Plan a party right away, plus more expert tips that might surprise you.
You’ve signed and initialed on all the dotted lines. The house is yours — no more landlords or leases. Enjoy it. Revel in it. Even spend a night in your new, empty home on an air mattress with a box of pizza before things start to get real (it’s a memory you might appreciate down the road). But when the house honeymoon’s over, there’s work to be done, and certain things belong on a “the sooner the better” list. These nine expert tips offering guidance on what to do before you move into your new home just might surprise you.
1. “Borrow” your real estate agent’s contacts
Who needs friend recommendations when you can use your trusted real estate agent’s list? Most agents have plumbers, electricians, and more that they recommend regularly. “Ask your Realtor for a list of preferred providers so you have it handy in the future when you need something,” suggests Megan Shook, a real estate agent with Mosaic Community Lifestyle Realty in Asheville, NC. “It’s comforting to know you have those contacts if you need them in a hurry.”
2. Wait to paint the walls
Living in your home unpacked for a little while lets you see where the light hits every room at all times of the day. So don’t rush to paint the walls before your things are in place, even if that seems easiest. You may end up choosing colors you don’t love — and then you’ll have to paint again.
The type of light bulbs you use also impacts the paint color, says interior designer Barbara Anderson of Preferred Designs in Rehoboth Beach, DE. “The popular Edison bulbs will change the color hue,” she says. When Anderson meets with a client, she places the paint sample in all four corners of the room. She looks at it in natural light, then blocks the light. But while the walls can wait, your ceilings are another, messier matter. Anderson suggests painting the ceilings before bringing in the boxes and furniture.
3. Add a UV film on your windows
Before you drill any holes or plan where you’ll hang your art, find out where the sun is strongest in your new home. “Sunlight can damage works on canvas and paper over time and fade colors,” advises artist Steven Seinberg. He recommends adding a UV film on your windows. You won’t notice it’s there, but it will offer some protection for your precious artwork and furniture.
4. Plan a party
Scheduling a housewarming party two to four weeks after you move in gives you an incentive — and a deadline — to get all those boxes unpacked. Once the invites are out there, you’re committed. It’s the homeowner’s equivalent of telling a friend you’ll meet her for a Pilates class. In many aspects of life, accountability is key. And if the result is a party in your newly organized house? All the better.
5. Do a doggie meet-and-greet
Before you move in, walk Fido around the neighborhood. It’s a good chance to meet your new neighbors and introduce Fido to his new surroundings. Since your neighbors will then know your doggie by name — and where he lives — they’ll know whom to call if he ever gets out of your yard. (Moving-day pet escapes are all too common!) Consider also handing them a business card with your contact info on one side and your pet’s name on the back. They also might be more forgiving of any early morning yapping if they’ve seen how sweet he is up close.
6. Keep every receipt
Make a folder, get a notebook, and keep receipts for everything. You might be surprised at what’s tax-deductible. Claiming the space for your home office isn’t big news, but don’t forget all the pieces that go with the home office. “Whether that’s an alarm, maid service, cost of electricity … all of those things can be prorated to account for the home-office deduction,” says Kelly Phillips Erb, founder of Taxgirl.com. Erb also suggests looking into deductible home mortgage interest as well as the property taxes paid at closing. “I think that gets missed a lot,” she says. And definitely keep track of all those home improvements. You could get tax breaks for these down the road.
7. Get an energy audit
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save up to 30% on your energy bill by making upgrades identified in an energy audit. “Energy-efficient homes are a win-win for the owner and the environment,” says Shook. During a professional energy assessment, an auditor will identify shortcomings in your home that can be fixed to save energy and lower your bills. To find an auditor near you, ask your local electric or gas companies or search the Residential Energy Services Network directory.
8. Vet the vents
If your home is new construction, be sure to vacuum out the vents (with a hose attachment) before turning on the HVAC. Otherwise, the dust that settled in the vents could be blown out — and into your home. Owners of new-construction homes often report needing to change their air filters more frequently, and this is why. Your builder should have done this too, but it can’t hurt to make sure.
9. Start fresh in the safety department
Replace the batteries in the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors immediately. Shook suggests buying a new fire extinguisher as well. At the very least, you’re postponing the inevitable annoyance of dying batteries chirping all at once all over the house. At best, you’re saving lives. “One colleague just had a fish tank pump catch on fire last week at 5:45 a.m.,” Shook says. “Their home had minimal damage due to the detector and the extinguisher!”
In this day and age of being able to shop for anything anywhere, it is really important to know what you’re looking for when you start your home search.
If you’ve been thinking about buying a home of your own for some time now, you’ve probably come up with a list of things that you’d LOVE to have in your new home. Many new homebuyers fantasize about the amenities that they see on television or Pinterest, and start looking at the countless homes listed for sale through rose-colored glasses.
Do you really need that farmhouse sink in the kitchen in order to be happy with your home choice? Would a two-car garage be a convenience or a necessity? Could the ‘man cave’ of your dreams be a future renovation project instead of a make-or-break right now?
The first step in your home buying process should be to get pre-approved for your mortgage. This allows you to know your budget before you fall in love with a home that is way outside of it.
The next step is to list all the features of a home that you would like, and to qualify them as follows:
‘Must Haves’ – if this property does not have these items, then it shouldn’t even be considered. (ex: distance from work or family, number of bedrooms/bathrooms)
‘Should Haves’ – if the property hits all of the ‘must haves’ and some of the ‘should haves,’ it stays in contention but does not need to have all of these features.
‘Absolute Wish List’ – if we find a property in our budget that has all of the ‘must haves,’ most of the ‘should haves,’ and ANY of these, it’s the winner!
Having this list fleshed out before starting your search will save you time and frustration, while also letting your agent know what features are most important to you before starting to show you houses in your desired area.
It usually means good news for the housing market when the country sees an optimistic future. People begin to dream again about the home their family has always wanted, and some make plans to finally make that dream come true.
If you are considering moving up to your dream home, it may be better to do it earlier in the year than later. The two components of your monthly mortgage payment (home prices and interest rates) are both projected to increase as the year moves forward, and interest rates may increase rather dramatically. Here are some predictions on where rates will be by the end of the year:
“We think that conforming 30-year fixed rates probably make it into the4.625 percent to 4.75 percent range at some point during 2017 as a peak.”
Svenja Gudell, Zillow’s Chief Economist:
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the 30-year fixed mortgage rate hits 4.75 percent.”
Mark Fleming, the Chief Economist at First American:
“[I see] mortgage rates getting much closer to 5 percent at the end of next year.”
Lawrence Yun, NAR Chief Economist:
“By this time next year, expect the 30-year fixed rate to likely be in the 4.5 percent to 5 percent range.”
If you are feeling good about your family’s economic future and are considering making a move to your dream home, doing it sooner rather than later makes the most sense.
Moving can be tricky, so make sure you’re well-prepared before packing up your things.
Recently found a new home? Check out moving tips & tricks offered by professionals.
Whether you recently purchased a home or signed a lease, you’ve already made it past the hard part — finding a new home. But packing up and settling into your new place isn’t going to be a walk in the park if you’re unprepared.
While moving into a new home is exciting, it’s important to be ready for what can be a perfect storm of last-minute packing, your buddy’s truck breaking down, or hidden costs from a shady moving company.
It’s easy to put off planning your big move, so to help you make this process simple and stress-free, we reached out to the professionals for the best moving tips.
Why is hiring a moving company so important?
“People move an average of once every seven years, whereas a moving company does it every day. Hiring a professional moving company means giving the physical and mental heavy lifting to practiced hands. Professional moving companies know how to properly wrap furniture, how to handle tight stairwells and door frames, and how to properly pack a truck to save the most space and keep the furniture safe during transportation.
“Moving is one of the most stressful things we go through, and hiring a moving company will help ease that stress and it will also save you time, and time is money. Hiring a moving company is also important if you want to minimize effort, maximize efficiency, and move to a new home as seamlessly as possible.
“Renting a truck and recruiting friends is an option for small, local moves but certainly not ideal for long-distance moves, large moves, or family moves. If someone doesn’t have a lot of free time and is unable to move by themselves or with the help of some friends, hiring a moving company is an absolute must.” — Angela Gonzales of Unpakt
What advice do you always give to those starting a move?
“1. Do your research. Take time to do your homework before hiring movers, and don’t be afraid to ask the questions you find most important. What does insurance coverage on your items look like? Are the movers background-checked and drug-tested? Come moving day, you’ll want to ensure you’re protected, and having the right movers can make all the difference.
“2. Book early! To guarantee you have professional movers on the day most convenient to you, we recommend booking two to four weeks in advance.
“3. Find out what your movers cannot move ahead of time. Federal laws ban moving companies from transporting any hazardous materials, including paint, ammunition, and propane, to name a few. This means items that contain gas, such as grills and lawn mowers, are also prohibited and must be moved by the customer. Other items may include food or living things such as plants. By asking ahead of time, you won’t be surprised come moving day.” — Jessy Herman of Two Men and a Truck
What are common mistakes you see people make while moving?
“The number one mistake is not being picky with your mover. That’s right. You have to research the company you are entrusting your belongings to. Check [their] license with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and reputation online as well. Do not sign incomplete paperwork and acquaint yourself with all accessorial charges [you] may incur upon delivery. For example, if movers cannot park near the entrance of your residence and have to carry belongings more than 75 feet, they will charge for that additionally.” — Manuela Irwin of The Moving Blog
What are the major differences between moving families and individuals?
“Moving families and individuals certainly changes the volume of belongings, so it’s even more important to work with a reputable mover that can ensure the safety of all items. Plus, adding children and pets into the mix means parents have even greater responsibility throughout the moving process. The last thing they’ll want to worry about is protecting their fragile belongings or treasured antiques.” — Jack Griffin, CEO and Vice Chairman of the Board at Atlas World Group Inc.
What are some stress-free ways to unpack and settle into a new home?
“1. Start packing as soon as you have your moving date to avoid the mad rush of last-minute packing. This will mitigate the risk of items being damaged or improperly sorted and labeled.
“2. Be prepared with an assortment of boxes, packing supplies, and packing tools. This will ensure everything has a proper place, and you won’t have to waste time and energy thinking about where it will go and how it will be moved.
“3. Make sure you’ve got some old boxes and bags to pack up those items you are purging so they can be swiftly lifted out and off to the secondhand store or recycling depot, or collected by a junk disposal service.
“4. Begin with your storage areas. Anything you haven’t used for a year and cannot guarantee you will need again, and items that have no sentimental value, should be the first to go.
“5. Move on to the rooms you will use infrequently prior to moving day. Box up the items to be transported to your new home, while focusing on “less is more” by setting aside those things you won’t need again.
“6. The last items you pack up prior to your move will be your everyday kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom belongings. Try to consider what may not suit your new home, or furnishings and household things you won’t have room for. These can be part of your purge.” — Anjee Gill of You Move Me
How HGTV’s Christina and Tarek El Moussa go from finding a diamond in the rough to rehab to sale.
When we look for a flip house for our real estate investing business, Tarek and Ibasically go through the same thought process that anyone goes through when they buy an investment property.
Even though we’re working on a shorter timeline than most homeowners, the journey is essentially the same.
Understanding our thoughts as we go through each step of the process might give you a clearer road map for your own fixer-upper journey, or it might inspire you to test the waters of real estate investing yourself.
Finding a great deal on a property
If you’re looking for a really great deal on a fixer-upper house, you’re going to be searching for a diamond in the rough, and that’s exactly what we do.
We drive around the neighborhoods where we’re most likely to find great flip houses. We search through the MLS. We take a look at listing sites like Zillow.
We basically search high and low, and as we find potential deals, we start doing research on them, just like you would with your home purchase.
There’s something really special about finding a truly great house-flipping opportunity, and it always gets me a bit excited and a touch nervous at the same time.
I don’t want to fall in love with a house before the seller accepts the offer. Yet, at the same time, I can’t help but think about how we’ll be helping someone get out from under a financial burden, and then benefiting the whole neighborhood with quality rehab work.
The rush when a seller accepts your offer
After we find a house that has the potential to be a really fabulous flip property, we make the offer and hold our breath.
When the seller accepts the offer, I get a real rush! I immediately start thinking about when we can get inside, look at what the house needs, and get to work.
Before long, I have visions of beautiful design work floating through my head. In some ways, this is my favorite part of flipping a house, because it seems like the sky is the limit.
I think of everything I’d want to do to it if I had the money, but then — just like if I were buying a fixer-upper to move into — I have to bring myself back down to earth and remember our budget.
And that leads to one of the scariest parts of house flipping or buying a fixer-upper.
The fear when your contractor tells you …
Whether it’s a whole new roof, new electrical wiring, new plumbing, or any other major project, when one of our contractors tells me that they need to do a really expensive job that we didn’t budget for when we bought the house, I get a little bit scared.
Before I know it, numbers are running through my head, and I have to take a step back and think about how much of the budget is going to be taken up by this surprise.
Then, as I get things in perspective, I look for places where we can save money and places where we can still splurge some to get the best results possible.
Sometimes you have to go a little bit over budget to get the job done, but as long as you don’t eat up your entire margin, you’ll be fine.
For Tarek and me, this is a matter of how much money we can make on a house flip. For a home buyer, it’s a matter of how long renovations are going to take, when you can move in, and what needs to wait.
In either case, we’re looking at some financial challenges, but they shouldn’t be impossible to work around.
Deciding where to spend and where to save
Some of our house flips are in neighborhoods where you absolutely need real hardwood floors and marble countertops. In other areas, we can get away with high-quality laminate floors and quartz or another less expensive countertop material.
Whatever the case, I never use materials or appliances that I wouldn’t be happy with in my own home.
That doesn’t mean that I splurge on every little thing, though. I look at the places where a less expensive option will still create a beautiful finished product, and I go with those.
I also prioritize some rooms over others. For example, as you start your renovations, are you going to want to redo the kitchen and master bath first, or will the guest bedroom and living room take precedence?
Kitchens and bathrooms are the easiest places to make upgrades and create luxurious settings for home buyers. That’s why I recommend doing these spaces first for your fixer-upper, just like we prioritize them for our flip houses.
Watching it all come together
After we’ve figured out the budget and worked out what needs to be done with our contractor, it’s time to watch it all come together. In a surprisingly short time, we get to watch a distressed property transform into a beautiful, totally livable home.
It might take a little bit longer for you to do all of the work on your own home, but the process is the same, and it’s really satisfying to watch your plans become reality.
Selling a house to excited buyers
We sell our houses right after we rehab them and you might live in yours for years, but, again, the outcome is the same.
After we put a lot of hard work and energy into a flip house, we get to sell it to an individual, couple, or family, and they’re always really excited to move in.
We get to see their dreams come true as they buy their first house or their next house. When you sell your fixer-upper, it’ll be your buyer’s dream house, too.
When you look at it this way, house flippers and fixer-upper homeowners can learn a lot from each other!
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.”