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Des Moines Home Source Blog

Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI


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Staging: Sell Your House for More Using This Hot Marketing Tool

by Jon Smith, CDPE, CRB, CRS, GRI

Staging a home for sale is one of the hottest topics in residential real estate. In today’s challenging property market, you want all the ammunition you can get to sell your home at top dollar--and sell it fast.

So what is staging? It’s literally showcasing your home in its absolute best light. You draw buyers’ attention to your home’s most appealing features--and skillfully divert their attention from those that are less-than-stellar.

In short, staging is creating visual “eye candy” that emphasizes your home’s positives. It’s part art, part science--and all marketing. It can involve everything from fresh paint to clever carpentry, new lighting to new window treatments. And don’t forget the borrowed (or rented) furniture to define and enhance each room!

To see staging in action, watch an episode or two of HGTV’s Designed To Sell, The Unsellables, and The Stagers. And for some simple staging techniques presented with tongue-in-check humor, see Top 10 Home-Staging Dos  and Top 10 Home-Staging Don’ts by Designed To Sell’s Donna and Shannon Freeman.

Should you try to stage your own home--or hire a professional? My real estate experience has taught me there are two essential staging tricks that every home seller can do:

* Clear it out. You have stuff--lots of stuff. And your house is overloaded with all that stuff. Go through each room and get rid of the clutter everywhere you see it. Your rooms will look bigger, more restful, and more inviting. And all you did was pick up!

* Clean it up. Make sure everything shines inside and out, from windows, floors and countertops inside to the deck, garage and yard outside. Pay particular attention to the kitchen and bath. A little well-applied elbow grease will go a long way in selling your home. And it’s free!

Do these two simple things, and you’re already ahead in the staging game.

But should you keep going and stage other aspects of your own home? That depends on whether you have the eye, the skill--and the objectivity. Can you put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and see your home as the buyer will see it--positive points and negative points? Are you prepared to tackle those negatives? Do you have the “designer’s eye” for color and other design elements? Do you have the technical skills to complete improvements?

Staging can definitely help sell your house for more if it’s done right, whether you do it on your own or you hire a professional stager. Your real estate agent will be happy to share staging ideas and recommend a professional, if needed.

And visit my Web site for more information, too. I’m always available to discuss your specific needs or answer any questions you might have about any aspect of real estate.

Avoid Home Loan Headaches: Do Your Homework First!

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

“I want to buy a house, but I don’t know much about home loans. How do I get one? Where do I go to find out more?”

I get these questions often from potential buyers who are confused--and often overwhelmed--by the home mortgage process. Getting a home loan doesn’t have to be an ordeal if you do your homework first. A qualified real estate agent can assist with a list of local lenders and information resources to make your life easier. So just ask!

I recommend that you do two things right away, even before you start house hunting:

•    Get your credit reports from the “Big Three” credit reporting agencies. Lenders will review these reports, and you need to know what they contain--and where you stand. Don’t be surprised by “red flags” when negotiating with a lender. Take action beforehand to correct or explain the negatives.

Under Federal law, you’re entitled to one free report from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion each year. Visit to learn more.

•    Get pre-qualification from one or more lenders on a possible loan amount. That way you’ll have a good “guesstimate” of the loan amount you would qualify for--and how much house you can afford. Once you’ve chosen a lender, you can even get pre-approved for a loan. Knowing your mortgage limit up front will be a tremendous help in your search for the right home.

So how do you find out about mortgage loan basics and the best way to work with lenders? One resource I like is Looking for the Best Mortgage, a free, easy-to-understand booklet you can download from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. You’ll get a “shop, compare, negotiate” strategy:

•    How to get loan information from more than one lender
•    How to get rate and fee information that you can compare
•    How to get your “best deal”

This publication also includes a glossary of common mortgage loan terms and a handy worksheet you can use when talking with lenders. The worksheet is great. You’ll find yourself saying, “I didn’t even think of that!” And that’s why it’s such a valuable resource: It keeps you organized and on point.

Bottom line: Do your homework. Learn what you need to know about your home mortgage options up front--and get approved quickly for your new home when you’re ready to buy.

Want to know more about home mortgages? Just ask your real estate agent. We’re always happy to help!

Is an FHA-Insured Mortgage Right for You?

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

The days of putting little money down to buy a home aren’t over.

After years of risky mortgages backed up by small down payments, most lenders aren’t underwriting mortgages without a significant sum up front and a high credit score. But a decades-old loophole can still put home buyers in a house for next to nothing. Mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) allow borrowers to get approved with a down payment as small as 3.5% of the agreed selling price of the house and don’t require a high credit score.

As millions of Americans have come to realize, getting into a house for little money down has its disadvantages. Borrowers who’ve pumped little equity into their home are often more willing to walk away from it during lean times that keep them from making payments; this risk is further elevated when home values are in decline and troubled borrowers are unable to refinance or sell the home at a price that covers their losses.

Still, FHA-insured mortgages are far less risky than the subprime mortgages that lenders originated before the housing bust. FHA-insured mortgages require documentation and verifiable proof that the borrower is capable of making their monthly payments. (Most subprime mortgages didn’t require such proof.)

The looser terms of FHA-insured mortgages have helped make them more popular. Today, FHA-insured mortgages make up about 25% of the mortgage market, up from 3% in 2006, FHA commissioner David Stevens said in a speech earlier this month. In June, the FHA insured 194,000 loans – the highest monthly total in the agency’s history, according to Stevens. For fiscal year 2009, the dollar amount of FHA-insured mortgages is likely to reach 30% of mortgage originations, up from around 4% in 2005 and 2006, says Stu Feldstein, the president of SMR Research, a mortgage-data tracking firm.

“FHA-insured mortgages are one of the only games in town, especially if you can’t qualify for a traditional mortgage,” says Gibran Nicholas, the chairman of the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based CMPS Institute, which trains and certifies mortgage lenders and brokers. “Now that the subprime market is gone, FHA is filling the gap.”

Home Buyer Loan Process - What You Need

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

Once you have selected the type of loan you prefer and qualify for, the lender will ask you to complete a loan application, which will require a great deal of personal and financial information, including the following:

1) Your residence history
• Your previous addresses for the past two years
• The length of time you’ve lived at each address
• If you currently rent, your landlord’s name and addresses (for past 12 months)

2) Your employment history
• The names and addresses of all your employers for the past two years
• The dates you worked at each place of employment
• If there have been any gaps in your employment, explain why

3) All outstanding loans and credit cards
• The creditor’s name(s) and address(es)
• Your account number(s)
• The current total balance you owe and the months left to pay
• The amount of the monthly payment

4) Savings, checking or investment accounts
• The names and addresses for each financial institution
• Your account numbers • The current balance or value

5) Real estate you currently own
• The property address(es)
• The estimated market value
• The outstanding loan balance
• The amount of your monthly payment (including taxes, insurance, homeowner’s association dues)
• The amount of your rental income (if applicable) 6) Personal property you own • The net cash value of your life insurance
• The make, year and value of your automobile(s)
• The value of your furniture, jewelry and other personal property 7) Tax records • Some lenders may require copies of your tax records from the previous two years

If you would like to discuss the loan process and to become a pre-qualified buyer, please call us or request a loan analysis.

The The Count Down is On for First-Time Home Buyer $8,000 Tax Credit

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

The Count-Down is on for The First-Time Home Buyer $8,000 Tax Credit
By now you have most likely hear about the First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit that is available till November 30, 2009.

What a great opportunity to invest in your future and build financial security for you and your family.  And, it is a buyer’s market out there right now and the ability for individuals to use the tax credit at closing should have a meaningful impact on home sales and will allow thousands of families to achieve the dream of homeownership.”

The process in purchasing a home is involved and you need to ensure that everything goes smoothly so your closing will take place before the November 30, 2009 deadline.

You need to allow four to six weeks for the loan process, which means your offer should be accepted by mid October and no later than Oct 31.

Don’t let this amazing opportunity pass you by.  Call me so we can discuss your options and receive your free mortgage pre-approval.  We can start looking today and just think you could be a home owner by Nov. 30, 2009 – Just in time for the holidays.

I would be happy to assist anyone you know that would like to become a first time homeowner as well.

How To Have a Positive First Day of School

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

Des Moines, Iowa school bell will ring for the 2009-2010 school season August 27, 2009. 

Weather your child is entering kindergarten, middle school or the senior year it is important that they are prepared for what the year holds for them

If you have younger children take them on a tour of campus.  Show them their new classroom, have them meet their teacher and other school officials.

If you children are older, help them by making sure they know their schedule of classes, locker number and where their classes are. 

Make the morning go smoothly for you and your child by providing a healthy breakfast, make sure they have a healthy lunch and do as much as you can the night before like choosing their outfits, pack their back pack.  The more organized they are the more confident they will be the first day of school.

No matter what age your child is - make sure to tell them you love them and are very excited for them to start the new school year.


Protecting Your Home From Being Robbed

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

Here is some practical and effective techniques for securing your home and protecting your family from intruders. I have highlighted the safety of doors, windows, alarm systems, and general security.


• Choose strong and sturdy solid wood or metal exterior doors.

• Mount the hinges on the inside, so someone can’t remove your doors from the outside.

• If there’s a mail slot in your door, make sure that it’s small enough to prevent a person from reaching in and grasping the doorknob or lock. If you have a pet door, investigate ways to secure the door. For example, there are now pet doors that open only when activated by a microchip in your pet’s collar.

• For sliding glass doors, install a pin where the frames overlap to prevent the door from opening.

• Change or re-key your locks when you move into a new or existing home. The former owners (or tradespeople) may have shared their keys with others. Windows:

• Don’t use crescent or “butterfly” latches to secure double-hung windows; they can be pried open easily with a knife. Use a do-it-yourself nail or bolt window stop instead. Drill the hole for the stop at a slight downward angle to prevent a burglar from using pressure to jiggle the pin out of the hole.

• Laminated glass windows (which can be cut only from one side) prevent an intruder from cutting glass to gain entry. Laminated security glass products can be customized for virtually any application, regardless of requirements for heat-transfer, visibility, or aesthetics. They are especially effective in front-door windows and sidelights.

• Filming a window to reduce heat from direct sunlight does not make it stronger.

• Lock windows when not in use. Alarm Systems: According to the FBI, homes equipped with centrally monitored alarm systems are 15 times less likely to be targets of break-ins. These guidelines will help you choose one that’s right for your security needs.

1. Determine how much protection you need.  The goal of a residential security system is to detect an intruder as early as possible, alert the home's occupants to his presence, and scare him away before he does any harm. Progressive layers of protection accomplish this goal. Imagine four concentric circles around your house:

• Center circle: Your family and your most valuable possessions.

• Second circle: The interior of your home.

• Third circle: The exterior shell of your home.

• Fourth circle: The property around your home.

For most people, a system that protects the second and third circles is both effective and cost-efficient. This involves installing sensors on the windows and exterior doors, and interior motion detectors as backup to the point-of-entry protection. The additional cost of protecting the innermost circle adds spot protection for high-value areas, such as a security closet or safe, and may include a 24-hour panic button. At the outermost circle of protection, motion sensors let you know when someone enters your property. Unless you live in a remote or concealed location, this protection may be more than you need when balanced against the equipment and installation costs.

2. Decide how you want the system to respond.  At a minimum, include one interior siren to scare off the burglar and alert you to the situation. You may want to add an exterior siren so your neighbors will hear your activated alarm. Some systems include automatic, silent monitoring, meaning they send a signal to a central station where operators notify the police, fire department, or security company.

3. Choose an alarm system.  A basic alarm system consists of a low-voltage electrical circuit with sensors installed on doors and windows. When someone opens a door or window, it interrupts the flow of electricity through a sensor and activates a siren or flashing light. Many systems also include motion detectors. When something moves within the detector’s range, an alarm sounds.

Electronic alarm systems come in two basic types:

1. Wired systems (with concealed wires in the walls and crawl spaces) require running low-voltage electrical wires from a master control panel to doors and windows, motion detectors, keypads, and sirens.

2. Wireless systems use miniature radio transmitters instead of wires, and require very little drilling and no special tools to install. You can take a wireless system with you when you move. A wireless system is a better do-it-yourself choice.

Optional enhancements are available in both wired and wireless systems – from motion detectors that can’t be tripped by pets to remote access that allows you to check the system by phone from a distant location.

4. Compare prices. Get bids from two or three reputable security companies in your area. Compare the installation charges, annual inspection costs, and monthly fees (for monitored systems). Also, check with your insurance agent to see if you’ll receive a discount for installing a certain type of system.

5. Use it right. Alarm systems are only a part of good home security. Make sure that all the people who live in your home understand how to use your electronic system. Check your protective devices periodically to ensure they’re in working order.

General Tips:

• Pay attention to equipment that allows easy access to second-floor windows or balconies. If you’re remodeling or painting the exterior of your home, put ladders away at the end of each day.

• Make it difficult for an intruder to hide; trim bushes and trees to allow maximum exposure of windows and doorways.

• Motion-detection lights on all sides of the house make your home less inviting to burglars.

• Don’t hide your house key outside. If a family member habitually loses or forgets his or her key, consider giving a set of keys to a trustworthy neighbor, or hanging the key on a long chain that a child can wear around the neck.

• Lower the ring volume of your telephone so someone can’t hear it outside your house. (An unanswered phone may indicate that no one’s home.)

• Don’t enter if it appears someone has burglarized your home; call the police from a cell phone or neighbor’s house.

Ten Tips To Make Your Small Room Appear Larger

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

When deciding to sell your home it is important to take the steps necessary to ensure that the rooms in your home are properly “staged” to appeal to prospective buyers. This may harder than expected as we all have rooms in our home that may be on the smaller side and hard to decorate. What can really be done with a small room?


Below is a list of ten tips to help you open up the small spaces in your home to appear larger and inviting to prospective buyers.



  1. The use of light colors such as pastels, neutrals and white are a better alternative to “bright” or dark colors.
  2. For your furniture, rugs, etc. you should select different shades and textures of the one color you select from above.
  3. Lighting is critical when trying to create an illusion of a larger space. Recessed lighting is ideal for smaller spaces. In the event that this option is too costly, torchiere lighting is a viable alternative as the light bounces off the ceiling and back into the room.
  4. Declutter the room.
  5. A light colored floor and ceiling will open up the room and make it appear larger.
  6. Mirrors are a must as they add dimension to the room by reflecting images, light and colors. Mirrors provide a “see through” feel to the room.
  7. Remove large bulky furniture from the room. One or two smaller pieces placed closer to the walls are better than one large piece of furniture in the middle of the room.
  8. Don’t clutter the walls with a collection of pictures. Replace the many pictures with one larger picture or painting.
  9. Take advantage of the view of your yard and bring the outside in by allowing prospective buyers to see out into your flowerbeds or gardens.
  10. Glass tables such as a dining table, end table or coffee table will maintain the “open” and airy feel in a small space.

Des Moines Summer Activities

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

Des Moines offers you so much to do and summer time is no different.  With people looking for more budget wise vacations sometimes you can find things to do right in your own backyard.  Make sure to check the Des Moines Calendar of Events to see what is going on and what you, your friends or family enjoy doing.  There is something for everyone. 

Remember to purchase your ticket for the 2009 Des Moines Restaurant Week

Check out the upcoming concerts - Some big names are coming so get your tickets now.

Looking for some family fun - check out the Greater Des Moines family activities

Enjoy a night at an Iowa Cubs baseball game.  I have a monthly drawing for PRIME home plate tickets - total 4.  Just sign up for my newsletter now and let's see if you win a night of fun at the Cubs game!

What is Your Home's Value

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

In every real estate market today it is important to know what your homes value is.  Request my Market Snapshot to see how your home is situated in today's economy.


Displaying blog entries 51-60 of 120

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Contact Information

Photo of Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, SRES, SFR Real Estate
Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, SRES, SFR
Iowa Realty
3521 Beaver Ave.
Des Moines IA 50310
Fax: 515-453-6404



Licensed in the State of Iowa