Top Tips for Winterizing a Vacant Home

How-To-Winterize-a-Vacant-Home-RIS-Media-683x1024 by Housecall

For a home to remain in good shape throughout the winter it needs regular care and attention. When a home is occupied, many of the things that are necessary to keep it in good working order happen by default. But when the home is vacant, it is up to the owner or the property manager to prepare it for freezing temperatures and other winter risks.

The worst risk comes from bursting pipes, which can lead to water damage that can significantly impact the value of the home. Left alone, water can ruin everything it touches ? walls, floors, electrical systems, etc. It can even damage the foundation. Other risks exist as well, such as pest infiltration, that can leave nasty surprises for the homeowner.

Taken together, the dangers of failing to winterize a home are too severe to ignore. Any real estate agent who has been involved with selling bank owned properties or vacant short sales can certainly tell you the necessity of knowing how to winterize a vacant home! In order to get an informed opinion on the subject we reached out to a well known real estate agent in Westborough, Mass., Bill Gassett, who has been selling homes for nearly 30 years. Gassett runs a popular real estate blog known as Maximum Real Estate Exposure that offers numerous tips to buyers and sellers. Below he shares all of his tips for getting your place winterized.

Bring in a plumber.

Hiring a professional plumber to winterize the pipes and water system in the home is extremely important if you want to avoid the incredibly expensive water damage that can occur from freezing pipes. The plumber can examine the entire system, inside and out, and then prepare it for freezing temperatures. The plumber will drain all areas where water is stored, like water heaters and hot tubs, and will use an air compressor to expel water from the pipes throughout the house. With the water removed, you do not have to keep the house heated to prevent freezing. The pipes are protected and you save money in utility costs.

Drain outdoor garden hoses.

Water hoses must be disconnected from the home and drained of water to prevent damage to both the hoses and the spigots where they attach to the house. Left undrained, the water inside will freeze and burst not only the hose, but often the spigot as well. If winter watering must be done to keep landscape plants alive, make sure the person who does the watering drains the hoses and disconnects them from the house after each use.

Close up all openings to the house.

To prevent animals and insects from entering the home for shelter, you will need to close up all openings throughout the house. These include dryer vents and the chimney.

Have the gutters cleaned and repaired if necessary.

Gutters must be free of debris and attached properly to the house to funnel water away from the roof, siding and foundation. When debris accumulates, the gutter may stop working properly. If enough water collects and a freeze hits, the weight of the ice can pull the gutter away from the home, damaging the siding and leading to potential ice hazards where water collects at the base of the house. If you live in a cold weather climate then you understand just how bad ice damning was last year. Knowing how to prevent ice dams is something every homeowner should have a grasp of. Ice dams can cause serious damage to a home including mold behind ceilings and walls that you may not be able to detect! Have the gutters cleaned periodically until all leaves have dropped from the trees, and make sure they are in good repair.

Remove anything touching the side of the house, such as leaves and firewood.

Water and insects can accumulate in firewood and debris, causing damage to the siding and leading to potential infestations. Keeping everything away from the house creates a safe barrier and prevents water damage. This includes shrubbery and other landscaping. Keep a minimum of a couple of feet to allow the home to breath.

Have trees trimmed over the home.

Remove any tree branches that may touch the house or hang too closely. Tree branches increase the leaves that accumulate in the gutter and can also break and fall on the house in a snow or ice storm. If you are negligent about keeping branches over your home it could lead to insurance denying your claim.

Use moth balls to keep insects out of the house.

Moth balls may smell unpleasant, but they are effective at keeping insects away. Use them anywhere you think insects may be a problem.

Talk to the gas company about disconnecting the gas supply.

A gas explosion can cause even more damage than frozen pipes. Let the gas company know the home is vacant and ask them to disconnect the gas supply to the home. Obviously if you are not living in the home this becomes important because if a gas leak were to form it would be too late for you to do anything about it. This is one of the major reasons why nearly all bank owned properties get winterized.

Make the home appear occupied at a glance.

It is better for potential buyers and discouraging to unwanted visitors if the home appears occupied. You can setup lights on timers and have the landscaping tended to periodically to keep things looking nice. If snow is an issue you can also have the driveway cleared. We provide a list of many tips on how to sell a home in the winter. This advice applies to both occupied and non-occupied homes. Keep in mind that if your home is on the market you are going to need to get it un-winterized with fairly short notice when the buyer schedules a home inspection. Buyers will want to be able to check the heating and plumbing systems and will not be able to do so if the home is winterized.

Hire a landscaper to perform a fall cleanup.

As the weather gets colder, plants will die and you will be left with a disheveled looking yard and landscape. It is beneficial for the sales process if you have someone come in and cleanup around the home after the first freeze or two, when most of the vegetation has died off. The landscaper can cut back any dead growth, rake up leaves and prepare plants for the winter.

Check on the home periodically.

An unoccupied home, even when the lights come on and the driveway is plowed, can be appealing to burglars and to squatters. It can also be a destination for kids in the neighborhood to come hang out for fun. The only people you want visiting are potential buyers, so you should maintain a schedule of visiting the home periodically to make sure it is being left alone and to discourage unwanted visitors.

Use of all these tips and your experience with winterizing a home should be a breeze!

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New DNR Rules 10/1/2014 – Well inspection requires automatic well water testing

Wisconsin Realtors Association Just Announced….

New DNR Rules In Effect October 1
Well inspection requires automatic well water testing

As of October 1, 2014, the DNR will require any well driller or pump installer conducting a well inspection to also automatically test the well water for nitrates, bacteria and arsenic. This will apply to well inspections conducted on or after the effective date of October 1, 2014. (Note ? A well inspection is not required under the new DNR rules but, if an inspection is performed, the well water must be tested.)

This required testing may create issues for your transactions. If a well inspection is included, the water still must be tested for bacteria, nitrates and arsenic even if a well water testing contingency is not included in the offer. If the well water testing contingency does not include one or all three of the state required tests, the water must still be tested and your offer won?t address the steps to take if the results exceed safe levels. Lastly, the additional testing will likely increase the water testing fees, and may result in possible delays if it takes longer to test for the three required elements.

Currently, the DNR has not provided any specific information as to the changes on its website. We apologize for not providing you with this information until now, but the DNR just made public the final draft of the rule today, September 25, 2014. Therefore in the near future, the WRA will provide more information on these new requirements including drafting tips and further background information to assist you in explaining these changes to consumers.
If you have any questions, please contact Liesa Lehmann, Private Water Section Chief, Bureau of Drinking Water and Ground Water, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, at 608-267-7649.

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Wisconsin REALTORS Association
4801 Forest Run Road, Madison, WI 53704
800-279-1972 |

Give Every Room a Purpose

house info2
Experts: Give Every Room a Purpose
Associated Press (09/14/14) Cook, Kim

Staging is important when it comes to putting a home up for sale, and even unused space should be decorated in an inviting way. Many homeowners have one room in the house that does not really have a job, but rooms that feel inhabited and clearly state their function enable buyers to see themselves living in the house. “The purpose of home staging is to draw the buyers into the house emotionally so they say, ‘Wow, we want to live here!'” says Melinda Bartling, a real estate agent and home stager in Overland Park, Kan. Buyers will question why a space looks that way and wonder what is wrong with it. Stagers should consider transforming a small room into a large closet or dressing room, or converting a bedroom into a creative workspace such as an art studio. Depending on the market, turning a bedroom into a home office also may pay off.

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FHA Borrowing Just Got Better

National Association of Realtors

FHA Borrowing Just Got Better

Real estate consumers scored a big win this month when the Federal Housing Administration announced it would eliminate prepayment penalties for borrowers. Learn why NAR fought for the change. That, plus important guidance on copyright law and more on “The Voice for Real Estate.”

Watch now

About That FHA Prepayment Penalty . . .Posted in Breaking News, Economics, Law & Policy, Politics & Government, by Robert Freedman on September 11, 2014

News that FHA will eliminate a prepayment penalty starting next year has been widely reported. It?s a move NAR has been seeking for some time because it will relieve borrowers of a financial hit that?s entirely out of their control and also bring the agency?s policies in line with other federal agencies that backstop mortgages. Perhaps most importantly, it will align the agency?s policies with the qualified mortgage rule (QRM), which defines what the federal government considers a safe home mortgage loan.

What?s being eliminated is an interest-rate charge. For FHA borrowers that pay off their mortgage before the end of the month, the lender is allowed to charge to the borrower the interest rate costs on the loan from the day the loan is retired until the last day of the month. So, if a borrower paid off the loan on Sept. 10, the penalty would be 20 days of interest payments. That can be hundreds of dollars. Once the change takes effect, on Jan. 21, 2015, lenders will no longer be able to apply that interest charge to the borrower.

NAR continues to work with FHA on other matters. A big point right now is getting some improvement in FHA?s policies on condominium financing. It?s too difficult for many condo projects to get the stamp of approval that?s needed for people who want to buy a unit in the project to get FHA financing.

In any case, you can learn more about what NAR is doing on FHA and in other legislative, regulatory, and legal areas in the latest video in The Voice for Real Estate news series.

Debt Cancellation, FHA Prepayment – VIDEO

May, 2014 WRA Real Estate Market Report

May Existing Home Sales Decline Even as Median Prices Rise

The WRA is happy to provide you with a monthly home sales report and in-depth market data. For an overview of the report, see below. For a more detailed look, view the full version at the link below. If you have questions or need additional information, please let us know.

Steve Lane, WRA Chairman of the Board, and Michael Theo, WRA President and CEO

Press Release

MADISON, Wis. – Existing home sales continued to lag behind 2013 levels but median prices rose by a solid margin in Wisconsin. May home sales dropped 6.9 percent compared to the May 2013 volume of sales. In contrast, median prices increased over the same period, rising 3.8 percent to $150,000.

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Click Here to View The 2014 May Home Sales Report

Bad Staging Decisions (And What to Do About Them)

Original Posting by Trulia Pro Blog
Tara-Nicholle Nelson
More about Tara-Nicholle Nelson

8 Shockingly Bad Staging Decisions (And What to Do About Them)
Real estate is an intensely personal experience for many buyers and sellers. After all, a home, at its core, is a personal expression of a homeowner?s entire life wrapped inside four small (okay, sometimes not so small) walls.

And while, ultimately, buyers should be more focused on the bones of the home?the things that will stay after the current owner has vacated?staging can often be the difference between a buyer bonanza and a dearth of hot offers. Don?t let your sellers suffer at the hands of poor staging.

It may be challenging, but a little tough love now, will make for a love fest post-sale?after the big offers come flying in. Here are 8 of the biggest staging sins sellers make and how agents can help their sellers avoid these pitfalls before it costs them a sweet deal.

1. Collection Overload.
It is very difficult for almost any collection to look orderly and neutral, two high-level aims of home staging. Unless the homeowner has attractive, high-end built-in cases to house the collections and the target buyers share a similar affinity for the objects, even the coolest collection can come off as a pile of space-consuming clutter.

When it comes to shockingly bad staging decisions, the choice to give a taxidermy or gun collection a starring role in a home?s staging is high in the oh-so-bad rankings. For some buyers, these collections can trigger ethical and sanitation and can distract from the strengths and features the property has to offer.

What to Tell Your Seller:

Remember that uber-personal thing we talked about earlier? Collections are often a source of pride or hold sentimental value. Tread lightly. Let your seller know that while you appreciate the collection, their home sale will benefit from a more neutral, less-personal aesthetic. You may also want to mention that open houses mean many people in and out of the seller?s home. All prized possessions should be stored ahead of time.

2. Echo-Chamber Staging.
In an echo chamber, sounds are amplified because they simply bounce around in that closed space. When left alone, the same thing can happen to sellers if they do not have outside input. And unfortunately, it seems to be the bad staging ideas that get amplified, more than the good ones. Echo chamber staging happens when the sum total of a staging team, well, one person. That bold wallpaper in the bathroom may seem like a good idea, but a little perspective?and another opinion?may prove otherwise.

What to Tell Your Sellers:

The truth can hurt?but backing into your argument can take some of the sting out of the professional staging talk. Sellers who stage with zero external or professional input, are often the sellers who are unable to see:

that their homes are still significantly cluttered or over-full,
that their furniture is too plentiful and too large to show how spacious the home truly is, or
that their sweet feline companions are also rather malodorous to strangers.
Take a little staging field trip with your sellers. Take them to one home with tasteful bring-in-the-buyers staging and another to a home with cover-your-eyes-bad d?cor. It can be tough to self assess, but once you show your sellers what a big difference a little staging makes, they may be more open to the suggestion. If your clients have a bare-bones budget, see if they?ll hire a pro stager for just an hour?s worth of advice.

3. Failure to edit.
You?ve heard thirty-somethings who still live at home diagnosed with failure to launch? Well, failure to edit is a close cousin of this syndrome. As the New York Times recently put it, ?the job of stagers is to reverse the accumulated creep of hundreds of small and misguided design decisions, and to erase any hints of the messiness of daily life.? Your client might have a fantastic rug, a beautiful sofa, amazing tchotchkes and the highest-end personal effects, but chances are good that their cumulative first impression to a buyer viewing the home will still fall short of the ?one broad stroke of gorgeousness? the Times piece correctly says home sellers should aim for, with their staging.

The failure to edit is a generalized syndrome which can manifest in all sorts of specific staging woes, from garden variety clutter to disastrous decor style mash-ups.

What to Tell Your Sellers:

Edit, edit, edit. Then go back and edit again. Sellers should think of de-cluttering as pre-packing. If your client is a DIY stager, tell them to ask their friends to come in and help decide what still needs to go, once they think they?re done removing furniture and personal effects. A sassy best friend or a nit-picky sister-in-law can sometimes be an agent?s best friend.

4. Silly scenarios.
The difference between staging and interior design is simple: staging is cost-and-time efficient design undertaken with the specific objective of showing a home off to its best advantage, playing up its features and helping prospective buyers visualize the best lives they could possibly live in the home, should they choose it. Unfortunately, this has led some well-intentioned sellers and stagers to believe they should stage one bedroom as a Parisian boulevard (Eiffel tower mural included), another with a full-blown butterfly theme and the third as the beach?complete with umbrella, towels on the wall and sunscreen bottles on the nightstand. I saw this house, folks. With my own two eyes.

What to Tell Your Sellers:

Be firm. Let sellers know that they should stage their home to show off its space, light and conveniences, and the best, basic purposes that unusually small or large spaces could be used for. If the backyard is a huge selling point, stage it with outdoor dining or living room furnishings. Similarly, if the home is a two-bedroom with a bonus room in an area of four-bedroom homes, staging the bonus room as a bedroom or home office helps buyers understand the solutions that can minimize the brunt of your home?s challenges.

Staging your home to create ?cute? scenarios with no relationship to the selling points or solutions buyers care about is of no value and can create a low-budget feel.

5. The ?lived-in? look.
When a home is being shown for sale, it must be immaculate, every single time it?s being shown. It should look like no one lives there: no toothbrushes, curling irons, protein shake mixes or paperwork allowed.

Is this difficult to keep up? Absolutely. But you?d be surprised at how bad an impression just a few personal toiletries or dishes can make.

What to Tell Your Sellers:

Work closely with your sellers so that they understand the importance of a flawless showing. Encourage your clients to set up a system for putting everything away and wiping down all kitchens, bathrooms and other daily mess hot spots every single time the home is going to be shown.

6. Closet cramming.
Out of sight is not out of mind. Home buyers today are desperate for storage space and will undoubtedly open those same, crammed-tight doors in an effort to evaluate how the home ranks for storage. Beautifully organized closets with ample room create an impression in the buyer?s mind that they, too, can have an orderly life in the home.

What to Tell Your Sellers

Encourage sellers to see the exercise of staging as an opportunity to sell, donate or throw out things they no longer need. Remind them that even huge closets, if crammed to the gills, make buyers wonder how they?ll ever get by with so little closet space.

7. Failing to stage for all the senses.
A house that smells like pet mayhem or smoke or has a noisily defective heater is a tough house to sell, no matter how beautifully it is staged. Unfortunately, smells and sounds are very easy to get acclimated to, when you live with them. Buyers, though, will detect them the second they walk in?and the moment they do is the moment we in the business call ?turn-off time.?

What to Tell Your Sellers:

It may be uncomfortable?but honest is the best policy. Be gentle and sensitive (?musky? comes across softer than ?moldy, dank, and gross?). Offer to work with them to fix it or refer them to a trusted vendor who can.

8. Not to.
Ultimately, the most shockingly bad of all staging decisions is the surprisingly frequent decision not to bother staging the home at all. This explains homes like the one I once viewed which had residents still sound asleep in their beds, in the dining room, as the listing agent walked myself and my mortified buyer clients through the property. On the less bizarre end of the non-staged spectrum, this is how lovely homes with vast potential end up selling at a discount, as cosmetic fixers at a discount. This is a particular tragedy in cases where the owners could have painted, spruced, moved loads of things out and a few newer things in and made much, much more money on their homes

What to Tell Your Sellers:

Ask them what about staging feels off-putting. If it?s a budgetary concern, focus on de-cluttering and small accents or paint, which can make a big difference on a dime. If the issue is?you guessed it?a little more personal, remember that showing can sometimes be more effective than telling.

New Homeowners Need To Be Leery of Scam


Deed scam tricks new homeowners into buying useless documents
Article By Gitte Laasby of the Journal Sentinel

The letter says to send money to Record Transfer Services ? or one of its aliases, Property Transfer Services, Conveyance Transfer Services, Record Retrieval Department and National Deed Service ? at an address in South Dakota, Delaware, California or Michigan.

Many first-time home buyers are unfamiliar with the real estate transaction process, said Cori Lamont, director of regulatory affairs with the Wisconsin Realtors Association.

“For people who don’t understand the real estate process or that a deed exists, they think they have to pay this,” Lamont said.

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Staging Your Home For The Fall Season

Staging Your Listing for the Fall Season
by: HMS Home Warranty

The Fall season is a wonderful time:homes feel cozier and we all love to get out ourturtlenecksand favorite old sweaters to bundle up. While it seems the summer rush is over, there is still a strong group of buyers that are interested in getting a new home before the end of the year.

Click here to learn more

Solar Panels Becoming More Popular

Solar Panels Becoming Standard for New Homes
Six of the 10 largest U.S. homebuilders say they now include solar panels in new construction, and consumer demand for them is expected to soar 56 percent nationwide this year.

Click to Read Full Article From Realtor Magazine


Source: “Solar Panel Is Next Granite Countertop for Homebuilders”
By Justin Doom – Sep 11, 2013 11:13 AM CT

I can help new Real Estate Investors get started

Finally, I’m hearing it from someone else, that Investors are buying up foreclosure properties for cash. I live this in Real Estate on a daily basis. Good if you’re an Investor, not so good for those trying to sell their homes at reasonable values. I believe it is keeping many trapped between a rock and a hard place. If you would like to get in on Investing, contact me for my skills in helping you get started. I did a study in the Milwaukee Area, and used MLS Statistics to track sales of housing under $100,000 using the type of property (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, HUD, etc.) and probability based on how long they were offered to “owner-occupants” only, to determine if they were purchased by investors or owner occupants. My investigation showed that many owner-occupants did take advantage of their exclusive “first right to purchase” period.

A Stunning 60% Of All Home Purchases Are “Cash Only” – A 200% Jump In Five Years

tyler durden 0813
Submitted by Tyler Durden on 08/15/2013 17:29 -0400

Remember when housing was the primary aspirational asset for a still existent US middle class, to be purchased with some equity down by your average 30 year-old hoping to start a family in his or her brand new home, and, as the name implies, aspire to reach the American dream? Those days are long gone. Back in those days the interest rate on the 10 Year bond mattered as it determined the prevailing marginal affordability of leveraged real estate. That is no longer the case, at least not for about 90% of Americans, because as Goldman shows, while before the great crisis only 20% of home purchases were “all cash”, since then the number has soared threefold, and currently the estimated percentage of cash transactions (by count and amount) has hit a record 60%. In other words, less than half of all home purchases are debt-funded, and thus less than half of all home purchases are actually representative of what middle-class America is doing.
GS housing cash_0913

Goldman’s take:
Exhibit 4 shows the estimated cash transactions as percent of total home sales both by transaction count and by transaction dollar amount. Relative to the pre-crisis years, percent cash transactions has risen by about 30 percentage points. This change is broadly in line with the increases suggested by DataQuick data. The 30 percentage point increase in percent cash transactions explains almost the entire decline in the ?mortgage per dollar transaction? series (with the remainder explained by small changes in average LTV ratios per mortgage). We do not have data to assess who these all-cash homebuyers are, but presumably investors who have been purchasing distressed properties and turning them into rental units have played an important role.
The WSJ has a few thoughts to add:
The surprisingly large cash-share of purchases helps to explain why home sales have jumped over the past two years despite more muted increases in broad measures of new mortgage activity, such as the MBA?s mortgage application index.

There?s no exact way to know who is responsible for all of these cash purchases, though they are likely to include some combination of investors, foreign buyers, and wealthy homeowners that don?t want to go through the hassle of getting a mortgage before closing on a sale. Mortgage lending standards have sharply tightened up since the housing bubble, with banks scrutinizing borrowers? tax returns and bank statements to verify their incomes and the source of their down payment.
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Milwaukee Landlord Registry

This sounds like it doesn’t do anything, but assess another fee on Rental Property Owners.

Article from the Wisconsin Realtors Association, Video from Milwaukee Channel 58, June, 2013.
Microsoft Office Outlook - Memo Style
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Bill would End Landlord Registration Program
by Elizabeth Fay
Story Created: Jun 23, 2013
Story Updated: Jun 24, 2013
MILWAUKEE — A bill making it’s way through the state legislature could make it harder for tenants and neighbors to contact landlords in Milwaukee.

Right now, landlords in Milwaukee are required to pay a $40 fee to register their information with the city. That information is made available online to the public in an effort to make it easier to reach the property owner when there’s a problem. However, under a proposed landlord-tenant bill, landlords would no longer have to register their information.

Alderman Michael Murphy says that will make it difficult to quickly address problematic properties.

“Every single day, I get complaints from citizens about bad landlords who are not taking care of their properties. I personally call that landlord and give them a shot to make a good faith effort. I won’t have that ability anymore. I will have to track them down,” said Ald. Murphy.

However, Joe Murray, Director of Public and Government Affairs for the Wisconsin Realtors Association, says the City of Milwaukee has been tracking down landlords for decades without the registration program. He thinks the city is actually concerned about money.

“They certainly had no problem knowing who to send the property tax bill to. So, from our perspective, what you have with the landlord registration fee is maybe a little more efficiency in contacting landlords on the edges, but what you really have is an excessive $40 per unit revenue fee,” said Murray.

The bill already passed in the Wisconsin State Assembly and has yet to go before the senate.