Southeast Florida Real Estate News

 

Sept. 1, 2019

What Is a Home Warranty? Peace of Mind for Home Buyers

home-warranty

What is a home warranty? In a nutshell, it's a policy a homeowner pays for that covers the cost of repairing many home appliances if they break down.

After all, lots of things you buy come with a warranty in case they break down, from cars to smartphones. But what about homes? It turns out you can get a home warranty plan, too.

“Home warranties provide financial protection from a service provider for homeowners who might be faced with unexpected problems with their appliances,” explains Shawna Bell of Landmark Home Warranty.

Many people buy a one-year home warranty plan right when they close on a home, since such protections can provide some much-needed peace of mind that you won't get hit with unexpected, out-of-pocket expenses soon after moving in. Imagine what a bummer it would be, after all, to wake up one morning to a broken boiler, knocking appliances, a leaking water heater, dripping plumbing, or malfunctioning fridge in your new home.

A home warranty plan can lessen those homeowner and appliance worries, which for many is worth every penny. A couple of warranty plans to consider: Choice Home Warranty and TotalProtect.

What does a home warranty, like one from Choice Home Warranty, cover?

Don't mistake a warranty for homeowners insurance, which covers your home's structure and belongings in the event of a fire, storm, flood, or other accident. Home warranty companies, in comparison, will cover repairs and replacements on home  systems, including electrical systems, plumbing, water heater, washer, and kitchen appliances due to normal wear and tear—no calamities required.

Home warranty companies, including Choice Home Warranty and Home Service Club, generally set up a service contract to cover the following items (you can read a sample contract to find out):

  • Basic home systems such as plumbing and electrical
  • Heating and cooling systems, including the water heater
  • Appliances such as the washer and dryer
  • Kitchen appliances such as the oven, range, built-in microwave, and garbage disposal

How much do home warranty companies charge?

While homeowners are often required to get homeowners insurance along with their mortgage, home warranties are a fully optional purchase. Basic coverage starts at about $300 and goes up to $600 for more comprehensive plans, says Bell.

A homeowner can include add-ons to a service contract if needed (e.g., coverage for a swimming pool, various appliances, or an external well).

Although many home warranty companies offer plans to homeowners at any point, the best deals can often be snagged if purchased when you become a first-time home owner. You're eligible for these plans whether you're buying a condo or single-family home. And some warranty plans are the "build-your-own" type, which means you can customize a basic plan to cover particular systems (like plumbing) and appliances, or you might include optional add-ons like a tuneup for your HVAC.

“The home warranty offered at the time of the real estate transaction typically offers the most comprehensive coverage and price points, so that’s why it’s the ideal time to lock it in,” Bell says.

At the end of the first year, you usually have the option to renew your home warranty or bail with your service provider.

Benefits of home warranties for home buyers and sellers

A home warranty benefits homeowners by providing reassurance that they can move in without worrying about shelling out even more for add-on or surprise repairs.

A home warranty can also benefit home sellers (if they don't have it already), since it can cover these elements during the listing period; some home warranty companies even offer free seller’s coverage during this time with the hopes that the buyer will decide to continue the coverage. Often, home sellers will offer to pay for the first year of a buyer's home warranty to entice buyers to bite.

But not everyone thinks home warranty companies are worth the cost. Typically a warranty isn't necessary with new homes, since most of the appliances are already covered under manufacturers' warranties. But in general, the older your home, the greater the odds that something'sbound to break, and the wiser it is to get a home warranty. Best of all? Not all home warranty companies differentiate between newer and older homes in terms of cost, making a warranty an especially cost-effective option if you are purchasing an older home.

Be sure to read the fine print on the contracts from a warranty company such as Home Service Club and Select Home Warranty. And remember, this type of warranty doesn't usually cover pre-existing conditions and you may have to pay a deductible if something breaks.

What if something breaks under a home warranty

Home repairs are a big headache, so you're probably wondering if that broken appliance, leaky plumbing, ductwork, or HVAC is a covered item under your home warranty. To find out whether you may have to pay a deductible, call your provider or customer service to connect with a qualified contractor in your area.

One thing to remember is that a home warranty does not mean you're off scot-free for a certain "covered item." Typically you'll have to pay for a service call, service fee, or part of the bill up to your home warranty deductible first.

While not everyone will think a home warranty is worth it, it is a good idea for people who lean toward being better safe than sorry when buying a home. Consider the appliances you own and how reliable your plumbing is. Speak with your real estate agent for advice, and then check out the home warranty companies in your area (try Select Home Warranty and TotalProtect). This way, you can read a few sample contracts and decide for yourself.

Article courtesy Realtor.com

Posted in News
Aug. 5, 2019

6 Surprising Things You Never Knew You Had to Do Before the Movers Arrive

do-before-movers-arrive

Moving is stressful, so you’d be forgiven if after packing the last box you thought that you were finally done. Now it’s just time to wait for the movers to arrive, right?

Not exactly.

Working with professional movers is a great option for people making big moves, moving with kids, or moving large or fragile items that would be otherwise impossible to transport. But while many moving companies do a great job of providing end-to-end service, there are some things that only you can do to make the whole process run smoothly. Here’s our list of six surprising things you’ll need to do before the movers arrive in order to avoid disaster.

1. Make a clear path

Whether you live in an urban apartment or a two-story house in the country, there are bound to be obstacles for your movers. By anticipating these issues before they happen, you can make everyone’s job easier, and possibly even save some money by taking up less of the movers’ time.

First, you should consider the parking situation outside your home. Where will the movers be able to leave their truck when packing up your stuff? If you do have that house in the country, this might not be an issue. But if you’re living in an apartment or urban area, chances are good that a huge double-parked truck won’t be taken very kindly by the neighbors.

“If you live in an apartment building or if there is limited parking in your area, ask the movers if they will handle the logistics or if you need to do so,” says Ali Wenzke, author of "The Art of Happy Moving."

Some moving companies might be familiar with your neighborhood and know how to park in a way that doesn’t raise any red flags with the neighbors. But if they tell you they’d like your help with the logistics, then this will be on you to handle before they arrive.

“You may need to contact your building manager,” Wenzke says, “or the local city government to get the appropriate signage and allowances.”

There are other things to consider, too—like the state of your driveway.

Pat Byrne, operations manager of Long Island–based moving company Moving Ahead Moving & Storage, always asks clients to remove ice and snow to avoid any accidents during the move. You should also make sure the driveway and front access points are clear of debris—like kids’ or pet toys that might pose a slip hazard.

2. Make necessary reservations and get your paperwork together

Some apartment buildings might have service elevators available for use. This would be another time-saving question to ask your building manager in advance.

“See if service elevators can be reserved and whether the building needs any paperwork from movers—like a certificate of insurance,” says Byrne.

3. Protect your house, including your floors

To prevent damage to your house during the move, you should be aware of what furniture is going out the door, and anything fragile in its path that might be at risk of breaking.

“Lightbulbs, fixtures, pictures, mirrors, wall hangings should be removed from the main areas where furniture will be moved,” Byrne says.

And don’t forget about the hardwood floors. Nothing will put off a buyer more than seeing skid marks illustrating the path your sofa took out of the place.

“If you have hardwood floors or tile in any rooms, let your movers know ahead of time so they can prepare the right materials—and make sure your contract includes hardwood floor protection,” advises Miranda Benson, marketing coordinator at San Francisco–based moving company Dolly.

4. Measure!

On a related note, you'll want to measure your furniture and make sure any large items will fit through the front door in the first place.

“Nothing is more heartbreaking than finding out the gorgeous sectional you spent hours assembling is not going to make it through your front door unless you spend more hours disassembling it,” Benson says.

 

5. Pack up the kids (and pets)

Not literally, of course. But you should take the time to consider where your family will be when the movers are at work. If paying for a space in the nearby pet hotel isn’t an option, at least consider keeping your pets in a safe space within your home.

“Pets should be kept in a room with everything they need that movers won’t need to access,” Byrne advises. “You’d want to do this even if your pet is friendly, to avoid [their] accidentally getting out of the house or injured.”

Similarly, young kids should also be kept out of the way on moving day. This is important for their safety as well as the safety of your moving team.

“The last thing you or your movers want to worry about is whether your 2-year-old's scream is going to shock them at the wrong time," Benson says.

6. Make yourself available

Once the family is out of the house, it’s time (drumroll, please) to sit down and relax—sort of. Find a central point in your home (that’s out of the movers’ way) and simply plan on making yourself available to them as they move your stuff.

Do we mean supervising their every move and reminding them the box is marked “fragile”? Probably not. But you should be around to help answer any questions, or alert movers to anything special they should know about your place.

“There are little things about your house that you only learn from living there: The hallway closet door never stays closed, the third step down has a slight bend, a pack of hornets tends to congregate around the back door, so use the front—these are all valuable things that make your movers' lives easier,” Benson explains.

“On top of that, being available to answer questions, whether that's in person or via phone, can make your move much smoother," she adds.

Article courtesy Realtor.com

Posted in Market Updates
July 26, 2019

How Important Are Schools to Homebuyers

housing schools

 

 

Home Buyers Forego Garages for School Districts

  • 78 percent of buyers in their preferred school district gave up home features to get there
  • Most common compromises include a garage, large backyard, and updated kitchen
  • Nearly three-quarters of respondents say good schools were important to their search

 Today’s seller’s market is forcing buyers to make compromises, but new survey [1] data shows buyers remain steadfast in their desire for their preferred good school districts. In fact, they are willing to give up two of their most desired home features — a garage and updated kitchen — to get into the right school district they want.

Most buyers understand that they may not be able to find a home that covers every single item on their wish list, but our survey shows that school districts are an area where many buyers aren’t willing to compromise. For many buyers and not just buyers with children, “location, location, location,” means “schools, schools, schools.”Three-quarters of respondents indicated schools were important in their search

The majority of successful buyers surveyed, 73 percent, indicated that school boundaries were important to their search, with 39 percent indicating very important and 34 percent important. Only 18 percent said they were unimportant or very unimportant, and 9 percent of buyers were neutral on the question.

The desire for particular schools varied significantly by life stage and age. Ninety-one percent of buyers with children said that school boundaries were important or very important, compared to 34 percent of those without children. Similarly, younger buyers were more likely to say that schools were important. Eighty-four percent of those 35-54 years old and 86 percent of those 18-34 years old indicated they were important, compared to 37 percent of buyers 55-plus. More than half of older buyers 55-plus said school boundaries were unimportant or very unimportant.

Buyers compromise on their top home features for good schoolsSeventy-eight percent of buyers for whom schools were important and who were able to get into their preferred district said they had to compromise on home features; 22 percent did not. The features they most commonly reported giving up were a garage (19 percent), a large backyard (18 percent), an updated kitchen (17 percent), desired number of bedrooms (17 percent), and an outdoor living area (16 percent). According to realtor.com’s spring home buyer survey a garage was the No. 1 feature home buyers were looking for this year, followed by an updated kitchen, and an open floor plan.

Older buyers were less likely to say they had to compromise with 42 percent of buyers 55-plus reporting they made no compromises, compared to 21 percent of 35-54 year-old buyers and 17 percent of buyers aged 18-34.

Buyers define good schools by test scores and accelerated programs

Test scores were the factor most often selected by buyers as a hallmark of a good school (59 percent), followed by having accelerated programs (53 percent), arts and music (49 percent), diversity (43 percent), and before- and after-school programs (41 percent).

Younger buyers were more likely than older buyers to cite diversity as a factor that makes for a good school — 49 percent for 18-34 year-olds, compared to 37 percent for 55-plus. More older buyers placed importance on whether a school has accelerated programs — 62 percent for 55-plus vs. 50 percent for buyers under 55.

Buyers looking for homes in a specific district or school boundary, can search specifically within these parameters on realtor.com.® Buyers simply enter the name of a school or district into the search box on the realtor.com® home page. Homes within the area are then presented on a map with a “pin” showing the school name and location.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the importance recent buyers placed on schools, many home shoppers are already using this feature to look for homes.  Below we’ve compiled a list of the most searched for schools based on home searches using the school search feature on realtor.com in 2018.

Article Courtesy Realtor.com

Posted in Market Updates
July 24, 2019

What Is an Amortization Schedule? Mapping Out Your Mortgage Payments

mortgage payment

What is an amortization schedule? When you borrow money to buy a home, one of the documents you’ll see is an amortization schedule provided by your mortgage lender who could be a retail bank, a mortgage bank, a mortgage broker, or other lender. The word “amortization” refers to the repayment of a debt through regular payments until the loan is paid off in full.

What is an amortization schedule?

In essence, an amortization schedule outlines your loan payments each month and helps keep you on track.

When you take out a fixed-rate mortgage—whether it's for 30 years or any other term—your lender calculates an amortization schedule based on the beginning balance, interest rate, and number of payments that shows your payment for each month of your loan.

The schedule shows your interest calculation and how the payment is divided into principal and interest, so you know how much of each you pay each month. It also calculates the outstanding balance of your loan as you progress through the loan term.

By looking at your amortization schedule calculator, you can see how the amount of interest you pay changes compared with the amount of principal you pay during the life of the loan.

You can view your amortization table on a monthly or yearly basis. In the early years of your mortgage, the schedule shows that your monthly payment is almost entirely interest. The higher your interest rate, the more interest expense you pay with each monthly payment. Gradually that shifts due to amortization—lowering of the balance by periodic payments. By the end of your loan schedule, the calculator shows your payments going almost entirely to pay down your principal.

Thinking about refinancing your loan?

When you make your first payments on a home, you may not pay attention to your balance or how your payments are split. You may be happy to be in a home and keeping up with the payments.

After you’ve owned your property and made payments for a few years, though, you may be thinking about refinancing or selling. In that case, you’ll need to know your balance so you can estimate your home equity. You can find this information on the amortization schedule calculator, or on your latest mortgage statement.

If you decide to refinance, remember if you switch from one 30-year loan to another, you’re restarting the interest clock and could end up paying more over time, even with a lower rate. For example, if you get a new loan after seven years of payments into a new 30-year loan, you’ll be paying interest on your home for a total of 37 years, between the two loans. It may be worth it, however, if you qualify for a lower interest rate.

Paying down your principal loan balance

Another reason to pay attention to your amortization table—and to use an amortization calculator—is you can easily see the benefit of making extra payments to reduce the principal balance on your loan. While your monthly payments won’t change unless you start over with a new loan, you can pay off your loan early by making additional payments.

In fact, you can use amortization to your advantage to save money and pay off your loan faster. If you make an additional loan payment of $1,000, for example, a calculator will show you that it saves you more than $1,000 over the life of the loan. That's because the additional payment helps you amortize your loan faster; in other words, lower the balance and thus save on interest expense.

Here are three ways to pay down your balance faster:

  • A little extra each month: Round up your payment and designate it to pay down your principal.
  • A lump sum payment: If you get a windfall, bonus, or tax refund, use it to pay down your balance.
  • Biweekly payments: By paying half of your mortgage every two weeks, you end up making one extra month’s payment each year.

You can try different scenarios on a calculator to see how even small, regular additional amounts can speed amortization of your loan along.

Regardless of how you make extra payments on your amortizing loan, make sure your lender applies the payment to the principal amount, if your goals are to decrease total interest expense and shorten the effective term of the loan.

Study your amortization schedule when you get it to see if you can accelerate your loan payoff date.

Article courtesy Realtor.com

Posted in Market Updates
July 24, 2019

Staging and Selling a Home With Kids: Yes, You Can!

stage-with-kids

Staging your home is universally acknowledged as one of the most important things you can do to make it appeal to potential buyers. And while no one ever goes in thinking it'll be easy, it doesn't have to be an insane amount of work, either—which is especially good news for home sellers who have kids. After all, few expect a home occupied by children to be perfect; that said, it should still adhere to some of the basics of staging, by being clean, inviting, and depersonalized.

This may seem like a lot of hassle, especially when buyers probably knowyou have kids. Won't they forgive a few minor details? Maybe not, says Mary Hall Mayer, a Realtor® with Warburg Realty in New York City.

“It’s psychological," Mayer says. "A dirty-feeling house implies nothing is well-maintained—not your appliances, or even the wooden floor concealed by a large area rug.”

So whether you’re selling a house with messy preteens or trying to stage while your toddler throws food across the room, we'll walk you through the process of transforming your home so it's seller-ready. Read these tips from the experts that will help you prepare your house (and your children) for a staging success.

Strike a balance

Just like any other room in the house, the kids’ rooms should be tidy and clean. Does this mean playtime is banned while your house is on the market? No. But it does mean you’ll need to get tough about what really needs to stay.

“The first thing I like to remember is that, if I'm showing an occupied unit, it's occupied by everyoneliving there,” says New York City–based real estate broker Brian Letendre. “Let's find out what's absolutely essential to normalizing the day to day for the children, and get a storage space to put any overflow.”

One of the best ways to make your home inviting (besides keeping it clean) is to depersonalize. We don't mean transforming it into a sterile space, just a neutral one that could comfortably belong to anyone, even a buyer without kids.

“You always want the prospective buyers to get a glimpse of what life would be like in the unit for them, without too much of the seller's personality there,” explains Letendre.

That means you’ll be putting your storage unit to work, and filling it with items like old monogrammed baby furniture or those abstract clay art projects made by your kids before they could even walk.

Remove larger toys that might otherwise dominate the room, like play sets, dollhouses, or that 4,000-piece Lego Death Star set.

Corral the small stuff

Once you’ve packed the big items off to storage, it’s time to gain control of the small stuff. You know—all of those half-used crayons and McDonald’s Happy Meals toys that have been accumulating for years.

A good approach is to invest in a collection of baskets or bins. Pick something that adds some style to your space, rather than detracts from it. That means stay away from hideously bright plastic bins; the point is to make your space look like it was organized by a professional.

Kim Jones, a Realtor and owner of Louisville-based L+K Home Organization, sold her home when her twins weren’t even a year old.

“The toys you keep are the ones kids play with every day,” she explains. “Rather than leave them out, get containers and shelving. To maintain organization, it’s important to place the toys back in a manner where it’s easy for the kids to help in the cleanup process.”

If your kids are old enough to help, encourage them to keep their space clean and organized.

“Labeling the containers, baskets, and bins gives the look a finishing touch but makes it easy for everyone to identify where things go back” says Jones. “If your kids are too young to read, use pictures instead.”

Prevent messes before they happen

When the bins are labeled and ready to go, it’s time to start thinking about all of the little messes that happen with kids—and how to prevent them when you have prospective buyers coming over.

"Now isn’t the time for art projects," says Danielle Schlesier, a Realtor in Brookline, MA. "Pack up tempting supplies like paint, markers, crayons, and glitter.”

Another good point is to watch what you cook on showing days. Here's a tip: Skip the waffles and maple syrup for breakfast. In fact, keep any sticky, high-spatter foods off the menu for those days, and plan to have the kids out of the house at least 30 minutes prior to your open house, giving you some time to clean up if necessary.

Do a final sweep

Toys organized, messes cleaned up, kids waiting outside—it looks like you’re ready to go, right? Not just yet.

Despite all of your hard work (and we see you!), there are still a few final places you’ll want to check before heading out.

Mayer, of Warburg Realty, offers up her final checklist. “Clean [off] fingerprints and sticky handles that people may open, like closet doors, appliances, doorknobs, mirrors, and glass.”

If nothing else, you should make sure your buyers can’t guess that morning’s breakfast based on the door knobs.

Article Courtesy Realtor.com

Posted in News
July 17, 2019

Moving Is the Worst, but These Tips Will Make It Way Less Stressful

moving-the-worst

The idea of moving can sound like a great adventure, but for most people, the actual process of moving is a giant headache, or much worse. In fact, a lot of people equate it to some of life's biggest annoyances.

In a recent Comcast Xfinity survey, 19% of respondents said they would rather get a root canal than spend the day moving, and nearly half would choose sitting next to a screaming baby on a one-hour flight over packing up their place. (But what about a two-hour flight?)

Hey, relocating is a reality of life. The good news: There are ways to make it less stressful. No, it won't be a barrel of laughs, but moving doesn't have to be a traumatic experience. So when the time comes, consider putting the following tips to use.

Follow the rule of twos

When you know a move is imminent, there's a tendency to procrastinate, and this adds to the stress. A good way to stay on track is to follow the rule of twos: Start planning two months before moving day, and start packing two weeks before.

“If possible, give yourself eight weeks to handle your moving checklist in an orderly, low-stress manner,” says Laura McHolm, co-founder of NorthStar Moving Co. in Los Angeles. “This will give you time to send change-of-address information, pack up your home, arrange to transfer your child’s school records, etc.”

Make a checklist

Don't even try to commit your moving to-do list to memory!

Laurence Jankelow, co-founder of Avail, a Chicago startup that makes software for landlords, recommends making a checklist that includes the following items:

  • Contacting your utilities company to change or cancel service
  • Scheduling cable and internet installation
  • Updating your home or renters insurance
  • Hiring a moving company
  • Updating your billing address

Think of packing as a marathon, not a sprint

To keep from becoming overwhelmed, pack in sections, going room by room.

“Start with small tasks in each room—each drawer and cabinet are their own victories," says Rambod Mirhossein, project manager at Errands Group LLC in Orange County, CA. Packing should be considered a progressive process, not something you complete overnight.

“And don’t forget as you tape each box closed, label it with the contents and the name of the room where it will be unpacked," Mirhossein says.

Get acquainted with your new floor plan

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that all of your furniture will fit in your new place.

“The room sizes won’t match up exactly, so you’ll want to measure all of your furniture to make sure it will fit where you want it to," says Ross Sapir, founder and CEO of Roadway Moving, in New York City.

He recommends obtaining a copy of your house's floor plan as soon as you close, so you'll have time to make other arrangements (i.e., go shopping) if necessary.

Pack an emergency bag

When you arrive at the house on moving day, you'll want to have easy access to your daily necessities like medicine and a toothbrush.

“Having a box or bag that you can immediately go to that has everything you need to survive a couple of nights is ideal,” says Cameron Brown, co-owner of Einstein Moving Co., in Austin, TX.

He advises packing the following items in this bag or box: toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, soap, and shampoo), an extra change of clothes, a towel, important medications, toilet paper, a book or other entertainment, chargers for cellphone and computer, a checkbook, and other moving essentials.

Arrange parking

If you won’t have a driveway to load and unload the moving truck, Jankelow recommends scoping out where you can park. Don't assume you'll be able to park the truck on the side of the road. Some cities allow you to reserve a parking spot, but make sure you do this well before moving day.

"Some cities require at least a week’s notice, and it can take a couple of business days for the city to post a ‘No Parking’ sign,” he says.

Check in with your moving company

Double-check your reservations with the movers.

“Check in two weeks ahead of time to confirm what time they’ll show up on moving day, and then check in again the day before the move to make sure you’re both on the same page,” Jankelow says.

And while you’re checking reservations, make sure you know what you’re responsible for.

“Unless you're having the movers do absolutely everything, it's likely you will be responsible for some packing prior to moving day,” says Ryan Carrigan, co-founder of moveBudda, an online platform.

Every moving company is different, and some have specific requirements. Does everything need to be in cardboard boxes? Do the mattresses need covers?

"Being unprepared on moving day can add a lot of stress and potential extra costs to your move," Carrigan says.

Double-check your lease

Renters, it's extremely important to scan the leases of your old and new homes for any moving day stipulations.

“You might be charged for failing to fulfill any move-out requirements," says Jankelow. These requirements can include using the back door when moving or vacating the unit by a certain time of the day.

“Some landlords may charge a lot of money for even filling a small nail hole—and that’s not an expense you want to add to moving day," he says.

Article Courtesy Realtor.com

Posted in News
July 10, 2019

Should I Sell My House? 6 Signs It's Time to Move On

lived-in-house-too-long

 

Ten years. That’s the average amount of time a homeowner stays in a house before a sale, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Think that sounds shockingly short? Or way too long? The fact is, people's reasons for selling their homes are different, as are their time frames.

Still, there are some common reasons—financial and emotional—that lead us to sell our current home and move on to the next one. And you don't always see the reasons coming.

Read on for some telltale signs it's time to start looking for the next home and packing your bags (and when you should settle in for the long haul).

1. You know the seller’s market is booming and you want in

Let’s start with one of the most obvious reasons to sell: You’re eager to make a profit on your property.

You need to gauge the key indicators of a strong real estate market, explains Allen Shayanfekr, CEO and co-founder of Sharestates, an online real estate investment company.

A few signals: The price per square foot for real estate in your area is increasing, the amount of time properties stay on the market is decreasing, and you’ve noticed an uptick in brokerage activity in your neighborhood. (If you're situated in an especially hot neighborhood, you might even get a letter or a knock on the door from a listing agent who wants to help you get in on the action.)

“If any of these are true in your area,” Shayanfekr says, “think about selling up.”

2. Because your neighbors just got what for their house?

Check online real estate listings in your neighborhood, and pay attention to the “recently sold” flyers in your mailbox to keep track of comparable home prices in your area.

“If other houses on your street with the same bedroom/bathroom count [as yours] are selling for a price that you’d be more than satisfied with, it might be time to move on,” Shayanfekr says.

Another sign of a hot home sales market is the relationship of asking prices to sale prices. If home buyers are making offers fast—for as much or more than sellers are asking—it's a seller's market. A buyer may offer you a sales price you can't refuse, too.

3. You’re sick of feeling financially stressed

Not everyone sells their real estate in order to pad their bank account. Some homeowners underestimated their ongoing housing costs and simply sell to ease their mortgage burden, or to cash in their equity and use it for other purposes.

If your property taxes or mortgage payments have become unmanageable, the best recourse may be to sell and find another home that’s more affordable, Shayanfekr says. Selling your home is better than struggling with a big mortgage loan, and possibly risking foreclosure.

To breathe easy, your monthly housing costs, including your mortgage interest, principal, property taxes, homeowners insurance, and HOA or condo fees if applicable, shouldn’t exceed 28% of your gross monthly income.

Before you sell your home to reduce your monthly living expenses, make sure you can find another home to rent or buy in your price range, and that you can qualify for a loan at current interest rates when you do.

4. You’ve grown—but your home hasn't

The starter home you moved into when you were expecting your first child isn’t necessarily the house you need now that you have three preteens and a capybara. It’s bittersweet to give up the memories you’ve made in your home, but if your living quarters are causing you stress rather than comfort, “take the leap and sell up,” Shayanfekr says.

Death, serious illness, divorce—these are all emotionally wrought experiences that may warrant a need for change. Relocation is another factor. But let's not overthink things.

“Maybe you’re just tired of the same old, same old, and it's time for a change of scenery,” says Bruce Ailion, a Realtor® and attorney for Re/Max Town and Country in Atlanta.

5. You're over 'high maintenance'

The average homeowner shells out $2,000 a year for maintenance services, according to a recent report by Bankrate. Not repairs, mind you, but scheduled services such as landscaping, snow removal, septic service, private trash and recycling, and housecleaning.

Sick of watching these payments steadily drip out of your bank account? You could sell, and buy some lower-maintenance real estate such as a condo or a new-build property, Shayanfekr says. You might even want to try renting, and let a landlord worry about leaky pipes and other property hassles.

6. You’ve put at least 5 years into the relationship

“If you sell too soon—assuming you have a mortgage—you haven’t really built up any equity in the home beyond the down payment," points out Adam Jusko, founder and CEO of personal finance portal ProudMoney.com. "In the beginning, your mortgage payments are almost completely interest payments.”

In fact, unless the housing market is seriously booming (see above), you might lose money when you sell. You might even owe more than you can get from your house after closing costs.

Remember: Selling isn't free: You'll have to shell out to cover all of the costs associated with hiring a real estate agent, closing, and, of course, purchasing another home.

That's why Jusko recommends staying put for at least five years, unless you have an urgent need to move. In addition to everything else, moving too quickly sends potential buyers a bad message.

"Buyers don’t feel good when it appears you are selling too soon,” Jusko cautions. “What was wrong with the house? Why are you leaving so fast? Are the basement walls about to collapse? Are the neighbors selling drugs and shooting fireworks at your house? Buyers can dream up all kinds of negative scenarios when a seller hasn’t owned the home for very long."

Another reason you may not want to sell is if you don't meet the qualifications to avoid paying capital gains tax on your profit from a home sale. Generally, you can exclude the gain from the sale of your home if you owned and lived in the home for two of the past five years. A sale before the two-year mark, if you don't meet any of the exceptions, could be a costly mistake. By the time you pay capital gains tax, you won't have as much equity left as you'd planned.

But beware of snap decisions

Of course, there are no promises that selling will be better for you in the long run. Take your time deciding if you should sell, and then study the local home sales market, with the help of your real estate agent, before you price your home. If you underprice your home, a buyer may snatch it up too cheaply. If you overprice it, the right buyer may pass it by.

Jusko and his wife lived in Chicago in the early 2000s, when home values were through the roof. After about three years, they sold at a 40% profit. But soon after moving to the Cleveland area, where they're both originally from, home values plummeted.

"For many years, our home was worth less than what we paid," Jusko says. "It's only now—more than 15 years later—that I believe we could sell for more than our purchase price. And don’t get me started on how much money we’ve put into the house over that time."

Selling your home is, above all, a personal decision. Do what will help you live—if not happily ever after—happily for now.

Article courtesy Realtor.com

Posted in News
July 1, 2019

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Bathroom Tile for Your Walls, Floors, and More

pick-bathroom-tiles

Selecting bathroom tile can be a daunting task, because there are just so many gorgeous options out there. Where to begin?

In this latest installment of our Dream Bathroom Remodeling Guide, we'll lay out all the information you need to know. Here's what you should consider to find the right bathroom tile for your project.

Types of tile: Pros, cons, and price

Let's talk about tile choices. "The first thing you need to understand is that all bathroom tile is going to get wet, due to moisture and water vapor," says Cristina Miguelez, a remodeling specialist at Fixr.com.That means that every single piece of tile in the entire bathroom—yes, even walls far from a shower or sink—should be able to withstand water. So you want a nonporous tile in the bathroom whenever possible. Porcelain, ceramic, and glass tiles are nonporous and hold up well; meanwhile, marble and many natural stones are porous and should be avoided.

Here's what else you need to consider:

Porcelain tile

Cost: About $2 to $15 per square foot.

Pros: This low-maintenance tile is ideal for both bathroom floors and walls, because the surface absorbs little moisture. That means it also resists stains. In addition, only soap and water are needed to maintain it.

Cons: The one big downside of porcelain is that it's a pain to install. The material is very dense, which makes precise cuts harder and means that the installation takes longer to complete. This type of tile also requires a fair amount of grout, which can easily get dirty if it isn't sealed properly.

This porcelain tile floor brings the wow factor.

Ceramic tile

Cost: About $3 to $30 per square foot.

Pros: Ceramic tile not only comes in classic white subway tile but offers a range of colors and patterns that give remodelers a lot of possibilities to choose from. It is exceptionally durable, and examples of ceramic tile have survived intact for thousands of years. It is often used on shower walls.

Cons: Ceramic is softer than porcelain, so it's not a good option for high-traffic bathroom floors. And when ceramic chips, the color underneath is different from the shade on top, which makes the breakage more noticeable (porcelain is the same color throughout). The tile is also not as water-resistant as porcelain.

Stone

Cost: $1 to $18 per square foot.

Pros: The biggest advantage of stone tiles is their uniqueness and beauty. These eco-friendly tiles are also not as slippery as porcelain and ceramic tile, and their durability makes them a good choice for showers.

Cons: Acid like vinegar can stain or damage natural stone, so you have to be very careful when cleaning it. And because the stone occurs naturally rather than being fired in a kiln, it can have small natural cracks that get larger over time. Just make sure to seal the tile to make it water-resistant. "Never use natural stone in a steam shower, and try to keep green marbles out of the bathroom, as they have a tendency to get flaky around water," says Miguelez.

bathroom remodel

Glass tile

Cost: About $30 to $40 per square foot.

Pros: Glass tiles add an opulent touch to any bathroom. Since they are resistant to stains, mold, and mildew, they are easier to keep clean. The tile is available in a rainbow of colors, as mosaic collections with a mesh backing and also as individual tiles.

Cons: The upscale feel of glass tiles comes with a price tag to match: This is one of the most expensive tiles. Glass can also be tricky to install. The tile is also easily scratched, which means that a floor of glass tiles will only look good for a few years.

Tile guide

How to save money on tile

When you're pricing out home upgrades, you'll find that remodeling a bathroom has one of the highest costs per square foot in the entire house (a bathroom upgrade typically costs about $9,000, and tops out at $20,000). So before getting started, determine the style you want, and make sure you can live with it for years to come, advises Jay Kallos, senior VP of architecture for homebuilder Ashton Woods.

One way to save money is to skip tiling a bathroom from floor to ceiling. Instead, tile only the areas that truly need it, like the shower, bath, and sink backsplash. Find alternatives to covering the other areas: for example, wallpaper, panels of reclaimed wood, or shiplap.

You can also use more expensive tile as an accent in your bathroom.

"Custom handmade tile and natural stone can add up quickly, so if you have a small budget, use these sparingly, such as in the back of a shampoo niche or the backsplash at the vanity," says Erin Davisof Mosaik Design & Remodeling in Portland, Oregon. You can also use less expensive tiles in an unexpected layout, which can make them look more sophisticated. "Try a herringbone or chevron pattern."

Wall tiles vs. floor tiles

Any floor tile can be installed on walls ... but wall tiles can't necessarily be installed on the floor, depending on the finish. For instance, glass mosaic tile isn't typically rated to go on the floor, because bathroom floors get slippery. Instead, use a small tile with a lot of grout lines, or a non-skid tile, to keep the floors safe.

"Keep in mind that softer ceramic floor tile can crack or may stain over time, making porcelain your best bet for flooring," says Miguelez. Another tip? "Try choosing one tile that comes in several sizes and using it on the bathroom floor, shower floor, and walls of the bathroom, to make the space appear larger."

Tile tips and tricks

Just as when you pick out a paint, "Be sure to look at physical samples in your own home when selecting a tile for your bathroom," says Abby Sanders of Pennsylvania tile installer Stone Interiors. "Every space has its own unique lighting, wall colors, and layouts, which can alter the look of your tile, compared to the version you may have seen at the showroom." Ask your installer for a few samples of similar colors, and take them home for a few days before making a final decision.

And don't forget about grout. "There's a growing trend of pairing plain tiles with colored ‘designer’ grout as an accent," says Curt Rapp, CEO of The Tile Doctor. "For example, use grout in bold hues like oranges, blues, and even reds, with simple white or black tiles." The contrast creates a fresh, unexpected look.

 

Article courtesy Realtor.com

 

Posted in News
June 29, 2019

Does Magnetic Paint Work? Creating a Nail-Free Art Wall

magnetic-paint

Magnetic paint will not magically make your wall as sticky as your refrigerator door, but it can create a cool design effect throughout your home if you use it right. It might sound as easy as slapping on some paint and instantly having a magnetic surface, but proceed with caution. Creating a magnetic surface that will successfully hold up papers requires some know-how, a lot of paint, and the right magnets.

Ready to transform a corner of your home into a nail-free, magnetic gallery wall? Here's what you need to know.

The science of magnetic paint

Before you go out and buy a quart or two, you should have some understanding of how it all actually works.

"Magnetic paint or primer is just like regular paint, except that tiny particles of iron dust are mixed in," says Michael Paul of K&J Magnetics, in Pipersville, PA. Magnets are attracted to the iron bits, so the more coats of magnetic paint you apply, the more power it has to attract magnets (be sure to allow each to dry well before you add another coat).

Paul did a test in which he applied three coats of magnetic primer and one coat of regular paint. He noted that one more coat of paint would have looked better, but the more paint you put on top of the magnetic primer, the less magnetic power it has.

He found that a disc magnet, which he describes as "a bit stronger than a refrigerator magnet," was able to hold up one piece of paper on the magnetic wall.

A second test was done with six coats of primer and one coat of paint, and Paul found that the disc magnet was able to hold up four pieces of paper on the magnetic wall. If you're having trouble visualizing it, here's a video showing the test wall's performance.

Does magnetic paint work?

The million-dollar question: Is magnetic paint too good to be true?

The answer depends on how many coats of paint you use and how heavy the thing you're trying to hang is.

Kristie Barnett, a design, staging, and color expert for the The Decorologist blog, has created a magnet wall for a client.

After more than three coats of paint, "the area still was not magnetic enough to hold most magnets, much less a magnet holding a piece of paper," she explains. They were able to use the surface for magnetic poetry (the small magnets with individual words printed on them), but that's about it.

Lindsey Allen of the home decor blog Better After had a better experience using magnets specifically designed for magnetic paint walls called Hooked on Paint Hanging Magnets (it's currently unavailable, but similar magnets are available for $5.40, mechanismsmarket.com). They're different because they are polymagnets, a type of magnet that has multiple poles instead of just one, and so the result is a much stronger pull.

Allen used a quart of paint on a 5-square-foot space, coating it until all of the paint was used up. The result is a nail-free gallery surface that can be rearranged easily.

So ultimately, magnetic paint does work; it just takes sufficient paint coverage and the right kind of magnets.

Tips for using magnetic paint

Interested in designing a magnetic wall in your home? Here are some tips for getting the most out of your paint, including how to apply it and make it as sticky as possible.

  • Be prepared for bumps. If you're hoping for a smooth surface, this might not be the solution for you. Because the magnetism comes from those little iron bits included in the paint, it's inherently clumpy. "Many folks who use this primer complain of the surface roughness. When it dries, the surface is quite bumpy," says Paul. "It seems to be the nature of magnetic paint."
  • Mix first. Before you use your paint or paint primer, mix, mix, mix. "Left alone on the shelf, the iron particles will tend to settle to the bottom," says Paul. You want an even distribution of particles.
  • More is better. Paul recommends that homeowners apply at least six coats of primer (and dry well in between each). Remember, the more magnetic primer you put on, the more iron dust you're adding, so the more magnetic your wall will be.
  • Use the right magnets. You want strong magnets that are not too strong. The disc magnets ($0.99+, kjmagnetics.com) that Paul used for the tests are a bit stronger than the average refrigerator magnet. (If you have young kids around, you might want to think twice, Barnett cautions, as the magnets could be a choking hazard.)
  • Choose the right color. Magnetic primer and paint come in dark gray, so you'll want to pick a color that will look good over gray primer. Remember: It will be slightly textured and, with as many coats as you need for good magnetism, thicker than the rest of the wall.

Article Courtesy Realtor.com

Posted in News
June 27, 2019

What Really Happens When You Sell Your House for More Than You Owe on a Loan

home-sale-more-than-mortgage

What happens if you sell your house for more than you owe on your loan? If you find yourself asking this question, congratulations are most likely in order. Selling a house for more than the value of your mortgage often means you'll walk away with a nice profit.

But not always. Sometimes, even if a home's sales price is higher than the mortgage amount owed, a seller may not see a dime—or may even owe money at the closing table instead! Here's how to figure out if you're going to make or lose money when you sell your house.

Where your profits go when you close the deal

During your home closing—the final leg of the sales process where you swap your house keys for a check—there's traditionally a go-between who handles transferring funds from buyer to seller. That might be an escrow company, a real estate agent or attorney, or a title company, depending on where you live, but they're the ones who will take the buyer's money (usually a check from the lender) and use it to pay off the seller's mortgage, says Bryan Zuetel, managing broker of Esquire Real Estate and the managing attorney of Zuetel Law Group, in Pasadena, CA.

Yet that check doesn't just go straight into a seller's pocket. Many other parties must be paid off first. Here are a few costs that may eat up your profits.

Real estate agent commissions

First up, the seller's real estate agent has to be paid a commission—as well as the buyer's agent, if the buyer had one, says Robert Berliner Jr., a real estate attorney with the Berliner Group, in Chicago.

The typical commission for a seller's agent is around 5% to 6% of the sales price of the house, although just how much your real estate agent gets will be outlined in the listing agreement—the document you signed when you hired the agent to sell your house.

Traditionally, the title company, escrow company, or lawyer handling your closing will cut a check directly to your listing agent, Berliner says. This agent will split this with the buyer's agent who helped secure the deal.

If for some reason there isn't enough money left over from the sale to pay your agent, you'll need to be ready to write a check at closing to make up the difference.

We know: It's a downer to write a check on the day you sell your home, but it happens if housing prices have dipped since you bought the place. Comfort yourself with the thought that you might be getting out before suffering more serious losses.

Closing costs

The buyer typically pays most closing costs, but sellers often face some closing costs, too. These fees can amount to as much as 1% to 3% of the purchase price of the house. Everything from recording fees to title insurance premiums can come out of the sales price of the house—aka the money the buyer pays to the seller—as part of closing.

And you guessed it, these fees will be paid during the process, so they'll come right out of the money left over after you pay off your mortgage.

Property taxes

After the agents get their cut and the closing fees are settled, any taxes you owe on the property will be levied. In many states, taxes are paid a year in arrears, Berliner says. In other words, the real estate taxes paid in 2019 are actually the taxes on the property for the year 2018. Your buyer isn't responsible for taking on the taxes for the time you owned the property—which means you may have to pay up.

Some states also levy a transfer tax when property is sold, which falls on the seller to pay out of the price of the home.

Just how much you're facing can vary greatly depending on where you live, Zuetel says, but you can expect costs roughly from $50 to $225.

Anything left? It's yours!

After your loan is paid, the agents get paid, and any fees or taxes are settled, if there's money left over, you get to keep the balance. Congratulations! The money can be paid by check or wired straight into your account.

To see just how much you're expected to net, you can ask your closing attorney, escrow officer, or even the title company for a draft settlement statement before closing. This document details all of the closing costs, real estate commissions, fees, and taxes that will come out of the sales price of the home.

Article Courtesy Realtor.com

Posted in News