Home Design And Staging

JUST SOLD! 5101 Romay Court Madison, WI

5101 Romay Court

5101 Romay Court in Madison received an accepted offer after only 13 days on the market!  The home was listed at $183,500, and SOLD for $181,800.  The sellers did an exceptional job staging this home to sell.  The combination of a Realtor that can give good staging recommendations, assist in the right pricing strategy, and set up proper expectations will result in a successful sale.

And the Sellers said...

"Selling in today's market is tricky. As first-time sellers, we were nervous (to say the least) and knew we needed an attentive partner who is an expert in the industry.  We found that person - Sara; she is knowledgeable, honest while still being sensitive, and encouraging.  She is truly gifted.

Sara came over multiple times to answer our questions, recommend new finishes, and most importantly calmed our fears.  We followed her recommendations and our house was on the market only 13 days!  The Alvarado Group kept us informed about the buyer's deadlines and the next steps of the process.  We felt prepared the entire time. I would recommend to anyone selling, work with Sara and the Alvarado Group.  Sara understands the Madison market, and has a keen awareness of her client's needs and expectations." - Valerie and Mark

Sara Alvarado's knowledge and expertise in home sales, the Madison area real estate market, and home staging can play the key role in getting your home sold!  If you would like to talk to Sara Alvarado about listing your home and getting it SOLD contact her at 608.438.5005 or sara@thealvaradogroup.com today!


Top 5 Tips for your Home Improvement Projects

As homeowners we must be ready and willing to take on home-improvement projects to keep our homes well maintained and in the best condition possible for our own benefit and for re-sale value when we go to sell. In today's Madison WI real estate market you may not be getting your money back on home improvements that you've done in the past couple of years but those updates will help your home sell faster in a market that is best described as a "Price War and Beauty Contest." I have access to many great home-improvement resources. Here are some of my favorite tips from HGTV's Carter Oosterhouse: 

Focus on projects that will pay you back

For example, if you're dealing with hot or cold weather, try to lower heating and cooling bills by properly sealing your home. Look for drafts around windows, doors, and vents,and then use caulk or weather stripping to seal them. It may not be glamorous, but it will pay you back down the road.

Know where to start

If you have never taken on a major project, start with spaces such as the living room, spare bedroom, or the garage -- rooms that won't limit your ability to function, says Oosterhouse. I also recommend working one room at a time so you don't feel overwhelmed with the whole house.

Closet reorganization

Many times, people have maxed out their closet and have no more room to add, let alone organize. That's when it's time to evaluate. Donate clothes you no longer wear to a charity, store seasonal attire in a separate location, and try living by the rule for kid's toys that when a new one comes in the home, an old one has to go out (meaning donate not trash).

Break down a big project

Planning is essential. As Oosterhouse says, if you think you can just start up any big job without a plan, then you are in for a world of frustration. Know your capabilities and limitations. It helps to have a notebook or a binder dedicated for your home where you can keep lists of what you want to do, what you've done (include dates), receipts and warranty paperwork along with contact info for your favorite contractors (or check our list here). This is a great asset when you are ready to sell your home too! It will make it easier for your Realtor to properly market the updates and features of your home to potential buyers.

Know where the biggest ROI is

The improvements that will most add to the value of your home include: the kitchen, the master bedroom and bathroom. These can boost your resale value and attract buyers who want a space that's move-in ready.

These are just some of many great suggestions for tackling home improvement projects. Feel free to contact me for more ideas and please forward this email on to your neighbors and friends that are homeowners too.

Source: Lowe's Creative Ideas magazine, 2010

Tips for Building Smaller Homes, Greener Homes

I recently spent the month in Mexico, in a 900 sq. ft. apartment with my husband and two young boys. Our house in Madison is around 1700 sq. ft. with extra space in the basement and the 2 car garage for storage. Surprisingly enough, it is wonderful living in a smaller space. I was a bit worried at first yet right away I started discovering more and more reasons to embrace and love it. A couple of months ago I was talking to my dear friend Sonya Newenhouse who is in the midst of building a modular home in Viroqua WI and I told her my biggest concern in moving to smaller space with two growing boys is winter time. Here in Mexico we spend many hours outside and that is probably part of the reason I don't notice the claustrophobic feeling that we get in the middle of winter when the kids have a lot of energy and are bouncing off the walls wishing they could go out and play. Here are some great tips for ways to embrace and create large living in small spaces.

Creating Space with Less Square Footage

Although a high ceiling, larger mirror, and natural light make a modest bathroom feel larger, actually cutting square feet from a home is more difficult than it sounds. Here are a few "small ideas" to make a small green home more functional and attractive.

Add Inches to Height: Instead of eight foot ceilings,  have nine foot ceilings. This keeps small rooms from seeming cramped. 

Eliminate Attics: The usable space under the attic can be used for visual appeal, conditioned storage, and loft space.

Eliminate Halls: Halls take up space that can be used for storage or larger rooms. Traffic patterns can cross rooms. 

Separate Space: Rather than building walls, separate spaces with changes in materials or ceiling height., Furniture, such as a bookcase perpendicular to a wall, also separates space without a wall.

Eliminate Formals: Do you use a parlor or a formal dining room more than a few times a year? Plan a larger kitchen or use two separate sitting areas within one living area. A living-dining area with a small, windowed breakfast nook in (or off) the kitchen adds visual space and usability to both rooms. When not eating, use the breakfast nook for homework or use the dining table for games and extra seating for guests.

Use Space Under Roof Peak: Look for a small second story under the peak of the roof. It costs less than first-story space because it uses far fewer resources to build.

I hope these are useful tips as we all learn to challenge how we live and be aware of our habits. I encourage you all to follow Sonya's videos and track the progress of her home. There is so much to learn. We also have many more tips on our website and encourage you to send us your tips, thoughts or ideas for sustainable living in your home and community.

Room Staging to Help Sell Your Madison WI Home!

How to Improve Your Madison WI Home for Prospective Buyers

Show Ready Home

The goal for any home seller is to sell their property quickly, while investing as little as possible in renovations. One of my favorite things is walking through homes with my Seller clients and discovering all the great ways they can increase their home's appeal and sales price with a limited budget and a little effort. The key is to focus on the prospective buyers experience on their first visit.

Curb appeal

First impressions are everything and this has never been truer than in today's market. To leave a positive impression on buyers, take care of any exterior maintenance issues before buyers arrive, such as power washing walkways and patios, cleaning your gutters, touching up peeling paint, replacing broken light bulbs, edging and mulching beds, and adding fresh annuals. Some free things you can do include polishing your front door hardware and sweeping away pesky cobwebs. Remember that the buyers might be standing on your front steps for a bit while their Realtor is accessing the key and opening the front door.


Give your kitchen a mini facelift on a budget by repainting your cabinets instead of replacing them. For a more contemporary look, consider a semi-gloss espresso brown. For a more traditional look, opt for a semi-gloss creamy white. Complete the makeover by adding new hardware. Considering professional help? Ask your local painter if they can spray a lacquer finish on your cabinets. This treatment is more expensive than painting the cabinets yourself but the result looks like a factory finish.


Give an outdated bath a pick-me-up by replacing your existing lighting, faucets and hardware with updated styles. Make sure the caulk around bathtubs is fresh, and color coordinate towels, hand soap and shower curtains.

Family room

Make your fireplace or great view the selling feature, not your entertainment center. Chances are, your family room is currently centered around the things you do everyday, such as watching television. Before showing, rearrange your room to showcase the architectural focal point of your family room.

Dining room

Keep the dining room decluttered and streamlined so buyers can imagine how they can enjoy this space with their families. Before showing, make sure to remove any knick-knacks and extraneous items from your china cabinet or sideboard. A rule to follow: pack up any items that are smaller than a softball, such as salt and pepper shakers, wedding cake toppers and small figurines.

Living room

Make sure you are selling your space, not your stuff. Give this space a less-cluttered look by keeping no more than three items per surface. For example, go with a piece of art and a pair of candlesticks on the mantle instead of your favorite collection.

A little bit of work and preparation can go a long way toward selling your home sooner. For more tips and advice, contact the Alvarado Group for a no obligation consultation. And, if you have a friend trying to sell, please feel free to pass this on. Get other home selling tips via Twitter.

Getting Your Madison Home Ready to Sell

Dane County WI home for sale

Every detail counts!

First impressions are everything. When you are selling your Madison WI home you have control over an important selling factor - condition. Here is a list of important improvements and staging tips that can make a HUGE difference in capturing a buyer's interest and getting you top dollar! 


Some homes have too much color or wild colors and need to be neutralized. Some homes are too stark with white walls everywhere. Give rooms some color. Touch up paint. Make the home move in ready.

Light fixtures

Outdated light fixtures give the buyers a perception that the home needs to be updated and create the impression that bigger items like the roof and furnace may also need updating. Spending $50 - $300 updating light fixtures is a smart move.

Kitchen and bathroom hardware

Changing the knobs and handles on cabinets and drawers can make an older kitchen newer without having to replace cabinets.

Clean, Clean, Clean

A deep cleaning will make the home sparkle. Be sure to clean cobwebs in the basement, high ceiling corners and around the mechanical equipment.

Pack and organize

You are moving so don't wait until the last minute to start packing. If you start moving things to a storage area now (or create an organized space in the basement, garage or storage shed) and de-clutter your home, it will look bigger and feel more spacious to prospective buyers. No one can do this for you so if you are overwhelmed with what to spend time and money on, hire out the repairs and cleaning and spend your time packing and organizing your home.

Remove big pieces of furniture

Again, the goal is to make the home feel bigger and spacious.

Replace Appliances

Buyers see new kitchen appliances and are immediately wowed. It is always nice to have a new water heater, but a new refrigerator and stove is a better buy if you are trying to capture a buyer's interest.


The curb appeal is a huge aspect to the emotional draw for buyers. There are times a buyer is scheduled to see a home and when they drive up to the showing they decide they don't even want to go in.

Window coverings

Updating window coverings with simple curtains can warm up the room and soften a vacant home.

New flooring

Sometimes it seems it would be easier to replace the carpeting after you've moved out but the initial reaction of old and stained carpet or ancient vinyl flooring can be a big turnoff for buyers. If you can't replace the carpet at least let the buyers know in writing when they come to the home that you are willing to replace the carpet or get the carpets professionally cleaned  prior to close or provide a credit for new carpet. Changing vinyl flooring in kitchens and bathrooms can make a big difference and is worth looking into.


Talk to us about help with staging your home using our services or local experts that provide accent pieces, wall hangings and even furniture to dress up your home. Here is a great blog post about Green Designs in helping you sell.

Maintenance checkups

Have the furnace cleaned and checked, the air conditioner, fireplace/chimney and have a plumber come over and repair any leaky faucets or loose toilets (here is a list of our preferred vendors). Providing the potential buyers with these reports and receipts of a well maintained house will go a long way.

It may feel like a lot of work and even a substantial amount of money to prepare your home to sell it. However, if you put your home on the market for $250,000 and you are getting showings but no offers, you are getting feedback from the market. 

The three most important factors in selling your home are:

  • Price
  • Location
  • Condition

Of those three factors, what do you have control over? Price and Condition. So if you aren't getting any offers you now have a couple of options: one is to lower your price. Most likely your next price adjustment will be a minimum of $5,000. But it may mean changing the price to $240,000 (a $10,000 adjustment). Consider keeping your home at $250,000 and investing $3,000 into improvements and you'll make more money and your house will sell quicker! 

When you first think about spending $3,000 to sell your house it sounds like a lot doesn't it? But when you think of lowering the price from $250,000 to $245,000 because you haven't had any offers and your house has been on the market for 60 days that seems reasonable. 

Of course it is all perception. I challenge you to consider this perception when thinking about properly preparing your home for current market conditions. 

It is never to soon to call Sara Alvarado when you are thinking about selling your home. Call 608.438.5005 or email Sara@TheAlvaradoGroup.com.

Top 10 Reasons to List During the Holiday Season

Many people are calling now to talk about listing their Madison area home at the beginning of the year. Maybe mid January. Some are even talking about selling in the Spring and requesting consultations. This is great to have such proactive Sellers willing to start preparing their house for showings so far in advance. No matter what month it is, people are always asking, "When is the best time to sell?" The best time to sell your home is when you need to/want to/are ready to sell. Period.

How about the calls we're getting to come and list their house NOW? Here are the Top 10 Reasons why some Sellers are Ready, Set, Go:  

  1. People who look for a home during the Holidays tend to be more serious buyers. Yes, you may have fewer showings then the month of May, but you KNOW that every showing during December is a motivated, serious Buyer. Who else is out looking for homes this time of the year?
  2. Serious buyers have fewer houses to choose from during the Holidays and less competition means more money for you.
  3. Since the supply of listings could increase in January, there may be less demand for your particular home. Less demand means less money for you.
  4. Houses show better when decorated for the Holidays. (well, sometimes. Don't over decorate. And please, no smelly candles).
  5. Buyers are more emotional during the Holidays (and sometimes more stressed out), so the quicker they find the right house, the better. That makes for faster negotiating and can mean more money for you.
  6. Buyers have more time to look for a home during the Holidays. Relocating Buyers may be scheduling their holiday travel around the city they are moving to.
  7. Some Buyers must buy before the end of the year for tax reasons.
  8. January is traditionally the month for employees to begin new jobs. Since transferees cannot typically wait until spring to buy, you must be on the market now to capture that market.
  9. You can sell now for more money and we will provide for a delayed closing or extended occupancy until early next year.
  10. You can still be on the market, but you have the option to restrict showings if necessary (for example, the day you're hosting a holiday party or the days your in laws are visiting).

If you are ready to sell and someone told you to wait until after the holidays - don't. Contact Sara Alvarado at 608.251.6600 or email sara@thealvaradogroup.com and get moving!

Madison's Green Realtors present our Top 10 Green Design Tips

Green Design IdeasAs the green movement gathers steam, many homeowners -- and soon-to-be homeowners -- are exploring ways to become environmentally conscious within their living spaces. Creating a healthier and more energy efficient home not only helps the planet but can also boost your home's value when it comes time to sell. We notice that once there is a desire for more sustainable living, simple actions help create an awareness that then helps shift your daily habits and how you think about the choices you are making, not only in your home, but in your life. And creating a green home isn't as expensive and hard as you may think.

Madison is at the forefront of the Green movement in many ways. Our team of EcoBrokers and agents with the GREEN designation have specialized training to help buyers and sellers (find out how we help here). Our MLS offers a searchable category to search for Green Built and Energy Star homes. And our local REALTORS Association partners with other local associations in hosting an annual Sustainable Showcase every fall. Madison is known for our natural settings and Lakes, Farmers' Markets, amazing parks, bike paths, community building and strong initiative on local businesses and foods. All these factors support the concept that doing your part in creating a greener home is certainly a selling point that will add value.  

These days, there are an increasingly wide range of products that offer a variety of environmental values but fall short when it comes to style. As members of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, however, we have access to many credible sources on the subject, such as Robin Wilson, a pioneer in the eco-friendly design sector, and Vickie Gilstrap, vice president of color and design for Mohawk's Residential Business. They offer the following areas to zero in on when greening your home ... while, of course, being mindful of design.

  1. Carpet. Did you know that one out of every four recycled plastic bottles is made into carpet? That's more than 3 billion bottles each year! Choose carpet made from renewable or recycled materials. Sergenians Flooring has an innovative program that will keep your old carpet out of the landfill. (Thank you Sergenian's!)
  2. Paint. Create a cozy space by painting an accent wall in a warm earth tone like cocoa or cinnamon. Choose paint that is non-toxic and contains little or no volatile organic compounds. If your home was built before 1978 read up on new lead regulations before starting your project.
  3. Pillows. Use certified organic fabrics to create window treatments or accent pillows. You'll be surprised at the variety of colors and patterns available.
  4. Floors. When choosing hardwood flooring, using reclaimed wood adds a touch of antique, natural beauty to your home. We recommend Eco Friendly Flooring and Habitat ReStore.
  5. Counters. Look for those made from recycled glass, ceramic or sustainable bamboo. Use them in both your kitchen and your bathroom. The Alvarado Real Estate Group office features a counter top made from pressed sunflower seeds (View our Eco Friendly Work Space Slide Show to see what else we have done).
  6. Accessories. Don't just throw away your older items -- breathe new life into vintage pieces instead by pairing them with fresh accessories. Reupholster an old arm chair or add an accent pillow to give it a fresh, new look. Or look for accessories at garage sales and resale shops.
  7. Lighting. Install dimmable compact fluorescent lights, which can consume up to 75% less electricity and last 10 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs. Or open your shades and let the natural sunlight shine in (and check out our blog post on windows and energy savings for more info).
  8. Bathrooms. A new shower curtain can update the entire look of your bathroom. Opt for nylon, which is one of the more eco-friendly materials available. Learning how to ensure your indoor air quality is healthy, take the time for Green Cleaning and use non toxic cleaning products!
  9. Faucets/Toilets. Look for faucets with the WaterSense label, which can save the average household more than 500 gallons of water each year and hundreds of dollars in utility bills. If you buy a low water use toilet don't miss out on the City of Madison's great rebate program!
  10. Bedrooms. Transform your bedroom with eco-friendly bedding. Duvets, shams and linens are available in organic materials and recycled yarn.

Thankfully, manufacturers are answering the consumer demand for eco-friendly products that are also beautifully designed. Be conscious of consumerism and only buy when you need to and when you do - BUY LOCAL! Check for tax rebates too or call us for the most up to date information.

Please pass this email on to your other eco-conscious family and friends or use the Ask a Question form on the sidebar to request our monthly email tips and updates.

Appraisals - Real life in Madison WI Real Estate

We had a listing with an accepted offer of $157,000. One week prior to closing we had to amend the price to $155,000 because that is what the appraisal came in at. Result: a successful closing. Sellers were prepared for potential issues with appraisals and accepted the position they were in to adjust the price. Buyer was happy. Sellers were happy that it didn't kill the deal.

We worked with a buyer on a foreclosure that had an accepted offer of $155,000 - the appraisal came in at $172,000. Result: a successful closing. Happy buyers. I'm not sure the bank cared.

One of our listings got an accepted offer for $274,000. It was appraised at $258,000. Result: that appraisal killed the deal. Unhappy Buyers. Unhappy Sellers.  

We are in a different market. Prepare yourself and your home properly!

Madison WI fixer upper

Not a good candidate for an FHA loan

10 Ways to Prepare Your Home for an Appraisal:

 1.  You only get ONE chance with the appraiser. Make sure your home is ready because not only are first impressions important, but the appraisal can affect the outcome of your sale. Take this part of the home selling process very seriously. 2.  Get your home in good condition. Be sure to trim the lawn, clean out and garage, repair cracked windows or torn screens, check for leaky faucets and secure gutters and down spouts before your appraisal. Basically get your home in the best showing condition you can. No longer are the days of drive by appraisals. FHA appraisers have to complete a different set of inspection forms and if there is chipping paint, missing handrails or evidence of pests (for example), the lender may require repairs done to comply with the FHA lending regulations. Not all repair items are part of inspections - some items come up as part of financing requirements with FHA loans. Talk to your agent about what to expect. 3.  Get organized. Put together a checklist that will help you get ready for your appraisal. 4.  Be flexible when scheduling the appointment. Don't delay it. Work with their schedule. 5. The appraiser will need approximately 30 minutes to one hour to complete the inspection phase of the appraisal process, which includes: exterior photos of the front and rear of the home and a photo of the street in front of the property; measurements of the exterior of the home, garage and any outbuildings; a walk-through inspection of all rooms and levels of the interior of the home, including the basement. 6.  Provide marketing materials and list of improvements. If your Real Estate Agent has a booklet with information about ages and dates of mechanicals, appliances and any features that add value to the home, please leave that information out for the appraiser to review. Don't make them guess how old the roof is. 7.  Point out any amenities that may not be obvious to the appraiser: sprinkler systems, radiant floor heating, security systems, built-in vacuum, energy efficient and green features. 8.  Allow your appraiser access to the entire property, including access to any crawl space or attic areas. This is specifically important for FHA appraisals. 9.  Provide a copy of last year's tax assessment information. 10.  The first thing appraisers look for is comparables, so be prepared and have a list of recent sales of similar properties in the immediate neighborhood. You shouldn't have to provide this to the appraiser, that is their job. However, you can prepare yourself by asking your real estate agent to show you at least 4 or 5 comparables that are similar in style, proximity, square footage, age and number of bedrooms. Finding comparables is a balance in science and art.   

Following these steps will go a long way toward making the home appraisal process a bit easier. For more information on the appraisal process and preparing your home for sale, please contact Sara and feel free to forward these tips to your family and friends.


Window Coverings Help Sell Your Home and Save Energy

I love meeting with Buyers for the first time and helping them create their top 5 most important considerations. Not only is it fun to listen to people talk about their dreams and their visions for their next home, but it is an important step that MUST happen before we go out looking at houses so we can create the right search criteria. Usually the list contains things like, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, a specific area, amount of square feet, etc. But then there are times I get things that are subjective like: charming, a great neighborhood, sunny. And that creates a whole new conversation. Let's talk about a SUNNY home...   

For Madison Sellers - IMPORTANT!

Sunny. Who doesn't dream of a sunny, warm home? Look around your home, go through each room with your Buyer's hat on. I know it might be the room where your youngest child learned to walk, but you need to take off your homeowner hat and get to work. You want to sell your Madison house right! You might need to address the window coverings. Here are some things I've learned:

- If you have blinds that are old and dusty you have two choices, 1) take them down and donate them or 2) clean them and pull them all the way to the top so no one can see them. Don't leave your blinds closed during showings.

- Get rid of horizontal shades. They rarely do anything for the aesthesis of a room and are old and outdated.

- Use curtains to: add color or neutralize  a room, add style and update a room, give the room personality.  

Dining room curtains that add style and can help save energy when closed at night.

Dining room curtains that add style and can help save energy when closed at night.


For Madison Buyers - IMPORTANT!

Sunny. Who doesn't dream of a sunny, warm home? Your living room bathed in natural light. All the lights are off because the sun in pouring in. Sounds dreamy? Yes, very dreamy on a crisp November afternoon. Not so much if it is July, 100 degrees outside and your air conditioner is working overtime. You are buying a home that not only provides shelter for you and your family (and just for that we are grateful) but the reality of living in a 1st world country is that our home also becomes an extension of who we are, a safe place to come home to each day. Our home represents us. Give it style (unless of course you don't have style, which I hardly believe).

You can MAKE IT EFFICIENT! You have the ability to spend a little time making tweaks to your home that will save you a lot each month on your energy bills. Here are some more things that I've learned:

- Cellular shades are amazing for keeping the cold air out in the winter and the bright sun from overheating your home in the summer. Replace vertical or horizontal blinds with cellular shades. For living areas and kitchens I prefer the light shades so when you need privacy and when the sun is too hot, you can close your shades and the sunlight can still provide excellent natural light.

- Natural light means you can turn off your lamps and energy sucking overhead lights!

- Bedrooms can either go with the lighter shades if you like the sunlight to wake you each morning, or there are room darkening shades that work wonders for keeping your upstairs rooms cooler during hot summer days.   

Dining room curtains that add style and can help save energy when closed at night.

Dining room curtains that add style and can help save energy when closed at night.


Create Energy Saving Habits

Summer habits: before you leave in the morning go through each room and close your shades and curtains. It will seem like you are leaving your home dark and depressing but this habit will keep your home as cool as possible throughout the day. Your air conditioner should be programmed through a programmable thermostat so you don't need to remember to turn the a/c down each morning.   

Winter habits: Open your shades and curtains every morning and let the sun in for natural heating. At night, close all shades and curtains to keep the cold air out.   

Be nice to yourself and remember that it takes a while to create a habit and it won't happen overnight. Do you unplug your cell phone charger every morning when you leave the house? Keeping chargers plugged in when not in use wastes a lot of unnecessary energy. But when you commit to creating that habit let me warn you (because it happened to me more than once) you will forget that it is unplugged at the end of the day and you will connect your phone but forget that the charger isn't in the outlet. The next day you will have a dead phone. Incredibly annoying. I promise you, it won't happen many times after that.   

More home energy tips here...    

Do you need shades and curtains? Yes. Well no, of course not. We only *need* shelter, food, water and love. But you may want them and they will serve the purpose of saving energy, adding personality to your home and they will help you in staging your home if you are trying to sell it. If this overwhelms you, feel free to contact us to help.  

Pretending to Sell your Madison Home

Whether you really need to sell your home or not, I am going to encourage you to PRETEND. I know that sounds weird but hear me out. I work with people every day that are getting ready to sell, need to sell and/or have been trying to sell their home, so I know what is going on in their world (and sometimes I know too much!). You don't need to know everything I know about this because some things you just don't want to know (trust me on that). But there is one thing I know for sure that is so wonderful and amazing. And recently every time it has come up, I have felt like I'm keeping this secret from the world by not sharing it! So here it is: Right before you put your house on the market it looks fabulous. Absolutely amazing and perfect. And at that time, and maybe only at that time, the homeowner says, "Oh my God, I love our house!"

That's it. That is the secret. Doesn't sound that earth-shattering does it? But it is. If you've lived in your house for a couple of years you know that there is some caulking you need to do. It's been on your to do list for a couple of years now. And you've always wanted to replace the ugly brass light fixture in the front hall. You have a painting that is leaning up against your closet wall that you've been meaning to hang in the kid's room and the chair in the living room would look a lot better in the family room but you just haven't gotten around to moving it yet. Then there is that one piece of chipped trim that has been like that since you bought the house and you still wonder how it happened, but fixing it...just hasn't happened. And the appliances are super old and need to be replaced.

I challenge you to pretend that you got a new job in (insert your fantasy destination) _______ and you are moving in 1 month. You have to get your house on the market and ready for showings in 2 weeks. Spend the next two weeks doing all of those things that you know you would have to do to market it properly. Some of it you can hire out. A handyperson (check out our list of preferred contractors) can get a lot done in 1/2 days work. But most of it you need to take some time and do. With everything else you have going on in your life this may seem silly. But I can't tell you how many times I hear people say, "I always wanted to do that" and "if only I could have enjoyed my house like this longer." You get my point? So many people are buying new appliances for people they don't know. Future homebuyers are going to enjoy the fresh paint and the clean windows. You deserve to live in a home you love. So do it! Do it now!

You wanna know a secret? I create marketing materials for homes that I list and I always put together these homebooks for the buyers so they can have all the information about the home and the neighborhood. Well the home information page has a list of updates that the homeowners have done since they've owned it and usually it is organized by the year of the updates. Well most homes have the majority of the updates in the first year it was purchased and the most recent year (work done in preparation for the sale). Then there are some years that the poor house was neglected. So I'm always on my husband to update something. And I'm nagging him for the simple reason that I want to fill up my homebook page with updates when we are finally ready to sell. Yeah, okay, I nag him because I know things need to be updated and maintained too but secretly I'm thinking of my future homebook! (only slightly pathetic).

If you need more inspiration than that (which would be kind of pathetic) then read this blog post called Low-Stress Ways to Move House and De-Clutter Your Life by Annabel Candy who was guest blogging for one of my FAVORITE blogs, Zen Habits. Now go pretend to sell your house.  

Foxwood Trail, Madison WI

Before Photo

Foxwood Trail, Madison WI

Before Photo

Open Houses - this weekend in Madison WI

Two great open houses this weekend for those that are searching in the range of $284,900 - $299,900. 

12 Quinn Circle, Madison WI
12 Quinn Circle, Madison WI

12 Quinn Circle, Madison

The first featured home we are proud to present is at 12 Quinn Circle, Madison, WI in the Waunona neighborhood ($284,900). This 3 bedroom home is just one block to Lake Monona and Esther Beach and has a great flowing layout that is perfect for entertaining and showcases beautiful views of the wooded back yard and the large lot. Recently remodeled kitchen area features a gorgeous granite island, energy efficient radiant-heated Italian tile floors and stainless steel applicances. With 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, 2224 square feet and an attached 2 car garage, this home has great value. Kathryn Wunnicke is hosting this open house from 12-2pm on July 18th, 2010 and invites you to come for a live tour. 

818 Emerson, Madison WI
818 Emerson, Madison WI

818 Emerson Street, Madison

Open Sunday from 12-2pm, hosted by Julie Campbell. A charming cape cod in the Bay Creek Neighborhood, well cared for by the current owners proves to be a suprise for many as it seems much smaller on the outside than it is when you walk through it. This home is quite large for the area with 2,086 sq. ft. and features a den on the main floor and a fourth bedroom (currently used as an office). The lower level family room has been professionally finished and features a full bath with an extra large tub, perfect for guests. You'll love the details found in the remodeled kitchen with newer cabinets, granite counters and more! 818 Emerson Street has 4 bedrooms, 2 full baths, 2,086 square feet, one car garage and is offered at $299,900.  

Open houses are a great way to get to know a neighborhood and gather information to see what different styles are like, different price points and design ideas. They are also a great way to get off your online search, start seeing homes live and ask local, professional Real Estate Specialists your questions about the home buying search or the selling process. And if Sunday open houses don't fit into your busy schedule, just call 608.438.4315 or email office@thealvaradogroup.com for a private showing. Our job is to get to know YOU, not just sell you a house.

Selling your Madison WI Home in 10 Steps

We Sold It!Everyone talks about staging your home to get it ready to sell...but there is much more to the process than preparing your home for showings in the Madison WI real estate market. What happens after you've removed everything from the front of your refrigerator? And what is expected of Sellers throughout the process? Here is a basic overview from beginning to end.

1.  Define your goals, wants, needs and expectations.  A good place to begin is by exploring your short and long term goals in life and how selling your home fits in. 

2.  Determine the best price for what's going on in the market right now.  Assess the current state of the market and what comparable homes are actually selling for by reviewing a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) on your home. That way, you can objectively determine its fair market value and price it right. In any market, a Buyer's or a Seller's market, it is important to price your house ahead of the market. Positioning your home correctly in the market will get you top dollar. Contact Alvarado Group to help get you started.

3.  Prepare your property so that it is in top-selling condition.  Most of us don't keep our homes in top-selling condition. Think about your home from a buyer's point of view. Repair, replace or remove items in your home so that it makes a GREAT first impression.

4.  Implement time-proven, research-based marketing strategies.  Market your home to as many people as possible using for sale signs, internet, open houses, feedback tracking, Realtor connections and relationships, neighborhood mailings, and web listings. Hiring the right Realtor will help get your home the best exposure and detailed reports that will interpret the market's response to your home.

5.  Show your property.  Ensure that your home is always in top-selling condition. When you leave for work, make sure that your home remains in top-selling condition; you never know when the phone will ring and an agent will be requesting a showing. You know what they say about a first impression!

6.  Receive an offer.  When a buyer decides to buy your home, an offer will be presented and you'll most likely have 24-48 hours to respond.

7.  Negotiate to sell.  Most offers require a certain level of negotiation. Decide your parameters and be prepared to negotiate towards a win-win situation. There are many different negotiating strategies to consider. And there are different areas in the selling process to negotiate. Don't get stuck on price when there might be inspection issues or closing dates that could be deal makers too. Negotiation is a skill and if you are too emotionally invested in what you are negotiating, work with your agent to make sure that this part of the process is handled professionally and focus on the end results.

8.  Have your home appraised and inspected.  Once you have accepted an offer, you'll work with you agent and your transaction coordinator to arrange an appraisal, inspections and a survey (if required). If the buyer requires that certain repairs be made on your home, negotiate or make the necessary repairs to move successfully from contract to closing.

9.  Prepare for closing.  A few days before closing (also known as settlement), your transaction coordinator will be in contact with the title company and the buyer or buyer's agent to ensure that all the necessary forms and documents have been prepared.

10.  Close!  At the closing, ownership of your property is legally transferred to the buyer. Don't forget to bring all keys and garage door openers! Congratulations!

How much time does all of this take? It depends on your market, your situation and your motivation. I've seen some sales happen within 30-40 days from the time of the first conversation to the cutting of the checks. And in other situations it may take a family two months to prepare their home for sale, get new appliances, and clear out the clutter before it is ready for showings. If your first question is how many days will my home be on the market, contact Sara Alvarado for a phone consult and you'll be on the right track, 608.438.5005.