Home Appraisals: Why Are They Necessary and How Can They Benefit a Homeowner?

conway nh homes for saleHere's a little attempt to clear up some of the confusion… Any American who has shopped around for a home loan or looked into mortgage refinancing knows that a home appraisal is almost a guaranteed part of the process. When a licensed real estate appraiser looks at a home, he or she is forming an opinion about the property’s value; they rely on experience and expertise in order to make an informed decision.

New rules were put into place in the last several years that place greater restrictions on any attempts made to influence home appraisers. These rules target appraisals associated with high interest mortgage. These regulations are spelled out in the Home Valuation Code of Conduct. The new rules also changed how mortgage brokers and lenders order appraisals for loans of a certain type.

So you know a home appraisal is a part of the whole process, but why is it such a big deal?

Facts About Home Appraisals

  1. An appraisal is an estimate of value based on recent sale prices for similar properties in the surrounding area as well as the condition of the property. Appraisals will vary from state to state.
  2. Mortgage lenders will use the appraisal results to figure a loan amount. Homeowners will not be able to secure a loan amount greater than the value of the home.
  3. Home appraisals are in place to protect the buyer so that he or she does not pay too much for a home. Appraisals also set up safeguards for the seller so that the home is not purchased at too low of a price.
  4. A home appraisal is not a home inspection. A licensed professional appraiser is not looking to do the job of a home inspector, but rather gathers information about the general condition of the home and its surrounding neighborhood.

How Home Sellers Can Improve an Appraisal

If you are looking to sell your home in the near future, there are some steps you can take to improve your property beforehand. For instance:

  • Invest some time and resources in basic home improvements.
  • Up your curb appeal with shrubs, flowers, and a nicely mowed lawn.
  • Remove clutter and tidy up, inside and out.
  • Remodel the kitchen, put in a new wood deck, and add a fresh coat of paint to the outside of your home for an updated look.
  • Consider installing new energy-efficient windows throughout.
  • Look at the home values in the surrounding area (check with your real estate agent). This can help you determine the range of value your home may be appraised at in the process.

For Buyers and Sellers, Home Appraisals Are Important

When carried out correctly and professionally, home appraisals are meant to protect buyers, sellers, and mortgage lenders in the real estate market. You may encounter frustrations along the way, but that is often part of the journey. For each step along the way, stay informed and do your research so you are always prepared.

A Wonderful Winter Week

jackson nh homesI’ve been skiing since I was first a tumbling toddler. My mother jokes that my brother was skiing before he was born. She was making turns at Cranmore with my brother in the womb. She even remembers learning to ski with the instruction of the famous Hannes Schneider. My father was a ski patroller at Saddleback and I followed in his tracks over at Loon. My brother and I eventually skipped town and spent a winter in Jackson Hole to get a taste of big mountain skiing. Yes, our family loves to ski.

One of my favorite memories from childhood was being woken up by mom, expecting another day of school, but being told we were playing hooky and hitting the slopes. We skipped school for the Fryburg Fair too, but that’s a story for another day. It was tough to tell the teachers that we “weren’t feeling good yesterday” with the typical “raccoon eyes” from too many trips down the sunny East Slope! No, we never lied. Mom just wrote us a note explaining the need for a “family day”.

We grew up in Southern Maine so the journey up 16 was a familiar one. We would pile into mom’s Subaru wagon and wind our way up through the NH countryside. The two-hour ride was annoying and getting up at the crack of dawn was never a real treat either. Both my parents taught skiing at Cranmore, so we needed to be at the mountain before the chairs started spinning. Which brings me to the best week of my young life and the introduction to my first ski season rental.

For Christmas vacation that year, mom and dad sprung for a rental right up at the corner of Kearsarge and Seavey (I KNOW, Right!?) No more long drives. No more super-early mornings. We simply left our gear at the mountain and enjoyed a quick walk (or very quick drive) to the slopes. After last chair, we enjoyed that same quick walk back to our rental house while the rest of the “common folk” sat in traffic in anticipation of their long drive home. Yeah, we were spoiled that week.

crested-butte-166716_640This past winter my honey and I, with another couple, shacked up in a “ski-in ski-out” condo at Crested Butte. This experience introduced another whole level of awesome. Never mind that you simply walk out of the door of your condo, click into your bindings and ski down to the lift, but you get to slide home for lunch too! We enjoyed the nightlife in town and headed back to the condo knowing we didn’t have to get up at 5am, just to get freshies.

“The convenience and simplicity of a vacation ski rental makes the entire experience just that much more enjoyable for the whole family,” noted Badger Realty agent, Bill Barbin. He continued, “Being able to bundle up the kids and boot ‘em out the door, without having to pack all their gear, prepare lunches, pray you didn’t forget anything and jump in the car for 2 hours is truly priceless.”

For a few years I lived over in Lincoln, NH, right across the street from South Peak. I grabbed myself a season pass and loved the fact that I could slip over to the slopes for first tracks, make a few runs before the slopes got busy, and then head back home and go to work. The convenience of living next to the mountain is a memory (and goal!) I will always cherish.

Of course renting slopeside, or even just in the ski town, comes at a price. That said, for many places around the Mount Washington Valley, this can be less expensive than a hotel for that same period. Ski season rentals come in a variety of styles, locations and sizes. These properties are also available for varying durations.

That amazing Christmas vacation my family shared was just for that one week. We knew we were going to be skiing every day and my parents would be busy with ski lessons. The idea of making that 4-hour round-trip drive for a week straight was just abhorrent. If that was present day, I have a feeling just the price of the gas would justify the cost of the rental!

Other rentals are for longer terms. In most ski towns there are dozens of rentals available for the full ski season. Again, the cost is going to be higher, but the payoff evens things out. Not only do you have a place to call your own while you are in town. Now you have a dedicated home in which to leave all of your ski equipment, ski clothes and other spare clothes, toothbrushes, etc. How nice it will be to make the drive up on a Friday afternoon and your only concern will be a quick stop at the grocery store to grab some grub for the weekend.

If you’ve never explored the possibility of a ski-season rental, perhaps this is the year. It’s early enough that you could do your research and start saving pennies now. Badger Realty has a great selection of properties and, believe it or not, the phones are already ringing with people making reservations for the 2015-2016 season. It’s also a good time to explore your options for season passes at our local resorts. While it seemed silly to be writing about the ski season in the middle of June, this truly is the best time to start planning for your winter adventures!

Making the Most of an Open House for Buyers and Sellers

conway nh open houseWhether you are buying or selling a home, an open house is a great opportunity to get up close and personal with the space of a home. Potential buyers want to picture themselves in a home and are imagining all of the ways their lives could fit in it. Those who are selling a home want to maximize their home’s good qualities and make it appealing to buyers. Read on for helpful tips as you prepare for an open house.

Open House for Buyers
• If you are seriously looking for a home to buy, and not just browsing on a whim, you will want to know some information first (for example, surrounding schools, neighborhood features, crime rate). Do research first, so that you know if the home is even worth visiting.
• Take your time. If you are going to visit more than one house, bring a notebook and a camera so that you can reference these later.
• Do not be afraid to ask questions; after all, that is one reason the real estate agent is there.
• Be diligent in the details. Open doors and look inside spaces; if this ends up being a house you pursue, you want to know about potential flaws before you proceed.
• Get a feel for the reaction of those who are also perusing—are they staying long, lingering over good points, or is there a quick rush for the door?

Open House for Sellers
An open house over a Saturday morning may not sound like your idea of a good time, but it has a world of potential when it comes to your home sale. You will want to work with your realtor, who can give you tips on maximizing those few hours. Here are a few things you can do:
• Get the house as clean as possible. Mow the yard and put in some fresh flowers. Move some furniture out to maximize space.
• Hide any valuables.
• Send pets somewhere else.
• Set a neutral tone (put away clutter, family photos, and calendars).
• Bake treats and leave them out for visitors.
• Leave. Having the homeowner at their own open house can be awkward and uncomfortable.

An Open House Can Be Worth the Work
Yes, an open house can be a lot of work. For the buyer, driving around and gathering all of the information can be frustrating if you are not finding what you are looking for in a home. For the seller, the effort to prep, shine, and sweep your home into a presentable state can be challenging, especially if you have a family, pets, and a busy schedule.

Talk with your real estate agent or broker about the best options for your particular needs. He or she should have helpful advice when it comes to hosting or attending an open house. Take advantage of their expertise so that you can have a positive experience while you travel the home buying or home selling journey.

Go Time

jackson nh homesAlthough the time is not exactly “upon” us, we are quickly approaching the “big move”. The “mother-in-law” situation has been remedied. (OK, that made me giggle as I re-read it.) No, she’s not entirely out of the picture, but we’re not going to be including her in our new home (for now). We’ll be focused on a home just for the two of us and we’ll be able to work our way out of town and settle on something surrounded by land and trees. Coming up next though will be the big migration. I’d like to focus on a few tips I’ve picked up over the years that make this transition a little smoother.

Having moved a handful of times in the last couple years, the address “thing” is something you should focus on early. As soon as you can, get your new address and begin the forwarding process. The post office makes this rather easy with a simple postcard to them. This ensures that any incoming mail will get redirected to your new address. The next steps are a little more cumbersome.

For a couple of weeks, I try to “filter” every piece of mail that comes to me. Junk mail is easy enough to ignore, but magazines, bills (yes, you still need to get them), bank statements and other items deemed “important” can be handled before you actually make the move. Almost everything I get in the mail these days is connected to an online account. As these trickle in, just get logged on and change your address. A very few of these will require a hard-copy request. If you get local delivery, don’t forget to thank your mail carrier too! Those folks are just plain awesome!

Once you get moved into your new place, take a few (seemingly logical) security precautions. Yes, we enjoy a very low crime rate and the former owners are very unlikely to come back to the house and steal their fridge. That said, change the locks and re-program the garage door and other security codes. Beyond the former owners, consider that other people may also have keys to the house. As someone who house sits for a few friends in Lincoln and Thornton, I have my own copies of the keys in my glove box. Not really something a new homeowner would appreciate, I’m sure.

Although I’m not (much of) a clean freak, I would strongly encourage you to get the house “deep” cleaned before you step foot through the door with that first load of boxes. Whether you do this yourself or pay a professional (recommended!), ensuring that every nook and cranny has been scrubbed will give you priceless peace of mind. Not to mention, the crumbs and dust bunnies found in the home, moving forward, will be your own!

This goes for the carpets as well. It is no secret that carpets are a hotbed of germs and just plain ickyness. Pony up the cash for this service as well to ensure that you’re starting off (literally) on the right foot. Don’t forget to mention your intentions to the sellers as well. A friend of mine bought a house recently and the sellers spent a couple hundred dollars to have the carpets professionally cleaned. The day my friend signed the papers and got the keys, he had them all ripped out and replaced with hard wood floors. Communication would have saved the sellers a bit of cash.

Get a handle on, and take care of, your utilities in both locations. While some sellers are super-helpful with providing names and numbers to the existing utility providers, some are not. Get a handle on your existing services and ensure that everything is scheduled to be turned off and removed from your name. “One of the nicest things sellers can do is provide the buyers with detailed information about the services they have been using,” notes Badger Realty agent, Ralph Cronin. “It is one of those little headache details that can make the transition to a new home much nicer,” he continued.

Along with the utilities, make sure you give a “heads-up” to any other providers currently tied to your home. If you have a gardener, snow-removal service, lawn mowing company or house-cleaner, make sure they know your schedule and offer to provide their name to the buyers. I assure you they will appreciate the referral and they will most likely gain a new client.

Lastly, and you knew it was coming, pare down your stuff. There’s nothing worse (well, OK, there are lots of worse things!) than having to cart boxes of useless, unused stuff from house to house only to have to find a new place to store it. If you haven’t touched it in over two or three years, consider its value in your life. This is possibly the best opportunity you will have to filter through your stuff and cull the fat.

I’m a sucker for new adventures and big changes. I like the excitement and unknown opportunities that the whole situation presents. Try and see the positives of this big change in your life and take these small steps to make the transition a little more pleasant. That way you can focus on the exciting adventures that await you at your new home.

Happy Homeowners

conway nh homesHaving now owned both a single family and a duplex, I can appreciate the many benefits of owning real estate. The obvious tax breaks, freedom to paint/decorate/remodel however you choose and the joy of putting money into my own equity instead of a landlord. “Yay me!” The fact is, there are loads of other joys that come along with home ownership that are not necessarily as tangible as those above.

When I talk to businesses about their social media presence (my “other” day job), I often refer to those “softer” benefits on which you can’t really put a price. Having your invoices or quotes on letterhead vs. standard paper, having a real human answer the phone vs. a machine and having uniformed, professionally dressed workers vs. dirty jeans and t-shirts are all examples of this. These are all small factors that don’t necessarily directly offer ROI (return on investment), but still provide a significant value for your business. Let’s explore a few of these “soft” benefits of home ownership.

The first one is pride. I will admit the first time I entered my very own apartment, on Angle Street in Dover, I was one happy (and proud) puppy. Hanging pictures, placing (very limited) furniture around the space and getting settled in (with my cat, Farley) was an exciting experience. While there is a sense of pride in moving out of your parent’s house and into your own place, opening the door to a home you now own is a game-changer.

The first time I unlocked the door to my first home, the duplex in Somersworth, the feeling was compounded ten-fold. Walking around that home, I honestly got a little choked up. It was a bit overwhelming to think that I had accomplished a goal and dream of mine and was now living in that reality. Granted, the “other” reality was that I had a boatload of work to do before the tenants were going to be able to move in, but that’s another story!

This is not limited to first time buyers either. I believe that every time you first unlock that door and step through the threshold, you gain a great sense of accomplishment and ownership that is unrivaled. “I get a great sense of joy in being part of the buyer’s home ownership process,” noted Badger Realty agent, Maureen Garrette. “I can fully appreciate their emotions when they walk into the home for the first time after closing and it is one of the many things I truly love about the service we provide,” she continued.

Homeownership also brings along with it social benefits. A report from the National Association of Realtors found that homeownership provides “a significant effect on their children’s success”. It also positively impacted teenage students’ decision to actually stay in school and indicated a lower rate of teenage pregnancy. (I think we just got the attention of every parent of teenage girls in the valley!)

The potential reasons for this are the necessary behaviors for homeownership being passed down to the kids. Financial responsibility, neighborhood relations and home maintenance are all key factors in kids’ impressions of appropriate behavior. Another study actually shows improved academic achievement in the kids of homeowners between the ages of three and twelve. So… if you love your kids, you should buy a house! ☺ (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!)

I don’t care if you call them “coo-pons”, “cue-pons” or simply junk mail. When you become a homeowner, you will end up getting more and more of these things in your mailbox. While some may see this as a negative, I tend to look at it on the brighter side (surprise, surprise!). The first influx will be when you change your address and you get that packet from the post office. This has always been a valuable one for me and I trust you’ll find the same benefits in there as well. There are others that will just start to trickle in, like big box stores, window treatment shops, cleaners, roofers, chimney sweeps, etc. Don’t spend your Saturday working through these piles (You’ve got a real estate article in the Daily Sun to read!), but don’t simply toss them away either. You will be amazed at some of the discounts you can get simply by cracking open an envelope.

Lastly, and right along with the above onslaught of junk mail is going to be the credit offers you start to get. It is no secret that buying a home, and keeping up with your payments, is going to be a boon to your credit score. If you are, in fact, in the market for a new car, a remodeling project or even some new furniture, these offers can be very welcome additions to your mailbox. It is, however, important to not jump into these too soon. I would let the dust settle on your new mortgage first and make sure you have a solid handle on your monthly payments. The last thing you want to do is get over-extended and throw away that shiny new (high!) credit score!

Easy Fixes For Concrete Driveway Damage

conway nh homes drivewayOver time, the driveway to your home may see its share of damage due to weather, foundation shifts, and normal wear and tear. Depending on the severity of the problem, homeowners may be able to fix the issue quickly and without professional assistance. Repair and maintenance will depend on the age of the driveway and the type of materials used in its construction.

Types of driveways can be as varied as the homes they accompany. Driveways can be made of cement, granite, sand, rock, and even flagstone. Driveways add (or can take away from) curb appeal, serve as a gathering place for bikes and basketball games, and are host to countless neighborhood barbeque parties held over the years. Driveways are functional, but when damage occurs, they can also be a safety hazard to people, automobiles, and your home.

Types of Concrete Driveway Damage

Damage to your driveway can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Nature: Rain, snow, and ice bring the potential for cracks in concrete driveways, and as the winter season brings freeze and thaw patterns, depressions may develop. Ammonium from deicers may cause flaking or peeling, as well. As trees grow, roots can come up from the ground and cause significant damage to concrete surfaces.
  • Foundation problems: Chips or flakes in outside concrete can be a sign of foundation issues for your home. House Logic recommends poking exterior concrete with a sturdy screwdriver to check for signs of deterioration; if concrete easily chips, there may be a foundation issue.
  • Normal wear and tear: Traffic from vehicles and RVs brings its own share of weakness to your driveway. The constant weight of automobiles puts a strain on the surface.
  • Temperature change: As temperatures rise and fall, concrete expands and contracts again, bringing the potential for damage to the exterior surface and the underlying construction.

Easy DIY Fixes for Concrete Driveway Damage

Just because your concrete driveway has signs of damage or imperfection does not necessarily mean it is need of a total replacement. However, there are times when the job requires more than a quick trip to the home improvement store. Large diagonal cracks across a concrete beam or other major structural issues should be handled by an expert.

When you don’t need a professional repair job, try some of these DIY projects to keep your concrete driveway looking its best.

  1. Concrete patch for cracks in the concrete.
  2. Reseal your driveway for an added layer of protection.
  3. Resurface the existing concrete in a weekend.

A Safe Path to Your Home

No matter the location or age of your driveway, keeping it in good condition is part of owning a home. Regular maintenance and evaluation can eliminate bigger problems in the future, but if issues do arise, address them immediately. This can save not only money, but the life of your driveway and the safety of you and your family in the future. Badger Realty is proud to partner with you in your search for the perfect home (with the perfect driveway).

America’s Top 5 Most Affordable Cities

north conway nh real estate saleI'm all for finding a bargain.  And while nobody expects you to move away from the valley, anyone who has gone through the home-buying process has no doubt seen some type of price variation in homes that appear to be similar in makeup, yet differ greatly based on location. Big cities often bring big prices for apartments, rental homes, and homes for sale. The process to find affordable homes can seem daunting, but it is not impossible—if you know where to look.

Forbes recently put together a list of Most Affordable cities across the country, starting with 100 areas which hold populations over 600,000. Included in the assessment was housing affordability, cost of living, and the Consumer Price Index from the BLS.

For Affordable Living, Go South

When MarketWatch put together its “10 Best States to Retire In” list in 2012, all but 2 of the states were in the south. Experts point to a history of labor-intensive industry, resulting in lower wages and lower costs. The Midwest also has its perks when it comes to affordable living.

Check out the top five most affordable cities:

  1. Birmingham, Alabama: If 15 bedrooms and 22 (!) bathrooms suits your style, you will love the $9.9 million home on Montagel Way. But if your budget is more in the range of a normal person, this 3 bedroom beauty with an awesome deck and wooded backyard should suit you just fine.
  2. Knoxville, Tennessee: Home buyers from around the country are flocking to Knoxville, drawn to a low cost of living and a great climate. An increase in jobs and low interest rates for buyers are not a bad deal, either. A recent Trulia search found a 3 bedroom, 2 bath single family home for around $120,000.
  3. Buffalo, New York: CNN listed Buffalo as one of its “Least Stressed Out Cities” in 2014. Shorter work hours and quick commutes, along with below-average crime rates make for an easy-like-Sunday-morning place to call home. Speaking of which-this beauty on Bedford Avenue would be a great place to enjoy a weekend bubble bath in the claw foot tub.
  4. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Downtown OKC will be the site for new modern-style townhomes to be constructed this fall, each with a rooftop terrace, 2-car garage, and second floor balcony. The combination of downtown living and single-family dwellings is sure to draw buyers to this formerly blighted area of the Sooner state.
  5. Cincinnati, Ohio: Want to feel closer to heaven? Try a recently renovated Methodist church, now an open living space (and recording studio). The Forbes report (mentioned earlier) mentioned that out of homes for sale in the area, almost 84% were in the affordable range for the average family. What else is cheaper? Groceries, utilities, and healthcare.

Home Is Where You Are

Lots of use want to be able to purchase the home of our dreams in the city of our choice. Sometimes, that dream becomes a reality and we settle right in. Other times, we may find ourselves sacrificing one for the other. No matter where we land, it is good to know there are great cities all across the country with really great places to call “home”. For the perfect home in your Mt. Washington Valley and Western Maine, contact Badger Realty today.

Savvy Sellers Simple Secrets

jackson nh real estate bathAs I mentioned last week, we’re hunting for a home. Having been in the world of real estate for many years, I tend to have a better appreciation for what I’m after and what I’m not willing to deal with. I also tend to be a bit pickier when it comes to viewing a home. Yes, I have been droning on for years about clutter and cleanliness in the home, but never has it been more “in my face” than right now. I walked through a house last weekend that had been professionally staged and it was simply amazing. It is so refreshing (and kind of fun) to see what a professional can do for a listing.

That said if you’re selling your home this spring, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to get your place professionally staged. This is especially true if you are still living in the home (which those people were not). If you are living in the house, but still want to make that great impression on those potential buyers, here are a few “on the cheap” tricks and tips you can use to make your house stand above the rest.

(Almost) everybody loves bling. Don’t leave your kitchen out when you’re in the bling-shopping mood and get yourself a new faucet. This is one of the more impressive ways to spruce up the kitchen without replacing the whole sink, counters or cabinets. If your kitchen is a complete train-wreck from the 60’s, it might feel like you’re putting a pig in a dress. You will have to be the judge of that and see if the bling is going to make any difference at all.

While I’m on the subject of the wetter areas, don’t neglect your bathroom. We toured a house last week that had a beautiful, tiled shower. It featured dual showerheads, glass door and lots of space. The only thing we both came away saying was: “Did you notice how filthy the grout was in that beautiful shower?” It seems silly but that amazing shower could have avoided the “negative pile” with a fresh coat of grout or at least a really good scrubbing. An honest evaluation of your bathroom may mean springing for a new toilet seat or even higher-end towel racks. Those little things make a big difference.

While I always whine about clutter, one of the more consistent things we keep noticing about the homes we tour is they are all incredibly (weirdly) empty. I asked the agent about this and he informed me that lots of people have taken to the idea of storing lots of their “stuff” in storage units while they have their homes listed. In my mind, this accomplishes two things. First, it allows the potential buyer to imagine more of their “stuff” in your home since it is not full of your “stuff”. Second, it might even help you realize that you didn’t need much of that stuff in the first place! If you can live without it for the few weeks that your home is on the market, why not just put it in the “for sale” pile.

It’s no secret that curb-appeal is important for first impressions and all that. Even though you won’t be around all summer to enjoy it, I think a trip to the landscaping store is a great idea, especially for those of you listing your homes this spring. A handful of potted or planted flowers and a few bags of fresh mulch will do wonders for your home. It shows that you care enough to take care of the home on your way out and may even speak to how you cared for it while you lived there.

Clean, Clean, Clean. This is the time when you rent the steam-cleaner for your rugs and do your “once-a-year, almost always, maybe once-every-2-years” cleaning of your floors. Yes, that means moving the couch and the dining room table and putting all of those dust-bunnies out to pasture. It will brighten the home and make an incredible first impression. “A ‘hard’ cleaning of the floors and rugs makes a huge difference in a listing’s presentation,” notes Badger Realty agent, Theresa Bernhardt. She went on, “it not only makes the home smell better and look better, but gives the buyers the sense of a well cared-for home.”

Light it up! Last, but not least, turn the focus to your lights. This is a great time to replace the switch plates throughout the home (especially if they are tired, cracked or worn looking) and even bump up the wattage in your light fixtures. This seems a little under-handed, but if your showing falls on a cloudy, rainy day or even into the evening, the brighter fixtures will make the rooms feel larger and more spacious and will help to show off that shiny, clean carpet!

Grab A Bigger Hammer

jackson nh real estate hammerWhether you are prepping for the listing of your home or just want some fresh ideas to inject some life into your place, there are a handful of projects you can tackle that can help. These projects are not necessarily the ultimate “bang for your buck” projects, but they will have, for the amount of investment, a big impact on your home. These are all projects that are doable by you or perhaps doable with the help of a skilled friend. As always, if it seems to be a bit beyond you, grab a bigger hammer. No, wait. That doesn’t sound right… Alas, here we go!

We all know curb appeal is at the top of the charts for listing your home. We’ll get to the bathroom later, but if they buyers are turned off before they get out of their car, you’re already starting at the bottom of the hill. You want your home to be attractive and welcoming for potential buyers and, slightly more importantly, to you! When I finally bought my dream motorcycle, the Kawasaki ZX-7, the sight of it when I pulled up to my house every day brought a smile to my face and made my heart skip a beat. (Yeah, I loved that thing!) Your home’s curb appeal should elicit the same response from you (and the buyers). If not, try painting the garage door or the front door, tidy up the landscaping, add some lighting or even try a power wash for the whole house. Every little step helps.

Once you come inside the home, and this is where the bigger hammer will help, consider knocking down a wall. While this sounds extreme, assuming it is not a structural piece, it can have a huge effect on the overall feel of the home. Of course, if it IS a structural wall, it will have an even bigger impact on the overall feel of the home! Before you start swinging, consider the flooring and the ceiling. These two areas will need to be blended or transitioned between the two rooms that have now become one. Trim, paint, sheetrock, etc. can all be unexpected projects if you don’t consider them up front.

Flooring is the next big impact zone and one that can be the most dramatic. We are trying to stay under a budget of ten thousand dollars for these projects, so this one might need to be done in phases. If you tackled the wall project from above, the flooring is almost inevitable. Use this opportunity to replace (or eliminate) worn out rugs and carpets. Manufactured flooring is very inexpensive, but also almost always LOOKS very inexpensive. Choose your flooring carefully so neither you nor the potential buyers regret your penny-pinching decision.

The bathrooms are another fun area for remodeling projects mostly because the materials are relatively inexpensive and your work can be confined to a single, small room. In here, you can re-paint, replace the vanity, swap out shelves, improve lighting, upgrade the faucet and a myriad of other things, all without breaking the bank. Assuming you have another “full” bathroom, you can also do these projects on your own schedule.

As we have been searching for a new home, one of the features that keeps catching my eye are built-in storage and organization shelving. If you are serious about selling, this is something you should talk to your agent about first. I don’t want to nudge you down a road that is going to make your home less sell-able. If you are staying in the home, do some reading or talk to a pro and come up with a strategy for where these can be added to the home. “The office, closet, pantry and certainly the garage are all great places for increased and more efficient storage,” notes Badger Realty agent, David Cianciolo. He continued, “If done tastefully and attractively, these really can be an added benefit to the listing of your home as well.”

You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating and falls well below the $10k mark. Painting is an exceptional way to have a huge impact on the home. Of course painting the exterior is a huge project and will likely sneak past that budget mark. But, attacking a room or set of rooms inside the home will be well under budget. Since this is an inexpensive upgrade, consider talking to a professional when it comes to paint choices. Their advice on paint color and even texture can be invaluable and still allows you the ability to do this one yourself.

Lastly, and this one is for my fellow nerds, is connecting the home. I can tell you there is nothing more annoying than having to run wires around the home (down the stairs and across the living room) in order to binge-watch Breaking Bad on Netflix. The limitations of an older home without the proper wiring is frustrating at best. While wireless connectivity is starting to catch up, there is nothing faster than a hard-wired connection. This technology can also be used to control the lighting, heating and AC from a central location. In newer homes, some folks go as far as to have a single button on the remote dim the lights, close the curtains and start the movie. While this seems a bit much to me, at least bring your home into the 20th century and add some connections. You, and the potential buyers, will be thankful you did.