7 Questions to Ask When Buying a Fixer-Upper

Here’s what to find out before you sign up for a major home project.

Buying a fixer-upper is a whole new ballgame; before you sign on the dotted line, it’s important to find out as much as you can about exactly what you’re getting yourself into. Agents use the term “fixer-upper” liberally — it could be code for a train wreck of a house, or it could refer to a home that simply needs cosmetic updates. Use the questions below to begin useful conversations with professionals on your team.

Questions for your agent

What are the neighborhood stats? Neighborhood dynamics become mission-critical when buying a fixer-upper. Will the remodel dollars needed to make this home livable work well with the neighborhood? Ask your agent for her analysis (and the stats to back it up). If you invest $30K in improvements but update the home beyond the neighborhood’s value, your ability to recoup your investment is greatly diminished.

Is the home located in a historic district? Buying and fixing up a charming Victorian home sounds dreamy: original crown molding, wainscoting, and lovely stained-glass windows. But buyer beware: If the property is historic or located in a historic neighborhood, the remodeling and finishes may have to be completed to an association or city standard. In many cases, this means getting approval for improvements and updates and often comes with a hefty price tag.

Questions for your inspector

What is the state of the homes major systems? Given that the term “fixer-upper” is often synonymous with “a ton of work and cash,” it’s important to choose your inspector wisely and to listen carefully. Cosmetic work is expected, but what about the foundation, electrical, and plumbing systems? Better yet, how is the roof — can it hold in heat and keep out rain? These items can run easily into the tens of thousands — and could turn a quick fix into a money pit.

What are the huge hidden expenses? Ask your inspector to dig deep into the home’s details. For example, does the unfinished basement have an adequate ceiling height and is there any evidence of flooding? If the basement needs a new subfloor and vapor barrier, do you need a permit to complete the work and must you hire a licensed and bonded professional? If an issue is uncovered, you may need to call in an inspector who specializes in that area. Your inspectors are the first line of defense against a poor investment. Use reputable professionals with relevant experience; their advice can be worth their weight in gold.

Questions for your contractor

What is the total investment? Once you formulate a plan based on the inspector’s report, sit with your contractor and discuss your options. As with any project, it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach. There are plenty of middle-road solutions that can satisfy your bottom line as well as a time commitment that’s comfortable. With that said, budgets and timelines may run over, so work with a reputable contractor to minimize the headache of living in a construction zone.

Questions to ask yourself

How is the overall layout of the home? With considerable cost and headache, it’s possible to change the structural layout of a home. However, I would counsel you to closely consider the existing layout of the home. Are there many small rooms with random nooks, whereas you’re more of a great-room kind of buyer? What about the number of existing bedrooms and bathrooms? If you require a four-bed, two-bath home and it’s currently a two-bed, one-bath, be certain this home will truly meet your needs.

Do I have the time, energy, and patience for this project? This is where you dig deep in your soul and be honest with yourself: Are you prepared to have a DIY project every weekend for the foreseeable future? Or on the flip side, are you prepared to drop a boatload of cash, paying professionals to make your fixer-upper into the dream home you’ve always wanted? Get real with your expectations and available resources.

Fixer-uppers can be a great investment and allow you to customize a home to your specific needs. But it’s best to have a sense of what you’re signing up for! With some strategic due diligence upfront, you can purchase and remodel your new home with confidence.

Posted by Robyn Woodman on Trulia

The Cost of Waiting to Buy a Home

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently released their July edition of theHousing Affordability Index. The index measures whether or not a typical family earns enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on a typical home at the national level based on the most recent price and income data.

NAR looks at the monthly mortgage payment (principal & interest) which is determined by the median sales price and mortgage interest rate at the time. With that information, NAR calculates the income necessary for a family to qualify for that mortgage amount (based on a 25% qualifying ratio for monthly housing expense to gross monthly income and a 20% down payment).

Here is a graph of the income needed to buy a median priced home in the country over the last several years:

And the income requirement has accelerated even more dramatically this year as prices have risen:

Bottom Line

Some buyers may be waiting to save up a larger down payment. Others may be waiting for a promotion and more money. Just realize that, while you are waiting, the requirements are also changing.

Posted by The KCM Crew

It is National Preparedness Month – Are you Prepared?

September is National Preparedness Month. It is a time to regroup and help your family understand what to do in case of an unexpected situation occurs. Along with natural disasters like wild fires, earthquakes, hurricanes and tornados, families need to prepare for heavy storms and broken pipes which can cause water damage to a home. Families also need to prepare for unexpected household fires that may start in the kitchen or by a grill. Maybe an electric heater was left on or a candle was left burning. Being prepared can help get family members out of the home in a timely and safe manner. Being prepared by documenting the details of your home both before and after can help when submitting a complete claim to your insurance agent for reimbursement.  Being prepared can help you locate important documents that might help you immediately or in the future. Being prepared can keep your family safe! These four primary tips can get you started on your efforts to getting prepared.

  • Start by outlining a kit you will need in case you need to evacuate your home. Remember to include specific prescriptions that anyone in your family might need. If you have pets, also include their food.
  • Then create an evacuation plan for all members of your family including your children and your pets. Evacuating your home is one step, while also understanding how your family will evacuate a city if members are at work or school.
  • Next, document your home and your belongings in case you incur home damage and need to have the details of what you own for a claim. You will also want to track all pertinent documents that may be necessary should you need them to properly identify the members of your family.
  • Finally, there are tasks that you can do to protect your home against some of the elements. Learn what maintenance tips could work in your area that could prevent more damage to you home.
  • For more specific information on these tips, please visit our Emergency Preparedness page.

    Posted on HomeZada

    5 Tricks for Sneaking Storage into Small Spaces

    If you’ve ever wished you just had one more empty shelf or drawer, these tips are for you.

    Whether they live in large or small homes, most people wish they could find a little “extra space.” This is especially true of those whose closets, cabinets or rooms are on the small side.

    One way to create more space is to practice the new trend called minimalism, which involves a clear and decisive focus on keeping what we most value and eliminating anything that distracts us.

    To live like a minimalist demands rigorous review of our purchases, as well as what we create, receive and keep. Because we live in a world of “Free, free, free!” and “Buy, buy, buy!” it is very difficult to avoid collecting more things in our homes.

    Some segments of our population have turned to a new kind of “forced” minimalism — living in what are known as tiny homes. Popular television shows on multiple networks cover this new lifestyle where, in some cases, folks are moving into spaces no larger than 300 square feet.

    What if you’re not moving into a tiny home anytime soon and you don’t think the minimalist lifestyle is a fit for you, but still want to make the most of your small closets and storage spaces? Try using these small space organization tips to make the most of what you have.

    Think vertical

    For all the spaces in your home, think vertical. Tall bookcases and shelving can be the answer to your organizing dreams.

    Use this prime real estate to store anything from cleansers to neatly folded clothes, knitting projects, or organized craft bins. You can double your available storage space by going up.

    Go behind-the-door

    It may not be the trendiest design option, but if you’re pinched for space, install behind-the-door storage with pockets or hooks to hold just about any small items you can think of, from fashion accessories to hair dryers, dog leashes, cosmetics, cleaning supplies and more.

    Put it on wheels

    Small homes and apartments often provide us with unique storage spaces, like closets located underneath a set of stairs.

    Whether you have a normal closet or a unique storage space, using a wheeled moving dolly or storage bins with wheels allows you to store items and access them with ease.

    Rather than climbing into a poorly lit closet under the stairs, where you can’t even stand up or move freely, you can create a convenient experience by opening the closet or cabinet door and sliding out the rolling storage piece to greet you — at your height, with room to move and view your belongings in plenty of light.

    Adopt the dorm room approach

    Shower Tote, The Container Store, $10

    Bathrooms can be the most difficult space when you have no storage, but one super idea is to implement the use of a shower caddy.

    Remember the days when you went to college or camp? You usually had a toilet kit or small shower caddy to carry your toiletries to and from the bathroom. Why not try this at home?

    If multiple people use the same bathroom and there’s not a lot of counter space or storage, have everyone take out what they bring in. It allows each person to keep track of their favorite toiletries, and the bathroom stays more organized.

    Keep it simple

    Finally, you will create more space in your home by simplifying your life. Start by making a quick list of what you value most in life. I call this “organizing by your values.”

    When you set priorities in your own life, your home and belongings will reflect your choices, allowing you to eliminate the less important or less valued items.

    As part of this exercise, you may want to evaluate how you spend your time. Take a look at your commitments, from work to kids’ activities, volunteer projects, and friends who need favors.

    Evaluating your priorities and possibly eliminating commitments which no longer make you happy may just give you the extra time you need to review and organize the items in your home.

    Those small spaces may not be so small after all. They may just need a little focused attention from you to create the optimal space you need.

    Posted by DorothyTheOrganizer on Zillow

    Learn to Prime Like a Pro

    Follow these tips from Sherwin-Williams to prep for a perfect paint job.

    Paint can make more of a difference in changing a home’s aesthetic than new accessories and furniture. Why? Color makes an immediate impact because it’s on one of the largest surface areas in your home.

    But a painting project that seems simple can easily go awry if the proper prep work hasn’t been done. (No one loves streaky paint.)

    Avoid mishaps and get a room that’s painted to perfection with these tips from Sherwin-Williams.

    Gather materials

    It’s best to have all of the proper tools on hand before the first dip of the paintbrush. Sherwin-Williams suggests having the following tools at the ready to ensure a seamless painting experience:

    • Wash bucket
    • Mild dishwashing soap
    • Cellulose sponge
    • 1-inch painter’s tape
    • Flexible putty knife
    • Dropcloths
    • Primer
    • Plastic paint container
    • Roller pan/tray
    • Paint stir sticks
    • 2-inch to 3-inch angled sash paintbrush
    • Paint roller
    • Paint roller covers:
      • ¼-inch to ⅜-inch nap thickness for smooth surfaces
      • ½-inch to 1-inch nap thickness for rough or stippled surfaces
    • Paint roller extension pole
    • Paint rags
    • Ladder
    • Acrylic caulk
    • Caulk gun

    Step 1: Wash the walls

    To get a perfect paint job, it’s all about the proper prep for your walls. That starts with removing all of the loose paint and patching any holes or cracks.

    Next, wash your walls. A simple dusting of the walls and trim where dirt tends to gather can prevent painting problems such as paint that doesn’t properly adhere to the wall. Experts from Sherwin-Williams recommend using a mixture of lukewarm water and mild soap and gently rubbing with a rag or cotton cloth in a circular motion. Rinse your walls using a slightly damp cellulose sponge.

    Step 2: Tape it up

    It may seem an unnecessary step, but taping the walls is of the utmost importance if you want to keep paint from dripping onto trim or, worse, the floor. To start, check that your walls and trim are thoroughly dry before applying painter’s tape.

    Use longer pieces of tape rather than several shorter pieces. This critical step helps minimize the possibility of gaps in your tape and helps ensure paint won’t sneak through. Start in a corner, pressing to the trim in small sections as you go. To make it even more secure, use a clean putty knife to press the tape’s edges to the trim so your tape sticks firmly. This will help ensure you get a nice, even paint line.

    Step 3: Grab the dropcloths

    Paint on the carpet or in the cracks of your hardwood floors? No, thanks.

    To avoid this, use one or more dropcloths to protect your flooring and furniture from paint drips. Canvas dropcloths are the most durable, and the fabric works to absorb paint drips and spills — and they’re reusable.

    Plastic and paper dropcloths cost less but tend to slide when you walk on them, so use painter’s tape to secure the edges to the floor.

    Step 4: Time to prime

    Priming may not be necessary if you’re working with an all-white wall or a paint and primer in one. However, in the case where you’re painting over an existing color, it’s typically best to prime the wall first.

    Starting off with a primer base helps you get a truer color and sheen from your paint. Plus, it provides a layer specially formulated to protect your topcoat.

    To get started, use a 2-inch or 3-inch angled bristle brush and paint a narrow strip of primer all along your trim and the inside corners of your room. Prime the remainder of your wall with a roller.

    Use a ¼-inch to ⅜-inch nap thickness for smooth surfaces. Use a ½-inch to 1-inch nap thickness for rough or stippled surfaces. If you’re painting a room in a darker color, consider using tinted primer rather than white to ensure a true hue throughout the room.

    Step 5: Mind the gap

    Gaps often form between walls and trim work. The solution: caulking. Fill them with an acrylic caulk after priming the wall and trim surfaces.

    Not all caulks are paintable, so make sure you read the label to see if yours is. Use the little hole in your caulk gun handle to cut off the tip of the tube at a 45-degree angle. Carefully pierce the inner seal inside the tip using the seal-puncture tool found on most caulk guns. Load the tube into your caulk gun and squeeze out a small amount to start the flow.

    Have a damp cotton rag handy to clean up excess. Start in one corner of your room, point the caulk tube tip into the crack, and gently squeeze an even flow of caulk along the crack. Wet your finger and use it to smooth out and remove excess amounts of caulk. Have a damp cloth handy to wipe your finger clean. Make sure you read the label to find out the dry time for your caulk too. Some take 24 hours, so make sure to account for this!

    The finishing touch

    You’re ready to paint! Have more questions? Ask the experts at your neighborhood Sherwin-Williams paint store and be fully prepared to achieve beautiful painting results.

    This post was sponsored by Sherwin-Williams.

    Posted by Blake Miller on Trulia


    The Fed Announcement: What It Means for Mortgage Rates and the Housing Market

    Interest rates remain at historically low levels, pushing the long anticipated rate hike into the future.

    U.S. interest rates have seen nearly a decade of record lows, and 2015 was supposedly the year that they finally began to rise. The Federal Open Market Committee announced today that the benchmark interest rate for short-term lending will remain at its current target level of 0 percent to 0.25 percent.

    Although rates didn’t climb today, an eventual increase will occur in the next couple of months.

    “The federal funds rate, and in turn mortgage rates, remain low and will likely end the year roughly where they started it. For most markets and buyers around the country, the effects of any eventual interest rate hikes should be pretty small in the near term, but in some unaffordable markets where buyers are already stretching their finances, higher interest payments could more dramatically limit buyers’ options,” said Zillow Chief Economist Svenja Gudell.

    Unaffordable markets include places like San Francisco and New York City, where housing is already very expensive. Buyers in these markets have little wiggle room when it comes to housing they can afford, and higher interest rates will limit their options even more.

    On the flip side, higher rates will have little impact on markets such as Cleveland, where home values aren’t nearly as high.

    To give you an idea of how a potential rate increase would impact home buyers, we took the current rate on Zillow Mortgages of 3.81 percent and did some calculations, using Zillow’s Mortgage Calculator, on homes valued at $150,000, $250,000 and $350,000. The goal was to see how monthly mortgage payments would be affected if the rate rose to 4 percent and 5 percent, assuming a 20-percent down payment.

    Monthly Mortgage Payment

    3.81% 4% 5%
    $150,000 $767 $780 $851
    $250,000 $1,234 $1,256 $1,375
    $350,000 $1,701 $1,732 $1,898

    As shown above, the higher the purchase price, the greater impact a rate increase will have on your monthly mortgage payment.

    When this anticipated rate hike does occur, the majority of markets around the country will see little impact, which is great news for the housing market.

    Posted by Jordyn Lee on Zillow

    6 Fall Gardening Tips You Need to Read

    If you thought spring was the only time to plant and indulge in some gardening, you’ve come to the right place! There’s no need to worry about your garden turning dull and lifeless as fall approaches as there’s a lot you can grow depending on where you stay.

    Even if you don’t want to grow plants in the cold months, preparing your garden for next spring will be helpful in more ways than one.

    Here are some great fall gardening tips you’ll find helpful.

    Clean up the Place

    Start with clearing the ground of fallen leaves and twigs. Remember to save the leaves to make compost. Pick up fallen flowers and fruits, and dispose diseased or infested plantsappropriately after uprooting.

    Check the ground carefully for weeds and get rid of them. Some perennial weeds can be killed more easily with fall weedicides than with summer applications.

    Don’t Uproot it All

    While you may want to uproot annuals that flower in summer, leave a few of them untouched. Certain annuals and perennials like ornamental grasses, tall sedums, and Russian sage will add interest to your fall and winter garden.

    Store Bulbs and Seeds

    If you had planted some great annuals in the summer, you can store the bulbs and seeds for next spring. For bulbs, let root structures dry out for a few days after you dig them up. Shake off excess soil and store in a cool, dark place in sawdust or peat moss. Seeds of open-pollinated plants can be stored in paper envelopes placed inside glass jars indoors.

    Freshen up the Soil

    Freshening up the soil will help your fall plants grow to their full potential. Further, by growing plants that can replete the soil with nutrients, you’ll be doing your future spring plants a favor.

    Move the existing layer of mulch to one side. Compacted soil can hinder root growth so use a garden fork and fluff up the ground. You may want to test the pH of the soil at this stage and make amendments as needed.

    Once you’re done, see if the old mulch can be reused; you might have to add in fresh organic matter if the mulch has decomposed considerably.

    Shred the dead leaves you picked up while clearing your garden and spread them over the ground. Shredding leaves is important as whole leaves will form a mat and prevent water from flowing through the soil. Wet the shredded leaves down or cover with a light dusting of compost to stop them from blowing away.

    If you’re planning to grow fall vegetables in your garden, use straw as mulch. This will help as you can easily scatter and move straw about. Moreover, it will provide an excellent home for spiders who will help keep pests away.

    Take Care of Green Cover

    Grass will turn green again after the blistering-hot summer and will grow vigorously next spring if you fertilize it while it’s still green. Refrain from mowing it too short, and continue to aerate and water it until it turns brown. If snow cover is scant where you live, you can water your lawn once a month throughout the winter.

    Synthetic grass won’t require as much care and maintenance. However, continue caring for your synthetic turf as you normally do to keep it looking lush and natural.

    Choose Fall Plants Wisely

    Before you start planting fall varieties, identify your fall gardening goals. Do you want to grow plants of a particular color or texture, or do you want to fill in blank spots created by dead warm-weather plants?

    Decide on a fall garden plan and remember to stick to established gardening guidelines to ensure your garden looks as pretty as it does in the warmer months.

    When it comes to selecting plants, note that depending on where you live, you can grow several plants and vegetables in your garden in fall and winter. Try growing vegetables like lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, kale, and chard, and you’ll fall in love with the taste of home-grown produce! Do plant some quick growers like radishes and spinach- these can go from seed to table in a month or so.

    To add color, you can grow ornamental grasses or succulents. Trees that show fall colors will also be a great addition to your garden.


    Gardening in fall allows you to appreciate the beauty of nature season after season. With fewer pests to deal with, your fall plants are sure to grow better. And when you plant perennials in fall and winter, you can relax knowing that they’ll grow bigger by spring and be better adapted to brave the hot summer!

    Now that you’ve read these tips, you know that fall gardening isn’t tough at all. With just a little care, you’ll have a beautiful garden to look at even in the cold months.

    Happy gardening!

    Posted by Francesca Holmes on HomeZada