Home Selling Process

Preparing To Sell - Staging Your Home

One of the most important parts in selling your house is getting the house ready to host potential buyers day in and day out. In order to get them in the door, you need to have a good marketing plan and also a fair price to entice them.

Once they enter the house, this is where you have to get them hook, line and sinker. When they enter the door, you want them to feel at home and you want them to think this is the last house they will need to look at. Many things can be done in little to no time to make this happen, but it is definitely important to take the time in order to have the potential buyer signing on the dotted line in no time.

Here are a few tips on staging your home in order to sell it quickly:

Clean, Clean, Clean

No potential buyer wants to walk into a house that they are going to invest in and see a mess. When in doubt, take the extra couple hours and clean more than you can even imagine. I'm talking about baseboards in the bathroom to the sealing around the windows. The last thing you want any potential buyer to see is dust or dirt that you could have very easily gotten rid of. Make sure that your cupboards are clean as well and in order, and even make sure the laundry room doesn't have any dirty clothes in the washer or dryer. You never know where the potential buyer is going to sneak a peek!

Set The Mood Of The Home

Make sure that your house has a welcoming and inviting mood to it so that any potential buyer that walks through the front door instantly feels right at home. This may sound like minute details, but make sure that all of the towels hanging in the bathrooms are clean and neat, and make sure that you have sprayed fresh aromas throughout the house (or light scented candles prior to the potential buyer's arrival). Even feel free to bake some cookies if you are going to entertain an open house. The smell of the fresh baked cookies will make the buyer feel like it is their home and will put visions of how it will be once they put the bid on the house, you accept offer, and the house is theirs!

Make Pets A Non-Factor

Even though you may be a huge pet lover, that doesn't mean that the next owner of your home is. It can be a huge turn-off for a potential buyer to see dog hair on the couches or in the carpets, or if they see the litter box of your cats sitting in the corner of the kitchen. Make sure to hide any dog food dishes or bags of dog food, and if you have anything more than just a fish tank, make sure that all of the leashes and cages are kept out of sight during any visits from potential buyers.

Depersonalize The Home

Potential buyers do not want to see your family pictures hung throughout the house or on the fridge, believe me. Take down all of the pictures of the kids, and if need be go and buy generic pictures to hang in their place. You want to have the potential buyers feel like it is their home, not yours. Put away all of the personal items that you may have gotten from your grandmother and make sure to clean up and stow away all of the kids toys.


Author:  Doug Chapman is a staff writer for HomeDaddys, a stay at home dad blog.  He specializes in diapers and sippy cups, but is a successful real estate investor on the side. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Showings

You can't sell your home unless you can show it, right? Successful showings are a large factor in getting your home sold! So how does it work and what should you expect from the process?

The Alvarado Real Estate Group contracts with a third party service, Showing Time, to handle all of the showing requests for your home from cooperating REALTORS® and even from us directly. We use this service to properly track all showings and have an efficient way to receive important feedback to pass on to you.


How does it work?

We provide Showing Time your contact information and your preferred way of being reached. Your preferences are discussed with you when your listing paperwork is signed. Many people like being able to confirm appointments via text messages, but some prefer phone or email.  Here is the inside scoop on Showing Time.

-       The company is not based in our area (and they may say our office name wrong J) and to be quite honest, they have very limited knowledge about the overall real estate process and are more like a call center.

-       They are best at confirming and denying showings so if you need to try and reschedule a showing or you simply feel like you need to call our office to help arrange a showing, PLEASE do so.

-       They will continue to call or text you to request showings even after you have an accepted offer. Please contact your agent directly if you want to stop showings instead of just denying showings. There is a proper timeline and process that we recommend.

-       If you are going out of town for a while, you can call the showing line and tell them the dates you will be out of town and update the showing instructions.(For example: you are okay with your home being shown at any time (i.e. 'go & show') between the 5-10th of the month. Then you can leave town without worrying about checking your phone for showing requests while you are gone.)

-       There is a Supra lock box on or near your front door. Only licensed REALTORS® have access to open that box. The lock box cannot be opened before 8am after or 9pm, so you should always feel safe in your home.


What to expect:

-       The showing request will most likely be made a day prior and will be for a one hour allotted window of time. (For example: an agent is requesting to view your home tomorrow from 2-3pm.)  You are expected to be gone for all showings.

-       At some point, an agent may arrive early or later than the hour requested. This will be annoying to you - I know, I've sold my house a couple of times too. Please keep in mind that most agents are showing multiple homes to the same buyer in a 4-5 hour time period. They do their best to estimate when they will get to each listing and how long the buyer will need to tour it. However, changes to their schedules do occur and you should be prepared in case a showing agent is running early or late.

-       We recommend that you have your home ready to show and are out of the home at least 15 minutes before the scheduled time frame.  Also, don't be surprised if they are still there when you come home...just drive around the block a couple of times until they are gone.

-       You may also experience a 'no show'. You will get your home in perfect showing condition and 10 minutes after you leave the house with all the lights on and fresh flowers in place you will get a call that it was cancelled. Or you will return after the presumed showing and no one will have been there. It happens. It sucks. That is all I can say. Buyers cancel last minute, people get stuck in traffic, kids get sick, or sometimes it is as annoying as they drove up to your house, didn't like the color of the trim and decided not to tour it. This frustration is part of the selling process and it is better to laugh then cry.

-       Don't get locked out of your home!  People are walking through your home. They are turning the lights on and off, they are walking out the back door to check out the yard, and they are looking in your garage. It is very important that you leave notes for the showing agents on doors that you have specific instructions for (like the door from the garage to the home). If you always use that door when you come home and you don't want it locked, please tape a small note above the doorknob that says, "Please don't lock this door." Or better yet, keep a key with you for all doors so you are never locked out of your own home! The same goes for turning lights on and off. If you want the agent to leave the lights on as they go through the home or turn them off, just leave a nice note like "Please leave the lights on" if you know there is another showing scheduled later in the day.


Showing your home:

You need to present your home in the best possible way for every single showing.

  • In the kitchen, you'll want to make sure that all of your dirty dishes are washed & put away, clear off the counters, and sweep/mop the floor.
  • For bathrooms, clean the sinks, put the toilet lids down, pull the shower curtain across the stall, and straighten/freshen the towels.
  • Around the rest of the home, a quick vacuum will be needed, make the beds, and hide the clutter.
  • Please leave any marketing materials out on the dining room table or on the kitchen counter!
  • Don't spray the home with air fresheners, use plug-ins or light smelly candles. Buyers think you are trying to cover something up and some people have bad reactions to heavy scents. It isn't worth the risk.
  • Before you leave for the showing, turn on all lights and open the blinds and curtains.
  • Try to remember that a buyer's first impression is curb appeal. Make sure the lawn is beautiful, take some time with your landscaping, and get some fresh flowers in a pot at the door. If it is winter, please remember to shovel all snow from the walkways and lay down ice melt to prevent slipping accidents. Get a new WELCOME mat at your front door. The buyers will be hanging out at the front door for a bit while the agent gets the key and unlocks the door, so make it a good first impression.

Continually getting your home ready for showings (sometimes with very little notice), can get frustrating after a while. Try to keep your spirits up and know that the right buyer is out there and just hasn't seen your home yet!  We will continue our marketing efforts and keep an eye on the market conditions to make sure you don't miss out on any exposure opportunities to potential buyers.


Feedback from the Buyers/Agents:

-     How did the showing go? What did the buyers think? I know you want to know right away and we promise to get you information as quickly as we get it. Once the showing occurs there is an automatic survey that we created that is emailed to the Buyer's Agent. It usually takes 24-48 hours to receive feedback. Please remember that the agent might have shown 15 homes in a day and might need some time to get through all the feedback while they are also getting answers to their Buyer's questions and potentially preparing an offer.

-     Bad feedback happens. We will report all feedback we get to you and there might be some feedback that you don't like. Keep in mind that many agents are simply reporting the negative feedback and they don't have the time to point out all the good things about the home. Also keep in mind that there are things you can control and things you can't control. Only focus on what you CAN control.

  • You can't control the location.
  • You can control the clutter and the cleanliness.
  • You can't control the layout.
  • You can control the condition. Touch up paint, a new water heater, etc.

The things you can't control, like if the buyer wants a master bathroom, you have to let go of. But if over time you keep getting showings and negative or just OK feedback then you have to realize that the negative factors that you can't control need to be balanced by the price. If you are the only home without a large backyard and many of the other homes in that price range are similar to yours but with a bigger back yard or with a 2 car garage, then you need to adjust your price down to make up for that.


Monthly Listing Reports and Follow Up:

-     After 3-4 weeks of your home being on the market you will receive a Listing Report that summarizes the showing activity and marketing activity of your home. You will also receive updated information on what is going on in your area and/or your price range.

-     You and I will discuss a marketing & pricing plan when we list the home. After a couple of weeks of showings, you might start thinking differently about the process. You and your spouse/partner may have a couple of conversations and decide you want to change the original plan. It is important to keep me in the communication loop. I will update you on what's going on and I need you to update me on where you are at. Sometimes the motivation level goes way up and sometimes it goes down. This is very important for me to know so I am on the same page as you and are reaching for the same goal.

And REMEMBER...we are here to help, so please call us if you have a question or concern.

Just Sold - 2534 Kendall Ave., Madison, WI

2543 Kendall Ave., Madison, WI

2534 Kendall Avenue recieved a full price offer 12 days after stepping onto the market!  This home is located in the University Heights Neighborhoood, and is full of new updates, but still maintains its historic charm.  Congratulations to the sellers of this wonderful home, and good luck with your relocation! The combination of pricing it right and staging it properly is what made this such a success story. Personal items were packed up, furniture was moved around to create a welcoming feel and some furniture pieces were packed up and moved to storage during the showing process. The Sellers did an amazing job making little repairs and touching up paint around the house as well as replacing family photos with simple art and design pieces. The marketing was important because the Sellers had made significant renovations to the home and had invested money and energy to update it during their time in the home. Making sure the Buyers that toured the home understood all the details and had access to accurate information helped motivate and prove the value in the home. The result? SOLD in 12 Days, Full Price Offer!

This is what the amazing teamwork of Alvarado Real Estate Group can do for you!  Contact Sara Alvarado at  608.438.5005, sara@thealvaradogroup.com or Julie Campbell at 608.577.3767, Julie@TheAlvaradoGroup.com today for information about listing your home!

FROGBOX Madison WI - Tips for a Greener and Less Stressful Move

FROGBOX LOGOBy: Guest Blogger Matt Harbut, FROGBOX of Madison

1. Manage your time properly

Start organizing and packing at least one month before the moving day. Start with things that you don't use daily. Your ski suit, snow boots, winter clothes, most of the books, CD's and computer games and other things you can do without for a few weeks. Start slowly and dedicate an hour or two every day for packing. The most important step is to go through your stuff and sort it.

2. Be sure to have recycling bins and donation bags and garbage bags

Before you start packing, you need to get rid of things that you don't need. A good example are clothes that you haven't worn for the last two years and that are taking up space you could use for new clothing.  This applies to books, toys and home decorations.

3. Throw out the fridge

or at least a lot of it - Food and vitamins are not like good wine. They don't get better with age!  Go through your pantry, medicine cabinet and vitamins; throw away anything that has expired.  Be sure to check-out the Wisconsin DNR for pharmaceutical disposal guidelines.

4. The "Maybe Box"

Sometimes it's hard to let go. If you feel conflicted, put it in a "MAYBE box" that you have prepared especially for tough decisions. After a few days, go check in with your "maybe box". Your clarity will increase and you may see things differently.

5. Use existing containers, suitcases, etc for packing

Take a look at your home. You probably have some plastic containers, suitcases and camping bags that can be used for packing. Sometimes these bags are stored in the attic and they are full of dust; clean them and use them for your move.

6. For the rest of your things rent reusable plastic moving boxes from FROGBOX.  

They are easy to work with. Your belongings won't get wet while loading/unloading in the rain. They are not only eco-friendly (since they reduce cardboard waste) they are family friendly too- if you by accident have packed your child's most important stuffed toy... all you have to do is open the lid, take it out and close it back up. (You'd be surprised how often this happens.)

7. Soft Items

Do not pack all your towels in one big box. Use the towels to pad the bottom of each box when packing dishes and other fragile items. Use another towel on top and close the lid.

8. Label Every Box

Don't label the top - always on the side, so when you stack them on each other you can tell what's inside. When you rent FROGBOXes you get labels with your order but you can always just flip open the lid to see what's inside so the contents of you boxes will never be a mystery.

9. Don't let your junk mail move with you!

Use this as an opportunity to manage your mail with services like DMAchoice, OptOutPrescreen and Catalog Choice.   Feel good about simplifying your life, while saving hundreds of trees each year.

10. When choosing a mover...

make sure they're licensed and bonded, and have a great reputation. Call or email FROGBOX for a list of trusted Madison area movers.

11. Do it yourself moving

Consider renting the smallest van or truck that your things will fit into.  This will make loading the truck much easier and you'll save money and fuel.  If you have a small amount to move and don't own a car it might be a great opportunity to use a car share program like Community Car.  They have some roomy pick-ups and mini vans that are great for moving and FROGBOX customer get 50% off the Community Car registration fee.

12. Set a goal to unpack

Unpack a certain number of boxes each day in your new home. If you rent FROGBOXes you'll appreciate having a deadline for unpacking your boxes - sometimes a little motivation is healthy!. When you've reached your goal, make sure to treat yourself, you deserve it!

Good luck with your move and let us know if we can help!

JUST SOLD! 802 Bewick Drive, Madison WI

SOLD in 25 Days!

Congratulations! 802 Bewick Drive sold in 25 days! Gotta love that! Listed for $179,900 and sold for $170,500. Gorgeous updates, completely renovated with a new kitchen, stainless steel appliances. Dining room overlooks huge deck and beautiful yard. One of the best features is a His and Hers garage. The attached one car garage (perhaps this is hers?) is spotless clean with an easy entry to the kitchen. Plus a detached oversized and heated 2 car garage. Not that there aren't garage loving women out there but I know I like my garage to be attached and certainly don't need it to be heated because I'm just not hanging out in the garage much. Congratulations to the Seller for doing a fantastic job staging this home; great colors, perfect fitting furniture and no clutter! Combine that with tech savvy Realtors, excellent exposure, marketing and great negotiating skills and we are happy to report another successful sale. 

Need help getting your home sold? Contact Sara Alvarado today, 608.438.5005, sara@thealvaradogroup.com.

JUST SOLD! 1215 Wellesley Road, Village of Shorewood Hills WI

Village of Shorewood Hills Homes

This classic four bedroom colonial in the Village of Shorewood Hills SOLD in 4 days! The Sellers put in a lot of time to staging and preparing the home for sale and making sure that when it hit the market it was spotless and in perfect showing condition. There are many people that are always watching the Village of Shorewood Hills to see what home will come up for sale and if it will be a good fit for their family. That is why it was so important for 1215 Wellesley Rd to be ready and priced right because the Sellers wanted an accepted offer in the first 30 days. And they got it!

Sure enough, the buyers that snatched it up had been looking for a long time at every new listing in Shorewood and they didn't hesitate in submitting an offer and moving quickly on this spacious home. Congratulations to everyone for a smooth and successful transaction.

Market Data Info: - 4 BR, 3 BA,  2,985 Sq.Ft. - List Price: $624,900 - List date: 6/9/11 - Sold price: $607,500 - Sold date: 8/15/11

Are you thinking of selling? Contact Sara Alvarado today to talk about the timeline, process and get started on preparing your home for the SOLD sign!

From For Sale by Owner to Realtor to SOLD!

"As a first-time home seller, The Alvarado Group excelled at reassuring us, keeping us updated of progress, and responding to our concerns in a quick and thorough manner. My only regret is not getting them involved in the process earlier. Our condo sold quickly in a tough market, and Sara Alvarado was never afraid to bring a dose of reality to our expectations (a key to being able to sell in this market). We attempted to sell For Sale by Owner, but without the necessary knowledge of the housing market, our price was off, and our time was compromised with attempting a quick move as well. When Sara took over, so much of the mental stress was lifted as well. All documents were signed electronically, which was imperative since our move out-of-state, and the process couldn't have been smoother. Thanks, Sara, for all your work on our behalf."

Beautiful end unit condo at Hatchery Hill in Fitchburg is now SOLD! Congratulations to the new Buyers and to the Sellers on a successful and a quick closing. With an accepted offer in the first week of April we were still able to close at the end of the month with less than 30 days! Thanks to Christa Sweeny at River Valley Bank for helping to make it happen.

5460 Coachman Place - Listed for $179,900. 2 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, 1760 sq. feet townhouse. Sold in 65 days for $170,700.

Looking for a condo in Fitchburg or somewhere else in the Dane County area? Looking to sell your home or condo? Call our team today! You can meet us all here.

JUST SOLD! Middleton WI Home, Northlake Neighborhood

5502 Grassland Trail, Middleton WI

This gorgeous Northlake home in Middleton just sold and we are excited to report another successful and smooth transaction. 5502 Grassland Trail, listed in February for $449,900 had a total of 4 showings and sold after 15 days for $425,000.  

The Sellers did their part in making sure the home was in perfect showing condition. They made necessary repairs, cleaned the carpet, decluttered, packed and stored personal items and made sure they were listing their home to sell it and not just to test the market. There is great power in the intention to move and in a time of fear and uncertainity it is easy for some families to doubt their ability to sell their homes and have everything work out exactly the way it is supposed. This was a great example of the power of intention, positive thinking and a certain amount of calm in what can be an incredibly stressful time.

Sara Alvarado, Real Estate Broker / OwnerIf you are thinking of selling your home, contact Sara Alvarado to talk about the possibilities, 608.438.5005, sara@thealvaradogroup.com.

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

JUST SOLD! 12 Quinn Circle, Madison WI

Alvarado Real Estate Group recent sale

JUST SOLD! Congratulations!

Alvarado Real Estate Group congratulates our Seller clients as they close on their Madison home and can settle into their new life across the country with peace of mind. It was a long rocky road to get this home a new happy family. Due to a lack of turnover it was very difficult for appraisers to find good comparables in this stable neighborhood. But with perserverance and a targeted market that loved the wonderful features of this home and community we can celebrate a successful sale! 

12 Quinn Circle sold for $261,000. 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths and a beautifully finished lower level with access to the gorgeous backyard and hot tub, plus an attached two car garage. The Sellers had updated the home and created great energy efficient features (important to today's buyers) including radiant floor heating along with tearing a wall down that separated the kitchen and living area giving it an open and spacious feel.

Are you thinking of buying or selling? Contact us today to have that important first conversation. It is crucial that you and your agent connect and find a good fit to create a successful transaction.

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.

JUST SOLD! 2645 East Lawn Court in Madison WI

Congratulations on your new Madison home!Congratulations! Alvarado Real Estate Group is happy to announce another successful sale on Madison's East Side! This home sold quickly - 38 days - for $125,900 by Sara Alvarado.

2645 East Lawn Court is absolutely the sweetest home & incredibly maintained! Two bedrooms on main floor, hardwood floors, open floor plan from kitchen, eating area to living room & updated bathroom. Kitchen features newer appliances, new flooring, new sink, tiled counters. Lower level finished with amazing detail. Great bonus room! Ceiling fans in almost every room, updated electrical, loads of shelving in basement & garage. Beautiful deck, fenced yard. The Sellers did a fabulous job getting their home ready, keeping it clean and making sure they said yes to all showing requests.

2645 East Lawn Ct, Madison WI

JUST SOLD! Congratulations!

 For more information on selling your home in Madison's real estate market - contact Sara Alvarado today, 608.438.5005,  sara@thealvaradogroup.com.

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!

JUST SOLD! 316 Virginia Terrace, Madison WI

Congratulations on your new Madison home!The beautiful classic 2 story home at 316 Virginia Terrace in Madison WI was recently sold by Alvarado Real Estate Group to a very happy new family. A couple of the most important selling factors was the proximity to the University of WI - Madison and Madison West High School along with the very special Madison neighborhood (mature trees, close community, great parks)! And for a home built in 1926 you can imagine the charm: arched doorways, natural wood floors, wood burning fireplace, nooks and crannies, along with the spacious kitchen & a main floor half bath! 

Asking price in July 2010: $334,900 (price reduction to $324,900 in September) Final sales price: $314,300, Sold October 2010, Days on the Market: 56, Price per square foot: $210.

For more information on selling your home in the Madison area, please contact Sara Alvarado, phone: 608.251.6600 or email: sara@thealvaradogroup.com.

JUST SOLD! Understanding Buyers Helps to Sell Homes.

Treichel Street, Madison Just Sold

Congratulations on your new home!

JUST SOLD! This 5 year new home was not easy to sell though. On paper it looks like an amazing deal: 3 bedrooms, 2 full baths, built just 5 years ago and the back yard borders a large park area/soccer field all for an asking price of $169,900. But with so many homes for sale in this Madison neighborhood the objection to the floorplan was constantly noted by potential buyers along with the lack of storage. Selling a home in today's market is more than just pricing it right. It is important to present the home in its best light and to promote it to a targeted market.

In a popular Madison area neighborhood on the Southeast side, this split level home has a living room upstairs, wonderfully vaulted ceilings, kitchen, dining area and a master bedroom and master bathroom. The lower level has 2 bedrooms a full bathroom and the mechanical room (with some space for storage). Understanding and listening to what Buyers really want takes skill and patience. What did buyers object about this great home? They want all 3 bedrooms on the same floor. They want the master bedroom to provide a bit more privacy (it was a negative that it was directly off the dining/kitchen area). Buyers want storage. They want their basement to provide storage and this home had a lower level that was completely finished which cut into storage space. Buyers also want a family room. However, when you get into a lower price range you find that buyers make concessions. The Buyers that purchased this home loved the fact that this home was move in ready with neutral and warm paint colors, nice window coverings, newer appliances and didn't mind the floorplan. The 2 car attached garage gave it the storage they needed (coming from a rental with no garage) and the proximity to the green space in the backyard was a huge bonus for them. At a final sales price of $163,500 this home was an amazing opportunity for the Buyers. 

There is give and take in buying a home on a budget.

The Buyers love their new home. The Sellers are relieved to finally move on to new places.

And we loved making it happen. Our team of Realtors are here to help Sellers understand the complexities in selling a home right now and planning their future real estate moves. The Alvarado Group team has trained agents that specialize in helping Buyers understand what their needs and wants are in their next home and the best way to get there with the least amount of added stress to their already busy lives. We love helping our clients (and from what we hear from them, they feel the love too!), we love engaging with the community and we are passionate about a strong local economy. We don't just have a mission, we live our mission.

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.  

Closing Day vs Moving Day - Madison Real Estate Insider Tip

New Homes Madison WI

keys to your new home

For those that are buying Wisconsin real estate now - there are IMPORTANT insider Buyers tips that you need to know about. It isn't as simple as shopping around for the best house, writing an offer, and then moving in. You need to know what neighborhood you want to live in, maybe research schools and understand Madison's short sale and foreclosure market. You need to learn about how market conditions locally will affect your negotiating position. It is crucial to understand the financing process and what the pre approval and loan commitment process means. We also will educate you on the inspection process and how the condition of the home can also affect your financing.

What about closing day vs moving day?

Here are the Top 3 Important Factors to Consider:

Pick a realistic and manageable closing date.

Don't assume you can change it later. Most likely your offer reads, "Closing shall be no later than ____" and there is a date in the blank spot. You can close earlier, although all parties need to agree but you can't close later. To close later you must amend the offer. To close earlier, you just need to coordinate schedules and it is not necessary to get an amendment signed by all parties. Sellers have complicated moving schedules as do Buyers so just remember that the closing day you write into the offer will most likely be the day you go to the title company for the closing if all goes well.

Consider Your Lender.

Your lender may be doing all they can to expedite the closing so it will happen quickly and in the timeframe you have agreed upon with the Seller. However, life is not as easy for lenders anymore either. The Buyers lender may be the cause of a delayed closing. It isn't abnormal for underwriters to ask for more documents even days before the scheduled closing date...which can postpone the closing date. Prepare for the worst and expect delays.

Your moving date should NOT be the same date as your closing date.

If you are the Seller, try to arrange to move out a couple of days prior to closing. You can even pre sign documents at a convenient day and time so that you are not rushed the day of closing. You may ask, "Where do I go if I can't get keys to my new house until I close on my current house?" There are a couple of creative ways to plan a different moving day from your closing day.

  • Negotiate a pre closing occupancy on the house you are buying. Now you have a couple of days to move into the next house before you actually close on it. Sometimes the Sellers won't allow this but may allow you to move your belongings into the garage. And this can be enough to create a smoother transition.
  • Stay with a family member or a friend. There are times that moving on the day of closing is what ends up happening. And that isn't the end of the world. It just takes a lot of planning and optimism.
  • Negotiate a post closing occupancy on the house you are selling. If the Buyers that are purchasing your home are in a lease and have until the end of the month to move out, it usually works out just fine to ask them if you can stay in your home a couple of days after the closing date to give you needed time to move into your new home and clean out the house you are selling. Many homebuyers are agreeable to this.

As a Homebuyer, my recommendation is to give yourself a 2 week buffer in planning your move. If you are negotiating a quick close and are hoping to close in 30 days, understand up front that there may be delays so don't plan to move on closing day. Don't order furniture or appliances to be delivered on or the day after closing. Don't arrange for the carpet replacement either. By assuming everything will go smoothly and you will close on time sets you up for frustration if there are delays. And the goal is to set yourself up for a smooth move - not a stressful one. If you give yourself additional time and things go well and you close on time, then you can move things up (and if not, then you wait). But it is easier to have extra time then to cancel and rearrange due to delays.

As a Seller it isn't as easy. There are risks in selling your home in any market, and especially in today's market. Again, there is a chance that something could go wrong the day before or the day of closing which would delay closing. As a Seller there isn't much you can do but prepare to move and continue with your moving plans. But if something goes wrong, it is smart to have backup plans. Make sure your Realtor continues to market your home. Negotiate a reasonable amount of earnest money so that if something goes wrong, you are compensated appropriately for the time and money lost.

Madison WI real estate is not what it once was.

I know I'm not telling you anything new. The media inundates us with a ridiculous amount of doom and gloom when it comes to the real estate market. It is all perspective. There are houses being sold. People need bigger, they need smaller and they are moving out of state. As long as couples continue to marry, and as long as children continue to grow and move on with their lives, there will be a need to move to a different space. There will always be someone that wants to move South or North...you get the picture right?

Sara Alvarado, real estate broker

keys to your new home

A buyer's market doesn't mean that you are out of luck if you have a house to sell. It just means that you may get a better deal on the house you are going to buy then make a ton of money on the house you have to sell. You could wait until the market turns around and then get more money for your current house and pay more for your next house. That is simplifying a decision that is based on many factors.

Please call Sara Alvarado at 608.438.5005 if you want to discuss whether now is the right time for you to buy and sell.

My home isn't green...can you still help me?

green built home at chicago museum

Green Built Home

Sometimes when I start talking to a prospective Seller I get this question and it is always interesting to see where the conversation goes as we talk about the definition of green, what that means and what that has to do with whether I can help or not.

First of all, I'm a Real Estate Broker and study all things real estate which include the housing market, mortgages, negotiation, marketing, information technology, community data, property preparation/staging, buyer psychology, and local and national trends. I love helping all different kinds of people and families through the buying and selling process and I love helping to sell all different kinds of homes. So to me it doesn't matter if your home is a ranch or a two story; if it is feng shuied or vacant; if it is beige or green. Our Madison real estate team is talented in many different ways. Our excellence in service and commitment to our passion for real estate make us a great choice for many people hiring a real estate team.  

So why do we get this question?

Not only does our team live and breathe Madison Real Estate but we are also passionate about the environment and sharing information with our clients and the community about ways we can all make a difference for our families and our planet in the homes we live in and the choices we make. The community hears this message loud and clear because it is a core value of our company. The real question is not whether I can help you sell your home because it is or is not green. The question is what is a green home?  

What is a Green Home?

This is the interesting question because there are so many aspects to green and what we have been bombarded with from the media that is gets quite confusing. In researching the definition of green I came across Michael Richmond's work (an expert author on the subject) and found this:

"The best definition of Green refers to the health impact of what we do on living things. So Green is primarily a health-related issue. This is seen in the fact that cleaning products were the early Green issues. In fact, indoor air quality is a big factor in Green buildings. Sick building syndrome was the result of poor indoor air quality, which is the antithesis of Green." I also found the dictionary definition includes, "environmentally sound, beneficial" (along with references to color and money).

energy star epa house

Green Built Home

With that, a green home could be a home with healthy indoor air quality and environmentally sound. That doesn't really work for me. If I owned a 4,500 sq. ft. home located 15 minutes (driving a car) to where I work but had great indoor air quality and was built in an environmentally sound fashion, it still wouldn't feel green to me. For me a green home takes into consideration the energy efficiency of the mechanicals, the system of the home, the landscaping, the location in relation to daily living, the space and how it is used for the family. It is a healthy space. It is efficient. And it takes smart choices in sustaining its green features. What is the point of having a super efficient furnace if I keep the heat set at 80 degrees all winter long? That is where our choices make a difference. A big difference.

If you are curious how our passion and additional training as EcoBrokers can help in a real estate transaction, please read more here. But if you just want a Realtor to help get your home sold or help you find a new home, then call us. We can help.

Alvarado Real Estate Group Team

Green Built Home

608.251.6600, team@thealvaradogroup.com