Don’t Go Over Budget on a Remodel — 5 Tips to Protect Your Bottom Line

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When Kelly Whalen demolished her built-in bookshelves as part of a living room DIY, she found it gave the room some much-needed space. Unfortunately, she also found a hidden subfloor made from asbestos(!) tiles. She hadn’t budgeted for a new subfloor — or for the removal of a toxic substance. Yikes.
And there were more surprises. “When we pulled up the tiling, we found we also had to pull out two layers of wall paneling just to get to the edges of the room,” says the Exton, Penn., native. The paneling fix led to a need for new insulation and drywall. What started as a small project quickly ballooned — and so did Whalen’s expenses.

Almost four out of 10 homeowners go over budget when doing a remodel, according to a 2014 report from home improvement site Houzz. Another stat that’ll make you think: Only one in five comes in under budget. Protect your bottom line with these five tips:

1.  Reconsider DIY

DIY is cheaper, right? Not necessarily, says Philadelphia-based interior architecture and design expert Glenna Stone. Depending on the project, amateurs beware.

“If you don’t have the expertise, you could end up paying between 10% and 40% more,” Stone says.

Why? While your DIY labor is technically free, your lack of know-how can be costly.

And then there’s hiring and scheduling. A task like moving a wall could mean hiring an engineer and an architect, not to mention coordinating permits. A general contractor knows who’ll do the best work for the best price, and they’ll know when to schedule them to avoid wasting dollars on inefficient use of time.

“If the plumber comes out before you’re ready for him, they’ll charge you for that visit, and then to come out again,” says Stone.

Finally, a contractor is more likely to get it right the first time. There’s nothing like having to buy stuff twice because you messed up. Stone recommends hiring a general contractor for most medium- to large-scale jobs.

Takeaway: Don’t DIY unless you really know what you’re doing. Mistakes cost more than hiring a pro the first time.

Related: Best Money-Saving DIY Projects — and Tips for Doing Them Right

2.  Hire the Right Experts

If you decide to forgo the general contractor route and hire individual workers yourself, it’s best to get at least three quotes for each service performed. Talking to professionals isn’t just about finding the most competitive price. It’s also an opportunity to figure out what services each individual contractor includes within his fee.

In fact, the least expensive contractor may be a warning sign for inferior construction quality or subpar building materials. A bid worth reviewing should include a line item for every charge.

“‘Everything’ means every detail, from [the] exact kind of sink fixture to brand of roof shingles,” says Dean Bennett, president of Dean Bennett Design and Construction in Castle Rock, Colo. Even the color of the outlets in each room should be included in the bid, he adds.

Takeaway: The more detail that’s in the bid, the more likely you’ll come in on budget.

Related: How Do I Know If I Can Trust a Contractor?

3.  Map Out the Project Step by Step (So You Don’t Miss Anything)

So, you’re planning to put up a backsplash. What do you need to put into your budget? The tile and adhesive, right? And that’s about it?

Try again. Big project or small, the more detailed your plan, the better prepared you’ll be for both the expected and unexpected costs that can (more like will) arise.

When estimating the cost of your project, consider the large expenses, like that tile and adhesive, but also remember the little items like sales tax, delivery charges, shipping charges, the float, caulking, cleaning materials, and more. For bigger projects, you’ll need to estimate engineering costs, interest costs, permit fees, and sewer and water tap fees, says Bennett. The more you can plan to expect, the better.

Takeaway: Don’t forget the “small” costs. Like pennies, they might not seem like much at first, but they sure do add up.

4.  Know Where You’re Willing to Cut Corners — and Where You’re Going to Invest

Before setting a project budget, consider what features are most important to you. When it comes to allocating funds, ancillary desires should take second place to your overall project goals.

If, for example, your primary goal is to expand your cabinet space, how vital are custom cabinets or high-end finishes to that goal? “If you’re … OK with using stock sizes, you can save about 20% to 30% on your budget,” says Stone. So if your bottom line is to increase kitchen storage space, stay on budget by sticking with stock cabinets instead of paying more for custom.

On the flip side, if your goal is to gain more glam than storage space, custom cabinets may be where you want to splurge.

Takeaway: Let your goals drive your budget decisions.

5.  Pad Your Budget

“For any large renovation, you have to plan for the unexpected,” says Stone. You could open a wall and find electrical work needs to be done. You could find that your chosen tile is on back order and your second choice comes at a higher cost. Stone suggests building a 10% buffer into the budget. Some experts suggest more — up to 25% for those with older homes. According to Stone, that cash cushion is used more often than not.

When the unexpected does arise, it can pay to keep a level head. “Even if you feel pressed for time, give yourself at least 24 hours to make an unexpected decision,” says Stone. When people are reaching their threshold for how long and to what degree they’ve had their house torn apart, “they rush into a decision,” she says. “They regret it almost 100% of the time.”

Takeaway: Pad your budget for the unexpected — and don’t rush decisions.

SOURCE: https://www.houselogic.com/remodel/remodeling-tips-advice/home-renovations-on-a-budget/?site_ref=mosaic

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How to Assess the Real Cost of a Fixer-Upper House

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Trying to decide whether to buy a fixer-upper house? Follow these seven steps, and you’ll know how much you can afford, how much to offer, and whether a fixer-upper house is right for you.

1.  Decide what you can do yourself.

TV remodeling shows make home improvement work look like a snap. In the real world, attempting a difficult remodeling job that you don’t know how to do will take longer than you think and can lead to less-than-professional results that won’t increase the value of your fixer-upper house.

  • Do you really have the skills to do it? Some tasks, like stripping wallpaper and painting, are relatively easy. Others, like electrical work, can be dangerous when done by amateurs.
  • Do you really have the time and desire to do it? Can you take time off work to renovate your fixer-upper house? If not, will you be stressed out by living in a work zone for months while you complete projects on the weekends?

2.  Price the cost of repairs and remodeling before you make an offer.

  • Get your contractor into the house to do a walk-through, so he can give you a written cost estimate on the tasks he’s going to do.
  • If you’re doing the work yourself, price the supplies.
  • Either way, tack on 10% to 20% to cover unforeseen problems that often arise with a fixer-upper house.

3.  Check permit costs.

  • Ask local officials if the work you’re going to do requires a permit and how much that permit costs. Doing work without a permit may save money, but it’ll cause problems when you resell your home.
  • Decide if you want to get the permits yourself or have the contractor arrange for them. Getting permits can be time-consuming and frustrating. Inspectors may force you to do additional work, or change the way you want to do a project, before they give you the permit.
  • Factor the time and aggravation of permits into your plans.

4.  Doublecheck pricing on structural work.

If your fixer-upper home needs major structural work, hire a structural engineer for $500 to $700 to inspect the home before you put in an offer so you can be confident you’ve uncovered and conservatively budgeted for the full extent of the problems.

Get written estimates for repairs before you commit to buying a home with structural issues.

Don’t purchase a home that needs major structural work unless:

  • You’re getting it at a steep discount
  • You’re sure you’ve uncovered the extent of the problem
  • You know the problem can be fixed
  • You have a binding written estimate for the repairs

5.  Check the cost of financing.

Be sure you have enough money for a downpayment, closing costs, and repairs without draining your savings.

If you’re planning to fund the repairs with a home equity or home improvement loan:

  • Get yourself pre-approved for both loans before you make an offer.
  • Make the deal contingent on getting both the purchase money loan and the renovation money loan, so you’re not forced to close the sale when you have no loan to fix the house.
  • Consider the Federal Housing Administration’s Section 203(k) program, which is designed to help home owners who are purchasing or refinancing a home that needs rehabilitation. The program wraps the purchase/refinance and rehabilitation costs into a single mortgage. To qualify for the loan, the total value of the property must fall within the FHA mortgage limit for your area, as with other FHA loans. A streamlined 203(k) program provides an additional amount for rehabilitation, up to $35,000, on top of an existing mortgage. It’s a simpler process than obtaining the standard 203(k).

6.  Calculate your fair purchase offer.

Take the fair market value of the property (what it would be worth if it were in good condition and remodeled to current tastes) and subtract the upgrade and repair costs.

For example: Your target fixer-upper house has a 1960s kitchen, metallic wallpaper, shag carpet, and high levels of radon in the basement.

Your comparison house, in the same subdivision, sold last month for $200,000. That house had a newer kitchen, no wallpaper, was recently recarpeted, and has a radon mitigation system in its basement.

The cost to remodel the kitchen, remove the wallpaper, carpet the house, and put in a radon mitigation system is $40,000. Your bid for the house should be $160,000.

Ask your real estate agent if it’s a good idea to share your cost estimates with the sellers, to prove your offer is fair.

7.  Include inspection contingencies in your offer.

Don’t rely on your friends or your contractor to eyeball your fixer-upper house. Hire pros to do common inspections like:

  • Home inspection. This is key in a fixer-upper assessment. The home inspector will uncover hidden issues in need of replacement or repair. You may know you want to replace those 1970s kitchen cabinets, but the home inspector has a meter that will detect the water leak behind them.
  • Radon, mold, lead-based paint
  • Septic and well
  • Pest

Most home inspection contingencies let you go back to the sellers and ask them to do the repairs, or give you cash at closing to pay for the repairs. The seller can also opt to simply back out of the deal, as can you, if the inspection turns up something you don’t want to deal with.

If that happens, this isn’t the right fixer-upper house for you. Go back to the top of this list and start again.

SOURCE: https://www.houselogic.com/buy/house-hunting/how-assess-real-cost-fixer-upper-house/

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5 Ways You Didn’t Know You Could Save for a Down Payment

Woman with coins in jar

Woman with coins in jar

Buying your first home conjures up all kinds of warm and fuzzy emotions: pride, joy, contentment. But before you get to the good stuff, you’ve got to cobble together a down payment, a daunting sum if you follow the textbook advice to squirrel away 20% of a home’s cost.

Here are five creative ways to build your down payment nest egg faster than you may have ever imagined.

1.  Crowdsource Your Dream Home

You may have heard of people using sites like Kickstarter to fund creative projects like short films and concert tours. Well, who says you can’t crowdsource your first home? Forget the traditional registry, the fine china, and the 16-speed blender. Use sites like Feather the Nest and Hatch My House to raise your down payment. Hatch My House says it’s helped Americans raise more than $2 million for down payments.

2.  Ask the Seller to Help (Really!)

When sellers want to a get a deal done quickly, they might be willing to assist buyers with the closing costs. Fewer closing costs = more money you can apply toward your deposit.

“They’re called seller concessions,” says Ray Rodriguez, regional mortgage sales manager for the New York metro area at TD Bank. Talk with your real estate agent. She might help you negotiate for something like 2% of the overall sales price in concessions to help with the closing costs.

There are limits on concessions depending on the type of mortgage you get. For FHA mortgages, the cap is 6% of the sale price. For Fannie Mae-guaranteed loans, the caps vary between 3% and 9%, depending on the ratio between how much you put down and the amount you finance. Individual banks have varying caps on concessions.

No matter where they net out, concessions must be part of the purchase contract.

Related: New Law Protects You from Surprise Closing Costs

3.  Look into Government Options

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, offers a number of homeownership programs, including assistance with down payment and closing costs. These are typically available for people who meet particular income or location requirements. HUD has a list of links by state that direct you to the appropriate page for information about your state.

HUD offers help based on profession as well. If you’re a law enforcement officer, firefighter, teacher, or EMT, you may be eligible under its Good Neighbor Next Door Sales Program for a 50% discount on a house’s HUD-appraised value in “revitalization areas.” Those areas are designated by Congress for  homeownership opportunities. And if you qualify for an FHA-insured mortgage under this program, the down payment is only $100; you can even finance the closing costs.

For veterans, the VA will guarantee part of a home loan through commercial lenders. Often, there’s no down payment or private mortgage insurance required, and the program helps borrowers secure a competitive interest rate.

Some cities also offer homeownership help. “The city of Hartford has the HouseHartford Program that gives down payment assistance and closing cost assistance,” says Matthew Carbray, a certified financial planner with Ridgeline Financial Partners and Carbray Staunton Financial Planners in Avon, Conn. The program partners with lenders, real estate attorneys, and homebuyer counseling agencies and has helped 1,200 low-income families.

4.  Check with Your Employer

Employer Assisted Housing (EAH) programs help connect low- to moderate-income workers with down payment assistance through their employer. In Pennsylvania, if you work for a participating EAH employer, you can apply for a loan of up to $8,000 for down payment and closing cost assistance. The loan is interest-free and borrowers have 10 years to pay it back. Washington University in St. Louis offers forgivable loans to qualified employees who want to purchase housing in specific city neighborhoods. University employees receive the lesser of 5% of the purchase price or $6,000 toward down payment or closing costs.

Ask the human resources or benefits personnel at your employer if the company is part of an EAH program.

5.  Take Advantage of Special Lender Programs

Finally, many lenders offer programs to help people buy a home with a small down payment. “I would say that the biggest misconception [of homebuying] is that you need 20% for the down payment of a house,” says Rodriguez. “There are a lot of programs out there that need a total of 3% or 3.5% down.”

FHA mortgages, for example, can require as little as 3.5%. But bear in mind that there are both upfront and monthly mortgage insurance payments. “The mortgage insurance could add another $300 to your monthly mortgage payment,” Rodriguez says.

Some lender programs go even further. TD Bank, for example, offers a 3% down payment with no mortgage insurance program, and other banks may have similar offerings. “Check with your regional bank,” Rodriguez says. “Maybe they have their own first-time buyer program.”

Not so daunting after all, is it? There’s actually a lot of help available to many first-time buyers who want to achieve their homeownership dreams. All you need to do is a little research — and start peeking at those home listings!

 

SOURCE: https://www.houselogic.com/buy/first-time-home-buyer/down-payment-assistance/

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Tips to Clear Clutter and Create a Happier Home

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That jumble of clothes in your closet or stack of mail in your mudroom isn’t just an eyesore. According to organization expert Melissa Michaels, all of that clutter could also be draining happiness from your home.

“Clutter is a stealer of joy and an enemy to our contentment,” says the mother of three. This Seattle resident started out decluttering her friends’ homes, and word of her organizational powers spread from there. She launched her blog The Inspired Room, followed in 2015 by her first book, “Love the Home You Have,” which became a New York Times best-seller.

Her new book, “Make Room for What You Love,” came out this month with a slew of new ways to cut clutter and breathe more happiness into your home. Here are her best tips.

Question: What are the biggest mistakes people make when trying to organize their homes?

Melissa Michaels: The biggest mistake people tend to make is trying to get organized before they take the time to declutter. When you start with attempting to organize the excess, you will tend to get overwhelmed or overspend on bins and baskets to corral unnecessary clutter. Pare down to what you really need and have room for before you attempt to organize it.

Blogger and author Melissa Michaels has two books available.

Q: Organizing can be so overwhelming. Where is the simplest place to start?

MM: Start at the door where the family usually enters, and create places for the clutter to land before it reaches the rest of the house. Set up a paper recycling center and specific places to put mail, backpacks, shoes, and homework. Then work your way around the house, decluttering and creating designated destinations within each space for everyday necessities.

Q: Are there methods for making an entryway more warm and inviting?

MM: Fresh paint on the door will make a dramatic difference in the feel of the entry. Find a fun new rug or seasonal doormat. Add creative storage organizers for everyday and seasonal items, like crates, old suitcases, rows of hooks, and closed freestanding cabinets that can keep necessities and activities organized. A lamp will warm up the ambiance of the room, making the space feel inviting and welcoming.

Organization expert Melissa Michael's charmingly inviting entryway

Q: Clutter seems to spontaneously generate. Any tips for nipping it in the bud?

MM: Practice putting items away immediately, before they are set down on a surface where clutter has a chance to grow and multiply. Create and designate a few key clutter-free surfaces in your home, such as your dining table and kitchen counter, to immediately make your home feel tidier and give you the inspiration and motivation to nip even more clutter in the bud.

Q: Do you have some smart suggestions for adding storage space?

MM: Storage pieces should be attractive and hold a specific group of items to add function to the space. A lidded woven basket on a shelf in the dining room can hold your favorite seasonal cloth napkins or centerpiece candles, and a charming antique buffet cabinet can be brought into the living room to help you organize your favorite craft supplies.

Q: Have some simple ways to refresh home decor for summer?

MM: Clutter weighs a space down, but less is always more in decorative ways, too. Make your summer design statement by streamlining your style. Remove rugs, extra furniture, or accessories from the space, and put back only what is essential or contributing positively to the overall design of the space.

Q: Most people don’t think they can do much to their bathrooms. Have any suggestions?

MM: Paint the walls a fresh shade of green or sea blue for a relaxing, spa-like ambiance. Change out your builder-grade mirror and lights to something more fun and interesting, to add more personality. Hang a few wall hooks for towels or robes (add small metal street address numbers or letters from a home improvement store right above the hooks, to identify each family member’s belongings). Keep bathroom necessities hidden in closed storage receptacles or drawers to streamline the countertops. Or, if you need more storage, attractive, small cosmetic items can be corralled up on the countertop in clear or ceramic jars.

Q: What is one thing we should always do in our homes?

MM: Learn to always put items away when you are done using them, rather than setting them elsewhere, so you won’t feel overwhelmed later by the growing chaos on every surface!

 

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6 Upgrades Under $1,000 That Give You The Most Bang For Your Buck

Apr2015-Trulia-Upgrades-That-Give-You-the-Best-Bang-For-Your-Buck-kitchen1Pop quiz: Would you rather buy a home with 1990s laminate countertops or pristine marble? It seems like an easy “A,” yet many home sellers are so immune to pre-existing (read: old) features in their homes that they can’t understand why buyers can’t see past them too. But even if you aren’t ready to list your home just yet, a few smart changes can make a big difference in adding to your home’s value — especially in competitive markets like Los Angeles, CA.

If you want to increase your profit potential, strategic home improvement ideas in these six categories — some of whichwon’t cost you a thing — will give you the biggest return on your investment.

1. A budget-friendly kitchen remodel

Real estate agents will tell you time and again: Kitchens and baths are what sell a home. A dated kitchen can be a big turnoff, and there are lots of ways, both big and small, you can make yours as refreshing and inviting as possible, without investing in a total overhaul. When it comes to spiffing up your kitchen for resale, you don’t need to majorly splurge to make a better impression on buyers.

Instead, bring the space to the point of what’s known as “builder-grade luxury”: Replace basic black appliances with stainless steel, for example, and ditch the laminate countertops in favor of granite. Yes, these home improvement ideas might sound pricey, and you couldspend a pretty penny on appliances and granite, but builder-grade improvements stop far short of those over-the-top luxuries. So make your decisions with thriftiness in mind: choose one of the more affordable granite countertops (such as Napoli, Baltic Brown, or St. Cecilia), with a crisp and in-style beveled edge. Leave higher-end stone and more ornate beveling for your next home. The cost to upgradeappliances and/or countertops will vary within the four-digit range. But to keep this upgrade within your budget, try to find a deeply discounted appliance at an outlet or local “scratch-and-dent” store — where almost-perfect pieces come with perfectly approachable price tags.

Want an even cheaper way to give your kitchen a quick face-lift? Simply refinish or repaint your cabinetry and add updated hardware (such as new hinges and drawer pulls), which can dramatically transform the look of the room for less than $100. Your best bet is to choose colors and styles that are likely to appeal to the widest range of homebuyers and make them feel as if they’ve walked right into their dream kitchen Pinterest board.

2. Upgrade the bathroom

When it comes to bathrooms, most buyers envision themselves relaxing in a modern, sleek space. The most basic upgrade starts with replacing old, pastel, 3-by-3 ceramic tile with modern tile like white subway-style ceramic or 12-by-12 porcelain tiles in a neutral hue. Replacing your plastic tub surround with a tiled shower costs about $1,000 but makes a big difference, and for an extra $100 to $150, you can also add a recessed alcove (a built-in wall niche for your shampoo bottles).

As with a kitchen remodel, consider which changes will have maximum impact. You may not need to replace that old pedestal sink. Instead, you could change out the faucet — upgrade it from nicked brass to sleek new chrome — and hang some luxurious towels next to it. The same goes for quirky floor tile; choose a new paint color that will enhance it rather than clash with it. Make sure the colors and styles you choose are as universally appealing as possible so buyers see a space they know they can live with. And again, scrub your bathroomfrom top to bottom — there is no bigger turnoff than yellowed grout and leftover toothpaste in the sink.

3. Pick neutral paint colors

Paint still reigns supreme as the easiest and cheapest way to refresh any room, especially if you do the work yourself. Whites and neutralscan help buyers envision themselves in the space, since they provide a blank slate to serve as a backdrop for buyers’ stuff. Forgo that bold navy accent wall — the idea of priming and painting over it will just stress buyers out. Plus, lighter earth tones look good with hardwood floors, and white always brightens a room. If your rooms include mixed wood surfaces (floors, doors, and cabinets), select a neutral color and ask your local paint purveyor to mix in a few drops of gold to add warmth and harmonize discordant wood tones.

4. Make an impact with flooring

Like paint, quality flooring can drastically change the look and feel of your rooms. Hardwood is always appealing to a wide range of buyers, as are high-quality laminate options and (affordable!) ecofriendly choices like bamboo and cork. If your home is hiding hardwood floors under that carpeting, let them shine if they’re in good condition. If you already have hardwood floors but they’re looking a little worse for wear, it’s time to invest in a good sanding and refinishing. Whether you go the DIY route and rent a sander or pay someone to get it up to snuff, you’re looking at a few hundred dollars for like-new floors. Just be realistic about your DIY skills before tackling a refinishing project. Gouged floors can bring your home’s appeal way down, so if you’re not handy, choose a pro instead.

Kitchens and baths gain value with tile or laminate flooring, which are both visually appealing and easy to clean. Carpeting is still acceptable in bedrooms, especially if it’s plush, in great condition, and in a neutral color. But more and more buyers are turning away from carpeting altogether, so if you’re in doubt about whether to replace your carpets or install different flooring, hardwood (or its more-affordable cousin, bamboo) is your best bet. Even a basic snap-to hardwood installation can beat out wall-to-wall carpeting when it comes time to sell.

5. Consider home staging

Staging your home helps buyers imagine themselves living in the space, and it’s a relatively inexpensive way to dress up features you’re trying to highlight. The first step is clearing the entire home of any clutter and removing any overly personal touches like family photos or children’s artwork. Furniture should be arranged in a way that flows well and maximizes space — buyers will feel claustrophobic if they need to navigate around big pieces as they move from room to room. If you can, bring in a professional home stager or interior designer to consult on the ideal room arrangements. Otherwise, use the following tips for a DIY approach.

In each room, place furniture so it feels inviting and functional — just because you can’t live without a footstool next to your bed for Fluffy to climb on doesn’t mean it should stay there when your home is on the market. In the living room, seating and tables can be configured into social and conversational areas, while placing an armchair in an empty bedroom nook will frame it as a cozy reading spot. Bright lighting will make spaces seem larger, so turn on those lamps, and make sure your decor and artwork enhance their surroundings rather than distract from them. Depending on whether you need to add, subtract, or rearrange, staging shouldn’t cost very much at all, especially relative to how much of a boost it could give your home when it comes to bringing in buyers and helping your home sell quickly.

6. Amp up your curb appeal

Don’t neglect your home’s exterior. If buyers don’t like what they see when they first pull up, they may not even get out of the car. To make the outside of your home appealing, ensure all walkways are clear, the landscaping is neat and tidy, and everything is in good repair. This may require more substantial repairs like repainting or replacing siding, fixing loose shutters, and sealing those cracks in the driveway. Or it could be as simple as mowing the lawn, raking the leaves, and planting a few colorful annuals to make sure nothing looks bare. Add one or two “homey” final touches, like a new welcome mat, new or repainted mailbox, updated house numbers, and an outdoor seating area with festive lights. Your home will feel extra inviting from the get-go — and just may get a quick offer if it’s love at first sight.

SOURCE: http://www.forbes.com/sites/trulia/2016/04/13/6-upgrades-under-1000-that-give-you-the-most-bang-for-your-buck/#338fddd8f23d

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4 Renovations Under $5,000 That Add Serious Property Value

4-Room-Renovations-Under-5K-That-Add-Serious-Property-Value-051916-HERO1_f

When it comes to adding property value to your home, you’ve probably already gone through the basic upgrades and renovations that are frequently recommended. New flooring, new roof, updated landscaping: All of these can have positive effects on your property value, but they are also expensive projects that can have a negative effect on your bottom line. And whether you’re flipping a house or just improving home value, return on investment is key.

Here are some smaller projects, all for $5,000 or less, that can help improve your property value without breaking the bank.

1. Modernize the bathroom

We all know that the bathroom, or any room with utilities, is a great place to do some upgrading when you want to add value. If your bath features an old, outdated tub/shower combo, it may be a good time to replace it with a modern fixture like a glass or tiled shower stall or a jetted tub. For an average-sized bathroom, you’ll spend between $2,800 and $4,700 updating this feature. With bathroom renovations regularly recouping 80% to 90% of their costs in home value, this simple update could easily add an extra $3,500 to $4,000 to the price of your home. Other ideas for the bathroom include new vinyl flooring, updated sink fixtures, and updated lighting. All of these together will run you less than a few thousand dollars and can help rack up another $2,000 to $5,000 on your home’s total price.

2. Invest in a small-scale kitchen remodel

The kitchen is just like the bathroom: full of fixtures that can make your house look like a million bucks. The kitchen is where a buyer inspects closely, and they’ll be able to tell if you skimped here. If new appliances aren’t in the budget, or if you’ve already upgraded those, consider stone countertops, which would run somewhere around $4,500 for an average-sized kitchen. Natural materials are often key selling points of a home, especially in the kitchen, and these minor kitchen upgrades frequently have a return on investment of up to 85%. By spending $4,000 here, you could add another $3,200 to your overall house price, and it may make the difference between a sale and a miss. Bonus: You’ll get to enjoy them in the meantime!

3. Replace your entry door

Buying a new front door is one of the best inexpensive upgrades you can make, because it has a nearly 100% return on investment. Spend a little extra on a custom, hand-carved door that will run you around $3,000, and you can tack $3,000 onto the price of your home. Additionally, the first impression to potential buyers makes every part of the house feel richer and fills the house with character that buyers are looking for.

4. Add a wooden deck

If you have an extra outdoor space, adding a small wooden deck is a great way to bump up the value of your property. Wooden decks can be installed for as little as $1,000, especially if you are handy and can do all or part of the installation yourself. The most expensive small decks are around $8,300, so it would be easy to get a great deck made of excellent material for $5,000. A few extra features like a higher privacy fence and a low-maintenance finish will mean that you could add another $4,000 to the property value.

With just a few small renovations, you can see how your property value can shoot up very quickly. While you won’t recoup 100% of your investment with every renovation, being smart about where you put your money can help add to the bigger picture, all of which can be helpful when it’s time to sell.

SOURCE: http://www.forbes.com/sites/trulia/2016/05/23/4-renovations-under-5000-that-add-serious-property-value/#45b80d973df6

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The Newlyweds’ Guide to Buying a Home

newlywed-house-advice

Hey, lovebirds: If you’re newly married, you may be thinking of buying a nest together. Indeed, 35% of married Americans purchased their first home together within two years of tying the knot, according to a study by Coldwell Banker. Yet while we hear plenty about the home-buying challenges faced by unmarried couples, that doesn’t mean that marriage makes this process a walk in the park.

“A lot of factors come into play,” says Brandy Wright, a certified financial planner at Cambridge Wealth Counsel in Atlanta. So before you start swooning over Craftsman bungalows or granite countertops where you envision your bright new future, be sure to sit down and ask each other these crucial questions first.

Back in your dating days, you two probably talked about everything from where you’ve traveled to your favorite movies. But now, as newlyweds, it’s time to get serious and broach a far less romantic topic: your credit scores.

In fact, if you’re truly smart, you will have had this conversation already: Half of married couples in the U.S. say that credit scores were a make-or-break factor when choosing their mate, according to an Experian Consumer Services survey. But for other couples, credit is a taboo subject. Unfortunately, if one person’s credit score is substantially lower than the other’s, that could hinder the couple’s ability to qualify for a loan, or at least get an attractive interest rate.

“Knowing your credit scores before you meet with a lender is crucial,” says Wright. Doing so will also give you the opportunity to work on repairing any credit issues before you apply for a mortgage. You can also get a free copy of your full report at AnnualCreditReport.com, although for the exact score you’ll need to pay a small fee. Or check with your credit card company; many offer free access to scores.

Where would you like to live in five years?

Your future goals will affect which type of home—and loan—is right for you. For instance, if you’re planning to stay put for the foreseeable future, then a 30-year mortgage with a fixed interest rate may make the most sense, since this means your interest rate (and monthly payment) remains constant over the life of the loan.

On the other hand, if you’re planning to move within a few years—say, to a larger home to raise a family or move closer to your in-laws—then you should consider other options. For instance, an adjustable-rate mortgage offers a lower interest rate than a fixed mortgage for an initial period of time, such as three to seven years. After that point, it can adjust up or down based on market indexes.

Will one of us stay home to raise the kids?

Fine, you’ve just gotten hitched, so why rush the discussion about kids? Because this question will affect your family’s income, which is the cornerstone for determining how much home you can afford. A good rule of thumb: “Your mortgage expenses should be no more than 30% of your take-home income,” advises Wright. (Use realtor.com’s Home Affordability Calculator to assess your buying power.)

But keep in mind, you could be paying off that mortgage for 30 years, so you should not only tally how much your family makes now, but also what you anticipate your salary to be in the future. What happens if and when you have kids, and one of you wants to stay home to raise them? That could slash your income in half. So when anticipating how much of a mortgage to get, play it safe. Just because you get pre-approved for $1 million doesn’t mean you should buy a $1 million house.

What happens to the home if our marriage hits the rocks?

Although this is a happy time in your relationship, you need to consider all possible outcomes for your marriage. Translation: If you get hit with death or divorce, you’ll need to work out how to divide your assets.

There are several types of homeownership to choose from when purchasing property with your spouse. The most common is joint tenancy, where each person holds equal interest in the property. Its distinguishing factor is that in the event one spouse dies, that person’s interest in the property automatically conveys to the surviving spouse (also know as “right of survivorship”).

Meanwhile, under tenancy in common, each spouse has a distinct, separately transferable interest in the property. This might be a sensible form of ownership if one spouse makes a higher percentage of the down payment or monthly mortgage payments and wants to guard his or her investment in the event of a divorce. Fine, it’s not exactly an upbeat discussion, but you never know what could happen once the honeymoon’s over, so to speak.

Source: http://www.realtor.com/advice/buy/newlyweds-guide-to-home-buying/

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