Archives for April 2018

Using Staging Tips To Update Your Home

Using Staging Tips To Update Your Home

A staged house always looks so fresh, bright and inviting. How can you make your home look as good, even if you’re not selling it? Take some staging tips and use them to update and refresh your space.

Stager/organizer Nina Doiron, president and lead designer of Istagenorganize.com of Toronto, says her No. 1 recommendation is to declutter. But that doesn’t mean buying a bunch of storage containers, filling them up and putting the containers in the basement. She says when homes are staged, the space is decluttered and the items are taken right out of the house. By removing clutter your house will seem larger and you’ll have more usable space than you thought you had.

Donate, give away or recycle items you no longer use or want. There are always people who can use it, says Doiron, who recommends that homeowners declutter two times a year.

“A tidy space means that everything should have a home. I only recommend purchasing a storage solution once the decluttering is complete. If you buy a storage solution beforehand, you’re just adding another piece of furniture to the space. Often once you declutter, you’ll find that your existing storage solution is enough,” she says.

Paint is an inexpensive way to update and refresh a space. “Paint ages, yellows and the sun can fade it,” she says. If you’re handy, it can be a cost-effective project because paint will only cost a couple of hundred dollars per room.

Staging employs lighter paint shades to lend an airy and spacious feeling, but when redesigning for your own enjoyment, go with your own personal sense of style. Doiron says she had clients who want to paint their homes grey. “I asked, ‘do you like grey’ and they said, ‘not really’. I said trend or no trend, do what you love because you will be living in the space.”

When she does a colour consultation, she asks clients what colours they gravitate to and which ones make them happy. “I also look around their space. People tend to buy things in colours they gravitate to.”

There is a way people can use their favourite colours to give an updated look, even if they aren’t considered “in” colours. For example, they may like green, which is not on trend right now. However, they can use a shade of green that gives a sense of being on trend but reflects their own style.

“Painting the cabinets and cupboards is a really inexpensive way to update the kitchen, especially if the hardware is changed as well,” she says. “Despite what’s been said, it’s not a crime to paint over wood.”

If homeowners decide to go with a light paint colour, even if they prefer darker shades, they can use the latter for accessories instead.

“Accessories allow you to bring in your own personal style and colour.”

They add interest and wow to a space, but the key is to use them sparingly. Less is more, she says.

Since well-lit spaces tend to look larger, she suggests putting maximum wattage bulbs in lamps and light fixtures. For those who prefer low ambient light, dimmers can be added so lights can be turned down as desired.

You may also want to look at replacing light fixtures and lamps. Light fixtures can date a house. The good news is that lighting can be swapped out relatively inexpensively. To save money, plan out your light fixtures throughout the house, then have the work done at the same time so you only have to pay the electrician to come out once, she says.

For smaller spaces, add a decorative mirror (limit to one piece per room) to reflect light and make the space feel less heavy.

Great places for mirrors include over the fireplace mantel, in the foyer and in the dining room. A statement piece can be placed over the buffet to add a touch of sparkle. In dining rooms and kitchens, ensure people don’t face their reflections.

Fresh linens and towels are another way to freshen a space. Doiron also suggests getting in the habit of making the bed and keeping things off the floor. Keeping spaces neater will make your home feel more relaxed.

In homes staged for sale, personal pictures are removed. If you’re not selling your home, remove the pictures scattered throughout the house and create a gallery wall instead. Strategically placed frames add interest and a focal point, but don’t use them in every room. “Search online to get information about the best height to hang” pictures and artwork, she says.

Again, think minimal. “It’s not necessary to display every photo. Change out photos as the kids change,” she says. You will appreciate the photos and it won’t be overwhelming.

As for the exterior of the property, keep everything neat and tidy, she says. “Remove dead plants and empty planters. Curb appeal is appreciated by all.”

Start by creating a plan. “If you have the resources, do the painting, flooring and lighting at the same time for continuity, then tackle one room at a time,” Doiron says.

If you are planning to paint, clear out the room as much as possible, she says. Go through everything in the room and decide what you’re going to keep and get rid of the rest. Once the space is decluttered, you can look at redecorating with the pieces that are left,” she says, “or buy a few new accent pieces to add interest, light and a focal point to the space.”

Source: Sellers tips

What Not To Do When You Are Moving

What Not To Do When You Are Moving

Whether moving across town or across the country, packing up and moving can be stressful, costly and full of surprises. From shady movers and inaccurate price quotes, to overpacking or not allowing enough time to get the move set up, every step of a move has the potential for mistakes that can make a move a nightmare.

These tips will help anyone preparing for a move, whether they currently live in a house, an apartment, a dorm, with friends or with mom and dad.

1. Hiring a shady mover.

We’ve all heard horror stories about moving scams, and perhaps maybe you’ve been the victim of a moving scam yourself. You can steer clear of a less-than-upstanding mover by doing your homework. The Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, your state transportation regulator and the U.S. Department of Transportation — and even your relatives, friends, neighbors and colleagues — are all good sources of information about whether a moving company is on the up-and-up. Doing some homework online can save you a lot of heartache on moving day.

If you’ve done your research and still aren’t confident in the movers you’ve come across, you always can go the DIY route — just be sure you’re up for the task.

2. Messing up the quotes.

If you hire a mover, you should be able to have someone from that company come to your place for an in-home moving estimate. If a moving company won’t do an in-home estimate, you should think about shopping around for another mover.

Along those lines, don’t rely on just one quote from one mover. Contact several movers for quotes. If you really like one mover over another but your favorite company is a little pricey, try negotiating for a lower price. Always make sure to get a moving estimate in writing.

3. Packing too much stuff.

Do you really need those old boxes of baby clothes that you haven’t laid eyes on since your 6-year-old was in diapers? Before you move, you need to “edit” your belongings. Think about whether you can trash some of your possessions, donate them to charity, or give them away to friends and relatives. Perhaps you could hold a garage sale to clear out some of the clutter. If you haven’t seen, worn or used something in a year, it’s best to think hard about whether you need to keep it — and whether you need to haul it to your new place.

4. Failing to schedule your move well in advance.

During the summer months, good moving companies are booked up quickly. Rather than waiting till the last minute, make sure your move is scheduled weeks — or, better yet, months — in advance. You don’t want to be scrambling to find a mover the day before you’re supposed to head out. Moving already is stressful enough without adding that frustration.

5. Ignoring the need to pack ahead of time.

You’ll find very few people who’ll say that packing is fun. In fact, a recent survey found that people who’d moved in the past year identified packing and unpacking as the biggest hassle in the process.

You can lessen the load by beginning to pack well before moving day comes along. Start by boxing up stuff that you won’t need right away — for instance, if you’re moving in the summer, pack up your winter clothes so that they’re out of the way. Also, be sure to carve out time in your schedule to check items off your packing to-do list.

If you get down to the wire and need help with packing, enlist friends, neighbors, relatives or colleagues to lend a hand. Make sure you’ve got plenty of food and beverages as a “thank you” for your volunteer helpers. If you can’t rustle up any free help, consider hiring laborers to do the packing for you; that may be a small price to pay to alleviate moving-related stress.

Source: Buying tips

Sellers: Clutter-Free Tips That Can Make Your Home Look More Appealing

Houzz

Tidying up your home for your open house or a buyer’s showing can make all the difference when it comes to selling your home. Yet, sometimes sellers neglect to do this even though it will help increase their chances of getting an offer.

A little bit of tidying up, organizing and showcasing your home’s best features can help shorten the amount of time your home is on the market.

Here are some hot clutter-free tips that can make your home look more appealing and–an added benefit–easier for you to live in, too.

The kitchen is an area that tends to get cluttered easily. Even if the countertops are cleared off, inside the cabinets often lies a cluttered mess. Those crammed cabinets are not appealing to buyers. They often see the disarray and think there’s less room for their own items than there really is because they can’t see behind the clutter.

Star Hansen, a professional organizer, says cans create the most clutter. She recommends using soup can racks to store them. They’re inexpensive and they store three times as many cans. Spice racks are a great way to clear the clutter out and make it look clutter-free.

Hansen also shows how to use storage solutions like airtight containers, hanging baskets, shelf dividers to separate food items, and how to use chalkboard and magnetic paint.

Painting the inside of your cabinet with magnetic paint allows you to hang light-weight items like aprons, towels, or recipes inside your utility cabinets. Using chalkboard paint, you can write notes inside your cabinet about which supplies you need to purchase.

Using airtight containers to store pastas, grains, and other food works well in the cabinet to conserve space because they’re stackable. Hansen also recommends using a label maker to mark all the food sections.

Grouping food together in categories such as ingredients or prepared food and then placing those items in boxes allows you to easily grab what you need without having to move 15 items just to get to the one you need.

The key to this type of clutter-free reorganization is to make sure it’s portable. Since you’re selling your home, you likely don’t want to spend the money installing professional systems that will remain with the home when you move.

Fortunately, there are wonderful products on the market that help you organize without having to drill or glue them into your cabinets. These shelving products look good and, when all the items are placed inside the shelves or under-shelving hanging baskets, you’ve created the illusion of more cabinet space–a plus for all buyers.

So where do you look for these products? Without even leaving your home, companies like Rubbermaid, make it simple to view a wide selection as well as see some creative options for organizing your pantry. Many of the products are under $20 and well worth the price to reduce the headache of searching through a crammed pantry or over-stuffed cabinet. One of my favorites is the Corner Helper Shelf: it holds up to 10 pounds and allows you to stack food items below it.

The best part of doing this type of reorganization is that when you move, the inside of the cabinets look great for buyers and you’ll be able easily pack up and take all this work with you to your new home.

Source: Sellers tips

Should You Fix Up Your House Before Listing Or Sell It As A Fixer Upper?

Keller Williams Real Estate

If you’re thinking of selling your home, this is probably a question you’ve been asking yourself – and your real estate agent. There is no hard and fast answer; the route you go will depend on numerous factors, the most important of which are: the condition of your home, the strength of the market in your area, and the potential profit to be made both with and without updates. These tips will help you decide whether to sell now or later.

Consider your buyer

The words “fixer upper” might actually be a selling point for some buyers who perceive they’re getting a deal, who are specifically looking for something they can put their stamp on, or who just can’t afford to buy something turnkey. The marketing your agent does is key here so you don’t end up with nothing but unacceptable offers.

“In any marketing communications surrounding a fixer-upper, it’s important to remain focused on value,” said ExtraSpace. “Prospective homebuyers know that a fixer-upper will sell at a lower price point than newer or more modern homes on the market. But that doesn’t mean you need to accept a lowball offer. Instead, emphasize the home’s investment potential by reminding buyers of the future sale opportunities after the home has been remodeled.”

If your home needs A LOT of work and you can’t, or don’t want to, put the time, money, and effort into getting it in top condition, targeting investors could get it sold quickly. “A few years ago, a past client called to say her next-door neighbors needed to immediately sell their home. To say it needed work was an understatement,” said Sacramento-based real estate broker Elizabeth Weintraub on The Balance. “The home appeared inhabitable. It had holes in the walls all the way to the exterior and urine-soaked wood floors; most of the electrical didn’t work and the bathroom tub had fallen through the joists. All the faucets leaked and, in one bedroom, I found a pile of dead rats swept into a pile in the center of the floor. This was not a home that could be easily fixed up. Not even a coat of paint would have helped sell this place. We priced it low enough that it attracted multiple offers and sold with zero days on market. Only contractors and flippers made offers on this home.”

Since flipping is more popular than ever, a home that needs work – especially certain kinds of work – may be attractive enough to investors that you don’t have to do any work at all. “A good rule of thumb: If your home needs kitchen or bath remodels, a new roof, or foundation repairs, there’s an 80%-plus chance your buyer is going to be an investor,” Bruce Ailion, a broker and REALTOR® in Atlanta, said on Realtor.com.

Get an honest assessment – and be able to hear it

If you’ve lived in your home for quite some time and/or haven’t kept up with updates and repairs, your real estate agent’s assessment of its condition and the recommendations he or she makes to get it market-ready may be eye-opening. They may also make you angry. Try to listen and keep an open mind, even if you feel offended. In the end, you share the same goal, which is to get your home sold for the best possible price.

Be realistic on pricing

“Finding out your home’s value isn’t as simple as subtracting the cost of repairs from your home. You also need to factor in ‘aggravation costs,’ said Ailion. “In other words, turnkey homes often sell at a premium to traditional buyers because they don’t have to do any work. If your home needs some sprucing up, you’re likely going to have to incentivize buyers to dig in and get their hands dirty.”

It may be that fixing your home up makes the most sense because of the financial upside. In presenting you with comparables, your real estate agent should be able to show you other properties in your area in varying conditions (depending on the number of active listings or recently sold homes near you). This will help inform the pricing for your home and also give you some idea of how much you’d have to put into it to get top dollar. Now all you have to do is come up with the money!

Choose your updates wisely

A $30,000 kitchen renovation may not be in the budget and may not give you the return on investment you’re looking for, but there are smaller updates you can do to your kitchen to make it look fresh (and, you can use the same principles in other important areas, like bathrooms). Better Homes and Gardens has a great list of updates you can make for under $2,000, including hanging a pendant that “illuminates the sink area” and swapping out a tired sink for a “farmhouse sink (that) adds character to the space.” Also think about painting cabinets and installing new hardware, and, if you’re up to the task, adding an eye-catching backsplash.

Make necessary repairs

Investors aren’t expecting perfection, and their offers will be based on the condition of your home and the potential profit they can make once it’s fixed up. Non-investor types looking for a deal may not necessarily be scared off by a few cosmetic issues, but major repairs that are needed are another story. If you’re looking for the smartest place to put your pre-sale renovation dollars, this may be it.

“It might not be glamorous, but buyers are looking at big-ticket items like the age and condition of the roof, air conditioning and heating systems, water heater, electrical panel and pipes,” said Inman. “If any of these components are on their last leg, you might seriously need to consider replacing them as these items could factor into the kind of financing the buyer is able to obtain as well as insurability of the property.”

Source: Sellers tips

Saying 'I Do' To Your House Before Your Spouse: Here's What You Need to Know

Saying 'I Do' To Your House Before Your Spouse: Here's What You Need to Know

A home of your own complete with a white picket fence, the realization of the “American Dream.” If you’re unmarried, though, you might feel this dream is out of your reach. After all, aren’t wedding bells supposed to proceed house hunting? Well, according to recent stats, there are many couples who are reversing the order of things and opting for home ownership before marriage.

Stats on Home Ownership Before Marriage

According to a study by Coldwell Banker, one in four couples, between the ages of 18 and 34 years-of-age bought a house together prior to marriage. Another poll performed by MONEY discovered that 40% of millennials feel it is a good idea to put home ownership before marriage. Perhaps, you agree and would like to realize the American dream of homeownership before saying “I Do.” Read the helpful tips listed below for turning your dream of home ownership into a reality:

Learn Your Credit Scores:

While married couples are often viewed as a single unit, you have the advantage as an unmarried couple to decide which person best fits the home buyer profile. This of course means, which of you has the best credit score and the most assets. You can choose to cosign or own your home jointly if you prefer. Keep in mind, though, that if one of you has a less than stellar credit rating, it could reduce the amount of money you qualify to borrow. 

Title Your Home Properly:

There are three main options you can use to title your home as an unmarried couple. They are as follows:

1.Sole Owner: This means one of you is the sole owner, 100% responsible for the debt. The other is not listed on the title at all, thus they have no rights or responsibly regarding the property.

2.Tenants in Common: This means that both of you own the property but in differing amounts. For examples, one partner might own 60%, while the other has 40% ownership. Keep in mind this will prevent your home from transferring in its entirety to a surviving partner should one of you pass away. Instead, the living partner will simply retain their percentage of ownership. To get around this, partners can “Will” their percentage to the other partner to transfer upon their death.

3.Joint Tenant: This gives you equal ownership of the property. If one of you should die, the property will automatically be awarded to the living partner.

Understand That the Debt is Permanent:

If you choose to enter into a joint tenancy arrangement and your relationship ends, you are still both 100% responsible for the outstanding debt. Although you might not want to think about the “what if scenarios,” it’s important for you to choose a home you can afford to pay for on your own. This will also come in handy if your partner becomes ill or loses their job and is unable to contribute financially.

Create a Legal Agreement:

Yes, technically, if you own the property jointly you are already both legally bound to the property. However, this agreement is slightly different. Seek out the help of a lawyer to create a binding agreement that outlines who will be responsible for what aspects of the property. For example, figure out and specify who pays the rent, the taxes, repairs on the home, etc. This will prevent a lot of heartache down the road by getting expectations out in the open from the beginning.

Understand Buying a Home Isn’t Easy:

This article on Angie’s List is super helpful as it talks about everything you have to do before buying a home. It examines the importance of loan qualification, home inspections, and timing when it comes to buying a home for the first time. Read it over if this happens to be your first time entering the home buying process.

Know the Expenses Doesn’t Stop at The Purchase Price:

Home ownership is a grand adventure. One that also comes with many unexpected expenses. Just take a look at the true cost of repairs on Home Advisor for an idea of what you could be facing. However, by in large, the benefits of homeownership far outweigh the problems.

We wish you and your partner happy house hunting as you face this new adventure of home ownership head on! 

Source: Buying tips

Rent Burden On The Rise

Rent Burden On The Rise

The world has changed and renting has changed right along with it.

Renting has long been the traditional first-step toward home ownership and, in later life, a lifestyle-simplifying option for long-term property owners intent on liberating equity.

  • The latest Report by The Pew Charitable Trusts reveals that the lingering legacy of the 2007-09 Great Recession is more households making a slower transition to homeownership because they are “rent burdened.”
  • This research also showed that senior-headed households were more likely to be rent burdened than households headed by people in other age groups.

In the Pew Report, “American Families Face a Growing Rent Burden: High

Housing Costs Threaten Financial Security and Put Homeownership Out of Reach for Many,” authors define “rent burdened” households as those spending more than 30 percent of their pretax income on housing. Such

families are usually “more financially fragile” than those spending a lower percentage of their income on rent and than those who own their own homes. “Severely rent burdened” refers to households spending more than 50 percent of their income on rent.

  • Rent Burdened: The Report examined how, between 2001 and 2015, increasing rent cost affected the ability of American households to use financial services, accumulate savings, and transition to homeownership. In 2015, 38 percent of the more than 40 million U.S. renter households were rent burdened, an increase of about 19 percent from 2001.
  • Severely Rent Burdened: In the same period, the share of renter households that were severely rent burdened increased by 42 percent. Escalating rent burdens were driven in part by year-over-year growth in housing costs — rent plus utilities — that far exceeded increases in pretax income. This means that after paying rent, many Americans have less money available for other core needs than similar households did 20 years ago.
  • Data Source: Pew research was based on the University of Michigan’s Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the longest running (since 1968) longitudinal household survey in the world. This survey of 18,000 in 5,000 American families has generated data about household finances that is free and broadly accessible.
  • +55 Renters: Pew Project Director Erin Currier said she was most surprised to learn that, although the share of renter households has increased by 10 percent for all age groups, the current rental spike is propelled by renters 55 and older. In 2015, about half of senior-renter families were rent burdened with more than one-fifth severely rent burdened.

What’s the eviction picture in your community?

The Eviction Lab The Eviction Lab at Princeton University explains rent-burden patterns this way: “Today, the majority of poor renting families in America spend over half of their income on housing costs (rent plus utilities), and eviction is transforming their lives. Yet little is known about the prevalence, causes, and consequences of housing insecurity.”

Sociologist Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, discovered that eviction, incredibly prevalent in low-income communities, functioned as “a cause, not just a condition, of poverty.”

In 2017, Desmond established The Eviction Lab with the shared conviction that “a stable, affordable home is central to human flourishing and economic mobility.” The Lab’s nation-wide data bank ] of more than 80 million eviction records going back to 2000 is accessible to the public and researchers at no charge.

The Lab’s open invitation to policymakers, community organizers, professionals, and anyone interested in real estate encourages the use of online tools like The Map to understand how eviction, and the associated traumatic and financial loss, are shaping individual communities. The intent is that this participation will contribute to laws, policies, and programs that are effective locally in reducing poverty and eviction and fostering residential security.

How are evictions affecting value in your community?

Researchers believe that sharing data about local housing, eviction, and poverty patterns will raise awareness of local issues and stimulate development of new solutions. This in turn should improve understanding of what drives poverty in America and what can be done to strengthen housing stability for low-income families and communities.

Two Faces of Rental…

Real estate investors, property owners, and related service providers see rising rents and increasing rental demand as investment opportunity:

  • At its best, this investment drive will lead to the construction of more rental units which may stabilize demand and pricing.
  • At its worst, this could result in evictions — already considered at crisis levels by many — rising above the almost 1 million evictions annually.

As research raises awareness of the social impact of rent burden is there room for both sides — landlords and tenants — to benefit from decreasing eviction and creating healthy stable rental markets?

After more than 40 years in property management, Jeff Cronrod developed LeaseGuarantee, a cosigner product that guarantees tenant performance to protect landlords from financial loss through eviction. This product helps landlords, but I asked Cronrod whether tenants may benefit, too.

Cronrod responded by email: “As for tenants, LeaseGuarantee may be used to offset all or part of the required move-in money, thus significantly reducing the cash required to secure a new rental. Additionally, a tenant who has had some credit challenges in the past can use LeaseGuarantee to help them qualify for a unit without seeking a cosigner. A tenant who successfully completes their tenancy without delinquency may also have their credit bolstered if reported to the credit bureaus.”

Renting is no longer the cheap, easy-to-arrange housing alternative in many communities. Rents continue to steadily increase, demand is continually growing, homeownership is on the decline, incomes have not kept pace with rising real estate and rental costs, and short-term rental is monopolizing housing stock. What’s next?

Source: Buying tips

Get The Home You Want, Millennials: Smart Strategies For First-Time Homebuyers

Get The Home You Want, Millennials: Smart Strategies For First-Time Homebuyers

Hey, Millennials. Come on into the real estate market! We really need you to buy some homes so we can keep chugging along. Oh, wait. Prices are rising and so are interest rates, plus inventory is scary low. Hmmm. Well, come on in anyway, wontcha?

It’s not easy to buy a home in a hot market where inventory remains at historic lows – and that covers a lot of areas across the country at a wide range of different price points. But it’s especially hard right now for Millennials, who aren’t exactly getting a warm welcome from the market that has been begging them to participate.

“I think it’s fair to say this is the most competitive housing market we’ve seen in recorded history,” Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com, told Curbed. “There’s record low inventory and strong interest from buyers in getting into the housing market. Millennials are reaching prime homebuying age – in 2020, the greatest proportion of that generation will be turn 30 – just as baby boomers are looking to downsize. This has created especially fierce competition for smaller homes, the type of starter homes that most first-time buyers desire. This dynamic can be especially frustrating for young adults because they may be bidding for the same smaller home as someone from an older generation who can lean on the accumulated wealth of decades of homeownership.”

But that doesn’t make buying impossible – just a bit more challenging. Get a leg up by following a few smart strategies.

Work with the right REALTOR®

This is not the right time to give your brother-in-law’s cousin’s neighbor who just got his license a shot. Having a competitive edge is more important than ever, and you need a savvy, experienced, and well-connected real estate agent to help you buy a home.

Work on your down payment

You may be competing against buyers who are coming in with an all-cash offer, which you’re going to have a hard time standing up to. But, there are ways you can make your offer look better. Remember that if it comes down to a multiple-offer situation for your home, sellers won’t just compare the offer prices. They’ll look at your down payment and the terms, and you need to have better terms than the next guy. You may only have 3.5% down, and that may be all you need to qualify for your FHA loan, but that doesn’t mean the seller will embrace you.

“Your down payment is a key part of the offer you present to the seller,” said Money Crashers. “The general rule of thumb is simple: the larger the down payment, the stronger the offer. More precisely: the greater the down payment’s share of the total purchase price, the more likely the seller is to accept.”

If you’re ready to buy and there’s no time to get a second job or go into hyper-savings mode, you can always take advantage of down payment assistance programs like the National Homebuyers Fund or hit up a relative. “If you’re struggling to pool enough cash for your down payment, a generous relative or friend can help by giving you money,” said NerdWallet. “But the money must be a true gift, not a disguised loan, and it must be documented properly through financial statements and a gift letter. If the gift is really a loan that you have to pay back, lenders won’t accept it.”

Be flexible on the closing

If another potential buyer is insistent on a 30-day close, but you could close earlier, later, and even rent back to the seller if need be, you just might end up with the house you want. Flexibility is key to submitting a winning offer, so make sure you have a Plan B – a place to stay for a few days or longer if you’re going to be between houses, and a mover/storage option squared away.

Look in adjacent neighborhoods

Yeah, you have your heart set on a specific neighborhood. But if it’s just not happening, consider the next neighborhood over. Experts say they have great potential upside.

Consider the worst house on the block

Buying the ugly duckling is a top strategy for investors, and one that can get buyers in the door (literally!) if they’re having trouble purchasing move-in-ready homes. “When your budget as a first-time buyer doesn’t stretch to a house in perfect condition in a neighborhood you adore, you might consider buying a home that needs work. Or maybe you’ve watched fixer-upper TV shows and think you could handle sweat equity. Either way, real estate experts say buying a house that needs renovating can make sense as long as you are realistic about the process,” said the Washington Post. “A fixer-upper can be a smart investment, particularly if you can buy a property under market value and then increase its value with the right projects. While some home buyers prefer move-in-ready homes, they are stuck with the choices the previous homeowner or builder picked for their countertops, fixtures and floors. Not only do buyers of fixer-uppers get to select their finishes, they also can make sure the work is done the way they want.”

If you’re worried about how you’re going to pay for all those renovations, ask your real estate agent or lender about a 203(k) loan, which rolls renovation funds into your mortgage. “An FHA 203k loan, (sometimes called a Rehab Loan or FHA Construction loan) allows you to finance not one, but two major items 1) the house itself, and; 2) needed/wanted repairs,” said The Mortgage Reports. “Because the lender tracks and verifies repairs, it is willing to approve a loan on a home it wouldn’t otherwise consider.”

The loan addresses a common problem when buying a fixer home: lenders often don’t approve loans for homes in need of major repairs.”

Waive contingencies before you submit your offer?

Note the question mark. Your real estate professional may caution you against this strategy. But, lenders like Better Mortgage are making it work with a program that “allows buyers in select markets to not only underwrite their finances, but also get the appraised value of their home before they submit an offer. That means they have the option to waive both financing and appraisal contingencies to make their offer as competitive as cash.”

Source: Buying tips

Property Survey Always Wise, Often Required

Property Survey Always Wise, Often Required

Question: At our settlement recently, a lawyer charged us $150 for a survey. When we questioned this charge, we were told it was a lender’s requirement and we could do nothing about it. Just what is a survey?

Answer: I hope the lawyer at least gave you a copy of the survey and fully explained it to you.

It is important to distinguish between a survey and an appraisal — both of which are usually charged to the buyer. An appraisal assists the mortgage lender in assessing the value of the house so as to determine whether a mortgage should be made and in what amount. Generally, the appraisal will analyze the condition of the house, its location, structural soundness and comparable sales in the area.

A survey, on the other hand, goes to the question of the marketability of the house. There are, however, several kinds of surveys: (1) location, (2) boundary, (3) if involving a commercial property, an American Land Title Survey, commonly referred to as an ALTA survey.

The typical survey that the homebuyer gets at the settlement (escrow) is the location survey. Oversimplified, all it does it show where the improvements (the house, fence, shed) are located as they relate to the boundary lines. The survey typically will inspect the area and then submit the survey. Usually, this will cost a few hundred dollars.

It does not, however, show you where the actual boundaries are. To do this, you will need to order the Boundary Survey. Here, the survey will — in addition to showing the location of improvements — determine where the property corners are, and then prepare a more detailed presentation. Often, however, it is very difficult to locate the corners of a piece of property. Years ago, great-grandma Smith told her attorney “the end of my property is where the oak tree stands.” And that’s what her deed — and all successor deeds read. However, the old oak tree was demolished years ago. To be precise, the survey will have to do a lot of research, legwork and measurements. So such a survey will be more expensive.

The location surveyor determines whether the house is within the property borders, whether there are any encroachments on the property by neighbors and the extent to which any easements on the property may affect legal title.

Lenders always insist on obtaining a clear “lender’s” title insurance policy covering the face value of the mortgage. Title companies will issue an exception to title unless a survey has been ordered, and thus surveys are usually required.

My own belief is that everyone buying a house should obtain a survey whether or not the lender requires it. You can at least start with the location type. It is a good idea to learn, for example, whether there are any building restrictions affecting your right to add a porch or a fence. Equally important, does the next door neighbor have any possible claims of adverse possession? If the survey shows an encroachment — one way or the other — on a next door property, a potential buyer must investigate very carefully before taking title.

But, here are some suggestions involving the survey process.

First, location survey prices vary considerably. I’ve seen them as low as $130 and as high as $300, for the same single-family house. Ask your settlement attorney for an estimate. If it seems too high, arrange for your own survey and make sure a copy of the survey gets to your lender well in advance of settlement. It must be done by a qualified, licensed surveyor.

Next, ask your sellers who did their survey. Unfortunately, most lenders will not honor a survey if it is more than six months old. But inquire from the prior surveyor whether the old survey can be updated and whether this will save you some money. Some of the more reputable surveyors are happy to get your business and will give you a break in the price.

Additionally, if you are refinancing your existing home, some lenders and title insurance companies are willing to accept a survey affidavit instead of a new survey. You will have to sign an affidavit that no improvements have been made to the property since you originally purchased it. These affidavits are available at a minimum cost.

You should also go to the local government surveyor in the land records office where your property is located. They are quite helpful and may be able to assist you with boundary questions, easement issues and such.

If you are buying a condominium unit, you will not have to obtain — or pay for — a separate survey of your unit. That survey has already been done as part of the plans which were recorded with the condominium documents. But that does not excuse you from carefully reviewing the condo plats and plans. For example, are there limited common elements that impede your access to the roof? Do you have a limited common element?

Finally, if you are considering installing a fence — or even a swimming pool — in the future, you will want stakes posted, it will cost you additional dollars. You should make the necessary arrangements for stakes at the time you order the survey.

And don’t forget to get a copy of the survey from your settlement attorney.

Source: Buying tips

Buyer Love Letters Often Work; But They Can Backfire Too

Buyer Love Letters Often Work; But They Can Backfire Too

In many areas of the country, housing inventory is low and competition among buyers is intense. When that happens, many buyer’s agents will encourage their clients to submit a cover letter – frequently referred to as a “love letter” — along with their offer to purchase. Sometimes such letters are submitted — in any kind of market — in order to take the “sting” out of a below-list-price offer. In the tight inventory market, their purpose generally is to induce the seller to find some reason to favor the offer of the letter-writer rather than that of some other buyer.

While such letters are not (yet) standard practice, they are certainly not uncommon. A recent Google inquiry for “letters from buyers to sellers” turned up more than 1.5 million hits in a matter of seconds. In 2015, a Redfin report revealed that 43% of successful offers had included a buyer-to-seller letter.

An internet search shows not only that such letters are popular, but also that there is no shortage of people and organizations who will show you how to write one. Templates for these letters abound. They range from a standard letter format to slick marketing pieces complete with graphics and places for pictures.

Advice as to the content and emphasis of buyer letters varies. Some focus on the characteristics of the property. They suggest that the buyer focus on aspects of the property that it is assumed the seller enjoyed as well. “I know that our collies will love romping in that backyard meadow just as your Labradors do.” Others will call attention to aspects of the property to which it is assumed — possibly known — that the seller had an emotional attachment. “We will give that rose garden the same loving attention that you did.”

Others advocate that the buyer’s letter should seek to highlight some personal similarities between the buyers and sellers. This is based on the premise that people like to interact and do business with people like themselves. So, if “our little Susie loves the Girl Scouts just as your daughter does” or “if we are both dyed-in -the -wool Raider fans’, mention it. Call attention to your similarities and differentiate yourselves from your competition.

Of course, there can be downsides to buyer love letters as well. In 2016, attorney Jon Goodman caused a bit of a stir when he presented on the topic at the annual meeting of the National Association of REALTORS®. Goodman developed a scenario in which a buyer’s offer was rejected. The offer had been accompanied by a letter that contained a photograph of his family. The buyer was, as Andrea Brambila, writing in Inman News put it, “a visible member of a historically oppressed minority.” Subsequently, the buyer who was rejected learned that the house had sold for a considerably lower price than his offer. Quoting Goldman, Brambila wrote, ” ‘If we had had his life experiences, we might have perceived what he perceived’ — that his offer was rejected because he was a member of this minority, in violation of the Fair Housing Act…”

Not in all, but certainly in some, buyer-to-seller letters there may lurk the potential for a Fair Housing Violation. This has led some attorneys to advise that sellers and their agents make it known that such letters will not be accepted. That is extreme caution. Others have simply suggested that, if they think there is a potential problem, sellers and their agents should be careful to document the business reasons for taking another offer.

A more likely reason for exercising caution with buyer letters is discussed in a 2015 Realtor® Magazine article, “Don’t Write Me a Love Song”, written by Christine Smith. Smith points out that buyers who reveal their emotional connections to the property are likely weakening their future negotiating positions. Their offer may be accepted, but there is almost always another negotiation or two down the road — after the property inspections. If a seller believes the buyers have truly fallen in love with the property, he or she is less likely to give in when those future negotiations arise.

Source: Buying tips

Small Renovation, Big Hassle: How To Prepare For The Unknown When Buying A Home

Small Renovation, Big Hassle: How To Prepare For The Unknown When Buying A Home

“You never know what’s behind the walls.” This renovation mantra is so important and should be tattooed on the forearm of everyone about to embark on renovation or even small updates to their home.

The horrific discovery of knob-and-tube electrical wiring masquerading as updated electrical in a 100-year-old home is a great plot point on House Hunters Renovation – but a brutal, and not inexpensive, setback in real life. But, it’s hardly the only issue you can come across when doing renovations, and you’re not immune because your home was built 20 or even 10 years ago or you’re just doing a few little things here and there to freshen up the place. Before you get started on these renovations, protect yourself by taking a few key steps.

Load-bearing walls

Many a renovation has gone off the rails because a load-bearing wall made it difficult and expensive, or darn near impossible, to move. While you may not be able to eliminate every potential surprise, you can give yourself a leg up by hiring a professional to take a look before you buy, and certainly before you swing the hammer.


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“An experienced general contractor can do an initial consultation and assess your wall for as little as $100,” builder Jeff Andreson told Houzz. An architect is another possibility because they may approach the situation differently, which could save you money. “A structural engineer may also be required,” and is often your best bet for achieving peace of mind.

Plumbing

“Homebuyer inspections are the rule these days,” said Angie’s List. “Sometimes plumbers are called in to do a more thorough follow up inspection. Unfortunately, this often happens after the home has already been purchased.”


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And the issues can be costly. Hiring a plumber to check everything out before you purchase could uncover problems throughout the house, from the main sewer line to water heaters that could cause extensive damage if they leak or burst, to leaky toilets. “One problem homeowners often neglect to have fixed is a leak at the base of a toilet,” they said. “The leak often appears small or insignificant, but over time the water will begin to rot the subfloor and even get between the subfloor and the finished floor. Someone unaware of the damage this kind of problem can create, may try to seal this themselves, sometimes making it worse.”

Foundation

If you have a home inspection, which you obviously should ALWAYS do, your inspector will look for signs of foundation damage. But, there are things you can look for ahead of the inspection that may impact your decision to purchase, such as: cracks in exterior and interior walls, cracks in floors, gaps around windows and doors, and doors that stick. Foundation issues can arise regardless of the age of the home, and could be indicative of a serious problem in places that are prone to earthquakes. But you also want to take them seriously in areas with known soil issues, like Texas.


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“All foundation problems are not equal,” said RE/MAX real estate agent Bill Gasset. “A few settlement cracks may be normal and safe, but you need an inspector to tell you one way or the other. Foundation repair can be expensive, something to keep in mind when you consider the price of the home.”

Electrical

Back to the old knob-and-tube situation. If someone has deliberately tried to hide illegal or dangerous wiring, that’s obviously a huge issue, both ethically and financially. And, it’s one you likely won’t find out about until you get inside the walls. Also, you may or may not have recourse against the seller since it will be difficult to prove there was knowledge that necessitated disclosure.

Even in a newer home, issues with the way electrical fixtures were installed could make what you thought was a quick and easy update into a larger undertaking. This is what it looks like under the bathroom light fixture we just had removed. It lacks the support and structure to properly install the new fixture we purchased, so we would either need to spend a bunch of money to shore up the situation inside the wall or get a different fixture that can be installed directly into the studs (We chose option B.). While not a huge problem, it was an unexpected one, and one that required us to spend more money, extend our installation timeline, and depend on our contractor to redo his schedule to accommodate us – not an easy feat. Ultimately, it was a good lesson for how to prepare for any type of renovation.

  • Add time to any job – You just never know what’s going to come up
  • Research potential issues so you’re better prepared to roll with whatever comes your way
  • Have a Plan B – See first bullet point
  • Set aside extra money – Ditto

Establish a good relationship with your contractor – When problems or unexpected issues arise, it may just be your good humor and the rapport you have established with your contractor that keeps you at the top of his schedule instead of having to wait weeks or longer to get your updates done

Source: Buying tips

Preparing Your Child To Move

Preparing Your Child To Move

Children respond to the general atmosphere set in the home by the attitudes of their parents. If you look at moving as an exciting adventure full of new possibilities, then chances are very good that you will infect your children with enthusiasm and anticipation.

Many times we forget that making more money or moving to a larger home is not a change that children will understand. The younger the child, the less able they are to “see into the future” as you do. They tend to focus on losing the security they already know, along with missing friends and family. Your job is to turn the sadness and doubt into happiness. Ask yourself what advantages there are for the child in the move. For example, will the family be closer to Grandma, the ocean, or another favorite person, place, or activity?

One of the easiest ways to turn an unhappy frown into joy and excitement is to communicate frequently. Let your children know, step by step, what is happening and what is likely to happen next. Tell them what the move means to the family — how important it is that Mommy got a big promotion or that Daddy is opening a new office for his company, and how other aspects of the move will be good for the child.

Be ready for those “What about me?” questions by researching schools, churches, activities, and community amenities in advance, and offer your child choices and ways to participate where it is appropriate. Whenever possible, look up information on the Internet, or have your agent e-mail, fax, or mail vital information about the community so that you and your child can plan where to go and who to meet in order to help ease the transition into new activities and surroundings. Contact organizations with whom your child is already associated or with whom he or she has an interest, and ask for referrals to your new city. Knowing they won’t have to give up favorite hobbies or sports goes a long way toward helping children adjust.

Making contacts with future friends, classmates, and fellow hobbyists can also go a long way toward helping your child’s transition to a new home and environment. See if your agent, other transferees, or family can put you in touch with other children your child’s age so that a chat room or e-mail friendship can begin.

Your REALTOR® will be able to show you your home either through e-mail, the local MLS service, or Realtor.com. Have your Realtor take pictures of your home and send them to you. Have fun by showing your child the new house plans, or draw them yourself and let your child cut out furniture and toys to place in the rooms. Show your child a typical day in the home as you go from room to room. Draw a map, and show how close Mommy and Daddy work, where schools are, where Aunt Bea lives, and other points of interest to help them orient themselves in their new surroundings.

If time and finances permit, take your child on a trip to visit your new city and home to get acquainted. If that’s not possible, get on the Internet, and show him or her the city, neighborhood, and home where you’ll be living. Most cities have Web sites available that offer a wide range of information, so you can plan activities for after your move, such as visits to the theater, a visit to the local zoo, or a trip to a local restaurant that serves your child’s favorite food.

Allowing your children to participate as much as possible makes the time they spend anticipating the move pass more quickly. Keep them occupied by letting them plan and pack a box or two of their special things. Consider their input on new decor and the layout of their new rooms. Encourage them to take the time to exchange good-byes with friends and loved ones and get addresses, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers to stay in touch.

While you are preparing for the move, try to stick as closely to your normal routine as possible, and let your children know that, although they will soon live in a new house, the rules of the household will still be the same. Bedtime is still at 9 p.m., and homework must still completed before TV time is allowed. And although Mom and Dad are a little busier and distracted with the move, they love their children very much and are giving the entire household a new opportunity to grow.

On moving day, have a bag packed of personal belongings for each member of the family, being careful to include medications, clothes, and personal items. Let your children choose what amusements and favorite “loveys” they wish to take along, and reassure them they will see their other favorite toys when they arrive in their new home.

Your preparedness will go a long way in reassuring your children that their needs are being considered.

Source: Sellers tips

What To Consider If You Are Buying An Historic Home

What To Consider If You Are Buying An Historic Home

You’ve fallen in love with an old Victorian house and want to bring her back to her glory days. With dreams of starting the next row of “painted ladies,” you close the deal.

You may already have some ideas of things you want to do to your new home, but before you make any changes to the structure itself, do a little research and make sure you have the answers to these three questions:

1. Is your home designated as historic – part of a state or federal historical building or neighborhood registry? If so, you may have to adhere to a number of regulations and be subject to some historical preservation oversight in order to update the home.

2. How extensive do you want the updates to be? Do you plan to “take it back to the studs,” or simply do some cosmetic work like refinishing floors?

3. How authentic do you want the renovations to be? The more accurate the details, such as spindle bannisters and egg and dart moldings, the higher the cost in materials and labor.

Your home and its state of repair may dictate which course of action you choose. For example if your home has serious structural damage or decay, then preservation may not be possible. However, you’ll still be able to reconstruct and renovate.

Not sure if you should preserve, restore or renovate? Here are a few definitions that may help you form a plan:

Preservation means restoring and using the building for its original purpose, with as much of the original features and décor saved as possible.

Restoration means tearing out improvements made over time that don’t reflect the original age and style of the home, and then repairing those areas to closely match the original size, shape, color, etc.

Reconstruction means making major changes to the floor plan such as adding new rooms and dramatically altering and repurposing parts of the home.

Renovation or remodeling freshens the look of the home using modern materials such as updating an older kitchen with custom cabinetry, farm sinks and granite countertops.

Before you begin, find out if there are any local or state subsidies for historic preservation for homes in your area. You could get tax breaks and special home improvement loans or other assistance. Contact your local tax assessor-collector for more information, or your local housing authority.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has some excellent resources for homeowners of older or historic homes. Also, check out historicproperties.com and thisoldhouse.com for more information.

Source: Buying tips

Dealing With Powers Of Attorney

Dealing With Powers Of Attorney

You and your spouse own your home and you would like to sell it. However, your spouse is currently unable to sign the sales contract. This is because he is either out of the country in some exotic far-away-place where fax and overnight delivery is unavailable, or because he is physically and mentally unable to make decisions or sign legal documents.

What to do?

There is a document called a “power of attorney”, whereby your spouse signs a legal document authorizing you to act on his/her behalf. The giver of the power of attorney is called the Principal. The receiver is generally called the “attorney in fact”. The latter is given the right to act on behalf of the principal, for the purposes and functions spelled out in the legal document. Note: the power given to the attorney in fact may be very broad, unless conditions and limitations are spelled out in the legal document.

There are two types of Powers of Attorney:

1. General — here, the principal authorizes the attorney in fact to take any and all actions as if the principal was taking them him or self. This is also known as a Durable Power of Attorney.

Keep in mind that your own State law may have specific requirements in order to sell real property by way of a Power of Attorney. Some states will not permit real estate to be conveyed by such a General power of attorney.

2. Specific — here, the principal gives specific information and instructions to the attorney in fact. For example, sell my house located at 123 ABC Street; or write a $1,000 check to my insurance company from my bank account. The specific instructions are contained in the legal document, and the attorney in fact has no authority to exceed those instructions.

If you plan to sell your house, and find yourself in the situation where one party in title will not be available to sign contracts, deeds or other legal documents pertaining to the sale, it is best to have your attorney draw up a Power of Attorney that meets your needs, as well as the legal requirements in the State where your property is located.

The principal may want to put a time limitation on the Power — for example one or two months. However, with a durable power of attorney, the principal normally does not place any such limitations. The purpose of a durable Power is to assure that in the event the Principal becomes incapacitated, his attorney in fact will be able to step in without having to go to Court.

Let’s go back to our example. If your spouse knows in advance that he/she will be out of the country when you want to sell your house, have the Power of Attorney executed before the trip starts — and give a long lead time before the Power expires. Keep in mind that although we now rely heavily on scanned documents, in many instances the person relying on the power of attorney must have the original with the notary seal clearly shown.

However, if you do not have a Power of Attorney and your spouse suddenly has a stroke — or is otherwise unable to comprehend and sign legal documents, then you will have to go to your local Court and seek permission to become the Conservator of the Estate of your spouse. This is a relatively easy (but potentially time consuming and expensive) process. The Courts, however, want to make absolutely sure you are sincere in your efforts to represent your spouse and that your spouse is, in fact, not able to sign any legal documents. There are, unfortunately, too many cases where someone– including a relative–convinced another party to sign a general power of attorney, which enabled that “attorney in fact” to steal the house or break the bank.

Speaking of banks, if you will need to use a power of attorney to get information or money from a bank, check with the bank first. Many banks have their own power of attorney forms they insist on being used.

Preventive law is the key; consider obtaining a durable power of attorney now, while you both are in good health. Each spouse should sign a separate document, making the other spouse the attorney in fact. However, an alternative attorney in fact should also be designated, just in case both of you become incapacitated at the same time.

Your local attorney should be consulted to make sure that you are using the proper forms and that you fully understand the consequences of your actions. A Power of Attorney gives someone else the right to sell your house, and you want to make sure that you are not giving away the store.

Source: Sellers tips

New Construction: Should You Go Builder Grade Or Upgrade?

New Construction: Should You Go Builder Grade Or Upgrade?

Who hasn’t walked through a model home and thought, “I’ll take it! Even down to those fancy place settings on the dining room table!” That exclamation is typically followed by a sad-face realization that, A) The place settings are not for sale, and; B) All those fancy upgrades are going to cost you. A lot.

Models are typically fancied up by the builder and interior designer and outfitted with all kinds of bells and whistles including upgraded flooring, countertops and appliances, lighting, window coverings – you name it. The idea is to show buyers what their home could be. If they have an extra $100K or more to sink into it.

If that’s not you, either because you want to stay within a certain budget or you’re already stretching to buy a new home, you don’t have to forgo upgrades altogether. In fact, buying a home with builder grade everything is not considered a great idea from a value standpoint.

“A surprisingly large amount of the money you spend on your new home will be determined by the options and choices you make – and those options are forever changing,” said New Home Source. “For example, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, both considered pricey upgrades for years, are now standard in most new homes. However, going with the most common (or lowest) denominator is not always the best way to save—or spend – your dollars.”

There’s also the fact that, when you do go to upgrade later on, you’ll have to deal with a number of issues. Here are five reasons to do some smart upgrades now.

The cost

Ultimately, how much you upgrade (or not) is dependent on cost. Finding out that a model home has $86,000 worth of upgrades, which far exceeds your budget, can be devastating. Breaking them down to individual items and comparing the cost to what you would spend down the road is a good first step.

It’s also important to remember that your selected upgrades don’t require you to write a check to the builder. They get rolled into your mortgage. Add $20,000 in upgrades to your $400,000 mortgage, and you’re looking at about $80 a month.

Yes, you may be able to finance your new floors or countertops at Home Depot, and you may even be able to qualify for zero percent interest. But, those payments will be spread out over only 24 or 36 months, instead of 30. If you’re worried about adding to your bottom line, an extra $300 per month could hurt.

The value

In considering your options and upgrades, weigh wants and needs against potential value. “When selecting builder upgrades for your new home, you need to be strategic,” said Houzz. “You want to choose the upgrades that will save you hassle and money by doing them upfront.”

Some upgrades provide instant value. “The idea that you have to wait years to see a return on your investment is false,” said New Home Source. “A quality refrigerator and freezer can keep food fresh longer without drying out – and with the cost of food rising, this is a savings you’ll notice immediately,” certified kitchen designer Joyce Gardine Combs told them.

Hardwood flooring is a classic that “never seem to go out of style,” said New Home Source, and kitchen cabinets are a great way to go. “Moving up from standard cabinets to semi-custom gives you way-better construction and longer-lasting finishes,” said Houselogic. “You’ll get a wide range of colors and styles to choose from, lots of storage options, and long-lasting details such as dovetailed drawer joinery and cool hardware.”

Other upgraded appliances may provide additional value – a great dishwasher can use less water and provide other energy savings. Quartz countertops may not be provide much in the way of cost savings but they do represent the most popular material today, which is predicted for many years to come. If it’s something you just can’t live without, and you’ll regret not doing it from day one, the extra cost may be worth it. But, keep in mind the reality of countertops when it comes to new construction. “Though the glitz of sparkling quartz or luscious marble countertops may be pretty compelling to go for now, if you can wait and get them later, you’ll gain choice and may end up saving money,” said Houzz. “Builders typically use only one supplier for natural stone or quartz counters and may offer limited options. And with the builder’s premium, the cost can be quite a bit higher than if you sourced the material and labor yourself.”

You don’t have to worry about contractors

We’ve all heard the horror stories about contractors, but even if you find a good one, you’re still going to have to contend with having people in your home and making sure they show up on time (or at all), work within the agreed-upon timeframe and budget, and do what they said they will do. There is freedom in knowing that everything is going to be as you expected on day one, and that you don’t need to worry about what happens if the flooring guy is sick or doesn’t show up for work.

No mess

Your contractor will say they’re going to clean everything up and leave your home spotless. They may even mean it and make a valiant effort. But, let’s face it. You’re going to be cleaning up dust for a while. And that doesn’t account for all the mess that is created day to day. If you’re staying in the house while these renovations are being made, expect to be dirty. All the time.

No fuss

Speaking of which…How many times have you heard people say the worst decision that they ever made was living in their home during a renovation? The alternative—relocating for a few days or more to a hotel could get expensive, and staying with a friend or family member will get old, eventually. When you upgrade before you move in, you avoid all the fuss, moving in to a brand-new home that’s ready for you right away.

Source: Buying tips

Don't Be Afraid Of The Seller's Disclosure

Don't Be Afraid Of The Seller's Disclosure

State and federal laws are strict in requiring sellers to tell what they know about the condition of their homes that isn’t obvious or discernable to potential buyers. Buyers can’t see behind walls or under houses, so they rely on truthful information from the seller about the operations, appliances and systems of the home.

When you sell your home, your real estate agent will present you with a federal and/or state-mandated disclosure form called a Real Estate Disclosure Statement, Property Condition Disclosure, or Condition Report. You’re required to disclose the presence of lead paint, radon, asbestos and other toxic products if you know your home has them.

While the forms may ask you to disclose whether or not you know there is lead paint or radon present, you aren’t required to do tests to determine the presence of toxic chemicals. But your buyer’s lender can always require proof of tests and/or remediation for any problem that has been disclosed, such as fire and water damage.

It’s important to answer every question as truthfully as you can. You must answer the questions yourself – your real estate professional can not fill out the disclosure for you, but he or she can help you understand what’s being asked of you. If you’re in doubt about what to disclose, such as a repair, it’s best to err on the side of too much information than not enough.

While disclosure forms allow you to check the “I don’t know” box, you should only do so if you truly don’t know the condition of that item. If you answer that you don’t know the condition of an appliance you use daily, such as a sink or bathtub, you might raise suspicions in the buyer.

The best way to feel confident about the condition of your home is to have it inspected by a licensed professional home inspector. Your real estate professional can recommend someone or provide you with a list. For a few hundred dollars and a few hours of your time, you’ll either find that your home is market-ready, or the inspector will bring a problem to your attention that you can fix.

When you disclose a problem to the buyer that has previously been fixed, be sure to provide a copy of work orders, receipts and invoices. If the problem hasn’t been fixed, expect the buyer to either ask you to fix it, or to offer a little less for the home.

Remember, the more that’s left unrepaired, the more the buyer will discount the offer, if he makes one at all. Homes in the best condition sell the best.

The seller’s disclosure is designed to do one thing — hold you and your real estate agent harmless if you’ve disclosed the truth about your property. You don’t want to give the buyer any room for complaint or litigation after the closing.

To get an idea of the types of questions you’ll be asked in a disclosure, you can find legal forms at FindLegalForms.com.

So, don’t be afraid of the seller’s disclosure. It’s not meant to be a deal-killer, but a deal-maker. Many agents provide a copy of the disclosure to interested buyers, so they can get an idea of the home’s condition before they make an offer or have an inspection.

Source: Sellers tips

Why It's So Important To Get The 411 On A Neighborhood Before Buying A Home

Why It's So Important To Get The 411 On A Neighborhood Before Buying A Home

When buying a new home, the neighborhood is every bit as important as the house itself. So, you need to check it out. Thoroughly. Yes, you look at the schools and you figure out how close the nearest Target is and you also (hopefully) research crime reports and take a look at sex offender maps of the areas you are considering.

But is that enough?

When it comes to researching your neighborhood, what you don’t know can hurt you. What if you bought a house in this Arlington, TX neighborhood in the summer, unaware that in the winter, it’s overrun with migratory egrets. If you’re thinking it might be cool to have visitors for a few months, consider this: One homeowner in the area estimated that the egrets “cost her $10,000 on the constant cleanup of their droppings and a heavy pruning of her trees once they flew away last fall,” said NBC DFW. And, It is Against The Law to disturb them.

Google is your friend if you’re looking to learn more about potential neighborhoods. But it turns out the best tools for figuring out what’s going on are the people who may soon become your neighbors. After all, how else would you know that the woman two doors down runs a screaming yoga class out of her garage three nights a week. That the guy across the street likes to do his mowing at the crack of dawn every Saturday morning (despite the fact that he’s been warned multiple times). Or that you might be moving next to someone who is “blatantly hostile,” said The Balance.

The site detailed a story in which buyers changed courses on a home they loved when they discovered that their potential neighbors disputed the property boundaries and planted rose bushes on what was probably not their land. It gets worse. They also said, “We smoke like chimneys and plan to sit out on our front porch every night smoking,” with a smirk, “And there’s nothing you can do about it.


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Not only will meeting the neighbors “give you a good idea of whether you will be compatible, but neighbors will disclose material facts that a seller might forget to mention,” they said. “Sellers can be forgetful about these things and not purposely trying to fail to disclose.”

Meeting and talking with neighbors could give you a more detailed understanding of the neighborhood, including things that might impact your decision to buy, like:

It may be full of renters

No offense to renters, but it could be that a preponderance of them in your neighborhood affects your home values. “While it’s hard to do an analysis down to every property, we found that ZIP codes with a higher-than-average concentration of renters have lower property values compared to the county they are located in – by 14%,” said Realtor.com.

Your real estate agent should be able to give you an understanding of the ratio of owner–occupied homes to rentals in the neighborhood you are considering.

There could be plans you don’t know about

Maybe there’s a new multi-family community coming that could add traffic to the neighborhood streets and also impact the local schools. Or a new retail project with a loud preschool—or a loud bar. Or even transitional housing for formerly homeless individuals that would, at the very least, be a political football in the neighborhood.

In addition to talking to neighbors, there are a few other ways you can combat surprises in the neighborhood you’re thinking of moving to:

Visit multiple times – during the day, night, and on weekends. If you only saw the house on a Saturday afternoon, you may not know that commuters love to cut through the neighborhood twice a day, Monday – Friday. “Your new neighbor’s kid might get his drum kit out only during evenings or at weekends,” said The Mortgage Reports. “And there might have been a reason the student house on the other side was so quiet on the morning of the open house: Its residents were too hungover to get up after one of their frequent all-night parties.”

Check out Nextdoor if you can – Nextdoor is a treasure trove of information and can give you a good feel for what it would be like to live there. But, it could be tricky to get in because Nextdoor is hyper local and reserved for residents of a particular neighborhood. Try following Nextdoor’s own recommendations for joining the site in “neighborhoods outside of your primary residence,” which involves using a separate email address – but beware that you may not be able to register an address that is already being used on the site. If that doesn’t work, you may be able to ask your real estate agent for help, or perhaps a potential new neighbor can be of assistance.

Source: Buying tips

Warning: There Is Still A Lot Of Lead Paint Around

Warning: There Is Still A Lot Of Lead Paint Around

Spring is upon us and so is the season for sprucing up homes, remodeling, and even making additions. In many cases, this activity will involve homes that were built before 1978. Those situations call for particular concern regarding the possible presence of lead paint, and of taking steps to ensure that lead exposure is prevented.

Consumer use of lead paint was banned in the U.S. in 1978. That still leaves millions of pre-1978 houses where lead paint is present, sometimes under layers of non-lead paint that had been subsequently applied.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers a somewhat complex set of rules known as the Lead-Based Paint Renovation Rule (Lead Renovation Rule). This Rule lays out the types of property to which it applies, the types of activity it covers, and the certification requirements for firms and individuals who, for compensation, engage in those activities.

The Lead Renovation Rule applies to “target housing” and to “child-occupied facilities”. “Target housing” is defined as any housing constructed before 1978, with certain exceptions. Those exceptions include housing for the elderly or disabled persons, provided that no child under six resides there or is expected to reside there. There is also an exception for zero-bedroom dwelling places, such as a studio or loft.

A “child-occupied facility” is any building or a portion of a building that was constructed prior to 1978 and that is visited regularly by the same child, under 6 years old, on at least 2 different days within any week, provided that each day’s visit lasts at least 3 hours and the combined weekly visits last at least 6 hours, and the combined annual visits last at lease 60 hours. (No, I didn’t make that up.) Child-occupied facilities may be in public or commercial buildings, as well as dwellings.

The type of renovation activity that the Rule covers is the removal, modification, or repair of painted surfaces or painted components. Exemptions to the Lead Renovation Rule include work that is done for free (no exchange of money, goods, or services), work performed by do-it-yourselfers in their own homes, work necessitated by some emergency, and minor repairs.

“Minor repairs” are defined as projects that “disrupt 6 square feet or less of painted surface per room for interior activities or 20 square feet or less of painted surface for exterior activities” where the work does not include window replacement or demolition of painted surfaces.

Firms and individuals that do work of this type and in locations covered by the Rule must be Certified Renovators. The training curriculum is an 8-hour class with 2 hours of hands-on training. Certifications are valid for 5 years. A 4-hour refresher course is required for recertification.

Penalties for violations of the Lead Renovation Rule can be serious. Last year the EPA completed 127 enforcement actions against violators. Recently (March 12, 2018) the EPA announced six lead-enforcement actions in California and Arizona that settled for a combined total of $287,000. One action was against a California leasing company that failed to follow lead paint disclosure rules. The settlement was for $148,6The Environmental Protection Agency provides a robust and easy-to-navigate web site that discusses many aspects of the Renovation Rule and also provides an interactive locater listing firms that are certified. The address is .

Source: Buying tips