Small home updates with big returns

Before listing your house, there are always things to do: a little paint, get the carpets shampooed, clean every nook and cranny, etc. But there are additional things you can do to wow potential buyers and maybe even get some extra dough. Here are some small updates with major returns:


This is where people love to spend their time and gather. Kitchen renovations are always good and I’m not talking a complete overhaul/remodel. Updating the appliances, painting the cabinets and even updating the hardware on those cabinets will go a long way.


Bathroom updates are next on the high-returns list. Re-grouting the tile and updating the hardware will go a long way in making your home look top-notch.


Curb appeal is huge because first impressions are everything in the real estate world. Put down some fresh mulch. Repair or replace missing or cracked stepping stones. Give the front door a fresh coat of paint. Make buyers really excited to step into your house. Oh, and a good power wash goes a LONG way. The exterior of your house goes through a lot out in the elements. Make it sparkle and shine with a good spray down.

Buyers typically just want a home that is move-in-ready and doesn’t scream “fix me immediately”. Taking care of anything unsightly or that seems like you didn’t care about the place is a must. Before you do anything major, though, check with your agent to get their thoughts on what you’ll get back on resale.



Posted on April 27, 2018 at 12:38 PM
Alyssa Curnutt | Posted in Sellers |

Should sellers leave room for negotiation?

When listing your house and trying to figure out the “magic price,” a lot of people assume they should list higher than what they’d like to get because they can just come down in price. In other words “leave some room for negotiations.” We’re diving into why that is not the best technique and can actually end up costing you more money.

When a house is priced well, it will sell quickly and close to the listing price. If you go 10- 15,000 higher than you should, your house is likely going to sit on the the market for awhile – until the price comes down. If you adjust your price after your house has been on the market for 30 days, there go 30 really precious days. Especially in a high-demand seller’s market (like we have today), buyers will look a house that has been on the market for a month or two and assume “something must be wrong with it.” That translates to less showings, less offers and (likely) a signed around offer below listing price.

Think about it this way: almost all homebuyers start their search online. If they are looking for homes between $250 and 275k, but yours is listed at $300k (when it should be $275k), those buyers (exactly who you are looking for!) aren’t going to see your home or even know it’s on the market! And someone who is looking for a house between $300k and $325k? They are going to see your house and compare it to others for $300k – quickly determining that your house for $300k isn’t quite up to par to the others. They will eliminate yours from the running. That means your home won’t appeal to that higher price range and the people who DO want your house won’t even see it.

Generally, you’ll get the most activity the first two or three weeks your on the market. Even following a price adjustment, a house will lose its interest and buzz much beyond then. Trust me, you will know if your house is priced too high.The general rule is: if you have less than 10 showings in 10 days, you’re likely too high and should talk with your agent about readjusting the price. If you have a lot of showings but no offers, your agent should be able to contact the other agents who have shown it to get some feedback.

When a house isn’t selling, it usually boils down to two things: price and the condition.

Posted on April 19, 2018 at 3:25 PM
Alyssa Curnutt | Posted in Sellers |

Home values: The difference between market, appraised, and assessed values


This week is about the value of houses. What is the assessed value, what’s market value and what is the appraisal value…and why are they all different numbers?!

The market value is whatever a buyer is willing to pay for something. When you first decide to sell your house and you hire an agent, the agent will put together a CMA (comparative market analysis). This will determine what similar houses in your area have sold for lately and what the market says you can likely get for yours. You could put your house on the market for whatever price you want, but if no one is willing to pay that much for it, that value isn’t the market value.

The banks hire out an appraiser to make sure the loan they are giving out is an appropriate amount of money for what the house is worth. The appraiser determines the appraised value. It’s an unbiased estimate, separate from the listing or negotiated price. Sometimes this value will be the exact same as the market value, other times it’s radically different. If it’s lower than what a buyer offered, the bank will only loan out the appraised value. If it comes to that, there are a few options: the buyer will need to come up with the difference, the seller will have to drop the purchase price to the appraised value or they will have to meet somewhere in the middle. The latter is usually the case. In a today’s hot seller’s market, this is becoming a common problem.

And finally, the assessed value. It’s only used for tax purposes. They take the assessed value of your home – per a county assessor – and multiple that number by the local tax rate to determine yearly taxes. The assessed value of your home does nothing to affect what your home is worth on the market. It could be a whole lot higher or a whole lot less.



Posted on April 5, 2018 at 2:16 PM
Alyssa Curnutt | Posted in Buyers, Sellers |

What is my house worth?


Every homeowner wants to know what their home is worth. Unfortunately, this frequently asked question can’t be responded to with a generalized answer. The good news? Finding out how much your home is worth is as simple as asking a local real estate agent.

The best way to find out the value of a house is by putting together a comparative market analysis. A CMA (as us agents lovingly refer to them as) is an in-depth evaluation of recently sold “comparable” homes. It isn’t a crystal ball that determines exactly what a home will sell for, but assuming it’s prepared by a well-versed agent, it will narrow the sale price range. Then you and your agent can strategize and make an informed decision on what that “magic price” likely is.

Here are some of the aspects a CMA takes into account:

  • location
  • style of house
  • upgrades throughout the house
  • square footage
  • number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • kitchen and bathroom upgrades
  • window quality
  • age of the roof
  • size of the lot
  • traffic of the street it’s on
  • type of flooring
  • overall condition and cleanliness

Some aspects of a house just are what they are: the location, lot size, style of house…but there are ways to increase your home’s value. The items that produce the highest returns on investment are: minor kitchen and bathroom upgrades (new appliances, giving the cabinets a facelift and/or updating countertops) and anything improving the curb appeal of your house (exterior paint and landscaping).

The best investment you can make is on the condition of your house and regular home maintenance. If your carpet is heavily worn or damaged? Replace it. If your roof is on the verge of going out and/or it’s leaking? Fix it. These are big red flags to homebuyers and unless they are getting a great deal, 99% of buyers won’t want to mess with it, in turn driving down your home’s value. 


Posted on March 30, 2018 at 12:16 PM
Alyssa Curnutt | Posted in Sellers |

Should it stay or should it go?

Today we’re diving into a common question I get from both buyers and sellers: does (insert item here) stay with the house or does the seller get to keep it?

If an item is valuable or sentimental…you can run into a lot of problems when the buyer expects an item to be there and it’s gone when they move in…or vice versa: the seller assumes they can take it with them only to find out from the agent that the item is suppose to stay with the home.

So first, let’s talk about what stays. In “legal terms,” these are called fixtures. It’s anything permanently attached to the property or if you were to remove it, it would ruin or disfisgure the walls, ceiling, lawn, etc. A good test for this is whether or not you need a tool to remove it. If you do? It usually stays. Some examples are built-in appliances, light fixtures, ceiling fans, surround sound, trees, shrubs and flowers. If you screwed something into the wall, like a TV or lighting mount? The mounting equipment needs to stay. The TV or light? Well thats a gray area. We’ll talk about that in a bit.

Oh, and anything that is custom-fit for the house…that needs to stay. We’re talking wall-to-wall carpeting, automatic garage openers, window shades, screen, shutters and blinds.

Everything that goes with the seller is called personal property. If something can be disconnected, removed, or detached with bare hands, it’s usually free to go with the seller. Some examples are free-standing appliances, rugs, potted plants, yard fountains, play sets, photos, furniture and collectibles.

And of COURSE there’s always gotta be a gray area, too. I always recommend you got over any gray-areas with your agent. But here are some examples: when personal property is turned into a fixture. That’s a tricky one. Take a TV wall mount, for instance. The hardware is screwed in to the wall, staying put…BUT how about the TV that’s hooked to the wall via the wall mount? And window coverings. Yes, blinds, shutters, shades are fixtures, and so are the rods that drapes are on since they are bolted or screwed in… but how about the curtains or valances? They can be easily removed from the rod…but they’re typically custom-made for the house. In almost every market, the norm is that if there are window coverings, they stay with the house.

Neither of these situations have “right” answers. The only way to make sure both parties are happy and there are no question marks? Sellers: make an “excluded from sale” list and make sure it’s in your original listing paperwork and in the contract. Or better yet, if you know your grandma’s beautiful antique chandelier is not staying with the house? Take it down BEFORE you take pictures and definitely before you put your house on the market. Don’t even give a buyer the chance to want it. Buyers: explicitly state what you are expecting to be included in the sale in your original offer; say “mounted TV in master bedroom” or “all curtains to be included in sale.”

If you’re unsure whether or not a certain item should stay or go, ask your agent. He/she might not know its status, but they can chat with the other agent about it and put inclusion and exclusions in the purchase contract.



Posted on March 23, 2018 at 12:31 PM
Alyssa Curnutt | Posted in Buyers, Sellers |

Alyssa Curnutt on KXLY4: Spokane’s housing market, tips for buyers

On March 3, I chatted with KXLY4 about Spokane’s current seller’s market and gave tips to buyers. Full story:

Posted on March 4, 2018 at 10:31 AM
Alyssa Curnutt | Posted in Uncategorized |

How to choose a real estate agent

So you’ve decided to buy a house or sell your current one. Now you need to find an agent. How do you get started? Here are some tips and things you should look for when choosing a real estate agent:

  • Know the difference between Realtors and plain ol’ real estate agents. Realtors are real estate agents, but not all agents are Realtors. Realtor is a registered trademark with the National Association of Realtors. NAR – for short – members take a pledge and promise to abide by a code of ethics that has pretty high standards and practices.
  • Ask your family and friends for references. Almost everyone knows a real estate agent, but that doesn’t mean all real estate agents are good ones. If Aunt Susie tells you that you have to use her best friend or Cousin Bob’s girlfriend is an agent…thank them, but then check them out for yourself. You might not get along with them as well as someone else might, or you might find out they only do real estate on the side, so it’s not their full-time gig. Just make sure to do your own homework.
  • Go to open houses. Not only will you start looking at houses to figure out your needs and wants, but you’ll meet a real estate agent at each open house you go to. It’s a non-threatening working environment where you can interact with agents. Grab their business card, strike up a conversation and make notes about them. Then pay attention to whether or not they follow up with you in the next couple days. If they don’t? They might not take their job seriously or have good marketing tactics, which are both red flags if you’re buying or listing a house with them. A good agent will follow up promptly, even just to thank you for stopping in.

The best piece of advice I can give you? Choose someone you like and trust. You are going to work very closely together for the next three to six months (or even longer.) You will want to know that they have your back and that you will get along well.

Dave Ramsey, the financial guru, addresses this perfectly. He says, “When getting help with money, whether it’s insurance, real estate or investments, you should always look for someone with the heart of a teacher, not the heart of a salesman.” 

Posted on February 22, 2018 at 2:50 PM
Alyssa Curnutt | Posted in Uncategorized |

Closing costs: What am I expected to pay?

It’s pretty expensive to buy and/or sell a house – and I’m not just talking about the purchase price. There are fees tacked on, but who pays for what? And what are the fees for? Today we’re diving into closing costs and what each party can expect to pay.

Both buyers and sellers typically both pitch in on closing costs, as they are expenses incurred by both parties in transferring ownership of a property. But let’s break it down.


You can expect to pay 3-5% of the purchase price at closing. Meaning, if you purchase a home for $200,000, you can expect to pay $6-10,000 in closing costs. That 3-5% goes toward title insurance, a credit report fee, the appraisal and loan origination fees – among other things. The lender will also collect about two months of advanced payments on property taxes and insurance.

Some closing costs (like the home inspection) are paid before the home is officially sold, but most are covered at the end when the house closes.


You can expect to pay about 9% at closing. This goes toward state excise tax, some fees (like title and escrow), and the big dog: real estate commissions. Real estate commissions are 6% (on average). I get this question from sellers a lot: why do I have to pay for the buyer’s agent, too!? Well, you are actually hiring the listing agent (your agent) for 6%. Then they use half of their commission as an incentive for other professionals in the area to bring them a matching buyer. If the listing agent is able to bring their own buyer to the table, then they get to keep the full commission.

One more heads up: the closing company pays your last water bill and they will typically collect about double what’s expected – just in case. Then they will reimbursement you the following month with whatever is left.


Posted on February 8, 2018 at 11:34 AM
Alyssa Curnutt | Posted in Uncategorized |

What makes a bedroom, a bedroom?

It’s probably happened to you before: you’re hunting for your next home, you find an awesome listing advertised with 4 bedrooms and it’s perfect!…but then you walk in…and two of those “bedrooms” aren’t more than the size of the bathroom. Plus, there’s no window or closet. Is it really a bedroom? Well today we’re diving in to see what qualifies a bedroom, as a bedroom.

Here are the must-have items:

  • An entrance and an escape. There has to be at least two methods of egress, so it should be accessible from the house…usually a door… and one other way directly outside – either a door or a window. The City of Spokane’s code says an egress window can’t be more than 44 inches from the floor, and it must have a minimum opening of 20 inches wide and 24 inches high.
  • The ceiling height. A bedroom’s ceiling has to be at least 7 feet tall…for the most part. Some portions can be lower, but at least 50% has to be 7 feet. This isn’t usually an issue because most ceilings are at least 8 feet tall.
  • Size of room. The room cannot be smaller than 70 square feet…and it can’t be smaller than seven feet in any horizontal direction. So, no…your 2 by 35 foot room won’t fly.

Some other things to note: there needs to be a smoke alarm in each sleeping room, as well as heating capable of keeping the room higher than 68 degrees. An installed, portable heater will not work.

You’re probably thinking: what about a closet? Well, it depends state to state. In general, a bedroom should probably have a closet since most buyers expect one, but technically the International Residential Code does NOT require a bedroom to have a closet. However in Washington state, bedrooms DO need to have a closet.

I’ve gotten the question before: how did the agent get away with listing this house as a four bedroom, when there are only three!? Well it’s up to that realtor to correctly list the number of bedrooms. If they don’t, they could get disciplined by the MLS – which is the local listing service.

It’s important to define a bedroom space for two main reasons: home value and safety. 

Posted on January 30, 2018 at 2:31 PM
Alyssa Curnutt | Posted in Buyers, Sellers |

Address changes to make when moving

Here are a list of some address changes to remember to make when moving:

  • The post office: Log on to or go to your local branch to fill out a change of address form and arrange for mail forwarding.
  • The IRS: Print out and mail in the IRS’ Change of Address form.
  • Utility companies: Arrange for service at your new address, and schedule shut-off at your old address. Make sure the shut-off is at the end of your moving day, so you can still have lights, running water and heat/air conditioning! (In Spokane? Here’s the link for Avista’s moving site:
  • Home or renters’ insurance: Ask if they cover your possessions while moving, too!
  • Car insurance
  • Vehicle registration/driver’s license: You don’t need to pay for a new card, but you will need to update it in the server within 10 days of moving (if in Washington, here’s a link to make the change:
  • Health insurance
  • Your doctor: If moving to a new area, make sure to have your medical files transferred.
  • Government agencies: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid…all need to be notified of your move.
  • Credit card companies: Don’t forget about store cards and loyalty programs!
  • Banks: Also update online banks, retirement funds, and investment accounts.
  • Phone company, cable, and internet: Discontinue service at your old location and schedule new service. (Use Comcast? Here’s a link to transfer your service:
  • Cell phone provider
  • Magazine subscriptions
  • Clubs or organizations
  • Newspaper Service (In Spokane and have The Spokesman? Here’s the link to their contact page:


Posted on January 4, 2018 at 10:41 AM
Alyssa Curnutt | Posted in Buyers, Sellers |