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7 New Year's Resolutions For Your Home

resolutionsforyourhomeThe new year serves as a perfect opportunity to start fresh and tackle that list of house projects. To help you get started, we’ve gathered seven simple home improvement resolutions to give your house a mini-makeover in 2018.

1. No More Squeaks and Creaks

Every homeowner has those little projects that keep getting put off. For instance, creaky door hinges are an easy fix. Bob Vila offers 3 tried-and-true techniques to silence those squeaks and creaks – including something as simple as a little mayonnaise!

2. Improve Energy Efficiency

Going green does not have to be a big undertaking. While installing solar panels and on-demand water heaters can improve your home’s energy efficiency, little changes can also make an impact.

  • Replace incandescent lightbulbs with compact fluorescents or LEDs that last longer.
  • Invest in a programmable thermostat that will automatically adjust heating and cooling according to a schedule you set.
  • Add weather-stripping to windows and doors to help minimize drafts.

Not only will these quick improvements save energy, but you will also save money! And if you want take it a step further, Mass Save offers no-cost home energy assessments.

3. Say Goodbye to Spots and Stains

If you have kids or pets, stained carpets, couches and upholstery are a given. Investing in new furniture or carpets isn’t necessary; rent a carpet cleaner at your local hardware store or purchase your own. Most carpet cleaners also include attachments that work on couches and upholstery. Be sure to check the tags on the furniture first, use the right type of cleaning solution and always spot test an area before tackling a large stain. It’s also important to note that some types of fabric require dry cleaning or a professional cleaning service – this should be listed on the tags.

4. Refresh and Renew

Sick of that boring beige or “impactful” paint color that’s been in your bedroom for the last 10 years? A fresh coat of paint can liven up a room and give it a new look. Cleaning dirty or stained grout is another small detail that can give your home a fresh look. All it takes is a grout brush and a cleaner suitable for your tile. The Spruce recommends a variety of cleaning formulas.

5. Get Organized

Kitchen clutter can creep up on anyone, especially if your kitchen is on the small side. One culprit is food storage containers. Take time to sort through all of yours and recycle any without a matching top or bottom. Spices can also quickly take over your cupboard. Throwing out expired spices, consolidating multiple versions of the same spice and investing in a spice rack will buy space and help you get organized. And if decluttering is just not enough, try these hacks from BuzzFeed to maximize storage.  

6. Enhance Your Curb Appeal 

With a foot of snow on the ground, outside projects may seem like a pipe dream right now, but spring will be here in just a few short months. Be ready to hit the ground running by putting together your exterior projects list before the snow melts.

  • Is your front door in need of some restoration?
  • Does your mailbox need to be cleaned or replaced? Is the house number faded or worn? Would the post benefit from fresh paint or should it be upgraded?
  • Do your outdoor fixtures need some love? Those doorknobs, doorbells and door knockers are exposed to the elements and can really take a beating.
  • Do you have cracks in the walkway or driveway that need to be filled in?
  • Does your fence need a fresh coat of paint? Do gate doors open and close easily or does the gate hardware need some lubricant?

7. Do A Clean Sweep

With colder than usual temperatures and a few months of winter to go, your chimney will certainly need some attention this spring. While it’s recommended that you leave the bulk of the dirty work to a professional chimney sweep, there are a few things you can do to educate yourself before engaging the professionals. Some tips from the DIY network include:

  • Check the bricks and mortar to make sure they are intact.
  • Remove the chimney gap and check the flue liner for damage or obstructions.
  • Look up the flue liner to look for creosote buildup.

Cheers to 2018! Here’s to making your home cleaner, more energy efficient, and even more beautiful in the new year.

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    First-Time Homebuyer Tips: Eliminate the Risk of Submitting a Lowball Offer

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    A first-time homebuyer may believe that he or she can submit a "lowball" offer on a residence, even if a house has been available for many weeks or months. However, the risks associated with submitting a subpar proposal are significant, particularly for a homebuyer who wants to purchase a top-notch residence as soon as possible.

    Ultimately, a lowball offer may result in an instant "No" from a home seller. Perhaps even worse, the proposal could sour potential negotiations between a homebuyer and home seller and cause a property buyer to miss out on an opportunity to acquire his or her dream residence.

    When it comes to buying a house for the first time, there is no need to risk submitting a lowball offer.

    Now, let's take a look at three tips to help a first-time homebuyer avoid the temptation to make a lowball proposal.

    1. Evaluate a Wide Range of Houses

    An informed first-time homebuyer may be better equipped than others to provide a competitive offer to purchase his or her ideal residence.

    For example, a homebuyer who assesses a broad range of houses in a particular area can determine a price range for similar residences. Then, if this homebuyer would like to submit an offer on a house, he or she can use housing market data to submit a fair proposal without delay.

    With housing market data, a homebuyer can determine whether he or she is operating in a buyer's or seller's market too. That way, this homebuyer can leverage housing market insights to quickly and effortlessly put together a competitive offer on any residence, at any time.

    2. Understand Your Finances

    Getting pre-approved for a mortgage usually is a great idea for a first-time homebuyer. With a mortgage in hand, this homebuyer will be able map out a homebuying journey based on his or her finances.

    To receive pre-approval for a mortgage, a homebuyer will should meet with several banks and credit unions. These lenders can offer details about a variety of mortgage options and help a homebuyer make an informed mortgage decision.

    After a homebuyer is pre-approved for a mortgage, he or she can submit an offer on a house and understand exactly how much money is available for a home purchase. As a result, this homebuyer can put his or her best foot forward with an initial offer, thereby reducing the risk of submitting a lowball proposal.

    3. Collaborate with a Real Estate Agent

    The homebuying journey can be long and complicated, especially for those who are pursuing a house for the first time. Fortunately, a first-time homebuyer can collaborate with a real estate agent to obtain deep housing market insights.

    A real estate agent is happy to provide honest, unbiased home offer recommendations. By doing so, this housing market professional can help a first-time homebuyer submit the best offer on a residence – without exception.

    Ready to purchase a home for the first time? Use the aforementioned tips, and a first-time homebuyer can avoid the danger of submitting a lowball offer on a residence.

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      2018 Housing Predictions: A Look Into The Crystal Ball

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      As 2017 comes to a close and we make our resolutions for 2018, we may wonder what’s in store for the year to come. Will the stock market hit an all-time high as the U.S. tax bill becomes law? Will the new Red Sox manager be the ticket to winning the 2018 World Series? Will improvements in conversational artificial intelligence help Siri hear you better? Will New England see 70-degree temperatures in February? And if so, will we fret or rejoice?

      As for the housing market, a look into the crystal ball reveals an economic environment that is favorable.

      New Home Sales

      New homes are expected to be a “primary driver of sales in 2018,” as 1.33 million housing starts are predicted next year — up from 1.22 million in 2017, according to Freddie Mac’s September Outlook report, which gauges future real estate activity. Total home sales are expected to increase about 2 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to the report.

      Home Prices

      Economists also predict that the uptick in housing starts, coupled with a moderate increase in mortgage rates, will help slow the run-up in home prices next year. Freddie Mac forecasts a 4.9 percent increase in home prices in 2018, down from the 6.3 percent growth seen so far this year. 

      Mortgage Rates

      Mortgage rates also are also predicted to rise from near-record lows in 2016, prompting predictions that refinancings will fall to 25 percent of mortgage activity in 2018 — the lowest share since 1990, according to Fannie Mae.

      Cash-Out Activity

      Still, homeowners likely will continue building equity next year. In the second quarter of 2017, the dollar volume of equity cashed out was $15 million, up $1.2 million from the first quarter. As home prices rise, cash-out activity has been rising, too.

      While we can’t predict the future, the forecast certainly looks promising for the 2018 housing market.

      Source: “Looking Ahead to 2018,” Freddie Mac Outlook (Sept. 21, 2018)

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        Kitchen Organization Tips

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        Your kitchen is an often used room and can become cluttered very quickly. There are plenty of strategies that you can use to keep the room in order. Below, you’ll find tips that will help you to keep your kitchen decluttered and your supplies organized once and for all! 

        Make Space For Storage

        This sounds like an obvious need in any room of the house, but the kitchen is a place where you need ample storage. There are a few ways to do this. Outside of your cabinets, you can install freestanding storage units, like shelving or extra cabinets. Even an armoire can help you to have a space to beautifully display your dishes. 

        Under your sink, you can keep your most frequently used items like soap, sponges, and detergent in easy to access solutions. Either install a small turntable, or simple get bins that can be labeled and pulled out as needed. This will keep everything you need together neat and tidy. It will be difficult to actually disorganize this space once you have completed this small task. 

        Coffee Time

        What would a kitchen be without coffee? If you brew a cup of joe every morning, you’ll want easy access to coffee supplies. Dedicate a space next to the coffeemaker where you’ll keep the coffee, mugs, beans, and other supplies. You can even keep your travel mugs near this space within reach when you’re running out the door. If there’s little room on the counter, hang hooks on the wall to keep coffee mugs and travel mugs out of the way.

        Tackle The Trash And Recycling

        There’s nothing worse than having trash and recycling all over your kitchen. Keep these items concealed in dedicated cabinets. The perfect place for the trash and the recycling is next to the sink since that’s the most convenient location for the trash to be in. 

        The recycling will follow the same pattern as it needs to be rinsed out and ready to go outside in the bins.  

        Keep The Family Organized

        A kitchen is a great place for you to have a center of communication for your family. This is where a bulletin board can be placed with important documents. A calendar listing all of the family’s activities and appointments can be hung for everyone’s reference. This area make use of a small space that would otherwise be wasted in your kitchen. It also serves a dual purpose in keeping the family organized.

        Small changes can make a big difference in the kitchen when it comes to clutter, storage, and organization. Once you get started, keeping the clutter at bay can be very easy.

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          That's A Wrap! Making the Holidays a Little Brighter

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          The Farrelly team is as local as they come, so community involvement is very important to us. Sadly, even within our lovely and tight-knit community of North Reading, there are children who are neglected or abused. The Department of Child and Family Services (DCF) works in partnership with these families and communities to keep children safe.

          At Farrelly Realty Group we strive to make a positive impact on the lives of children and families, including those who rely on assistance and guidance from the DCF. In support of our goals, this holiday season we partnered with Burlington Self Storage and Bunratty Tavern to help over 100 children in need. With the help of the DCF, members of our community had a chance to sponsor a child or donate clothes and toys. We reached out, and our benevolent community responded -- with bells on!

          The Gift of Community

          On December 10th, 2017 the Bunratty Tavern in Reading was the site for a Wrapping Party to wrap the abundant toys and clothes that were so generously donated. Our team at Farrelly Realty Group along with administrators from the Department of Children and Families and many neighbors and friends gathered together to make a difference in the lives of children and families in the Middlesex County! The support was overwhelming and we are truly grateful for the donated gifts and time of so many members of our wonderful community.

          Thank you for making the holidays a little brighter! Check out some of the pictures from the event … and Happy Holidays!

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            Tips To Help With Your Home Search

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            Before you even start the home search, research is key. There are a few areas that you should look closely at in every home that you’re touring in order to make an informed decision about each property and your future in it. 

            Check The Foundation

            When you’re walking around the home, note creaky floors, cracks in the walls, and water drainage issues. Maybe you won’t even be able to see if the foundation has any cracks in it or not with your own two eyes. A certified home inspector will, however, be able to tell you what is happening on the property. Cracks in the foundation or major foundational damage can be incredibly costly to you as a homeowner. You’re going to want to know about these issues ahead of time. 

            Do Some Investigating

            Taking a walk around your desired neighborhood can give you a lot of valuable information. You may be able to talk to neighbors who will give you a bit of information about a property. Even wandering around the neighborhood or attending yard sales can help you to see what’s going on, if you can see yourself living there, and if there are any major issues that you should be aware of. 

            Be Likable

            Sellers prefer to sell a home to a buyer who they like. if you see that you have something in common with the seller like the fact that you’re both veterans, you should send a letter along with your offer to let the seller know your connection. It’s also helpful to send an offer letter that lets the seller know how much you love the house and that you can see yourself living in the home. It never hurts to add a personal touch to a home offer.  

            Keep Your Options Open

            Just because a home doesn’t consist of the modern decor you picture yourself living in, doesn’t mean it can’t be changed. If a home happens to be older with less present-day decor in it, be sure to keep an open mind as to the potential that the home has for you.

            Make A Strategic Offer

            We know that prices that end in 9 are a bit more attractive to the psyche than prices that end in a flat zero. If the asking price for a home is $310,000, you may be tempted to offer $320,000 to shell out the competition, but you may be better off offering an odd number like $312,000. Sometimes a small difference makes a big impact in the eyes of the buyer. Work with your realtor to see if a home you’re interested in has any other offers. Your agent can help you to find a good price point for your offer as well.

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              7 Insightful Questions to Ask Neighbors Before Buying A Home

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              Buying a home is a probably the biggest purchase you’ll ever make. In an ideal world, you would take your time before making an offer, visiting several times and studying up on the town and the neighborhood.

              These days, you need to act swiftly or someone else may swoop in on your dream home. So how can you get an accurate feel for a neighborhood?

              Of course you should perform due diligence, checking crime rates and doing online research about schools and community events. But there's one very simple step you can take to uncover a fountain of immediate info: 

              Talk to the neighbors.

              Although it might feel awkward to approach strangers before or after looking at a house, most people are willing to talk with prospective buyers.

              If you see a neighbor outside, politely approach them, tell them you are considering buying the house for sale on the street and ask if they mind answering a couple of questions.

              Not sure what to ask? 

              Here are seven insightful questions that will help you glean some useful info.

              1. How would you describe the area, and what it's like living here?

              This open-ended question allows neighbors to spill whatever comes to mind first — which most often is the things that they love (and dislike) the most about their neighborhood.

              While real estate agents are limited in the information that they can disclose to you about a neighborhood, neighbors don't have such restrictions.

              But keep in mind, if you disclose (or it’s evident) which house you're considering, there's always the chance that the neighbors are friendly with the seller, and loyalty could taint their response. And of course, people's perspectives can vary.

              Focus on getting a good feel for the vibe of the neighborhood. To get a more accurate picture, try to ask several neighbors the same questions.

              2. Do you consider this to be a safe neighborhood to live in?

              This question allows you to get more detail about the feel of the neighborhood. You may want to ask if break-ins are common in the area. Is there a neighborhood watch program -- formal or informal? Do neighbors tend to keep an eye on each other's properties when they are out of town?

              If you have children or like to take your dog for a walk, traffic patterns may also be of importance. Neighbors will be able to let you know if children can play or ride their bike in the street safely.

              3. If you could change anything at all about the neighborhood, what would it be?

              This question gives you an opportunity to ask about any drawbacks to the area, such as limited parking, barking dogs or other inconveniences that might become big annoyances if you purchase a home in the area.

              4. Which school district is this neighborhood in, and are you happy with the school?

              Schools should be a major concern, even if you don't have kids. A good school district usually translates into higher property values; potential buyers with children will want to be in the district with the most desirable schools.

              You'll find lots of resources online to learn about school system ratings, but nothing beats hearing the personal experience of families who have kids enrolled in the local schools. And if you have kids, besure to ask the neighbors about any specific school programs that your children may need.

              5. Is the neighborhood friendly ... do the neighbors socialize with each another?

              Were you hoping for backyard barbecues and Sunday football game watch parties? Running partners and wine buddies? Do you prefer a peaceful vibe or are you looking for a lively social scene for you and your kids?

              This question will help you determine whether you're a good fit for the neighborhood. Neighbors may share that there's not a neighborhood social scene, or that there are block parties and an open-door policy. You can learn more about the social scene for both your kids and yourselves.

              6. Is there anything that I should be aware of with this property?

              Once you’ve asked about the neighborhood vibe, it’stime to turn your attention to the specific home you're considering. Although sellers are legally required to disclose certain information, neighbors might be willing to dish more on the revealing things that weren't evident in the disclosure. If the property you are thinking of buying has run into some problems, then the neighbors would know all about it.

              7. How long have you lived in the neighborhood?

              Gaining an understanding of how long your potential neighbors have lived in the neighborhood provides you some insight. Neighbors who have been around for a while may be able to give you the back story of why the property is on the market, which is good intel for negotiation.

              Homeowners that live in the same house for some time also tend to have a stronger sense of community and take pride in their home and their neighborhood. A well-kept neighborhood is in your best interest as it will impact the value of the house.

              The next time you head to an open house, don't forget to set aside a few minutes to chat with the neighbors — what they say could cement your decision that this is the perfect place to live, or it could save you from making a big mistake.

              Ready to enter the market? Call us 978.664.3700 -- we're here to help!

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                How to Avoid and Cancel Private Mortgage Insurance

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                Applying for a mortgage can be a lengthy and difficult process. Lenders want to know that they are going to get a return on their investment.

                To ensure that they’ll see that positive return they will take a number of things into consideration, such as your income, credit score, employment history, and financial capital.

                First-time homeowners often struggle when it comes to these prerequisites since they have fewer years of numbers for lenders to consider. If you’re one of those people, don’t worry--you can still purchase a home.

                First-time homeowner loans, which are guaranteed by the U.S. government, and a number of private loans enable people to borrow money for a home without paying a huge down payment or having a vast credit history.

                One downfall of said loans is private mortgage insurance, or “PMI.”

                In this article, we’re going to talk about what private mortgage insurance is, how to avoid it, and how to get rid of it. 

                What is PMI?

                If you make a down payment on a mortgage that is less than 20% of the loan amount, you will most likely have to pay private mortgage insurance.

                PMI exists as a way for lenders to help guarantee they won’t lose money off of your loan. If you make a down payment of 20% or more, then lenders are typically satisfied that they won’t lose money from doing business with you.

                PMI is not to be confused with home insurance, which protects you against damage and theft. Rather, it is an additional fee you’ll pay to your lender each month that is added to your mortgage payment.

                PMI is calculated based on a few considerations. Lenders will take into account your down payment amount, the value of the mortgage, and your credit score.

                In terms of costs, PMI typically costs between .5 and 1% of the total mortgage amount each year.

                Avoiding PMI

                Naturally, it’s best to avoid paying private mortgage insurance altogether. Private mortgage insurance has no future value for you and your family since it doesn’t count towards building equity and doesn’t protect you from any potential financial harm (your lender is the sole beneficiary of PMI).

                Saving for a down payment can take time, and sometimes you’ll need to rent or cut costs while you save. However, if you do take on a loan with PMI, you can still cancel it at a later point.

                Canceling your private mortgage insurance

                The first thing you should know about canceling PMI is that it usually isn’t easy. You’ll need pay off at least 20% of the home, write a letter to your lender, and wait for an appraisal of the home. Once you’ve done this, you still have to wait while your lender considers your request. In all, this process could take months--months that you’re still required to pay PMI.

                Once common way to get out of PMI is to refinance. If the value of your home has increased since the time of you taking on the loan, the new lender likely won’t require PMI. However, you’ll want to make sure that refinancing will get you a lower interest rate and cover the costs of refinancing. 

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                  Holiday Festive vs. Show-Ready House?

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                  ‘Tis the season for holiday lights, Christmas trees, Chanukah menorahs, wreaths and yards filled with inflatable holiday characters. Yes, the holiday season is here.

                  If your house is for sale during this time of year, you may wonder if decorating your home will hurt your chances of selling. While we don’t suggest you deck the halls, it is possible to fulfill your desire to decorate while ensuring your home is show-ready and enticing to prospective buyers.

                  1. Keep It Simple

                  This is the year for decorating restraint. Too much decorating can be overwhelming for a prospective buyer and detracts from yourcurb appeal. Add some outdoor holiday flair with an elegant wreath on the front door, garlands or white candle lights in the windows.

                  Follow the same approach inside. If you have a Christmas tree, use simple white lights and a few tasteful decorations. Try to stay away from the popsicle stick ornaments your preschooler made and opt for a more classic and simple choice like colored glass balls, stars or snowflakes.

                  2. Keep Religious Preferences in Mind

                  Christmas may steal the show this time of year, but Christmas may not be the holiday your prospective buyers are celebrating. HGTV recommends “equal opportunity decorating.” Try an elegant approach with winter-themed decorations. For instance, add a poinsettia as a centerpiece on the dining room table or Nutcracker decorations on the mantel.

                  3. Think Warm and Cozy

                  Baby it’s cold outside! Make your home a place that prospective buyers don’t want to leave. Light a fire or turn up the heat. Nobody wants to walk around your home while shivering. Better Homes and Gardens also suggests creating a cozy vibe with throw blankets (they can add a pop of color) and rearranging furniture to focus on the fireplace.

                  4. Respect the Senses

                  The smell of apple cider candles or peppermint candies might get you into the holiday spirit, but it could be off-putting to a prospective buyer. We recommend the smell-free approach. Create an inviting mood in your home with a few festive decorations and a thorough cleaning instead.

                  5. Make Clean Up Easy

                  The Christmas tree may be beautiful, but the shedding pine needles aren’t. Consider forgoing the tree this year, or if a Christmas tree is a must, perhaps it's the year for an artificial tree.

                  Clutter is also a big “don’t” and makes clean up more of a chore. While it’s fun to display holiday cards from family and friends, they can quickly take over your mantel, making your beautiful fireplace look like less like a focal point and more like an overstuffed turkey. Read the cards and box them up rather than displaying them this year … it will leave you with one less thing to tackle when your house sells.

                  There you have it - with simple and neutral décor, your house can be show-ready and festive this holiday season … and gift you a “sold!” home. 

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                    Limit Stress During the Home Selling Process

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                    Dealing with a lot of stress as you try to sell your house? You're not alone. Fortunately, there are many great ways to minimize stress during the home selling process, including: 1. Prepare Before You List Your Home on the Real Estate Market A diligent home seller will prepare for the best and worst case scenarios, ensuring he or she is ready to deal with any challenges that may arise. For instance, you should conduct extensive research before you list your house on the real estate market. By doing so, you can determine a fair price for your residence and may be able to reduce the need for potentially stressful negotiations with prospective homebuyers. Don't forget to get your home appraised, too. A home appraisal will enable you to find out what your home is worth and discover ways to boost the value of your house as well. 2. Try to Focus on the Positives Unfortunately, when it comes to selling your home, it's often easy to see lots of negatives. From homebuyers who seemingly demand the world from you to the stress associated with keeping your home pristine in the event that you need to host a home showing on short notice, these negatives can add up quickly. And as such, they can cause a tremendous amount of stress. As a home seller, it's important to focus on the positives of your day-to-day life and use these positives to outweigh the negatives frequently associated with selling a home. Whether it's spending time with family members and friends or simply going for a walk on your own, there are many stress-relieving activities that you can enjoy any time you choose. Try to find stress-relieving activities that make you smile, and you should have no trouble maintaining a positive outlook as you try to sell your residence. 3. Work with a Dependable Real Estate Professional Why should you leave your home sale to chance? Instead, work with a reliable real estate agent, and you can minimize stress throughout the home selling process. Many real estate agents are available, and you should try to find one who will collaborate with you during every stage of the home selling journey. Ideally, the perfect real estate agent will possess extensive industry knowledge that makes him or her qualified to sell your residence. You also should strive to find a real estate professional who understands your wants and needs and will stand by your side in both good times and bad. Perhaps most important, your real estate agent should be ready to answer any concerns or questions that you may have at any time. Thus, this professional will be able to help you relieve stress and streamline the process of selling your house. There's no reason to let stress get the best of you as you try to generate interest in your home. But with the aforementioned tips, you'll be able to alleviate stress throughout the home selling process.

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