5 Things Real Estate Agents Don’t Want You to Know

Selling real estate is one of the most expensive financial decisions most people ever make. Due to the high monetary stakes, many people look for a real estate agent to guide them through the process, but before diving in and calling just any agent, there are some things you should be aware of. Here are 5 things real estate agents don’t want you to know. 

Agents don’t want you to know: The MLS has lost its power

One of the biggest advantages to selling a property with a real estate agent is their access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Before the days of the internet, the local MLS was the only location where all for sale properties were posted and the information was only available to licensed real estate agents. While the MLS system is still used today, it has been largely democratized by large listing portals like Zillow or Realtor.com. In fact, these portals tend to have direct relationships with MLS organizations meaning that the portals get property information almost as quickly as real estate agents can. If you list your property with a real estate agent, you can request that they add your property to these portals for you however if you choose to sell on your own, listing on these portals is free. 

Agents don’t want to you know: Many properties sell themselves

The real estate industry is HOT right now. Even with the financial and societal chaos caused by COVID-19, cities across the US are reporting a sellers market with a lot of competition among buyers. Many real estate agents are hardworking professionals who will do the necessary work to properly position your property for success. They take good photos, write compelling descriptions, and do additional marketing to get your property as many offers as possible, but in this market many properties will sell quickly without that professional touch. 

Agents don’t want you to know: Not every agent offers the same service

Agents don’t all offer the same service when listing a property. Some real estate agents offer professional photography and drone images as part of their basic service. Others offer staging or guidance on how to improve the curb appeal of a property. Yet others don’t offer any of these services or require additional payment or fees to cover these charges. When looking for a real estate agent to sell your property, make sure you ask exactly what services they will provide. 

Agents don’t want you to know: Beware of dual agency

No matter if you’re buying or selling real estate, you want to work with someone who has your best interests in mind. As a buyer it may seem obvious to call the phone number on the real estate listing or sign, but that’s not always the best idea. Listing agents have what’s called fiduciary duty to the sellers meaning that even if an agent is working with both the buyer and the seller in a real estate sale, all choices they make must be for the best interest of the seller. As a seller, this might seem like a good thing. You have the “in” with the agent on the other side of a deal, but this can also work against sellers. While an ethical agent wouldn’t do this, there are cases where an agent encourages a seller to accept an offer from that agent’s buyer client — even if it might not be the highest or best offer. 

Agents don’t want you to know: You can negotiate rates

Using an agent to purchase real estate costs nothing, but sellers can expect to pay an average of 6% of the sale price of the home in commission to their real estate agent. When a property is sold, a commission is paid to the listing agent (the agent who represents the property). The listing agent then pays the agent who represented the buyer as a “thank you” of sorts for bringing a buyer to the property. As a seller, you are able to negotiate the percentage of your sale price that you are willing to pay. 

Looking for an easier way to get a discount when selling real estate? While some agents and real estate brokerages offer discounted rates for discounted service, RealtyHive has created a program that negotiates with agents on your behalf to get you a discounted rate with full service. This program is available for any property almost anywhere in the US and helps sellers save thousands of dollars in real estate commissions with absolutely no cost to them. Interested in buying? Contact RealtyHive to connect with an agent who will save you money when buying your next property!

DIY Backyard Fun

During this time of restricted social interaction the more fun we’re able to have at home the better. The goal of this article is to show you some easy and cheap ways to have fun right in your own backyard. Depending on how many of these DIY projects you choose to take on, your backyard may end up resembling more of a small carnival rather than a backyard. Personally, that seems like something worth bragging rights to me, but if you don’t hope to reach small carnival status then maybe just one or two on a sunny day will do. 

Giant Jenga

Jenga is pretty popular so I won’t bore you with an explanation of the game. I will simply tell you one way to improve the game, and that is to make it giant. This oversized outdoor game is cheap, easy to recreate, and tons of fun! So if you’re ready to kick some butt at Jenga below!

Instructions here!

Slingshot/ Angry Birds IRL

I’m sure we’ve all heard of the game Angry Birds, but if you haven’t let me summarize. It’s an iPhone game where you aim and shoot little colorful birds at piled up boxes with mean looking pigs sitting on them. If you’ve never heard of the game you probably think I’ve completely lost it, but I promise it’s a thing. So much so that a smart parent created a real life version of the game. This is the perfect outdoor game to get the kids off their phone and out in the sun!

Instructions here!

Jungle Gym Bars

This was my personal favorite activity as kids so i can assure you the kids will love it. When I was young I spent all my time doing flips forwards and backwards on the bars.  I swear I thought I was Simone Biles or something. This DIY project isn’t just affordable it’s also an excellent way to keep the kids active. As a former child, I highly recommend it.

Instructions here!

Backyard Big Screen

A pandemic is probably not best time to sit in a room filled by strangers. That being said, it is probably best to move the movies to the backyard. This genius DIY outdoor theatre project is a perfect activity for the family during this time of  quarantine. 

Instructions here!

Kerplunk

Kerplunk is a classic, but there’s a chance you haven’t heard of it so I’ll explain just to make sure we’re all on the same page. Each player upon their turn removes a stick from the tube, if any balls fall they go to that players total. When all the balls have fallen, the person with the smallest number (least amount of balls fallen) wins. This is a very easy game to recreate and it’s lots of fun with the family or with friends!

Instructions here!

Slip-n-slide Kickball

I’m confident we’ve all played kickball, but this isn’t just kickball, this is slip-n-slide kickball which is obviously superior. Same rules apply, but instead of running across a base you get to slide into a kiddie pool. Hot summer day? This would be the perfect activity for the family or the neighborhood kids to enjoy! Don’t believe me? Try it out!

Instructions here!

Squares game

The squares game isn’t as popular as other games in this article so I will briefly explain. Players take turns making a line from one dot to another(not diagonally). If when you put down the line that creates a complete square you get a point. Players continue to play until no further squares can be made, and at that point the person with the most points wins! This is a fun and easily storable game that you can play with kids or friends!

Instructions here!

Outdoor Chalkboard

Kids love to draw… half the time we can’t tell what it is they’re drawing but as long as they’re entertained it doesn’t really matter does it? Plus this is an easy way to get the kids their daily Vitamin D and it keeps them from getting any mess inside, so a win-win situation if you ask me. This easy DIY project would make a great addition to the “fun backyard”

Instructions here!

Lawn Twister

Twister is the epitome of fun children games. I played Twister all the time as a kid, and I personally sucked, lost just about every game. Regardless, I loved the game and I’m confident your kids will too!  I should also mention this is one of the easiest DIY projects in this article, so even if it’s just for a day or an event, I think it’s worth it. I wish you much more success in the game than I had!

Instructions here!

DIY Dunk Tank

Have you ever seen a dunk tank on a TV show and had major dunk tank envy? I first saw a dunk tank on an episode of George Lopez and I remember having a strong desire to experience a dunk tank. Both to be the dunkee and the dunker. In fact, at the time I had a short list of people I’d like to dunk. If you can relate, get your list out, send an invitation because our dunk tank dreams are now a reality.

Instructions here!

Velcro Darts

Just 3 pieces of fabric and a hot glue gun and you’re good to go! This DIY project is such an easy way to bring a fun atmosphere to your backyard. This game is easy for everyone and anyone to play even the kids (since we’ve taken out the sharp/pointy darts)!

Instructions here!

Football Throw

I’m from Green Bay, Wisconsin, so football is kinda a big deal here. That being said I felt a need to add this into the article, because maybe it will help breed the next Aaron Rodgers. This isn’t the easiest DIY project but it can be done in various levels of complexity. It can be as easy as cutting holes in a sheet to a nicely decorated board such as this one above. Whichever level you choose, this activity can either be target practice or just a fun pass time.

Instructions here!

Rainbow fire crystals

This one isn’t necessarily a DIY project, it’s more of a fun product. I want to type “Your little kids will love the fun colored flames!”, but in all honesty… I’d love it too. When I first saw a color flamed fire I was overly mesmerized and excited. So with that said, I can personally recommend this product to you. It will add a little character and color to your backyard!

Product available here!

These are the perfect activities to stay entertained while social distancing and spending time with family or friends. Quite honestly, that quality time with the family is probably worth the prices to make these affordable DIY projects. If you do find yourself attempting one of these projects, we’d love to hear about your results! Feel free to leave a comment below about how it went for you and any helpful tip for future readers!

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Seller FAQs: Rentbacks, Exclusive Listing Contracts & More

You’ve got questions about selling your house, we’ve got answers. Sift through some commonly asked seller questions (and feel free to comment with any additional questions you might have!).

How do I sell my home?

To sell your home, first decide if you want a real estate agent or to sell on your own (FSBO). A real estate agent takes care of practically everything for you but costs money, FSBO could save you some money (not a guarantee) but it’s more work.

If you opt for FSBO and decide not to find an agent, you’ll need to research selling prices in your area, find paperwork that’s specific to your state, stage your home, take photos and find a listing platform. Don’t let this one-sentence blurb fool you — it’s a lot of work.

What are the benefits of working with a real estate agent?

Agents can get your property into the local MLS and have a lot of connections. They know of people who are looking to buy, they work with other agents — their network alone can make a massive difference.

Agents are also good at setting your listing price by pulling comps to see recent, local selling prices. They’ll help you with closing paperwork, which is notoriously complicated. In a lot of ways, the right agent could actually get you more money for your property through their industry knowledge and connections — you could get a better deal than if you were to sell on your own.

What if the contract with my agent expires before my house sells?

You can look into renewing your contract, but there’s a good chance you’ll want to let it run its course if your house didn’t sell while working with them.

One thing to keep in mind: there’s a good chance you might still owe them commission even after their contract expires. Every contract has a commission protection period, so if a person looked at your house, then waited until the contract expired to put in an offer, they (as the buyer) would be a named exception. In this instance, the agent would still get commission.

If someone completely new and different comes in to look after the agent contract expires, the agent won’t get commission.

Can I hire more than one real estate agent?

Unless the real estate agents are working as a team, you usually can’t hire more than one. However, this depends on where your property is that you’re selling:

  • Exclusive listing contracts: In the US, only one agent can present the property for sale.
  • Non-exclusive listing contracts: Found around the world but pretty typical in the Caribbean and Central America. Many agents present your international property for sale, the only agent or person who gets paid is the one who brings the buyer.
    This is also sometimes called a non-exclusive listing agreement.

How do I make sure my house sells?

Other than making your home look desirable, every seller needs to provide the proper real estate marketing to amp up exposure. DIY marketing is a lot to take on, but it can work for some sellers. 

If you want to save yourself the hassle (or if your home isn’t selling), work with a company that lists your property AND provides marketing. RealtyHive offers both and when you list with us, you won’t pay for marketing until your house sells.

How do I set the right selling price for my house?

An agent will help you find out how much your house is worth, but if you’re selling your house on your own then here are some things you’ll need to consider:

  • Comparable sales (comps)
  • Home appraisal
  • Property renovations, upgrades, or unique/valuable characteristics
  • Tax appraisals

If you’re not sure about finding an agent, list with RealtyHive. We offer equity checks to get the right property price for your home before putting it in a time-limited event.

When is a bad time to sell my property?

A common real estate myth is that it’s a bad idea to list your property in the fall or winter, but there’s really not a bad season. In fact, selling in the “off season” can actually narrow down the competition.

One thing to pay attention to is market rates. If you don’t have to sell your property (ex. you aren’t moving) you should keep an eye on the current housing rate. Biting the bullet and listing when mortgage interest rates are low can work in your favor; selling when a city is on the verge of booming can become a regret.

What happens if my property sells before I’m ready?

Try to coordinate your buying and selling. If you sell first and don’t have a new house bought yet, you’ll want to look into renting and putting stuff into storage until you close on a new place. If you bought a house but your current one isn’t selling, keep in mind that you’ll have to manage two mortgage payments until your current place sells.

The other option is a rent-back, which we’ll get into just below.

What is a rent-back?

Rent-backs allow you to stay in your home even after it sells, until a specific date, on the condition that you pay rent to the new owners of the home. It’s basically like renting the home you had previously owned. 

In order to make this happen, you need to see if the new owners are open to it (they might say no because they might be in the same predicament of needing a place to live). If they agree, a security deposit will be set up and you’ll essentially lease your place from the new owners.

Hopefully we were able to answer some pertinent seller questions, but if you’re still looking for some, sift through our blog for further resources or ask us in the comments!

Agent Disclosure: What Buyers Need to Know

If chefs make their own Denver omelettes at home on a Sunday and professional musicians sing in the shower for their own fun, can real estate agents sell their own property?

Through agent disclosure, the answer is yes, they can. However, buyers should be on the lookout — some agents try to not disclose this information to their own advantage.

What is an agent disclosure?

Agents are allowed to sell their own property, but licensed real estate agents are required to let the buyers know. They must disclose this in writing to the purchaser of the property. Even if their license is no longer valid and/or expired, they are “strongly encouraged” to reveal this to potential buyers.

Referral fees (and how they’re tricky)

As we’ve mentioned in another blog, agents get referral fees when they refer another agent to complete a transaction — basically like a finder’s fee. They receive 3% commission without having to do any of the work, solely just from referring another agent.

In regards to selling their own homes, agents will sometimes use this referral procedure to their advantage. Here’s how this often plays out:

  • Margaret is a real estate agent who’s selling her house.
  • Instead of providing agent disclosure, she gets her friend and Realtor Micah to be the agent.
  • Micah does all the work to get Margaret’s property to sell.
  • Margaret, having never disclosed but simply referred, gets a percentage of Micah’s commission because of referral fees.

The takeaway here is that even if a seller doesn’t disclose that they’re a real estate agent, they might still be one. And they might have added incentives that give them more of a cut.

How can I find out about agent disclosure?

Do not call the listing agent.

When you see a property you’re interested in, work with your own agent. Never call the number that’s listed on the “For Sale” sign.

Ask the real estate agent.

If they don’t disclose their connection to the property over the course of a house tour and meeting with you, make sure you ask them. 

Do some research.

If for some reason you have a weird feeling, aren’t convinced, or just genuinely want to make sure you’re in the know, do a quick Google search of real estate agents in your area. 

What if the seller doesn’t tell me they’re a real estate agent?

Report them to the state real estate board. They’ve broken a code of ethics and could face loss of commission, or even having their license revoked.

For the record, not every real estate agent does this. There are plenty of agents who are always putting the client’s best interests first. If you truly want to play it as safe as possible, use Cashifyd to find a trusted agent in your area. Not only does Cashifyd connect you with a real estate agent, you’ll even get a cashback credit at closing for using it! Take charge and get your own referral fees with Cashifyd — and stay on the lookout for agent and other seller disclosures.

Things to Know When Selling a Condo

A lot of people have hesitations on buying a condo, and many of these reasons stem from not knowing how to sell one. They worry that they’ll struggle to find buyers, or that the nuances between selling a condo and a house are too complicated or too much of a hassle.

Rest assured: buying a condo is still a lucrative real estate investment, and selling it isn’t as bad as you might think. As long as you know these essential selling tips, you’ll be in good shape.

Check with the board or HOA.

While not always the case, it’s common for some entity (such as an HOA or board) to manage the overall building in which your condo is located. They’ll provide you with any details or processes that are specific to the property, as well as necessary paperwork. This could include (but isn’t limited to):

  • Past board meeting minutes
  • Financial reports for the condo association
  • Planned assessments or improvements
  • HOA disclosure or financial documents (if any)

These documents must be disclosed to the buyer, so it’s good to go through them now. It’s also good to talk to the association because they might have some insightful selling tips — or even a potential buyer. Desirable properties may have a waiting list of people looking to move in.

Do some research.

The two main things to research before putting your condo on the market: price and timing.

Price

What have similar condos sold for in your area? Is anyone else in your building currently selling (or recently sold)? A real estate agent can pull comps to find more selling details, but with condos there are some seemingly small factors that can actually make a substantial price difference:

  • Noise level: Condos on the end or penthouses share fewer walls. This means less noise, which makes your property worth more.
  • Views: Often found in downtown areas with access to stunning skylines, better views fetch a better listing price.
  • Location: A third-story condo in a building with no elevator will likely cost less than one on the floors below.
  • Indoor parking: Condos with an included garage space are worth more than condos with outdoor or street parking.
  • Other amenities: Pools, gyms, event spaces and any other amenities add value.

Some of these factors might seem obvious, but think about how different it is than selling a house. Two 3-bed, 2-bath houses a block apart from each other will likely have a similar listing price; the same isn’t a guarantee with two separate condos.

Timing

So much of the timing for when to list your condo depends on where you live. If you own a condo in a quaint and popular ski town, selling in the fall is probably your best bet. A condo in a beautiful island destination might have the most success when listed in the winter. 

It pays to do your research on selling times for condos in your area. Talking with a real estate agent can also make a huge difference, but above all, it pays to have common sense.

Kick staging up a notch.

Staging a condo requires a bit more finesse than staging a house because there’s less space to work with. When working on a micro level, the details stand out more than ever. 

  • Prioritize space: No buyer is interested in a place that feels cramped. Get rid of or store away anything that’s not essential, organize closets and declutter relentlessly.
  • Add some elbow grease: Clean and polish surfaces as if you were about to move out of a rental and didn’t want to incur a cleaning fee.
  • Highlight the highlights: Open the blinds and clean the windows to show off those breathtaking penthouse views. Clear and organize your deck. Organize your extra storage. Whatever your condo perks may be, shine the spotlight on them.

In addition to staging your particular unit, think about the highlights of the building or condo association as a whole. Be ready to show the pool or parking garage, or even just highlight security measures when bringing guests up.

Selling a condo overseas? Look out for some restrictions.

RealtyHive has condos available in Panama, Belize, Aruba and more, as well as commercial and residential properties all over the world. As such, we have a lot of knowledge on international real estate. One thing that many people don’t realize is that some countries have restrictions on who you can sell your condo to (in addition to other laws).

In some instances, it’s illegal to sell to foreigners (unless you’re also a foreigner). Check with a local agent or lawyer for more information.

When to NOT sell your condo

If you’re in the financial spot to do so AND you don’t have HOA or board restrictions, you might be better off renting out your condo. You’d have to consider the possibility of managing two mortgages at once (in the times where you don’t have renters) but this could open up a new channel of investment and passive income.

However, you should check with your condo association before getting your hopes up. It’s likely that if you have a condo association to begin with, you won’t be able to rent it out (but it doesn’t hurt to ask).

These are the main things to note when selling a condo — other pointers like real estate marketing and closing aren’t all that different from selling a house. If you want an extra boost in exposure and results when selling, list with RealtyHive! Our time-limited events can give your condo the exposure it needs.

What Should You Do With Your Spare Room?

Ever since Mr. Tumnus asked Lucy about the magical land of Spare Oom, we’ve all secretly hoped that our own spare rooms contained some magic. Granted, it’s hard to come by a wardrobe that leads you to Narnia in these economic times, but we at RealtyHive are here to tell you that your spare room still holds value.

We’ve covered backyards, security systems, and basement finishing across several “Is It Worth It” blogs. This post on spare rooms is slightly different but still under the same umbrella. What should you do with your spare room, and how can you maximize its value?

Spare Room Ideas

Filling up your spare room with boxes of stuff or general clutter isn’t only disorganized, it’s not granting you the space you deserve. There are countless purposes that your spare room could fill that also improve your ROI. A messy room filled with stuff will turn future buyers away; an intentional space will pique their interest (and potentially get you a better offer).

Home Office

More and more people are working remotely than ever before. If you’re tired of hunching over your laptop on the couch or taking Zoom calls in the kitchen during lunchtime, a home office is a great use of a spare room.

But home office benefits aren’t just for your work performance and productivity. Adding an office has anywhere from 60 to 72% ROI and increases your home’s value.

Guest Bedroom

Even if you don’t have frequent guests, a guest bedroom is still a good use of the space. Most people turn their spare rooms into guest rooms because it’s an easy way to repurpose the space. It’s also convenient for the times when someone does end up rolling through town or needing a place to crash.

Guest rooms are also handy when life likes to surprise us. If your parents or in-laws suddenly need additional support, they’ll have somewhere to stay. If you end up expecting another child or your 14-year-old is desperate for their own space, it’s an easy fix.

Home Gym

Driving to the gym is a chore, it’s somewhat inflexible (if you like to workout late or want to workout on a holiday), and it might not offer you the privacy you’re looking for. Turning your spare room into a gym has a pretty hefty upfront cost (just in terms of buying equipment) but could be a great investment for your health. 

Depending on how often you use your home gym and the type of equipment you get, this spare room idea might pay for itself. People spend close to $700 a year on their gym membership, not including gas money. In just a few years, your home gym could make up for the costs that would otherwise be spent at a public gym.

Playroom

When the mountain of toys from Aunt Jessica continues to grow (despite you telling her they have enough, but that’s another story), it’s a huge relief to have a designated area for the kids’ stuff to go. Playrooms offer a bit more safety and structure as well — you won’t have to worry about your 3-year-old bonking their head on the fireplace in the living room.

Anything Else

A space for you to make candles? A room full of beanbag chairs for ultimate naps? A comfy movie room with a projector? There’s no limit to unique spare room ideas. You can even tear down the wall and add space to an existing room if you like.

Spare Room Things to Keep in Mind

There are a few questions to ask yourself when considering different spare room ideas:

  • What are my main priorities?
    One spare room can’t do it all. If you’re desperate for a home office but worry about where to put guests, you’ll have to figure out which need is more important. But good news: you can always combine an office and guest room.
  • What are the neighbors doing?
    If you’re the only 2-bedroom house in a neighborhood of 4-beds, this will hurt you when it’s time to sell. At the same time, if everyone else has 3-beds and you have 5, you should probably convert one of those rooms into something else. Following neighborhood norms helps when it’s time to sell.
  • Are there any legal requirements?
    We doubt you want to turn your spare room into an upstairs kitchen, but if so there are lots of permit laws and codes that require researching. A common example: bedrooms must have an egress window (and in some states, a closet as well) in order to be legal.
  • Are there any tax incentives?
    If you’re a full-time, remote, self-employed worker, turning a room into a designated office can mean a tax break. In some states, acting as a caregiver can do the same (or provide other financial reimbursement).

A spare room with intentional purpose and design can add tremendous value to your home. It can keep you on par with the neighbors, provide extra space for your family, and even increase your potential for higher offers when you’re ready to sell.

If you’re reading this wistfully, wishing you had a spare room to play around with, don’t be discouraged. You can look through the RealtyHive listings to see which houses are for sale. Place your offer and list your existing home with RH for great results (and spare room success).

How to Stage a Bedroom

They say all the world’s a stage and when it comes to selling your house, this is especially true. Staging is a crucial aspect to selling and while we’ve covered bathrooms and kitchens, we’re onto another important part of the house: the bedroom.

Some people turn their bedrooms into an elaborate living space, others treat it as a functional place to catch some Zs and nothing more. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, there are plenty of ways to make sure your bedroom will pique buyers’ interest (instead of turning them away).

Organize your closets.

One of the first things interested buyers will look for in a bedroom is the closet. If you were planning on stuffing everything into your closets as a means of organization, think again. Hang everything up, move dirty laundry elsewhere, and organize shoes.

You can also use this as an opportunity to donate clothes. Since moving is on your horizon, cleaning out your closet and making donations means you’ll have less to pack.

Make sure every bedroom follows the same four rules.

Whether it’s a master bedroom, your 10-year-old’s room, or your teenager’s room where they seem to be a permanent fixture, every room should meet the following expectations:

  1. Make the bed
  2. Clear the floor
  3. Dust all surfaces
  4. Organize and tidy everything else

Your child’s room doesn’t have to look like a Pottery Barn ad, and you certainly don’t have to change out their Minecraft-themed bedding to stage properly. Consistency is more important. 

Keeping consistency in every bedroom puts guests at ease — they know what to expect in each bedroom. This is important because one of the most immediate turn-offs for buyers is when something is out of place or comes across as a surprise.

Don’t forget: the nose knows.

Bedrooms are where we sleep, it’s true. They’re also where we pile our dirty laundry and occasionally wake up, mouth wide-open, with drool all over our pillows. Suffice to say, bedrooms can sometimes contain some unsavory scents. Air things out, light some candles or diffuse some oils, and take care of laundry (and wash sheets) regularly. 

Smell is one of our most powerful senses. Just recently, this writer toured a townhouse for a foreclosed home selling as-is. Everything looked decent until I opened the fridge door to find two rotting eggs inside. Anytime I think of that property, that scent (and subsequent scene) is the first thing I think of. You don’t want your bedroom to have that kind of effect on potential buyers.

Stash valuables and nonessentials.

It’s unlikely that someone touring your home will take anything. All the same, it’s good practice to put a lot of your stuff away — clutter is distracting and distracted buyers quickly lose interest.

Jewelry boxes, picture frames, and other tasteful, small decor can stay out. Toiletries, clothing items, handheld game consoles, iPads, etc. should all go out of sight before buyers or photographers come.

Open blinds and curtains.

Natural light is staging’s best friend. It’s helpful for photographers and appealing to potential buyers. Consider adding a lamp if your room doesn’t get a lot of natural lighting — it’s best to keep things as well-lit as possible. 

What if my bedroom is a disaster zone?

First off, we get it. Bedrooms are where we go after a long day of work. Sometimes all we can do is throw our dirty clothes on the floor and collapse on the bed. Things accumulate over time, and getting multiple bedrooms in order might seem like more trouble than it’s worth.

Regardless of whether your house is spotless or you simply don’t have the time or resources to properly stage your bedroom, list with RealtyHive. You can sell fast, easy, and on your terms with RH — no matter the condition your home is in. Learn more about the benefits of selling with a time-limited event and if you decide to tackle bedroom staging, good luck!

Interior Lighting Design Tips to Increase Home Value

Our real estate team recently had a lightbulb moment about a very important aspect to interior design. We’ve featured this topic in blogs about staging or renovation, but it’s time to shed some light on one of the most important parts of your home. 

In case you haven’t guessed yet, we’re talking interior lighting design. Not only does the right lighting improve your quality of life, it also adds value to your home. Find out the importance of light and how you can make some lighting-specific home improvements — we promise you they’ll make a difference.

The Importance of Light

Have you ever worked in a space with fluorescent overhead lights and gotten a headache? How about after staring at a screen for too long? What’s your mood after staying in a dark room for too long?

Light affects everything from our mood to our physical well-being. It’s often the reason (even if subconsciously) why people jump to sell or rent out your property versus why they pass it by. Far too often, we overlook lighting and take it for granted as a convenience instead of a necessity. 

The truth is that lighting is like food. Highly processed food and overexposure to bright lights can both make us feel a bit wonky. Natural light and healthy ingredients have the opposite effect. Trying out a new recipe is usually as exciting as installing a new, modern light fixture. With both lighting and food, we feel our best when we’re intentional with how we use it.

Interior Lighting Design Tips

The lighting changes you can make could be part of a bigger remodel project, or could cost under $30. You can pick and choose which lighting changes will add the most value to your home. It’s like we said: as long as you’re intentional, you will see the benefits from updating your lighting design!

Update your fixtures.

Budget: $$-$$$

While there are definitely some pricey options out there, you can find some beautiful, modern full-room light fixtures for less than $300 — some as low as $50. Hiring a professional to install them will add some costs, but adding a new bathroom or kitchen light fixture isn’t as costly as you might think. Plus, it definitely adds some value.

When people walk into a room and see a cool light fixture, that’s usually one of the first things they comment on. You’ll love the modern look, and it will also help you when you’re ready to sell your home. Potential buyers will immediately notice updated fixtures, which piques their interest in the property as a whole.

Bring in some natural light.

Budget: $-$$$

Natural light doesn’t just look amazing and add massive value to a home, it also saves you money. The less you leave the lights on, your energy bill (and wallet) will thank you. Natural light provides more scenery and vistas and less reliance on the artificial.

Not to mention, we live in a selfie culture. This writer knows a friend in Minneapolis who specifically chose to rent out a place because of its natural light, despite having to pay more. Many millennials and Gen Zers want to show off their home and their life. Adding more natural light is a huge benefit to your home’s overall value (and can attract a wider renting or buying demographic).

But how do you add light? Here are a couple ways that range from cheap fixes to remodel overhauls:

  • Hang mirrors
  • Paint walls a lighter tone, in cool or neutral hues
  • Install larger windows
  • Put in a sliding glass door
  • Install window treatments that allow for light to pass through while maintaining privacy

One thing to keep in mind: it’s also nice to block out natural light when you want (especially if you’re like this writer whose bedroom has east-facing windows). Look into some blackout curtains to make daytime Netflix binges or naps as enjoyable as possible.

Switch out lightbulbs.

Budget: $

Your lightbulbs might be clashing with the room they’re in and you don’t even know it. But when it comes time to sell, you can bet that at least one potential buyer will feel like things are off. 

WIthout having to massively overhaul your space, simply look at the tones in a specific room — are they warm or cool? Whatever the answer, update your bulbs to LED ones that match accordingly. Soft white or warm white are good in warm spaces (such as the living room or bedroom), regular LED bulbs for cool areas (such as the bathroom).

Consider dimmers or colorful lighting.

Budget: $-$$

Both these ideas are a bit more fun, but might add a ton of dimension to your home. Dimmer switches range from $50 to $200 but add a massive convenience to any space they’re in. 

Colorful lighting is a growing trend and, when done right, can be a perfectly subtle way to impact the mood of a room. In fact, some people say that certain light colors can impact not just the mood of a room, but the mood of a person. Cool colors are said to increase productivity; warm colors provide a sense of calm. Who knows — maybe a simple lightbulb switch in your home office could drastically change your at-home job performance!

All of these interior lighting design tips can make an incredible difference in your home. But if your home is currently something resembling a cave or a 17th-century dungeon, maybe it’s time to look for something a little… lighter. Check out our RealtyHive listings to find some gorgeous homes for sale (with amazing lighting interior design to boot)!

Understanding the Basics of Home Mortgages

When you’re starting out in the real estate world, mortgages are one of the first things to learn about. They seem super confusing (after all, why is there a silent “t” in there?!), there are lots of different types, so where should you begin?

Welcome to the Real Estate 101 class where today, we’ll cover the mortgage basics. You don’t need to take notes (unless you want to). Sit back, relax, sip some coffee, and find the answers to frequently asked mortgage questions right here.

What is a mortgage?

Put simply, a mortgage is a loan. The median house price in the US was $226,800 in 2019. Very few people have that kind of cash laying around (and even if they did, their home purchase would have to be a wire transfer, but that’s another story). Most people wouldn’t be able to afford a house outright until their 40s or 50s, which is why mortgages exist.

Just like a car loan, a home mortgage allows you to pay off your house over time. You can reap the benefits of home ownership (such as having your own place and not paying rent to someone else) without having to put hundreds of thousands down upfront.

Do you have to get a mortgage to buy a house?

No, but most people do. Even if you have enough money upfront, no one can buy a house with outright cash. This is a massive transaction, so don’t expect to bring duffel bags full of cash to a homeowner and call it a day. If anything, expect account transfers, wait time, and, as always, lots of paperwork.

You will more than likely need a mortgage to buy a house. This involves having a good credit score, pre-approval from a lender, and final loan approval once the house you’re looking to buy has been appraised (and the house value matches up with what you’re requesting to borrow).

What happens to your mortgage when you sell a property?

How to sell a house with a mortgage

  1. Get a quote from your mortgage lender regarding your current payoff.

    See how much is left on your balance.

  2. Find out if you have a prepayment penalty.

    This sometimes exists if you’re selling your home after owning it for less than 5 years.

  3. Continue your mortgage payments up until closing day.

    You might still have a final payment on closing day.

  4. If you end up owing on your mortgage on closing day, the proceeds of the sale will go towards covering it.

    A new buyer doesn’t “take over” your existing mortgage.

  5. Any additional profits after paying off the mortgage and other seller’s fees are yours to keep.

    This money is usually deposited into your account or goes to your next property if you’re buying and selling at the same time.

How do home equity loans and refinancing affect your mortgage?

Both refinancing and home equity loans offer homeowners the chance to convert their home’s equity into money that they can access.

While your first mortgage is for buying your property, a home equity loan is like a second mortgage. If you owe $200k on your mortgage but your house is worth $250k, you have access to a nice $50k that you can use. When you use that money to renovate or improve your house, you can even claim it on your taxes for a refund.

Cash-out refinancing is when you replace your current mortgage with a bigger one. Instead of taking out a second mortgage (like a home equity loan), you just have one big loan. The difference between your new loan and what you owe on your house is money that goes straight to your pocket (or as a wire transfer). That money can be used for anything.

When considering cash-out refinancing vs. home equity loans, it pays to do your research. And remember, this is money that you’ll still owe. You could risk foreclosure if you don’t continue making timely payments.

This concludes our Real Estate 101 class for the day, but all questions can be posted for our “professors” to review. One thing that we can all take away from today’s lesson: it doesn’t matter if you’re looking to buy a house or are preparing to sell — the more you know about mortgages, the better.

Creating the Best Home Office for Remote Work

Remote work has taken off in recent years as an overall trend. But with the current coronavirus pandemic, tons of people are sent home to work remotely for the foreseeable future.

Even when going to coffee shops and libraries to work is an option, we live at a time where it’s good practice to have a designated home work space. Working from home is cheaper than going to a cafe or driving to a library, and who knows? You’ll likely have a time again in your life (such as staying home during a blizzard or with a sick kid) when it makes sense to work remotely. 

But if you’re looking at your studio apartment or 3-bedroom house with kids’ toys everywhere and are wondering how to make a home office possible, fear not. We’ve got you covered.

If remote work is for 2+ weeks, designate a space for work.

When working remotely is super short-term (2 weeks or less), you probably don’t need to overhaul your home for the sake of an office. But no matter the amount of time you’re working from home, it’s good to set up a designated work space.

How to do this:

Where’s an area of your home that you could take a phone call without disruption? A room with a door that you can close is the best option (particularly if you have kids at home). If that’s not possible, find a quieter area where you can set up a flat surface for working. In a place where you share walls with neighbors, maybe go to the wall where your neighbor is the quietest.

In this designated space, it’s also good to remove distraction as much as you can. Interestingly enough, one of the biggest distractors is if your space is near the fridge. The second you get bored, it’s way too easy to get up and find a snack or beverage and it can be a challenge to refocus after that.

Don’t forget — just as you leave your desk at the end of the work day, leave this space too. Creating distance between your work and your home is essential for your mental health, especially when the two spaces coexist.

Try to be as ergonomic as possible.

As great as working from the couch sounds, your back definitely disagrees. Keeping good posture is sometimes easier at work when you’re forced to be at a desk; being in the comfort of your home is a different story. Considering office ergonomics makes all the difference for your body and overall health.

How to do this:

Ergonomic Ideas That Cost $0

  • Take frequent breaks (at least once an hour) to get up and move away from screens.
  • Follow the 20-20 rule for vision — for every 20 minutes of work, look away from the screen for 20 seconds.
  • Look up yoga poses or stretches that specifically help your back, neck, shoulders, and wrists.
  • Spend 30-45 minutes over lunch taking a walk, stretching, or doing yoga.

Ergonomic Investments

  • Buy a standing desk.
  • Purchase an ergonomic chair.
  • Invest in physical therapy at-home tools (such as foam rollers).
  • Buy a headset so you can walk hands-free while taking a call.

For the things that cost money, you might be able to write them off as tax deductions, or your company may consider reimbursing you. Keep receipts just in case!

Don’t overlook the lighting.

Working in offices with bright overhanging lights can give anyone a headache, but working in a dark, dimly-lit basement isn’t ideal either. Lighting makes a huge difference in our work day, whether we realize it or not. It’s important to create a space with ideal lighting — this impacts everything from our eye strain to our mood!

How to do this:

Download f.lux for free on your laptop — it adjusts your screen to warmer tones — or get blue screen glasses. You can also put a warm lightbulb in a lamp to set an equally warm tone to your workspace. If working near some windows, save on electricity by turning off lights and opening up the blinds for natural lighting.

Create boundaries between work and home.

It is extremely easy to “just keep working” when you work from home. There’s always something more to do, and it’s challenging to separate your work and home when they’re one in the same.

How to do this:

Use an online timer to track how many hours you’re working (if you don’t already have set hours). Even if you have set hours, still use a timer to remind you to take breaks, a lunch, etc. 

Additionally, decide on a time that you’re going to be done for the day and stick to it, as hard as that can be!

Working remote for the long haul? Build an office (or find a home that has one).

If working remotely is going to be a long-term thing, it’s in your best interest to create a permanent home office. It’s not just helpful for you while living and working from home, it also adds value to your home. 

Or if you’re thinking about selling and don’t want to go through the trouble of adding an office this late in the game, keep that in mind before you buy. Look through some of our RH homes that have offices already in them!

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