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How to Know When a Home is Worth Buying

To buy a home, or to not buy a home. It’s a common debate for many people. There’s no denying that renting is basically paying for someone else’s monthly mortgage without receiving any equity from the property, but that does not always mean that buying a home is the better option for each individual. Everyone’s situation is different, and home buying can be expensive. People’s lifestyles also change and their motives for wanting to buy a house are just as varied. Determining whether or not it’s worth buying a home has a lot to do with individual specifics. It’s highly recommended to speak with a real estate agent who can give you detailed real estate advice based on the information you provide. However, the general costs and rewards of home buying can be found right now to help steer you in the right direction.

Maintenance Costs

When you buy a home, you are taking on the responsibility of maintenance costs. They’re inevitable for all homeowners, but they can be significant depending on the specific property. Before buying a home, maintenance costs and unexpected repairs must be considered. It’s recommended to hold back 1% of the home’s value annually for maintenance and appliance replacement, but that does not cover unexpected repairs.

Property Taxes

Property taxes can be a significant expense. The actual amount can fluctuate, and this must be considered before buying a home. There are a variety of factors to determine the amount of property taxes, such as the area, state, and local budget cuts, renovations, as well as many other things.

House Insurance

Many mortgage loan lenders require homeowners to have house insurance. Unlike rental insurance, which covers possessions, homeowners’ insurance covers both possessions and the cost of the property. Although it’s an extra expense, it’s beneficial to have even if it is not required. As for the cost of home insurance, it depends on the specifics, but you can get an estimate by dividing the home’s value by 1000, and then multiplying that by 3.5.

Tax Deductibility

A benefit that comes when you buy a home is the tax deductibility of mortgage interest. This number is hard to estimate from a general standpoint because it greatly depends on your specific financial situation. However, owning a home can provide you more savings than if you were to rent, simply because of the tax deductible.

Home’s Value Appreciating

The appreciation of a home’s value is generally high. However, this can change rather quickly depending on the housing market, as well as many other factors. ABC News estimates home prices will appreciate around 3%, according to the historical average. The thing that many people forget is that as a home’s value increases, the cost of maintenance and insurance does as well, due to inflation.

In terms of liquid money, home ownership won’t bring you much of that. However, buying a home does have the potential to bring you a high return on investment. More importantly, your monthly bills go towards something you own. When renting, you’re essentially paying someone else’s mortgage without receiving any ownership. Many additional factors also need to be considered when determining if buying a home is worth it, such as whether you want to buy a home as an investment property, plan on flipping the house, or want to retire in it. The first step is to answer the inevitable question, “Can I afford a home?” and these general guidelines can help you determine that.

How To Move Out Without a Hitch

Well, dear home sellers, we’ve come a long way—together! From the first coat of paint you used to freshen up your house’s trim to the stress of wrangling your way to a deal, we’ve been with you every step of the way. Now you’ve made it to the final hurdle of selling a home: moving on out!

Don’t worry, this is the easy part… but you want to do it right. Here’s how to get through the last leg of your journey without a hitch.

Get your timeline in order

Once the paperwork is signed at closing, the buyers will officially own the house … and you won’t. That means that, technically, if you or your stuff is still there after the close, the buyer could evict you. So make sure to have your exit strategy in place!

Still, most buyers will understand if you need a bit more time and have a legitimate reason—like if you can’t move until the weekend due to your work schedule. Just be sure to discuss these issues as soon as possible before the close, so your buyers can plan accordingly.

Decide what to leave behind

To make sure you’re leaving behind everything the buyer wanted—and that you agreed to—double-check the closing documents. There should be an itemized list of what comes with the house. And even if the buyers didn’t formally request them, it’s just good form to leave certain types of things behind.

Such as? Generally speaking, you should leave anything that’s bolted to the wall. Some homeowners want to take their fans and blinds to the next home, but generally if it’s screwed in, it stays.

Also, if you and the buyers agreed to transfer any services—such as alarm monitoring or pest control—be sure to set that up before you go. Leave the buyers a detailed note in the house, or ask your agent to get in touch with theirs to make sure the transfer goes smoothly.

If you do inadvertently take an item that the buyers had requested, they have the right to ask for it back—and they could potentially sue you in civil court for the cost of a replacement. So, when in doubt, feel free to check with the buyers before you grab and go.

But don’t leave anything else behind

Just as important as what you leave behind is what you don’t. Your buyers have a right to move into a home that’s been cleared of furniture and other movable items they didn’t expressly request.

Some folks leave all kinds of unwanted clothes, furniture, paint cans, and other items, thinking they are helping the buyers. If you truly think your buyers might love to have your old planting pots or kiddie equipment, go ahead and ask—but please don’t assume they’ll welcome your leftovers.

Even if you’re careful, you might forget something—at which point the buyers may contact their agent to get it back to you, but they also have the legal right to just keep or get rid of it. So double-check areas (e.g., the attic, garage, basement, storage shed, kitchen, and bathroom drawers) where people commonly overlook items.

Clean up

It’s common courtesy to leave the place not only clear of your possessions, but also clean. However, that doesn’t mean you have to leave it immaculate.

In most cases, a simple broom-clean will do. That means wiping down the countertops, cleaning out drawers, sweeping or vacuuming all the floors, and giving the bathroom and kitchen appliances a once-over so the new owners aren’t grossed out when they arrive.

Wait! Are you forgetting anything?

Before you close the door for the last time, run through a quick checklist. Did you eyeball every room for stray items? Have you forwarded your mail and turned off the utilities? Is the water running in the pool? Have you left behind incriminating evidence of a capital crime? (We’re kidding on that last part … we think.)

We all get in a bit of a rush even in the best planned moves, but you won’t be able to get back in, so it can’t hurt to do a final run-through.

Once you’re ready, it’s time to leave. You can drop a line to your Comey & Shepherd Realtor® to let her know you’re out, although it’s usually a courtesy more than a necessity. If you’re feeling truly gracious, feel free to leave a note, card, or bottle of bubbly congratulating the people who’ve inherited your former home. Given all the fond memories you’ve built between those walls, wouldn’t it be nice to start the home’s new owners off on the right foot?

And buy yourself some Champagne, too. Make it the good stuff—you’ve earned it.

How to Prepare Your Home For Fall

The days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting cooler. The kids are trudging off to school again with their backpacks and light jackets, and leaves are starting to fall from the trees.

Yep, it’s official: Fall is here. Now is the time to finish up any last-minute late-summer maintenance projects, and get your home and yard ready for fall.

Just follow our easy checklist, and your home will soon be clean, warm, and ready for the cool days to come.

Exterior prep

  • Fix cracks in concrete and asphalt. Depending on where you live, these may be the last weeks this year when it will be warm and sunny enough to repair driveway and sidewalk cracks.
  • Clean out the gutters. No one loves this job, but we all need to do it annually. A few hours of work can prevent big problems later on. And while you’re up on that ladder, visually inspect your roof for damaged shingles, flashing, or vents. You can also inspect the chimney for any missing mortar, and consider tuck-pointing if needed.
  • Turn off outdoor plumbing. Drain outdoor faucets and sprinkler systems, and cover them to protect them from freezing weather to come.
  • Start composting. If you don’t already have compost bins, now is the time to make or get some. All those accumulated autumn leaves will bring you gardening gold next summer!
  • Clean outdoor furniture and gardening tools. It may not be quite time yet to put them away, but go ahead and make sure your outdoor furniture and gardening tools are cleaned up and ready for storage over the winter.
  • Plant bulbs for spring-blooming flowers. A joyous and beautiful sign of spring is when tulips and daffodils start popping up everywhere. Plant bulbs in October, as soon as the soil has cooled down, to reap big rewards next spring. If you’ve never planted bulbs before, select a spot in your yard that gets full sun during the day.

Interior prep

  • Prepare your furnace for winter duty. If you didn’t already do it last spring, consider getting your furnace professionally serviced in time for the cold season. At the minimum, though, visually inspect your furnace and replace the furnace filter before turning it on for the first time.
  • Clean the fireplace and chimney. Clean out the fireplace, make sure the flue is operating properly, and that doors and shields are sound. Have the chimney professionally swept if needed. Now is the time to stock up on firewood!
  • Keep the warm air inside and the cold air outside. Inspect your windows and doors. Check weather stripping by opening a door, placing a piece of paper in the entryway, and closing the door. The paper should not be able to slide back and forth easily. If it does, the weather stripping isn’t doing its job. Also, now is the time to re-caulk around windows and door casings if needed.
  • Light the way. Bring as much light into your home as you can for the colder, darker months. To accentuate natural light, clean your windows and blinds, especially in rooms that get a lot of sunlight. Add lighting to darker spaces easily with new lamps. And consider replacing traditional incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs.
  • Create a mudroom. Even if you don’t have a dedicated mudroom in your home, now is a good time to think about organizing and stocking an entryway that will serve as a “mudroom” area for cold and wet weather. Put down an indoor/outdoor rug to protect the floor. A fun and rewarding weekend project is to build a wooden shoe rack, coat rack, or a storage bench for your entryway.
  • Home safety check. Replace the batteries in your smoke alarms and CO2monitors. A good way to remember to do this is to always replace the batteries when you change the clock for “fall back.” Create a family fire escape plan, or review the one you already have. Put together an emergency preparedness kit so that you are ready for winter power outages.

Once you finish with your autumn home checklist, you will be ready to relax in your warm, comfortable home, and enjoy the season.

How to test drive a home before making an offer

When it comes to assessing a potential new home, the savvy buyer knows to relentlessly sleuth for any hidden problems. Like you would at a car dealership, test drive your potential future home for important features that easily go unnoticed. That waterfall shower head is beautiful, but how’s the water pressure? If the laundry area is near the living room, can you still hear the TV when the dryer is going? Do the neighbors frequently enjoy late-night soirees? Make like a crime-scene detective and put your potential home to the test — before you submit an offer.

1. See what the neighbors are like

Before you step foot in a potential new place, play the role of private investigator and do a few drive-bys. What’s the foot traffic like in the neighborhood? Do the strolling neighbors look more like young professionals or marrieds with children? How much noise do the neighbors make? (Sneak in a Saturday night visit to get the full taste.) If you drive to work, test your morning and evening commutes and time how long it takes you.

2. Head out on a walking tour

Once you’ve stalked the place by vehicle, it’s time to repeat on foot. See how long it takes you to get to the nearest coffee shop or restaurant, and make sure you love the local cuisine or cup of joe. (A walkability score considers only quantity, not quality, of amenities.) Scope out the nearest public transportation stations while gauging the condition of sidewalks and public plantings — a well-manicured neighborhood usually suggests stronger civic engagement.

3. Test out the plumbing

Don’t get seduced by the stand-up shower with the exposed copper pipes and wraparound glass doors — try it out yourself. (Really, it’s not that weird.) How hard is the pressure? How quickly does the water heat up? Test the bathroom and kitchen sinks while you’re at it. Water pressure shouldn’t be a deal breaker, but low pressure could indicate a damaging leak and more water problems (and expenses) down the road.

4. Open the windows

Even if it’s chilly, open a few windows, especially in the room that may be your future master bedroom. This is a good way to check if any windows are stuck, but also an opportunity to listen. Can you hear a lot of traffic or neighborly noise? Do your windows seem to bring in a lot of cross breezes, or do neighboring buildings block the airflow? When the windows are closed, can you feel drafts around the edge of the frames? Windows are crucial for the look and feel of your home.

5. Inspect the home’s natural lighting

If the open house happens on a cloudy day, schedule a follow-up visit when the sun is out. See how the natural light flows through each room, especially high-traffic areas. If a room seems especially dark, consider whether the paint color is causing the problem. On the same note, you’ll want to see how dark the bedrooms can get. Close all the shades in all the bedrooms and see if the light still filters through; you might want to throw room-darkening shades onto your shopping list.

6. Keep your ears open for any unwanted noise

This is a biggie — condo sounds in particular can drive homeowners insane. Make multiple visits to a unit to catch surrounding neighbors when they’re home and making noise. If there are multiple condos for sale in the building, bring a friend and have her walk around upstairs or in the adjacent unit to see how noise travels. And be sure to ask if children live in the building; the pitter-patter of little feet is far less charming to those who live below them.
Once you’ve assessed noise levels, you should determine how sound travels within the home. Turn on the dryer to hear how loud it is. March around in the guest bedroom to determine how thick the walls are. If you’ll need to invest in sound insulation and throw rugs, it’s better to know now.

7. Scope out storage space

Some sellers clear their homes of all clutter, but many don’t. Rather than turn up your nose at an overstuffed bedroom closet, take out the tape measure and record some dimensions. The space may be larger than it seems; you can also take those measurements home and plan out a closet scheme online to see how much stuff it can really handle.

8. Don’t forget your marbles

Are those newly stained hardwood floors level? Bring a marble to find out. Discreetly place the marble on the hardwood floors: Does it stay put or start rolling? If the slope is especially steep, there might be a structural problem at play, but even a slightly uneven floor can become a bargaining chip.

Source: Trulia.com

How to use your home equity in retirement

(BPT) – Most of us save and plan for decades to enjoy the period of our life when we no longer need to go into the office and work an eight-hour day for a paycheck.

But even with those decades of hard work, it can be tough to save up enough cash to cover all your costs in retirement. Many soon-to-be-retirees face a shortage between what they saved for retirement and what they actually need to live on.

For homeowners, that may be a problem that’s relatively easy to solve. Tapping into the equity in your home can help you stretch your nest egg quite a bit further.

Use a home equity loan or line of credit

You can tap the equity in your home with a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit (known as a HELOC). A home equity loan works like most other loans: you agree to borrow a set amount of money, receive a lump sum, and pay that back with interest and in installments each month.

A HELOC works a little differently, because it’s not a loan with pre-determined monthly payments. Instead, it’s a revolving line of credit, similar to a credit card. You usually have between five and 25 years to borrow against a certain amount of equity and repay (with interest) whatever you take out.

The time during which you can use the HELOC is called the draw period. The line of credit revolves during this period, so you can borrow and repay the balance multiple times. The total amount is due back in full with interest at the end of the draw period. Any time you have an amount outstanding, you will make monthly payments.

You can use a HELOC or home equity loan during retirement, but remember that you will need to pay the money back. You should have a plan in place for how to repay the funds — and the interest — before you agree to take a loan or a line of credit on your home.

Use a home ownership investment

A home ownership investment is a powerful way to unlock some of the equity in your home without taking out a loan.

The Unison HomeOwner program can unlock up to $500,000 of your home equity and the money can be used for anything you want — including paying monthly expenses, paying off debt or making home improvements. Because it’s a home ownership investment, not a loan, there are no monthly payments and no interest charges. Learn more at www.unison.com/homeowner.

Unison invests in the home alongside you. In return for the company’s investment in your home, they receive a portion of the future change in the value of your home. Unison shares both the upside and downside risk with you. When you choose to sell your home, up to 30 years later, if the home value rises, both you and Unison share in the appreciation. If the home value falls, both you and Unison share the loss.

Consider a reverse mortgage

A reverse mortgage can allow homeowners 62 years or older to turn equity in their homes into cash in a way that provides them with the income they need through retirement. You can get your cash in a lump sum or in monthly payments, or in a line of credit.

But it’s important to remember that a reverse mortgage is still a loan that comes with origination fees and interest charges. It requires that you have no other debt on your property, so if you have an existing mortgage loan, you will have to repay that in full from the reverse mortgage proceeds. You will also need to pay the reverse mortgage loan back when you move out of the home, sell it or pass away.

A reverse mortgage can give you income in retirement and whenever the home is sold, the money is used to pay off the loan. However, reverse mortgages can cause a lot of trouble if you’re not careful, and the high fees that you incur when you sell the home can leave you in a worse financial position than if you skipped the reverse mortgage altogether.

Source: Brandpoint.com

How to use color psychology to influence the mood of your home

(BPT) – Looking to make a few changes around the house? A fresh coat of paint can make a big difference on the look of your home and how you feel living in it. But unless you’re a color expert, it’s hard to know what colors are best among the endless array of options. A great place to start is by understanding the psychology behind various colors, so that you can achieve the look and create the effect you want in each room.

“Color is such an important factor in setting or improving our moods; it greatly influences human emotion and behavior,” says Dr. Sally Augustin, a color psychologist who applies science-based insights to how we experience colors. “The brain interacts with color in a variety of ways, from calming to energizing. By applying color psychology to your paint selections, you can make each room evoke the emotions you desire.”

Most people talk about neutrals like black and white, according to a new color study conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Sherwin-Williams through listening to social media conversation about colors mentioned with areas of the home. But when asked directly, the majority of participants say more vibrant colors should be used throughout the home, such as blue, red and green.

Based on this new research and Dr. Augustin’s insights on color psychology, here are some ideas on choosing colors for painting projects:

In the mood for blue: If you’re drawn in by beautiful blues, you’re in good company. Sixty-two percent of Americans select blue as one of the colors they like the most. This strong preference for blue is consistent across genders, locations and age, making a blue like Adriatic Sea SW 6790 a good choice if you’re considering more vibrant colors, or if you’re painting a room in a home that you plan to sell soon.

“No matter where you go on the planet, people are most likely to say that their favorite color is blue. In our primordial past, blue was linked to good things in our lives. It is the color of the sky on a fair weather day and also a color of a watering hole seen from a distance,” Dr. Augustin says.

Black comes back: It may be surprising that black is the second most popular color (32 percent), and is especially liked among millennials, at 41 percent. Many have fallen in love with darker tones again, and dark black like Tricorn Black SW 6258 and even charcoal, navy and deep jewel tones are all gaining in popularity, adding urban sophistication to a wide range of spaces, from living rooms to kitchens.

What green really means: Generations see green hues differently. Millennials associate it with energy (33 percent compared to 24 percent of Gen Xers and baby boomers). Boomers are more likely than millennials to associate green with calmness (26 percent vs. 20 percent). When it comes to the psychology of green, the color seems to enhance creative thinking, making a green such as Derbyshire SW 6741 a good option for a study or for a stimulating playroom.

Raving for red: According to Dr. Augustin, since red is also the color of many fine wines, painting a wall Rave Red SW 6608 in a dining room can appropriately call wine to mind. Red also offers people a burst of strength, making it an effective color choice for spaces like laundry rooms, where “heavy lifting” is done. According to the survey, almost half of Americans (49 percent) said the most associated emotion with the color red is excitement.

Cheery vibes with yellow: Forty-two percent of Americans associate yellow with happiness. The color yellow is also psychologically linked to physical warmth. Other golden colors that are a bit darker, such as Cut the Mustard SW 6384, would work in a kitchen dining area, as warm colors stimulate appetite and can make a space seem cozy.

What’s right about white: The top feeling most Americans associate with white is calmness (34 percent). In color psychology, white also signals cleanliness, so shades of white can be good choices for the bath, laundry or anywhere in your home that you want to add brightness.

How to Hit a Home Staging Home Run

When you’re selling your home you’ll have to maintain a certain sense of perfection. That means a home that is always well-organized, clean, open and all-around welcoming. For some people, this can seem challenging, but anyone can hit a home run if they know how to do it. Here are home staging tips to make hitting it out of the park easy and affordable:

It’s nothing personal but…

In a staged home there should be minimal personal items on display. Make family photos and similar items some of the first you pack away. Home buyers need to be able to visualize their furnishings and décor in the new space.  Creating a canvas of your space can help give them this ability, and can get you one step closer to closing.

Make use of mirrors

Mirrors add the illusion of extra space in a room. Put up a few extra strategically placed mirrors around your home and they will make the rooms appear larger. If you don’t have a mirror or two hung up, you can always pick up an inexpensive mirror or two at your local home furnishing store or perhaps a local consignment store.   They don’t have to last long, just until you close.

Sweep your surfaces

Counters and tabletops should be as clear as possible. Cluttered surfaces are a major turnoff for buyers. Pack away everything to leave your kitchen and bathroom countertops in pristine condition.  By keeping them as clear as possible, you’ll open up the room a bit and make it significantly more appealing.

People love light

Lighting can make all the difference in selling a home, in terms of appearance at least. Homeowners staging their properties should keep most of the lights on at all times, or at least as long as viewers are stopping by.  When photographing the property for the listing and marketing items, it’s especially important to ensure that the home is well lit.

A no-nonsense appeal

Neutrality is the name of the home staging game. It is important to make the property appear appealing to anyone who walks through the front door. Start by painting the walls neutral tones. Crazy colors may be fun while you’re living there, but they may be too much for some potential buyers.  The home should be as welcoming as a fine hotel, with all the necessities for comfort without the personal items that clutter the space.

It’s simple and affordable to hit your home staging out of the park if you follow the advice above. As long as you keep rooms appealing, well-lit, uncluttered and clean, they should keep potential buyers interested and eventually lead to a purchase. That’s ultimately how you know you hit a home staging home run.

Contact a Comey & Shepherd agent for more advice on preparing your home for sale.

Source: HMS Home Warranty

How To Give Buyers What They Want

Think bigger is better? Well, most of today’s home shoppers don’t. The homes that are in most demand by buyers in a hypercompetitive real estate environment have just three
bedrooms and two baths, according to a new realtor.com® survey.

Ranch-style homes, those suburban classics, top the wish lists of 42% of home seekers surveyed by realtor.com this spring. But more than half of those we polled are looking for a relatively modest three-bedroom home, while 75% are considering a two-bathroom home.

“While we often think of dream homes as being big and bold, that‚s not what we‚re hearing from potential buyers today,” said Sarah Staley, a spokesperson for realtor.com.

The main idea behind the survey: to give buyers and sellers some insider guidance on rooms or features to invest in as the peak season for home purchasing gets underway. Here are some of the areas to target:

A kitchen that impresses

The kitchen continues to be a major draw for home buyers of all ages˜80% of them ranked it as one of their three favorite rooms in their home. (The others were the master bedroom, at 49%, and the living room, with 42%.) There’s a strong desire among buyers for an updated kitchen, so consider investing in upgrades that will pay off. Even if your budget doesn’t stretch that far, consider a less expensive project to give your kitchen a fresh look.

The great outdoors

Parents of young children are particularly excited about finding a large yard, although that feature ranked high with just about everyone. While you can’t really make your yard bigger, you can work to maximize its usable space, and create an outdoor room that’s inviting for the entire family.

The garage is greater than the living room

In a kind of package deal with the big backyard, buyers also said they really, really want a garage. Shoppers aged 55 and up, in particular, actually preferred garages over living rooms! So if you’re thinking of converting your garage into a man cave to impress buyers, don’t. (More on man caves below…)

Not in demand

Meanwhile, the least-searched features were a guesthouse, an in-law suite, and a man cave. If you have one of these, you might want to consider staging it in a way that shows off how it can be used for another purpose, such as a home office.

Looking for more advice on how to prepare your home for a quicker sale at the best possible price? Please call a Comey & Shepherd agent for a free market evaluation of your home.

Source: Realtor.com