a trusted real estate agent to ensure upgrades are in alignment with their neighborhood, the target buyer, and current trends. Reach out with your questions. We are happy to help.

‘Dear Seller’ Letters Offer Unique Negotiation Strategy

You’re probably familiar with letters to Santa. You’ve most likely heard of letters to the editor.

But have you heard of a homebuyer letter? In some areas, buyers are including these communications when they submit offers to purchase a home. If the trend grows, these messages could become common documents among real estate paperwork. Here’s the scoop.

What is a homebuyer letter?

These notes are designed to make a buyer’s offer more personal and appealing. The goal is to encourage the seller to choose the writer of the letter over another buyer.

In hot markets, a seller may receive multiple offers at once and must then choose which offer to negotiate or accept. To make their offer stand out, buyers are using these letters. They are written to sellers to plead the buyer’s case, offering reasons the seller should accept this offer over others.

What is included in the letter?

The exact details vary from letter to letter, but many contain similar details. Buyers often mention the features of the home that they love, discuss how they plan to use the house, or reassure the sellers that they don’t plan to make significant changes to the home. This can prove helpful in situations where the seller has lived in the home a long time or the property has been in the family for generations. Buyers may also include personal information such as hobbies and professions to try to further connect with the seller.

Does it work?

Apparently, it can. Real estate agents have reported instances when sellers did not choose the highest bid because of a letter included with a lower offer.

Of course, this tactic is not guaranteed to work. For many sellers, the price is all that matters. And to others, the letters can come across as corny or inappropriate.

Is this a good strategy to use for your next offer? Should you polish up your writing skills and submit a homebuyer letter? Maybe.

Consult with your real estate agent to determine what’s best for your situation.

Home Seller’s Guide: Top Do’s & Don’ts for a Quick Sale

You want to sell your home quickly and for the best possible price, right? What’s the secret to achieving this goal? There are several. Use these do’s and don’ts to guide your home sale process.

What to Do

Get out of Dodge: When potential buyers view your home, they want to see your property, not you. Always leave the premises. The buyers will feel more comfortable and are likely to spend more time looking at your home and fully considering it if you are not there.

Put out the welcome mat: Go the extra mile to make your home show well. Declutter. Clean. Turn on all lights and open all window treatments before showings to create a bright, airy atmosphere.

Partner with a pro: A real estate agent knows what works best in your market. He or she can provide invaluable input to make your home stand out among the competition.

What Not to Do

Take it personally: A home filled with personalized décor can turn buyers off. Neutralize your home to make it appealing to the maximum number of buyers. This might mean removing family photos or repainting your bright orange bathroom.

Crowd the skeletons: When you declutter your home, don’t simply throw everything in the closets. Your storage spaces need to look large, useful, and inviting.

Overinflate: While you want to get the biggest bang for your buck, overpricing your home only delays your sale. Consult with a real estate agent who can help you determine the right price for your home based on features, location, and current market trends.

Why Is ‘For Sale by Owner’ Such a Bad Idea?

When it’s time to sell your home, you may wonder which route to take: partner with a real estate agent or go it alone with FSBO. Which will deliver better results? Here are three reasons you should avoid the FSBO path.

The paperwork is daunting: Buyer offers. Real estate contracts. Lender forms. Inspection reports. Closing documents. Not every homeowner is prepared for the piles of paperwork involved in a real estate transaction. Details and deadlines can easily be missed. Bad deals can be made. A real estate agent is familiar with all the documentation involved, will walk the seller through the process, and will handle much of the paperwork required.

The process is challenging: Buyers want to see your home when it’s convenient for them. Without an agent to show your home, it’s up to you to make all arrangements for showings. This includes getting your home ready for the market. What work should be done? What’s worth the investment of time and money? An agent could answer these questions for you. If you don’t have one, you’re on your own to prep your home, show it to buyers, negotiate offers, and get the deal to closing.

The cost is more than you think: A common reason for choosing FSBO is to try to save money. FSBO isn’t as cheap as you might think. You’ll have to cover all marketing costs, and you’ll have to devote your personal time to these efforts. And it might take longer to sell due to the limited exposure you can get without an agent marketing the home. To top it off, FSBO homes typically sell for less than homes listed by real estate agents. The net result: zero savings.

Negotiation: There’s More to it Than You Think!

When you think of real estate negotiations, what comes to mind? For most buyers and sellers, price tops the list. While this is certainly an important part of any real estate deal, did you know there are at least six others areas of potential negotiation?

Closing costs: In addition to the price of the home, buyers must pay closing costs that cover lender fees and other charges. Buyers may ask sellers to help pay for these costs with a flat dollar amount or a percentage of the fees.

Closing date: Do you need to close on a home quickly? Perhaps you need a little more time to search for your next home. There are also different advantages to closing at the beginning and end of the month.

Personal property: What will be included with the four walls and roof? Negotiations will be worked out on whether the seller includes the washer and dryer, kitchen appliances, and even items such as living room furniture or that pool table in the basement.

Contingencies: Many real estate contracts are contingent on financing or other home sales. The buyer may need to complete their lender requirements by a certain date or complete their current home sale before the contract is in full force. These details must be worked out and agreed to up front.

Home repairs: Most contracts include a stipulation that the buyers can complete a home inspection. Once the buyers receive this report, they can ask the sellers to fix items that were found to be in disrepair. Each of these items must be negotiated.

Home warranty: This can be provided as an incentive to buyers to offer peace of mind. It can be particularly appealing for older homes. It typically provides coverage for the home’s HVAC system, appliances, and other major items in the event that they need repair soon after the purchase.

Does this sound like a lot to negotiate? It is. Fortunately, real estate agents are expert negotiators and can handle all of these points for you! Your agent will identify your top needs and work hard to get you the best deal.

Why Flexibility Is the Watchword for Today’s Homes

Let’s roll back the clock to around 1900. If we take a tour of the average home, we’ll find layouts of about 900 square feet. Fast forward to the year 2000, and we’ll find that number has more than doubled, to just over 2,000 square feet.

However, the trend toward “bigger is better” has not carried into 2019. The past few years have seen a slow decrease in median home size. By the end of 2017, it was just over 2,400 square feet.

While this shrinking home size may be significant, what’s even more noteworthy is the change in style. Gone are the days of formal living and dining rooms. The trends for extravagant game rooms, wine cellars and media rooms also seem to have faded into the history books.

Today’s homeowners are seeking something different. They want rooms that serve multiple purposes and homes that serve multiple generations.

This latest concept offers a home within a home. A common layout includes a great room that serves as both living and dining rooms and a suite that adjoins to the main house. This attached one-bedroom living space includes its own kitchen and bathroom and can function as a teen suite, college student’s pad, home office, or in-law apartment.

The idea is that it can be whatever the homeowners need it to be. As parents age or adult children bounce back home, the layout offers suitable living arrangements to accommodate a variety of situations. It creates a space that allows the property to meet homeowner needs, not just for many years but for many generations.

Attention Sellers: What Buyers Want

Today’s television lineup is packed with shows about property ownership. From remodeling to purchasing to flipping homes, HGTV and other similar channels have inundated homeowners with ideas about real estate.

As a result, many buyers now have high expectations as they search for a potential home. They’ve seen the magazine-worthy houses on TV and that’s what they want to find when they view a home. Things should be picture perfect to grab their attention. Fresh paint, new kitchens and bathrooms, neutral décor, and modern conveniences top the lists of many buyers.

It’s important for sellers to keep these standards in mind as they prepare to place their homes on the market. To get that coveted buyer, sellers must give buyers what they want. If they are looking for a picturesque setting, then give them one.

Invest in upgrades for outdated interiors. Allow a professional to stage the home. Take the time to boost curb appeal. Ask a real estate agent for recommendations to decide what changes would make the best investment.

As sellers make these changes, one concept is essential to keep in mind: location. While upgrades can help sell a home, it’s important that sellers not price themselves out of their neighborhood. Remodeling and redecorating should be appropriate for the location.

If a seller builds an addition and updates a kitchen with all the bells and whistles, the home might be beautiful, but also overpriced. The seller may have created a $250,000 home in a $150,000 neighborhood.

Again, it’s important to consult with a local real estate agent who is familiar with the area. He or she can determine what projects should be completed to properly prep the home for the market.

With the right upgrades at the right budget, sellers are more likely to sell the home quickly and get top dollar for their property.

Downsizing Prep: Common Heirloom Errors

The kids have all moved out. As you approach retirement, you know downsizing is in your future. It’s time to start considering what that will entail.

Realistically, you won’t have room in your new home for everything that has accumulated over the past two or three decades.

Don’t make the same mistakes many downsizers do by holding on to items that should be purged.

Before it’s time to move, take stock of what is in your home. Have you kept anything for your kids that they really don’t want? Have an open conversation with your children to determine whether what you consider a precious family heirloom would simply be clutter in your child’s home.

Put the following items at the top of the list to discuss. These are three of the most common things parents keep that their kids would prefer never to inherit.

Books: Even if your children love to read, it’s likely they don’t want your old books (and they probably have their own growing collection they will have to purge some day). If you suspect any of your books are valuable, do a search online or contact a book antiquarian. Otherwise, consider donating the books to a library or used book store.

Fine dinnerware: Has your child ever used a cup and saucer for morning coffee? Would he or she use silver flatware? For that matter, have you used any of these dishes in the past year?

Children and grandchildren typically don’t want to store multiple place settings of porcelain dishes. Go ahead and sell them to the consignment shop or to a company that offers replacement pieces for consumers seeking specific patterns.

Paper piles: Do you have shoeboxes of greeting cards, letters, and photos stashed under your bed? Piles of paper are overwhelming and nearly impossible for others to sort through.

Before downsizing, go through these papers and say goodbye. Read through cards once more; then recycle them. Scan photos to create digital files, or frame your favorites to pass along. Then get rid of the rest.

Five Quick Staging Tips for a Faster Home Sale

Staging your home prepares your property for potential buyers so you can achieve a faster sale. Professional stagers and your real estate agent can help with this task. If you’re under a time crunch, use these simple staging tips to quickly get your home ready for viewing.

Declutter everything: All that “stuff” gets in the way of buyers seeing what your home has to offer. If you don’t have time for a full house purge, at least make sure all surfaces are clear and closets are neatly organized. Remember, you want your home to appear spacious, not crowded.

Spruce up the entry: Make a good first impression. Sweep the front porch. Clean outdoor furniture. Add a doormat and some potted plants. Keep the entry and walkway well-lit.

Rearrange furniture: You might be surprised at how easily you can transform your home with a little rearranging. Place furniture in symmetrical arrangements. Create inviting conversation areas. If you have a spare room that has become a catch-all, set it up as usable space. Arrange it as a guest room or office, so buyers see the room’s potential.

Clean from top to bottom: Your home should sparkle. If you have a lot of square footage to cover, consider having your home professionally cleaned. It will be worth the investment when buyers fall in love with your pristine space.

Minimize odors: Before showings, run some orange rinds through the garbage disposal. Remove odors in furniture and carpets with a dash of baking soda; let it sit for 10 minutes, then vacuum. Heat a pot of water and a couple cinnamon sticks on the stove for an hour to add a pleasing aroma to your space.