So you made it through the closing process. Congrats! You’re finally off the emotional roller coaster that is shopping for and bidding on a house. The inspections are complete, the paperwork has been signed, and you have the keys to your new place. Welcome to your new life as a homeowner.

But even though your home purchase is complete, you might not be quite ready to move in. Many buyers delay moving into their new home for a number of reasons. Some might want to ride out the lease at their apartment. Others might be relocating and need to tie up loose ends at their old job.

Regardless of your reason for not moving in right away, one thing is for sure: You should shore up your new home before leaving it vacant.

“You need to keep the property looking good, even if you aren’t there yet,” says Ali Wenzke, author of “The Art of Happy Moving” and a real estate broker at Baird and Warner in Winnetka, IL.

Experts recommend you take the following steps—not just for aesthetic reasons but also as a safety precaution.

Change the Locks—and 7 Other Steps You Should Take To Protect Your Vacant Home After Closing

1. Do a walk-through gain

Remember that final walk-through you did before closing? You should do a similar walk-through before leaving your house vacant for a while.

Look at all the essential home components—like the appliances and the systems—especially the parts of the house that were flagged as issues during the inspection.

“Ensure that all appliances are in good working order. This includes testing the HVAC system and seeing that the hot water works,” says Wenzke.

If you waived a home inspection, it’s a good idea to have an official inspection done before you leave the house vacant. That way, you can repair any critical issues now so they don’t turn into bigger headaches.

2. Change the locks

Think about it: The keys you got at closing might not be the only ones in existence.

“You never know who else had access to your home besides the seller, so it’s best to change your locks for your personal safety,” says Wenzke.

Be sure to lock all the windows and doors and change the locks (or get new codes) for all exterior doors and the garage.

3. Introduce yourself to the neighbors

It might seem like an old-school (and slightly scary) thing to do, but it’s a good idea to establish a friendly rapport with your new neighbors.

“Let them know you’re not moving in just yet and ask them if they can keep an eye out for activity at the home,” says Stacy Brown, director of technical training at Real Property Management, a Neighborly Company.

They may even be willing to collect your mail and newspapers and store packages that are left for you before you officially move in.

4. Create a lived-in look

Grab a few lamps from your old house (and maybe even a sofa or bookshelf) and place them in a room that’s visible from the street.

“It will give the appearance of the home being lived in,” says Brown.

Or, install smart lighting in your new house and program the lights to turn on at certain times of the day. If the curtains and blinds weren’t included in the sale, hang curtains in the house, especially if you’re storing items.

“This will keep prying eyes from looking in to see if the house is vacant,” says Brown.

Hang a seasonal wreath on the front door, or put out a welcome mat to make it look like someone’s home.

5. Invest in smart home devices

Beef up the security of your home with motion sensors and other smart security systems.

“It’s also helpful to install a smart HVAC system so you can control the temperature of your home from afar to avoid any freezing pipes,” says Wenzke.

If your new house has a nonprogrammable system, Brown recommends setting the air conditioning to 78 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. During the winter, set the thermostat to 65. If you live in an area that reaches below-freezing temperatures, open the cabinet doors below the sinks to keep warm air circulating to help keep pipes from freezing and bursting.

6. Protect against plumbing disasters

When you finally move in, the last thing you want to be greeted with is standing water inside your home. Brown says you have a couple of options to protect your home against unforeseen plumbing catastrophes.

One simple strategy is to turn off the main water valve.

You can also install a water leak detection device. Choose a smart model that senses water leaks, sends an alert to your phone, and automatically shuts off the water.

7. Hire a pro to maintain the exterior

An overgrown lawn is unsightly and essentially announces to the neighborhood that no one is home. If you’re not moving in for a while, hire a landscaping company to keep your home’s exterior looking polished.

While you’re at, put out the no-vacancy sign on unwanted critters.

“Consider having a pest control service come by to keep bugs and rodents out of the home,” says Brown.

If winter is coming, hire someone to remove snow from the driveway and walkways so it looks like someone is home.

8. Paint the walls and deep-clean

The advantage of not moving in right away is that you can take care of some home maintenance without having to live amid the chaos. If you’re planning on painting the walls or replacing the flooring, do so now before you move all your stuff in.

“Working with a blank canvas is a luxury most homeowners don’t get. Once the boxes and furniture come in, it takes additional effort to paint the walls and refinish the floors,” says Wenzke.

After the improvements are made, hire a professional cleaning service to do a deep cleaning.

“The best gift you can give yourself on moving day is an immaculate home,” says Wenzke.

 

For this and related articles, please visit Realtor.com

It’s been a mad, mad world the past few years, and that very much includes the real estate market. But the times, they are a changin’—yet again. And the good news for potential homebuyers is that the “anything goes” rules of the COVID-19 pandemic housing market frenzy are lifting.

While we have yet to reach homeostasis—where buyers and sellers have equal power—there are signs of a more balanced real estate exchange.

In fact, even with rising interest rates and inflation, a recent survey by fintech mortgage lender Lower found that nearly 6 in 10 potential homebuyers (56%) felt that right now was the right time to buy a house.

How is that possible? While higher interest rates mean some potential buyers will find themselves unable to qualify for a mortgage, this cooling demand benefits the buyers who are still out there, giving them more options—and a little more negotiating power.

Granted, exactly how much power buyers have will vary by location—certain stubbornly hot markets will remain a struggle. But the prevailing winds are blowing a bit more in favor of buyers these days. As such, many of the crazy rules you were hearing (and likely following) during the past two years of real estate pandemonium no longer apply.

To help you reset for this new world, here are some of the pandemic-era real estate rules that are now OK to break.

6 Homebuying ‘Rules’ You’ve Heard Lately—and Should Actually Break

1. ‘If you love a house, you have to make an offer immediately’

During the pandemic, if you hesitated on a house, someone else would very well scoop it up on the spot. Today, however, there may be a little more time to think before you make an offer.

“In the past couple of years, you’d need to put an offer in within hours of seeing a home,” says Elizabeth Sugar Boese, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Realty in Boulder, CO. “And while inventory is still low, there are a lot more homes available on the market than throughout the pandemic since 2020. This has provided buyers an opportunity to actually shop around.”

Realtor.com® Chief Economist Danielle Hale agrees, saying that homes are taking longer to sell this year than last. (Listings currently linger 50 days—7 days longer than a year earlier.)

“In general, you likely have more time to make an offer, although that’s certainly not a guarantee,” says Hale. “If you’re on the fence about a home or its asking price doesn’t quite fit your budget, you might want to keep an eye on it, and if it doesn’t sell right away, you may have some room to negotiate with the seller.”

In fact, Boese recently worked with clients who fell in love with a home.

“We wanted to put an offer in right away, but also wanted to buy it for less than list price—so we waited a month,” says Boese.

After a month, it was still on the market, which meant her buyers could also break another cardinal pandemic rule. (See our next point.)

2. ‘Prepare to pay way over the asking price’

Boese’s clients were eyeing a home listed for $1,100,000—though their budget was $1,000,000. While lowballing by $100,000 would have been laughable a year earlier, Boese knew it could work today, so they gave it a try.

“We explained that the market had shifted, the home needed a lot of updates, and we were willing to do the renovations but also had an eye on several other properties,” says Boese. “The sellers accepted without any counteroffer, and it appraised for the list price. Instant $100,000 equity.”

This story proves that buyers no longer need to pay over the list price to get the house. In fact, Realtor.com data shows that the share of homes with price cuts has reached nearly 20% today, up from 11% a year earlier.

“With the housing market shifting, it’s really not necessary to go all in on a home in an effort to win the bid, unless it’s in an area that is still hot,” says Jason Gelios, real estate agent with Community Choice Realty in Southeast Michigan and author of “Think Like a Realtor.” “In fact, currently I have more buyers offering less than the asking price because there aren’t many buyers.”

3. ‘Once you’re pre-approved for a mortgage, you’ll know what you can afford’

During the pandemic, interest rates were at historic lows. So when people got pre-approved for a mortgage, they could probably assume it would hold once they found a home they wanted to buy.

Today, however, the wild volatility of mortgage rates means that what homebuyers could afford to buy could vary from one week to the next.

As a result, Hale recommends regularly “stress-testing” your budget by running the numbers on a wide range of possible mortgage interest rates so that you can be prepared no matter what happens.

Recent mortgage rates have been moving up and down enough to impact home shopping budgets in a big way,” says Hale.

In other words, pre-approval is no guarantee; make sure to check again at current interest rates before making an offer that is within your financial reach.

4. ‘Waiving contingencies is worth the risk to get the house’

During the peak of COVID-19, many homebuyers were waiving contingencies left and right. From forgoing home inspections to adding appraisal waivers, buyers were putting themselves in a risky position just to win a bid on a home.

“At the height of the pandemic, one of our buyers—an older single lady—was in fierce competition with other buyers for a small cottage that was over 100 years old, and we advised her she would have to waive all inspections and contingencies in order for her offer to be competitive,” says Colleen Gustavson Brownell, a real estate agent with Hunt Country Sotheby’s International Realty in Leesburg, VA. “She did exactly that and ended up with the winning contract.”

Fortunately, in this case, the property proved not to have any major issues.

“The risks this buyer had to take in order to buy her dream cottage luckily worked out in her favor,” says Brownell. “But under normal circumstances—such as today’s rapidly shifting market—we would rarely advise any buyer to waive home inspections because there is too much risk involved.”

Contingencies not only protect homebuyers, but can also bolster their borrowing power.

Tan Tunador, a senior loan officer with Atlantic Coast Mortgage, in Loudon County, VA, recently worked with a couple who couldn’t qualify for a mortgage without selling their current home.

“I asked them why they didn’t make their offer contingent upon the sale of their home, and they had no idea that they could even do that today,” says Tunador.

The couple submitted a new offer with the home sale contingency, which was enough to get the deal done.

“For more than two years, we’ve seen no home sale contingencies,” Tunador explains. “Now, my team has six loans in process with this contingency.”

5. ‘Don’t dare ask a seller for concessions’

During the pandemic, asking a seller for concessions probably meant losing the deal. But now that mortgage rates have topped 6%, asking for a little financial help is no longer verboten.

“The pandemic rule was ‘do what the seller wants.’ But now, more and more buyers are asking for price concessions, closing cost assistance, and scenarios buying the interest rate down,” says Tunador. “In the DC metro area, we are seeing homes sit on the market longer and buyers not being afraid to ask for concessions or price discounts.”

6. ‘You’ll need 20% down on a conventional loan’

High down payments were one of the ways potential homebuyers won competitive bids during the pandemic. That left some extremely qualified buyers who were being more conservative with their funds in a tough spot.

For example, during Chicago’s red-hot market, real estate agent Brian Kwilosz had highly qualified buyers who could afford to put down 20%, but preferred to put down just 5%, allowing them plenty of funds left over for renovations later on. They ended up losing several bidding wars.

“Finally, we had the lender issue an additional approval letter stating they were qualified for a 20% down conventional mortgage and were just as qualified as our competition,” says Kwilosz.

That did the trick: “They successfully purchased the home with 5% down,” he says.

Fortunately, today’s homebuyers don’t need to take such extreme measures to prove their worth to sellers.

“During the pandemic, sellers were not even considering lower down payment conventional loans, let alone FHA or VA,” says Kwilosz. “Now, we are having much more success getting our VA and FHA buyers under contract.”

 

For this and similar articles, please visit Realtor.com

The interest rate your mortgage lender offers you when you buy or refinance a house is not necessarily the rate you have to stick with. In fact, you can lower your mortgage rate by shelling out at closing for something called mortgage points. But what are they and how can they save you some serious cash (like, thousands of dollars over the years you make monthly payments)? Read on for the answers from loan experts.

What to know about mortgage points

There are two types of mortgage points:

  • Discount points: These points, also known as prepaid points, lower your interest rate but increase your closing costs, because payment for them is due at closing. Discount points are a kind of prepaid interest you “buy” from your lender, based on your loan amount, for a lower mortgage rate.
  • Origination points: These points are charged to recover some costs of the mortgage origination process. This would include compensating your loan officer, notary fees, preparation costs, and inspection fees.

One mortgage origination or discount point typically costs 1% of the loan amount. For example, 1 point on a $250,000 mortgage would equal $2,500.

What Are Mortgage Points? Upfront Fees That Could Save You Money

How do mortgage points lower your interest rate?

The primary purpose of buying discount points from the lender is to reduce your interest rate on your mortgage, and thus lower your monthly payment.

You can pay points during the home-buying process, or when you refinance your home. One point usually reduces the borrower’s interest rate between 0.125% to 0.25%, depending on the lender’s terms, although 0.25% is typical.

For example, if you took out a 30-year, $400,000 loan at an interest rate of 5%, you would pay $2,147 in mortgage payments a month (not including taxes, insurance, or anything else). Paying 2 mortgage points to the lender at 0.25% per point would lower the interest rate to 4.5% and drop the monthly payment to $2,027. You would also need to foot the upfront cost of $8,000 to buy discount points at closing.

Should you buy mortgage points?

Buying points from a lender makes the most sense for borrowers who plan on living in their house and making monthly mortgage payments for many years, either for the life of the loan or close to it.

Consider how long you think you’ll stay in your house and keep your home loan. Generally, if you buy points, you want to stay longer to break even and recoup the money it took to buy the points on the loan. If you sell the house or pay off the loan too soon, you won’t reach the break-even point, and you can lose money.

Let’s go back to the above example of the 30-year, $400,000 loan. The 2 mortgage discount points for $8,000 at closing saves you $120 in monthly payments. It would take about 5.5 years to reach the break-even point of $8,000, before you could start to save money.

However, it would also save you $43,394 in interest over the life of the loan. Deduct that $8,000 in point-buying costs from money saved in interest and you will have actually saved a total of $35,394. Of course, that’s if you see out the life of the loan. If you sell after six or seven years and pay off your mortgage, buying those points from the mortgage lender wasn’t worth it. Know your future plans and move forward accordingly.

You should also consider how much money you have to use for a down payment at the time of closing. If you are looking to pay the least amount possible in mortgage closing costs, and you can’t afford out-of-pocket points on your loan, you may need to opt for a zero-point loan program.

Tax breaks and mortgage points

Because discount points are a form of interest you pay on your loan, they’re usually tax-deductible as mortgage interest for the year you buy your home. However, origination points that are basically document fees for your mortgage are not deductible.

If you’re considering buying discount points, consult your tax adviser to determine if you qualify for these mortgage deductions.

When you refinance your home and pay for mortgage discount points, you amortize the cost of the points over the years you have the loan. If you sell the house or pay off the loan, you can deduct any remaining points in the last year you have the mortgage.

Generally, the bigger the mortgage, interest rate, and mortgage length, the more money discount points will save you. Buying points on mortgages with only a few years left, or on those with already very low mortgage rates, could yield monthly savings of only a few bucks and never reach a break-even point for your closing costs, so be sure to do the math before you finalize any mortgage decision.

 

For this and similar articles, please visit Realtor.com

Cascadia has timbered villas and chalets aplenty. But what exactly makes a grand lodge? It should breathe an air of epic romance, a place where quotidian worries succumb to wild beauty and creature comforts. These 10 retreats invoke the mythic best of the Northwest. And each has its perfect season.

Winter

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Timberline’s 400-ton fireplace; fire pits ring the lodge; in-room snacks

Timberline Lodge Is a Bastion of American Gumption

Timberline Lodge’s multistory stone hearth—an immense, hexagonal furnace weighing 800,000 pounds—would be at home on the History Channel’s Modern Marvels, along with the rest of this mammoth Mount Hood snow fortress. Dedicated in 1937, Portland’s nearest (dearest?) mountain lodge screams old-fashioned Oregon ingenuity. The Depression-era Works Progress Administration funded its local teams of weavers (who hand-loomed the curtains), artists (who lined its glass mosaics), and carpenters (who hewed beams big enough to hoist sails on the HMS Victory).

All to say that staying at Timberline is like bunking in a super-cozy history museum. But Timberline’s two million annual visitors also know that Hood’s only ski-in, ski-out resort is built 6,000 feet up a mountain with one of the longest seasons in the country—and that when it’s raining at Ski Bowl or Meadows, it’s still snowing on Timberline’s 41 varied runs.

The price of sleeping in this creaky castle is also steep: room prices start around $200 and can run more than double that, plus the cost of lift tickets. Vittles, too, will cost you—expect $40–50 entrées for a Cordon Bleu test-kitchen-level dinner in the Cascade Dining Room. (Timberline’s semi-secret, closet-size Blue Ox Bar normally serves topping-heavy pizza at a lower price point, but it’s not currently open; watch for the seasonal Phlox Point Cabin, known for its midmountain street tacos, to open when ski season hits.)

Still, there’s nothing quite like escaping a high-alpine storm through Timberline’s snow tunnel, then opening those heavy, mosaic-fitted doors to greet a toasty fire. And waking up to Hood’s south face beaming through your window? Timeless. Government Camp, Ore., winter rates from $205–420 —Benjamin Tepler

Idaho’s Sun Valley Lodge

Sun Valley Lodge Is a Mini Ski City for the Stars

Imagine a lodge where silver screen star Tyrone Power rubbed elbows with Henry Ford and Hemingway; where Janet Leigh (and, later, daughter Jamie Lee Curtis) skied while presidents and jazzmen sipped whiskey in leather armchairs snugged up to well-stoked hearths.

Such a gratuitously star-struck lodge exists: Sun Valley Resort, built into the eastern slopes of Idaho’s Sawtooth Range. And all that glamorous legend-making? Hand-spun, one zealously courted celebrity at a time, by New York publicists. The story of Sun Valley has always been a study in power plays (and powder playing), starting in 1936, when W. Averell Harriman, heir to Union Pacific Railroad millions, built what he marketed as America’s first destination ski resort.

Eighty-some years later, the once sorta-rustic lodge has swelled into an opulent, mahogany-paneled luxury complex with facilities capable of training Winter Olympians. Sun Valley is, in fact, its own city, with a dedicated zip code, workforce housing, and a “village” of eateries and tchotchke shops winding just beyond the main lodge parking lot. In 2015, the property’s current owners—the Holding family, heirs to Sinclair Oil millions—financed a massive update of the main lodge: vaster guest rooms, an expanded spa, a snazzier basement bowling alley. Also? Five new “celebrity suites,” each a themed tribute to a Sun Valley heavyweight who helped burnish the legend. (Hello, Papa.) Sun Valley, Idaho, winter rates from $345–1,427 —Ramona DeNies

Spring

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: The Boathouse restaurant and marina; Suttle Lake; Suttle Lodge in full winter mode

Suttle Lodge Is a Shabby-Chic Mountain Retreat

Loose Trivial Pursuit cards in plastic bags. Ouija boards. DVDs like Encino Man and Cabin Fever. At Suttle Lodge, 37 miles northwest of Bend near Santiam Pass, the entertainments are quirky and well worn.

It’s as if distractible Portland hipsters and the editors of Bon Appétit dreamt up a mountain retreat and brought it to life, complete with a Pinterest–ready Pendleton woolen throw on every bed, a Traeger grill by every cabin. On the menu of the warm-season Boathouse restaurant (in 2022 it closes September 19), a deliberately prismatic plate of crunchy veggies cuddles up with griddled hot dogs. Other details—say, that dog-eared Gil Scott-Heron record—could well be thrift store finds from nearby Sisters.

There’s both charm and occasional frustration here—a laid-back log palace where execution can feel like a run of incomplete sentences. Luckily for the lodge—which reopened in 2016 with new owners affiliated with the Ace Hotel Portland and bars Pépé le Moko and Spirit of ’77—no one’s going to quibble with the setting. From Suttle’s generous deck, lawn games scatter across soft grass toward a beer garden and pastoral dock. Beyond that: calm Suttle Lake and the fragrant conifers of the trail-laced Deschutes National Forest. And within an hour’s drive, guests can access some of the state’s dreamiest hot springs: Belknap, Breitenbush, and Cougar.

Suttle boasts year-round natural thrills—snowshoeing to canoeing—but it’s also a draw for gastrotourism, with foraging treks, winery pop-ups, and a guest chef series. (Portland chefs Peter Cho and Doug Adams are featured September 20, 2022.) For urbane Portlanders, this is where to rough it, without roughing it at all. Sisters, Ore., spring rates for lodge rooms from $155–387, rustic cabins from $85 —RD

A spa tub at Salish Lodge

Salish Lodge Is Your Great Northern Spa

Perched above Snoqualmie Falls and familiar from pancake-mix packages and the dreamy intro to the ’90s TV series Twin Peaks, 106-year-old Salish Lodge & Spa was once a simple, woodsy traveler’s rest. In 2017, the already slicked-up spot, now nearly absorbed by the Seattle metro area, got even more luxe with a “contemporary mountainside concept” renovation, including updated bathrooms and a new VIP lounge.

But it’s still all about the waterfall (pictured at top). While forking through predictable but pleasing Northwest fare (chinook salmon, cedar-roasted wild mushrooms), eaters in the dining room or Attic restaurant can look out over the fantastical drop of the 268-foot falls, drama heightened by a deep wine list packed with Northwest AVAs. (A few guest rooms also offer Snoqualmie Falls glimpses.)

Note: the lodge is wedged between river and roadway. On summer weekends, that means traffic jams to viewpoints and competition for access to the Salish’s crisp, slate-floored spa from Seattle day-trippers on their way back from Mount Si. Visit, instead, in mistier months, when the spa’s soaking tubs (and area hiking trails and golf courses) are less crowded—and when that in-room fireplace extends a welcome worthy of Twin Peaks’ fictional Great Northern Hotel. (A gin-and-cadramom Dale Cooper cocktail helps, too.) Snoqualmie, Wash., spring rates from $409–1,809 —Margaret Seiler

Sun Mountain Lodge’s spring wildflowers

Sun Mountain Lodge Is a Sportsman’s Brigadoon

In Washington’s North Cascades between Winthrop and Twisp, Sun Mountain Lodge commands 360-degree views of the Methow River Valley. At 3,000 feet on an isolated crest, the perch has a king-of-the-world feeling, this fiefdom fully traversable by a trail system that extends well beyond the resort’s 3,400 acres.

In winter, that means groomed Nordic track; fall and summer are hiking, riding, and mountain biking. But come spring, as sunflowers blanket the valley, the lure is fly-fishing: steelhead, smallmouth bass.

Bearing witness to the circle of life is Sun Mountain’s astounding (confounding? distressing?) taxidermy collection. Hunting trophies—a bequest from a fan—throng the lodge, from the bison staring down guests at reception to the Gould’s turkeys, javelinas, and musk ox marching down the main arcade. In one cozy sitting room, four sheep heads flank a TV showing Tucker Carlson’s apoplectic face. In the wine cellar (home to 3,500 bottles stacked floor-to-ceiling), a polar bear looms over private diners.

Yes, Sun Mountain Lodge isn’t exactly a Left Coast oasis. It is, however, a place where local wild game might appear on a fine dining menu. That vast, America-centric wine list spans everything from a $460 Columbia Valley cab to $27 organic bottles from Chile. And unlike older lodges—built back when bunkrooms and shared bathrooms were endured by the well-heeled—this 55-year-old chalet (renovated in 1990) offers guests seriously private amenities: in-room fireplaces, whirlpool tubs, wet bars. For those seeking refuge from Portland preciousness, behold your Big Game Hunter BrigadoonWinthrop, Wash., spring rates from $240–492 —RD

Summer

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Takeoff; Minam’s wood-fired hot tub; garden zucchini; a horse hitch and cabin

Minam River Lodge Is Luxury’s Last Frontier

On warm summer days, Barnes Ellis—a former reporter turned investment adviser and owner of the Minam River Lodge in Eastern Oregon’s Eagle Cap Wilderness—has been known to hop into his Cessna 206 for wine-related emergency flights to Walla Walla. The party he’s refueling could be a wedding, or a lamb roast with guest chef Philippe Boulot. Possibly the lodge ran out of Syrah after a raucous weekend with winemakers from Elk Cove or Walter Scott. Or maybe guests just got extra thirsty on the hike in—nearly nine verdant miles by foot or horseback. The only other entry to this nearly seven-year-old retreat? Private aircraft, landed on a backcountry strip so rugged it can bounce a plane right into its bordering, nationally designated “Wild and Scenic” river. (Not something that intimidates readers of Pilot Getaways magazine, which put Minam on a 2017 cover; the following season, Condé Nast Traveler named it one of world’s top new hotels.)

Minam’s inaccessibility is part of the charm; here, amenities shine with extra luster. The lodge—a neglected hunter’s retreat—took a tight crew of craftspeople six years (and a fortune in helicopter transport) to rebuild. Furniture was milled and hand-built on-site. The now-cushy main lodge is efficiently warmed by one central fireplace; down a trail, a wood-fired hot tub and sauna are tucked near Minam’s more affordable wall tents. Hikes run in all directions. (Consult the lodge’s own guidebook, penned by Pacific Northwest trail junkie Douglas Lorain.) From cabin porches, night skies rain starlight over the snow-dusted Wallowas: isolated splendor that comes with Terminal Gravity on tap and waterfall showers. Cove, Ore., summer rates from $295–595 —RD

Mount Rainier looms over Paradise Inn

Paradise Inn Is an Austere Romance

There’s a lending library tucked into a corner of Paradise Inn’s wraparound mezzanine; its worn titles include a Rock Hudson memoir and what must be the world’s entire catalog of Christmas-themed bodice rippers. Paradise isn’t open in winter—the lodge, built in 1916 just below Mount Rainier’s treeline, is snowbound half of the year. But there’s a crisp chill here even at the height of summer, when tricked-out summiteers and Chinese tour buses clog the parking lots, and the lodge’s yellow cedar–studded bunkrooms are booked solid.

That draft won’t reach the balcony, where guests hole up with schlocky books and complimentary tea and cookies. Below, two roaring fireplaces bookend the great hall; between them, most afternoons, resident pianist (“Bill from Florida,” says the manager) plies the very same ivories tickled by Harry Truman back in 1945.

These comforts aside, Paradise can be, to borrow the manager’s phrase, an austere experience. There’s no pool, fitness center, or spa. And, famously, no Wi-Fi. In the original lodge, only the ADA-accessible ground-floor quarters have private bathrooms—though guests in the lodge’s renovated 79-room annex also enjoy this luxury. The restaurant fare is about what you’d expect for a private concern hawkishly watched by the National Park Service: bland, bulk-sourced, and cooked by kids who’d rather be mountain-climbing.

No, the romance of Paradise stems from the weather god outside: Mount Rainier towering in mist and snow. But that pink in your cheeks lingers indoors, with warm hearths, boozy “campfire cups,” and a good book. (Steamy, of course.) Ashford, Wash., summer rates from $169–417 —RD

FROM LEFT: Rosario Resort; views from Rosario’s townhomes

Rosario Is Where Tired Industrialists Take the Cure

Victorian-era cornflakes purveyor John Harvey Kellogg was something of a hypochondriac; his concerns drove his own buzzy mid-19th-century sanatorium in Michigan, focused on water cures and lots of enemas. Forty years later, another titan of industry—Robert Moran, shipbuilder and onetime Seattle mayor—built a similarly customized health spa, albeit across the nation on an island in the north Salish Sea.

You can still take the cure at Rosario Resort & Spa, with a heated “quiet” pool and two summertime outdoor pools. But where Kellogg focused on quackery, Moran—a fan of environmentalist John Muir—lavished his attention on landscaping: hiring the legendary Olmsted Brothers firm to sculpt the grounds, and donating 5,250 resort-adjacent acres of hushed emerald forests and pocket lakes to form Orcas Island’s Moran State Park. (And yes, there’s also a two-story Aeolian pipe organ in the middle of his mansion.)

More than a century in, it’s fair to say that Rosario has seen some weather—ownership changes, devaluation, wear and tear. The lodge’s old bedrooms are locked up; instead, guests stay in modern cliffside townhomes: by day, cruising the sound in rentable kayaks (or their own sailboats and yachts), and by night, taking in live shows in the townie-friendly Moran Lounge. Orcas Island, Wash., summer rates from $139–299 —RD

Fall

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Tu Tu’ Tun Lodge; wildflowers on a Carlton Farms pork chop; the lodge and Rogue River in the gloaming

Tu Tu’ Tun Lodge Is for Literary Fly-Fishers

At the Tu Tu’ Tun Lodge, cedar cladding and an Arts and Crafts framework tell guests they’re in NorCal-adjacent Southern Oregon. Yet what with the rushing Rogue River, on-site fishing licenses for sale, and talk of the day’s catch, this feels like Norman Maclean country. 

Folded into an evergreen hillside off coastal US 101 eight miles east of Gold Beach, this former locals’ river retreat isn’t a place you just stumble upon. Someone must have told you about it, and those who stay here have the satisfied sense of being in on a secret. Pronounced a bit like “high-falutin’,” the Tu Tu’ Tun does attract well-heeled Bay Area ex-bohemians and moneyed Seattleites. (It survived the decline of Oregon’s fishing and logging industries by pivoting, in the 1990s, into a higher-end retreat.) But you’ll also find Canadian retirees here, and the occasional schoolteacher-turned-cowgirl back for a return visit.

Comprising a small lodge building, a guest wing, and three rentable houses, the Tu Tu’ Tun puts on no airs. It pampers, instead, with friendliness and familiarity. Staff greet guests by name, offering a jacket for jet boat rides, visits to the Adirondack chairs on the gently sloping lawn, or a turn on the bocce court, four-hole pitch and putt, or horseshoe pit. There are luxurious touches here: a lap pool, a seasonal spa tent, and river views for each cozy room, some with wood-burning fireplaces and private patio soaking tubs. An add-on dinner might include orchard apples—if the resident black-tailed deer haven’t munched them all—or a corn-and-pea succotash popping with cherry tomatoes from the flowerringed kitchen garden, halibut or poached rockfish, salads with coastal Face Rock cheese, and the lodge’s “famous” piping-hot popovers. But the Tu Tu’ Tun’s personality is more literary fly-fisher than sybaritic shut-in. Take the surprising number of Glimmer Train issues on the bookshelf, or the fleet of kayaks and stand-up paddleboards for guest use—one of Tu Tu’ Tun’s many reminders, along with the framed fish art and folks in waders, that a river runs through it. Gold Beach, Ore., fall rooms from $205 —MS

FROM LEFT: Skamania Lodge’s river-facing Adirondack chairs; the lodge’s skylit saline pool

Skamania Is a Normcore Paradise

Like an airport thriller you can’t stop reading, Skamania Lodge is a warm bath for tired minds. Popular with Christian groups, military reunions, and tech confabs, the sprawling complex—just 45 miles east of Portland in the Columbia River Gorge—evokes a corporate Breitenbush, rolling out basics without a drop of hipness. But in its serene blandness, Skamania comforts and still surprises.

Here, things stay interesting while evoking family-vacation vibes, from zip lines to lodge-chartered rafting and painting classes. At one end of the 254-room lodge, toddlers splash in the fitness center’s saline pool. Steps away, wholesome teenagers energetically make out in the hot tub. Out-of-state 50-somethings discreetly inquire about recreational pot. Hikers on Skamania’s trails are warned to watch for the area’s swift and heartless aerial predators: stray golf balls launched from its adjacent golf course. 

Built in the early 1990s as a lodge-themed event space, Skamania is about as transportive as a suburban mall, with Sting on the sound system and food that evokes Costco home cooking at fine dining prices. Yet there are good reasons to visit. The setting, for one—a forest-ringed parkland with 270-degree views of Gorge beauty. Also, there’s just too much to do, from monkeying around the new aerial park (a stealth workout) to serious spa exfoliation. Amid the whir of golf carts, find unexpected catharsis from work and politics in the lodge’s new ax-throwing cage. Come dusk, roast s’mores (gear provided) by the fire pit before retiring to your guest room (or one of the lodge’s four new stilt houses in the trees). Like that airport page-turner, a stay here is a predictable, rock-solid win. Stevenson, Wash., fall rooms from $229–593 —Amy Martin

Destination Relaxation

These plush retreats might not qualify as grand lodges, per se. But their spas are far more than your basic scrub-and-rub.

Allison Inn & Spa

Champagne-oil massages, grape-seed scrubs, and “pinot pedicures”remind Allison guests they’re in wine country. Consider lingering overnight after that facial to get access to the guests-only, infinity-edge pool. Newberg, Ore., treatments from $20 (chin wax) to $310 (seasonal outdoor couples massage), rooms from $525

Salishan Spa & Resort

The spa at oceanfront Salishan is informed by salt water, marine mud, and something called “retinal of the sea.” Gleneden Beach, Ore., treatments from $70 (weekday signature foot treatment) to $275 (weekend CBD infusion massage), rooms from $149

Willows Lodge & Spa

Microderm resurfacing and micro-needling. Swedish effleurage. A treatment all about oxygen. Some Willows services read like medical-grade sandblasting. Others just ... hug you. Woodinville, Wash., treatments from $20 (lip wax) to $350 (120-minute deep tissue massage), rooms from $369

 

For this and related articles, please visit Portland Monthly

Seattle has the Frank Gehry designed MoPop, a shimmer of color and curves, and Rem Koolhaus’ sinuous, blinding downtown central library. A Renzo Piano skyscraper towers over San Francisco’s SoMa district and his California Academy of Sciences building anchors the museum district in Golden Gate Park. And there’s Gehry again in downtown LA for the Disney Concert Hall. 

Portland, by contrast, is not much of a starchitecture town, leaning heavily on homegrown heroes for its biggest design moments, from Skylab’s futuristic design for the latest Nike campus building, which debuted earlier this year, to GBD Architects’ rising Ritz-Carlton in downtown’s West End to ZGF’s roof-raising reimagining of the Portland International Airport.  The last time a truly internationally renowned architect came to town and completed a building, it was 1982, when Michael Graves was commissioned to build the still-polarizing Portland Building downtown, widely considered a retort to the then-iron-clad dominance of modernist architectural influences.  

But forty years later, another globally known architecture firm is poised for a big local design moment: Adjaye Associates, led by Ghanaian-British architect Sir David Adjaye, (the Sir in his title comes courtesy of his Order of the British Empire, bestowed upon him by Prince William in 2017)  best known in the US for the regal Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in DC. 

Adjaye is teaming with local firm Holst Architecture, which has carved out a real niche in recent years in innovative affordable housing projectsTogether they will design a new 95,000 square foot flagship library in Gresham. If all goes well, the new library will be open to the public by 2025.  

But first, the library system needs sign-off from TriMet on its hoped-for location, at the Gresham City Hall Park and Ride. Zeroing in on the  right spot has taken months and months, Multnomah County Library executive director Vailey Oehlke says, because library officials wanted to be particularly intentional about a central location, close to public transit, that could be easily accessed by East County’s growing and diverse population. Funding comes via a 2020 bond, which raised nearly $400 million for library construction projects. 

The chance to design an iconic public building like this in your own backyard doesn’t come along every day, and a handful of Portland’s best-known architectural firms had thrown their hats into the proverbial ring, including Bora Architects, the firm behind the new Lincoln High School, which teamed with another global powerhouse, Oslo-based Snøhetta, and Opsis Architecture, well known locally for the new Reser Center for the Performing Arts in Beaverton, which paired with Minneapolis-based MSR Design.  

Oehlke says that ultimately, the Holst/Adjaye Associates team — who will also work with MultiCultural Collaborative on community engagement around the new buildings—was tapped for its sense of place. Holst, she points out, had designed the nearby Rockwood Youth Campus; the firm understood East County and its fast-changing demographics, and what residents there might need from their library. 

After all, Oehlke says, most of the library system’s venerable branches were designed in a pre-Internet age to hold shelves and shelves and shelves of books, but today’s library calls for a more flexible use of space, particularly in a world where libraries and parks are among the last bastions of free, fully accessible public spaces. (The library system has been slow to gear back up after pandemic disruptions; Oehlke says plans are underway for a return to a full slate of future programming.) 

The new Gresham flagship might include an auditorium, she says, and a community kitchen for cooking demonstrations and classes; it will certainly include plenty of flexible space for technology—imagine a recording studio, or a makerspace with state-of-the-art 3D printing capabilities. 

Design plans aren’t even close to ready yet for the big reveal, though Holst principal Dave Otte says an aspirational goal is to use Oregon timber as a key material. But if design inspirations are any indication, the new library will be a genuine departure from any other building in the Multnomah County system. 

 Oehlke says all of her travels are busman’s holidays and include library visits; she cites modern, statement libraries in Calgary, Aarhus, and Helsinki as inspirations for their community mindedness. (In the Aarhus library lobby in Denmark, a giant gong rings every time a family has a baby at a local hospital and the parents choose to press a button that triggers the sound, a subtle announcement that a new community member is joining the fold.) Otte adds libraries in Christchurch, New Zealand and Washington DC as further inspirations. 

“You get drawn into these beacons, these welcoming places,” Otte says, of some of his favorites. “We want to create the kind of place that you want to spend time in, a place that belongs to this region, where everyone feels welcome and inspired and connected. Libraries are so much more than a place for information and books. The investments we make in public buildings, like libraries, are investments in ourselves. We are stewards of something that will be used for generations.” 

 

For this and related articles, please visit Portland Monthly

Real estate over the last two and a half years can really be summed up by one phrase: Epic seller’s market. We’ve seen countless people list their homes and receive multiple offers over asking—all while doing the bare minimum to fix up or market their property. Home sellers, we have to be honest here: you’ve had it made in the shade.

And while the current real estate market still technically favors sellers, experts see a balance on the horizon that’ll put buyers and sellers on more even ground. The result? Home sellers can no longer bank on getting a bunch of offers over asking.

So if you’re about to list your house and want to maximize your profits (who doesn’t?!) there are plenty of strategies you and your real estate agent can employ. Here’s how to get a higher price for your home—without spending a penny more than you initially planned for.

1. Price your home competitively

Few people are going to want to buy your house if the price per square foot is more than 10% higher than similar homes for sale in your neighborhood.

“You should base your home’s listing price on recent sales of comparable homes,” says Marty Ford, the president of BulletRoof Systems in Raleigh, NC. “If you overprice your home, you may miss out on potential buyers who are window shopping in your price range.”

Want to sell faster? You might also want to consider setting a price that’s lower than comparable homes.

“Many real estate brokers advise pricing the property slightly under market value,” says Tiffany Payne, chief marketing officer for a New York home repair company, iFlooded Restoration. “This can make active purchasers who are familiar with the market feel pressured to make a bid, and the likelihood of receiving multiple bids rises.”

2. Price your home strategically

It’s an old retail sales trick, but studies show that prices ending 9, 99, or 95 make things seem less expensive.

“Using a slightly lower price point—like $499,999—may create a sense of urgency and generate more interest in your home,” Ford says.

3. Market smart online

Are you putting your best foot forward online?

“The majority of purchasers will first view the home online before visiting it in person,” says Payne. “Buyers will assess whether your house is deserving of an in-person viewing with only a few mouse clicks.”

That’s why it’s important to only post top-notch, high-resolution videos and images online. Spend some money for professional photography to show off the house in the best possible ways—cellphone pictures generally look like casual (and poorly lit) snapshots.

4. Think like a buyer

Spend some extra time on the property details of your online listing. You want to spotlight the best parts of your home so you can attract a broad swath of buyers.

“You can get a lot of value from including key selling points in your listing, even if they’re not relevant to you,” says Martin Orefice, CEO of Rent To Own Labs in Orlando, FL. “A home that is close to a school, public transportation, park, or a major employer can be much more valuable. Likewise, make a point to mention if your home is pet-friendly because of a fenced-in backyard, or conducive to aging in place because it’s a single-story structure.”

5. Clear out clutter, closets, and personal touches

You’ve heard this before, but we can’t emphasize it enough: Minimize your presence in the home as much as possible so buyers can imagine themselves in the space when they tour it.

“It can be hard for new buyers to see themselves in a home if the space is overly personalized or full,” says Kristen Reyes, an interior designer and the CEO of Sey Interiors in Dallas.

Pack away bulky, personal, or unnecessary items. And focus on clearing out closets, she recommends—because buyers are sure to zero in on them.

“A great rule of thumb is to clear 75% of the items out of the closet,” Reyes says. This will show the utility of the closets while showing buyers how much space is in there.

“Depersonalize your home,” says Dennis Shirshikov, strategist at Awning.com, a real estate investment company based in California. “Take photos of your family down; put away all the personal decorations you think look so great. Buyers don’t want to feel like they are buying someone else’s home. Leave the bare minimum in terms of furniture to help them understand the space—but that’s it.”

 

For this and similar articles, please visit Realtor.com

Many homes across the United States are part of an HOA, or homeowners association. So what does that mean?

A Homeowner’s Guide to HOAs: Homeowners Associations, Explained

In a nutshell, an HOA helps ensure that your community looks its best and functions smoothly. If you’re buying a condotownhouse, or free-standing home in a neighborhood with shared common areas and amenities (such as swimming pools, parking garages, and security gates), odds are high these areas are maintained by a homeowners association.

The number of Americans living in homes with HOAs is on the rise, growing from a mere 1% in 1970 to 27% today, according to a recent National and State Statistical Review for Community Association Data.

Is buying a home with an HOA right for you? We’ll help you decide by laying out the pros, cons, and costs of an HOA.

What is a homeowners association?

What is an HOA?
WHAT is an HOA anyway?

(designer491/iStock)

Let’s say, for instance, that the pump in the community swimming pool stops working. Someone has to take care of it before the water turns green and toxic, right? Rather than expect any one homeowner in the neighborhood to volunteer his time and money to fix the problem, homeowners associations are responsible for getting the job done.

You can think of the purpose of an HOA as similar to real estate property taxes that a homeowner pays for city and state services—except that in this case, these fees go to pay for amenities and maintenance in your own community or condo building.

How much are HOA fees?

To cover these property maintenance expenses and repairs, homeowners associations collect fees or dues (monthly or yearly) from all community members. For a typical single-family home, HOA fees will cost homeowners around $200 to $300 per month.

HOA fees can be lower or much higher depending on the size of your house or condominium and the services provided. The larger the homeowner area, the higher the HOA fee—which makes sense, because the family of four homeowners in a three-bedroom condominium is probably going to be using the common facilities more than a single resident living in a studio condo.

Many HOAs pay property managers to oversee maintenance and deal with other real estate–related property issues. HOA fees might also include insurance payments to cover common areas.

HOA fees are usually divided into two parts: One portion goes toward monthly expenses, and the remaining money goes into a reserve fund. This reserve fund serves as a safety net, to be tapped for emergency expenses that arise when natural disasters or vandals strike—or just the unavoidable wear and tear. They’re also used to cover long-term repairs and replacements such as roofs, plumbing, and exterior paint.

It’s important to note that HOA fees do not cover property taxes. And taxes are not necessarily lower on a condo compared to a house.

What is an assessment?

Be aware that when your community is hit with extreme maintenance expenses—like a flood in the underground parking lot due to a broken water heater or a pipe bursting—homeowner insurance will cover some of it, but whatever’s left will have to be paid by your HOA.

Typically in these cases, the HOA will tap the reserve fund, which may become depleted as a result. Or the association may not have enough in reserve to cover necessary expenses. In either case, your HOA board may require you and your fellow homeowners in the community to pay a special assessment bill above and beyond your monthly HOA fee.

For example, if the elevator in your condo building goes out and it’s going to cost $15,000 to replace it—but the HOA reserve account holds only $12,000—you and the rest of the residents are going to have to pony up at least an additional $3,000 in dues, divided among you, to make up the difference. And yes, you as a resident still have to contribute your share of dues, even if your property is on the first floor.

Luckily, though, these assessments are typically temporary until the reserve is back up to a comfortable level.

HOA rules: What to expect

All HOAs have boards made up of homeowners in the complex who are typically elected by all homeowners. These board members will set up regular meetings where owners can gather and discuss major decisions and issues with their community. For major expenditures, all members of the HOA usually vote, not just members of the board.

In addition to management of the common areas, homeowners associations are also responsible for seeing that its community members follow certain rules and restrictions. These rules will be spelled out in the covenants, conditions, and restrictions, or CC&Rs.

What are CC&Rs? Common restrictive covenants

Simply put, CC&Rs are just the rules you’ll have to follow if you live in that community. Unlike zoning regulations, which are government-imposed requirements on how land can be used, restrictive covenants are established by HOAs to maintain the attractiveness and value of the property.

Restrictive covenants differ from community to community, but there are some you can expect to see:

  • Permissible colors for exterior house paint
  • Minimum property and landscaping standards
  • Types of fencing allowed
  • Types of window treatments allowed
  • Limitations on the type of security lights you can attach to the house
  • Controls on installing sporting equipment such as a basketball hoop in the driveway
  • Restrictions that limit vehicle storage or recreational vehicle parking
  • Curbs on property uses that generate noise or smells (e.g., raising livestock)
  • Rules on commercial or business uses of land reserved for residences

 

When to review your CC&Rs

After your offer to buy a home is accepted, you are legally entitled to receive and review the community’s CC&Rs over a certain number of days (typically between three and 10). Warning: Some CC&Rs can be hundreds of pages, but given these are the laws you’ll have to abide by, this is required reading that you skip at your own peril.

If you spot anything in the restrictive covenants you absolutely can’t live with, you can bring it up with the HOA board or just back out of your contract completely (and keep your deposit). It may seem extreme, but if this is the place you hope to call home, living with rules that seriously cramp your style may just not be worth the trouble.

Can you change restrictive covenants?

Restrictive covenants, however, aren’t set in stone. They can be contested and changed with a majority vote of the shareholders, aka neighbors in your development. This can work for or against you depending on where you stand.

Bruce Ailion, a real estate agent and attorney for Re/Max Town and Country in Atlanta, says he has seen neighborhoods tighten regulations by issuing fines for cars parked in the streets, bicycles left outside the garage, nonstandard mailboxes, and other potentially petty problems.

“Yes, restrictive covenants keep the appearance of the property up and can prevent eyesores such as wrecked cars, unkempt lawns, and oddball home colors,” Ailion says. But he admits there are times when CC&Rs can be so restrictive that they start infringing on the rights of their residents.

But even in that case, there are things you can do. In January 2016, for instance, when an HOA in Keizer, OR, wouldn’t allow a family to park their RV in their driveway—a necessity for their disabled child—the family fought back with a lawsuit (and won), arguing that the Fair Housing Act requires HOAs to make “reasonable accommodations” for people with disabilities.

The bottom line: Restrictive covenants are meant to protect residents, but they can be changed if they’re out of line.

What happens if you violate HOA rules or can’t pay your HOA fees?

First off, rest assured that most lending institutions take the HOA fee into consideration when they write up your mortgage. In other words, they evaluate your monthly income compared with your monthly expenses, and they won’t make a loan on the desired property unless they feel you can safely cover everything: your mortgage payment, taxes, and HOA fees.

But life happens. If you lose your job or are unable to pay your HOA fees, you might be able to work something out with the HOA board. Be sure to talk to the board before you miss even one payment.

If you break your HOA’s rules, the consequences could be severe, and potentially, HOA management could evict you from your property. Fall too far behind on paying HOA fees, and the penalty could be the same as if you fail to make your mortgage payments.

Bob Tankel, a Florida attorney specializing in HOA law, says the board may have the right to foreclose on your property.

Pros and cons of an HOA

Home shoppers weigh a laundry list of factors before purchasing a home. Location, price, size, and style are all taken into consideration. But for some, a home in a community with a homeowners association could either sweeten the pot or be a major deal breaker.

“I have had clients who specifically want this type of situation, and others who refuse to buy in a community that has one,” says Bill Golden, an independent real estate agent with Re/Max Metro Atlanta Cityside.

Want to know what makes buyers swing one way or the other? The following insights will illustrate the best and worst qualities of HOAs and help you decide if living in this type of community is right for you.

Pro: HOAs maintain common areas

HOA maintains common areas
HOA maintains common areas like the pool.

(emreogan/iStock)

Your community’s HOA will be responsible for handling all maintenance of common areas and repairs for the amenities outside your home. It’s perhaps the biggest perk of living in an HOA community.

“Based on maintenance fees collected, an organized HOA maintains a comfortable balance in their fund to offset maintenance costs or unexpected issues that need to be fixed,” says Drew Scott of HGTV’s “Property Brothers” and co-founder of Scott Brothers Global.

An HOA’s level of involvement varies and might depend on the type and size of the community.

“The HOA will take care of the common areas like the pool, clubhouse, walking paths, or other amenities that provide value to the residents,” says Mark Ferguson, a Greeley, CO–based real estate agent and investor.

Sure, homeowners already taking on a mortgage may hate coughing up more money for HOA dues. But they actually let you off the hook for a ton of home maintenance work. So before you start kvetching, consider all that HOA fees can do for you.

Pro: HOAs help keep uniformity

HOA helps keep uniformity
If they were supposed to look different, they’d be built different…

(jhorrocks/iStock)

Each HOA has its own declaration of covenants, conditions, and restrictions, or CC&Rs, which explain what homeowners can and cannot do—this includes streamlining the appearance of each property.

“Your neighbors can’t paint their house bright purple or put an unsightly addition on the front of their house,” Golden says. The CC&Rs make sure “the community retains the look and feel of the way it was built.”

Other common no-nos are parking vehicles on the lawn or keeping inoperable vehicles in the driveway.

“You won’t have to worry about that one neighbor that has decided to let his front yard grow into a wild jungle,” says Golden.

Pro: HOAs help homes retain their value

“Ultimately, the HOA helps the homes within the neighborhood retain their value,” explains Patrick Garrett, real estate broker at H&H Realty in Trussville, AL. “When there are rules and guidelines governing how homeowners should keep their property’s appearance, it helps keep the neighborhood looking desirable for the consumers perusing the neighborhood in search of a new home.”

Pro: HOAs mediate problems on your behalf

HOA can mediate disputes between neighbors
HOAs can mediate disputes between neighbors, like lawn care matters or who looks better in plaid.

(JackF/iStock)

An HOA can also reduce conflicts and unpleasant exchanges. If your neighbors haven’t cut their lawn in several weeks, or decide to turn their driveway into an auto repair shop, you don’t have to confront them, because the HOA will. When anyone is engaged in activity that violates the CC&Rs, the HOA sends a friendly notice and follows up with a stern warning.

“A reasonable HOA is like heaven,” says Ailion. Several years ago, he represented a builder of family homes that were sold to investors; with no restrictive covenants in place, the community looked terrible two years later. By contrast, a nearby community that had instituted an HOA to oversee lawn care and home exteriors was thriving.

“Those properties looked like new, and year after year, the gap in price between the two communities has grown,” he says.

But HOAs come with some distinct downsides, too:

Con: Those pesky HOA fees

If you move into an area with an HOA, membership is mandatory, and so are the monthly or annual fees. Plus, “the fees can change, based on decisions that you don’t have total control over,” Golden says. “Fees can also be a detriment to resale, if potential buyers don’t want that extra cost in addition to their house payment.”

Con: There’s a lot of red tape

Building that new second-floor addition will be especially difficult in an HOA community.

Any exterior modification—even a minor one like a play area for your kids—has to be approved by the HOA.

You must submit plans describing the height, colors, location, shape, and materials to the HOA board for approval.

“This can really slow down the process or limit the type of work you can do,” Scott says.

Ferguson says the approval process can be downright unreasonable.

“It once took my HOA nine months to approve a basketball hoop that had already been approved by them for the previous owners,” he says.

Con: HOAs can be overbearing

Remember those CC&Rs? While they come in handy for preventing rowdy college students from moving in, they also might be off-putting for homeowners who like their autonomy.

“Many folks believe that buying your own home should give you the freedom to make the changes you want to make and express your own individuality,” Golden explains. “They don’t want decisions about their own home made by a committee.”

HOA-mandated restrictions can be set on swimming pools (e.g., in-ground swimming pools can be built in the back of the house, but above-ground pools are prohibited), pets (e.g., they are allowed, but they can’t be bred or kept for commercial reasons; livestock or poultry are not allowed without permission), and rentals (e.g., you might be prohibited from renting out rooms or the entire home).

In extreme situations, some HOAs can evict the tenant and hold the homeowner responsible for any eviction costs or any damage caused by the tenant.

Just keep in mind that an HOA’s goal is not to meddle; it’s merely to maintain a neighborhood aesthetic. However, if you don’t like being told what to do with your home, living under the bylaws and rules of an association may not be for you. Make sure to read your CC&Rs carefully and weigh the pros and cons of any particular HOA before you buy.

 

For this and similar articles, please visit Realtor.com

Hate cleaning your house? No one could blame you: There’s precious little fun in scrubbing toilets. Or wiping down grime-streaked windows to the point where your elbows are sore for weeks. And you probably cringe when you think about your living room’s floor-to-ceiling built-in shelves, whose upper levels haven’t seen a dust rag since Tony Soprano faded abruptly to black.

Enter the humble housecleaner—here to save you from yourself! You can hand over your most hated tasks and wash your hands of cleaning.

But if you’re hiring a housecleaner to do the hard work, don’t make the job even harder. Following these insider tips from cleaning experts will not only help ensure your status as a decent human being, they can also help you save some cash.

Here are seven tips for keeping your cleaning from turning into a dust-up.

How Much Does an Average House Cleaning Service Cost in 2022?

1. Precleaning will save you money

If you’re anything like us, you probably do a little precleaning for your housecleaner. And then, if you’re like us, you wonder how much of that is truly necessary—after all, that’s what the housecleaner is there for, right?

Here’s the deal: You should do whatever you can to help them help you. No, you don’t need to bust out the Clorox, the Shark vacuum, and the Miracle Mop, but you should tackle those dirty dishes, throw out the takeout containers, and pick up that pile of clothes. If you don’t, you may find that your wallet’s been cleaned out, too.

“Picking up clutter does make our job a lot easier,” says Megan Sentner, the manager at Greenapple Cleaning in Ottawa, Ontario. “That being said, we have no problem picking up clutter as long as the clients understand that it takes more time and costs more.”

Think it all comes out in the wash? Let us do the math for you: If your housecleaner charges you $30 per hour (the average rate) to clean, then a half-hour spent decluttering will cost you an extra $15—or $390 for a year’s worth of twice-a-month cleanings. Instead, straighten up the night before and save that cash for something else.

2. Give specific directions

Unless you’re ordering a top-to-bottom scrubbing every week, your cleaners need direction. Is the bathroom looking a little grungy? Ask them to spend extra time on the shower. Request extra attention to your baseboards. Sic them on your son’s room, now that he’s finally off to college.

“If they don’t leave full instructions, there’s a chance they’ll be disappointed,” Sentner says.

If you’re new to the world of professional housecleaning, you might not know exactly what your home needs most. Most maid services will happily stop by for a consultation so you can learn exactly how dirty you are.

3. Deal with your pets, please

Your dog runs in terror when you turn on your Dyson, so why would you leave it home alone when all the floors are getting vacuumed? Not all pups need to be boarded during housecleaning, but if you already know your pet hates strangers or loud noises, at least put it in the backyard or a comfy crate.

“We don’t mind having pets in the home while cleaning, but some pets don’t like having us there,” Sentner says. “It’s stressful for our team members to have a dog barking for three hours.”

Aggressive pets can also mean your house doesn’t get cleaned: Housecleaners aren’t expected to sacrifice their own safety to clean your home, and if they’re faced with an angry animal, they might have to bail on the job, Sentner says.

4. If you wouldn’t touch it, they won’t either

Yes, housecleaners will scrub away that nasty buildup around the bottom of your toilet seat. But they also have a limit: They won’t pick up your dog’s poop.

Or—and yes, Sentner says it’s happened—yours.

“Sometimes there are expectations that we can clean it, but we don’t,” she says. “We don’t expect our team to handle any waste above the usual cleaning of the bathroom or the toilet.”

4 Essential Etiquette for House Cleaning Tips

5. Allot the proper amount of cleaning time

Don’t feel ashamed if your house is in dire straits. Life happens. Work picks up, a kid or two comes along, and suddenly you have no time for more than the bare minimum. Cleaners (probably) won’t judge you—but you should expect the job to take a bit longer.

Be honest with your housecleaners about the home’s current state so they can allocate enough time on their schedule.

6. Use an insured cleaning service

Housecleaners can’t avoid touching your most valuable belongings—Grandma’s heirloom teapot needs dusting, too. But sometimes accidents happen.

The best way to ensure the safety of your precious possessions is by selecting an insured cleaning service. It’ll have provisions in place to quickly rectify the situation.

“If we made a mistake and caused damage, it’s our responsibility,” Sentner says.

Bu it’s your responsibility to make sure things are in line and prepared for your housecleaner’s visit. That includes removing any truly priceless valuables—and making sure your home (however dirty) is a welcoming environment.

7. You’re not entirely off the hook

Hiring a housecleaning service doesn’t mean you can skip all of the cleaning. Well, sure: You probably can, if you’re willing to pay for the service to do the basics every time it comes by. But if you want to cut costs, make sure you try to keep up your home’s appearance in between cleanings.

“Minor maintenance can be the difference between us cleaning for three or five hours every two weeks,” Sentner says.

Simple DIY tasks include wiping down the front of the cabinets after cooking, squeegeeing the shower, and sweeping the kitchen floor. Integrating them into your day-to-day routine can save you a few bucks on your bill.

 

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When you buy a home, there are usually a flurry of things you look forward to in your first winter season—like watching the snow fall through your living room window, snuggling up next to a crackling fireplace, and even making snow angels in the front yard.

But some of the things you may discover during your first winter of homeownership? Well they might just bring you crashing back to reality.

In my case, when we bought our 1920s suburban New York home, we had some pretty rude awakenings. Here are my four biggest takeaways to help new homeowners navigate their first winter without a hitch.

Brrr! 4 Nasty Surprises You May Face Owning a New Home This Winter

1. High heating bills

Don’t make the mistake I made and assume fuel costs will be equal to what the sellers paid.

“If the previous owner of your home was a senior resident, your heating bill might be significantly higher than advertised. In some areas, seniors get discounted energy rates,” says Erin Dunlap, a Denver-area real estate agent who specializes in flipping homes and blogs about home improvement at List in Progress.

How to prepare: “Call the utility company in advance to see whether past bills were discounted so you know what to expect when winter heating bills arrive,” suggests Dunlap.

If your new home’s heating bills are higher than expected, consider investing in a smart thermostat with additional room sensors.

“You’ll be able to adjust the zones of your house based on timing and usage, and you can easily adjust the thermostat when you’re away from home,” Dunlap says. “Plus, some energy providers offer rebates for switching to a smart thermostat.”

2. Frozen pipes, hoses, and other plumbing problems

“Having grown up in Southern California, winter freezes are not something that I ever worried about, so we used to leave our garden hoses hooked up year-round,” says Brittany Hovsepian, owner of The Expert Home Buyers, a real estate solutions and investment firm in North Augusta, SC. “After moving to a colder climate, we quickly found out that isn’t such a good idea when winter comes. Water can freeze in the hose and then back up all the way through the house, causing major plumbing damage.”

How to prepare: Research the typical winter weather in your new neighborhood (you’ll find temperatures and precipitation averages) and then act accordingly. This may mean changing some habits, as well as having items like snow shovels and ice-melt products on hand.

If you have pipes that could freeze, consider insulating them. And if you have one of those gorgeous long and winding driveways, finding a private plowing service may be a necessity to avoid being snowed in.

3. HVAC maintenance

You may believe that just because you had a home inspection prior to closing on your home, everything is running smoothly in terms of mechanicals. But your house’s heating system may still need some TLC. For example, dust can accumulate in ducts, and furnace filters need regular changing. All of this affects your home’s efficiency and safety.

How to prepare: “If your local HVAC company offers a tuneup of your heating system, pay the money,” advises Jameson Tyler Drew, president of Anubis Properties in Whittier, CA. “The motors and boards of heating units sit unused for months at a time, accumulating dust. This can clog fan intakes and short out controller boards, which can be more than $1,000 to replace.”

Plus, by getting an HVAC checkup, “you are eliminating a significant fire hazard,” Drew explains. “If dust and dirt stop a heating fan from moving while the controller continues to send electricity to the motor, you can at best blow out the motor.”

4. Fireplace flameouts

Apparently, I’m not the only new homeowner to be blindsided by fireplace issues. Although our home inspector recommended we get them cleaned,  it didn’t seem that urgent. As it turned out, they were caked with creosote—a toxic, flammable residue. Removing it required us to hire a chimney sweep.

“When new homeowners face the first winter in their new home, [one common issue that can arise] is a failed fireplace due to not having it inspected by a dedicated professional,” says Jason Gelios, a real estate agent with Community Choice Realty in Birmingham, MI, and author of “Think Like a Realtor.”

How to prepare: While your home inspection might not have made it seem urgent at the time, you can still get a dedicated fireplace inspection after you move. A professional chimney sweep will do what it takes to make everything clean and safe to use during the winter. So schedule service ASAP. You definitely don’t want to miss that first cup of cocoa by the fire in your new home.

 

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When you think of the most design-forward room in your home, does the bathroom come to mind? For most of us, the answer is a resounding NO. In fact, unless you’re lucky enough to have a spa space with a free-standing tub and a rain shower, rarely do bathrooms go down in history as the most meditative or creative spaces.

But bathrooms can, in fact, be creative works of art just as much as (if not more than) your other interiors.

That’s why, for this week’s Instagram decor lineup, we chose to highlight five beautiful bathrooms with distinctive decor touches that showcase the potential of these humble rooms.

Whether you’re hoping to bring some unique charm to a sterile bathroom or personalize your plain powder room, the following suggestions offer something for everyone. Here are five bathroom trends we’re loving right now.

1. Washed-stone backsplash

When the usual subway tiles aren’t cutting it, turn instead to a more rough-hewn natural tile like the ones seen in this washed-stone backsplash from @reallivingmag.

“A washed-stone backsplash embraces nature and its perfect imperfection,” says designer Lauren Byington, of Warren & Lauren. “This look is a synthesis of nature and modernity. Adding organic elements like a washed-stone backsplash can offer a soft yet impactful element to your bathroom.”

Get the look: Incorporate some impossibly sweet organic elements into your bathroom with this antique stone mosaic tile.

A gallery wall is often something we expect to see in an entryway or living room—not so much in a bathroom. But the unexpected quality of this look from @themaximalistdreamer is one of the reasons it holds so much charm.

“Bathrooms have moved far from bland and sterile,” says Byington. “Now they can carry a lot of personality and be a representation of who we are. Why do so many people get their best ideas in the shower? Bathrooms can be a place where creativity heightens. Pay homage to this notion with a bathroom gallery wall.”

Get the look: Follow this tutorial for tips to create your own bathroom gallery wall.

3. Wall-mounted faucet

Speaking of unique surprises, one of the best ways to achieve a custom look in your bathroom is by installing a wall-mounted faucet—just like we see in the look from @kerrieann_jones_stylist.

“I love the extra space on the vanity that these fixtures offer,” says designer Ana Cummings, of ANA Interiors. “Wall-mounted faucets can be both functional and highly decorative. They’re often paired with a show-stopping vessel sink and incorporated into the wall design. The number of metal finishes that these fixtures come in can really add to and elevate the design.”

In addition to the placement of this bathroom faucet, we also love the trendy brass finish.

Get the look: Create more usable space on your bathroom vanity with this Duchess antique brass wall-mounted fixture set.

4. Jute hamper

No stylish, well-designed room is complete without an element that adds texture and warmth to the space. This jute hamper from @bramleyandbear offers style and function. If you have the space, we recommend grabbing one ASAP.

Not only can a jute hamper serve as a catchall for laundry and towels, but it can also soften up the appearance of an otherwise shiny, cold bathroom.

Get the look: Soften up your space with this boho-style hamper.

5. Striped shower tiles

Looking to go above and beyond with the creative expression of your bathroom? Consider a shower tile arrangement like this one from @stiltje.se.

“Stripes stand the test of time,” says Byington. “Using them creatively, especially to define a space like the shower and add a decorative feature to the space, is brilliant.”

Get the look: Find shower tile in complementary colors, then follow this tutorial to create a perfectly striped shower.

 

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