Real estate is becoming an investment of choice, and many investors are either abandoning the more traditional vehicles such as stocks and bonds or using real estate to diversify their portfolios.
A recent RISMedia article pointed to a survey recently undertaken by Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, which found that “(n)early all (96%) of U.S. investors surveyed who have invested in real estate believe their decision has helped them achieve some form of financial success.”
The interest in investing in real estate may be driven by our largest demographic—the millennials, who, according to the survey, show a greater interest in making a real estate investment than do boomers. Millennials in particular are more interested in personal real estate purchases (homes) than in buying commercial properties; the survey noted that “79% of investor respondents feel it is important to invest in a property that they could use for themselves or a family member at some point.”
There are various ways even a small investor can participate in real estate investments, such as a self-directed or real estate IRA. However, many fear they aren’t sufficiently knowledgeable about real estate investing. As the RISMedia article points out: “Unlike many other investments that can be made with the click of a button, real estate investments are often complex and require careful consideration.”
To ensure that your investment will be a good one, it’s important to consult with a financial professional who is familiar with real estate investing, as well as an investment-savvy real estate agent.
How to Give Your Home a Light and Airy Feel
The properties of natural light are well-known. It expands your space, brightens dark corners and gives your home an airy feel. If you’re selling your home - or even if you’re not - try adopting some designer tricks to increase your home’s natural wattage.
Paint is one of the least expensive and most effective ways of lightening up your home. Light colors reflect light and bounce it back, making a space look larger. And yes, painting your woodwork cream or white is allowed and does increase your light quotient.
Mirrors also bounce back natural light, but they should be used sparingly. Bring in the outdoors by hanging a mirror opposite a window.
Light-colored gauzy curtains or plantation shutters also contribute to that airy look. Louvered blinds can be tipped to take advantage of the sunlight as it makes its way around the room. And don’t forget that slipcovering your furniture in lighter-colored fabrics is another easy way to lighten up.
If you’re prepared to make structural changes, adding a skylight to a dark room is effective, but trimming back outdoor trees and shrubs that are filtering the light may do the trick for less money.
For open houses, turn on indoor and outdoor lights. Even during the day, inside lighting can make your dwelling feel homey, prevent harsh shadows from sunlight and brighten dark corners. Dust and vacuum well, as illuminated dust bunnies won’t do anything for the appeal of your home.
Buying Versus Renovating: What's the Right Decision?
Deciding whether to buy a new home or renovate your existing one is no easy task. There are pros and cons to both options.
However, it boils down to one simple question: What do you want out of it?
If space is the problem and you love your neighborhood, an addition might well be the answer.. A floor plan that no longer works for your family, or outdated kitchens and bathrooms, may point to a renovation. On the other hand, if you are looking for a better neighborhood, want to be closer to family, and are looking for more amenities, then buying could fit the bill.
For the most part, empty-nesters looking to downsize to a senior-friendly home with like-minded neighbors are buyers, not renovators.
The issue of timing is of utmost importance in making your decision.
An addition, rebuild or major renovation will almost always take more time and be more disruptive than a move.
You can move from the nightmare on 42nd Street to your dream house in less than two months, while a major renovation could take up to a year.
Moving is also generally less costly.
The decision is a wrenching one. Don’t expect an easy answer.
Just make sure you’re getting what you want and your decision will have been the right one.
Pricing Your Home Is Both a Science and an Art
You know your home is one of a kind. Soon buyers will know too; you’ve just made the decision to list. The question now is: How do you price that unique property?
Pricing is often seen as just a numbers game – a science, if you will. But strategic pricing is very much an art, relying on years of experience combined with intuition and a thorough understanding of where your local housing market has been and a “best guess” about where it’s going.
Whether it’s a buyers’ or a sellers’ market, here’s where your real estate agent shines. A good agent knows that pricing strategies depend on many factors; what works for one home may not work for another.
In a seller’s market, your agent might recommend pricing to encourage multiple offers. However, this will depend on the neighborhood and on the home’s value. The best candidate for this strategy is a well-maintained home in a desirable area where inventory is low. In this situation, the listing price will likely be at the lower end of a price range that reflects the home’s fair market value to encourage competing offers.
In a buyer’s market, the factors influencing price are the same – the neighborhood and the value of the home – but the strategy is very different. Here it’s all about demand and competition. Your home is in direct competition with others for sale in your neighborhood, and it should be priced to compare favorably. It also should be in top condition, and your agent may recommend fix-ups and staging to highlight its attributes.
Your agent will also look for trends. If properties in your area consistently sell below asking price, prepare for offers below the listing price and expect to have to adjust, particularly if you’re in a hurry to sell.
Whatever the market, a well-thought-out pricing strategy can make the difference between selling quickly at a fair price and sitting on the market with an overpriced property.
It’s worth getting it right the first time.
5 Quick and Easy Renovations and Remedies
Learn how to earn tidy profits when selling your home or investment property with these quick renovation and maintenance tips.
Still living in sterile white walls? Does a boring beige and brown exterior greet potential buyers? Eliminate the institutional look and give your home a brand new appearance inside and out with a quality paint job.
The sense of smell is a powerful tool especially when it comes to selling a home. Pet odors, smoking or other unpleasant smells can dramatically alter the impression of the home. Deep clean carpet, air vents, upholstery, and drapes plus any other absorbent surface that collects odors. Make it a priority to change the air filter and consider using an enzymatic treatment for deep-set odors. Marketing companies use smell to sell everything from new cars to clothing; put the same tips to work when renovating by using fragrance to create the impression of quality, comfort, and cleanliness.
Visually a few well placed large objects of contrasting colors are more attractive than numerous small items. Use this knowledge to tackle objectionable areas and transform them into the center of attention both inside and outside the home. Expand small rooms by adding a window that draws the eye outward or coordinate colors to give the impression of uniformity instead of clutter to make a small kitchen or bathroom look larger.
Before spending big dollars on new carpets, consult with a specialist capable of repairing and restoring the rugs throughout the home. It is often possible to blend or repair burns, snags and stains to make the carpet look nearly as good as new.
Invest in low-maintenance lawns, water-saving devices and energy efficient appliances that will appeal to tenants and potential buyers alike. Green is in.
4 Essential Things to Consider When Buying a Condo
Condominiums remain popular housing choices, especially among those seeking a low-maintenance lifestyle, with the benefit of ownership. However, before making an offer on a condo there are a few things to keep in mind.
Fees & Service Charges: Condo associations typically charge a variety of fees to cover everything from modest maintenance charges to extravagant luxury amenities. Understand what is included, anticipated large expenditures, and out of the ordinary expenses likely to be incurred. Pay attention to deferred maintenance, planned upgrades, or other potential costs so you are not taken by surprise.
Management and Operational Efficiency: Spend time speaking with current residents, review community literature, and take a careful look around the area to get a general “feel” for how things are maintained.
Finances and Reserve Funds: Perform due diligence on the finances and reserve funds of the condo association to make sure their problem doesn’t become your own. Pay special attention to large numbers of foreclosures or vacant units that could eventually result in higher per owner premiums to compensate for loss of revenue.
Lifestyle and Values: When you buy a condo you buy a lifestyle – for better or worse. Be sure the condo and community share the same values and interests you find important. Remember, since condo associations are typically governed in a democratic fashion, a change of heart by the majority could lead to long-term frustration.
Deciphering the Lingo of Real Estate
Whether you are buying or selling, the language of real estate is often complex and confusing. Following is a plain-language explanation of commonly encountered real-estate-related lingo.
Title: Title to a property essentially denotes ownership interest and is designated by the name(s) on specific legal documents such as mortgages and deeds. The title can be held by an individual, couple or even a corporation.
Deed: A deed is used to transfer ownership of property from one person or entity to another person or entity.
Deed of Trust: A deed of trust is a document that transfers title in a property, with the stipulation that the transfer is contingent upon repayment of an existing loan.
Mortgage: A mortgage is a loan you take out to buy property.
Clear Title: Clear title indicates that the property is free of liens or legal questions surrounding ownership.
Chain of Title: The record of historical ownership of a property. The title company or real estate attorney typically reviews the record in order to determine clear title.
Clouded Title: Any property that has an existing question regarding ownership, chain of title or even liens may have a “clouded” rather than “clear” title, which may adversely impact the ability to obtain financing or properly record the title. Most clouded title issues require a release, court action or other legal intervention to remediate.
Don't Buy that Furniture Yet
Once you and the seller have signed the fully executed purchase contract and it's official you are buying the home of your dreams, what is the first thing on your mind? If you said "buying furniture" you're not alone. That's the exciting stuff!
Going to the furniture store, measuring couches, eyeing your new TV, you're probably bubbling over with ideas on making your new home perfect. This is great! However, if you're financing your home (getting any sort of home loan), now is not the time to open a line of credit at that mesmerizing furniture store. Now is not the time to take on any new debt at all.
I know, you just want to do it! You want it all to be finalized. You want those couches and TV stands delivered an hour after closing. I've been there! It's important to remember, though, that while your lender has already reviewed your credit information when prequalifying you and starting the loan processes, they will still check your credit one last time right before closing.
If during that last credit check they see a big jump in the amount of debt on that report, you might not be closing for another couple of weeks - maybe not at all (although "not at all" would be an extreme situation). So, even though temptation is great and that furniture looks perfect, wait until after your closing date has past, when you're holding the keys to your new home, before taking on any new debt.
You will be happy you did!
Talking Whole House Inspection
Once you've walked through the gauntlet of houses on the market, seen an interesting array of home décor spanning every decade from the 20th century, and finally gone under contract with the home of your dreams, it's time for the inspections.
While it is always your choice to have as many or as few inspections as it takes to make you confident in purchasing your home, one inspection that is almost always recommended is the whole house inspection.
What does an inspector look at during a whole house inspection? A lot.
The inspection itself will last approximately 2-3 hours, during which the inspector will conduct the following tasks (although the following is not a comprehensive list):
Inspect the roof
Inspect every outlet inside and outside the home
Turn on every appliance (oven, cooktop, etc.) to ensure proper functioning
Turn on each faucet to inspect water pipes and drainage
Flush each toilet
Inspect the widows, flooring, crawlspaces, ceilings, fans, etc.
After the whole house inspection is complete, the inspector will present his or her findings to you. After the presentation, you will be free to look around the house with the inspector to see any areas that need attention. All of this will help you and your real estate agent compile a complete list of repair requests to send to the sellers before closing.
The whole house inspection, along with all the inspections you order, help to ensure any trouble areas are addressed and remedied prior to closing. With the peace of mind they provide you, you will be that much more confident once the final paperwork is signed and you are holding the keys to your brand new home.
Listen to Your CMA
You're selling your home. You want the most money possible out of your investment. I'm with you. I want you to get the most money possible out of your investment, too. So how do you make sure this happens? A few ways. First, start cleaning! See my post from 6/03/16 for tips on getting your home ready for the public. Second, let your real estate agent plug into the market and listen to the wisdom it's speaking.
That might sound like some trippy New Age voodoo nonsense but it's not! What I'm talking about trusting the results of your Competitive Market Analysis, or CMA. When your real estate agent compares your home with similar homes in your area they account for many variable. Most notably, size, bedrooms, bathrooms, relative age, and condition. Then, he or she will see what the comparable homes in your area have sold for recently and finally come to a range of prices for you to review. This is letting the market speak. It's not voodoo, it's science!
Now, let's say the range is $10,000. Something like $170,000-$180,000. How do you decide if you're going to shoot for the low end, the high end, or land in the middle? Well, you're going to have to decide if you're home is clean, if it's well taken care of, and how long you're willing to wait for that perfect buyer who will pay your price. If you've worked hard to clean up and have made the minor fixes that make your home look great and you're willing to test the market and possibly wait a little while for Mr. and Mrs. Prefect Buyers to find your home, then go for the top of the comp!
Chances are, however, that you'll land somewhere in the middle and if you're really lucky, you'll get a bidding war! Whatever happens, remember to trust the knowledge of your CMA. It's the market speaking to you and it's almost always right!