Real Estate Tips and Trends

We will update this area regularly be adding new information. If you have suggestions or ideas that you would like to see added, we encourage you to contact us and we will evaluate the information for inclusion. Thank you and we look forward from hearing from you.

Sept. 5, 2018

Are You Covered? A Homeowner’s Insurance Guide

Homeowner's Insurance

No one likes to think about disasters. Severe weather, fire, theft—or even a seemingly small issue like a broken pipe—can wreak havoc on your home and result in thousands of dollars in damages. Fortunately, a good homeowners insurance policy can offer you peace of mind that you and your family will be financially protected if disaster strikes.

A homeowners insurance policy covers your home—as well as the belongings in it—in case of theft, accidental damage, or certain natural disasters. In fact, most financial institutions require that you purchase homeowners insurance before they issue a mortgage. While coverage varies, most policies also help to protect you from liability should someone outside your household become injured on your property. And that liability coverage is often extended to include damage you (or anyone living in your household) may do to someone else’s property.1

With all the protection offered, it’s equally important to understand what a home insurance policy does NOT cover. For example, homeowners insurance won’t pay to repair malfunctioning systems and appliances within your home. And terms vary, but standard policies typically exclude coverage related to floods, earthquakes, slow leaks, power failure, neglect, aging, faulty repairs or construction materials, and acts of war.2

Homeowners Insurance Covers Things Like:

  • Structure
  • Roof
  • Windows
  • Furniture/Personal Belongings
  • Liability for Non-Residents Injured on Property
  • Liability for Damage or Injury Caused by You or Your Pets

Most Standard Policies DON’T Cover:

  • Malfunctioning Systems & Appliances
  • Floods
  • Earthquakes
  • Slow Leaks
  • Power Failures
  • Neglect or Aging
  • Faulty Repairs
  • Acts of War

  NARROWING THE COVERAGE GAP

So how do you minimize your risk when so many potential issues are excluded from a standard homeowners policy? Many insurers offer supplemental coverage options that can be tacked on to a basic policy. We explore this further in the section below on “7 Tips for Purchasing Homeowners Insurance.”

Some homeowners also choose to purchase a home warranty, which covers many of the systems and appliances in your home that are NOT covered by homeowners insurance. Home warranties are separate from homeowners insurance, so if interested you’ll need to seek out a policy through a dedicated provider.

While terms vary, a home warranty will often pay to repair or replace components of your HVAC, electrical, plumbing, and some appliances that fail due to age or typical wear and tear. Unlike homeowners insurance, home warranties aren’t required by mortgage companies. But many homeowners like the added financial protection and peace of mind that home warranties provide.3

 Keep in mind, if you do purchase a home warranty, you will still be responsible for paying a service fee, or deductible, every time you use it. And you will be limited to using service providers who are contracted through your home warranty company.

7 TIPS FOR PURCHASING HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE

Whether you’re shopping for a new policy on your first home or you’re considering switching providers on an existing policy, it’s important to do your research beforehand. Not all insurance policies—or providers—are created equal. A little due diligence can save you time, money, and hassle in the long run.

  1. Prioritize Service and Value
    When choosing an insurance provider, ask around for recommendations. Check with neighbors, friends, and family members, particularly those who have filed an insurance claim in the past. Find out if they had a positive or negative experience. Read online reviews. Ask your real estate agent for a referral to a reputable insurance broker who can help you compare your options.
     

    Don’t just choose the cheapest policy. Instead, search for one that offers excellent client service and provides the best coverage for the cost.

  2. Choose the Right Level of Coverage
    Your policy limits should be high enough to cover the cost of rebuilding your home. Don’t make the common mistake of insuring your home for the price you paid for it. The cost to rebuild could be higher or lower, depending on the value of your land, your home’s unique features, market factors, new building codes, and local construction costs.4
     

    Also, consider whether you need a higher level of liability insurance to protect your assets. If your investments and savings exceed the liability limits in your policy, you may need to purchase an excess liability or umbrella policy.

    Ultimately, you should make sure your coverage is adequate to mitigate your losses—but don’t pay for excess insurance you don’t need.

  3. Inquire About Additional Coverage
    Ask your insurance agent about additional coverage options that can help close any gaps you have in your policy.
     

    For example, if you’re in a flood or earthquake-prone area, experts strongly recommend that you add those coverages to your policy. In fact, flooding is the most frequently occurring natural hazard, and a significant percentage of insurance payouts are for homes outside “flood zones,” or areas known to be at risk of flooding. So even if your home is not technically located in a flood zone, you may want to add flood coverage to your policy, just in case.5

    Expensive jewelry, furs, collectibles, or artwork may not be fully insured by a standard policy. Ask about raising your limits for any items of particular value, or check with a specialty insurer about a separate policy for such items.

  4. Decide on “Replacement Cost” or “Actual Cash Value”
    Insurers can use a variety of methods to determine how much they will pay to reimburse you for a loss, but the two most common are “replacement cost” or “actual cash value.”
     

    If your seven-year-old sofa is damaged in a fire, replacement cost coverage will pay you the cost to purchase a new, comparable sofa at today’s prices. Actual cash value coverage will pay you for the depreciated value of the sofa you lost—so what you would pay to buy a seven-year-old sofa rather than a new one.6

    While a replacement cost coverage policy will result in a bigger payoff if you suffer a loss, it will probably require a larger annual premium. Compare both options to find out which is the better fit for you.

  5. Consider a Higher Deductible
    A deductible is the amount of money you are responsible for paying on a loss before your insurance company will pay a claim. Opting for a higher deductible can reduce your premiums.
     

    Note that in some cases, your insurance policy may have a separate or higher deductible for certain kinds of claims, such as those caused by floods, windstorms, hail, or earthquakes.

    While a higher deductible can save you money on your premiums, opt for one that is still affordable given your current financial situation.

  6. Try Bundling Your Coverage
    Combining your home, automobile, and other policies under one insurer can often result in a significant discount. And some insurers offer additional benefits, such as a single deductible if property insured by multiple policies is damaged. For instance, if a fire destroys your home and your car, you may only have to pay the higher of the two deductibles. Bundling can also make payment and renewal of your policies more convenient.7
     

    However, bundling isn't always the best or least expensive option. In some cases, you may find better coverage options, service, and/or pricing if you split your policies between multiple insurers. So be sure to consider all of your options before making a final decision.

  7. Reassess Your Policy Each Year
    Even if you’ve done all your due diligence before purchasing a homeowners insurance policy, don’t set your annual renewal on autopilot. Instead, when it comes time to renew, take some time to consider factors that have changed over the past year.
     

    For example, have you made any home improvements that would require you to raise your coverage limits? Have you made any security or safety improvements that qualify you for a discount on your premiums?8

    Has there been a shift in market conditions that would make it more or less expensive to rebuild your home now? If so, you may need to adjust your coverage levels accordingly.

    If you’ve made any changes to how you use your home, you may need to adjust your policy, as well. For example, if you’ve started a home-based business or occasionally rent out your home on a home-sharing site, you may not be fully covered by your existing policy.9

    Finally, consider any changes to your financial situation that may require increased liability coverage limits. If you’ve grown your investments or inherited property, it may be time to purchase additional coverage to protect your expanding asset base.

MINIMIZE RISK, MAXIMIZE VALUE
Now that you understand the basics of homeowners insurance, you should be ready to start shopping for a policy that best fits your needs and budget. Your goal should be to minimize your risk while maximizing the value your policy provides.

While you never want to leave yourself without a safety net should disaster strike, you also don’t want to overpay for insurance you don’t need (and will hopefully rarely use). Aim to strike a balance that will provide you with adequate protection at an affordable price.

NEED MORE GUIDANCE? WE CAN HELP

If you’re in the market to purchase homeowners insurance or a home warranty, give us a call! We get a lot of feedback from clients on the best (and worst) providers and are happy to share what we know.

We can also put you in touch with a trusted insurance professional who can answer your questions and help you find the best policy to meet your needs.

 

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial or insurance advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.Sources:

  1. Insurance Information Institute - https://www.iii.org/article/what-covered-standard-homeowners-policy
  2. com - https://www.insure.com/home-insurance/exclusions.html
  3. American Home Shield - https://www.ahs.com/home-matters/cost-savers/whats-the-difference-homeowners-insurance-vs-home-warranty
  4. Insurance Information Institute - https://www.iii.org/article/how-much-homeowners-insurance-do-you-need
  5. com - https://www.realtor.com/advice/buy/buying-home-insurance
  6. Texas Department of Insurance - http://www.helpinsure.com/home/documents/acvvsreplace.pdf
  7. com - https://www.insure.com/home-insurance-faq/bundle-insurance-policies.html
  8. National Association of Insurance Commissioners - https://www.insureuonline.org/consumer_homeowners_ten_tips.htm
  9. HomeAway - https://help.homeaway.com/articles/Do-I-need-a-special-vacation-rental-insurance-policy-for-my-property
Aug. 5, 2018

Renters for a Weekend or a While: What’s the Best Use of Your Investment Property?

The residential rental market is now the fastest-growing segment of the housing market. In the United States, the demand for single-family rentals, defined as either detached homes or townhouses, has risen 30 percent in the past three years.1 And in Canada, rental units now account for nearly one-third of the country’s homes, with particular demand for multi-family units, including apartments and condominiums.2

At the same time, the short-term, or vacation, rental market is also booming. The popularity of online marketplaces like Airbnb, HomeAway, and VRBO has helped the short-term rental market become one of the fastest-growing segments in the travel industry.3

Now, more than ever, there is an abundance of opportunity for real estate investors. But which path is best: leasing your property to a long-term tenant, or renting your property to travelers on a short-term basis?

In this post, we examine the differences between the two investment strategies and the benefits and limitations of each category.

WHY INVEST IN A RENTAL PROPERTY? The Top 5 Reasons

Before we delve into the differences between long-term and short-term rentals, let’s answer the question: “Why invest in a rental property at all?”

There are five key reasons investors choose to real estate over other investment vehicles:

    1. AppreciationAppreciation is the increase in your property’s value over time. And history has proven that over an extended period, the cost of real estate continues to rise. Recessions may still occur, but in the vast majority of markets, the value of real estate does grow over the long term.
    2. Cash FlowOne of the key benefits of investing in real estate is the ability to generate steady cash flow. Rental income can be used to pay the mortgage and taxes on your investment property, as well as regular maintenance and repairs. If appropriately priced in a solid rental market, there may even be a little extra cash each month to help with your living expenses or to grow your savings.Even if you only take in enough rent to cover your expenses, a rental property purchase will pay for itself over time. As you pay down the mortgage every month with your rental income, your equity will continue to increase until you own the property free and clear … leaving you with residual cash flow for years to come.
    3. Hedge Against InflationInflation is the rate at which the general cost of goods and services rises. That means as inflation rises, the money you have sitting in a savings account will buy less tomorrow than it will today. On the other hand, the price of real estate typically matches (or often exceeds) the rate of inflation. To hedge or guard yourself against inflation, real estate can be a smart investment choice.
  1. LeverageLeverage is the use of borrowed capital to increase the potential return of an investment. You can put a relatively small amount down on a property, finance the rest of the investment with a mortgage, and then profit on the entire combined value.
  2. Tax BenefitsDon’t overlook the tax benefits that can come with a real estate investment, as well. From deductions to depreciation to exemptions, there are many ways a real estate investment can save you money on taxes. Consult a tax professional to discuss your particular circumstances.

These are just a few of the many perks of investing in real estate. (For more detailed information, visit our previous post: Why Real Estate Investing Makes (Dollars and) Sense. [Link to October 2017 blog post.]) But what’s the best strategy to maximize returns on your investment property? In the next section, we explore the differences between long-term and short-term rentals.


LONG-TERM (TRADITIONAL) RENTAL MARKET

When most people think of owning a rental property, they imagine buying a home and renting it out to tenants to use as their primary residence. Traditionally, investors would use their rental property to generate an additional stream of income while benefiting from the property’s long-term appreciation in value.

In fact, that steady and predictable monthly cash flow is one of the key advantages of owning a long-term rental. And as an owner, you don’t usually have to worry about paying the utility bills or furnishing the property—both of which are typically covered by the tenant. Add to this the fact that traditional tenants translate into less time and effort spent on day-to-day property management, and long-term rentals are an attractive option for many investors.

However, there are also limitations to long-term rentals, which often come down to your ability to control the property. Perhaps the most obvious one is that you do not get to use the home or closely monitor its upkeep (this is different from a short-term rental, which we’ll share in the next section).

In addition, while you can usually generate a steady, predictable income stream with a long-term rental, you are limited in your ability to adjust rent prices based on increasing or seasonal demand. Therefore, you may end up with a lower overall return on your investment. In fact, according to data from Mashvisor, in the 10 hottest real estate markets, short-term rentals produced “significantly higher rental income” than long-term rentals.4


SHORT-TERM (VACATION) RENTAL MARKET

Short-term rentals are often referred to as vacation rentals, as more and more travelers enjoy the benefits of staying in a home while on vacation. In fact, according to Wells Fargo, vacation rentals are steadily growing and predicted to account for 21% of the worldwide accommodations market by 2020.5

Investing in a short-term rental or funding your second-home purchase by renting it out can offer many benefits. If you purchase an investment property in a top travel destination or vacation spot, you can expect steady demand from travelers while taking advantage of any non-rented periods to enjoy the home yourself. In addition to greater control over how your property is used, you can also adjust your rental price around peak travel demand to maximize your returns.

But short-term rentals also have risks and drawbacks that may dissuade some investors. They require greater day-to-day property management, and owners are typically responsible for furnishing the property, upkeep, and utilities.

And while rental revenue can be higher, it can also be less predictable based on seasonal or consumer travel trends. For example, a lack of snowfall during ski season could mean fewer bookings and lower rental revenue that year.

In addition, laws and limitations on short-term rentals can vary by region. And in some areas, the regulations are in flux as residents and government officials adapt to a new surge in short-term rentals. So make sure you understand any existing or proposed restrictions on rentals in the area where you want to invest.

Urban centers or suburban communities may be more resistant to short-term renters, thus more likely to pass future limitations on use. To lower your risk, you may want to consider properties in resort communities that are accustomed to travelers. We can help you assess the current regulations on short-term rentals in our area. Or if you’re interested in investing in another market, we can refer you to a local agent who can help.


WHICH INVESTMENT STRATEGY IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

Now that you understand these two real estate investment options, how do you pick the right one for you? It’s helpful to start by clarifying your investment goals.

If your goal is to generate steady, predictable income with less time and effort spent on property management, then a long-term rental may be your best option. Also, if you prefer a less-risky investment with more reliable (but possibly lower) returns, then you may be more comfortable with a long-term rental.

On the other hand, if your goal is to purchase a vacation or second home that you’ll use, and you want to defray some (or all) of the expense, then a short-term rental may be a good option for you. Similarly, if you’re open to taking on more risk and revenue volatility for the possibility of greater investment returns, then a short-term rental may better suit your spirit as an investor.

But sometimes the decision isn’t always so clear-cut. If your goal is to purchase a future retirement home now to hedge against inflation, rising real estate prices, and interest rates, then both long- and short-term rentals could be suitable options. In this case, you’ll want to consider other factors like location, market demand, property type, and your risk tolerance.


HERE OR ELSEWHERE … WE CAN HELP

If you’re looking to make a real estate investment—whether it’s a primary residence, investment property, vacation home, or future retirement home—give us a call. We’ll help you determine the best course of action and share insights and resources to help you make an informed decision. And if your plans include buying outside of our area, we can refer you to a local agent who can help. Contact us to schedule a free consultation!

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.

 

Sources:

  1. USA Today –
    https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/real-estate/2017/11/11/renting-homes-overtaking-housing-market-heres-why/845474001/
  2. The Globe and Mail –
    https://www.theglobeandmail.com/real-estate/the-market/article-demand-for-rental-housing-in-canada-now-outpacing-home-ownership/
  3. Phocuswright –
    https://www.phocuswright.com/Travel-Research/Research-Updates/2017/US-Private-Accommodation-Market-to-Reach-36B-by-2018
  4. com –
    https://www.rented.com/vacation-rental-best-practices-blog/do-long-term-rentals-or-short-term-rentals-provide-better-investment-returns/
  5. Turnkey Vacation Rentals –
    https://blog.turnkeyvr.com/short-term-vs-long-term-vacation-rental-properties/
Posted in Buyer Tips, Investor
May 8, 2018

10 Staging Secrets From the Pros for a Quick Home Sale at Top Dollar

According to the National Association of Realtors, staging a home prior to listing it can result in a faster and more profitable sale.1 In fact, the Real Estate Staging Association estimates that professionally staged properties spend 73 percent less time on the market, receive more foot traffic, and typically sell for more money.2

NAR Staging Success

Source: National Association of Realtors Following are 10 tips you can use to get your home “show ready” prior to hitting the market. These easy and cost-effective ideas will help your house look its best—and help buyers visualize themselves living there. Even if you’re not currently in the market to sell, you can use these tactics to breathe new life into your existing home decor. To get a plan customized for your particular property, give us a call to schedule a free consultation. We’d be happy to share our insider knowledge of the buyer preferences in your neighborhood … so you’ll know where to focus your time, money and energy to maximize your results.

 

If you’re thinking of moving in the next 3 to 12 months, schedule a free consultation to help you decide which projects and upgrades are worth your time and money, and which ones you can skip. Schedule Now!
View More
Posted in Staging
April 29, 2018

HOUSE CARE CALENDAR: A Seasonal Guide to Maintaining Your Home

From summer vacations to winter holidays, it seems each season offers the perfect excuse to put off our to-do list. But be careful, homeowners: neglecting your home’s maintenance could put your personal safety—and one of your largest financial investments—at serious risk.

In no time at all, small problems can lead to extensive and expensive repairs. And even if you avoid a catastrophe, those minor issues can still have a big impact. Properties that are not well maintained can lose 10 percent (or more) of their appraised value.1

The good news is, by dedicating a few hours each season to properly maintaining your home, you can ensure a safe living environment for you and your family … and actually increase the value of your home by one percent annually!1 You just need to know where and how to spend your time.

Use the following checklist as a guide to maintaining your home and lawn throughout the year. It’s applicable for all climates, so please share it with friends and family members who you think could benefit, no matter where their home is located.

Spring

After a long, cold winter, many of us look forward to a fresh start in the spring. Wash away the winter grime, open the windows, and prepare your home for warmer weather and backyard barbecues.

Inside

o  Conduct Annual Spring Cleaning

o  Be sure to tackle those areas that may have gone neglected—such as your blinds, baseboards and fan blades—as well as appliances, including your refrigerator, dishwasher, oven and range hood. Clear out clutter and clothes you no longer wear, and toss old and expired food and medications.

o  Shut Down Heating System

o  Depending on the type of heating system you have, you may need to shut your system down when not in use. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for proper procedures.

o  Tune Up A/C

o  If your home has central air conditioning, schedule an annual tune-up with your HVAC technician. If you have a portable or window unit, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper maintenance.2

o  Check Plumbing

o  It’s a good idea to periodically check your plumbing to spot any leaks or maintenance issues. Look for evidence of leaks—such as water stains on the ceiling—and check for dripping faucets or running toilets that need to be addressed. Inspect your hot water heater for sediment build up. Check your sump pump (if you have one) to ensure it’s working properly.3

o  Inspect Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

o  Check that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are functioning properly. Batteries should be replaced every six months, so change them now and again in the fall. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to test your individual devices. And even properly functioning devices should be replaced at least every 10 years, or per the manufacturer’s recommendation.4

Outside

o  Inspect Perimeter of Home

o  Walk around your house and look for any signs of damage or wear and tear that should be addressed. Are there cracks in the foundation? Peeling paint? Loose or missing roof shingles? Make a plan to make needed repairs yourself or hire a contractor.

o  Clean Home’s Exterior

o  Wash windows and clean and replace screens if they were removed during the winter months. For the home’s facade, it’s generally advisable to use the gentlest method that is effective. A simple garden hose will work in most cases.5

o  Clean Gutters and Downspouts

o  Gutters and downspouts should be cleaned at least twice a year. Neglected gutters can cause water damage to a home, so make sure yours are clean and free of debris. If your gutters have screens, you may be able to decrease the frequency of cleanings, but they should still be checked periodically.6

o  Rake Leaves

o  Gently rake your lawn to remove leaves and debris. Too many leaves can cause an excessive layer of thatch, which can damage the roots of your lawn. They can also harbor disease-causing organisms and insects.7 However, take care because overly vigorous raking can damage new grass shoots.

o  Seed or Sod Lawn

o  If you have bare spots, spring is a good time to seed or lay new sod so you can enjoy a beautiful lawn throughout the remainder of the year. The peak summer heat can be too harsh for a new lawn. If you miss this window, early fall is another good time to plant.8

o  Apply a Pre-Emergent Herbicide

o  While a healthy lawn is the best deterrent for weeds, some homeowners choose to use a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring to minimize weeds. When applied at the right time, it can be effective in preventing weeds from germinating. However, a pre-emergent herbicide will also prevent grass seeds from germinating, so only use it if you don’t plan to seed or sod in the spring.

o  Plant Flowers

o  After a long winter, planting annuals and spring perennials is a great way to brighten up your garden. It’s also a good time to prune existing flowers and shrubs and remove and compost any dead plants.

o  Mulch Beds

o  A layer of fresh mulch helps to suppress weeds, retain moisture and moderate soil temperature. However, be sure to strip away old mulch at least every three years to prevent excessive buildup.9 

o  Fertilize Lawn

o  Depending on your grass type, an application of fertilizer in the spring may help promote new leaf and root growth, keep your lawn healthy, and reduce weeds.10

o  TuneUp Lawn Mower

o  Send your lawn mower out for a professional tune-up and to have the blades sharpened before the mowing season starts.11 

o  Inspect Sprinkler System

o  If you have a sprinkler system, check that it’s working properly and make repairs as needed.

o  Check the Deck

o  If you have a deck or patio, inspect it for signs of damage or deterioration that may have occurred over the winter. Then clean it thoroughly and apply a fresh coat of stain if needed.

o  Prepare Pool

o  If you own a pool, warmer weather signals the start of pool season. Be sure to follow best practices for your particular pool to ensure proper maintenance and safety.

 

Summer

Summer is generally the time to relax and enjoy your home, but a little time devoted to maintenance will help ensure it looks great and runs efficiently throughout the season.

Inside

o  Adjust Ceiling Fans

o  Make sure they are set to run counter-clockwise in the summer to push air down and create a cooling breeze. Utilizing fans instead of your air conditioner, when possible, will help minimize your utility bills.

o  Clean A/C Filters

o  Be sure to clean or replace your filters monthly, particularly if you’re running your air conditioner often.

o  Clear Dryer Vent

o  Help cut down on summer utility bills by cleaning your laundry dryer vent at least once a year. Not only will it help cut down on drying times, a neglected dryer poses a serious fire hazard.

o  Check Weather Stripping

o  If you’re running your air conditioner in the summer, you’ll want to keep the cold air inside and hot air outside. Check weather stripping around doors and windows to ensure a good seal.

Outside

o  Mow Lawn Regularly

o  Your lawn will probably need regular mowing in the summer. Adjust your mower height to the highest setting, as taller grass helps shade the soil to prevent drought and weeds.

o  Water Early in the Morning

o  Ensure your lawn and garden get plenty of water during the hot summer months. Experts generally recommend watering in the early morning to minimize evaporation, but be mindful of any watering restrictions in your area, which may limit the time and/or days you are allowed to water.

o  Weed Weekly

o  To prevent weeds from taking over your garden and ruining your home’s valuable curb appeal, make a habit of pulling weeds at least once per week.

o  Exterminate Pests

o  Remove any standing water and piles of leaves and debris. Inspect your lawn and perimeter of your home for signs of an invasion. If necessary, call a professional exterminator for assistance.

 

Fall

Fall ushers in another busy season of home maintenance as you prepare your home for the winter weather ahead.

Inside

o  Have Heater Serviced

o  To ensure safety and efficiency, it’s a good idea to have your heating system serviced and inspected before you run it for the first time.

o  Shut Down A/C for the Winter

o  If you have central air conditioning, you can have it serviced at the same time as your furnace. If you have a portable or window unit, ensure it’s properly sealed or remove it and store it for the winter.

o  Inspect Chimney

o  Fire safety experts recommend that you have your chimney inspected annually and cleaned periodically. Complete this task before you start using your fireplace or furnace.

o  Seal Windows and Doors

o  Check windows and doors for drafts and caulk or add weatherstripping where necessary.

o  Check Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

o  If you checked your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the spring, they are due for another inspection. Batteries should be replaced every six months, so it’s time to replace them again. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to test your individual devices. And even properly functioning devices should be replaced at least every 10 years, or per the manufacturer’s recommendation.3

Outside

o  Plant Fall Flowers, Grass, and Shrubs

o  Fall is a great time to plant perennials, trees, shrubs, cool-season vegetables and bulbs that will bloom in the spring.12 It’s also a good time to reseed or sod your lawn.

o  Once the leaves start falling, it’s time to pull out your rake. A thick layer of leaves left on your grass can lead to an unhealthy lawn. Or, rather than raking, use a mulching mower to create a natural fertilizer for your lawn.

o  Apply Fall Fertilizer

o  If you choose not to use a mulching mower, a fall fertilizer is usually recommended. For best results, aerate your lawn before applying the fertilizer.13

o  Inspect Gutters and Roof

o  Inspect your gutters and downspouts and make needed repairs. Check the roof for any broken or loose tiles. Remove fallen leaves and debris.

o  Shut Down Sprinkler System

o  If you have a sprinkler system, drain any remaining water and shut it down to prevent damage from freezing temperatures over the winter.

 

Winter

While it can be tempting to ignore home maintenance issues in the winter, snow and freezing temperatures can do major damage if left untreated. Follow these steps to ensure your house survives the winter months.

Inside

o  Maintain Heating System

o  Check and change filters on your heating system, per the manufacturer’s instructions.

o  TuneUp Generator

o  If you own a portable generator, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper maintenance. Make sure it’s working before you need it, and stock up on supplies like fuel, oil, and filters.

o  Prevent Frozen Pipes

o  Make sure pipes are well insulated, and keep your heat set to a minimum of 55 degrees when you’re away. If pipes are prone to freezing, leave faucets dripping slightly overnight or when away from home. You may also want to open cabinet doors beneath sinks to let in heat.

Outside

o  Before the first freeze, drain and shut off outdoor faucets. Place an insulated cover over exposed faucets, and store hoses for the winter.

 

While this checklist should not be considered a complete list of your home’s maintenance needs, it can serve as a general seasonal guide. Systems, structures, and fixtures will need to be repaired and replaced from time-to-time, as well. The good news is, the investment you make in maintaining your home now will pay off dividends over time.

Keep a record of all your maintenance, repairs and upgrades for future reference, along with receipts. Not only will it help jog your memory, it can make a big impact on buyers when it comes time to sell your home … and potentially result in a higher selling price.

Are you looking for help with home maintenance or repairs? We have an extensive network of trusted contractors and service providers and are happy to provide referrals! Call or email us, and we can connect you with one of our preferred vendors.

Sources:

  1. com –
    https://www.houselogic.com/organize-maintain/home-maintenance-tips/value-home-maintenance/
  2. Home Advisor –
    https://www.homeadvisor.com/r/servicing-your-air-conditioner/
  3. Keyes & Sons Plumbing and Heating –
    http://keyes-plumbing.com/things-to-check-in-spring/
  4. Allstate Insurance Blog –
    https://blog.allstate.com/test-smoke-detectors/
  5. Houzz –
    https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/17268616/list/how-to-wash-your-house
  6. Angie’s List –
    https://www.angieslist.com/articles/why-gutter-cleaning-so-important.htm
  7. Angie’s List –
    https://www.angieslist.com/articles/what-thatch-and-how-does-it-impact-my-lawn.htm
  8. HGTV –
    http://www.hgtv.com/design/outdoor-design/landscaping-and-hardscaping/lawns/top-spring-lawn-care-tips-pictures
  9. This Old House –
    https://www.thisoldhouse.com/more/may-mulching
  10. Lowes –
    https://www.lowes.com/projects/lawn-and-garden/fertilize-your-lawn/project
  11. The New York Times –
    https://www.nytimes.com/guides/realestate/home-maintenance-checklist
  12. Better Homes and Gardens Magazine –
    https://www.bhg.com/gardening/yard/garden-care/what-to-plant-in-the-fall/
  13. The Spruce –
    https://www.thespruce.com/late-fall-fertilizing-2152976
  14. This Old House –
    https://www.thisoldhouse.com/how-to/how-to-get-rid-ice-dams
  15. Houzz –
    https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/55572864/list/your-winter-home-maintenance-checklist

 

Posted in HomeOwner, House Care
March 27, 2018

The Cost of Waiting to Buy a Home - Interest Rates are going Up!

 

The Cost of Waiting - Interest Rates are going Up!

  • Interest rates are projected to increase steadily heading into 2019.
  • The higher your interest rate, the more money you end up paying for your home and the higher your monthly payment will be.
  • Rates are still low right now. Don’t wait until rates hit 5% to start searching for your dream home!
March 27, 2018

20 Tips for Preparing Your Home for Sale

20 Tips Preparing Your Home for Sale

  • When listing your house for sale your top goal will be to get the home sold for the best price possible!
  • There are many small projects that you can do to ensure this happens!
  • Your real estate agent will have a list of specific suggestions for getting your house ready for market and is a great resource for finding local contractors who can help!
Posted in Seller Tips
March 27, 2018

4 Reasons to Sell in the Spring

4 Reasons to Sell in the Spring

  • Buyer demand continues to outpace the supply of homes for sale which means that buyers are often competing with one another for the few listings that are available!
  • Housing inventory is still under the 6-month supply needed to sustain a normal housing market.
  • Perhaps the time has come for you and your family to move on and start living the life you desire.
Posted in Seller Tips
Jan. 22, 2018

Quick & Budget-Friendly DIY Fixes | Realtor.com VIDEO

If you don’t have much time or money to spend there are still lots of fast, finance-friendly DIY projects to enhance your home.

Posted in HomeOwner, Seller Tips
Jan. 22, 2018

5 Reasons It'll Pay to Sell Your Home Early in 2018

By Holly Amaya | Jan 10, 2018

It's been nearly a decade since the Great Recession delivered the worst housing crash in modern memory. But these days, the fallout feels squarely in the rearview mirror. Markets have bounced back with fervor, and confidence is skyrocketing: From Charlotte, NC, to Stockton, CA—and everywhere in between—homes are flying off the market at record prices, and buyers are still clamoring to get in the game

One thing is clear: It's a great time to be a seller.

"We’ve seen two or three years of what could be considered unsustainable levels of price appreciation, as well as an inventory shortage that resulted in a record low number of homes for sale across the country," says Javier Vivas, director of economic research for realtor.com®.

In other words: Today's buyers are exhausted. And in many cases that means they're willing to sacrifice to get a toehold in the market.

Sounds like the stuff of seller's dreams, right? But know this: If you plan to sell in 2018—and you want to unload your home quickly and for maximum money—your window of opportunity may be rapidly narrowing. Here's why you should get moving ASAP.

1. Rates are still historically low, drawing buyers into the market

We may not be enjoying the rock-bottom interest rates of yore, but by historical standards, today's 30-year mortgage rates—hovering just above 4%—are still low. And experts agree mortgage credit will remain relatively cheap for most of the year.

That means the getting's still good for buyers—and, subsequently, for sellers looking to unload their homes.

But rates are on the rise, and it's been widely predicted that they'll reach 5% before year's end. Buyers know that the longer they wait to buy, the more expensive it will be.

Roughly translated, that means you'd be wise to list your home earlier in the year, before more rate hikes kick in. Not only will you capture the market of buyers scurrying to close a deal, but if you're buying after you sell, you'll also benefit from those lower rates.

2. Inventory remains tight—and demand high

Simply put, there are more buyers than available homes—particularly in red-hot markets where land is scarce and it isn't cheap to build.

And the housing shortage will likely get worse before it gets better: Realtor.com data predict inventory will remain tight in the first part of this year, reaching a 4% year-over-year decline by March.

Sellers, that means this is your opportunity to be wooed. Buyers, their choices limited, are going to great lengths (and making some major concessions) to win the house, says Katie Griswold, a Realtor® with Pacific Sotheby's in Southern California.

"We're in a very favorable seller's market," she says. "We're seeing bidding wars—which push up prices—and buyers are submitting offers with very pro-seller terms, like forgoing the repair request or waiving the appraisal contingency."

And cash investors are in the mix, too, accounting for 22% of all home sales transactions in November 2017 (up from 20% in October), according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Those cash buyers are snapping up homes in an already tight market and keeping some first-time buyers at bay (sorry, buyers!). But if you're selling, you stand a better shot at an all-cash offer—one you just might be crazy to refuse.

Of course, there's a catch: Inventory levels are predicted to begin rising in the fourth quarter, marking the first inventory gain since 2015 and setting the stage for more dramatic housing gains to come. So if you're thinking of selling, start preparing now in order to walk away with a sweet paycheck.

3. Home prices are still increasing

From coast to coast, home prices continue to rise—which translates to more money in your pocket when you sell.

But the gains are predicted to be more moderate than in years past. Realtor.com data suggest a 3.2% increase year over year, after finishing 2017 with a 5.5% year-over-year increase.

Bottom line: You still stand to make a pretty profit if you sell this year, but the earlier you can list, the better off you'll be.

4. People have more money in their pocket

Record levels of consumer confidence, low unemployment, and stock market surges are setting the stage for high home buyer turnout in 2018. For the first time since the 1960s, the Fed has projected that the unemployment rate will drop below 4%, and the domestic stock market is enjoying a nearly unprecedented rally.

The housing market is already reflecting this boom: Existing-home sales soared 5.6% in November 2017 (the most recent month for which data are available) and reached their strongest pace in almost 11 years, according to the NAR.

"Incomes are growing and people are finding better and more stable jobs," Vivas says. Buyers "are feeling pretty good about (their) finances."

And thanks to the GOP tax legislation, which nearly doubles the standard deduction, we'll see fewer people itemizing, says National Association of Home Builders Chief Economist Robert Dietz.

"The income effect of that is that most people are getting a tax cut—which should help (buyer) demand," Dietz says.

All of these factors combined mean more buyers could be on the hunt, with more money in their pockets to shell out on a home for sale—possibly yours!

5. Millennials are ready to commit

Millennials, often crippled by student debt, have been especially hampered by rising interest rates and high home prices.

But the aforementioned conditions are ripe in 2018 for these first-time buyers to take the plunge, and experts predict that millennials will make up a vital part of the buyer pool over the coming year: Millennials could account for 43% of home buyers taking out a mortgage in 2018 (a 3% year-over-year increase), according to realtor.com data.

"As people move into their 30s, they're looking to move from renting to homeownership," Dietz says. "And we predict that trend will continue even more this year."

More home buyers flooding the market can only mean good things for sellers—at all price points.

Based in San Diego, Holly Amaya is a writer, lawyer, and communications strategist. She writes about real estate, legal, lifestyle, motherhood, and career issues. Follow @hollyamaya

Posted in HomeOwner, Seller Tips
Dec. 22, 2017

Staged For Success

Home staging offers a distinct advantage for sellers: a speedy sale.

 

Sixty-two percent of sellers’ agents believe staging a home cuts down the time it spends on-market, with the majority believing it “greatly” reduces the window, according to the new 2017 Profile of Home Staging from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). Seventy-seven percent of buyers’ agents believe staging a home helps buyers envision themselves living in it, and 40 percent believe it prompts buyers who first saw the home online to visit it in person.

Staging can also have a positive effect on home value. Thirty-one percent of buyers’ agents and 29 percent of sellers’ agents believe it adds anywhere from 1 to 5 percent, while 13 percent of buyers’ agents believe 6 to 10 percent and 21 percent of sellers’ agents believe 8 to 10 percent. The cost of staging is often fronted by the seller or sellers’ agent.

Buyers’ agents caution, however, that staging is only beneficial if the home is staged to appeal to general, not specific, preferences. Most buyers’ and sellers’ agents believe the living room is a key space to stage, as well as the kitchen, the master bedroom and the yard. They also believe decluttering, depersonalizing and a deep clean—beyond staging—are essential for a show-ready home.

Thirty-eight percent of sellers’ agents stage all of their listings before placing them on the market, while 14 percent only stage listings that require it. A near-even 37 percent do not stage their listings at all.

“REALTORS® know how important it is for buyers to be able to picture themselves living in a home and, according to NAR’s most recent report, staging a home makes that process much easier for potential buyers,” says NAR President Bill Brown. “While all real estate is local, and many factors play into what a home is worth and how much buyers are willing to pay for it, staging can be the extra step sellers take to help sell their home more quickly and for a higher dollar value.” 

For more information, please visit www.nar.realtor.

Getting your property in "Show-Ready" shape is one of the many pre-marketing services we provide to our clients and is included in our fees, which are paid at closing. For more information, Call/Text Jennie (925) 997-1493 or email michelle@savyagent.com.

 

~For a quick look at your property's value:

Instant, Accurate Home Valuation

~To search for your dream home:

Property Search

~To see what people are saying:

Testimonials

Posted in Staging