Blog : American Home Shield

How to Sell a Home in the Off-Season

How to Sell a Home in the Off-Season

In many parts of the country, conventional wisdom often dictates that the best time to sell a home is in the spring or summer. While the most productive selling season can vary by region and by market, many sellers strive to get their home listed during these months for the best shot at selling quickly – and for the right price. But what happens if clients need to sell their home during an off-season in your market? Here are some suggestions:

Make the price attractive.

With fewer potential buyers, setting a realistic price right out of the gate is a smart strategy to help attract interest.

Manage seller expectations around interest and the number of showings they might get.

There may not be as many showing appointments, listing viewings, or inquiries about the home as there might be in busier seasons.

Include videos in online listings.

Taking video footage will add an extra step to the busy pre-listing preparation, but could pay dividends in attracting interest.

Host a realtor open house to spur interest.

During the off season, you may get better attendance and you won’t be competing with a lot of other listings for attention.

Creatively advertise.

Look for seasonal avenues, such as holiday circulars and programs for sporting and performance events.

Play up the best features of the property in listing descriptions, photographs, and videos to drum up interest.

Remember, you may need to appeal to buyers who aren’t actively looking to purchase at this time.

Share the home on social media, and ask your friends and family to share, too.

Talk about the property at social and business events.

Keep former clients in mind. Let them know about the property in case they are interested or know someone who might be.

Add an American Home Shield® Real Estate Home Warranty to differentiate the property and reassure potential buyers.

The Seller Coverage Option gives your sellers and buyers valuable coverage at Real Estate Edition prices, including American Home Shield ShieldEssentialSM protection for major components of crucial home systems that can be the most expensive to repair or replace. In addition to important coverage for your clients, American Home Shield gives you a dynamic marketing tool that can attract interest and help smooth the negotiation and closing process.

The fact is that people need to sell homes throughout the year, and real estate transactions are completed year-round. Tell sellers not to be discouraged just because they may have missed the “best” selling window. With your guidance and expertise, a successful sale can happen in any season.

For more helpful tips from our partners at American Home Shield, check out their blog!

Setting the Stage on a Budget

Setting the Stage on a Budget

Having a home professionally staged has many benefits. Staging can help present a property in its best light, potentially making it more appealing to prospective buyers. Many times, staging may help a home sell more quickly and sometimes even for a higher contract price.

Bringing in professional home stagers can be expensive, and sellers may not always be eager or able to assume those costs. In those cases, homes can be staged by the sellers themselves with input and advice from you. Here are some tips you can share that can help get a home ready to show:

Prioritize the best features.

Ask yourself what will most likely attract buyers to the home, and then focus on those things first. For example, if the home has a beautiful fireplace or a fantastic view, be sure to have sellers arrange furniture and lighting to play up those features. If a large master bathroom is a selling point, have them spend time spiffing it up.

Clear clutter and personal items.

You probably get tired of hearing this and of saying it, but when it comes to getting a home ready to show, your sellers shouldn’t skip this step. Whether they donate it, sell it, or pack it up to move to the next house, getting the clutter out can help draw potential buyers in.

Get other opinions.

When you live in a home, especially for a long time, it’s natural to start to overlook flaws and imperfections. Suggest that sellers ask close friends and family members to tour the house and offer honest feedback and different ideas about how to make the home more attractive and inviting.

Focus on spaciousness.

Remove extra furniture and put it in an attic or in storage. Add as much light as you can to each room, either by using more lamps, opening window treatments, or installing brighter bulbs.

When in doubt, take it out.

If sellers question whether something should remain in the home for showings, it probably shouldn’t. This goes for furniture, accessories, collections, photographs, and closet contents.

Add inviting touches.

Look for ways that each room can welcome potential buyers. Drape a cozy throw across a chair, place a book on a bedside table, stack folded towels by the tub, and set the table with placemats and place settings.

Don’t forget outdoor areas.

Today’s buyers often want to enjoy outdoor living areas, so be sure to play those up as much as possible. Borrow or rent outdoor furniture to showcase decks, patios and porches. Spruce up gardens and landscaping and add color with blooming potted plants.

Add home warranty coverage.

An American Home Shield® Home Warranty with the Seller Coverage Option can help reassure potential buyers by offering important coverage during the listing period. For up to six months, until the coverage transfers to the buyers, sellers can enjoy the benefits of American Home Shield ShieldEssentialSM protection, which includes coverage for major components of the most crucial home systems that can be the most expensive to repair or replace, including heating, air conditioning, plumbing, and more. Ask your Account Executive for more information and for signs that you can place in the home to alert potential buyers about this special added-value coverage.

Staging a home is a lot of work, so be ready to give your sellers a standing ovation when the curtain goes up for the first showing. One way that you can do this is to take before and after photos to show the difference that their efforts have made. Be sure to pass along any compliments from agents and potential buyers, too.

For more helpful tips from our partners at American Home Shield, visit their blog! 

Is the Home Warranty Always Included in Closing Costs?

Is the Home Warranty Always Included in Closing Costs?

When buying or selling a home, who is responsible for the cost of a home warranty? Learn about your options and what is covered in a home warranty.

Buying or selling a home can be an exciting time in your life. Moving often signifies a new beginning or important changes in someone’s life.

When buying or selling a home, buyers and sellers need to agree on the sales terms and closing costs. One important detail that sometimes comes up is the home warranty.

So, what is a home warranty and is it always included in the closing costs? Let’s take a look at what’s covered in a home warranty and who usually pays for it.

What Does a Home Warranty Cover?

A home warranty is a service agreement that covers the cost to repair major appliances and important home system components from normal wear and tear. The warranty is designed to provide protection against unexpected appliance failure.

For example, a homeowner might have difficulty financing a $4,000 central air conditioning unit if their air conditioner stops working. A good home warranty could allow the homeowner to have their air conditioning repaired instead at a lower cost.

The company providing the warranty could cover some or all of the costs for repairs, depending on the policy.

Some appliances typically covered in a home warranty include the refrigerator and freezer, washer and dryer, oven and stove, microwaves and the air conditioner and heater. Plumbing, roof leaks and electrical systems may also be covered in some home warranty policies.

Aside from potentially saving a lot of money on costly repairs, some people like having home warranties for the convenience. It can be nice having someone you can call when you need to have a covered item repaired.

Contracts are normally good for one year and can be renewed each year if desired.

A home warranty should not be confused with homeowner’s insurance. Homeowner’s insurance protects a home from natural disasters like fires and hurricanes, but does not cover appliance or system failure from normal wear and tear.

How Much is a Home Warranty?

The cost of a home warranty will vary depending on what policy you get and where you live. Standard plans can cost anywhere from $300 to $600 per year and upgrade plans can add an additional $100 – $500 to that cost.

You may need to purchase a second home warranty or additional coverage if you own a second refrigerator or swimming pool as these items are normally not covered under a standard home warranty. With American Home Shield®, however, items such as these are typically included as part of some of their plans at no additional cost.

Be sure to shop around to find the best deal for your home warranty. While cost may be a factor, the number of items covered and the additional services offered, as well as the home warranty company’s reputation and quality of service, should also be considered.

Why Purchase a Home Warranty?

Real estate agents often recommend getting a home warranty for every real estate purchase.

Home warranties protect the seller from liability if appliances break down after the home purchase. Plus if something does break, the new homeowner can call the warranty company instead of calling the seller to get the issue resolved.

Warranties also give buyers the comfort and convenience of knowing that in the event of an appliance breakdown, the warranty will help reduce the cost of repairing or replacing the broken item.

How to Shop for a Home Warranty?

When looking for a home warranty, be sure to review the policy carefully. Policies usually only cover certain appliances and home systems, so be sure that everything you need covered is specified in your home warranty contract.

Also, check your contract to see how much you are covered for. Your home warranty might only cover a percentage of the costs for really expensive repairs.

Warranty companies often assign a local professional to perform the repairs. The quality of service provided by these repair professionals may vary, so be sure to ask the warranty company if and how they regularly select and review the professional contractors and technicians.

Additionally, warranty companies also charge a service charge whenever they send a contractor to do a home repair. This cost will vary depending on the company, but dollars. American Home Shield actually allows you to choose between your fee upfront when purchasing your plan.

Warranty companies may expect you to perform regular maintenance on your appliances or they may not be covered. Make sure you understand the terms of your agreement.

In short, when getting a home warranty, be sure you are clear on the following:

  • What is covered and what is not
  • Any deductibles and limits on coverage
  • Any fees required for service calls
  • How the service company selects professionals to perform repairs
  • What maintenance will I need to perform to my appliances to qualify for assistance?

Who Typically Pays for a Home Warranty During a Real Estate Sale?

Sometimes home warranties are lumped into the closing costs for a real estate transaction and closing costs are typically paid for by the buyer. Buyers will sometimes ask the seller to pay for some or all of the closing costs, but sellers are only responsible for these costs if they agree to these terms.

However, in some states, home warranties are not required as part of the closing costs. In these situations, sellers often are the ones to purchase the home warranty. Purchasing the warranty makes the property easier to sell and protects the seller from post-sale complications that may arise.

Nevertheless, whoever pays for the home warranty is negotiable between the buyer and the seller.

Note that if you are the seller and have an existing home warranty on your property, you can also transfer your warranty to the buyer.

If you are looking for a home warranty, our partners at American Home Shield can help. American Home Shield is the leader in the home warranty industry and our plans can help make your real estate transactions run smoother. If you’re in the market for a home, ask your real estate agent about our home warranties or if the warranty you purchased during the closing is coming to an end and you’re thinking about renewing, get a free quote today.

For more helpful tips, check out the American Home Shield blog!

4 Ways Home Warranty Plans Can Help You Win More Listings

4 Ways Home Warranty Plans Can Help You Win More Listings

Adding more listings is one of the most effective ways to build your real estate business, but it’s not always easy. Gaining listings can be especially challenging in low inventory markets, for new agents, and even for veteran agents trying to establish themselves in new areas. If you’re looking to boost listings, it’s important to use all the tools at your disposal, including home warranty plans. Here’s how:

Distinguish

An American Home Shield® Home Warranty Plan can help a listing stand out from others in the market. Listings that include home warranty plans can offer added value, show good faith, and may attract additional interest in the home.

Reassure

Household breakdowns can happen even when a home is on the market, and such malfunctions can bring additional anxiety to an already stressful time. By choosing an American Home Shield Home Warranty Plan with the Seller Coverage Option*, sellers receive all the advantages of AHS ® ShieldEssentialSM package protection for up to six months until the coverage transfers to the new buyers. ShieldEssential includes coverage for major components of the most crucial home systems that are the most expensive to repair or replace, including heating, air conditioning, plumbing, and more.

Differentiate

Adding a home warranty plan as part of your concierge service model can help differentiate your service from other agents. When sellers see that you care about their needs, they’ll likely want to work with you on the transaction. Paying for the Seller Coverage Option or the entire warranty as a closing gift adds unique service value and helps build the kind of long-term relationships that can garner referrals and repeat business.

Offset

If a client is worried about the marketability of a home with older systems and appliances, an American Home Shield Home Warranty Plan can help offset those concerns for both sellers and buyers. As American Home Shield customers, sellers can also save on updating appliances through the AHS Appliance Discount Program.

For questions or more information about how American Home Shield Home Warranty Plans can be beneficial for both you and your listing clients, contact your dedicated AHS Account Executive, visit ahs.com/realestate, or call 800.735.4663.

*Subject to a $2,000 cap for all trades during the listing period. An American Home Shield Home Warranty Plan covers major components of many home systems and appliances, but not necessarily the entire system or appliance. Please review the American Home Shield contract for limitations and exclusions.

For more home warranty tips, check out the American Home Shield blog!

10 Summer Prepping Ideas for Your Home

10 Summer Prepping Ideas for Your Home

Get your family and home ready for summer by using some of these prepping ideas. The weather is changing, which means time to get outside and get your home ready for warmer weather.

The weather is getting warmer, and that means it’ll soon be time for backyard barbeques, evening cocktails on the patio, growing a new crop of vegetables and playing catch with the kids. Break out the home maintenance checklist and get your home ready for summer with some of these tips.

1. Get Your AC Tuned Up

While there are some cool DIY projects on this list, getting an AC tune-up isn’t one of them – you should call in a professional for this task. Just as you need to get your furnace tuned up every fall, you need to get your AC tuned up every spring. An AC tune-up includes inspecting and cleaning components and connections inside your AC, and it’s important because the technician should be able to tell whether your AC will soon need repairs. With regular tune-ups, you can avoid most breakdowns of your AC unit. Many HVAC components are covered under a home warranty. If your warranty doesn’t cover your AC appliance, check out American Home Shield® today.

2. Conduct a Home Energy Audit

Now is the time to learn more about your home’s energy profile, and what you can do to improve its energy efficiency. A home energy audit can tell you whether and where your home is drafty, for example, or whether you need more insulation and where to install it. Whether you have it professionally done, or do it yourself, it’s worth it – and your local utility company may offer an incentive for homeowners to have this done.

3. Install a Smart Thermostat

Springtime is a great time to install a smart thermostat, because soon you’ll need to keep your home cool. A smart thermostat lets you program your HVAC to cool your home only when you’re in it, so you’ll save a bundle on cooling costs, while still staying comfortable on even the hottest days.

4. Get Ready for Bugs

Many species of insects go dormant during the cold weather of winter and early spring, but they come out again in full force as soon as temperatures rise. Before the bugs come out, get ready for their return. Take steps to keep the bugs away, such as cleaning up piles of leaves or other debris near your house, sealing cracks in doors and windows, and inspecting window screens for holes. If you want to put out pesticides or other repellants, now is the time to do so.

5. Check for Water Leaks

The summer months bring more than heat – they can also bring storms and flooding. Check your basement for signs of water leaks. Clear out grates or drains near your home so that water is directed away from the foundation. If dirt has settled around your home, or your home is at the bottom of a hill, water will run towards your foundation. Install grates to direct water away.

6. Clean the Gutters

If you only clean your gutters once a year, do it in the spring, so that they can most effectively direct the rains of summer storms away from your siding and foundation. Ideally, you should clean your gutters twice a year – once in the spring, and again in the fall.

7. Reseal Your Doors and Windows

Now is the time to inspect your doors and windows for missing, cracked or peeling caulk and reseal them to prevent water leaks and draftiness. If you have wooden window frames, check to see if they need repainting. You can also take this opportunity to repaint your front door, if necessary, and wash your windows.

8. Aerate, Dethatch and Overseed the Lawn

Okay, so this is three things, but they all go together, and they’re all equally important to helping your lawn look its best in the summer months, when you most want to use it. Your lawn may not need to be aerated, dethatched, and overseeded every year – if it looks healthy and lush, it’s probably fine, especially if it’s newly installed. But take the time to do it at least every two or three years, so your lawn stays healthy and oxygenated.

9. Spruce Up Your Garden Beds

Spring is a great time to weed, mulch, and plant in your vegetable and garden beds, and if you’re looking for summer crafts for kids, there are plenty of gardening tasks they can do. Kids love playing in the dirt, growing things, and helping out. They can help pull weeds, spread mulch and compost and even seeds or seedlings.

10. Clean the Lawn Furniture

Soon you’ll want to entertain friends, relatives, and neighbors outside, so it’s time to drag the lawn furniture out of the garage and knock the cobwebs off. Use a power washer or a hose to clean chairs, tables and other pieces of lawn furniture. Don’t forget to wash the cushions! You can also take steps in protecting your patio furniture, and have them last longer.

Summer is coming fast – don’t let it catch you unprepared. Get your home ready for warm weather, so you can focus on enjoying yourself and your loved ones.

For more tips, visit the American Home Shield blog!

5 Things You Should Do Before Moving into Your New Home

5 Things You Should Do Before Moving into Your New Home

Finally about to close on your dream house? Read this list to get some good tips on what you should do when moving into a new home to make the place your own.

Is there anything more exciting than moving into a new home? But preparing to move is a busy time. You’ve got to figure out how to pack for moving, pick up packing boxes and look up moving tips to make the whole process go more smoothly. Plus, there’s hiring movers, renting a truck, enlisting friends and family to help – and that’s on top of all the other stuff you’ve got to do to prepare for closing day and, once you’ve taken possession, get the place ready for move in.

Before you settle into your new home, these new simple home hacks can help you make the place feel like your own. Make moving day as smooth as possible, and stave off future new homeowner hiccups, with these moving day tips.

1. Change the Locks

The very first thing you should do after taking possession of a new home is change the locks, or have them re-keyed. If you’re handy, you can do this yourself with a re-keying kit from your local big-box hardware store, or you can buy new locks. These days, homeowners can choose from a range of smart locks, as well as old-fashioned ones.

Why change the locks? While the previous owners are probably great people, there’s no knowing who has keys to your home. There could be any number of copies of your house key out there, and you never know who has them. Make sure you and your loved ones are the only people who can access your new home. Locksmith rekey services are typically covered under your home warranty.

2. Forward Your Mail

Don’t miss important bills, housewarming cards or letters from Grandma – set up mail forwarding to begin on moving day. You can apply for mail forwarding online for $1.05, or you can do it in person at the post office. Of course, you’ll still have to change your address with your bank, credit cards, magazine subscription issuers and others who send you mail, but you’ll have 60 days to change your address for magazines and a year to change it for other kinds of mail.

3. Deep Clean the Whole Place

Just like you can’t know who has a copy of your house key, you can’t know how thoroughly the previous owners cleaned the place before they left. It’s a good idea to give your new home a good deep clean – clean the refrigerator, the oven, the walls, the floors and the cabinets inside and out, as well as the bathrooms. It’s easiest to do this before you start bringing your stuff in, or at least before you start unpacking it. If you don’t want to deep clean your new home yourself, you can hire professional cleaners to perform a move-in clean.

4. Check Your Smoke Alarms and CO Detectors

Smoke alarms and CO detectors are among the most important safety devices in your home. They could save your family’s lives in the event of a fire or a carbon monoxide leak. Before you move into your new home, test your smoke alarms to make sure they’re working properly.

Your new home may not have a carbon monoxide detector; many don’t. But carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless but can be deadly. Even when it doesn’t kill, it can cause serious symptoms, including brain damage. If your new home doesn’t have a CO detector, plan to install one on moving day. Make sure to calibrate it for the first time outside, so it can use fresh air for its baseline reading.

5. Look for Plumbing Leaks

If you have a leaking pipe in your new home, you need to know about it ASAP, and the easiest time to check for plumbing leaks is before everyone has gotten settled in. On moving day, check your water meter and either write down the reading, or take a photo of it. Wait two hours, making sure no one uses the water, and then check the meter again. If the reading isn’t exactly the same as it was two hours before, you have a plumbing leak somewhere in your home, and you need to locate it and put it on the priority list of things that need fixed right away.

While you’re looking for plumbing leaks, this is an excellent time to locate your home’s main water and gas shutoff valves as well as your breaker box. That way you won’t find yourself hunting for the breaker box in the dark with a flashlight or frantically hunting for the main water shutoff valve while a burst pipe fills your basement with water. Plus, if you find a plumbing leak, you’ll want to shut off the water to your home until you locate it.

Moving day is exhausting, stressful, and exciting – but it’s worth the work to finally settle into your brand new dream home. Make sure you take the time to do moving day right; it’ll save you a lot of trouble in the long run, and help you make your home your own a lot faster.

For more helpful tips, visit the American Home Shield blog!

Busted! 8 Common Myths to Inform Home Buyers

Busted! 8 Common Myths to Inform Home Buyers

When it comes to purchasing a home, many people have common misconceptions about their mortgage options, up-front costs, home inspections, negotiating needs and more. We’ll help you bust the myths for buyers and open their eyes to the facts about homeownership to streamline the purchasing process.

Myth #1: The process starts by shopping around for a house

Perhaps, before your clients have even contacted you, they’ve already found the “perfect home,” that’s painted in the “perfect color” in the “perfect neighborhood.” While it’s natural for home buyers to want to browse around and get a feel for what they might like, you already know that’s not what they should be looking at first. Instead, they should take a closer look at their credit and make sure that it’s as close to “perfect” as they can get it. This will be the first step in getting pre-approved for a mortgage. And once they know what they’re pre-approved for, they’ll have a better sense of their budget and where and what they should be considering in terms of their “perfect home.” This will save you both a lot of time and potential heartache when they realize they can’t afford that house they fell in love with.

Myth #2: Bad credit is a total deal breaker

Despite what we just explained in Myth #1, it’s also important for your clients to know that even if they have bad credit, they still have options. Conventional loans may not be available to them, but FHA loans only require 3.5% down. Even those with credit scores under 600 may qualify. That said, FHA loans do have potential drawbacks that may not make them right for everyone. As with any loan, helping your clients understand their options is key.

Myth #3: You can’t put down less than 20%

While it may be considered ideal to put down that amount, your clients may be relieved to hear that a 20% down payment isn’t always required. Of course, then you’ll need to let them know about private mortgage insurance (PMI). But if they can find a lender who is willing to allow a 10% or even 5% down payment, they may be happy to pay PMI insurance to make their dreams of home ownership come true.

Myth #4: The down payment is your only up-front cost

Even though that may be a significant amount of money for your homebuyers, they may assume that’s all they’re responsible for up front. As an experienced real estate professional, you know that the seller may — and often does — negotiate for buyers to pay the closing costs. This percentage can vary widely from state to state, so they will have to budget for that as well. Not to mention the other fees, taxes and associated costs of insurance, home inspection, credit report, etc.

Myth #5: A 30-year mortgage is always best

Clients may not understand that if they’re not set on staying in their home for the long haul, a 30-year loan might not be their best option. Of course, you can explain that most people opt for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage to help keep their monthly payments lower than with a 15-year fixed rate mortgage. But they may not realize that with a 30-year mortgage, they are simply borrowing the same amount of money for twice as long at a higher rate. It’s possible they could actually pay more during the term of the loan with a 30-year fixed loan. In other words, there’s no one mortgage option that’s always best. You can help open their eyes to other loan plans, even an adjustable-rate mortgage, that might be best for their particular situation.

Myth #6: If you don’t have kids, schools don’t matter

It’s easy to see why some homebuyers might believe this, but it’s also easy to dispel.

Once buyers understand that good schools reflect the neighborhood and add value to the area, they’ll see how it affects the value of their home. With schools come families. And with families come other amenities that make a neighborhood desirable. This can be important when they go to sell, potentially years from now.

Myth #7: Home inspections aren’t that important

Naturally, you know that the cost of a home inspection is often money well spent by clients. Of course, it’s their prerogative to waive it, but they may not realize what they can’t see could come back to haunt them and could potentially cost them more than an inspection ever would. Plus, sellers can sometimes count on the fact that all looks great on the surface and they can find a buyer who will purchase the home “as is.”

Either way, let them know that an American Home Shield® Real Estate Home Warranty can be a wise choice to help protect their budget and their new investment.

Myth #8: The asking price is set in stone

Of course, your clients know you can help them negotiate; that may be one of the reasons they are working with a professional. But they may not realize how much or which things can help persuade the seller to be more open to lowering their asking price…things like top-notch credit, being pre-approved, that there are no contingencies and the closing date is flexible. Plus, the findings from the home inspection you recommended can ultimately reveal some negotiation room.

When you help bust these common home buying myths for your clients, you’re helping them make informed decisions about one of biggest investments they may ever make.

For more helpful tips, visit the American Home Shield® Home Matters blog.