6 Premium Apartment Amenities Worth the Extra Cost


Note: This article was originally posted on Trulia Blog (www.trulia.com/corp) on May 11, 2015 by Trulia http://www.trulia.com/blog/6-premium-apartment-amenities-worth-the-extra-cost/

Before dishing out the additional cash, make sure the flashy perks offered by your potential landlord are worth the cost.

If you’re shopping for an apartment, you’re likely to come across a lot of amenities that simply aren’t worth the money. Really, how often are you likely to use the sauna, and who wants to use a wobbly pool table with bent cue sticks? But some amenities really are worth the cost — these six top the list.

1. On-site fitness center

The ease and convenience of an on-site fitness center means you have fewer excuses not to stay in shape. Particularly if you live in a harsh climate, this perk means you’ll get in your workout even when it’s brutally hot (or insanely cold) out. Of course, this applies only if the gym equipment is in good condition, and if it’s not so crowded you can’t get on a treadmill. Stop by and see the place for yourself during peak workout times before deciding.

2. Doorperson or porter

A doorperson isn’t just about feeling important or having someone to greet you each morning or evening. This person is also a valuable security feature. If you were a criminal, would you choose to cause trouble where someone was on watch or opt for the easier target down the street? While a doorperson isn’t the same thing as a security guard, they may pose enough of an obstacle to deter crime.

3. Better location

If you can cut 10 or 15 minutes off your commute over the course of a year, this is a real savings. It’s always worth the extra price to get an apartment close to work, school, or the places you frequent. Also, consider an apartment that’s convenient to your favorite shopping centers and restaurants.

4. “Free” Wi-Fi

If you have access to complimentary Wi-Fi, you can lower your cellphone data plan expense and save money every month. Plus, you’ll have Wi-Fi for as many devices as you own, and you don’t have to worry about charges for sharing your data plan or overage charges. In the long run, it’s cheaper to add this to your rent than to pay individually for each of these services all year.

5. Storage

Search “apartment storage ideas” and you’ll find pages of great ideas to make your apartment seem larger than it really is. If you aren’t the DIY type, you might consider renting an extra storage closet on-site, typically in the parking garage or basement. Besides providing quick access to your bike and seasonal decorations, an on-site storage closet may save you from looking for another bedroom, which can cost more than another $500 in rent per month.

6. Pet services

Pet daycare, dog walking, grooming, and other pet services can be expensive if you have to hire someone to do them. Including this with your rent is often cheaper and more convenient. One caveat: check out the service providers before agreeing to this arrangement. If the services are well managed, it’s a valuable perk.

Any amenity you’ll use is a good value for you. The key is to avoid paying for amenities that aren’t going to directly save you money or give you added convenience.

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How to Protect Your Belongings During an Open House


Note: This article was originally posted on Trulia Blog (www.trulia.com/corp) on May 6, 2015 by Michael Corbett http://www.trulia.com/blog/protect-belongings-open-house/

Take these steps to secure your valuables and remove any temptation from the strangers who’ll be in your house (and looking through your closets, cabinets, and drawers).

Would you allow total strangers to wander through your home when you’re not there? Would you ever put up a sign in your front yard declaring, “We won’t be home from 1 to 3 p.m., so come on in and hang out at our house — and while you’re here, make sure to look in our closets!”

No, you say? Well, that is exactly what happens at an open house.

Once your home is ready to sell, opening it to the public for showings does pose a few risks. While the idea of theft shouldn’t be your main worry come open house day, it can’t hurt to be proactive. Most people aren’t planning to walk off with your family jewels, but I certainly wouldn’t want to tempt potential buyers to help themselves to my stuff.

People are naturally curious. It’s a fact: Buyers open all closets, cabinets, and drawers while they’re touring a home.

Think about the target spots: medicine cabinets, jewelry boxes, and rooms filled with little gadgets. Scan your house room by room and consider removing anything an opportunistic stranger could grab. This includes locking up prescriptions, notes with valuable or personal information, paperwork, checkbooks, and jewelry.

Don’t overlook potential opportunities for identity theft, either. Never leave mail, bills, or bank statements where anyone can have access to them. (And, no, stuffing them in a drawer is not a safe solution.) Instead, lock them up while your home is on the market.

However, I’m not a big proponent of obsessing over the security of each and every item in your house. That only creates a state of fear. No one is going to walk out your front door carrying your plasma TV during an open house — but they just might tuck that expensive bottle of wine or crystal paperweight into their tote bag.

So it’s important to safeguard yourself. With that in mind, consider the following tips.

Open-house safety tips

  • Find a reputable agent and talk to him or her about how to safeguard your possessions.
  • Make sure your agent uses a sign-in sheet for everyone who comes into the house.
  • For multilevel homes, ask your agent to bring an assistant so that all floors are covered at all times.
  • Remove valuables from view and store them in a safe, locked place.
  • Remove all prescription medicines and lock those up too.
  • Don’t forget about small electronics such as laptops, iPads, smartphones, and other electronic devices that are easy to tuck in a pocket.
  • Don’t hide anything in your top dresser drawer (a go-to spot for thieves).
  • Make sure your computers are locked with a pass code.
  • Bills, checks, bank statements, passports, and ID cards should be secured.
  • If possible, don’t use any heirlooms or valuable possessions to stage your rooms.
  • If images of your home are on Trulia or any other online real estate site, don’t display valuables that could entice thieves.
  • After each open house, insist that the real estate agent check and lock all doors and windows, as you wouldn’t want anyone “stopping by” later after they have already been through the house.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Or just pure reactions? Tell us what you think by completing the form below and let us know, we’ll be more than delighted to hear from you!

Should Sellers Pay for a Prelisting Home Inspection?


Note: This article was originally posted on Trulia Blog (www.trulia.com/corp) on April 30, 2015 by Laura Agadoni http://www.trulia.com/blog/sellers-pay-prelisting-home-inspection/

If there’s any doubt about the condition of your house, double down and pay for a professional opinion. 

If you’ve ever sold a car, you probably spent time making it look as pretty as possible, cleaning it inside and out. You might have also shelled out for some minor maintenance. After all, a car is a major purchase.

So think about selling a house. If you expect someone to make what could be the biggest purchase of a lifetime, you want to ensure you’re selling a good product.

But how do you honestly assess your home? Here are some reasons to get a prelisting home inspection — and what to do with the findings.

A home inspection could save you money

If you don’t fix problems in your house and they show up on the buyer’s inspection report, you can reduce your asking price. But that’s not always the best financial solution.

“Typically, you will pay less for repairs if you do them in advance because buyers might add on extra to pad for unexpected repair costs,” says Ryan Gibbons, a New Jersey real estate agent.

It could speed up the sales process

Getting your house in the best shape possible should speed up the sales procedure.

“In order to ward off a long process of back-and-forth negotiating, if the repairs are already identified and completed, it could transform the time the house is on the market,” says Chantay Bridges, an agent based in Los Angeles.

You can feel empowered

“Having a preinspection done can give the seller a competitive edge in a buyer’s market,” says Rhonda Duffy, an Atlanta real estate broker and consumer advocate.

If you’ve done everything possible to ready your home for sale, you can list it with your head held high, which helps in the negotiation process. On the other hand, if you haven’t fixed a known fault and are just hoping the buyer doesn’t bring it up … well, that’s not ideal.

What are the deal breakers?

It’s all well and good to guess what a prelisting inspection might show, but the real issue is finding out what the typical deal breakers are for most buyers so you’ll know what you should seriously consider fixing. Recruit your agent for advice on what is a deal breaker in your market.

Brace yourself — most deal breakers are costly to repair:

  • Foundation issues
  • Mold
  • Gas leaks
  • Outdated electrical system
  • Water damage
  • Roof problems
  • Rotted fascia or trim
  • Leaky pipes

“Unless buyers want a fix-up project, they will usually stay clear from major repairs,” says Brad Pauly, an Austin, TX, real estate agent.

Note: If you’ve made additions to your home, make sure you pull the permits to show they were legal.

Is it ever a bad idea to pay for a prelisting inspection?

There might be plenty of reasons to get a prelisting home inspection, but some experts don’t like the idea.

Gary Lucido, president of Lucid Realty in Chicago, says sellers should get a home inspection only if they are willing to pay thousands of dollars to fix a problem. “Otherwise, just view the result of the inspection as an added closing cost.”

Some easy postinspection DIY projects

Can’t afford to make major improvements? You can still spruce up the house before you list it.

HGTV’s Chip Wade, home improvement guru and Liberty Mutual’s “New Beginnings” expert, shares these tips:

  • Install sconce lighting or a decorative arbor on street-facing garage doors.
  • Power-wash the driveway, vinyl siding, the front walkway, deck mildew, and patio furniture.
  • Dust talcum powder between seams of creaky floorboards to quiet them.

Bottom line: it’s often a good idea for sellers to get a home inspection

Waiting for the buyer to work through an independent home inspection could cause the deal to fall through. Even if you offer to fix a problem that comes up on the buyer’s inspection report, the home just doesn’t look as appealing anymore to some buyers, especially first-time ones who might be skittish.

“The seller inspection does not have to be shared with potential buyers,” says Michael Hottman, a Virginia real estate agent. So if you pay for a home inspection before you list, and take care of any problems before prospective buyers see the house, there will be no need to reveal the remedied flaws.

And in case you were wondering, “The cost of a home inspection is based on the square footage of the house,” says Rhonda Duffy. Expect to pay between $300 and $500.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Or just pure reactions? Tell us what you think by completing the form below and let us know, we’ll be more than delighted to hear from you!

How to Find Your “House Whisperer”


Note: This article was originally posted on Trulia Blog (www.trulia.com/corp) on April 20, 2015 by Robyn Woodman http://www.trulia.com/blog/find-house-whisperer/

With so many agents vying for new clients, how do you locate and select the one who’s right for you? 

It’s been said that the average buyer looks at 10 homes before finally settling on their dream home. But what I can tell you is this is one case where being below average is preferable. Schlepping around to tour house after house can be mind-numbing and tiring — it’s also exhausting and confusing.

Real estate agents exist for a reason. If they’re good, they should know the questions to ask and the homes to show you so you can find your dream home, hopefully in fewer than 10 viewings. It is critical to work with an agent who listens and responds to your unique needs, concerns, and perspective.

But with so many agents vying for new clients, how do you locate and select the one who’s right for you? Check out the tips below as you set out to find your very own “House Whisperer.”

Seek quality recommendations

Now that you’re in the market to find an agent, it’s time to get chatty! Get the inside scoop from friends and family who’ve worked with local agents in the past. They’re the ones who have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly from your local pool of agents.

However, it’s critical to speak with friends whose consumer style is like yours. If you’re a super-laid-back shopper, chances are, your uptight neighbor with a spreadsheet hobby is probably not the most compatible guy to personally recommend an agent.

Leverage the interwebs

Anything and everything you need to know about the plethora of real estate agents in your area is at your fingertips. The key? Knowing how to locate the information quickly and easily. The Trulia Directory has it all: agent reviews, ratings, relevant experience, and local expertise.

Are you looking for a short sale in an up-and-coming neighborhood? A new-construction home in the suburbs, precisely 20 minutes outside the city? Bring these specifics to your initial conversations with agents to find someone with the right skill set.

Attend open houses

Open houses, especially in the neighborhood you’d like to call home, can be an effective way to locate an agent. And why not? They’re ideal for buyers scouting for an agent — they’re like a mini-interview where you can see them in action on the job. Are they annoyed and closed off or open and helpful? Do your homework upfront and save yourself a headache later. This is probably the most important buying relationship you will have.

Pro tip: Remember, agents at open houses represent the seller, but if you aren’t intending to make an offer on that particular house, you can always hire the agent to represent you. Agents treat open houses as a prospecting tool to meet new potential clients, so don’t be shy to get to know them, not just the house.

Interview prospective agents

Once you have a few agents in mind, call and ask to set up a time to meet (and interview) them. If the agent balks at the request, move on to the next. This person is not your House Whisperer — trust me.

While the agent’s answers are important, the rapport you have is as well. Consider it a glimpse into your future working relationship. For interview tips and suggestions, you can’t go wrong by listening to the professionals.

Share and communicate

You’ve done the hard part — you found your agent. Now it’s up to you to turn this person into your House Whisperer. Clearly communicate your home wants, needs, and dreams, then let the agent work their magic.

The old adage “a picture says a million words” couldn’t be more true than in the case of house hunting. Stay organized and share photos of your dream home with your agent by using Trulia Boards. Communicating your ideal home’s look and feel to a real estate pro used to be tedious, but now it’s fun and, more important, streamlined.

Create your boards, add homes, and invite your agent to collaborate with you; they will greatly appreciate your organization and enthusiasm. And you’ll find your home that much faster.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Or just pure reactions? Tell us what you think by completing the form below and let us know, we’ll be more than delighted to hear from you!

8 Essential Outdoor Upgrades for Selling Your Home


Note: This article was originally posted on Trulia Blog (www.trulia.com/blog) on April 2, 2015 by Meaghan O’Neill http://www.trulia.com/blog/8-essential-outdoor-upgrades/

Whether you’re selling acres of land or a tiny urban terrace, it’s time to spruce up your outdoor space. 

Whether you’re selling acres of land or a tiny urban terrace, it’s time to spruce up your outdoor space.

What sells real estate? Location, location, location. We’d like to add one more item to that list: outdoor space. Because regardless of your location or property type, an outdoor space can make or break the sale of your house — especially in nice weather.

“I once had a client willing to sell her condo and spend tens of thousands more for the same interior space, just so she could have a 3-by-5-foot terrace,” says Brian Murray, a real estate broker in Hoboken, NJ.

In other words, outdoor space matters, whether it’s a tiny patio or acres of landscaped gardens.

Motivated to improve yours? Experts advise focusing on fixes or upgrades — not major overhauls — that are low maintenance, decent quality, energy-efficient, and not too costly.

Here’s what to know about sprucing up your green space, from the front door to the back 40.

1. Pump up your curb appeal

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so make that front entry burst with welcome.

Most importantly, paint, repair, or replace your front doorway. A new steel door consistently ranks among the best home improvements, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2015 “Cost vs. Value Report,” with a 100% return on investment (ROI).

Next, prune any plant overgrowth and add inexpensive shrubs and potted flowers.

Make sure the doorbell works too.

2. Add (or repair) a wood deck

According to the same report, adding a wood deck has an ROI of 80% — better than remodeling a bathroom — and constructing one costs a fraction of building an addition, but dramatically adds to perceived living space.

If you have an existing deck (or patio) in need of repair, now is the time to start swinging that hammer.

3. Check the roof

According to the National Association of Home Buyers, house hunters focus primarily on quality and appearance, so don’t let a sagging roof or leaky gutters drag you down.

A roof in ill repair indicates to a buyer that more unpleasant surprises may await, and a home inspection will quickly reveal if your roof needs work. Most roofs last between 20 and 30 years; if yours is nearing the end of its useful life (or it looks like it is), expect the buyer to talk you down on price.

4. Wash or replace siding

Attractive siding is second only to a nice front door when it comes to curb appeal, and worn siding can cost you 10% of your home’s value.

If yours is in good shape, get out the pressure washer and clean it up. If not, think about replacing it; the long-term ROI is up to 84% for fiber-cement cladding. Vinyl siding is an inexpensive, durable, and low-maintenance choice, though it won’t get you points for environmental friendliness, and some buyers may find it tacky.

5. Make landscaping attractive

Sure, your Pinterest page is full of sprawling gardens and rose-clad trellises, but in reality, most buyers want low-maintenance, unfussy landscaping.

Mature, healthy plantings are a bonus, but if your yard is still under development, try to maintain a green lawn. No buyer wants to imagine serving burgers to pals with a side of sad, browning grass. If you don’t have time to reseed, consider laying sod.

Next, add green shrubbery in a few key spots and prune unkempt trees or bushes, especially those darkening interior spaces or obscuring views. Finally, mulching gardens is another good way to add appeal.

6. Tidy up walkways and stairs

While you’ve got out the power washer, make sure pathways, stairs, and other paved areas are looking their best.

View your home with fresh eyes or ask a friend to provide an honest report. Are the stairs unsafe? Is the walkway ugly and cracked?

Listen up, and patch up those eyesores.

7. Avoid money pits

Real talk: Unless you live where it’s sunny all the time, a pool is not a good investment. It’s expensive to install and maintain, and not everyone wants one.

Thinking about adding an outdoor kitchen? Most buyers aren’t. Instead, put your money into universally appealing amenities; buyers can add niche amenities (a tennis court, a hot tub) later.

Your job is to focus on creating an outdoor space that looks nice, is functional, and is in good repair.

8. Sweat the small stuff

Whether you live in a city center or bucolic countryside, little things can have a big impact on buyers.

For example, you can easily and inexpensively add functional exterior lighting, cover an air-conditioning unit with a trellis, add a grill that says easy entertaining, install a cozy firepit, or stage a table with a glass of wine.

“Remember, buyers aspire — they want to see themselves living an amazing life in the place they’re going to buy,” advises Murray, the Hoboken-based broker. “Trust me, people will buy based on seeing the grill.”

Ultimately, spend the money on smart landscaping and universally appealing exterior elements to make your property look taken care of — it’s well worth it.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Or just pure reactions? Tell us what you think by completing the form below and let us know, we’ll be more than delighted to hear from you!