9 Details That Signal a Home Is a Good Buy

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on 9 Details That Signal a Home Is a Good Buy
Nov 152018
 

9 Details That Signal a Home Is a Good Buy

These are the factors you don’t want to compromise on when buying a house.

By Devon Thorsby, Staff Writer |Aug. 27, 2018, at 12:52 p.m.

9 Details That Signal a Home Is a Good Buy

Are these must-haves on your list?

One of the first steps you take when deciding you want a new home is determining what you need in order to be happy there. The list of your must-haves can get long, and you reasonably can’t expect to find a house that perfectly matches all your criteria. “Someone has a list of 10 things – if they can find a house that has seven or eight of those, they’re doing pretty good,” says Jeff Plotkin, a Texas-licensed Realtor, attorney, certified public accountant and vice president of Habitat Hunters Inc. in Austin, Texas. Deciding what needs win out in your next home search can be tough, but there are a few key features and amenities many buyers seem unwilling to live without.

5 Reasons to Embrace the Winter Home-Selling Season

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on 5 Reasons to Embrace the Winter Home-Selling Season
Nov 082018
 

5 Reasons to Embrace the Winter Home-Selling Season

Throw the idea that you have to wait until spring to sell your home out the window.

By Devon Thorsby, Staff Writer |Oct. 17, 2018, at 12:42 p.m.

5 Reasons to Embrace the Winter Home-Selling Season

City shot with tilt shift effect at winter.

Sellers can benefit from serious buyers and less competition for their next house. (Getty Images)

You’ve got plans to sell your home, but as you approach the end of the year, waiting until spring seems like torture. The house is already prepped, and you’re eyeing a new house you’d like to buy. So why wait?

You don’t have to. Spring may be the strongest home-selling season, but that doesn’t mean selling your home at any other time of year is impossible, even in the chilly winter months.

In fact, selling your home in the winter is getting easier in many parts of the U.S. The median listing price nationwide in February was $274,900, a 10 percent increase from February 2017, according to real estate information company realtor.com.

As housing markets continue to struggle for enough inventory to meet buyer demand and prices continue to rise, serious homebuyers are widening their scope and choosing to shop throughout the year, not just during the warmer months.

“It’s a misnomer that the market doesn’t pick up until late spring,” says Gretchen Rosenberg, president and CEO of Kentwood Real Estate in Denver and a member of the Denver Metro Association of Realtors. She says the Denver area doesn’t see much of a slowdown in winter, and sale prices often hit their peak in winter and early spring – during February, March and April.

As a seller, you can benefit from selling your home during winter rather than having to wait until spring. Lou Nimkoff, president of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association in Orlando, Florida, even recommends putting your home on the market before the end of the year.

“If you’re going to want to sell it in the spring, it’s a good idea to put it on the market in November and December,” he says, because you don’t want to miss out on the right buyer who’s already looking.

The holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve can be tricky for just about any industry other than retail, but even when time constraints mean selling as soon as possible is necessary, there’s no such thing as an impossible time of year to sell. “I’ve sold a house once on Christmas Eve and once on New Year’s Eve,” Rosenberg says.

If you do have options, Rosenberg recommends putting your house on the market either by the first couple of weeks of November or waiting until mid-January.

New Year’s resolutions help many homebuyers get into the house-hunting groove after the first of the year. If you like the idea of marketing your home at the start of 2019, reach out to real estate agents now to be sure you’re making all the right preparations to draw winter homebuyers to your property. That includes maintaining curb appeal to ensure you won’t discover any maintenance disasters during snowfall, such as a leak in the roof or frozen plumbing that causes pipes to burst.

There is some seasonality to real estate, of course – many buyers who don’t feel the urgency may put off house hunting until after the holidays. That’s why it’s important to price your home realistically. The winter months aren’t the time to test the market and see how high of an offer you can get, but rather to price it correctly and attract the right buyer looking for a home like yours.

Depending on where you live, weather can also play a factor. Orlando benefits from a warm climate year-round, and Denver’s snowfall is typically followed by warmer days that melt everything. For Midwest or New England cities that see regular snowstorms in winter, Rosenberg says the housing market is more likely to “get a hit from the winter weather.”

But tough weather still doesn’t mean you can’t make a successful deal in the winter months. Here are five reasons the winter home-selling season may be your best option.

The buyers are as serious as you. You have to be pretty dedicated to prepare your home and put it on the market when the weather is cold and the winter holidays are either gearing up or just ending – it’s a busy time of year, after all. Fortunately, buyers are the same way during winter. While you may encounter buyers who have no timeline and want to tour dozens of houses in the spring, if a winter buyer is scheduling showings and touring houses, that means she’s looking to find the right house now.

“For you to take time out of your day to find a home that works for you in your area … you’re probably a pretty serious buyer,” Nimkoff says.

Buyers care less about days on market. There may be fewer active buyers, but their motivation for finding the right house means they won’t care about some of the superficial reasons that trip up buyers during more competitive selling seasons.

In the peak selling seasons of spring and summer, some buyers are put off if they see a house doesn’t have an offer after 50 days on the market, and they often assume something’s wrong with the house and write it off. While 200 days on market may still be considered a red flag, houses selling in winter tend to stay on market a little longer anyway and shouldn’t put off the serious buyers. Realtor.com reports the median days on market for houses that sold in February was 83 days, while May 2018 saw a median of just 55 days on market, both a decrease in days compared to the same time periods in 2017.

Spring is just a few months away. If you can’t find a buyer during the winter months, spring is bound to bring plenty of eager homebuyers to the market. As long as you make sure the house stays staged for buyers and looks fresh as the weather warms up, people who haven’t seen your listing yet will want to view all their options.

You’re not competing with as many buyers for your next house. In most cases, you’re selling your house because you’re looking to buy another. You have the benefit of less competition for your ideal next house when you’re not shopping during the hotter spring sales months like April and May. Negotiating with contingencies that your house sells as well could be more acceptable with fewer buyers to compete with.

You’ll get a realistic sense of listing price. As you’re prepping to put your home on the market in winter, you’ll probably see other nearby houses on the market as well, and they’re likely priced in line or slightly below recent sales to ensure they attract the right buyers. Follow their lead and market your home at the price it’s worth based on recent sales of comparable properties. The winter home-selling season is not the time to get ambitious with prices, it’s time to be realistic.

 

Why You Should Sell Your Home in 2018

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on Why You Should Sell Your Home in 2018
Nov 012018
 

Why You Should Sell Your Home in 2018

Housing markets should remain tight this year, but 2018 may be a great time to profit as a home seller.

By Devon Thorsby, Staff Writer |Jan. 12, 2018, at 12:14 p.m.

Why You Should Sell Your Home in 2018
undefined

Homeowners looking to sell should consider 2018 an opportunity to cash in. (Getty Images)

If you haven’t given much thought to selling your home this year, you might want to think again.

Real estate information company Trulia commissioned a survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, conducted by Harris Poll, to get a feel for expectations and plans for housing and homeownership in 2018. The survey results show 31 percent of respondents expect 2018 to be a better year for selling a home than 2017 – and just 14 percent expect it to be worse.

Despite the enthusiasm, only 6 percent of homeowners surveyed plan to sell their home in 2018.

Real estate information company Zillow echoes these sentiments in its predictions for 2018, expecting inventory shortages to continue to drive the housing market. With too few homes on the market to meet buyer demand, prices increase and would-be buyers can’t afford the price or down payment needed to submit a winning offer.

If you’re a homeowner and have been thinking about selling, what are you waiting for? You may not consider 2018 to be your year to sell, but here are four reasons why selling in the next 12 months could be more beneficial than you think.

Buyers are chomping at the bit. Eager homebuyers have been frustrated over the last few years, experiencing low inventory in most major markets, which is pushing them to start home shopping earlier in the year to try to beat out the competition and ensure they’re not missing out on any available properties.

Even before the clock struck midnight on New Year’s, people were already getting a head start on looking at buying or selling a home in 2018. Real estate information company HomeLight saw a 25 percent traffic spike on its website on Dec. 26, with continued high rates of traffic through the first part of the new year.

“Folks have generally turned their attention away from the holiday and time with family and friends, and moved onto the new year and what they want to accomplish,” says Sumant Sridharan, chief operating officer of HomeLight. “And for many people, that tends to be where they want to live.”

The best time to sell your home is traditionally between March and June, Sridharan notes, while warmer climates may see a longer time frame because they’re not restricted by weather. But cold weather isn’t keeping interested buyers from starting their home search at the start of the year. The fact that buyers take the day after a major holiday to start looking for new home means the traditional selling season could be even hotter.

And while the last couple years have proven beneficial for sellers, seeing many homes sell for asking price or above, it won’t last forever. Zillow predicts home builders will begin looking to construct more entry-level homes to meet demand later this year. If you wait too long to put your home on the market, you may find yourself competing with new builds that haven’t been a part of the market in large numbers since before the recession.

Interest rates are low … for now. For both the buyer of your home and your own next home purchase, low interest rates can help make a transaction possible. In the second week of January, the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 4.17 percent, according to NerdWallet. Mortgage rate averages reached more than 4.4 percent in 2017, but closed the year out just below the current rate.

While mortgage rates aren’t expected to spike significantly this year, they are forecast to increase overall. The Mortgage Bankers Association predicts 30-year fixed-rate mortgages will rise to 4.6 percent this year, and it expects rates to rise to 5 percent in 2019 and 5.3 percent in 2020.

While increasing interest rates are a sign of a good economy, they can squeeze out some potential homebuyers from the market. The current low rates can serve as a catalyst for many potential homebuyers to get moving sooner rather than later. But as interest rates continue to rise, you’re less likely to see as many bidding wars – which is welcome news for buyers but not sellers.

Could the changes to mortgage interest rate and property tax deductions make you want to sell your home?

You can move to find cheaper property taxes. The passing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act at the end of 2017 means a few significant home-related tax policy changes for the 2018 calendar year: Mortgage interest rates are only deductible up to $750,000 in debt and property taxes are only deductible up to $10,000.

While these limits don’t affect all homeowners, people who live in counties and cities with high property taxes are likely to feel the financial hit when they file taxes in 2019. If your household is going to struggle without the deductions you’ve had previously, it might be time to look elsewhere.

“For most of the world, I think it really creates a consideration of where I want to be and how I want to be there,” says Cody Vichinsky, co-founder of Bespoke Real Estate, based in Water Mill, New York.

Vichinsky expects housing markets in coastal states to be most impacted by the tax reform – and more specifically in the counties or towns with high-ranked school districts because their property taxes tend to be higher. While homeowners with school-age children may see the education factor weigh heavier than the financial burden, “You’re going to see an exodus out of these neighborhoods for people who don’t need to be there anymore,” he says.

You certainly shouldn’t have a hurried reaction to a policy change with an asset as large as a house, but also keep in mind that if you’re looking for the maximum price on your home, the longer the new tax law sinks in, the more likely it is to change feelings toward pricier neighborhoods in coastal markets.

“We do expect, potentially, in the longer term there may be lower demand at the higher price points because the tax [incentives] just aren’t there,” Sridharan says.

Renovations today won’t come back in full next year. Zillow’s 2018 predictions include the expectation that most homeowners will focus on renovations and updates this year rather than selling. If you’ve got remodeling on your schedule for the year, be sure it’s an update for you because it’s unlikely that renovations will have a 100 percent return when it comes time to sell.

“You’re going to get one shot at this,” Sridharan says. “Ultimately the additional money you’re going to spend to make your home look amazing is going to be far less than the amount of money [a buyer will pay].”

The key to taking advantage of the seller’s market this year is not taking the tight inventory for granted. Buyers will still expect effort from sellers in preparing a property for sale. While they may be willing to overlook a dated kitchen, it’s the clutter, deferred maintenance and lack of curb appeal that can still kill a deal. If you do decide put your house on the market, take the process seriously, and you’re likely to see ample interest.

Can Your HOA Regulate Your Holiday Decor?

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on Can Your HOA Regulate Your Holiday Decor?
Oct 252018
 

Can Your HOA Regulate Your Holiday Decor?

Before decking out your yard for your favorite holiday, keep potential limitations in mind.

By Devon Thorsby, Staff Writer |Oct. 3, 2018, at 11:52 a.m.

Can Your HOA Regulate Your Holiday Decor?
Front yard decorated with spooky Halloween characters with the focus being on the

Chatting with your neighbors before setting up an extensive Halloween display will help you spread holiday cheer without ruffling any feathers. (Getty Images)

Fall and winter holidays are perfect for creating an elaborate outdoor scene – whether you’re planning to recreate “Frankenstein” in your front yard, light up the walkways for Diwali or feature Santa Claus and his reindeer on your roof. Regardless of which holiday you prefer to go all out for, the potential to spread extra holiday cheer to neighbors, family and friends draws many to decor and home improvement stores.

You’re certainly not alone. For companies that design and install holiday decorations, like Neave Group Outdoor Solutions, which operates in parts of New York and Connecticut, requests for holiday setups come in earlier and earlier each year, says Glen Baisley, marketing and customer service director for Neave Group. Clients call about Christmas decorations as early as spring and will lock in plans in July or August, and the number people looking to decorate for other holidays is growing. “In the last number of years, it’s steadily increasing for Halloween decor,” he says.

But not everyone is always a fan of your style of exterior decorating. After you’ve gone all out creating a winter paradise or turning your lawn into a haunted graveyard, can you be forced to take down your decorations?

Your Property, Your Holiday Wonderland

For a property that isn’t tied to a homeowners association – meaning you don’t pay dues to a neighborhood entity that manages the utilities, services or common areas nearby – you don’t have to be concerned about breaking many rules. In that case, your decorations are a part of your First Amendment rights and are considered free speech.

Jst like yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, there are limits to what the First Amendment protects, of course. If you create a particularly gruesome Halloween scene in your front yard, complete with the “Frankenstein” monster’s latest victim, which you label as your neighbor Bob down the street, your decision to name someone you know may be considered a threat or intimidation, which can be prosecuted.

Even if you keep your gory Halloween decorations general, a lifelike and bloody scene may lead the police to knock on your door at least once to ensure no crime has been committed, following calls from concerned passersby.

In 2017, the Greene County Sheriff’s Department in Tennessee posted a photo on Facebook of a local resident’s decorations depicting a dummy that appeared to have been crushed by a garage door – fake blood and all. The Facebook post lightheartedly instructed passersby not to call 911 over the sight, making it clear the situation was not a crime scene.

Holiday lights that blink or shine brightly can also be subject to local ordinances. If you create too much light pollution, you may need to turn the lights off after a certain time to avoid disturbing the neighbors. These rules can vary by city, county or township, so be sure to check with local laws if your bright displays light up the whole street.

Violation of a local ordinance on light pollution, sounds or even potentially disturbing the peace for a gruesome scene that leads to multiple 911 calls could result in a simple warning to correct it, but you may also be left with a ticket and fine to pay.

Even if your decorations are ultimately all in good fun, it may be best to rethink them if it means you’ll have to prove you haven’t committed any nefarious deeds. Plus, if your decorations leave others concerned that someone has been murdered in your yard or excessive blinking lights keep the rest of your block awake at night, you may not be scoring any good-neighbor points. It may be worth taming the display to remain on good terms with others in the neighborhood.

Enter the HOA

If you own a condo or house that’s part of an HOA, however, you’ve agreed to abide by the rules established by the board, which may include limits to the type of exterior decorating you can do, which holidays permit decorations and how long they can stay up.

Every HOA differs in its preferences, though it’s common for an association to establish rules about the amount of time following the holiday that decorations can stay up and prohibitions of decor that may offend neighbors or the general public, explains Linda Wildman, partner, principal and vice president for IKO Community Management, based in Olney, Maryland.

“Each community has different rules and regulations that oversee that process,” Wildman says.

Strings of lights may be restricted to white or yellow only, or the HOA may prohibit inflatable lawn decorations. Many HOAs are strictest about ensuring holiday decorations come down within 20 days of the holiday, for example.

In Neave Group’s work to design and install holiday decorations, among other outdoor contracting work the company does, many clients are the HOAs themselves. The company will often work with HOAs to decorate a neighborhood’s common areas, which makes it easy to define the association’s preferences and restrictions when determining the needs of the project.

For individuals who want an outdoor setup but live under an HOA, “we’ll do our homework to know what’s allowed and what’s not allowed,” Baisley says.

Wildman says it’s also up to the HOA’s board to determine how frequently and strictly a neighborhood is inspected for violations, including for holiday decorations. Depending on your association, residents may need to report perceived violations to the board. In other associations, a community management company may inspect for violations as part of its regular duties.

Normally, that enforcement comes in the form of sending a letter with photographic evidence of the HOA violation. “We’ll take the picture and send the letter before we’ve even passed the house, by email or text,” she says. Typically, violations are a result of being unaware of the rules, and it’s simply a matter of correcting the error.

How to Make Everyone Happy


Neave Group Outdoor Solutions Halloween display

A Halloween display by Neave Group Outdoor Solutions. (NEAVE DÉCOR A DIVISION OF NEAVE GROUP OUTDOOR SOLUTIONS)

HOA or not, the best way to put up a holiday display you’re happy with and your neighbors won’t balk at it is to talk to them ahead of time to gauge their reaction. You may find the couple next door loves the idea of a festive Thanksgiving pumpkin patch display on your lawn, or the family across the street is all for you setting up a haunted house, with the request that nothing gives the kids nightmares.

A classic look for the holiday is most likely to guarantee a favorable reaction from neighbors, and that doesn’t mean you have to stifle your creativity. Baisley says Neave Group steers away from Halloween decorations that are “really scary or gory” to avoid negative reactions, but a spider web display it installed on a townhouse last year, complete with giant spiders and mannequins trapped in the webs, received rave reviews throughout the neighborhood.

Talking your plans over with neighbors can not only be a great way to avoid bothering or offending anyone, but it can also inspire others to get in on the holiday cheer. Your decorations will appear even more festive with other houses on the block getting excited about the season as well.

Is Owning an Airbnb a Smart Investment?

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on Is Owning an Airbnb a Smart Investment?
Oct 182018
 

Is Owning an Airbnb a Smart Investment?

The old adage “location, location, location” is true even more in vacation rental ownership.

By Kayleigh Kulp, Contributor

colourful holiday seaside apartments in summer sun england

Investors should consider the taxes implications and costs to operate and maintain a short-term rental property. (Getty Images)

It’s easy to see the rise in popularity of Airbnb and other online vacation rental sites and think it’s a good idea to buy a property dedicated to short-term housing. But that strategy may not be as simple or lucrative as it seems, experts warn.

The old adage “location, location, location” is true even more in vacation rental ownership.

“Certain areas are better for year-round renters,” says Will Woodard, a certified financial planner in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. He explains the climate in his hometown: “The weekly [vacation] rental market on the Outer Banks is very competitive and requires significantly more costs. There is a relative lack of supply in the year-round rental market so there is robust demand for rentals, especially those in the nicer neighborhoods that aren’t overpopulated with weekly rental cottages. “The catch is that housing is expensive and though rents are high compared to surrounding, non-resort areas, they would only reward an owner that’s owned more than 15 to 20 years due to high purchase prices, Woodard says.

These are the sorts of market conditions investors should know when evaluating a property to hold as a rental. But there are other considerations you should take into account.

Examine the local ordinances and rules.The biggest threat to the short-term rental business is swift-changing local laws that limit their use.

And in Charleston, South Carolina, where Carolina One Plus real estate agent Susan Matthews says vacation rental margins are “super generous” because of year-round tourist attractions, vacation rental income isn’t legal unless the operator owns and lives on the property full-time. That’s in addition to city rules that require short-term rental operators not only to obtain a special license, but also pay fees and accommodations taxes. They can only host up to four adults at a time, she says.

If you are buying in a foreign country, consult a lawyer to make sure you understand the local laws, and make sure the lawyer is fluent in your language, says David Johnson, founding director of Halo Financial, a London-based firm that provides foreign exchange services.

Make sure the property works as a long-term rental or other use. Short-term rentals listed on Airbnb.com, HomeAway.com or VRBO.com are a great supplement to your rental income, but it is not a good long-term strategy, Breyer says. That’s because the business ebbs and flows, and consumer demand could change.

So when you’re analyzing a property to be made into a rental, make sure it cash flows as a year-long rental too.

“If your cash flow numbers don’t work with a good long-term strategy, then don’t buy the property,” Breyer says.

You could also look at adapting the property to other models, such as furnished student housing or long-term relocation housing, Matthews says. In Charleston, the College of Charleston, Medical University of South Carolina and other schools create high demand for student housing while business growth has created a need for long-term relocation housing. “These rentals also offer good margins,”Matthews says.

Think about the tax rules. IRS tax code provides that rentals at less than fair market value disqualify the owner from taking into account expenses, says Morris Armstrong, an enrolled agent, investment advisor and rental property owner with Armstrong Financial Strategies in Cheshire, Connecticut. That means you can’t keep it for personal use and still get the tax write-offs, and you have to be careful about where you set your rates. If you rent the home less than 15 days a year, it’s exempt from income tax.

Consider the expenses of a short-term rental. Vacation rental properties are more costly to operate and maintain due to furnishings, frequent cleaning and repairs, Matthews says.

You also have to keep the gas, water, electric, cable and internet paid up, Armstrong adds. Discuss with a local real estate agent likely occupancy rates and competitive pricing.

That’s not to mention that you’ll need to spring for the kind of amenities that command higher prices and enough bookings to cover your costs. The top desired vacation rentalamenity is a pool, with 19 percent of VacationRenter.com survey reporting so. That’s followed by pet friendliness at nearly 18 percent, and air conditioning at about 13 percent. VacationRenter.com aggregates vacation rental listings from multiple sites.

Not having what the customers want can turn your cash cow into a net loss.

“If you are looking for income and profit from a rental, then you have to step up your game,” Armstrong says. “I have a client with a dated cottage that in Cape Cod. They refuse to update it with central air conditioning or a more modern look to the kitchen. In the past, they could count on it being rented out most of the summer season. Now, they are lucky if it is rented out two weeks.”