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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Whether you're a social butterfly or a homebody, getting friendly with the folks next door will make your new house feel like home.
Leaving friends and neighbors behind can be the toughest part of moving to a new home.
These five tips will help you make connections and settle into your new community in no time.
1. Knock, knock
For an extrovert, walking over to a neighbor’s home to say hello may feel like a no-brainer. But for more reserved personalities, this tried-and-true method usually requires a bit of a warmup.
Start with a friendly wave as you drive by, then work your way up to a face-to-face introduction. Remember, timing is everything. You don’t want to disturb your neighbors in the middle of dinner or while they’re struggling to get a fussy toddler down for the night.
Try to catch them when they’re already outside, or aim for a weekend afternoon when everyone is much more likely to be relaxed and open to a brief, friendly chat.
2. Snail mail
Can’t work up the nerve to knock on doors? In this age of electronic communication, a nice handwritten note can be a welcome surprise.
Write a few lines for your closest neighbors, introducing yourself and inviting them over for a cup of coffee or cocktail at their convenience.
Be sure to personalize each note by including a small conversation starter (e.g., the roses in front of your home are absolutely stunning! We’re poodle lovers too!), then drop your letters at your neighbors’ front door or in their mailbox.
3. Magic school bus
If you’ve got school-age children, accompany them to the bus stop for the first few days of class.
You’re likely to run into at least one other parent who can fill you in on both neighborhood and school happenings — and people love to talk about their kids, so you won’t have to worry about awkward silences and finding common ground.
Exchange contact info and invite the family over for some weekend fun.
4. Man’s best friend
Our pets often are the friendliest members of the family, so let your four-legged companion break the ice for you.
Dog parks are a natural spot for meeting new friends, both canine and human. You can also meet fellow pet lovers while walking your dog through your neighborhood — cleaning up any messes, of course.
You can get recommendations for trails, vets and parks, as well as ask about any pet-themed meetups in the area.
5. Turn the page
Don’t let the name fool you: Book clubs are as much about socializing as they are about reading.
Check out your library or local bookstore for groups near you, or you can find one online. If possible, contact the host ahead of time to ask whether you should bring any refreshments (wine!), and come armed with a few key insights about the book and recommendations for the next session.
Who knows? You could pick the next talk of the town.
Bonus: life of the party
Once you’ve made a few connections, team up to host a neighborhood block party. Volunteer to handle snacks and other logistics, and ask your more established neighbors to spread the word.
Pick a seasonal theme — hot dogs and lemonade for summer, cookies and warm cider for fall — and spend an afternoon meeting new friends and getting the inside scoop on the best places to eat and play near your new home.
Before you call it a day, pass the torch to another neighbor and make the block party a new tradition.
Find a school that makes the grade — all it takes is a little homework.
If you’re a parent, buying or renting a new home isn’t just about where you’ll tuck the kids into bed at night — it’s also about where you’ll send them off to school in the morning.
So, how can you be sure your dream house feeds into your child’s dream school? You’re going to have to do some homework.
1. Go beyond the numbers
Every state’s education department publishes an online “report card” for each district and school. But just as you wouldn’t buy a house based solely on square footage or listing photos, you shouldn’t select a school just for its test scores and teacher-to-student ratios.
Dr. Steve McCammon, chief operating officer at Schlechty Center, a nonprofit that helps school districts improve student engagement and learning, cautions that most reported test scores are for English and math. They don’t provide insight into arts or music programs or how well a school teaches critical thinking skills.
The right school isn’t something you can determine based on any statistics, numbers or even reputation, says Andrew Rotherham, co-founder of Bellwether Education Partners and writer for the Eduwonk blog.
“Don’t go where the highest test scores are or where everybody else says you should go,” he says. “Different kids want different things. Go to the school that fits your kid.”
Adds Rotherham: “The most important things are what does your kid need and what does the school do to meet those needs. Whether you’re talking public, private or charter, you can find excellence and mediocrity in all of those sectors.”
2. Take a school tour
Just as you’d look around potential homes before signing a contract, you’ll want to do the same with potential schools. Call and arrange to tour the school and observe.
“Be suspicious of any school that isn’t into letting you visit,” says Rotherham. Some schools may say visitors are too disruptive, but he calls that a cop-out. “With some fairly basic norms, you can have parents and other visitors around without disrupting learning.”
Sit in on a class or two and take notes. You want to see students who are genuinely engaged, not wasting time or bored. It’s OK for a classroom to have lots of talk and movement if it’s all directed toward a learning goal.
Schools should be relatively noisy places. McCammon says, “If you go into a middle school, and you hear no noises, I would be concerned that the principal is more interested in keeping order than in making sure kids are learning.”
Observe how teachers and administrators interact with the students and vice versa. Do they display mutual respect? “You don’t need to be an education expert,” says Rotherham.
See if student work is on display. “A good school is a school where, regardless of grade level, student work is everywhere,” McCammon says. “It means that place is about kids and their work.”
Talk to kids, too — they’re the subject matter experts on their school. And if you have friends with kids in schools you’re considering, ask them what they like and don’t like about their schools. Kids won’t try to feed you a line. “They’re pretty unfiltered,” Rotherham says.
Check out the physical space, suggests National PTA President Jim Accomando. However, don’t get caught up on the building’s age and overlook the quality of the programs going on inside.
Look for signs that the school community takes pride in the facility. It might not be pristine, but trash on the floors or signs of rampant vandalism are red flags. If you see something that seems off or odd, ask if there’s a plan to address it.
3. Check out the community
Go to a school board meeting for clues about the district. Are parents there because their children are being honored or their work is being showcased? Or are they there because of a problem? Likewise, attend a PTA or PTO meeting, and chat with the parents there. They are likely the most involved “outsiders” and can share school challenges and successes.
Another consideration: the makeup of the students. Chances are, if you opt for a neighborhood school, you’ll find a certain similarity between your kids and their classmates, because there are probably a lot of similarities between you and your neighbors. But a school that has a diverse student body offers a big benefit.
“We live in a diverse society,” Rotherham says. “If you want to prepare your kids for what their lives are going to be like in this country going forward, it’s important for them to have experience with diverse groups.”
Even if your child’s school isn’t particularly diverse, avenues like sports and music give them a chance to interact with students from different backgrounds.
4. Think long term
Today’s first-grader will be heading to middle school before you know it. Unless you plan on moving relatively soon, be aware of the middle and high schools in your district.
“If you pick a house because you love the elementary school, you’d better be psyched by the middle school and high school,” Rotherham says. “Or have some kind of a plan” for post-elementary years.
Of course, there is such a thing as planning too far ahead. The music prodigy wowing your friends at her third-grade recorder performance may decide she hates band and wants to focus on soccer by the time she hits middle school. Rest assured: If upper-level schools in your prospective district are about kids doing great work, they’ll likely be a good fit.
5. Watch for boundary issues
Pay attention to the boundaries of prospective school districts. The houses across the cul-de-sac could be in a different school service area or even a different school district. And boundaries often change. To be sure, call the school district and give them the specific address you’re interested in.
Don’t assume you can fudge an address or get a waiver to enroll your children in a school or a district that doesn’t match your address. Things that were allowed last year may not be this year. If an individual school or district is at capacity, they will get very picky about enrollment outside of the school assigned to your home, which can lead to heartbreak if you find yourself on the wrong side of that boundary line.
6. Look for a place where you feel welcome
Whatever involvement you put into your child’s school will pay off, says Accomando. “If you can be engaged at school, you will understand the pulse of what’s happening there.”
He also says that doesn’t mean getting sucked into a huge commitment. “You can read in your child’s first-grade class. You can hand out water at a fun run or contribute something for a teacher appreciation party at the high school. And when you do, walk the halls and see what’s happening.”
McCammon says good schools should welcome parents as volunteers and visitors. “Look for evidence of parents feeling comfortable and engaging with the school,” he says. The principal should be someone you feel comfortable talking with if there’s a problem.
No matter how welcoming the school, it’s natural to have some butterflies on the first day in a new school. Just as it takes time for a new house to feel like home, it takes time for kids to settle into a new school.
Once they’ve found their way to the restroom without asking directions, made some friends and gotten to know their teacher, they’ll be comfortable with their new learning home. And your research will have been well worth the effort.
Win and woo your next-door friends with a little neighborly know-how.
If you want good neighbors, you’ll first have to become one yourself. Master these seven techniques, and even you (yes, you!) can win the approval of your entire neighborhood.
1. Good neighbors bring cookies
Whether you’re new in town or haven’t kept in touch, a delivery of freshly baked goods is a perfect way to break the ice and let neighbors know that you’re thinking of them.
If cookies can keep Santa returning year after year with a bag full of loot, then surely they can train your neighbors to do your bidding. Consider the following scenario.
“Honey, somebody’s robbing the neighbor’s house again.”
“Wait, Janet. The ones who brought cookies yesterday?”
“Exactly. This time I’ll call the cops.”
2. Good neighbors rarely gossip
If your neighbor seems to know the dirt on everyone within a two-block radius, you can count on them to keep tabs on your personal life as well.
The next time Nosy Nellie gleefully describes the contents of the Rickenbacker’s trash again, move the conversation along by refocusing the conversation on her. “So, what are you growing in your garden this year?”
You aren’t in high school anymore, so preserve relationships with your neighbors and avoid the gratuitous gab fests.
3. Good neighbors share phone numbers
For such a connected age, you should really question why you don’t have your neighbors’ phone numbers. After all, what if they receive your package by mistake? What if the house floods while you’re on vacation? Worse yet, what if you need a babysitter?
If you feel uncomfortable bringing it up, ask during one of your cookie deliveries (you are following rule number one, right?) or right before a trip. Jot down your name, number and email address on a piece of paper and ask if your neighbor is comfortable sharing theirs.
4. Good neighbors help before they’re asked
The neighbor who says, “Let me know if you need anything,” probably isn’t going to help whenever you actually need something. You, on the other hand, are a good neighbor and genuinely want to help out.
To get ahead of the meaningless small talk, anticipate their needs. If they have kids and you’re comfortable babysitting, tell them up front. If they’re clearly struggling to mow the lawn during a heat wave, ask for the best time to stop by with your lawnmower.
5. Good neighbors are tidy
Even if you lack self-respect, respect the sensitive tastes of others and clean up your act.
Keep the ironic lawn ornaments to a minimum. Keep trash receptacles hidden in the side yard, or better yet, the garage.
Whenever you’ve finished gardening or landscaping for the day, put away your tools and bags of unused mulch. Rake the leaves and clean up grass clippings and all the other stuff your dad used to bug you about.
And if it’s not too much trouble, pressure wash and paint your house periodically.
6. Good neighbors mow the lawn
An unkempt and weedy lawn is embarrassing for your neighbors, so it should be embarrassing for you as well. Keeping it mowed every week or two is a good start, but it will take more than that to win the approval of the locals.
Trim the edge of your lawn regularly, fertilize on schedule and keep weeds to a minimum. Keep your foundation plantings simple, neatly trimmed and topped off with mulch.
If your neighborhood allows it, go the no-lawn method by planting swaths of low-maintenance, drought-tolerant ground covers. Crucially, don’t overdo it on the sprinklers — especially when it’s raining.
7. Good neighbors communicate
That old “good fences make good neighbors” quote had to come up at some point, right? A good neighbor must respect boundaries. That said, they should also be crossed when the fences themselves start losing pickets and falling over in a storm.
Even if it’s technically their fence, you might not be happy with the shoddy workmanship and resentment that you’ll have to live with when they get around to fixing it themselves.
Address shared interests like fences, drainage ditches and troublesome trees ahead of time so that you can work out a plan that both parties can agree to.
Oh, and don’t forget to bring cookies.
Want to create wealth through homeownership? Build equity.
Home equity is the percentage of your home’s value that you own, and it’s key to building wealth through home ownership. Let’s take a closer look at how to build home equity without blowing your budget — and how to access it when you need it.
How much equity do you have?
Equity is easy to calculate when you first buy a home because it’s basically your down payment. For example, if you put $11,250 down on a $225,000 home, your down payment is 5 percent and so is your equity.
From 2016 to the first quarter of 2018, most first-time home buyers in the U.S. started with about 7-percent equity, according to Inside Mortgage Finance. This is encouraging because it shows you don’t need to spend years saving for 20 percent down or more before you buy. Repeat home buyers started with more equity, at about 17 percent.
How to build your equity
Here are six ways your home can create wealth for you. Some require time, money — or both. A lender can help you decide what works best for you.
1. Let your home appreciate
Building equity through appreciation can take little time or a lot, depending on the market. With home prices going up like they have in recent years, appreciation has been a boon for many home owners.
Zillow research indicates that the median home value grew from $185,000 in April 2016 to $216,000 in April 2018. If you bought a home for $185,000 in April 2016 with a down payment of $12,950, your beginning 7-percent equity would have grown to 23 percent by April 2018.
We calculate this by subtracting your current loan balance ($165,600) from your home’s current value ($216,000). Then we divide the difference by your home’s current value. One-eighth of this additional 16 percent equity is from paying down your mortgage, and the rest is market appreciation.
If you waited two years and bought the same home in April 2018 with a 20-percent down payment of $43,200, you started off with 20-percent equity. You also used 3.3 times more cash to make the purchase. And here’s the kicker: Your total monthly housing cost would be the same — about $1,050 in both cases.
This example illustrates two things:
First, the power of home appreciation. It’s a lot like buying stock and benefiting as its value goes up. But there’s also a difference: While you’ll pay capital gains on rising stock value, you’re exempt from paying taxes on primary-home capital gains up to $250,000, or $500,000 for married couples.
Second, waiting to “save enough” isn’t the primary factor in determining if you can afford to buy a home. When it comes to qualifying for a loan, lenders do indeed look at your down payment. They’ll also want to know how much you’ll have in cash reserves after closing. But there are lots of options for low down payments that require minimal reserves.
Your monthly budget is the primary factor lenders consider when deciding whether you can afford a home. Lenders will allow you to spend between 43 percent and 49 percent of your income on monthly bills, which is actually on the high side and could strain your budget.
Since 2016, most first-time buyers have spent about 38 percent of their income on housing and other debt, which is a pretty safe cap for budgeting.
2. Make a larger down payment
You can do this but, as we’ve seen, waiting to save extra cash can go against your broader financial interests if you lose the chance to build equity through appreciation. Therefore, you must strike a balance among down payment, monthly budget and savings for other priorities. A good lender can provide rate and market insight to help you do this.
3. Use financial windfalls
Take advantage of work bonuses, family gifts and inheritances to pay down your mortgage. If you do pay down in lump sums, see if your lender will recalculate (or “recast”) your payment based on the new, lower balance.
4. Make biweekly payments
Make mortgage payments every two weeks instead of once a month. Over the course of a year, this will add up to 13 monthly payments instead of 12. You’ll build equity faster and shave five to six years off a 30-year mortgage. Just make sure your lender isn’t charging extra for processing semimonthly payments.
5. Cut your loan term in half
Take out a 15-year mortgage instead of a 30-year mortgage, and you’ll build equity twice as fast. Two caveats here: You’ll have a significantly higher monthly payment and, because of that, you may have a tougher time qualifying.
6. Make home improvements
New appliances or cosmetic features like paint are unlikely to increase value. Only big improvements like new kitchens, or additional bathrooms or other rooms will add meaningful value. Make sure the cost of such improvements will create the added value you’re looking for.
How to use your equity
You must borrow or sell your home to use your equity. The three most well-known ways to get to your equity through borrowing are a home equity line of credit (HELOC), home equity loan or cash-out refinance. Compare the pros and cons of each.
Rates are rising right now, so these borrowing options might cost more in the future. Talk to your lender to determine the best approach for you.
11 tips that will save your garden, lawn and flowers ... not to mention your green thumb reputation.
Whether you’re dealing with California droughts, Midwest heat waves or Deep South downpours, summer can be a tricky time to garden. Here’s what you need to know before leaving air-conditioned comforts for a steamy backyard jungle.
DON’T: Plant cool-season vegetables
Generally speaking, it’s a bad idea to attempt veggies like peas, lettuce, carrots and radishes in summer. They will quickly bolt in the heat, meaning they’ll devote their energy to blooming and producing seeds, making the edible parts bitter.
DO: Plant hot-season vegetables
Take advantage of summer’s sunshine by planting these heat-loving edibles:
Drought-tolerant okra produces prolific pods all summer long, and sweet potatoes make an excellent temporary ground cover, shading out weeds until the arrival of cold weather and harvest time.
DON’T: Water unless necessary
It’s tempting to set the sprinklers on a timer, kick up your feet and consider it handled. But you don’t want to run sprinklers in a rainstorm, so water plants only when they’re newly planted or wilting and/or dropping leaves.
DO: Use drought-tolerant plants
Drought-tolerant plants are all the rage, and not just because they conserve water. Grow drought-tolerant plants because they’re low-maintenance and because you’re an average person with — you know — a life.
That said, drought-tolerant does not mean you can plant it and forget it. Keep the soil moist until the plant takes off on its own.
DON’T: Turn your back on the garden
Because in summer, things can change in a heartbeat. Plants can succumb to pests, drought, wet soil or rot in a matter of days. Pay attention to weather forecasts, and watch for struggling plants.
Use those pruners on any bullies that seem to be taking over less vigorous plants. When in doubt, rip it out.
DO: Water deeply
Water like you really mean it, with a deep soak so that the water penetrates the soil without running off or evaporating in the summer heat. Watering deeply will also encourage deeper root growth, which helps plants (especially shrubs and trees) stay healthier and more drought-tolerant in the long run.
Water in the root zone with a garden nozzle, a soaker hose, or just a hose and a full stream of water.
DON’T: Scalp your lawn
If you plan on turning your summer lawn into a putting green and you mow your lawn close, you’ll be sorely disappointed by the results. (Unless you’re willing to settle for a putting brown, that is.) Shortcuts mean less drought-tolerance, patchier growth, more weeds and shallow roots. When in doubt, cut high.
DO: Fertilize warm-season grasses
Give your lawn a pick-me-up to cope with the summer heat. Your local garden center should have a good selection of fertilizers to suit your region and/or lawn type. Fertilize according to label instructions, using a broadcast spreader, handheld spreader or drop spreader for even coverage. Generally speaking, don’t feed on a hot day with temps above 90 degrees.
DON’T: Water in the afternoon
While it’s a myth that water droplets can magnify sunlight and burn the plants, watering in the hottest part of the day is still useless. Water quickly evaporates in summer, and many plants will go semi-dormant. Water in the early morning so the plants’ roots have a chance to absorb moisture.
DON’T: Let weeds go to seed
Procrastinate all you want, but pull those weeds before they have a chance to bloom and go to seed, spreading their progeny all over your garden. Don’t settle for hand-pulling everything either. Use a hoe or cultivator for new weeds in loose soil, or a heavy-duty weeding tool, like a hori-hori knife, hook or mattock for tough, established weeds.
DO: Plant tropical bulbs
Much of your garden will slow down in the heat of summer, but tropical bulbs such as caladiums, elephant ears, cannas and gingers will only grow faster. Create a lush and jungly understory beneath shady trees by planting en masse, or use sparsely for architectural interest in container combos and flower beds.
In early 2011, you may remember there was a lull in foreclosure activity – a lull that was prompted by nationwide scrutiny into lenders’ home-seizure practices. But in more recent months, as barriers that have been holding foreclosures back have been removed, banks, anxious to rid their books of long-delinquent mortgage loans, have been stepping up foreclosures — all over the country.
Granted, we’re well below the peak levels we saw from 2007-2010, but even so, consider this: In March, 2012, foreclosure filings were reported on nearly 200,000 properties — that’s 7.4 out of every 10,000 homes. With many more foreclosures in the pipeline, here’s how to avoid becoming a statistic:
Buy a home you can truly afford
Ok, so this is an obvious point, but reiterating the numbers is never a bad idea: Your housing costs (mortgage, insurance, taxes) should be no more than 25-28% of your monthly take-home pay. Use Zillow’s affordability and mortgage calculators. They’ll estimate the monthly costs of home ownership within the context of your monthly budget. If the payments seem too unruly (Give them a test drive!), you may need to come up with a larger down payment or shelve your purchase plans altogether.
Contact your lender immediately!
Doesn’t look like you’re going to be able to make that payment .. again? You need to let your lender know about your financial woes immediately, and, ideally, while your head is still above water and your credit is in tact.
Consider temporary relief
If you think that your inability to your make your mortgage payments is going to be temporary, see what kind of temporary relief your mortgage servicer can offer. They may be willing to accept reduced payments over a certain period of time; they may allow you to skip payments over a certain period of time; they may extend the grace period for late payments. Just remember: these solutions are temporary, so in the interim, try to find new ways to slash spending and save more. You must also prioritize your bills, paying attention to the ones that are the most essential.
Look into a modification
If your financial situation has permanently changed, then temporary relief is not going help much. You may need to have your loan modified. And while there are many different ways to do a modification, they generally incorporate interest rate cuts, term extensions and principle reductions – or a combination of these methods. Yes, there is a lot of paperwork involved, and yes, it can be complicated, but banks are under pressure to do these modifications and as a result, we are seeing higher success rates: the average savings, per modification, is about $500 a month. To see if you are eligible for a modification, go to makinghomeaffordable.gov.
Explore a short sale
If you’re underwater (as 23% of homeowners are today), cash-strapped, desperate for relief, and foreclosure is looking imminent/speed is of the essence, then you might want to consider a short sale. This where you’re selling your home, for less than what you owe on it, to your mortgage lender. The upside: No more negative equity burden; it’s not as damaging to your credit as a foreclosure is; you can purchase a home again in as little as 3 yrs; and you’re selling your home with your pride in tact.
What does it take to make a home famous? In case you’re wondering how to make YOUR home famous, there are two main routes to explore: Either become famous yourself (the more difficult of the two options) or lend your home to a film project for use in a movie or even a commercial.
Found an interesting article published March 5 in the Los Angeles Times titled “The star treatment: Want a film set in your living room?” (To access this article, registration is required). It’s all about looks, marketing and good neighbors that gives some background on how to go about getting your residence into a film. The article states that “On a big-budget Hollywood film, your house can earn anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000 a day.” Even though you have to register on the L.A. Times site, it’s definitely worth the effort if you are looking for the fast track to having a famous home (or if you just want to get paid $2k-20K per day to stay in a hotel)!
Real Estate Investing Basics Tip #1 – The Best Investors Understand Marketing
Marketing is the first area of the business you should study as a beginning real estate investor. Marketing is what makes the phone ring and generates leads. Leads are the lifeblood of your business. They are the oxygen your business breaths. The more leads you have the more money you will make. If you don’t have leads, then you won’t buy any properties. If you don’t buy any properties then you can’t make any money. If you can’t make any money then you can’t build a business. As a result you should spend the majority of your time figuring out how to get your phone to ring with motivated sellers. (The same thing can be said for dating!)
Successful marketing is an art, and those who understand marketing set themselves apart from other investors. There must be a mindset shift as an investor. You are not in the business of flipping homes. You are in the business of generating leads from people who want to sell their home under market value. If you can do this you will control the market and you will figure out the rest of the business very quickly. If you have a potential $80,000.00 dollar pay day on the other end of the phone believe me you learn quickly.
There are many different forms of marketing you can utilize to get your phone ringing. Direct mail, billboards, TV, cold calling, and networking are all marketing strategies you can use to find deals. The key is to narrow down your market and find your target, develop a compelling message with an irresistible offer, and consistently touch these people with multiple marketing mediums. Then you will want to develop marketing systems so you can repeat this process over and over again.
Real Estate Investing Basics Tip #2 – Wholesale Properties to Build Your Cash Cushion
Once you find the deal now you have to find someone who is willing to buy the deal from you at a higher price. This is where wholesaling comes into play. Wholesaling is the business of finding bargains and selling the deals to bargain hunters at a higher price. You are not adding value to the property. Wholesaling properties should be essential part of every real estate investors business. It is a way to generate income with little to no risk. Many times, you never take ownership of the property – you simply are the transaction coordinator. In essence, you are bringing a buyer and a seller together. Through your marketing efforts, you locate deals and then you assign them to other investors that you locate through your various forms of marketing. If your marketing machine is in motion, you should have no problem finding buyers. Successful marketing and networking in the real estate community will enable you to find wholesale buyers.
Real Estate Investing Basics Tip #3 – Rehabbing for Large Profits
Rehabbing is when you redevelop the property yourself instead of wholesaling the property to someone else. This is where the larger profits lie. The reason is you will be selling the property to a retail buyer who will be willing to pay full market value for the property as opposed to a another investor who is looking for a discount.
Rehabbing is an entire business in itself and there is a lot you need to learn about this niche. It is important if you choose to include rehabbing in your business that you spend time educating yourself first. Learning pricing of labor and materials as well as whom are the qualified contractors in your area is essential to rehabbing properties.
Being able to add value to properties through renovations is a not only very profitable, but also very rewarding. You are providing a great service, not only to the city in which you do business, but also to the end buyer of your newly remodeled home. When you become experienced at rehabbing you will have the confidence to be able to take on projects that many people would never even consider. This separates you from the other investors and creates more opportunities for you in that real estate market.
Kitchens are the main selling point of any house and therefore should be given proper consideration with regards to layout, design, functionality, finishing materials and adding “sizzle” features. This room is a vital component of any home and is usually the most frequently used space by a homeowner. The kitchen is also the most challenging part of the house to design and rehab, as it is made up of many components and requires coordination between all members of the rehabbing team. Though it is one of the most expensive parts of the house to upgrade, it is also the room that returns the most for every dollar invested.
Some features that should be considered in most kitchens:
This design concept connects the kitchen with the living room where the families gather to have meals and enjoy entertainment. This concept can be applied through completely knocking out the wall between the kitchen and the living room; removing the top portion of the wall and creating a counter-top/bar feel or creating a picture window opening to connect two spaces together. In this step, it is important to answer the following questions:
Cabinets are the most visible part of a kitchen and generally its most expensive component. Therefore proper consideration must be given to this decision, as kitchen cabinets constitute one of the main selling points of a kitchen and therefore of a house. A good rule of thumb is to use comparable properties on the market as a measuring stick for quality of cabinets used. It is also a good idea to visit any new construction sites in the neighborhood to see what is “in style” for your target market. New cabinets typically come in one of three forms: stock cabinets, semi-custom cabinets, and custom cabinets. On average, cabinets represent roughly half the cost of a complete kitchen remodeling. Due to the high cost, it is worth careful consideration with regards to kitchen design.
Some important design features to consider are:
Properly selecting the material type of the counter-top greatly enhances the functionality and appeal of a kitchen. Single family kitchens ideally should have a few different work areas. That means you need to plan for this in your initial kitchen design layout. Work areas are defined as 36 inches of continuous counter-top. Today there are so many choices of material to use, here are a few of the most common:
These are kitchen design features that are added that help sell the house. They make the kitchen “pop” and stand out among the other houses on the market. As we teach in our rehabbing course you should always try to include at least 4 “sizzle features”:
Kitchens sell homes
You hear that all the time because it is true. Choosing the correct layout, design and finishing materials will help you sell your home quickly and maximize your profit. You will get the most dollar return for dollar spent in the kitchen design. We always teach to stay within a budget, but if you want to add a little something extra in your rehab, the kitchen is one of the best places to do this. A well thought out design, quality materials and dramatic lighting will make the kitchen the best room in the house. So get out there and start planning that perfect space.
First let’s define the term; a surface forming the outside of or bounding a thing. In this case the “thing” is a house. Now that is a fairly simple definition and does not emphasize the importance of what house siding actually does. Siding is meant to protect a building from the adverse effects of weather. It is essential to keeping out moisture and extreme temperatures and to maintaining the longevity of the house. Not only is siding vital to the integrity of the house but it is so important in the overall “curb appeal” as well. We all know how valuable curb appeal is when selling a house. The first thing potential buyers will see is the exterior siding. I can tell you from experience, if buyers pull up and see an ugly exterior, it won’t matter how nice the inside is.
Exterior House Siding Material Selection
House siding comes in a variety of styles and shapes. Here is a list of the most common:
As you can see there are many different types of exterior siding material. The final selection, more times than not, will be determined by region and price.
Exterior House Siding Terms and Definitions
These are the key terms that you will use most often when talking about exterior siding: