How to Buy a House Before it’s Listed

If you want to find and buy your dream home, you’ll have to wait until it hits the market and is advertised on popular mediums like the MLS, right?

Wrong.

In fact, it’s very possible to find a home before it’s even listed, and sometimes that can be the key to buyers finding the right home when they’re in the midst of a particularly competitive market. With the right tactics and real estate team on your side, you can find and buy the perfect abode before it ever hits the market for all other buyers to see.

So, how can you stay a step ahead of the game and find a home before other buyers become privy to it? Here are a few tips to consider.

Work With an Agent Who’s Got Their Finger on the Pulse

Perhaps the best way to snag a home before it’s had a chance to be listed is to work with a real estate professional who is in-the-know about homes that are about to surface on the market. Experienced agents who regularly network with a large pool of listing agents will be able to gain insider information about properties that are being prepared for buyers.

Your agent may also have a seller client that they may be working with who is selling a home that’s right up your alley. Ask your agent if there are any listings being worked on that the seller hasn’t yet completed the paperwork to get listed. It’s possible that a deal can be made without other buyers getting involved. If the seller knows that there is already an interested buyer, they may be willing to lock in a deal if what you’re willing to offer is what they’re looking for.

Leave Notices on Door Handles

This is an old-school tactic, but it can still work. Leaving notices on doors in the neighborhood you’re interested in could turn into a successful real estate deal. While many homeowners are simply not interested in selling, others may have already given it a thought and haven’t yet taken the plunge.

Write a quick note informing homeowners that you’re in search of a home just like theirs and ask whether they may be interested in selling at any point in the near future. Mention the fact that you’re willing to offer a handsome price (that’s in line with what the current market dictates), and leave your name and contact information.

Look at Expired Listings

Not all listings inevitably end up selling. Some listings expire for whatever reason, whether it’s because they were overpriced, the seller had a change of mind, or too much time elapsed while the home was on the market. Regardless, some listings end up expiring before ever being sold.

Many expired listings wind up being relisted at some point shortly after, entering the market once again with a completely new MLS number. Before these listings are placed back on the market, your real estate agent can get in touch with the listing agent to see if the seller is willing to sell to you and strike a deal.

If there are certain listings that pique your interest, your agent can find out more about the property and what the seller’s motivations are. While this might take a number of phone calls, you just never know if one of these expired listings might turn into a new home for you.

Inquire at Open Houses

Visiting open houses in the neighborhood that you’re interested in can be a great way to get the scoop on any potential up-and-coming properties that are sitting on the fence. Inquire with the listing agent hosting the open house as well as neighbors about any homes that they know of that might be coming available soon.

Contact HOA Boards

If you are looking to buy in a specific HOA community, there’s no harm in contacting the board to see if they know of any unit owner who may be interested in selling some time soon. People in HOA communities talk, and word often gets around pretty quickly. You’d be surprised at how much insider information you can obtain just from contacting people who are part of an HOA board.

The Bottom Line

While the traditional way to find a home to buy would be to check out recent listings, you just might be able to snag the perfect house before it reaches the market. Doing so can help you get your foot in the door and avoid having to deal with potentially fierce competition.

Should I Sell or Rent Out My Home?

You’re considering selling your home and moving into a new one that better suits your needs and situation. But is selling the only option on the table? Have you considered renting instead?

Selling is clearly a popular option and is usually necessary in order to take the proceeds of the sale to be put towards a new home purchase. But in some cases, renting might also be a viable option and may even make more sense.

If it’s financially possible, keeping your home can be a great way to accumulate wealth and even save for retirement. When the mortgage is fully paid off at some point in the future, you can either continue to rent out the property or sell it and pull out the equity into a lump sum.

So, should you sell your home? Or should you hang onto it while collecting rent?

There are lots definitely a lot of things to consider before you ultimately make your choice, including the following.

The Current Market

If you’re in the middle of a seller’s market, selling might be a great way to make a decent profit on the sale of your home. Depending on when you purchased and how much equity you’ve put in the home, you could stand to make a good chunk of money compared to how much you initially paid for it.

Of course, you still have to buy something, so consider what your position will be as a buyer in a seller’s market. That said, you may be moving to a completely new area with a different market temperature that is more favorable for buyers. Or, you may be downsizing into a condo or townhome. In either case, you could really make the sale work in your favor.

However, if the market is a particularly stubborn one for sellers, holding onto the property and renting it out instead can provide you with the opportunity to wait until the market will allow you to sell for a higher price within a short period of time. When the market swings back in your favor, you can then decide if you want to sell. In the meantime, you can collect rent to help cover the mortgage and other carrying costs.

Even if your rent isn’t enough to completely cover all carrying costs, you can still make up for it when you sell if prices are anticipated to rise in the near future.

Your Finances

Obviously, carrying two mortgages on two homes is not exactly financially feasible for everyone. You will have to take a hard look at your finances before deciding whether to sell or rent. You may not be approved for another mortgage without first selling your current home. This is a no-brainer and is something that should absolutely be considered before making a final decision.

Whether or Not Your Move is Permanent

Are you moving because of a job transfer with the chance to come back? If your move isn’t necessarily permanent, perhaps renting might be a good idea. In fact, it could be the cheaper of the two options if the market isn’t the greatest for selling and your rent potential is pretty hefty. Selling is an expensive endeavor, so if you can hang onto your home and rent it, this could potentially be a more financially-sound idea.

Whether or Not Rent Will Cover All Carrying Costs

If you are considering renting your home instead of selling, it’s imperative that you check what the going rent rate is like in the area for a property like yours. You may have an idea of what you’d like to rent the place out for, but if that number is not in line with what similar properties are being rented out for, you’ll have a tough time commanding the dollar figure that you’d like.

This is important because you will need to know if the rent collected will be able to adequately cover all expenses, including the mortgage, utilities, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and so forth. If you can make a little money every month, that would be ideal. Even breaking even would be helpful. But if you’re going to be in the red every month, you will need to determine whether or not you’ll be able to financially carry added debt and whether or not it’s worth it when all is said and done.

Taxes

The IRS can charge capital gains taxes on real estate, but certain exceptions apply. In order to avoid paying capital gains taxes when you sell, you’ll need to meet specific criteria, including the following:

  • You owned the property for a minimum of two years in the five years before selling it;
  • The property was your primary residence for two years in the five years before selling;
  • You have not been involved in any other capital gains tax exclusion for another property that you sold at least two years before selling the current property.

If you’ve only lived in your home for less than two years, it might be more difficult for you to seek exemption status to avoid paying capital gains taxes. The longer you stay in the home, the easier it will be for you to qualify for an exemption.

Keep in mind that if you do decide to rent out the home, if you choose to sell it at some point in the future, you won’t be able to claim exemption because the house will no longer be your primary residence. In this case, you’d be selling it as an investment property, which comes with different criteria if you wish to avoid paying capital gains.

That said, you would be able to depreciate the property for tax purposes if it’s a rental. The annual depreciation amount can be arrived at by dividing the amount you paid when you first bought the home – plus any expenses related to major home improvements – by 27.5, without including the value of the land the home sits on.

Being a Landlord

Even if you’ve determined that renting makes financial sense after crunching all the numbers, you may decide that being a landlord is simply not for you. The job of a landlord can be quite challenging, especially when it comes to dealing with nightmare tenants who either don’t take care of the property, are a nuisance to neighbors, or don’t pay on time.

Then, of course, there’s the responsibility of maintaining the property and collecting rent checks, both of which take a lot of time and effort. Make sure you’re up for the task and have considered everything involved with being a landlord before you choose to rent instead of sell.

The Bottom Line

The choice between selling versus renting can be a tough one to make. While renting might make sense for some homeowners who are looking to move, selling is often the best choice for many others. Be sure to carefully review your finances in great detail, assess your current and future situation, and determine whether you can handle being a landlord or if you’d much rather cut ties with your home. To help you make the right decision, be sure to discuss your choices with a trusted real estate agent who can guide you in the right direction.

What Are “Bump Clauses” and Should You Consider Putting One in Your Contract?

Real estate contracts can include any number of clauses and contingencies, and one that may not be as popular as some others is the “bump clause.”

Bump Clauses Can Benefit Both Buyers and Sellers

A bump clause is not very common, but it can be effectively used when the buyer’s offer includes a contingency to sell their current home before closing with the seller. This allows the seller to continue marketing their property for sale while still under contract with a buyer. Should the seller be able to find another buyer with a better offer, the seller can legally “bump” the original buyer.

At the same time, a bump clause can help buyers increase the odds of the seller agreeing to the contingency for the buyer to sell their current home first, as many sellers may be unwilling to entertain an offer with such a contingency. But including a bump clause gives sellers some reassurance knowing that they can effectively enter into a contract with another buyer if they’re able to find a better deal.

How Does a Bump Clause Work?

If the sellers are able to find a better offer, a bump clause gives them the opportunity to take it and bump off the original buyer. In this case, the seller must notify the original buyer and give them a specified amount of time in which to either waive the contingency to sell their current first or inform tell the seller that they’ve sold their home.

If neither one of these situations occur, the original contract will be deemed terminated. The original buyer will get their earnest deposit money back and the seller is then free to enter into a new contract with a new buyer.

Sellers are only allowed to keep their home on the market while the contingency is still in effect. Once that contingency is waived or satisfied, the seller is no longer allowed to keep marketing their property for sale.

Bump clauses are not necessarily very popular in all markets and tend to be more prevalent in markets that are starting to cool off. In hot markets, bump clauses are virtually non-existent. But in transitional markets where listings are taking a little longer to get snatched up, both buyers and sellers may find bump clauses useful.

Buyers can entice sellers to get into a contract with an otherwise unattractive home selling contingency while sellers can be put at ease knowing that they can still market their property and bump the original buyer if they find something better.

Using a Bump Clause With Caution

Bump clauses can either be included in a real estate contract by the buyer or seller, but it’s often proposed by buyers’ agents as a means of enticing the seller to accept the contingency.  That said, sellers should make sure that the home that the buyers are trying to sell will be able to sell in a reasonable amount of time.

If the seller is able to get another offer, it’s crucial to make sure that the second offer is just as strong as the original, if not stronger. The second buyer should be closely looked at in terms of financial strength and ability to secure a mortgage.

If the original buyer is notified of another offer with only a short amount of time to waive the home-sale contingency, the buyer should make sure that their home will certainly be able to sell quickly before agreeing to waive the contingency. In this case, buyers should be very careful about making a quick decision and waiving the contingency, because there is always the risk of losing their earnest deposit if they’re unable to go through with the purchase.

The Bottom Line

As always, it’s important for both buyers and sellers faced with such a unique type of contract to enlist the services of an experienced real estate agent to help them navigate these particularly tricky waters. With the help of a real estate professional, a bump clause and the home-sale contingency that usually accompanies them can work in the favor of both buyers and sellers.

8 Home Improvement Jobs No Homeowner Should Tackle on Their Own

Some homeowners are pretty handy, which can be very convenient when a light bulb burns out or a door hinge needs to be tightened. But no matter how good you might be around the house, there are certain jobs that you should think twice about taking the DIY route for. Some jobs are just too big and complicated for homeowners and are best left to the professionals to handle.

Here are a few home improvement jobs that you probably shouldn’t take on yourself.

1. Fixing Electrical Wiring

It goes without saying that messing around with live wires puts you at risk of electrocution, not to mention electrical fires. Whether you’re trying to rewire the house, repair the electrical panel, or install wiring to a new space, this is not a job for an amateur. Besides, you might even have to get a permit to make any significant changes to the electricals in your house. This one’s just not worth risking the potential hazards that come with it.

2. Repairing Plumbing Pipes

Similar to meddling with the electricals, fussing with plumbing pipes can leave you with a big mess on your hands if you’re not skilled in this particular trade. Sure, you might be able to get away with minor jobs like unclogging a drain or hooking up your washing machine. But any major plumbing issues – like dismantling a toilet or fussing with the main plumbing line in any way – should be left to professional plumbers.

3. Repairing the Roof

Notice any peeling shingles or water damage in the attic? If so, your roof may require some attention, but not necessarily from you. For starters, climbing way up there is dangerous if the proper precautions aren’t taken. Further, do you really know what you’re doing once you’re up there? Honestly, roof repair is not a one-man job.

Instead, it usually takes a crew of experts to get the job done. Do yourself – and your house – a favor and call professional roofers to tackle any major roof repairs that may be required.

4. Removing Trees

Mature trees not only offer aesthetic appeal to your landscaping, but they can also provide some much-needed shade to your home as well as a certain amount of privacy and security. But big, old trees can also be a nuisance if they’re causing a big mess from leaves that are constantly falling. They could also be a bother if they’re too close to the home and provide intruders with an easier way to break into your house. Some old trees might even be diseased and will have to be removed as a result.

Whatever the reason for you wanting to remove your old trees, resist the urge to crack open the chainsaw and take it down yourself. If that tree happens to fall in the wrong direction, or you underestimated its reach once it’s horizontal, you could do some major damage and even cause serious injury. Even if the tree lands exactly where you want it, how will you remove it? And what will you do with the stump that’s left behind?

It would be much easier and even safer to consult with a tree service to take on this big job for you.

5. Removing Popcorn Ceilings

While they may have been popular back in the 80s and earlier, popcorn ceilings are nothing but an eyesore today. But as easy as it may sound to just scrape off that sprayed-on material to reveal a smoother surface, you run the risk of dealing with asbestos. This material may be harmless when left alone, but it can become a real hazard if it is disturbed and allowed to become airborne when it’s tampered with.

Ceiling specialists will test the area for the presence of asbestos, and if any is detected, they will deal with the popcorn ceiling removal accordingly. Even if no asbestos is found, the process of removing this material is an extremely messy, laborious, and time-consuming one that would be a nightmare for you to do on your own.

6. Applying Stucco

If your home’s exterior walls are looking a little tired, a fresh coat of stucco can breathe new life into them. But that doesn’t mean you should apply it yourself. A good stucco job can make a big improvement to the look of a home, but a shoddy job can make it look worse than before. And if you don’t do a perfect job, you could find yourself with bubbling and cracking in spots where the material was not applied evenly or properly.

Even if your home is covered in siding, that’s still not a job for the DIY homeowner to repair or replace. Professionals in masonry know what they’re doing and will get the job done right the first time around.

7. Repairing or Replacing Gutters

Gutters are super important for directing water runoff away from your home during bouts of precipitation to avoid water pooling at the base of your exterior walls. Without gutters, your home could easily be subject to water damage and even flooding if it rains particularly hard at any given time.

But if you notice that the gutters are bent, cut, or simply not doing their job properly, you might want to think twice about repairing them yourself. Your gutters are directly linked to your roof, so if you meddle with the gutters, you’ll ultimately end up messing around with the roof too. And we’ve already explained why the roof should be left to the professionals to deal with. You could end up causing more damage to the roof and even put yourself in danger.

8. Repairing the HVAC System

The summer season is the worst time for your A/C to konk out on you, and it will definitely require some immediate attention if it’s not working as it should. But that doesn’t mean you should tamper with the system or unit yourself. You might know a thing or two about your air conditioner or the HVAC system in general, but unless you’re an HVAC technician yourself, you probably don’t have the experience nor the knowledge necessary to fix whatever may be wrong with your system without potentially making things worse.

The Bottom Line

Owning a home inevitably means having to deal with repairs every once in a while. But that doesn’t mean you should take on every job that comes your way. In situations where the repairs are extensive or your safety is on the line, it always makes more sense to call in the pros. It’s not worth the hassle or the hazard, especially for these types of home improvement jobs.

Tips to Keeping Your Landscaping Healthy This Summer

California isn’t exactly known for its heaping mounds of rainfall, which can make it a bit of a challenge to keep your greenery healthy, especially in the summer. And the fact that temperatures can soar throughout the summer months can make things even more difficult for homeowners tending to their landscaping.

To help keep your greenery healthy throughout the sizzling months of the summer, keep the following tips in mind.

Add Mulch

Mulching your garden can help trap moisture and keep your plants cool and moist for longer periods of time, long after they’ve been watered. Mulch also helps to keep weeds at bay, which is important because weeds compete with plants for water. Besides, mulch looks great and can help clean up the look of your garden.

Water During the Cooler Parts of the Day

If you water your garden at peak temperature, most of the water will evaporate before it’s able to reach deep into the soil. The best time of day to water your garden is first thing in the morning long before the temperatures soar, which will help to keep your garden well hydrated throughout the day.

Keep a Consistent Watering Schedule

Certain greenery requires consistent watering in order for it to do well, including vegetable gardens and flower patches. Failure to water on a consistent basis can cause damage to your flowers, such as rotting of the blossoms and even a decline in flowering altogether. To make sure your plants are watered consistently, create a schedule to help you stay on track. If you’ve got an irrigation system, set it on a timer to run at the same time.

Keep an Eye Out For Signs of Plant Stress

Hopefully, your plants and shrubs will remain healthy throughout the year, but there may be times when they need a little more attention. To prevent any damage to your plants, be on the lookout for any signs of stress. This can include:

  • Brown leaves
  • Drooping and wilting
  • Rotting roots
  • Yellow falling leaves
  • Rolled leaves
  • Petal loss
  • Flowers that easily fall

If you notice any one of these signs, be sure to water your plants thoroughly right away. If you catch these issues early, your plants should be able to recover.

Consider Drip Irrigation

Rather than watering your garden with a sprinkler, consider installing a drip irrigation system. These types of systems can help keep your garden moist and healthy in a more efficient manner if managed properly. In California where water is a valuable commodity, conserving as much water as possible is important, and drip irrigation systems may be able to help.

These systems have been shown to be more effective at delivering water to plants as well, even more than sprinklers. Further, there tends to be less nutrient loss thanks to minimized leaching.

Choose Native Plants and Those That Don’t Require Much Watering

A simple way to keep your landscaping looking hearty throughout the summer is to simply plant species that are native to your location. Native plants require very little maintenance and water in order to maintain their health. This can help reduce the amount of time and money you spend watering.

Add Compost Regularly

Regularly adding compost to your garden’s soil can benefit it in a number of ways:

  • Add rich microorganisms
  • Help retain water more effectively
  • Add nutrients for optimal plant growth
  • Promote aeration and drainage
  • Avoid leaching by releases nutrients slowly
  • Improve soil structure

You can make your own rich compost by adding things such as vegetable peels, coffee grinds, eggshells, tea bags, grass cuttings, and plant prunings. These items break down quickly and provide both moisture and nitrogen to the soil.

Prune Your Shrubs and Trees

Regularly pruning your trees and shrubbery is important, especially during particularly dry periods, which can help effectively reduce stress on the greenery. 

Choose Slow-Release Lawn Fertilizers

Organic fertilizers that slowly release nutrients into the soil can provide added nutrients to the grass, improve soil structure, and encourage soil microbes, making your lawn less needy for water.

Mow the Grass to Proper Heights

You may be tempted to cut your grass too short in an effort to minimize the number of times you have to mow the law. But cutting too short can discourage root growth and reduce water retention. Instead, cutting to proper heights and leaving the grass blades a bit longer can keep the lawn cool and increase water retention.

The Bottom Line

Landscaping is definitely not a set-it-and-forget-it type of deal. Instead, it requires regular maintenance and attention in order to ensure its vitality, especially during particularly hot and dry periods. Keep these tips in mind to make sure that your landscaping stays in pristine condition throughout the sizzling summer months!

Buying a House With Bad Credit? Here’s What You Need to Know

Credit scores are crucial little numbers that play a key role in your financial health. With a good credit score, you’ve got many more doors open to you in the financial world, including having an easier time getting approved for home loans with favorable interest rates and terms. But a bad credit score can have the opposite effect.

Unfortunately, about one-third of scorable Americans have bad credit, which can be the result of any number of things. The thing is, conventional mortgage lenders prefer to work with borrowers who have good credit, as they will be less likely to default on their mortgages and leave lenders scrambling to foreclose the property and sell to recoup their investment.

While lenders look at several factors before approving an applicant for a home loan, credit scores play an important role and can be the one thing that can result in a rejected mortgage.

If you’ve got bad credit and are trying to get a mortgage to purchase a home, you might be out of luck with conventional lenders. However, you might be able to get approved for a home loan if you seek out alternatives to traditional mortgage products.

Know Your Score

Before you even start applying for a mortgage, be sure to find out exactly where your credit score stands. You can do this by pulling your credit report from one of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Once you know what your credit score is, you’ll know where you stand, since your credit score will affect whether or not you can get approved for a home loan as well as what interest rate you’ll be offered.

Conventional loans typically require a credit score of at least 620. Any lower than this will make it much more difficult, if not impossible, for you to get approved for a traditional home loan.

Consider Working With Bad Credit Lenders

There are many alternative lenders who work with clients with bad credit scores. Such lenders place more weight on other factors when they considering home loan approval aside from credit scores, including the following:

  • Income
  • Type of employment
  • Savings
  • Down payment amount

If all of the above factors are strong, they may be enough to compensate for your bad credit score and make it easier for alternative lenders to agree to provide you with a mortgage. Your credit might not necessarily be strong, but if your income and savings can make up for it, lenders may be more willing to work with you.

More specifically, a hefty down payment can be the factor that seals the deal for lenders. Not only does a higher down payment amount reduce the amount of money you would have to borrow and lower your loan-to-value ratio (LTV), it also shows lenders that you have the financial strength to afford a mortgage and the payments that come with it. Besides, lenders may even require that down payments are at least 10% to 20% of the purchase price of a home in order to reduce their overall risk.

It should be noted that mortgages from alternative lenders typically come attached with higher interest rates than you would be offered by your bank or other traditional financial institution, especially if your credit score is low. Generally speaking, the lower your credit score, the higher your interest rate because of the inherent risk that lenders are assuming by extending credit to low-credit borrowers.

Look at Home Loans Designed For Borrowers With Bad Credit

If your credit score is less than 620, there are still ways to get approved for a mortgage thanks to loan options designed with bad credit borrowers in mind. A very popular mortgage product among borrowers with bad credit are FHA loans, which can be qualified for with a score as low as 580.

Not only may you be eligible for an FHA loan with a low score, but the down payment requirements are lower than conventional mortgages as well. While a 5% minimum down payment is required for traditional mortgages, FHA loans require as little as 3.5%.

Thanks to the low credit score and the low down payment requirements of FHA loans, these mortgage products tend to be quite popular among first-time homebuyers who may be just starting to build credit and saving for a down payment. These programs also provide the benefit of allowing the entire down payment amount to be gifted from a family member or friend.

The Bottom Line

Just because you have bad credit doesn’t mean you have to kiss your dreams of homeownership goodbye. While the process may certainly be more challenging, getting mortgage approval doesn’t have to be impossible. That said, it’s in your best interests to take steps to improve your credit score.

If time is on your side, take measures to give your score a boost right now so that you’re in a better position to get approved for a mortgage at more favorable rates in the near future. If not, there are still avenues you can take to get a mortgage, despite your bad credit.

INFOGRAPHIC: NAR’s Existing Home Sales Report For May 2018

8 Valuable Lessons First-Time Homebuyers Should Learn

There’s always a first time for everything, and that includes buying a house. And with first-time experiences often comes some mistakes made along the way. But given the magnitude of a home purchase, this is one experience you don’t want to mess up.

Here are a few lessons that all first-time homebuyers should learn well before taking the plunge into homeownership.

1. Start Saving Early

Obviously, buying a home is a hugely expensive purchase, so the more money you can come up with to be put towards this transaction, the better. It’s never too early to start saving for a home, even if it’s not something you plan to buy for years to come. If you want to afford a home purchase, you’ll need enough funds to come up with a down payment. And if you’re able to save at least 20% of the purchase price of a home, then you can avoid paying Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI).

Aside from a down payment, there are also a ton of closing costs to cover, so any money you can save early on will come in really handy by the time you’re ready to buy.

2. Get Pre-Approved For a Mortgage

In order to find out how much you can actually afford in a home purchase, it would be wise to visit a mortgage broker to get pre-approved for a home loan. This will help you focus on homes that fall within your price range. Not only will this help you avoid disappointment when you find a house that you love, it will also make you more favorable to sellers, especially if the competition is fierce among buyers.

3. Try Not to Spend Up To Your Approved Maximum

Just because your lender approves you for a specific amount of money does not necessarily mean that you should spend that entire amount. While your lender will take into account your income and debt load, they don’t factor in how much money you spend on other things in your life.

By purchasing a home that’s priced within your upper limit, you could be left with a shortage of funds to be used for other expenses, including your groceries, utilities, entertainment, and retirement savings. To avoid becoming “house poor,” consider spending much less than what you’ve been able to get approved for.

4. Make a List of “Needs” Versus “Wants”

You might have a clear idea of exactly what you want in a home, but are these actual necessities? If you’re on a budget, it may be necessary to compromise when buying a home, as finding a property within your price range that checks off everything on your list might be a challenge.

As such, you’ll need to be realistic about the characteristics on your list compared to what your budget is. Try to keep your “needs” versus “wants” separate, and take this list with you when you visit properties on the market. Pay attention to the types of homes and their traits that fall within your price range, which will help you identify what you’ll be able to find with what you can afford to spend.

5. Don’t Rush Yourself

Buying a home is a big purchase, so you definitely don’t want to rush into anything. There are so many things to consider when shopping for a home, so you’d be well-advised to take your time and look at several homes before making a purchasing decision. Even if you lose out on a home, there will always be another one out there. The last thing you want is to experience the dreaded “buyer’s remorse.”

6. Don’t Leave Out Important Contingencies

Your agent will suggest that you include specific contingencies in your offer, and you’d be well-advised to heed their advice. While some contingencies are not always necessary and can even complicate real estate deals, others are very important. More specifically, financing and home inspections are crucial contingencies that will protect you in case you cannot secure a mortgage or if there’s a problem with the home, respectively.

Unless you’re paying in all-cash or are planning to tear down the home, these contingencies can offer you a means to back out of the deal. And if you’re buying a home in an HOA community, including a contingency that allows you some time to review the HOA’s documents is also important.

7. Be Present at Your Home Inspection

As already mentioned, a home inspection will give you the chance to find out if there is something wrong with the property before you take possession. If there’s an issue that you were not aware of before, you can either request that the seller make the necessary repairs, or at least pay for them. Alternatively, you may also go back to the negotiating table to reduce the price, or even walk away from the deal altogether.

But just because you have a home inspection done does not mean that you shouldn’t be there. By being present, you’ll have the chance to see first-hand what problems may exist. It will also give you the opportunity to ask any questions you may have instead of waiting for the inspection report to come in. You’ll find that this will be a very educational experience.

8. Work With a Seasoned Real Estate Agent

Agents do a lot more than just show buyers a bunch of homes and draft up an offer. There is so much work that’s done behind the scenes, and there are plenty of things that are done after an offer has been accepted.

There’s no reason for buyers not to hire a real estate professional since commissions are typically paid by the seller. Real estate agents will help you find properties that meet your requirements, negotiate to get the lowest price and help you after you take over the title. Before you begin your search for a home, be sure to team up with a professional agent who will keep your best interests in mind at all times and ensure a successful transaction.

The Bottom Line

If you’re new to the homebuying game, you’ll certainly want to team up with a professional real estate agent who can guide you in the right direction and help you avoid making some costly mistakes. Buying real estate can be a complex endeavor, but with a seasoned agent in your corner, you can learn a thing or two and ensure a smooth and seamless transaction.

8 Most Common Issues Home Inspectors Find

Home inspections typically accompany real estate deals, giving buyers an opportunity to check out the house in greater detail with a professional in an effort to uncover any problems that may not have been detected during the initial visit. Buyers are highly advised to include a home inspection contingency in their offers specifically for this reason.

Unless you’re a trained inspector, contractor, engineer, or architect, you may not have the same eye for issues in a home that a trained and experienced home inspector does. What you may gloss over will be more likely to be caught by a professional. That way you can make a more informed purchasing decision before you sign on the dotted line.

Having said all that, certain issues are more common during home inspections than others, including the following.

1. Poor Ventilation

If there’s inadequate ventilation in the home, you could be stuck with a higher-than-necessary utility bill every month and a less-than-comfortable interior. Proper ventilation cannot be underestimated, as it’s important to reduce condensation, minimize any backdrafts, and improve the overall air quality for occupants of the home.

Your home inspector will check out all the vents in the bathrooms, kitchen fans, and roof soffits and vents. The attic will also be checked for excessive heat and vapor condensation.

2. Roof Issues

Problems with roofs are more typical in older homes that have not had their roofs replaced over recent years. However, they can also present themselves in newer homes where homeowners take on DIY roles to fix the roof themselves or have had an incompetent contractor do a shoddy job.

Any number of issues can be found with a roof, including peeling shingles, poor installation, leaks, sagging, faulty flashing, and pest infestation. Fixing or replacing a roof can be an expensive job, so an issue like this will need to be addressed at the negotiating table.

3. Poor Grading or Drainage

Adequate drainage is important to ensure that all water drains away from the home rather than towards it. Faulty grading can cause water to pool at the home’s foundation and cause leakage into the home. Alternatively, there could be a problem with foundation movement which can also negatively affect drainage.

Signs of inadequate drainage include pooling of water at the foot of the exterior walls, soft soil around the perimeter of the home, rotting walls, mold, “sticky” doors and windows, and any signs of water in the crawlspace.

This issue can be rectified by regrading the soil or adding downspouts to ensure water pools away from the home rather than towards it. However, if the foundation requires repair to fix the drainage issue, this could be a very costly project.

4. Bad Plumbing

Home inspectors typically walk around a home and turn on all sink faucets and showerheads, flush toilets, and check the plumbing pipes underneath sinks to make sure all is well. Any number of issues can be found with plumbing in a home, including slow draining, weak water pressure, and leaks in pipes, to name a few.

5. Faulty Electrical Wiring

One of the first things that home inspectors do when checking out a home is look at the electrical panel. While they are not electricians, they are still skilled enough to spot an issue if there’s one present. Inspectors will open up the panel to check the amp size of the home’s electrical service. The size of the home’s service will determine the number of appliances that can be run at one time.

If the amp size is inadequate, there could be a fire hazard in the home if too many appliances are being operated at one time. For instance, a 60 amp service would not be enough to run 200 amps worth of power. Ideally, the home should have at least 100 amps. If not, this will need to be upgraded.

The inspector will also make sure all outlets are safe and that there are no exposed wires anywhere. Electrical fires can occur if the wiring is not adequate, so this is an issue that would need to be rectified immediately.

6. Poor HVAC System

The heating and cooling system of a home will be inspected by an inspector to ensure the system is functioning properly. Unfortunately, issues with poor installation, old components, filthy filters, cracks in the heat exchanger, carbon monoxide leaks, and inadequate maintenance are common. Sometimes the fix is something as simple as cleaning or replacing the filters, whereas other times it may be necessary to completely replace a unit. 

7. Damaged Gutters

The gutters of a home will not only be checked out to see if they are full of debris and blocked, but they’ll also be looked at to see if there is any damage that is causing them to inadequately funnel water away from the home. Whether they’re clogged, bent, torn, or not large enough, faulty gutters can present a water problem for a home if they are not repaired and cleaned out.

8. Water Damage

If water or moisture is lingering in a home, this can lead to mold and mildew build-up, which are considered health hazards. That’s why it’s so important to detect any issues like these when inspecting a home. Luckily, inspectors are trained to look for signs of water damage, such as:

  • Musty odors
  • Dampness
  • Discoloration in walls and ceilings
  • Bubbling paint
  • Crumbling at junctions between ceilings and walls
  • Pools of water

If any of these signs are noticed, it will be necessary to dig a little deeper to find out the source of the problem.

The Bottom Line

Any number of issues may be discovered during a home inspection that buyers may not notice themselves. If any issues are discovered, the inspector may recommend having specialists come in to conduct more in-depth inspections for specific components of the home to make a more accurate diagnosis of any problems that may exist. The small price tag of a home inspection can save buyers thousands of dollars when all is said and done.

10 DIY Kitchen Staging Tips to Prep Your Home in a Hurry

Buyers look at a lot of things when scoping out homes on the market. But if there’s one room in particular that captures their attention first, it’s the kitchen. In fact, the kitchen can literally make or break a deal.

It’s not uncommon for buyers to make their decision about whether or not to buy a home based on the kitchen. Given the weight of this important room, it warrants plenty of attention when it comes time for you to get your home ready for the market.

If you’re in a bit of hurry to get your home ready for the market and are taking a DIY approach to staging your kitchen, here are a few tips you may want to consider.

1. Deodorize

The kitchen is notorious for bad smells lingering from last night’s dinner or a garbage can that’s festering with food scraps. Before buyers show up, make sure to take the trash out and light a candle to freshen up the scent.

Clean inside cupboards and containers, and pour a little white vinegar down the drain. And whatever you do, do not cook anything that leaves a potent smell to linger, such as fish or dishes with strong-smelling spices.

2. Tidy Up Your Open Shelves

If your kitchen features open shelves, make sure they are tidied up and arranged neatly. Use that open shelving to show potential buyers how useful and pretty they can be, even though they may really be a bit difficult to keep in order at all times.

Don’t overcrowd the shelves, and be sure to leave some open space between items. Only keep out matching sets of dishes or glassware in order to keep things orderly. Displaying your open shelving properly can actually help to visually expand the space, especially if your kitchen is a bit on the small side.

3. Organize Your Cabinets and Pantry

Buyers will open every single door and drawer, and that includes the kitchen cabinets and pantry. As such, you’ll want to be prepared for such snooping by cleaning out and organizing these areas. Toss out whatever is not being used and organize whatever is left according to the category.

Match food storage containers and line up glassware. If there are still things you need to store but they’re not doing much for the aesthetic factor, consider tucking them away in a box and store it out of sight until you find a willing buyer.

4. Clear the Counters

You use your kitchen every day and likely have a few items that you use frequently. But as convenient as it is to have them handy at all times, they do nothing but create clutter on your counter space.

Ideally, the only things that should be left out on your counter are your toaster, coffeemaker, and perhaps your phone. Everything else should be put away. And once you’ve cleared the clutter, be sure to thoroughly polish the counter space, too.

5. Add a Fresh Coat of Paint

When it comes to breathing new life into a room, a fresh coat of paint always works like a charm, and the kitchen is no exception. Painting is one of those projects that bring in the highest ROI compared to the minimal upfront cost to do it.

Add a fresh coat of paint to your kitchen in a neutral tone that also goes with the color palette in the room to make it look newer and more updated.

6. Scrub the Sink and Faucets

Take a closer look at your sink and faucet. Unless you polish them on a daily basis, they likely have some amount of build-up or stains on them. You can improve the overall look of the room by simply giving these components a good scrub-down and polishing them until you see your face shining in them.

7. Clean Your Appliances

While you’re at it, give all of your appliances a good cleaning job, too. If you’re like many other homeowners, your fridge is probably covered in fingerprints and your stove top might have caked-on food on it that you just haven’t gotten around to cleaning off.

And don’t forget to give the inside of your oven a deep cleaning job as well. Dirty appliances can be off-putting, but gleaming appliances can have the opposite effect.

8. Put Out New Towels

Any towels that you may have hanging off your dishwasher, oven or sink should be fresh and free of stains. Add new tea towels. Brand-new towels are an easy, quick, and cost-effective way to add some color and design to a kitchen, especially to neutral kitchens that may be a little on the boring side.

9. Put Out a Bowl of Fresh Fruit and Flowers

A bowl of colorful, ripe fruit on the countertop and a bouquet of fresh flowers on the table can add a splash of color to the kitchen while giving off a waft of sweet smells.

10. Set the Table

Your kitchen table should be neatly set with your best dishware and cutlery. Don’t forget the placemats, napkins, and centerpiece to finish it off.

The Bottom Line

Your kitchen is the hub of your home and deserves much of your attention when you’re prepping your house for the market. If you don’t have the budget nor the time to take on some improvement projects, there are still plenty of ways to spruce up the look of this space to impress buyers.