Aimee Kniceley-Barnes | Fredericksburg Real Estate


If you're getting ready to put your home on the market, the thought of organizing, cleaning, and arranging it may seem like an overwhelming project!

Knowing where to begin and how much money to spend on home staging and decorating are among the many questions that may be flooding your mind, right now.

The key to success is to make as much of an impact as possible, without spending more money than necessary.

One way to avoid "spinning your wheels" when it comes to maximizing the appearance of your home is to work with an experienced real estate agent. A good agent will quickly notice aspects of your home that need attention and advise you on the most cost-effective ways to improve its marketability. If they've shown dozens (or more) houses in their career, they'll be very familiar with all the things that attract buyers, as well as what repels them.

Although everyone has different tastes and expectations, many house hunters are attracted to gleaming hardwood floors, energy efficient windows, and stainless steel appliances. While it may not be cost effective to have new floors, appliances, and windows installed to sell your house faster, you can make the best possible impression by making sure the windows are crystal clear, hardwood floors are polished, and appliances are clean and shiny.

Since many house hunters pay close attention to the kitchen, it's especially important to win their approval on appearance and cleanliness. Because food is prepared and often consumed in the kitchen, it's going to be one of the more challenging rooms to keep clean -- especially if you have children. However, if a prospective buyer is wavering between two houses for sale, you can be reasonably sure that the one with the clean kitchen and bathrooms will be their preferred choice.

There are a lot of other ways you can make your kitchen appealing to buyers, too. By minimizing clutter on counter tops and displaying fresh flowers and a colorful bowl of fruit, you can make your kitchen look much more inviting. Prospective buyers will also respond favorably to appealing fragrances, such as freshly baked bread, cookies, cinnamon buns, or coffee. Clean windows, attractive curtains, and plenty of natural light will also add to the ambiance of your kitchen.

The ideal reaction from potential buyers touring your home would be something to the effect of "I can imagine us preparing dinner, entertaining guests, and sitting around the breakfast table in this house!" Setting the table so that it looks like the family is just about to sit down for a meal together is one way to help convey that image. The encouraging news is that when someone expresses sincere appreciation for the comforts and features of your home, there's a good chance they'll find a place for it on their short list of possibilities!



If you have ever thought "is it worth it to spend extra on a product or should you get something cheap?" you have probably been wondering if the additional cost worth it. Price can be a very prominent determining factor in our purchasing decisions especially if you are on a tight budget. The goal is to make sure that you are not sacrificing when you make a cost-based decision. There are things that everyone knows are worth the extra cost, but you are wondering if they are worth it for you! Is organic food really better for you? Should you spend more for make-up or can you get by at the drugstore? Will that rug or mattress or lawnmower have a significantly longer life then its cheaper counterpart and if it will, does that matter to you and your situation? Take a look at these categories to see if you relate. 

Food and make-up 

Organic food has become quite a craze but is it worth it? The answer depends on why you are buying it. If you are trying to stay away from pesticides and other harmful additives in your food then maybe. For example apples, strawberries, potatoes and greens among others all test higher for amounts of pesticides. Make-up goes on your skin which is your largest organ. Your skin absorbs what is on it within a minute of being applied, and low-quality products can block pores and cause breakouts in the process. High-quality brands tend to last much longer than cheap ones since each application requires less product. Always research to determine what is best for you.

The same principle in the house as in your body 

If the product that you are looking at will be for a temporary purpose, then it may be okay to settle for the cheaper option. On the other hand, if you are looking for something that will last a few years or that will be well-used, such as lawn equipment or a rug or water heater, considering a better quality product could be essential to keeping the cost down. For instance, if you decide to settle on the $100 lawn mower for your half-acre lot, then it will be unlikely to last more than one season, not to mention taking you longer on that chore each time. On the other hand, if you spent $300 or more on a higher quality mower, it is likely to last you for much longer. 

Do your research and find help from professionals near you

Your needs from what you are purchasing can help you to determine if the cost is worth it for you. Keep in mind what it is used for, how long it will be needed and how much use it will get. When you are considering a purchase and want to know the pros and cons of cost versus quality look for someone who knows the products that you are looking at like the customer assistant at your local home improvement store or mattress expert, etc.



If you're a homeowner or are planning to become one in the near future, hiring contractors to maintain and upgrade your home is a fact of life. Although older homes often need more TLC than newer ones, "newness" (like youth) can be a fleeting quality! Time passes quickly, and before you know it, your house needs a fresh coat of paint, landscaping improvements, or even wet basement solutions.

There may be times when you're tempted to accept the first estimate you're given for a home improvement project, but there are sound reasons for taking your time and choosing home contractors carefully and in a methodical way.

  • Saving money: It's not unusual for one home contractor to quote a price that is literally thousands of dollars more than the competition. While, on one hand, very low prices may be a sign of inferior quality, there is no guarantee that high prices assure superior quality. Fortunately, there are plenty of good contractors who charge competitive prices and make it their business to provide customers with exceptional value. If you get references, read online reviews, and make sure your prospective contractor has all the necessary insurance coverages, licenses, and relevant experience, then you'll be ready to make an informed decision based on quality, service, and pricing. Regardless of the caliber of a contractor's work, if you don't get at least two or three estimates, you'll always be wondering if they overcharged you. When you get multiple quotes, you'll never be plagued by that nagging question!
  • Getting helpful ideas: In addition to finding a qualified tradesman with solid expertise, project management skills, and competitive pricing, it also pays to choose one who offers innovative suggestions and creative ideas. By interviewing three contractors, you'll gain insights into their communication style, their overall attitude, and their willingness to provide helpful advice when needed.
  • Personality factors: After meeting with prospective contractors, you'll know which of the three you feel the most comfortable doing business with. Many home improvement projects can easily last between 3 days and a couple weeks, so you'll tend to be a lot more satisfied with a contractor who's courteous, punctual, above the board, friendly, professional, and customer-service oriented. If they seem annoyed with your questions or evasive in their responses, you can be reasonably sure there will be problems down the road in working with them -- possibly even quality assurance issues. If they tend to complain about other customers or berate their competition, then that is also a potential red flag.
Once you've received three project proposals and are able to compare "apples to apples," you're in a good position to choose the right contractor for your needs -- one who takes pride in their work, looks for solutions not problems, and provides a high level of customer value for a good price.


If you plan to purchase a house soon, you may want to narrow your home search. In fact, there are many reasons why you should hone your house search, and these include:

1. You can seamlessly navigate the homebuying journey.

The homebuying journey may seem tough to navigate, regardless of whether you're a first-time or experienced property buyer. Thankfully, narrowing a home search enables you to speed up the process of going from homebuyer to homeowner.

Ultimately, a refined home search allows you to focus exclusively on residences in your preferred cities and towns. This will make it simple for you to find houses that fall within your price range, set up home showings to view these residences and proceed accordingly.

It also may be beneficial to craft a list of home must-haves and wants before you conduct a house search. With homebuying criteria at your disposal, you can further accelerate the homebuying journey.

2. You can act quickly to acquire your dream house.

As a homebuyer, you must be ready to pounce at the opportunity to purchase your dream house. Because if you hesitate during the homebuying journey, you may miss out on the chance to buy your ideal residence.

If you narrow your home search, you may be better equipped than other homebuyers to act quickly to submit an offer to purchase a great house at an affordable price. And if your offer to purchase is accepted, you then can move one step closer to acquiring your dream home.

3. You can avoid wasting time and resources.

When it comes to finding a home, it generally is a good idea to plan ahead as much as possible. That way, you can avoid the risk of wasting time and resources throughout the homebuying journey.

With a refined home search, you can increase the likelihood of maximizing your time and resources. A refined home search ensures you can focus solely on residences that you are sure to enjoy and avoid houses that are unlikely to match your expectations. Then, you can find your ideal home and transform your homeownership dream into a reality.

As you get ready to start a house search, you may want to collaborate with a real estate agent. By hiring a real estate agent, you can receive plenty of support as you evaluate residences.

A real estate agent understands what it takes to find a house in any city or town. He or she will learn about you and your homebuying goals and offer personalized home search tips. Plus, a real estate agent will set up home showings and keep you up to date about open house events. Perhaps most important, a real estate agent will respond to your homebuying concerns and questions and ensure you can make informed decisions at each stage of the homebuying journey.

Take the guesswork out of finding the right house at the right price – hire a real estate agent, and you can receive expert assistance as you search for your ideal residence.



There are so many factors that go into finding and securing the financing to buy a home.   While lenders require quite a bit of information for you to get a loan, you still need to be aware of your own financial picture. Even if you’re pre-approved for a certain amount of money to buy a home, you still need to dig into your finances a bit deeper than a lender would. The bottom line is that you can't rely solely on a lender to tell you how much you can afford for a monthly payment on a home. Even if you’re approved to borrow the maximum amount of money for your finances to buy a home, it doesn’t mean that you actually should use that amount. There are so many other real world things that you need to consider outside of the basic numbers that are plugged into a mortgage formula.   


Run Your Own Numbers


It’s important to sit down and do your own budget when you’re getting ready to buy a home. You have plenty of monthly expenses including student loan debt, car payments, utility bills, and more. Don’t forget that you need to eat too! Think about what your lifestyle is like. How much do you spend on food? Do you go out to the movies often or spend a regular amount of cash on clothing? Even if you plan to make adjustments to these habits when buying a home, you’ll want to think honestly about all of your needs and spending habits before signing on to buy a home. 


Now, you’ll know what your true monthly costs are. Be sure to include things like home insurance, property taxes, monthly utilities, and any other personal monthly expenses in this budget. If you plan to put down a lower amount on the home, you’ll also need to include additional insurance costs like private mortgage insurance (PMI).


The magic number that you should remember when it comes to housing costs is 30%. This is the percentage of your monthly income that you should plan to spend on housing. Realistically, this could make your budget tight so this is often thought of as a maximum percentage. By law, a lender can’t approve a mortgage that would take up more than 35% of your monthly income. Some lenders have even stricter requirements such as not allowing a borrower to have a mortgage that would be more than 28% of monthly income. This is where the debt-to-income ratio comes into play.


As you can see, it’s important to take an earnest look at your finances to avoid larger money issues when you buy a home.