Real Estate Information Archive


Displaying blog entries 1-9 of 9

Attic and Basement Storage

by The Jana Caudill Team

I was thinking about storage solutions for your Crown Point, Dyer, or Munster home.  I’m not talking about color coded, stackable bins, or any of that.  What I had on my mind was how to make effective use of underutilized space.  After the garage the two most likely candidates for family storage are the basement and the attic.  Here are a couple pros and cons for storage both above your head and below your feet, and a thought or two on how to do it right.

As a rule basements are cooler than the rest of the house, and by comparison with the attic, much more accessible.  Generally if a large item like a couch or an exercise machine can fit through the front door and into the house it can also fit down the stairwell and into the basement.  But accessibility can have its drawbacks as well.  Anything you store in the basement will be seen every time you venture down there, and if there’s enough stuff down there it can easily get cluttered.  Not such a great strategy if you also use the basement as a family common area.  Take into account children and pets, particularly cats.  Nosy fingers and paws can accidentally overturn Great Granny’s antique china, or disturb Great Grandpa’s military medals and ribbons.  So anything you store in the basement should be clearly labeled in secure boxes.  Plastic containers are good, especially if there’s even the most remote threat of flooding.  Another drawback of storage in the basement is the simple convenience, and by that I mean anytime you have extra space life generally expands to fill it, which can inadvertently steal away usable living space.  It’s often easier to “take it downstairs” and deal with clutter later than to properly dispose of expendable items right away.  Basement storage in itself is a great argument for a garage sale.  So if you’re going to use the basement consider one or more of those standing, folding screens to store (hide) you stuff behind and out of site.  And don’t forget the space under the stairs.  It’s great for hiding more than childhood monsters.

Attics are difficult to access, and their entry points are significantly narrower than the hallway downstairs.  However, attics are great out of the way, forgotten spaces in the house, and anything you are able to haul up a ladder can be easily put out of site and out of mind.  That means no nosy children or pets accidentally breaking priceless family keepsakes.  A word of caution though.  Attics are warm, and can get downright miserable during the summer.  Be careful not to store Grandpa’s old letterman jacket up there.  Painted leather, like the sleeves on many of those coats can sweat natural oils in the heat and ruin the finish.  So it’s safer to keep delicate materials and fabrics elsewhere if possible.  This includes old family reel to reel movies, video tapes, and music cassettes.  All of these can suffer in the heat.  Here’s the hot tip for using your attic for storage: install a folding ladder and some flooring for safety, and easier accessibility.

5 Factors that Do NOT Affect the Value of Your Home

by The Jana Caudill Team

There are many factors that play a role in determining the value of a Crown Point, Dyer, or Cedar Lake home.  Things like location, size, and additional improvements come to mind right off the top of my head.  There are also certain factors that (to the dismay of some sellers) play absolutely no role at all in value.  Here are the top five:

  1. What you paid for the home.  When it comes right down to it a home is worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it.  What you paid for it – whether it was last month, last year, or fifty years ago – has no impact on today’s value.  Markets go up and down, the economy changes, family financial circumstances change, but what you paid for a property when you purchased it does not affect what a new buyer will be willing to pay today.
  2. How long you have owned the home.  See above.
  3. What you owe.  This is a tricky one for some folks, especially nowadays.  Let’s say you purchased your home five years ago.  Maybe you even put a Home Equity Line on it as well.  Then your local market took a hit like many markets did around the country and you now owe more on your home than your Realtor’s Comparative Market Analysis suggests the home is currently worth.  The fact is a buyer is not going to pay $200,000 for a house that market sales history shows comparable homes are currently selling for at $140,000 in the same area.  The fact that you owe more than the home can most likely sell for does not influence what a buyer is willing to pay.
  4. Fond memories.  We all have fond memories of happy times living in our homes.  There’s the first Christmas, or the birth and/or graduation of our children.  Weddings, cookouts, birthday parties.  The great thing is you get to take all your fabulous memories with you when you move into your next home.  The bad news is those memories do not increase the value of a home where buyers moving in are looking forward to making their own brand new memories.
  5. The asking price of a home.  You can ask all you want.  But if you’re asking too high at best you can expect a low-ball offer to purchase.  At worst potential buyers aren’t even taking the time to look at your home because they aren’t inclined to try to work with what they may consider unreasonable sellers.

The bottom line: price it right at the start.  A home is only worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it.  Do your research, or work with a Realtor to do the research for you so you can see what comparable homes are selling for in your market right now.

First Time Home Seller (Part 2)

by The Jana Caudill Team

More tips for first time Crown Point, Chesterton, and Valparaiso home sellers:

De-clutter.  If you want to stand out among the competition you have to create a lasting impression with buyers who tour your home.  The house was too busy; the rooms were too small; I couldn’t even tell you what color the counter tops were.  Those are all the wrong kind of lasting impression.  Get rid of clutter – in bedrooms, in the kitchen, in the garage – everywhere.  Getting rid of clutter doesn’t change the size of a room.  What it does do is help make a room feel more spacious and inviting.  Now is the perfect time to throw out, recycle, and sell (as in a garage sale).

Clean house.  See above.  The saying goes something like “A house is only a home when it’s lived in.”  That’s great, and kind of touching.  Here’s another one for home sellers: “A house for sale is only a sold home when it’s clean.”  A dirty house gives the wrong impression, and can even keep potential buyers from seeing the true benefits and features of the home.  What it says of the sellers is, I don’t really care about my house, and it invites buyers’ train of thought to take the next step, “If it’s this dirty what else could be wrong with it?”  Clean, clean, clean.

Make the home as turnkey as possible.  Think repair or replace.  Patch holes in walls, paint, replace carpet.  Trim back hedges and keep up on outdoor up keep.  If you’re a first time home seller chances are your home is smaller, maybe less expensive, and will otherwise appeal to first time home buyers or older buyers who are downsizing.  The last thing a growing family or an elderly couple want is a fixer upper.  Anything that can be fixed should be fixed.  Help buyers see just how easy it is to move right in and get on with their lives without having to adopt your incomplete repair projects.

First Time Home Seller (Part 1)

by The Jana Caudill Team

Buying a Crown Point, Chesterton, or Hobart home for the very first time can be a nerve-wracking experience.  There’s shopping and qualifying for a loan, saving for the down payment, finding the right house, and the brand new set of responsibilities that come along with home ownership.  This list is a condensed version of realty for sure, but I challenge you to compare it to the flip side, the downright intimidating list of to do’s for the first time home seller.

As a first time home seller the first thing you should do is contact a Realtor.  Just so we’re clear, yes, if you didn’t already know, I’m a Realtor and I’d love the opportunity to earn your business.  This is a plug, just not the shameless self-promotional kind; you need to work with a good Realtor even if it’s not me.  My suggestion is to call multiple Realtors, interview them to find out how they would market your property for sale.  You want to make sure you work with someone you are comfortable with, and who you trust.  The first benefit of working with a Realtor is they can help you price your home competitively right from the get go by showing you comparative properties for sale on the market today.  More importantly, they can show you what homes in your neighborhood are actually selling for (which is more crucial than the price sellers are asking for).  A Realtor will help you navigate all the necessary pieces to a successful real estate transaction including the contract to purchase, disclosures, showings, closing paperwork, inspections, and on, and on…I believe with all my heart, and all my professional experience, if you want to sell your home for the most money in the least amount of time with the fewest hassles you need to work with a good Realtor.  There, I said it.  Here are 10 great questions to ask any Realtor you are considering for the job.

To piggyback on the first point, price your home right in the beginning.  The economy is dictating a buyer’s market.  There are more folks selling homes than there are buying right now, which translates to higher supply, lower demand and thus lower prices.  That doesn’t mean you’re going to give the house away, it simply means you need to price your home competitively right from the beginning keeping in mind that the vast majority of showings will take place then too, in the beginning.

So, for starters:
1. Contact and work with a Realtor you trust
2. Price your home competitively from the beginning

Tune in next blog for Part 2 on tips for first time home sellers.

Selling Your Vacant House

by The Jana Caudill Team

Surveys show Crown Point, St. John, and Munster home buyers can more easily picture moving themselves and their belongings into a home they’re viewing if it is still furnished rather than if it’s vacant.  Kind of makes sense doesn’t it?  It’s all about first impressions and the subconscious.  People tend to relate easier to homes that show a little life.  Our subconscious tells us vacant homes are empty, and too cold or too hot.  They bring our focus to what’s wrong with a house, like a threadbare carpet, dirty walls, or even an overgrown front lawn because there’s nothing else to ply our attention and stir our imagination.  But sometimes we’re forced by new employment or other factors outside our control to relocate to a new home before the old one is sold.  Never fear.  Here are some tips to keep in mind for staging and selling your vacant house that will help buyers imagine making your old house their new home.

  1. The view from the curb.  Keep your lawn mowed and yard manicured.  Shovel snow in the winter.  Keep newspapers from piling up on the front stoop.  If you live close to the vacant house this is as easy as stopping by regularly.  If you’re new home is too far away, prohibiting you from taking care of this yourself you will have to enlist a close friend or family member, your Realtor, or some other property service manager to keep the property’s exterior fresh and inviting.
  2. Furniture staging.  It’s easier for someone to picture their belongings in a space that provides a sample layout.  A couch along this wall just like theirs; the entertainment center would go over there; our dining room table isn’t even this big, ours would fit easily; look here, they were able to put a pair of bunk beds in this bedroom.  We could move…  Get the picture?  If you have to move everything out to furnish your new home hire a staging company to bring some furniture in to help buyers imagine where their stuff will go when they move in.
  3. Utilities.  Put lights on a timer, especially during the winter.  This also helps deter break-ins.  Program your thermostat to a comfortable temperature.  You don’t want buyers to be uncomfortably hot in the summer, or cold in the winter.  That’s a lasting negative impression often too difficult to shake.  And be sure to winterize the home properly if necessary.  The last thing you want for a buyer’s first impression is flooding in the kitchen and basement.

Here are more great tips on selling your vacant home.

Quick Clean-Up Tips Before a Showing

by The Jana Caudill Team

You just got a call that some incredibly motivated buyers are interested in seeing your Crown Point, Hobart, or Munster home.  Good news: this is a second showing.  The buyers originally viewed the house two days ago right after your family completed a marathon cleaning session.  Everything had been oh so pristine…  More good news, your Realtor says yours is the only house the buyers are seeing a second time before heading to the airport.  You see, they’re from out of town, and they have limited time.  In fact your Realtor says they’re already on their way to your house.  She asks you if it’s ok to bring the buyers by in about 20 minutes…

That’s when you panic.  You’ve had a busy weekend since the last showing.  The kids had friends over, your husband had the guys over to watch a game, and housework somehow just keeps on multiplying.  What’s the saying, “A house is only a home when it’s lived in?”  Something like that.  Or, “Life happens.”  Yes, life happens, and then you have to clean up after yourselves.

Here are some quick cleanup tips to help you get your home in show-ready shape when you have no time to spare:

  1. Recruit help.  Children are major contributors to the mess in a house.  Enlist their help for the cleanup as well.  This great article suggests bribery as a means to an end when you’re in a pinch.
  2. Clear away clutter.  Books, toys, dirty clothes, whatever’s on bedroom floors that doesn’t belong there – stash quickly in closets, or safely out of sight under the bed.  In the kitchen and other living areas, clear away mail and other stacks of clutter.  Put everything in a paper grocery bag and store in the pantry for sorting later.  Nothing is so important this next 20 minutes that it needs to be put back where it belongs right now.  What’s important is getting clutter out of site.  To this point, you can store dirty OR clean dishes in the dishwasher, or even inside the oven.  Just be mindful of fire safety and go back after the showing and clear out that oven first.
  3. Entryway.  In a situation where second impressions are just as important as first impressions grab a basket and clear away all the extra shoes near the front door.  Likewise skate boards, school books, anything that’s clogging up the entryway.
  4. Horizontal surfaces.  This means a quick vacuuming of carpets where necessary.  Wipe off counters and sinks in the kitchen and bathrooms.  Check tile, linoleum and wood flooring for dirt and smudges.  Spot clean anything that catches your eye.

Does Your Renter's Insurance Cover It?

by The Jana Caudill Team

First of all, this article is not a definitive answer to the question.  It can’t be.  Every policy is different from the next just as every company issuing those insurance policies is different from the next company.  There are many similarities between companies and policies, however if you want the bottom line answer to, “Does my renters insurance policy cover (fill in the blank)?” you need to consult your policy paperwork and your insurance agent.  As food for thought, and to prompt you to review your policy and make sure you have proper coverage for your possessions and liability during your rental arrangement, here are some general points addressed by most renters insurance policies:

  1. Theft and vandalism to personal possessions.  Makes sense.
  2. Damage to personal possessions by specific cause.  An example would be damage or destruction by fire or other natural cause.  Be careful here.  Do not rely on your policy covering losses from flooding unless it is spelled out specifically in your policy.  Flood insurance is almost always separate from these policies.
  3. Secured personal possessions temporarily outside your apartment, such as in your car or inside luggage while you’re on vacation.  This is another tricky one.  Check your policy to be sure, and don’t count on it unless you see it in writing.
  4. Temporary living expenses if your unit is undergoing damage repairs.  Let’s say a tree fell through the roof of your Crown Point, Schererville, or Merrillville rental during a windstorm.  Does your policy cover temporary living expenses such as a place to stay while repairs are completed?
  5. Liability.  Just like with homeowners insurance, who pays if someone slips and breaks a hip while in your apartment?

Maybe you have renter’s insurance, and you’re comfortable that your policy addresses those items important to you.  The last question to ask yourself is, “Do I have enough coverage?”  When you add up the value of all your electronics alone – television, microwave, stereo and/or iPod, laptop computer, cell phone, even your CD and DVD collection – will your policy cover the entire replacement value or will it fall short?  Food for thought.

Moving to a New City

by The Jana Caudill Team

It’s not uncommon nowadays to move across the state or across the country to take advantage of a job opportunity, which most likely means moving to a new city that you know very little about.  Here are four great starting tips to get you headed in the right direction before packing up your Crown Point, Cedar Lake, or Hobart home and shipping off to an unknown area.

Know your needs and wants.  This one may sound like common sense but think about it for a minute.  Do you prefer urban, suburban, or country living?  Is this move an opportunity to try something new, OR will it require different living arrangements than you are accustomed to?  What about an apartment, Condo, or a single family home?  As far as accommodations go is this next step on your career path a permanent stop or is it potentially only temporary?  Should you consider renting if this is a temporary position?  If the length of your stay is indeterminate do you have elementary school children who will eventually need a good high school to attend?  Take the time to write out all your needs and wants now so you’re clear when you begin to…

Ask questions.  Do you know anyone already living in the area you’re moving to, or anyone who used to live there?  What about the company you are going to work for?  Who recruited and/or hired you?  What can they tell you about the city, the schools, the commute, shopping and entertainment, etc?

Visit.  You wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive nor would you accept a job six states away without visiting the area first.  Use the information you gathered when you spoke with friends, associates, and contacts already living there as a starting point.  Drive neighborhoods; drive the commute to the new office.  What’s traffic like during rush hour?  How close are grocery stores, gas stations, and movie theaters?

Contact a good Realtor.  You might put this one right after defining your needs and wants.  A good Realtor can answer questions on the local housing market including the best way to get you those wish list items while staying within your relocation housing budget.  A good Realtor can also help you maximize your home viewing time while you’re in town visiting the new office.  Don’t know a Realtor where you’re headed?  Give us a call.  We’ll refer you to a great knowledgeable agent who can help you find the most home for the best price with the fewest hassles.

Fuse Box and Circuit Breaker Box Safety

by The Jana Caudill Team

The fuse box or circuit breaker box is the electrical nerve center of your Crown Point, Cedar Lake, or Dyer home.  Everything that you plug into an outlet or screw into a light socket that’s not running on batteries but uses electricity in the home counts on fuse and breaker boxes to do their job, and do it safely.  You do too.  Accordingly, here are a few safety tips to keep in mind when accessing the nerve center of your home:

  1. Just say “no” to H2O.  We’ve all been warned at one point or another not to use electric appliances like hair dryers, curling irons, or plug-in radios near the bath tub.  The principle is shockingly basic: water and electricity don’t mix.  Apply that principle to electric boxes.  If your home has recently suffered water leakage or flooding, possibly from extreme weather conditions or a roof leak, and your walls are wet DO NOT access your electrical box.  Again, water and electricity don’t mix, so if walls are wet, and/or you are standing in standing water stay away from the fuse or breaker box.  You are quite literally risking death.
  2. Replace blown fuses only with properly sized replacement fuses.  Incorrectly replacing fuses, or worse, attempting to bypass the fuse or breaker altogether by wiring around it risks starting an electrical fire, and that’s not the kind of fire you put out with water!  Always, ALWAYS use a properly rated and sized replacement fuse.  Your home circuits were designed with this built-in safety feature for a reason.  Which brings us to…
  3. Call an electrician if...  If you have to constantly replace blown fuses or reset tripped circuit breakers something is wrong, especially if you’re repeatedly installing the correct fuse.  You either have an overloaded circuit, meaning a few too many combination TVs, stereos, DVD players, and video game systems plugged into one circuit, or some other malfunctioning short in the circuit.  If unplugging and relocating some of your electrical equipment to lighten the load doesn’t solve this you need to call an electrician right away to inspect your wiring for safety concerns.

Displaying blog entries 1-9 of 9