Here's a small sample of what's happening.

Jul 21st, 2016

Housing Up in June, with the Help of First Time Home Buyers

WASHINGTON (July 21, 2016) — Boosted by a greater share of sales to first-time buyers not seen in nearly four years, existing-home sales maintained their upward trajectory in June and increased for the fourth consecutive month, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Only the Northeast saw a decline in closings in June, and sales to investors fell to their lowest overall share since July 2009. Total existing-home sales1, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, climbed 1.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.57 million in June from a downwardly revised 5.51 million in May. After last month’s gain, sales are now up 3.0 percent from June 2015 (5.41 million) and remain at their highest annual pace since February 2007 (5.79 million). Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the impressive four month streak of sales gains through June caps off a solid first half of 2016 for the housing market. “Existing sales rose again last month as more traditional buyers and fewer investors were able to close on a home despite many competitive areas with unrelenting supply and demand imbalances,” he said. “Sustained job growth as well as this year’s descent in mortgage rates is undoubtedly driving the appetite for home purchases.” Cautions Yun, “Looking ahead, it’s unclear if this current sales pace can further accelerate as record high stock prices, near-record low mortgage rates and solid job gains face off against a dearth of homes available for sale and lofty home prices that keep advancing.” The median existing-home price2 for all housing types in June was $247,700, up 4.8 percent from June 2015 ($236,300). June’s price increase marks the 52nd consecutive month of year-over-year gains and surpasses May’s peak median sales price of $238,900. Total housing inventory3 at the end of June dipped 0.9 percent to 2.12 million existing homes available for sale, and is now 5.8 percent lower than a year ago (2.25 million). Unsold inventory is at a 4.6-month supply at the current sales pace, which is down from 4.7 months in May. The share of first-time buyers was 33 percent in June, which is up from 30 percent in May and a year ago and is the highest since July 2012 (34 percent). Through the first six months of the year, first-time buyers have represented an average of 31 percent of buyers; they were 30 percent in all of 2015. “The modest bump in June sales to first-time buyers can be attributed to mortgage rates near all-time lows and perhaps a hopeful indication that more affordable, lower-priced homes are beginning to make their way onto the market,” adds Yun. “The odds of closing on a home are definitely higher right now for first-time buyers living in metro areas with tamer price growth and greater entry-level supply — particularly areas in the Midwest and parts of the South.” All-cash sales were 22 percent of transactions in June, unchanged from both May and a year ago. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 11 percent of homes in June (lowest since July 2009 at 9 percent), down from 13 percent in May and 12 percent a year ago. Sixty-four percent of investors paid cash in June. According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate (link is external)for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage decreased from 3.60 percent in May to 3.57 percent in June. Mortgage rates have now fallen four straight months and in June were the lowest since May 2013 (3.54 percent). The average commitment rate for all of 2015 was 3.85 percent. NAR President Tom Salomone, broker-owner of Real Estate II Inc. in Coral Springs, Florida, says Realtors® are thrilled that the U.S. Senate last week unanimously voted to pass H.R. 3700, the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act. “At a time of historically low mortgage rates, this is a huge win for prospective first-time and low- to moderate-income buyers interested in purchasing a condo,” he said. “Eliminating overly burdensome restrictions on condos will help more of these prospective buyers access financing and take advantage of this affordable entry point into homeownership.” Properties typically stayed on the market for 34 days in June, an increase from 32 days in May but unchanged from a year ago. Short sales were on the market the longest at a median of 156 days in June, while foreclosures sold in 49 days and non-distressed homes took 30 days. Forty-eight percent of homes sold in June were on the market for less than a month. Inventory data from Realtor.com® (link is external) reveals that the metropolitan statistical areas where listings stayed on the market the shortest amount of time in June were Wilson, N.C., and Jacksonville, N.C., both at a median of 22 days; San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., 28 days; and San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif., Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, and Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo., at 29 days. Distressed sales4 — foreclosures and short sales — were 6 percent of sales in June, unchanged from May and down from 8 percent a year ago. Four percent of June sales were foreclosures (lowest since NAR began tracking in October 2008) and 2 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 11 percent below market value in June (12 percent in May), while short sales were discounted 18 percent (11 percent in May). Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales Single-family home sales increased 0.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.92 million in June from 4.88 million in May, and are now 3.1 percent higher than the 4.77 million pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $249,800 in June, up 5.0 percent from June 2015. Existing condominium and co-op sales grew 3.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 650,000 units in June from 630,000 in May, and are now 1.6 percent above June 2015 (640,000 units). The median existing condo price was $231,600 in June, which is 3.2 percent above a year ago. Regional Breakdown June existing-home sales in the Northeast declined 1.3 percent to an annual rate of 760,000, but are still 5.6 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $284,800, which is 1.4 percent above June 2015. In the Midwest, existing-home sales jumped 3.8 percent to an annual rate of 1.35 million in June, and are now 4.7 percent above June 2015. The median price in the Midwest was $199,900, up 5.7 percent from a year ago. Existing-home sales in the South in June remained unchanged from May at an annual rate of 2.26 million, and are 3.2 percent above June 2015. The median price in the South was $217,400, up 5.5 percent from a year ago. Existing-home sales in the West rose 1.7 percent to an annual rate of 1.20 million in June, but are still 0.8 percent below a year ago. The median price in the West was $350,800, which is 7.2 percent above June 2015. The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

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Jun 2nd, 2016

5 Problems Uncovered in Home Inspections

Even a house that seems perfect may not be so when it comes to a home inspection, which is meant to discover potential problems with the home’s systems, appliances, and structure. “Depending on the age, location, and type of house, the potential for problems will vary,” according to an article by the Ferris Property Group. “It’s also important to note that all houses — even brand new ones — will have issues show up on the inspection. Certain issues may be a deal breaker, like a collapsing foundation, but many other issues can and should be repaired after negotiation with the seller.” Here are some of the most common problems inspectors say they uncover: Defective plumbing: Leaky faucets or problems with the efficiency of pipes can greatly affect the cost of a home’s utilities. Water damage: This can be caused by any number of issues, such as erosion of external grading material that has caused a slow leak into a basement. Water leaks also can lead to damage in a foundation or mold growth. Faulty roofing materials: Variable temperatures can cause cracks in some roofing materials, while other materials may be prone to rots or leaks. Cracked foundation: Foundation problems can surface from any number of issues, such as water damage, termites, rotting, or structural inadequacy. Over-worked electricity system: This also can represent a big safety issue. Inspectors say when they find an overcrowded wiring system it’s typically due to previous owners making adjustments to the electrical wiring.

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May 12th, 2016

Should you trust your gut when choosing a home?

Love at first sight is every bit as much of a cherished concept for houses as it is for relationships. So how do you know when you’ve found your dream home? While there are a myriad of factors that go into your buying choice, the tipping point is often just a matter of instinct: People just know. As books like Malcolm Gladwell‘s “Blink” illustrate, there’s a lot of legitimate science behind snap decisions we can’t always explain. But that doesn’t mean every stab in the dark is the right one. Since this is one of the most critical decisions you’ll ever make (along with that relationship one), we decided to show you ways to harness your intuitive powers, interpret your “inner voice,” and steer your sixth sense toward finding the right home for you. Set the intention One way to involve your intuition before you even start looking is to create what’s called a “positive intention”—a New Age way of saying write it down in concrete words. “When you name it, you claim it,” says Portland, OR–based intuition expert Melissa Mattern. Take out a piece of paper and write down a few attributes you want in a home—and not just the basics like “walk-in closet.” Expand into how you envision yourself in your home, whether that’s hosting lavish dinner parties, binge-watching Netflix with friends, or snuggling with your kids in bed. This “primary needs hit list” can help ground you during your search. That said, keep our next point in mind, too. Notice when your ‘list’ disappears OK, you’ve got your list. You know what you want. But what happens when you find yourself smitten with a dwelling that has few—or even none—of the items? It could be your intuition guiding you to the right path. “The must-have list is a jumping-off point. When you get to the house, suddenly the list fades,” says Mattern. “That’s how I ended up in a purple house with a bathroom that is so tiny I’ve knocked myself out twice on the eaves. It had almost none of the ‘have to haves,’ but I experience 100% joy every time I bound up the steps to see what is happening inside.” Pay attention to the facts, but when suddenly you don’t care about a home’s attributes and instead have a strong sense that this is where you’d be happy, listen: This home could be trying to tell you something. Tune in to your feelings According to Judith Orloff, an intuitive psychiatrist who teaches medical students at UCLA how to use their intuition when working with patients, most gut instincts are accompanied by some kind of physical sensation. In her book “Second Sight,” she says that positive and affirming intuitive hits are often accompanied by a sense of warmth, a wave of goose bumps or fluttery feelings, the ability to breathe more easily, and relaxation in the gut and shoulders. If you find yourself noticing these physical manifestations when viewing a home, then your intuitive wisdom could be kicking in. Trust those tiny doubts In “Blink,” Gladwell opens with the story of the Getty kouros, a sculpture purchased by the Getty museum for $9 million. There was just one problem: Certain experts took one look at it and declared it to be fake. They could not articulate why, and it turned out they were right, which illustrates how it’s important to listen to that little voice in your head when it says things seem off. Even if you can’t place your finger on the problem, that’s your intuition trying to tell you to beware.

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Feb 23rd, 2016

Most Common Questions Seller's Ask

Selling a home you’ve lived in and loved over the years isn’t exactly like unloading your collection of old Slayer LPs on Craigslist (or is it…?). It’s hard. It’s emotional. And above all else, it’s complicated. A slew of questions will likely pop into your head throughout the process—and possibly keep you up at night. Today we’ll tackle the most common questions that real estate agents hear from sellers—along with some answers, of course. Q: How much needs to be done to my house before putting it on the market? “Many sellers have extreme anxiety over the thought of having to clear out and fix up their home, so much so that it can prevent them from putting the place on the market in the first place,” says Alyssa Blevins with Pierce Murdock Group. But in most cases, there’s no need to panic here—or to overshoot your goals. “Very often, there’s far less to do than homeowners think.” So before spending months and millions (figuratively) upgrading your place—or just throwing up your hands and giving up before you begin—show your home to a Realtor®. You might be pleasantly surprised by your current sales prospects. Q: How much is my house worth? While the median house price in 2016 is $228,000, the exact price of your own home will depend on its size, neighborhood, and lots of other factors. Further complicating matters is your own skewed perspective: We tend to mentally inflate our home’s positives and airbrush out the flaws that are all too apparent to the cold, calculating eyes of buyers. “People always seem to compare their house to the most expensive sale in the neighborhood,” says Mary Ann Grabel, an agent at Douglas Elliman in Greenwich, CT. Instead, look at the prices of similarly sized homes that have recently sold in your area—data that agents call comparative market analysis, or “comps.” Then, price your place strategically. “If you price too high, the home is likely to linger on the market,” says Grabel. Meanwhile, pricing low can have major upsides, resulting in multiple bids that could ultimately jack up your price. So, do your homework. Then, discuss a number with your Realtor that feels right—and is realistic. Q: How long will it take to sell my home? Right now, nationally, houses spend around 100 days on the market before they sell, although the time varies wildly based on area and price. So, price competitively and make sure that you and your Realtor are getting the place in front of as many eyeballs as possible. “The higher the exposure, the faster the offers,” says Felise Eber, a real estate associate affiliated with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate and part of the Miami Beach luxury real estate sales team The Jills. Spread the word through your own social networks——real ones and virtual ones. You never know whose passing it along to that special someone will lead to a sale. Q: Is staging really important? On average, a staged home sells 88% faster—and for 20% more money—than a home that’s left as is. The reason it works, of course, is it gives buyers a “stage” onto which they can play out their home-owning fantasies and envision themselves living in your home. “Choose neutral paint colors and remove any family photos,” says Johnson. Give would-be homeowners a blank canvass that they can mentally fill with their loved ones and themselves. Q: Should I be present when buyers view my house? “NO!” says Johnson. (Hey, no need to shout. We’re right here!) “There is not any situation in which this is appropriate. Having the owner in the house makes the buyers uncomfortable. They feel as though they can’t make comments or ask questions that could be offensive. The owner—who has a history and attachment to the house—has the tendency to argue if a potential buyer makes a comment that could be a little negative. This can turn off buyers and lose you offers.” Got it.

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Jan 27th, 2016

Tips for Selling Your Home This Winter

Winter can be a harsh, unappealing time of year to sell your home. With 2016 about to rev up, it’s especially important to make your home stand out if you want to sell in the New Year. Here are some essential tips for making your house #1 on the market as the year begins: #1 Warmth is top priority. Your home should always be warm when a realtor conducts a walkthrough with buyers. Set a timer on your thermostat so it’s warm when they arrive. Also make sure to check there are no leaks or problems with your ducts and vents, as this could make rooms cold during a walkthrough. #2 Keep the house bright. It’s also important to ensure that your home is adequately lit in each room. You want buyers to feel welcome and impressed with the kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms of your home. If a room has dim lighting or a burned-out bulb, it could take away from the overall appeal of the room. You should also consider spending a little extra money to upgrade your lighting fixtures —installing recessed lighting in certain rooms will give your home a little extra “pop.” Standing lamps are also a fantastic, affordable alternative to lighting additions #3 Try to make your landscape appealing. Although your yard will be mostly winterized during this time of year, there are several ways to spruce up your cold weather landscaping. Start by clearing your yard of any broken branches or large patches of fallen leaves. It’s also important to ensure that any ice or snow on or near your home’s walkway is removed. If needed, you can hire a weekly snow removal service to keep your home safe for buyer walkthroughs. #4 Make the interior cozy. In addition to keeping your house well-lit and warm, there are other ways to make your home cozy and welcoming to buyers. This includes: Classical music (at a low volume) Homemade treats (candy, cookies) Holiday decorations (tinsel on the mantle, for example) You want buyers to feel as though they already live in your home when they walk through the door. When you offer them a cozy setting, they will want to spend more time in your home and admire its features. #5 Keep the fireplace lit. While you should have the heat on during a walkthrough, another warm and cozy feature is the fireplace. If you’ve got a wood-burning model, this means you’ll need to have coal or wood handy. You don’t want to have multiple showings a day and a fireplace that roars for only half the visitors. This is especially important if the fireplace is close to the entrance (all of that cold air gets in!).

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Dec 9th, 2015

Homeowners Reap Remodeling Benefits

Homeowners preparing to sell often make improvements, both big and small, to their homes that can help yield positive results and garner top dollar from buyers. According to a new report from the National Association of Realtors®, remodeling projects can also bring major benefits to homeowners who choose to remain in their homes. “Realtors® know that certain home upgrades and remodels can be beneficial to get more buyer eyes on a property, potentially bring in more offers or gain more equity from a home,” said NAR President Tom Salomone, broker-owner of Real Estate II Inc. in Coral Springs, Florida. “But remodeling projects are just as valuable to homeowners who simply want to get more joy out of their dwellings. Regardless of the situation, Realtors® know what remodeling projects bring the biggest bang for the buck and what projects are most likely to improve a homeowner’s impression of their current place.” According to NAR’s 2015 Remodeling Impact Report, which uncovers the reasons homeowners choose a remodel and the increased happiness certain projects bring once completed, 64 percent have experienced increased enjoyment in their home after completing a remodeling project. Additionally, 75 percent of respondents said they felt a major sense of accomplishment when thinking of their completed project. Fifty-four percent of respondents felt happy about the changes to their home, and 40 percent felt satisfied. As for their reasons to complete a remodeling project, 38 percent of homeowners said they wanted to upgrade worn-out surfaces, finishes and materials; 17 percent wanted to add features and improve livability; and 13 percent believed it was time for a change. Realtors® named kitchen upgrades, complete kitchen renovations, bathroom renovations and new wood flooring as the interior projects that most appeal to potential buyers. Similarly, Realtors® also ranked projects based on expected value at resale (without accounting for project price); the projects that ranked the highest in this category were complete kitchen renovations, kitchen upgrades, bathroom renovations and the addition of a bathroom. When looking at the interior projects that yield the biggest financial results upon resale, Realtors® ranked hardwood flooring refinishes (100 percent of project cost recovered upon resale), insulation upgrades (95 percent recovered), new wood flooring (91 percent recovered), and converting a basement to a living area (69 percent recovered) as projects to consider. Exterior projects are also important for both sellers and homeowners looking to increase satisfaction with their current home. Realtors® said new roofing, new vinyl windows, new garage doors and new vinyl siding are most appealing to potential buyers and are highly valued upon resale (both considering project price and disregarding project price). Upon resale, Realtors® said new roofing would recover 105 percent of its project cost, a new garage door would recover 87 percent, new vinyl siding would recover 83 percent, and new vinyl windows would bring back 80 percent of their cost. As for exterior projects that bring the most happiness for those not necessarily intending to sell, homeowners said new fiber-cement siding, new fiberglass or steel front doors, new roofing, and new garage doors brought the most satisfaction. The 2015 Remodeling Impact Report, the first of its kind from NAR that examines personal satisfaction from remodeling projects, surveyed Realtors®, consumers who have completed their own remodeling projects, and members of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. “Remodeling projects can greatly improve both the value of and satisfaction with one’s home, which are great things no matter the reason for a project,” said Judy Mozen, president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. “This report highlights the best projects to consider in either situation and showcases just how much of a difference a good and professional remodel can make in real numbers.” Salomone said the report not only assists homeowners who are preparing to sell in choosing the best projects to attract buyers, but it also helps those looking to get more personal satisfaction out of their homes. “Realtors® know that remodeling projects aren’t just done to get more money for a home once it’s time to sell - a home is your sanctuary, the place you raise your family and where you make lifelong memories, which is why the report can also help consumers decide which projects could enhance their current quality of life and happiness,” he said. The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry is the medium for business development, a platform for advocacy and the principal source for industry intelligence. NARI connects homeowners with its professional members and provides tips and tricks so that the consumer has a positive remodeling experience.

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Nov 5th, 2015

The Perils of Taking Possession Before Closing

Timing your move out of one house and into another is a delicate feat that might seem as tricky as determining the next GOP presidential nominee. Trickier, even! In addition to the usual stress of packing and arranging to have your things transported (we’re talking about housing again), you also need to coordinate with the current owners of your new home and the incoming residents of your current home. And since no one wants to pay another month’s rent or mortgage, it’s awfully tempting to move into your new place even if the closing isn’t quite final yet. But taking possession of a home before your name is on the title could open a Pandora’s box of problems—for buyers and sellers. Why buyers should move in with caution Buyers who move into a house before closing lose some of their bargaining power, saysDaniel C. Price, president and CEO of OneTitle National Guaranty Co. in New York City. “Any unresolved title issues could be problematic for buyers moving in before closing,” he says. “Buyers might lose the leverage necessary to clear issues like judgments, liens, and even old mortgages, since they will have a much harder time walking away once their possessions are in the house if these title issues are not resolved.” Buyers also lose the ability to voice concern or negotiate over any last-minute issues with a home’s conditiowalk-through prior to moving in should always be conducted,” says Price. The question of who pays for what also comes into play. If you move in early, the seller might expect you to fork over cash for utilities used before the closing. Even if that doesn’t amount to much, the squabble could delay closing. Another concern: coverage in the event of theft, fire, or other calamities. A home insurance policy on a new home doesn’t take effect until closing, and a property is legally in the possession of the buyer, says Ken Davidson, principal at Eagle Independent Insurance Agency in Dallas. So any damage that happens to the structure is covered by the seller’s home insurance, he says—but that doesn’t include damage to, or loss of, your personal property. However, such damage or loss could be covered if you have a homeowners insurance policy on your current home that has “off premises” property coverage. The coverage limit, however, is usually 10% of the total personal property limit. Why sellers face risk, too Price says sellers who hand over the keys before closing could also be in trouble if the deal falls through. “If something happens and a buyer backs out last minute, sellers could face the costly and lengthy process of eviction proceedings. Not only is that a hassle, it will delay the ability to relist the home.” Sellers also run the risk of having their home insurance claim history dented. If the buyer’s movers damage the house, or if their buddy slips down the stairs while helping out, you as the seller are liable. Your insurance covers this kind of damage and injury (to the extent dictated by your policy), but the fact that you’ve had to file a claim could jack up the premium for the policy on your new home. Davidson recommends talking to an insurance agent and the real estate agent and attorney, if applicable, handling the sale before shaking hands on any preclosing deals. “One five-minute phone call could prevent a huge headache.”

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Oct 14th, 2015

6 Things New Homeowners Waste Money On

OK, we’ve said it time and again, but it bears repeating: Buying a home is a very big expense—and once you’ve kicked off all that spending, it’s easy to find yourself caught up in rampant lifestyle inflation. After all, you’ve got an enormous, shiny new house just waiting to be filled with all sorts of nice stuff, right? Well, take some quick advice: Don’t keep spending. Homeownership comes with its fair share of unique costs—property taxes and urgent repairs and energy bills, oh my. There’s no need to add to their cost by shelling out for unnecessary expenses. Here are six major cash outlays that buyers can avoid. Too much house This one requires some thought before you actually nail the deal: How muchhouse do you really need? Just because you’re pre-approved for a hefty purchase price doesn’t mean you should go as big as you can. “The house that you can afford with the money you’re lent can make the budget go out of whack,” says Andrew Gipner, a financial adviser at Longview Financial Advisors in Huntsville, AL. Not sure where to trim? Consider having less closet space, buying fewer bedrooms, or—especially—eliminating a formal dining room. “You don’t use the dining room nearly as often as you think,” saysNoelle Hans-Daniels, a Sotheby’s Realtor® in Indianapolis. “It’s kind of a wasted space.” Fixing up your outdoor space ASAP Once you close on your home and move in, you might be itching to host your first late-season barbecue. Or maybe you’ve been dreaming about a koi pond, like, forever. But hold on: Updating your outdoor space shouldn’t be your first priority, especially if you’re tight on cash. Unlike couches and beds, which are essential to a functioning house, landscaping and decor can be put on pause. That goes double if you’re building new: According to Hans-Daniels, building your backyard at the same time as your home can cost “a lot more than if you did it after the fact.” So exercise some caution before committing: Try pricing out your plans with a landscape contractor, and consider rolling them out in phases. Old, outdated insurance Still using the same company that offered you renters insurance seven years ago? It might be time for a change. Shop around. “You may stay with the same company, but you may find something that’s a little better price for the same thing,” Gipner says. “Sometimes, people may not want to shop around or may be married to a particular company.” Just because the same company had a good deal on auto or renters insurance doesn’t mean it’s the best fit to protect your home. Go through all your options with a fine-toothed comb, looking for a deal that won’t crush you financially but also leaves your house and its belongings secure. After all, now it’s not just your stuff—it’s your roof, yard, and foundation you have to protect, too. Space-filling stuff If you’re moving from an apartment, chances are good you’re astounded by how much space you have. There’s another bedroom and a dining room and … yet another bedroom! Don’t feel like you have to fill it all at once. Give yourself—and your home—time for personality to emerge. “A lot of people will go out and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to fill this space and buy stuff,’” Gipner says. “I’m not against possessions, but the way some people do it can be seriously detrimental to their finances.” Instead of immediately stuffing the TV room with a generic, new couch and coffee table, wait it out. See what you really need and what you really like. In the meantime, stick the money you save into a renovation fund. Extended warranties Many homes don’t come with appliances installed, so first-time homeowners might find themselves making large purchases (like a dishwasher or refrigerator). HRE’S A TIP: YOU DON’T NEED THE EXTENDED WARRANTY. “I’m against them,” Gipner says. “What are the chances everything you own is going to break or not work anymore?” Yes, something might break within the relatively slim service window—but the money you’ll spend fixing one thing will be far less than the extended warranties on all the things. Your average warranty costs about $123 for major appliances, according to Consumer Reports, and a single repair costs not much more (and might not even be covered). Just risk it—you’ll come out ahead in the long run. Yard maintenance Having your own yard is definitely exciting, and while it’s important to keep it healthy and watered, you don’t need to go overboard. Resist the pressure to hire additional help for your yard—even if you’ve lucked into an HOA that covers it. “You can still be part of an HOA and cut your own grass,” Gipner says. “You don’t have to pay someone an exorbitant amount of money to come out and cut your grass.” Don’t be tempted by the sales pitches you’ll inevitably receive after your purchase goes through. A gorgeous lawn is achievable—and it can be done all on your own. Really.

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Sep 24th, 2015

Six Things To Check When Buying a Home This Fall

Spring might be the most popular time to buy a home, but there’s a real case to be made for fall: It’s cooler, so you’ll have less competition at the open houses. Because it’s considered the off-season, you’re more likely to get (or make) a deal. And, with the season’s variable weather, you can get a good idea of what the home’s like in hot and cool times alike. After all, you’re buying a home that will fit your needs in every season—even if you can only scope it out during one. That means you need to look for things “that aren’t as noticeable in the fall as they might be in the winter or summer months,” says Realtor® Andrea Davitt of Lauer Realty Group in Madison, WI. Want to make sure that amazing autumnal escape continues to be fantastic year-round? Keep these six things in mind. 1. Check out the air conditioner First: Does the place even have an air conditioner? This might be easy to spot if you’re house hunting during unseasonably warm temps. But if the weather’s already turned, heed this: The air might be cool now, but it won’t be forever. And with summer nine (long!) months away, it’s easy to forget to check. If the home does have AC, you’ll want to give the unit a thorough inspection. Your inspector will likely examine the system to make sure it’s functioning, but it never hurts to run a few tests yourself—or even call an HVAC specialist. Davitt recommends first checking to see if the AC’s filter has been recently changed. Then try turning down the thermostat and see if the unit runs. Meanwhile, make sure air is blowing through all the vents—it’s better to find blockages now, with time to fix them, than at the beginning of summer when sweat’s starting to pool. Check out the outdoor condenser, listening for any strange sounds, and make sure the condensation line in the evaporator coil—likely found in the furnace—is flowing smoothly. Last, examine the ductwork, looking for any rusting or poor fittings. 2. How’s the drainage? Gutters are the obvious thing to check, Davitt says. In the interlude between the rainy and snowy seasons, don’t forget to check the drainage. In the yard, look for areas where water is accumulating in small puddles, which could indicate a leak in buried pipes or grading problems that need to be addressed before the rainy season. If it looks like the sewer might be clogged, bring out a professional sewer inspector to do a camera inspection of the line. That can reveal problems that could cause a backup—as well as a world’s worth of annoyances later. Better to know before you buy. 3. Note the surroundings What’s nearby? Look across the street, behind you, and next door. Are there bulldozers and cranes? Empty lots awaiting brand spankin’ new homes? Ask your neighbors about seasonal street construction nearby—there’s nothing worse than having a peaceful, quiet home all winter until work begins with a literal bang in the spring. Double up on the investigative work if you’re near a large intersection, or if your home is directly connected to a major road. Going door to door is not only a good way to meet your future neighbors—it’s also a novel way to find out what seasonal surprises lay ahead. 4. Look for slopes How steep is your driveway? Sure, it’s easy to navigate now—but will it be when it’s covered in ice? A less-than-ideal driveway shouldn’t automatically disqualify a home, but it’s better to know in advance if late-winter parking is going to be a challenge. Similarly, Davitt recommends checking out the landscaping’s pitch around your new home’s exterior. Are there any steep hills that might cause water runoff and flooding? What about the area around your basement? If land slopes toward your basement, it could indicate potential flooding. 5. Check out standing water At the end of the summer, we’re all just happy that the mosquitoes have died or moved on to bother poor souls elsewhere. But they’ll be back—and you should know in advance where they’ll be hanging out. “We’ll look for anything that holds standing water,” Davitt says. Most of these are movable: trash cans, buckets, birdbaths. But if your home is located on a lake or small pond, there’s not a whole lot you can do besides prepare yourself mentally and invest in bug spray and citronella. If you’re buying in fall or winter, when bugs are hiding, keep in mind the potential ramifications of living on the water. 6. Examine the windows If the windows in your potential home are older (or don’t even open), you’ll want to replace them immediately—otherwise you risk wasting energy or even breaking them in a freeze. But if winter is coming quickly, there might not be time. In those cases, Davitt recommends putting plastic over the windows until you’re in a position to replace them.

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