Buying Old Homes vs. New Construction

By Diane Tuman | Zillow.com

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Picture the home you’d like to live in. Chances are it bears a passing resemblance to the one you grew up in. A traditional “Leave It to Beaver” colonial or, perhaps, a brownstone townhouse straight out of “The Cosby Show.” Then again, maybe that is not what you are looking for. Maybe you’d prefer something newer, something with contemporary style, the latest amenities and a lot less maintenance. Or maybe you’re not ready for that whole “3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and 1.5 kids” thing at all, and a condominium or co-op fits the bill. When it comes to home buying, one size does not fit all. But it does pay to understand the differences when it comes to options between an older house and a new construction.

They Said It

“We wanted to live in one of those cool, funky neighborhoods, but we didn’t want to have to renovate. It just made more sense to get into a new place.” – Jeff W.

New House, New You?

Unless you are looking at a custom-built house on an individual lot, most new homes are built in developments with a unified style. These developments can be as small as a cul-de-sac, or as massive as a former farm field filled with dozens, if not hundreds of homes. Built to the latest codes and standards, they tend to be contemporary styled, energy efficient and often are more expensive than resale homes of a similar size. Sometimes, these types of developments can represent a savings over established developments with existing homes. Either way, the decision about whether to forgo an establish community is worth taking time to consider. Specific details vary, of course, but consider the pros and cons.

Pros and Cons of New Construction

PROS

  • Contemporary style
  • Some flexibility on design during construction phase
  • Cheaper to maintain (new appliances = fewer repairs)
  • Cheaper to operate (energy-efficient construction)
  • Extended warranties
  • Cohesive neighborhood (consistent layout, common areas)
  • Frequently have a homeowners association (helps protect resale value)
  • It’s brand-new!

CONS

  • Cookie-cutter design
  • Limited negotiating room on price
  • Potential for homeowners association dues
  • Frequently less character, or homogenous design
  • Frequently have a homeowners association (can put limits on how you use your property)

Of course, one home buyer’s pro (“No one has lived in it before us, so we won’t inherit any problems.”) can be another’s con (“No one has lived in it before us, so we have no way of knowing about any problems.”). Fortunately, there are ways to make sure the house you’re buying is really the house you want:

  • Check the builder’s track record. What else has the company built? Were previous projects completed on time, on budget and without bad blood between the builder and buyers?
  • Walk the streets. If you live nearby and previous stages of the development are occupied, ask the residents if the builder did quality work and lived up to contractual commitments.
  • Picture your home, not the model home. You can certainly have the granite counters, surround-sound home theater and jetted tub you saw in the model home, but they’re not included in the base price. You will pay extra for them.
  • Bring your own agent. If the builder has a real estate agent on site, the agent will be more than happy to help you. But, on-site agents work for the builders who hire them. Their best interests will be for the builder, not you.

Finally, consider the intangibles. Similarly styled homes attract like-minded buyers, and most developments are built with families in mind. Depending on your point of view, the consistency, conformity and kids playing in the street can be a blessing or a curse.

Existing /Resale Homes

They Said It

“We liked the charm factor of an older home — even if it meant living in a construction zone for months during our renovation.” – Leslie C.

Old = Charm?

With new developments springing up seemingly overnight, it’s obvious that new construction is popular. And yet, most people buy a resale home; i.e., a home that someone else has lived in but is now on the market again. Call them used if you must — existing home sounds better — but they’re the kind of houses that many people would like to call home.

Of course, there are pros and cons with existing homes, too. (That darling farmhouse with the big windows? It can be mighty drafty come winter.) Generally speaking, resale homes tend to be more available and less expensive than new homes, but they are also full of surprises.

The Pros and Cons of Resale Homes

Pros

  • Availability: More choices, more styles to choose from
  • Price may be more negotiable
  • Track record: Known issues will be revealed in disclosure documents
  • Established neighborhood
  • Could contain more charm and character

Cons

  • More maintenance: Things break or wear out
  • Less energy-efficient: More costly to operate
  • Dated design, older appliances and amenities
  • It’s been lived in!

As with new construction, there are ways to make buying a resale home less scary:

  • Have the home inspected. You do not want to find out the foundation is cracked or the roof needs to be replaced after you move in.
  • Consider a counter-offer. If the inspection reveals fixable flaws, propose the seller do the repairs or lower the price.
  • Expect the unexpected. Pipes leak, electrical work becomes outdated and furnaces fail — get used to it.
  • Be honest with yourself. If major repairs are required, you’ll either have to do them yourself or bring in the professionals. Some people can handle the disruption; others can’t.

The bottom line on resale homes is this: Don’t buy someone else’s problems unless you can tackle the solutions. Find a house you like, consider its pros and cons — objectively, as well as emotionally — and think about the compromises you’re willing to make. The more logically you approach buying the house, the more you’re going to love living in it.

 

Source: http://www.zillow.com/home-buying-guide/buying-a-new-home/

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The Force Is Strong in This Child’s Bedroom

Who needs a night-light when you have a pair of Jedi masters to fend off monsters under the bed?

The Force Is Strong in This Child’s Bedroom

While some children get to stake claim to their very own bedroom castle, this lucky child has the privilege of basking in the neon aura of Yoda and Jules Winnfield Mace Windu. The bedroom mind trick has a full-on space opera in mural form, complete with a fighter battling a walker and a host of moons, stars, craters and planets found in a galaxy far, far away.

And that’s not the only piece of art found within this Las Vegas, NV, home. The $1.59 million contemporary offering also rocks a cherub-rich ceiling mural in the master suite. Set above a black leather round bed, the whimsical scenery is the perfect complement to this palatial bedroom setting.

From Realtor.com

In addition to its wall art, the luxury home offers plenty of room to move with five bedrooms, six baths and an open floor plan of more than 5,200 square feet. Interior highlights include vaulted ceilings in the living room, numerous built-ins and custom cabinetry. Outside, an infinity pool and spa wrap around the back portion of the home. Behind the pool, a stairway leads from the patio to a recessed sports facility with a pair of basketball hoops and a tennis court.

From Realtor.com

From Realtor.com

This listing is presented by Kamran Zand of the Kamran Zand Group.

This article was written by   on realtor.com. For the article source and more photos, click here.

The Significance Of The Cluttered Home To Buyers

In our modern world, many of us have succumbed to the excesses of capitalism. Giant warehouse stores allow us to buy in bulk; massive chain department stores allow for incredible bargain prices. We drive giant vehicles to haul the stuff around and super-size meals to fuel our shopping frenzy.

By varandah, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

By varandah, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

As consumers we have expanded the idea of basic needs well beyond necessity. Needs are things that we cannot survive without such as food and shelter. For whatever reason, many of our desires have become needs and the result is too much stuff. In a society where shopping has become a recreational sport, and the acquisition of things a daily ritual, we must be cautious not to acquire too much to clutter up our homes.

While those of us who live in cluttered environments may have developed some numbness, meaning that we no longer consciously notice or see the chaos of clutter, we are still affected at some level. Lack of energy, motivation and low self-esteem are often characteristics that accompany the daunting task of making sense of, or separating from, our clutter.

From the prospective homebuyer’s view, clutter translates into an undesirable home. Cluttered homes often appear smaller. They look darker, and tend to smell from the excess dust. The excess stimuli can be an immediate turn-off because the combined effect suggests that all of the home’s other features will be rundown, decayed and in need of much repair. The converse is also true: homes devoid of clutter and kept clean give the impression of being well maintained and not requiring much work.

As real estate professionals, it is important to understand that when prospective buyers view a home they do so through various lenses. Some will look at a property in terms of its resale value, others will view it as a starter home, and others will view it as their potential home for life.

For those looking at property in terms of resale value, clutter is a good. Clutter means that the property doesn’t show well and as such the potential buyer stands a good chance of acquiring it below value. For those looking at a property as a starter home, the clutter only serves to widen the gap between the desired home and the home they must settle for. People looking at a property as their potential permanent home will imagine themselves occupying it. Clutter compromises the ideal image and prospective buyers view the home in terms of cleaning and maintenance.

Properties with clutter translate into increased time on the market and lower values, not only because the clutter decreases the perception of size, air and light, but also because of the perceived level of work involved in maintaining the property. It might behoove sellers to spend a little upfront and hire a professional clutter clearer and/or home stager. This initial cost will be recouped by way of a higher selling price and faster sale.

This article was originally published by David Kopec on realtor.com. To see the original article, click here.

Top 5 Mistakes Home Buyers Make — And How to Avoid Them

Top 5 Mistakes that Home Buyers MakeFrom the beginning of your home search through closing escrow, there’s an awful lot to think about and do. It’s not unusual to make a mistake along the way. But with the financial stakes so high, a false move can end up costing you a lot of money.

Here are five common home buyer mistakes, with tips on how to avoid them.

You expect to get the price down after making an offer

The real estate market is heating up across the country. In many markets, homes are selling for more than asking price. Some buyers win the bidding war by going over asking — only to try to negotiate the price down by asking for credits during escrow.

This strategy may work sometimes, especially in a weak seller’s market. But we’re in a competitive market for buyers now, so don’t count on it. The seller most likely will have a backup offer from another buyer who really wants the home — and who is hoping your deal falls through. If you start asking for unwarranted credits, the seller may simply go with the backup offer, leaving you out in the cold.

A better strategy: Make your best offer, and don’t assume you can negotiate it down later.

You wait until the eleventh hour to ask for credits

In Houston, a seller had put his house on the market with full disclosure that it had termites. A buyer made an offer and went into contract with the seller. After further inspections, and at the eleventh hour, the buyer demanded an unreasonable amount be deducted from the sale price. The buyer assumed that the seller, not wanting to put the house on the market again, would agree, just to close the deal. But that’s not what happened. The seller agreed to reduce the price, but not by the full amount the buyer wanted.

The buyer ended up walking away from the deal. The house sold soon after at a higher price than what was negotiated with the first buyer.

Of course, you should ask for credits if an inspection turns up potentially costly repair work you didn’t know about when you made your offer. But even in a buyer’s market, don’t assume you can get sellers to cave in to unreasonable demands at the last minute.

You chase a deal at all costs

Everyone wants to save money, especially on a high-ticket item such as real estate. Unfortunately, this causes some would-be buyers to make lowball offers in hopes of getting a “deal.” Or, potential buyers lose out on homes they might have been able to get otherwise, which ends up costing money in the long run.

For example, a renter in San Francisco spent three years looking for the best “deal” she could possibly get, passing up many good opportunities. Eventually, her landlord wanted to sell the place she was renting. This forced her to finally buy, but under pressure. She ended up buying at the top of the market. If she hadn’t held out for so long in hopes of scoring an amazing deal, she’d have saved herself a lot of money and time. She’d even have built up some equity in a home over those three years.

In a strong real estate market, the deals are in homes that have been overpriced and haven’t sold as a result, and/or properties that don’t show well because they need work. If the home you want is well-priced, in a good neighborhood and doesn’t need much work, the best strategy is to make a solid offer and be prepared to go over asking if necessary.

You think you can do it all yourself

With so much information about homes available online today, many people, such as tech-savvy Gen X and Gen Y home buyers, may assume they can buy a home without a real estate agent’s help.

But this strategy often backfires. First of all, the real estate agent’s role isn’t just about finding listings. With Internet access, buyers can easily find listings themselves. The agent’s role today is more about presenting your offer to the seller’s agent in a way that will help get it accepted and making sure it sticks through an escrow.

A savvy agent knows the ins and outs of the local market better than an uninformed buyer with a full-time job and family. A good agent will know the back-stories behind the comps, for example. He or she will know that a comparable home sold for 5 percent less (than the home you’re considering) only because the sellers were divorcing, or the property had a retaining wall problem. Without an agent, you’d simply see that the comparable home sold for 5 percent less. You might ask the seller of the home to match that 5 percent reduction — and you’d be surprised when the seller says, “No thanks.”

Also, experienced agents have a strong network in the local market, which can give you an added edge. Good agents like to work with other good agents. And if nothing else, keep in mind that a listing agent might not even consider working with an unrepresented buyer.

Finally, the seller pays the buyer’s real estate commission, so having an agent for your home search costs you nothing anyway. Most importantly, there’s bound to come a time during the complicated real estate transaction when you have serious doubts or big questions. Your agent can be the trusted adviser you need to walk you through the maze.

You don’t think like a seller

Most likely, at some point in the future you’ll need to sell the home you’re about to buy. That’s why it’s important to think like a potential seller as well as a buyer.

Case in point: In 2005, a buyer in San Francisco bought a home with no garage. The house was on multiple transit lines, he used his bicycle to get around and he knew he’d have access to a leased garage space if he needed it. So he felt he didn’t need a garage.

Three years later, the market was slower, but the owner had to sell. He didn’t feel his home should be priced less than a comparable property with a deeded garage because his house was so centrally located. Plus, he had that leased garage space to offer. The problem was, many buyers drive to work, and they don’t want to risk losing a leased garage space. The result was that many buyers wouldn’t even look at his home’s photos online, let alone go to the open house — because it lacked a garage.

So when you’re buying a home, put yourself in a potential seller’s shoes. The last thing you want is to buy a dream home that becomes a nightmare when it’s time to sell.

This article was originally published by Brendon Desimone on Zillow Blog. To see the original article, click here.

Out-of-This-World Telescope Home in Laguna Niguel

When we consider what exactly makes a multimillion-dollar home, we generally think of things like square footage, custom finishes and ocean views. What we don’t usually think about are observatories, because let’s face it, that would be way too cool. But among a sea of trophy homes in Laguna Niguel, one property dares to transcend modern amenities with a simply unworldly private observatory and telescope installation.

From Realtor.com

“The observatory is certainly one of the most unique amenities I have seen in a home,” said listing agent Dana Wall of Prudential California Realty. “The exclusivity of this feature only adds to the value and appeal of this gorgeous custom home, especially for the right buyers.”

From Realtor.com

Accessible via a spiral staircase in the office, the observatory offers not only a prime vantage point for viewing the stars, but also the required hardware. A mounted, motorized telescope has been anchored to the home’s foundation and comes equipped with a star-mapping GPS feature for tracking celestial bodies.

From Realtor.com

The telescope can also be wired to transmit video to televisions throughout the house.

From Realtor.com

“It’s perfect for an astronomy enthusiast,” said Wall, “but even for home buyers not in the market for their own in-house observatory, it’s so much more than its most distinctive selling point.”

From Realtor.com

Built in 2000 and extensively updated in 2010-11 with over $400,000 of upgrades, the Ocean Ranch estate now lists for $3.188 million, and it is not without luxe touches. The aforementioned executive office boasts custom built-ins, hardwood flooring and a fireplace; the master suite comes complete with a Jacuzzi tub and steam shower; and a sprawling balcony overlooks a “tropical oasis” filled with citrus trees, rose gardens and a saltwater pool spread sporting its own host of highlights — spa, waterfall, fire pit, and more.

From Realtor.com

From Realtor.com

“I have seen some amazing things on higher-end homes,” added Wall, “but this one definitely takes the cake.”

This listing is presented by Dana Wall of Prudential California Realty.

This article was originally published by Neil J. Leitereg on Realtor.com. For the article source and more pictures of this listing, click here.

5 Tips on How to Avoid Rental Application Rejection

If your apartment rental application was rejected, don’t be deterred – it’s time to get to the root of the problem.

5 Tips on How to Avoid Rental Rejection

Application rejection can happen for a variety of reasons. It could be a result of your credit history or a lack of references. Perhaps, like many first-time renters, you simply do not have enough rental experience. If you have dealt with rental rejection, consider the following tips before submitting your next apartment application.

1. Check Your Credit
Start by getting a copy of your credit report. You may find that your report has errors or marks you didn’t know about. Call any of the credit-reporting agencies’ toll-free numbers to find out how to get a copy of your report. If you request a copy within 60 days of the rejected application, you can obtain the report with no charge.

Don’t assume that you know why your application was rejected without examining your report. If you feel the company is incorrect, you are allowed to write a 100-word statement that the bureaus are required by law to distribute with your credit report to everyone who asks for it in the future.

If there are no errors on your report but your credit isn’t too great, you’ll need to do what you can to repair the problems. Watch out for people who claim they can “erase bad credit.” That miracle cure simply does not exist. The only solution for dealing with negative marks like late payments and bankruptcy are to wait it out and/or to rebuild your credit by getting your finances organized.

2. List Your Rental History
Just as your job history is an important aspect of an employment application, rental history is an important part of any rental application. If you have rented in the past, come prepared with a list of contact information for each landlord. In most cases, you will be expected to provide specific dates of when you lived at each rental property.

Landlords and apartment managers want to know that you will be a responsible tenant.  Showing that you have a strong rental history can go a long way toward avoiding rental-application rejection.

3. Bank Statements
Landlords and apartment managers want to know that you will be able to afford the lease you are about to sign. Be prepared to show bank statements and pay stubs from your place of employment to prove that you actually make enough to cover your rent. If you are going to rent an apartment with one or more roommates, be sure they can provide similar info.

4. Personal References
Personal references are essential in verifying such details as your employment, fiscal responsibility and your overall character. It is important to pick personal references who can best articulate these to your potential landlord or apartment manager. This means finding reputable references as opposed to providing a list of your friends from college.

5. Closing Tips
Rental markets, especially in more metropolitan areas, can be cutthroat. You’re often competing against dozens of other applicants, and winning requires a certain level of preparation, tact and skill. The more you come prepared, the better chance you have of avoiding rental-application rejection.

This article was originally published on realtor.com. To see the original article, click here.

6 Tips for Apartment Decorating on a Budget

Good taste doesn’t have to be expensive. Whether you’re a first-time apartment-renter, newly single or a single parent trying to live frugally, trying to shape your home into something found in the pages of “Elle Décor” can be sobering.

6 Tips for Apartment Decorating on a Budget

Window-shopping can often prove discouraging, especially as you realize that walking into a furniture store and saying “I’ll take that” means sacrificing an entire paycheck. Being on a budget doesn’t mean that you have to resort to milk crates, cinder blocks and inflatable furniture, however. There are bargains to be found, and that’s where the fun begins: All you need is a sense of style and adventure – and a little advance planning.

To begin your budget decorating quest, look around your living space, whether it’s a studio apartment, a condo or a single-family home. What is your favorite part? Is it a large window that lets in the morning light? A window seat? A garden window? Some built-in shelves? Start by making your favorite thing the focal point of that room. If it’s the bookshelves, for example, be on the lookout for interesting objects and trinkets to add a little art flare. They don’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, either.

Conversely, if you have a least favorite object in the room, and if you’ve been hanging on to it simply because you couldn’t afford an alternative, get rid of it if you can. If you can’t, can you hide it? Enhance it? Sell it and use the money toward what you really want?

Here are more ways to refresh your rooms on a budget:

1. Create a Personal Design Book
A personal design book can help you decide what type of space you would like to create. Head to the supermarket magazine stand or the local library, or jump online and explore the latest design trends. The social sharing site Pinterest is a great resource for not only exploring the world of design and DIY trends, but also saving or “pinning” them into your own online scrapbook.

Don’t be afraid to work offline, though. Do you see some paint that you like in a magazine photo? Clip that. Compile everything in one place, whether it’s a photo album or a photo box, and write the name of the appropriate room on each clipping. When you’re hunting for items for a particular room, bring the clippings with you.

Before you buy anything, think about your purpose for each room. Do you want your home to be a soothing contrast to your stressful job? Muted colors and neutrals will be your best bet. Or do you want to feel energized by your surroundings? Then consider brighter, bolder colors. Do your tastes lean toward the casual or the more formal? That might depend on the surroundings in which you work (for example, if you work in a rigid, ultra-corporate environment, you might wish to keep your home surroundings more casual), your personality, whether or not you have children and whether you entertain frequently.

2. Quick-Change the Upholstery
If you’re not thrilled with your sofa and a new one isn’t in your budget, slipcovers are the way to go. Watch for sales in summer and early January (New Year sales), when furniture stores clear out their inventories to make room for the new styles. That’s when you can pick up a slipcover at a discount of 30-40 percent or more and completely change the look of your living room. Add a few new pillows, and you’ll be amazed at the difference.

You don’t have to buy a card table and folding chairs for your kitchen. Instead, put on your walking shoes, and get ready to comparison-shop. Many stores offer inexpensive sets – a table and four kitchen chairs in butcher-block style, for example, for one price. Or try your local unfinished furniture store. Many such places mass-produce comparatively inexpensive oak and/or pine pieces that can be painted if you wish and dressed up with your own accessories.

3. Add Curtains and Color
Think about adding some new curtains for a splash of color or pattern. Granted, they can be pricey, but you can find inexpensive options. Many balloon-style curtains and simple drapes can be had for $10-20, particularly during sales.

Color adds warmth to any room. If you own your home and can paint, there’s a bit of psychology to keep in mind: Blue creates serenity and is intended to refresh and renew. Red increases intensity, gets the heart pumping and the blood pressure rising. Green, a popular choice right now, brings the outdoors indoors. It creates a sense of balance and harmony and can be a calming influence. Yellow and related shades are warm, cheery and inviting. And, of course, a nice touch-up of white paint can renew your house dramatically.

4. Make Your Own Art
For art, the best pieces are often the original ones you create. Buy a shadowbox and insert dried flowers, black-and-white photos, magazine clippings, postcards, anything that holds personal significance. Take a trip to the gift shop of your nearest museum or gallery for poster-sized reprints and postcards for framing. Although framing can be extremely expensive, your local craft store holds reasonable facsimiles for a fraction of the cost. Select something simple — after all, the picture should be the center of attention. Mirrors – even inexpensive ones – also are an excellent choice and create the illusion of depth.

5. Accessorize, Accessorize, Accessorize
Head to your nearest discount accessory store and pick up objects that attract attention without blowing your budget. Such pieces include unique photo frames, colored glass (an extremely inexpensive decoration), plate racks, linens, vases and pitchers with silk or other artificial flowers, and candles – including votives, candlesticks and larger varieties placed in glass bowls with potpourri.

Remember that groupings are more visually striking than single items. If you have an empty corner, purchase a small table (craft stores sell them cheap, and you can place a fabric cover or skirt on top) or pedestal there and top it with a plant. Traditional styles favor more accessories and, in some cases, even clutter. If you’re aiming for contemporary, a more simple, streamlined appearance is best (which may be more realistic anyway if your budget is tight).

6. Entertain Dinner Guests
If you plan to entertain, many professional chefs say there’s no space too small for a dinner party. You can always improvise. The company is indeed more important than the decor. Just make sure you have adequate seating and that guests are close enough to talk to each other. It doesn’t matter if your chairs are a hodge-podge of styles. Use what you have and create a warm atmosphere by arranging in a way that encourages close conversation. A little rearranging can completely change the feel of a room, lift your spirits and change your tune about those pieces you thought you didn’t like anymore.

Don’t rush any of your purchases. Take your time and save your money for the items you know you want and can afford.

This article was originally published on realtor.com. To see the original article, click here.