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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.

Moving Up: How to Know When to Upgrade to a Bigger Home

If you have always wanted to live in a bigger home, then you may be wondering when the right time is for you to move. Bigger homes are more expensive and require more maintenance. However, you may be at a point in your life financially where you’re ready for a bigger place. Here are several signs that indicate it’s time for you to move into a bigger home:

Clean home with healthy front yard during late spring season


 
Your Family Is Growing
Your current home may not fit your needs if your family is growing. If you’re expecting another child, then you will need a home with extra rooms. You’ll also need a home with extra storage space and bathrooms. This can be a very common reason why people seek to upgrade their homes. By checking in your area, you can start to plan your budget even before the birth of your child and make sure that an upgrade is right for you.
 
You Have the Money To
Many people move into a smaller home because that is all that they can afford. However, if you can afford to move into a bigger space, now may be the time to do it. If you have saved up a significant amount of money or are earning more money than you used to, you can likely handle the financial responsibility of buying a larger home.
When considering this type of move, make sure to look in a nicer area, such as one with better schools and other community opportunities.
 
You’re Working From Home
More people are working from home these days, and one of the keys to successfully working at home is to have the right space. That’s why you may need a larger home. Most small homes do not have enough room to accommodate a home office or the space for a makeshift desk.
 
If you live in a bigger home, you can convert an unused room into an office space. This can be especially helpful if you are considering starting a business, as having a space in your home to do this can save you a lot of money on rent.
 
You may love your current home, but it may be time for you to look for something a little larger. If your family is growing, it may be time for more space. Moving into a bigger home is also a good idea if you have the funds. Additionally, a new, larger house can be a big help if you work from home and need designated office space!

Most Popular Backyard Upgrades People Are Making Now

If there is one thing the global pandemic has left us with, it’s the realization that home is where the heart is. Millions of Americans have been on the move in search of more space or amenities. But millions more are seizing the moment to upgrade the homes they live in. Here are five of the most popular backyard projects with tips on costs and installation.



Landscape Design – Since the pandemic began, there has been soaring interest in gardening across the board. Now, many homeowners are seeking a more pleasing design. Experts say the average landscape project in the U.S. will cost between $1,000 and $5,800.

Fence and Gate Installation – While some are more than ready to invite people in, most people want boundaries as well, and the installation of gates and fences is the second most popular yard project. For many, the big decision is whether to use wood or vinyl. Since the lumber shortage has caused soaring wood prices, the gap in cost between them is narrow, plus vinyl lasts longer. Considering materials, labor and the size of the yard, this project could cost between $475 for a simple gate and $7,000 for all-around fencing.

Play Equipment – Installing swings, slides, tree houses and other play equipment is understandably popular. Experts say unless construction is one of your strong suits, hire someone to do the installation. It should cost no more than $300 or $400.

Patios and Patio Additions – Cookouts are nicer under a covered patio. The cost for building a new patio is about $2,500. Covering an existing patio will vary in cost depending on size and features, such as permanent or retractable covering.

Gazebo – If you dream of reading or listening to music in the shade of your own gazebo, prepare to spend between $5,000 and $10,000 depending on size. Check local ordinances, too, as a permit may be required for this lovely backyard amenity.

The Pros and Cons of Buying a Vacation Home

With the recent rise in remote work, vacation markets all across the country are experiencing a surge in demand that’s driven by buyers who are taking the leap to become second homeowners. If you’re considering purchasing a vacation property, here are a few of the pros and cons to keep in mind.



Pros:

It’s a vacation home!
Let’s get this out of the way first and foremost: there’s nothing like having your own vacation home to escape to on a moment’s notice without having to worry about bookings. It’s all about personal enjoyment and creating a place where the whole family can have fun together.

Income Potential
When you’re not using it, there’s always the possibility of renting out your second home to offset the costs. Furthermore, depending on how often you rent it out, you may be able to deduct all of the operating expenses.

Investment Opportunity
With the unprecedented shift in our work-life balance, real estate in vacation markets increasingly looks to represent a long-term store of value. For this reason, homes in exclusive destination markets are a safe bet to appreciate over time.

Cons:

Double Your Home Expenses
It’s no secret that homeownership is expensive, and taking on a second property is a significant decision that needs to be carefully discussed with your financial advisor. After all, the last thing you want is for your vacation home to be a source of stress.

Extra Maintenance
Maintaining a second home can be even more difficult than your primary residence because you’re not always there to oversee the property. Something simple, like fixing a leaky roof before it causes extensive water damage, can easily go unnoticed.

Higher Mortgage Rates
Mortgage rates for a second home are slightly higher than they are for a primary residence and, in addition to this, it’s quite common that lenders will request a larger down payment, which is important to factor in before you fall in love with your next home. 

What Happens to My Escrow Account If I Refinance?

All mortgages require a monthly payment. Typically, the monthly payment consists of the principal repayment, prorated property tax, prorated homeowner’s insurance payment and interest. Of these, your taxes and insurance payments are held in a trust account with the lender, called the escrow account. When you refinance a mortgage, existing escrow accounts are usually closed and a new one is opened specific to the new loan.


To better understand the advantages and disadvantages of escrow accounts and how they work, read below.

Understanding Escrow Accounts. When you pay your monthly mortgage payment, your taxes and insurance are kept in an escrow account held by your mortgage company. When these bills are due, the bank is responsible for paying them for you in a timely manner. Some lenders require you to open an escrow account in order to grant you the loan; others will let you pay the bills yourself.

The Previous Escrow Account. When you refinance a loan, the original escrow account remains with the old loan. Escrow funds, unfortunately, cannot be transferred to new loans, even if it’s with the same lender. All the property tax and insurance payments you have made to that account, since the last payment was made, will be returned to you, usually within 45 days via wire transfer or check.

Using Old Escrow Funds. Because the funds will be sent to you at a later date, it is usually not possible to use held escrow funds from a previous loan to apply toward your new escrow account on the refinanced loan. This will require you to come up with more funds at closing to fund your new escrow account and, depending on the time of year that you are refinancing, the lender may require a substantial amount in taxes to be pre-paid into escrow.

Benefits of Escrow Accounts. If you choose to utilize an escrow account for your loan, you may receive a lower interest rate. The lender becomes responsible for paying your quarterly property tax, as well as payments to your homeowners insurance, freeing you from having to remember to pay them. Due to property taxes being financially burdensome in some cities, being able to split the amount due into 12 equal payments makes it easier to afford for most people.

Opting Out of an Escrow Account. When deciding about an escrow account on your refinanced loan, keep in mind that without an escrow account, the closing costs will generally be lower because you are not depositing funds for future property tax or insurance payments in advance.