Southwest Florida Real Estate and Community News

Oct. 18, 2017

How to buy the last house you’ll ever buy

How to buy the last house you’ll ever buy


NEW YORK – Oct. 17, 2017 – My husband and I bought what we thought was a starter home 20 years ago. Now we think of it as our "forever" home, where we plan to retire and live out the rest of our days.

We got lucky, because most of the features that make our place good for "aging in place" – the single-story layout, open design, wide doorways – weren't on our must-have list when we were newlyweds.

We're not the only people who didn't think far enough into our future. The vast majority of homebuyers and remodelers don't consider what it might be like to grow old in their homes, says Richard Duncan, executive director of the Ronald L. Mace Universal Design Institute, a nonprofit in Asheville, North Carolina, that promotes accessible design for housing, public buildings and parks.

"We think aging is what happens to other people," Duncan says. "Nobody puts away money to save for that good-looking ramp they've always wanted."

Concerns for everyone

Consider these figures:

  • Only about 1 percent of the national housing stock can be considered truly accessible, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, with basic design features such as no-step entry, single-floor living, wide hallways and doorways, electrical controls reachable from a wheelchair and lever-style handles on faucets and doors.
  • Homeowners ages 55 and over account for half of the nation's home improvement expenditures, but fewer than 1 in 10 older remodelers tackled a project that would make their homes more accessible, the center found.
  • Eight out of 10 people 65 and older want to remain in their current homes as they age, but the lack of accessible features means many will have to leave those houses or risk a worse quality of life, says Rodney Harrell, director of livability thought leadership at AARP Public Policy Institute.

And it's not just the elderly who are affected. Ask anyone who worries about aging parents tumbling down steps or becoming increasingly isolated in family homes that are hard to navigate.

"If you can't get in and out easily, it's a huge barrier to staying connected in the community," Harrell notes.

These concerns are more than just professional for Duncan, since he and his wife are currently renovating a home to make it more accessible after moving from Chapel Hill to Asheville, North Carolina, to be closer to their daughter. The Duncans had renovated their previous home to allow his disabled father to visit, but finding a new home that had even some of the features they wanted proved a challenge, Duncan says.

What to seek in your last home

Since truly accessible dwellings are rare, people can focus instead on finding one that can be easily adapted to their needs as they age, Duncan says, such as a home with at least one bedroom on the same level as the kitchen, a full bathroom and the laundry room.

The couple ultimately found a first-floor condo and are remodeling it to widen the master bedroom doorway, replace the thick carpeting with solid-surface floors and add a Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat that is easier to adjust. Future projects will include making the front entrance and back porch "step-free" (they now have 2-inch and 3-inch rises, respectively) and creating a "curbless" or step-free shower.

No-step entries are good for people in wheelchairs, of course, but they also make life easier for people with walkers, teenagers in casts or anyone wheeling a big-screen TV through the door, Harrell notes.

Other important features to look for include:

  • Open floor plans that minimize the number of hallways and doorways older people have to navigate.
  • Hallways in main living areas that are at least 42 inches wide and bedroom and bathroom doors that are 32 inches wide for wheelchair access.
  • Baths and kitchens that can be made more accessible.

For example, standard wheelchairs require a 5-foot turning radius and showers without steps. People can help their future selves by choosing a home with a bathroom that's spacious enough to maneuver a walker (or a person plus a caregiver) and a shower that's large enough to include a chair or seat. If homeowners aren't ready to add more supports – and you should know that "stylish grab bars" are no longer an oxymoron – they can at least reinforce walls during a remodel so that adding bars later is an option.

"You don't need to create an institutional-looking home," Harrell says. "You just need to think about your future needs."

AP Logo Copyright © 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a certified financial planner and author of "Your Credit Score."  

Reprinted with permission Florida Realtors. All rights reserved. 

July 30, 2017

Making a GREAT first impression

In today’s age of consumerism, every buyer is comparative shopping.  Make a small investment in time, money and effort in your home will give you a solid advantage over competing properties.  Pay attention to detail now because first impressions count with buyers and you have one chance and it starts with curb appeal.

Exterior Appearance:

  • Keep lawns cut:  A uncut lawn will make a buyer feel there are other things about the home that are also neglected which could lead to not wanting to see the home.
  • Trim hedges and shrubs:  As with the lawn, this affects the curb appeal when left neglected.
  • Weed and edge gardens:  What is the point in having a garden if it doesn't’t add beauty to the home and yard.  Freshen up the plants by taking off any dead leaves and flowers, weed & edge the area and add some fresh mulch to add a new fresh feel to the garden.
  • Clear driveway and clean up oil spills:  Make sure the driveway is always clear of toys, bikes, trash cans, and other items.  If there is oil on the driveway, clean it with some solvent from an auto store or K-mart, then wash it so it is clean of all spills.
  • Clean out the Garage:  The garage should be viewed as a garage to be able to put a car in, not a storage shed.  When a buyer see’s that the garage is used for storage they will assume the home to too small and has a lack of storage.  It will also free up your driveway making curb appeal better if the car is in the Garage and the garage door closed.
  • Touch up paint:  If the exterior of your home, garage, or any other out building is in need of paint or repair, do it before the home goes on the market.  Again, first impressions are everything!
  • Maintenance:
  • Repair leaking taps and toilets:  If not when a buyer is looking at the home for the first time, when they choose to purchase and have an inspector check out the home, these little things will be brought up and asked to be repaired.  Addressing now is better than later.
  • Clean furnace and filters and if you have an Air Conditioner, do the same:  Doing this should be done as normal maintenance yearly to add to the life of these expensive items.  The working condition of these items will be a major concern of any buyer.
  • Tighten door knobs and latches:  Double check interior and exterior knobs and latches so that they are not loose and in good working order.
  • Repair cracked plaster:  If your home has plaster walls and are in need of repair, you may want to consult a plaster expert for a price and have it professionally done.
  • Clean and repair windows:  Make sure all windows are clean and replace cracked or broken glass.  If you have slider windows make sure the tracks are clean and oiled so that they slide easily.
  • Repair seals around tubs and basins:  If this is needed, you can purchase caulking at a Hardware store and replace and repair where needed.
  • Replace defective light bulbs:  If the home is shown when lights are needed, you want to make sure all bulbs are in working order.  Bathrooms and other smaller area’s need to be well lighted.
  • Oil squeaking doors:  Check all the doors in the home, including the closets for any squeaking that there might be.  Use a little Oil to correct the squeaking.
  • Repair squeaking floor boards:  Repairing squeaking floor boards can be difficult depending on what you have for floor coverings.  If you do not want to attempt it yourself, we suggest you call a professional flooring company.

Squeaky Clean:

  • Clean and freshen bathrooms.  Kitchens and Baths should be clean and spotless.  These are two rooms that Buyers will pay a lot of attention to and when clean and bright, they will make a great first impression.
  • Clean fridge and stove (in and out):  Even if the appliances are not included in the sale, they should be clean and in perfect working order.  Odors come from a dirty stove or fridge and can leave a poor first impression.

Create Space:

  • Clear halls and stairs of clutter:  Halls and stairs that are blocked by clutter will cause the buyer to feel the areas are small and may not be comfortable walking over items to get to another area of the home.  There is also a safety issue.
  • Store surplus furniture:  This will make the rooms seem more spacious.  Try not to store these items elsewhere in the home, garage or basement.  Renting a storage unit for unused items is worth the investment.  If these are not items you plan on moving, you may want to have a Pre Sale Garage Sale.
  • Clear Kitchen clutter off the counters and stove top:  Buyers want to have a kitchen that feels spacious and appears clean and fresh.  The stove top should never have items piled on it.  It not only looks like there is not counter space, but also is not a safe practice.
  • Remove empty boxes and containers:  These items should also be placed in a storage unit until ready to use.

At the Front Door:

  • Clean porch and foyer:  This is the first thing the buyer will see when entering your home.  Make sure the porch is free of clutter and swept clean of dirt, and (if you are in a snow or ice climate make sure it is shoveled and salted)  The foyer should be clean and is a good location for a small table with fresh flowers if there is room.
  • Ensure door bell is in working order:  You will want to test your door bell and make sure it is working so you can hear it ring when a Buyer or Realtor comes to the door.
  • Repair screen on door or other out door areas with screening:  All screens should be repaired before the home is on the market.  Screens help bring the outside indoors and many buyers want to be able to open windows and doors when the weather is nice.
  • Fresh paint or varnish front door:  The front door is always the door to have a prospective buyer come in.  It should look inviting and have a fresh look to it.
  • Repair door locks and key access:  Like the front door, this is what the buyer will see when entering the home.  If the door locks and hardware are not in good condition they should be replaced.  Make sure the key works easily in the lock if your home is going to be shown by Realtors.
Posted in Selling Your Home
July 30, 2017

Preparing Your Home to Sell


  • Make sure your lawn is mowed and edged.  The first impression a buyer will get of your home is from the outside.  Curb appeal is very important.  If you don’t have the time to keep the lawn mowed and edged, now is the time when hiring a service would benefit you.  This way you don’t have to worry about making sure it always is done in time for a buyer to see it or an open house.
  • Trim all the trees and shrubs on your property.  If you can’t reach some of your tree’s or have the equipment to trim the trees and shrubs, we suggest you hire a landscape company to get it in shape for you.  You can also rent the equipment from a rental company if you would prefer to do it yourself.
  • Plant some flowers or display large flower pots.  This is the best way to brighten up your yard and enhance that curb appeal.  You can pick up inexpensive pots at a pottery place, K-Mart, Target, Home Depot, or even at a Garage Sale.  These same places carry all types of flowers and shrubs too at good prices.
  • Sweep and clean all sidewalks and pathways.  If you are in a climate that has snow and ice, make sure you clean the sidewalks and pathways and also the decks and put down salt so it clears and no one falls.  Make sure no toys, papers, or outside tools are left in the walk-ways.
  • Repair and clean all windows.  Replace any cracked or broken windows and make sure they are clean for a well maintained look.
  • Clean all eaves and drain spouts.  Blocked eaves and drain spouts can lead to damage that will cost more than keeping them clean.  A ladder and either your hand or a small broom can clean them out or you can hire a handyman to do it for you.
  • Paint exterior areas that need painting.  Peeling or chipped paint should be taken care of for a fresh well cared for look to your home.
  • Clean or replace door knobs.  The entrance to the home should be perfect from the finish on the door to the door knob and locks.  If they are dated and can’t be cleaned, then they should be replaced.  
  • Keep Garage Door closed.  First impressions are important and even though the garage is an important space, it should not have the door left open at anytime.  You also don’t want people to think they should enter through the garage because it is open.


  • Remove all family photos, trophies, personal crafts, etc.  Personal items such as pictures, trophies with names, home made crafts, etc. often keep people from being able to visualize the home for themselves and distract from other features of  the home.
  • Remove all “clutter” (ie: newspapers, boxes, etc.,) it will make your home feel bigger.  Make sure the counters in baths and the kitchen are clutter free and papers either put away or in the trash.  Dishes should always be done and put away, not left in the sink.
  • Clean all your carpets.  If the carpet needs to be replaced, do so and make sure it is a neutral color.  If it does not need replacing, have it cleaned or do it yourself by renting a carpet cleaning machine.
  • Repair or paint any chipped or dirty walls.  Remember to choose neutral colors when painting your wall’s, not everyone like the bold colors or blue or red tones.  If all that is needed is to wash the walls, do the entire wall, not just spots.
  • Make doors and windows open correctly and easily.  Just use a little A-1 oil where needed so that everything opens’s and closes easily.
  • Repair and minor damages. (ie: plaster, wallpaper, creaking floor boards, etc.)  If you have wall-paper and the seams are opening up, a small tube of wall paper paste can be purchased at K-Mart or a wall paper store.  Creaking floor boards need to be repaired.  You may need to hire a flooring person to lift up the flooring to repair the boards if you don’t want to attempt it yourself.  Plaster repairs also may need the attention of an expert.
  • Add some indoor plants.  Plants add a warm feeling to a home.  Green and flowering plants both work well.
  • Additional Tips if you are going to have an “OPEN HOUSE”:
  • If possible, keep all pets out of the house.  Pet’s need to either be out of the home or in a crate when the home is shown or an Open House is planned.  Even the best Pet can have an off day and bite someone, and many buyers may be afraid of curtain pets.
  • Add some fresh flowers in a vase.  Colorful fresh flowers add warmth to a room.
  • Make all the rooms in your house smell good.  If you don’t like to bake fresh cookies, just add a cinnamon stick to water and put it in the oven on low for a nice smell or a scented candle always adds a nice aroma.
  • Clean and clear all table tops, desks, shelves, etc.  Clutter takes away from the features of the home.
  • Create as much light as possible.  Open all blinds and curtains.  The brighter the home the better.  Windows need to be clean, blinds and curtains open, and lights on when needed.
  • Add fresh towels to the bathrooms.  New fresh towels and even small soaps in a soap dish add a lot to the bathrooms.
  • Turn off all TV’s computers, etc.  During showings and Open houses,  TV’s and computers should be off.  They tend to take away the attention of the buyer.
  • Add a little music softly in the background.  Soft music can add relaxation to the buyers mood as they go through the home.
  • Never hold an Open House alone.  You are allowing strangers into your home and it is better to have another person with you.  This person should be another adult, not a child.   Also have a cell phone with you at all times if possible and an auto dial button for 911.  When showing the home, always have the buyer enter the room ahead of you so that the exit is never blocked.  If there is a basement in the home, have the lights on and have the buyer go ahead of you, again always leaving the exit open for you if needed.  Open house’s can be on any day, not just week-ends, but should always be during the day, with hours that end before dark.
Posted in Selling Your Home
July 30, 2017

Costs Related to the Sale of Your Home


Mortgage Pay Off:  Before the closing, you will sign a release for the Title Company or Attorney to get the amount that will be owed at the day of closing.  This will allow the Closing Company to prepare the closing documents and they will issue a check out of your proceeds at the closing to pay off your outstanding mortgage.

Lines of credit or Equity lines:  As with the mortgage pay off, you will have to authorize the closing company to get this information.  If there is any amounts owed, they also will be paid off and any lines of credit closed.

Prepayment Penalty:  Often, sellers think that all that is owed is the amount showing on their last statement.  This is not always true.  A prepayment penalty could be in your mortgage.  You may also owe interest depending on the day of the month that you close.

Unpaid Taxes/Liens:  This is why title work is important prior to closing to see if there are any liens or unpaid taxes on the title. These items will also have to be paid the day of closing.  The closing company cuts these checks out of your proceeds and pays them on your behalf.

Special Assessments:  Special assessments are things like water, sewer, road or other local government improvements that were assessed to the property.  In most cases they must be paid off, in others, they can be assumed by the buyer.  If they are to be paid off, again the closing company will pay these out of your proceeds.

Posted in Selling Your Home
July 30, 2017

Pricing Your Home


There are several benefits of properly pricing your home.  They include:


  • When your home sells faster, you save carrying costs which include mortgage payments, taxes, insurance, and maintenance.
  • A QUICKER SALE CREATES LESS INCONVENIENCE TO YOU.  If you have moved before, you know the energy it takes to prepare for a showing: keeping the home clean, arranging for pets, children, and altering your lifestyle.
  • SELLERS WHO LIST AT THAT HIGH PRICE ARE LOOKING FOR THAT ONE BUYER WHO WILL PAY IT.  Sellers often do not realize that they have discouraged many potential buyers who could have afforded the home.  


  • WHEN SALES PEOPLE ARE EXCITED ABOUT A HOME AND ITS PRICE, THEY MAKE SPECIAL EFFORTS TO CONTACT ALL OF THEIR POTENTIAL BUYERS. Knowing that it is priced properly for its market, they expect it to sell soon and encourage their prospects to act quickly.  Their excitement is contagious!


  • Ad calls and sign calls to Realtors OR By Owners turn into showings when price is not a deterrent.
  • BUYERS FEAR they might LOSE OUT on a good home when it is PRICED RIGHT.
  • SELLERS  are LESS likely to receive “LOW BALL OFFERS.”
  • Better pricing ATTRACTS MULTIPLE offers, too!


  • If a home is PRICED RIGHT, the excitement of the market produces HIGHER SALE prices.
  • THE THINGS THAT AFFECT A SALE ARE  LOCATION, CONDITION, AND PRICE.  You can change two out of the three of these.  You cannot change the LOCATION.  You can control the CONDITION by how you maintain your home inside and out.  Good Maintenance shows Pride of Ownership and gives a possible buyer a comfortable feeling on the condition of the home.  PRICE should be determined by recent sales of comparable homes in your immediate area.  Pricing a home right at the time you first put it on the market is important since that is when it will get the most attention from buyers.  You may think you want to start out higher and test the market but this usually results in you LOSING BUYERS that may have been interested from the 1st day on the market, not 6 weeks down the road.  Think of it this way, for every month that your home is not sold due to being priced too high, you have lost money due to another Mortgage payment, taxes, utilities, possible association fee’s, insurance, and maintenance and by not being able to make the move you want to make.  A quicker sale can save you thousands so being priced right at the beginning is very important.
Posted in Selling Your Home
July 30, 2017

Why use a REALTOR®

  1. Can you wait a year to sell your home?
  2. Are you comfortable having open houses or showing strangers your home?
  3. Do you know how to price your home competitively?
  4. What do you do when negotiations stall?
  5. Do you know how to properly execute a real estate contract?
  6. Do you know which lenders have the most competitive rates?
  7. Do you know what a title company can and can't do for you?
  8. Do you know what an escrow agreement is?
  9. Do you know what prorations are?
  10. Does you home have lead based paint?
  11. Do you know a good home inspector?
  12. Does you home have Chinese drywall or mold?
  13. Do you know what disclosures are needed?

If you are not sure about any 1 or more of the answers to the above questions, you should ask yourself…You NEED to contact us?