For-sale listings with cool, neutral wall colors sell for more money
A fresh coat of paint in the right color may help sell a home for more money.
Homes with rooms painted in shades of light blue or pale blue/gray can sell for as much as $5,440 more than expected.
Paint Color Analysis looked at more than 32,000 photos from sold homes around the country to see how certain paint colors impacted their sale price on average, when compared to similar homes with white walls.
Curious what colors may help you sell your home for more? See below for the full results of the 2017 Paint Color Analysis.
Homes with blue kitchens, often found in soft gray-blue, sold for a $1,809 premium.
Light blue bathrooms
Homes with light pale blue to soft periwinkle blue bathrooms sold for $5,440 more than expected.
Brown living rooms
Turns out homes with light beige, pale taupe or oatmeal-colored living room walls sell for $1,926 more than expected.
Cadet blue bedrooms
Homes with light cerulean to cadet blue bedroom wall colors can come with a $1,856 premium.
Slate blue dining rooms
Homes with slate blue to pale gray blue dining rooms also sold for more money — $1,926 more on average than homes with white dining room wall colors.
“Greige” home exteriors
A home’s exterior color may also have an impact on its sale price. Homes painted in “greige,” a mix of light gray and beige, sold for $3,496 more than similar homes painted in a medium brown or with tan stucco.
Navy blue front doors
For a pop of color, homes with front doors painted in shades of dark navy blue to slate gray sold for $1,514 more.
Selecting the right paint color is one of many factors that may affect why a home sells faster or for more money. Walls painted in cool neutrals like blue or grayhave broad appeal, and may be signals that the home is well cared for or has other desirable features.
Some colors may actually deter buyers. Homes with darker, more style-specific walls like terracotta dining rooms sold for $2,031 less than expected. However, a lack of color may have the biggest negative impact as homes with white bathrooms sold for an average of $4,035 below similar homes.
Moving From a Home With 2 Bedrooms to 3 Costs an Extra $450 a Month
Thinking about moving this year? Whether your family is growing or you’re just looking for more space, upgrading to a home with an extra bed or bath comes with a premium in most metros.
To help buyers better understand their options this home-shopping season, identified how much extra “move-up” buyers could expect to spend on their mortgage if they were to upgrade to a similar home, but with just one extra bed or bath.
Nationally, families moving from a 2-bedroom to a 3-bedroom home can expect to pay $447 more on their monthly mortgage, according to Cost of Moving Up Report. That equates to a 50 percent increase in their monthly mortgage payment.
In many coastal markets, the cost is higher, around $500 extra each month — and in hot markets like San Francisco and San Jose, families can expect to nearly double their monthly mortgage payment, with the premium for moving up exceeding $1,600.
Buyers in the Midwest will see their dollars stretch much further. Families in Chicago, Cincinnati and St. Louis can expect to spend just $150 more on their mortgage when upgrading from a 2-bedroom to a 3-bedroom home. Cleveland offers the lowest premium out of all the metros analyzed, with move-up buyers paying just $74 extra a month to upgrade to a 3-bedroom.
“While deciding whether to move is a personal choice, understanding how certain characteristics like size, location or number of beds and baths can impact a home’s price can be hugely important when determining if a particular home is the right fit for you and your family,” says Dr. Svenja Gudell, chief economist. “Even though many families may be prepared to spend extra for a larger home, just how much more may come as a surprise, especially for those living in coastal markets.”
Bathroom count can also impact a home’s price. Nationally, upgrading to a house with the same number of bedrooms, but with one extra bathroom can cost buyers between $386 and $838 extra a month, depending on the home size. Given this premium, adding an extra bathroom to an existing home may be a cost-effective option for some families.
Prepare yourself by knowing the less-obvious costs of owning a home. Insurance, maintenance and more add up faster than you think
Buyers too often focus on a home’s list price or mortgage payment to determine what they can afford. However, the numerous less-obvious costs associated with homeownership can affect the monthly bottom line.
To help home buyers budget more accurately, Zillow and Thumbtack identified several common but often overlooked home expenses and calculated what homeowners around the country could expect to pay for them. The analysis also included utility cost estimates from UtilityScore.
While each extra expense might seem small, they cost U.S. homeowners, on average, $9,080 a year, according to the report.
Nationally, homeowners pay an average of $6,059 a year in unavoidable costs, which include homeowners insurance, property taxes and utilities. Since nearly half (47 percent) of home shoppers today are first-time buyers, many of these extra costs may come as a surprise.
San Francisco homeowners pay the most of the metros analyzed ($13,019 on average), primarily due to the market’s high home values and property taxes. Indianapolis homeowners pay the least ($4,699).
Nearly all homeowners (96 percent) have made some kind of improvement to their homes, according to the 2016 Report on Consumer Housing Trends. While many complete these projects themselves, those who pay professionals can expect to spend an average of $3,021 for the six most common hired home projects requested by Thumbtack users: carpet cleaning, yard work, gutter cleaning, HVAC maintenance, house cleaning and pressure washing.
Labor costs can vary significantly by region, with Seattle homeowners paying as much as $4,052 a year on average for those six projects, while San Antonio homeowners pay an average of $1,962.
More than a third of buyers go over budget on a home purchase. To help buyers better understand the total cost of homeownership, Zillow Group launched RealEstate.com, a website that allows people to search by the “All-In Monthly Price” of owning that home. In addition to the mortgage, the price includes estimated property taxes, insurance, PMI, utilities, taxes, HOA fees and closing costs.
The high cost of living can make it hard for middle-class residents to make ends meet
Cities need the middle class. They need nurses and teachers. Yet if people have a well-paying job like those, they’re finding it increasingly difficult to afford to pay for a house in the city in which they work. Cities tend to have the most job opportunities, but they also have the highest cost of living. In recent years, the housing costs in urban areas have grown more than anywhere else.
“This isn’t just a coastal problem,” explains economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. “We’re seeing rapidly appreciating home values in places like Nashville, Provo, Charlotte, Orlando. These people that have good jobs are running into the problem that they simply cannot afford to live in cities anymore.”
Not enough to go around
So, what happened that is causing housing costs to rise so much? A classic problem of supply and demand. “We’re in a really strong part of the recovery,” says Gudell, “and it comes down to not enough homes available to sell right now, but a lot of people demanding housing.”
Even though cities are becoming unaffordable, there is still an intense desire for people — especially millennials — to move there.
“For a lot of people, their jobs are actually located in cities, so the appeal of a short commute is right there,” says Gudell. “Millennials are starting to think about renting, leaving their parents’ basements and perhaps even buying their first homes. They have a preference to be in cities, oftentimes. The acute inventory shortage that is being experienced all across the country right now is because cities don’t have as many single-family homes. They have more condos available.”
Smaller and smaller
Unfortunately for potential buyers, there are not many choices that you can make in this situation of high demand/short supply.
“You can choose to simply rent,” says Gudell, “but you end up missing out on wealth building because you don’t actually invest in equity by paying off a mortgage. Or you have to choose to move farther out, where housing gets a bit cheaper, but then you face very long commutes.”
If you’re in an average, middle class-paying job, buying a home in a city with your current employment isn’t realistic at all. Unless that home is under 500 square feet — about the size of a toolshed. For the biggest cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Washington, D.C., your average affordability falls to under 300 square feet.
So, why shouldn’t we have cities be just for wealthy people, and suburbs and rural areas for people who are not? “In every city, you’ll find a coffee shop,” says Gudell. “You’ll need garbage pickup, you’ll need all these things, and it simply doesn’t work to say, ‘If you’re a janitor, you’re going to have to commute in for an hour and a half, but if you’re ultra-rich, you can live in the city.’”
Fill in the cities
The middle class should be able to afford the cities they serve without incurring the burden and long-term physical and mental stressors of a multi-hour commute. With America’s supply and demand problem not getting any better, there are certain steps that both governments and the private sector could do to try to help impact cost in a positive way.
“Cities have to evolve with the times, and that means adding more units,” says Gudell. “People oftentimes are afraid that higher-density living will ruin their cities, but in the end, higher density will just change the character of a city. It won’t ruin it. But pushing people out and having only a city for the rich will probably ruin cities.”
It never hurts to ask -- or does it? Here's what you need to know about how credit checks can affect your mortgage rate.
Almost all home buyers know that higher credit scores mean lower mortgage rates, so it’s no surprise that one of the top questions home buyers ask is: will shopping for mortgage rates lower my credit scores?
The short answer is “No.” But only if you manage your mortgage shopping process correctly. Here’s how to preserve your credit score while shopping for the best rates.
Is it safe to have multiple lenders run my credit?
Three bureaus generate your credit scores: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Lenders report your monthly activities on student loans, credit cards, auto loans and mortgages to these bureaus, who then score you on an ongoing basis. Your credit scores change constantly each month based on factors like:
When it comes to that last factor, credit card inquiries hit your score harder than car and mortgage inquiries. For example, if you’re out shopping at three department stores and allow all three stores to process new credit cards for you, the bureaus’ scoring models are coded to lower your score for each individual inquiry.
Each inquiry would lower your score by up to five points, or more if you have just a few accounts and/or a short credit history. The inquiries would stay on your credit report for 24 months, and your score wouldn’t recover for about 12 months — until you demonstrated strong payment history and balance-to-limit control on those new cards.
Car and mortgage inquiries make less of an impact because the bureaus know consumers shop for these big-ticket items. The bureaus’ scoring models are coded to “de-duplicate” multiple mortgage inquiries, since the end result of those inquiries would be one mortgage.
For example, if you were shopping for a mortgage with three lenders, and all three ran your credit one week, the three inquiries would show on your report, but would be scored as only one, so your shopping process would cause your score to shift by up to five points instead of up to 15.
How long can I shop for mortgages without damaging my credit?
Equifax, TransUnion and Experian are constantly changing scoring models. The newer the model, the longer a consumer can shop for mortgages with multiple lenders and have all inquiries scored as one. There’s no law requiring lenders to upgrade to the latest model, and it’s impossible to know which model is being used by which lender at any given time.
The oldest scoring models still being used by lenders de-duplicate multiple mortgage inquiries posted on your credit report in the past 14 days. The newest models de-duplicate multiple mortgage inquiries posted on your credit report in the past 45 days.
Obviously, the newer models allow for more shopping time, but since you won’t know which credit scoring model your various lenders are using, it’s safest to get your mortgage shopping done (including having lenders run your credit) within 14 days.
Will lenders take a credit report I ran myself?
You’re reminded constantly by the media and advertisements that you should check your credit regularly, but before you do anything, you must understand the following critical points:
No matter which side of the transaction you're on, you don't want to give up more than you have to.
After months of searching for the perfect home, making some offers, and maybe even competing with other buyers, you finally have a deal on your dream home. It took some negotiations, but you and the seller have come to terms.
Or have you?
Too often, getting a signed contract and putting your money into escrow is the beginning of what can become yet another round of negotiations. Here are five things every home buyer and seller should know about last-minute negotiations or credits.
Buyers may ask for credits based on property inspections.
Usually, a real estate contract either provides for a property inspection, or buyers inspect before signing. Depending on the property and the issues, a buyer might also have a particular type of inspection for the sewer line, septic, pool or roof.
These inspections can bring to light issues that the buyer couldn’t possibly have known about before making an offer. Once inspected, the buyer may still be interested in pursuing the sale. But given the needed repairs they will probably want to re-negotiate the price by asking for credits or a reduction in the purchase price.
Sellers should consider having a property inspection before listing.
The goal is to avoid negotiations once you’re under contract, because they’re not going to be in your favor. If you know the roof is near the end of its life or the furnace breaks from time to time, let it be known upfront, because rarely can you “sneak” something past the buyer.
You might even go as far as having your property inspected before listing the home. This way, you can address any issues, and make the inspection report available to buyers. They can come up with their best offer upfront, knowing what they’re getting.
If you have an inspection report or are otherwise assured your property is in great shape, you could even ask for an “as-is” clause in the contract. Although it’s not necessarily enforceable, it will send a strong message to the buyers that you aren’t open to more negotiation.
Sellers may try to avoid giving credits by having work done before escrow closes.
After inspections, the seller might agree to have work done before the closing. Or the seller may require that a payment is given directly to a contractor for the purpose of performing the specific, required work and nothing else.
These agreements help protect the seller, because buyers sometimes ask for credits just to help offset the closing costs — and never intends to do the repair work.
It also protects the seller if initial estimates for needed work turn out to have been overstated.
Buyers who ask for credits just to get the price down may be taking a chance.
Sometimes the buyer concedes on the purchase price thinking they can come back after the property inspection and ask for an additional concession.
The buyer may even feel empowered now that they’ve completed a series of inspections and are just weeks away from closing. The seller isn’t going to go back to the drawing board with a new buyer over a few more dollars, right?
Actually, they might. If it’s a strong buyer’s market, there’s a good chance the buyer can pull it off, but if it’s more of a neutral or a seller’s market, the seller may call your bluff. They’re assuming that you’re the one who, having invested all this time and money on inspections and an appraisal, isn’t going to walk away over a few dollars.
Buyers nearly always ask for credits, so sellers should give themselves some cushion.
You should also leave some additional room for negotiation when you’re in escrow. Always assume the buyer will ask for minor repair work — they nearly always do, even if there are no major issues. If you leave some cushion for yourself, you’ll feel better about the deal, and you’ll have protected yourself against the inevitable.
Conversely, the last thing you want is to be blindsided by a buyer asking for a few thousand dollars credit — just when you think the deal is finally done.
Whether you've lived in your home for a day or a decade, buckle up — homeownership can be a wild ride
You may live in your home for two years, or you may hunker down for two decades. But no matter how long you call it yours, you’ll likely experience these four key stages of homeownership — from the day you get your keys to the day you hand them off to your home’s new owner.
Read on to learn more about what to expect from each phase.
Phase 1: Starting out
The “sold” sign is posted, your belongings are packed, and the day finally arrives — you get the keys to your new home. You open the front door, and possibilities abound. How will you decorate? Where will that new couch go? Which rooms will the kids choose?
This first phase is all about unpacking, settling in, and getting to know your new home. If you’ve upsized from a smaller home, you may be tempted to jump in and start filling all that extra space.
And while you may be eager to make your mark on your new home’s interior (or exterior), Diana Bohn, a Seattle-based agent with Windermere Real Estate, warns against making extensive changes to a home right after moving in.
“It’s always good to be in your home for a year or so before knocking down any walls,” she explains. “Get your furniture in there, unpack, and see how the home lives. It’s hard to know how the space is going to feel until you’ve been there for a while. Go through all the seasons at least once.”
Phase 2: Settling in
It may take you a few months to move into the second phase — or even a few years (we won’t judge if you still have packed boxes gathering dust after a year or two). But this phase is when your house becomes a home, and you start enjoying your everyday life in the space.
You’ve figured out where all your belongings should go, you’ve done the bulk of your decorating, and you’re getting to know your neighbors and a few local hangouts. You’ve likely celebrated the holidays in your home a time or two, welcomed out-of-town guests, and gotten to know (and love?) your home’s unique quirks.
Phase 3: Fixing up
If the housing market continues its current upward trend, it’s likely that, after even a few years in your home, you’re sitting on some equity. So what should you do with it? Phase 3 is often the time when homeowners can take advantage of equity they’ve gained.
First, if you bought an older home, it may be time to update some of your home’s major systems — think furnace, roof, or windows. Portland, OR-based mortgage broker Lauren Green of Green Family Mortgage recommends researching two options for financing home improvements: home equity lines of credit (HELOC) and cash-out refinances.
“Many people have no idea they can access their home’s equity,” Green says. “They think the only way to take advantage of their home’s increased value is to sell it, but in reality, there are some great ways to access the equity in your home while still living in it.”
Second, after living in your home for a few years, you probably have a better idea of the renovations that would really make your home work for your lifestyle.
“There are lots of reasons why someone may decide to remodel instead of sell and look for a new home,” says Tyler Coke, project manager and business development manager at Marrone & Marrone, a custom home builder and remodeler in the Bay Area. “One thing that appeals to many homeowners is the custom aspect of it. You can design and create exactly the type of space that fits your lifestyle and speaks to how you use your home.”
Phase 4: Moving on
When will you know it’s time to move on? And what will prompt you to move somewhere new?
“Usually, it’s some kind of transition that causes people to sell,” says Bohn. “A new job, a growing family, or downsizing once the kids move out. In big cities, we’re also seeing people moving from more centrally located neighborhoods to farther-flung suburbs, where their money will get them more.”
Whatever your reason for putting your home on the market, the day you sign on the dotted line and close your front door for the last time is likely to be a bittersweet moment. But change can be good, and the next time you buy a home, you’ll be well-versed in all four phases and know just what you’re looking for.
Looking for a new way to give back? Try opening your home to those in need.
When it comes to giving back, most people immediately think of donating time or money to a cause. But another just as effective — and perhaps less thought of — option is sharing your home as a force for good.
Here are six ways to make a difference with your home.
1. Connect your neighbors through reading
Perhaps you’ve seen charming little structures in your neighborhood that are similar to mailboxes but filled with books. Started in 2009, the Little Free Library inspires a love for reading while building community. Purchase or build one of these book-exchange boxes to place in front of your home, and fill it with books you want to share.
2. Host a soldier for the holidays
Live near a military base? Many organizations offer the opportunity to host a soldier for a holiday meal at your home. Connect with your local U.S. Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) or Navy MWR resource office to find hosting opportunities.
3. Share your home with a cancer patient and their family
Cancer patients seeking treatment may end up at hospitals and communities far from home. While many hospitals provide lodging, there’s also an opportunity for hosts to step in and provide a homey place to stay.
Programs vary by area, so connect with your local hospital. If you’re in the greater Philadelphia area, check out Hosts for Hospitals or Boston’s Hospitality Homes.
4. Open your home to evacuees
When a natural disaster strikes, entire communities are unable to return home. Launched in 2017, Airbnb Open Homes is a program that works with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to book homes for people in need, for free. When a disaster occurs, hosts near affected areas are contacted with requests from displaced families and individuals.
5. Provide a safe place for refugees
Those forced to flee their country may not always have the connections and immediate financial resources to find shelter. A spare room or unused part of the house could be a great temporary solution for these refugees while they get on their feet.
Room for Refugees started in the United Kingdom and now works in the U.S. and Canada too. Many other refugee resettlement services offer hosting opportunities, so research the relevant needs in your area.
6. Get creative
Invite your neighbors over for dinner, or throw a progressive dinner party. Hosting a Death Over Dinner party is a great way to talk about end-of-life care for you or someone you love. Other ideas include hosting a lecture series, documentary viewing or craft night, all in an effort to build community right where you live.
It's essential to have the right marketing plan, pricing strategy and real estate agent.
When shopping for a home, it’s not uncommon to come across one that truly stands out. It’s not because the home is an old fixer-upper or that it’s a newly renovated home with a designer kitchen. It’s a home that’s architecturally significant or in some way conveys a “different” attribute. For instance, it might be a castle, a church or even a fire station that has been converted into one or more living spaces.
With an unusual home, pricing and marketing can be a challenge. Here are three things to keep in mind when either buying or selling a truly unique property.
1. Buyers should be cautious
As crazy as it sounds, a would-be buyer may want to reconsider purchasing an offbeat home. While it may be a home you love, it is also an investment. A home with a unique, unchangeable structural feature will likely alienate a large portion of the market.
If you’re faced with the opportunity to purchase a unique home, don’t get caught up in the excitement of it all. Think long term. Understand that when it comes time to sell, it may be a burden, particularly if you try to sell in a slow market.
2. When selling, don’t assume buyers will love what you love
As the owner of an interesting or different home who is considering a sale, be aware that not everyone will have the same feeling about the home as you did when you bought the place. While you’re likely to get lots of activity, showings and excitement over your property, a lot of that may simply be curious buyers, nosy neighbors or tire kickers.
Time after time, sellers with unique homes believe that since they fell head over heels, another buyer who might feel the same. But that person could be hard to find.
3. Hire the right agent and have a serious marketing/pricing discussion
A unique home requires a unique marketing plan and pricing strategy as well as a good agent. The buyer may not even live in your local market, and instead might be an opportunist buyer open to a unique property. So you should consider advertising outside the mainstream circles. Media and press can help get the special home the attention it may need.
The buyer may not want to live in your town but is fascinated by an old church or castle. The more you get this out there, the better your options for finding the specific buyer.
If you get lots of action but few offers, you may need to drop the price below the comparable sales to generate interest, particularly if you really need to sell. Just like a home with a funky floor plan, on a busy intersection or with a tiny backyard, the market for your unique home is simply smaller.
With online home listings, blogging and real estate television shows, unique homes stand out and get more exposure than ever. But selling a distinctive or offbeat property requires out-of-the-box thinking early on, and with a top agent. You only have one chance to make a first impression. Be certain to price the home right, expose it to the masses and have a strategic plan in right from the start.
Dwell shares insider tips after consulting architects, DIY home builders and shipping container experts from around the world.
You’ve decided to join the shipping container revolution. Your plans are drawn up, your site is prepared and your welding torch is ready to transform a discarded steel box into the durable, stylish and sustainable home of your dreams. Now what?
To help you get started, we asked architects, DIY home builders and shipping container experts from around the world for their insider tips on bringing home the best possible container for your building needs.
The first step, they agree, is to find a reputable distributor. “Shipping companies don’t want people calling them for one or 10 containers. They prefer to sell to dealers,” says Barry Naef, director of the ISBU Association (ISBU stands for intermodal steel building units, the term for containers used specifically for construction).
He recommends checking the extensive international list of dealers on the Eco Green Sources website. And don’t despair if you live far from the ocean. Thanks to a network of inland distribution hubs, says Naef, “there are as many [containers] in the mid-U.S. and Canada as there are at the ports, at nearly the same prices.” A dealer can help arrange for overland transport of your container via 18-wheeler truck.
Other sourcing options exist, too. In Zambia, a local NGO supplied Tokyo-based architect Mikiko Endo with old containers it had used to transport donations (she transformed them into maternity clinic housing). In Israel, architect Galit Golany purchased a refurbished container from a prefab construction company, then fixed up the turnkey unit with timber cladding, roofing, a deck and stone base.
Stephen Shoup, founder of Oakland’s building Lab, agrees that looking for a distributor that will do some basic modifications prior to sale is a good idea.
“It’s tons of fun to be standing there with a plasma cutter and a welder and be hacking into these things and pasting them back together, but if you’re encountering engineering issues, then you’re going to need licensed welders. That cost is much more controllable when done at the fabrication shop or shipyard,” says Shoup.
Another option is to purchase a container manufactured specifically for building, like the ones from Toronto-based MEKA or Silhouette Spice in Tokyo. These can be cheaply transported using existing global shipping networks, but are tailor-made to meet building codes (Japan’s are especially strict).
If you do decide to purchase a genuine seafaring container, you’ll need to keep a number of factors in mind. First is size. Although dimensions are generally standardized, your safest bet for projects that join multiple units is to purchase a single brand (perhaps one whose logo you fancy). Houston-based architect Christopher Robertson, who has designed both upscale residential and disaster-relief housing using containers, recommends choosing “high cubes” (HQ), which are about a foot taller than standard, because the smaller size can feel claustrophobic after installing insulation. Lengths vary from 8 to 53 feet, with 20 feet and 40 feet being the most common.
Whichever you choose, Robertson cautions that the costs of transportation and modification quickly add up. “There’s a real misconception that building with containers is absurdly inexpensive. Unfortunately, that’s not true at all,” he says.
Assuming you’re still hooked on the many other benefits of container construction, you’ll need to think about age and condition. Options range from virtually unscathed “one-trippers” to eight-to-10-year-old retired containers, with varying degrees of rust, dents and warping. Your choice depends on your design goals.
For Brook van der Linde, an artist who built a DIY container home with her husband in Asheville, cost and sustainability were more important than perfect condition. “Our goal was to use materials that were headed for the landfill. Our containers were constructed in 2005 so they had a good long life going to China and back,” she says.
Robertson, on the other hand, sought out one-trippers for his residential project. “They’re a little more expensive but they look a lot better,” he explains. “If they start having a lot of dings and rusts, you lose the aesthetic pleasure.”
Although a container’s history is trackable via its serial number, the best way to assess its condition is through a visual once-over prior to purchase. Arrive at the lot armed with a level to check for excessive warping and a checklist of potential problems, such as holes, dents, damaged door seals, and corrosion (a little rust is par for the course). Don’t forget to use your nose, as well. The wood flooring of most containers is treated with toxic pesticides, which you’ll need to seal or remove, and others may have been used to transport unpleasantly odiferous contents.
Finally, once you’ve made your choice, take a deep breath. The toughest — and most enjoyable — phase of building your container home is still to come.
The real estate industry caters to independent strategies. For every investor, there is another way to go about conducting business. Some may prefer to utilize the convenience of technology while others want to maintain personal relationships. However, for one reason or another, there remains a void between these two independent strategies. Smart investors will figure out how to incorporate technology into their business while simultaneously maintaining the personal relationships that they have worked so hard to create. Others will need to learn this before it is too late. Using the latest technology, in association with establishing lasting relationships, can go a long way in making a business successful.
Programmers, and the venture capitalists backing them, certainly want the real estate industry to be run through advancements in technology. At the same time, a number of the leading industry minds, and young entrepreneurs are dismissing technology as just another tool. So which real estate strategies will prevail over the next decade? The early adopters riding the next wave of technology? Or those taking customer relationships seriously? Perhaps both?
Tech is invading real estate, and fast. The following advancements in technology have already been incorporated into the real estate industry:
Highly controversial drones have been flying their way into mainstream real estate applications. They are now being used for enhanced photography, virtual tours, and even property management.
As the world becomes a planet of digital natives, more and more data is becoming available to the public. While big data may seem hyped up to many real estate professionals, better data means being able to pinpoint prospects with highly targeted marketing, and give them more of what they want. Theoretically, this means improved real estate marketing performance and ROI.
Curation remains a popular trend, though its value may be suffering due to larger trends, and the obvious need for originality.
Not only is technology creating more efficiency in mortgage lending, it is spawning new financing models altogether. The advantages of speed and streamlining operation technology can increase lender margins, or help keep interest rates and borrowing costs low. One of the largest new developments has been ‘buy to rent’ loans for single-family rental home investors. Crowdfunding goes even further, completely breaking from traditional mortgage lending and having to rely on banks.
Home searches haven’t necessarily benefited from new technology much. The big home listing portals haven’t changed much. The many new startup attempts at mimicking these real estate search engines haven’t appeared to gain much traction. The data shows house hunters are still far better served turning to local real estate websites.
Web design has changed significantly in the last year; both aesthetically and functionally. HTML 5 has taken over, and both responsive sizing and content is becoming the norm.
Augmented reality is rapidly gaining traction. Augmented reality and interactive ads are taking over as the top ads in print and outdoors. Google Glass is now being used on the streets by some real estate companies to coach agents and team members in real-time. Technology is also working its way into improving green building efforts.
Where’s the Personal Touch?
Technology is great. It can make life and business a lot easier, and more profitable for real estate agents, investors, and the companies they work for. However, some entrepreneurial thought leaders and real estate commentators are increasingly highlighting the benefits of offline, and personal connections.
It all comes down to what is best for business, and enabling real estate professionals to stay in alignment with the things they really care about. Efficiency from technology is great. It gets even better when it improves service for home buyers, sellers, and renters. Done right, integrated technology can make management easier, facilitate business growth, ensure sustainability and long term competitiveness, and significantly drive up ROI and profits.
Still, it shouldn’t be a replacement for real interaction and service. Unless this is kept at the forefront of the mind, short term gains will be just that – short term. Winning customers could become far more expensive, and those with the strongest relationships will be those that retain customers and benefit from their referrals.
With this in mind, some real estate professionals and companies have been taking another look at brick and mortar storefronts. However, they are also taking the time to build real relationships. These are all good things. But, unless the same care and attention to caring for customer needs, and wowing them with great service is maintained at all levels of an organization, it may not make much difference. In fact, you might be better off with just a website, instead of allowing poor customer service reps destroy your reputation, and brand.
The latest technology has been helping to blur the lines between offline and online. Perhaps this is the best strategy for real estate companies. Meet each client where they are and interact across multiple channels for efficiency, while still providing tailored, but high quality service.
Five good reasons to have a pro on your side throughout the process.
Buying new construction seems simple, right? Just pick out the floor plan you want, choose the perfect lot, and watch it go up. No sellers to deal with, no unexpected repairs that come up during inspection, no drawn-out negotiations. Right?
Not so fast. In any real estate transaction, it’s important to have a professional on your side, even if the process seems straightforward.
“Having your own agent provides a sense of security,” says Seattle-area homeowner Kristy Weaver, who has bought two new construction homes from two different builders. “It gives you some peace of mind, knowing that someone is looking out for your best interest.”
Peace of mind is just one benefit of having an experienced agent along for the ride. Read on for five more reasons you’ll want a local real estate agent by your side when buying a new construction home.
1. Help you find a reputable builder
“Your agent can rely on their own experience and that of their colleagues to help you find a builder you can trust,” says Portland, OR-based real estate agent Kim Ainge Payne of the Realty Trust Group. “What’s the quality of the workmanship? What kind of warranty do they offer? What’s their track record of resolving issues? Getting a clear understanding in the beginning can alleviate serious headaches down the road.”
2. Go to bat for you
The timeline for purchasing new construction is typically quite a bit longer than buying an existing home. From the first time you visit the sales center, to choosing your layout, construction, inspections, and finally closing, there are ample opportunities for things to go sideways — think construction delays, permit issues, and financing concerns. An experienced buyer’s agent can help you navigate all of these sticky situations.
3. Help you review your contract
Even if you’ve purchased a home before, the contract for new construction is a whole different animal, and an experienced agent can help you make sure you understand everything, from floor plans to earnest money requirements, deadlines for requesting changes, and timelines for completion.
“It’s crucial to have a third party who represents your interests in the transaction,” says Dmitry Yusim, a Seattle-area agent who has represented new construction buyers. “A good agent can add the proper addendums to protect you if something falls through.”
4. Assist with negotiations
Buyers’ agents know the areas where you’ll find the most wiggle room when it comes to negotiations.
“Builders are trying to keep their sales price up so that the next buyers through the door see the higher closing price,” explains agent Britt Wibmer of Windermere Real Estate in Seattle. “They’d much rather throw in closing costs or additional upgrade credits.”
5. Point you toward smart upgrade choices
Builders will offer you endless options for finishes and upgrades, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. A seasoned real estate agent can recommend the upgrades that will get you the most bang for your buck in resale value, suggest finishes that might be cheaper to do on your own, and help you avoid over-improving, which can jeopardize your appraisal before closing.
Even though a friendly sales representative will greet you with a smile the moment you walk through the door of the sales center, don’t forget that they work for the builder. Bring your own agent with you starting with your first visit — in fact, many builders require your agent to register with them from the very beginning in order for them to be involved in the process and receive their commission.
With a professional you trust by your side, you’ll rest easy knowing someone is there to protect your money, your time, and your new home.
Wondering if new construction is right for you? Search new construction listings, and get more home-buying tips and resources to help you decide.
Know which financial weaknesses stand out to lenders so you can strengthen your chances of loan approval.
Trained to spot financial mismanagement, mortgage lenders take careful time to review your finances before approving or denying you for a home loan. The role of the lender in approving a loan is to make sure you have enough money for a down payment and closing costs, and to assess whether you’re able to regularly make your monthly payments. Part of how they do that is by reviewing your bank statements. That’s why it’s important to make sure all your documents and records are sorted and straightforward.
Bank statement warning signs
Lenders typically include your last two months of bank statements in their evaluation of your finances. Having a long list of overdraft charges in your account isn’t the best indicator that you’ll be a good borrower. No matter the circumstances, having a history of overdrafts or insufficient funds noted on your statement shows the lender that you might struggle at managing your finances.
Another red flag to lenders is when a bank statement has irregular or lump-sum deposits. This can be seen as iffy because it could appear that those funds are coming from an illegal or unacceptable source. Unless you can provide an acceptable explanation for your large deposit, it’s likely the lender will disregard those funds and apply your remaining dollars to their assessment of whether you qualify for a loan.
Signs of the bank of mom and dad
One way to help ensure that your bank statement won’t raise any red flags with lenders is by having consistent, tracked payments. If, for instance, you have automatic monthly payments to an individual rather than to a bank, lenders could see that as a non-disclosed credit account. This would be the case if you were to take out a loan from your parents and make car payments to them rather than an actual bank, for example.
How to reduce bank statement scrutiny
Take extra care of your transactions for at least a few months before applying for a mortgage. Lenders want to know that the money in your account has been there for some time, not just recently deposited. One or two big deposits into your account right before applying could indicate to lenders that the money you claim to have isn’t actually yours or isn’t a “seasoned” asset, meaning the money hasn’t been in your account for at least two months.
At the end of the day, it’s best to start the process of organizing your bank activity and statements prior to applying for a loan. When you start looking for a home, it’s best to have your financial information sorted in case your dream home hits the market and you have to move fast.
If you keep your bank statements top of mind in the initial search phases, you may have an easier time applying for a loan and ultimately securing it. Remember: Underwriters review your accounts once more, just prior to closing. So, be sure to maintain healthy finances throughout the closing process too.
Your partner’s credit history can influence your future interest rate.
Whether you’re a seasoned or first-time home buyer, be prepared to know your FICO score and have a firm understanding of your credit history. And if you’re buying with another person, their credit history can affect your joint home purchase.
What is a FICO score?
First things first — what’s a FICO score and why does it matter? FICO is an acronym for the Fair Isaac Corporation, the company that developed the most commonly used credit scoring system. Everyone is assigned a number ranging from 300 to 850. The number assesses your credit worthiness through previous payment history, current debt, length of credit history, types of credit and new credit. For the purpose of buying a home or obtaining a loan, it’s the score most commonly used by lenders to determine the borrower’s level of risk. Many people simply refer to the FICO score as “credit score,” so we’ll do that moving forward.
Which score do lenders look at?
Typically, your lender will look at three credit scores reported from each of the three credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — and then take the median score of the three for your application. Borrowers should hope for at least a 680, which is generally the minimum score for getting approved for conventional loans. For borrowers with lower credit scores, FHA loans allow a 580 score, or even as low as 500 if a 10 percent down payment is made. In any case, the higher the score, the better interest rate you’ll be offered.
Should I apply with my spouse or alone?
Deciding whether or not to include a spouse or a co-borrower on a mortgage application often comes down to whether it makes the most financial sense.
There’s not a ton of wiggle room when it comes to qualifying for a loan. You typically qualify or you don’t. If the only way you can qualify for the loan is by applying jointly to include the total income of both borrowers, then that might be your only option. But even if your credit and income are good enough to qualify for a loan on your own, applying together still might be a better option, as each scenario has its tradeoffs.
My partner has bad credit
When applying jointly, lenders use the lowest credit score of the two borrowers. So, if your median score is a 780 but your partner’s is a 620, lenders will base interest rates off that lower score. This is when it might make more sense to apply on your own.
The downside in applying alone, however, limits you to just your income and not the combined amount from you and your partner. While your credit score might be better, having a lender evaluate you on only your income could lower the total loan amount you qualify for.
If having your name on the home is a big deal, don’t worry. You can still be on the title of the home, just not on the mortgage.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve been hearing about various mobile trends in integrated marketing. And maybe you’ve entertained the idea of how a mobile app could help your business. If you haven’t figured out whether you can afford to build one, or how to go about it, this brief overview will give you a few places to start.
First determine how an app would benefit your customers. For example, the hair-cutting franchise Great Clips launched an app that allows customers to see estimated wait times in their area, and easily make an appointment without calling. Consequently, stylists also save time by not having to interrupt haircuts to answer the phone so often.
Below are a few sites that can easily and cost-effectively help you build your own mobile app. Most of these, plus others, can be found in the book “Go Mobile: Location-Based Marketing, Apps, Mobile Optimized Ad Campaigns, 2D Codes and Other Mobile Strategies to Grow Your Business” by Jeanne Hopkins and Jamie Turner.
This free service focuses on the tech novice who wants an app for a specific event, like a conference or wedding. It includes directions, news, updates, and photo-sharing features. Yapp is limited in its functionality, but requires little-to-no technical know-how.
Authors are turning books into apps. Bands are turning albums into apps. If you’ve got the content, the MyAppBuilder team will create an app for you for $29/month. No tech experience necessary. They’ll also upload it to the app store for you.
This web-based editor is designed to let you quickly create your own iPhone app. The basic tool is free. Advanced features are available for a $79/month fee. AppMakr works on the iOS, Android and Windows operating systems.
The Mippin platform lets you create apps for Android, iOS and Windows, and offers app designs for individuals, small businesses, media owners and products. Native apps can cost as much as $999/year.
A cloud-based mobile Content Management System (mCMS) that helps you create live-content apps with no programming and “zero total cost of ownership.” Apps can include monetization options, such as ads, coupons, and subscriptions. A three-month trial is free. Pricing then depends on app features.
Signs are marketing communication vehicles for identifying a business and promoting products and services. Added to an integrated marketing campaign, they help widen your message. But a sign is only effective if it can be seen. Sounds obvious, right? But the proper placement of signs is as much as an art, as is the design of the sign itself.
In an article on signcraft.com, sign analyst, Dan Mika explains that placing a sign in the right place so people can easily see and read it requires an understanding of “sight-lines”—regions of maximum visibility. He explains that signs are best viewed at a 90-degree angle to the viewer. So, although a sign on the front of a building might be placed above a shop doorway for long-range visibility from many angles, to attract sidewalk pedestrians nearer to the business, the best sign would be placed at eye level, 90 degrees, such as a freestanding banner, A-frame sign, or flag pole style coming off the building. Even the side of an awning can carry a message that would be considered within sight-line.
The above isn’t meant to imply that all flat signs on buildings are wrong. In fact, sides of buildings can be great places for signs if traffic patterns around the building make it a sight-line for drivers.
As Mika states, once a sign is planned for just the right place, all the principles of effective sign design can then be applied to the layout. To ensure your sign investment is a solid one, be sure to work with a sign provider that can help you with both placement consultation and good graphic design.
When Facebook claimed the title as the biggest IPO in Internet history, social media officially segued from a consumer fad to a business fact. Although the abundance of Internet cat memes could make anyone wonder if social media has business validity, the emergence of the concept of social business has tangible value for any integrated marketing program.
Research firm Altimeter Group defines social business as the deep integration of social media and social methodologies into an organization to drive business impact. In a recent study, Altimeter pinpointed the two most important criteria for a successful social business strategy. First, you have to align it with the strategic goals of your organization. Second, you have to put the resources in place to execute the strategy.
What Social Business Can Do
Knowing what you want to accomplish with social business can help you make it a viable part of your integrated marketing strategy. Consider these benefits; by using social business effectively, you can:
The Art of Conversation: How to Build a Social Business Strategy
Most experts recommend you think of your social business strategy in seven stages. This process stresses brand alignment and continual feedback.
First: Align Your Efforts.
Before beginning any social business activities, your first step will be to review your company’s integrated marketing activities and assess how these other methods are working. If you haven’t done so yet, define your company’s brand personality, sales channels and target audiences. Also, document how your target audience typically engages with your organization.
Second: Refine Your Listening Skills.
Companies engaged in social business marketing should listen to their online communities more than 50 percent of the time. That means asking questions, responding to their answers and prompting conversation.
Third: Define Community Expectations.
During this stage, try to outline your program by asking your target demographics what they want to experience in a social business program.
Fourth: Determine Assets.
A common misconception is that social media tools are free. Although many do not charge for service, they really aren’t free because they cost a lot of time to maintain as a part of your integrated marketing efforts.
Fifth: Measure Your Methods.
The goals of a social business program should evolve over time. During your initial program, track goals and metrics against your overall integrated marketing and business plans.
Sixth: Select Your Channels.
It’s tempting to try out every social network available, but that isn’t strategic. Go where your customers spend time. A pin on Pinterest might buy you more than a tweet on Twitter, depending on your target audience’s activities.
Seventh: Engage in Conversations.
Online conversations must mirror real-life conversations to be effective for company branding, sales, customer satisfaction and even employee recruitment. Be transparent and authentic. Focus on your industry and always observe any industry standards or regulations. When appropriate, tie your efforts to pop culture or “news of the day.” Thank your community profusely and, most importantly, have fun with it.
Don't let anyone slip through the cracks.
When you’re preoccupied with important relocation-related tasks, it’s easy to forget about informing relevant people and institutions of your upcoming residential move and subsequent change of address.
But notifying specific organizations and individuals of your relocation is essential for ensuring a smooth moving process and preventing various hassles and troubles with your mail and accounts.
Here’s a checklist of the people and institutions you need to contact when moving.
Family and friends
Naturally, your relatives and close friends should be the first to know that you are about to move house. Informing them of your imminent relocation as early as possible will not only give you the chance to ask them help you move, but, if you’re moving far away, will also provide you with enough time to say a proper goodbye and plan for different ways to stay in touch despite the distance between you.
Unless you’re relocating to a different branch of your current company, you should inform your employer about your decision to move and leave your job as early as a month in advance.
This way, the company will have time to find a new person for your position, and you will be able to put all the relevant paperwork in order without any hassle.
Remember that your old boss will need your new address to send you tax documents and insurance information at the end of the year.
If you live in a rental home, you should carefully review your tenant rights and responsibilities contained in the lease agreement. You will probably be required to notify your landlord of your intentions to move out at least 30 days in advance.
You need to prepare a written notice that clearly states your move-out date and your future address. It is also a good idea to include a brief statement about the excellent condition of the rented property and to request your security deposit back.
Changing your address with the United States Postal Service should be among your top priorities when moving to a new house, as it will help you avoid many troubles and inconveniences.
To have your mail forwarded to your new place before you’ve updated your address with individual organizations and companies, you only need to fill out a change of address request at your local post office or at the USPS official website.
Online services such as 1StopMove can also help you complete this process.
To prevent service lapses and past-due bills you need to inform your service providers about your relocation plans. Arrange for the utilities at your old home to be disconnected on moving day, and have them reconnected at your new residence by the time you move in.
The utility companies you should contact when moving include electricity, gas, water, telephone, cable, Internet, domestic waste collection and other municipal services you may need.
When you move out of state, you’ll have to transfer your driver’s license and update your vehicle’s registration and insurance within quite a short time frame (10 to 30 days, depending on your new state).
It’s a good idea to visit the local office of the Department of Motor Vehicles at the earliest opportunity, inform them of your new address, and request all the relevant information about putting the required paperwork in order.
A number of government agencies should be notified when you’re moving to another state. Be sure to update your address with the local office of the Social Security Administration, the electoral register, and other relevant institutions.
The Internal Revenue Service will need your actual home address to mail your tax return, fiscal notes, and other documents. All you need to do is print out and mail in the IRS’ Change of Address form soon after your relocation.
To keep your finances in order, you must update your bank accounts and inform credit card companies, stockbrokers, and other relevant financial institutions of your new address either shortly prior to or immediately after your move.
The insurance agencies that provide your life, health, and homeowners insurance policies should have your current address on file, as should any other organizations and individuals (such as your family attorney) who have dealings with you and your family.
Medical and educational facilities
When moving to a new state, you will have to enroll your children in a new school, find a new family physician, and transfer all your academic records, medical records, and prescription medicines. To successfully complete these important tasks you need to tell your doctors, dentists, vets and other healthcare providers, as well as the educational facilities your kids are attending, about your relocation and your new address.
Subscription services and clubs
Last but not least, you need to update your address with any sports, professional, or social clubs you are involved with. You should also notify the subscriber services department of any magazines or newspapers you want to receive at your new home.
You may have to personally visit some companies or institutions to notify them of your relocation, but in most cases you will be able to change your mailing address online or with a simple phone call. Postcards, e-mails, text messages, and social network announcements are also viable methods to inform people of your new address.
Wait! Don't sign that lease just yet — a quick landlord check may change your mind
You’ve found the perfect new apartment or rental house. You love the neighborhood. Your application has been approved. You’re ready to sign on the dotted line, right?
Not so fast. How much do you know about your soon-to-be landlord, property manager or property management company?
There are lots of reasons why you should take the time to ask yourself, “Who is my landlord?” before you commit. Your rent payment is likely one of your biggest monthly expenses, and if you’re signing a lengthy lease, you should find out as much as you can about the person who owns and operates the place you’ll call home.
Check out these five easy ways to check your landlord’s reputation before signing your lease.
1. Make Google your friend
The internet has a way of quickly uncovering all kinds of misdeeds, so start with a simple Google search of your landlord’s name or property management company, as well as the property address.
Hell hath no fury like a renter scorned, so you’ll also want to peruse some of the many apartment and landlord review sites online that let tenants anonymously review their apartment complex, landlord or property management company.
2. Search public records
There’s a wealth of information about properties and landlords available via your local government agencies, and you’re usually able to check your landlord for free. Consider it your landlord background check!
Your county courthouse should have ownership records searchable by address, so you can find out the legal name of the person or company that owns the property — it may not be your landlord directly.
You can also search for code violations, foreclosure proceedings, evictions and small claims court settlements, all of which should be red flags for renters.
3. Get to know your (future) neighbors
If you’re moving into an apartment complex with multiple units, take a few minutes to walk around the grounds out of earshot of the landlord.
If you see any tenants out and about, strike up a conversation about what it’s like to live there. Ask how long they’ve lived there — renewed leases are a good sign of a positive landlord-tenant relationship. Get a few pros and cons, ask how complaints are handled, and find out if they have any gripes about management.
If you’re moving into a single-family home, ask the landlord if they’d mind you having a conversation with the current tenants.
If you don’t have access to any other tenants, find a neighborhood-specific blog or Facebook group to join. Tell people you’re thinking of moving into the area, and ask if they know anything about the property manager. In these hyperlocal groups, you’re likely to gain some invaluable insights for your landlord check.
4. Be the interviewer
Landlords ask you questions when you apply to live in their property, so why shouldn’t you ask them questions too?
Ask them how they handle repair requests. Find out if the landlord lives on-site, nearby or even in a different state. Ask how the move-in and move-out process goes. Learn more about their process for requesting entry to your unit.
They should be able to easily, clearly answer your questions and address all of your concerns.
5. Go with your gut
When in doubt, trust your instincts. If you experience any of the following:
Think twice — and keep looking.
With these key tasks on your to-do list, your move can be a light lift.
When Barry Blanton moved with his wife from Eugene, OR into a rented unit in a high-rise residential tower in downtown Seattle, he thought he had his bases covered.
He had measured the size of his new living room, and knew that his furniture would fit perfectly. Once the movers got his couch through the new entryway, however, they faced an insurmountable problem: The couch was too big to maneuver past two curves in the hallway.
“It sat in the hallway for a week before my wife rented a van to move it,” says Blanton. “We had to crawl over it to get into the bathroom.”
The fact that Blanton is the principal at Seattle-based property management and development consulting firm Blanton Turner — and has worked in the industry for most of his adult life — only underscores how easy it is for renters to make mistakes when moving.
Measure — then measure again
Despite best planning efforts, such logistical issues are surprisingly common when people are moving familiar belongings into an unfamiliar space, says Blanton.
Knowing the dimensions of a room and the things being moved into it isn’t enough. “Think about the bottlenecks,” Blanton advises. “Not just where something’s going to go, but how it’s going to get there.”
He recalls a situation in which a young man moving into an apartment was able to get his loaded moving truck into a building’s garage, but found that once all his furniture was unloaded, the now-lighter truck was too tall to get back out without hitting overhead ductwork and sprinkler heads (more on this later).
The man and his friends spent hours filling the truck with weights from the property’s exercise room just to lower it enough to safely exit.
When moving into any multi-story building — especially one in a crowded downtown neighborhood — it’s important to make arrangements ahead of time with the building’s management team. More than likely, you’ll need to reserve the elevator.
“This isn’t something you tell them that morning,” warns Blanton. “If you’re moving on a Saturday at the end of the month, there could be four or five other people moving that day.” (Don’t forget to schedule use of the elevator at the building you’re moving from, as well.)
And if you’re bringing a moving pod or parking a moving truck on the street, make sure you have the proper permits. Most multi-family properties will be able to help with this, as will moving companies. “Moving companies do earn their money, especially in an urban environment,” says Blanton.
Document your environment
In the age of ubiquitous technology, it’s easier than ever to take photos of any pre-existing damage in your rental.
Before you get settled, pull out your phone and snap pictures of any damage such as scuffed floors, chipped countertops or bent window blinds — then send the photos to yourself so they’re date-stamped.
It’s easier to refer to the photos at move-out than argue with the building manager about who cracked the Formica and when.
Prepare to clean
When it’s time to move, few renters look forward to the deep cleaning that’s required upon vacating a unit. If you plan to use a cleaning service, Blanton suggest hiring the same company that your building uses — that way there won’t be a gap in expectations.
“There’s nothing worse than spending the entire day cleaning your apartment, then having someone come in and point out all the things you missed,” notes Blanton.
If you want to save money and do it yourself, keep in mind some of the things renters often forget to clean: window tracks, underneath the stovetop burner pans, beneath the crisper drawers in the fridge, the rim around the dishwasher door, and behind the toilet.
Most renters know that protecting their property with renters insurance is important, but many forget to update their policy when they move to a new residence.
Renters insurance doesn’t just protect your belongings, it also covers damage you may inadvertently do to the building itself.
Remember that overhead sprinkler mentioned earlier? Accidentally breaking that off with a moving truck could cause flooding — and a great deal of damage. Depending on the building’s insurance policy — and temperament of the manager — you could be on the hook for the building’s insurance deductible, if not more.
Contact your insurance company before you move. It’s an easy call to make, and it could help you avoid costly penalties later.
Map out everything you need to do, week by week, until the big day.
When it comes to moving, proper organization is the defining difference between ultimate success and complete failure.
Even if you’re already an excellent organizer, you might still feel overwhelmed by the number of relocation-related tasks you have to complete before moving day — unless you find a way to bring order to the chaos.
Here’s a moving timeline that will do the trick. It will help you organize your time, prioritize your tasks, track your progress, and reduce moving stress. What’s more, you’ll never forget anything important, because your week-by-week moving checklist will remind you of what to do every single day until moving day.
Eight weeks before moving day
Organizing a safe, efficient, and trouble-free relocation requires about two months of careful planning and hard work. So, start your moving preparations about eight weeks before the big day:
Six weeks before moving day
Four weeks before moving day
Two weeks before moving day
One week before moving day
Two days before moving day
Even though most moving tasks are common for all residential moves, you can modify them to meet your personal needs and requirements. Certain aspects of your move will be unique and will require a different approach, so personalize this moving timeline checklist and make it work perfectly for you.
If you own a home, chances are this repair and maintenance safety net could come in handy.
First-time homeowners may be in for a shock when their water heater breaks on a cold winter morning, or their dishwasher starts to leak all over the new hardwood floors in the kitchen. The instinctive call to the landlord won’t work this time around. Welcome to the joys of homeownership. So, when this happens, what do you do?
Many homeowners aren’t equipped to perform even small repairs, particularly when they come at inopportune times. For some, a handy family member nearby could do the trick. Or a new home buyer may know a plumber or an electrician — but they likely won’t have a lot of time to get bids and figure out the cause of the problem, much less get it repaired.
What’s the next best thing to a landlord for a new homeowner? A home warranty.
What is a home warranty?
Much like insurance or the extended warranty you buy for your smartphone or flat screen television, a home warranty covers the costs of repairing or replacing almost any malfunctioning system in your home. It typically costs between $300 and $900 a year.
If you had a home warranty, you wouldn’t have to call around to get estimates for repairs when a problem occurs. You wouldn’t have to pay out of pocket to get the problem fixed or have equipment replaced, either.
Instead, you would just call your home warranty provider or submit a ticket online. The warranty company would call the appropriate tradespeople with whom it has made arrangements, and send someone to fix the problem, if possible, or replace the malfunctioning appliance with a brand new one. Your home warranty premium will cover the costs — though you’d probably be responsible for a co-pay of about $50 per incident.
Who should buy a home warranty?
Home warranties are particularly great for first-time Gen X/Y and Millennial home buyers who’ve been renters until now. They’re used to calling the landlord whenever there’s a problem, and a home warranty company takes over that role.
These homeowners are often working long hours, and might not have the time or energy to call around to find a plumber or an electrician to get quotes or bids, let alone wait through the noon-to-4 p.m. window for the repair person to show up.
Sometimes, it takes just one costly and unexpected system repair — and the drama associated with it — to realize the savings of a one-year home warranty.
But home warranties aren’t limited to Gen X, Gen Y or other first-time home buyers. Any owners of any age home can purchase a home warranty at any time.
If you had your home inspected, you’ll know the condition and life expectancy of many of your systems. If some systems are on the outs, you will welcome the home warranty. Many appliances and systems start to break down after 15 or 20 years, and you don’t want to deal with multiple systems falling apart at the same time.
Real estate agents often purchase a home warranty for their clients as a closing gift. If not, you can buy one on your own. Be sure to shop around to compare premiums and coverage. The older the home, the more coverage you will want.
Home warranties are also great for investors or “accidental landlords,” who don’t necessarily want to be in the business of fielding repair calls from their tenants. If you’re not an experienced real estate investor and don’t have a network of repair folks, it might be easier to pay for the home warranty. The last thing you want is a tenant without hot water calling you all day long. If you have a home warranty, you can cut right to the chase, keep tenants happy, and minimize stress.
Home warranties can save home buyers a lot of time and money — particularly in the first year of ownership, when they are short on both.
This helpful document contains a wealth of information.
Among the dozens of records that serve to inform or disclose to the buyer significant knowledge about the property, the title report is one of the most important. It documents ownership, vesting, and detail regarding anything recorded against the home, such as liens, encroachments, or easements.
The title company compiles the report from a search of county records to issue title insurance, and any liens against the property are listed as “exceptions” to a title policy.
Here are three important pieces of the title report you should review carefully.
The legal description
The legal description is everything you won’t see in any real estate agent marketing or advertising. It’s the written description of the property’s location and the boundaries of the property in relation to the nearby streets and intersections.
In the case of a condominium or planned unit development (PUD), the legal description will include the property’s interest in any common areas, exclusive or non-exclusive easements, and details on any parking or storage that conveys with the property.
Here’s an example of a legal description from a preliminary title report of a property:
“Beginning at a point on the Westerly line of Fifth Avenue, distant thereon 250 feet Southerly from the Southerly line of Balboa Street; running thence Southerly along the Westerly line of Fifth Avenue 25 feet; thence at a right angle Westerly 120 feet,” and so on.
Legalese? Absolutely. But it’s precise, and necessary.
Property taxes always show up as the primary “lien” on a title report. A property cannot be transferred to a new owner with outstanding property taxes due.
As the top lien, the report will indicate whether taxes are due or paid in full. Taxes must be settled before any debt holder gets paid.
Mortgage liens are generally listed directly below property taxes, and they’re always ordered first, second, and third. The largest lien holder generally takes first position.
When a sale closes, the liens must be paid in the order that they appear on the title report. In the case of a short sale, there are not enough proceeds from the sale to pay off the property taxes and all of the lien holders. So one or more lenders will get “shorted” by the amount they’re owed. In order for the sale to close, the lender must agree to the short payoff.
Though this list is in no way exclusive, there are a variety of other items that could show up on a title report outside of taxes and loans.
Easements. If another property owner has access to the property via an easement, it would be recorded on the title report. This stays on the report until both parties agree to remove it. The title company can pull the original easement agreement for review.
CC&Rs. In the case of a condo or PUD, there are Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs), recorded against the property. Any new buyer purchases subject to the rules and regulations documented in the CC&Rs. This is why it’s important for potential buyers to pull these from the report and review them. Once you’re the owner, you’re subject to those rules.
Restrictions, historic oversights, planning requirements. From time to time, there will be items on the preliminary title report that aren’t run of the mill. If the home is located in a historic district and therefore subject to the rules and restrictions of that community, it will show up on the title. In this case, if there are restrictions about changing the facade of a house or requirements that facade alterations comply with a local historical oversight committee led by the local planning department, a potential buyer needs to know this.
The last word
As a potential buyer, you and your agent or real estate attorney should scrutinize the preliminary title report. You want the title to be delivered as clean as possible.
If the property is subject to special items, or there are issues on the title that would affect your home-ownership, you need to know and understand them thoroughly before you close.
Relocating for a new job can be a challenge to navigate, especially when juggling a mortgage. Review the details that matter to your lender.
It’s true that changing jobs can affect your loan approval, but, like most mortgage-related questions, the devil is in the details. So long as you are moving from one position to one with equal or higher income, and you are able to provide documentation of your work and income history, any changes to your loan approval chances should be minimal. The most important thing for lenders and their underwriters is ensuring you can repay the loan, and the best indicators of that are your income and history of employment.
Lenders want to know you have reliable, steady income that is ongoing, for at least the next three years.
If you’re thinking about accepting a new job or recently moved positions, consider the ways it may hinder your mortgage acquisition.
What to expect when changing jobs before getting a mortgage
If your new job is within the same industry as your last, and if the transition earns better pay, then lenders likely will not have a concern. Promotions are looked at favorably. Even lateral moves to stronger companies offering increased salary or improved benefits are sensible business decisions that shouldn’t impede loan acquisition.
Your lender likely will want to ensure the longevity of your new role and confirm your new salary. Full-time positions with long-term contracts are ideal. Expect to work in your new role for at least 30 days before earning loan approval. Typically, you’ll need to provide your first pay stub from the new company and disclose your offer letter confirming your salary. Be prepared for lenders to omit commission earnings from your total salary since your commission is unproven in the new role, which could affect your total loan amount.
How to get a mortgage with a new job
Avoid transitioning to a job that doesn’t make financial sense, such as a lateral move for less pay, a change from full-time employee to contractor or a major industry change. Employment history showing frequent career moves could be a red flag for lenders that you may not be able to maintain steady income.
Another red flag for lenders is an extended gap in employment history. Chances of acquiring a mortgage may be stronger if your period of unemployment was less than six months. However, some exemptions include military service members returning from deployment or full-time students transitioning into the workforce; these paths are viewed as forms of employment.
How to get a home loan when relocating
If your new job requires you to move, you’ll need to solidify living arrangements before relocating. If you don’t mind renting in your new location for at least 30 days to provide lenders with your first pay stub, it’s likely the least stressful solution. Extended-stay hotels are popular options while familiarizing yourself with the surrounding community and local real estate market. On condition that you’re sticking to the same industry and the new role offers a financial or career advantage, the new job should not restrict quick loan acquisition in a new city.
Alternatively, you could attempt purchasing and closing on a home in the new location before giving notice to your current job for a smooth, one-time move. If you’re moving fast, understand a purchase offer takes 30-45 days to close, on average. Lenders verify employment during loan application and then again just prior to closing, so be sure to maintain employment until the sale closes.
If you’re a homeowner and need to sell while shopping for a new home, and possibly live in a rental simultaneously, finances can become demanding. Selling your current property before buying can provide cash from closing to help fund your down payment, which could boost your loan eligibility. But if you can afford carrying two mortgages for a period of time, you can purchase a home in the new location, move in directly and then work to sell the initial property remotely. Again, you’ll be limited to the speed of the purchase agreement or expect to disclose your new role to the lender.
Can relocation packages help with home purchases?
Often, companies offer relocation packages that range in coverage from paying for a moving service to a generous Guaranteed Buy Out (GBO). A GBO is when the company buys your home for an average appraisal value if it does not sell in a fair timeframe. Other relocation packages might help with closing costs of your home sale or pay the real estate commission fees. If you’re underwater on your home, your new employer might cover the loan difference at resale.
Some relocation packages assist their new employees purchase a local home within a year of moving, they may buy down your interest rate or contribute to a down payment.
Whether buying a house out of necessity or preference, acquiring a new job within the same industry for better pay likely won’t prevent loan approval, but it may slow the process down by a month.
When you purchase a condominium, townhouse or another type of property in a planned development such as a leased land property or a gated community, you are obligated to join that community's homeowners' association (HOA) and pay monthly or annual HOA fees for the upkeep of common areas and the building. If you are considering purchasing one of these types of properties, you should be aware of the following nine things about homeowners' associations and how they work before you buy.
First, let's take a look at what HOAs are all about. HOA fees often range from $200 to $400 per month. The more upscale the building and the more amenities it has, the higher the homeowners' association fees are likely to be. In addition to monthly fees, if a major expense such as a new roof or a new elevator comes up and there aren't enough funds in the HOA's reserves to pay for it, the association may charge an extra assessment that can run into thousands of dollars.
Because multiple parties live in the same building or complex, all residents of condominiums and townhomes must be equally responsible for maintaining the common areas such as landscaping, elevators, swimming pools, clubhouses, parking garages, fitness rooms, sidewalks, security gates, roofing and building exteriors. Many of these types of common areas, such as pools and tennis courts, also exist in subdivisions of single family homes. Regardless of whether the HOA governs a building, such as a condo or townhome structure, or a neighborhood of individual houses, HOA fees help maintain the quality of life for the community's residents and protect property values for all owners.
In addition to maintaining common areas, HOAs also set out certain rules that all residents must follow called covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs). In a common building, rules may include what color front door you may have, whether you are allowed to line dry your laundry outside, whether you can have a satellite dish, the size and type of pets permitted, and so on. In many ways, these rules are similar to the kinds of rules apartment dwellers must follow.
In a subdivision with individual homes, regulations may include what color you can paint your home, the exterior landscaping you can do, the types of vehicles you can park on the street or in your driveway (no RVs, for example), permissible type and height of fences, and restrictions on window coverings for windows facing the street. If you want to do anything that differs from these rules, you will have to convince the HOA to grant you a variance, which is probably unlikely.
No matter where you live, you are likely to be subject to city ordinances and restrictions related to the use of your property. HOAs add yet another layer of restrictions, and because their members are more likely to know what you're up to, the HOA is more likely to enforce the rules. Below, we'll take a look at some of the rules and regulations you need to know about before you decide to join one of these communities.
What You Need To Know
While there are laws governing the behavior of HOAs, these associations can still have a powerful impact on your rights as a homeowner. Before buying a property in a community that has an HOA you should:
1. Learn the HOA's rules.
You may be able to find an HOA's CC&Rs online as well as information about what happens if you violate a rule. Make sure any online information is current. If you cannot find this information online, ask your real estate agent to acquire these documents for you or contact the HOA yourself.
Pay particular attention to rules regarding fines and whether the HOA can foreclose on your property for nonpayment of HOA dues or fines resulting from CC&R violations. Also, learn about the process for changing or adding rules, and whether HOA meetings are held at a time you will be able to attend if you wish to do so. If the rules are too restrictive, consider buying elsewhere.
2. Make sure the home you want to buy is not already out of compliance with HOA rules.
Buying into an existing problem can be a headache, so find out what the rules are and whether you would have to make changes to the home to comply.
3. Assess environmental practices.
If environmentally friendly living is important to you, be aware that some HOAs may dictate that you use fertilizers, pesticides, sprinkler systems and whatever else it takes to keep your lawn picture-perfect. They may not allow xeriscaping (an environmentally friendly form of landscaping) and may limit the size of gardens, ban compost piles and prevent you from installing solar panels. So make sure you check the fine print first.
4. Consider your temperament.
Are you the type of person who hates being told what to do? If so, living in a community with an HOA may be a very frustrating experience for you. One of the major benefits of homeownership is the ability to customize and alter the property to suit your needs, but HOA rules can really interfere with this.
5. Find out about fees.
Fees will differ for each community. Because of this, you should make sure to ask your HOA the following questions:
Compare dues for the complex or neighborhood you are considering to the average dues in the area. Keep in mind that you will have to pay for recreational facilities whether you use them or not. Find out the hours for amenities like pools and tennis courts. Will you be around during those hours, or will you be paying for facilities you'll never be able to use? Be aware that the HOA may have rules about how many guests can use common facilities. If guest restrictions are severe, forget about that housewarming pool party you envisioned.
6. Try to get a copy of minutes from the last meeting or sit in on an HOA meeting before you buy.
The meeting minutes can be very telling about the policies of the HOA. Some questions to ask are:
Be alert for potential drama. Power trips and petty politics can be an issue in some HOAs. Talk to some of the building's current owners, if possible – preferably ones who are not on the HOA board and who have lived in the building for several years. Talk to the HOA president and get a sense for whether you want this person making decisions about what you can do with your property. If a private company manages the HOA, investigate it before you buy. Some HOAs are professionally managed, but it is common for associations to be managed by building residents who hold their positions as volunteers. Even if you like the current HOA board or management company, it can change after you move in and you may end up getting something totally different than what you expected.
7. Watch for under-management.
Not all HOAs are over-managed. The opposite problem may be an HOA where no one really cares and where no one is interested in maintaining the building, making repairs, hearing resident grievances or being on the board. Residents may simply take turns serving as HOA president or randomly appoint someone, so be prepared to serve in this role whether you want to or not if that is the case with your community's HOA.
This would also be a good time to check into any restrictions preventing you from renting out your property or that make it difficult for you to do so. If your property is being under-managed you might not have an issue, but if you've got a hyperactive manager it could be a totally different story.
8. Find out what kind of catastrophe insurance the HOA has on the building.
This is particularly important if you're considering a condo or townhouse purchase and you live in an area that is prone to floods, earthquakes, blizzards, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes or any other type of potential natural disaster – and that is virtually anywhere.
9. Consider the impact of HOA fees on your short- and long-term finances.
A condo with high HOA fees might end up costing you as much as the house you don't think you can afford.
The Bottom Line
Homeowners' associations can be your best friend when they prevent your neighbor from painting her house neon pink, but your worst enemy when they expect you to perform expensive maintenance on your home that you don't think is necessary or impose rules that you find too restrictive. Before you purchase a property subject to HOA rules and fees, make sure you know exactly what you are getting into. Then, once you've found your dream community, use a resource like a mortgage calculator to secure a favorable mortgage.