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I’ve always told my clients that the closing date is a “target date” because things can sometimes come up at the last minute that can delay the closing a day, or a week, or sometimes even longer. It seems like it’s RARE to close on time nowadays.


The reasons for the delay are many. Sometimes there is a small change to the buyer’s closing costs, so the buyer HAS to be given another few days to review the new figures. This is according to a relatively new federal law that was put in place to eliminate “surprises” at the closing table for the buyer. Other times the buyer’s lender needs more documentation from the buyer about their finances or a letter to explain something. But more often than not, what I’m seeing right now is the lenders are just swamped with volume. With interest rates back down, the refinance market is big again. This means more loans are trying to get made and closed than the system can handle. They used to make purchase loans a priority, but even if they are, they are still just too busy to get everything done.


So what to do about it? First, agents probably need to stop writing 30 day close of escrow dates on their contracts unless they are REALLY sure it will happen. Better to shoot for 40-45 days. Second, sellers need to not make hard and fast plans assuming the transaction will close on time. Be sure to leave wiggle-room in moving plans regarding moving trucks and if you need these funds to purchase another property. Asking for possession of the home after closing would be a good idea if that can be negotiated. This means you don’t move out until the deal is DONE and the money is in your account.



One of my relatives was an auto mechanic before he retired, and he said he went from turning wrenches to having to deal with computer control systems in cars all day. Homes may be headed that way due the plethora of home automation options coming down the pike.


Lighting control systems let you set what lights come on and when. You can lock and unlock doors from your smartphone. We are all familiar with a programmable thermostat for your HVAC system, but they have new ones that can detect WHO enters the home by the smartphone they are carrying, and adjust the HVAC based on that person’s preferences (they can set priority when more than one person is home). They even have a refrigerator that detects when you are out of milk and places an order for it to be delivered to your home.


Neat stuff, but will it raise the value of your home? I believe it does, but usually much less than the cost of the system itself. So if YOU want all these gadgets in your home and you will enjoy them and can afford them, go for it. But if you spend $20K on all these systems but then need to sell your home right after, you will probably not get $20K more for the home when you sell. It’s possible you’ll find a buyer that was planning to do all these things anyways and is willing to pay a pretty penny for it, but I would say that will be the rare situation. At least for now. Once the majority of homes have these systems and they are expected, then you’ll get more for them. (More accurately, if your home doesn’t have them, you’ll get less for it.)


Last week I gave you some general cleaning tips prior to putting your house on the market. A little time spent cleaning can lead to big bucks for you. This week I’ll cover some of the “problem areas.”


Windows can be difficult, but are worth doing correctly. There are new microfiber cloths that make the job much easier, with less streaking (search Amazon.com for “microfiber glass cleaning cloth”). The key is not cleaning your windows when they are in the direct sun. For the outside, use Windex Outdoor. This attaches to your hose, and works even through screens. If your water isn’t too hard, it will even dry without streaking. Test one window first to see if you will need to squeegee. Make sure to do the window tracts, as well.


Before you attack blinds and drapes, dust and/or vacuum the valance and frame first. Shut the blinds and wipe with a duster or microfiber mitt. There is also a mini-blind vac attachment you can find online. If your blinds and drapes are too dirty, hire a professional.


If your bathroom grout is stained, ordinary cleaners may not be enough. There is a popular product called “Black Diamond Ultimate Grout Cleaner” you can find on Amazon.com plus some special grout cleaning brushes. If this doesn’t work, there are companies that can come in and re-do just your grout for much less than replacing all your tile. There are also some great new products out there you can spray on your shower after each use to keep it clean, but you usually have to start with a clean shower. If your caulking is too badly stained, there is a great little tool now you can buy at most hardware stores called “Caulk-Rite” that makes caulk removal and installation easy.


To maximize the value of your home, it needs to be “super-clean,” especially now that we are competing with all the new homes again. I have some tips I’ve learned over the years that might help. Let’s start in the kitchen:

Sink– Fill the sink with very hot water; add one cup of regular bleach, and soak for an hour. Drain and rinse. Scrub with baking soda which acts as a natural cleaning agent and odor neutralizer. Rinse. Shine with glass cleaner then dry thoroughly. If you have any chips in the sink, there are sink touch-up paint kits you can find online (but you may still have to disclose this to your buyer as a “defect”).

Garbage disposal–White vinegar is an all-natural deodorizer. To get rid of odors, make vinegar ice cubes and feed them down the garbage disposal. Simply run cold water through the drain after grinding. You can then use lemon afterwards, which will leave your disposal smelling lemony-fresh.

Microwave–Fill a coffee mug with water and a few slices of lemon; put it in the middle of the microwave’s tray. Cook on high for about 3 minutes; then leave the mug inside for another few minutes. The steam will soften food spills, and the lemon will get rid of odors. Wipe down the walls with warm, soapy water to remove excess residue and food.

Stainless-steel appliances–A streak-free stainless appliance is the gold standard of a clean kitchen. Be sure to wipe with the grain, which usually runs vertically on refrigerators, and horizontally on smaller appliances. Wash surfaces with hot, soapy water. Dry with a towel. Apply a layer of stainless-steel polish, like Sheila Shine, or 3M also makes a great stainless steel cleaner/polish combo product. Buff the polish into the surface with a towel, going along the grain.


Many people think the appraisal is done when the appraiser visits the home, like a home inspection. When a home inspector visits your home, they actually “do” the inspection right then. So I can usually give my clients at least a verbal report on how the home inspection went on the same day that it is done. This is not true of the appraisal.


When the appraiser shows up at the property, they are there to measure the dimensions of the home, count bedrooms and baths, and note any upgrades/improvements (counters, appliances, cabinets, backyard, etc.) and note the condition of the property. This is really just the inspection phase of the appraisal. They will then go drive by other comparable properties for sale and those that have sold. Once they have collected all their data, only then do they go back to their office and actually “do” the appraisal. They will compare your home against the best comparable properties, make their adjustments up or down depending on how your home compares against the others, then crunch the numbers to arrive at the appraised value and submit the appraiser to the lender. Then lender may need to review how the appraisal was done and they may reject it or ask the appraiser to make revisions. Only if passes through that process will we know what the appraised value is.


The frustrating part for my clients is when they ask me, “So, how did the appraisal go?” and I say, “It went fine, we’ll know in a few days.” I do try to get a feel for the appraiser of how it is going while I’m there with them, but they still need their time to go back and prepare the actual appraisal report.


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