Southern California’s Best Beaches You Have to Visit This Summer

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If you’re anything like us, the beach is what gives you life. There is nothing like spending a warm morning sinking your feet into the cold sand while taking in the stunning views of crashing waves and scents of sea breeze dispelled in the air. We’re so fortunate to be surrounded by countless, world-class beaches along the coast of Southern California. People from around the world travel thousands of miles just to visit these beaches that sit in our backyard. Here are our top 5 favorite beaches located all within an hour. 

Table Rock Beach (Laguna Beach)

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This southern Laguna Beach is only known by locals. Its seclusion is worth the trouble of finding it as it can be difficult if you’re not familiar with the area. If you turn west onto Table Rock Drive from the highway and go one block to Bluff Drive, it will be to your left.

 

Wood’s Cove Beach (Laguna Beach)

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If you’re having trouble finding Table Rock Beach consider Woods Cove Beach, which is just 2 miles north. Nicknamed Lover’s Cove, this sandy cove is surrounded by rocky points and fancy homes. This beach is not for the swimmers due to the rocks but makes for great sunbathing and wave watching.

 

Dana Point Headlands Beach

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Covered with rocks and boulders, Dana Point Headlands Beach is located below the cliffs. Even though the beach is not very far off the beaten path, it seems to be very remote. In order to gain access to the beach, you must go behind the Ocean Institute on Dana Point Harbor. Drive to the very end of the harbor road and park near the Dana Point Pier, you can then walk past the Institute and cross of the jetty. Here you can explore the sea caves until you reach the sand.

 

Alamitos Park Beach (Long Beach)

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Alamitos Beach is located at the far south end of the peninsula next to the channel entrance to Alamitos Bay. There is a small grass area with picnic tables and palms trees, but that far down, there usually aren’t too many people. On the opposite side of the beach, across the bay, you’ll be able to see the Alamitos Bay Yacht Clubs and Ballast Point. To get here, drive south on East Ocean Boulevard to the end at 72nd Place.

 

Pirates Cove Beach (Malibu)

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It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t include a Malibu beach. Although Malibu is a world-class destination, there are plenty of secluded beaches. Pirates Cove Beach is hidden in a small cove just west of Point Dume. You can access the beach from the southern end of Westward Beach (it is tricky during high tides). Westward Beach ends abruptly at a high rock wall with large boulders piled up. Behind the wall is the cove. Take the rugged path behind the boulders if the water is too high to safely walk through.

7 Home Maintenance Tasks You Should Tackle in June

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Ah, June. School’s out, the days are long, and the weather’s getting toasty. We get it—your vacation is beckoning. (So’s ours.) But before you slather yourself with SPF 75 and reach for a piña colada, do yourself a favor and tackle a few maintenance projects. A little pain now means a big gain later—you’ll ensure your home runs smoothly through the dog days of summer.

Don’t worry: We’re here to make it as quick and easy on you as possible. With our handy checklist of home maintenance chores, you can knock ’em out and get back to that piña colada, pronto. (We’ll take ours with twotiny parasols, please.)

1. Check your AC

“The last thing you want is a busted air conditioner, so before a heat wave hits, give it a test run for 30 minutes to make sure it’s cooling properly,” says Dave Quandt, vice president of field operations at American Home Shield, a home warranty company.

Shortcut: To extend the life of your AC unit, adjust your programmable thermostat by only 2 to 3 degrees at a time.

Call in the pros: If anything seems off, call in a professional HVAC company. You’ll spend between $100 and $250 for service, which includes cleaning the condenser and lubricating the fan motor. When the outdoor temps go deep into the red zone, you’ll likely consider it money well-spent.

2. Stop mold before it starts

June kicks off a stretch of the hottest months of the year, especially in Southern states where heavy rain is also the norm. All that heat and moisture provide the perfect climate for mold to flourish, says Phil Kuczak, air-conditioning service and installation manager at Best Home Services in Naples, FL.

Shortcut: There’s an easy trick you can use to keep mold at bay: Lower your thermostat.

“Some homeowners try to save money by setting the thermostat at an unsafe high temperature, especially in high humidity areas,” Kuczak says. “The cost savings on the power bill could quickly be far outdone if you end up with a mold problem.”

Also avoid leaving your AC fan in the “on” position (instead of “auto”). This can cause rapid mold growth, especially in high-humidity regions. Here’s why: If your fan is running continuously, then any moisture that’s condensed on your AC’s evaporator coil during cooling doesn’t have a chance to drain off—and it can be blown back into your home.

Kuczak also cautions against trying to limit or increase airflow to certain rooms by shutting supply grills. That can cause condensation buildup, leading to mold growth around those grills and in the adjacent ceiling or wall.

Call in the pros: If you have a mold problem, expect to pay a small fortune for a pro to remove it. Homeowners spend up to $3,200 on average for mold remediation.

3. Prime your pool

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Test your pool’s pH levels often to keep the chemicals balanced and your pool safe for swimming. Run the pump daily (one hour for every 10 degrees of heat in the water is a good rule of thumb) to avoid that swampy green color.

Shortcut: If you forget and come home to a green pool, a jug of liquid bleach will clear it up quickly, according to Quandt.

Call in the pros: Don’t want to bother with it? You can hire a pool maintenance company for an average of $243 a month.

4. Eradicate pests

Warm weather draws out all the creepy-crawlies. But you can give summer bugs the boot (or at least keep them at a comfortable distance).

Shortcuts:

  • Trim shrubs or bushes that touch your home’s exterior (which can harbor wood-destroying insects such as termites, carpenter ants, and powderpost beetles).
  • Swap mercury vapor outdoor lightbulbs with yellow sodium vapor ones, which are less attractive to insects such as mosquitoes, moths, and beetles.
  • Weed thick vegetation and pick ripe fruits and vegetables as soon as they’re ready.
  • Keep bird feeders at least 25 feet from your house—spilled seeds can attract rodents.
  • Stop mosquitoes before they hatch by eliminating all sources of standing water on your property.

Call in the pros: Above all, know when to seek professional help.

“Do-it-yourself pest control for a cockroach or occasional spider can be cost-effective, but it’s not going to stand up when you have a serious infestation,” says Ryan Michel, owner of Defense Pest Control in Mesa, AZ. “Pests can carry bacteria and disease, and some can do serious damage to your home. If you’re seeing pests pop up with frequency—especially if you notice them appearing in the same places—it’s time to call in a professional to help.”

It’ll cost you an average of $178 a month. But hey—you’ll sleep better, right?

5. Service your sprinklers

Service your yard’s irrigation system to save water, prevent damage to your landscaping, and reduce standing water.

Shortcut: Make sure your sprinklers are programmed to follow any local water rationing regulations, and program your system to optimal summer use settings to keep the landscape looking fresh.

Call in the pros: If you don’t know what kind of maintenance your sprinkler system needs, a pro will take it on for $95 to $123.

6. Keep your fridge frosty

It should go without saying that your fridge and freezer are most vulnerable in the summer heat. To keep them running smoothly, clean condenser coils—which help the unit stay cool by releasing heat from the compressor—and be sure to remove dirt, pet hair, and any nasty food that’s lodged there.

Shortcuts: Make the job simple by using a vacuum and coil brush, says Chris Granger, vice president of Sears Home Services.

While you’re at it, tackle the door.

“A leaky door gasket can result in your refrigerator trying to cool the entire kitchen,” Granger says.

Clean the gasket with a mild cleaner, and then check the seal integrity with a solution of soapy water—just like you would do with an inflatable mattress, he says. You can also use the dollar bill approach: Close a dollar bill in the door so it’s half in your fridge. If your gasket isn’t tight enough, it won’t hold the bill firmly in place—the dollar bill will fall out or slide down.

Call in the pros: Most appliance repairmen charge by the hour. Depending on the issue, a refrigerator repair could cost anywhere from $100 and $200 an hour.

7. Pimp your ride (riding lawn mower, that is)

Use compressed air or a leaf blower to clear grass, dirt, and debris that have accumulated in your riding lawn mower. Drain old fuel into an approved gasoline can, and follow hazardous waste disposal regulations to get rid of it. Then, change your oil and filter: Granger recommends letting the mower run for a bit before getting started. If you have a foam air filter, clean it with soap and water, and make sure it’s dry before reinstalling.

Finally, change the spark plugs. “This simple but crucial task will help the mower start smoother and run more efficiently,” Granger says.

Call in the pros: On average, professional lawn mower maintenance and repair will cost $35 to $90, but could increase depending on the complexity of the job and whether new parts are needed.

 

This article originally appeared on Realtor.com

Homeowner Tax Breaks to Prep Now to Save Money in 2018

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We realize that April 15th has passed and for most of us, our taxes have been filed, but in case you missed it this year, here are a few tax breaks you should be preparing for now.

1. Set up your home office

If your workstation has been on your bed or the lazy boy chair in the den, it’s time you cleared out the guest room and set up an office. This way you can take care of the home office tax deduction in which the IRS will deduct $5 for every square space up to $1500. Remember, you must use this room regularly and exclusively for work.

2. Install solar panels

One of the remaining energy-efficient tax credits still available for homeowners is solar energy.

“You can take a credit of up to 30%, with no cap, on the equipment and installation costs of solar energy panels and solar water heaters you purchase in 2017,” says Jacob Dayan, partner and co-founder of CommunityTax.com.

Just to qualify, solar panels must be used to generate energy or heat for you home or secondary home, not to heat pools and spas.

3. Pay property taxes early

If you have a big tax bill coming this year, one way to offset the cost is to prepay your property taxes. For example, if you receive a tax notice in December 2017 with a due date of Jan. 31, 2018. You should go ahead and pay it in December if you want to deduct the amount from your current year’s income instead.

4. Keep home improvement records

It’s important for all homeowners to keep detailed records of home improvements such as a new roof, new furnace, bathroom additions, or anything that will increase your home’s value. When the time comes to sell, the amount you spent on the home can save you greatly on capital gains taxes.

5. Pay Points

If you plan to buy a home in 2017 or refinance there is an opportunity to save on taxes in terms of points. Also known as a loan origination fee, loan discount, or discount point, it is basically prepaid interest that persuades lenders to give you a lower interest rate on the loan. You can deduct those points for the same year you buy a home. If you refinance, you can deduct them over the life of your new loan, both are good when it comes to tax benefits.

5 Real Estate Tax Secrets the Rich Don’t Want You to Know

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Do you ever feel like the rich just keep getting richer? Well, allow us to let you in on a little secret: Part of the reason they keep on raking in dough is that they take advantage of real estate tax strategies that many ordinary homeowners have no clue even exist. So what are they, exactly—and can we ordinary mortals take advantage of them, too?

For starters, most of these strategies involve investment properties—in other words, not your primary residence. So if you have a cabin in the woods or a beach house that sits empty most of the year, you might be in luck. Read on to follow in the well-heeled footsteps of the wealthy and maximize your tax savings this year.

Strategy No. 1: Take advantage of ‘safe harbors’

Smart investors don’t let second homes lie vacant, but rent them out, says Crystal Stranger, president of 1st Tax and author of “The Small Business Tax Guide.”

Not only will you make extra cash, you can deduct expenses such as repairs, insurance, real estate taxes and mortgage interest, says broker and attorney Bruce Ailion of RE/MAX Town and Country Commercial in Atlanta, GA.

Even better, the IRS has what’s known as a “safe harbor” rule for rental property expenses that, after Jan. 1, 2016, was expanded from $500 to $2,500. Here’s what that means for you: Let’s say the cost to replace the roof on a rental property is $4,500. Ordinarily, this would be a capital expense you’d have to deduct over the life of the roof (so, $180 per year for 25 years). But if you break the cost of the roof into two smaller bills (let’s just say $2,400 for materials and $2,100 in labor), since they’re both under $2,500, the IRS allows you to deduct these expenses all in their first year, in their entirety—and added together! So that ends up being a massive first-year deduction of $4,500.

One red flag: If you personally use the property for more than 14 days during the year, your tax implications can change, so check with your accountant to make sure you’re in the clear.

Strategy No. 2: Depreciate your rental property

The IRS views a rental property as a business expense and expects it to depreciate over time. Ka-ching! You can deduct a portion of the cost of the home—what are called deprecation losses—for upward of 27.5 years (the amount of time the IRS thinks is the deductible life of a single-family home).

Tom Wheelwright, CPA and author of “Tax-Free Wealth,” gives this example of how depreciation works: Suppose you buy a duplex for $400,000 this year with 20% down ($80,000) and a $320,000 bank loan. Let’s say the duplex produces an annual cash flow—after expenses and mortgage payment—of $24,000. According to the IRS, the depreciation deduction for this property should be about $32,000 for the first five or six years. Since that depreciation ($32,000) amounts to more than your cash flow ($24,000), this actually produces a tax loss of $8,000 a year ($32,000 to $24,000). With proper planning, that tax loss can offset your other income, saving you a bundle.

Strategy No. 3: Depreciation is actually a ‘phantom deduction’

The rich know that these depreciation losses for rental properties—defined by the IRS as an allowance given to property owners for the “exhaustion, wear and tear (including obsolescence) of property”—is, in fact, a “phantom deduction.” Phantom because, as Than Merrill, CEO and founder of FortuneBuilders.com, points out, while the IRS compensates landlords for the depreciation of their assets, homes tend to do the opposite and appreciate in value. And therein lies the true value of depreciation losses: If the value of your property rises, the loss the IRS allows never actually takes place. So you save money on taxes and make a profit at the same time.

Strategy No. 4: The 1031 exchange

When it comes time to sell an investment property, wealthy folks never worry about paying taxes on their profits. Why? Because they take advantage of what’s known as the 1031 exchange. This tax rule allows people to sell an investment property for a profit and move the proceeds directly into another investment property while deferring the tax liability. If done right, you can ratchet up the value of your holdings in real estate without eroding your capital by paying capital gains tax, says Ailion.

Let’s break down how it works: If you sell a property for $500,000, you then have 90 days to find a replacement property of equal or greater value (while a qualified intermediary holds the proceeds) and then 180 days to close on that property. As long as you don’t touch the money in holding before closing, no tax will be due on the original sale.

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Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Outdoors

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Now that is spring is less than a month away, it is time to start on that spring cleaning you’ve been putting off. For most, spring cleaning is centered around getting the interior of your home in order, but what about your outdoor space? Many people wait until summer to begin making their outdoor place presentable. We’re lucky, with a great climate like ours, we can begin our summer season a bit earlier than the rest of the country. Here are some spring cleaning tips for your outdoor space.

Clean the garage door

Most people never even touch their garage door with soap and water, but why not? We guarantee that it is dirty. Start by filling a bucket with soap and adding water from the hose, like you would do if you were going to wash your car. Get a rag, soak it, and begin wiping the door. Once you’ve covered the entire door with soapy water, rinse it with a high pressured nozzle on your hose. Wait until you see the difference it makes.

Clear out the cobwebs

During the winter, you probably didn’t spend much time outside looking under the eaves at what the spiders left for you, but there are most likely cobwebs. Cobwebs are very unattractive, so it’s time to get those before you have guests over. Start by getting a cobweb duster and walking around the outside of your house and capture any cobwebs you may find. To clean the cobweb duster, simply roll it around on the grass and see how easily it comes off.

Wash out your garbage cans

Have you ever been assaulted by the smell of someone’s trash cans? Obviously, the trash is going to smell, but you can stop the smell from becoming overpowering. Start out my clearing any trash that may be in your cans. Pour a little dish soap in each can and lay them on their side. Either use a power washer or a high-pressure nozzle for your hose and begin spraying them out. After they have been cleaned, add some odor eliminating trash bags to help fight the lingering smells.

Fix up the front porch

This is probably one of the more important steps as this is usually the first place in which your guests will see when they visit your home. There are many components that make up your front porch that will need attention. You can start out by removing your porch light and getting rid of any dead bugs that may be inside. Once you have done this you can do a quick wash with soap and water. Sweep the entire porch before you move on to anything else because if you wait til the end to sweep you’ll get everything you just cleaned dirty again. Next, clean your front door with a wet rag and don’t forget the threshold, as this is where much of the dirt can be tracked into your home. If you have any other outdoor decorations, wipe them down as well. Tidy up and add fresh flowers to create a more inviting and welcoming vibe.

Benefits of Having an Open House

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Are you getting ready to sell your home? Has your agent mentioned having an open house? If not, you should jump on it. There are many benefits to having an open house, here are just a few:

  1. It gets eyes on your home

A whole host of potential buyers can view your home if you have an open house. Potential buyers who would normally have been too lazy or unmotivated to set up a viewing may come across your home. Also, friends and family can invite people they know who are on the market for a new home to this event.

2. You can set the scene your way

It’s stressful to keep your home ready for a viewing at all times. Homes get messy, laundry piles up, the floor gets cluttered, and waste baskets fill up. Traditional home viewings usually happen with very little notice, meaning the seller has to keep the home in top shape the whole time it’s on the market. Having an open house is much easier, this way you have time to prepare by cleaning, placing fresh flowers in the vessels and even baking cookies for your visitors.

3. You can lock in that interested buyer

Even the most interested buyer is unlikely to request a private showing of your home. If your home has caught the attention of a buyer online or driving by, they are much more likely to come back in a less formal setting like an open house. An open house also gives the potential buyer more time to look around at the place instead of feeling rushed. Also, they can bring friends or family along for a second opinion.

4. Buyers can compare and contrast

There is usually more than one open house on the weekends. Buyers can comparison shop by going to several open houses in one day. Now that you know this, you can spruce your house up a bit, making your home stand out from the rest.

5. You choose the time

Having an open house means you can choose when you want to show it to people. Holding an open house has the potential of putting your home on the real estate map. Work with your agent to strategically plan your open house.

Steps to Buy a House: How Long Do They Take?

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Homes aren’t impulse purchases. It takes time to sift through listings and make your way from one home showing to the next; then, of course, there are those agonizing hours you wait to find out if your offer on a house was accepted, whether you can secure financing, and any number of other holdups.

Just so you’re prepared to play the waiting game, here are the steps to buy a house and how long they typically take, so you aren’t sitting there holding your breath and wondering if something’s up.

How long does it take to find a real estate agent?

Answer: A couple of days to a few weeks

home-buying process. Don’t skimp on the search—even if you’re in a rush.

“The home-buying process is a complicated one, and the chosen agent must be the person who can best relay each step of the process in a way that will be understandable and reassuring to the homeowner,” says Diane Henderson, a Realtor® with McEnearney Associates in Alexandria, VA.

“Find the Realtor that ‘fits’ you,” she adds. “The whole process will go a lot more smoothly.”

Not sure where to find this special person? Head to realtor.com®‘s Find a REALTOR online tool to locate Realtors in your area.

How long does it take to get approved for a mortgage?

Answer: At least two weeks

Getting approved (or pre-approved) for a mortgage is no simple process. Lenders need to examine your documentation, review your financial information, and reconcile any problems. So even if all your documents are in order and you’re a stellar candidate, expect to wait two weeks or more to find out if you got the green light.

How long does a showing take?

 

 

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New Year’s Resolutions to Get You A New Home in 2017

new-1572668_960_720As the new year begins, we make resolutions we hope to fulfill by the year’s end. Often, they are centered around eating better, exercising more, and all around healthier living, but we tend to neglect other goals we may have in mind. Owning a home is a major goal on most people’s list. So why can’t 2017 be the year you buy a house? With the proper steps, owning a home is possible. Here are a few new year’s resolutions you should be making to get you in a new home this coming year.

Decide what you want

Knowing what you want before you start looking is important. First, you need to decide where you would like to live. Next, decide what kind of house you’d like. If you find it necessary, make a list of must haves vs. deal breakers. If you begin looking without knowing exactly what you want, it’ll take you twice as long. Take some time to figure out what is best for you since buying a home is a long and serious commitment.

Get your financials in order

Now that you have decided on an ideal home, it’s time to get serious. It’s time to look at what you can actually afford and continue with the first step. Map out how much you’ll put down for a down payment. Budget for monthly mortgage costs and don’t forget closing costs. Nine out of ten people finance the purchase of their home. This means a loan is required and you should start that process before bidding.

Get pre-approved before you begin house-hunting

Getting pre-approved gets you that much closer to owning a home. Pre-approved means you have met with a loan officer, they have reviewed your financials and deemed you credible for a loan. If approved, you will receive a pre-approval letter, which will show your borrowing power. This letter shows the listing brokers your seriousness and your ability to go through with a purchase. You can obtain as many pre-approval letters as you like, but remember each letter requires a credit check, which will show up on your credit report.

Protect yourself with insurance

You need to protect your biggest purchase with insurance. Purchasing title insurance is done as a one-time fee and helps safeguard the owner in case the property is found to be invalid. Homeowner’s insurance should also be purchased. It protects against fire, theft, and liability coverage. Other insurances, like earthquake and flood, are left up to the buyer’s decision.

If you begin focusing on your real goals now, they’ll become realities by the end of the year. These are just a few of the resolutions you should think about if you’re serious about buying a home. Since the housing recovery in 2012, 2016 has been the hottest year so far. Forecasters have been predicting 2017 to be even better.

Why the Best Time to Sell Your House Is During the Holidays

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Ask yourself, when is the best time of the year to sell my home? Many people answer with Spring or Summer, but little do they know, they are actually wrong. Spring or Summer may be the most convenient time, but that does not necessarily mean it is the best time. In almost every city, listing your home in the winter will yield a higher amount of money on the sale of your home.

In a study done by Redfin, homes listed between December 21 and March 21 had a nine percent higher chance of selling faster than homes that were listed between March 22 and June 21 and a ten percent higher chance than those listed between June 22 and September 21.

How so?

Homes prices actually peak in late Winter and early Spring when there are fewer homes on the market and people already begin searching. Also, buyers are serious this time of year. The spring is filled with window shopping buyers who are unsure about what they really want. If you’re serious about selling your home now, don’t let the holidays deter you from your plans.

Preparations You Should Make Before Listing Your Home

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Are you ready to sell your home, if so, is your home ready to sell? Seller’s can’t simply list their home and expect it to be bought at its maximum price without some preparation made in advance. Take a second and go through your home from buyer’s perspective. Take notes on what you notice as a buyer. Some changes you should make right away are hiding clutter, putting family photos away, cleaning out closets, and getting rid of unnecessary furniture. Amongst these apparent changes, there are a few other things sellers should do in preparation of listing their home if they want to maximize their offer and decrease the time spent on the market.

  1. Repaint the walls in neutral colors

You may love your colorful accent walls and feel that it’s what makes your home, home, but not everyone is going to feel the same. Repainting your walls to neutral colors like white, tan, or beige can help open up the pool of buyers. It allows them to focus more on the home and less on the work they’ll need to do if they decide to buy.

  1. Organize your closets

It happens to all of us, our closets can get out of hand. It’s such a daunting task to reorganize, but to buyers, storage is a key factor when finding a home. Organized and clean closets give the illusion of more space, therefore, more storage. You can start by going through and cleaning out any unneeded items that may have accumulated. You’ll be moving soon anyway, so why not get a jump start on the process now.

  1. Do faux renovations

You’ll be surprised what a few fixes here and there will do for your home. Is your kitchen a little out-dated? Try replacing the cabinets’ hardware, the light fixtures, or the faucets. You can do the same for bathrooms and laundry rooms.

  1. Highlight focal points

If there is something unique about your home, you should highlight it so potential buyers will see it. You can do this by adding pops of color or plants. Do you have have a window seat,? Throw a red pillow on it with a book to show this could be a great reading nook. Add a fern to your mantle to highlight your beautiful fire place.

  1. Boost curb appeal.

This probably one of the more important factors to preparing your home before listing because this is the first thing buyers are going to see. You want to make a great first impression and buyers don’t like what they see on the outside, they may not even give your home a chance. You don’t have to go all out and repave your driveway, unless it really needs it, but make sure to trim the hedges, plant some fresh flowers, mow the lawn, and fix any peeling paint. Basically, tackle your to-do list you’ve been meaning to do for months.