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4 Real Estate Lessons From Old-School Board Games

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Strategy is important to avoid a real estate (or board game) stalemate.

The real estate game is all about taking risks and trying not to run into trouble.

Playing old board games with friends is a fun way to spend a Saturday night. The drinks are flowing, the snacks are as plentiful as the laughs, and the spirit of competition keeps everyone a little livelier than usual.

During one wildly successful board game night, we had an epiphany — some of the skills we use when playing could be applied to a search for a home for sale in Houston, TX, or Washington, DC. Get out your egg timers and your velvet satchels full of wooden letter tiles, because we’re about to lay some gaming knowledge on you.

 

1. Have a strategy (and allies)

The real world isn’t always candy-themed. Unless you’re playing a game where you rely on the luck of the dice to move you along, you’re going to need a strategy. Are you coming in hot and trying to build an early lead? Or are you lying a little low, waiting to see how the game unfolds, and then striking at precisely the right moment? The exact same thing applies to house hunting.

Bold and aggressive? Buy low on a fixer-upper and make something amazing out of it. More conservative? Prepare for the long haul to find the right match that you’re willing to pay a premium on. Get your strategy straight with the help of an ally in the form of a real estate agent — a third party who’s not directly playing the game but is there when you need guidance. Check those boxes, and you’re on the way to winning this thing.

2. Sometimes you need a little luck

Sometimes in the real estate world, you can do everything right but still find yourself on the house hunt six months later. The truth is, finding a home often requires luck. And there’s not much you can do to encourage the luck factor except hope to get lucky. In board games, it’s a dice roll or the spin of a plastic wheel. In house hunting, it might be that the offer ahead of yours falls through or you just happen to get your offer in five minutes before someone else. One of the tenets of Stoic philosophy is to try to control only what you can control, and it’s a perfect match for house hunting. Do your best but don’t stress about what’s out of your control. It won’t help you and it will only make you anxious.

3. Don’t make emotional decisions

We’ve all been there. You don’t have the cards, the dice have been coming up snake eyes, and your pink plastic dude is so many spaces behind. This is not the time to dwell on those feelings. Swallow the despair and double down on the comeback run that you have in you.

House hunting is no different. You’re going to lose a house that you put an offer on. Maybe several of them. And sometimes, you’ll lose a bidding war on a home you’d already started dreaming about moving into. Don’t get frustrated and settle for something you don’t want or a place with serious red flags. This is going to be one of the largest purchases you ever make in your life. Breathe deep and make these decisions with your head on straight and your eyes wide open.

4. Be in it to win it

In a board game, it’s easy to get caught up in the superdope-looking board or choosing between the silver top hat or the silver Scottie dog. Those are just distractions. You’re a coldhearted winner; you’re not here to make friends (although, ironically, you’re probably playing those old board games with your friends). You’re in this thing for one reason and one reason only: to crush the competition. Don’t forget that when house hunting either. It’s fun to look at places and check out the market, but don’t get caught up in seeing every Southwestern ranch-style home in the city when what you really need is your home.

Go forth and use these lessons like trump cards on your way to your dream house. Just don’t forget to consider a board game closet.

 

Posted by John Vieira on Trulia

 

 

 

 

Planning for the Hidden Costs of Buying Your First Home

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There’s only one way to be totally prepared for all the costs of buying a home.

You’re excited because you just found the perfect home. The neighborhood is great, the house is charming, and the price is right.

But if you’re a first-time home buyer, you might find out that the price is pretty far from perfect.

If you’re shopping for your first home, additional — and often unexpected — home-buying costs should be top of mind. These costs catch many home buyers unaware, and can quickly leave you underwater on your new home.

The best way to deal with this is by preparing yourself and making sure you have enough cash tucked away for a rainy day.

Costs coming out of the woodwork

For almost every person who buys a home, the spending doesn’t stop with the down payment. Homeowners insurance and closing costs, like appraisal and lender fees, are typically easy to plan for because they are lumped into the home-buying process, but most costs beyond those vary.

The previous owners of your home are the biggest factor that goes into your move-in costs. If they take their refrigerator when they move out, you’ll have to buy one to replace it. The same goes for any large appliance.

And while these may seem like a small purchase compared to buying a home, a few thousand-dollar appliances quickly add up — especially if you just spent most of your cash on a down payment.

Similarly, unless you negotiate it as part of your home purchase agreement, you’ll also be on the hook for any immediate improvements the home needs.

Unfortunately, these costs are the least hidden you may encounter.

When purchasing a home, it’s strongly recommended that you hire a home inspector(this costs money, too!) to ensure the home isn’t going to collapse the next time it rains. Inspectors look for bad electrical wiring, weak foundations, wood rot, and countless other problems.

Worse still, these problems are rarely covered by home insurance. If an inspector discovers a serious problem, you’ll then have to decide if you still want to purchase the home. Either way, you’ll be out the cost of hiring the inspector.

Creature comforts

Another cost is your own comfort. It’s easy to not think fully about what you are expecting from your new home until after you move in.

Are you used to having cable television? If so, is your new home wired for cable? It’s much harder to watch a technician crawling around punching holes in your walls when you own those walls.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs

Because you’re likely moving from the world of renting to the world of homeownership, you’ll probably be faced with much higher utility bills. Further, you could find yourself paying for utilities once covered by a landlord, like water and garbage pickup.

Plan ahead

The only way to face the unexpected and unknowns of home buying is with research and planning. This starts with budgeting before house hunting, and should continue throughout your search.

Look at homes in your budget that need improvements, then research how much those improvements could cost.

Nothing is worse than buying a home thinking you can fix the yard for a few hundred dollars and then realizing it will cost thousands.

There is really no upper limit to how prepared you can be. Say you find a nice home that’s priced lower than others in the area because of its age. You may save money on the list price, but with an older house you could be slapped with a much higher home insurance payment, effectively making the house more expensive in the long run.

This is where preparation comes in. Research home insurance and property prices in the areas you’re house-hunting to make more educated decisions before you ever make that first offer.

Clearly define how much you intend to put toward your down payment, then look at how much cash that leaves you with for improvements and even minor costs, like changing the locks. That way when you find a house at the high end of your range, you’ll know to walk away if it requires you to buy a new washer and dryer or upgrade the HVAC system.

Establish a rough estimate for as many costs as you can think of, and be extremely critical of homes at the top of your budget, or you could easily end up being house poor.

Know your budget and plan ahead. Buying a home is a lot less scary when you know what you’re getting into.

Posted by Jonathan Deesing on Zillow

Is Your Dream Home Out of Your Price Range? There’s Hope Yet

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Serp77/iStock
Serp77/iStock

From the moment you walked in, the house was calling to you. That chef’s kitchen! The ballroom-size playroom! Wait a second, is that a fireplace in the master? Done and done. This is your perfect home…

That is, until you recheck the price and discover it’s just a bit out of your price range. Cruel, cruel world!

There are precious few things in life more exciting than finding your true dream home—and not many things more soul-crushing than realizing you can’t afford it. Or, can you? If you’re determined to stretch your budget the way certain presidential candidates stretch the concept of “sarcasm,” there are ways to pull off this monetary magic without becoming completely house poor.

We’ll show you how to make your budget mesh with your fantasy. For real.

Budget saver No. 1: Negotiate the price

“Everything is always negotiable,” says Chantay Bridges with TruLine Realty in Los Angeles. “You’d be surprised at what sellers, agents, and buyers alike will compromise on.”

You might not get what you want, but you never know—the seller may be extremely motivated because of a move, work relocation, or divorce, for example.

“They may just be looking for a fair offer and would be willing to sell to you for a little less if they can close faster as a result.”

You’d be amazed by how many people make no effort to parley on price. Smart haggling can get you far! Do it.

Budget saver No. 2: Work the programs

There are a wide variety of programs, particularly down payment assistance programs, that help people achieve their dream of homeownership. And contrary to popular belief, you don’t necessarily have to be low-income to quality.

“You may discover a first-time home buyers program that can make your home of choice more affordable by providing assistance with the closing costs or the down payment,” says Bridges. Check with your lender on programs available in your county, since they change frequently. (You can also review some of the state-by-state options.)

What’s that you say? The home is a dream in terms of neighborhood and square footage, but a nightmare on the inside?

If you’re considering a fixer-upper, you can look into financing it with a renovation loan, suggests Sarah Valentini, president and co-founder of Radius Financial Group. “This will enable a home buyer to make desired improvements and have them financed into the mortgage.”

Budget saver No. 3: Massage that mortgage

“The biggest mistake I see a majority of people make is blindly asking for a 30-year fixed mortgage,” Valentini says. Many home buyers, especially millennials, would be better off if they considered other options such as a five-, seven-, or 10-year adjustable-rate mortgage, she says.

“We live in a much more transient society than we did 20 years ago, and people all too often pay for the ‘security’ of a 30-year fixed loan when, in fact, they will likely be selling or refinancing in less than 10 years,” she adds. Looking into a different loan type can translate into lower payments upfront.

Home buyers can also look into creative options for their private mortgage insurance (e.g., having it paid by the lender or seller), which can help you achieve a lower monthly payment.

Budget saver No. 4: Check for ways this home itself could save you money

Sometimes that more expensive house payment will allow you to save in other areas. For example, maybe it makes your commute shorter and less expensive, or it’s in a better school district so you no longer have to foot expensive private school tuition, says Realtor® Jose Tijam with Grand Avenue Realty & Lending in Anaheim, CA.

Another possibility: The energy efficiency of a newer home can reduce your utility bills and might make up some of the cost difference of an older home.

“Sometimes a higher-priced home can actually cost the same as a lower-priced one when you do the math on other factors,” Valentini says.

Budget saver No. 5: Put the decision into perspective

On the one hand, you don’t want to be dumb. “If a home is truly out of my clients’ budget, I would emphatically advise them to continue looking,” Valentini says. However, she adds that while it is never advisable to buy more than you can afford, it is important to consider all factors before passing on a dream home.

“Buying a home is not something to take lightly,” she says. “You will likely live there for quite some time, so it is important not to just settle,” especially if there are ways to get creative and make it work.

Tijam notes that if your dream house is, say, $25,000 over your ideal budget, it may seem like a huge chunk of money. However, the sting is lessened when you imagine that amount spread over the life of the mortgage.

“When you do that math on a 30-year mortgage, it ends up being only roughly a $70 monthly increase, and often my clients find they can make adjustments to accommodate the difference.”

While he respects the initial budget that his clients have set, he says, he can relate to his clients who have fallen in love with their dream home but find it unaffordable.

“My family and I found a home we adored, but it was slightly over our budget,” he recalls. “We hesitated—and once we figured out that we could probably make it work, another buyer had made an offer. It’s something we still think about from time to time, and I share this experience with the people I help.”

Posted by Cathie Ericson on realtor.com

Nooks and Niches: Here’s How to Optimize Those Quirky Spaces

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If you’ve got one, you probably know the head scratching question, “what in the world do I do with this space?” You’re not alone. Nooks, niches and alcoves are tricky areas to decorate, but there are great pros to having them. They add charm to your home while serving functional purposes when innovatively used. So let’s get down to business! Here are eight ways you can utilize those odd corners in your house.

Reading Nook

JWT Associates
It’s the classic reading nook, and, if you have the space for one, it’s definitely worth considering. They’re perfect for anyone that enjoys curling up with a good book or, if you’re like me, your laptop and Netflix (no shame.) All you need is a custom-sized cushion, a few pillows, lighting, and you’re ready to go.

Bar Nook

Laura Hull
Laura Hull
Here’s one for all you mixologists: Transform your empty nook into a bar station. You can go the bar cart route or add a thin sideboard for more storage. You’ll have a well-stocked bar complete with blenders, cocktail mixers, bottle openers and all your bar essentials.

Office Nook

If you don’t have the space to dedicate to an entire home office, a corner nook can be your best friend. Install a shelf and you’ll have a space-friendly work station. For some extra charm, add a pop of color by painting the back wall and a couple decorative shelves.

Multi-Purpose Nook

Meggan Haller/Getty Images
Meggan Haller/Getty Images
What I love about this hideaway nook is it serves more than one purpose. It has desk space and a small lounge area for entertainment. By hanging curtains, you can easily close the nook off for a cleaner look. You can also add shelves and drawers for extra storage.

Dresser Nook

Wendy Labrum
Wendy Labrum
Dressers were made for nooks. They fit so perfectly in those tight spaces and provide additional storage for the things that don’t quite have a specific home. By adding wall art, lamps, clocks and photos, you can add some character to your nook.

Makeup Nook

Tim Lee
Tim Lee
Think of all the possibilities there are with a makeup nook. With one desk, stool and mirror you have your own makeup vanity. Add some drawers and you’ll have additional storage for your favorite beauty products. (You’ll catch me at the makeup counter weekly, if I ever get one of these for myself.)

Attic Nook

Jason Kisner
Jason Kisner
Aside from storing holiday decorations, attics make great getaway spaces for both kids and adults. Transform your attic into an extra room for whatever you need: office, hangout area, bedroom or all three combined! For those nooks and crannies, add a floor bed with lots of throw pillows. It’s low to the ground, so the angular ceilings feel taller, and it gives you extra space for entertaining.

Seating Nook

Georgette Westerman
Georgette Westerman

All it takes to transform an awkward corner into a conversation area is a set of chairs and a tiny table. Your guests will feel cozy, and you’ll feel happy that you filled that odd space.

Posted by Kayla Suazo on hgtv.com

 

How Do Rising Prices Impact Your Home Equity?

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Yesterday, we shared the results of the latest Home Price Expectation Survey byPulsenomics. One of the big takeaways from the survey is that over the next five years, home prices will appreciate 3.5% per year on average, and cumulatively will grow by around 18%.

So what does this mean for homeowners and their equity position?

For example, let’s assume a young couple purchased and closed on a $250,000 home in January of this year. If we only look at the projected increase in the price of that home, how much equity would they earn over the next 5 years?

Since the experts predict that home prices will increase by 4.5% this year alone, the young homeowners will have gained over $11,000 in equity in just one year.

Over a five-year period, their equity will increase by over $46,000! This figure does not even take into account their monthly principal mortgage payments. In many cases, home equity is one of the largest portions of a family’s overall net worth.

Bottom Line

Not only is homeownership something to be proud of, it also offers you and your family the ability to build equity you can borrow against in the future. If you are ready and willing to buy, find out if you are able to today!

Posted by The KCM Crew

DIY Updates That May Boost Your Home’s Value

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Complete these projects and you may love your home so much you’ll want to hold onto it.

Boosting your home’s value doesn’t have to mean a complete remodel. In fact, quite a few home improvement projects aren’t worth the effort if you’re hoping to quickly increase your home’s value.

However, there are plenty of do-it-yourself projects you can accomplish with a few weekends of hard work. And don’t let the letters D-I-Y scare you away from efforts toward increasing your home’s value. Successful DIY projects simply require thorough research and preparedness.

Here are a few DIY updates throughout your home that could increase its sale price.

Kitchen: Add adhesive backsplash tiles

You can find self-adhesive backsplash tiles in a variety of styles and colors. A DIY backsplash tile project is both easy to install and practically mess-free.

First, clean the walls with warm, soapy water. The tiles won’t stick as well if the wall surface is coated with grease or dirt.

Be sure to follow the exact instructions for the brand of adhesive tiles you’re working with. Generally, you’ll be instructed to install the tiles from left to right, completing the bottom row first.

If you’re working around any outlet plates, take them off. Be sure to leave a bit of space when placing the tiles around the edge of the outlet so you can get the wall plates back on again with ease. If you need to cut any tiles, a razor knife will take care of the job.

If you need to remove or reposition tiles, they will peel off with heat from a hair dryer.

Bonus idea: You don’t need to replace your current cabinets to get an updated feel. Try an all-paint, no-construction approach, or remove your cabinet doors completely to showcase what’s behind them.

Bedroom: Install crown molding

Enhance your bedroom’s style with nothing more than a few strips of wood. Installingcrown molding may sound tough, but it actually doesn’t involve much more than picking up some molding (essentially, decorative strips of wood) from your local home improvement store, cutting it to size, and using a nail gun to attach it to the top of the wall.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.
Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

A home improvement store can help you identify the exact tools you need, as well as cutting the molding to size.

Bonus idea: Install ceiling fans for added air circulation and lighting. You’ll both save on the electric bill by cutting A/C costs and gain a decorative element for the room.

Laundry room: Revamp and revitalize

Update your laundry room or closet by removing the builder-basic wire shelving and replacing it with more attractive wood shelving options or even cabinets.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.
Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Paint the closet, improve storage, and add decorative elements to make it a space you look forward to revisiting each week.

Bonus idea: Add an expandable rod between shelves for added air-drying space.

Garage: Clean and paint the floor

If your home is a few years old, chances are the floor of your garage and driveway may have a few stains.

Try blotting the stains with newspaper to soak up excess oil, then use liquid dishwashing soap, hot water, and a scrub brush to tackle the rest. Once finished, pour some kitty litter on the remaining stained areas to absorb any extra residue.

After cleaning the floor, consider filling any concrete cracks you see, then apply a specially formulated garage floor paint, which will help protect against oil and mildew.

Bonus idea: Install shelving or racks. You can use a pallet to store and organize sporting equipment and a pegboard to hang items like folding ladders and gardening tools.

Yard: Upgrade landscaping

You don’t need to start a garden to impress potential buyers. Add some greenery along walkways and patch up any bald spots you see with fresh sod. Be sure to trim and maintain trees and bushes, too.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.
Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Bonus idea: Use drought-friendly plants when updating your landscaping, and choose plants with a long lifecycle. Perennial plants are a good choice, as they come back year after year.

Other DIY quick fixes

  • Clean your gutters.
  • Power wash your sidewalks.
  • Paint the front door.
  • Change your light fixtures.
  • Update your window treatments.
  • Upgrade cabinet knobs and drawer handles.

While these tips for home DIY projects will get you started, don’t begin any project without additional research. From instructional DIY blogs to online video tutorials to classes at your neighborhood home improvement stores, there really are endless resources for you.

Posted by Sarah Pike on Zillow