Ask The Home Advisor -Protecting Your Home From Burglary

The Halloween Home invader in Laurelhurst is a reminder that no one is completely safe from falling victim to an in-home burglary. What are some tips to help avoid falling victim to having your house burglarized? 7 Tips to Prevent a Burglary or Home Invasion with thanks to the People from Hanover insurance.

Tip #1: The Obvious…LOCK Your Doors and Windows!!…

It’s one of those head slappers that you might not believe you’re reading. However, ask any police officer and they’ll tell you that one of the things that cause the most home burglaries is the fact that the burglar or home invader simply walked through an unlocked door. In fact, 34% of burglars in the U.S. enter through unlocked front doors while 23% are able to enter through unlocked first-floor windows.

No matter what you think about how safe your area or neighborhood might be, always lock your doors and windows even when you’re in the home. If an intruder is able to just walk into your home, you may not have a payable claim on your hands. Nearly all insurance companies will require there to have been “forced entry,” before they pay out on a claim.

By leaving your home unlocked you’re basically inviting burglars and invaders into your home. This one little simple step can deter an offender and save you from a ton of loss, and possibly physical harm.

Tip #2: Install Strong Locks for the More Persistent Burglar…

While locking your doors and windows is a great first step, you’ll want to make sure that you’re deterring more persistent home invaders a little more stringently by making it harder for them to shimmy your locks. One of the things that the persistent bad guy will do is simply kick in your door. They’ll kick your door in, break the lock, and run in and grab as many valuables as they can find. Using deadbolts instead of factory locks and chain locks is a great tool to stymy this type of burglary.

To keep you and your family safe while inside, always lock the deadbolt as well as utilize a security doorjamb tool so that nobody can get in if they do decide to kick the door down. (Hint: Talk to your home insurance agent about this and there may be a premium discount waiting for you with this one)…

Tip #3: Keep the Lights On Like Motel 6…

It may seem funny how many burglary prevention tips are simple and logical fixes. One of those is lights. You simply have to put yourself in the burglar’s position. If you were about to rob a home, would you pick one that was bright and lit up so that you’re totally exposed, or the dark home on the street where you can get away without being seen?

To take it another step further, motion lights that go on automatically when someone walks by are even better. While there are dark moments, they actually make people that live near and around your home notice when they go on. This is not something that the people who want to rob your home don’t already know.

Tip #4: A Dog Is Man’s Best Friend (and Great Protector)…

Dogs are great deterrents of robbers. Dogs of all shapes and sizes are good. Dogs are vocal about intruders and will definitely let you know that something (or someone) is amiss.

For the most part, burglars and home invaders are cowards. They’re looking to sneak in and sneak out without any trouble. Therefore if they here the sound of a dog, they’re very likely going to keep going to the next house. They won’t want to tangle with Fido.

Don’t forget the “Beware of Dog” stickers as well. These combined with a barking dog can be plenty to make a person second guess messing with your home. If you don’t have a dog and don’t have any plans to buy one in the future, having “Beware of Dog” stickers on your doors can still help turn away would-be criminals.

Tip #5: Security Alarm…

Security alarms are big businesses. That’s because they’re very good at preventing burglaries and home invasions. A security alarm and it’s whining siren when someone enters your home will scare away a criminal, as well as alert you that someone has entered your home so that you can protect yourself …which is probably even more important.

Like the “Beware of Dog” sign, being sure to utilize the stickers that the alarm company gives you to alert potential robbers that you have an alarm system may be the biggest deterrent of all. Use them. This is not the time for surprises, it’s time to prevent a home invasion.

At the very least get a hold of some of those stickers whether you have an alarm or not.

Tip #6: Stay Aware of and REPORT Any Suspicious Activity Around Your Home…

Very often after a home invasion or burglary, there becomes a 20/20 hindsight moment. People begin to realize that there was something that may have tipped them off to the burglary, yet they didn’t think anything of it at the time.

The bad guys/gals often like to do some surveillance and stake out your home before they decide to act. They may be looking for patterns or even good reasons to steal from you. In other words, they’re wondering if you have anything worth the risk to them.

There’s no harm in reporting suspicious activity in your neighborhood, even if it turns out to be nothing. You’re not only protecting yourself, you’re protecting your neighbors as well. Call the police, let them know what you see so that they can be on the lookout themselves. They’ll be glad for the tip, and you may prevent something tragic from happening to you or your neighbors.

Tip #7: Don’t Announce When You’re NOT Going to Be Home…

These days with all the social networks that exist, people seem to love putting their life stories…including plans for the future… out for the world to see.

You’ll constantly see people announcing vacations and weekend getaways, or letting the world know how mad they are that they have to work an unexpected double shift at work. This is a recipe for disaster. You’re basically telling burglars “Go on in, I won’t be there to bother you.”

Sure, your Facebook “friends” might be people that you actually know and trust. But would you risk all of your worldly possessions on the assumption that none of those people want to do you harm, or tip off someone else that they know to gladly do the dirty work for them?

So there you have it. The more of the above steps that you take to prevent a burglary; the less likely you’re going to be faced with a crisis. Do what you can now and make it a goal to get the rest done as soon as possible, and always by aware.

Ask the Home Advisor – Selling in Fall and Winter

Q: I know spring and summer are usually the peak seasons to sell a house. Now that it’s fall, do you think the market will settle down a bit?

A: It is true that spring and summer are the busiest seasons for real estate. It brings the most buyers and sellers, therefore the most transactions. However, the other seasons often bring extremely motivated buyers looking for homes when inventory is down. People buy homes every month of the year.

A good example is someone relocating from out of town.  In the “off-seasons” there are usually fewer homes or the market. Since there are fewer homes to choose from, it increases the chance of selling a good home. It might seem crazy to list your house in the middle of winter, but if there is nothing comparable on the market, you can put yourself in a good position to sell.

Ask the Home Advisor – What Improvements Are Needed When Selling

Q: My elderly mother just moved out of her home and we’re getting it ready to sell. It’s pretty dated, but I don’t want to spend any more than necessary to fix it up. What kind of improvements are needed to make it marketable?

A: We see situations like this all the time, and the answer always varies. The first question that we ask is: “What are the goals of the seller?”.   Money can be made by flipping your own house, but it also takes considerable time and money, and not everyone is in the position execute that strategy.

We always recommend that you start by clearing the house of unneeded items.  De-cluttering will make the home feel larger and have better flow.  Determine if fresh paint and new flooring are needed, since each can make a very strong visual impact. Have someone evaluate the condition of the roof, sewer, plumbing and utilities to see if repairs are necessary. Street appeal is very important, so spend some time outside the home fixing up the yard and making sure the home makes a good first impression.   Staging the home is the final piece to having your property really shine.

The bottom line is that you need to take a look at your specific home and your goals.  A good agent can take you through the process.  Whatever the strategy, we want to make sure that if you spend a nickel, you make a dime.

Ask the Home Advisor – What Are Escalation Clauses?

Q: I’m a first-time buyer, and I hear that many offers in Seattle include escalation clauses. Can you explain to me how they work?

A: The phrase “multiple -offers” is every seller’s dream. Conversely, buyers lose sleep over it. In today’s market we are seeing multiple offers more often than not. Our office alone has experienced homes getting double-digit offers on several occasions in the last few months.

The bottom line is that the person who offers the most money for a property usually wins.  Of course there are other terms that matter, most notably financing and inspection contingencies.   However, it is natural for sellers to want to get the highest return that they can for their home.  In this fast and furious market, the escalation clause –  also known as an elevator clause –  is a tool that buyers can use.  An escalation clause is designed to edge out competing bids by automatically raising an offer when a competing bid comes in. When that competing bid is made, the escalation clause automatically increases the buyer’s offer by a preset amount. The clause limits (or “caps”) the buyer’s maximum bid. For the clause to be triggered, sellers need to prove there was another bona fide offer.  Typically, a copy of a competing offer serves as the proof needed to trigger an escalation clause.

We understand that this strategy is not for everyone.  We only recommend using this clause if the buyer is 100% committed to a property.  Since the person who offers the most will likely win, an escalation clause may be the way for you to get the home you really want in a highly competitive market.

Ask the Home Advisor – Buyer Strategies in a Seller’s Market

Q: With tight inventory and multiple offers, are there strategies you recommend to people who are currently looking to buy?

A: Here are a few strategies that we recommend in a seller’s market:

1) Have your agent get a read on what the interest level in the house is. That information will help you plan your strategy.

2)  Write a great offer before the review period and see if the seller will accept it. If the money is there, many sellers would prefer to get the deal done quickly.

3)  Find out any non-monetary terms that the seller is interested in. Do they need to close by a certain date? Are there special terms, like a rent back arrangement, that the seller would like? Plan your offer accordingly.

4)  Be prepared.  Have the money for purchase all lined up and ready to go.

5)  One final strategy:  Wait until the market cools or slows.  We have learned from past experience that the market can change over the course of several months making buying more favorable for you.

Ask the Home Advisor – Best Time To Sell

Q: We’re thinking about selling our home. When is the best time to list it?

A: Many factors drive the decision of when to put a home on the market. If you don’t need to sell your home quickly because of a lifestyle change, you’ll get the best price if you list your home when demand is high and supply is low.   Of course, just like the stock market, that’s difficult to time.

Typically, spring is the most popular time to list a home.  Why spring?  Homes generally look better in the spring when the garden is in bloom and the sun (hopefully) is out. Buyers, especially those with kids, want to close in time to move in by summer and be settled by the time the kids are ready to go back to school. Plus, many have deposited their tax refund checks and feel like they have a financial cushion. With inventory still at very low levels in King County, this Spring looks like it will be particularly strong.

That said, people buy homes all year long. Buyers that are relocating often look at properties towards the end of the year when there are fewer homes on the market to compete with your listing.  And since few buyers want to house-hunt during the holidays, you those people looking for a house in December are serious buyers.

One caveat: no matter how much of a seller’s market it is, make sure your home is move-in ready.  The hottest market won’t overcome a house that looks shabby.   

Ask the Home Advisor – Selling During the Holidays

Q: What are your thoughts about selling during the holiday season?

A: Most people think of spring as the ideal time of year to list a home. Generally speaking, we would tend to agree. The sun is out (hopefully) and the flowers are in bloom. However, there can be advantages to listing during other seasons.

Inventory is typically at its low in December, and less inventory means less competition. Buyers who are  looking for  a house during the holidays are either shopping for a very expensive Christmas gift, or they most likely are being transferred to the area from out of the region. Either way, those buyers are typically quite motivated. Also, if you have a house that looks its best during the holidays, and don’t mind an occasional visitor in your home, it could be a way to show your home to its best advantage.  Again, springtime is probably the ideal time to market a home, but remember – houses sell 12 months out of the year.

Ask the Home Advisor – Home Improvement ROI

Q: We’re getting our house ready to sell, but we’re not sure how much money we should sink into improvements. How do you figure out which improvements will be a good return on investment?

A: This is a question that comes up a lot with our clients that are getting ready to sell.The answer varies depending on what type of home you own.

If you are selling a home that is likely to be torn down or remodeled, you usually don’t  need to do much more than clean well  and make sure you highlight the features of the property vs. the features of the home.

However, the vast majority of homes are not being sold as remodel or tear down projects.  In those cases buyers are looking for a well-maintained property with charm.

To increase your home’s charm quotient,  painting the interior and exterior is relatively inexpensive and can give your property a fresh look.  Refinishing hardwood floors is another lower-cost investment that can make a significant impression on buyers.

As for home maintenance, items that will be called out on inspection and dealt with while negotiating the sale should be addressed prior to listing the home.  Your roof, sewer, plumbing, foundation and electrical system should be inspected prior to listing. You may or may not choose to fix the issues based on the cost of repairs, but you should know what to expect to give up in price concessions should that become part of negotiating the sale.

When it comes to high end homes, it can make sense to do more remodel work.  Buyers looking into these types of homes are attracted to finish work, functionality and spaces for entertaining.  They expect a high level of finishes and upgrades.  Remodeling to meet these expectations can be expensive, but will add to the value of the home.

Every home is different and decisions on improvements usually come down to price.  We always work with sellers to maximize their return on investment when preparing their home for sale.  Our goal is to make sure you that if you spend a nickel, you make a dime.

Here’s a link to what various home remodeling projects cost in our area.

Ask the Home Advisor – Is Now A Good Time To Sell?

Q: I’ve read that home prices are up in Seattle. Is now a good time to sell?

A: A lot of homeowners have spent years waiting for prices to rise before putting their homes up for sale. Seattle has seen double-digit price increases in the past year. Should homeowners wait and see if home values continue to rise, or should they sell now while the market is hot and many sellers are getting over asking price?

Trying to time home values is like trying to time the stock market. It’s tough to recognize the turning point.

Rather than just asking “When can I get the highest price?”, homeowners should consider the cost of staying in a home when they’d rather live somewhere else.

Many people choose to sell their existing home and move to a new property for lifestyle reasons- a more desirable neighborhood, better schools, shorter commute, downsizing, etc. Delaying that increased “happiness factor” has an emotional cost.

There is also a financial cost. If you wait to sell your current home until prices rise even more, the price of the home you want to purchase next will no doubt rise as well. Interest rates may increase as well, so any added profit you make would be used to pay a higher price on your new home.

My advice?  If you’re motivated to sell, there are plenty of people who are motivated to buy. For the first time in years, it’s a seller’s market. Inventory continues to be limited. Multiple offers are the norm. If you are willing to price your home appropriately, it will sell quickly, freeing you up to move on to the home you really want.

Ask the Home Advisor – How to Get the Best Price for Your Home

Q: With the real estate market bouncing back in Seattle, I’m planning to put my home up for sale. What can I do to make sure I get the best price?

A: We always tell sellers to make sure their home is in the best condition it’s ever been in. How you live in your home and how you present your home to sell are two different things. While you might overlook a little pet hair or flaking paint, potential buyers won’t. They also assume that if you aren’t taking care of the things that they can see, you’re also not taking care of things that they can’t see.

It’s difficult for buyers to visualize how an empty home can look, so we always advise sellers to have their home staged.  Skillful staging can turn that too-small bedroom into the perfect home office or yoga studio.  And it’s been proven that homes that have been staged sell faster and for more money.

Potential buyers really notice dirty or dated carpets and marked walls. A fresh coat of paint and new carpet are inexpensive ways to freshen up a home, and always pay off in return on investment. They also can help alleviate stale smells.

Unless it’s a high-end home, we usually advise against kitchen or bath remodels, which rarely pay for themselves. Luxury homes are an exception. No one wants to pay $2 million for a home and have to tear out the kitchen before they move in.

WANT TO GET THE BEST PRICE FOR YOUR HOME?

DEALMAKERS

  • Meticulously clean, uncluttered rooms.
  • Fresh paint in neutral colors.
  • Sparkling windows.
  • Clean, contemporary furnishings (either your own or a stagers) arranged to showcase each room to its best advantage.
  • Great curb appeal: Nicely landscaped yard, pressure-washed patios and walkways, a nice entryway (a large flowering container, new house numbers, and a freshly painted front door make a welcoming first impression.)

DEALBREAKERS

  • Any bad odors, from mildew to pets to strong cooking odors. (Even if the rest of the home is in great shape, we have seen people turn around at the door and walk away because of smells.)
  • Dingy grout in the bath and kitchen.
  • Peeling paint.
  • Roofs covered with moss and debris.
  • Dripping faucets.
  • Other obvious deferred maintenance issues like sagging fences or moldy basements.