Our Real Estate Blog
With spring just around the corner, your thoughts may turn to enjoying the great outdoors. By making a few improvements, you can create your own restful, outdoor oasis even as you add value to your home.
Research has found that homeowners often gain the most value by improving backyards and investing in outdoor upgrades. Among enhancements you can make outside your four walls, kitchens and living rooms rank as the most popular — and they allow you to move your entertaining outside, where you can enjoy seasonal beauty.
What are some steps you can take to create an appealing outdoor living space?
Upgrade an Existing Patio
Before you begin creating your outdoor common area, consider your goals. Do you prefer a place to entertain or a serene, private retreat — or a combination of both? Your intended use of the space will guide you in choices for design, landscaping and furnishings.
Take a look at your patio or deck structure. Is it stable, sturdy and in good shape? Could it use a comprehensive refurbishment or at least a new coat of paint?
You may want to take some measurements to ensure that everything you plan to include in your outdoor retreat will fit in the intended space. If you come up a little short, consider working with a contractor to expand or rework your existing patio. Alternatively, you may opt to build a completely new home base for your outdoor living space.
In addition, take a look at the areas surrounding your patio or deck. Are the walkways in good shape? Is there direct access from parking areas to the yard so that guests need not come through your house to join the party? Does the path for foot traffic keep people off your lawn? If you’d prefer a different traffic pattern, now is the time to make changes.
Add Some Personal Touches
Once you’ve created the basic footprint for your new outdoor living area, it’s time to start making the space your own with some personal touches. Start by considering comfortable seating options to accommodate your maximum number of guests.
Beyond seating, the sky is the limit when it comes to appointing your outdoor space. If you love to cook outside, consider adding a full kitchen setup with grilling station to your entertaining area. Enjoy the warmth of a cozy fire on chilly nights? Add a fireplace — complete with pizza oven. Meanwhile, landscaping details such as water features enhance the natural beauty of your outdoor area.
With a little creativity, you can create an outdoor living space that adds value and enjoyment to your home for many years to come.
For a first-time homebuyer, it is important to realize that a home seller's acceptance of your initial offer provides no guarantees. In fact, a homebuyer will still need to complete a home inspection before a home sale is finalized.
A home inspection is a valuable opportunity to learn about any potential issues with a house. After the inspection is finished, a homebuyer has the opportunity to submit a counter-proposal, rescind a proposal or keep his or her current offer intact.
Ultimately, hiring the right home inspector can make a world of difference for a homebuyer. With an expert home inspector at your side, a homebuyer can gain insights into a house's pros and cons and determine whether a house is a viable long-term investment.
So what does it take to employ the right home inspector? Here are three tips to help a first-time homebuyer do just that.
1. Conduct an Extensive Search
Search far and wide for a home inspector – you'll be glad you did. If you allocate the necessary time and resources to locate a skilled home inspector in your area, you can boost your chances of identifying potential home problems before you complete a home purchase.
A first-time homebuyer can begin a search for an expert home inspector online. A simple web search is sure to provide plenty of results, and a homebuyer then can perform an in-depth review of local home inspectors' credentials.
Furthermore, don't hesitate to ask family members and friends for assistance. If a loved one recently sold a house and had a great experience with a home inspector, it may be worthwhile to hire this same professional to perform your home inspection.
2. Look at a Home Inspector's Background
How many years of industry experience does a home inspector have? What are past clients saying about a home inspector? And how does a home inspector approach each job? These are some of the questions that a first-time homebuyer should consider as he or she assesses a home inspector's background.
In addition, a homebuyer can always reach out to a home inspector directly to learn more about this professional's experience. A face-to-face or phone conversation with a home inspector may require only a few minutes to complete and can help a homebuyer make an informed decision.
3. Consult with a Real Estate Agent
A real estate agent can help you discover your dream house as well as put you in touch with the top home inspectors in your area. As a result, this housing market professional will ensure you can purchase a first-rate house that matches or exceeds your expectations.
If you're uncertain about whether to hire a particular home inspector, it never hurts to consult with a real estate agent. By doing so, you can gain honest, unbiased tips to determine whether a home inspector is the right person to evaluate your residence.
Employ the best home inspector prior to completing your home purchase – use these tips, and a first-time homebuyer should have no trouble hiring a superior home inspector.
Putting your home on the market is not for the faint-hearted! As many people discover along the way, the road to selling a home can be rather bumpy -- especially if you attempt to sell it on your own.
Fortunately, there are several things you can do, right away, to make the journey shorter, smoother, and more rewarding. Here are three strategies that will greatly increase your chances of success.
Find a seasoned real estate agent. An experienced real estate agent will not only help you navigate state and federal regulations, negotiate with buyers, and get a handle on paperwork, but they'll also schedule showings of your home and provide continuous marketing help.
Enhance your curb appeal: When it comes to finding prospective buyers and setting up appointments, your real estate agent will do the lion's share of the work. However, it's mostly up to you to make sure your house looks its best and that the appearance of your property catches the eye of house hunters.
Once your home is listed online and a "for sale" sign is planted in your front yard, potential buyers are going to immediately take notice of how your house looks from the outside. Sometimes people browse listed houses from their cars, so it can really pay to make a great first impression from the street.
Some of the things that matter the most are a meticulous-looking yard, a clutter-free property, and a house that looks like it's well maintained. Adding a fresh coat of paint, displaying some colorful potted flowers, and taking care of unsightly weeds and overgrown bushes are a few things you can do to make your property look a lot more inviting.
Stage your home's interior: Once you've cleared the first big hurdle (curb appeal), your next priority -- or perhaps a simultaneous priority -- is to make the interior of your home look inviting and appealing. As is the case with boosting curb appeal, your real estate agent can provide you with cost-effective advice on how to get the most mileage from your efforts.
Some of the tried-and-proven methods of staging a home include reducing clutter, arranging living room furniture in "conversational groups" to depict a cozy, intimate environment, and letting plenty of natural light stream in to make your home appear as cheerful and bright as possible.
Fresh coats of neutral-colored paint should be applied to walls and ceilings on an as-needed basis, and all floors, tables, and counter tops should be kept immaculate. Home staging consultants often recommend removing (or toning down) certain decorating themes -- such as sports, religion, or even too many family photographs -- which may alienate some potential buyers.
The overall objective is to make it easy for house hunters to imagine themselves owning and living in your home. If there's anything about the appearance, decor, or smell of your home that makes people feel in any way uncomfortable, that could make it more difficult to find a committed buyer -- which, of course, is your ultimate goal!
One of the most satisfying aspects of being a new homeowner is the process of "making it your own."
That could include everything from painting walls and hanging pictures to replacing window treatments and assembling shelves. (Then, of course, there's the unpacking, furniture arranging, organizing, and room cleaning!)
For some people, one of the biggest challenges in getting unpacked, set up, and fully decorated is keeping their motivation high. While momentum is usually highest during the first few weeks of living in a new home, a lot of distractions, interruptions, and competing priorities can quickly vie for your attention.
In addition to using good time management skills and setting self-imposed deadlines for getting projects done, here are a few other strategies for staying on track with your decorating and home improvement goals:
Purchase needed supplies ASAP: It's easy for a project to get derailed or put on the "back burner" when you don't have all the tools, supplies, and materials you need to get started. Painting walls and ceilings is the perfect example because you can't get fully underway until you have a variety of brushes, rollers, paint trays, drop cloths, painters' tape, and a sufficient supply of paint -- often more than one color. If you have holes or cracks to fill, you may also need additional supplies like joint compound, a putty knife, and sandpaper. When you have immediate access to all the supplies you need for a particular project, it eliminates potential delays, excuses for getting started, and interruptions in your work flow.
Arrange child care: Sometimes the best approach to keeping your children supervised and entertained while you're working on the house is to hire a responsible teenager to babysit. If you have one or more older children in the family who can help take care of the younger ones for a few hours, then that's even better. In either case, you'll be able to stay focused on the task at hand and get a lot more accomplished.
Make it a priority: The problem with continually postponing a home repair, a landscaping task, or a painting project is that weeks can easily turn into months! Before you know it, years have gone by and you still haven't organized your basement, cleaned out those clogged rain gutters, or applied a fresh coat of paint to your outdated bathroom walls. By blocking off a specific period of time for getting a project underway or completed, you'll be accomplishing your home maintenance goals and beautifying your home faster and more efficiently.
Commit it to writing: When you write yourself a reminder note, create a to-do list, mark it on your calendar, or even text your spouse about your plans to tackle the project on Saturday, you've increased the probability that it will get done. Verbally telling people about it, such as when they ask you what you're doing this weekend, will also help fuel your motivation and nudge you to get the job done in a timely way!
When looking for a luxury home, you can look for the most expensive neighborhood in the United States, or you can choose a luxury neighborhood in the part of the country you want to live in. Before you move to a different state, be sure you'll like the part of the country you choose.
Luxury Home Price Variances
Depending on where you choose to live, the cost of luxury varies — and it varies widely. You’ll find luxurious neighborhoods in Rapid City, South Dakota for a median price of $242,200. The most expensive luxury neighborhood is in zip code 94027 — Atherton, California. This luxury neighborhood has a median home price of $7,313,400.
Other luxury neighborhoods include:
96821 — Honolulu, Hawaii, with a median price of $1,370,900;
85253 — Paradise Valley, Arizona, with a median price of $1,588,200;
60610 — Chicago, Illinois, with a median price of $1,885,900;
06830 — Greenwich, Connecticut, with a median price of $2,056,900;
33921 — Palm Beach, Florida, with a median price of $4,394,000; and
81611 — Aspen, Colorado, with a median price of $4,869,200.
You can live in a luxury neighborhood for less money if you choose a state with a lower luxury median price. You’ll find that the cost of living is also less in those states. However, make sure the area you choose has the amenities you want. If you are expecting to have theme parks, upscale shopping and other amenities, you might want to choose a larger city, even though the median luxury price is much higher.
What to Look For in a Luxury Home
In some cases, luxury costs under $300,000 – and in other cases, it’s not luxury until you hit several million dollars. Regardless of the median luxury home price, always check what prices homes sold for in the neighborhood and the quality of the materials used to build the home. Other items to check include:
Are the appliances upgraded?
Did the builder use high-quality fixtures, including faucets and toilets?
Are the cabinets real wood?
Is the flooring top quality tile, wood or some other covering?
Is the carpet high-quality or “builder’s quality?”
What kind of windows are in the house? Are they at least double-pane windows?
Is the trim in the house made of real wood, stone or some other quality material?
Is the yard well-maintained?
Does the house have large bedrooms and closets?
Does the house have extras, such as a pantry, bonus rooms or a pool?
When you check for comparables, don’t forget to allow for those extras. The home you are looking at might not have the same amenities as another home in the neighborhood that is going for the same price. This leaves things open for negotiations if not having something, such as a pool, is not a deal-breaker.