For Sellers


Ice Dams, what do the experts say?

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What are Ice Dams?

Ice DamsIce dams are formed by continual thawing and refreezing of melting snow. Large masses of ice develop as snow on the upper part of the roof melts. The water runs under the snow and refreezes at the edge of the roof.

Additional snow melts and forms pools against the dam, gradually causing water to back up on the roof where it often gets under the shingles and eventually into the house. Causes other than heat escaping from the home include:

  • Bright sunshine melting the snow;
  • Insufficient attic insulation allowing the heated air of the attic to reach the roof deck and melt the snow, which could happen anywhere on the roof surface;
  • Naturally occurring ice accumulation due to various weather conditions;
  • Poorly placed gutters preventing snow and ice from sliding off the roof;
  • Inadequate attic ventilation.

The latent damage from ice dams may not be immediately evident. For example, insulation could be getting wet and over time will lose its ability to perform properly. In addition, mold may begin to grow in the moist attic environment. Although ice dams are more prevalent at the eaves, they can (and do) occur anywhere on the roof, especially where there is a change in roof surface temperatures.

Can This Be Avoided?

Wisconsin weather is challenging to say the least and, as we all know, there is only so much you can do to avoid its impact. But, having said that, there are some things you can do to minimize the risks of developing ice dams on your roof.

  1. If you have a large deposit of snow, particularly in bad areas like a valley running into a wall or a saddle area, removing the snow is your best option. Any large deposits at the eaves, especially on the north side, should be removed as well.
  2. Install a leak barrier such as StormGuard® or WeatherWatch® Leak Barrier. These impermeable membranes prevent water from entering through the roof deck.
  3. Improve attic insulation in order to keep the attic space cool, thereby reducing the amount of melting snow.
  4. Improve attic ventilation to ensure that the attic remains cool.
  5. Make sure that your gutters or eavestroughing are lower than the slope of the roof, allowing snow and ice to glide off.

What Kind of Salt Can You Put on Your Roof for Ice Dams?

By Jason Thompson Icicles hanging from your eaves may look pretty but signify a real problem. 

Ice dams occur when the warm air in your attic melts the snow on your roof, causing it to run down the roof toward the ground. When it hits the eaves and breaks contact with the warm attic roof, the frigid air refreezes the water. As new melt hits the ice, it also freezes, building up the dam and can even be forced back up under your shingles and into your roof and attic, causing water damage, ruining your insulation and creating ideal conditions for mildew growth. Though salt may seem like the best melting solution, several salts can cause other damage to your roof or gutters.

Rock Salt

noRock salt is common for de-icing driveways and paths. It should be no surprise then that it is the first thing many people think of to remove ice dams. However, rock salt is a form of sodium chloride, which corrodes metal, including the metal nails holding your shingles in place. Rock salt can also leave permanent stains on your roof and walls. It also does not work well below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. For these reasons, rock salt is not a good choice when it comes to getting rid of ice dams.

Table Salt

noSome people use table salt for de-icing instead of rock salt. However, this is no better, as chemically they are the same substance. Table salt is just rock salt broken down into smaller crystals. It will corrode and stain just like rock salt does. Breaking the ice up with tools is also a bad idea, as that can easily damage your roof even worse than the rock salt could.

Magnesium and Potassium Chlorides

noMagnesium and potassium chlorides also both melt ice. However, magnesium chloride is only effective if temperatures stay above 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Potassium chloride loses effectiveness below 12 degrees.

Calcium Chloride

Calcium chloride is the best salt to use on ice dams, according to handyman Glenn Haege. It is not as likely to stain or cause corrosion as sodium chloride, but it can damage wooden gutters. It melts ice faster than sodium chloride does, works at lower temperatures than sodium chloride and also melts larger volumes of ice. It works at lower temperatures than either magnesium or potassium chloride.

Using Calcium Chloride

However, simply scattering calcium chloride across your entire ice dam, hoping to melt it, is not likely to work well. Plus, this would be an inefficient use of salt even if it does work. An ice dam can easily be made of hundreds of gallons of water, so melting it all requires a lot of salt. Instead, fill old pantyhose with the calcium chloride and lay it across the dam. This will melt a channel to allow water to safely run off your roof and break up the dam for manual removal.


Written by Matthew McGrady, Posted in For Sellers


Bring in the Buyers, Open House Strategies

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Host an Open House like a Real Estate Pro (Here is their advice):

1. Engage with Your Visitors & Put Away the Phone

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The best and most treasured tip I can give is to put away your cell phone—out of view, either in your pocket or a drawer—and do not be on your computer. Think about it…when you arrive at an Open House as a buyer and you see the host on their cell phone or computer, what is your first thought? Mine is that they would rather be somewhere else and are not totally interested in selling the house.

I understand there are exceptions. However, I’ve seen this become more than the norm. Host an Open House with the intention of engaging EVERYONE who comes in with a smile on your face, eyes up, and armed with facts on the house you want to sell. Your attendees will appreciate your full attention.

2. Offer Your Visitors Food & Drinks

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A purchase of cookies, bottled water or soft drinks, chocolates or even a plate of sandwiches from Subway or Cousins will go a long way and make your buyers feel welcome and entertained.  Treat it like a party!  Engage with Buyers.  They will be shy.  Offer food and drink and watch them warm up to you.

3. Know Your Market Data Before Even Thinking About Hosting an Open House

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Before the open house, study up on competing listings so you can speak intelligently on the competition and recent sales.  Focus on what your home offers vs. the competition.  Whether it is a better price, better lot, better floorplan, or better updates, make sure you point out what sets your home apart from other listings.

4. Open All the Curtains to Let the Light Shine In

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Natural light is key to the home buyer process. We find that the home buyers generally embrace the natural light because that’s what most people want. Even on a cloudy or gloomy day, we still leave the blinds open. It can really transform a space even if the weather isn’t the best outside—ceiling lighting can only do so much.

5. Make Minor Renovations & Repairs Before Your First Open House

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Most sellers know the importance of cleaning and de-cluttering a home before listing it on the market, but we also stress the importance of making small home improvements to our clients. If the first things a buyer sees are outdated light fixtures, peeling paint and dirty windows, they can easily be put off and focus on how much work the property needs. Hiring a window cleaner, painting, and replacing light switches/outlets and fixtures are all relatively inexpensive ways to make a better first impression.

6. Use Open House Signs Strategically

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Since most of the neighbors probably aren’t following your listings on Zillow or your Social Media, the only way they’ll know you’re having an open house is to tell them. One strategy is to knock on doors or make phone calls to invite the neighbors, but some find this invasive and some neighborhoods don’t even allow it.

Instead, use open house signs strategically to draw traffic to your real estate open house. Here’s how: Use multiple types of signs that are visible and legible from a distance (at least 30 feet), and place directional signs to advertise in a five-block radius to reach a wider audience.  You want to guide people in from the main road and at every turn until they get to the front of your house. If your Open House is on a Sunday, consider putting up your signs on Friday. Get the word out!

7. Depersonalize the House

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Depersonalize! Having a home that is too full of personal items makes it hard for buyers to see themselves living there. That also means not having underwear lying around (even in bathrooms!), no dirty dishes in the sink, put down the toilet seats, etc. The idea is to have a vibe that it is easy and comfortable to live in the listing.

8. Use This Handy Checklist for Your Open House

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Instead of pulling your hair out the day of your open house, use this handy checklist. Make the most of your open house by choosing the right day and time and promoting it with eye-catching marketing materials. Prepare for the big day by putting away valuables, setting the thermostat to a comfortable temperature, and taking care of any lingering maintenance issues. After the open house, follow up with visitors to see if they have any questions to get honest feedback.

9. Spruce Up the Front Door to Make a Great First Impression

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Simple updates to your front door can make a huge difference. It’s the first thing buyers see—an inviting door calls people in and sets the tone for the rest of the home. Good first impressions go a long way and can result in a relatively large return on investment.

10. Stage Like a Pro

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It’s no secret that a well-staged home can help potential buyers feel comfortable and envision themselves in the space. To create a welcoming environment, make sure that walls and fixtures are updated and that clutter is under control. Then, stage each room with furniture that makes the purpose of the space clear.

If you’re not sure how to stage a house, hire a professional stager who can choose the perfect furniture and decor for the space. Remember, staging does mean buying or renting new furniture, often it simply a matter of rearranging the furniture and decorating items you already own!

11. Bring in a Housekeeper or Professional Organizer

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A clean and organized house is the easiest house to sell.  Nobody wants to buy a house from a slob.  If you don't have time, hire a cleaning service or professional organizer to tidy up and make it look perfect.

12. Make Sure the House Is Ready for Its Close Up

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Turn all lights on and open all blinds/curtains and remove everything from countertops (not only does it look cleaner, but it gives the appearance of a larger space, which is very important in areas like the kitchen).

It should go without saying, BUT the home must be entirely clean, organized and tidy (beds made, junk should be organized or thrown away). A seller’s home is their home until the day they decide to list. Once that decision is made, the home becomes a product—a product that is going to be consumed by the marketplace, so you always want to ensure you put your best foot forward.

13. Get Advice from Those You Trust

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If money’s a bit short, then some sage advice is to invite three of your closest friends/family to your home to tell you what they really think. Get them to pretend they are a potential buyer and walk around the property, speaking their thoughts aloud and asking questions potential buyers might ask. Follow them around with a notepad and jot down anything they say.

Make sure that you have a chat with them beforehand, encouraging them to be completely honest in their thoughts—from what your house smells like to removing a hideous picture from a wall. It helps if they walk around independently of each other; if they all mention the same things, you know you definitely need to take action.

14. Beautify the Landscaping

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A home’s yard is the first thing potential home buyers see at an open house. What’s more, buyers are likely to decide whether to attend your open house based solely on the home’s curb appeal. To ensure you attract serious buyers to your open house, make sure your sellers take steps to beautify their property with landscaping.

In addition to keeping the lawn mowed and the flower beds watered, touch up mulch to give the yard a fresh appearance. If the house has any water features, make sure they’re clean and operational. Finally, power wash surfaces, maintain irrigation systems and repair outdoor faucets that may draw a buyer’s eye to potential plumbing issues.

15. Let Buyers Imagine the Space

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Give guests some space: While you want to be available to answer any questions that home buyers have, you also want to make sure to provide them with some time and space to take a detailed look at the property and start picturing it as their own home. Don’t get stuck to the potential buyers and prevent them from looking around and getting a feel for the place.

16. Master the Art of Feeling Good

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Consider buying donuts. There’s something about the sweet smell that gets people to linger and feel like it’s their home. Put them where you want the clients to hang around. Most of the time, they are in the kitchen, and the kitchen may be remodeled or look especially good.Consider putting them in the living/dining areas if you want them to pay extra close attention to that part of the home. Before an open house,  do a “coming soon” post on social media to build buzz, invite the residents on the block, and also invite friends in who can help spread the word about the property or be a potential buyer.

17. Schedule Strategically

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The first thing we typically do to prepare for an open house is take a look at competing houses in the area that buyers might also be interested in and see if they’re holding an open house. The logic is to avoid completely overlapping times with any of these open houses when scheduling. Generally, try to schedule before any other open houses. you want people to come to your open house first, because after a few rounds of open houses in the morning and then lunch, sometimes an open house in the afternoon can be forgotten about, or the buyers don’t have the energy to go to more, or they find something they think is better without seeing yours, etc., so we usually schedule them in the morning.

18. Keep the Scent Neutral

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Did you know that one out of three people don’t like scented products? That includes air fresheners, candles, incense, and potpourri. Instead of masking odors with plug-ins, warming oils, or burning candles, invest in carpet shampoo and be sure to air out the home for a few hours before your open house. Or, consider putting a batch of cookies in the oven to serve at your open house!  Typically speaking, buyers are likely to wonder what you are covering up with the scented products.

19. Remember to Clean and Organize the Closets

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We always recommend cleaning and organizing the closets. No matter how hard you try to stop them, buyers (sometimes even buyer’s agents) will open the closets. Instead of letting them drown in an avalanche of boxes when they open that closet door, make sure all closets (this includes hall closets, bedroom closets, kids’ closets, linen closets—ALL CLOSETS) are clean and organized.

20. Be Safe!

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Here are a few safety tips for you when holding your open house:

  1. Have a spouse, neighbor, or friend with you during the Open House
  2. NEVER walk up or down stairs in front of the person you are showing the home to.  It's too easy to be pushed down, or tripped up.
  3. Have ALL exterior doors unlocked. If your exit route is being blocked one direction, you want to have another option and shouldn't need to worry about fumbling with the lock,
  4. Hide your valuables!  If you are hiding items from your dresser, we suggest NOT using the first drawer in your dresser.  This seems like the most logical place a would-be thief would start looking.
  5. Keep your phones, mobile devices, pads, laptops, etc. out of sight.  It's impossible to keep an eye on all your visitors all the time, don't tempt them.

Written by Matthew McGrady, Posted in For Sellers


Home: An Appreciating Asset Filled With Depreciating Stuff

I believe I could make the argument that home ownership, in its current form, is making us poorer because of the depreciating consumer goods we choose to fill it with. While at its very heart, a home is a magnificent kernel of responsible living and financial well-being, over the years it has become something more…and certainly more destructive. We have come to believe it is obviously the wise financial choice for anyone in a position to buy a home to simply do so. It does not take much more thought than that. Of course, this is not the nature of investing. Rarely is there a financial choice that we can all make that simply produces profit without risk…but more on that in another post.

Home: An Appreciating Asset Filled With Depreciating Stuff

Written by Matthew McGrady, Seth Pfaehler, Posted in For Buyers, For Sellers


13 Sale-Killing Mistakes to Avoid With Real Estate Listing Photos

| Nov 14, 2016

We’re fond of the analogy that shopping for real estate is a lot like online dating. The similarities are seemingly endless—you should never be too eager, and you have to remember that looks can be deceiving.

That’s never more true than when it comes to presenting your home in real estate listing photos. You can have the most sought-after home on the block, but if you don’t take the right pictures, your house might attract more squatters than buyers.

Don’t believe us? Check out these cringe-worthy photos we found while scouring the multiple listing service. Learn from them, young Padawan.

Posted in For Sellers


Going Green 2016

Green and energy-efficient home features are more popular than ever with recent home buyers.

Below are a few green real estate-related tidbits from NAR’s Research division to enjoy this St. Patrick’s Day.

Going Green 2016

Written by Matthew McGrady, Seth Pfaehler, Posted in For Buyers, For Sellers


What elements affect the lifespan of my roof?

Several questions need to be answered when determining the approximate lifespan of a roof that has been correctly installed. To start, one must examine the type of a roof. Whether the roof is sloped or flat, it has two basic elements: the roof deck and the wood planks, plywood, or oriented strand board, otherwise known as particle board. These elements are usually used in residential construction and have a weather-resistance or waterproof finish. A sloped roof can be finished with asphalt composite shingles, wood shingles/shakes, clay tiles, metal, or slate tiles.

What elements affect the lifespan of my roof?

Written by Matthew McGrady, Seth Pfaehler, Posted in For Buyers, For Sellers


I want my home to be heated by a wood-burning fireplace, but there isn't one in my home.

What options do I have to install a fireplace or other wood-burning system?

A wood-burning fireplace is a great way to warm your home during the cold winter months. But if your home doesn't have a fireplace already built-in, there are several options available for wood-burning systems that can be installed.

I want my home to be heated by a wood-burning fireplace, but there isn't one in my home.

Written by Matthew McGrady, Seth Pfaehler, Posted in For Buyers, For Sellers


What is radon and should I be concerned?

So What is Radon?

Radon is a gas that is formed by the breakdown of uranium in the soil. Uranium is a natural radioactive material found in rock and soil throughout the United States. The reason that radon is of concern is that it is a cancer-causing natural gas that you can't see, smell or taste.

Written by Matthew McGrady, Seth Pfaehler, Posted in For Buyers, For Sellers


11 Overlooked Upgrades That Will Sell Your Home Faster

The average number of days a home stays on the market can vary, but a few subtle improvements can make your home more attractive to potential buyers.

11 Overlooked Upgrades That Will Sell Your Home Faster

Written by Seth Pfaehler, Posted in For Sellers


Tips for Holding a Safe Open House

Open houses can be a great sales tool—but hosting one also exposes you to numerous unfamiliar people for the first time. Take these steps to stay safe:

Tips for Holding a Safe Open House

Written by Seth Pfaehler, Posted in For Sellers


Ask the Inspector: Chimney

A chimney is designed to exhaust products of combustion from a fuel burning appliance to the exterior of the building. A masonry chimney is typically built on its own footing and foundation with brick or concrete block on the exterior. Flaking sometimes occurs on a masonry chimney due to the moisture in the exhaust gases that are a product of combustion. The moisture gets absorbed into the brick and freezes in the winter when the warm exhaust gases stop flowing out the chimney. When water freezes, it expands, and over time this freeze-thaw cycle leads to deterioration of the brick, clay tile, and mortar. The damage is usually located at the top portion of the chimney for many reasons. The top portion of the chimney is the most exposed area and therefore the most vulnerable to weather. Moisture may also enter the top portion of the chimney from the exterior if the cap is cracked or missing. Once the exhaust gases reach the top of the chimney, they may have cooled sufficiently for the moisture to condense, making the concentration of moisture higher.

Ask the Inspector: Chimney

Written by Seth Pfaehler, Posted in For Buyers, For Sellers




Everyone knows the three main rules when it comes to real estate: location, location, location. But analysts say that old adage needs a new word for the selling points that make homes valuable to consumers: "walkability." That's for living in walkable areas.

Written by Seth Pfaehler, Posted in For Sellers


The Top 5 Do’s and Don’ts in Home Staging

The early spring home selling-season is kicking off. There’s no time like the present to start decluttering and transforming your lived-in home into a show-worthy property to make a positive impression on potential buyers. That means attending to the most important details that will create mass buyer appeal and increase your home’s value.

“A seller has to try to be objective by looking at their home as a product or some other commodity that one would purchase,” says Lisa Gallagher, a real estate professional with William Raveis, Newtown, Conn. “You have only one chance to get it right so present your home in the best possible light.”

 The Top 5 Do’s and Don’ts in Home Staging

Posted in For Sellers