Category Archives: Ask Betsy

Q. Do you think staging a house is helpful to the sale or is it a waste of money?

A. Research strongly suggests that houses that are staged sell faster and for more money than houses that are not staged. There is a reason why most builders’ model homes are staged. I am particularly an advocate of staging houses where the floorplan or rooms are not traditional, making it difficult to see how one could use the space. Contrary to popular belief, staging does not have to be expensive. Many stagers will use what you have and add pieces to either modernize or fill-in what you are lacking. Alternatively, you can have your home virtually staged. This involves having a technology company virtually input furniture, wall and window treatments, plants, etc. into your room photos. This helps buyers see how a room could be used, avoids the hassle of having major furniture moved into and out of a house and reduces the fear of damaging furniture that is not yours.

Q. What impact do sinkholes have on home values and how can I best protect my family from something happening?

A. Sinkholes and the foundation issues they cause are at the top of the list of buyer’s “deal-breakers.” Even homes that have been repaired and secured by foundation pinning tend to have a cloud over them when it’s time to resell. The reason is that some buyers will just not consider such a home and therefore, the pool of buyers for the house is smaller. Such homes are often more secure than a home that has not has any issues but still the buying public’s fears exist. If you consider buying such a home, do so at below market value. Proactively, to protect yourself from such a tragedy, look for signs of damage. Window and doors usually show the first signs – do they all open and close easily? Is there cracking inside and outside the home in the walls (esp. by the windows and doors), foundation or pavement. Wide and/or uneven cracks are the most worrisome. If you are concerned, hire a structural engineer to inspect the home and do soil composition test to get their opinion if reinforcement is needed.

Q. I’m selling my house and the buyer is requesting me to pay up to $5,000 of their closing costs. Should I and how exactly does that work? Do I have to bring $5000 to closing for them?

A. Whether you should or not depends on the total offer terms. Are you comfortable with the sales price less $5000 because that is essentially what you are being offered? Assuming you have more than $5,000 of equity in the house, the title company will credit the buyer $5,000 at closing and reduce your proceeds by the same amount. You do not have to bring a check for $5,000 unless you have less than that in equity. Generally, the full amount will be used, so don’t anticipate getting some of the $5,000 back. If you don’t want to pay the closing costs, an alternative that is sometimes suggested is to increase the purchase price by $5,000. In essence, the buyer then is financing their closing costs. In this case, however, the house will have to appraise for the new, higher sales price. If it fails to appraise, the buyer may come back and ask for the difference.