Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sherman Oaks Lease - Townhouse

4970 Kester Ave., #9, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

Beautiful Mediterranean Tri-level townhouse in the heart of Sherman Oaks. Recently remodeled: New paint, bamboo floors, Berber carpet, stainless steel appliances, granite counters, 2 master suites with own bath, Jacuzzi bath-tub, Kitchen with breakfast nook, bonus/storage room, washer/dryer in unit, great closet space, direct access to 2 car garage, private end unit.

You can see the virtual tour here and also print
out a property brochure:

Call Richard Johnston, RE/MAX
for a private showing 818-730-4128

Monday, August 27, 2007

Traffic Graph for

The graph above provided by is another example of why choosing a professional agent to list and sell your home is important in this marketplace. The number of buyers searching for homes has dropped off dramatically since the first quarter of 2006. Pricing your home correctly and marketing it online will help sell your home sooner and at a higher price.

Here are a few things a professional Realtor should do to help sell your home quickly:
1. Add up to 20 professionally taken pictures in the MLS
2. Feature your home on
3. Make a virtual tour of the home with it's own website. This tour should also integrate with and the local MLS so everyone will see it.
4. Promote the listing on Trulia,,, etc...
5. A professionally staged home will also increase its value.

Over 80% of home buyers start their home search online. Choosing the right agent makes a world of difference.

Written by: Richard M. Johnston, RE/MAX OTB Estates

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Virtual Tour

Below are two property links of virtual home tours I recently put together for my clients.

One is a Sherman Oaks home on Nagle Ave. And the other is a Woodland Hills home on Campo Road. Also, be sure to print out the property brochure. This is the same brochure I place at the property.

Here are the links:
If your thinking of selling your home, make sure your agent has the ability to create a virtual home tour with its own website. A recent report I wrote in July found that only 14% of active homes in the Sherman Oaks area actually had a virtual tour. You can read more about my article by clicking this link:

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Los Angeles Bank Owned Homes

A new site I recently build instantly displays all San Fernando Valley Bank Owned homes with no sign-up required. This list of bank homes is updated daily so be sure to bookmark the links below.
Please note that the following homes are ALL bank owned. They are not short sales or in the process of foreclosure. They have already gone back to the bank. No waiting around for short sale approval. No waiting around for sellers to reduce the price on their foreclosure or pre-foreclosure properties. Buy these homes below market value....

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Re/Max On the Blvd Sells More!

RE/MAX On the Blvd Estates
Serving the Entire San Fernando Valley!
Encino, Studio City, Tarzana, Sherman Oaks & More!
There is a reason why most people decide to buy and sell through a RE/MAX agent here in the San Fernando Valley. We outsold Prudential & Century 21 combined! We left Prudential & Coldwell Banker eating our dust! Why settle for second best? When a new home comes on the market, be the first to know. Click here to sign up for property updates. It's FREE!
As a home-buyer or seller here in the San Fernando Valley, you'll want to work with an agent who not only communicates well with you, but also communicates well with other agents, mortgage brokers, and the general public.
There are many people who work behind the scenes during a transaction so communication is essential to a smooth transaction. An agent should take no more than a few hours to answer an email, up to 3 hours to return a phone call, and should respond instantly to sms messages. Information flows quickly and time is of the essence.
Written by: Richard M. Johnston, RE/MAX OTB Estates

Monday, August 20, 2007

Women Call Shots When House Hunting

U.S. women control or influence $7 trillion in consumer spending annually and make 85 percent of all purchase decisions, according to marketing experts. Single women accounted for 22 percent of all home purchases made between July 2005 and June 2006.

What do women want when they are house hunting?

Women respond best to a holistic approach when buying a house, says Richard Peterson, a psychiatrist who specializes in investment psychology. “They handle global impressions better” than men.

Men's ability to make multifaceted decisions, on the other hand, is diminished when they have to rely on "more than three to four factors," imaging studies of the brain show, Peterson says. For example, when men shop – an activity that requires dealing with an array of facts and feelings – stress hormones increase and focus dwindles.

Here are some things that work and don’t work when a woman is the customer.

Stimulate the senses.
Men like quick factoids an bullet points, but this approach is the antithesis of a woman’s preference for seeing, touching and talking. Instead, try videos, testimonials, livability surveys, and newsletters detailing community activities.

Patience is key.
Women like to return multiple times to a property they are considering. Each visit brings a new set of questions.

Enthusiasm sells.
Women like to be excited about the property.

Spousal approval goes one way.
If she likes it, chances are he’ll like it, but the opposite isn’t necessarily true.

Source: The Los Angeles Times, Diane Wedner (08/12/2007)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Panorama City Bank Owned

I recently sold a home in Panorama City which was bank owned (REO). The previous owner had purchased the home, made some improvements and found his/herself unable to afford the mortgage payment of this home. The previous owner had also made-off with the kitchen - so there was no kitchen in the home when my clients previewed it for the first time.

My clients were fortunate enough to find and purchase this bank owned which was owned by Wells Fargo with no money down (Stated income / stated assets). That's right, people can still buy a home in the San Fernando Valley with no money down but you should have a credit score at least in the low 700's. We were also able to get $12,000 credit from the bank for buyers none recurring closing costs. This way, when escrow closed, the buyer would receive all of their initial money back and pay nothing out of pocket.

The most difficult aspect with working with a bank owned home is that the bank was slow to open escrow. It took approximately 3 weeks to open an escrow. Normally, it takes less than a day. Also, response times took 1-3 business day. The bank also provided their own paperwork which was not standard with the Realtor forms we use as agents.

Keep in mind when you purchase a bank owned home, your usually buying the home AS-IS. But in our situation, the bank had taken the steps to fix the major problems of the house and the previous owner had made upgrades which saved my buyers tens of thousands of dollars. The bank also installed brand new cabinets and granite counter-tops.

It took close to 3 months to close the property. So keep in mind that if you are considering buying a bank owned home, expect a delay from 60-90 days as banks are inundated with short sales and REO's.

More articles concerning bank owned homes:

San Fernando Valley - Buying Bank Owned Homes

Buying Foreclosure Properties Has It's Rewards & Risks

If you are considering buying a bank owned home in the Panorama City and surrounding cities including; Burbank, Valley Village, North Hollywood, Van Nuys, and Lake Balboa, contact a professional Realtor who knows how to work with Bank Owned homes.
Written by: Richard M. Johnston

San Fernando Valley Bank Owned Specialist

Thursday, August 16, 2007

San Fernando Valley - Buying Bank Owned Homes

Buying bank owned properties
There is a lot of interest in buying bank owned properties in the San Fernando Valley these days. A lot of information, some good and some bad, is floating around about the subject. Often the information offered is for sale, with the promise that you can make a lot of money with little effort once you know “the secret formula”. The fact is that there are no secrets, and to make money does require effort.

What’s an REO?
REO stands for “Real Estate Owned”. These are San Fernando Valley properties that have gone through foreclosure and are now owned by the bank or mortgage company. This is not the same as a property up for foreclosure auction. When buying a property during a foreclosure sale, you must pay at least the loan balance plus any interest and other fees accumulated during the foreclosure process. You must also be prepared to pay with cash in hand. And on top of all that, you’ll receive the property 100% “as is”. That could include existing liens and even current occupants that need to be evicted. A REO, by contrast, is a much “cleaner” and attractive transaction. The REO property did not find a buyer during foreclosure auction. The bank now owns it. The bank will see to the removal of tax liens, evict occupants if needed and generally prepare for the issuance of a title insurance policy to the buyer at closing. Do be aware that REO’s may be exempt from normal disclosure requirements. In California, for example, banks are exempt from giving a Transfer Disclosure Statement, a document that normally requires sellers to tell you about any defects they are aware of. The bank will also require the buyer to sign additional forms which are not standard Realtor forms. Keep in mind that the bank does not know the problems of the home because they never lived in it. So its importand to bring professional inspectors to look over the property.

Is it a bargain?
It’s commonly assumed that any REO must be a bargain and an opportunity for easy money. This simply isn’t true. You have to be very careful about buying a REO if your intent is to make money off of it. While it’s true that the bank is typically anxious to sell it quickly, they are also strongly motivated to get as much as they can for it. When considering the value of a REO, you need to look closely at comparable sales in the neighborhood and be sure to take into account the time and cost of any repairs or remodeling needed to prepare the house for resale. The bargains with money making potential exist, and many people do very well buying foreclosures. But there are also many REO’s that are not good buys and not likely to turn a profit. Your Realtor will be able to supply you with a comparable sales report of the neighborhood.

Ready to make an offer?
Typically the REO department of a bank will use a listing agent to get their REO properties listed on the local MLS. Before making your offer, you’ll want to contact your agent and find out as much as you can about what they know about the condition of the property and what their process is for receiving offers. Since banks almost always sell REO properties “as is”, you’ll want to be sure and include an inspection contingency in your offer that gives you time to check for hidden damage and terminate the offer if you find it. As with making any offer on real estate, you’ll make your offer more attractive if you can include documentation of your ability to pay, such as a pre-approval letter from a lender. After you’ve made your offer, you can expect the bank to make a counter offer. Then it will be up to you to decide whether to accept their counter, or offer a counter to the counter offer. Realize, you’ll be dealing with a process that probably involves multiple people at the bank, and they don’t work evenings or weekends. It’s not unusual for the process of offers and counter offers to take days or even weeks. In the market we are in now, expect several week delay just to open escrow.

Written by: Richard Johnston, RE/MAX
I specialize in Bank Owned (REO), Foreclosures, & Short Sales.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"Ailing Lenders"... What You Should Know

"Ailing Lenders"... Breakdown List of Mortgage Lenders Closing Their Doors or Drastic Streamlining

As the market continually goes through changes, many lenders are unable to stay afloat. As has been common knowledge and well documented the Sub Prime market as suffered greatly. They are although not the only ones... Alt-A products as well have suffered. The most recent and of common knowledge being Wells Fargo's Alternative Lending and American Brokers Conduit. I had personally spoken to my representative a few days prior to ABC closing their doors. My account representative did not give any mention or idea of internal turmoil that was going on. The reason? He probably had no idea. Changes in this industry are happening at such an accelerated rate that no one even knows if they will have a job by weeks end... As I spoke to a colleague of mine a few days ago, she mentioned that a certain lender had put a "hold" on the funding of one of her loans until further notice. Within the past few weeks, I personally had received several emails from this particular lender letting me know "they are going strong". Now, more likely than not, business will stabilize within the next few days... but, it definitely is cause for concern.

Below is a list of all ailing lenders who have closed their doors or streamlined drastically within the last couple months. Please note to contact your representative for further information! Some may still be operating in some capacity.

Pacific American Mortgage, Spectrum Financial Group, American Brokers Conduit, Transland Financial Services, Express Capital Lending, Deutsche Bank Correspondent Lending Group, MLSG, Trump Mortgage (yes Trump), Mylor Financial, Aegis, Alternative Financing Corp., Winstar Mortgage, Meridias Capital, Fieldstone Mortgage Co., Nations Home Lending, Wells Fargo Alternative Lending, Entrust Mortgage, Alliance Bancorp, Choice Capital Funding, Premiere Mortgage Funding, Stone Creek Funding, Flexpoint Funding, Starpointe Mortgage, Freestand Financial, etc.. etc... etc...

Although, there are several changes that have occurred and will continue to occur, there are still a handful of lenders operating under Sub Prime. The industry will normalize... It will just take some time. How much time? No one really knows. Agents and Officers in the business may have a guesstimate, but that is exactly what it is... a guesstimate. You can protect yourself! Here's how...

1. Credit Score- Please, monitor your credit report and score. You would be surprised how one number can be a determining factor on whether you can get a loan and/or save your house!

2. Be conservative- With property value continually dropping, be very cautious with your equity. Do not live beyond your means!

3. Keep your job- If you are employed, the longer you are at the company and assets you may acquire (401K) through this job are pertinent. (Lenders like to see this). If you are self-employed, try to have assets... liquid or in the form of stocks/bonds.

Please protect yourself and your future! If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me at any time.

Best Regards,

Swan Johnston
San Fernando Valley Loan Officer
(818) 694-9777 Mobile
(818) 557-8469 Facsimile

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bank Fraud

I received a call today from a person we'll call "Joe". Joe asked me if I had any pocket listings (not in the MLS) in the Sherman Oaks area that his clients can buy at below market value. I asked him for more specifics, and here is what Joe said... Let's say that you have a seller who is thinking of selling a Sherman oaks home soon (Keep in mind the home is not listed in the MLS). Let's say the true market value of the home is 550K and the seller will accept an offer at $500,000 without having to pay fee's resulting from selling the home the tradition way (escrow, agent, title, etc..).

Then Joe went on to say that he has an appraiser who will most likely appraise the property at $600,000. The additional $100,000 ($600,000 - $500,000) would be refunded back the the buyer at the close of escrow. Joe said that he would make his money (doing the loan) and I would make my money (representing the buyer).

I asked Joe if he was going to disclose the $100,000 buyer-credit to the lender. He said yes. He said everything would be done through escrow and we would not be breaking the law.

I asked Joe if he was aware that his actions constitute bank fraud. Confused, he said no and wondered why it would be considered so. I explained that I strongly doubt any bank would lend money to a buyer knowing that the seller was crediting the buyer $100,000 through escrow.

It's obvious Joe and his crooked friends were trying to swindle a large amount of money from the bank and cause financial damage to the neighborhood. I also guarantee that the Sherman Oaks home would most likely have ended up in foreclosure. This would have caused homes in the neighborhood to lose market value as that foreclosure would most likely be sold at a steep discount.

If you are thinking of selling your home or already have your Sherman Oaks home on the market, working with an Sherman Oaks real estate professional makes a world of difference.

Here is a post about how swindlers prey on people:
Foreclosure Rescue Scams - Don't Fall Prey!

Another article for those people who can't pay their mortgage:

Written by: Richard Johnston, RE/MAX OTB Estates
Sherman Oaks Real Estate Specialist

Understanding the Mortgage News Headlines

I tell you what - I think I might write a book! There is so much information and nuttiness out there that I don't know how the average consumer wades through it all. Well, never fear! I am here to help cut through the clutter!

Here's the scoop. Have you ever wondered who / what funds mortgages? Let me tell you who - Wall Street does in the form of mortgage-backed securities. Not Countrywide, Ditech, or Park Place Funding. No, investors fund home loans. That may sound complicated, but it really isn't. I know all of you have done some reading on investing and you've heard of "save" / "conservative" portfolios that have a lot of "bonds" instead of "stocks." bonds are basically loans that pay an annualized rate of return until the loan / face amount is returned to the investor. Governments sell bonds to finance debt, big corporations like Boeing sell bonds, and municipalities sell bonds. There are different kinds of qualities of bonds, but they are generally seen as "safe(r)" than stocks because they generate fixed income over a period of time plus the face value of the bond to the investor. You won't get a 30% return on a bond, but you can get a better return than you can at your bank without taking on the full risk of the stock market.

Back to mortages. Residential mortages are funded and then pooled together (securitized) into the bonds that investors purchase for fixed-income / investment yields. Financial institutions buy them, hedge funds buy them, governments buy them, etc... They are historically very save because they are collaterlized by real estate and have a very low default rate. Now - in the U.S., you can break this down into 2 types of mortage-backed bonds, "agency" and "non-agency."

Agency mortages are those that have been securitized through the agencies of FannieMae or FeddieMac. FNMA and FMAC stand behind qualified mortgages so that if the borrower defaults on their mortgage, the bond pool / investor isn't left holding the bag. 90% of my clients fall into this category. The second type, "non-agency," is not backed by FNMA or FMAC so that if a borrower defaults - guess what - the bond / investor takes a hit. Examples are jumbo loand "Alt-A" / stated-stated loans, and sub-prime loans.

Speaking of sub-prime... As you know, default rates in ths area have been rising and there is fear that defaults will get worse. The bond pools that included these kinds of loans went from AAA ratings to junk-bond status - which means they may not pay the investor the expected rate of return of rafe value of the bond. Needless to say, investors don't want to buy those any more!! Now if investors don't want to buy those bonds, lenders don't have money to lend, and sub-prime consumers can't get a loan. Period, then end.

When you hear about a "credit squeeze" or "crunch" this is what we're dealing with. Investors don't want 'non-agency paper" because they see the risk outweighing the reward. They just don't want to buy non-agency paper because no one seems to know where the the foreclosures / default rate will end. (When you hear "market dislocation" or "risk repricing" this is what is being taked about). this had made it very, very difficult to fund anything that is not FNMA/FMAC "fast-ball, down-the-middle," loan because there is no money to fund them! The investors for non-agency paper have run to the proverbial hills.

I'm not going to predict what will or won't happen in the non-agency loan arena because I really don't know. What I do know is that I am SO THANKFUL that MOST of my business is predicated on "prime" borrowers that are backed by FNMA and FMAC because investors still LOVE those bond pools! They love them because the "risk" is taken by these agencies, not the investor! if you want to stay in the FNMA / FMAC worlds - keep good credit, keep your job, and protect your home equity! Do these things and you'll never have to worry about your mortgage because investors LOVE you and the fixed income you provide through your monthly interest payments!!!

Written by: Swan Johnston
Mortage Loan Consultant

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Do Not Remove Your Loan Contingency

The California Residential Purchase Agreement and Joint Escrow Instructions (C.A.R. Form RPA-CA) by default has the loan contingency removal day to be within 17 days. This contingency is found on the first page under 2-I(i).

The Loan Contingency is in place to protect the buyer for at least 17 days in case the buyer cannot obtain a loan. But after 17 days, the seller will instruct the buyer to remove the loan contingency. Because of the volatility in the lending industry, I'm advising my clients to not remove the loan contingency until we have received confirmation from escrow/title company that the loan(s) have been funded.

Under 2-I(ii), you can check a box which will tell the other party when you write the offer that the loan contingency shall remain in effect until the designated loans are funded. You will usually know when the loans are funded when escrow has received confirmation from the title company. At that point, the recording will take place the following business day. You are safe to remove the Loan contingency at that point.

Please keep in mind that if you remove the loan contingency and the loan does not fund (Example; lender goes bankrupt, you no longer qualify for the loan, etc...) you have a good chance of losing the home and your initial deposit. Initial deposits are about 3% of the purchase price. And in this market, the chance of finding another lender to approve you is slim so you stand a good chance of losing your money.

If you are already working with an agent, please consult your real estate agent for advice. There is a difference when you work with a professional, call me 818-730-4128.

Written by: Richard M. Johnston, RE/MAX OTB Estates

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

San Fernando Valley Market Update

Despite tighter loan standards by mortgage lenders, a total of 690 single-family homes and 245 condominiums closed escrow last month in the San Fernando Valley, the Southland Regional Association of Realtors reported.

The single-family home tally was down 24.9 percent from a year ago, but up 9.7 percent from May 2007.

Condominium sales of 245 units fell 22.5 percent from a year ago and were off by 2.0 percent on a month-to-month basis.

"The California and U.S. economies remain strong and continue to expand which gives the housing market a chance to readjust to a more deliberate pace of home sales," said Winnie Davis, president of the Southland Regional Association of Realtors.

"There are still plenty of young couples who would like to buy a home, but tougher loan qualifying standards are slowing down the process and discouraging some prospective buyers," Davis said. "That's too bad, because there are more opportunities out there than at any point in the last four years."

There were 6,826 active listings at the end of June, up 7.1 percent from June 2006.
The record high inventory of 14,976 was set in July 1992 - which was a 17.2 month supply at the then current pace of sales. However, during the depths of the recession of the 1990s, the inventory at the then current pace of sales soared to a record high of 23.0 months.

At the current pace of sales, the today's inventory represents a 7.3-month supply, just above the 5- to 6-month inventory which indicates a balanced market. The inventory has been climbing steadily since it hit bottom with a 1-month supply in March 2004, the height of the recent boom market.

"The residential housing market statewide is stuck in the doldrums as prospective buyers sit on the sidelines trying to guess which way prices will go," said Jim Link, the Association's executive vice president. "Yet prices show no signs of falling dramatically and even if they did, any price gain might well be off set by rising interest rates on home loans."

The median price of the 690 homes sold during June went to a record high of $655,000, up 4.8 percent over a year ago nearly 1 percent higher than the prior record of $650,000 set this July.
Part of the reason the median price is inching higher is due to less activity in entry level priced homes and ongoing activity in mid-price range homes. The median price has been climbing steadily since it hit the bottom of $155,000 in November 1995.

The condominium median of $399,900 was up 1.2 percent from a year ago and 3.3 percent ahead of the May 2007 median price. The record high condo median price of $415,000 was set in February 2006.

Written by the Southland Regional Association of Realtors.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Pros and Cons of Living by Water

While demand never seems to disappear for waterfront property, the slowing real estate market has presented some great deals by lakes and oceans.

“The desire to look out your window and see water will always be there and will always be an added incentive for someone to purchase a home," says Richard Swerdlow, Miami-based chief executive of, an online marketplace for buying and selling condos.

But there are drawbacks to living the waterfront life. Among them: premium property prices, high insurance rates (especially if you're near a flood zone), and costly maintenance because moist air corrodes pipes and eats away at paint. But there are just as many perks.

Tonja Demoff, author of the book Bubble Proof: Real Estate Strategies That Work in Any Market, offers these five reasons for considering coastal property.

  • Ocean properties are in high demand and are often a great investment either for resale or rental income.

  • Fewer mosquitoes and insects as the ocean breezes push the critters westward.

  • Wonderful environment for children, away from the pollution of the city and a sedentary lifestyle.

  • Great exercise potential for people of all ages, be it swimming or walking along the shore or coast.

  • Ocean breezes make the hottest summer day feel cooler.

Source: Newsday, Laura Koss-Feder (08/03/2007)

You can search waterfront properties including Malibu, Malibu Beach, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, Venice, Marina Del Ray, Playa Del Ray by using this link:

Are You Selling Your Home Short?

If you purchased your home in the San Fernando Valley within the last few years, it’s possible if you decide to sell now, you won’t have enough equity to cover the cost of selling your home. These costs include escrow and title fees, Realtor fees, etc…

Let’s face it, real estate agents would prefer to have a buyer purchase a home directly from the seller without getting lenders final approval. It makes the job much easier and requires less time and aggravation.

I believe homes which are labeled a “Short Sale” do sell for less than what a similar home would sell for in the area. From my own experience, when a home is being sold short, there is a good chance that the home is also in pre-foreclosure.

Selling your home short will cause a negative impact on your credit and also tax consequences. You might want to check with your accountant so you’ll know what impact it will have the next time you fill your taxes.

To learn more about short sales, click here.

Written by: Richard M. Johnston, RE/MAX OTB Estates

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Do open houses work?

Looking back over the years, I wondered if all the open houses I hosted had actually produced a transaction. The answer is yes. Many years ago, I hosted a 1 bedroom, 1 bath condo in Sherman Oaks. This condo was located on Riverside Drive near Trader Joe’s and the Fashion Square mall. This Sherman Oaks condo was in an excellent location.

During that time, most Sherman Oaks properties were selling within weeks if not days. I’m sure several hundred people stopped by the property over the course of the first month. During this time, I did run into a gentleman who several years later did purchase a condo from me in an excellent location in Sherman Oaks.

I can say open houses do work for the agents benefit, but how well do they work for the actual seller. I mean, what percentage of homes actually sell because an agent held an open house and the buyer walked in and bought it.

Craig Procter, a well known Real estate agent and trainer in Canada, suggest that there is a 1% chance the home will sell because of an open house. Another words, there is a 99% chance the open house will fail to produce a buyer.

So why do agents continue to host open houses knowing that it won’t produce a buyer? There are two reasons why open houses still exist. The first, sellers still think open houses work – even though agents know better. The second, the agents get to meet buyers who are interested to purchase a home in the near future.

If your thinking of selling your home, instead of hoping to sell your home during an open house ( I know you have better things to do on your weekend), make your home more accessible by having the agent place a lockbox so other agents can get in and out without having to make appointments. Plus, it’s important choosing an agent who not only is responsive (calling back & answering the phone) to your needs, but also is available to quickly return other agents calls and requests.

Written by: Richard M. Johnston, RE/MAX
I specialize in Sherman Oaks and surrounding areas including: Studio City, Toluca Lake, Burbank, Van Nuys, Valley Glen, Valley Village, Encino, Tarzana.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Adding Curb Appeal

6 Ways to Spruce Up the Yard
When a house for sale looks good outside, buyers are more likely to want to come inside, says Barb Schwarz, founder of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals.

Here are some of Schwarz’s suggestions for tidying up the yard.

Make it neat and clutter-free. Get rid of children’s toys and limit the number of hanging flower baskets and yard art. "It's far better to have fewer bigger pots than the clutter of smaller hanging pots," Schwarz says. "They just weigh down the house."

Mow, weed and edge. “If the yard doesn't look well-manicured, then [potential buyers] feel the home hasn't been well maintained," Schwarz says. If the dog urinated on the yard and killed a portion of it, Schwarz recommends painting it.

Trim the greenery. Trim trees from the bottom so they create a canopy but don’t block the view. Trim foundation plantings from the top, so they don’t impede views of the windows.

Add color. If there’s no color in the yard, plant something like brightly blooming impatiens along the walkway.

In winter, place two small potted evergreen trees on either side of the door to brighten up the entrance. Also, make sure the walkways are clear of ice and snow.

Buy a new welcome doormat to dress up the front door.

More Links: