The 6 Most Important Things Every Senior Should Ask Their Real Estate Agent

The 6 Most Important Things Every Senior Should Ask Their Real Estate Agent

Seniors who are looking to buy a new house, apartment or condominium can often have great luck by working with a real estate agent. A professional real estate agent can not only help seniors find the properties they are looking for but close the deal on the home of their dreams. According to the AARP, there are many seniors who purchase homes even after they have retired.

However, there are so many different factors that go into finding the right senior living arrangement. This is why any elderly adult looking to buy a new home needs to be prepared and know some of the most important questions to ask their real estate agent. The following six questions are essential to helping any elderly adult find the home that fits their needs now and into the future.

  1. 1. “What is the turnover like in the area I’m looking in?” For most seniors looking to buy a home, they are considering purchasing a property that is going to be more of a short-term home. This likely won’t be the “forever home” they bought when their children were growing up. Anyone looking to buy during their retirement years should make sure they talk to their real estate agent about the neighborhood they are looking in and how that neighborhood is performing. It should be a place where they feel confident they can quickly sell again if they need to.
  2. 2. ”What is the demographic of the area?” Most seniors are going to want to be in a neighborhood where they can enjoy being around their peers. Chances are, you won’t want to be surrounded by young people who will be up all night or families with lots of young kids running around. A real estate agent should be able to provide this type of information for anyone looking to buy a home.
  3. 3. “How safe is the area surrounding this home?” While looking at a home, it is important that you ask the real estate agent for more information on the neighborhood or area you are considering—especially when it comes to safety. Many seniors who buy after retirement are living alone and it is important to make sure that the home they will be living in is safe.
  4. 4. “Are there any additional fees?” Fees such as HOA costs can make up a majority of a monthly mortgage payment and seniors need to be fully aware of what these fees are before they get too set on a home. For example, seniors looking to buy into a retirement community, need to be clear on the additional costs and HOA fees that go into this purchase. Speaking of HOAs, seniors who are buying in a HOA community should be clear on what things are and are not covered with the association including shoveling the sidewalks or any exterior maintenance.
  5. 5. “How much are the property taxes and utility bills?” For seniors who are happily retired and no longer working, it is important to make sure that any home they buy is well within their budget—so they don’t have to worry. While a home may seem affordable on paper, it is important to be clear on the cost of property taxes and what the current owner is paying for their utilities. An agent should be able to secure this information for any prospective buyer.
  6. 6. “Are there any warranties on the property?” Before buying a home, seniors should make sure they have as much information as possible on the property, including what appliances are new and if they have any warranties as well as structural improvements or big-ticket items like the roof. It is important for most seniors to be able to find a home that will require very little work and upkeep. While older homes do have a lot of charm, they are also going to require a lot of work—especially when compared to newer properties that are still covered by certain warranties.

Buying a home as a senior can be a rather complex undertaking. Seniors have a great deal to think about when buying a new home as they need to make sure it not only meets their needs now, but that it is a place they can comfortably age in place in well into their future. Any older adult buying a home not only needs to keep these questions in mind, but make sure that they are partnering with an established real estate agent that has worked with seniors in the past.


Source: The 6 Most Important Things Every Senior Should Ask Their Real Estate Agent

All The Single Ladies: Why Are So Many Older Single Women Buying Homes?

All The Single Ladies: Why Are So Many Older Single Women Buying Homes?

Millennials, millennials, millennials. It’s all we’ve heard about in the real estate market for the last several years, with a sprinkle of Baby Boomers thrown in. But here’s who we should be talking about: Women. Older women, to be exact.

New data from the U.S. Census that was analyzed by economist Ralph McLaughlin “suggests single woman over 55 are the fastest-growing demographic of home buyers,” said Builder Magazine. That doesn’t mean they comprise the predominant buyer group; that goes to married couples, at 65 percent. But the numbers are interesting, nonetheless, especially when you consider that home purchases by single women last year measured 18 percent compared to only seven percent by their single male counterparts.

We’ve famously written about female homebuyers before, back in 2015. Back then, Our Living Single: Buying a House Without a Spouse article focused on this growing niche of homebuyers regardless of age, noting that “the National Association of Realtors reports that since the mid-1990s, single women have purchased homes at nearly twice the rate of single men. Last year, single female homeowners made up 18 percent of household composition in the association’s Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, compared to 10 percent for single men.”

The new U.S. Census Current Population Survey, which covered 60,000 households, showed that “the share of home purchases by single women in 2017 – including never – married individuals, widows and divorcées — hit 22.8 percent, the highest on record,” said the Washington Post.

Perhaps most surprising is who comprises the largest percentage of single female buyers according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) Generational Trends Report: 72 and older.

When it comes to real estate, Gramma’s got it going on.

So what’s behind the trend? A number of things.

They’re downsizing. Women live longer than men, statistically, so many of these home purchases could be driven by the death of a spouse and/or the desire to trade a pricey and/or too large place for something better suited for one person. The study did not take into account how many of these buyers were already homeowners with a residence to sell.

Investment potential. “Primarily, older women are choosing to invest in real estate,” said CNBC.

Longer lifespans mean more confidence in longevity. A couple of generations back, it would have been unheard of for a single woman to buy a home by herself, let alone at the age of 72. The dream of so many of our grandparents was to pay off their home and be free and clear. Entering into a 15- or 30-year mortgage at an age when many are already retired is no longer a deterrent for these trailblazing women.

“They want stability. They want to have control over their monthly expenses,” said CNBC. “They’re going to be where their children or friends are. They’re not whimsical at that age.”

They’re looking for a multi-generational living situation. This is a trend that’s been on the rise for many years, and the numbers don’t lie. According to the Census, one in five home buyers between the ages of 53 and 62 purchased a multi-generational home.

Rents are pricey…and still rising in many areas. The data shows that 23 percent “of single women cited rising rents as a ‘trigger’ motivation behind a home purchase,”  said the Washington Post. This is far beyond the average for all buyer groups, which is 16 percent.


Source: All The Single Ladies: Why Are So Many Older Single Women Buying Homes?

Hard Money Basics: What Everyone Should Know About These Loans

Hard Money Basics: What Everyone Should Know About These Loans

When it comes to real estate lending options, there is no shortage of different types of loan products available in the market today. However, one of the most common, and often most misunderstood, are hard money loans. If you aren’t familiar with these loans they are a unique type of lending opportunity that can help both buyers and investors get the financing they need.

These transactions are most commonly used in fix-and-flips, rent-stabilize-refinancing deals, cash-out refinancing, land scenarios, construction deals, bankruptcy or foreclosure payoffs or transactions when the deal is particularly time-sensitive. In fact, one of the biggest perks of using hard money loans is how quick they are when compared to traditional banks.

So, What Exactly Are Hard Money Loans?

Hard money loans are fast—but there is more than that to these lending options. Simply put, hard money loans are an alternative to a mortgage and are designed for borrowers who need money quickly and who only wish to hold on to a property for a short period of time. Hard money loans can be used in a variety of settings, but are perhaps most common for those taking on fix and flip projects and who want to invest in real estate in an effort to make some quick cash.

Typically, these loans are meant for short-term only (most commonly 12 months), but that doesn’t always have to be the case.

These loans are also becoming a popular option for borrowers who are unable to get a conventional real estate loan. Lenders do not use a traditional underwriting process, and instead look at every situation individually. For borrowers who have had foreclosures or issues in the past, this can be great news as many hard money lenders won’t even look at the borrower’s credit history—they only concentrate on the property that is being invested in.

Hard money loans are financed by private hard money lenders. Typically, they are private individuals or small groups that lend money to those who need it. Since these loans aren’t funded by a bank, they are typically much more flexible.

The Loan-to-Value Ratio

When you apply for a hard money loan, chances are you will hear a great deal about the loan-to-value ratio. Hard money lenders will lend money based on the property you are buying, instead of your credit score and background. Instead of looking at assets or equity alone, the primary thing the lender will look at is the property being purchased. This is the main collateral that the lenders will use. This does make it riskier for lenders so they will typically look for a loan-to-value ratio of around 50-75%.

The term “value” in the loan-to-value amount is actually based on what the lender could expect to get for the property in a one to four month selling time. This is why these loans are so popular for fix and flip properties.

Important Facts About Getting a Hard Money Loan

If you think that a hard money loan may be the right option or you, there are a few things you should know about the application process and what goes into securing one of these loans.

The first is that the applications are simpler. Everyone who has ever gotten a mortgage before knows how complex a mortgage application can be. The good news is, hard money loan applications are much simpler. This also means they can be approved much faster. In fact, many of them are approved in just 24 hours. Closing can typically happen within 10 days.

However, while hard money loans are significantly easier to get than mortgages, lenders are still going to need some basic information. This includes:

–    The location of the property
–    Recent appraisals
–    Inspection data
–    Purchase price of the property
–    Planned resale price of the property
–    Estimated remodeling costs—if applicable
–    Borrower’s credit score
–    Total assets and income of the borrower
–    Level of real estate experience from the borrower

Once you are fully aware of what goes into a hard money loan and how it may be able to help you secure the finances you need—it is time to find a hard money lender. The good news is, there are many hard money lenders out there that are available to provide those who need it with the financing they are looking for.

Hard money loans aren’t for every situation, but they are a very popular and very reliable form of financial backing for those who need to quickly and easily get a large sum of cash.


Source: Hard Money Basics: What Everyone Should Know About These Loans

What Do New Home Buyers Want? The Surprising Results

What Do New Home Buyers Want? The Surprising Results

When it comes to new home design, are current floorplans and features meeting or anticipating buyers’ needs? A recent survey of future homebuyers – those who intend to purchase within 10 years – from Florida, Texas, Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia builder Ashton Woods produced some interesting responses that could influence how new home builders approach home design and how buyers respond to them.

While we can review the survey results with a liberal grain of salt, knowing that different buyer segments in different areas may have varying wants and needs – and also knowing that what people say they want prior to buying, and what they end up choosing when factors including budget and practicality are woven in at the time of purchase – the Ashton Woods survey is still useful in examining what may be shifting buyer preferences.

Here are some of the, perhaps surprising, results of the survey.

Buyers are over white kitchens. Or, at least, they don’t top their must-have list. “All-white kitchens are now second choice,” said the Washington Post. “The survey found an overwhelming majority of buyers prefer natural wood cabinets for their kitchen, pushing white cabinets to second place followed by distressed wood cabinets.”

Buyers would trade bedroom space for more living space. Sixty-one percent of those surveyed had this preference!

Bye bye, bonus rooms. Buyers still want bonus space, but they want it to match their lifestyle pursuits, and they’re willing to pay for it. Think hobby rooms personalized for yoga, crafting, or wine tasting. “76 percent of the homeowners surveyed said they would spend extra to incorporate a hobby room in their next house,” said the Washington Post.

Home offices remain a priority across all age groups. Almost 70 percent of those surveyed want a designated space, not just wireless capabilities that allow them to work on the couch or at the kitchen table.

Additionally, “Personalization is a priority. When choosing a builder, 75 percent of those surveyed said they are more likely to select a builder that offers design options, and 67 percent said they are willing to pay more for those options,” said Professional Builder.


Source: What Do New Home Buyers Want? The Surprising Results

Hey, First-Time Buyer: This Is Where You Should (And Shouldn't) Buy A Home

Hey, First-Time Buyer: This Is Where You Should (And Shouldn't) Buy A Home

If you’re looking for the perfect place to buy your first home, you’re likely overwhelmed with the “what,” “where,” and “when.” Many places across the country have seen growth that has pushed prices far beyond what a typical first-time buyer can handle. But that hasn’t stopped them from getting into the market.

“Buying a home for the first time is an exciting and important milestone for many Americans,” said WalletHub. “Their purchases make up a sizable chunk of the market, too. In 2017, 38% of all U.S. single-family home purchases were made by first-time buyers.”

So where should you be looking if it’s time for you to put an end to rent? WalletHub’s new list of “Best & Worst Cities for First-Time Home Buyers” can help.

“WalletHub compared 300 cities of varying sizes across 27 key indicators of market attractiveness, affordability and quality of life,” they said. “Our data set ranges from cost of living to real-estate taxes to property-crime rate.”

Beyond their overall score based on an affordability rank, a real estate market rank, and a quality of life rank, we’re looking at their top five and further breaking down the pros and cons of living there.

No. 1: Broken Arrow, OK

Pros: “Broken Arrow offers both small-town charm and big-city amenities” since it’s close to Tulsa, said Livability. “Some of Oklahoma’s most scenic natural areas surround the community, making it a top spot for outdoor activities, while its cultural attractions draw people seeking arts and entertainment, especially in downtown’s Rose District. Broken Arrow also includes a thriving business climate, three renowned hospitals, and excellent public and private schools.

Cons: Potential for tornados and earthquakes, the latter attributed to aggressive fracking. High sales tax – Oklahoma’s average tax rate of 8.72 percent is the fifth-highest in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation. It’s 8.417 percent in Broken Arrow.

No. 2: Tampa, FL

Pros: Tampa oozes charm with historic neighborhoods you might not find in other first-time buyer cities. Their overall real estate market rank by WalletHub is No. 4. There is always something to do, with tons of ongoing activities, festivals, and special events. There’s no state income tax and property tax is also incredibly low, at two percent. If you’re a sports fan, you’ll also love the fact that there are four professional sports teams in Tampa.

Cons: “Common complaints include a relatively flat landscape and streets that are lined with a multitude of chain retail plazas,” said Life Storage. “Traffic can also be a nightmare. As the lightning capital, you can expect daily thunderstorms throughout the summer, and you’ll most certainly want a hurricane emergency plan.”

No. 3: Centennial, CO

Pros: Mountains! A lovey downtown! Arts, culture, and recreation! And friendly people to boot.

Cons: “Compared to the rest of the country, Centennial’s cost of living is 35 percent higher than the U.S. average,” said Best Places. And while homes are still more affordable than in many places in the country, the growth of the area continues to push them up. That growth also means more and more people discovering the area, and more traffic on the roads. If you’re looking for a private, serene retreat near the mountains, this isn’t it.

No. 4: Boise, ID

Pros: If you’re looking for open space and beautiful scenery, with great access to recreation (Hello, Greenbelt!), you’ll find it here – despite the ongoing growth.

Cons: Winter weather. Lack of a professional sports team (Get used to rooting for Boise State University!). Slower pace – a “pro” for many, but a fact of life that might be harder to embrace for someone craving the vibrancy of big-city life. And a low real estate market rank of 169 by WalletHub.

No. 5: Grand Rapids, MI

Pros: Access to water. If the idea of being landlocked in some of the other cities on the WalletHub list has you in a panic, Grand Rapids could be a possibility since it’s under an hour from Lake Michigan. Low traffic. The list ranks quality of life at No. 142, but if you love beer, you’re in luck because there are great breweries in town (The city even won USA Today’s Best Beer Town poll.).

Cons: If you don’t love cold weather, don’t even think about it. Winters can be brutal. There’s also a notable lack of walkability unless you’re in downtown.


Source: Hey, First-Time Buyer: This Is Where You Should (And Shouldn't) Buy A Home

Newly Listed: Would You Buy The Brady Bunch House?

Newly Listed: Would You Buy The Brady Bunch House?

The Brady Bunch house hit the MLS last week, sending generations of TV watchers into a tizzy. While there will likely one be one buyer – unless hordes of fans join together to pony up the $1.885 million asking price – hundreds, or more likely thousands, will be making their way to the home just to have a peek.

They probably won’t get in unless they’re legitimate buyers; there will be no open house. But that won’t stop many from making the trek to L.A.’s Studio City to at least snap a pic. And, we can’t say we blame them. The Brady Bunch house is beyond iconic. For many of us, it’s where our childhood dreams and memories live, right there in that orange and avocado green kitchen.

Except that the house bears little resemblance to what we saw on TV from 1969 to 1974 (and in reruns that continue today). It’s not that the current owners, who purchased the home at 11222 Dilling Street in 1973 for $61,000, according to reports, overhauled it; there are still mid-century touches throughout.

“The Brady Bunch house comes with its fair share of preserved ’70s style, according to its real estate listing,” said TIME: Money. “Photos show wood-paneled walls, beamed ceilings and lively wallpaper throughout the split-level home. And, save for a fence, the home’s facade looks nearly identical to its on-air appearances.” Take a look at the current interiors and let us know what you think!

What may come as a disappointed surprise to Brady Bunch fans and prospective buyers is that interiors for the show weren’t even filmed here. No, Mike, Carol and the gang never sat around the dining room table in this house. All interiors were shot at a studio.

Will that matter to buyers? It’s hard to know at this point whether someone will be seduced by the nostalgia factor or by the home itself, which does have its issues:

Size: The home definitely isn’t configured for a blended family with six kids, plus Alice. It only has two bedrooms and three bathrooms in 2,477 square feet, plus a converted garage that is now a recreation room. It is on a 12,500-square-foot lot, though. Hey, just add on!

Price: Some are musing that the home is overpriced by about $500,000. Of course, there’s no guarantee that the house will get its listing price.

“For all the fan attention they draw, famous Hollywood homes don’t always command a premium on the market,” said the Los Angeles Times. “When the ‘American Horror Story’ house, a Gothic Tudor-style home in L.A.’s Arlington Heights area, sold three years ago, it did so after years on the market and roughly $14 million below the $17-million original asking price. But for every horror story, there is a happy ending: Two years ago, a much-publicized Alhambra home featured in the movie ‘Father of the Bride’ sold for the asking price. Last year, a Venice compound made famous on the show ‘Californication’ sold for $14.6 million, setting a record for the area.”

Condition: While listing agent Ernie Carswell from Douglas Elliman described the property as, “a postcard of exactly what homes looked like in the 1970s,” not everyone is going to be keen on living in a time capsule. In fact, much interest in the home has been from developers looking to tear it down and rebuild – something the area is known for. “But the owners will give first consideration to bidders who want to keep the home intact, Carswell said to the L.A. Times. “We’re not going to accept the first big offer from a developer who wants to tear it down. We’re going to wait a few days, in case there are others who want to purchase it as an investment to preserve it.”

Fame: Listing agent Carswell expects the home to generate an “avalanche” of interest – “upwards of 500 calls a day.” And once the home is sold, there’s no guarantee that interest will die down. “The buyers of the Brady house will inherit more than just television history. They’ll also own a major neighborhood tourist attraction,” said Yahoo.

The Brady Bunch house is reportedly the second-most photographed home in the country – The White House is No. 1. Sitting in third: “The San Francisco home used for exterior shots in the TV series Full House and spin-off Fuller House, said CNN. Neighbors have complained about the large number of vehicles – including tour buses – that clog the street, creating chaos, traffic, and dangerous conditions.

“Neighbors reportedly came to a meeting with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency…armed with a timelapse video that showed the congestion on the street, estimating that 1,000 to 1,500 people per day come through the area on busy days,” said CNN. They are now “hoping a new city measure banning commercial vehicles with nine or more seats from the street on which the home is located will curb the number of tourists making their way to the location.”


Source: Newly Listed: Would You Buy The Brady Bunch House?

Goodbye, Saving. Why Not Crowdfund Your Down Payment Instead?

Goodbye, Saving. Why Not Crowdfund Your Down Payment Instead?

You can crowdfund your medical expenses. You can crowdfund your honeymoon. And now you can crowdfund your down payment. Savings, shmavings.

Seriously, though. For people who are having trouble coming up with a down payment or just need a boost, HomeFundMe is a Godsend. Provided through California mortgage bank CMG Financial, HomeFundMe is helping people realize the dream of homeownership by eliminating what, for many, is the biggest barrier.

The idea of crowdfunding a down payment is not totally new, but cooperation with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which signed off on the program, has smoothed out potential wrinkles for both buyers and donors. “HomeFundMe is approved by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as a down payment crowdfunding platform because it allows for a fully transparent and verifiable crowdfunding effort,” said Mortgage Orb.

How it works is:

Buyers first get prequalified, as they would to kick off any homebuying process. This will give them an idea of how much they need for a down payment. “Borrowers typically aim to raise 3 percent of the purchase price, which is the minimum down payment for conventional mortgages bought by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” said Benzinga. “Donors can give as much as $7,500. For contributions of $500 or more, donors must sign a gift letter.” DocuSign can be used to make that process easier.

Crowdfunding works on the power of social networking, as we’ve seen with popular platforms like GoFundMe and Kickstarter, so the program recommends connecting user accounts to Facebook and actively sharing. “Write a summary of your goals and publish updates to share your story,” said HomeFundMe. “Upload images that help others get to know you or even showcase your dream home. You also have the option to film and share an ‘Intro’ video. We recommend adding visual content like images and video to give potential contributors a better idea of who you are and what you are trying to do.” HomeFundMe also assigns each buyer a fundraising coach who can help maximize their social outreach.

Once a HomeFundMe campaign is active, the clock starts ticking. Once buyers receive their first gift, they have 12 months to close on their home and use their funds. Gifts can come from anyone – friends, family, strangers, even Realtors. “HomeFundMe has partnered with wedding registries so couples can ask for down payment assistance rather than flatware and dishes,” said Benzinga. “The site also opens the door to Realtors rebating some of their commission for down payments, a practice that’s normally prohibited. A “variance” from Fannie and Freddie “allows Realtors to divert part of their fee to the buyer’s down payment.”

In addition, HomeFundMe has launched Affinity Portal, “a new program allowing employers to add HomeFundMe to their benefit packages to assist employees in overcoming the down payment obstacle,” said Mortgage Orb. “The HomeFundMe Affinity Portal allows employers to add HomeFundMe to their benefit packages, with the option to elect to match donations in any amount.”

Borrowers taking part in the HomeFundMe program can earn more than their goal amount, and donors can also make their gifts “conditional,” so their funds are returned should the home purchase not occur within the 12 months. Also, there are no fees on contributions and no charges for payment processing; by comparison; GoFundMe charges a 2.9 percent payment processing fee.


Source: Goodbye, Saving. Why Not Crowdfund Your Down Payment Instead?

Building Your Home Equity Now

Building Your Home Equity Now

There are three ways to build equity, or ownership, when you buy a home. One is to put money down in a down payment. The second is to pay your lender back, and the third is to take advantage of market upswings.

It’s no secret that market momentum has been helping homeowners for a few years. Sales volume is still climbing, says the National Association of REALTORS®. You can still take advantage of low housing supplies and low interest rates to invest in a home.

One way to build equity is to put more money down on the home you want to buy. Lenders have returned to tried and true models of income to debt ratios and requiring that borrowers put more money down when they purchase a home. The more you put down, the more instant equity you have. Putting more money down also helps lower borrowing costs because it lowers risk for the lender.

As you make your house payments, you build equity slowly because interest payments at the beginning of a loan are much heavier than the money paid toward principal. The longer you own your home, the less you’ll pay in interest and a greater share will go toward ownership, or building equity.

For example, if you borrow $250,000 at 5%, your monthly payment is $1,342.05. The first month you’ll pay $1041.67 in interest, and only $300.39 toward reducing your principal. At that rate, building equity may seem like it takes forever. But only two years later, your interest rate lowers by $30 a month allowing $30 more to go toward reducing what you owe your lender.

You can build equity faster by adding a little more to your payment, which removes hundreds of dollars in interest and allows you to own your home in full much faster.

The other way to build equity is to allow the market to do it for you. Home values historically beat inflation by one to two percentage points, but the last decade has been anything but typical. However, all markets return to the norm, so assuming a normal market is on the way, on the modest side, your home should appreciate approximately one percent annually.

In theory, if you purchased your home for $300,000, your home should gain $3000 in value in one year. Home values are expected to rise about seven percent in 2015, so if you buy a home now, you could still do well.

Market variables from the weather to the Fed can all play a part in how quickly your home builds market equity. But one thing is certain, you can’t build equity unless you’re invested.


Source: Building Your Home Equity Now

6 Don'ts When Buying Your First Home

6 Don'ts When Buying Your First Home

These are exciting times. You’ve finally outgrown apartment life or living with your parents or sharing a place with waaaaayyyyy too many roommates, and you’re ready to take the leap to homeownership. Now it’s time to prepare. As you embark on this journey, beware of six important don’ts that could potentially derail your purchase.

Don’t think it’s too early to get prequalified

So, you’re just going to go out “looking” at houses, you say? The time when you just expect to drive around a little and maybe visit an open house or two is obviously the time when you’re going to fall in love with a house and want to make a move on it right away. If you’re not already prequalified with a lender, you may not have a chance at it. Competition is fierce across the country thanks to low inventory, and well-maintained, move-in ready homes do not sit if they’re priced right. Talk to a lender now to make sure you can qualify – and learn your max budget – even if you just think you’re casually looking (because that can change in a hurry!).

Don’t wait to the last minute to check credit

As a continuation of the casually looking conversation…you want to check your credit the second you start thinking about buying a home. You never know what’s going to be on there. Even if you’ve never missed a payment and have always done a good job of managing your outstanding debt, there could be errors on your report that you’re unaware of or even something from many years ago that you didn’t realize had been reported to a credit agency. Those little boo-boos, accurate or not, could be hurting your score, and a low score could keep you from getting a mortgage at all. Give yourself time to correct errors or fix blemishes; every tick upward can help you get a better rate and make your home more affordable.

Don’t forget about PMI when calculating your monthly expenses

The idea of putting as little down as possible on your new home is attractive, especially if you’re not a natural saver. Today, that can mean just three percent of your purchase price, depending on the loan. For FHA loans, it’s three and one-half percent. The problem with making the minimum down payment is that you then have to pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI).

“PMI is a fee you pay on your mortgage until you owe 80 percent or less of what your home is worth. It’s one reason why so many experts advise homebuyers make a 20 percent down payment; if you do, you avoid the evils of paying PMI,” said Student Loan Hero. “PMI can cost between 0.3 percent and 1.15 percent of your loan annually. Depending on how much you borrow, that can mean thousands of dollars in extra costs until you can cancel your PMI.”

Don’t ignore the closing costs

Many of us micro-focus on the down payment when getting ready to buy our first home, but there is another important expense related to the purchase: The closing costs. Closing costs encompass a wide variety of fees, some or all of which may apply to you depending on where and what you’re buying. They can include everything from the application fee and appraisal to the escrow fee to the home and pest inspection to the recording fees. You’re looking at between two and five percent of your purchase price for closing fees, which can definitely add up. Many first-time buyers fail to factor this in when getting ready to purchase, and you don’t want something that could amount to a few thousand dollars or more to come as an 11th-hour surprise.

Don’t forget to factor in all the monthly expenses

New-home communities often quote a monthly payment that looks quite affordable and that can entice buyers who don’t look more closely. That’s because the payment is based on principal and interest only (Typically, you’ll see a star next to the payment that tells you there’s a disclaimer at the bottom of the page.). If you take a look at the small print, you’ll see that there are also taxes and insurance to factor in. In some cases, there is also a homeowner’s association fee. That monthly payment may not be looking so good anymore.

If you’re buying your first home and coming from an apartment or other rental property, you may not have worked things like a gardener into your monthly budget. You’ll also want to consider that if you’re going up in square footage, there could an increase in your utilities, and you may be taking on payments for things like water and trash that were covered by your rental. It’s best to have a true idea of what your monthly expenses are going to look like when buying your first home so you don’t end up in over your head.

Don’t think you can go it alone

Can you buy a home without an agent? Sure. Is it a good idea? Not usually. It could be that you are looking to buy a home that is for sale by owner. “In the industry, we call these types of sellers unrepresented,” said The Balance. “Beware if you are trying to buy a home directly from an unrepresented seller. Odds are the seller won’t know what she is doing or she might be taking advantage of you; either way, it could be problematic.”

Unless you are a real estate attorney or are otherwise connected to the industry and aware of the laws, contract issues, etc., it’s best for you to have representation, regardless of what type of home you are buying.


Source: 6 Don'ts When Buying Your First Home

Want To Buy And Renovate A Property Overseas? 9 Things To Consider

Want To Buy And Renovate A Property Overseas? 9 Things To Consider

If you’ve ever seen a movie like under the Tuscan sun, you’ve undoubtedly had your own Italian farmhouse renovation fantasy. But how real is it to think about buying property in a place that requires changing currency and a long plane ride?

“Buying and restoring a fixer-upper in another country…It can be an appealing idea,” said Huffington Post. “Houses in need of some tender loving care can be bought below market value and, when renovated, can resell for a nice profit. This is especially true in countries where labor costs are low. Using local labor and local materials (hardwoods, stone, etc.), you can add a lot of perceived value for not a lot of money.”

But, that doesn’t mean the process is easy. Think: Permit issues, trying to manage a delicate process from halfway around the world, and all the typical issues associated with renovating an older property – magnified by all that international intrigue. Still interested? We’re breaking down the particulars. 

Carefully consider the location

The image above is of a multi-use building next to the Trevi Fountain in Rome. The first floor comprises several shops, a café, and a Gelateria. On the second floor: Apartments. The two remaining floors are empty and in need of major restoration and renovation. Imagine the potential of these apartments, simply for the views alone. And, imagine the undertaking! But mostly, imagine the demand for modern, renovated apartments here, right in the center of town, mere footsteps from one of the city’s most spectacular sights.

“Location, Location, Location. The old adage about location is true,” said Expat Focus. “Picking the right location is as important as the property. Picking the wrong one can be a nightmare. Think carefully about your requirements and if an abandoned property in the middle of nowhere seems remote on viewing, it will be even more so when living there.”

Work with professionals who specialize in renovating older properties

Yes, moving to England for a year to renovate your old farmhouse sounds dreamy. But, let’s be practical. There are few among us who can uproot our lives that way (But, if you do it, please take us with you!). Bucket list aside, there are far more reasons to consider purchasing an overseas property to renovate than because you’re having an Eat Pray Love moment. And whether you’re looking to move into the property some day or renovate it sell for profit, you want to do it right, which is why working with the right people is so important.

“London is filled with period homes, and owning one of these homes has become a hot commodity in the London property market,” said The Resident. “The issue, however, is that while the outside of these homes are timeless and grand, the interiors don’t always match up.” Property management company Huntsmore focuses on renovating these period homes. “Very often we will assess a property and the walls and floors aren’t straight, or the original plaster work is out of shape,” they said. “Many of these period properties have been converted, sometimes very badly, into flats, with no regard for practicality or aesthetics. We see odd pipework boxed in, poor space configuration and many of the original cornicing and fireplaces removed. One of the main issues is that many of the problems associated with renovating a period home are not identified until the works have started and the property has been gutted. We try to identify as many of these possible hurdles as possible in the design phase to avoid delays and keep the project on track.”

Make sure it’s legal

Buying an international property may not be as easy as hopping on a plane, and, in some cases, it might not even be legal. Different places have different requirements, so be sure to check before you go off and purchase an old Victorian on a whim while on vacation halfway around the world. “Non-Bahamians must register any purchase with the Foreign Investments Board, and special permits are required,” said International Living. “Non-Croatians can purchase real estate in this country if they have approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.” You can check International Living for a country-by-country guide.

Get your finances in order

“One of the biggest hurdles to buying real estate in another country can be coming up with the capital required to close on the purchase,” said U.S. News & World Report. “In much of the world, financing isn’t easy to organize. In some places financing is not possible at all for foreign buyers.” Cash is king around the world, and, in some places, it’s not just king, but also emperor.

Know your buyer

You’ll likely have a more limited buyer base in an international market, and knowing precisely who might bite on your home will drive your renovation. Are you in an area that attracts families, or are you mainly looking at retirees seeking retirement far from their current reality?

“Unless you plan to live in the home forever yourself, do your best to imagine who your resale buyer might be from the start, before beginning the restoration work,” said Huffington Post. “If you plan to rent the property, identify your target renter. If your resale buyer will likely be a retiree, you’ll make different choices than if you think you might be reselling to a family with children, for example. The differences have implications for both the work you do and the location you pick.”

Make a friend

Finding a potential goldmine when it comes to any renovation project is often about who you know. Keep your eyes open when traveling, and talk to the people you meet. Sure, there are real estate companies who can help you locate properties for sale, in addition to helping you renovate, but they may not know that the great aunt of the neighbor of the shopkeeper where you bought souvenirs is thinking about selling her incredible old place with the impossible view of the Aegean.

Think about power

Buying an international property can come with a number of particulars you may not previously have thought about, and electricity is a big one. “Unless you want to get embroiled in a lengthy and costly planning application, avoid properties not connected to main electricity,” said Expat Focus. “Despite some estate agents’ claims connection is just a telephone call away, this is not the case most of the time.”

Recycle

If you’re buying abroad, you’re almost certainly buying an older property. That can mean charming period details, but it can also mean outdated function and features. Remember when you’re renovating that you don’t need to ditch all the old to bring in the new. Save what you can and put it back, or use it in a whole new way. Working with tradespeople who are committing to reusing and recycling materials will save you money, aid the environment, and help you create a standout property.

Pay attention to local zoning laws

You can be the most experienced renovator in your state, or country, for that matter, and still feel completely out of your element when you go international. That could mean rules and laws you’re not aware of.

“Check to see if it is a listed (historic or heritage) building,” said Plaza Estates. “If it is, there may be some restrictions on what you can do when renovating.

“Beware of the local planning laws. Depending on the type of renovation you are undertaking, it would be wise to check with the local planning authority. Not all renovations will require planning permission, but it’s prudent to check if you are planning a major renovation.”


Source: Want To Buy And Renovate A Property Overseas? 9 Things To Consider

Emerging Trends Threaten Housing

Emerging Trends Threaten Housing

Household growth has increased over the last three years, millennials are stepping up, and home prices have recovered from recession lows. So what is there to worry about? Not much on the surface, but there are some emerging trends that suggest good times won’t continue for much longer in the housing market.

Rising housing costs

According to the latest from Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University State of the Nation’s Housing, the cost of housing has outpaced incomes to the point that almost one-third (38 million) U.S. households are cost burdened, meaning they pay 30 percent or more of their incomes for housing in 2016. Worse, 47 percent of renter households (28.8 million) are cost-burdened, with over half paying more than 50 percent of their incomes for housing.

The price of a typical existing home sold in 2017 was more than four times the median income, compared to just over three in 1987.

Tepid wage growth

While there’s been growth in wages in recent years, it hasn’t kept up with inflation, and certainly hasn’t kept up with housing. The real median income of households in the bottom quartile increased only 3 percent between 1988 and 2016, while the median income for adults aged 25 to 34 rose by just 5 percent.

Meanwhile, the median home price grew 41 percent faster than inflation between 1990 and 2016, the median rent grew 20 percent faster. Adding insult to injury, 2.5 million rental units priced below $800 serving households earning up to $32,000 annually were lost between 1990 and 2016.

Income Inequality

A new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition attests that there’s not one state, county or metropolitan area in the entire United States where a full-time worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour can afford a modest 2-bedroom apartment. They need three times that amount, or $22.10 to afford a modest two-bedroom rental.

According to real estate analyst John Burns, the problem is the shrinking middle class, which is diminishing demand for median-priced housing. “Among households headed by those under age 65, middle-income households plunged from 57% of American households in 1970 to only 45% today – a decline of 12%. The result has been a 7% increase in the percentage of households who earn more than double the US median income, from 12% in 1970 to 19% in 2016 and a 4% increase in the percentage of households who earn less than 80% of the US median income, from 31% in 1970 to 35% in 2016.”

<p>Senior Households increasing faster than Millennials

Millennials formed an average of 2.1 million net new households annually in 2012–2017, but despite being larger in numbers, they’re forming fewer households than older generations. Over the past 10 years, the number of older households grew by over 7 million, rising from one in five households to one in four. By 2035, one out of every three households will be at least 65 years old. As the oldest homeowners move into care facilities or pass on, there eventually won’t be enough buyers for senior homes because younger household formation hasn’t kept up.

New Housing Still Underperforming

New JCHS analysis projects household growth at a rate of 1.2 million per year between 2017–2027. Single- family construction, however, has remained well below the long-run annual average of 1.1 million units for at least ten years.

Homebuilders are trying to keep up. Single-family starts rose 8.6 percent to 848,900 units while permitting increased in 78 of the 100 largest metros, but because of the higher cost of materials, new homes are priced higher than existing homes. In April 2018, the median price of new homes sold was $312,400, compared to the median existing-home price of $257,900.

And for the first time since 2009, the national rental vacancy rate rose, ticking up from 6.9 percent to 7.2 percent. Most of the increase was concentrated among newer and higher-cost units, which suggests the party could be about to end.

The National Association of REALTORS® reported that housing sales volume has fallen for the last two months. While prices are at a 74-month high, sales volume is 1.4 percent below a year ago.

While it’s early to call a housing recession, the indicators are being felt. Home prices, affordability, household formation, wages, rental, existing and new home performance are all categories to watch going forward.


Source: Emerging Trends Threaten Housing

10 Places That Will Pay You To Move There

10 Places That Will Pay You To Move There

Close to job. Great schools. Projected growth. They’re all reasons why someone might consider buying a home in a certain area. But here’s one more important reason: Because someone wants to pay you to move there.

That’s right. You could actually make money moving to a new area…if you’re willing to go where the interest is.

“The idea has spread where a strong economy, an aging population and an exodus of younger workers have triggered severe labor shortages – often places with very low unemployment rates and higher-than-average wage growth,” said MSN. “That’s why small towns across America, instead of offering incentives to employers, such as Amazon.com Inc., are giving it to workers – one by one.

We’re talking about places like:

North Platte, Nebraska

The city offers incentives “from student loan help and home buying grants, to gifted parcels of land and even town-wide ceremonies in your honor,” said Inc. “Last year the North Platte chamber of commerce started offering up to $10,000 to anyone who moves there for a job, in the hopes of helping the town of 24,000 fill some of its hundreds of job openings. They’ll even present you a large check during a ceremony in your honor.”

St. Clair County, Michigan

This city has its eye on a student population who they hope will then stick around and pump money into the economy. They recently upped their student-loan scholarships from $10,000 to $15,000.

Grant County, Indiana

Move to Grant County with “advanced training or a college degree” and you could get $5,000 toward a home from the economic development office. You have to stay for at least five years. You could also get a $9,000 scholarship from the chamber of commerce to help repay loans.

Hamilton, Ohio

Or, move to Hamilton, instead. The city’s student loan repayment incentive is $5,000.

Marne, Iowa

You can even get a free piece of land when you move to Marne. “The small town of 120 has a free-lots program that offers any newcomers a free piece of land to build a home on,” said Inc. “The state of Iowa has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country at 2.8 percent.”

But it’s not just small American cities that are enticing new residents to move there. You can opt to move to Canada, Switzerland, Chile, or even Italy, and get paid to do so.

Candela, Italy

“It pays to live in Candela, Italy. The once-bustling town in Puglia has dropped from more than 8,000 residents in the 1990s to just 2,700 today, so the mayor is offering up to 2,000 euros (about $2,350) to lure people back to the picturesque Medieval village of winding streets and restored palazzos surrounded by hills and forests,” said Moneyish.

To qualify, you must “live inside Candela, rent a house and have a job paying a salary of at least 7,500 euros ($8,800) per year. Singles will receive 800 ($940) euros from the town coffers, couples will get 1,200 euros ($1,400), three-member families will get 1,500 to 1,800 euros ($1,760-$2,100), and families of four to five people will get more than 2,000 euros ($2,350). Candela may also give tax credits on city waste disposal, bills and nurseries in the future.”

Saskatchewan

“If you’ve graduated from a Canadian post-secondary institution and you live in Saskatchewan, you can qualify for a tuition rebate of up to $20,000 under the province’s Graduate Retention Program,” said Slice

Pipestone, Manitoba

In the rural municipality of Pipestone, Manitoba, you can get a grant worth up to $32,000, buy a home with just a $1,000 deposit, and buy a lot for just $10. 

Albinen, Switzerland

Last year, residents of Albinen in southern Switzerland pushed for an incentive program to attract some more folks.”According to the proposal, anyone who decides to move to the village and buy, refurbish or build a home should be paid an incentive: CHF 25,000 per adult and CHF 10,000 per child,” said Swissinfo. “There are conditions though: applicants must be below the age of 45 and commit themselves to living in Albinen for at least ten years. They will also need to invest a minimum of CHF200,000 in the property, with the financing approved by the bank. If someone moves away or sells the property within these ten years, they will have to pay back the money received from the village.”

Chile

Chile fancies itself the future business center of South America, so its efforts are geared toward startups. “In this scenario, Chile will pay a company $50,000 through their program Start-Up Chile,” said Nomadapp. “In order to qualify, the startup must have the potential of becoming global and largely successful. In addition, they will provide you with a one-year work visa and business contacts. The support system is completely in English despite the country being primarily Spanish speaking.”


Source: 10 Places That Will Pay You To Move There

Steps To Building Wealth

Steps To Building Wealth

It’s never too late to secure your financial future. At BuildingWealth.org, a public service offered by the Dallas Federal Reserve, you can learn how to reach your life goals by budgeting, saving and investing, building credit and controlling debt.

When you understand the difference between assets and liabilities, you know that owning a home, contributing to a retirement plan, and creating savings are all assets in the making because they increase in value or provide a return. Automobiles, clothing, smartphones and furniture are not assets because they depreciate in value. Liabilities are debts that you owe to credit card companies, mortgage lenders, hospitals, etc.

It doesn’t make sense to go into debt to buy possessions that aren’t assets, unless it serves a necessity like a car that gets you to and from work. That’s why lenders look at your credit history to see how sensibly you spend money and if your finances fall within their income-to-debt guidelines. You don’t want them finding that all your free income goes to eating out and mall shopping. No matter how much money you make, you shouldn’t have more than 42 percent of your income going to pay liabilities and that should include credit card debt, rent, car payments, student loans, etc.

So the first step is creating a budget that enables you to save money. Track your spending and see where money is wasted so you can cut back and create savings. If your company offers a 401K plan, contribute as much as you comfortably can. Give yourself a goal to eat out once a week instead of five times a week. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll build savings.

Owning a home is one of the foundations of wealth. With rare exceptions, the longer you own your home, the more equity, or ownership you’ll have. Equity is created three ways – when your home rises in market value, when you pay down or pay off your liability, and when you make repairs and improvements that raise the value of the home.

Home ownership is like a forced savings account. Until you sell the home, you’re not going to touch the equity you’ve built unless you take on a liability by refinancing your mortgage to make improvements.

To figure out what you need to do to buy a home of your home, you should create a budget and a gameplan and then calculate how long it will take you to save the amount you need. If you want to save $20,000, that will give you a 10 percent downpayment on a $200,000 home. Saving $200 a month, you’ll be able to buy a home in just over eight years, but it’s likely that you’ll save much more per month with as your income increases, your spending habits improve, and your investments start to show returns.

All it takes is time and money.


Source: Steps To Building Wealth

Sneaky Ways To Find A Home That's About To Be Listed For Sale

Sneaky Ways To Find A Home That's About To Be Listed For Sale

Coldwell Banker just rolled out some exciting new tech that’s meant to help determine when someone is about to list their home for sale. What may sound Big Brother-y to some is being lauded by others as the Big Data answer to next-level real estate success. Call it the high-tech version of going door-to-door asking if owners are looking to sell their home. Also, call it a great lead source for agents and a potential boon for buyers looking for an “in” after repeatedly getting shut out of homes thanks to ongoing inventory issues.

“In a real estate market facing a severe lack of homes for sale, agents could really use a secret weapon – something to shake up the status quo of the listing and selling game…something to help them compete in a low inventory market,” said RISMedia.

Coldwell Banker’s solution: CBx Seller Leads, which can identify homes that are most likely to be sold before an agent ever becomes involved. “Coldwell Banker has taken it to the next level, expanding the value of big data for real estate by adding proprietary algorithms and machine learning to the data in the original CBx product to fuel the entire CBx Technology Suite and give brokers and agents access to market intelligence they can’t get anywhere else.

Skeptical? Consider this: “Coldwell Banker piloted CBx Seller Leads in 16 different markets; during the pilot, leads converted at twice the industry average.”

The potential advantage to the agent is undeniable, but we also love the benefit to buyers. Agents who nurture those leads may be able to find a gem for a client without having to fight other buyers in a crowded market where inventory is at a premium. But CBx Seller Leads isn’t the only way to get an early beat on new homes that haven’t yet been listed. Here are some more tips that could help you find that elusive home.

Stalk your preferred neighborhood

Sure, the workmen outside that cute corner Colonial could mean the homeowners are doing some updates to make the house function better for them. Or, it could mean they’re making updates to get the home in better shape so they can list it. You don’t know until you ask. Your real estate agent may recommend leaving this task to them for best results, and, you never know – it could turn out that you end up shaking on an as-is property that gets you into a desired neighborhood, gets you a great deal, and gives you the opportunity to fix it up the way you want to.

Work with a connected REALTOR®

If a listing doesn’t get posted to the MLS or the big listing sites like Trulia and Redfin, how do you find out about pocket listings? The first step is to ask your real estate agent. Tell them that you’re interested in pocket listings and that you’d like to expand your search beyond the homes on the MLS. Encourage them to reach out to other realtors to see if there is a hidden gem on the market. It’s a lot more work than scouring the online listings, but sometimes it can really pay off. In addition to working with an agent, there are also sites getting into the pocket listing game, such as PocketList, which specializes in unlisted homes in the San Francisco Bay Area. Zillow also has a “coming soon” search feature, which allows you to check out homes that have not yet been posted on a listing service.

What you’re looking for in a real estate agent is someone who is going to work hard for you, obviously. But, especially when you’re trying to find a home in a hot market where there aren’t a lot of available homes, working with someone who has a large base of connections in the industry and a great working relationship with other agents is crucial. Those relationships may yield early notice on a new home about to hit the market or pocket listings you’d never know about if it weren’t for your agent.

Look for an unkempt yard

Could be an overwhelmed homeowner, could be the owners are on an extended vacation…or it could be that the home is about to be foreclosed on.

Track “Notices of Default”

Finding a pre-foreclosure property isn’t as easy as driving down the street in your preferred neighborhood, looking for signs on the lawn. There is no complete list that aggregates listings of homes subject to a notice of default, and it can be a process to find these potential buys. A savvy agent who hustles to find properties in default can be a real asset to a buyer, especially if they are able to cultivate a relationship that ends up with a great home and a great deal for their buyer and an “out” for the seller.

“The easiest way to buy a pre-foreclosure home is to help the seller to make up the back payments and then arrange to buy the home directly from the seller,” said The Balance.


Source: Sneaky Ways To Find A Home That's About To Be Listed For Sale

10 Things To Do After Relocating To A New City

10 Things To Do After Relocating To A New City

Free at last! The backbreaking work of moving large furniture from one side of the house to other is finished. No more do packed boxes line the house. It’s a great feelings of accomplishment. Enjoy your reprieve for a night as you’ve earned it. After giving yourself a day of rest it’s time to get back to work!

1. Get Connected to your New Neighborhood: Probably the most anxious part of moving is meeting your new neighbors. It’s essentially a crap shoot as they could be wonderful people that you will eventually trust and perhaps they will become a vital asset once you become settled in. Or possibly they could be the Neighbor from Hell. Regardless going out of your way and introducing yourself to the neighbors will go a long way as we know first impressions last a lifetime.

2. Update your address with the important contacts: Emergency contacts, banks, family members, and collectors must all be made aware of your address change. This can be a bit tedious, but you must make sure everything is in order as you would hate for some meaningless bill go into collections due to sheer negligence.

3. Register your vehicle: Go to dmv.org and get new tags, a license plate, and a registration card. If you don’t and you get pulled over you will be very sorry. You will most likely have to waste a day in court to appeal whichever fine may have been levied on you.

4. Re-register to vote in your new location: Follow http://www.eac.go. It’s important that you do this as states rules and regulations vary when it comes to establishing residency.

5. Find a doctor/dentist: Click here to find a Doctor or Dentist near you. Make sure to do a quick check of ratings as well.

6. Update your insurance: Compare Auto Insurance now! You would be surprised to see how much auto insurance can vary state-to-state, but it certainly make sure you get the best and most advantageous rate.

7. Check your commute to work: Try at least two different routes and time how long it takes you to go each way. As good as Google maps is becoming, it’s still better to be prepared and know multiple ways to get to work in case an unfortunate event were to happen causing you to be late to work during your first week.

8. Get acquainted with your new city! Try new things: Go to new grocery stores. Check out urbanspoon.com and see which restaurants are the best in your area. Look up TripAdvisor and see which attractions are closest to you.

9. Review your moving company: Perhaps it was a pleasant experience perhaps it wasn’t. If you indeed had a bad experience make sure other people don’t make the same mistake that you did.

10. Schools: If you have children make sure to get them registered and set to go for school. Also make sure to check for sports leagues, clubs, or extracurricular activities to get them involved.

Source: Buying tips

What Is The Home Seller's Staging Hiding From You?

What Is The Home Seller's Staging Hiding From You?

When sellers stage their homes, they’re simply trying to make their homes as attractive as possible to buyers. Staging can include cleaning, decluttering, depersonalizing and decorating the home. It can be done by the seller, or by a professional who goes so far as to completely overhaul a home with glamorous rented furniture and accessories.

At its best, staging helps buyers see the possibilities so they can easily visualize themselves owning and living in the home. It can also distract buyers’ attention from real problems a home may have or that may be expensive for the buyer to handle.

There’s nothing wrong with a seller presenting a home for sale at its best – sparkling clean and ready for viewing. But before you let yourself be enchanted by the romantic table set for two, the aroma of cookies coming from the oven, and the spa robe and slippers laid out by the bathtub, ask yourself if those are the things that you should be noticing.

Instead, concentrate on the things that will impact your daily life — how the home flows and functions, whether the home needs expensive repairs or updates, or buy all new furniture to make it work.

When you view homes for sale that are staged, ask yourself the following questions:

Does the home look too “decorated?” A sure sign a home has been professionally staged if everything in the home has a generic furniture store look all from the same manufacturer or era. If you see no signs of wear, or stickers under vases and glassware, then the home has been dressed to impress. That kind of perfection isn’t achievable for most people, so don’t look at the décor, look at the bones of the home.

Does the staging make sense? Would you really put your own furniture as close to the fireplace or as far from the window? An attractive but odd arrangement is a tipoff that the room is either not well designed or that a problem is being minimized. For example, a heavy chair may be used to discourage buyers from lifting the area rug.

Is the staging hiding a repair that needs to be made? Bathrooms and kitchens are the most expensive rooms to repair and update. Move the bottle of bubble bath and look behind the shower curtain. Is the caulk fresh? Is the porcelain tub or sink stained? Is the finish worn off of the fixtures? Look under the sink for water stains.

Is the staging overdone? Candles burning in every room or tons of air freshener may be masking pet odors. Heavy drapes may cover ugly views. Go ahead and open them up and look outside.

Is the furniture proportionate to the rooms? Small-scale furnishings can disguise rooms that are too small, so go ahead and sit down. If your knees are under your chin, the room may be too small for your purposes. Furniture that’s massive can mean a room is going to be difficult or very expensive to decorate.

If you like the home well enough for another viewing and to make an offer, ask the seller to leave off the air freshener and to move that heavy chair aside. Take measurements and make sure your things will fit. Get the home inspected, so you know what you’re really buying.

Source: Buying tips

How To Make Sure You're Buying A Home In A Safe Neighborhood

How To Make Sure You're Buying A Home In A Safe Neighborhood

“Crime levels have declined sharply in the US over the past two decades. According to FBI statistics, the rate of violent crime fell 50% between 1993 and 2015, the most recent full year available,” said Business Insider.

Yet, school shootings are increasingly on everyone’s minds and public perceptions are that crime is actually on the rise. “In 21 Gallup surveys since 1989, the majority of Americans said there was more crime compared to the year before, despite the downward trend in both violent and property crime rates in the US during that period,” they said.

In and amongst all the other factors buyers need to consider when looking for a home – price and affordability, square footage, commute time, how much updating needs to be done – it’s more important than ever to feel safe in your home and neighborhood. Lists like WalletHub’s 2018’s Safest States in America (Vermont, Maine, and Minnesota are the top three), and Niche’s Best Place to Live in America, of which safety is a key factor (Naperville, Illinois, Irvine, California, and Thousand Oaks, California) are a great place to start. But when you want to dig a little deeper, start here:

Map the crime in the area

The city you are looking at could be on the safest cities list, but what about the specific neighborhood? Using a crime mapping service can help. “CrimeReports and SpotCrime are two services that collect police and crime reports,” said Homes.com. “Enter the address where you plan to buy or build, and these two services will display a list of the crimes committed in the vicinity, complete with a breakdown of the dates and type of crimes. You can compare potential neighborhoods with these tools to see which ones have the lowest crime rates.”


familyeguide.com

Check for sexual predators

The U.S. Department of Justice National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) is a regularly updated database that allows you to enter an address and map sex offenders nearby.

FamilyWatchdog is another great place to look. “Type a location or address into the website’s search box, and FamilyWatchdog generates a map pinpointing the address of nearby registered sex offenders,” said Safewise. “Color-coded icons correspond to various sex crimes, including crimes against children, sexual battery, and rape. Click the icon and you’ll see a picture of the offender, learn their aliases, and find out what sex crime they’ve been convicted of. If you’re looking for a specific individual, you can search for them by name.” With this free service, “You can also sign up to be alerted when a registered sex offender moves in or out of your neighborhood.”

Talk to people already in the area

This is a top tip for buying a home regardless of what your specific concerns may be. After all, you don’t want to end up living across from the next Nirvana, who practice in the garage until all hours of the night, or the grumpy old man who spends his afternoons gazing out the window so he can run outside to yell at anyone who dares walk a dog by his house. A nosy neighbor (and every place has at least one!), can also give you some great info about potential concerns beyond the mild (or not so mild) irritations. If there are issues in the neighborhood, in the schools, or in a particular home, you’re likely to hear it here first. What might seem like gossip can be great intel you want to take seriously.

Check Nextdoor

Perhaps nowhere will you find better and deeper insight into what a potential neighborhood is like than getting a peak at the local Nextdoor. Expect to see the typical Nextdoor posts—lots of “my dog (or my cat, my lizard, or my turtle) got out,” and all kids of complaints about bad driving, complete with shaming pictures of license plates. You’ll also see lots of posts about suspicious individuals/potential prowlers and questions about whether that “loud bang” (that was probably fireworks) was actually a gunshot. If you haven’t already had the pleasure of joining Nextdoor in your current community, this will give you a taste of what to expect.

But behind all of that potential paranoia is some real info that could give you important insight into the neighborhood and who you might soon be living near.

Choose the right school

New-home purchases are often made or broken on the quality of the area schools, but parents today are concerned about more than test scores. As you’re doing your research, perhaps a one-on-one with the principal is in order. Knowing details of the school’s anti-bullying policy may help you feel more confident in your choice. It stinks to have to think about things like evacuation plans and active shooter training, but knowing the school has elements in place to keep your kids safe is, unfortunately, crucial today.

And, just as you may want to talk to neighbors about the quality of the neighborhood, local parents’ take on the school, teachers, administrators, and how safe and protected they feel their kids are is also key.

Source: Buying tips

About That American Dream And Homeownership

About That American Dream And Homeownership

Any REALTOR® will tell you: home ownership is an integral part — maybe the most important part — of the American Dream. Hence, any threat to home ownership — whether it be high interest rates or, as is the case today, a lack of inventory — is a threat to the American Dream.

Recently, Joel Singer, CEO of the California Association of REALTORS (CAR), and one of the sharper tools in the real estate shed, delivered a talk to CAR directors entitled, “The American Dream (Up in Flames?): Why Homeownership Really Matters.” He offered up a plethora of studies and statistics that showed how individuals and families who own homes fare better in life than do those who do not own homes. Moreover, he shared survey results showing that 53% of those sampled thought that owning a home is a very important part of the American Dream. 18% thought it was the most important part.

I beg to differ. But, please, don’t get me wrong. My wife and I are residential REALTORS®. We have been in this marvelous business for more than 40 years. The psychic and emotional rewards for helping people obtain a home are rich and appropriate. Moreover, it is certainly not my place to dismiss anyone’s dreams.

But The American Dream is a phrase with a history and a meaning that we do well to keep in mind. It is about much more than home ownership; indeed, home ownership may not even be a central part of that dream.

Historian James Truslow Adams coined the phrase The American Dream in his 1931 book, Epic of America. He said, “The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability and achievement.” It was not, he wrote, “…a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of a social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

The essence of the American Dream was, and I think still is, the idea that America is a land where by effort one could better one’s condition and one’s children could live lives better than their parents. Moreover, the potential for doing so was not to be restrained by government or one’s class status. That is the dream that drew millions of people to our shores. It still does.

To put it in more modern, and certainly less emotional, terms, the American Dream is the possibility of social mobility. When we ask how the American Dream is faring, we are asking about social mobility. And the answer is, “It depends on who you ask.” (Try googling social mobility in America.)

There are articles upon articles that will tell you it has become significantly less likely that a wage-earner can move up the income ladder. A July, 2016 Atlantic article cites a study that “measured a given worker’s chances of moving between deciles [groupings of 10%] during two periods, one from 1981 to 1996 and another from 1993 to 2008. They found quite a disparity. ‘The probability of moving up from where you start has gone down’ [the author] said.” No one seems quite sure what caused this, but increasing inequality is often cited. “In the presence of increasing inequality,” [the authors] conclude, “falling mobility implies that as the rungs of the ladder have moved farther apart, moving between them has become more difficult.”

On the other hand, there are plenty of those who see the Dream alive and well. Writing in National Review (May, 2017) Scott Winship claims, “it seems likely that when all is said and done, 70 percent or more of today’s 30-year-olds are better off than their parents were at the same age.”

The state of the American Dream is important and we do well to pay attention to it. But home ownership is nowhere near being its central component. For many, owning a home may be a consequence of having lived the Dream; but it certainly doesn’t define it.

Source: Buying tips

Home Inspections Can Save You Money In The Long-Run

Home Inspections Can Save You Money In The Long-Run

If you’re hiring someone to inspect the home you want to buy, or you’re a seller trying to find out if there are any hidden problems that need fixing before you put your home on the market, here are five things you need to know:

1. You can choose your home inspector.

Your real estate professional can recommend an inspector, or you can find one on your own. Members of the National Association of Home Inspectors, Inc. (NAHI), must complete an approved home inspector training program, demonstrate experience and competence as a home inspector, complete a written exam, and adhere to the NAHI Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics.

2. Home inspections are intended to point out adverse conditions, not cosmetic flaws.

You should attend the inspection and follow the inspector throughout the inspection so you can learn what’s important and what’s not. No house is perfect and an inspection on any home is bound to uncover faults. A home inspector will point out conditions that need repair and/or potential safety-related concerns relating to the home. They won’t comment on cosmetic items if they don’t impair the integrity of the home. They also do not do destructive testing.

3. Home inspection reports include only the basics.

A home inspector considers hundreds of items during an average inspection. The home inspection should include the home’s exterior, steps, porches, decks, chimneys, roof, windows, and doors. Inside, they will look at attics, electrical components, plumbing, central heating and air conditioning, basement/crawlspaces, and garages.

They report on the working order of items such as faucets to see if they leak, or garage doors to see if they close properly. Inspectors may point out termite damage and suggest that you get a separate pest inspection. The final written report should be concise and easy to understand.

4. Home inspectors work for the party who is paying the fee.

The NAHI Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics clearly state that members act as an unbiased third party to the real estate transaction and “will discharge the Inspector’s duties with integrity and fidelity to the client.” A reputable home inspector will not conduct a home inspection or prepare a home inspection report if his or her fee is contingent on untruthful conclusions.

The inspector should maintain client confidentiality and keep all report findings private, unless required by court order. That means it is your choice whether or not to share the report with others. If you’re a seller, you don’t have to disclose the report to buyers, but you must disclose any failure in the systems or integrity of your home.

5. Inspectors are not responsible for the condition of the home.

Inspectors don’t go behind walls or under flooring, so it’s possible that a serious problem can be overlooked. Keep in mind that inspectors are not party to the sales transaction, so if you buy a home where an expensive problem surfaces after the sale, you won’t be able to make the inspector liable or get the inspector to pay for the damage. In fact, you may not be entitled to any compensation beyond the cost of the inspection.

As a buyer, you need the home inspection to decide if the home is in condition that you can tolerate. You can use the report to show the seller the need for a certain repair or negotiate a better price. You can also take the report to a contractor and use it to make repairs or to remodel a section of the home.

One thing you should not do when buying a home is skip having the home inspected because of cost or undue pressure by the seller. A home inspection is reasonable, it can save you money in the long run, and it’s required by many lenders, particularly for FHA loans. There’s a reason why buyers should beware, and a home inspection gives you the information you need to make a sound buying decision.

Source: Buying tips

Six Surprising Retirement Trends You Need To Know

Six Surprising Retirement Trends You Need To Know

Tiny homes. Rockin’ communities where Jimmy Buffet is your spirit animal. Rockin’ a strenuous hike minutes from home. Yeah, this is not your Grandfather’s retirement.

Long gone are the days when people packed it in and moved to a nice, calm little home for the aging in Florida the day they turn 65. Not only are people working longer today, but they are looking for more out of their retirement – more fun and excitement, more job opportunities, and more opportunity to hang out with family. If you’re getting ready to retire, these are the trends you’ll want to know about.

Lifestyle-oriented communities

And we’re not just talking about weekly bingo. There is a wave of new retirement communities, most notably Jimmy Buffet’s foray into a new career path, that cater to a much more active lifestyle. “It’s easy to chuckle at news that a Margaritaville retirement community is coming to Florida (what better age for Parrotheads to pursue their day-drinking dreams?),” said Curbed. “But the billion-dollar community offers more of what today’s and tomorrow’s seniors really want: active, engaging, and walkable neighborhoods. Latitude Margaritaville Daytona Beach has nine models open, with new homes priced from the $200,000s; the Hilton Head, SC location is in its first phase with prices from the mid $200,000s.


aarp.org

Other developments, like the new $100 million-plus Rancho Mission Viejo in Orange County, CA is being developed “as an upscale mixed-generation development, with housing catering to older adults integrated into clusters of neighborhoods,” they said. “Developments like New York’s new community center for the Morningside Retirement & Health Services (MRHS) showcase a renewed focus on active, communal space. A cohousing development for seniors on Oakland’s waterfront called Phoenix Commons has been compared to a ‘dorm for grownups.'”

Retiring…but not all the way

Mid-size and larger cities are becoming havens for retirees because, among other positive attributes, they offer thriving job markets. So why would that be important to someone who is getting ready to stop working? Because, increasingly, retirees aren’t retiring all the way. Or, they’re embarking on secondary careers, often part-time, post retirement. “74% of working Americans plan to work past retirement age, with 11% expecting to work full time and 63% expecting to work part-time,” said The Street.

Chasing happiness

U.S. New & World Report’s 2018 list of the Best Places to Retire compared the top 100 metros for their potential as retirement spots, using data including housing affordability, taxes, and access to healthcare facilities. Their overall desirability and average levels of happiness were also key to the rankings. “Several cities in Texas made the top 10,” while “three cities in the mid-Atlantic region are highly rated.” You can see the entire list here.

Multi-generational living

Multi-generational living is on one of real estate’s fastest-growing trend. “In 1940, about one-quarter of the U.S. population lived with three or more generations in one home. After WWII, American families largely became two-generational, with parents and minor-age children under one roof,” said Forbes. “The percentage of households with multiple generations started declining to 21%, reaching a low of 12% by 1980.” According to Pew Research Center data, 60.6 million people, or 19 percent of the U.S. population, lived in multigenerational homes, including 26.9 million three-generation households.”

In fact, the trend is so pervasive today that builders are increasingly creating highly livable granny flats and tiny homes that can live on family land or in backyards. They’re also building new construction homes like Lennar’s Next Gen, which is billed as a “home within a home” and includes “all the features you’d expect in a separate unit (a kitchenette, single car garage and full bathroom) while giving you the freedom to pop in whenever you’d like,” they said.

Increasing the activity level

“The choice of recreational activities is gradually shifting as the baby boomer generation heads into retirement,” said U.S. News & World Report. “A recent study by the Physical Activity Council revealed some interesting findings. Activities that are increasing in popularity include camping, bicycling, hiking and canoeing. Activities that are decreasing in popularity include golf, swimming for fitness and working out using machines or weights.”

The AARP found that boomers are increasingly migrating to states “with mild climates and recreational options. “A newly released survey indicates that those who do move increasingly choose mountain and western states where they find a desirable combination of affordable housing, mild weather and outdoor recreational opportunities, such as skiing and hiking,” they said. United Van Lines’ National Movers Study found that the Mountain West region – which stretches from Arizona to Wyoming – attracted the “biggest influx of older people, with 24.5 percent of those moving citing retirement as a reason for relocating.” That represents a strong shift from several decades ago “when older people mostly left northern states and headed southward. ‘We’re seeing retirees being attracted to more outdoor adventure destinations than in the past.”

Following family

Another of today’s top trends has retirees moving closer to family. For many grandparents, moving toward their children and grandchildren is “the last chance to focus on family and to leave a legacy of special memories,” says Christine Crosby, editorial director of Grandmagazine,” to Kiplinger.

Source: Buying tips

The Legal Ties That Bind With Your Down Payment

The Legal Ties That Bind With Your Down Payment

Question: We are both in our upper sixties and retired. Last October, we put money down on a condominium apartment that is to be completed around September of this year. We put down ten percent of the price in cash and the money is earning a modest amount of interest until settlement. We have some savings, but the balance would be paid in cash from the proceeds of the sale of our present home.

Although we believe the price of the condominium has gone up slightly since we signed the contract, we now have serious thoughts about apartment living and about putting most of our resources into this transaction because of some new and serious health concerns.

Is there any way we can cancel our agreement and not lose the down payment?

Answer: The lawyer in me says that a contract is a legally binding document that must be upheld. The humanitarian in me suggests that, at the very least, you should try to get out of the contract, especially with the facts you have described.

First, review the terms of the contract very carefully to determine your rights and responsibilities. Are there any contingencies in that contract, such as your ability to obtain financing or the necessity to sell your house? If any of these contingencies legitimately cannot be met, it is possible you have the legal right to declare the contract null and void.

Next, determine whether the contract can be assigned. Although most developer contracts are not assignable, it may very well be that you have the right to sell your contract to someone else. And even if you do not have that right, it never hurts to ask the developer.

For example, if the contract is for $100,000 and the market value now is $110,000, if you have the right to assign that contract, you may find someone who would purchase your contract for the contract price — or even a few thousand dollars above the contract price.

The person who buys your contract would be obligated to follow through on all of the terms of your contract. In effect, the buyer would be stepping into your shoes, assuming all the rights and responsibilities you presently have.

As I have indicated, although most developer contracts do not permit such assignment, it is worth looking at this aspect of your contract.

Next, do not hesitate to discuss this matter with both the real estate firm representing the seller and try to speak directly with the seller. Explain your situation. They may be sympathetic. If the market for your condominium is anticipated to be strong, the seller-developer may be able to make more money by reselling the property to someone else.

Finally, you may want to consider buying the property and then trying to sell it yourself. Unfortunately, this is risky because there never is any guarantee you will find a buyer quickly and the duplicate settlement costs, financing charges and other settlement-related matters may not make the dual sale worthwhile.

You may also have to pay a real estate commission for that second sale. Realize that until the developer has sold most, if not all of the condominium units, you are competing against the house. And as we know, the dealer always wins.

You indicated you have put down a deposit of ten percent and you do not want to lose the money. However, there are times when a buyer would prefer to walk away from a transaction, lose the money and avoid subsequent aggravation.

Peace of mind sometimes cannot be measured in terms of dollars and cents. Although I cannot recommend forfeiting your deposit, if this is an option you are willing to consider, make sure you discuss the situation with the seller before deciding. Sign a release and have the seller sign it also. You want to make sure that, if you forfeit the deposit, the seller can not sue you for damages. This will be spelled out in the sales contract.

Basically, if a buyer defaults on a real estate contract, the seller has three options available:

  • Suing for specific performance, in effect, asking the court to require you go ahead with the transaction.
  • Suing for damages if there are substantial monetary damages involved as a result of your failure to live up to your part of the contract. For example, if the seller has to resell the property at a lower price than your contract price, this would be the measure of damages.
  • Electing to retain the deposit as the only remedy. Remember, if you decide to forfeit, make sure the seller agrees, in writing, that the only remedy will be the forfeiture of the deposit. This may also be spelled out in the form contract you signed.

Although I recognize that conditions often change and new circumstances often arise after a contract is entered into, it must be pointed out that, in most cases, the time to decide whether you want to purchase property is before you sign a contract.

After your signature is on the contract and you have given some money down as a deposit, you are legally bound to comply with all the terms and conditions of that document. Your fate basically depends on how the developer reacts to your situation.

Source: Buying tips

Home Buying Checklist: What Else Does ‘Location’ Mean?

Home Buying Checklist: What Else Does 'Location' Mean?

“Location, location, location” are the cornerstones of property value and neighborhood popularity. Evaluating this seemingly-simple, triple-impact factor goes beyond merely checking out the street address.

Yes, proximity to the places you and family members regularly must or want to visit is an important factor in identifying an ideal location. However, there’s more to accessing location than an address.

LOCATION CHECKLIST

Below is a comprehensive checklist of LOCATION FACTORS many of which may be overlooked by buyers until they move in and discover that their chosen and paid-for location is not all they expected it to be. Many of these factors also affect market value, now and in the future. All these factors will not be an issue for every property. Check off the factors are relevant to your home buying.

Walkability has many definitions which largely differ by walking purpose: destination-driven, exercising, socializing, exploring, enjoying the outdoors…. Measures of walkability can be useful and may add to market value, but these scores are not absolute, so investigate the reference source and measurement approach. Experiment by walking where you and family members would walk and when. There may be obstacles, like very busy streets, that would affect whether walking would be the best transportation choice.

Nearby Shopping used to be a big location factor, but online shopping has taken the shine off this convenience for many buyers. In some areas, malls are falling into disrepair and closing. Would that be a concern for you? In other locations, new large-scale commercial ventures are underway in or closer to residential areas. How would you feel about having a big box store on your doorstep?

Developments especially large-scale projects, condominium towers, multiple-housing complexes, and commercial ventures, increase density, traffic, noise, and  pressure on schools and community services. Years of planning and arguing proceed ground breaking, so today’s quiet streets may reveal little sign of what will begin once you move in. Ask a lot of questions about local development.

Street Status exists in most neighborhoods, which themselves each carry different status. Certain streets confer status on residents. Which street, side of the street, or end of the street carries greater real estate value or status? One end of the street may be closer to shopping and the other to parks. What do you value regarding physical location?

Sunshine is valued by most buyers, even though they may appreciate it for different reasons, ranging from gardening to solar energy. In some areas, south-facing backyards are more popular and, in others, it’s south-facing fronts. What is blocking sunlight to the property now and what might block it in the future?

Teardowns or properties more valued as building sites than homes, exist in most established neighborhoods. How many teardowns surround the real estate? Teardowns are not all dilapidated

structures. In many areas, attractive bungalows and two-storeys are demolished to build mega-homes, perhaps like the one you are interested in. During the demolition and build, neighbors are plagued by noise, dust, lack of parking, and inconsideration that can mean restricted use of their own properties for a year or two. What’s planned around the property?

  Neighbors may include Airbnb hosts and other home-based business owners, some of whom may conduct their ventures in ways that end up disturbing neighbors. Many municipalities and police receive complaints from homeowners concerned about what businesses are doing around their property.

  Schools particularly popular ones, can be a big influence on a location decision for those with children to educate.

  Transportation carries different importance for different buyers. Have public transit and road systems kept pace with rising population in the area? Are neighborhood-changing transportation projects like rapid transit scheduled to begin in the next year or so? Will the bulk of related construction stress fall near this property?

  Infrastructure is an often-overlooked factor. How recently have bridges and main roads, essential for access to the area and downtown, been up-dated and up-graded? Have water and sewage

services been upgraded to serve growing populations? Or, will you face months, if not years, of “under construction” streets around your home?

  Break-ins tend to be more common in some areas than others. Who keeps the neighborhood safe? What’s their track record? Do most neighbors have their own home security system? Are community safety groups active?

  Water Supply and shortages can be an issue. Droughts seem more common and last longer. How prepared is the community to handle water shortage? Do summer shortages affect lawn watering and landscaping, making local drought-resistant plants and no-grass front yards essential? Are bush fires a recurring threat?

  Flooding in low-lying areas and drainage basins can be a threat. Could rising water plague that real estate or the immediate area or access? How affordable and attainable is property

flood insurance in this area? When was the last time flooding was an issue and what happened during clean up? If the property is waterfront, is shore erosion or rising water an issue? Is the waterfront often fouled with dead algae or other smelly matter?

  Traffic is more of a concern in urban areas. Is the residential area under traffic calming and speed-management strategies to reduce rush-hour traffic through the area? If there are speed bumps, how are fire and emergency vehicles affected? Is there a plan to add or remove traffic calming and why?

  Airplanes can disrupt family life even if a property is not close to an airport. The increase in frequency of planes taking off and landing at all hours has many neighborhoods, even those distant from airports, plagued by airplane noise. Circling a city to land, means planes travel over many homes drowning out conversations and disrupting sleep. Just popping in for an open house or viewing may not make you aware of a noisy flight-path problem.

  Landscaping and mature trees enhance neighborhoods. Large trees can present hazards as they age. Are trees downed in storms replaced? What invader species are working their way through the area to undermine outdoor enjoyment?

  History of the home or location may be a concern in special cases. Has anything happened on the property or near it that has led locals to consider the real estate less favorably?

  Pollution — air, noise, or water —is a problem in some areas? What is being done to reduce the ill-effects for residents?

  Taxes are a key location-driven affordability factor. All of the above can impact how quickly property taxes and municipal fees go up. What’s the pattern of increase in the area? How does local government raise the funds it needs to maintain quality of life in the area?

Don’t panic. All these factors will not affect every property.

Our point is that buyers should find out which, if any, of these issues could significantly affect their new home, its market value, and their life at that location before they buy.

  • Concentrating too heavily on interior decor and not on relevant listed issues above, may leave buyers vulnerable to unpleasant realities after moving in.
  • What could buyers do about surprises like those listed above after they move in?
  • Would issues like these affect what buyers are prepared to pay for that real estate in the first place?

Who can possibly know all these details about a property?

  • The property owner, or at least the smart ones, keep up on what is going on at or near their location because all of this affects property value and enjoyment.
  • Neighors know a lot —maybe more than sellers realize.
  • Local real estate professionals know this and more because local knowledge and market value are what their work centers on. Listing professionals spend time with sellers to explore the history of the property and the area. Between them they know what’s going on locally and how that property will be affected.
  • The local real estate professional or buyer’s agent who assists you in finding the right real estate for your needs and budget has access to the owner’s knowledge and that of the listing professional through the Multiple Listing Service. This plus their own local knowledge should help you understand the listed factors relative to the real estate you are considering.

Source: Buying tips

Eight Signs It's Time To Move Up

Eight Signs It's Time To Move Up

The starter home. It was so cute and quaint and sweet when you bought it, right? But, that was before kids and dogs and overnight quests and holiday dinners that require mathematician-level logistics to finding everyone a seat in a dining room that bursts at six people.

Let’s face it: It’s probably time to move up. Lack of space is the No. 1 reason people start looking for a larger home. Families expand, lifestyles change, and the sheer accumulation of stuff can make a small home feel even tighter. “More than a third of all homebuyers last year were families with kids,” said Dave Ramsey. “And 37% of sellers age 36 and under cited cramped quarters as their reason for moving.”

But running out of room not the only reason to consider moving up.

You’ve got the equity

You may have had to scrimp and save for the down payment on your first home, but, if your home has appreciated, you may be in a completely different financial position this time around. If you’re the type who envisions paying off your home and being free and clear, moving up may not be on your mind. But, for the rest of us, having equity in our current home means greater buying power to buy something bigger or get into a neighborhood we covet.

You’re at each other’s throats

Feeling cramped and living in clutter and hating that you don’t have a space of your own or even a minute to yourself? That can create stress and leave you feeling anxious and overwhelmed. And, it goes against the general principle of homeownership since your home is supposed to be your sanctuary! Having some extra room to spread out and yard for the kids and dogs to play in can make a real difference in the way your family functions.

Ask yourself if “your quality of life is suffering,” said Unpakt. “This category can include many things: your ever-growing pack of dogs or cats who are driving you crazy. Your cascading piles of fabrics that you use for quilting, but just can’t keep organized in your current space. The lack of a guest room means that when family visits, you’re stuck on the couch. Whatever it might be, if your quality of life has taken a nosedive because your house is too small, well, the answer is pretty clear.” 

The neighborhood is changing…and not for the better

One of the reasons you may want to start looking at a new house is because your neighborhood is starting to evolve. Maybe there are new restaurants and bars that have attracted a different crowd or plans for a huge mixed-use project that, while great for the economic potential in the area, could mean more traffic than you want in your quiet little town. Even something like a change in the flight patterns from the local airport can get you thinking about that next home.

Remodeling is price prohibitive

A good real estate agent should be able to give you an idea of what necessary (or wanted) renovations would cost to your existing home. It could be that the amount of work you would need to do on your home to get it where you want it – or get it into tip-top shape for a sale – is beyond what you want to spend. In that case, it might make better financial sense to make small improvements, put it up for sale, and put your money into a new home that better suits your needs.

You don’t want to over-improve for the neighborhood

The other important factor to consider when deciding whether to move or improve your home is how the redone home would sit in your neighborhood. You don’t want to run the risk of doing a bunch of expensive renovations only to have the home sit on the market because it’s overdone and considered overpriced.

“Weighing against renovation is the risk you’ll ‘over-improve’ your home compared with others on the block,” said Bankrate. “When you are in a neighborhood that has starter homes and smaller homes, adding a large addition or doing an extensive renovation may not yield the return one would expect.”

Everyone else has moved on

So, your kids were young and bicycles and basketball nets lined the street when you first fell in love with your home. At the time, it was everything you were looking for. But now, so many of those families have moved on, and the lively street you loved has turned rather sleepy. If you’re still holding on to the memories of what your neighborhood once was, maybe it’s time to find one that better meets your lifestyle needs today.

You’ve crunched the numbers

Presumably, a move-up home is going to be more expensive. Beyond the equity you can use to make the purchase doable, you have to consider the monthly expenses, too. “It’s not just the sticker price on the house; it’s the long-term costs associated with it,” said Realtor.com. “When you go up (in square footage), you get higher property taxes, higher utilities, and more maintenance.” And acquiring more rooms means shelling out for more furniture, too.

You can make sure you can afford a move-up home without becoming “house poor” by “using online affordability calculators to figure out how far you can stretch your dollar.

Source: Buying tips

Would You Buy A Home From Kanye West?

Would You Buy A Home From Kanye West?

Among the controversial rapper/artist/fashion designer/pop culture phenom’s recent flurry of eyebrow-raising tweets comes this gem: So would you buy a home from Kanye West? You might soon be able to.

The announcement of Yeezy Home was met with a lot of “Huh?” and “What?” and “Why?!” but also a fair amount of “Hmmm” and “Wow” and “More info, please.” So…not unlike almost everything else Kanye West does. And that’s especially true of his most recent behavior.

He has courted controversy on Twitter yet again with his take about slavery…namely that it was a choice. The post-tweet backlash was swift as people quickly came out to condemn the idea. Huffington Post said he was “schooled on history” and one longtime fan spoke for many with his emotional letter to Kanye, which was printed by Variety, explaining why he was putting the artist’s music “on pause” because of the pain his words have inflicted. Kanye also supposedly lost nine million followers in the immediate aftermath, although Twitter says that was “a glitch.”

Either way, he still has his fans, his followers, and, certainly, his apologists, and he may soon have a team of architects and industrial designers working with/for him and, presumably, buyers who love the idea of a Kanye-created home.


people.com

Why architecture?

But, who are they? And, why architecture? For now, we can more easily answer the second question.

“West first mentioned his interest in pursuing architecture and design in a 2013 interview with the BBC, said Architectural Digest. “‘I want to do product, I am a product person,’ he said. ‘Not just clothing but water bottle design, architecture…I make music but I shouldn’t be limited to once place of creativity.’ He went on to explain that he was working with ‘five architects at a time’ to figure out exactly what he wanted. Later that year, he spoke to students at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, telling students, ‘I really do believe that the world can be saved through design, and everything needs to actually be architected…I believe that utopia is actually possible – but we’re led by the least noble, the least dignified, the least tasteful, the dumbest, and the most political.”

That Kanye arrogance is nothing new; some might say it’s even part of his charm. And, he does have an eye. His footwear and apparel brand, Yeezy, will reach $1 billion this year—this according to another tweet from Kanye during this most recent blitz. And, while that number is being disputed, the success of the line remains impressive. (It’s also worth noting that, “The Yeezy brand, which sells apparel and sneakers created in collaboration with Adidas, is facing a backlash online with customers threatening to burn or sell their Yeezy sneakers and celebrities including Rihanna and Drake reportedly have stopped following West on Twitter,” according to Business Insider.)


people.com

Who are the potential buyers?

Which brings us back to the “Who are they?” question. With so much emotion tied up in the homebuying purchase, anyway, does a home associated with such a polarizing figure crate a barrier right out of the gate? Perhaps not for fans, if they can even afford it. Kanye has expensive taste – his Hidden Hills, CA home with wife Kim Kardashian is said to be worth $60 million, and, although another one of his recent tweets said that the clothing line would be “working with the most genius-level talents and creating product at an affordable price,” ArchDaily countered that, “Given the current three-figure price of West’s product line, the tweets are a difficult knot to untie.”

Style file

So, while not much detail is known at this point about Yeezy Home, one can presume, given his taste in homes, that price points could reach sky-high levels. Which would leave many a fan on the outside.

Kanye and Kim’s home is gorgeous, if you like minimalism, all-white spaces, and an almost “cathedral-like quality. “The couple worked with renowned Belgian architect Axel Vervoordt, whose clients include Robert DeNiro and Calvin Klein, to transform the property,” said People. The publication also noted that, “West was nominated for a prestigious design award in 2017 for his fashion line, Yeezy, and even pitched a furniture collaboration to IKEA in 2016, though so far nothing has come of the proposition.”

His love or brutalism could also offer stylistic clues and design inspiration for Yeezy Home. “West also seems to have a penchant for Brutalism – the heavy-handed, much-contested architectural style that architects love to defend,” said Curbed. “A feature on PIN-UP recently offered an look inside the Yeezy studio, an all-concrete-everything kind of space in a ’70s office building in Calabasas, California. And let’s not forget his $110,000 Le Corbusier concrete lamp, which he once called his ‘greatest inspiration.'”

Source: Buying tips

The Tenants' Opportunity To Purchase Act Is Dead: Yes and No

The Tenants' Opportunity To Purchase Act Is Dead: Yes and No

TOPA — the tenants’ opportunity to purchase act — was enacted over 30 years ago by the Council of the District of Columbia. It was designed to protect tenants from being kicked out of their homes by landlords who wanted to make more money selling the property.

Over the years, depending on who you were, TOPA was either hated or loved. Tenants called it “tenant capitalism”; landlords blasted it as “pure blackmail”.

Why? Especially with single family homes, (including condos and coops), when a tenant received a TOPA notice that their landlord had a contract offer to buy, they would demand lots of money in order to release their TOPA rights.

All of this came to a head when the Council, on April 10, 2018, enacted a bill that to a large extent, eliminated TOPA from single family dwellings. The Council relied, in part, on a study that from October 26, 2009 through August 15, 2015, there were approximately only 19 successful TOPA sales to tenants, out of 398 TOPA offers to single family residents. In other words, although landlords fully complied with the TOPA laws and provided the necessary forms , less than 5 percent of those tenants actually ended up buying their home. The law is awaiting the Mayor’s signature and then will have to wait out the 30 day period of congressional review before it becomes final.

Oversimplified, the new law abolished TOPA as it applies to single family dwellings, which includes a condominium or cooperative apartment. If you own a house with a basement that has a kitchen and bath facilities separate from the main dwelling house, and may even have a separate entrance, that is referred to as an “accessory dwelling”. Even if there are tenants in both units, and this becomes law, it will be exempt from TOPA.

However, even though the landlord no longer has to issue the TOPA notice — which had to be in English and Spanish, and copied to the Office of the Mayor — the tenants still have to be given notice of a proposed offer. That notice also has to be provided to the DC Office of Tenant Advocate.

To complicate this even further, there are different requirements where certain tenants are elderly or have a disability. If such a tenant signed a lease to occupy a single family accommodation by December 31, 2017, and physically took occupancy by January 15, 2018, then a modified TOPA still exists. Such tenants must respond with 20 days after receiving the notice expressing interest in buying. Then that tenant has at least 25 additional days to negotiate a sales contract, and closing must take place at least 45 days thereafter. However, once again, if a lender needs more time, the tenant can have an additional 30 days in which to get lender approval and then take title. A tenant who is 62 years or older is considered elderly.

The Council was sensitive to the concerns of the real estate industry — and many home owners — that tenants were flipping (assigning) their rights to speculators for large sums of money and also delaying closing. The new law is very clear: the only consideration an elderly or disabled tenant can receive for selling its tenant rights is the “right to immediately use and occupy the tenant’s unit for a period of 12 months following the sale and at the same rent charged at the date of the offer”.

However, there are three different TOPA requirements. One is (or was) for single family properties; another was for properties with 2-4 units, and a third was for apartment buildings with 5 or more units.

The latter two remain alive and kicking. Tenants in those properties still have rights to purchase their property, although if you live in an over 5 unit complex, only a formal tenant association can speak and act for the tenants. There are different time frames in which the tenants (or their association) have to respond. For example, if you live in a two-four unit building, all tenants must respond expressing an interest in buying. However, if not everyone is interested, or if 15 days have elapsed since getting the TOPA notice from the owner, any one tenant can send in such a notice, which must be within 7 days thereafter.

The tenant (or tenants) have 90 days to negotiate a contract to buy, and if such a contract is entered into, the buyer has at least another 90 days in which to go to closing. However, if a lending institution gives the tenants a notice in writing that it needs more time. the settlement can be extended for another 30 day.

If you think that’s complicated, let’s look at the over 5 unit complex. Here, once all of the tenants get a TOPA notice, they have 45 days in which to form a tenant organization with the legal capacity to hold property. They then have 120 days to enter into a contract, and another 120 days to take title. Once again, if a lender needs more time, the landlord must extend the time in accordance with the lender’s estimate of how long it needs.

Since its enactment, TOPA has been the subject of literally hundreds of lawsuits, some brought by landlords and others by tenants. I suspect that litigation will continue regarding the 2-4 and the over 5 unit requirements; only time will tell how the new law will fare regarding single family properties.

Source: Buying tips

The Dangers Of Love At First Sight When Buying A Home

The Dangers Of Love At First Sight When Buying A Home

Facebook just announced they are getting into the dating app game, giving those who are looking for love yet another avenue to potentially find it. While we don’t yet now specific details of how it will work, one thing is for sure: There are bound to be a lot of matches made based solely (or at least mainly) on looks, alone. Is this a smart strategy? It all depends on what you’re looking for. And the same could be said of your home search. If you’re just looking for a pretty face, it’s easy to fall in “love” – with a person, or a home. But you need to look deeper if you want it to last.

The kitchen makes your stomach do that roller coaster thing and the master bath is so pretty it should be on the cover of How to Seduce a Homebuyer magazine. It’s hard to ignore the pretty stuff when you’re home shopping. The trick is not getting distracted by the pretty stuff and ignoring the important stuff. You can take yourself out of the house hookup land and help avoid falling for the wrong home by asking yourself these questions during your home search.

Is it a keeper?

If you’re looking for a long-term relationship with your home, you should have some non-negotiables. Perhaps you would never consider marrying someone who was rude to service people or didn’t share your political views. When it comes to your forever home (or at least your “for the foreseeable future home”), making a list of absolute must-haves can help you stay on track. They’ll probably include location, price, and home size, but getting even more specific (perhaps you need to be in a certain school district but are willing to compromise on the type of architecture) is even better.

Is there any substance behind your emotional attachment

You walk into a restaurant to meet your date, and before you even sit down, you’re a goner. Is it the eyes, the smell? Some cosmic thing at work? Love at first sight? Who knows.

You walk into a house that seems like nothing special, and before you’re even passed through the hallway, you’re a goner. What’s at play here? Is it some reminder of a home from your childhood, maybe? Who knows. But now you’ve got it bad, and you have to have that house. Time to get real with yourself, because falling for a person – or a home – and going on emotions alone typically doesn’t end well.

“Buying a home is a very emotional process, but if you allow those emotions to get the best of you, you may fall prey to a number of common home buyer mistakes,” said Investopedia. “Since buying a home has many far-reaching implications – ranging from where you will live to how hard it will be to make ends meet – it’s important to keep your emotions in check and make the most rational decision possible.”

Is it too much of a project?

We’ve all heard of the project person – you know, a guy or girl that could be great with just a little (or more than a little) work. A project house could be even more alluring. Seriously, who doesn’t love the idea of a fixer-upper these days? But, you need to know your limits, says Bob Vila.

“Don’t overestimate your abilities. Determine if the house you like needs work,” they said. “Then assess whether you’re really capable of doing it.” It’s also a good idea to properly estimate the post-renovation potential with help from your real estate agent. “Make sure that if you can’t do the work, you get estimates before you buy the house so you know what you’re getting into. If the cost of the house plus the renovations will put the home’s value significantly above others in the neighborhood, it’s probably not the best investment – or you may need to scale back the renovations.”

What are its friends like?

You can tell a lot about someone by their friends, and the same is true of homes. If the home you’re looking at is fixed up and well-taken-care-of, but the rest of the neighborhood is eh, that could be reason to walk away. “Before making an offer on that picture-perfect home, take a look at the surrounding houses. If they’re all in disrepair – or just obviously less nice than the one you’re considering – you might be buying the most expensive house in the neighborhood,” said Realtor.com. Their three reasons include: 1) “When it comes time to sell, unloading the priciest home on the block will be a challenge. 2 ) A home is an investment – and the best investments have the most room for improvement. Ideally, you’ll be adding to the home during your ownership, building equity in hopes of a payoff when you (eventually) sell. 3) You can’t bet on the neighborhood to improve.”

What are they not telling you?

Yes, there are seller disclosures, but they’re only going to tell you so much. Have you checked out the neighborhood in terms of crime statistics, sexual offenders nearby, and any big plans for the neighborhood or surrounding area that could affect your home value or lifestyle? Just like you might Google someone you meet on Tinder (Come on, we all do it!), do the same with any home you are considering.

Are they dating someone else?

It’s human nature to want someone who is wanted by someone else. Seeing a lot of interest in a particular home may affect you similarly, and you may find yourself pressing for a home because it’s in high demand. Are you just trying to “win,” or do you really want the house?

Conversely, a home that’s seemingly unpopular because it’s been on the market for a while can have the opposite effect on us. Don’t let a good one get away just because it hasn’t already been snapped up by someone else. In either case, refer to your list of must-haves to remind yourself of those things that are really important to you before making a move.

Does it have good character?

This is obviously important when looking for a relationship partner. But, to many people, it’s also an important factor when buying a home. You can get waylaid by a great figure or physique just like you can a huge backyard or a gourmet kitchen and ignore something that was key on your must-have list. As it relates to your home, you can always add crown molding or vintage fixtures. But new construction may never have the feel of an older home, if that’s what you’re into.

Source: Buying tips

Can IRA Assets Be Used To Purchase Real Estate?

Can IRA Assets Be Used To Purchase Real Estate?

Question: We are interested in buying investment property? Currently, our IRA is not producing the income we would like. Can we use some of our IRA assets to purchase real estate? – Anna

Anna: The simple answer is yes, but its complicated and full of risks. This column can only touch on the surface; if you remain serious, you must talk with an attorney and a qualified financial adviser.

The typical real estate investor can get lots of tax benefits, such as deductions for property taxes, mortgage interest as well as the ability to depreciate the property on your annual tax return. However, if your IRA owns the investment property, you cannot take advantage of any such tax benefits. In fact, it is even more complicated, if you are over age 70 1/2 and have to start taking the required minimum distributions (RMD).

Since the annual calculation is based on the balance of your IRA at the end of each year, you actually have to get your investment appraised, so as to plug that number into your calculations.

Contrary to popular belief, you cannot invest your IRA in property you already own. Furthermore, even if the property is a “so-called” vacation home, you cannot legally use it, even occasionally. And all expenses relating to the property must be paid from the IRA.

Bottom line: It may not be worth it. Talk with your advisers about other investments that may be available for your IRA.

Question: I have a friend who owns his home outright. He is in financial difficulty but refuses to look into a reverse mortgage because an attorney friend of his told him to stay away from reverse mortgages. In my opinion, a reverse mortgage sounds like the only way for him to go since he has no wife or children to consider when he passes. Any ideas why people are afraid of reverse mortgages? – Cindy

Cindy: That’s a very good question. To some extent, journalists may be part of the reason people don’t like reverse mortgages.

Over the years, I have often written that a reverse mortgage should be the last resort; see if you can get a new loan or refinance your existing mortgage before looking at a reverse.

Why was I so negative? Two reasons: First, the upfront costs were very high, and second, all too often there was no regulation and no enforcement against the reverse mortgage lender. For years, celebrities like Fred Thompson, Henry Winkler or Pat Boone were touting the benefits of reverse mortgages, but they were not disclosing all of the facts – all the pros and cons.

However, there have been significant changes in recent years. First, in order to get a reverse mortgage, you now have to demonstrate you have the ability to pay your real estate tax and maintain adequate homeowner insurance. Second, before you can get such a loan, you must meet (or talk) with a professional housing counselor. You have to know the facts before you can get this kind of loan.

Yes, in your friend’s situation, since he has no real family, a reverse mortgage probably makes sense. However, I will continue to strongly suggest that anyone considering a reverse mortgage should first look at all the options, such as refinancing, selling and downsizing from your present home or getting loans or gifts from relatives. Once you have carefully reviewed all options, then make your decision.

Question: I am an owner in a six-unit townhouse fee simple (a building where the owner pays for some exterior maintenance) with $200 annual assessment complex. Last year, we decided to have the complex painted. However, one of the owners wanted to wait until the spring. Currently, the same owner is negligent in returning the painting company’s emails in regards to paying the deposit.

Do the other five owners have any recourse? We would really like to get the complex painted. As an added note the negligent owner lives out of state and is renting out the unit. – David

First, did the association formally vote to paint the complex? Was the out-of- state owner advised of the vote? Do you have proof that she got notice?

If you are satisfied that you all complied with the legal requirements in your association, then all of you should pay the contractor and then pursue legal action against that owner.

You should retain a local attorney who can guide you through the process. You might be able to file a lien against her home, and, in fact, you might even be able to foreclose.

Different states have different collection procedures, but the fact that the owner is out of state should not be a problem.

Source: Buying 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

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: Buyer Love Letters Often Work; But They Can Backfire Too

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.


TodaysHomeowner.com

“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.”


eastcoastplumbingservice.com

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.


pinterest.com

“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

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

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