Tuesday, September 10, 2013

5 Tips to Getting a House SOLD

A month ago, Hubs and I found a wonderful Realtor, Karen, through the Dave Ramsey Endorsed Local Providers website. We listed our house and she gave us an additional week to get it completely ready for photos and showings.
This past Friday, Karen called me and said, "I have a four-letter word for you...S O L D!"

Three weeks on the market? Amazing!  So, what made it happen for us so quickly? (Well, in my opinion, prayer was a huge factor.)  Here are 5 tips to getting a house SOLD:

1. Purge and organize!

Getting rid of clutter and junk frees up space and gives the potential buyer an opportunity to picture themselves living there. Box up your collections so that the house itself can be the star of the show.  If the buyer sees neatly stacked boxes in your garage or shed, that tells them that you are serious about moving!

2. Clean, clean and clean a bit more

Buyers would like your home to look like a "model home". They want to imagine living there, without seeing dust bunnies and dog fur on the floors, or dirty dishes in the sink and soap scum in the bathtub.  You will probably need to vacuum and dust every other day at a minimum. Toilets, showers and tubs need to shine every day.
Pamper the heart of the home, the kitchen! Free up counter space and clear off the top of the fridge, and keep them clear.  (Personally, I believe that our hard work in getting our kitchen updated was a huge selling point.)


 3. Staging your house

You've heard it over and over. Staging...it seems to be the real catch-word when it comes to selling your house. But, it goes back to what I said above, buyers want to see your house as they would a "model home".  Remember the "rule of 3" when it comes to decor on any surface...3 things only. Like on my fireplace mantle, shelves and counters.

4. Make your bed...every. single. day.

(Do I sound like your mom here?  Haha...yeah, I can hear my mom's voice as I type this.)

You know, there's a lot to be said for making your bed every day. It's actually something that I started doing daily about six years ago. It became a part of my morning routine, just like my shower and brushing my teeth. It's so nice to come down at any point of the day to see my bedroom looking pretty.



5. Curb Appeal: Making a good First Impr

When it comes to grabbing a potential buyer's attention as they pull up to your house, nothing does it better than neatly cut lawns, attractive flower beds, and walkways that are clear of debris and clutter. Freshen up those planting beds by pulling the weeds and grass out, and add in some new mulch or bark. Its a relatively small investment of your time and money, that can really help your bottom line!


So, now that we have accepted an offer, we're making the final push to pack up and begin our new life's journey, living in Hawaii.  You can be assured that I'll be blogging more about that in the months to come.

What tips would you add to this list? I love to hear from my readers about what has been successful for them, so leave me a comment below, or look me up on social media!


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Basic Nutty Granola

Oh, I LOVE granola! But, we have a few food allergies in our family, so I found a recipe that I could modify easily and make my own. And yeah, it's good stuff.

INGREDIENTS
·         3½ cups rolled oats
·         1 cup chopped or sliced almonds
·         1 cup chopped pecans
·         2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
·         1½ teaspoons ground ginger
·         ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
·         6 tablespoons butter
·         ½ cup honey
·         2 teaspoons vanilla extract
·         ½ teaspoon salt
·         Also need – parchment paper

INSTRUCTIONS
1.       Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Cover a rectangular baking sheet with parchment paper.
2.       Mix the dry oats, almonds, pecans, and spices together in a large mixing bowl.
3.       Heat the butter and honey together in a small saucepan over low heat. Once the butter melts stir in the vanilla and salt.
4.       Pour the hot liquids over the dry ingredients and stir together with a rubber spatula until evenly coated.
5.       Spread mixture onto prepared pan in one even layer. Bake for 75 minutes.
The granola will become crisp as it cools at which point you can break into pieces (if making bars) or break it up into small chunks by pounding it in a zip lock bag (if making cereal). Store in air tight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Pros or DIY for a BIG Move? - Part 3 of 3

Professional moving companies offer a wide variety of services that can be beneficial when you have a large house full of furniture, or even if you just need help with a few boxes.

Our Weirdest Move

In 2003, we were being re-assigned to Germany, and we sold our home in New Mexico. The new owners needed to take possession in 30 days, but the Air Force could not schedule a moving company to pack us during that time-frame. SO, along with the help of many of our friends from church, we packed up all of the household goods ourselves, and moved it all into 3 rented storage units.  Then, a few weeks later, the moving company met us out at the units...However, they had to re-pack all our boxes to ensure that their company's insurance would cover any breakage that might occur. It was a HOT July day, and we provided 2 cases of water and plenty of ice to the guys. Thankfully, it all worked out well. About two-thirds of our belongings went to Germany by ship, and the rest remained in New Mexico in storage. Then, 2 years later, it was all delivered to our final Air Force assignment in Texas.

This time around, we didn't have the Air Force to rely on for the move to Oahu. We decided to try living a more simple and minimalistic life while we are in Hawaii. So, although we are packing most ALL of our items ourselves for storage, we  considered hiring professional movers to ship some things to our new "hale" (house).

Part Two: Hiring Professional Movers


One of the next things on my "to do" list is to call one or more moving companies to get estimates on packing and shipping the furniture and other items we want to take to Hawaii.  Most companies will give you an estimate over the phone, but knowing the approximate weight of your goods will be helpful.  They will usually ask how large the house is, ie: 3 bedrooms with 2 living areas, 1800 square foot house, etc.  In our case, we will get an estimate for just a few items of furniture, and boxes.

Packing Up

- Once you've hired a moving company, they will set a date for a team of people to come out and wrap and pack your belongings. You will probably need to have a hotel reservation! We have slept on inflatable mattresses to save money, but I wouldn't recommended it, especially if you have kids. Plus, even though the packers are doing all the work, you will still be exhausted!
- Watch your packers! If you can, have one adult with each person that they send to pack. Yes, we've had items stolen. It broke our hearts that people would treat us that way.
- Provide water and clean bathrooms for your packers, and maybe cookies or something, but DON'T give them beer and try to make friends with them. It doesn't work in your favor. We had friends that did that, and their boxes were not packed properly, and they incurred a LOT of breakage (possibly because the packers were "tipsy"?).
- If you need to separate your luggage or other hand-carry items, it's best to put them in an empty room or closet and put a sign on the door that says, "DO NOT PACK"  or a large sign like this:

** If you have anything that is rare or irreplaceable, try to hand carry it with you. If this is not feasible, then see if a family member or trusted friend can mail it to you (insured, of course) when you reach your new home.  Yes, I'm speaking from personal experience here. Our daughter's Princess Diana collectable doll was stolen by one of our movers; it had been a gift from her grandmother. We were able to replace the doll because we had all the paperwork and I did a ton of research online to make the claim. After that move, we always had it securely stored or mailed to us.
- Make sure that the packers use plenty of paper to wrap breakable items, and for padding inside the boxes.
Bubble wrap and plastic wrap should be used on your furniture items, even sofas and padded chairs. This will protect them from getting wet or being torn during shipping.  If you see them skimping on packaging materials, bring your concerns to the attention of the lead person; if you don't get a satisfactory answer, call the company right away.
- Take the trash out! Yes, they will pack your garbage can, and they won't empty it.
Color code your rooms. You can make simple signs on the doors, but you will probably have to mark the boxes yourselves.  When you are unloading boxes at your new home, the big red K will tell you at a glance that it goes into the kitchen, blue BA will indicate Bathroom, etc. Give each kid their own color, too, because little Johnny will love seeing his green J coming out of the truck!
- When your goods are being shipped by boat, your company will probably pack them into large wooden crates, and then seal the crates with a tamper-evident seal of some kind. You will also be provided with a copy  of inventory lists of the furniture, boxes, etc. that they have put into the crates. Not every individual item will be listed, but a general idea of what is in "box #306" will be listed, ie: "plates and flatware".  Be sure to carry this inventory list with you, and keep it safe. When your goods arrive at their destination, you need to check off the inventory list as everything is unloaded.
- Another Note about Unpacking: make sure you unfold EVERY single piece of wrapping paper! Small items have been known to be left in boxes or put into the recycling bin by accident.

Breakage, Damage and Missing Items

When your moving truck arrives at your new home, it's a joyous occasion to see your belongings again!
However, if "box #215" says it contains a collectable doll, and the box doesn't arrive, or the item is broken, you can claim the value of the item that is missing.  Check with your moving company for their policy, and CAREFULLY READ and FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS, otherwise they don't have to pay.  Don't sign anything just because the truck driver is in a hurry!

Now, I don't want you to come away with negative thoughts or worry about using professional movers. Our positive experiences FAR outnumber the bad ones! We've been thankful for having movers for six of our moves, which cut down on a lot of stress and back pain.
Source
Today, I'm thankful that our home is not the little travel trailer that my parents lived in when I was born.  True, you didn't have to hire movers, you just hitched it up your house to a station wagon, and relocated!

"Oh, our trailer rolls along behind! We go wherever we've a mind...We travel far and wide, we're stickin' side by side, and we're leavin' all our troubles far behind!" - a little song written by my mom, back in the late 1950's.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Packing Up for a BIG Move - Part 2 of 3

During My Hubs' 26-year Air Force career, we moved just 6 times to new bases. However, we were growing our family, too so we also moved from on-base apartment to on-base house, to a larger on-base house, etc. We have a total of eleven moves under our belts! I know that there are a lot of military families that have moved a lot more than we did...but I think that move #12 will be our most challenging.
With many of our moves, the Air Force paid for professional movers to come and wrap, pack and move our household goods (up to a certain weight limit) to wherever our new duty station was located. A couple of times we did what is known as a DITY move, or Do IT Yourself.  While there were some advantages and disadvantages to either choice, we actually have had good "smooth moves" with both.
This time around, it's looking like we will be hiring movers AND packing & shipping things ourselves!

Part One: MOVING YOURSELF


You might normally have an easy time when you are moving yourself within the same town or city, or even within the same state. Many people use boxes from the grocery store, or pick up a few at the local U Haul dealer or maybe Home Depot. (craigslist.com has a free section to look for moving boxes, too!)
If you are making a bigger move, say more than one state away, or perhaps like us, over an ocean, you still might want to do some or all of it yourself.
- Plan ahead!  If you are using a rented moving truck that you drive yourself, it's best to estimate how large the truck (or trailer) that you will need to take it all in one trip. The rental place can help you with an estimate for renting the correct size truck or trailer. Ensure that you or someone else in the family is confident in driving those larger trucks, as they can tend to be a bit intimidating for the novice.
- Uniform sized boxes equal less stress when loading the truck or trailer. They will fit together like a puzzle when you load. We noticed that professional movers always put heavy items, like books, into smaller boxes and lighter items like pillows and lampshades into larger boxes. This reduces strain on your back!
- Pack your boxes like the pros: use newsprint wrapping paper. Pad the bottom of each box with paper before you fill it, and don't leave airspace. The tighter the box is packed, the less movement and hence the least likelihood of breakage. If you have airspace, wad up some wrapping paper and fill in the gaps. Sometimes towels work well for this. Tape your boxes well to avoid those embarrassing OOops! moments when the bottom opens up.
- Packing dinner plates and saucers on their sides will reduce the chance of breakage. When you stack plates, even if they are wrapped with paper, the entire stack could be crushed. Standing them on their edges, where they are the strongest, is best. Also, put them to the inside of the box, and put other items around the outside. (I do NOT recommend the method of putting paper plates or styrofoam plates between dinner plates and stacking them. I have had personal experience with this one, and ended up with ALL my Christmas dishes completely smashed. Irreplaceable collectables that Hubs mom gave to us over a period of years.) 
- Color code your rooms. When you are unloading boxes at your new home, the big red K will tell you at a glance that it goes into the kitchen, blue BA will indicate Bathroom, etc. Give each kid their own color, too, because little Johnny will love seeing his green J coming out of the truck!
- Just because the box is big, doesn't mean it should go on the bottom.  You might have small boxes of books that will stand up well when other lighter boxes are stacked on top.
- Stack to the highest point.  Load the heaviest furniture over the tire area and near the front of the truck, for stability. Take drawers out to load a furniture item, then put them back into place once it's on the truck.
- Use moving blankets (rent them by the dozen cheaply!) bubble wrap, and tie-down straps to help with stability.
- Pack the truck top-to-bottom, side-to-side to keep items from shifting around or falling. Again, this will minimize breakage. Use a hand truck or dolly to move larger furniture, appliances and heavy boxes. Renting one of those babies is cheaper than a trip to the chiropractor.

Since Hubs and I are storing many of our household goods, we are wrapping and packing quite a lot of boxes ourselves using U Haul products that are designed for do-it-yourselfers like us to pack like the pros!

Next time: I'll explain why and how we are hiring movers to help us get a few things to Oahu.