February 27, 2014

Location, Location, Location!

Buying a home requires you to distinguish between your wants and your needs. Often, buyers can’t find a “perfect” home. Location is particularly tricky—the better the location, the higher the price. If nothing else, it’s important to be in a good location for resale value. If you have your heart set on a certain area or neighborhood but can’t find the home you want in your price range, you have several options.

Downsize. Consider a smaller house with a smaller yard and/or garage. The selling price of a home reflects the number of beds/baths in that home; sacrificing a home office or guest bedroom are both good options.

Switch home types. Generally speaking, single-family homes are more expensive than any other type of home, including condos, apartments, and townhomes. Don’t forget to consider HOA (homeowners association) fees or condo dues when comparing the price of a home to that of an apartment or condo.

Buy a home that needs work. Just as home price reflects the number of bedroom a home has, it also reflects the condition of the home. You will find the best deals in older properties that need some degree of renovation or repair. If you can live comfortably in the home for a few years, this may be the best option for you. Save money for repairs, and tackle them down the road. Remember that home renovation can be costly, although some modifications are inexpensive and easy enough to do by yourself (e.g., painting the walls).

Rent. The median age for the first-time homebuyer is increasing. Why? It’s more cost efficient, and provides the renter with more flexibility in the future. If you can’t afford your dream home just yet—don’t panic. Take the time to save up for a down payment, although be aware home prices may rise in the meantime. Look into signing a lease-to-own agreement (AKA lease-purchase agreement), which allows some of your rent to go towards your down payment.

Have any questions? Ready to buy? Contact me today!

February 24, 2014

Keep Your Home From Flooding

With all the snow we've received this winter, saturated soil, warm weather, and potential for rain, flooding is a real possibility. Now is a great time to double check your sump pump to make certain that it is working properly.

Sump pumps take water that has accumulated in a basin (usually found in the basement or crawlspace) away from your home. Over 60% of American homes experience below-ground wetness, according to the American Society of Home Inspectors.  Click here to read about how sump pumps work. 

Sometimes, tethered float switches get trapped to the edges of the basin and do not turn on the pump as they should (see the images below). 

Don't have a sump pump? Buy one here.  

February 13, 2014

Make Your Rental More Like Home

It's very common to rent an apartment or home before buying, but this doesn't mean you have to sacrifice style and decor. Here's how you can personalize your rental and make it feel more like home:

Replace mini-blinds with fabric, woven shades, or curtains. You can even sell them to the next tenant.

Paint. Many landlords don't mind painting, but may require you to paint the unit back to its previous color (commonly white) when you move out. Better yet, some will let you keep the color so long as it is approved by the new tenants. 

Upgrade light fixtures. Select modern light fixtures to give your rental a classier look. Keep the old fixtures so that you can replace them when you eventually move out.
Use the space above kitchen cabinets. Consider placing baskets above kitchen cabinets to keep extra items, such as dish soap and paper towels. This will serve both as storage and decor.

Embrace adhesive paper. If there is an eyesore in your rental, for example a rusty fridge door, you can cover it with adhesive paper that is stylish yet easy to remove when it's time to move out.

Ask your landlord. While these tasks require landlord approval, there is room for negotiation. For example, you could offer to split the cost of new kitchen appliances. This adds value to the rental and will make it nicer to live in. Finally, some landlords have policies in which upgrades made to the apartment are permitted so long as they stay. In other words, you can add curtain rods so long as they remain with the unit in the future.

If you're feeling exrta artistic...

Remove kitchen cabinet doors, and paint the back of the cabinets an accent color. This will give the illusion of depth, and will also make the space more cozy. If you're hesitant to make such a big change, try it along one wall. You can also use a spray adhesive to attach decorative paper to the back of bookcases in order to make them more interesting.

For more more tips on how to decorate a rental, click here.

February 10, 2014

A Strong End for 2013

The 2013 housing market finished strong, and 95% of Central Ohio REALTORS expect it to remain moderate or strong over the next six months according to the Ohio Association of REALTORS's Housing Market Confidence Index. Why? Let's look at some key statistics:

  • From December 2012, December 2013 saw a 2.5% increase in the number of home sales. At 1735, This is the most sales on record since the peak of the housing boom in 2005. 
  • December inventory of 8,732 was the lowest its been since 2000. More specifically, 2013 had the lowest inventory on record for Central Ohio, at just 3.9%. 
  • Overall, 2013 documents the second-highest sales year on record. It experienced a 17.1% increase in the number of closed sales since 2012. 

Contact me if you're interested in buying, selling, or renting a home. I have the experience and expertise to guide you through today's housing market. 

February 6, 2014

Finding the Perfect Apartment

The perfect apartment doesn’t always depend on square footage and floor plan. What should someone do before deciding to rent? Research. Renting is a long term legal commitment in which your time and money are deeply invested. First of all, research the area. Visit the community and walk through the neighborhood. Make multiple trips on different days (you may discover that rush hour traffic could take up too much of your time, the nearby-train station produces too much noise at night,  or that parking on the weekends is far from guaranteed). Secondly, examine the condition of the property. Get answers to questions regarding the property’s cleanliness and maintenance. Does the landlord provide pest control? Will s/he take car of broken appliances? Because a landlord will have your unit looking its best at the time it is shown to you, it’s a bad sign if the unit is in poor condition before you actually move in. Finally, research the landlord. Is s/he the owner of the property? Property records and court records can confirm that the house/apartment is not in foreclosure, or that homeowners association payments aren’t in arrears. 

Read the full article here. Click on the video below for a 10-step tutorial on how to find & rent an apartment. 

February 3, 2014

Frist-Time Homebuyers: Are you Ready?

Choosing to purchase your first home is a big decision, and it should be well-infomed. Before you decide to commit, ask yourself the following questions, as posed by an article in The Columbus Dispatch:

1) Are you aware of home ownership expenses? Qualifying for a mortgage and having enough money for a downpayment are huge considerations--but they aren't the only ones. Homeowners also pay property taxes, mortgage insurance, utilities costs, and routine maintenance expenses. And what if you have to buy a new roof or A.C. unit? Certified financial planner Paul Dolce urges buyers to wait until they can put 20% down on a home to avoid mortgage insurance and to "establish a a pattern of financial discipline."

2) Are you willing to sacrifice your weekends? Maintaining a home requires several factors--such as lawn care, garden care, DIY projects such as painting, and home repair. On average, adults spend 3-4.3 hours on lawn/garden work each week, according to a 2009 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey. In other words, owning a home does not only require money--it also requires time.

3) Are you sure you'll want to live in this house for at least five years? You build equity while you live in your home. Thus, the longer you live there, the more financially practical it becomes to buy the home rather than rent it. Roughly, if you plan to live in your home for less than five years, home expenses and buying/selling costs may put you at a  loss. It would be more economical for you to rent.

4) Are you confident your relationships will remain the same? Is there a possibility of divorce in your future? What about marriage? Children? If these scenarios are a part if your relatively near future, you may want to delay buying a home. What home and neighborhood is right for a single person may not be so great for a family with two kids. Often, married couples like to buy homes together, so if you're in a serious long-term relationship, it may be smart to wait a bit longer before you take the plunge into homeownership.

5) What is your backup plan? If something happens to your job, or if you need to finance a new hot water heater or car, it's good to have at least six months of housing expenses saved up. This will act as a cushion and ensure that unforeseen expenses won't threaten your new home and lifestyle.

6) Have you researched the neighborhood? Neighborhoods come with different lifestyles. Is the neighborhood you're considering consistent with your way of life? For example, if you're a family with small children, you'll want to ensure that the neighborhood is family friendly. If you live near many retirees or empty nesters, they may be less forgiving when your kids run through their yards. If you like to entertain, you'll want to know that you can play louder music without bothering other people. Ideally, your neighbors will join in, and the area you live in will have lots of kids who can befriend your own.

If you feel confident with way you answered these questions, then congratulations! You're most likely ready to buy your first home. I specialize in first-time home buyers. Please contact me to discuss your home-buying wants and needs, and to see what I can do for you.