There’s nothing more exciting, rewarding, and fulfilling than buying a home. However, it’s a complex transaction; there are a number of steps along the path that can confuse, betwixt, and befuddle even the most seasoned buyers and sellers.
How can you avoid those potential pitfalls and common mistakes? Look to your real estate professional for advice and keep these guidelines in mind:
#1 Review your credit reports ahead of time
Review your credit report a few months before you begin your house hunt, and you’ll have time to ensure the facts are correct and be able to dispute mistakes before a mortgage lender checks your credit. Get a copy of your credit report from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Why all three? Because, if the scores differ, the bank will typically use the lowest one. Alert the credit bureaus if you see any mistakes, fix any problems you discover, and don’t apply for any new credit until after your home loan closes.
#2 Get pre-approved
Before getting serious about your hunt for a new house, you’ll want to choose a lender and get pre-approved for a mortgage (not just pre-qualified—which is a cursory review of your finances—but pre-approved for a loan of a specific amount). Pre-approval lets sellers know you’re serious. Most importantly, pre-approval will help you determine exactly how much you can comfortably afford to spend.
#3 Know what you want
You and your real estate agent should both be clear about the house you want to buy. Put it in writing. First, make a list of all the features and amenities you really want. Then, number each item and prioritize them. Now, divide the list into must-haves and really-wants.
#4 Account for hidden costs
In addition to the purchase price of the home, there are additional costs you need to take into consideration, such as closing costs, appraisal fees, and escrow fees. Once you find a prospective home, you’ll want to:
- Get estimates for any repairs or remodeling it may need.
- Estimate how much it will cost to maintain (gas, electric, utilities, etc.).
- Determine how much you’ll pay in taxes monthly and/or annually.
- Learn whether there are any homeowner’s or development dues associated with the property.
#5 Get an inspection
Buying a home is emotionally charged—which can make it difficult for buyers to see the house for what it truly is. That’s why you need impartial third parties who can help you logically analyze the condition of the property. Your agent is there to advise you, but you also need a home inspector to assess any hidden flaws, structural damage or faulty systems.
#6 Evaluate the neighborhood and location
When house hunting, it’s easy to become overly focused on the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the condition of the home and its amenities while overlooking the subtleties of the surrounding neighborhood. Take time to check crime reports, school options, churches and shopping. If schools are a key factor, do more than simply research the statistics; speak with the principal(s) and chat with the parents waiting outside.
#1 Avoid becoming emotional or sentimental about the sale
Once you decide to sell your house, it’s time to strip out the emotion and look at it as a commodity in a business transaction. If you start reminiscing about all the good times you had and the hard work you invested, it will only make it that much harder to successfully price, prepare, and market the home.
#2 Fix problems (or price accordingly)
Homes with deferred maintenance and repair issues can take far longer to sell and can be subject to last-minute sale-cancellations. These homes also often sell for less than their legitimate market value. If you simply can’t afford to address critical issues, be prepared to work with your agent to price and market your home accordingly.
#3 Don’t overprice your home (and/or refuse to negotiate)
Getting top dollar is the dream of every seller. But it’s essential that you let the market dictate that price, not your emotions or financial situation. Allow your agent to research and prepare a market analysis that factors in the value of similar homes in the area, and trust those results.
#4 Use quality photos
The vast majority of prospective buyers today search for homes online first. In order to make a good first impression, you need a wealth of high-quality photos of your home and surrounding grounds. You may also need to consider professional staging in order to position your home in the best possible light for prospective buyers.
The process of buying or selling a home can have plenty of twists and turns, but with some smart decision making, you can avoid the most common mistakes and pitfalls.
Have you ever rented the unit in someone’s basement? Maybe your spouse’s mother moved into your “Mother-In-Law Unit” above your garage? Or have you ever traveled and stayed in a pool house for your stay? Commonly referred to as “Mother-In-Law” units, homeowners use these as a way to fill the space in their home and gain residual income, either from vacationers or long-term tenants.
The official terms for these units are Additional Dwelling Units (ADU) or Detached Additional Dwelling Units (DADU’s), and are defined as extra spaces in homes and on properties where someone can live completely independent of the main house.
These units can be almost anywhere on the property, but they are usually located in the basement, in the backyard, or above the garage. They have their own bathroom and kitchen facilities, and sometimes they share laundry with the main house.
Thinking of adding a unit to your home? Here are some benefits and risks, as well as important aspects to consider before you build:
Homeowners can maximize their investment by renting out the extra space to long-term tenants for short-term vacationers. These tenants can help pay off debt or create an extra stream of income to pay for other needs or wants.
Depending on several factors, including the size of the unit, the market in the area, and other factors, each homeowner should decide which option they are more comfortable with. These decisions should be made before they list the unit for rent to best market to the right audience.
An obvious risk is that when you open your space to a stranger, there’s a possibility that things might end poorly. Either the tenants could turn out to be untrustworthy, or unreliable, leading to a financial burden.
To minimize the risks, it’s a good idea to use an application process to check backgrounds and employment history as a tool to get to know the potential tenant. Make sure to adhere to the National Fair Housing Laws and your local regulations.
Things to Consider:
- What are the shared spaces?
- Would you be comfortable sharing those spaces, and potentially appliances, with a new person each weekend, or would you rather get to know the long-term tenant who would use those on a consistent basis?
- Rooms like the kitchen can be great for those who want to get more interaction from their vacation renters. However, sharing one bathroom between the homeowners and the visitors can be uncomfortable and risky.
- Would you be okay with a long-term renter using your laundry facilities? What kind of access would they need to the house in order to use those machines?
- What is the size of the ADU/DADU?
- Is it truly a space where someone could live, or would it be too tight to fit all the necessary appliances?
- Does the unit adhere to your local housing codes as a livable space?
- How close are the units and what noise level are you comfortable with?
- As a long-term landlord, tenants have the right to quiet enjoyment without the landlord barging into their space or controlling their activities. If the unit is in the basement and the tenant has friends or family over, that noise could permeate into your unit in the late hours of the night. A way to prevent this is to be sure to layout quiet hours and expectations before they sign the lease or make an agreement so that you and the tenant are on the same page.
- The same goes for the rules in the vacation rental listing. Managing expectations is the first way to create a relationship with the tenants, even those there for the weekend.
- What improvements are required to make the unit livable?
- Do you need to add a kitchen or a bathroom? What are the costs associated with those improvements and would the market-rate rental prices make up for those improvements? You might not get your money back within the year, but if you’re dedicated to making the space worth it to rent it out over the next few years, these improvements, and financial obligations are necessary.
- If these initial investments aren’t viable for your situation, it might be a good idea to look at other options to earn rent from your home, including adding roommates with whom you’re willing to share all the common spaces.
Whatever you decide, it’s important to be familiar with the rental market and regulations in both your local region and your neighborhood.
Do you have an ADU or DADU on your property? How do you use it? Let me know in the comments.
For more than 20 years, the benefits of staging a home have been well documented. Numerous studies show that staging helps sell a home faster and for a higher price. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, 88 percent of home buyers start their search online, forming impressions within three seconds of viewing a listing. When a home is well staged, it photographs well and makes the kind of the first impression that encourages buyers to take the next step.
Studies also indicate that buyers decide if they’re interested within the first 30 seconds of entering a home. Not only does home staging help to remove potential red flags that can turn buyers off, but it also helps them begin to imagine living there. Homes that are professionally staged look more “move-in ready” and that makes them far more appealing to potential buyers.
According to the Village Voice, staged homes sell in one-third less time than non-staged homes. Staged homes can also command higher prices than non-staged homes. Data compiled by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development indicate that staged homes sell for approximately 17 percent more than non-staged homes.
A measurable difference in time and money
In a study conducted by the Real Estate Staging Association in 2007, a group of vacant homes that had remained unsold for an average of 131 days were taken off the market, staged, and relisted. The newly staged properties sold, on average, in just 42 days, – which is approximately 68 percent less time on the market.
The study was repeated in 2011, in a more challenging market, and the numbers were even more dramatic. Vacant homes that were previously on the market for an average of 156 days as unstaged properties, when listed again as staged properties, sold after an average of 42 days—an average of 73 percent less time on the market.
Small investments, big potential returns
Staging is a powerful advantage when selling your home, but that’s not the only reason to do it. Staging uncovers problems that need to be addressed, repairs that need to be made, and upgrades that should be undertaken. For a relatively small investment of time and money, you can reap big returns. Staged properties are more inviting, and that inspires the kind of peace-of-mind that gets buyers to sign on the dotted line. In the age of social media, a well-staged home is a home that stands out, gets shared, and sticks in people’s minds.
What’s more, the investment in staging can bring a higher price. According to the National Association of REALTORS, the average staging investment is between one percent and three percent of the home’s asking price, and typically generates a return of eight to ten percent.
In short, less time on the market and higher selling prices make the small cost of staging your home a wise investment.
Interested in learning more? Contact me for information about the value of staging and referrals for professional home stagers.
Purchasing a home can be a complex endeavor for even the most well prepared home buyer. You’ve diligently saved for your down payment, followed the market, researched agents and now you are ready to make an offer on your dream home. Don’t let these 5 “Deal Breakers” come between you and your new home.
- Big Purchases on Credit. It is tempting to buy the furniture for your new home or a new car for the garage before the sale closes. Take care if you are making these purchases on credit. Large purchases on credit can have a major impact on your credit profile which effects your mortgage application. It’s a better plan to wait until after closing or pay cash for these transactions or you may be putting that furniture in a different living room than you originally picked them out for.
- Overpaying. Before your bank will approve your mortgage they will appraise the home you are purchasing. If they feel you are overpaying they are likely to decline your mortgage application. If you find yourself in this situation consult with your agent on renegotiating your offer to be more in line with the bank’s appraised value.
- Purchasing too close to Foreclosure. If you are making an offer on a house which is facing foreclosure be sure to have a closing date set before the foreclosure date. Have your agent work with the lender to structure closing before the house goes back to the bank and into foreclosure.
- IRS liens. You’ve heard the old saying “Death and Taxes”. Back taxes and liens can derail your attempts to get financing for a mortgage so be sure to have your books in order before filing your loan application.
- Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE). CLUE is a data base of insurance claims for both people and property. Your home insurance rates are determined by the information about you and the property you plan to purchase which is contained in this report. Past claims for water damage, falling trees and even dog bites from present and past owners can multiply your insurance rates. Consult your agent about the CLUE report for your future home as soon as possible once your home purchase offer is accepted.
When purchasing a home there will be challenges which you can plan for and the unexpected hurdles. By educating yourself as a consumer and choosing a well trained real estate agent you can avoid many of the pitfalls of 21st century home ownership.
What about you? Tell us if you have had any “deal breaker” experiences.
Your roof is one of the most important and expensive assets of your home, but no other element is quite as valuable. While the average lifespan of a roof is about 15 years, careful homeowners can extend the life of their homes without enduring too many hardships. Take a look at these three quick maintenance tips to help your roof last.
Keep Your Gutters Clear
Debris that accumulates and clogs your gutters adds extra weight and pulls at your roof’s fascia, which can be a costly fix. Look down the length of your roof for any signs of sagging or bending – that’s a sure sign your gutters are carrying too much weight and pulling at your roof.
Don’t forget the downspouts either, and don’t be fooled by easy-flowing water. Moss and algae buildup on and around your roof can slowly eat away at your roofing material and severely compromise its integrity.
Focus On The Attic
The exterior of your roof isn’t the only area you should focus on as your attic is your roof’s first line of defense against damage with a two-pronged approach: insulation and ventilation.
Insulating your attic has the double benefit of keeping your home’s internal temperature consistent while also preventing vapor and moisture buildup on the underside of your roof. When combined with proper ventilation your attic can stay dry and keep your roof’s rafters safe from moisture damage.
A great way to keep properly ventilate is to add a fan or dehumidifier to the attic.
Catch Problems Early
Check on your roof regularly, an easy time to remember to check is with every change of the season, or after a significant storm. Catching small issues early on will save you money in the long run, so utilizing the services of a reliable, professional roofer is an invaluable asset. As with any working professional, it’s a good idea to establish a working relationship with a roofer and even consider scheduling a yearly checkup for your roof just to make sure there aren’t any problems sneaking up on you. After all, spending a little each year to maintain your roof is a lot better than dropping $15,000-$50,000 on a new one, right?
In addition to providing shelter and comfort, our home is often our single greatest asset, and it’s important that we protect that precious investment. Most homeowners realize the importance of homeowner’s insurance in safeguarding the value of a home. However, what they may not know is that about two-thirds of all homeowners are under-insured. According to a national survey, the average homeowner has enough insurance to rebuild only about 80% of his or her house.
What a standard homeowners policy covers
A standard homeowner’s insurance policy typically covers your home, your belongings, injury or property damage to others, and living expenses if you are unable to live in your home temporarily because of an insured disaster.
The policy likely pays to repair or rebuild your home if it is damaged or destroyed by disasters, such as fire or lightning. Your belongings, such as furniture and clothing, are also insured against these types of disasters, as well as theft. Some risks, such as flooding or acts of war, are routinely excluded from homeowner policies.
Other coverage in a standard homeowner’s policy typically includes the legal costs for injury or property damage that you or family members, including your pets, cause to other people. For example, if someone is injured on your property and decides to sue, the insurance would cover the cost of defending you in court and any damages you may have to pay. Policies also provide medical coverage in the event someone other than your family is injured in your home.
If your home is seriously damaged and needs to be rebuilt, a standard policy will usually cover hotel bills, restaurant meals and other living expenses incurred while you are temporarily relocated.
How much insurance do you need?
Homeowners should review their policy each year to make sure they have sufficient coverage for their home. The three questions to ask yourself are:
· Do I have enough insurance to protect my assets?
· Do I have enough insurance to rebuild my home?
· Do I have enough insurance to replace all my possessions?
Here’s some more information that will help you determine how much insurance is enough to meet your needs and ensure that your home will be sufficiently protected.
Protect your assets
Make sure you have enough liability insurance to protect your assets in case of a lawsuit due to injury or property damage. Most homeowner’s insurance policies provide a minimum of $100,000 worth of liability coverage. With the increasingly higher costs of litigation and monetary compensation, many homeowners now purchase $300,000 or more in liability protection. If that sounds like a lot, consider that the average dog bite claim is about $20,000. Talk with your insurance agent about the best coverage for your situation.
Rebuild your home
You need enough insurance to finance the cost of rebuilding your home at current construction costs, which vary by area. Don’t confuse the amount of coverage you need with the market value of your home. You’re not insuring the land your home is built on, which makes up a significant portion of the overall value of your property. In pricey markets such as San Francisco, land costs account for over 75 percent of a home’s value.
The average policy is designed to cover the cost of rebuilding your home using today’s standard building materials and techniques. If you have an unusual, historical or custom-built home, you may want to contact a specialty insurer to ensure that you have sufficient coverage to replicate any special architectural elements. Those with older homes should consider additions to the policy that pay the cost of rebuilding their home to meet new building codes.
Finally, if you’ve done any recent remodeling, make sure your insurance reflects the increased value of your home.
Remember that a standard policy does not pay for damage caused by a flood or earthquake. Special coverage is needed to protect against these incidents. Your insurance company can let you know if your area is flood or earthquake-prone. The cost of coverage depends on your home’s location and corresponding risk.
Replacing your valuables
If something happens to your home, chances are the things inside will be damaged or destroyed as well. Your coverage depends on the type of policy you have. A cost value policy pays the cost to replace your belongings minus depreciation. A replacement cost policy reimburses you for the cost to replace the item.
There are limits on the losses that can be claimed for expensive items, such as artwork, jewelry, and collectibles. You can get additional coverage for these types of items by purchasing supplemental premiums.
To determine if you have enough insurance, you need to have a good handle on the value of your personal items. Create a detailed home inventory file that keeps track of the items in your home and the cost to replace them.
Create a home inventory file
It takes time to inventory your possessions, but it’s time well spent. The little bit of extra preparation can also keep your mind at ease. The best method for creating a home inventory list is to go through each room of your home and individually record the items of significant value. Simple inventory lists are available online. You can also sweep through each room with a video or digital camera and document each of your belongings. Your home inventory file should include the following items:
· Item description and quantity
· Manufacturer or brand name
· Serial number or model number
· Where the item was purchased
· Receipt or other proof of purchase / Photocopies of any appraisals, along with the name and address of the appraiser
· Date of purchase (or age)
· Current value
· Replacement cost
Pay special attention to highly valuable items such as electronics, artwork, jewelry, and collectibles.
Storing your home inventory list
Make sure your inventory list and images will be safe in case your home is damaged or destroyed. Store them in a safe deposit box, at the home of a friend or relative, or on an online Web storage site. Some insurance companies provide online storage for digital files. (Storing them on your home computer does you no good if your computer is stolen or damaged). Once you have an inventory file set up, be sure to update it as you make new purchases.
We invest a lot in our homes, so it’s important we take the necessary measures to safeguard it against financial and emotional loss in the wake of a disaster. Homeowners insurance is that safeguard, be sure you’re properly covered.
Downsizing is on the minds of many homeowners today. Some are ready to retire, others want to live more simply, and many want to save money and say goodbye to home maintenance. If you can relate to any of those sentiments, ask yourself these five questions:
Have you done the math?
The financial savings that can be generated by downsizing can be significant – especially as they add up over time. When doing the math, make sure the move will save money, rather than spend unnecessarily.
Have you researched elder-care options?
Many homeowners hold on to their current home longer than they should because their parents / parents-in-law may need to come live with them in the future. While a noble gesture, there are many excellent elder care living options available today. Often, all it takes is a tour of those facilities to realize that your loved one may actually be happier, and far better served, in a place devoted to their care and happiness.
Have you considered off-site storage?
You don’t need to immediately discard a big chunk of your belongings in order to downsize. In fact, trying to do so in one fell swoop only creates needless stress. Most people find it works much better to move some of their belongings into off-site storage for six months. During that time, you can gradually incorporate some of those items into your new living arrangement, and slowly figure out what to do with the others.
How do you feel about sharing costs and decision-making?
Townhomes and condominiums are popular downsizing options. But both require that you share the decision-making and expenses associated with any maintenance and improvement projects with your neighbors and potentially an HOA. If you’re a people-person and agree that two heads are better than one, and you like the idea of sharing the cost/responsibility for expensive repairs, you’ll enjoy condo living. If not, this may not be the best option for you.
Have you consulted with a real estate agent?
Many homeowners don’t think to consult with a real estate agent until they’ve made the decision to downsize. This leads to guesstimating about some of the most important factors. The truth is, your real estate agent is someone you want to talk with very early in the decision-making process.
The craving to move happens to every homeowner as they start to feel bogged down, or like they need a restart. That sense of newness doesn’t have to be dramatic, however. The great part about having a home of your own is you can make improvements and give your home a chance to evolve over time. You just need to help your home live up to its potential! These are seven of our favorite improvements to help you make the most of your home.
1. Find Your Home’s Purpose
Each home is as unique as its owners, so in order to fully utilize your home, consider how you view your home’s purpose. Some people like to entertain, others find it a calm space in the frenzy of daily life; some nurture their families and others nurture their creativity. Your home’s purpose can be any combination of these and more, but it helps to consider the function of your space in order to ultimately find its purpose. Knowing your home’s purpose will help guide you as you move room to room while you refresh the space.
2. Assemble a List
Create a list of haves/needs/wants. Answer questions like: what is it about the space that isn’t working; how could it work better to fulfill the purpose; where could I move some of my items to make them feel new again?
3. Make an “Inspiration Board”
An “inspiration board” is a great way to visualize your home’s decor. You can create a board online with a tool like Pinterest to organize ideas you love, you can also use the ‘Save’ feature on Instagram, or the old-fashioned way with a cork board and magazines. Doing this will allow you to see all the elements you like in one place so that you can then tie it all together into a room you love.
Photo Credit: @Krista4Coral on Instagram
4. Choose a New Palate
Renew the lighting and color by shaking up your color palate. It’s easy to fall into the white/beige standby to keep our rooms neutral, but sometimes a color that provides a contrast to your décor will make the room pop. Add a new color to the palate, refresh a wall with an accent color that you already feature in your decor, or overhaul your curtains and throws with a brand new hue.
What about the Pantone color of the year? See our blog on how to incorporate Living Coral into your home.
Moving furniture around is another easy way to reinvent your space. Try placing your sofa on an angle to open up your entertaining room or move your lamps to improve lighting. You can also think about moving a piece of furniture into a room to give it new life, like using a unique dresser for a credenza or a chair as a side table.
Photo Credit: HouseBeautiful
6. Create a Collection
If you have items that you like to collect, think about how to transform that collection into something you can display. If you don’t already have a collection of loved objects think about what this collection would be for you. You can center a room design around your travel souvenirs, old camera collection, figurines, unique plates, or familial objects. Adding to this collection over time can be a great way to keep your spaces new while maintaining a personal feel to your decor.
7. Find Design Motivation
Home design evolves over time and can be sustained by finding items that inspire you. Read magazines and books that inspire your interests in architecture, design, art, etc. Or find stores and flea markets that sell pieces that influence your aesthetic. Another way to get in-tune and keep your aesthetic with you is to bring a camera with you when you’re doing your favorite activities and bring back memories or inspirations.
Important Note: Have fun with it! Homes and aesthetics evolve over time, add and subtract as you go, and don’t stress if the room doesn’t feel finished. You’ll get there eventually.
Buying a home is one of the most significant financial and emotional purchases of a person’s life. That’s why it is so important to find an agent that can not only help you navigate the home search process but one who can also answer your questions and represent your needs from start to finish. Most importantly, your agent should care about your happiness and ensuring that you find the home that best fits your needs.
Here are some qualities to consider when selecting a real estate agent:
- Likable. More than likely, you will be spending a lot of time with your agent, so look for someone that you enjoy interacting with.
- Trustworthy. One of the best ways to find an agent who you feel you can trust is to ask friends and family for a referral. Another way to do this is to interview different agents and ask for client references.
- Effective listener. While your agent can’t read your mind, they should be able to make educated recommendations and offer advice by listening closely to your needs. Make sure you talk to your agent about your priorities, what types of features appeal to you, as well as any factors that could be deal breakers. This will arm your agent with everything they need to help find you the perfect home.
- Qualified and experienced. Make sure your agent has the qualifications and experience to meet your specific needs. For example, some agents have more experience with short sales, while others might be experts on certain neighborhoods or types of housing. Find someone who is good at what you’re looking for. Ask specific questions when you interview them so you can get a better idea of what they’re great at, and if they’ll be a good fit for your search.
- Knowledgeable. A great agent is someone who is out in the neighborhoods, exploring communities, visiting listings, up to date with market and industry news, and collecting all the information that you need to make an informed, confident decision about your real estate needs.
- Honest. Your agent should be upfront and honest with you about every aspect of your home search process – even if it involves delivering bad news. The best real estate agents are more concerned about finding the right home for their clients, not just the home that brings in the fastest commission check.
- Local. Every community is different and all real estate is local, so it’s important to find someone who really knows the local market and can provide you with whatever information you need to familiarize yourself with a particular area.
- Connected. A well-connected agent will have relationships with lenders, inspectors, appraisers, contractors, and any other service provider you might need during your home search.
- Straightforward. You want an agent who will work hard to help you find the best home, but you also want someone who will be straightforward with you about the process, the market reality, and what is realistic for you.
- Committed. Your agent should be in it for the long haul, meaning that they’re looking out for your best interests every step of the way, no matter how long the process takes. The best way to find an agent with these qualities is by asking around. In all likelihood, someone within your circle of friends or family will have experiences to share and professionals to recommend.