The Importance of Working with an Experienced Equestrian Real Estate Agent

Equestrian properties are not your typical residential homes. The land serves a purpose beyond addressing the homeowner’s needs, and everything on the premises revolves around making sure the horses are at their best. And horses are not your average domestic pets. Tending to them is a full-time job that consists of constant hard work. When it comes to buying and selling these properties, it’s important to work with an agent who understands these facets of equestrian life and everything they entail.

The Importance of Working with an Experienced Equestrian Real Estate Agent

Real estate agents who either grew up around horses or have many years’ worth of experience working with equestrian buyers and sellers are uniquely qualified to understand your needs as a buyer or seller of an equestrian property.

A particular region’s climate, for example, will present unique challenges for equestrian buyers looking to build out their property to accommodate their specific riding discipline. Only an experienced equestrian agent can provide the proper guidance on property additions and maintenance, as well as how those recommendations align with local zoning regulations. For those looking to sell their equestrian property, it’s imperative that they work with a listing agent who understands the property and how to market it to the right buyers.

Equestrian advisors also understand the emotions that come with equestrian property ownership. Taking care of horses is a significant undertaking, financially and emotionally. Buyers and sellers may set logic to the side and make decisions based on emotions, rightfully so, given how heavily invested they are in the wellbeing of their animals. Equestrian advisors know how to interpret the emotions behind these decisions and guide their clients toward logical solutions throughout the buying/selling process.

 

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Helpful Questions to Ask an Equestrian Real Estate Agent

Finding the right agent to sell your equestrian property or finding the right buyer’s agent takes time, but you can set yourself up for success by knowing which questions to ask. The following list of questions will help you identify a candidate with equestrian experience.

  • Did you ride / were you around horses growing up?
  • Do you have experience working on an equestrian property?
  • Do you currently own horses?
  • What are your real estate certifications and designations?
  • Could you share testimonials from past clients?

For assistance planning an equestrian property sale or purchase, or for answers to your questions, connect with an experienced Equestrian Advisor:

Windermere Equestrian Advisors

 


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Remodeling Projects to Avoid When Selling Your Home

It’s common for homeowners to feel compelled to remodel their homes before they sell. Renovating the spaces in your home can increase its value and help you compete with comparable listings in your area. However, some remodeling projects are more beneficial than others as you prepare to sell your home. Always talk to your agent to determine which projects are most appealing to buyers in your area.

Remodeling Projects to Avoid When Selling Your Home

When preparing to sell your home, you want to strike the right balance of upgrades. Making repairs and executing renovations will attract buyer interest, but you don’t want to dump so much cash into remodeling that you won’t be able to recoup those expenses when your home sells.

So, how do you know where to focus your efforts? Your agent is a vital resource in understanding your specific situation and will offer guidance on your remodeling efforts to sell your home for the best price. Here are a few projects sellers will want to keep off their to-do lists for the best return on investment.

 

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Minor Cosmetic Upgrades

Whether you’ve made small cosmetic upgrades throughout your home typically isn’t a make-or-break proposition for most buyers. Let’s say you’re questioning whether to invest in a new toilet, vanity, and shower for your primary bathroom before selling. Unless these appliances are damaged and you can repair them without spending too much, it’s okay to sell as is.

Major Upgrades with Long Timelines

For any remodeling project, your agent’s analysis will help you determine its risk/reward potential. This dynamic is heightened with major remodeling projects and home upgrades, due to their higher costs. Four of the six lowest ROI remodeling projects found in the Remodeling 2022 Cost vs. Value Report (www.costvsvalue.com)1 are upscale or major upgrades, all with roughly a 50% return on investment.

These projects come with hefty price tags and longer timelines than minor repairs and upgrades, which can complicate factors as you prepare to sell, especially if you have a deadline to get into your new home. They have the potential to temporarily displace you from the property, meaning you and your household may have to find somewhere else to stay until the project is complete.

  • The Bottom Line: To go through with a major home upgrade before you sell, its schedule must fit with your moving timeline. It should also align with buyer interest in your local market. If the project doesn’t meet these criteria, it should be avoided.

Building Code Violations

The rules dictating whether you can sell your home with building code violations vary region to region. It also depends on what the building code violation is and whether neglecting to update it is deemed a safety hazard. The buyer’s mortgage lender may also have stipulations saying that the loan may not be used to purchase a home with certain features that aren’t up to code, which could lead to them backing out of the deal.

If you’re selling an older home, you’re not obligated to update every feature that may be out of code to fit modern standards. These projects are often structural and require a significant investment. If the violation in question was built to code according to the regulations at the time, then a grandfather clause typically applies. However, you’ll need to disclose these features to the buyer.

Trendy Makeovers and Upgrades

Lastly, it’s best to avoid remodeling projects that target a specific trend in home design. Trends come and go. Timeless design is a hallmark of marketable homes because it appeals to the widest possible pool of buyers. Keep this in mind when staging your home as well. Creating an environment that’s universally appealing and depersonalized allows buyers to more easily imagine the home as their own.

Learn more about remodeling your home as you prepare to sell here:

Should I Remodel or Sell My Home As Is?

 


­­­­­­1: © 2022 Zonda Media, a Delaware Corporation. Complete data from the Remodeling 2022 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at www.costvsvalue.com.

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7 Tips for Staging Your Home Yourself

Nowadays, home staging is an integral part of the home selling process. The impact of home staging is crystal clear, but how you go about it deserves some consideration. Many homeowners will hire a home staging professional, trusting their expertise to make their home as appealing as possible to buyers. However, if hiring a professional isn’t in your budget, taking a DIY approach to home staging can deliver its own benefits.

7 Tips for Staging Your Home Yourself

1. Declutter

The first rule of home staging: make it tidy! A well-staged home should make potential buyers feel comfortable and at ease. To make that happen, it’s important that the spaces in your home are free of clutter. Consider investing in storage bins or a separate storage space temporarily to pare down the items in your home as much as possible.

2. Deep Clean

To really make your home sparkle, it will need more than a cursory cleaning. On top of your usual cleaning routine, get those hard-to-reach and uncommon spots throughout your home that will make it feel spotless. Putting some elbow grease into your bathroom surfaces, underneath and behind furniture, baseboards, and all switches and handles will make a difference when guests enter your home.

3. Fresh Paint

Not only does adding a coat of fresh paint do wonders for the look of your home, it’s a low-cost, high-ROI investment for a DIY project as important as home staging. Going for neutral colors will help to create balance in your interior while appealing to a wide spectrum of buyers’ tastes. It’s the splashes of color on top of a neutral foundation that will help guide visitors’ eyes from room to room.

 

Image Source: Getty Images – Image Credit: irina88w

 

4. Curb Appeal

You only get once chance to make a first impression on potential buyers visiting your home and upping your curb appeal will give you the best chance of wowing them. Take a trip to your local hardware store and prepare to spend some time working in the front yard. Projects that improve the look and quality of your lawn, flower beds, walkways, outdoor lighting, windows, and trim will impress buyers and can increase the value of your home.

5. De-Personalize

Once a buyer pulls up to your property, you want to give them every opportunity to imagine themselves in the home. That’s why it’s important to de-personalize your interior and let them fill it with their own imagination. Remove all family photos, notes, personal gifts, and the like from your home. Aim for a décor style that’s not too ornate and not too bland—think calm, simple, and clean.

6. Focus on Accents

Once you’ve applied fresh paint, boosted your curb appeal, and de-personalized your home, you’re ready to add décor accents. Again, the most important thing is that buyers feel comfortable in your home, so your accents should reflect that notion. Add area rugs that are inviting but not too loud, keep freshly folded towels in the bathroom, and consider adding house plants throughout your spaces to make them feel natural.

7. Design Hacks

A few key design hacks will help you round out your DIY home staging project. If you’re struggling with making the smaller spaces in your home feel comfortable, try adding a mirror. Mirrors help to reflect light and can help narrow or cramped spaces feel bigger. Arrange your living room furniture in a way that emphasizes the room’s dimensions. Since you’re designing your home with open houses in mind, the TV no longer needs to be the focal point of the living room.

For more information on preparing to sell your home, helpful tips on working with an agent, moving checklists, and more, visit our Seller Essentials Home Selling Guide.

 

 


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Moving Checklist: A Step-by-Step Guide to the Moving Process

Once you and your agent work through the process of selling your home, there comes a point when it’s time to switch gears and get ready to move. It can be difficult to juggle the various steps of the moving process, especially if you’re Buying and Selling a Home at the Same Time. Using a moving checklist will help you stay organized and on schedule throughout your moving timeline.

Moving Checklist: A Step-by-Step Guide to the Moving Process

We’ve included a comprehensive checklist below of all the steps you’ll need to complete to ensure a smooth, successful move. This list is also available as an interactive web page and downloadable PDF here: Moving Checklist

Twelve Weeks Before:

  • Get estimates from professional movers or truck rental companies if needed.
  • Once you’ve selected a mover, discuss insurance, packing, loading and delivery, and the claims procedure.

Six to Eight Weeks Before:

  • Use up things that may be difficult to move, such as frozen food.
  • Sort through your possessions. Decide what you want to keep, what you want to sell, and what you wish to donate to charity.
  • Record serial numbers on electronic equipment, take photos (or video) of all your belongings and create an inventory list.
  • If you are moving yourself, use your inventory list to determine how many boxes you will need. Stock up on the items you’ll need from our “Moving Essentials” list.
  • Obtain a change of address packet from the post office and send it to creditors, magazine subscription offices, and catalog vendors.
  • Discuss tax-deductible moving expenses with your accountant and begin keeping accurate records.
  • If you’re moving to a new community, contact the Chamber of Commerce and school district and request information about services.
  • Make reservations with airlines, hotels, and car rental agencies, if needed.
  • Begin packing nonessential items.

Two to Four Weeks Before:

  • Arrange for storage, if needed.
  • If you have items you don’t want to pack and move, hold a yard sale.
  • Update the address listed on your car registration, license, and insurance.
  • Transfer your bank accounts and safe-deposit box items to new branch locations if needed. Cancel or redirect any direct deposit or automatic payments from your accounts.
  • Make special arrangements to move your pets and consult your veterinarian about ways to make travel comfortable for them.
  • Have your car checked and serviced if you’ll need to drive it a long distance.
  • Change your utilities, including phone, power, and water, from your old address to your new address.

Week of Moving Day:

  • Defrost your refrigerator and freezer.
  • Have movers pack your belongings.
  • Label each box with the contents and the room where you want it to be delivered.
  • If you’re using a moving company, arrange to pay for their services in full, or the remainder of what you owe, upon delivery.
  • Set aside legal documents and valuables that you do not want packed.
  • Pack clothing and toiletries, along with extra clothes in case the moving company is delayed.
  • Give your travel itinerary to a close friend or relative so they can reach you as needed.
  • Pack a first-day box with items that you’ll want accessible before other boxes are unpacked. See our list of suggested items on the right and add any others you’ll want to include.

Moving Day: 

Old Home

  • Pick up the truck as early as possible if you are moving yourself.
  • Make a list of every item and box loaded on the truck.
  • Let the mover know how to reach you.
  • Double-check your closets, cupboards, attic, basement, yard, and garage for any left-behind items.

New Home

  • Be on hand at the new home to answer questions and give instructions to the mover.
  • Check off boxes and items as they come off the truck.
  • Install new locks.
  • Confirm that the utilities have been turned on and are ready for use.
  • Unpack your first-day box.
  • Unpack your children’s toys and find a safe place for them to play.
  • Examine your goods for damage.

 

Our Moving Checklist page has all the information above, plus helpful lists for Moving Essentials and which items to pack in your First-Day Box available as a downloadable PDF.

For additional information on the selling process from start to finish, tips on working with an agent, and more, visit our Home Selling Guide:

 

 


­­­­­­Featured Image Source: Getty Images – Image Credit: JohnnyGreig

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Preparing to Sell Your Home: A Complete Checklist

Getting your home ready to sell can feel like a circus act. Without the right organization, juggling the countless moving parts involved in this stage of the selling process can take its toll. This is the perfect opportunity to create a checklist to keep yourself on track and within your budget. The following information will illuminate the key responsibilities you face as a homeowner as you prepare to hit the market.

We’ve included a comprehensive checklist below of the common tasks required to get your home ready to sell. It is also available as an interactive web page and downloadable pdf here: Get Ready to Sell Checklist

 

Preparing to Sell Your Home: Working with an Agent

Before you start working on the house itself, it’s best to get the ball rolling on the strategic aspects of selling a home. Working with a real estate agent is the best way to get your home sold for the best price in a timely manner.

A listing agent will represent you throughout the selling process to determine the value of your home, coordinate open houses, market the property, and negotiate with buyers to reach a deal. In the early stages of your discussions with your agent, they will conduct a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) to see what price your home could fetch on the market, accounting for various factors that influence home prices such as seasonality and local market conditions. Based on the findings of your agent’s CMA, you can discuss whether remodeling fits into your go-to-market strategy, and your agent can provide intel on which remodeling projects could deliver significant ROI based on buying trends, your location, and what comparable listings in your market are offering.

Home value estimation tools can help you get an idea of what your home is worth to facilitate your conversations with your agent. Use our free Home Worth Calculator by clicking the button below: 

 

A middle-aged man and woman sit down with their real estate agent.

Image Source: Getty Images – Image Credit: FG Trade

 

Preparing to Sell Your Home: A Complete Checklist

Once you’ve found an agent, you’re ready to get your home in tip-top selling shape. The following checklist is available as a free downloadable PDF here:

Get Ready to Sell Checklist – PDF

Exterior

This list of value-adding curb appeal projects will help to form buyers’ first impressions of your home and make your ever-important exterior listing photos stand out amongst the competition. 

  • Remove peeling and chipped paint; replace with a fresh coat
  • Fix loose trim and fencing
  • Clear gutters and downspouts
  • Make sure there is good exterior lighting and all walkway lights and front-door lanterns work
  • Clean and repair the roof as needed
  • Clear garage of clutter and tidy shelves
  • Inspect chimney for cracks and damage

Yard

  • Mow and trim grass; re-seed and fertilize where necessary
  • Prune all overgrown trees and shrubs
  • Weed flowers beds
  • Remove or replace dead or diseased plants, shrubs, and trees
  • Clean grease and oil stains from driveway

Decks/Patios

  • Paint or stain worn areas on wood decks
  • Remove grass growing in concrete cracks; sweep off debris from shrubs and trees
  • Clean all deck rails and make sure they’re secure; replace missing slats or posts
  • Clean outdoor furniture

Front Door

  • Polish or stain worn areas on wood decks
  • Add a fresh coat of paint to get rid of nicks
  • Clean the glass on the storm door; make certain the screen is secure
  • Make sure the doorbell operates properly and there are no squeaks when the door opens and closes

Windows

  • Clean all windows inside and out
  • If needed, add a fresh coat of paint to the window trims and sills
  • Make sure all windows open and close easily
  • Replace cracked windowpanes and those with broken seals
  • Make sure window screens are clean and secure; replace any screens with holes or tears

Front Entry

  • Clean entryway floors and area rugs
  • Downsize clutter in the entry and entry closet to give the appearance of spaciousness
  • Double-check entry lighting to make sure it works

Interior

Not only will these interior projects get your house sparkling clean, but they’re also preparatory steps for staging your home and hosting open houses.

General Interior Cleaning

  • Clean all floors, carpets, walls, and trim
  • Replace burned-out light bulbs
  • Empty trash
  • Remove family photos, valuables, and prescription drugs
  • Tidy up clutter

Kitchen

  • Fix dripping faucets
  • Organize pantry and cupboards so they appear clean, neat, and spacious
  • Make sure the refrigerator and freezer are defrosted and free of odors
  • Clean the oven and cook top thoroughly
  • Set the table

Living/Family/Dining Rooms

  • Give rooms a fresh coat of paint as needed
  • Repair cracks and holes in ceiling and walls
  • Make sure all wallpaper is secure
  • Repaint any woodwork that is worn or chipped
  • Clean or replace draperies and blinds; open them to maximize light
  • Make sure draperies and blinds open and close
  • Steam-clean carpets
  • Clean rugs and wood flooring, and remove any stains or odors
  • Position the furniture to showcase the size and space of the room
  • Remove and replace any attached items, such as chandeliers and draperies, that you wish to move with you
  • Put away toys and hobby supplies; remove extra magazines and books from tables

Bathrooms

  • Make sure sinks, tubs, showers, and countertops are clean and free of stains
  • Repair any leaky faucets
  • Remove grout and soap stains from tile
  • Replace any missing or cracked tiles or grout
  • Make sure all joints are caulked
  • Make sure all fixtures, including heat lamps and exhaust fans are operating
  • Install a new shower curtain and buy matching towels
  • Store all supplies, such as toilet paper, shampoo bottles and cleansers, out of sight

Bedrooms

  • Repair cracks in ceiling and walls
  • Apply a fresh coat of paint if necessary
  • Make sure all wallpaper is secure
  • Clean draperies and blinds; open them to maximize light
  • Put away toys, clothes, and clutter
  • Neatly make up the beds

Basement

  • Check for water penetration or dampness; call for professional repairs if necessary
  • Get rid of musty odors
  • Clean furnace, hot water heater, and drains
  • Make sure light fixtures work
  • Arrange storage area in a neat and organized manner
  • Make sure stairway handrail is secure

Tidy Extras

  • Use air fresheners or bake treats to make the house smell good
  • Plant flowers to brighten the walkway and enrich the entry
  • Remove any indoor houseplants that are brown or losing their leaves
  • Remove all “fixer” cars, campers, and boats from the property
  • Discard the clutter of magazines on the coffee and end tables
  • Tidy and declutter all closets
  • Hide or get rid of worn-out throw pillows
  • Store pet supplies
  • At night, turn on the porch light and outdoor lighting
  • Put away toys and hobby supplies; remove extra magazines and books from tables

 

For more information on preparing to sell your home, helpful hints on the rest of the buying process, tips on working with an agent, moving checklists, and more, visit our Home Selling Guide:

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Should You Refinance or Sell Your Home?

Homeowners can often reach a financial fork in the road when they must decide to either refinance their existing mortgage or sell their home. Each route has its respective advantages depending on your financial health, the mortgage rate market, and the future needs of your household.

Refinancing vs. Selling

When working to ease the financial burden of your existing mortgage, you have two options: refinance or sell. Refinancing your home allows you to renegotiate the terms of your loan and lower your monthly mortgage payment, while selling has the potential to put enough cash in your pocket to pay off your mortgage entirely. So, how do you decide between the two? Understanding a bit more about each option can help you determine which is best for you.

Refinancing Your Home

There are a few reasons why homeowners will typically refinance their mortgage, the most common of which being falling interest rates. Lower interest rates, after a reassessment of your mortgage, equate to lower monthly mortgage payments and significant savings over the life of the loan. If your finances have improved since you initially secured your mortgage—for example, your debt-to-income ratio has improved, or you’ve bumped up your credit score—you may be able to lock in a better rate with your lender.

Refinancing your home could also put cash in your pocket. “Cash-out refinancing” allows you to accept a mortgage for more than your principal balance and use the extra money at your discretion. Typically, homeowners will use such funds for large expenses, such as a major renovation or home improvement project.

Homeowners with Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (ARMs) will often refinance and switch to a Fixed-Rate Mortgage due to fluctuations in interest rates, locking in an established rate for the remainder of the loan term.

Refinancing in order to change the length of the loan can be beneficial as well. By switching from a 30-year mortgage to a 15-year mortgage, you could save a considerable amount of money on interest over the life of the loan. If you’re looking to lower your monthly mortgage payment, you could lengthen the loan term. For example, if you’ve been paying off your 30-year mortgage for ten years but are struggling to keep up, refinancing could lower your monthly payment. However, doing so means you’ll be paying for an additional ten years’ worth of interest.

Keep in mind that refinancing your home involves getting a new mortgage, so you’ll have to go through the qualification process again. Assess your financial health and equity before you apply. Once you’re ready to move forward, your Windermere agent can recommend a few trusted lenders or mortgage brokers to provide you with a quote.  

 

Image Source: Getty Images – Image Credit: nortonsrx

 

Selling Your Home

Alternatively, you can sell your home. Your agent will conduct a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) to determine the value of your home, accounting for the various factors that influence home prices including seasonality, location, market conditions, and your home’s features.

Although you stand to receive a lump sum of cash, selling your home comes with its own set of costs. Paying for repairs, home inspections, staging expenses, agent commissions, not to mention buying or renting your next home. This can add up, so it’s important to budget properly. Selling your home also means you’ll be uprooting the life you and your household have established there, so it’s important to have a plan for your next steps before the “For Sale” sign goes in the ground.

For more information on the selling process, connect with an experienced, local Windermere agent today:

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What Happens When a Buyer Backs Out of a Real Estate Transaction?

Yes, the dream scenario for selling a home is that the entire process goes off without a hitch. But the reality is that sometimes there will be bumps in the road, and the best thing you can do is work closely with your agent to be prepared for them. One such obstacle is when a buyer decides to terminate their contract to purchase your home after all the terms have been agreed to. So, what’s a seller to do? Here’s a quick overview of how to prepare for this situation and the important role contingencies play when selling your home.

What Happens When a Buyer Backs Out of a Real Estate Transaction?

To be clear, a buyer can back out of a real estate transaction. The outcomes of doing so vary greatly. In certain cases, the buyer walks from the table with all their money intact. In others, they will have some fiduciary responsibility to the seller. If a buyer is hesitant about purchasing a home, the best time to back out of the deal is before their offer is accepted. As things progress, the ramifications of a buyer backing out can get messier. Once the purchase agreement is signed by both parties, it becomes legally binding, and the sale of the property can proceed.

After your agent and the buyer’s agent agree on purchasing terms, the buyer will place their earnest money—a deposit of funds to indicate that the buyer is serious about their offer and intends to pay the seller—in escrow to make sure they distribute properly when the deal goes through. Whether the buyer is on the hook for the funds in escrow depends on the terms of the contract, how far along you are in the selling process, and the corresponding state laws where the home is being sold. If a buyer backs out of the deal for a reason that was not stipulated in the real estate contract, then the funds will typically go to the seller. Still, this scenario can leave sellers scratching their heads. It’s not as if they’ve done anything wrong, and they thought they had found the right buyer, only to have the carpet ripped out from under them at the last minute. So, how can you protect yourself when selling your home?

 

Image Source: Getty Images – Image Credit: Paperkites

 

The Importance of Contingencies

This situation highlights the importance of contingencies. Contingencies exist to protect buyers and sellers from the unknowns of a real estate transaction. Buyers will typically include contingencies in their offer to specify the criteria that will allow them to walk away from the deal unscathed and the timeframes for doing so. As a seller, it’s critical that you work closely with your agent to understand the terms of the buyer’s offer. Read about Common Real Estate Contingencies to understand the ins and out of the different contingencies buyers will generally tie to their offer.

What to Do After a Home Buyer Backs Out

Backup Offers

Backup offers are made with the knowledge that an existing offer is already on the table. They stipulate that if the first offer falls through, the second buyer’s offer is accepted. Talk to your agent about the possibility of accepting backup offers when you sell your home. Whether a buyer backs out due to buyer’s remorse, something they discover in the home inspection process, or for any other reason, backup offers can act as a remedy for their indecision by keeping the line moving to the next buyer.

If a backup offer isn’t on the table, the seller is left with the decision of whether to sell again. It’s true that a relisted home may elicit questions from buyers. They will want to know why the home is being relisted and what went wrong with the previous offer. It’s important to coordinate your relisting strategy with your agent and discuss what disclosures are appropriate. It may be discouraging to deal with a buyer backing out but remember that selling a home is all about finding the right fit. A buyer walking away doesn’t mean your home isn’t worthy of a winning offer, it just means that you haven’t found the right buyer yet.

For more information on selling your home and how to navigate buyers’ offers, connect with an experienced, local Windermere agent today.

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Selling Your Home: Capital Gains Tax

When you sell your home, you stand to receive an influx of cash. Though there are several costs associated with a home sale, you can likely still bank on the fact that you’ll be depositing a lump sum in the near future. But before you start planning how you’ll use the money or start looking for a new home, you’ll want to understand whether you fall under the criteria of the capital gains tax. If so, the profit from your home sale could end up being smaller than you expected.

What is a capital gains tax?

A capital gains tax is a fee on the profits gained from the sale of an asset. This tax appears in transactions involving various assets—bonds, stocks, boats, cars, and real estate. In real estate, it’s common for homes to appreciate, often leading to a situation where the seller sells the property for more than they originally purchased it. The capital gains tax on the sale of a home is assessed on the difference between those two prices.

Avoiding Capital Gains Tax on a Home Sale

  • The 2-in-5 rule: If you have owned the home and it has been your primary residence for two of the five years leading up to the sale, you can exclude up to $250,000 of gains if you’re single, or $500,000 if you’re married and file a joint return. If the profit exceeds these amounts, then the excess is reported as a capital gain. The two years of living in the home don’t have to be consecutive, nor do they need to be the final two years leading up to the sale.
  • Two-year window: You can claim the $250k or $500k exclusion as long as you haven’t already claimed it on the sale of another home in the past two years.
  • Cost of repairs/improvements: In the context of the capital gains tax, the “cost basis” of your home includes the purchase price, certain legal fees, improvement costs, and more. Including the expenses incurred making repairs and improvements to the home will increase the home’s cost basis, thereby reducing the capital gains.

 

Image Source: Getty Images – Image Credit: bymuratdeniz

 

Paying Capital Gains Tax on a Home Sale

Sometimes, avoiding the capital gains tax may not be possible. If these criteria fit your situation, the gains from the sale of your home may be fully taxable:

  • The home you sold is not your primary residence
  • You owned the home or lived in it for less than two years in the five years leading up to the sale
  • You purchased the property through an investment exchange (known as a 1031 exchange)
  • You are subject to expatriate taxes
  • You sold another home within the previous two years and used the capital gains exclusion on that sale

Capital Gains Tax Rates

Capital gains tax rates break down into two basic categories: short- and long-term. Short-term capital gains tax rates apply if you owned the home for less than a year. The rate is usually the same as your ordinary income. For example; if you purchase a home, home values in your area go through the roof within the first few months, and you decide to sell right away to take advantage of the competitive market, you’ll be required to pay capital gains tax on the sale. Long-term capital gains tax rates apply if you own the home for longer than a year, and are taxed at 0%, 15%, and 20% thresholds.

 

For more information on the financial characteristics of a home sale, read A Guide to Understanding Escrow

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How to Prepare for an Open House

To successfully sell your home, you need to attract buyers. This is why open houses are an integral part of the selling process: they allow buyers to experience the property for themselves and envision what life will look like in their new home. To prepare for an open house, you’ll need to work closely with your agent. They can advise you on what buyers in your area are looking for to increase your chances of selling your home.

How to Prepare for an Open House

The earlier you can begin prepping your home for an open house, the better, since getting it in prime showing condition will take time. Start by decluttering and organizing room by room. To truly get your home sparkling clean, you can’t miss those hard-to-reach areas like the baseboards, under your furniture, and your appliances.

To best position your home to sell, consider hiring a professional stager. A well-staged home helps it appeal to the widest possible array of potential buyers, not only for in-person showings, but in online photos as well. Professional staging is equal parts science and art. Stagers are experts in depersonalizing a home while maintaining its stylistic qualities to give buyers the opportunity to imagine the space for their own use. It isn’t just about psychology, though. Staging is a high-ROI expenditure that can add real value to your home.

It may feel counterintuitive, but your absence can be your greatest asset in making your open houses successful. Buyers will often feel uneasy in the presence of the seller as they tour, which will limit their ability to envision their own lives in the home and get excited about the prospect of ownership. Accordingly, you may need to arrange for temporary accommodations during the times your home is being shown. It’s helpful to solidify these plans several weeks in advance to avoid an eleventh-hour scramble.

 

Put buyers in a feel-good mood with Windermere’s “Open House” playlist on Spotify. Click the image above to listen.

 

Working with Your Agent

Your agent will be your greatest asset in preparing for open houses. They are experts in understanding how to effectively market your home and how the local market conditions will impact their marketing plan. Once you know it’s time to sell, they’ll analyze data to accurately price the property and keep it competitive in the current market. They’ll also work with you to schedule open houses at the times when buyers are maximally available and actively searching for listings.

Your agent will also help you to stay safe while selling your home. The reality of open houses is that you’re opening your doors to an influx of unfamiliar faces, and it’s worth it to take a few safety precautions beforehand. Perform a thorough walkthrough of your home with your agent to make sure all valuable belongings, medications, family heirlooms, and other important items have been properly secured and/or removed. Once you’ve given your home a clean sweep, discuss your process for screening potential buyers.

For more resources on preparing to sell your home, our Home Selling Guide has everything you need: selling tips, moving checklists, our Home Worth Calculator, and info on how an agent can help.

Seller Essentials – Home Selling Guide

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Common Real Estate Contingencies

Contingencies help to spell out the specifics of a real estate transaction by dictating what must happen so the contract becomes legally binding. If certain conditions aren’t met, the applicable contingency gives the buyer and the seller the right to back out of the contract per their agreed-upon terms. When selling your home, a buyer may make their offer with contingencies attached. Here are some common contingencies you might see in a buyer’s offer and what they mean for you.

Common Real Estate Contingencies

Home Inspection Contingency

A home inspection contingency allows the buyer to have the home professionally inspected within a certain window of time. If the buyer finds outstanding repairs that need to be made, they can negotiate them into their offer. If the seller chooses not to make the repairs outlined in the buyer’s home inspection report, the buyer can cancel the contract.

As a seller, it’s important to be transparent in listing any issues with the home. This is why many sellers find a pre-listing inspection to be beneficial: it provides transparency about the home’s condition ahead of time and can help to streamline the buying process, which can be especially helpful when selling in competitive markets.

Financing Contingency

Also known as a “mortgage contingency,” a financing contingency gives the buyer a specified period of time to secure adequate financing to purchase the home. Even if a buyer is pre-approved for their mortgage, they may not be able to obtain the right loan for the home. If they are unable to finance the purchase, the buyer can back out of the contract and recover their earnest money, and the seller can re-list the home.

The seller won’t be on the hook if the buyer fails to cancel the contract. Even if the buyer is not able to secure financing by the agreed-upon date, they are still responsible for purchasing the home if they do not terminate the contract.

 

Image Source: Getty Images – Image Credit: fizkes

 

Appraisal Contingency

An appraisal contingency states that the home must appraise for, at minimum, the sales price. It protects the buyer in that it allows them to walk away from the deal if the property’s appraised value is lower than the sales price, and typically guarantees that their earnest money will be returned. This can be an issue in certain markets where demand is driving prices up to numbers that appraisals don’t reflect. Depending on the agreement you make with the buyer, you may be able to lower the price of your home to the appraised amount and sell it at that price. When selling your home, remember that there is a difference between appraised value and market value. An appraiser’s value of a property is based on several factors using comparative market analyses, whereas market value is what buyers are willing to pay for a home.

Home Sale Contingency

If a contract includes a home sale contingency, it means that the buyer is tying their purchase of a home to the sale of their existing one. Though it is common for homeowners to buy and sell a house at the same time, attaching a home sale contingency to an offer does create some added variability in a real estate transaction that sellers should be aware of before accepting such an offer. This contingency allows buyers to sell their current home and use the proceeds to finance the purchase of their new one. Although you will have the right to cancel the contract if your buyer’s home is not sold within a specified time, you’re still waiting on them for the deal to go through, which means you could potentially miss out on other offers while you wait.

Title Contingency

Before the sale of a home goes final, a search will be performed to ensure that any liens or judgements made against the property have been resolved. A title contingency allows a buyer to raise any issues they may have with the title status of the property and stipulates that the seller must clear these issues up before the transfer of title can be complete. If an unpaid lien or unpaid taxes turn up in the home’s title search, this contingency also allows the buyer to back out of the deal and look for another home. A majority of sellers will pull a pre-title report to provide transparency for a smooth transaction.

These are just some of the contingencies you may encounter in a buyer’s offer. Work closely with your agent to understand the terms of these contingencies and how they impact the sale of your home as you go about finding the right buyer. For more information on the process of selling your home, read our blog post on common mistakes to avoid:

7 Mistakes to Avoid When Selling a Home

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