Entering into debt is a concept I grew up diametrically opposed to. I was raised, like many with frugal family members, to understand that anything you couldn’t pay for on the spot was something you couldn’t afford. But as we age we learn the pathway to financial growth requires a commitment beyond what many of us can deliver up front. Building and stabilizing wealth is, for many families, tied to home ownership. To reach that initial threshold, most aspiring homeowners will need to apply for a mortgage loan. That process can be daunting, but the long-term rewards of securing your home are worth it.
Step One – Break down your budget
A major financial decision like this can’t be made lightly. Many experts recommend a 50-20-30 style plan for finances, particularly for first-time homeowners. That means 50% of your budget is committed to core, unavoidable, monthly expenses like rent, groceries, loan payments, utilities, insurance, etc. The 20% segment is savings, placed in reserve towards a general or specific future financial goal. The final 30% (at maximum) is left as a remainder for personal spending, however, is most desired. Once this is set, you’re ready to evaluate the rate at which you can repay your loan and adjust accordingly.
Step Two – Take the time to get it right
It’s exciting to be in a position to purchase your first home, but if you find the right spot and realize the funds aren’t there yet it can be a huge disappointment. That’s what makes seeking pre-approval for a loan a must – particularly if it’s your first time. Having your credit in order, along with all key financial documentation (bank statements, tax returns, debt copies, prior records of significant ownership). If your credit isn’t in a great place, it’s likely worth taking the time to amend it before applying for your mortgage loan. When you earn lower interest rates and more manageable monthly payments you’ll be thankful for your prudence.
Step Three – The bigger the down payment the better
It’s rare that first-time homebuyers have significant cash on hand, but whatever you can muster makes a difference. Typically, the greater a down payment you can muster, the lower your subsequent interest rates will be. For many, there’s only so much that’s tenable as a bulk sum up front, of course. If that fits your situation, seeking a loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) can earn you a healthy loan for a down payment of just 3.5% of your home’s total value. To calculate the limitations of your target home’s loan options, you can input your information on the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website here.
Step Four – Stick to the plan!
After all the effort you’ll go through to secure a mortgage loan, you’ve earned the home it’s helped you purchase. That loan, like any loan, is contingent on your continued monthly payments. It can feel daunting and dispiriting after a time to continually be paying for a home you’re already living in, but maintaining your financial balance is vital. You’ll never be able to predict every expense that comes up but maintaining your budget towards paying off your mortgage loans will set you up to be more financially flexible in the future. Should you ever hope to purchase a second home or other major investments requiring of loans, having a record of consistent mortgage loan payment can help you secure far more favorable interest rates in the future.
A mortgage loan, like any loan, is a major commitment, but entering into homeownership is a massive step towards financial stability and future life-planning. With proper patience and focus, you can get the loan you need at the rate you can afford.
Electing a full sale or a property management situation is a life-changing decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. In choosing whether or not becoming a landlord is right for you, there are a number of factors to consider, but primarily they fall into the following three categories: financial analysis, risk, and goals.
The financial analysis is probably the easiest of the three to perform. You will need to assess if you can afford to rent your house. If you consider the likely rental rate, vacancy rate, maintenance, advertising, and management costs, you can arrive at a budget. It is important to both be detailed in your projections and to have enough reserves to cover cash-flow needs if you’re wrong. The vacancy rate will be determined by the price at which you market the property. Price too high and you’re liable to be left vacant. Should you have applicants, they’ll often be a group that for some reason couldn’t compete for more competitively priced homes. Price too low and you don’t achieve the revenue you should. If you want to try for the higher end of an expected range, understand that the cost may be a vacant month. Any way you slice it, it’s difficult to make up for a vacant month.
Consider the other costs renting out your property could accrue. If you have a landscaped or large yard, you will likely need to hire a yard crew to manage the grounds. Other costs could increase when you rent your home, such as homeowner’s insurance and taxes on your property. Depending on tenant turn-over, you may need to paint and deal with maintenance issues more regularly. Renting your home is a decision you need to make with all the financial information in front of you.
If your analysis points to some negative cash-flow, that doesn’t necessarily mean renting is the wrong option. That answer needs to be weighed against the pros and cons of alternatives. For instance, how does that compare to marketing the property at the price that would actually sell? Moreover, you’ll need to perform additional economic guesswork about what the future holds in terms of appreciation, inflation, etc. to arrive at an expectation of how long the cash drain would exist.
Risk is a bit harder to assess. It’s crucial to understand that if you decide to lease out a home, you are going into business, and every business venture has risks. One of the most obvious ways of mitigating the risk is to hire a management company. By hiring professionals, you decrease your risk and time spent managing the property (and tenants) yourself. However, this increases the cost. As you reduce your risk of litigation, you increase your risk of negative cash-flow, and vice versa… it’s a balancing act, and the risk cannot be eliminated; just managed and minimized.
In considering goals, what do you hope to achieve by renting your property? Are you planning on moving back to your home after a period of time? Will your property investment be a part of your long-term financial planning? Are you relocating or just hoping to wait to sell? These are all great reasons to consider renting your home.
Keep in mind that renting your family home can be emotional. Many homeowners love the unique feel of their homes. It is where their children were raised, and they care more about preserving that feel than maximizing revenue. That’s ok, but it needs to be acknowledged and considered when establishing a correct price and preparing a cash flow analysis. Some owners are so attached to their homes that it may be better for them to “tear off the band-aid quickly” and sell. The alternative of slowly watching over the years as the property becomes an investment instead of a home to them may prove to be more painful than any financial benefit can offset.
Before reaching a conclusion, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the landlord-tenant-law specific to your state (and in some cases, separate relevant ordinances in the city and/or county that your property lies within) and to do some market research (i.e. tour other available similar rentals to see if your financial assumptions are in line with the reality of the competition across the street). If you are overwhelmed by this process, or will be living out of the region, seek counsel with a property management professional. Gaining experience the hard way can be costly. With proper preparation, however, the rewards will be worth it.
In addition to providing shelter and comfort, our home is often our single greatest asset. It’s important that we protect that precious investment. Most homeowners realize the importance of homeowners insurance in safeguarding the value of a home. However, what they may not know is that about two-thirds of all homeowners are under-insured. According to a national survey, the average homeowner has enough insurance to rebuild only about 80% of his or her house.
What a standard homeowners policy covers
A standard homeowner’s insurance policy typically covers your home, your belongings, injury or property damage to others, and living expenses if you are unable to live in your home temporarily because of an insured disaster.
The policy likely pays to repair or rebuild your home if it is damaged or destroyed by disasters, such as fire or lighting. Your belongings, such as furniture and clothing, are also insured against these types of disasters, as well as theft. Some risks, such as flooding or acts of war, are routinely excluded from homeowner policies.
Other coverage in a standard homeowner’s policy typically includes the legal costs for injury or property damage that you or family members, including your pets, cause to other people. For example, if someone is injured on your property and decides to sue, the insurance would cover the cost of defending you in court and any damages you may have to pay. Policies also provide medical coverage in the event someone other than your family is injured in your home.
If your home is seriously damaged and needs to be rebuilt, a standard policy will usually cover hotel bills, restaurant meals and other living expenses incurred while you are temporarily relocated.
How much insurance do you need?
Homeowners should review their policy each year to make sure they have sufficient coverage for their home. The three questions to ask yourself are:
· Do I have enough insurance to protect my assets?
· Do I have enough insurance to rebuild my home?
· Do I have enough insurance to replace all my possessions?
Here’s some more information that will help you determine how much insurance is enough to meet your needs and ensure that your home will be sufficiently protected.
Protect your assets
Make sure you have enough liability insurance to protect your assets in case of a lawsuit due to injury or property damage. Most homeowner’s insurance policies provide a minimum of $100,000 worth of liability coverage. With the increasingly higher costs of litigation and monetary compensation, many homeowners now purchase $300,000 or more in liability protection. If that sounds like a lot, consider that the average dog bite claim is about $20,000. Talk with your insurance agent about the best coverage for your situation.
Rebuild your home
You need enough insurance to finance the cost of rebuilding your home at current construction costs, which vary by area. Don’t confuse the amount of coverage you need with the market value of your home. You’re not insuring the land your home is built on, which makes up a significant portion of the overall value of your property. In pricey markets such as San Francisco, land costs account for over 75 percent of a home’s value.
The average policy is designed to cover the cost of rebuilding your home using today’s standard building materials and techniques. If you have an unusual, historical or custom-built home, you may want to contact a specialty insurer to ensure that you have sufficient coverage to replicate any special architectural elements. Those with older homes should consider additions to the policy that pays the cost of rebuilding their home to meet new building codes.
Finally, if you’ve done any recent remodeling, make sure your insurance reflects the increased value of your home.
Remember that a standard policy does not pay for damage caused by a flood or earthquake. Special coverage is needed to protect against these incidents. Your insurance company can let you know if your area is flood or earthquake-prone. The cost of coverage depends on your home’s location and corresponding risk.
Replacing your valuables
If something happens to your home, chances are the things inside will be damaged or destroyed as well. Your coverage depends on the type of policy you have. A cost value policy pays the cost to replace your belongings minus depreciation. A replacement cost policy reimburses you for the cost to replace the item.
There are limits on the losses that can be claimed for expensive items, such as artwork, jewelry, and collectibles. You can get additional coverage for these types of items by purchasing supplemental premiums.
To determine if you have enough insurance, you need to have a good handle on the value of your personal items. Create a detailed home inventory file that keeps track of the items in your home and the cost to replace them.
Create a home inventory file
It takes time to inventory your possessions, but it’s time well spent. The little bit of extra preparation can also keep your mind at ease. The best method for creating a home inventory list is to go through each room of your home and individually record the items of significant value. Simple inventory lists are available online. You can also sweep through each room with a video or digital camera and document each of your belongings. Your home inventory file should include the following items:
· Item description and quantity
· Manufacturer or brand name
· Serial number or model number
· Where the item was purchased
· Receipt or other proof of purchase photocopies of any appraisals, along with the name and address of the appraiser
· Date of purchase (or age)
· Current value
· Replacement cost
Pay special attention to highly valuable items such as electronics, artwork, jewelry, and collectibles.
Storing your home inventory list
Make sure your inventory list and images will be safe in case your home is damaged or destroyed. Store them in a safe deposit box, at the home of a friend or relative, or on an online Web storage site. Some insurance companies provide online storage for digital files. (Storing them on your home computer does you no good if your computer is stolen or damaged). Once you have an inventory file set up, be sure to update it as you make new purchases.
We invest a lot in our homes, so it’s important we take the necessary measures to safeguard it against financial and emotional loss in the wake of a disaster.
Investing in real estate is one of the world’s most venerable pathways to building wealth. When properly managed, income from renting or real estate investment trusts can provide you with the financial security to plan out the rest of your life. The conclusion is easy to envision, but knowing where to begin can be overwhelming, particularly for anyone who has never previously owned a home.
At Windermere our goal is always to improve and support our communities, so we’ve put together a few key things to keep in mind as you enter the world of real estate investment.
Know the right type of investment for you
Investing in real estate needn’t commit you to being a landlord. A Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) is a low-maintenance way to get involved in real estate with next to none of the day-to-day monitoring required of direct property management. REITs are trusts that typically own multiple properties, and investors may purchase shares within the REIT. Typically, as the value of the property rises, so too do the values of your shares. If you’d like to dip a toe into real estate investing before diving in fully, a REIT is a great place to start.
Start with your own home
Owning the roof over your head is a basic step towards investing success. Even better, when you plan to live in the home you’re buying (rather than renting it out), you will likely benefit from lower mortgage rates and a cheaper down payment. The reasoning is straightforward – lenders see a loan to people purchasing the home they live in as an investment in people highly committed to the property.
Once you’ve owned your own house for a few years, you can look to purchase a new home to move into. By purchasing the new home with the intent to move in, you’ll be eligible to receive more favorable financing once again. After you’ve secured your new home, your first home is primed to be transformed into a rental property, and you can continue to see a return on your investment. If you’re seeking further support with buying a first, second, or third home, our websiteand our agents are full of information.
Cast a wide net
The best investment opportunity isn’t always going to be right underneath your nose. While there are logistical benefits to focusing locally with your investment, you may miss more profitable opportunities in another burgeoning market. Real estate is a long game, and patience tends to be rewarded. There’s no cause to rush a decision of this magnitude, so investigating other states and regions to find the property that best fits your situation is a process worth considering.
Sleek design, open floor plans, and great natural lighting are all appealing characteristics of modern architecture. Over the years, modern design concepts in home building have become more popular, as is the resurgence of interest in modern real estate. More companies, like 360 modern, are specializing in modern properties. Modern homes vary greatly in style; however, they have some unifying qualities that distinguish them from other properties built over the last 60 years. Here are some characteristics often found in modern homes:
Clean geometric lines: The core of modernist values is the simplification of form. Modernist homes have a very ‘linear’ feel with straight lines and exposed building materials. Furnishings and adornment reflect this value, incorporating vibrant, geometric and abstract designs.
Modern materials: Large windows are abundant in modern architecture, allowing light to fill and expand the interior space, bringing the natural world indoors. Generally, all exposed building materials are kept close to their natural state, including exposed wood beams, poured concrete floors or countertops, stone walls and stainless steel.
Modern homes are well suited for technological and green upgrades, as well including eco-friendly building materials and energy efficient practices. Flat roofs accommodate solar power. Energy efficient appliances work with the aesthetics of modern homes. Modernist landscaping need not require water-thirsty lawns but instead can reflect local flora.
Post-and-beam structure: One classic element in modern architecture is the exposed wood posts and ceiling beams. This style of building has been around for thousands of years; however, modern homes really emphasize the structure, rather than hiding the bones behind drywall. In new modern homes, the post-and-beam structure can be made out of concrete, iron or other materials. The highly visible horizontal and vertical beams reinforce the clean geometric lines of the space.
Low-pitched gable or shed roof: One of the most differential characteristics of modern homes than more traditional home design is the shape of the roof. Classic modern homes on the west coast generally have a flat or low-pitched roof, highly influenced by architect Joseph Eichler. New urban homes also leverage rooftops for outdoor entertaining space.
Open floor plan: Modern design strives to “open” the space by eliminating enclosed rooms. For example opening the kitchen and dining room into an open living space, allowing the ‘rooms’ to flow into one another.
Large windows: Natural light and the incorporation of natural elements are important aspects of modern home design. Large, floor-to-ceiling windows illuminate the open space and highlight the natural landscape. Some new modern homes have adjusted the large windows to open, diminishing the barrier between the indoors and out.
Incorporation of outdoor elements: Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the pioneering modernist architects, incorporated the natural setting into his architecture, most famously with Falling Water. Outdoor elements are incorporated into modern architecture in many ways; through large windows, landscaped terraces, and patios, and through use of natural and organic materials in the building including stone walls, and more.
Minimalism: With open and connected modernist spaces, careful curation of furniture, adornments, and household objects is important to preserving the modernist aesthetic. Generally, modernist homes have art and furniture that reflects the clean geometric lines and the natural materials of the architecture, leaving less space for clutter. Minimalist philosophies of few household items that serve both form and function work well within this design and architectural style.
There’s nothing like a fresh paint job to punch up a house’s curb appeal. And hiring a professional to do it is the best way to get a superior result — and save you the headache of ladders, repairs and other hassles.
Exterior Paint 1: Fluidesign Studio, original photo on Houzz
Project: Working with a professional on painting your house’s exterior.
Why: Whether your house is wood-frame or shingle, stucco or brick, you’ll get knowledge, accuracy and efficiency by hiring a professional.
Exterior Paint 2: Butler Armsden Architects, original photo on Houzz
Whom to hire: Many painters do both interior and exterior projects. A painting contractor should be licensed and insured. You should obtain a written contract with details about the work to be done. Review the contract to make sure it’s clear which parts of your house’s exterior are to be painted, how long the project will take and how the contractor will be paid.
Cost: A cost estimate should include all labor and materials. Additional detail work, such as painting intricate trim or repairing surface imperfections as part of the preparation work, will usually increase the cost due to the extra time required.
Exterior Paint 3: Meyer Greeson Paullin Benson (MGPB), original photo on Houzz
Costs vary by region, size of the project and amount of detail work. Jeff Dupont, of Sound Painting Solutions in Seattle, says a typical range for his medium- to large-size exterior projects (a 1,200- to 1,700- square-foot house is his medium size) is $9,000 to $12,000. Dupont says his contracts have a warranty that includes any touchups needed due to their workmanship or material defects.
How long the project will take: Prepping and painting a house’s exterior usually takes several days, depending on the size of the house. Dupont says if only minimal prep work is needed, a single-story home will take two to three days, and a two-story house two to four days.
Exterior Paint 4: PK Atkins Photography, original photo on Houzz
First steps: Many painters visit the site for a free initial consultation to talk about the scope of the project, including giving an estimate of how much it will cost and how long it will take to complete. Benjamin Moore recommends walking each potential contractor around the house, outlining which areas will be painted (siding, trim, window frames, porches, doors).
During the project: After repairing holes and cracks in stucco surfaces and using wood filler to fix frame siding, the contractor will apply a primer. Two coats of latex paint are almost always used, but in some areas, such as the Northwest, an oil-based paint might be applied to tannin-rich cedar or redwood exteriors, to better seal the wood and prevent the tannin from bleeding through the primer, Dupont says. In areas where stucco, masonry and brick homes are prevalent, a durable latex acrylic elastomeric paint might be used — it stretches if cracks form underneath.
Exterior Paint 5: Everything Home, original photo on Houzz
Before painting begins, homeowners should remove patio furniture, potted plants and other outdoor accessories in the work area. In general, painters usually remove items like hose holders and mailboxes and replace them when done. Mari Hensley, of Kennedy Painting in St. Louis, says her company asks homeowners to take any fabric cushions on patio furniture inside during the project to prevent damage.
Color considerations: Some painters provide color swatches and consultation, while others expect homeowners to research color combinations on their own. Hensley says samples can be applied to surfaces upon a homeowner’s request. Most large paint companies have online exterior color guides.
Exterior Paint 6: Polhemus Savery DaSilva, original photo on Houzz
Sherwin-Williams has color suggestions based on region and style — from traditional or contemporary suburban to desert Southwest. Behr’s Colors Gallery lets users choose from cool, neutral and warm tones.
Things to consider: A reputable professional should have all the necessary supplies, so a homeowner is not expected to provide anything. If your house was built before 1978 and lead paint is suspected, be sure your painter is certified by the Environmental Protection Agency to handle lead. Even exteriors require certain procedures if lead is detected.
Best time to do this project: Summer is the most popular time of year for painting exteriors in regions with cold, wet winters. Even in mild-weather regions, spring and summer are best for tackling exterior paint jobs. Dupont says April to October is prime time for painting exteriors in the Northwest.
I’ve met with more than one client while standing on a struggling lawn. “I keep trying,” they tell me, “but the grass won’t grow.” I tell them that maybe this means there’s another option, something even better than a lawn. Maybe it’s time for a garden. And it’s as if I’d just told them the secret to eternal happiness and long life.
Don’t keep tossing grass seed on your bare lawn. Instead, put a garden there, or at least plant something that has a better chance of surviving. Here are three situations where a languishing lawn may call for a new vision — a self-supporting garden that wildlife will love to call home.
BE Landscape Design, original photo on Houzz
1. Blazing sun. Whether it’s out in the open on a flat grade, on a slope or atop a hill, lawn just never does well in hot sunshine. It burns away each August, opening up holes for advantageous weeds to move in.
You could seed or plant drought-tolerant native grasses like sideoats grama and blue grama (Bouteloua curtipendula and B. gracilis) and little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium). Or try sedges like shortbeak and Bicknell’s (Carex brevior and C. bicknellii). And while you’re at it, get some flowers. If it’s a larger area, think self-sowers like upright prairie coneflower (Ratibida columnifera), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) and skyblue aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense). For smaller areas, ‘October Skies’ aromatic aster (S. oblongifolium ‘October Skies’) works well, along with pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida), purple and white prairie clover (Dalea purpurea and D. candida), many species of Baptisia, and more.
Try to create a base layer of sedges and grasses that will work to mulch and cool the soil, adding clumps or drifts of flowers among them for seasonal interest and pollinator action.
Anne Roberts Gardens, Inc., original photo on Houzz
2. Ponding water. After a heavy — or even moderate — rain, water may collect in an area of your lawn, drowning grass for days or even weeks. When that water finally vanishes, you’re left with barren soil that’s both unsightly and open to weed invasion.
This sounds like an area where rain garden plants may work. These are the plants that thrive in the boom-bust cycle of spring and fall flooding with dry summers. Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), Virginia mountain mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum), Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), muskingum sedge and fox sedge (Carex muskingumensis and C. vulpinoidea), New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), queen of the prairie (Filipendula rubra), white turtlehead (Chelone glabra), and Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum) are all good options.
If it’s a large area and you want privacy, a shrub hedgerow is an option. Plant redtwig dogwood (Cornus sericea), red or black chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia and A. melanocarpa), or elderberry (Sambuca sp.) — they will slowly sucker to form a massive bird and native bee habitat.
Sisson Landscapes, original photo on Houzz
3. Dark or dappled shade beneath a tree. Trees are great: They cool homes, clean the air and provide for so much wildlife. Oaks (Quercus spp.), maples (Acer spp.), elms (Ulmus spp.) and willows (Salix spp.) are near the top in serving a diversity of pollinators and other insects, specifically, that use the leaves and blooms at different life stages. But grass doesn’t often grow underneath these tall trees — mostly because they cast dense shade.
If you have rich, moist to medium soil, there are many spring ephemerals to choose from: Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), trillium (Trillium spp.), shooting star (Dodecatheon meadia), yellow trout-lily (Erythronium rostratum) and Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica).
For gardeners with dry clay soil, early meadow-rue (Thalictrum dioicum), zigzag goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis), calico aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum) and wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) are solid choices. Sprengel’s sedge (Carex sprengelii) is a grass-like option.
If you don’t want a large bed of strictly plants, weave a path of mulch or stepping stones through. Place a chair or two, a hammock, or a potting bench.
The Philbin Group Landscape Architecture, original photo on Houzz
It’s always important to carefully research the plants before you buy them to make sure that they suit your conditions. Clay soil is different from sand or rocky loam, and while some plants may do well in several kinds of soil and light conditions, others won’t. You may also prefer plants that create short drifts rather than tall ones, or vice versa, or clumping plants instead of aggressive spreaders.
When you take the time to carefully match the plant to the site and your region, you’re setting yourself up for more success and beauty with less maintenance — unlike sowing grass seed over the same area year after year.
To get a quality home inspection, ask the right questions before you put your inspector to work. Here are some of the basics.
What does your inspection cover?
Insist that you get it in writing. Then make sure that it’s in compliance with state requirements and includes the items you want inspected.
How long have you been in business?
Ask for referrals, especially with newer inspectors.
Are you experienced in residential inspections?
Residential inspection is a unique discipline with specific challenges.
Do you do repairs or make improvements based on the inspection?
Some states and/or professional associations allow the inspector to perform repair work on problems uncovered in an inspection. If you’re considering engaging your inspector to do repairs, be sure to get referrals.
How long will the inspection take?
A typical single-family dwelling takes two to three hours.
How much will it cost?
Costs can vary depending upon a variety of things, such as the square footage, age and foundation of the house.
What type of report will you provide and when will I get it?
Ask to see samples to make sure you understand his reporting style. Also make sure the timeline works for you.
Can I be there for the inspection?
This could be a valuable learning opportunity. If your inspector refuses, this should raise a red flag.
Are you a member of a professional home inspector association? What other credentials do you hold?
Ask to see their membership ID; it’s some assurance.
Do you keep your skills up-to-date through continuing education?
An inspector’s interest in continuing education shows a genuine commitment to performing at the highest level. It’s especially important with older homes or homes with unique elements.
Agent: “So, what kind of a house are you looking for?”
Client: “Anything with 3 bedrooms and a couple baths. Oh, and a big yard would be cool, too.”
Agent: “I know of several that we can show you.”
Client: “Just pick three that you think I’ll like, and I’ll buy one of them.”
If only it were that easy. When you ask yourself to visualize the home of your dreams, what comes to mind? Certainly not a nondescript 3 bedroom, two bath home. It’s much more likely that your vision could include features like maple flooring, granite countertops, 6-panel doors, built-in speakers, or access to 220-electricity in the garage for a workshop. Everyone has their own custom needs and desires.
You’re allowed to be picky. Realistic is imperative, but picky is fine, too. If you’re holding out for diamond insets in the shower tile grout or solid gold door knobs, I’m afraid disappoint awaits you. Think about the most important things a home will represent to you. Do you work from home? Do you entertain large groups regularly? Do you enjoy yard work or do-it-yourself projects? Each family has their own needs, so your definition of the perfect home will be very different from even your closest friends or family members.
Not only does each family have their own needs, but each family member might have their own needs. Pets come into the picture, too. Is high-enough speed internet readily available? Is there a wall that will fit your 60” High-Def 3D TV? Will the family room have enough space that you can compete at Wii™ or Kinect™ without breaking lamps? Will the huge trees that are cooling in summer make the home darker than you like in the winter? Can you bike or run the neighborhood streets? Are you concerned about how your energy consumption will affect the environment? You’re encouraged to list all the things that are important to you.
Once you’ve made your list, prioritize it according to what is important. Figure out what’s a must-have and what would be nice, but not necessary. It might take looking at a few homes to figure out what you want versus what you need. You may love the idea of having Spanish copper sinks throughout the house, but if there were no houses on the market that had them, would you resign yourself to renting indefinitely? On the other hand, you may be working from home and need fantastic data transmission capability. You probably wouldn’t want to look in a rural area that still uses dial up, but promises to have high speed internet cables in the future.
Your agent will learn from your prioritized list, and they should be able to help you find that perfect house. Be brutally honest with yourself, think 10 years into the future, and share your desires freely with those that can help you. You may not find the house that’s 100% of what you wanted, but something very close to the home of your dreams is probably out there.
What are the “deal killers”? What are the most important features on your list?
Your home is a reflection of your tastes, your lifestyle and your ambition, and many of us are regularly transforming our homes one way or another to fit our adjusting needs. Whether it is refreshing a room to fit your style, reorganizing a closet to accommodate the holiday excess, going green to save the planet and a couple of bucks or a complete renovation of your kitchen- homes take maintenance. Some projects come about on a whim, but if you have any plans to make your nest nestier here are some ideas for not getting too overwhelmed by the process- no matter how large or small the changes you want to make:
Get Organized: Whether it is your closets, books, pantry or your entire basement identifying the problem is the first step. Once you know where to focus your energy think about the purpose your space should fulfill, what you want it to look like and how you can keep it organized for the long-term. Sometimes getting organized is a matter of doing a little bit every day, or it is finding the right storage solution. Once you know what the problem is you can identify your steps, timeline and budget. Ultimately, getting rid of the clutter and holding onto items you love the most and use will keep your spaces easy to manage year round.
Do a little every day: Everyone has a different method to managing home madness; some have a weekly cleaning routine, some focus room by room others pile everything in the closet until they have to deal with it. If you have a goal of getting rid of old possessions and clutter, remodeling your home office or keeping your home cleaner spend five to thirty minutes a day working to achieve your goal. Here is a good idea for keeping your home clean by doing a little every day, rather than spending your weekend playing catch up.
Beautification/ Gardening: This year my big goal is to finally start our edible garden, but I have been overwhelmed by all the steps- from finding the right containers for the garden, deciding what to plant, when to start the starts, etc. Each region has different gardening challenges; the plants that thrive in Seattle are different than Spokane or San Diego so if you are planning on a garden make sure you familiarize yourself with local resources that will give you advice specific to your area. If you have any landscaping projects, keep in mind advance planning is paramount to making this affordable, timely and sustainable. If you are planning on putting your house on the market eventually, make beautification a priority and plan your exterior in a way that will increase the curb appeal of your home in the future.
Home Improvement Projects: If you have an ongoing list of home improvement projects, make sure you have the right tools in your toolbox and prioritize and plan. You don’t want to spend every weekend working on dripping faucets so create a routine. When looking at the year ahead, think about seasonality of the projects. It is important to know when to ask for help from a professional in order to have repairs done right in the first place to avoid putting yourself at risk or the safety of your home.
Go Green: If your resolution this year is to save money and the planet by reducing your carbon footprint there are projects you can do large and small. Start with an energy audit, that way you know where your energy is actually being used- you may be surprised. Easy fixes start with replacing light bulbs with CFLs and buying energy cords that limit vampire appliances to use energy when they aren’t in use. If you are replacing your old appliances with newer energy efficient models, make sure you check into recycling programs in your area. Go here for more green resolution ideas.
Renovations: Whether you are doing the renovations yourself or working with a contractor, projects of scale are never easy. Make sure you plan for the inconvenience of going without a kitchen as well as the details of putting your new kitchen in place. Also, before investing in a renovation, make sure you will get a return on your investment when you resell. If you are looking to increase the value and marketability of your home check out this list before you start tearing down walls.
This is the second post in our four-part home resolution series. Find the first article on how to identify and plan for your new year’s goals here.