|If you’re considering buying or selling a home, selecting a real estate agent is the first important decision you will have to make. While there are many qualified real estate agents out there, it’s important to decide on a professional who will understand your needs and individual preferences, someone who you can respect and trust. Nearly four out of five homebuyers and sellers enlist in the help of a real estate professional or broker.Whether you’re looking to buy a new home or sell the one you’re in, choosing a professional who best fits your needs is vital. Here are some questions to consider when choosing an agent:
Above all you should choose an agent that you feel comfortable with. Your real estate professional will be your guide through the entire process of buying or selling a home, and can be a valuable resource. Make sure that whomever you select is well suited to your demands.
As the events of the last few years in the real estate industry show, people forget about the tremendous financial responsibility of purchasing a home at their peril. Here are a few tips for dealing with the dollar signs so that you can take down that “for sale” sign on your new home.
Get pre-approved. Sub-primes may be history, but you’ll probably still be shown homes you can’t actually afford. By getting pre-approved as a buyer, you can save yourself the grief of looking at houses you can’t afford. You can also put yourself in a better position to make a serious offer when you do find the right house. Unlike pre-qualification, which is based on a cursory review of your finances, pre-approval from a lender is based on your actual income, debt and credit history. By doing a thorough analysis of your actual spending power, you’ll be less likely to get in over your head.
Choose your mortgage carefully. Used to be the emphasis when it came to mortgages was on paying them off as soon as possible. Today, the debt the average person will accumulate due to credit cards, student loans, etc. means it’s better to opt for the 30-year mortgage instead of the 15-year. This way, you have a lower monthly payment, with the option of paying an additional principal when money is good. Additionally, when picking a mortgage, you usually have the option of paying additional points (a portion of the interest that you pay at closing) in exchange for a lower interest rate. If you plan to stay in the house for a long time—and given the current real estate market, you should—taking the points will save you money.
Do your homework before bidding. Before you make an offer on a home, do some research on the sales trends of similar homes in the neighborhood with sites like Zillow. Consider especially sales of similar homes in the last three months. For instance, if homes have recently sold for 5 percent less than the asking price, your opening bid should probably be about 8 to 10 percent lower than what the seller is asking.
Moving from a small town or suburb to a large city can be an intimidating proposition. Here are a few tips to help make your move as painless as possible.
Research before you move. It’s important to understand the culture you’re joining. Do research online and find out about school systems, neighborhoods, parking, weather, public transportation, and laws that are native to that area. If you can, visit a city before moving and connect with someone who’s lived there before.
Have a plan. There are a lot of steps to go through before you start packing the moving truck. Find housing before you leave, or at least know where you’ll stay while you look for a home. Never sign a lease on an apartment that you haven’t seen. If you can’t get there, find a friend or an employer to check for you. Have a job waiting for you, or if that’s not possible, know what you’ll do for money in the first few weeks of living there. Try to line up things like driver’s licenses, car insurance, renter’s insurance, and parking passes ahead of time as well.
Get involved. Meeting people in a big city can be daunting. Don’t expect the neighbors to knock your door down with a casserole when you arrive: city life is often too noisy and hectic. Take the initiative. If there are things you liked to do in your town, find ways to do those things in the city. Try new things. Volunteer. Big cities offer so many opportunities to engage other people, so find what you like.
Mind your wallet. City life is expensive. Everything costs more: food, insurance, clothes, rent. There are also a lot more ways to get ripped off, whether legally or criminally. Be careful how you spend, and know where your money is going.
Looking to buy a home? Here are five essential tips for making the process as smooth as possible.
Get your finances in order.
Start by getting a full picture of your credit. Obtain copies of your credit report. Make sure the facts are correct, and fix any problems you find. Next, find a suitable lender and get pre-approved for a loan. This will put you in a better position to make a serious offer when you do find the right house.
Find a house you can afford.
As with engagement rings, there’s a general rule of thumb when it comes to buying a home: two-and-a-half times your annual salary. There are also a number of tools and calculators online that can help you understand how your income, debt, and expenses affect what you can afford. Don’t forget, too, that there are lots of considerations beyond the sticker price, including property taxes, energy costs, etc.
Hire a professional.
While the Internet gives buyers unprecedented access to home listings and resources, many aspects of the buying process require a level of expertise you can’t pick up from surfing the web. That’s why you’re better off using a professional agent than going it alone. If possible, recruit an exclusive buyer agent, who will have your interests at heart and can help you with strategies during the bidding process.
Do your homework.
Before making a bid, do some research to determine the state of the market at large. Is it more favorable for sellers or buyers? Next, look at sales trends of similar homes in the area or neighborhood. Look at prices for the last few months. Come up with an asking price that’s competitive, but also realistic. Otherwise, you may end up ticking off your seller.
Think long term.
Obviously, you shouldn’t buy unless you’re sure you’ll be staying put for at least a few years. Beyond that, you should buy in a neighborhood with good schools. Whether you have children or not, this will have an impact on your new home’s resale value down the line. When it comes to the house itself, you should hire your own home inspector, who can point out potential problems that could require costly repairs in the future.
By Saghar Setareh, CoContest guest contributor
How can you know the best style for staging a property? After all, you’ll need to satisfy home buyers’ various style tastes as well as make sure you’re showing the property in its best light.
Thanks to the power of the Internet, we wanted to see just how much the point of view in staging of properties can vary. We asked for designers to upload their take on one floorplan at the CoContest website. All designers staged the same room, but recreated it differently based on their own style and taste and interpretation of the client’s request in the contest.
The challenge: This modern apartment in Connecticut needed to be renovated, in a way to enjoy the artwork during the gatherings of family and friends.
Design 1: Classic Vibe
This room offered up a more classic appeal. The designer Decolite Design used a crystal chandelier for the main lighting, colonial furniture for the main living room, black chesterfield sofas with white armchairs, and a large, white rug. The artwork is also from the classic period. The pallet of colors is black and white, and a piano along the wall also helps to complete the look.
Design 2: Bold Artwork
This designer Marta Valente above used bright and saturated colors in the artwork to compliment the two dark sofas and white and mustard color chairs. In order to add a more modern and industrial look to the space, a wooden table with metal legs was brought in. To complete this look, the wall has gray bricks and there’s a colorful buffet in stripes along one wall.
Design 3: A Modern Touch
Another designer BIVIO Architettura. Paula Godoy & Celia Cardona used very modern furniture from the late 20th Century, puffs, and large paintings to work as a separator. Texture is also used in the modern furniture and couches to match the abstract paintings on the wall. Low, coffee table and cushions are also part of this look. But the most distinctive feature of this project: The vertical bars that divide the living room in two separated parts.
These are only three design ideas from many, that present the property in three, completely different styles, made possible to imagine how the property would look like, with a convenient price.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Saghar Setareh is the Content Manager of CoContest, the first crowdsourcing platform for interior design and architecture online. She is an enthusiast about home decor and all forms of design.
By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine
Home owners are increasingly investing to create luxurious, modernized master baths, according to the 2016 U.S. Houzz Bathroom Trends Survey of more than 2,100 home owners who are planning or recently completed a bathroom renovation project.
Of those surveyed, 20 percent say they are updating the toilet; 12 percent are updating a tub; and 9 percent are updating a shower with high-tech features.
High-tech toilet features home owners say they’re incorporating include self-cleaning functions, motion-activated seats, or built-in nightlights. Popular high-tech bathtub features are built-in lighting, heated backrests, and scented mist dispensers. The survey also showed the most popular high-tech shower updates are mood lighting, digital controls, and built-in sound.
Other popular luxury features that home owners say they’re spending on are rainfall showerheads (among 54 percent of those updating showers); bathtubs with room for two (20 percent of those upgrading tubs); adding chandeliers (17 percent of upgraded light fixtures); and bidet-equipped commodes (6percent of upgraded toilets).
Home owners surveyed who recently completed a project say they most wish they had installed radiant heating, towel warmers, and super-sized showers during their bathroom renovations.
Of the remodeling home owners surveyed, two in five say they spent between $10,000 to $25,000 on master bathroom renovations. Another one-third surveyed said they spent more than $25,000.
The model homes of builders are known for showcasing the latest interior design trends in trying to appeal to home shoppers. So what’s trending when it comes to the kitchen?
PulteGroup’s Interior Designs Team is merchandising about 425 model homes in 2016. The kitchen is a big area that gets a lot of the design team’s focus too.
“Today’s home buyers are willing to spend more in the kitchen – from energy-efficient appliances to quartz countertops,” says Janice Jones, PulteGroup’s national vice president of interior design. “We continuously conduct consumer focus groups to best understand what they want in their kitchens and are constantly refining our kitchen designs and its elements to ensure it delivers on functionality, creative design and easy maintenance across all our buyer groups.”
Jones cites five kitchen trends in 2016 that they are reflecting in many PulteGroup model homes lately. These trends also can serve as inspiration for home owners planning renovation projects or wanting ideas for easy updates, Jones notes.
1. Contrasting materials
Materials are getting mixed in the kitchen. Contrasting colors and styles are combined to create a more unique space. For example, mixed marbles and metals in a space can help highlight gray wood tones.
2. Decorative lighting
Bold and oversized lighting choices are popular choices. “Decorative lighting is key in the kitchen and adds dramatic flair as well as functionality to the kitchen, especially over the kitchen island,” according to PulteGroup’s Interior Designs Team.
Switch out some cabinet doors with glass doors. It can help you extend visual boundaries while also allowing home owners to display some of their favorite things and add more personalization to a space.
Home owners are always looking for more storage, especially in the kitchen. Double-stacked cabinets that extend to the ceiling can help maximize storage space.
5. More drawers, less doors
Having plenty of kitchen drawers can add more functionality in storage. Home owners are showing preferences toward more drawers over extra cabinets. Bold hardware can then added to the drawers to add more design appeal, PulteGroup says.
By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine
Sliding barn doors can add a modern twist to an interior space. Malte Strauss, broker and owner of Trust International Real Estate LLC in Deltona, Fla., says the barn door trend has caught on in central Florida.
“They are great for locations where a swinging door would infringe on the space and where there is not a conventional doorway,” Strauss says. “We use them all the time in master bathrooms where there is a vanity area that is separate from the tub commode area.”
They can also be a great solution in modernizing the vanity area of homes from the 1970s and 1980s, which tended to have the vanity in the master bedroom rather than in the bathroom. “Now we just close those off with a barn door and buyers love that solution,” Strauss says.
By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine
Herringbone is emerging as the pattern of choice in 2016. Herringbone is the arrangement of rectangles that is so named for its resemblance to the bones of fish.
This pattern is popping up on everything from hardwood floors, kitchen backsplashes and shower walls. It may be subtle or bold.
Mandie Maguire with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services says she’s noticed the herringbone pattern subtly appear on more kitchen marble backsplashes above a kitchen range. Also, in flooring, the herringbone pattern is being used with tile floors to give it a more rustic — even hardwood floor resemblance.