Increasing the Livability of Your Home

Home livability is a great thing to invest in, especially if you’re planning on staying in your home for awhile, or you want to increase the functionality and comfort of your home.

Here are some low-cost ways to increase the livability of your home.

1. Add a walk in pantry. This will reduce clutter in your kitchen, save you money on remodeling cabinets, and allow you easier access to many of the things you use daily.

2. Replace your bathtub with a shower. It’s cleaner, takes up less space, and uses less hot water than a bathtub. Showers are actually a great energy saver.

3. Group lots of windows together to showcase a great view. This provides a much more appealing view than having small, randomly placed windows with views of parking lots or neighbor’s siding.

4. Cathedral-style ceilings are not always the best option. It makes decorating the room more difficult, and it costs more to heat and cool.

5. Divide the master bath. Allow access to the master bath’s sink and toilet for the rest of the house. This could possibly save you from having to build an extra bathroom.

*Increasing the livability of your home does not necessarily always increase the market value of your home.

For more tips on increasing the livability of your home, check out this article from Inman News.

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10 Mistakes to Avoid when Selling Your Home

You’ve probably already read up a little bit on good tips for selling your home, but have you thought about the things you want to steer clear of? Here are 10 big blunders to make sure you avoid when selling your home.

1. Hosting too many open houses is a no-no. Open houses should really only be reserved for special occasions, such as your first attempt at listing/marketing/selling your home, or a price reduction. Poorly planned and numerous open houses can be expensive and a waste of time for you, your real estate agent, and potential buyers.

2.  You won’t come across many buyers who have an open schedule that they can fit showings into whenever. Most people you will meet will  have full-time jobs, and will be pressed for time (aren’t we all?). This means that when you’re showing your home, you need to be flexible with times and appointments. Showing your home at 8:30 on a Tuesday night may not be overly convenient for you, but it could mean the difference between sold and not sold.

3. Don’t follow buyers around when they’re checking the place out. You’ll probably only serve as a distraction. Let potential buyers imagine what it would be like to live there on their own.

4. Watch your wording. When you say that your price is “firm”, the buyer may view you as unreasonable and stubborn. It is better to just say nothing at all, and then deal with negotiations if they come up later.

5. Don’t skip over certain offers because they don’t look appealing at first glance. Consider every offer carefully, and present a counter offer if necessary (if the offer is way too low). Oftentimes, you can negotiate a higher price from a buyer who bid ridiculously low, and it could be worth it in the end.

6. Don’t refuse the first offer just because it’s the first offer. And just because you get one offer, doesn’t mean you’ll get any more. Consider EVERY offer carefully, and if it’s a good one, take it.

7. Minor problems can look like big problems to a buyer. If a buyer comes into your home and notices that there are holes in the walls, a leaking faucet, or a lock that’s not working, chances are they’re going to want them fixed. If you can take care of all of these little problems ahead of time, you’ll save yourself a lot of time, stress, and money.

8. Don’t overwhelm potential buyers with family photos and other personal items. A buyer can’t imagine their self living in your home if grandma and grandpa are staring down at them in every room. Try replacing personal items with neutral artwork; this will keep your home from looking bare.

9.  Even though you may enjoy the light-rejecting-cave-like house that you’ve grown to love, buyers are much more interested in clean, bright places. So, open the blinds, clean the windows, and add light wherever you can.

10. Do not have pets at your open houses. Whether your pet is dirty or not, many buyers have the (mis)conception that animals = dirt. When you’re doing a showing, make sure to take your pets somewhere else for that hour or two, and don’t leave any evidence! Use air fresheners to cover up any pet smells, so that the buyer can’t be distracted or turned off by any critters roaming around.

 

To read the original article from MSNBC, click here.

5 Things to Think About Before You Build a House in Auburn Township

Before you even start building a new home, there is a lot that you need to do. A lot of planning, budgeting, and forethought should go into such a task. Here are 5 tips that will help you stay on track, and on budget, when you are beginning to build a new home in Auburn Township.

1. Your Budget

  • How much can you afford to spend on building a home?
  • Don’t plan to spend so much that you go bankrupt afterward
  • Plan for hidden costs
  • Expect to be paying on a mortgage
  • Talk to someone about a construction loan
  • Plan out how much you will want to spend on the kitchen, the bathrooms, the basement etc.
  • Every square foot, whether it will be used or not, counts in the cost

2. Your Lot

  • Are you going to build in an existing development? A spacious country lot? You can find both in Auburn township, so which will it be?
  • Experts will need to examine the lot before building (they need to check soil conditions, durability of land, drainage patterns, zoning and building codes, underground piping, etc.)
  • Realize that your location may cause you to have to compromise on certain things you may want (there may not be room for an in-ground pool)

3. Your Team

  • Most likely, you will need to hire an architect, a builder and/or a contractor, an excavator, a home designer, and a surveyor.
  • Start by hiring a builder/contractor
  • Let your builder choose or recommend some of the other members of the team
  • Remember, you can hire or fire anyone; it’s your project
  • Anything you want, your builder can find a person to execute; but it won’t be for free. Don’t forget about your budget when you are considering adding an interior designer (not really necessary) to your team

4. Your Plan

  • You can find “stock plans” (a widely used template) for new homes and build based on that.
  • You can also look at current homes in the Auburn township area for ideas
  • You can ask your builder/designer to make minor changes to the “template”
  • You can also design your own home (you will need a licensed architect for this)
  • Choose (or create) a plan that will serve the needs of you and your family for at least the next 5 years
  • Focus on having a good foundation, and a structurally sound home versus the finishes on the wood used
  • Be willing to compromise on some things
  • Mistakes will happen, but choose your battles wisely
  • However, if something really doesn’t look right to you, question it-drastic flaws have to be fixed

5. Your Contract

  • A contract needs to be drawn up and signed between the builder/contractor, designer/ architect, and the home-builder.
  • Make sure you understand and approve of every clause in the contract; you are the one who will be paying for the home and the services rendered
  • The contract should describe the building project in detail
  • Include a comprehensive list of all parts to be incorporated into the house
  • If you or your team makes any changes down the road, make sure the change is reflected in the contract
  • ON YOUR OWN, keep track of additions, changes, and subtractions made to the contract
  • The house must be built in accordance with all codes and regulations-ask for proof of this from your builder

 

For more things to think about before building a home, check out these articles!

http://architecture.about.com/cs/buildyourhouse/bb/beforebuild.htm

http://architecture.about.com/od/buildyourhouse/a/buildyourhome.htm

Do You Qualify as a First Time Home Buyer?

What exactly makes someone a “first time homebuyer”? Do I qualify? How do I know? Are there special exemptions and restrictions?  These are big questions, and you should talk to a real estate agent about this. He or she will be able to help you understand the criteria of a first time homebuyer, as well as address the issue in depth with you. Until then, however, here are three qualifications that you (typically) must meet in order to be considered a first time homebuyer.

  1. You have not owned a principal residence within the three years prior to the purchase of your new home
  2. In some cases, long-time homeowners who purchase a replacement home can also qualify if your current home has been your principal residence for 5 consecutive years out of the last 8 before you purchase a replacement home.
  3. If your spouse owned a home before you were married, you could still qualify as a first time homebuyer, if your spouse no longer owns the home. Your spouse could not be on the title as a “first time homebuyer” though.

 

For more information on first time homebuyers, check out Realtor.com and this article from the IRS.

 

Low Cost Kitchen Improvements that will Help You Sell Your Home

According to Remodeling magazine’s latest Cost vs. Value Report, a minor kitchen remodeling project averages around $20,000, and a full remodel averages at about $111,000. Whew! That’s a pretty hefty price to pay, there’s no doubt about that, but it may be a necessary cost. Recent research has shown that the kitchen is the #1 room in the that home buyers are concerned about. In other words, your kitchen can make or break the deal when trying to sell your home. That doesn’t mean that you have to pay $111,000 to sell your home though; here are some ways to improve your kitchen without breaking the bank.

  • Borrow ideas from kitchens remodels that you see on TV, in movies, and in home and design magazines
  • Even a smaller investment of just $5,000 can make a huge difference in the function and appearance of your kitchen
  • Repainting is a cheap and simple way to improve the look of your kitchen
  • If you have to replace the countertops, use laminate instead of granite
  • Stainless steel appliances are very popular right now. If you can’t afford to replace your appliances though, opt for a stainless steel trashcan, toaster, paper towel holder, etc.
  • If you can afford to replace some bigger appliances, replace the refrigerator and the stovetop. These appliances will stand out most
  • Let in the light. Big windows and skylights are real sellers in a kitchen, but if that’s not in the budget, simply add some lights under the cabinets to help brighten up the room
  • Larger floor tiles (16-22 inches) look more modern than smaller (8 inch) tiles
  • Replace dated cabinets if you can, repaint if you can’t.
  • Add more kitchen storage. If you don’t have extra closet or cabinet space in the kitchen, pick a close-by area to set up shelving or drawers for kitchen items, such as canned goods, or even appliances
  • Knock out a wall if you have a smaller kitchen; big, open kitchens are more efficient and more popular with buyers in today’s housing market
  • If you plan on completely remodeling, or even just doing serious updating, it may be best to hire an architect or designer to help you with the project

Read the full article here.

 

5 Ways to Cut Mortgage Costs

When you own a home, it becomes your most important and most expensive asset, so it only makes sense that your mortgage payments are pretty costly. The good news is, there are quite a few ways for you to cut your mortgage costs and perhaps even shorten the life of your loan.

The simplest way to cut mortgage costs is to make an extra payment on your mortgage each year. This may sound counterproductive, but in fact, making these extra payments ahead of time helps save you tons of money in interest costs. Extra payments will also help you shorten the life of your loan. Bi-weekly payments will help you to pay more throughout the year. By making a half-payment every 2 weeks (versus a full payment every month) you will make 13 full payments in a year (versus 12).

If you have Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), drop it. Once your mortgage balance goes below 80% of the home’s value, you can petition to cancel your PMI, which could take hundreds off of your monthly mortgage payment.

If you think your home’s value may have dropped within the last year, have it re-assessed. If the value has gone down, your yearly taxes should go down with it.

Talk to your lender about resetting/ recasting your monthly mortgage payment; he or she will be able to tell you if you are eligible for this. If you are eligible, the life of your loan may be shortened and/or you may be able to make smaller monthly payments.

You can also talk to your lender about refinancing. Refinancing will allow you to have a lower interest rate on your mortgage; this is especially important right now because rates are at historic lows. NOTE: there are fees associated with refinancing, so talk to your lender and/or financial advisor before going ahead with it.

For more tips on saving money on your mortgage, click here.

How to Get the Best Possible Price for your Home in Bainbridge or Auburn Township

There are many things that you can do, as a seller, to ensure that you are getting the best price for your home. The more homebuyers you attract to your home for sale, the higher the chance that the right person will see it and you will get the best price from the sale of your home. The following is a list of things to consider when you are selling your home in Bainbridge or Auburn Township, to ensure that you are doing everything you can to attract the perfect buyer.

Know Your Price

You can look at the Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) for your area (online), or talk to a realtor in Bainbridge or Auburn Township to find out the prices of comparable homes that have sold in the area; these resources will be able to give you information that will help you get the best price from the sale of your home.

  • How quickly are homes in Bainbridge/Auburn Township selling?
  • What was the average price of homes that sold these areas?
  • How does your home compare to others that have sold in the area (smaller, nicer, older, closer to schools, etc.)?

Curb Appeal

Curb appeal is the first impression of your home to potential buyers, and, if done properly, will ensure that you are getting the best price from the sale of your home. In the summer, ensure your garden features colorful flowers, that your landscape is properly watered and cared for, and in the winter make sure that your sidewalks are cleared of all snow and ice. Also, if you need to, touch up any chipping paint on the outside of the house.

Staging Your Home

Staging your home is one of the most important places to invest money if you can’t do it yourself. A professional stager can get the best price from the sale of your home by rearranging and even removing furniture and other items in your home to make it more appealing to a potential buyer.

Make All Necessary Repairs

  • Fix plumbing issues in your bathroom, and repair cupboard doors; small problems can seem like big ones to buyers.
  • Replacing dirty or smelly carpets is a very small expense that can make a big difference.
  • Are your appliances in great working order? Homeowners like new appliances, and replacing your old ones can attract many potential buyers to your home.
  • Paint walls that look unattractive. Paint is the cheapest investment you can make in attracting buyers and get the best price from the sale of your home.