8 Warning Signs You’re Not Ready to Sell


Note: This article was originally posted on Zillow Blog (www.trulia.com/corp) on Aug 5, 2015 by Meaghan Agnew http://www.trulia.com/blog/8-warning-signs-youre-not-ready-to-sell/

Taking a few extra days to prep your home for sale could help you sell it faster and at a higher price

Rushing to get your house on the market? Before you book that real estate photographer, take a deep breath and hit the pause button. If you take shortcuts to get your abode market-ready, you’ll likely have to pay for them later.

Whether it’s those small home repairs you’ve neglected, paperwork that’s in serious disarray, or closets that are stuffed to the gills, it’s well worth taking a few extra days (or weeks) to get your house in order — both literally and figuratively.

It’s trite but true: You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

1. Kitchen nightmares

OK, so yours is not a gourmet chef’s kitchen. Still, there are things you can do to up the ante on your otherwise humdrum galley. Swap out hardware, upgrade pendant lights, and paint or refinish cabinets — each is a fail-safe way to refresh the look of a dated kitchen.

If most of your appliances are nearing the 10-year mark, consider upgrading one of the big three — refrigerator, stove, or dishwasher — and then making that upgrade part of your sales pitch.

2. Your clutter runneth over

Pretend you’re a first-time visitor and scan your home. Is it brimming with distracting magazine piles and assorted tchotchkes? What’s become everyday to your eye can be distracting to the prospective buyer who favors minimalist decor.

Take the Japanese art of decluttering to heart and be ruthless: Box up the clutter and be done with it (at least temporarily).

3. Overstuffed closets

Don’t just shove those boxes into the back of your closet. Storage space is a top priority for any prospective buyer; if they see a closet full to bursting, they’ll think the space is smaller than it is. If you can, rent a storage space for your extra stuff and then paint the empty closets a light color so they seem airier.

In the bedroom closets, hang just a few strategic items to make the space feel ample and store the rest. If you’re living out of suitcases for a few weeks, so be it — you’ll need to pack all that stuff eventually anyway.

4. Oh, right, the pets

Dogs and cats are lovely companions but not great for home sales — even the faintest wisp of pet hair can ruin a showing. Not only do you need to scrub your home of every last animal vestige, but you also should plan out a pet-sitting strategy before your listing goes live.

5. Oh, right, the kids

Buyers are more forgiving of children than pets, but that doesn’t mean they want to see toys and video games strewn about. Buy a couple of huge and cheap (and opaque) bins for all the kid ephemera, then train your charges to reallytruly pick up after themselves.

6. Hapless hedges

Even if you’ve never claimed to be a green thumb, if your neighbors are master gardeners, you’ll probably need to at least attempt to keep up, curb appeal-wise. If you’re not up for it, you can hire a gardener or lawn maintenance company to properly trim your bushes and add a few strategic front plantings. And if your grass has gone to seed, it might be worth it to lay down fresh sod — a lush lawn especially beckons to city dwellers who have never had their own outdoor space before.

7. Keep it clean

The house can’t just be clean; it has to be cleaner than clean. That means the fridge, the woodwork, the windows, the couches … everything has to be pristine. Before you list, do a deep clean, or hire a professional cleaner who can also handle rugs and upholstery.

If you can handle the upkeep once the house hits the market, great — but be honest about your own schedule and consider keeping the cleaner on a weekly touch-up schedule.

8. That neglected filing cabinet

Any idea where the refrigerator warranty is? The HVAC instructions? Your last few heating bills? Savvy buyers like to know the intricacies of a home, including the exact age of appliances and the monthly cost of upkeep.

If your house files are a shambles, take a rainy afternoon to sift through the piles and delineate your home costs. You’ll also be able to monetize the upgrades you’ve made to the home over the years, which might persuade your real estate agent to up the asking price.

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The Home Buyers’ Guide to Getting a Mortgage

Architect presenting a new project to a smiling young couple

Note: This article was originally posted on Zillow Blog (www.zillow.com/blog) on July 28, 2015 by Zillow Team http://www.zillow.com/blog/home-buyers-mortgage-guide-179902/ 

Buying a home can feel overwhelming, and a lot of that uneasiness can come from not understanding how to get a mortgage. This guide — which includes 20 questions to ask lenders — should help clarify the mortgage process and get you on the road to homeownership.

Determine your affordability

Before you start working with a real estate agent, it’s important to understand how much home you can afford. This will help you and your agent target your search, and you’ll avoid the heartache of falling in love with a property that’s out of your reach.

You can determine affordability in seconds using two different mortgage calculators. First use an affordability calculator to determine a purchase price appropriate for your income and down payment; then use a payment calculator to determine your exact monthly obligations.

Get started on your mortgage process

Next, you’ll actually connect with a lender to apply for a loan, and the lender will review all of your qualifying documentation. A loan officer will ask you to provide the items below — verbally or in an online form first, then with full documentation:

  • Personal information. Date of birth, marital status, number of children and ages.
  • Residence history. Rent payment or all mortgage, insurance and tax figures — for at least the past two years.
  • Employment and income. Documentation showing wages and employment history for at least two years. If you receive commissions or bonuses, you’ll need two years of figures. Lenders average variable and self-employed income over two years. Full tax returns for two years are usually required.
  • Asset balances. All checking, savings, investment and retirement accounts. You must provide all information for accounts, even if you’re only using one account for the down payment (you lender will need to see a paper trail for large deposits and withdrawals). If you’re using gift funds for your down payment, specific rules apply.
  • Debt payments and balances. Credit cards, mortgages, student loans, car loans, alimony and child support.
  • Social Security number. For a credit report to confirm your debts and credit scores.

Select down payment and loan type

Once your lender has your full profile, he or she can recommend loan structures based on your situation.

Perhaps your income is strong, but you’re early in your career and haven’t saved up that much money. In this case, your lender might recommend a 10-percent down payment because the slightly higher payments fit your budget and enable you to conserve cash.

Or you might start the process thinking you want to buy a 1-bedroom condo using a 5-year adjustable-rate mortgage because you think you’re going to sell the home and upgrade within five years. But your lender may look at your income and consider that you want to start a family within three years, then determine that you can afford the monthly budget and cash to close on a 3-bedroom single family home using a 30-year fixed loan.

It’s important to match your loan terms and home buying choices with your objectives. Because lenders require your full financial profile, they are in a good position to help you explore and fine-tune your objectives to make sure you select the loan type that fits you best.

Find an agent and start home shopping

After you’ve begun the mortgage process, you’re ready to find a local real estate agent and begin your home search.

Introduce your lender to your agent, and ask your lender to brief your agent on your mortgage process. This will verify your target home price and down payment for your agent and show that you’re ready to close as soon as you find a home.

Write offers, lock your rate and finalize your loan

Once you find a home you love, you’ll write an offer. Your agent will present your offer to the seller, and if the seller accepts your offer, your loan process will move to the final approval phase.

Your lender will inform you that it’s time to lock your rate. A rate lock runs with a borrower and a property, so you can’t lock your rate until a seller has accepted your offer.

Then your lender will request any updated documentation needed from you, order an appraisal on the property and review the property title report.

Once all of these items check out, your lender will draw final loan documents with your desired rate and terms for you to sign. Your lender will fund the loan, and the home will be yours!



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How to Prepare for a Temporary Move

Moving boxes and suitcases in trunk of car, outdoors; Shutterstock ID 221343307; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post

Note: This article was originally posted on Zillow Blog (www.zillow.com/blog) on July 107 2015 by Moving.Tips http://www.zillow.com/blog/hurricane-insurance-179591/

When planning a temporary move, you know that your destination will not be your real home, but just a provisional shelter. This interim period, however, may last from several days to a few months or even years, so you need to be well prepared. Exactly what that preparation entails depends on the reason for your move.

  • Temporary relocation for work. If you have found seasonal work away from your hometown, or if you need to go to another city on a short-term assignment, you will need adequate temporary housing close to your workplace. A hotel stay is definitely the most convenient option for spending a few days or weeks in unfamiliar surroundings. You will only need a suitcase packed with your personal essentials and a few electronic devices – your phone, laptop, and camera. But, if your assignment is going to last for several years, you will probably plan a temporary move with your entire family and most of your belongings. In this case, the only logical option is to move into an appropriate rented property and take most of your personal possessions with you, or place them in temporary storage while your own home is leased out to tenants.
  • College or other academic pursuits. When you’re moving to study, you will only need to take a number of personal possessions. Your parents will probably keep the rest of your belongings at home, and you will likely return on a regular basis to enjoy the comfort of familiar surroundings and the company of family and friends. Even if you forget to pack something you need or enjoy, you can always take it on one of these visits back home, or have your parents send it.
  • Home renovation. It may be necessary to move temporarily out of your home for the duration of any major renovation projects. You will need temporary accommodations for your family within the same town, and storage for your belongings until the restoration work is over.
  • Assisting a relative or friend. If a close friend or relative needs assistance, especially due to an illness, you may want to move closer to them. However, you will probably only take some essentials and will not move or store your household items.
  • Relocating to a new area before you have found a home there. Choosing the right home for you and your family requires time to research your new area, the standards of living and the available opportunities in the different neighborhoods. If you haven’t had the chance to get familiar with your new city in advance, moving into temporary housing may be the best navigational tool for your successful relocation. You will be able to experience the overall spirit of the community, and to take into account the housing prices, crime rate, infrastructure, proximity to amenities, distance to your workplace and your kids’ school, healthcare centers, and available recreational and entertainment options to decide which neighborhood is best suited to your needs and preferences.
  • Closing on a home sale before your new home is ready. When selling your old home, it may not be possible to arrange convenient move-in and move-out dates. Even if you have already located your new home and organized your relocation, the place you are moving to may be in dire need of repair or could be still occupied. If you can’t settle in immediately after leaving your previous property, you will need to find temporary accommodations and place your belongings in temporary storage.

Housing options for a temporary move

The best way to prepare for a temporary move depends not only on the reason for your relocation, but also on the type of temporary housing you choose.

  • Hotel. You may stay at a hotel to avoid all the troubles involved in renting short-term housing and moving all your belongings several times to several different locations. Your household items can stay in storage until you move to your final destination, since you won’t need them. Hotels offer full service amenities, so you should only pack your clothes and medications. Just keep in mind that hotels can be rather expensive.
  • Extended stay hotels. This option is more affordable and just as convenient as a regular hotel. All the necessary utilities will be available, as well as suitably furnished rooms with full kitchens and on-site laundry facilities, so you can store all your major furnishings and pack only your personal items.
  • Rental home. If your temporary move will last more than six months — and especially if you have your family with you — you should search for an appropriate rental home. Look for a fully furnished place, so that you don’t have to move all your household items. They can stay in your home until you return, or in storage if you’re moving into a new home eventually.

How to pack for a temporary move

  1. Find out what is already available in your temporary home. Make a detailed list of everything you are going to need — including TVs, stereos, shutterstock_193364828kitchen utensils and cookware and other smaller appliances — and check whether it’s provided. Find out if bedding and towels are provided, and pack whatever you need to ensure your comfort.
  2. Consider the climate. When packing clothes and shoes for a temporary move, take into consideration the weather conditions at your destination area and the time of the year when your move takes place.
  3. Sort your belongings carefully. The more items you move, the more expensive and difficult the moving process will be. Take only what you’ll really need and enjoy, and place the rest of your possessions in storage. Entertainment items will come in handy in a place where you don’t know many people and may feel isolated, but don’t pack too many of them — you can always visit the local library or go to the movies.
  4. Don’t forget your essentials and valuables. Take all your personal documents, medications, clothes and accessories, toiletries, important electronics (such as your laptop and phone, as well as your camera and your music player, together with their chargers), toys and games for your children, pets’ amenities, a variety of small tools and other items that will bring you comfort and entertainment. Keep safe all the items that have high monetary or sentimental value.

Temporary storage

You will need a suitable storage solution for all the household items you’re not taking with you. Ensure maximum protection for your stored belongings, and easy access if you happen to need any of them.

If you need temporary storage for a short period, your movers may provide the most beneficial storage option for you. They will move all your belongings out of your old place, into the storage facility and then to your final destination when it is ready.

Self-storage units are another option. When choosing a storage facility, take into consideration its location and overall condition, as well the size of the storage unit you need, the security level provided and the quality of the service offered.

If you intend to leave all the furnishings in your permanent home and lease it for the period while you are away, take adequate precautions and set clear terms with tenants concerning the usage and the condition of your belongings.

Preparing for a temporary move requires careful planning and thorough research. Do your homework properly to ensure a smooth relocation experience.

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Hurricane Insurance: What Homeowners and Renters Should Know

palms at hurricane; Shutterstock ID 22118044; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post

Note: This article was originally posted on Zillow Blog (www.zillow.com/blog) on July 10, 2015 by Samantha Alexander http://www.zillow.com/blog/hurricane-insurance-179591/

This year’s Atlantic hurricane season started slowly enough, with no named storms for the East Coast during June. But that slow start doesn’t mean the threat is gone. The season stretches through the end of November, so there is still plenty of time for trouble.

Peak hurricane season runs from mid-August to late October, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The organization predicts storms for the East Coast this year, and there’s a 70-percent chance that up to six could become full-fledged hurricanes — with sustained winds of 75 mph or higher. As a homeowner or renter, you may wonder, “Do I have enough insurance protection to withstand a potential hurricane?” Unfortunately, you might not want to hear the answer.

If you’re a homeowner

Like any responsible homeowner, you’ve got a standard homeowners insurance policy. And even though most policies offer a wide range of protections, hurricanes may only be partially covered.

When purchasing a home insurance policy, you want enough dwelling coverage to completely rebuild your home if it is destroyed by a covered peril. Remember, this is the cost to rebuild your home, which isn’t the same as what you originally paid to purchase it.

Not sure if you have enough dwelling coverage? Use a home insurance calculator to help estimate your home’s replacement value and then compare it to the amount of coverage on your policy.

If you’re a renter

If you live in an apartment, your building is likely covered by your landlord’s policy. It’s up to you, however, to purchase protection for the items in your apartment.

The perils covered by your policy depend on your specific policy and provider. Generally, wind, lightning and hail damage — all common during hurricanes — are included as covered perils. Water damage, however, can be a different story.

Flood insurance is extra

When it comes to water damage, matters can get a little complicated in regards to home and renters insurance. Standard home insurance policies often include some coverage for water damage — if a pipe breaks, for example. But if your home is damaged by flooding, you’ll be in trouble without a flood insurance policy.

With hurricanes bringing powerful storm surges and excessive rain, flooding is common — think Superstorm Sandy from late October 2012. If a flood damages your house, you could be out a lot of money.

According to the National Flood Insurance Program, just a few inches of flood water can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage. The program’s website, FloodSmart.gov, lists hurricanes as a common but often overlooked cause of flooding. If you weren’t already required by your mortgage lender to purchase a flood policy, you can do so through the NFIP.

Special hurricane deductibles

Suppose a hurricane hits your house, causing wind damage. Now you’ve got to file a claim, but you might find out your policy treats hurricanes differently than other perils. In fact, it might even have a special deductible for them.

A deductible is the amount you agree to pay out-of-pocket toward a claim. Common deductibles are $500 or $1,000. The deductible has an inverse relationship with your premium — all other things being equal, higher deductibles generally result in lower premiums. However, be sure you can afford your deductible if you need to pay it.

Many home insurance policies on the East Coast have hurricane or wind deductibles. Unlike traditional deductibles, hurricane and wind deductibles are set at a percentage of the home’s value. For example, if your home’s insured value is $300,000 and the hurricane deductible on your policy is set at 3 percent, you would pay $9,000 out-of-pocket before your insurer would step in.

Hurricane and wind deductible details and percentages vary depending on your provider and the state you live in. If you aren’t sure whether you have a hurricane deductible, call your insurer to check the details of your policy.

Additional coverage gaps

Besides flooding, there may be other coverage gaps lurking in your home insurance policy. For example, you may not have enough protection for your personal items. Contents coverage is what protects the items in your home, but it has limits — usually 50 to 70 percent of the insured value of the house.

The best way to make sure the value of your possessions doesn’t exceed your coverage limits is to compile a home inventory — a listing, complete with photos and any receipts you might have, of your possessions. In addition to helping you determine the value of your possessions and whether you need more contents coverage, a home inventory can help speed the claims process.

However, there’s another potential problem. Some policies limit payouts for certain high-value items such as jewelry or artwork. Talk to your provider about scheduling endorsements to fully cover such items.

It pays to be prepared

Don’t wait until a storm is in the forecast to think about insurance. Call your insurance provider now and get to know the details and limits of your policy.

Throughout hurricane season and beyond, you want to have peace of mind that your investment is fully protected.

For more information on how to protect your home and your family before a storm, check out this hurricane disaster guide.


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4 Open-House Secrets (and 4 Tips for Discovering Them)


Note: This article was originally posted on Trulia Blog (www.trulia.com/corp) on June 30, 2015 by Erika Napoletano http://www.trulia.com/blog/4-things-an-open-house-will-never-tell-you-and-tips-on-how-to-get-that-information/

What are open houses not telling you?

No matter what buyers think about a house, open houses are almost always fun. But they’re more than just delicious appetizers and a casual social environment. They’re also a powerful tool for buyers, offering insight and aiding in the decision-making process.

But what are those open houses not telling you?

While an open house won’t reveal everything about a property, that doesn’t mean the info you need isn’t out there. Here are four open-house secrets to look for — and how to discover them.

1. Structural challenges

The house might look fantastic, but a trained eye can identify potential structural challenges that could cost you big in the long run.

Tip: Look for cracks in the ceilings and walls, and note any sloping floors as you walk through the property. Check that doors all open and close as they should. If you decide to make an offer, don’t waive an inspection, even if the property is newly constructed. Foundation issues can be costly.

2. Cosmetic blemishes

At an open house, properties are (usually) carefully presented. Thanks to professional staging and artfully arranged rugs covering scuffs and stains on floors, there’s likely something you’re not seeing.

Tip: Ask your agent for an additional viewing of the home after the open house has closed. Without people around, you’ll be free to check for flaws that might’ve been concealed or hidden during the showing.

3. The neighbors and neighborhood

What looks great by day might not be so nice at night. Open houses are scheduled optimally, and what you see during an early morning showing might not reflect what a neighborhood is like when everyone is home from work at night.

Tip: Drive through the area after dark to see what the community is like once the sun goes down.

4. History of home insurance claims

You could be setting yourself up for big trouble if you walk into a property with a boatload of previous insurance claims — something you’ll never learn from visiting an open house. If the roof is new or there’s evidence of recent construction (that wasn’t a renovation, addition, or remodel), it might be a good idea to do some sleuthing before you commit.

Tip: Ask your real estate agent to request a CLUE (comprehensive loss underwriting exchange) report from the sellers for any home you want to submit an offer on. These reports give you five years of insurance claim history without a seller having to divulge any personal information.

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5 Ways to Pick the Perfect Time to Sell


Note: This article was originally posted on Trulia Blog (www.trulia.com/corp) on June 25, 2015 by Tara Nicholle Nelson http://www.trulia.com/blog/5-ways-to-pick-the-perfect-time-to-sell/

Choosing the right time to list your home can make all the difference. 

There’s a season for everything — including real estate.

If you’re gearing up to list your home for sale, you should connect with your agent to discuss your home sale action plan. But there are also a number of calendar-based factors you should be just as thoughtful about as you put together your plan for selling.

Here are five calendars that should be on every home seller’s radar.

1. The academic calendar

Families with school-age children often find it less disruptive to house-hunt in late spring/early summer with the aim of moving in before school starts. Of course, we all know what they say about the best-laid plans, so by no means should you let this stop you from listing your home at another time of year.

Demand for homes with convenient proximity to strong schools can increase during the summer school break and around other times of year when kids are not in school.

2. The tax calendar

I cannot count the number of relatively unmotivated looky-loo buyers I’ve worked with over the years who became suddenly motivated from a massive, looming tax bill. For instance, many new professionals will seek to close escrow on homes between the time they graduate and the end of that same year, in an effort to deduct their closing costs and mortgage interest from their new large incomes and avoid a big tax bill the following April. Similarly, just after tax time in April, a flood of newly motivated buyers come into the market, advised by their CPAs that the mortgage interest deduction is their best bet for not having to write as big a check to the IRS next year.

Fortunately for sellers, more buyers and more motivation means more demand and can translate into a faster sale at a higher price than at other times of the year.

3. The weather calendar

Many sellers who live in cold-weather climates are aware that wintry conditions can dramatically cut down the numbers of buyers who are out viewing properties. This is why buyer searches for homes on Trulia peak in January in warm-weather states like Hawaii and Florida — and not until after the spring thaw in the Midwest, the South, the Northeast, and most of the West.

The combination of what’s happening with the weather and the specific features of your home can interact to impact your home’s prospects for sale — and its ultimate sale price. Behavioral economics researchers have found that homes with swimming pools (and water slides, perhaps?) sell for more in the summertime than they do in winter.

“When it is sweltering outside, a swimming pool just looks attractive. There’s an emotional connection because it reminds us of fun times we have in the summer,” says Jaren Pope, assistant professor of economics at Brigham Young University.

So if it’s summer and you’re selling a home with ski slope access, you might want to paint the picture of a cozy, fun-filled winter by staging the place with ski gear and other items that help prospective buyers visualize how much fun they’ll have when winter comes. And vice versa: If it’s winter and you’re selling a house with a pool, consider making sure it is steamy and heated, if it has those features. Stage it with lounges, towels, lights — anything that showcases the pool to offset a cold-weather buyer’s psychological tendency to discount the appeal of a pool in the winter.

4. The holiday calendar

During the holidays, many buyers simply prefer to spend their downtime celebrating with family and friends versus. house hunting, especially in locales where the winters are wet or cold. Nationwide, December is the slowest month of the year for home searches, and November is the second-slowest.

Does this mean the holidays are a bad time to have your house on the market? Not necessarily. Some homes show beautifully when all lit up and tastefully dressed up for the holidays. And the truth is that there is a hardy contingent of buyers motivated to close by year’s end for tax purposes, every year in every market. While buyers might be fewer in number, those who will brave rain, sleet, and snow and forgo holiday parties to house-hunt can be some of the most motivated buyers of all.

5. The Gregorian calendar

We’re talking about the regular old January-through-December calendar here.

Home buying tends to be a popular resolution among those with money on their minds at the beginning of the year — and also among people looking forward to career promotions, developing their love and family relationships, or relocating to a new hometown. Make sure your home is well-represented on sites like Trulia at the beginning of the year, when these life- and financial-change visionaries start searching for their next nests.

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5 Ways to Deal With the Eyesore Next Door


Note: This article was originally posted on Trulia Blog (www.trulia.com/corp) on June 18, 2015 by Laura Agadoni http://www.trulia.com/blog/5-ways-to-deal-with-the-eyesore-next-door/

Don’t let the neighborhood eyesore put your home sale at risk — take action with these 5 tips.

You’re almost ready to put your house on the market when you realize it: The neighborhood eyesore is going to pose a problem.

Sure, we know some people might view any attempts to hide an eyesore from view as being underhanded, sneaky, and designed to fool unsuspecting buyers. They might envision unscrupulous sellers and agents who keep their fingers crossed, just hoping no one spots the eyesore next door.

If you feel that way, by all means, point out the junkyard behind you that’s worthy of American Pickers, the yard next door that looks more like a prairie than a lawn, or the bail bonds sign spray-painted on the wall across the street.

For the rest of us, here are five ways to resolve these eyesore neighbor homes so that would-be buyers won’t be scared off. And who knows? Maybe if you tackle these unsavory sights, you’ll decide not to sell your home after all.

1. Ask your neighbor to fix the problem

This solution can be tricky. There’s really no easy way to tell someone that his or her house is the neighborhood eyesore. But there are some methods that might help.

“Just writing a friendly note (dropped off with a bottle of wine or another small gift) can sometimes do the trick,” says Ross Anthony, a San Diego real estate agent.

It also can’t hurt to mention to your neighbor that the more your home sells for, the more his or her home will be worth.

2. Be neighborly

You know how people can become desensitized to certain smells? (“How did you know I had a cat?”) Well, people can become so accustomed to the condition of their house that they don’t notice when it looks run-down.

This sometimes happens with elderly homeowners: either they haven’t realized the condition of their home or they simply can’t manage the upkeep. You might think a condo or townhouse situation might better suit your overwhelmed neighbor, but steer clear of that suggestion.

Instead, offer to spruce up the house yourself. “If it is an elderly person, I offer to help,” says Sarah Bentley Pearson, an Atlanta real estate agent.

But it’s not just elderly neighbors with houses that could benefit from a little TLC — just think of all the work you did to get your house in selling shape!

Alexander Ruggie of 911 Restoration in Los Angeles says that if the next-door neighbor has a poor paint job, a wobbly fence, or a caved-in garage, there’s no reason you can’t offer to help fix the problem. “Most people would be surprised how much they can convince people to do when they offer to help do it.”

3. Notify your HOA

If you live in a community with a homeowners’ association (HOA), let it know about the unkempt house near you. One of the main reasons HOAs exist is to prevent homes in the neighborhood from becoming eyesores that could drive down the value of your home.

Your HOA might send a letter to the offending neighbor warning him or her to fix the problem or face fines. Or the HOA might take care of the problem and then bill the homeowner.

4. Call the city

If your neighbor won’t mow his or her lawn, get rid of the junk outside, or let you help tidy up, you can always call your local government.

“If there is a really bad problem, like the grass is a foot tall and there are junk cars on the front lawn, your neighbors are probably in violation of local codes and can be forced to clean up,” says John Z. Wetmore, producer of the TV show Perils for Pedestrians.

Do this well in advance of putting your house on the market. The city could give your neighbor up to 90 days to meet housing codes.

Wetmore also suggests that you “walk around the block and pick up any litter along the public streets and sidewalks.”

If the house is a bank-owned foreclosure, find out which bank owns the property by checking county title records. Insist the bank maintain the property.

5. Plant view-blocking trees or install a fence

It might be worth the investment to block an unsavory view. If you plant trees, choose ones that are at least 6 feet tall to give you an immediate sense of privacy. Privacy fences should also be 6 feet high.

If your neighbors are noisy, putting in a small waterfall can drown out the racket.

“You only have one first impression,” says Ross Anthony. “You want potential buyers to fall in love with your home before writing it off due to an unkempt neighboring property.”

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