Jay Costantino's Blog
There are many ways you can make your house attractive to prospective buyers. Curb appeal goes a long way when it comes to first impressions. Your yard is one indication of the amount of time you’ve spent caring for your property in general. Buyers are undoubtedly attracted to homes that have been properly maintained so if you plan to sell your property, don’t neglect your landscaping. Just like washing the dishes and vacuuming floors positively impacts the look of your interior spaces, regular yard maintenance will do the same for your exterior spaces.
The following tips can help give you a good head start:
Plan to mow your lawn at least once a week. Use a weed wacker or edger to clean up around fences or play yards where your lawnmower might not reach.
Remove weeds, leaves and clippings from walkways and patios. After you mow the lawn, use a leaf blower or broom to remove lawn clippings from walkways. If you have a brick or stone pathway, pull the weeds that may grow between the pavers.
Create clean edges between your grass and planting areas. You don’t need to install special materials to achieve this look. Use a straight-edge shovel to create or refresh an existing edge then add a fresh layer of mulch or stone to complete the transition.
Overgrown plants can be hard for homebuyers to overlook. Neglected shrubs and bushes may block the view of your house, they may interfere with walkways, doors, or other plantings and often just look untidy. Invest in a pair of loppers or hand pruners that can handle the plantings on your property. If you are not familiar with how to approach trimming the shrubs or trees you have, be sure to do some research before you start cutting. A local nursery or landscaper can provide advice on how and during which season you should prune your plantings.
A smart way to attract prospective buyers is to improve the landscaping around your home. Consult with your real estate agent for more ways to improve your curb appeal and for local landscaping resources.
Homeowners Associations (HOAs) were originally created to give everyone a larger say in their community. The rules and regulations are there to provide structure, preserve property values, and increase a sense of unity within the neighborhood boundaries. But not all HOAs function in the same way, and some can lead homeowners to feel stifled or even alienated. We'll look at how HOA laws work and what you can expect.
HOAs vote on a number of different laws for their community, but the majority of laws are passed down by the state. A state like Florida will have a number of hurricane regulations in its laws while a state like California may concentrate more so on earthquakes. Property owners are expected to comply with all state mandates to ensure their homes are protected in case of a disaster. But HOAs can definitely expand those state laws, depending on everything from personal values to property values.
HOAs will typically require dues in order to keep the association going. These fees generally total anywhere between $200 and $400 a month, and typically go toward maintaining the shared amenities (e.g., clubhouse, tennis court, etc.) of the property. For some residents, these fees are more than worth what they receive in return. You may want access to a pool without having to schedule maintenance or pay for repairs out-of-pocket. However, not all property owners get the same utility out of shared spaces, so it's important to take this into account before opting for a property with an HOA.
HOA Code of Conduct
A code of conduct is essentially there to ensure that all property owners keep up their homes and grounds. It may dictate what colors can be used to paint the home, or how tall grass can be before it needs to be mowed. The larger the general property, the more detailed their HOA laws are likely to be. While some residents love the order and predictability of an HOA, others feel resentful of the restrictions imposed upon them. The good news is that the code of conduct is dictated by the residents.
HOA laws are typically governed by the original developers of the property until a minimum percentage of units have been sold to the public. From there, it's the collective who will make decisions moving forward. Before choosing an HOA, make sure that you're picking an area with like-minded property owners. Otherwise, you may end up feeling trapped by rules that you neither agree with or approve of.
In a seller's market, buyers often wonder how they can edge out other interested parties and make their offer more appealing. There is often the tendency to forgo some protections that homebuyers have on their side in an effort to make things easier for the seller. One of these might be the suggestion to skip the home inspection.
Home Buyers Should Opt for a Home Inspection
Opting for a home inspection is always a good idea. Most sellers won't hold this against you and many even expect you to have one done. If you don't, then you are relying solely on what the seller tells you about the condition of the various systems within the house. While some sellers might not know that anything, in particular, is wrong with the home, it is not always required that known issues are disclosed at the time of sale. That's why it's important to get an objective and professional opinion from a third party.
What To Expect During a Home Inspection
It's important to understand that the home inspector will evaluate both the exterior and the interior of the home. While every inspector is different, you should expect them to complete the basics such as assessing the insulation in the attic, inspecting the eaves and the roof, flush the toilets and turn on all the faucets, check the fuses, switches and electrical outlets and more.
What you should not expect your home inspector to do is to rip up the carpeting or knock a hole in the walls. These actions are simply beyond the scope of their job. That being said, many home inspectors can provide you with their best guess regarding what's behind the walls and under the current flooring. Chances are your home inspector has experience working with homes in your area and can read the clues that are found in the home.
Home Inspection Pointers to Consider
It's important to be present during the home inspection. This will allow you to hear everything that's said about the house firsthand. You'll also be able to ask any questions right then. The inspector will provide you with a written report afterward as well.
Be sure to take what is found by the inspector seriously. If there are issues with the home, it's time to assess if it's the right one for you. You can also try to negotiate with the homeowner. This could involve you asking the owner to fix the issues first or for money so you can do so yourself.
If you're getting ready to sell your home, then you might suddenly find yourself faced with deciding which home improvements are the best to tackle. Though it can seem like a hassle -- and it's going to cost you some time and money -- the reality is that even a few improvements could be beneficial. You might find that not only does your home sell more quickly than you expect but that the final sale price is above your listing price.
1. Landscape Your Yard
Your home's exterior is the first thing interested homebuyers see when they show up so make sure the yard is welcoming. In addition to keeping the grass mowed, be sure that any trees and bushes aren't overgrown. Plant some perennials if your yard needs some color or put some in a couple of pots by the front door.
2. Paint the Interior
Even though painting the interior of your home has one of the lowest costs of all home improvement projects, it also has a high rate of return. About 36 percent of homeowners decide to tackle this project. Be sure to opt for a neutral color though you might need assistance from a professional to determine what that is. It really depends on aspects like the flooring and cabinets, for example. Gray has been trending as a paint color for a number of years so it's a safe choice for interiors.
3. Replace the Flooring
More than a quarter of home sellers decided to replace the flooring before putting their home on the market. Upgrading to wood or faux woods floors throughout your home has several advantages. It creates a seamless flow from one room to the next. The right kind of wood flooring is also easier to maintain than carpeting.
If it's too costly to replace all the flooring in your home with wood, then new carpeting can still be a strong selling point. Just make sure that you choose a neutral color.
4. Update the Bathroom
Did you know that your bathroom can make your house seem outdated? Adding a few new touches such as new cabinets, countertops, fixtures and flooring can breathe fresh life into one of the important rooms of the house. Just make sure to go with a minimalist look to make the room look bigger.
Opting for any of the four home improvements noted above can really boost your return on your investment. If you aren't sure which project is the best one to tackle, ask a real estate agent. Their objective advice is grounded in the realities of what's selling in your area currently.
Part of buying a home is researching the market and your finances. Most lenders require you to put at least 20 percent down or pay private mortgage insurance (PMI). Since PMI is a cost that does not lower your interest rate or principal, it’s almost always better to save up that hefty down payment. Lenders charge PMI to cover some of their risk if you do not put the 20 percent down to create equity. Conventional loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac always require PMI if you do not put 20 percent down.
In some cases, you could avoid PMI by taking out a special loan or a VA loan. VA loans are only available to veterans, but require very little down or even zero down. The VA doesn’t actually give you the loan—it insures your loan against default. Conventional loans not backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac often have higher interest rates. These two programs are also government-insured loans.
Other reasons to avoid paying PMI include:
Tax laws change every year. As of 2017, PMI was no longer deductible, which means that you lose that offset.
The lender is the only beneficiary. If you should die before your loan is paid off, it will pay only the lender and only for the balance on the home.
You pay PMI until the equity on your home reaches 20 percent. If the market was good when you bought the home, but it tanks a couple of years later, you could be stuck paying PMI for many years.
Some lenders require you to pay PMI even after the equity in your home reaches 20 percent. If you do have to take PMI, always read the fine print.
Finally, PMI is difficult to cancel. You will need to write a letter to your lender to cancel the PMI. Until you hear from the lender, you will be stuck paying those premiums every month.
PMI ranges from .5 percent to 1 percent of the amount you borrowed paid out in equal monthly payments every year. Thus, a loan amount of $200,000 could have a $2,000 per year PMI premium, which is about $167 per month added to your mortgage payment until the lender agrees to cancel the premiums.
Saving the Down Payment
In addition to saving for a down payment, you may qualify for some down payment assistance programs such as the first-time home buyer’s program. These programs help you get that 20 percent so that you do not have to pay PMI. If you have a retirement account, you may be able to use money from that account to help with a down payment.
Though it may seem painful to pay such a large chunk of money, it saves you from paying insurance premiums and it lowers the cost of the loan since you don’t pay interest on the down payment and it is applied to the principal.