Feel like you’re priced out of the housing market? You’re in good company.
Rising mortgage rates mean that millions of homebuyers have been shut out of the market. That, coupled with home prices that are currently up 17% compared with last year, means many buyers are simply giving up on their dream of owning a home right now. But what if you don’t want to?
These privately owned units within a larger complex actually proved more affordable than single-family homes in 72.5% of U.S. counties in 2021, according to Realtor.com®.
So if the thought of owning a condo has piqued your interest, read on for a look at the realities of buying and living in this type of home.
Buying a condo vs. a single-family home
The process of buying a condo differs from that of a single-family home in a few key ways.
One meaningful difference is that many condominium homes cannot be purchased using government-backed loans such as Federal Housing Administration loans or Veterans Affairs loans. In order for a condo to be purchased with an FHA loan, it must be on the FHA’s list of approved condominium projects. And the same goes for condos purchased with VA loans; the condo must be approved by the VA in order for the borrower to purchase the unit.
A condo purchase also typically entails getting a higher mortgage rate than a single-family home purchase. Why? Mortgage lenders see condo purchases as riskier than single-family home purchases. On average, expect to pay an additional 0.75% on a condo loan.
Mortgages for condos “can be more complicated due to the nature of the shared building,” says Lauren McKinney, a real estate agent with Beverly-Hanks & Associates in Asheville, NC. “There are implications for lenders, so not all condos will qualify for loans. Plus, there will be a homeowners association and monthly HOA fee to work into your budget.”
Buy a condo if you like the idea of community living
The biggest difference between a condo and a detached single-family home is the inherent group setting. There are implications for everything from your lifestyle to your yearly home maintenance chores.
“The advantages of buying a condo instead of a single-family home include lower maintenance costs, since the condo association is responsible for things like landscaping and snow removal,” says Tom Kelly, chief technology officer for retirement planning website LifePart2.
“You also won’t need to worry about things like painting the exterior or repairing the roof,” adds Kelly. “Plus, condos often come with more amenities than single-family homes, like swimming pools, fitness centers, and clubhouses.”
To get a sense of whether you’ll connect with other members of the community, Deb Tomaro, the broker-owner of Deb Tomaro Real Estate in Bloomington, IN, suggests hopping online.
“See if the association has any social media pages,” Tomaro says. “Often, you’ll find community discussions or board meeting minutes that will give you a real sense of what’s going on.”
Buy a condo if you’re young or retired
Condos are especially attractive for people at certain stages of their lives. If you’re young or retired, you might not like the idea of having to deal with yard maintenance or exterior upkeep.
“Single-family homes require more maintenance,” says Shaun Martin, a real estate and land developer at We Buy Houses based in Denver. He says that condo owners can enjoy the comforts of having their own home, without the hassles that come along with a detached house.
A condo is also a great option for young people or retired folks who live on their own.
“Apart from feeling safer, living in a condo also reduces the feeling of being so alone in a huge space,” Martin says.
Don’t buy a condo if you haven’t fully vetted the HOA
When you’re investing in a condo, you’re also investing in the homeowners association behind it.
“You really need to do due diligence on the HOA and the financial well-being of the neighborhood you’re buying into,” says Bill Gassett, the founder of Maximum Real Estate Exposure, and a real estate agent at Re/Max in Hopkinton, MA. “You need to understand the rules and regulations. Are there deal breakers on pets or gardens? The financial strength of the community should also be a key consideration.”
Contact the community’s property management company and ask to see financial statements like the balance sheet, the income and expense statement, and the cash flow statement. Make sure there is enough money in the reserve fund to take care of capital improvements.
Plus, inquire about any potential projects the HOA has in the works and consider how they may affect your life. The board might ask all HOA members for a financial contribution to the project.
Don’t buy a condo if you want to leverage your investment
Historically, single-family homes appreciate faster than condos.
“A single-family will always be worth more because you own the land,” says Zev Freidus, a real estate agent with ZFC Real Estate in Boca Raton, FL. “You should consider the ratio of land cost to structure cost. Structure depreciates, while the land appreciates. Real estate is considered a safe and good investment, but the more your purchase price is attributed to land value, the better.”
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If the time has come to get a new roof for your home, you might like to consider the option of metal roofing. This important improvement project is something most long-time homeowners will eventually have to undertake, and choosing the proper roofing material should not be taken lightly. A functioning roof will protect your home from harsh outdoor elements like rain and snow and ensure its structural integrity.
Asphalt shingles are common, but the one type of covering that is catching the eye of an increasing number of homeowners is metal roofing. “Metal roofing is gaining in popularity,” reports Todd Miller, president of Isaiah Industries in Piqua, OH. It had a 14% market share in 2016, up from 11% the year before, according to FW Dodge. Only asphalt shingles outpace metal in the remodeling market.
In terms of style and utility, metal roofing gives any other material a run for its money, but does it suit your home (and budget)? Take a look at the best and worst things about metal roofing before you commit to it.
Metal roofs are by far one of the most durable, typically lasting 50 years or more, says Andrew Hecox, owner of Air Capital Roofing and Remodeling in Wichita, KS.
“Rubber and asphalt shingles are fine for 15 to 20 years, but they’ll deteriorate over time, due to weather, wind, heat, insects, and rodents,” says Cedric Stewart, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Capital Properties in Washington, DC. And metal won’t corrode, crack, or catch sparks and ignite into flames from a lightning strike.
“Metal roofing also doesn’t need periodic costly maintenance, like other materials,” says Lonnie Hagen of Accent Roofing and Construction in Dallas.
The pitter-patter of raindrops may be soothing for some homeowners, but on a metal roof, the noise factor can be a serious drawback. The good news is that there are ways to mitigate the sound—but you’ll have to pony up. Materials can be installed to reduce the drumming effect for an additional fee.
“Metal roofs can cost three times more than other materials,” says Hagen. According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of installing asphalt shingles is $3,700, while metal roofing costs around $7,795 to install.
Not every metal roof has to be boring brown or ho-hum gray. In fact, you have nearly the entire rainbow to choose from. You can also order metal roofing to look like wood shakes, slate, tile, or standard fiberglass shingles, says Miller. “This allows owners to match their home’s architectural style,” he notes.
If you live in a place with extreme weather, you should know that metal roofs are hail-resistant—but a violent storm can still dent them, says Hecox. Your roof will protect your home, but insurance companies may not compensate you for the repair of cosmetic damage, he adds. Aluminum or copper, while stylish, are soft metals that are more likely to experience denting.
And if you’re thinking of installing solar panels, having a metal roof is recommended, says Reba Haas, a real estate agent in Seattle. “Metal is the best material to have underneath panels, because it’s lighter than asphalt construction,” Haas says.
Green builders or eco-friendly homeowners will be happy to know that metal roofs contain anywhere from 25% to 95% of recycled materials and are also 100% recyclable, Hagen says.
You love the look, but your neighbors … not so much. There are newer home subdivisions and homeowners’ associations (HOA) that don’t allow this type of roof in their communities, so check your HOA’s bylines before you start the project.
Don’t be alarmed if your contractor does a happy dance when you say you’ve chosen metal roofing. “[It’s] lightweight and comes in panels, which can be cut to exact dimensions—all of which make installation easier than other materials,” says Hecox. And you can sometimes place metal over existing shingles, which cuts down on the costs in time and labor of removing the old roofing, he adds. Metal is also easier to install on a steep pitched roof, again, because the panels are larger than individual shingles, says Haas. That versatility makes it ideal for houses of all shapes and sizes.
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AColonial home is an architectural style that can be found in neighborhoods all across the United States. From California to the Carolinas, different iterations of these homes still capture the eye of buyers with an appreciation for classic, historic American architecture. But how do you know you’re looking at the real thing?
Let’s take a look at the characteristics of a Colonial house, how to distinguish one type of Colonial house from another, and what makes Colonial houses so popular today.
If you have a hankering for traditional Americana, a Colonial home might be perfect for you, says Justin M. Riordan, founder of Spade and Archer Design Agency of Portland, OR, and Seattle.
Evolved from the simple log cabin, these homes rose up in the days of the 13 original American colonies (hence the name) because they were “simple to build, efficient to use, and easy on the eyes,” Riordan says. “The style was heavily favored by early colonists and often made of wood, a resource that was readily available.”
Colonial houses are perhaps best known for their symmetry.
They “usually have a door right smack in the center first floor of the facade, with the same number of windows on the left side as the right,” Riordan explains. “They tend to have two or two and a half stories, but I have seen one-story Colonials, although these tend to be ranch houses with Colonial facades.”
Of course, not every single Colonial house looks the same. Builders across the U.S. have taken the basic Colonial blueprint and applied regional twists to them—variations that make the architecture appropriate for the different climates around the country. These “subsets” of the Colonial, as Riordan calls them, have the basic symmetry, along with other characteristics that set them apart from their “cousins.”
The Georgian Colonial home style is one the colonists brought over from England during the reigns of—who else—King George II and King George III. Drawing from both the Italian Renaissance and the classical architecture of ancient Greece and Rome, the style was used extensively in the original 13 colonies in the U.S., says Ann Cohen, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty, in Boston.
“The English colonists that built them in the U.S. were mimicking the architecture of the aristocracy in their homeland,” she says.
Hallmarks of Georgian Colonial style include a box-shaped home made of brick with wood trim, wooden columns painted white or pale yellow (this is some of the Greek influence), one or two chimneys located on the side of the home, and five large windows across the first floor with multiple panes, and dormers. Typically two stories, the Georgian Colonial has the living and dining rooms on the first floor.
Typically found in Louisiana and along the Mississippi River Valley, French colonial houses are perfect for hot climates because the shape of the roof keeps the house cool, says Cohen.
Unlike its Dutch cousin, French Colonial architecture is characterized by double-pitched hipped roofs, Cohen says. A hipped roof is one that slopes back from all four sides, while the “double pitch” means that two of the slopes meet at a central line, extending from one end to the other to cover an entire structure. The roof’s extension past the house helps keep French Colonials cooler in hot climates.
French Colonial houses also tend to have large porches that surround the home, with thick cedar log posts set into the ground, dormers, and shutters that complete the look.
Louisiana may have its French Colonials, but Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas are known for their Southern Colonial architecture. These homes are characterized by a deep porch, Cohen says, as well as louvered shutters, large chimneys, gable ends of the houses, large outdoor living spaces, and maybe a garden.
The large porches were part of the builders’ solution to the heat, allowing residents open-air spaces where they could gather outside the home.
Spanish Colonial houses are often seen in areas colonized and settled by—you guessed it—the Spanish, Cohen says. Older versions of this type of home are typically spotted in Florida, where they’re often built using an oyster shell aggregate that’s whitewashed with a lime mortar. But you’ll also spot Spanish Colonials on the other side of the country.
“California adapted a simpler version of the Spanish Colonial style using adobe materials and elements,” Cohen notes. This Spanish Colonial revival was most popular from 1915 to 1931 in California cities such as San Diego, Santa Barbara, Sonoma, and Los Angeles.
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Arts and Crafts is more than just a preschool activity—and if you’ve ever swooned over the homes by architect William Morris, then you know the gorgeously detailed aesthetic we mean.
But for the rest of us, the name can be a little confusing. So what exactly is the Arts and Crafts movement, and where the heck did it come from? We talked with top designers to find out. Here are all the details on this architectural style you need to know.
“The movement embodied nature, detail, beauty, and simplicity,” says designer Amanda Gates. “There are two houses that best represent the Arts and Crafts movement, the Gamble House [built for the executive of Procter & Gamble) and the Red House [the residence of William Morris].”
According to Gates, Morris was one of the first to really take into account the effects that a home’s design could have on its occupants.
“He recognized that a home’s interior could be uplifting and affect our mood,” says Gates. It was “quite revolutionary for the time.”
What to look for in an Arts and Crafts home
If you’re in the market for an Arts and Crafts home, keep a few key design principles in mind.
The movement wanted to bring people out of their dark Victorian boxes and into the world, and the homes designed in this style reflect that. Lots of windows, spacious porches, and open floor plans make for a bright and airy space that’s close to nature.
Having beautiful but simple things is also a big part of the movement, which is why so many of these homes will also boast impressive collections of antique furniture, paintings, and sometimes panes upon panes of stained-glass windows.
Arts and Crafts homes were designed by artists rejecting not only industrialization, but also the uptight classical style of the Victorians, meaning you should expect a bit of quirkiness.
The bottom line
It’s hard to pinpoint every single feature you might find in an Arts and Crafts home, but as long as the general principles behind the movement appeal to you, chances are the architecture will as well.
“The main drive behind the appeal of this movement is that its many philosophies are as true today as they were 120 years ago,” says Gates. “We crave practicality, simplicity, nature, and beauty. I think William Morris said it best: ‘Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’”
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First comes love, then comes … a mortgage?! That’s right: Many couples are buying a home together before tying the knot. In fact, 1 in 4 homeowners said they purchased a home with their significant other before marriage, according to a 2016 survey by TD Bank. And that’s presuming they end up tying the knot after all; many continue cohabiting without ever heading down the aisle.
But getting a home loan as an unmarried couple presents some unique financial challenges. For starters, you need to consider the possibility—slim though it might seem—that you might break up one day. Yes, these things happen.
“You need to look at the worst-case scenario,” says Ray Rodriguez, a New York sales manager at TD Bank. “It’s not a pleasant conversation, but you need to have it.”
After all, purchasing a home together is ultimately a business decision. You, as an individual, need to take steps to protect your investment. So, before buying a home with your significant other, make sure not to make these common mistakes.
Mistake No. 1: Not discussing your credit history
Even if you’re applying for a loan together, you’re going to be assessed by the mortgage lender as individuals. Married couples are sized up individually, too, but since they’re hitched, they’ve likely had some in-depth money talks already. Unmarried couples may have put off this topic, but it’s time to ask each other some tough questions—starting with your credit score.
Your credit score, of course, is primarily a measure of how well you’ve paid off past debts; you can get a free estimate of this number at Credit Karma. Even if your credit score is sterling, if your partner’s is subpar, you as a couple could be seen as a lending liability.
“We use the lower score of the two individuals when qualifying the couple for a loan,” says Rodriguez. And if someone’s score isn’t up to par, “this could mean you’ll be required to make a higher down payment, or you get a worse interest rate, or you won’t even qualify for a loan at all.”
One potential solution is to have only the person with better credit apply for the loan. However, in doing so, you’ll have to forfeit including your partner’s salary in your assets, which might weaken your application.
“Most times you need both incomes to qualify for the mortgage,” says Keith Gumbinger, vice president at HSH.com, a mortgage information website.
The good news is, the sooner you know your partner’s credit history, the sooner you’ll get to fixing any issues before they throw a wrench in your home-buying plans.
Mistake No. 2: Planning who pays what with a hug and a kiss
Sorry, romantics: You can’t just assume you and your significant other are just automatically in sync about who pays what, and this is particularly true if you’re unwed and lack the legal protections marriage provides. So you’ll want to draw up a legally binding contract (with help from a real estate lawyer) that spells out the following parameters:
What each person contributes to the down payment
How much equity each person has
What each party will pay, including the mortgage, taxes, utilities, and maintenance
Don’t assume you have to go 50-50. “Many couples do 70-30 or even 80-20,” says Gumbinger.
Most important, the agreement should include a provision as to what happens in the event that you two break up, says Debra Neiman, a certified financial planner and co-author of “Money Without Matrimony: An Unmarried Couple’s Guide to Financial Security.”
For example, which party has the right to buy the other one out? And if that buyout happens, how many appraisals would you need to determine the property’s fair market value? Spelling these things out now will help you avoid disagreements later.
Mistake No. 3: Not considering your title options
Sure, you may live in this home together, but there are actually three ways that couples can “own” a property. Here’s how to tell them apart and decide which way is right for you.
Sole owner: The only time you’d want to put just one person on the title is if that person will retain 100% equity of the property—which might make sense if that person is exclusively shouldering the mortgage and other costs with owning the home.
Joint tenants: If one person dies, the other automatically inherits the other’s stake and owns the entire property. This “makes sense if you’re going in 50-50,” says Gumbinger. Many married couples opt for joint tenancy.
Tenants in common: This stipulates that if one person dies, ownership will not automatically transfer to the other homeowner unless that person is named in the will. Instead, the deceased owner’s heirs will inherit those shares. This can be a good choice if one or both partners have kids or family from a previous marriage to whom they want to pass on the property if they die.
Mistake No. 4: Making house payments separately
While married home buyers often join bank accounts, many unmarried couples are hesitant to commingle their finances. That’s a valid concern, but if you’re paying a mortgage and other home expenses together, having a joint account—into which you both contribute money from your separate accounts—can help streamline your house payments immensely.
After all, you can’t write two separate checks for your monthly mortgage, so having one account just makes sense (and setting up automatic payments ensures they’ll get paid).
For this and similar articles, please visit Realtor.com
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Maybe you’ve always dreamed of buying a beautifully built home, something that doesn’t look like it came out of a cookie cutter.
And you probably also get some side eye as soon as you mention your historic-home dreams. Real estate agents, friends, and family are often quick to tell you to think twice before investing in an older home. And they’re not wrong.
There are any number of problems that could come with buying a period home. Asbestos! Zoning restrictions! Small rooms! But if you do your homework, those things won’t catch you off guard.
And if you can get past those possibilities, you can embrace the fact that sometimes historic homes are downright amazing.
“Sometimes there’s nothing to worry about—it’s just 200 years old, is all,” says Ernesto Caldeira, a New Orleans Realtor® who specializes in period homes.
In fact, there are several reasons historic homes can blow their newer counterparts out of the water. Check out these advantages—but also make sure to find a knowledgeable agent and home inspector you trust.
Quality of construction
The No. 1 thing you’ll find in a historic home that you can’t get nowadays? Sturdy construction with meticulous attention to detail. Leaded glass windows that survive high winds and hail better than its newer neighbors. Floors made from heartwood, which won’t scratch easily or warp (and hasn’t been available in decades).
“It is more comfortable, better built, and better designed than anything else around,” says Caldeira, who himself lives in a house built in 1810. “It has cross ventilation, it has galleries—everything about it is wonderful and gracious and charming. And it’s solid as a rock.”
It may feel like a tank, but the architects of yore crammed a lot into a home that you don’t get with today’s fast-paced construction—and most of it served a purpose. Transom windows can be cracked open, pouring cool air into your living room and keeping your AC bill down. The dumbwaiter that used to carry food upstairs can now be used to drop your laundry hands-free to the first floor. And the picture rail lining the bedrooms can safely display your art collection without having to tear holes in the walls. Plus, it all just looks cooler, right?
If you’re terrified of a bad investment and looking for a little financial reassurance, there are several local, state and federal tax breaks for owners of historic homes. The government wants you to keep preserving these properties, so it’s generally willing to chip in a little bit—even if that means reducing your bill to the IRS.
The advantage of living in an, ahem, “mature” home is that you usually get the mature landscaping to go with it. Imagine living along a tree-lined street that not only makes everything feel cozier, but also increases your home’s value.
Finally, if you’re looking to show off a little, remember that you can always open your home to the public—having a beautifully preserved historic home comes with the possibility of hosting garden or holiday tours. Sure, these old bones aren’t for everyone. But if you’ve done your research and your Realtor and home inspector approve, why not make a commitment to own a piece of history?
“Give me an old house any day of the week,” Caldeira says. “They’re just built to last.”
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What is a ranch house? If there’s one architectural style that says “suburbia,” it’s this type of home design. Comfortable in design and humble in every sense of the word, this iconic, homegrown archetype actually has a glamorous past.
What is a ranch house?
The American ranch arose in the 1930s as an alternative to the vertical, European-inspired styles of the 19th century: the Queen Annes, the brownstones, the Gothic cottages, and the Greek Revivals. Although traditional ranch houses are still a popular style with home buyers, nowadays it’s common to find homes that borrow different design characteristics from ranch houses. So what is a ranch house and what exactly are those characteristics? We spoke with Alan Hess, an architectural historian who studies ranch houses, about six key qualities of America’s favorite style of home.
1. Ranch houses are horizontal
Ranch houses reflected the growth of America during the mid-20th century, when land outside cities was cheap and highways were blooming across the nation. The design evoked easy, informal living, low-slung and close to the land—as it would be at an actual ranch.
2. Ranch houses emphasize outdoor living
Many of them have sliding glass doors that lead out to lush patios. In a warm climate, an L- or U-shaped ranch house might even wrap around a pool. The style was meant to blur the lines between indoor and out the way formal homes hadn’t before.
3. Traditional ranch houses have one story
Yes, you can have a horizontally oriented home that’s more than one story (see the Colonial Revival, for instance), but a ranch is a one-story show.
There is also the split-level ranch, a single-story on one side that then opens into one-and-a-half or two stories on the other. We’re not ignoring you, split-level! You’re just the offspring of the original.
4. Ranch houses have flat or low-pitched roofs
That doesn’t mean they’re completely flat, but the steeply pitched gables of earlier homes don’t apply. That’s partly because the American ranch was inspired by actual ranches in Mexico, and first became popular in California. Ranch roofs can also have overhanging eaves.
5. Ranch houses (usually) have attached garages or carports.
They came of age at the dawn of the automobile, and they’ve got the car space to prove it.
6. Ranch houses have simple exteriors
No, they’re not as clean-lined as Bauhaus buildings, but ranch houses are of the modernist era, and they don’t have extravagant architectural details like Gothic’s vertical siding or the ionic columns of Greek Revivals. While many of them had decorative shutters, that was pretty much it in terms of lavish components.
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Home renovation trends are constantly evolving. Many homeowners struggle to find the perfect balance, because the rules are always changing. Between creating a home that will sell for top dollar to living in a space that reflects their taste now, it’s a difficult balance to strike. Following home trends just because they offer more profit isn’t relevant if you’re not thinking about selling, right? Conversely, if you’re about to sell it’s not beneficial to ignore home trends in your market in favor of your style. It’s all about where you are in the process. Additionally, as we pick up the pieces of a global pandemic as a society, we are also redefining what home means to each one of us individually – what we want from the spaces in which we create our lives.
The pandemic has forever changed how we look at our homes. Now more than ever, the desire to create an inviting, relaxing, and versatile living area is our main priority. With most of us spending more time at home, we are learning to prioritize our space and customize each home renovation.
Here are the top 5 home renovation trends that homeowners are jumping on to increase the livability and character of their homes:
Functional home offices
The most popular update by far has to be the coveted home office. Before the pandemic, you may have had a space dedicated to your computer or an old desk flooded with paperwork. After the pandemic? Creating an organized and inviting workspace has become more important than ever before.
When considering a home office addition or renovation, think of functionality first. (Don’t worry, we’ll get to the aesthetics.) How can you best utilize the space to maximize productivity and get the most out of your home renovation? Set up your office with every detail front of mind.
Ask yourself questions like:
Where do I get the best light?
Do I want my desk freestanding or against a wall?
What do I want my view to be from the chair?
What color walls induces creativity?
What background isn’t embarrassing when I Zoom with my co-workers?
Transforming a space into a home office that suits your needs is something you can have fun with! If you’ve worked well in coffee shops, maybe prioritize soft, moody lighting with optional seating locations. This also gives you a great excuse to invest in an espresso machine or French press! If you work well in the traditional office setup, perhaps you will gravitate toward clean, modern designs. Regardless of what office style suits you, you can be confident that designing a welcoming space for work will improve your home – and your productivity.
Enhanced outdoor living areas
Although this may be a home renovation trend – this is a tip that will never go out of style. No matter what part of the country you’re in: whether you have year-round sunshine or seasonal windows, investing in your outdoor space is a great idea.
Human beings, it’s proven, function better on a cellular level when we’re regularly exposed to nature. That doesn’t mean only those of us who live on farms or ranches get to enjoy this perk. Hints of green are everywhere! Oaks in your backyard, flower beds, agave plants, and herb gardens, they are all beneficial to your health and well-being. But they’re also great for your pocketbook.
So in order to give your plot of nature the audience it deserves, think about renovating your outdoor space. Larger projects could be the construction or addition of a deck. If you already have one, consider covering it with a trellis to afford more protection from UV rays. For smaller updates, investing in a patio set, outdoor fire pit, or enhanced landscaping are changes that will pay dividends to your happiness and your home sale.
Bringing nature in
While we’re on the topic, the great outdoors aren’t the only place you can enjoy… the outdoors. The pandemic pushed us all to cultivate our interior spaces in a much more thoughtful way. Enter, the biggest home renovation trend of all: the floor plant. We quickly learned a great way to create a calm, zen-like atmosphere inside your home is to emulate the outside of it.
Floor plants add drama and personality to rooms and look particularly striking against a white wall. Smaller vines, hanging pots, and accent plants all add character without breaking the bank. The pops of green are perfect if your taste leans towards the neutrals, but if you favor more colorful, playful designs don’t shy away from plants either!
We don’t need another reason to love indoor plants, but here’s one. They also are great at purifying the air in your home! Studies even show that certain types of plants placed in bedrooms induce better sleep. So what are you waiting for? Go get in touch with your green thumb.
Home tech is a great way to blend ease of use, sophistication, and functionality for inhabitants of any home. The best home technologies are ones you don’t immediately recognize because they seamlessly integrate into the home itself.
Although Rings and Alexa’s are now a fixture in most homes, there are many technologies that aren’t as popular and are guaranteed to catch the eye of future buyers. Smart home functionalities like smart refrigerators, smart picture frames, even smart toilets can elevate an everyday experience to an extraordinary one. Mainstays like surround sound and home security have seen wild innovation in the last few years and are practicalities many home buyers would be on the lookout for. But no innovation is in demand quite like energy-efficient homes. Dual toilets, solar panels, smart power strips and rain barrels are just some of the ways you can make your home more green. The more eco-friendly your home is, the more valuable it appears to a modern buyer.
A home design trend that likely wouldn’t have emerged without 2+ years of lockdown is the multi-functional room. You know, the room that used to be a hybrid guest room/storage closet that became essential in the later months of 2020?
Those ‘bonus rooms’ are now anything but – buyers consider them essential to properties worth their investment. These spaces are a great place to get creative: you don’t have to choose between a home gym and a sewing station. Get both! A hideaway desk can hide your sewing machine and investing in sleeker, more practical gym equipment won’t add unnecessary bulk to a smaller room.
Most of us who aren’t Beyonce probably aren’t able to afford a home theater, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get cinema-quality at home! With a little creativity and a well-placed projector, you can fashion a home theater in just a few minutes! When you’re not curling up to watch the latest Marvel movie, use the room as a lounge, den, reading room, or anything else your heart may desire.
Although home renovation trends will come and go, rise in popularity and the disappear, many are classic enough to stand the test of time. None of these home updates will ever result in selling your home for less, so create the space that will attract the most buyers at the highest price point. Who knows? With all that profit, you may have room in your next home to give your indoor plants their own home theater.
https://www.altpdx.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/logo-horizontal.png00altpdxhttps://www.altpdx.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/logo-horizontal.pngaltpdx2022-08-09 17:54:222023-01-14 00:08:565 Home Renovation Trends That Will Spruce up Your Space
When I started looking for a home during the COVID-19 pandemic, I thought I had a good idea of what I was up against. As a real estate reporter and editor, I was writing stories each week about home prices hitting record highs, inventory shriveling up, and bidding wars going insane—especially in the suburbs where my partner and I were looking.
As first-time buyers, we knew that finding a home outside of New York City wouldn’t be easy. However, we were done with paying what seemed like a fortune in rent for a small apartment in a city that had been largely shuttered and that no longer felt safe. So like many other first-time buyers, we naively believed that as two professionals we would somehow survive the process largely unscathed.
That optimism abruptly evaporated once we made our first offer on a house—and were promptly outbid by about $100,000.
Covering this housing market, I soon learned, was nothing at all like trying to navigate it myself. We suffered crushing disappointments and made more than our share of mistakes.
It took us nine months of scouring the market in three states, touring dozens of homes, losing multiple bidding wars, and rescinding another offer on a fixer-upper that would need more work than we could afford to put in, before my partner and I finally closed on our home late last year—a cute, renovated Cape Cod outside of New York City.
And, now that my homebuying odyssey is over, I wanted to share what I learned—things that no amount of writing about the housing market could teach.
1. Homebuying can take an emotional toll
I always assumed that my years as a reporter covering crime in New York City had made me tough. Someone I was particularly close with had to die before I would shed a tear. But each time we didn’t get a house, I would become a terrible cliche—curled up on the couch misty-eyed.
Meanwhile, my partner’s attitude was that if we didn’t get the house, then it wasn’t meant to be and that something better would come along. This wasn’t what I wanted to hear as I tried to find solace at the bottom of a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.
It wasn’t just the house itself I was grieving; I was mourning the life I thought I’d lost as well. The bright blue house with the big windows was close to one of my old co-workers and his family. If we had gotten that home, it would no longer be an epic trek to get out to his summer barbecues. But that home received 14 offers and was sold for about $150,000(!) over the asking price—a figure we couldn’t come close to competing with.
There was the Colonial with the stunning in-ground swimming pool where I imagined myself lounging by, on the patio with my laptop open, working all summer long. That one went to an all-cash buyer. Then there was the adorable, yellow Cape Cod that I fell in love with the moment I stepped across its Moroccan-tiled threshold. My partner, a trained artist, submitted an original illustration of the home with our offer in an effort to win the sellers over. But we were outbid yet again.
Finally, another Cape Cod came up for sale in a town we both loved, where we had been renting an apartment until we found our house. The home was recently renovated, located in a great neighborhood, and offered at an attractive price, where we had room to offer more. So we put in our offer.
We waived the traditional home inspection and instead asked for one that would evaluate the structural and engineering components of the home, such as the roof, boiler, foundation, electrical, and plumbing. This meant we weren’t going to back out of the deal unless there was a big, expensive-to-fix issue. Our real estate agent found us a mortgage lender that could close as quickly as an all-cash offer. That helped our bid—one of six—to be accepted.
My takeaway: Don’t lose hope. It wasn’t until our fourth bidding war that we emerged victorious. Something better could be heading your way.
2. You’ll likely have to make some compromises
Finding a home that you and your partner agree on, that’s within your budget, in a desirable location, and where you could comfortably spend five to 10 years isn’t easy—particularly in a highly competitive real estate market with record-low inventory. Just be aware that if, like us, you’re a first-time buyer with limited resources who can’t make an all-cash offer, then the home you end up buying may not have everything you want.
I feel incredibly lucky to have snagged a move-in ready home within walking distance to a train station in an artsy town along the Hudson River. However, it doesn’t have a garage (which won’t be much fun when it snows), central air, or a big backyard for our dogs to run around.
Initially, not having a large yard had been a deal breaker. But the previous owners had turned a corner of the property into a flourishing garden, and there was room to put in a deck without losing much green space. So we compromised. We will eventually add central air and have already made a nearby nature preserve a staple in our dogs’ daily walks. Plus, mowing the lawn should be a cinch this summer.
My takeaway: Figure out your must-haves and would-like-to-haves. Then be open to readjusting your lists, especially if you can add or fix any perceived shortfalls down the line.
3. Buying a home can be terrifying financially
After I came down from the exhilaration of finally having a home within our grasp, reality set in. Everyone we spoke with who had bought a home said they had experienced a moment of financial terror. We were no exception.
Within a few days of our offer being accepted, we were handing an attorney we’d just met what seemed like an obscene amount of money for escrow. That money had taken us years to save. While we believed this house would be a smart, long-term investment, we weren’t wealthy and hadn’t received any family assistance. This cash represented years of sacrifices and side gigs on top of our full-time jobs. And the bulk of it was about to be gone.
Not only that, we were about to sign up for 30 years of fixed-rate mortgage payments. We had crunched our numbers and knew almost down to the penny what we could afford if we wanted to still go on vacation, save for retirement, and manage financially if one of us lost a job. While we would be paying less each month than we did for a previous rental apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, we would soon be locked into a towering debt. We couldn’t just move to a cheaper apartment if something went wrong.
My takeaway: Don’t forget to breathe. As long as you’ve done your homework on finding a home within your means, the panic of laying out so much money will eventually pass.
4. Don’t settle for the first mortgage you’re offered
Once our offer was accepted, the clock was ticking on securing a mortgage, and interest rates were rising fast. So I wasn’t pleased when our main bank offered us only a so-so mortgage interest rate that our lender wanted us to pay thousands of dollars worth of points to secure. (Buyers typically buy points to bring down their mortgage rates.)
A friend had urged me to shop around, since mortgage lenders often match better deals from their competitors.
I found an online brokerage, with no physical locations, that was offering lower rates with no points required, so I applied. When the offer the brokerage came back with was higher than what it had advertised online, I took a screenshot of the ad and asked the brokerage to match it. Then I took that offer to three other lenders with brick-and-mortar locations.
It was stressful since we needed to lock in a lender quickly, but I knew this would save us thousands upfront and thousands more over the life of our loan. To my relief, two of the lenders were eventually able to match the offer. I liked the lender at our own bank so we ultimately went with them—with a far better deal than they’d handed us at the outset.
My takeaway: It can really pay off to shop around.
5. Don’t move money around, close bank accounts—or buy a new iPhone
One of the most frustrating parts of the homebuying experience was the mortgage vetting process after we had been pre-approved. It felt like we were being stripped financially bare and then judged for every transaction we had made.
I knew not to open a new credit card or make a large purchase. But I didn’t understand that moving money around between bank accounts to come up with the down payment was problematic. I even made the mistake of closing one account at a bank I rarely used. This seemed to open up a Pandora’s box of dizzying inquiries, requests for documentation, and phone calls with our lender attempting to explain for the umpteenth time that we weren’t money launderers, the cash had come from a different account, and yes, we would include the bank statements to prove it. It was a vexing, blood pressure–spiking process that seemed would never end.
Then, shortly before the loan was approved, my 5-year-old iPhone died. So I bought a new phone through my carrier, agreeing to pay roughly an extra $25 a month until it was paid off. No big deal, right? Not according to my lender, who flagged this as a new debt. This kick-started a whole new debacle before we could get approved. The fact that I could afford my slightly higher phone bill seemed lost on the lender.
My takeaway: Before you even start looking for a house, consolidate the money you plan to use for your down payment and closing costs into one bank account (or two if you’re purchasing with a partner). And whatever you do, don’t finance anything, however small, before your mortgage closes.
6. Property taxes can add quite a bit to your monthly mortgage payments
When my partner and I started looking for homes, we were initially concerned with things like square footage, curb appeal, and living in neighborhoods within walking distance of restaurants, entertainment, and train stations. However, we quickly started paying closer attention to property taxes. We were shocked to learn that similarly priced homes could cost drastically more or less each month depending on those amounts.
The New York City suburbs are notorious for having some of the highest property taxes in the country. The taxes can easily add an extra $2,000 a month—or more—to a monthly mortgage payment for even a modest, older starter home on a small lot.
To put that in context, I have family in South Carolina who pay less than $2,000 in taxes a year.
Even more confusing: Many towns set their taxes differently. Some increase taxes only when homeowners make costly improvements to their properties. In others, taxes are more closely tied to the sale price of the home or appraised values. So when prices rise, so do taxes.
Just one town over from us, property taxes are about $700 to $800 more a month on comparable homes. (We immediately stopped looking there once we found this out.) And both towns share the same schools!
My takeaway: Don’t focus just on the sales price of a home. Factor in the entire monthly payments, which can make a more expensive home more affordable and vice versa.
7. Set some extra cash aside for your first few months in your new home
Spending my adulthood in city apartments with superintendents who would fix whatever was wrong, I soon learned that owning a house was far more daunting. The home inspector we used explained that our dryer vents would need to be cleared out once a year so as not to start a fire. I had never thought enough about dryers to realize they even had vents.
We needed to have sealant applied to the roof. Our boiler would need to be serviced before winter. The chimney would need to be cleaned along with our gutters. The locks would need to be changed. All of that money was quickly adding up.
And then there was the not-so-little matter of the hideously overgrown bushes in front of our home that looked like they had been fed steroids until they swelled and seemed to take up the whole yard. They had to go. But the quotes we received didn’t mention it would cost an additional few hundred dollars to have the unsightly stumps removed. Sigh.
My takeaway: We hadn’t realized just how much we would need to shell out, upfront, on maintenance and other necessities. Set some cash aside for these unexpected expenses in addition to the ones you know about, like closing fees and furniture.
8. Expect the unexpected
After my partner and I had our closing date, we were feeling pretty good. Our mortgage had been cleared to close, and we’d made good progress on packing up our place.
And then our attorney called: Our closing was going to be delayed.
The sellers, it turned out, were purchasing a property from a couple getting a divorce. And one of the spouses had abruptly decided to blow off her own closing to fly to Spain—with her real estate agent! Our sellers couldn’t move out of their house until the purchase of their new home went through. And that couldn’t happen until this woman returned from Europe.
Our apartment had already been rented out and we needed to be out of it ASAP. The whims of a woman I had never met would determine whether we would soon be homeless. It was the worst possible situation.
After our initial freakout, my partner arranged for us to stay with family for a few days while I looked for a dog-friendly place on Airbnb in case the delay would be longer. I also reserved an inexpensive storage unit nearby for our stuff.
Fortunately, everything worked out. The woman returned and signed the paperwork, delaying our own closing by just a few days.
My takeaway: No matter how prepared you are, you’re not in control of this process. Have a backup plan in place.
https://www.altpdx.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/logo-horizontal.png00altpdxhttps://www.altpdx.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/logo-horizontal.pngaltpdx2022-08-05 17:51:312023-01-14 00:09:248 Surprising Lessons a Real Estate Editor Learned Buying Her First House
Renovating a fixer-upper is not for the faint of heart. It takes money, hard work, and patience. But if you’re able to pull off a successful transformation, you’ll reap the benefits.
“Fixing up a house is an incredible opportunity, but should never be viewed as a TV show. It’s real life,” says Elizabeth Enright Phillips, a financial coach at Running Creek Properties in Lancaster, OH, who has renovated nearly a dozen properties.
Best-case scenario: You’ll end up building your dream home and increasing the value of the property. But fixing up a ramshackle house can cost a fortune. Unforeseen problems can surface that will make your fixer-upper a real money pit.
When looking at real estate listings, you’ll notice that no two fixer-uppers are the same. One may have sat vacant for a while, another may be in desperate need of a new roof, and another may have a mold infestation. Each of these scenarios will cost money to rectify, but some situations are more manageable than others.
To help you out, we tapped experts to identify the features and characteristics you should look for in a fixer-upper, to make the renovation go much more smoothly. On your hunt for that hidden gem of a fixer-upper, keep your eye out for the following signs.
Strong structural elements
A solid structure is ideal for any home, but it’s especially critical when you’re buying a fixer-upper. If the home has a crumbling foundation or serious roof problems, you’ll have to decide if you’re willing to pay to repair this type of damage.
These are the five important structural elements:
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC)
Mike Coughlin, owner of Summit Design Build in Stoneham, MA, says you can get a good idea of the house’s structure by exploring the basement, attic, and unfinished areas. Focus on those areas rather than the pretty, recent additions to the home.
“You want to look at the basement rather than the granite counters and new bathroom fixtures. All of that shiny stuff is really easy to fix,” says Coughlin, who is working on a nearly 300-year-old home that he bought with his wife, Francine. “The stuff behind the walls is what’s more important. As long as the bones are good, you can pretty much do anything.”
Only minor plumbing problems
There’s a good chance that your fixer-upper will need plumbing work. Depending on the scope of the project, the work will be either a quick fix or a significant undertaking that will eat into your budget. Some fixer-uppers may have low water pressure (fairly minor problem), while others may have pipes that need to be replaced (a big problem).
Before buying a fixer-upper, make sure you’re comfortable with the amount of plumbing work required to bring the place up to snuff.
That said, you shouldn’t immediately flee any fixer-uppers that need plumbing work. If you really love the house, it’s all about balancing costs and diverting money from one project to another.
A sound layout
A logical layout is important in any home (no one wants to walk down a long hall to get to the guest bathroom), but it’s especially critical when you’re looking at an old home. Older homes are often divided into small rooms, but many people in this decade favor an open floor plan.
“The entire family wants to be connected; no one wants to be stuck back in the kitchen when everyone else is hanging out. With an open floor plan, there is no separation between the zones of the house,” says Jean Brownhill, founder and CEO at New York City–based Sweeten, which matches people who have major renovation projects with general contractors.
If you envision needing to knock down walls to create a more open, airy interior, know that the job can be expensive, time-consuming, and dusty.
Little to no infestations
It’s not uncommon to encounter a fixer-upper that has an infestation, be it mice, termites, mold, dry rot, or asbestos. A minor issue such as mice can be resolved by putting out traps and filling holes in the house. However, severe termite damage could require a costly solution, including lifting the house (yes, right off the ground) to access the foundation and check for further damage.
A seller is required to disclose such infestations, but a home inspector will also uncover any issues during the inspection that may occur after the house goes into contract.
If you find any of these problems in your fixer-upper, it’s a good idea to get an estimate from a contractor to resolve the issue.
Buying a foreclosed home that’s sat dormant for a few years might get you a low sale price, but it may also present a challenge when you start renovating it.
“You never know what’s going on with plumbing behind the walls,” Coughlin says of homes that stand empty for an extended period of time. Maybe the water wasn’t turned off properly in the winter, which can cause the pipes to freeze, split, and leak.
A home without humans can also become a refuge for critters such as squirrels and bats.
“We have found dead mice and rats and a live mother possum feeding her two babies in attics,” says William Begal, president of Begal Enterprises, a disaster restoration company in Rockville, MD.
All of these problems can be fixed—they’ll just add more to your bottom-line costs.
https://www.altpdx.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/logo-horizontal.png00altpdxhttps://www.altpdx.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/logo-horizontal.pngaltpdx2022-08-04 23:17:092023-01-14 00:09:46What to Look For in a Fixer-Upper: Signs the Home Isn’t a Money Pit