The Art of Minimalism and How to Bring It Home

The Art of Minimalism and How to Bring It Home

Minimalism, which has become a real estate agent’s favorite trend recently, is characterized by great simplicity and spareness. The idea is to make each room look more spacious and inviting by drawing attention to only a few detailed components.

Consider these four principles if you want to stage your next home in the minimalist style:

1. Lose the needless

One of the biggest influences of minimalism is Japan’s Zen culture that emphasizes simplicity and the present. This means getting rid of the needless, which in your case may include a lamp or extra chair that isn’t essential to make the room look good. While writers urge each other to “omit needless words,” we suggest you omit needless items.

Instead, keep your home staged with furniture and accessories that are necessary to the function and form of the area. Doing so with each room, whether you’re dealing with a kitchen or master bedroom, will allow the place to evoke a consistent style. Less clutter makes rooms in a home look more spacious and allows potential buyers to have an easier time envisioning their own belongings in the room.

2. Focus on the details

The art of minimalism is all about doing more with less. This means that every piece in the room will receive much more attention and thus should be carefully chosen to evoke the feeling you want each particular space to have. These items will look better and really make the room look attractive if you keep things clean and sophisticated.

On that note, avoid trying to hide things. Since the art of minimalism is all about sparseness, you’re doing it wrong if you’re able to hide needless objects behind other extras. Like we said before, remove unnecessary items so that buyers touring the home will only set their sights on the gorgeous aesthetic items you carefully chose.

3. When choosing colors, go for simplicity

Colors are a powerful tool when staging a home when it comes to setting a feel or mood. To achieve a minimalist look we recommend black and white since they’re perfect for directing attention to other elements in the room. Dark and bright colors will distract visitors from the details and style you’re trying to emphasize in the space.

At the same time, using only white and black isn’t necessary to give the home a touch of minimalism. The trick is to select a color palette that works well together and doesn’t erase the feeling of simplicity in the area. Colors certainly have their place in minimalist decor but they should be chosen and used wisely.

4. Use simple decorations and artwork

Although we’ve been accentuating the idea that minimalism is all about doing more with less, that doesn’t mean your wall should remain empty and dull. To keep the style consistent we recommend photos and paintings or drawings that are framed with a solid color. It’s also OK to leave a wall bare if adjacent walls feature a piece of artwork.

Simplicity also goes for decorations you’d place on a table or corner of the room. Instead of filling your space with accessories, stick to just a vase of flowers, a nice lamp, or potted plant. Make sure your focal item features bright, attractive colors to help draw attention and add a touch of energy to a room with subdued colors.

Whether you are selling your home or just needing a new home look, fluffing and de-cluttering can be done with minimal effort and cost. Give it a try!

8 Things Pets Secretly Hate About Your Home

8 Things Pets Secretly Hate About Your Home

According to animal behaviorists and vets, certain features or items in a home can make dogs and cats mighty uncomfortable. So if you want to create an environment that keeps your four-legged family members happy, check out this list of home amenities that pets often hate—as well as solutions that you can both live with.

1. Dogs hate hardwood floors

Your gleaming hardwood floors may bring warmth and charm to your home, but dogs find them difficult to walk on. The reason: Slick hardwoods have lousy traction, says Jenna Stregowski, a registered veterinary technician.

“When dogs feel like they have less control, they take their toenails and claw into the surface,” says Stregowski. Hardwood floors can be particularly tough for older dogs or dogs with arthritis.

Solution: Wailani Sung, a veterinary behaviorist and owner of All Creatures Behavior Counseling in Kirkland, WA, recommends placing nonskid area rugs on the ground to make the floors easier for pups to walk on.

Don’t want to cover your beautiful hardwoods? Stregowski suggests buying ToeGrips, nonslip rubber rings that slide onto your dog’s toenails to improve traction.

2. Dogs hate your fireplace

“A lot of dogs don’t like the crackling or popping sound of logs in the fireplace,” says Sung. Meanwhile, if you have a gas fireplace, the ticking sound when you turn it on can also scare your pooch.

Solution: Before using the fireplace, give your dog a bone to distract it.

Bonus: “He’ll begin to associate the fireplace with a treat,” says Sung. “It’s positive conditioning.”

3. Dogs hate scented cleaning products

Strong odors can irritate your dog’s nasal passages. “Even a mild-scented cleaner can be a problem, since [odors] smell stronger to dogs than they do to us,” Stregowski says.

Solution: Use odorless cleaners instead of harsh-smelling ones such as vinegar or bleach.

4. Dogs hate chain-link fences

Enclosing your backyard with a fence gives your dog the ability to roam around without your supervision, but chain-link fences can create anxiety. Why? Because dogs can see through the fence at that squirrel, stray cat, or strange human on the other side, but can’t get past the fence to do anything about it. Bummer. Ever stared at desserts through a window? Same idea—it drives ’em crazy.

Solution: If you’re building a fence, opt for solid panels to block your dog’s line of sight, says Mikkel Becker, an animal trainer at FearFreePets.com, a website that provides online and in-person education to veterinary professionals. If you already have a chain-link fence installed, you can buy wooden boards or vinyl panels to cover the gaps.

5. Cats hate being confined to low spaces

Cats are descended from wild predators that spend a lot of time in trees while they’re hunting, says Nicholas Dodman, author of “Pets on the Couch: Neurotic Dogs, Compulsive Cats, Anxious Birds, and the New Science of Animal Psychiatry.” Consequently, felines crave access to high spaces, and they hate when they can’t access balconies, lofts, or other perches.

Solution: Give your cat spaces to climb. For example, consider building high shelves that are accessible from other furniture, like a sofa or mattress.

6. Cats hate most scratching posts

Cats scratch in order to mark their territory, which is why pet experts recommend homeowners buy scratching posts. Unfortunately, “a lot of scratching posts are made from materials that cats don’t like,” so they don’t use them, says Becker.

Solution: To protect your furniture, buy scratching posts that are made from sisal, a fabric that mimics the rough surface of a tree trunk that cats love to scratch. Also, “make sure that the post is at least 3 feet high, and that it’s anchored to the ground so it doesn’t rock when your cat scratches it,” says Becker.

7. Cats hate tiny litter boxes

Litter boxes come in all shapes and sizes, but you need a litter box that’s large enough for your cat. Buy one that’s too small, and cats may feel inclined to do their business elsewhere.

Solution: Your litter box should be at least one and a half times the length of your cat, says Becker.

Also, “don’t put the litter box in a location that’s difficult for the cat to reach,” says Becker, who recommends transforming a cabinet into a litter box if you’re looking to conceal it. (Just make sure there’s enough ventilation.)

Pro tip: “You want to have at least two litter boxes, because a lot of cats like to go No. 1 in one box and No. 2 in the other box,” says Becker.

8. Cats and dogs hate dark spaces

Like us, cats and dogs need vitamin D from sunlight exposure to protect against osteoporosis, rotted teeth, respiratory infections, and other health issues—which explains why they hate being trapped in dark spaces.

Solution: This one is pretty straightforward: Don’t relegate your pet to dark spaces, like the basement. Open those blinds and let them lie in the sun!

Article source: Daniel Bortz for Realtor.com
Secrets Inside the Pantry: How the Kitchen Became Real Estate’s Most Valuable Room

Secrets Inside the Pantry: How the Kitchen Became Real Estate’s Most Valuable Room

Secrets Inside the Pantry: How the Kitchen Became Real Estate’s Most Valuable Room

Thanksgiving is almost here, the glorious holiday when many Americans will spend the entire day sweating in the kitchen—and quite possibly several additional days prior to that, stressfully prepping. As for the big day itself, that oversized fowl will take three to five hours to cook, depending on its girth, and then there are side dishes to prepare and pies to bake. So many side dishes and pies!

After a brief reprieve to actually peck at the food, you’re back in the most important room in your home to clean up a monumental mess.

Even apart from Flightless Bird Consumption Day, Americans are spending more waking hours in the kitchen—cooking, eating, and socializing—than ever before. That’s why the kitchen has become the most obsessed-about and downright valuable room in real estate. But we want details! So we decided to tap our ever-hungry data team to dive into the statistics and apply some cool, hard numbers to this hot obsession.

What we discovered: some fascinating facts about the way we cook and eat today, how that shapes the features we want in our home kitchens, and how they drive the prices that we’re willing to pay. Let’s head to the SousVide machines!

Kitchen confidential No. 1: A trophy kitchen sells your home better than anything elseOnce a small, functional space tucked away at the back of the house, the American kitchen has emerged as the showpiece of the home. Top-of-the-line-appliances, rich cabinets, and shining stone countertops have become status symbols. And catnip for home buyers.

“It’s almost not worth calling it a kitchen anymore—it’s a living room that you can cook in,” says Christopher Peacock, a high-end cabinetry designer in Norwalk, CT.

In real estate, the data proves that the kitchen has become the most important room in home buying and selling. Of all homes listed for sale on realtor.com®, 69% of them tout the kitchen as a selling point in their descriptions, compared to 49% that mention the bedrooms and 21% that mention the living room.

Homes that include a “killer kitchen” or “luxury kitchen,” as described by the sellers, sell 8% faster than similar-sized homes in the same ZIP code. And that’s why they’ve become a key part of renovation plans, home decor upgrades, and listings descriptions. Vive la cuisine!

Kitchen confidential No. 2: Small homes no longer mean small kitchens

You can turn out a holiday meal from a cramped galley kitchen, but would you want to? Across the United States, the size of home kitchens varies by region. And you might be surprised to find out which regions of the country love their kitchens the most.

Homes in the Mid-Atlantic region—New York and Pennsylvania—have the largest kitchens (at an average of 170 square feet); while the wide-open West North Central region—the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Iowa—have the smallest kitchens (153 square feet), according to a report from the American Kitchen and Bathroom Association.

While larger homes tend to have larger kitchens, the scale of the increased kitchen size is not proportional to the overall home, the report notes.

“We see extra space in the Mid Atlantic, where people are more affluent, and prime land is relatively inexpensive. In the Southwest, where families are bigger and need a bigger kitchen. And, of course, everything is bigger in Texas,” says Javier Vivas, realtor.com’s economic researcher.

High-end kitchen mania is not universal, however. In America’s heartland, people appear to be less enthusiastic about investing in a luxury kitchen. Affordability, efficient layout, and outdoor features are more appealing to these folks. More of them are maximizing the utility of a small kitchen with clever organizers, like racks that can be attached to a drawer. A rolling island, which can be used both as a prep area and dining surface, is becoming a popular way to save sanity on Thanksgiving Day, says Heidi Féliz-Grimm with Martha O’Hara Interiors in Minneapolis.

Kitchen confidential No. 3: Some features add big value, some don’t

If you want to keep your home from looking dated, you need to up the ante in the kitchen. At the same time, kitchen renovations really can cost you—so home owners need to be wise about putting their money where their mutton is (or where it could be, judiciously broiled and served with rosemary and garlic-infused fingerlings. Delicious!)

As we can see from our listings, some features are better at adding value than others. Custom cabinets that pull the kitchen together, a center island that holds everything you need, and a capacious pantry to stock with your favorite essentials are among the most frequently mentioned features.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, you should probably stay away from over-the-stove microwaves, maple cabinets, and 4 x 4 tile floors—those are so yesterday.

Kitchen confidential No. 4: The chef’s kitchen is growing in popularity

If budget is not a concern, having a professional chef’s kitchen is the ultimate dream. Currently, 4.7% of homes on the market describe their kitchen as a “chef’s kitchen” or “gourmet kitchen,” up from 3.3% three years ago. Homes with this feature carry a median price tag of $589,900.

While there’s still no standard definition of what a “chef’s kitchen” includes, we were able to calculate which features are most frequently associated with one. The idea is becoming more and more specific and tangible to homeowners and would-be buyers alike.

The No. 1 principle: Think big, and bigger. That means an oversized fridge (it’s even better to have a separate fridge and freezer); dual commercial-quality ovens to separate the main dish and the sides, a six-burner stovetop (or two!) so your pans don’t crowd each other, and a butler’s pantry that serves as a catering station.

Those are the most touted gourmet features, but we also couldn’t help drooling over indulgences like a walk-in refrigerator, blast chiller (it cools beverages and food within minutes), and a wood-fired pizza oven.

Kitchen confidential No. 5: The nation is split—between open kitchens and formal dining rooms

For years, HGTV has been telling us to knock down walls and open up the kitchen, so that families can spend more time together, whether they’re cooking or eating.

“I can’t even remember the last time somebody asked me to put a wall in their kitchen,” says Féliz-Grimm.

But the formal dining room still has a hold on some parts of the country. For each state, we counted the number of homes in our listings that mention explicitly whether they have an open kitchen or a formal dining room. Here we present you with the United States of America—divided by kitchen layout:

In New England, where many of the country’s oldest homes tend to be smaller, opening up the kitchen and creating a feeling of space is the focus of many home renovation projects. In the Southwest, where balmy weather dominates most of the year, an open floor plan increases natural light and the connection to the outdoors.

This does not apply in the South, where the formal dining room has been a tradition for centuries. People are far more likely there to enjoy their turkey with all the family in a separate dining room, often lit up with chandeliers and adorned with plush drapery.

Article by Yuqing Pan for Realtor.com Follow @YuqingPan

What The Color Of Your Front Door Says About You

What The Color Of Your Front Door Says About You

What The Color Of Your Front Door Says About You

There are several different ways you can increase the curb appeal of your home, some simple, some more complex. Colorful flowers, garden lights, a well-manicured lawn and a chic mailbox are just a few examples. The most fun example would have to be your door color.

In many cases, people choose to go with an accent color, not necessarily a color that matches the exterior of their home. This opens the door (pun intended) to many possibilities. For this reason, your door says a lot about who you are.

Here are some of the many colors you can paint your door and what it could say about you.

1. Red

Red is a bold yet traditional color to paint your door. The brightness of the color suggests that the inside is lively and exciting. Traditionally a red door screams ‘come on in’ and is reflective of an extroverted, hospitable personality; somebody who’s always willing to host.

2. Blue

One of the most popular colors to paint your door is blue. It signifies peace and serenity. If your door is blue, you view your home as a refuge from the dastardly chaos of the outside world. You’re a calm peaceful individual and there’s no better place to kick back and relax.

3. Black

While black doesn’t mean stay away, it isn’t emblematic of the ‘mi casa su casa’ philosophy. It speaks of a very strong personality that demands order, authority, and power. When invited to a home with a black door, feel confident that you’re welcome, but don’t put your feet up on the coffee table.

4. Brown or Natural

A brown or natural finish signifies a very down to earth person. Like the earth, brown suggests stability, integrity, and reliability. If your door is brown, you value genuine people and create a non-judgemental environment where they can flourish.

5. Yellow

If your door is yellow, you’re probably a morning person and use a lot of exclamation points! It screams energy, positivity, and excitement! It also signifies confidence, that you’re not afraid to stand out and are very comfortable rubbing off on some of your less enthusiastic guests.

6. Green

If you paint your door green, you’re likely a very driven and ambitious person. Green is strongly associated with growth and money, which often go hand in hand. An ambitious person is not only looking to grow their wealth, but also enrich their lives. It goes without saying that green is one of the most popular colors to paint your door.

10 Anti-Burglary Tips When Selling Your Home

10 Anti-Burglary Tips When Selling Your Home

10 Anti-Burglary Tips When Selling your Home

When you are opening your doors to the public for showings, you need to take extra precautions. Here are a few suggestions to help keep your belongings safe.

After the holidays, many people put the empty boxes their expensive gifts came in out on the curb. What do you think that says to potential burglars? It screams, “I just got a brand-new TV! Come and rob me!”

If you are selling your home and opening your doors to strangers, this is just one example of a habit that could put you in danger. Let’s use this as a jumping-off point to have a deeper conversation about safety in your home, especially if you are selling.

National Snapshot of Burglaries

A burglary is committed every 20 seconds, with nearly 1.6 million such crimes nationwide annually, according to the FBI’s 2015 Crime in the United States report. That’s down 7.8 percent from 2014. Total property crime, which includes arson, larceny theft, and motor vehicle theft, reached nearly 8 million instances in 2015, down 2.6 percent from 2014.

Consider using this checklist to better prepare yourself when you have interested buyers coming to your door:

  1. Maintain your property. Especially in the wintertime, many people stay indoors and neglect issues such as peeling trim or an overgrown yard. But if the home looks unkempt, thieves may think it’s abandoned and, therefore, an easy target. Shoveling your walkways to clear them of snow and debris and removing holiday decorations and fallen tree branches in a timely manner will signal that the home is occupied.
  2. Know your neighbors. Many people don’t really know their neighbors; it’s more than just saying hi and being friendly. Invite them over to see your home before it goes on the market, and introduce them to the people they may see regularly stopping by during this time (especially your agent). Then they’ll know who is and isn’t supposed to be at your home and can better assess when there may be a threat while you’re gone.
  3. Assess your home’s vulnerability. Walk to the curb and face your house. Ask yourself, “How would I get in if I were locked out?” The first thing you think of, whether it’s the window with a broken lock or the door that won’t shut all the way, is exactly how a thief will get in. Think like a burglar, and then address the issues that come to mind.
  4. Respect the power of lighting. Criminals are cowards, and they don’t want to be seen. The house that is well-lit at night provides a deterrent because thieves don’t want the attention and the potential to be caught by witnesses. It’s wise to invest in tools that make nighttime light automation easy. That includes dusk-to-dawn adapters that go into existing light fixtures and motion detectors. But beware of leaving your exterior lights on at all times, which signifies the occupant is gone for an extended period of time.
  5. Use technology to make your home look occupied. In addition to lighting, smart-home technology has made it easier to make it appear like people are home, even when they’re not. Systems that remotely control lighting, music, and appliances such as a thermostat can help you achieve this. Though not considered smart-home tech, simple lamp timing devices available at hardware stores are also good for this purpose.
  6. Yes, it has to be said: Lock your doors. It’s amazing how many people think they live in a safe-enough neighborhood not to have to lock their doors when they leave. Some facts sellers should know: In 30 percent of burglaries, the criminals access the home through an unlocked door or window; 34 percent of burglars use the front door to get inside; and 22 percent use the back door, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report.
  7. Reinforce your locks. A good door lock is nothing without a solid frame. Invest in a solid door jam and strike plate first, and then invest in good locks. Know the difference between a single-cylinder and a double-cylinder deadbolt. Double-cylinder deadbolts are recommended because they require a key to get in and out. For safety and emergency escape purposes, you must leave the key in when you are home. But double-cylinder locks are against regulations in some places, so check with your local police department’s crime prevention office.
  8. Blare the sirens. Burglars are usually in and out in less than five minutes, and they know police can’t respond to an alarm that quickly. Their bigger concern is witnesses to their crime. For that reason, an external siren is invaluable, whether as part of a monitored security system or a DIY alarm. Even if you don’t have an alarm, it’s not a bad idea to invest in fake security signs and post them near doors.
  9. Consider surveillance cameras. The Los Angeles Police Department started a program encouraging homeowners to install a device called Ring, a doorbell with video surveillance capability that allows homeowners to view what’s outside their door on their smartphone, in a neighborhood that was a target for burglaries. After Ring was installed in hundreds of homes, the burglary rate dropped by 55 percent, according to reports. Most state and local regulations require posting a warning that people are being recorded. (But again, this can be effective even if you don’t actually have the cameras installed!)
  10. Mark your valuables and record details. Use invisible-ink pens or engravers to mark identifying information (driver’s license or state ID numbers) on items. Log serial numbers and take photos of your belongings. Check to see if your police department participates in the Operation Identification program. They will have stickers for you to place on doors or windows warning would-be thieves that your items are marked. These steps may prevent them from pawning or selling stolen items and can help you reclaim recovered belongings.
FHA Loans are an Important Option in the Mortgage Market

FHA Loans are an Important Option in the Mortgage Market

FHA loans are government-backed loans that often have a much lower interest rate than a conventional (traditional) loan. Before you right off these loans as impossible options, keep in mind that millions of people are benefiting from them right now.  In fact, FHA has increased its loan amount to upwards of $250,000 in most areas, making FHA Loans an important option in the mortgage landscape.  Here are five ways that FHA loans can help you to obtain the home you are looking for, or help you in other ways.

5 Ways that FHA loans can help you get the home you are looking for:

#1: Lower Interest Rates: The main benefit of FHA loans is to provide individuals with a lower interest rate. If the FHA is backing your loan, you are less of a risk to the lender. Therefore, they agree to offer you a slightly lower interest rate. This translates into an interest rate that could save you thousands of dollars over the lifetime of that loan. That is money in your pocket.

#2: Better Qualifications: Many lenders have increased their standards in lending money. If you do not have a credit score over 700, then our best bet to getting a low interest rate home loan is with the FHA loans. You do not have to have as much down to qualify for these loans either (usually 3.5%)

#3: Help Getting Out of a High Interest Loan: Perhaps you have a high interest rate loan. You are paying much more than the current low rates that are available. FHA loans can help you to get a low rate even on refinances. Definitely, worth looking forward to since it will drastically cut the amount it costs to buy your home.

#4: You Need Help: There are a number of programs available through the FHA to help you to get out of a troublesome home loan. You can stop foreclosures and often stop your overall risk of losing your home by taking advantage of these programs. If you need this help, contact an FHA loan specialist today.

#5: You Are A First Time Home Buyer: For those who have yet to buy a home and are worried about doing so, FHA loans can help. These loans are highly affordable and they are ideal for the first time homebuyer unsure of what to do next.

FHA loans can help millions of people to get into the homes they want and need, or to protect them from losing their investment. Contact a professional today to learn if you qualify.

PLANNING A MOVE? REDUCE THE STRESS!

PLANNING A MOVE? REDUCE THE STRESS!

PLANNING A MOVE? REDUCE THE STRESS!

If you are planning to take that step and move into a new dwelling, or perhaps to a new city or community, here are some moving tips that will help you get through it as easy as possible. Keep in mind that getting organized FIRST and staying organized is the secret to a reduced-stress-move!

You may want to consider having a professional organizer handle your relocation. There are local organizers who will provide on-site energy, motivation, and fun – giving expert guidance for those tuff decisions you will have to make on what to keep and what to throw out!

If you have ever moved before, you will probably agree that it is best to let a professional moving company help you with your move including doing the packing. If you are moving long-distance, their packers are trained to do the job efficiently, guarding against breakage and loss. Plus, your household items will be insured by the company. It is a general rule that items labeled “packed by owner” (meaning anyone other than the mover) are not insured during the move.

As always, when considering a company to hire to assist with jobs such as moving or organizing, do your research. Comparing costs is one thing, but most importantly would be to make sure the company is a professional and responsible one. A business that provides moving services should only have bonded employees working for them, and an insurance policy that will cover damages to any items they transport. Checking customer and business reviews is a good way to better know who the company really is. It is not hard to check out service companies online or on your social networks – ask for recommendations from your friends on who they have successfully used.

When it comes to unpacking, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself. Keep in mind that when you pay movers to unpack, they don’t put anything away. So everything you own ends up on all surfaces, including the floor. Be sure to label the boxes with the content and location they belong to so the movers can place them in the appropriate place, then you go to work room by room, unpacking and placing the contents.

With so many things to consider in the process of a move, here are some helpful ideas:

1 – Create a moving notebook or folder or ask your Realtor for a MOVING CHECKLIST. Keep all of the paperwork related to your move in one place. Make notes, keep your checklist current, and keep receipts and documents.

2 – Log on to your utility sites or a website like https://myutilities.com/ that can manage all of your utility changes in one place. Shop and set up your utilities and complete your change of address notification. Most utility companies will allow you to search for and connect to the services you need in your new area including: electricity, water, gas, cable/satellite TV, Internet/phone, and more.

3 – Create a moving calendar to schedule and track all aspects and tasks required for a successful move, such as changing utilities, change of address notification, make hotel reservations, defrost the refrigerator, order storage container, pet lodging, etc.

4 – Do your research about resources such as housekeepers who clean empty homes, carpet cleaners, reputable van lines and technology specialists, etc. Ask your Realtor for local recommendations.

5 – It’s time for the “great-give-away”. Why move things you no longer need or use? Find another home for them: favorite charities, recycling centers, family members, and garage or estate sales. People want what you don’t need.

6 – Don’t forget that all-important survival box packed with your bed linens, coffee pot and other must-have items. This box should be last-on and first-off the moving van.

7 – Cash for tipping the packers, loaders, and driver for superior service. You want them to take good care of your belongings.

Congratulations! You and your stuff made it to your new digs. Now, save your back by using furniture moving pads to slide heavy furniture around – it’s a cinch and doesn’t scratch the flooring.

Today’s Opportunities are Better than Ever for Real Estate Investing

Today’s Opportunities are Better than Ever for Real Estate Investing

In today’s real estate market there are deals available for those who are ready to invest.In fact, today a buyer can buy real estate and have a better cash flow than in years past. A few years ago an investor would be happy with buying an investment property that could cash flow $200.00 a month over the mortgage payment. That was figured on a 20-year mortgage including taxes and insurance. Today you can buy rentals that will cash flow up to $400.00-$500.00 or more per month.

TODAY’S OPPORTUNITIES ARE BETTER THAN EVER.

 

 

Plan your future with rental houses in it. Buying investment property today comes with low interest rates, resulting in lower payments. PLUS, due to the high demand for housing across the country and in DFW, rent prices continue to rise.

Once you buy an investment property, follow the model of successful investors and hire a professional management company to handle the day-to-day minutia. Spend your time locating those real buys and let a property management company do the management.

Be sure to look at homes that need work. Mortgage companies are not generally interested in spending more funds repairing them, resulting in you getting a lower price. All sounds real simple, right? It doesn’t have to be complicated, following a few simple steps will help you get started. The following tips will keep you on track as you grow into a real estate mogul with successful investing!

5 TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL REAL ESTATE INVESTING

Make a plan – Determine how many houses you want to purchase per quarter, per year, and know how much cash-flow you want each property to produce for you over and above mortgage, insurance and expenses. Other items to plan for are:

  1. What areas do you want to target? Look for properties that meet your criteria in the areas that you choose.
  2. Look for a win/win in every purchase; it needs to work for you, the bank and the owner.
  3. Don’t get emotional, learn to negotiate – this a business purchase.
  4. Remember that ugly ducklings can be made beautiful. Look for properties you can fix up to increase the value of the neighborhood – which in turn increases your investment.
  5. Know your objectives – Write out your objectives for investing.

Do you want to –

> build future wealth on investments that will cash-flow itself while building a retirement income on a 20-year note,

> build short-term wealth that provides a monthly income from the cash-flow on a 30-year note,

> or, get immediate cash by buying low and flipping (fixing up and selling for a profit)?

Set your Parameters – Determine the parameters in advance, i.e. what type of house will you buy? What type of lease will you take? What can you afford to buy?

> Go for the lower maintenance, more popular styled home for your area: i.e. 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 2-car garage, central heat and air, with brick exterior. Remember, the better quality home the better quality tenant/lease you will be able to secure. Stay away from homes that require continuous maintenance and upkeep (i.e. homes with wood siding).

> Go with a minimum 2-year lease. A tenant who signs a 2-year lease will most likely sign for another 2 years, and another 2 years – you are already 6 years, into paying off your investment!

> Know how much money you can invest in a property without breaking YOUR bank! Look for REO’s and houses that have been on the market for a very long time (180 days +).

> Get your $$$$$ in order – Of course you will have to get your credit in order and have a good relationship with your lender.

Here are a few “secrets” from the experts to continue your success:

  • Have a 6 month “emergency” fund put back to protect you and your investments.
  • Save money to take care of your future. No one else can do this for you.
  • Pay attention to your business, your assets, what you are spending and what you are saving.
  • Learn to GIVE. It will come back to you.

Use a property management company – One of the biggest mistakes and “time guzzlers” is in trying to manage your investment properties yourself. Experts advise you NOT to manage your properties yourself…”don’t worry about the $45 and $50 items that need to be fixed at your property, instead focus on the $40,000 equities that are out there!”

A property management company will take care of these things for you, freeing your time and resources to develop your investment portfolio:

  • advertising your vacant property
  • thoroughly screening a prospective tenant
  • performing move-in, move-out and periodic inspections d. expediting emergency repairs
  • handling regular maintenance and upkeep of your property
  • overseeing any legal or collection issues

Real estate investing is a proven way to build wealth, and anyone can start! Use these simple tips to get started then contact Norma Langston to help you with your first purchase.

 

 

 

10 TIPS TO MAKING YOUR HOME MORE ECO-FRIENDLY

10 TIPS TO MAKING YOUR HOME MORE ECO-FRIENDLY

10 TIPS TO MAKING YOUR HOME MORE ECO-FRIENDLY

Did you know it’s possible to cut down your energy bill and reduce your carbon footprint without drastically changing your lifestyle at home? The following are several quick and easy ways to make your home more eco-friendly while keeping your home stylish and comfortable.

1. Swap those old bulbs

It’s possible to save more than 66% energy just by tossing out all your incandescent light bulbs and switching them with Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs. The difference is enough that you’ll save 400 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions for every incandescent light bulb you replace.

2. Use more extension leads

Sometimes, you’re using energy without even realizing it. By hooking up more appliances and electronics to the same multi socket extension leads, you can consume up to 15% less energy by turning the the extension leads off at night, when nothing is in use, or when you’re on vacation.

3. Look for the Energy Star seal

If an appliance is Energy Star Qualified it means that it is designed to consume much less energy than other models. Depending on the device, some can use anywhere from 10% less energy to even 50% less.

4. Use vinegar, the natural cleaner

Instead of buying chemical-heavy products, you can often just use vinegar as a green, natural multipurpose cleaner. Keep in mind that vinegar shouldn’t be used for everything, such as stone tile floors or hardwood floors.

5. Cook more efficiently

Although not every dish comes out as good, using a microwave can reduce energy consumption by up to 50% when compared to a conventional oven. It’s also wise to use certain cookware that don’t require as high a temperature, mainly: silicone, glass, and ceramic dishes. It’s also wise to only open a heated oven when you absolutely need to since opening the door for only 30 seconds can decrease the temperature by more than 100 degrees.

6. Use eco-friendly scents and paints

We all love using fragrances, especially in the bedroom. But those made of synthetic and chemical materials are not helping our planet. Instead, go for scents that are non-aerosol and made entirely of essential oils. Eco-paints also do their part by containing much less volatile organic compounds when compared to regular paints.

7. Watch for wasted water

You’d be surprised by how much water some people waste. For example, keeping the water running while the toothbrush is scrubbing away in your mouth is a big no-no. Leaving a leaky tap on the to-do list all year can also cost you nearly 200 liters of water per week.

8. Go for low-flow

Nothing uses more water in your home than the toilet. Although it’ll cost you some cash at first, replacing your old porcelain thrones with low-flow ones can drastically reduce water use and save you money in the long run. While you’re at it, you can also opt for low-flow showerheads to save thousands of liters of water a year, especially if you have a big family.

9. Hang dry once in awhile

Dryers require producing a lot of energy to heat up and dry your clothes in the time that they do. Give them a break occasionally by hang drying your clothes instead. And when you wash, try using cold water more often since doing so can save a whopping 85-90% of your energy when compared to using hot water.

10. Garden lover? Use water butts.

A water butt is a container designed to collect and store rainwater, normally for garden use. Putting one or more of these outside during the rainy season can reduce your water consumption by a lot once the hotter months arrive and you want to keep your precious plants alive. While we’re talking about gardens, it’s also very eco-friendly to compost your organic waste instead of buying fertilizers, pesticides, etc.

10 Benefits of Buying a Home at the End of the Year

10 Benefits of Buying a Home at the End of the Year

 Benefits of buying a home at the end of the year. . .

In addition to low interest rates, there are other benefits to buying at the end of the year, including:

Tax savings. Closing on your new home by Dec. 31, 2017, means you can deduct mortgage interest, property taxes and points on your loan on your 2017 income tax return. You can also deduct the interest costs associated with a home equity loan. These deductions are significant, especially in the early years of your loan when you are paying off so much interest.

Motivated Sellers. Many sellers will also be anxious to sell by the end of the year so that they can also enjoy tax savings on the next home they purchase. That means you may have more leverage during negotiations and they may be willing to accept lower than their listing price. However, if you’re in a strong seller’s market, be conservative and always seek the advice of your real estate professional.

Special Incentives. If you’re buying a new house, there’s a good chance builders will be offering incentives. Many builders will throw in nice little extras to sell as many houses as they can by the end of the year.

More visibility. Generally speaking, the housing market slows down in the fall as fewer homes are being listed. This gives your home a chance (with the right marketing) for higher visibility by serious buyers, not to mention that the weather in November makes it a great time for house hunting!

It’s easier to move. Many moving companies are booked six or so weeks in advance during the busy summer months. In the fall and winter it’s normally easier to secure the services of a moving company or rental equipment on shorter notice.

A new home for the holidays. The holiday season is a great time to celebrate your new home with family and friends.

In addition, you’ll enjoy the many benefits that come with homeownership, regardless of what time of year you buy, including:

Paying toward something you own. If you’re renting, your rent payment goes toward something that will last you a month — a place to live for 30 or so days. When you buy a house, your monthly mortgage payment goes toward something you own.

Consistent payments. Landlords have the discretion to increase your rent, plus it’s exposed to inflation. Once you secure a mortgage, you can rely on consistent payments (if you have a fixed-rate mortgage).

A place to make your own. When you own your house, you can update your kitchen, paint your home’s exterior in any color you choose, change your fixtures, and replace your carpeting – all with the knowledge that the changes you make are your own.

Gaining equity. In the beginning, most of your payment goes toward interest. But gradually more will go toward paying off your principal, meaning you build up equity – or savings – in your home. Another factor in equity is appreciation. As home values go up in your area, so too does your rate of equity.

If you are thinking about buying a new home, contact Norma and her team today to get more information about the options available to you.  

How to choose the right neighborhood – Part 2: Finding the real estate lifestyle that fits you

How to choose the right neighborhood – Part 2: Finding the real estate lifestyle that fits you

Whether you like big yards or hip nightclubs, there’s a community type that fits your lifestyle – here is a look at 12 neighborhood types that will help you decide what is right for you whether you are in Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas or Fort Worth.

1. Urban Core (Downtown) – Condos, apartments and skyscrapers in downtown Dallas

Where to find it:
Downtown, the heart of major metros

What you can call home:
Aging single family homes and apartments, modern luxury lofts and condos converted from old warehouses and multi-use developments

Your Neighbors:
Ethnically diverse mix of young single professionals, low to middle income families and seniors

Why You’ll Like It:
Affordable housing, eclectic mix of high-end and modest, close to nightlife and city attractions

Why You May Not:
Little to no public parking, typically has higher rate of crime, transients

2. Urban Pioneer (Up-and-Coming) – Modest, affordable older homes are the hallmark of urban pioneer neighborhoods.

Where to find it:
Near downtown and inner-ring suburbs
What you can call home:
Fixer uppers, older single family homes ranging in style from ranch to modern, garden-style apartment buildings

Your Neighbors:
Ethnically diverse mix of young singles and couples, recently divorced and single parents, aging retirees who have lived in the neighborhood for years, immigrants

Why You’ll Like It:
Cheaper homes that are likely to increase in value, working-class sensibility, new development

Why You May Not:
Construction noise and eyesores, neighbors who can’t renovate their homes

3. New Urban – Neo-traditional architectural styles are a staple in new urban neighborhoods.

Where to find it:
Near a business hub other than the city’s main downtown

What you can call home:
New single family homes in retro styles, upscale apartments and condos, lofts above businesses

Your Neighbors:
Educated, affluent-to-middle income couples with no or few children, young single professionals

Why You’ll Like It:
Close to work, shopping and nightlife

Why You May Not:
Too many hipsters, inflated home prices push some buyers out of the market

4. Cul-de-sacs & Kids (Bedroom) – The ‘burbs”, where yards are green and houses look alike.

Where to find it:
Suburbs and new subdivisions

What you can call home:
Large single family homes with manicured lawns and privacy fences, tract homes, newly built homes

Your Neighbors:
Middle-aged soccer moms and dads whose lives revolve around their children

Why You’ll Like It:
Lots of curb appeal, playmates for your children, active neighborhood associations and good schools

Why You May Not:
You’re single or don’t have children, not close to city hotspots, too generic

5. Pedestrian – Built to a human scale, the brownstone/townhomes neighborhoods are pedestrian friendly.

Where to find it:
Small pockets in major metros

What you can call home:
Cozy condos and apartments, lofts above businesses

Your Neighbors:
Hipsters and single professionals

Why You’ll Like It:
You don’t need a car to get what you need

Why You May Not:
Little to no parking, noise, density

6. Historic – The past rules in historic neighborhoods that were once the hub of the city

Where to find it:
Anywhere

What you can call home:
Large, well-preserved, older single family homes known for their architectural styles ranging from Victorian/Queen Anne to Colonial Revival

Your Neighbors:
Style-conscious middle-aged couples, aging adults who grew up in the neighborhood, home-improvement buffs

Why You’ll Like It:
Lots of curb appeal, history and character

Why You May Not:
Stringent home maintenance and style requirements

7. Status/Destination – A McMansion behind a gate: the essence of the status neighborhood.

 

Where to find it:
In the hills or mountains, by water, behind gates, under the trees

What you can call home:
Large, custom-built single family homes and McMansions on the water, in the hills, under the trees, with city views, in gated communities; plush penthouses and lofts in trendy, urban areas

Your Neighbors:
Affluent high-powered executives and wannabes, upper-middle income achievers, celebrities, millionaires

Why You’ll Like It:
Status, exclusivity, privacy, security

Why You May Not:
Keeping up with the Jones is hard work

8. Ethnic – Chinatown in Chicago or San Francisco are both classic examples of an ethnic neighborhood.

Where to find it:
Near downtowns in major metros

What you can call home:
Small apartments, older single family homes

Your Neighbors:
Immigrants from a particular ethnicity, young couples, budget-conscious singles

Why You’ll Like It:
Affordable housing, interesting cuisine and products

Why You May Not:
If you’re not the same ethnicity, you may feel like an outsider

9. Active/Resort – Palm Springs, California, is the epitome of an active resort area.

Where to find it:
Sunbelt and coastal cities, in the desert, by water or in the mountains

What you can call home:
Large single-family homes in newer architectural styles, luxury cabins, upscale condos

Your Neighbors:
Affluent and active middle-aged adults and seniors

Why You’ll Like It:
Outdoor activities to fit your lifestyle, tons of places to get a tan, go fishing or hiking

Why You May Not:
You’re a couch potato

10. Golf – Having dinner watching golfers on the ninth hole

Where to find it:
New subdivision surrounding a golf course

What you can call home:
Upscale single family homes and condos in mostly contemporary styles

Your Neighbors:
Families with young children, retirees, golf fanatics

Why You’ll Like It:
You love golf, tons of amenities

Why You May Not:
You hate golf

11. Retirement – A mobile home community in the Sunbelt where retirees go to look for better days

Where to find it:
Sunbelt and coastal cities

What you can call home:
Small, low-maintenance apartments and condos with all kinds of amenities

Your Neighbors:
Empty nesters, single seniors

Why You’ll Like It:
Weather, organized activities and social events

Why You May Not:
You’re young and single

12. Rural – If wide open spaces and no next-door neighbors are your bag, head to a rural place

Where to find it:
Miles from the city

What you can call home:
Custom-built homes with lots of acreage and room to grow

Your Neighbors:
Nature

Why You’ll Like It:
Space and privacy

Why You May Not:
Far from everything

Now that you know the different types of neighborhoods, call Norma and let her help you find the real estate lifestyle that is best for you.

 

How to Choose the Right Neighborhood – Part 1

How to Choose the Right Neighborhood – Part 1

How to Choose a Neighborhood – Finding the real estate lifestyle that fits you

5 steps to finding a place where you belong

If houses are like spouses, a neighborhood is like the extended family. But while you can have a good marriage and still dread holidays with the in-laws, you’ll never love a house if you don’t like your neighborhood. How can you choose the right community? Become a neighborhood detective. Figure out what you’re looking for, do research and find a neighborhood that fits your description.

 

STEP 1 — Profile Your Perfect Neighborhood

Before you start scrutinizing neighborhoods, turn the magnifying glass back on yourself.

Think about what you’re really looking for in a new neighborhood. Remember, you’ll probably have to make compromises, so put the “must-haves” at the top and the “would- like-to-haves” at the bottom.

Here are some things to consider:

· Do you have children or are you planning to have children anytime soon? Parents know that the first thing to do when looking at a neighborhood is to research the school system. Even if you’re single, living in an area with a much sought-after school system raises your property value. If you have kids, you’ll also want to live close to parks and community centers.

· What type of home do you want? Are you interested in a single-family home or an apartment, townhouse or condo?

· How far are you willing to commute? Do you plan to drive, walk or take mass transit to work? Factor in time, do you need to be home at a certain time after work?

· Do you want to be in a historic neighborhood or a new development? Historic neighborhoods have tons of character, but often require lots of repair work and are governed by community associations with strict standards. Newer developments have more modern features, but are typically far from the city center.

· What is your current community lacking? If you’re currently landlocked, but have always wanted to live on the water, put that at the top of your list. If you’re a coffee junkie, having a Starbucks down the street may be a dream come true.

· Do you want to be able to go places on foot? Would you like to be within walking distance of shops, restaurants and bars? Or would you be willing to drive to nearby businesses?

· Think about what you don’t want in a neighborhood, too. If you can’t stand late-night noise, you’ll probably want to steer clear of the college area or an area with a lively bar scene.

STEP 2 — Zero In on the Area

If you’re moving within the same city, you may already know the various neighborhoods. Choose the ones that best match your list of wants. If you’re moving to a new city, you’ll have to do more research. Start by picking a part of town to search in. For instance, if your job is on the west side of town, start there. In a really large city, narrow it down to a few-block radius. This will make your search more focused.

 

STEP 3 — Get the Suspects

With your area of the city in mind, start digging up information. Find interesting neighborhoods online, ask local real estate agents for recommendations, and compile all the background information you can, including:

· School information: Look into the local public and private elementary, junior and high schools, as well as daycare programs.

· Crime statistics: Most real estate sites have statistics that tell you how the zip code’s crime rates measure up to the national average. If you want specifics, call the local police station.

· Parks and recreation: How far is it to the closest park or recreation center?

· Neighborhood associations: Does the community you’re looking at have one, and, if so, are there lawn or construction restrictions? Is there a yearly fee?

· Tourist attractions: Get a guidebook or check out the convention and tourism bureau’s Web site to see all the city has to offer.

STEP 4 — Find the Clues

Once you’ve done the background research, visit neighborhoods that made the preliminary grade in person. There’s no better way to paint a real picture of life in the neighborhood. Use your senses to get a complete picture of the prospective community.

 

Sights:

· Remember your first impression. What do you notice first about the neighborhood? Do the streets have curb appeal? Are the houses well-maintained? Do the shops and restaurants look hip and inviting? You’ll want to feel good about where you call home, and impress buyers when you’re ready to move on.

· Visualize yourself in the neighborhood. Think of your daily routine. If you can’t live without a morning latte, is there a coffee shop nearby? Where will you walk your dog or go jogging? You’ll enjoy the neighborhood more if it’s easy to do what you like.

· Observe the neighborhood at different times of the day. Driving through will help you get a snapshot of life in the community — good and bad. Do the roads turn into a parking lot after school or during rush hour? Are people using grills or decks in the evening? Are neighbors and kids socializing or do people keep to themselves? Are the streets well-lit at night? These visual clues can help you decide if you’ll fit in.

· Make sure the local schools make the grade. Even if you don’t have kids, pay a visit to the nearby schools. High ratings are great, but seeing the buildings is much more telling. It will be easier to sell your house later if the schools are nice.

· Look for warning signs. Be on the lookout for signs that the neighborhood is in trouble. Do you see abandoned buildings or vandalism? Are there a lot of “For Sale” signs or rentals? If the community goes downhill, so does your house’s value.

Sounds:

· Stop and listen. Bird and nature sounds are generally pleasant, but what about noise from the highway, airport, hospital, train tracks or nearby clubs and bars? It’s not very relaxing to listen to trains screech by during your morning coffee — especially not every morning.

· Talk to your future neighbors. Ask how they like the area, and get the dirt on anything they don’t like about the place. What do they want to change? What’s their favorite place to hang out? If they’re rude to you, they probably wouldn’t be good neighbors anyway.

· Talk to more people. You’ll get the best information from regular people who live and/or work in the are. Hit up your waiter for information when you’re checking out the local food, or ask a gas station attendant to spill what they know about your chosen neighborhood.

Smells:

· Specifically, are there any? You can’t experience unpleasant smells on the Internet and they’re not advertised in tourism brochures, but they can certainly affect your decision to live in an area. Take a big whiff of the air, and ask around if you smell any fishy (or just bad) odors.
Taste:

· No, I’m not asking you to lick your prospective home’s mailbox. But ask yourself if the neighborhood matches your taste in a living environment — and if it meets your criteria. Just because it’s a nice neighborhood doesn’t mean it’s the one for you. If the neighborhood meets your list but still feels wrong, search out another area. Trust your gut feeling — after all, you’re the one who has to live there.

STEP 5 — Close the Case

You’ve chosen your neighborhood. Now for the hard part: finding a house you love. Luckily, you’ve narrowed it down to a few streets. Now, make sure to:

· Find out how much house you can afford. The amount of money a lender offers you is often more than you can truly afford to pay. Talk to a mortgage specialist to see how much you can afford. You don’t want to be stuck eating ramen noodles for the next 15 to 30 years.

· Compare your loan options. Visit with a mortgage loan professional to find out what mortgage is right for you. Decide between fixed and adjustable rate mortgages, then length of the loan, the terms and rates that are available. Use a handy RENT vs OWN comparison tool to explore various rate options and find out the cost difference in owning your own home.

· Draw up your vision of home. It worked for your neighborhood — now think about what you want in a home. Write out your vision of your home, your wants and your needs, and stick to it while you’re house hunting. Educate yourself on difference architectural styles and the most current trends and amenities on the market.

· Find the perfect house! Go online and begin your search for homes in the Dallas/Fort Worth Market or visit www.NormaLangston.com and search for the perfect property!

Don’t Budge: 7 Compromises You Should Never Make When Buying a Home

Don’t Budge: 7 Compromises You Should Never Make When Buying a Home

Every successful home search begins with a wish list. Armed with your inventory of must-haves, you’ll know how to focus your search and recognize a potential home that isn’t worth your time.

Still, there’s a strange thing that seems to happen when you’re deep in the trenches of house hunting: The more you look, the longer that wish list seems to grow. But sooner or later, you have to own up to the fact that you can’t have everything—it’s inevitable that you’ll make some compromises somewhere.

And, in these days of tight inventory and cutthroat competition from other buyers, you might feel forced to waver far afield from your hallowed wish list in order to land a home.

That’s OK—it’s important to be flexible. But there are a few times when you absolutely should draw the line. Here are seven areas where you’ll want to dig in your heels.

1. Buying a fixer-upper when you really want turnkey

You have never swung a hammer, have a phobia of power tools, and always pictured yourself in something new and shiny. But that doesn’t mean you won’t fall in love with a charming, century-old farmhouse that needs a ton of work. Now’s when you have to decide: Are you up to the financial and emotional challenges of taking on major renovations?

It’s an option you should seriously consider (with the help of an experienced general contractor) if you’re in a highly competitive market. But if you don’t think your bank account or your marriage could survive many months of upheaval, stick to your guns and insist on a turnkey home.

2. A good school district

Even if you don’t have children, you should make sure the house you’re eyeing has desirable schools nearby.

Does it matter if you’re not looking to have a few kids? Well, things can always change. But even if they don’t, good schools typically translate to a higher resale value—potential buyers with families will want to be in the right district.

Just make sure to do your research and determine where the home sits in relation to the school district boundaries.

Sometimes a property may be advertised as being near such-and-such school area, but not necessarily specify the district, which can be very confusing. Go to the school district’s website to get a map of the district boundaries.

3. The floor plan

Does the home fit your minimum criteria in terms of number of rooms and the flow of the main living areas? If not, cross it off your list.

Stick to your guns when it comes to layout – if you NEED four bedrooms, then don’t waiver on that. You can change a layout to make it an open floor plan, but it’s a lot more difficult to change the bedroom and bathroom count. In the long run, you could end up having a lot of problems and taking on a really big financial undertaking.

4. The neighbors

During your search, don’t just focus on the house you’re interested in—check out the neighboring homes as well. Are the properties well-kept, or candidates for an episode of “Hoarders”?

The condition of the properties around you can affect your future resale value. And they can just plain drive you crazy. Make sure you look—and listen—any time you visit your prospective home.

You can’t change the house in front of you or to the side of you, and if there’s a barking dog every time you’re viewing the property, that’s another thing that you absolutely cannot change.

5. Your budget

You’ve probably already determined how much you’re willing to pay for a home—and you shouldn’t budge on that number. But you should also dig in your heels on the additional costs beyond the sticker price. That means setting a budget for your monthly payments, HOA dues, utility costs, and real estate taxes—and sticking to it. (Hint: You want to do this before you start looking at homes, and definitely before you start making offers.)

Yes, a lender will give you a pre-approval and tell you how much house you can afford. But this is just one piece of the puzzle, and the costs of homeownership can still land you in a mountain of debt if you’re not careful.

Preplan carefully with your agent, you never want to be house poor.

6. Commute time

If you’ve already determined that you’re willing to take on a 30-minute commute, don’t be swayed to take something that’s even a few minutes longer.

Sometimes buyers fall in love with all the shiny bells and whistles of a house that’s an hour away from work, and want to compromise on what they have decided ahead of time. It doesn’t matter right now because you really love this house, but that’s two hours every day that you’ll be sitting in the car and not enjoying your house. Is that worth it to you?

Until you’ve actually driven the route to and from your potential home and your office, at the times you’ll be commuting, you should never consider compromising.

In some large cities, being just a few miles from the highway can tack on an additional hour of commuting. Could you handle that after a long day in the office? Think carefully before making the sacrifice.

7. Parking

Speaking of your car, if you own one (or two), you absolutely want a guaranteed spot to park, whether that means an enclosed garage, a driveway, or assigned parking.

There are many communities that now restrict outside parking, guest spaces, and overnight parking, which could be a real homeowner nightmare if you have to fend for yourself.

To avoid frustration after you’ve closed a deal, stick to your guns about the things that are most important to you while making your choice, and ignore the rest of the noise.

—————

ATTENTION FIRST-TIME BUYERS: HERE’S THE KEY STUFF YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT MORTGAGES

ATTENTION FIRST-TIME BUYERS: HERE’S THE KEY STUFF YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT MORTGAGES

Attention First-Time Buyers: Here’s the Key Stuff You Don’t Know About Mortgages

When it comes to mortgages, there’s a big gap between what people think they need in order to get one and the reality of what buyers are successfully doing—especially young people.

But you know what? When it comes to what might be the biggest purchase of your life—one that can be incredibly intimidating for first-time buyers—it’s nice to know real facts. And in the mortgage market, reality is very often different from perception. Or, for that matter, myth.

Last week, the National Association of Realtors® issued its 2017 Aspiring Home Buyers Profile report. The report cites data from surveys taken in the third quarter of 2016 about down payments.

The report summarized that 39% of nonowners believe they need more than 20% for a down payment on a home, 26% believe they need to put down 15% to 20%, and 22% believe a down payment of 10% to 14% would work.

So on average, those nonowners thought a down payment would need to be about 16%. The reality? The average down payment on purchase mortgages in 2016 was 11%.

In fact, when we drill into the purchase mortgages taken out by people under 35, who represent the majority of first-time buyers, we see the average down payment was even lower, at just under 8%. In other words, aspiring first-time buyers think it takes twice as much to buy a home than it really does.

Perception, meet reality

But averages can be misleading, right? Especially when there is a wide distribution, like we observe with down payments. When we dig into what actually happened in 2016 we find that most young people buy homes with … less than 5% down. That’s less than one-third of what the average nonowner had assumed!

As with many things in life, the most correct answer to the question of how much you need to put down is “it depends.” There are a slew of important factors like who you are, your financial circumstances, the home’s location, and the price of the home.

It is possible to buy a home with a mortgage with no money down. VA and USDA loans are the most popular loans that offer the ability to put no money down. In 2016, 16% of buyers under 35 put no money down.

The largest share (36%) of loans for buyers under 35 in 2016 was for people putting down something less than 5%. The options there include loans offered through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but also 3% down payment programs backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (aka conforming loans). And, of course, this includes the traditional 3.5% FHA mortgage that is primarily targeted to first-time buyers.

More than half of young people who successfully bought a home with a mortgage in 2016 put at most 5% down. The average dollar amount for these buyers was $3,500. That’s right, if you have #FOMO from your friends buying homes, the majority of them are putting down just a few thousand dollars.

How are they doing it? The aforementioned mortgage products (conforming, FHA, VA, and USDA) represent almost 99% of the mortgages to people under 35 in 2016. There is nothing exotic about this.

And it doesn’t require perfect credit, just fair credit. The average FICO was 713, and the floor we observed in FICOs (below which very few mortgages were made) was 639.

Put that all together and you can see that for the millennial dreaming of buying a home this year, you need a FICO score of at least 639 and enough money that you could put down at most 5%. If you live in a typical American town, what you need could be as little as $3,500.

That sounds a lot more attainable than most people think. The truth is out there! Take advantage of it.

Article source: Jonathan Smoke for Realtor.com.

BUYING A HOME: REVISITING SOME OF THE LESSONS OUR PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS LEARNED LONG AGO

BUYING A HOME: REVISITING SOME OF THE LESSONS OUR PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS LEARNED LONG AGO

When preparing to buy a home, it is good to revisit some of the lessons our parents and grandparents learned long ago.

HOW MUCH CAN I AFFORD?

Your housing budget depends on your situation and priorities. Two-income households with strong earnings potential can probably spend a little bit more than one-income households — as your income rises over the years, your housing costs are likely to become a smaller piece of your expenses. (Of course, that is not necessarily the case if you later buy a bigger house.) The same goes for individuals who have saved extra money or people who may earn less, like teachers, but who are unlikely to lose their jobs. Just be sure you stick with a plain-vanilla 30-year fixed mortgage because payments will remain steady.

One exercise I remember from school involves simple math and planning. Write down all of your expenses. Break them down into expenses that are fixed (utilities, groceries, auto expenses, insurance, etc.) and variable (everything else). Now, look at the variable costs…what am I willing to give up that could be reallocated toward housing?

Another exercise is to start by establishing savings goals, and then working backward. Set aside 10 to 15 percent of your salary, preferably in tax-deferred accounts, and then work with what’s left over for living expenses and housing costs.

DO THE MATH

Before you start hitting open houses, sketch out a rough budget based on the 28 percent rule of thumb, using a simple mortgage calculator. For instance, a family that earns $10,000 a month — or about $7,000 after taxes — should keep their total monthly housing costs, including mortgage, taxes and insurance, to about $2,800 a month. In one example, the family may be able to spend $440,000 on a home, or about 3.6 times their annual income, as long as they can come up with a 20 percent down payment (and closing costs). If they finance the remaining $352,000 with a 30-year mortgage with a fixed rate of 5.5 percent (of course lower rates are available, but let’s be conservative here), that would translate into a monthly payment of about $2,000, leaving $800 to pay real estate taxes and insurance. That leaves $4,200 of their monthly after-tax income to pay for everything else, giving them some breathing room.

DOWN PAYMENT

A higher down payment is usually required, but if you have a good credit score, you can get by today with historically lower down payments (FHA loans are also an option). If you do not, or cannot afford a higher down payment, it can cost you dearly in the form of a higher interest rate or fees. The ability to put down at least 20 percent is often emblematic of your financial discipline and ability to afford the monthly payment.

TAXES

Consider the tax savings associated with buying a home, but do not use it as an excuse to buy more than you can afford. Property taxes and mortgage interest are generally tax-deductible, but only if you itemize your deductions. Itemizing makes sense when your individual deductions exceed the standard deduction. For many taxpayers in the 28 percent tax bracket who itemize, a $350,000 mortgage may reduce their tax bill by as much as $5,357 in the first year of the mortgage. Since you pay more in interest in the loan’s early years, your tax savings will decline over time.

RESERVES

Ideally, homeowners should have six months of net pay in the bank. But if you halve that figure and save three months of your take-home pay that generally translates into eight months of payments. That does not account for food and other necessities, but it does provide some cushion. Two-income households can get away with just a few months of savings put aside, but single-breadwinner households should have at least six months. You also need to account for unforeseen costs.