How Best to Prepare Before, During & After a Hurricane Hits in the Mountains

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Sep 132018

Hurricanes in the MOUNTAINS!!

Statellite image of a hurricane

Hurricanes are powerful tropical weather systems with clear circulation and winds of 74 miles per hour or higher. When hurricanes move onto land, they sweep the ocean inward. They can cause tornadoes. They make heavy rains and floods. Hurricanes are grouped into categories based on the wind speed. The stronger the wind speed, the higher the category. Most damage caused by hurricanes is from flooding, not the strong winds.

North Carolina’s coast is one of the nation’s areas most open to a direct hurricane strike because its coastline extends out. All areas of the state – from coastal and sound counties to the mountains – have been impacted by hurricanes in the past 20 years. Heavy winds, tornadoes, strong thunderstorms, flooding, storm surge and landslides can all be caused by hurricanes causing tragic damage.

The Atlantic Hurricane Season runs from June 1 to November 30 with the peak season from mid-August to late October.

Tropical Depression – contains winds up to 39 miles per hour (mph).
Tropical Storm – 39 – 73 mph winds
Category 1 – 74 to 95 mph winds
Category 2 – 96 to 110 mph winds
Category 3 – 111 to 129 mph winds
Category 4 – 130 to 156 mph winds.
Category 5 – winds 157 mph or greater.


To get ready for a hurricane:

  • Build an emergency kit.
  • Make a family communications plan.
  • Know you’re the routes you need to leave your home (evacuation routes). Locate your local emergency shelters.
  • Closely watch/listen to the weather reports. Listening every hour as the storm nears.
  • Put fuel in all vehicles and withdraw some cash from the bank. Gas stations and ATMs may be closed after a hurricane.
  • If authorities ask you to leave, do so quickly.
  • If you leave (evacuate), be alert to flooded or washed-out roads. Just a few inches of water can float a car. Think: Turn Around, Don’t Drown.
  • Keep a photo I.D. that shows your home address. You will need it when asking police if it is okay for you to re-enter your area or home.
  • Secure your property.
    • Bring inside all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.
    • Cover windows with permanent storm shutters or board up windows with 5/8” plywood, cut and ready to install. Tape does not stop windows from breaking.
    • Put in straps or extra clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will lower roof damage.
    • Trim trees and shrubs around your home, so they are more wind resistant.
    • Clear clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
    • Reinforce garage doors. If wind enters a garage it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage.

Know the terms:

  • Hurricane Watch – hurricane conditions (sustained winds greater than 74 mph) are possible. Watches are usually issued 48 hours before the beginning of tropical-storm-force-winds.
  • Hurricane Warning – hurricane conditions (sustained winds greater than 74 mph) are expected. Warnings are usually issued 36 hours before the beginning of tropical-storm-force-winds.
  • Tropical Storm Warning – tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are possible within 36 hours.


If a hurricane is likely in your area, you should:

  • Listen to the radio or television for information.
  • Secure your home, close storm shutters and secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors.
  • Turn off gas, water and power if you are told to do so. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
  • Turn off propane tanks.
  • Try not to use the phone, except for serious emergencies.
  • Moor your boat if time permits.
  • Make sure you have a supply of water for sanitary purpose such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other larger containers with water.
  • Find out how to keep food safe during and after an emergency.

Leave your home or area if you are:

  • Told to do so by local police.
  • In a mobile home or temporary structure. Such structures are particularly dangerous during high wind events no matter how well fastened to the ground.
  • In a high-rise building because hurricane winds are stronger at higher levels.
  • On the coast, in a floodplain, near a river or on an island waterway.

If you are unable to leave, go to the safest room in your house.

  • Stay indoors during the hurricane. Stay away from windows and glass doors.
  • Close all interior doors – secure and brace external doors.
  • Keep curtains and blinds closed.
  • Do not be fooled if there is a lull; it could be the eye of the storm – winds will pick up again.
  • Take shelter in a small interior room, closet or hallway on the lowest level.
  • Lie on the floor under a table or another sturdy object.


  • Stay tuned to local radio, television or NOAA Weather Radio for the latest news.
  • Stay alert for extra rainfall and following flooding even after the storm has ended.
  • Drive only if needed. Stay away from flooded roads and washed-out bridges. Stay off the streets. If you must go out, look for fallen objects, downed electrical wires, and weakened bridges, roads and sidewalks.
  • Keep away from loose or dangling power lines. Report them as quickly as you can to the power company.
  • If you need to reach your family, use your family communications plan or contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS/1-800-733-2767 or visit the ARC Safe and Well site:
  • If you cannot return home and need shelter, text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
  • Return home only when officials say it is safe.
  • Walk carefully around the outside your home and check for loose power lines, gas leaks and structural damage before entering. Stay out of any building if you smell gas, if floodwaters remain around the building or your home was damaged by fire.
  • Check your home for damage. Take pictures of damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance purposes. If you have any doubts about safety, have your home check out by a trained building inspector or structural engineer before entering.
  • Use battery-powered flashlights in the dark. Do NOT use candles. Note: The flashlight should be turned on outside before entering because the battery may make a spark that could cause leaking gas to catch on fire, if present.
  • Many longer-term housing choices may be open to help those whose homes have been badly damaged or destroyed. Check this website or listen to local media after a hurricane to learn what choices may be open to you.
  • Watch your pets closely and keep them under your direct control. Watch out for wild animals, especially poisonous snakes. Use a stick to poke through debris.
  • Do not drink or make food with tap water until you are sure it’s not dirty.
  • Check refrigerated food for spoilage. If in doubt, throw it out.
  • Wear protective clothing and be cautious when cleaning up to not get hurt.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • NEVER use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds, or other enclosed areas, even when using fans or opening doors and windows for airing. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these areas and can stay around for hours, even after the generator has shut off.

The Guide to Selling Your Home

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Sep 062018

The Guide to Selling Your Home

From the point you decide to move to the closing table, here’s what you need to know about selling your home.

By Devon Thorsby, Staff Writer

The Guide to Selling Your Home
Home For Sale Real Estate Sign in Front of Beautiful New House.

Selling your home is a lot of work, but with some effort and savvy you can land an impressive offer. (Getty Images)

As a homeowner getting ready to sell your property, it can be tough to separate your emotional attachment to the house you made memories in from the need to help potential buyers picture themselves making the space their own.

Even if you’ve already gotten over the emotional hump of selling your home, the pressure to price the house correctly and attract the right buyers can be its own obstacle. You may find yourself taking a note from past generations and burying a statue of St. Joseph in the yard or scouring online listings at all hours to see how competing homes on the market are priced.



Whether you’re ready to move into a bigger house for your growing family, downsize to a smaller place or relocate to a different part of the country for work, the process of selling a house is one that requires work – maybe more work than you anticipated.

The more work you do, including finding an agent to list your home, making necessary repairs and keeping your property in pristine condition so it’s ready for potential buyers to tour on short notice, the more you’ll increase your chances of attracting serious buyers willing to pay top dollar for your house.

Here’s a breakdown of how to sell your house.

Timing Your Home Sale

The time it takes you to sell your house can vary widely based on a few factors: the current market, the condition of your home and how well you’re able to reach the right potential buyers.

Barb Pepoon, a broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Northbrook, Illinois, says the preparation process can be lengthy, depending on the amount of work the house needs to achieve the right price. That’s the case for one house she’s getting ready for the market. “That’s been taking about, maybe almost six weeks to get that one ready,” she says.

A house that’s ready for the market may need just a week for cleaning and photos to be taken. On the opposite end, you may need a few weeks to repaint the interior, freshen up the landscape and have a leak in the roof repaired. The time on market depends on the condition of your house, its value and the area you live in, but once you’re under contract, expect the closing date to be set for roughly a month later, giving the buyer a chance to have the house inspected and the buyer’s lender an opportunity to appraise the property and underwrite and approve the loan.

Before you list your home, consider how the total timeline can be affected by both external factors and your personal needs.

Is It a Good Time to Sell?

Many markets throughout the U.S. are experiencing inventory shortages – meaning there aren’t enough houses on the market to meet buyer demand. In places like Seattle and San Francisco, this often leads to competitive bidding wars, with multiple offers coming in at the same time and driving up prices.

But even if you don’t live in one of the hottest markets in the country, as a seller you can benefit from listing your house at the right time of year. Traditionally, spring and fall are the peak times to put your home on the market, as that’s when most buyers are looking, says Gary Malin, president of Citi Habitats, a real estate brokerage in New York City.

Summer sees fewer buyers because they’re on vacation, and in winter people get tied up with the holidays, then opt to stay inside because it’s cold out in most of the country.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t buyers during the off-season. You may even find that those fewer buyers touring homes in the dead of winter are more serious about putting an offer in when they find a house they like.

Listing your house a bit before spring starts can also be a useful strategy, says Lisa Morales, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker West Shell in Cincinnati. “February is a great time to list a house: No. 1, the days are a little bit longer, and people get the itch to get outside because they’ve been in the house all winter long,” she explains.

While there may be popular times to sell a house during the year, don’t stress if you need to list your home in the middle of July or the start of November. “In the end, you can never perfectly time a market and circumstances – your situation – they dictate that you need to put your home on the market now for whatever your reasons are,” Malin says. “So, ideally spring and fall would be helpful, but if not, I wouldn’t worry about it so much.”

Is It a Good Time for You to Sell?

Your ability to prepare your house for the market and move when it sells is also a determining factor. Many parents wait until school is out to avoid forcing their kids to change schools in the middle of the year or to make it easier to pack everything up to move a few streets over.

You may also need to move sooner rather than later. For example, if you’re being transferred to a new state for work, listing your home shortly after you get the news can free up the equity in your home to make it easier to buy a house in your next hometown.

Once you’ve listed, you also need to be willing and able to move. If you live in a popular neighborhood where houses sell fast, don’t view listing your home as a six-month process.

“What happens if this house sells quickly – [ask yourself], ‘What position am I in to make this happen?’” Malin says.

It’s enough to almost make you regret this whole adulting thing.

Preparing Your Home for Sale

There’s more to preparing to sell your home than simply declaring that you’re ready to move. Here’s what you need to do before your house goes on the market.

Choose a listing agent. Treat your real estate agent selection process like you would any job interview: Make sure the person or team you work with is the right fit not only for your house, but also for you in terms of communication, temperament and availability.

Get referrals from friends or neighbors, interview more than one agent and pay attention to the agent’s knowledge of the immediate area, responsiveness and how he or she plans to market your property.

“How many homes have they sold – specifically how many in that area that that homeowner lives in – and what do they know about that area,” Morales says. “What’s the employment like, amenities, what’s the plan for development? [Knowledge of] infrastructure is important.”

You do have the option to forego a listing agent and market your home as for sale by owner. But the nuances of a real estate transaction can make a FSBO property less appealing to many buyers and their agents. “You need to be willing to commit the time, the effort, the attention and the resources to it,” Malin says. “And you need to understand market value, and you need to put all your ducks in a row and need to be committed to it.”

Make necessary repairs and updates. Early on, an experienced real estate professional will take a close look at your home and point out minor fixes you can make to keep potential buyers from getting hung up on a dent in the wall or a broken cabinet door. You may also benefit from small renovations, such as refinished floors or new paint on the walls, that can keep buyers from viewing your home as dated.

The place to pay attention to first is what buyers will see first: the view from the street. Curb appeal is a major factor in a successful home sale, so you may need to repaint the exterior or clean the siding, plant new flowers and make sure you’re keeping the lawn short, clean and alive.

But make sure you’re not casting a blind eye to the way the front of your house looks. Morales says she tells her clients to start entering their homes through the front door: “A lot of us enter our house through the garage, and we don’t know how bad sometimes that front door and the mulch, and so forth, looks as a first impression.”

If you don’t have the money or the time to make the necessary repairs or updates, there’s always the option to list your home for sale “as is,” meaning the buyer can expect to take on any necessary repairs, renovations or maintenance tasks.

But be aware that a home listed as is will see the difference in the sale price – if a buyer knows she’ll need to replace the water heater and roof and repair an aging deck, don’t expect to get the same amount of money your neighbor did for a move-in ready property.

With sea-level rise accelerating, waterfront real estate values could be revalued sooner than you think.

Determine the asking price. With updates and fixes made – or not – you and your real estate agent can more specifically address the asking price for the property. Rather than what you think the house is worth or what an online calculator like Zillow’s Zestimate guesses, the asking price should be based on what similar houses nearby have recently sold for and what makes your home stand out compared to them.

“If you’re under time constraints, the thing that’s going to make the house sell is a proper price,” Malin says.

Morales says she searches for houses within a quarter-mile radius that are actively listed, pending sale and those that have sold in the last six months “to get a good snapshot of what’s in the area.” From that, combined with a tour of the house itself, she can determine where the house falls in price.

Stage your home. A final step before making your home visible to the public is staging the property. This process may involve moving your own furniture to storage and renting simpler pieces, or it may simply mean moving a few chairs around and decluttering.

The point of staging your home is to help the key rooms – kitchen, living room, master bedroom and master bathroom – appeal to as many potential buyers as possible, rather than reflect your own style.

“You want people, when they walk into your house, to envision themselves living there, not envision you living there,” Malin says. That means removing family photos, keeping counters clear and making sure each room is easy to navigate through without having to dodge furniture.

Putting Your Home on the Market

Marketing your house online. The first place most potential buyers and their agents will see your home for sale is online. Agents will post the property information and photos on the local multiple listing service, which is accessible to real estate professionals.

You’ll also likely see your house appear on consumer-facing sites such as Zillow, Trulia, Redfin and, which are either posted by your agent individually or pulled from the MLS.

A key part of online marketing is making the house stand out compared to the dozens of others for sale nearby, so avoid overused words like cozy and updated, and aim to highlight unique aspects of the house or neighborhood that will actually draw people to your property.

Christa Huffstickler, president and CEO of high-end real estate agency Engel & Volkers Atlanta, says the descriptor “luxury” has been overplayed. “The word luxury is evolving to the point that people are desensitized,” Huffstickler says.

Instead of thinking of new granite countertops and a soaking tub in the master bathroom as luxurious features, Huffstickler says people looking for the high-end lifestyle want to hear about the amenities available to them, like a clubhouse for the neighborhood or concierge services in a condo building.

Holding an open house. If you market your home well, your online info will attract prospective buyers, but they’ll also need opportunities to see it. A traditional open house can be an excellent way to get people in the door and talking about your property, even if they’re not serious buyers quite yet.

“It’s really important to not only have open houses to the public, but open houses to the brokerage community,” Malin says. A broker’s open house brings agents to the house to discuss the price, view the home and think about clients who would be interested in it.

Keeping your home ready for tours. An open house isn’t the only time you’ll be getting would-be buyers touring your house, which means you have to keep the place pristine while it’s on the market.

Even before your first open house, Pepoon says you might find buyers chomping at the bit to see the property. “Most of the best buyers don’t wait for a Sunday open house to see it,” Pepoon says.

As soon as your house is on the market, never leave home without tidying up – clear the floor of laundry, make the beds, vacuum daily and keep the sink clear of dishes.

Also, be ready to leave the house with only 15 minutes’ notice. “A lot of purchasers, at times, find it somewhat inconvenient if the seller is there at the time they view their home,” Malin says. Not to mention that it’s uncomfortable to tour a house while the sellers are sitting outside with their dog or kids.
Your Pending Home Sale

You may get an offer on the home’s first day on the market or it may take a couple months to find the right buyer, but once you do, the sale process will feel like it’s moving even faster.

How to handle multiple offers on your property. If your house’s price range is in high demand or your neighborhood is particularly popular, you may receive multiple offers. Be sure to consider all aspects of each offer, not just whichever bid has the highest price.

A cash offer over one with financing, even if the price is lower, might be the best option because it can make closing much easier. You won’t have to wait for a lender to approve of the agreed-upon price, the deal is less likely to fall through as a result of a financing issue and the closing date can be set for just a few days in advance if desired.

If you need to remain in the home until a certain date, another buyer may offer to close before you move out and lease the house back to you for the needed period of time. Another might be willing to waive the inspection or have preapproval for a mortgage versus only prequalification.

How to negotiate an offer. An offer you receive may have aspects that make you hopeful the buyers are serious, but you can also negotiate to help the deal work in your favor.

A counteroffer isn’t always about the sale price, and can also include taking on closing costs for the other party, making some repairs or adhering to other needs of the buyer. Don’t drag out negotiations too long, as you could scare away the buyer, but most parties involved are open to some tweaking to make a deal work.

What to expect while you’re under contract. Once a price and conditions have been determined and agreed upon, you’re under contract. During the due diligence period, most commonly the first 10 days under contract, the house will be inspected and appraised.

While your home is no longer actively for sale, don’t think that means you can start neglecting it. Malin recommends keeping the property in the same state because the buyer will likely attend the inspection as well, and you don’t want him to start feeling buyer’s remorse.

Also, keep in mind that the buyer is planning to make the home his own, so don’t be offended by plans for renovations or a fresh interior design.

“They might want to bring a decorator in, they might want to bring a contractor in, they might want to bring a landscaper in,” Malin says. “You should try to be accommodating just to make everything go smoothly.”

What to know for closing. Typically the day of closing or the day before, the buyer and agent will do a final walk-through of the vacant house to ensure the fixtures and shelves that are supposed to remain are there, there’s no debris and there is no surprise damage. You’ll need to sign a series of documents including the deed and others regarding the transfer of ownership of the property, but in many cases the seller does not have to physically be at the table on the closing date. Malin recommends letting your real estate attorney take the lead during the closing process and being available as needed.

The Cost of Selling a Home

From start to end, you will need to spend money to successfully sell your home. Whether it’s the cost to rent furniture for staging, steam clean the carpet, replace broken cabinet doors or pay the brokers’ commission, you’ll need to be financially prepared to pay up throughout the listing period and transaction.

Here are some costs you may be expected to cover leading up to the sale of your home:

  • Repairs on the home prior to listing
  • Minor updates
  • Professional cleaning
  • Staging
  • Professional photos for marketing
  • Repairs following inspection
  • Fee for your attorney
  • Commission for both listing and buyer agents – typically between 4 and 6 percent of the sale price
  • Possible early payoff fee to your lender
  • Portion of buyer’s closing costs if part of contract to purchase
  • Transfer tax

The total cost varies greatly depending on where you live, the house you have, activity on the market and how much money you’re able to put in toward a successful sale. Zillow reported in March 2018 that the average homeowner pays $18,342 in hidden costs, primarily made up of agent commissions, followed by the cost to prep the home and transfer taxes.

One major benefit of selling your home: You most likely won’t have to pay taxes on the profits. The capital gains exclusion rule allows people who have sold their home to profit up to $250,000 individually, or $500,000 filing together as a married couple, without paying taxes, as long as they used the property as a primary residence for at least two of the last five years.

5 Types of Homes to Consider for Retirement

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Aug 302018

5 Types of Homes to Consider for Retirement

From a houseboat to a tiny home, these options can cut living expenses and up the fun factor.

By Jacquelyn Pica, Contributor

5 Types of Homes to Consider for Retirement
Johner Bildbyra AB +46 8 644 83 30

Tiny homes are a great way to reduce living costs in retirement, and they can often be towed from place to place. (Getty Images)

Figuring out where to retire might be easy for some, but for others it’s a difficult decision. There are all kinds of articles about the best places to retire in the U.S., specifically in Florida, but what if the choices on these lists don’t really speak to you?

It’s easy to default to retiring in your house, especially if you’ve worked hard to pay it off over the years. But there are other options. Here are five other kinds of places you can retire, from a houseboat to a tiny home.

Houseboat. If you’re looking for a serious change of scenery, retire on a houseboat. You can do this at many places in the world and opt for life on a stationary houseboat or a motorized one. The costs of buying a houseboat can range from $50,000 to $250,000 for a used houseboat or $200,000 and more for a new one.

You’ll also have to factor in the cost of renting out a space at a marina, which can range from a few hundred dollars to around $1,000 per month. You’ll have various other fees you wouldn’t have with a house, such as boat cleaning, insurance, pumping and marina utilities. However, many people who live on houseboats find that living on the water ends up being cheaper than living in an apartment or house. Plus, it adds a little adventure to your retirement.

Marinas tend to have a community aspect among the members who also live on their docked boats. This option isn’t recommended for seniors who have balance issues, are prone to seasickness or want to limit time spent in the sun.

Townhouse. Buying a townhouse is a good retirement option if you’re looking to own property smaller than a house, but want more control than what a condo provides. If you buy in a community, you’ll pay homeowners association fees, although they’re typically lower than condo HOA fees. You might also be subjected to community rules regarding the exterior appearance of your townhome.

The plus side of this option is that, unlike with a condo, you typically own the land the townhouse sits on. You’ll also likely face less maintenance than with a house, since most HOAs will cover yard care, ranging from shoveling snow to cutting grass. While you own the residence and corresponding land, you might share a wall or two with neighbors, but at least you won’t have any noisy upstairs neighbors.

Retirement community. There are many kinds of retirement communities, ranging from ones that allow you to be completely independent to assisted living facilities. Opting for a retirement community doesn’t mean you need medical care – some are incredibly active, with all kinds of activities, restaurants and even group classes. This is a good choice for retirees looking to be part of a close-knit community.

The average monthly cost for retirement communities is $2,765, according to a study by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care. The cost can go up to $9,000, however, for ultra-premium communities.

Motor home. Struggling to figure out where you want to settle down for retirement? Retire in an RV, and you won’t have to choose. With an RV, you can travel to different parts of the country. However, you will have to consider living in close quarters with a partner, plus forgoing the community feel a stationary home provides.

RV parks and campgrounds provide electric, water and sewer hookups, and some even offer security and swimming pools. The monthly rate to rent out a spot can range from $400 to $750. The cost of an RV can be anywhere from a few thousand to a few hundred thousand dollars, depending on whether you purchased one used or new, and if you opted for all the bells and whistles.

Tiny home. Have you heard of the tiny house movement? Tiny homes are a great way to reduce living costs, and they can often be towed from place to place so you get a change of scenery. Since your living quarters will be so small, you won’t have the hassle of cleaning all that space.

While you’ll lack the square footage of a traditional house, the monthly payments won’t be nearly as much. Tiny homes usually cost $20,000 to $40,000, and can cost as much as $80,000 with special upgrades. Consider that you’ll also spend less on utilities and groceries since storage space is a bit sparse.

There are all kinds of retirement options: Retire in a tiny home in Florida? Opt for a life on the road in a high-end RV? Join an active retirement community so you never run out of things to do?

This list should make that decision a little easier to make, but it all boils down to what you’re looking and what your retirement needs will be.

12 Home Improvement Shortcuts that are a BAD Idea

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Aug 232018

Worker wiping sweat at construction site

Measuring twice is still a thing.

Doing a little home improvement on your own can be a great way to cut costs on a project. But you can find yourself having to do a project over again or in the middle of a dangerous situation if you don’t have a firm grasp of what you’re doing – no matter how many YouTube videos you’ve watched. Home inspection and contracting professionals weigh in on some of the most common do-it-yourself hacks that are a major don’t.

What Does ‘Move-in Ready’ Really Mean for Your Home?

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Aug 162018

What Does ‘Move-in Ready’ Really Mean for Your Home?

You may need to adjust your mindset before walking into a house advertised as move-in ready.

By Devon Thorsby, Staff Writer

What Does ‘Move-in Ready’ Really Mean for Your Home?
Latins gardening

What’s considered move-in ready varies from homebuyer to homebuyer. (Getty Images)

If you’re like many homebuyers in today’s market, you’re looking for a house that’s ready for you to live in right away. You don’t want to go through the hassle of making a lot of changes before moving your furniture in and calling the place home. Simply put, you want a move-in ready house.

But what does “move-in ready” really mean? Depending on who’s talking, it could simply mean that all the appliances work; for others, it means a freshly renovated home that reflects popular trends and styles. Or you may want a house that requires zero work – if the paint colors don’t match your tastes, it’s not move-in ready.

As a result, it’s hard to pinpoint what a listing agent means when the house is described as move-in ready online or in other marketing materials. To help you navigate the house-hunting process and manage your expectations when it comes to common listing descriptors, we’ve broken down how the definition of the phrase varies and how you can change your search to match the meaning you need to find your next home.

Take ‘Move-in Ready’ at Face Value

The technical definition of move-in ready, according to Black’s Law Dictionary, is that the building can be occupied, meeting all local code requirements for living in it, including working plumbing and electricity and doors and windows that lock.

By this definition, how you see a property doesn’t really relate to whether it’s move-in ready. Freshly painted walls and a remodeled kitchen to match current trends may pull you in as a buyer, but upon inspection you could learn there’s structural damage that needs to be repaired before you move in.

When it comes to house hunting, however, move-in ready tends to take on a more cosmetic definition for homebuyers. Dan Galloway, a real estate agent and team manager for national brokerage Redfin in the District of Columbia, says some buyers get a wake-up call when they see what’s actually available for them to buy.

“It’s sort of the scourge of HGTV – [buyers] think that move-in ready means that it’s going to be completely to [their] taste, and fixer-upper means just change around some carpet, maybe some paint. And that’s not the case at all,” Galloway says. “Especially with the sort of nationwide inventory crisis that we have, you have to take what’s available. That might mean that you’re going to move into a place where you hate the green walls or you hate the shag carpet, but you’re not having to do any structural improvement, any systematic upgrades.”

While you may consider the space in need of updates or renovations to meet your needs and wants, you can’t assume a property description that includes move-in ready will adhere to all your personal preferences. Take claims of move-in ready at face value.

“Even [with] brand-new renovations, brand-new construction, there are always going to be minor imperfections in a home,” Galloway says.

Finding Your Move-in Ready Home

Since move-in ready can mean so many things for different people, it’s important to convey your preferences to your agent with plenty of specifics. Do you prefer to only see fully updated homes? Are you OK with remodeling for cosmetic purposes only? Does the thought of having to repaint a room disgust you?

By being able to better describe what you prefer in a home, your agent can discuss whether those expectations may need to be altered based on your budget and target neighborhood. For example, if the majority of houses going on the market in your preferred neighborhood are being sold by homeowners who’ve lived there for 30 years rather than investors who’ve renovated the entire property, you may have to consider a home that needs more work or look in a different part of town.

But if your determination for an interior with no work required means you have to live 40 minutes from your preferred neighborhood, keep in mind what you’re giving up. Joe Zeibert, senior director of products, pricing and credit for Ally Financial Inc., notes that in more recent years, homebuyers have been focusing most on the neighborhood, rather than all the finest details of the house itself: “People want something for their lifestyle, versus ‘I’m going to move somewhere for this house.’”

Keep this trend in mind when considering your ability to build wealth through your home – if you like a certain neighborhood, chances are other people do, too. The more desirable the community, the more likely you’ll see property values continue to climb over time and at a faster rate. Your ability to enjoy your home in the years you live there certainly takes priority over return on investment, but if your community preferences line up with trends in property value growth, sacrificing it for a brand-new master suite may not be the best money move.

If you’re struggling to find the kind of pristine, move-in ready condition you want in existing homes, it may be worth it to look at new construction, which allows you to either add your preferences to a house that will be built for you. Many builders offer brand-new homes that are almost finished with construction for those who don’t need the custom design or may be on a tighter timeline to close on a property.

If time isn’t a concern, you can always wait to see if a home that better suits your needs in your preferred neighborhood comes on the market. But if you’re going to wait, be sure what you want is a reasonable expectation – you don’t want to realize a year from now that the house you hoped to find simply doesn’t exist where you want to live.

Consider Living With the Ugly a Little

Budgeting to buy a house in a pricey neighborhood and make immediate renovations isn’t always as feasible as you’d like. As long as the house meets that technical definition of move-in ready and you’re not living in squalor – but simply have a dated master bathroom – wait and save up a bit more before you start planning for a remodel. And if the house isn’t move-in ready or in need of a new roof or furnace, focus your budget on those required changes before you make any cosmetic upgrades.

The neighborhood you buy in can also make waiting on upgrades a valuable decision. Zeibert says the primary focus for many buyers is to find “a community that matches [their] personality.” If you’re shopping in a unique, eclectic neighborhood for that reason, it may clash with that vision of a model home you have in your head. Wait to see if the narrow hallway or pedestal sink in the powder room that’s characteristic of homes in the neighborhood isn’t something you grow to love.

There’s a good chance you’ll learn to tolerate it. Galloway faced a similar situation with his own home: “I’ve bought a home saying, ‘I hate this kitchen. I’m going to rip it out the second I get in.’ And here I am, five years later, and I haven’t done a thing to it, and it doesn’t register to me anymore.”