5 Ways to Boost Home Value Outdoors

Suburban 2-story Home
By trimming back bushes, removing yard debris, and keeping doors and shutters maintained, your home will increase in curb appeal and in value.

Happy Spring Ya’ll! Anyone feel like the first quarter of 2019 in Northern Kentucky has dragged a bit? No? Just me? Ok. Well, this week is looking to be sunny and seasonable which means we can actually open our windows and go outside. So what if I told you, you could enjoy the outdoors and increase your home’s value at the same time, all in a weekend? What if I told you, it’d only require you to look at the front of your home? Are you game? Let’s go then.

1. Pick up yard “waste”.

Winter allows us to forget (temporarily) about maintaining our yards and also the land mines that may accumulate from either your dog or a neighborhood dog. Survey the land and pick up any waste a dog may have left. While poop makes a great fertilizer, if you plan on selling your home soon, it’s not something people appreciate when home searching/buying.

In addition to this, picking up trash that may have found its way onto your yard can only benefit you so grab a bag and get goin’.

2. Clear gardens and prune the bushes.

Pulling weeds can be a great way to skip the gym and still get a good workout. Removing last years blooms will allow for new ones to grow in the spring and it will improve the overall curb appeal of your home.

While you’re pulling weeds, take a minute to inspect trees and bushes for damage from the harsh elements. Remove any brown spots in shrubs and trim back any branches now before the leaves come in and the task becomes 10x harder.

3. Turn the water on, fix any leaks.

If you never turned the water off to your hose connections or the hose was left (it was an accident I’m sure) outside all winter long, you may find yourself with a bit of a mess come spring.

Either way, now is a great time to get that hose back up and running so that if there are any issues such as leaks or cracks, you do not end up with a large water bill or a puddle the size of the Ohio River in your yard (or basement).

4. Clean/paint your front door (and shutters if you have them).

A good scrubbing of your front door, garage door(s), and shutters if you have them, can make a huge difference. Especially if your doors are very light or very dark. This article on Hunker explains how to make an easy natural cleaning solution and from there, how to add in more powerful solvents to get the job done.

If you’re looking to change it up this year or your doors are looking a little rough and need some paint, I love PPG’s color visualizer. Here, you can upload a photo of your own home and try on colors before buying anything. And PPG is a known and trusted brand with local stores around Northern Kentucky so once you find a color, write it down and bring it to them and they will help you with what type of paint you need to buy, easy peasy.

5. Sweep. Yes, outside.

Finally, grab a broom like this one. It’s called a corn broom. It doesn’t have to be expensive, you can find it on Amazon or go to Home Depot or Lowes to get one.

Now sweep every solid surface you have. Stairs, sidewalk, walkways, even your garage. The great part of sweeping outside is that, as long as you don’t have massive amount of debris or trash on your walkways you can sweep the dirt back into your lawn.

Extra Credit:

While many HOA communities do not allow this, there are still some neighbors in Kenton, Boone, and Campbell County who still have not removed the Christmas decor from their house and yard.

Unless you are looking for a physical invitation to remove them, this weekend leaves you with no excuse. Grab the ladder, if you live in Kenton County, you can rent one from the library through Empower Tools, and remove the icicle lights. We promise we won’t judge.

If you don’t own your own home and would like your own front door to paint whatever color you’d like (within reason, some HOAs do have regulations) I’m just a call or text to 859-667-2463 or email away, erica@ericawisher.com.

Erica Wisher, Successfully Managing Real Estate Transactions

What Fees Are A Home Buyers Responsibility? (It’s not so black and white)

Photo by Pepi Stojanovski on Unsplash

A buyer client of mine caught me off guard the other day. “Well, we’re factoring in your fees…” They mumbled.

Wait. What?

Typically, a home buyer in Northern Kentucky, does not pay the buyer broker’s commission, the seller does. But, like so many other things in real estate, the answer isn’t always cut and dry. In Northern Kentucky real estate, it’s no different.

When a commission fee to the buyer may apply.

You’re searching on one of those shall-not-be-named websites at 2 a.m. and stumble across the home of your dreams. 4 beds, 3 baths, master suite, finished basement, in-ground pool… … Sorry, got away from me for a second there. You look at the price. $249,900, in your budget.

And it’s For Sale By Owner.

Can you buy this? Is it worth it to look? Should you call your REALTOR® – which is hopefully me? Yes, yes, and YES.

So how could this be an issue?

Aside from lacking proper documentation such as a Lead Based Paint Disclosure or Property Disclosure, home sellers who are not represented themselves may not be willing to compensate your REALTOR® to represent you.

This is not the time to ditch your REALTOR® but it is the time in this blog where I say tread carefully.

A client of mine felt scammed recently when she go to the inspections and, after paying hundreds of dollars to inspect the home, discovered the owner knew about half of them. In the end the extent of the repairs made my client to nervous to proceed and once she came and talked to me, we found her a home that came with a disclosure so she knew what she was walking into before the contract was written.

It is always a good idea as a buyer to have representation and someone who knows what to ask and when. Had my client come to me and asked me to represent her, we could have potentially saved her thousands before she spent a dime.

So the good news??? Many owners selling their homes themselves do in fact work with buyers agents and compensate them but it is always something to take into consideration when looking at a home that is listed For Sale By Owner. In order to be represented, you may, as the buyer have to pay the commission of your REALTOR® and that can be negotiated prior to spending any other money on the purchase of the home.

Administration Fee.

Another time you, as a buyer may face fees from a real estate brokerage is a small administration fee for processing. It is not considered commission. It is very commonplace in Northern Kentucky real estate transactions, however buyers who do work with RE/MAX United Associates (my home sweet home) do not pay this fee. Typically the fee runs between $150 to $250 and is paid at closing. Again, no fee for us.

Extra Credit: What is a “Buyer’s Premium”?

This legaleze is from one of the largest home auction sites in the U.S.
Credit: Hubzu.com

One extra cost (aside from commission and closing costs) that you as a buyer may face in purchasing a home is a processing fee, “technology fee” or a “buyers premium” if you purchase a home from a bank or auction site. This money does not go to an agent’s brokerage, rather it pays the company for listing the property on the auction site, or on MLS. They can run from $150 and up, even to like 5-10% of the purchase price of the property. Your REALTOR® should notify you of this fee prior to making an offer on the property. Here is a pretty decent article with more info here.

Looking to navigate your way through purchasing your first or fifth home? Let me shine a light for you along the way. Give me a call, text, or email at 859-667-2463 or erica@ericawisher.com.

Erica Wisher, Successfully Managing Real Estate Transactions

Split-Level Remodel Inspiration For 2019 [Pinterest]

Purchasing a bi-level or split-level home in Northern Kentucky can be a steal in this crazy market. The decision is still split (see what I did there?) on whether these homes hold their value. Which I will respond with an resounding YES. What doesn’t retain value or gain value is old carpet, linoleum, outdated cabinets, old appliances, and the same exterior as it had in 1992. With recent home renovation companies designing eye catching interior and exterior remodels, these homes are being transformed into beautiful masterpieces that look more 2019 and less 1950’s/60’s suburb. And what better place to find renovation inspiration than Pinterest? Here are five masterpieces that have been pinned into split-level heaven.

The Inspiring Investment brings so many good ideas and
inspiration to the table for a split level.

An updated front entry and landscaping paired with a fresh garage door creates welcoming curb appeal.

Paint and landscaping make a total difference once again. While this home still looks like a split level, the stone facade and double doors in the lower level add new details to the 1950’s design.

A digital rendering it might be, but the larger windows and grand entryway give this home the feel of a custom built home, not something that has been replicated in many other suburbs across the U.S.

Saving the most impressive for last, this remodel uses wood features and giant silver house numbers to create a unique design.


WOWZA! So I couldn’t replace any of the previous updates with this one, so you’re getting buy 5 get 1 free. This is a total transformation adding what looks like to be a larger living room. This probably cost the owners a pretty penny but this upgrade has given them a lot of equity in their home.

Do you have a split level or bi-level home that you’re renovated lately? I’d love to see it. Post in the comments and let’s get inspired. And if you need someone to sell your home, call me at 859-667-2463!

Erica Wisher, Successfully Managing Real Estate Transactions

Bad Weather = Good Time To House Hunt

Gray skies can help you find a home worth buying in Northern Kentucky

For real estate in Northern Kentucky, the last two weeks of weather has been … interesting to say the least, with biting cold and so so much rain. But they have also been two very busy weeks in real estate. Homes for sale in Northern Kentucky that are priced correctly with no major defects or flaws do not stay on the market long and weather, unless dangerous, is no reason to stop looking for a home. That being said, my raincoat and boots got a lot of use these past few days while I helped a few clients.

To be honest, seeing homes in this type of weather is best for buyers. Case in point, on a second showing of a home for sale in Covington, my clients and I were greeted to soaking wet walls and water dripping into the electrical panel. Into. The. Electrical. Panel. It was a new panel, no rust had visibly developed in the panel and an electrical inspection determined the cause of the leak and helped us negotiate properly. Had we not seen this, my clients would have bought the home and gotten a shocking surprise!

Not all issues discovered by an excessive amount of rain pose danger though and sometimes it’s not the house but the land the home sits on. A flooded backyard at a house that sits on a hill without proper drainage in Florence, water gathered under the deck of a home with what looked like a flat back yard in Covington.

It is important to note though, that these issues were all able to be remedied and not every home has concerns that need rain to find. In fact, finding a home in sunny and 75 degree weather is just as good as raining and 42. What should be taken into consideration is that finding a home can happen at anytime during the year. Take it from me, the girl who closed on her house on December 23rd.

If you’re looking to buy a home in Northern Kentucky and you need someone to brave the rain and weather (sunny and 75 is also good) with you, shoot me an email at erica@ericawisher.com or give me a call at 859-667-2463.

The Costs Before The Closing Table

Congratulations! You’ve done it. With a lot of planning and working hard, you’re ready to buy a home in Northern Kentucky! But is your bank account ready? Surprising to some, required of everyone, there are upfront costs to purchasing a home, and some are not part of the purchase price. Are you surprised? If so, read on.

Earnest money, inspection costs, appraisal fees, and then at closing, closing costs. These are the costs that will need to be paid out of pocket aside from the down payment for a home. It can add up so it’s wise to know what you may be spending in addition to the purchase price when you buy a home in Northern Kentucky.

Earnest Money: What is it and who gets it?

Earnest money basically tells the seller “I am serious about buying your home”. It lets them know you mean business and the more you put down for earnest money, the more serious you look.

In Northern Kentucky, earnest money usually runs about $500 for every $100,000 purchased BUT, and this is a big BUT, if you are in multiple offer situations you can use earnest money to your advantage. In this market, don’t be surprised if your REALTOR (like me) starts suggesting you to put more on the table.

Inspection time: The bulk of out-of-pocket costs.

During this period you can do whatever inspection you want. In the state of Kentucky an inspector or any professional giving a quote on repair must be a licensed professional during the home buying process. Because of this, some costs may be incurred but it’s important not to skimp on these, in the end, they can save you thousands.

General home inspections can be between $400 and $800 depending on the company you choose. Of course there are different levels of basic home inspections, $800 may include radon testing (it exists in Northern Kentucky homes), lead testing (something to consider for older homes in older cities like Covington, KY), and other more concentrated inspections. Most general home inspections include termite inspections but it’s always good to ask.

Other home inspections I highly recommend are

  • Surveys
  • HVAC inspection
  • Structural
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical (if the home is older)
  • Radon (if the inspector has concerns and this can be done by the general inspector many times)

Here’s why:

Wouldn’t you like to know just what land you’re buying when you plan on shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars? Don’t assume the fence is the boundary line. Don’t assume that play equipment or grill is on your property either, home-owners do wacky things. Surveys for Northern Kentucky real estate can run $400 and up.

Many home warranty companies now will not cover your HVAC unless you have a certificate of good health (for your HVAC) from an HVAC technician. If the previous home owner did not get regular maintenance, this might be a good idea. It can be free, especially if you get a yearly maintenance package with them, to $200 and up.

Getting a plumbing inspection can save you thousands of dollars in the long run. Especially if you live in an older house that may have clay or lead pipes underground. And yes, I said lead pipes. Plumbing inspections are $150 and up in Northern Kentucky, don’t be afraid to call around.

BONUS: If you plan on gardening in your back yard, get a soil/environmental inspection. You can read why here.

The Appraisal: The final decision.

Whew… Inspections are anxiety inducing. And this is why it’s important and smart to work with a REALTOR who knows Northern Kentucky real estate (like me). I can guide you, one step at a time through this whole debacle and it won’t seem so overwhelming.

So back to appraisals. Just because a seller accepted your offer of $250,000 doesn’t mean your lender will just shell out the money. The appraiser, hired by the lender, must price the home at or above purchase price. If they don’t, the lender won’t lend and you will be back at the bargaining table again.

What’s the damage? About $500 in Northern Kentucky. I’ve seen more, I’ve seen less and it must be paid to your lender and completed before they can pass your file onto the underwriter. Holding them up by non-payment can hold up the entire process and put your contract in jeopardy and not the fun game type, the scary, you-might-not-get-a-house type.

So in total you should expect about $1,500 minimum for out of pocket costs. For budget’s sake, over estimate on everything. If the home you are planning on buying is larger than 5,000 sq. ft., unique in location or character (think historical), it could be much much more out of pocket before you sign on the dotted line.

If you are still confused about the out-of-pocket costs of buying a home I’m here to help. You can call or text me at (859) 667-2463 or email me at erica@ericawisher.com.