If you're selling your home or plan to do so soon, a little strategic planning can mean more dollars in your pocket. You want the most you can get for the place, don't ya? These 4 "Ss" will have you seeing dollar signs once the "for sale" sign is taken down, thanks to their value-increasing benefits. While you may want to get the home on the market right away, it's worth the effort to make these changes and fairly quick fixes so your home can be as sought-after as possible. Sell with these "Ss" completed and watch the price tag numbers go up. Your first showing will prove the time spent did the trick.

Simplify

Decluttering is one of the best ways to make your space instantly more appealing. No potential buyer is interested in tripping over your kids' toys or being distracted by the silly knick-knacks you've collected over the years. The more you make your home as "generic" as can be, the more the potential buyer(s) can picture themselves living there… with their stuff.

According to Consumer Reports, "Vital to the process is de-cluttering and depersonalizing the space as much as possible. Buyers will have a hard time imagining themselves in your home if it's filled with family photos and other personal effects." Additionally, HGTV notes, "A clutter-free home appears cleaner and larger, which is more attractive to homebuyers and therefore more valuable."

If you're place is a real mess, you may want to consider hiring a pro to help clear things out, and Consumer Reports estimates the cost for such a service can run anywhere from $600 - $2,500. Seems steep, but on the bright side, they claim the potential return goes up 5%. Plus, since you're moving anyway, this clean-out will help you when it's time to pack up and go.

Spruce Up

A few fix-ups can make a world of difference in the appearance of your home. You don't have to go all out and make major repairs or renovations, but spiffing things up by applying a fresh coat of paint, filling chips and cracks, removing or steam cleaning a dirty carpet, re-grouting, etc. will make your home a whole lot more appealing.

This Old House recommends dealing with the basics rather than doing anything too pricey or extravagant. "Insulate the attic, repair plumbing leaks, replace rusty rain gutters, inspect the furnace and the septic system, replace or repair leaky windows, install storm doors, etc." As This Old House says, "A couple hundred dollars spent could increase the value of your house by a few thousand dollars."

Along with indoor touch-ups, consider the first impression. Bankrate suggests to "reframe your entry." "A nice, big piece of hardware on the front door signals to newcomers that this is a solid home." And Consumer Reports recommends a power washing followed by any needed paint touch-ups, especially on the front of the home.

As per This Old House, "Brokers and agents from across the country say the houses that get attention in this buyer's market are in tip-top shape. Because there is so much inventory, the houses that sell are in pristine condition and are priced to the market." Don't let a few neglected simple fixes trip up your chances of selling.

Smell Fresh

A potential buyer wants to walk into a home that smells good. If anything makes them turn up their nose, how could they ever imagine living there? As per U.S. News & World Report, "Realtors always say that your home needs to smell great before a showing."

One way to eliminate any stale odors in the home is by using baking soda, as U.S. News & World Report recommends. Use some on the carpets, in the fridge, and even inside the trash cans to absorb unpleasant odors that you may have grown used to.

Some recommended scents that appeal to most, as suggested by U.S. News & World Report include pine, vanilla, and citrus. Don't go overboard, but a light scent wafting through the home will make potential buyers feel welcomed and comfortable. Try a light air freshener, candles, or oils.

Along with providing a pleasant scent, wipe down all tabletops and shelves, clear out pet cages and litter boxes, and make sure the bathroom is mildew- and odor-free before any showings. Run a fan or two to clear the air to make for total freshness throughout the home. And one last trick… bake a batch of cookies! The familiar scent will make anyone looking at the place feel like they're home.

These quick fixes are nearly cost-free, but the change they'll make will give a potential return of at least 3% as per Consumer Reports.

Scenery

The surrounding yard space of your home is nearly as important as what's going on inside. An unkempt lawn, untrimmed hedges, and poorly manicured landscaping make for a poor first impression. Consumer reports suggests, "Start with basic maintenance: mowing the lawn, trimming overgrown shrubs, applying a fresh layer of mulch to garden beds."

According to This Old House, "Tangled trees and unkempt bushes can obscure views, darken interiors, promote mold, and block a good look at the house. Landscaping is one of the top three investments that bring the biggest return. According to a 2007 survey of 2,000 brokers conducted by HomeGain, an online real estate marketing site, an investment of around $400 or $500 dollars in landscaping, can bring a return of four times that."

But what if you're not the gardening type? Bankrate has the solution, "If you don't have a green thumb, consider hiring a landscaper to install some new sod, plant a few evergreen shrubs and give your front yard a good cleanup. These kinds of changes can instantly change people's perception of your home and, therefore, increase its value."

With these 4 "Ss" completed, your showings will be at their peak. Your realtor will thank you and the potential buyers will be delighted. And you will enjoy the extra bucks your home is sure to sell for!

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The Federal Reserve sets the guardrails for the federal funds rate, and through that helps control the money supply for the nation.

When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.

A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.

One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.

The Federal Reserve The Federal Reserve


The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.

This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.

The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.

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