‘Is the Alpaca Included?’: Weirdest Requests from Home Buyers Ever


You’ve probably heard stories about how rockstars make jaw-dropping demands for their dressing rooms on tour, like a hot tub, or bowls of M&Ms with all the brown ones picked out (true stories!).

Well, it turns out that some home buyers also think they’re holding all the cards when they make some crazy request a condition of purchase.

Don’t believe us?

Check out these stories from real estate agents, and you’ll see what we mean.

Does it come with the dog?

“A buyer asked me to include the seller’s dog, a poodle, as part of the contract. He was serious. It was more of an entitlement issue with this buyer—‘I can get anything I want because I’m wealthy, offering cash, and a good price’—than that he was a dog person. Of course, the sellers loved this dog and would never give her up. The home was eventually sold to a family who had their own dogs. I stopped working with this client and referred him to a local dog shelter.”  Tanaz Akhlaghi, associate partner with The Partners Trust in Beverly Hills, CA

Make it rain

“After several hours of inspection, discussion, and long drawn-out decision-making, doors locked, everyone leaving, the buyer says, ‘I want you to unlock the house and let me back in, then turn on the hose, and make it rain on the house so I can hear what it sounds like.’ I said no. Please note, I’m actually very accommodating, but declined for good reasons. Thankfully, we sold the house to someone else.” Candace Gunther, associate partner with The Partners Trust in Pasadena, CA

The boy-band poster must stay

“This story always makes me smile. The client was a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army. We were exploring the basement of one house, when he pointed at the wall and said, ‘I will buy this house if they give me that.’ By ‘that’ he meant a framed poster of NSync. He was apparently a huge fan of the boy band! We had four more showings, but he demanded we pull into a restaurant and write the offer immediately that included the poster. Unfortunately, he didn’t win the bid on the house, so he had me reach out to the agent and ask if he could buy the poster from the owners. They said no. It took him a week before he would look at any other house, he was so heartbroken.”  Sarah Bowles, brokers associate for Colorado Homes Denver

Sweeten the deal—with those cookies

“When a buyer came to an open house, I served chocolate chip cookies from the decadently famous Levain Bakery—eight cookies for $49. When we started negotiations, he said he’d take the deal only if I threw in a box of the cookies. I thought he was joking and said sure. But when I got the deal sheet the next day, he’d written in ‘a box of the cookies that were offered at the open house.’ Later on, during our final walk through, he said, ‘You’d better not forget my cookies.’ I brought eight to the closing, which he ate right then and there and got mad I didn’t bring milk!”  Frank Seegitz, real estate agent for Douglas Elliman in New York City, NY

It’s a numbers thing

“I had a client looking for a high-end apartment ($7,000/month) who was heavily into Kabbalism and numerology. So he said I couldn’t show him buildings with specific addresses if the numbers were ‘bad,’ and could only show apartments that were on specific floors and that had specific unit numbers.” Matt Sadewitz, Real Estate Broker for Douglas Elliman in New York City, NY

13 alpacas, please…

“When showing a home with a pack of 13 alpacas on the property, my client became attached to a baby alpaca, and therefore wanted to buy that one—and all of her friends, so it wouldn’t feel lonely—for an additional $120,000. The seller agreed. Deal consummated.”  Madison Hildebrand, founding partner of The Malibu Life with The Partners Trust

Let’s all live together!

“I represented the seller of a two-bedroom apartment that got an offer the first day on the market. Only my seller couldn’t move immediately, because their new residence was not ready. In order to not lose the deal, the seller agreed to let the buyer—which included a husband, wife, child, and two dogs—move in for a month. They all piled into the seller’s apartment, and all became great friends.” Deborah Solomon, real estate broker with Douglas Elliman in New York City, NY

I’ll take everything … no, really, everything

“I was the broker for a luxury apartment where the buyer insisted, in order for the deal to go through, that the sellers include all the furniture, beds, blankets, dishes, essentially the entire contents of the apartment—including the toilet paper and bath soap! The sellers agreed—for the right price.” Valerie Lettan, real estate broker with Douglas Elliman in New York City, NY

Posted by Kimberly Dawn Neumann on realtor.com


Going Solo: 5 Steps to Buying a Home on Your Own

Be a smart and savvy buyer to land the home of your dreams.

Shutterstock ID 254804569

Shutterstock ID 254804569

The home-buying experience often portrayed in advertising generally seems to focus on couples and families. But these days, only 40 percent of first-time home buyers are married, down from 52 percent in the late ’80s, according to Zillow research.

The process of purchasing a home for a sole owner may be fairly similar to that of anyone else, but there are a few slight differences in how a single buyer might approach the home-buying experience.

Here are five ways to make your solo house hunt a success.

Find your agent

Don’t choose the first real estate agent you find in an online search. Try posting a query on social media to get insights from your friends and family, and search for agents in your area, taking plenty of time to read reviews. Look for positive agent reviews that may comment on purchasing alone versus as a couple.

Once you find a few agent options, meet with each of them. You’ll want to ask plenty of questions — don’t let them do all the talking.

Read up on your resources

So you’ve met with multiple agents and found the one for you. Great! But having a wonderful real estate agent doesn’t mean you don’t need to read up on your own.

Don’t rely on your agent to explain every detail of the process. They probably will, and should, but it’s your job to be an informed buyer. Head to the library or check out online resources to find out your rights as a buyer and learn about home-buying programs.

When you’re deciding how much home you can afford, consider all recurring expenses that come with owning a home. Think beyond mortgage payments and closing costs — include expenses such as home maintenance and repairs.

And if you’re nervous about being turned down for a loan because you’re buying on your own, try not to be. While qualifying for a loan on one income may mean you purchase a smaller home, it doesn’t mean you can’t buy. In fact, banks are not allowed to discriminate against potential home buyers based on marital status.

Singles buying a home on one income should consider an FHA loan, as borrowers with good credit can qualify for a small down payment.

Choose the right home type for you

Are you looking for something to grow into? Or do you want a small starter home you can rent out in the future? Whatever your current and future home needs are, know that you have options regarding the type of home you purchase.

Buying a condo or townhouse may leave you with a lower mortgage, but don’t forget about possible homeowners association dues and storage fees. And while a smaller place means less to maintain for one person, regular maintenance is still a homeowner must.

House hunt with confidence

Pursuing homeownership on your own doesn’t mean you have to decide everything solo. Bring one or two of your close friends who have recently purchased a home and who you know can offer honest feedback.

If you plan to move to the suburbs to get more house for your buck, consider if you’d really be happy living away from your favorite downtown spots. Try commuting to and from your potential home from work, your friends’ homes, and your favorite shops and restaurants. If you discover it’s a tad too far for comfort, narrow your home search.

Once you find a few neighborhoods you love, look at the crime data. There are plenty of online tools that can help you check the safety of a neighborhood. And as you scope out houses and communities, take note of enclosed backyards and security gates. Because there may not be someone home during hours you’re typically away, you’ll want to be mindful of security precautions during your house hunt.

Make an informed offer

If you’re buying as a singleton, you may not have someone by your side to help you figure out what to offer or how to negotiate. This is where finding the best real estate agent for you will serve you well. Talk to your agent about how your offer may stack up against recent sales in the area, as well as the possible concessions you can get from the sellers.

Whether you’ve just started considering purchasing your first home or you’re newly single and buying on your own for the first time, these five steps will ensure you’re a smart and savvy solo buyer, and help you land a home of your own.

Posted by Sarah Pike on Zillow

5 Appliances to Take from Dull to Sparkling

Regular cleaning is something we must all do to keep a healthy and functioning home. But often, we forget about all the appliances we have and how to give them a bit of a deep clean to help them really sparkle. Here are five appliances that you can make sparkle with some simple cleaning tips. 

Coffee Makers

Using 3 parts water and 1 part white vinegar, your coffee maker will be refreshed and no longer carry the residue from pots of coffee made throughout the last several months. By taking this water and vinegar mixture and running it through your coffee pot like you are brewing a fresh pot of coffee, you will experience a cleaner tasting coffee the next time you are ready to brew your coffee. After running the mixture, clean the coffee pot carafes and filters like normal and you will be ready for a fresh pot of coffee.


Many people forget about the dishwasher thinking that running dishes to clean will automatically clean the dishwasher. Unfortunately, your dishwasher can get clogged and still need a refresher rinse similar to that of your coffee pot. Using white vinegar by pouring about 1/2 – 1 cup in the bottom of your dishwasher, you can run a wash cycle and the the vinegar do its magic. You can also use a dishwasher cleaning tablet like Affresh. This tablet is also placed in the bottom of your dishwasher and with a wash cycle will also clean your dishwasher. Use a sponge to wipe down your doors and the sided of the dishwasher for any excess dirt.


Mix 1 cup vinegar and 1 cup water, place it in a microwave safe bowl or cup and turn on your microwave for 2 – 5 minutes. The microwave will create a steam bath for the vinegar water mixture and this mixture will reduce any food accidentally left in your microwave. This mixture will also reduce food odors that have formed from the microwave food products. After performing this step, then use the mixture … be careful, it will be hot … and a sponge and wipe down the rest of the inside of the microwave and wallah … you have a sparkling clean microwave.


If you have a self cleaning oven, you can run this program and then using a damp sponge or rag wipe down the excess ash that cleaned away the food drippings. If you do not have a self cleaning oven, using oven clean or a baking soda paste (made with baking soda and water), spray or wipe the cleaner or paste on the the inside of the oven and let it sit overnight. Be sure to remove any racks and clean them separately. The next day, wipe down the inside of the oven and then if need be use a little vinegar and water with a couple drops of dishwashing detergent to wipe down any excess. Now you have a clean oven with no food odors ready for all your new dishes to share.

Washing Machine

You can naturally clean your washing machine with once again vinegar and baking soda. Using 1/2 – 1 cup of vinegar to run inside your machine for the first few minutes. Then you can add about 1/2 cup of baking soda and wipe down the inside of the machine in a temporary pause phase of your cycle. Then run the cycle completely without clothes in the machine. The rinse cycle will naturally rinse away the vinegar and baking soda. You will also need some cleaning solution to clean the areas of your machine that hold your softener or bleach. This can be done by wiping down the area or using a small brush to clean the area. You can also use a tablet formula to clean the inside of your washer if you want to make it easier for you. Tide makes a great product as does the Affresh organization.

With all this cleaning of major appliances, you will have fresh and clean food, dishes and laundry to eat, use and wear.

Posted on HomeZada

The Do’s and Don’ts of Home Equity Loans

Let your home put up the cash for its own improvements (but not for that new sports car).

Shutterstock ID 179975591;

Shutterstock ID 179975591;

With home values rising, homeowners who have equity, a much-valued resource, might be tempted to tap some of that wealth and use it for other purposes. But depending on your personal situation and how you’d like to use the equity, it may not necessarily be the right thing to do.

Here’s when a home equity loan, which allows you to use the equity of your home as collateral, makes sense — and when it doesn’t.

DON’T: Fund a lifestyle

Remember a decade ago when homeowners yanked cash out of their homes as if they were bottomless piggy banks to fund affluent lifestyles they couldn’t really afford? These reckless borrowers, with their boats, fancy cars, lavish vacations, and other luxury items, paid the price when the housing bubble burst. Property values plunged, and they lost their homes.

Lesson learned: Don’t squander your equity! A home equity loan should be looked at as an “investment,” and not as “extra cash” when making spending decisions.

DO: Make home improvements

The safest use of home equity funds is for home improvements that will add to the home’s value. If you have a one-time project (for example, you need a new roof), then a home equity loan might make sense.

Need access to money over a period of time to fund ongoing home improvement projects? Then a home equity line of credit (HELOC) would make more sense. HELOCs let you pay as you go, and usually have a variable rate that’s tied to the prime rate, plus or minus some percentage.

DON’T: Pay for basic expenses/bills

This is a no-brainer, but it’s always worth reiterating: basic expenses like groceries, clothing, utilities, and phone bills should be a part of your household budget.

If your budget doesn’t cover these and you’re thinking of borrowing money to afford them, it’s time to rework your budget and cut some of the excess.

DO: Consolidate debt

Consolidating multiple balances, including your high-interest credit card debts, will make perfect sense when you run the numbers — who doesn’t want to save potentially thousands of dollars in interest?

Debt consolidation will simplify your life, too, but beware: It only works if you have discipline. If you don’t, you’ll likely run all your balances back up again, and end up in even worse shape.

DON’T: Finance college

This may seem like an attractive use of home equity for those with college-age children. However, the potential consequences down the road could be significant. And risky.

Remember, tapping into your home equity may mean it takes you longer to pay off the loan. It also may delay your retirement, or put you even deeper in debt. Furthermore, as you get older, it will likely be more difficult to earn the money to pay back the loan. Don’t jeopardize your financial security.

3 Ingenious Uses for Peel-and-Stick Tiles

Put DIY on your to-do list. These re-positionable tiles have loads of project potential.


Are you a renter who wants to bump up the style of your apartment without making permanent changes, or a homeowner that isn’t DIY savvy? Would you believe you can customize your home fearlessly, even when it comes to seemingly tricky updates like tile?

If the idea of messing with grout makes you want to hide in a corner, consider trendy peel-and-stick tiles, like SmartTiles, as an option for classing up your home in multiple ways with minimal commitment and effort.

You can find SmartTiles through a variety of retailers, and they’re available in many color options and styles. These tiles are re-positionable and forgiving while you are installing them, but are also very secure once you get them in place and press down firmly.

They’re a great option for renters or non-tilers because they’re a snap to install, and easy to remove without damaging your walls.

All you’ll need for installing peel-and-stick tiles is a cutting mat, an X-Acto knife, and a ruler. Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. (SmartTiles offers handy video tutorials and a pdf instruction booklet.) All you do is measure, cut, peel, and stick. It’s that simple!


Try using peel-and-stick tiles in these three ingenious ways to make your home classier in a single afternoon.

Make your fireplace a focal point

Builder-grade fireplaces in older homes can be unattractive. They’re often covered in unsightly, outdated tiles, or are even just surrounded with bare painted walls.

Make your fireplace the focal point of your living room in just minutes by adding peel-and-stick tiles to your fireplace surround. They’ll stick to any painted or previously tiled surface. Just make sure not to place them on any areas that will get really hot, as these tiles aren’t graded for intense temperatures.


Bump up your backsplash game

If you have an ugly backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom, it can really drag your style down. But with peel-and-stick tiles, you can give your kitchen a complete makeover without ever touching a bucket of grout or a tile saw.

Simply cut the peel-and-stick tiles to fit around outlets, and press to stick. Your space will have a whole new look without the astronomical costs that normally come with a kitchen or bathroom reno.


Make furniture feel custom

You can even make your furniture appear custom and expensive with peel-and-stick tiles. Try filling in cabinet panels or lining the edge of a coffee table for an instantly posh look. Wrap boring boxy table legs or even cover a picture frame with peel-and-stick tiles to show off your favorite snap.

The sky’s the limit for using these versatile tiles to customize your furniture and home decor pieces.


So if you’re looking for a quick and easy (and temporary) way to embellish your home, check out peel-and-stick tiles. You can update your space in mere minutes — without all the hassle.

Posted by Erica Sooter on Zillow

The 14 Most Popular Paint Colors (They Make A Room Look Bigger!)

Virtually expand your square footage with these popular hues.

There are some hard and fast rules when it comes to interior design. Dining room chandeliers should hang 60 to 66 inches off the floor. Never match the color of your walls to a color in one of your fabrics. Hang curtains all the way to the ceiling to make the ceilings appear higher. But when it comes to making a room — especially a small one — look and feel bigger, there truly is no one right answer.

So whether you’re looking for a paint color to live with for a while or one that makes the tiny third bedroom in your home for sale in Sarasota, FL, look just a smidge bigger, we consulted designers, paint companies like PPG Paints, and painters to come up with these 14 paint colors you should consider for your next project. Save them to your home inspiration board on Pinterest, and read on for tips on how to best use them.

Best all-around colors to make a space feel larger

Light colors and neutrals are always a classic option for small spaces, but that doesn’t mean you have to forgo bold colors when you want to make a room seem bigger. Just take a cue from designer Anne Miller of Miller House Interiors in Charlotte, NC, and pick softer tones for your accessories and furnishings. “I love a saturated paint color and encourage clients not to be scared of using one,” she says. “The key is to remember to balance out that color with softer neutrals so that the room is not overwhelming.”

1. PPG Paints Swirling Smoke

Swirling Smoke is a go-to for Lee Crowder, a colorist with Darling Homes in Dallas, TX. “I have to stop myself from using this one too much because it is just a great all-around color. It is light with a tint of gray and is very calming.”

2. Benjamin Moore Cloud White

“Paint ceilings white and use lighter colors to make a room appear larger,” suggests Dan Schaeffer, owner of Five Star Painting in Austin, TX. “Think light grays, blues, and other neutral colors. You can also use an eggshell or satin finish to help reflect light.”

3. Benjamin Moore Hale Navy

Hale Navy has a spot on Benjamin Moore’s bestselling blue shades list — and for good reason. “It is a favorite to make a space feel bright,” says Sean Juneja, co-founder of Décor Aid. “I equate brightness with freshness, and Hale Navy is very fresh and clean.”

4. Farrow & Ball Skylight

“Skylight is also an amazing color; a clean, light gray-blue,” adds Juneja. “On a whole, cool colors are fresher and brighter than warm. Warm colors evoke intimacy and softness. Cool colors make me think of bright days and breezes and a sharpness that you can only capture with blues and greens.”

Designer trick: Paint walls and trim the same color

Designer Charlotte Lucas of Charlotte Lucas Interior Design in Charlotte, NC, paints the walls and trim to match in tight spaces and in rooms without much natural light: “The more transitions you have in a room, the more the eye stops at those points — for example, at the window, door, or casing trim. This trick also helps with low ceilings. If you have 6 inches of white crown molding at your ceiling and your walls are gray, your eyes stop at the gray, often 6 inches short of the ceiling. By painting the walls and trim the same paint color, your ceilings appear to be taller, since there are no breaks in the trim!”

5. Benjamin Moore Coastal Fog

“I recently painted a family room — walls, trim, crown, and built-ins — Benjamin Moore Coastal Fog. There were so many windows, French doors, and built-ins in this room, it felt so choppy having the Coastal Fog on the little bit of wall space and white trim everywhere else,” says Lucas. “By painting the walls and trim [the same color], it created an entirely different space and transformed and modernized the traditional room.”

6. Benjamin Moore Navy Masterpiece

The matching-walls-and-trim tactic works with deep shades too (but beware that glossy finish). “I have done this same technique with darker colors as well, painting a formal living room Benjamin Moore Navy Masterpiece,” adds Lucas. “The darker color creates a more cozy and dressy environment. I suggest using a satin or semigloss … the higher the gloss, the more unforgiving the paint is!”

7. & 8. PPG Paints Geyser and Colonial Aqua

Lee Crowder suggests natural hues for this floor-to-ceiling trend. “Clean colors like celadon or a sea glass always make a room feel light and bright,” she says. “PPG Paints Geyser and Colonial Aqua are great selections for that feeling.”

9. PPG Paints Stonehenge Greige

“The general rule is, the lighter the color, the bigger and brighter the room will appear,” suggests Geoff Sharper, owner of Sharper Impressions Painting Company. “Stonehenge Greige by PPG Paints is a very popular color that is light enough to enlarge a room but still gives you some of the modern and hip grays that are trendy right now.”

Square-footage-boosting accent colors

“Contrary to popular belief, light colors do not [always] make teeny rooms feel spacious,” says Jessica Geller, co-principal, ID 810 Design Group in New York, NY. “Instead, embrace the small square footage and go for deep [shades] that create intimate and cozy cocoonlike rooms.”

10. & 11. Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray and Valspar Indigo Streamer

“Feel free to go crazy with saturated colors on cabinetry for an instant update on outdated cupboards,” adds Geller. “Dark grays like Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray and navy colors like Valspar Indigo Streamer quickly bring them into 2016.”

12. Benjamin Moore Orange Blossom

“Orange radiates warmth and generates happiness, whether it’s a tender, romantic hue or vibrant and energetic. Different shades are highly personal and subjective, but one thing is for certain: Using orange is always a bold and uplifting move,” says Amy Courage, co-founder and interior designer at DesignBar in Chicago, IL. “Benjamin Moore Orange Blossom is an elegant and sophisticated shade that enables the relaxed energy needed to make a room appear lighter and brighter.”

Create the illusion of larger space

The number one factor to consider when choosing a paint color? According to Sharper, it’s how much natural light enters the room. “The general rule is, the lighter the color, the bigger and brighter the room will appear,” he says. “And the less natural light you have entering the room, the lighter the paint color you should lean toward.” So if you’re really hoping to boost the look of a space’s square footage, opt for brighter shades with a light reflectance value above 50, which bounce back more light than they absorb.

13. Sherwin-Williams Alabaster

“This is their ‘Color of the Year,’ and I have suggested it to a client who wants to open up a room,” says Melinda Peters Elliot of Fine Designs & Interiors Ltd. in London, OH. “It looks particularly good when there are a lot of windows and the trim around the windows is white.”

14. Sherwin-Williams Hazel

“This is such a peaceful and calming color,” says Alice Chiu of Miss Alice Designs in San Francisco, CA. “It can make a small space appear larger because it naturally brightens up a room with its vibrancy. It’s like being in the middle of an expansive ocean sparkling in a lovely mix of blues and greens.”

Posted by Blake Miller on Trulia



5 Steps to Ease Home-Buying Anxiety

Don’t let uncertainty about the mortgage process keep you on the sidelines. These tips will help you feel more prepared for homeownership.

Shutterstock ID 335012651post

Shutterstock ID 335012651post

Many consumers have misconceptions about what it takes to qualify for a mortgage. Most believe the requirements are tougher than they actually are, according to a recent Fannie Mae survey.

When asked about key mortgage qualification criteria (such as down payment percentage, credit score, and debt-to-income ratio), roughly half of consumers selected “don’t know” or provided an invalid answer.

“This research suggests there are too many eligible home buyers sitting on the sidelines due to misperceptions or anxiety about being turned down for a loan,” says Steve Deggendorf, director, business strategy for Fannie Mae’s Economic & Strategic Research (ESR) Group.

To be sure you’re ready to buy a home, and ease any anxiety you have about the process, Fannie Mae offers the following five suggestions.

1. Learn all you can about mortgages

Mortgages have changed a lot in recent years as lenders and investors make adjustments reflective of American households. For example, several adults in the household may be working and contributing to the household budget.

Fannie Mae’s HomeReady mortgage lets lenders consider income from other household members when qualifying the borrower. Additionally, some buyers may qualify for zero-down options, including VA loans (guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) for veterans, service members, and surviving spouses, and U.S. Department of Agriculture loans for low- to middle-income borrowers in qualifying rural areas.

Use of both loan types is on the rise, according to the Census Bureau’s American Housing Survey, especially among first-time buyers.

2. Talk to a professional

Don’t know how to save or what your credit score is? No problem. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sponsors counseling agencies nationwide that provide free or low-cost pre-purchase counseling to help you understand the terminology you’ll hear from lenders and assess your own financial situation.

“Our job as home credit counselors is to demystify this crucial transaction by educating the people who come to us, so that when it comes time to buy a house, they know what questions to ask and what issues to look out for,” says Rick Harper, a senior vice president at San Francisco’s Consumer Credit Counseling Services.

3. Explore down payment assistance

Seventy percent of U.S. adults are unaware about down payment programs available for middle-income home buyers in their community, according to NeighborWorks America, a national nonprofit community development corporation based in Washington, D.C.

“I would argue that percentage is even higher,” says Rob Chrane, president of Down Payment Resource. There are dozens of down payment assistance programs and homeowner education options in most areas, he notes. His organization maintains a database of programs you can search for free.

4. Compare mortgage quotes

Only one-third of home buyers shop around for a mortgage, according to ESR research — and that’s often at a later stage of the home-buying process, which means they could be missing out on saving money.

“As large and infrequent as the mortgage transaction is in most people’s financial lives, borrowers may be leaving money on the table by not shopping around and negotiating for the best terms they can get,” comments ESR’s Sarah Shahdad. “Getting a better deal can help borrowers sustain their mortgage even in the case of unexpected increases in expenses, or decreases in income.”

5. Consider long-term costs

As any home buyer knows, there are costs you can anticipate: your monthly mortgage or homeowners association fees, for example.

There are also unexpected costs like paying for a new roof. Angie Hicks (of Angie’s Lists) advises that homeowners set aside three to five percent of the value of their home every year to use for repairs and improvements. “You’ll want to tuck that money away so you don’t get stressed when something goes wrong — because things can, and will, go wrong,” she says.

Posted by Laura Haverty on Zillow