Tips for Selling Your Home Faster

Selling Your HomeIn the Buffalo-Niagara market, homes are selling quickly. One house in Audubon, a residential community in Amherst, got three offers above asking price on its first day on the market! If you’re a seller and you have what people are looking for right now, you’re going to sell your place quickly.

What are some ways to help sell your property quickly?

Experienced Real Estate Agent

First, you should consider hiring an experienced real estate agent like me. An experienced real estate agent can activate his or her network of connections to help enlarge the amount of people your property is exposed to in a short amount of time.

Finding the Right Price Point

Next, don’t price your place too high. You have to pay attention to what similar, comparable places have sold for in your neighborhood. Oftentimes people price their place too high because they don’t really want to sell it. They say they do, but they’re sentimental and price it high so it won’t get any offers. Only sell a place when you’re sure you really do want to sell it. Then, price it in a range that makes sense for the market. If other similar homes in the area are going for $150,000 then price yours near that, rather than at, say, $250,000.

Augment the Curb Appeal

Thirdly, enhance the look of your place so people will want to buy it! This means sprucing up its “curb appeal” with a fresh coat of paint, cleaned up yard, flowers in planters, a brand new front door, etc. You want to create a great first impression– you want to “WOW” ‘em. Then, inside, clear out clutter, repaint walls so they’re more neutral than before, and perhaps replace worn carpeting or make some other home improvements that’ll impress buyers. Consider having your real estate agent help you “stage” the house, which makes it look like it’s move-in ready– giving buyers a feel for what goes where and how it might look if they lived there.

Market it Properly

Finally, make sure you house is listed online and has outstanding photos that really show off its assets. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the photos posted online of your house can either help it sell quickly or… discourage people from even wanting to attend an open house.

For help selling a home quickly in Western New York, contact realtor Donna Littlefield at 716-578-1788.

Questions to Ask a Real Estate Agent

Questions to Ask Real Estate Agents So you’re thinking about working with a real estate agent, but you’ve never done so before, or it has been a really long time since you last dealt with the whole buying and selling process… what are some things to ask a potential real estate agent?

Questions to Ask

First, it’s good to do some online research and “interview” potential agents you might like to work with… asking them key questions like, “How long have you been working in real estate?” It’s nice to work with someone seasoned, with several years under their belt, compared to newbies.

Next, you might want to ask, “What’s your average number of clients?” You can then figure out if he or she will have time to devote to your needs, or if you’d end up feeling like just another number on a long list. If you’d be the agent’s only client, that might be a red flag because you’d think, “What is it about them that I’m the only one they’re working with– shouldn’t they have at least a handful of clients right now?” If they’re good, then yes– they should have a couple clients at any given time.

Also, you’ll want to ask, “What area(s) do you generally cover?” For example, Donna Littlefield generally covers Wheatfield, Pendleton, and Amherst, New York, so if you’re looking for a place in Western New York, she can help you find the ideal property for your needs.

Another thing to find out is, “Are you part of a team or do you work solo?” You’ll want to know whether or not you’d be working with just one agent or if there are others “on the team” who you’d be interacting with, for whatever reason.

Do you have a unique situation– the kind that’s a bit “out there?” If so, you’ll want to ask your potential agent if he or she can handle that… and if they’re honest, they’ll tell you a simple yes or no.

Finally, it’s a good idea to ask, “What kind of communication can I expect from you?” Are they the kind of agent who does everything by email? Do they call you on the phone? Do they love in-person meetings? Basically, you want to know what you’re “getting into” before choosing to work with a particular agent whom you’ll be spending a lot of time and energy dealing with, in order to buy or sell real estate.

How to Optimize Your Home Before Selling It

Staging Your Home If you were having the Queen of England visit your house, you’d tidy up a bit, right? You might even go “all out” to make your place look its very best. Think of that notion when you think of selling your home. Before you put your house on the market, you should “stage” it so it looks enticing to any and all people who will see it.

Staging means decorating and organizing a house in such a way that it looks impressive to buyers such that it sells quickly for the highest possible price. Basically, it involves highlighting a home’s assets and minimizing its weaknesses.

Remember, people are looking for a place that helps fulfill some of their hopes, wants and dreams. Your job is to help them see and believe that your house will do that. Homebuyers would like to see how great a house looks rather than one that hasn’t been tended to, shows no signs of care or concern, and is “falling apart.” Just like people get cosmetic enhancements, so should homes, especially before they’re offered for sale.

What are some key components of staging a house for sale?

Tips for Optimizing the Home You’re Selling

First, it should be clean. Your guests should say, “It’s so clean in here I could eat off the floor.”

Next, it should be decluttered. Even if you have to rent storage space down the road, do whatever it takes to get rid of small and big stuff taking up space. You want the place to look “open” and “inviting,” instead of “cluttered” and “messy.”

Thirdly, depersonalize the place. Stage it so a buyer can imagine themselves living there, rather than having to look at all of your mementos, pictures, and other stuff that says, “I live here and you don’t!”

Also, and try to make sure there is a favorable aroma in the air. Put simply, the house should smell good and not like your pet. It’s no wonder that realtors have been known to have bread or cookies baking in the oven when showing a house—good smells put people in better moods.

As for wallpaper and/or paint, do what you can to make the place neutral enough that a person walking into it says, “I can work with this.” Even though you liked a bright pink room, the majority of people won’t. In addition, that wallpaper that has been up since the Nixon administration? That’s not going to impress buyers.

Finally, define each room’s purpose so a potential buyer can walk into it and know exactly what it’s for, such as laundry, exercise or office work.

Need help with staging ideas and/or buying/selling your home? Contact Donna Littlefield today at 716-578-1788.

Why Spring and Summer Are the Best Times to Move

Moving to a New Home Are you thinking of moving? If so, now could be the ideal time. Spring and summer are often considered the best times to move.

For starters, the weather is nice. When it’s sunny and warm outside, people are in the mood to look at houses. It’s much easier to sell a house during July in the Buffalo area compared to mid-January when it gets dark out at 4:30 p.m. and there’s snow and ice covering the roads, driveways and yards. Meanwhile, actually moving stuff from one place to another is a lot easier when you don’t have to wear boots, a hat and a heavy coat. In the spring and summer months, the weather makes moving boxes in and out of homes a lot easier than in the winter.

Next, May and June are prime time for garage sales in Western New York. That means you can sell a lot of your stuff before you move out, and there are plenty of eager shoppers who’d be happy to check out your bargains. It’s easier to sell off stuff you don’t really need or want anymore from the comfort of your current garage/yard than to have to pack it up and haul it away in a car or truck.

If you have kids, it’s best to make your move when they’re not in school. Therefore, it makes sense to move in July or August when school is not in session. Most families with kids like to move in the summer months in order to give the kids some time to adjust to their new neighborhood. Furthermore, they get a couple weeks at the new place before they have to start at their new school. In Western New York, most schools start “back to school” in early September, so families like to get settled before that.

As for adults with jobs to worry about, summer months tend to be a little more relaxed and flexible for many workers. Indeed, many workers take their vacations in July, for sure. Therefore, it might be easier to take days off to move to a new place without disrupting your employer’s operations too much during the laid-back summer months.

If you’re thinking of buying or selling a home in Western New York, Donna Littlefield can help you make that a reality this spring or summer. Please call 716-578-1788 to connect with her today.

The Differences Between a Real Estate Agent and Real Estate Broker

Real Estate Broker There is somewhat of a hierarchical pecking order in real estate. Therefore, a real estate agent is typically under their boss, the real estate broker. A broker, by the way, can also be a real estate agent. He or she can do what agents do, though oftentimes a broker gets busy supervising a whole bunch of agents and becomes consumed with that role. If a broker has several agents working for him or her, those agents give their broker part of their earnings.

If you were to think of real estate like high school, then the broker is the senior and the agent is a freshman, sophomore or junior. Some seniors are agents, too, of course.

Brokers have to be in the industry a while before they take that role on. It’s usually an earned position, after many years of getting and retaining clients, knowing neighborhoods like “the back of their hands,” and spending time researching real estate industry trends, especially as they apply to the market(s) in proximity to their office(s). Specifically, a broker is a person who has taken education beyond the agent level as required by state laws and has passed a broker’s license exam. Brokers may work alone or hire agents to work for them.

The Benefits of Working With a Broker

Why work with a broker or agent, in general? They bring marketing exposure skills to the table, as well as negotiating skills and their connections/relationships to the overall mix. Say, for example, you wanted to sell your house and you put a for sale sign on the lawn outside. Not as many people would see this sign as would see that your house is for sale if it made it into “the online system,” aka the “MLS,” which is a real estate staple used for listing homes for sale. Therefore, by working with an agent and/or broker, you’re effectively expanding your reach. Furthermore, they’re there to guide you along the process of real estate transactions, which can get complicated, especially with rules and paperwork.

In Buffalo’s northern suburbs, you should choose Donna Littlefield to work with when you want to buy or sell a house. She’s a licensed real estate broker specializing in the wonderful communities of Wheatfield, Amherst and Pendleton. As a broker, she has more knowledge and expertise than a newbie agent– so you’d want to work with someone like that– experienced and knowledgeable.

What is a First Time Homebuyer Loan?

Loans for First Time Homebuyers When you decide to buy your first home, you’re known as a “first time homebuyer.” Because many first timers are at a point in their lives where money can be tight, they often seek out first time homebuyer loans (aka mortgages) in order to pay toward their purchase and make it a reality.

First Time Hombebuyer Loans

First time homebuyer loans are usually designed to help people become first time homeowners in certain geographic areas. Generally, they’re meant for “qualified” buyers who can conceivably make payments over time to “pay them off.” There are several costs associated with buying a home, such that a loan helps cover things like the “down payment” and “closing costs.”

If you’re in the position of buying your first home, you’ll want to look online for good loan programs. You can check out the HUD website or try typing “buying a home in Amherst, New York” to see what comes up. Keep in mind there are a variety of loan options out there, and you might want to add certain terms to your search if they’re germane: veteran, teacher, disabled, etc.

Typically, first time homebuyer loans are meant for people who have never owned a home, though in some cases they might be offered to those who haven’t owned a home in a long time. You might have to meet certain financial restrictions– certain loans won’t go to people who have high incomes or substantial assets. In addition, these loans are meant for less expensive homes, with the idea that first time homebuyer loans help people most in need.

Regarding the home you buy, you’ll have to live there as your primary residence. Your home also has to meet physical requirements, such that it’s in good condition and safe for occupancy.

If you’re not a first time homebuyer, but you’d still like financial assistance, consider seeking out a conventional loan or FHA loan. If you’re credit isn’t that great or you’re recovering from financial hardship, a FHA loan is a good choice, allowing you to buy a house with as little as 3.5% down.

If you need helping finding your first home in Western New York, contact Donna Littlefield today.

What is a Real Estate Concierge Service?

 Real Estate Concierge Services You’ve probably heard of the term “concierge” in relation to big city hotels in tourist areas like New York or Miami. At a hotel, the concierge person is the one who helps guests find things such as taxi rides, tickets to shows, and whatever else they need that happens to be located outside of the hotel complex.

Did you know that the real estate industry often offers concierge services these days? In Western New York, Donna Littlefield does… but more on that later.

The Stresses of Moving

When you move, there’s usually a lot of stress involved and real estate agents want to help take some of that stress away. By providing people with connections to “vetted vendors,” agents help people get the “extra” stuff done. Think of it this way: an agent could just sell you a house and then you’re on your own for things like finding a painter to repaint the living room to your liking or finding a pool company to install a pool in the backyard for summer fun. With concierge services, though, the agent continues their relationship with the home buyer/seller, helping them figure out who to work with in order to get more stuff done.

The Benefits of Concierge Services

Real estate agents typically know many people in the community or communities they serve. Real estate people are networkers by trade, and therefore they develop relationships over the years with all sorts of business owners and service providers. Take, for instance, Donna Littlefield. She knows her communities well. When someone moves into Wheatfield, for example, she has a list of trustworthy local people she can recommend to clients who will do indoor/outdoor painting, plumbing repairs and upgrades, kitchen and bathroom upgrades, hardwood or carpet installations, driveway repairs/upgrades, AC unit installations, pool installations, and deck/patio building, among other things.

Donna Littlefield’s “Home Concierge” program is her way of going the extra mile for clients, helping them have less stress after closing on their new home. Furthermore, clients appreciate that they don’t have to do the hard work of finding decent vendors. Donna’s already done that! Call her at 716-578-1788 if you’re thinking of buying or selling a home in Western New York.

Things to Do in Buffalo This Holiday Season

Things to Do in Buffalo This December The Buffalo-Niagara area at Christmastime has several things you, your friends, and your family can see and do mostly outdoors. Yes, it will probably be cold out, but that’s what warm coats, hats, mittens and boots are for, and there are plenty of things going on this month to enjoy, even when the “weather outside is frightful” as the old “Let It Snow” song goes…

First up, have you ever been on an ice bike? Seems like a cool thing to try out, right? Downtown Buffalo’s Canalside has ice bikes, which are bicycles you can ride on ice. Does that sound odd? It is! That’s exactly why it’s appealing! The ice at Canalside is also where you can choose to ice skate or do the very Canadian sport called curling, which kind of looks like you’re sweeping ice to get a “ball” to a certain spot like in bocce. Well, you might need to read up on curling for a much better description. Suffice it to say, people “curl” at Canalside!

Downtown Buffalo has another place to ice skate, and it’s at Rotary Rink at Fountain Plaza— at Main and Chippewa. “Call first” if the weather is above 45 degrees, though– you know, a Buffalo heatwave– to check to see if they’re operating.

Do you like pretty lights? The Hamburg Fairgrounds hosts a Festival of Lights at 5820 South Park Ave. in Hamburg, south of Buffalo. You drive your car through several colorful, lit-up displays. There’s also something called the North Pole Experience involving Santa’s front porch. Visit their site for dates, hours and details.

North of Buffalo, at Niagara Falls, there are fireworks every Friday night at 9pm until Jan. 26, 2018. As Christmas gets nearer, fireworks go off nightly Dec. 23 – 29! You can view the fireworks from both the American and Canadian sides.

Finally, New Year’s Eve is when you’ll want to go to downtown Buffalo. They have a ball drop and fireworks display to ring in the new year at the Iskalo Electric Tower at Roosevelt Plaza. This is located where Main, Huron and Genesee Streets intersect in downtown Buffalo. It’s a family-friendly, alcohol-free event starting about 10:30pm on Dec. 31. Thousands attend this annual celebration. Before that, go to the Buffalo Convention Center for “First Night Buffalo,” where you’ll find carnival rides, bounce houses, acrobats, jugglers and more– great for the kids. That warm, indoor event runs from 5 to 10pm.

Tips for Winterizing Your Home

Winterizing Your Home If you’ve lived in Western New York for any length of time, you’d know that it usually starts to snow about the second week of October. This year, however, we have had an extended summer. The months of September and October were warmer, sunnier and more pleasant than normal. However, as November and December creep up on us, the weather has changed. It’s that time of year to winterize your home. If you have forced air, when’s the last time you replaced your furnace filter? Make it a regular habit; put it on your calendar to remind yourself when it’s time to change it. During the winter you don’t want a dirty filter because that restricts air flow while costing you more money to heat your house since your furnace has to work harder.

Cut Down On Your Heating Bill

Do you have ceiling fans? They have a switch that can be changed to run them “in reverse.” By changing the direction of the blades so that they turn clockwise, you can use your ceiling fans to make your house warmer this winter. The fans push the hot air that rises back down into the living space while helping you cut your overall heating bill– nice!

Prevent Pipes From Freezing

For those with hoses and pipes near the exterior of the house, now’s the time to drain them of any water so that water doesn’t freeze up. Also, shut off water valves. Turn off exterior water spigots. Remove in-window A/C units and store them for the winter because if you don’t you’re letting cold air drafts sneak into your place.

Improve Energy Efficiency

Buy and use “draft snakes” on the bottom of your doors to the exterior. These will keep out cold air. They’re typically made from fabric and filled with sand or kitty litter so they stay in place and have some weight to them.

If you have storm doors and windows, now’s the time to install them to help seal drafts and reduce air flow. You can also use window insulation kits, which involve plastic sheets that go over windows (or certain doors) to further keep cold out of the house. You might want to invest in some “ low e-film” to apply directly to your window glass for further help in that regard. If you notice any gaps around your windows and doors, use some caulk and/or weatherstripping. When you prevent air leaks, you make your home much more energy efficient.

Just like there’s a time for spring cleaning, now’s the time for winterizing your home. Protect your investment by preparing it for the year’s coldest months. Good luck!

Signs That You’re In Need of a Larger Home

If you’re a single person you probably don’t need a two-car garage, an extra-wide driveway, or a four bedroom house. However, if you fall in love with someone special, then he or she is going to play a big role in your everyday life. Where will they park their car during a Buffalo winter? Where will they store their stuff in your cramped place?

Moving to a Bigger Home If you’re the kind of person who likes to have people over but there’s nowhere for them to sit, stand, chat or eat, then you might need a larger home. If you have a whole lot of stuff to store but there’s not enough room in your current place, such that you’re paying to rent a storage locker down the road, then it’s time to “move on up” in the world of bigger homes.

Take, for instance, the plight of people living in old brownstones in Brooklyn downstate– sure, these stately homes are beautiful to look at with their ornate and classic design, but you’ll soon discover there’s no room for a dining room table and chairs in most of them. Bathrooms are so small that you can barely close the door let alone find a place to put your feet when you’re squashed like an accordion on the toilet! Indeed, many older homes, whether they’re in Brooklyn or the Buffalo area or anywhere else are just too cramped for modern day lifestyles. Were the people smaller years back? Probably. Did they only need a tiny closet to hang a handful of outfits? Yep. Today, however, people crave “wide open spaces.” They expect it!

It’s no wonder, then, that newer homes with wider hallways, “open floor plans,” and tons of cabinets, shelves and drawers are more in-demand than the cramped ones built before 1939.

Now, of course, there’s another big reason people feel the need to upgrade to a bigger home… besides running out of room for their stuff and/or not having enough space to entertain guests, there’s the age-old challenge of having a growing family.

Maybe a small apartment works well for a newly married couple, but then baby #1 comes along. Sure, the apartment “kind of” works for a while, but you know what mom is going to say to dad? “Honey, we need a bigger place!” Now if baby #2 is born a year or two later, it’s almost without a doubt that the couple will decide (well, she’ll decide and he’ll go along with whatever makes her happy) to move to a bigger place. Having kids and/or deciding that elderly parents should “move in” automatically increases the need for more bedrooms and bathrooms.

Donna Littlefield can help take you from a small place to a bigger one. As a realtor serving some of Buffalo-Niagara’s favorite suburbs, she’s ready to help you search and find a bigger, better place. Call her at 716-578-1788 today.