Category Archives: Tips and Advice

Special Item of Value: i-Buyers

     If you’re thinking about selling your home, you might be considering an iBuyer—companies that provide nearly instant purchase offers on homes. iBuyers bring the certainty of a specific sale date and relieve you of making home improvements or opening your house to buyers. But when it comes to selling your home—often the largest investment most people ever make, is the convenience worth the cost?

   As with most financial decisions, it’s best to evaluate your options before selecting the path forward. That’s why I wanted to share with you a few things to remember when selling your home—no matter if it’s to an iBuyer or via the traditional sales process. Know your home’s worth.

   iBuyers present an offer on your home based on an algorithm, but that might not consider more-difficult-to-measure features, such as the amount of natural sunlight or your views. Working with a professional like me, we can evaluate your property against current homes for sale, noting your house’s specific amenities, to get a more accurate market value.

   Once you understand your home’s true worth, you can fairly assess the iBuyer offer. Consider your upfront costs. Recent research by Collateral Analytics compared the fees associated with iBuyers and traditional real estate sales. They found the total cost of working with an iBuyer comes to 13-15% of the sales price, compared to 5-7% for a traditional sale.

   Determine your goals. Do you need a quick transaction? Want a specific closing date? Or simply to maximize your profits? Once you establish your goals, I can help you achieve them. Depending on market conditions, a speedy sale could be secured on the open market or an iBuyer might be the better route.

   With my insights and support, we’ll put you on the path to success. If you’re ready to sell your home, let me know. I’m here to help you fully assess all your options and share with you my real estate expertise and local market knowledge.

Call me for a consultation!

Gary Scott’s Friday Focus to Long & Foster

Podcast with Dave Sanderson

Good Morning and Happy Friday! It is hard to believe we are already in April. I hope everyone enjoyed last week’s edition of Friday Focus. Congratulations to Villanova and Jay Wright. If you watched the game, pre-game or post-game, the word “culture” was used often to describe the key to success of the Villanova basketball team. Great teams win championships, not necessarily the great players.

Today, I want to share with you that this past Monday I participated in my first podcast with Dave Sanderson. Most of you have seen Dave speak, and I referred to his book, Moments Matter, in my Friday Focus email a few weeks ago. Dave was the last person off the plane that Capt. Sully miraculously landed safely in the Hudson. We all experience either personal and professional “breakthroughs” or defining moments. Dave also suggests that we all experience our personal and professional “plane crashes.” The breakthroughs and personal plane crashes ultimately define who we are, who we become and how we impact the lives of those we lead. In preparation for the hour-long podcast, Dave sent me a questionnaire that really triggered reflection. I thought I would share some of the questions with you to review and think about your answers.

  1. What is most important to you in your life?
  2. Was there a moment in your life that you didn’t pay attention that cost you something?
  3. As a leader in your profession, what single trait do you think helped you get to where you are today?
  4. Can you identify a “breakthrough” that helped define who you are today?
  5. Do you have any mentors in your life that impacted your life and leadership success today?
  6. What is one piece of advice you would give to a college senior that would benefit them the most as they enter the next chapter of their life?

I hope these questions stimulate your thoughts and reflection. Thank you for all you do, and how well you do it. The first quarter of 2018 is in the record books.

Have a great weekend, and make today count!

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Seven Tips to Ensure a Smooth Real Estate Closing

From the Long & Foster News Room – We offer excellent content!

By Michelle D. Formica, Manager, Marketing Services, The Long & Foster Companies.

 Article Direct Link:

Mar 201829

Seven Tips to Ensure a Smooth Real Estate Closing

By Michelle D. Formica, Manager, Marketing Services, The Long & Foster Companies.

Did you find the perfect home and now you’re ready to make an offer? Plan and prepare for the home buying process, so you can walk into your closing with confidence. Avoid a closing delay, or even worse an issue that causes your transaction to fall through. Here are some dos and don’ts from a few experts to ensure a smooth real estate closing.

Take care of the financial process upfront. If you are a serious buyer, it is important to get preapproved for a mortgage loan before shopping around. A preapproval will help determine your qualification and price point. The Prosperity Buyer Advantage is even better than a standard preapproval and will help expedite the financial process at closing, suggests Ron Wivagg, national sales support manager of Prosperity Home Mortgage, LLC. This complimentary pre-approval provides you with a commitment letter in hand.

Lock in your interest rate. When you get preapproved for a mortgage loan, ask your lender if they can lock in the interest rate. Otherwise, there is a possibility your interest rate will rise, while you’re shopping for a home, and you will no longer qualify for the mortgage loan. The Prosperity Buyer Advantage Lock, Shop & Home program will lock in your interest rate for up to 90 days, explains Wivagg.

Schedule a home inspection. According to US Inspect, a partner of Long & Foster’s Home Service Connections, a home inspection empowers the buyer to know the home’s condition and gives them exactly what they need to address potential issues with the seller. “Don’t wait until last minute to schedule your home inspection because otherwise it could delay the closing,” recommends Mark Munsch, marketing manager of US Inspect.

Be prepared to wire your funds. Most settlement companies now require their clients to wire funds for the security of everyone involved in the transaction, explains Julie McConnell, vice president of marketing for Long & Foster Settlement Services. When working with a title company, be sure to confirm the wire instructions over the phone before wiring any funds. This is an important precaution to take to avoid wire fraud.

Ask questions and discuss details ahead of time. Don’t wait until closing day to ask questions, recommends McConnell. Be sure to provide the settlement company with important details, including how you want to hold title (for example: tenants by the entirety, joint tenants, tenants in common) , so they can prepare the deed. Be certain to talk to your settlement company about protecting your property rights by purchasing owner’s title insurance. You can learn more about protecting yourself and your home here.

Don’t make big purchases before closing. Even if you’re preapproved, your lender will check to make sure no recent hits have been made to your credit. You want to avoid purchasing and financing a car, jewelry or any other big item, suggests Wivagg. This could disqualify you for the mortgage loan, causing your transaction to fall through.

Review the Closing Disclosure timely and carefully. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, your lender is required to give you the Closing Disclosure at least three business days before your scheduled closing date. Be on the lookout, so you can review the Closing Disclosure prior to settlement – this will allow time to resolve any issues before closing, suggests McConnell.

Buying a home is such an exciting life event. Follow these important dos and don’ts to avoid delaying your closing. If you’re considering buying a home and don’t know where to start, contact your local real estate agent – they can walk you through the entire home buying process from contract to close.


Which Remodeling Projects produce the greatest return on investment?

This posted on the LNF website today; for the complete article click this link:

Highlights include:

The annual study looks at average costs popular remodeling projects across the country. Here are the top five midrange and upscale improvements you could get money back on if you sell within a year:


  • Manufactured Stone Veneer. Cost: $8,221; recouped: 98.3 percent
  • Wood Deck Addition. Cost: $10,950; recouped: 82.8 percent
  • Minor Kitchen Remodel. Cost: $21,198; recouped: 81.1 percent
  • Siding Replacement. Cost: $15,072; recouped: 76.7 percent
  • Universal Design Bathroom. Cost: $16,393; recouped: 70.6 percent


  • Garage Door Replacement. Cost: $3,370; recouped: 98.3 percent
  • Window Replacement (Vinyl). Cost: $15,955; recouped: 74.3 percent
  • Window Replacement (Wood). Cost: $19,391; recouped: 69.5 percent
  • Grand Entrance (Fiberglass). Cost: $8,591; recouped: 67.6 percent
  • Bathroom Remodel. Cost: $61,662; recouped: 56.2 percent

Advice from Long & Foster to Help you Sell

Decluttering and Storage Help Sell Your Home

Jan 201830

Decluttering and Storage Help Sell Your Home

All the experts agree – clear the clutter out of your home before listing it for sale. The reason is simple – there’s a greater chance that a decluttered house will sell faster and possibly for a higher price than one that is cluttered. Decluttering makes the house look bigger and by packing away at least some of your personal belongings, it’s easier for buyers to imagine themselves living in your home. To maximize the benefit of decluttering, it’s a good idea to clear your home of at least 30 percent of its contents, allowing your home to look its best and help it to stand out from the competition.

To declutter, first start with your in-house storage areas. The basement, garage, closets and even guest bedrooms are commonly used for excess storage. It’s important to empty these spaces as much as possible. Buyers love storage space and it’s more appealing to see empty closets than full ones.

Next, minimize the amount of furniture in each room. Again, it’s important to show as much space as possible so extra chairs, tables and other large items should be removed during the sales process.

The last stage of decluttering involves your personal effects—items such as pictures, books, collectibles and toys that you can live without until your home sells. Boxing up these items and storing them out of the house helps to present a version of your home free of your personal taste. Buyers and their agents can then focus on your house without any distraction from your personal possessions.

Realtors and home stagers often recommend that sellers rent storage units to place excess items while selling their home. We talked with a few of Long & Foster’s Home Service Connections storage partners about their advice on getting ready to sell your home.

 Portable Storage

Zippy Shell’s portable storage containers are a great way to declutter your home. Zippy Shell containers can be parked in your driveway or on the street in front of your house. You have the option of loading the container yourself or the company can load it for you. After it’s filled, the portable unit can then be stored in Zippy Shell’s climate-controlled facility where it’ll remain locked and accessible only to you while in storage. When you’re ready to have it returned, Zippy Shell can deliver the container to your new home, anywhere in the country. “Packing is the hardest part, so it’s best to start early and do a little bit every night,” said Bill Shannon, owner of Zippy Shell of Northern Virginia.

 Conquering the Clutter

It’s a good idea to be open to your Realtor’s decluttering suggestions, said Piet Gauchat, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Olympia Moving and Storage. Olympia works with many Realtors and the firm even has a “Declutter Program” designed for home sellers. Through that program, Olympia’s crew will move out the clutter and store it for free for up to three months, according to Gauchat.

 Storage in the Cloud

Storage Genie takes a digital inventory of your belongings at no charge before moving them to storage. Then, when you need specific things like your holiday decorations, just log into your account and order the items you want delivered to you. “It’s almost like your items go into the cloud,” said Chris Patton, CEO of Victory Van Corporation/Allied Van Lines. Patton points out that this type of storage is so much more convenient than placing your belongings in a self-storage facility. “Often your tax returns or vacuum cleaner are in the back of the unit when you need them,” said Patton. “Storage Genie takes the ‘self’ out of self-storage.”

Once you’ve chosen a storage solution that’s right for you, decluttering your home will not only help your home show well, but also will give you a head start on packing for your move.

February Home Maintenance Checklist from Long & Foster

By Suzanne Whitenight Pilcher, Marketing Coordinator, Long & Foster Companies.

Feb 201801

February Home Maintenance Checklist

By Suzanne Whitenight Pilcher, Marketing Coordinator, Long & Foster Companies.

It’s February – winter’s not over yet, but spring is right around the corner. If you have cabin fever from being inside, cleaning and freshening up your house can help you get through this last month of winter and be ready to get outside when spring arrives.

Once you check these items off your to-do list, you’ll be able to relax by the fire with a good book and enjoy the last few weeks of winter.

  • Mop entryway floors. Clean your floors regularly to prevent damage from road salt and melting snow. Place a basket of old towels near the door to wipe up water and salt as soon as it is tracked inside.
  • Rotate or flip your mattress. Extend the life and comfort of your mattress by flipping or rotating it. At the same time, vacuum box springs and the mattress to eliminate allergy causing dust- mites.
  • Organize your laundry room. Scrape dried-on laundry detergent from the ridges in your washer. Throw away laundry products you never use and replace damaged sorting bins.
  • Clean out your spice cabinet. Throw away expired spices and other seasonings, which may not only lose their taste, but could harbor mold and bacteria.
  • Sanitize hand-held devices. Prevent germs that cause the spread of colds and the flu by disinfecting your phone, remote controls, tablets, as well as your door and cabinet knobs.
  • Dust blinds, ceiling fans and fixtures. Wipe down or use a feather duster to remove the dirt that builds up on blinds, ceiling fans, light fixtures other small electronics.
  • Add color to your table. Treat yourself to some fresh flowers to add cheer to your kitchen table while waiting for spring blooms to make their first appearance.
  • Plan your summer vacation. Reserve your vacation home now to get the best selection of available properties. Start your planning today at Long & Foster’s Vacation Rentals website.

What Not to Do When Putting Your Home on the Market


Most seasoned real estate agents have seen it all when showing homes to potential buyers: sinks full of dishes, worn-out carpets and all manner of creative paint schemes.

If you’re getting your home ready to go on the market, your agent will probably give you a list of things to do before buyers start coming through the door. But what are some of the things you should NOT do? We asked three Long & Foster agents to share their tips.

FOR the complete story click or paste the following Long & Foster Link:

Great Suggestions for the Best Improvements to Your Home

Best Financial Investments for Your Home
By Craig Middleton
RISMEDIA, Wednesday, November 29, 2017— Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at

Over the last couple of years, rehabbing TV shows have become increasingly popular. In these shows, people fix or introduce new features to their homes while adding substantial market value to the house in the process. If you own a home, you can make many of these types of fixes or additions to increase the value of your home, too. You can also enjoy these changes for as long as you live there. Some of the best financial investments you can make to your home include:

Major Problem Fixes
The first high-return investment you should make in your home is to correct all major problems. If your home has serious issues, such as a broken air conditioner or a pipe leak, fixing those issues should be priority No. 1. Repairing or replacing the roof and siding can be a great investment, and potential buyers will generally factor in both the time and cost of having to fix it. Problems like these are always easier to fix when they’re small than later after having put them off.

Exterior Improvements
Investing in the facade of a home can also bring great returns. Replacing garage doors is one of these investments. If your garage door looks new, your house will look new, as well. Painting the outside of your home is another good investment in the exterior. If you don’t want to take the time and money to fully repaint your home, pressure-washing can be a quick way to make the outside of your home look much more presentable.

Entryway Improvements
Another good investment is to invest in a new entryway door. Like the garage door, the front door is important in making a good first impression on a potential buyer. Replacing your front door with a steel door can also make your home safer; increasing the safety of your home can be another great selling point for a potential buyer. Replacing windows is another way to make the outside of your home look better, as well as improve the home’s energy efficiency.

Fixes and additions to the inside of your home can be a great financial investment. A fresh coat of paint to the interior can add value by making the home look cleaner and brighter.

Update Bathroom, Kitchen and Appliances
Improving your home’s bathroom, particularly visible elements such as vanities, lighting, toilets and tubs, can create a high return. For bathroom improvements, you may obtain a better return on investment by spending your money on items in the bathroom that a potential buyer would see, instead of completely gutting the bathroom.

Kitchen remodels can be another way to significantly improve the value of your home. For kitchen remodels, you’ll want to spend money on functional items such as cabinets, drawers, pantry doors and appliances. Appliances such as refrigerators don’t have to be completely new, but they should keep up with current trends. Kitchen remodels should also suit the home. A kitchen that looks like it belongs in a $300,000 home will feel out of place in a $150,000 home.

Adding high-efficiency appliances to a home can modernize it and also save you money on electricity. Some states and cities have tax programs that could reduce your taxes if you buy and use high-efficiency appliances that require less electricity.

Overall, you should research the investment potential of your home before making any purchase. If you are trying to increase the value of your home, you need to make sure your fix or addition will increase the value of the home not only for you, but also to potential buyers.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of RISMedia.


Great Ways to Pay Your Mortgage Off Early

4 Ways to Pay Off Your Mortgage Early
By Dana Dratch
RISMEDIA, Monday, November 27, 2017— (TNS)—If you can afford it, it might be simple to pay off your mortgage earlier. But should you? That’s a complicated question.

Homeowners with low mortgage rates may be better off putting extra money in a Roth IRA or 401(k), both of which might offer a higher return than paying off the mortgage.

Then there’s the college aid factor. If you’re applying for need-based aid for your kids, that home equity could count against you with some colleges because some institutions view equity as money in the bank.

If, after those caveats, you want to pay off your mortgage early, here are four ways to make it happen.

1. Refinance with a shorter-term mortgage.
You can pay off the mortgage in another 15 years by refinancing into a 15-year mortgage.

Let’s say you got a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage for $200,000 at 4.5 percent. Then, five years later, you can refinance into a 15-year loan at 4 percent. Doing so pays off the mortgage 10 years earlier and saves more than $60,000 (if you exclude closing costs on the refi).

Those shorter-term mortgages often carry interest rates a quarter of a percentage point to three-quarters of a percentage point lower than their 30-year counterparts.

Refinancing isn’t quick or free. It requires filling out the application, providing documentation and having an appraiser visit. There are closing costs.

And even with a lower interest rate, that quicker payoff means higher monthly payments. And this method is a lot less flexible. If you decide that you don’t have the extra money one month to put toward the mortgage, you’re locked in anyway.

Unless the new interest rate is lower than the old rate, there’s no point in refinancing. Without a lower rate, you’ll get all the same benefits (and none of the extra costs) by just increasing your payment a sufficient amount.

2. Pay a little more each month.
Divide your monthly principal and interest by 12 and add that amount to your monthly payment for a year. Result: You make the equivalent of 13 payments in 12 months. Let’s say you got a $200,000 mortgage at 4.5 percent. After five years of making the minimum payments, you add an extra 1/12 of a month’s principal and interest to each monthly payment. Doing so pays off the mortgage three years and three months earlier and saves more than $18,000 interest.

Before you make anything beyond the regular payment, call your mortgage servicer and find out exactly what you need to do so that your extra payments will be correctly applied to your loan.

Let them know you want to pay “more aggressively” and ask the best ways to do that. Some servicers may require a note with the extra money or directions on the notation line of the check.

In any event, if you’re putting extra money toward your loan, always check the next statement to make sure it’s been properly applied.

3. Make an extra mortgage payment every year.
Instead of paying a little more each month, make one extra monthly payment each year. One way to do this is to save 1/12 of a payment every month, and then make an extra payment after every 12 months. This gives you the flexibility to use the extra savings for something else if a more pressing expense arises.

Let’s say you do this starting the first month after getting a 30-year mortgage for $200,000 at 4.5 percent. That would save more than $27,000 interest, and you would pay off the mortgage four years and three months earlier.

4. Throw ‘found’ money at the mortgage.
Get a bonus? A tax refund? An unexpected windfall? However it ends up in your hands, you can funnel some or all of your newfound money toward your mortgage.

Let’s say you got a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage for $200,000 at 4.5 percent. Then, five years later, you can make an extra $10,000 lump-sum payment. Doing so pays off the mortgage two years and four months earlier, and saves more than $19,000 in interest.

The upside: You’re paying extra only when you’re flush. And those additional payments toward the principal will cut the total interest on your loan.

The downside: It’s irregular, so it’s hard to predict the mortgage payoff date. If you throw too much at the mortgage, you won’t have money for other needs.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC 

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of RISMedia.

Plan your move and make it better!

5 Tips to Make Moving Less Stressful
By Mikkie Mills
RISMEDIA, Monday, November 13, 2017— Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at

Moving can be a daunting task for many people. There is a lot of packing involved and unpacking once you get to your new home; however, with proper planning, you may even find yourself enjoying the moving process…unless you get stuck. This guide serves to offer you simple ways to move into your new home.

Get Prepared
It is advisable to plan at least eight weeks before you’re going to relocate. A last-minute rush can bring a lot of confusion and stress. To plan this far ahead, though, you need a list of tasks to do. Select the items that you will be taking with you and leave items that you haven’t used in the last year. Be selective and make sure you’re not packing unnecessary items. You can donate the rest of your belongings to the needy or give out to friends.

Pack Items in Order
Do not pack your clothes, shoes, and bags in one big box. It can be quick to do so, but it will be a nightmare when it comes to unpacking. Organize the items in different clean boxes and label them with a marker. This way, you will have an easy time unpacking, and the movers will know which room to place the boxes. You should have an emergency box where you can keep all the essential items, such as clothing and kids supplies, that you’ll need for the first 24 hours after you move. Moving can be tiresome, especially if you are working and have a family. It’s okay to take a break and have a drink if you’re feeling too stressed out.

Ask for Assistance
It can be challenging to ask for help; however, many people know the experience of moving and how hard it can be. Talk to family and friends and agree on a day to come over and help you pack. It could be an opportunity to spend time with them, especially if you are moving far away. Afterwards, you can all go out for a meal. If no one is available, you can call packers to help you with moving heavy boxes.

Check the Moving Details
The last thing you want to do is end up relocating before the moving date. When you buy a property, get in touch with your real estate agent to make sure of the exact time you’re supposed to move. Also, when renting a property, don’t just assume the date given in the lease is when you are supposed to get into your new home. Make a call to the landlord or agent and double-check the day. It can save you a lot of time and hassle.

Call a Moving Company
Packing takes a large amount of time and energy. You should be careful to avoid breakages that will result in extra costs. If there are expensive items, ask for assistance; there is a lot of information about moving insurance for valuable items. After being sure that you have packed all the necessary things, it is time to call a moving company. Moving companies in Austin, Los Angeles, Miami, or any other major city offer high-quality services to their clients. Make sure that the company is licensed and insured for the safe delivery of your items to your new location. In case of any breakages, you are sure to have the piece replaced.

When you follow the above tips, moving will be an enjoyable task. Eat well to boost your energy levels. Carry enough snacks on a moving day, especially if you are going far. Also, make sure you have enough water to stay hydrated. When you get to your new home, do not unpack everything at once. You should first rest and start unpacking carefully to avoid damage.

RISMedia welcomes your questions and comments. Send your e-mail to: