• Home

How to Find a Home in a Seller’s Market

In a seller’s market, there are more buyers looking for a home than there are houses available. That means sellers may have an advantage, since multiple buyers may be interested in purchasing their home. If you’re looking to buy a house in a seller’s market, it’s important to know what to expect and to be prepared so you can avoid common pitfalls.

Get Pre-Approved 
Before you start shopping for a house, you should get pre-approved for a mortgage. That means you will submit your financial information and supporting documents to a lender, and it will review them to decide how much you can afford to pay for a house. Being pre-approved will demonstrate to a seller that you are in a good financial position, can afford a house and will be able to move forward quickly.

The amount a lender pre-approves you for is not necessarily the amount you should spend. The lender may not consider all your monthly expenses, such as childcare, or other costs of homeownership, such as property taxes, private mortgage insurance, homeowners insurance, maintenance and repairs. Assess your overall financial circumstances to figure out how much you can comfortably afford to spend for monthly mortgage payments.

Make a Competitive and Realistic Offer
You want to get a home at a good price, but in a seller’s market, you may be competing with one or more other buyers who are interested in the same house. To have a better chance at becoming the new owner, you need to present a competitive offer right off the bat. If you try to start negotiations by submitting a low bid, you may not get a chance to negotiate at all because the seller may simply choose a buyer who made a higher offer. 

Don’t make an initial offer for the maximum amount you can afford. In a seller’s market, bidding wars are common. You may find that because competition is fierce, the only way to win a bidding war is to offer more than the list price. That doesn’t mean you should go over your budget—it means you should focus on homes with asking prices below the amount you can afford so you will have room to negotiate. If another buyer submits a bid that is higher than what you can afford, be prepared to walk away and look for another house that’s a better fit for your budget. 

Get Help From a Knowledgeable Real Estate Agent 
An experienced real estate agent who is familiar with the local market can guide you through the process of looking for a new home. An agent can help you decide how much to offer so you can hopefully get the house you want at a competitive price without being outbid by another buyer. If you can’t find a home with the features you want in your price range, your agent may recommend that you consider another neighborhood or city with lower home prices.

Is a Booming Market a Good Time to Sell Your Home?

Many real estate markets throughout the country are enjoying an unprecedented boom. This is undeniably a good thing if you were already planning to sell your home in one of these locations. Some sellers, however, are simply looking to take advantage of the moment. While this can be a savvy move, it’s important to carefully think it through before deciding to list your home. Here are a few considerations to take into account before selling your home in today’s hot market.

Where Will You Move?
This is the first question to ask yourself and the answer might not be so simple. After all, in order to truly take advantage of selling your home in a booming market, you’ll need to purchase your next house elsewhere. If you already have a second home that you plan to move to full-time or have your eye on a different area seeing less demand, that can help you avoid having to buy back into a seller’s market. 

Focus on Long-Term Goals
Take the time to consider how this will align with both your lifestyle and financial goals. It’s important to keep an eye on the big picture because selling right now might make it difficult to re-enter this competitive market in the future.

No Harm Testing the Market
Many sellers who are looking to take advantage of the current demand are simply testing the waters by listing their home above market price. If you’re still on the fence but are interested in selling your home for the right price, there’s no harm in feeling out the market to see what sort of offers you receive.

Don’t Be Impulsive
It can be exciting to see what other homes in your neighborhood are currently selling for, but you shouldn’t let this cloud your judgment. Weigh all of the pros and cons, and discuss your options with your family, to ensure that listing your home now is a sound decision for all of the right reasons. 

These Outdoor Features Will Help You Sell Fast

The interior of homes is often in the limelight when it comes to considering what adds value to a property. However, you shouldn’t discount the exterior of a home. Outdoor features can prove just as valuable, giving you a boost in price when it comes time to sell.

Having a backyard filled with amenities, from a well-thought out irrigation system to a fully equipped kitchen right outside, has quickly become a necessity for sellers to feature.

Smart Irrigation System 
Not only is this a great selling feature, but it is also environmentally friendly. With many of today’s buyers coming from the millennial generation, highlighting something that is tech-friendly and sustainable is important. There are many options to choose from, such as a system that can be controlled via bluetooth, as well as some that are solar powered. Highlight this feature in your listing, including the environmental and financial benefits that come along with it.

Pet- and Kid-Friendly Spaces 
Another great selling feature when it comes to your outdoor space is having one or more areas dedicated to pets and children. If you have a dog, for example, and have built a dog house in your yard, consider leaving it on the property and adding it to your listing. The same goes for swing sets, playhouses and treehouses. If a buyer has young children, these can be attractive features that can help your listing and your home to stand out from the competition. 

Outdoor Kitchen 
Of course, not every backyard features a fully equipped kitchen, but if you have one, be sure to highlight it. More people are spending time at home and crave an outdoor living space that checks all of their boxes. Rather than a grill and a simple patio set, today’s buyers are looking for outdoor features for entertainment and relaxation. And what is more relaxing than having everything you need right at your fingertips? Consider adding a small fridge, counter and storage space, a bar cart and even a pizza oven! 

For many buyers, privacy is a top priority. Whether you have large hedges or a tall fence around your property, be sure to point this out in your listing. For homes in a neighborhood where neighbors are close in proximity, this is especially important. If you do not have a fence or another form of privacy around your property, serious buyers may request this as part of their negotiation, so consider adding this feature before you list your home to avoid major costs later on. 

Before putting your home up for sale, consider adding a few of these outdoor features that today’s buyers crave. If you already have one or all of these features, be sure to highlight them in not only your listing images, but the description as well. Talk to your real estate agent about how to best showcase these outdoor add-ons to ensure that your home sells fast!

4 Tips for Buyers to Overcome Low Inventory

A booming real estate market can present plenty of challenges to homebuyers, one of which is low inventory. When you find yourself in a highly competitive market that faces a shortage of listings, it’s important to work with an agent who has an in-depth understanding of how to navigate the situation. Following are several tips to help ensure you can achieve your goals, even when facing low inventory.

Ask About Pocket Listings
In the luxury sector, in particular, it’s quite common for sellers to quietly list their property rather than blasting it all over the internet. A savvy real estate agent who’s plugged into the local market can help get you access to these pocket listings that are discreetly marketed by word-of-mouth. Furthermore, your agent should also be able to keep aware of any pre-market listings that are ready to be listed but not yet marketed online, to help you get a jump start ahead of the pack.

Get Ready to Act Fast
In a hyper-competitive market, speed can make all the difference. That’s why it’s always a good idea to get pre-approved for a mortgage even before you find the ideal home so that you know exactly how much you can offer and are positioned to act quickly when the time comes. The last thing you want is to miss out on an opportunity while waiting to get approved.

Make a Strong Offer
When sellers receive multiple offers, it’s not always the highest one that’s the most appealing. In fact, there are other ways to set your offer apart, such as making a cash offer or waiving contingencies. In the event that another buyer offers the same amount, this can give you a competitive advantage. 

Be Prepared for a Bidding War
No buyer wants to find themselves in a bidding war for a property, but it’s all too common in a market with low inventory. If this happens, it’s important to know your limit beforehand and take the time to consider what the home is worth to you versus its current market value. After all, it can be difficult to put a price on the perfect home, especially once you’ve started getting attached to the idea of it.

Pros and Cons of Converting Your Attic Space

Your attic can serve many different roles in your home. Families often place boxes of old clothing, books and holiday decorations in the attic and rarely go up there. But, in some cases, an attic can be so much more than just storage space. If you need additional living space, converting your attic space might be the solution, but there are potential problems to consider. Explore the pros and cons of converting your attic space before taking on your next home renovation project.

Pros for Converting Your Attic
Converting the attic to add another bedroom, or for creating a home office, would most likely cost less than building an addition or buying a larger home. Depending on the size of the attic, you may even be able to add two new bedrooms for your growing family or create a suite with a bedroom and a bathroom. 
This could also help with resale value. According to the “Remodeling Impact Report” from the National Association of REALTORS®, the national median cost of an attic bedroom remodel is $75,000—you could recover 53% of that when selling, according to research.
If you need a quiet place to work from home, the attic could be an ideal location. Since it’s physically separated from the main living area on the first floor, you could have peace and quiet even if other family members were watching TV or playing downstairs.
The extra square footage of usable space could increase your home’s value. If you decide to sell your home in the future, families with multiple children or someone who works from home and is looking for a dedicated office space will appreciate the additional room. 
If you built an addition into the yard, your family would have less space to relax outdoors, and your kids would have less room to play. Converting the attic wouldn’t affect the overall footprint of the house, so you wouldn’t lose any yard space.
Attic Conversion Cons
If you converted your attic to a bedroom or home office, you wouldn’t be able to use this space for storage. For a home that doesn’t feature enough room in the closets, basement or garage, you may need to get rid of some belongings or rent a storage unit. Ask yourself if these additional costs would be worth it.
You would have to hire a contractor to convert the attic and pay for proper insulation. If you plan to make this renovation, you will need to apply for and pay the cost for the necessary permits, which can quickly add up.
If the attic ceiling is low, a conversion may not be a good idea. With limited space, it can become difficult for an adult to walk through this space comfortably. If your house has a sloped roof, converting the attic will most likely leave you with a low space at one or both ends. You might not be able to place furniture there, although you could use those areas for storage.
If you decide to make this renovation and continue to live in your home while it is being converted, you may experience disruptions for weeks, even months, depending on the season. From noise to dust, even the constant rotation of workers coming and going, you may experience an interference in your routine, especially with young children and even pets. Also, if you work from home, this can quickly become a daily disturbance, especially if you have constant meetings and phone calls. 
Should You Convert Your Attic Space?
An attic conversion is not always possible due to the pitch of the roof and may need to be modified to support the additional weight of drywall, plumbing and electrical wiring. Consider how this space could be used and the value that it may add to your home if you decide to sell in the future. Be sure to pay attention to long-term costs, disruptions and storage space before committing to this renovation. Ask a contractor or engineer for advice and be sure to research local building codes and permit requirements.

Why Condensation May Mean That It’s Time to Replace Your Windows

Condensation forms when an object is cooler than the surrounding air and water droplets accumulate on the surface of the cooler object. It can form on the inside or outside of a window, and also in between the panes of glass. In some cases, condensation is completely normal and nothing to worry about, but in other instances, it’s a sign that your windows need to be replaced.

Condensation Inside Your Home
When the interior of your house is warm, the windows are usually colder than other parts of a room because the windows come into direct contact with cold outside air. If moisture inside your house comes into contact with cool windows, condensation can form on the interior surfaces of windows.

Using a dehumidifier can lower the humidity level inside your house, which may reduce or eliminate condensation on the windows. If condensation is only forming on the inside of some windows, that may be a sign that your home has drafts. In that case, using weather stripping to seal the areas around windows with condensation may take care of the problem.

Condensation on the inside surfaces of several windows can also be a sign that your home has inadequate ventilation. If you don’t address the issue, high levels of humidity inside your house can lead to mold and mildew, which can endanger your family’s health and can cause physical damage to your home.

Condensation Outside Your House
Condensation can form on the outside surfaces of windows when there is moisture in the air outdoors and the windows are slightly cooler than the outside temperature. When condensation forms on the outside of windows under those conditions, it means that the windows are doing their job and providing good insulation, which isn’t allowing heat transfer to occur. 

Condensation Inside Windows
Double- and triple-pane windows have multiple panes of glass that can provide better insulation than single-paned windows. The space between the glass panes is filled with a gas, such as argon, that provides insulation. 

If the seals break and the gas escapes, the windows can no longer provide adequate insulation. The loss of the insulating gas can allow hot air to enter your house in the summer and warmed air to escape in the winter. That can lead to high utility bills.

If you see condensation that you can’t wipe away because it’s not on the surfaces of the windows, but rather located between the panes of glass, that means that the windows are failing. The solution is to install new windows.

What to Do About Moss on Your Roof

If moss grows on parts of your roof that are shaded, it can cause roofing materials to gradually deteriorate, which can shorten the roof’s lifespan. Moss can also get into spaces between shingles and cause the roof to heave. Water can then enter gaps beneath shingles, which can cause the underlying roof structure to rot and the roof to leak.

How to Get Rid of Moss
Clean moss from the roof on a cloudy day so any cleaning product that you use won’t evaporate before it has a chance to do its job. Wear old clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty, as well as protective equipment, including gloves, safety goggles and slip-resistant shoes. 

Spray water on any sections of the roof that have moss. Start at the top of the roof and work your way down. Use a brush to scrub away as much moss as you can, working on one section at a time. 

If you can’t get rid of all the moss by scrubbing alone, use a pump sprayer or spray bottle to apply a chemical product. You should only use a chemical cleaner if necessary because it can damage plants. If you use a chemical moss remover, cover plants near the house with sheets of plastic to protect them.

You can find a variety of products that kill moss at a local home improvement store. Some are ready to use and can simply be sprayed on the roof, while others will have to be mixed. Some products should be left on for a period of time and then rinsed off, while others should not be rinsed off. Read the label and follow the directions carefully so you don’t accidentally damage your roof or vegetation in your yard. 

You can also make your own moss remover using diluted bleach or vinegar. If you use a homemade cleaning solution, leave it on for at least 20 minutes before rinsing it off. 

After you have used a cleaning product to get rid of moss and rinsed the roof (if appropriate), see if there is any remaining moss. If necessary, scrub any areas that still have moss, then rinse the roof again. 

How to Keep Moss From Coming Back
Once you have gotten rid of moss on your roof, you can take some simple steps to prevent problems in the future. Trimming branches that hang over the roof can give the surface more sun exposure and prevent moss from growing. 

You can also use strips of zinc or install strips of metal flashing that are coated with zinc or copper below the roof’s peak and ridge caps. Rainwater will release zinc or copper particles that are toxic to moss and will prevent new moss from growing. 

How Local Inventory Can Affect Your Ability to Sell Your Home

Local inventory refers to the number of active listings in a particular geographic area at one time. Inventory is calculated and reported at the end of each month, but the actual number of properties available may be higher or lower on any given day since houses are listed and sold throughout the month.

What to Expect in a Seller’s Market
If there are more interested buyers than properties available, an area is in a seller’s market. If you list your home in that type of environment, you may receive multiple offers and may be able to negotiate a sale price above your asking price. A buyer who is eager to move into your area may be interested in your home even if it needs significant repairs or upgrades. 

It’s important to price your house reasonably, though. If you list your home for more than it’s worth given its condition, location and other factors, buyers may not be willing to pay that amount. Even if someone agrees to pay your list price, a lender won’t approve a mortgage if the sale price doesn’t line up with your home’s appraised value. In that case, you may have to accept a lower price to salvage the deal.

In a seller’s market, the process may move quickly. You may receive multiple offers from buyers who are eager to move in as soon as possible. Keep that in mind and think about where you will live between the time when your current home is sold and the date when you move into your new house.

How to Sell in a Buyer’s Market
In a buyer’s market, there are more active listings than people interested in purchasing a home. If you decide to sell your house under those circumstances, it may be more challenging to attract a buyer and get the price you want. 

Staging and marketing are always important, but especially in a buyer’s market. Your home will have to be clean and attractive to appeal to buyers, and it will have to be well advertised to garner attention. Professional photos and videos can help your property stand out. Your agent can list your home on the MLS and real estate websites that are likely to draw in prospective buyers.

In a buyer’s market, it’s important to price your home competitively, but that doesn’t mean you should set the price unreasonably low. If you do, you may walk away with far less than you could have gotten.

It may take longer than average to sell your home in a buyer’s market. Your home may sell for less than a comparable house in the same area sold for just a few months earlier. 

If you have to sell right away, you may have no choice but to list your home and hope for the best. If you have more flexibility, you may want to hold off and wait for market conditions to change so you can get a higher price.

What Is a Variance?

Zoning laws are local regulations that restrict how real estate can be used. For example, they may only permit houses in some areas and businesses in others. Zoning rules may regulate how large houses may be and how far they must be set back from the road.

Zoning rules are intended to create and maintain cities and towns where residents and businesses can avoid inconveniences, such as noise, that could arise if different types of properties were located in the same neighborhoods. Zoning laws can also protect property values.

What Can You Do If You Want to Make Changes to Your Property That Would Violate Zoning Laws?
If you want to build an addition or make another change to your house, you may discover that the work you want to do would violate the zoning rules in your city or town. If that’s the case, you can request a variance, or permission to violate a zoning rule for a specific reason. 

If you don’t request a variance and simply go ahead with the project, you may have to pay a fine for violating zoning rules. You may even be forced to stop work in progress or tear down your addition. If you apply for a variance and your request is approved, you won’t have to worry about potential penalties.

How Can You Apply for a Variance?
Procedures for requesting variances differ from one municipality to another. In some cases, the process is straightforward, and in others, it’s more complex. 

In most cases, either you or your attorney will have to draft a letter explaining which zoning rule you want to deviate from and why. The letter should outline the specific changes you want to make to your property, how your proposal differs from local zoning requirements and why a variance is necessary to complete the project as planned.

The local government will notify your neighbors of your request since a variance could affect them. A hearing will be held where you can explain your proposal in more detail and where others who may be affected by a variance will have an opportunity to voice their objections. The zoning board will consider that information, plus other factors, such as potential effects on traffic, noise and property values. 

After the zoning authority makes a decision, you will be notified. If your request is denied, you will usually have an opportunity to file an appeal.  

What Will Happen if Your Request for a Variance Is Approved?
If you’re granted a variance, you may have a limited amount of time to act. If your circumstances change or you can’t get funding, you can decide not to go ahead with the project. 

If you do make changes to your house in accordance with the variance, the permission to deviate from the zoning regulations will be attached to the property. That means that if you sell your home, a future owner won’t have to worry about being fined for violating zoning rules. 

7 Questions to Ask a Potential Contractor

When it comes to renovating your home, be it a kitchen remodel or a bathroom overhaul, you want to be sure you hire the right professional for the job. This is the person you are depending on to tear down your walls and spend your dollars wisely. Avoid a renovation nightmare by researching a few different contractors and setting up an interview with each of them. Here are seven interview questions to ask a potential contractor to ensure you hire the right pro!

1. Are you licensed, bonded and insured?
Most states require contractors and their employees to take and pass an exam, as well as attend annual education courses to maintain their license. If they are insured, so are their employees. This is vital when choosing a contractor, because if they are not insured and someone gets injured on your property, you will be liable and they can sue. Bonds, such as a surety bond, will ensure that if they go out of business mid-renovation or they do not finish the job for another reason, you are not liable for the additional costs to fix the job or pay their bill. 

2. What is the cost breakdown?
Never settle for a general or overall price estimate. Asking for an itemized cost breakdown is a vital step in the interview process. This way, you can see what they are charging you for and decide on any changes before they start. Oftentimes, there are many hidden fees that a homeowner may never know about. With a cost breakdown, you can discuss your options, update plans and even consider more cost-effective materials for your project.

3. What is the anticipated timeline for this project?
After discussing the cost, you want to understand how much time your project will take. Of course, you will likely not be offered a set finish date, as weather and other incidents may change things. Remember that delays are common and unforeseen circumstances may end up changing the completion date. Work closely with the contractor to set an anticipated start and end date, and if you need the work finished by a specific date, be sure to mention this now rather than later. 

4. How long have you worked in this area?
In order to build a good reputation in a city or community, contractors must perform at a high-quality standard. Understanding how long they have been in business and how long their employees have been working with them will give you a better idea of how the finished product will look. If they have experience working in your area before, they will have a better understanding of permit regulations and any possible issues in your area, such as piping and electrical work, that you may not be privy to. 

5. Can you share references from past customers?
Previous customers are your best source of information on how well a contractor performed. In addition to doing your own research and reading online reviews, ask them to share a few past customers for you to speak with. When you do reach out, ask questions such as, “Were deadlines and expectations met?” and “What were your best and worst experiences working with this contractor?” This will help you get a better understanding of the contractor’s communication skills, as well as the quality of work you are paying them for.

6. Will you obtain the correct permits?
Permits are almost always required for professional remodeling jobs. Make sure that your potential contractor understands the rules and guidelines for permits in your area, and that they will help to schedule a visit from an inspector. Once a building inspector reviews the project and approves it, your contractor will be issued a permit to start the work. Remember to ask for copies of any and all permits for your records. If a contractor tells you they do not need a permit, do not hire them!

7. Can we put everything in writing?
In addition to collecting copies of the required permits, you want to ensure everything is put in writing. Every detail should be included in a contract, such as payment schedules, cost breakdown, timetables, materials purchased and other essential information. Before you decide on a contractor, be sure contracts are complete and signed before any work is started. Do not trust a contractor who refuses to put things in writing or tries to talk you out of a contract.