Condos tend to be a great starter purchase for first-time home buyers as well as investors. There are a few things to keep in mind, however.
1. Know EXACTLY what is included with your unit. The sales people always show you that beautiful condo which is staged and perfect. Have you ever noticed they never have dressers and put smaller beds in each room of the model home to make them look open and spacious? Ask for a floorplan of exactly the condo you will be purchasing especially if you cannot actually enter the unit. Each unit, even the same floor plans, can be different even a little (and every contract I have seen states this), but the little change can mean a lot to the flow of the unit and how your furniture may, or may not, fit. If the model had a bookshelf and you want one, make sure that is what you will be getting.
2. Visit the unit at different times of the day and week. The unit close to the pool may seem very appealing. How easy to just pop over after work for a bit of tanning, right? Convenience to things like the pool, the elevator, and parking may seem to be a positive, but if screaming kids, the noise of an elevator going up and down, or cars starting and pulling in early in the morning and late at night will bother you, you might want to consider a different location. Also visit later in the evening on the weekends. If you have a party animal nearby, you might want to pass on that purchase.
3. Consider when the building was built. Do you hear creaking every time your upstairs neighbor walks? Every. Single. Step? The complex may have “upgraded” some of the units to wooden floors. This “upgrade” for your upstairs neighbor may be a “downgrade” for you below. Ask the agent or current owner what the sounds are like if you are not buying a top-floor unit. Research if there is lead paint and/or asbestos in older complexes.
4. Look up the police reports, crime and if any sex offenders live in the area as well as reviews on Facebook, Yelp, Twitter, and other social media groups. Realtors and sales personnel are not required to tell you about crime, sex offenders, or noise complaints and will likely just say you can look it up. Sometimes reports are not created but often the police will talk to you if you go into the station and ask if they are called to a certain area very often. Sites like Yelp, Facebook, and others will often have people who will complain and tell it like it is. If none of the reviews are good, you might have reason to be concerned.
5. Research the security company for the complex. The neighbor upstairs may play music very loudly with tons of base late into the night. If you call to make a “noise complaint,” does someone actually answer the phone or will it ring and ring? Do they answer and then just hang up every time? Security companies should answer and should make reports about all of the complaints they look into each night. Ask how many reports they respond to each night.
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According to the National Association of Realtors, “…for the last three years…Generation Y/Millennials (buyers 18 to 35) is the largest share of home buyers at 35 percent.” Why would so many people, especially Millennials, want to buy a home? Here a few reasons that may motivate you to take that leap.
1. Do What You Want. Not all landlords will let you paint the walls of your rented space a bright pink, hang a hammock from the ceiling, or let you put racks on the walls to hang your snowboard. Most of the time you have to ask "permission" to do any changes to a rental. Are we still living at home and need to ask? Nope, but feels about the same. If the home is yours, you can pretty much do what you want to decorate the inside. An HOA and laws might put some curbs on your outside changes but for the most part, the inside is all yours!
2. Tax Deductions. Who wouldn't want to save some money on taxes? If you own, verses rent, you can deduct some interest that you have paid. Obviously if you are renting, this is not an option. Talk to your accountant or a tax attorney to see what your options are in this regard and enjoy an additional bonus of homeownership!
3. Potential Financial Gain. Real estate markets ebb and flow, so it may not always be true that the mere fact that you own a home means you are gaining equity, but it often is possible. You can potentially take a loan on built-in equity and use it for other things such as a vacation, home improvements, or to pay off other debt. You may use the property as an investment later by renting it out or even make some money when the home is sold. If you rent, these are not options. The money that you pay each month is merely gone. Owning a home also will increase your credit score, as long as you, obviously, don't miss payments. This can help with insurance costs and can possibly even help get better jobs.
4. Pride. So there is no need to go around bragging on Facebook, SnapChat, and Instagram every day about your home, but there is a sense of pride in being able to say you are a "homeowner." Those boxes you have to check sometimes that ask if you "rent" or "own?" Well, Baby - you can proudly check "OWN!" Owning a home still tends to be seen with respect and the idea that you are a grown-up, responsible, and mature. I promise not to tell anyone otherwise. Your secret is safe with me!
If you would like to explore your options with regard to buying or selling a home, you are welcome to text, email, or call. You may also click on the "Homes For Sale" tab at the top of the page and explore the homes that may be available.
The term "Improvement" means to improve so we tend to think of them as increasing the value of your home. There are some...shall we say, "changes," that can actually lower the value of your home or at least not allow you to recover the cost it would take to make them. Unless you just want to make changes because you want them, some are just not worth the cost.
Not Worth It
1. Swimming Pools. In places like Phoenix these may be a necessity but it you live in Colorado, like I do, pools are only useful for a few months every year. The freezing and thawing we have also makes them a headache to maintain and make sure they do not crack. Usually pools don't add much, if any, value to a home. The insurance and upkeep you pay can far outweigh the benefit. You might also want to reconsider that hot tub as well.
2. More Garage Space. Unless you only have one garage space, or none, adding extra spaces can be expensive but only gives back about 60% of the cost upon resale. Some buyers might also be turned off by more space when they have no use for it.
3. Sunrooms. Like extra garage spaces, the return on sunrooms averages only about 60%. They can look nice but sunrooms are not always a great investment or improvement. A deck is less expensive to add and the return tends to be much better.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, a contingency is, "A future event or circumstance which is possible but cannot be predicted with certainty." A home can be one of the largest purchases in your life and sometimes you need one event to happen, or not want an event to happen, before purchasing something so major.
The market in the Denver area right now is tough for buyers so sometimes there are NO contingencies in an offer, but most offers have at least a few. At least a contingency on an inspection and appraisal are very common but there are others you may want to consider as well.
Some Contingencies in Offers
1. Home Inspection Contingency. This is the most common contingency in home purchases. Even new homes often have inspections. The cost of an inspection usually is based upon the size of the home and costs between $350 and $500. Buyers want to be sure there are not major problems with the home, but remember that inspectors are paid to find everything that is wrong with the home from bulbs that are out to foundation problems. That does not necessarily mean if there are 45 things listed that the house is "bad" or you should not buy it. They may simply be minor issues and sometimes the seller will be willing to fix items or give the buyer some money so the buyers can fix it themselves.
2. Septic Inspection. Contingency Obviously not all home have a septic system. In fact, most homes are on the public sewer system, but if the home you are considering buying is on a septic system, you probably want to have it inspected. Some locations, including many counties in Colorado, actually require an inspection as part of obtaining a "Use Permit" when a home is sold. Septic Drain Fields, often called Leach Fields, usually last 15-20 years and when it does "fail," it may cost a bundle to fix. If the public sewer at that time is within a certain distance, sometimes the home owner is not allowed a permit to replace the field but must pay to have the system piped into the public sewer system. Don't be afraid of a septic system, but a good idea, if not actually required, to have an inspection.
3. Home Sell Contingency. It is great when you find that home you really want. Most people, however, will need to sell their current home in order to have enough money and credit to buy another home. A Home Sell Contingency states that the buyer's current home will be under contract and/or close within a certain number of days of the offer or the contract may be cancelled. Often times the buyer's sell of the current home and the purchase of the new home happen on the same day or within a day or two of each other.
4. HOA Contingency. HOAs often have many rules and regulations when it comes to homes. This contingency obviously only applies if there is an HOA. Even if an HOA has voluntary dues, the rules and regulations of the HOA will usually still apply. Many HOAs in Colorado will allow horses and dogs, but not chickens even if the homes are on acreage. If you want chickens and they are not allowed by the HOA, you can cancel the contract by following the proper steps.
Everyone has their own tastes and ideas regarding what a kitchen should look like but there are some basics. The kitchen can be the "make or break" deal when it comes to buying a home so as the seller you want to make it as appealing as you possibly can. Some upgrades can make a difference in whether or not the house sells but you might not get your money back in the purchase price so be careful in that regard. Here are a few things you can do to prep your kitchen
Preparing You Kitchen to Sell
1. DO clean, clean, clean. If you read my blogs and watch my YouTube videos, you might start noticing a pattern - one of the top things to prep your home is to clean! The kitchen is an area where this is highly important. Be sure to clean out the drawers, pantry, cabinets, and the nooks and crannies of the floor and counters.
2. What stinks?!? DO get rid of odors. Back to the odor thing. Lemons? Good! Fish? Not so good. Place lemon rinds down the garbage disposal, grind them up a bit, and leave some in there. It will help with odors. Run the dishwasher with a package of lemon Kool-aid (must be lemon) or another generic brand to make the dishwasher shiny on the inside and smelling clean.
3. DO organize your pantry and cupboards.
Yes, I know most of us don't have a pantry like the one to the left, but it is a great example of how things should be straightened and organized. Yes, buyers will look. They want to see if their own things will work and fit into your kitchen. To help make things appear bigger and better, be sure to leave some space on each shelf.
4. DO clear off your countertops. Of course you needed that juicer and the blender and the electric skillet and the four-piece of bread toaster and... you get the idea but don't leave them all out on the counters. Buyers want to see bright, spacious, and clean. Especially if you have counters that are in great shape, show them off! Remember, don't just toss things into a closet. Buyers look, well,...at everything.
5. DO put out some seasonal flowers and a bowl or vase with lemons. Who doesn't like cheerful flowers (I love white daisies!) and bright lemons? Okay, maybe SOME people don't but for the rest of us, lemons and flowers give a sense of a clean, friendly and inviting place.
Just a few months ago, US News & World Report published that Denver, Colorado is the "best place to live" in the USA. The real estate market was already rocking and rolling in the area when the report came out and home prices were still on the climb. For the most part, the market in Colorado was, and still is, a "seller's market." Some homes had 15+ offers the day they were put on the market! Even in a market like this, however, there are a few things sellers do NOT want to do to lower their chances of getting a good price for their home, if getting it sold at all.
Things to NOT do when selling your home
1. DON'T price it too high.
Yes, we all want to get the most we can from our home. Some real estate agents will say to make the asking price higher than you actually want because it is "known" that buyer's will want to play the back-and-forth game to get the price down. Pricing high however, assumes that buyers will make an offer that can be negotiated. How do you know if your asking price is too high? If there are no offers, or only low-ball offers in the first 30 days of your listing, it is likely priced too high.
2. DON'T limit (within reason) showing times
Notice that I said, "within reason." If you have children and someone wants to view your home at 10:00pm on a school night, then yes, you have the right to ask to reschedule. One of the best ways to avoid this sort of thing from happening in the first place is to give advanced notice regarding when you will and will not accept showings. If you have children, pets, a sloppy spouse, etc you can always ask for at least 2 hours notice prior to showings to do a clean up. If you have family coming into town and there are 2-3 days that you do not want any showings, be sure to have "no showings on _____." Be careful, however. If you limit the times and days too much, you will miss out on some potential buyers. Basically, when your home is on the market, you will likely clean it more thoroughly and more times in a week then you have in 6 months. Before going to work, school or even just spending time at the house, be sure to have it ready to go at a moment's notice. Pretend your Type A mother-in-law is going to stop by at any moment...but you have no idea what day. How's that for a fear factor?
3. DON'T leave your home cluttered
Getting rid of clutter is probably one of the cheapest and most worthwhile thing you can do when preparing your home to put on the market. Do NOT just toss things in a closet or drawer. Buyers look and it may not be that they are snooping but they really do want to see how big that closet is. Clutter can also make buyers wonder if you have not taken good care of a home. You want your home to appear as open and spacious as you can as well and getting rid of clutter will open things up. You are probably moving here soon anyway if the house sells, so why not start straightening, tossing, organizing, and packing up some things now?
4. DON'T have unpleasant odors in your home
I read once that there are more dogs than people in Colorado. I don't think that is quite true but people here sure love their animals! Colorado Springs was named the most pet-friendly city a few years ago. Even in Colorado - dog-loving Colorado - you do not want the odor to permeate your home when it is on the market. Fecus odor, such as a cat's litter box, is considered one of the worst smells to humans. Fish (great catch but last night's meal is not appealing to buyers), wet dog, and air fresheners (not everyone likes lavender) can kill a sell. Have an outsider come into your home to do a sniff test. You can get used to the smells but an honest outsider, like a real estate agent, will let you know.
5. DON'T refuse to make repairs
Unless the buyer is buying your property as a "fix and flip," most home buyers do not want to walk into a house and immediately have to make repairs. This is not to say there will not be SOME repairs but that hole your son put in the wall while wrestling with his friends last summer probably should be fixed. Doors that do not open correctly, light fixtures that do not work, and decks that are giving you splinters in your feet, probably should be fixed before putting your house on the market. Yes, it might cost you some money, but possibly having your home sell quicker and for more money will likely be worth it in the end. Those things will probably be pointed out in a home inspection anyway so might as well fix the simple things that make your home more put together.
Years ago, thirteen to be exact, I was buying a seven year old home and I remember my real estate agent telling me I needed to have a radon test done. One factor was two of my children would be living in the bedrooms in the basement. I need to have it tested for what? What was radon and why did it matter? Ends up it is pretty common in some areas of the country, especially in Colorado, and it can be pretty harmful...deadly, in fact I had no idea at the time! Although radon is more commonly known about these days, many people still are confused as to what it is and the harm it can cause.
What is radon?
Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the natural decay of uranium that is found in almost all soils. It usually moves up through the ground, into the air, and on up into your home through cracks and other holes in your foundation. Your home traps radon inside causing it can build up. Any home may have a radon problem and it doesn't really matter if it is a new home, well-sealed, or does not have a basement.
Radon usually comes from soil gas but it sometimes can enter your home through well water (see www.epa.gov/radon/rnwater.html). Building materials rarely cause radon problems by themselves but it can happen in a small number of cases.
I won't bore you with too many scientific details but it is an extremely toxic, colorless gas that can be condensed to a transparent liquid and to an opaque, glowing solid. It is derived from the radioactive decay of radium and is used in cancer treatment, as a tracer in leak detection, and in radiography.
So why does it matter?
Radon is the second leading overall cause of lung cancer and, according to the EPA, is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. That is some pretty scary stuff! Radon causes about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year and of those, about 2900 are non-smokers. That means this is not something you can just ignore especially consider it is something caused in your home! (https://www.epa.gov/radon/health-risk-radon#head)
The DOs with regard to radon
1. Get a radon test done. Whether you are buying a new or old home or just staying in your current home, it is best do a radon test. The test is non-invasive and is usually a small testing unit set up on a tri-pod in the lowest part of your home. Although you can go in and out of your doors, for the several days the indicator is in your home, you should not leave doors and windows open because they can affect readings making them inaccurate.
2. Seal cracks and other openings. This is a start to reducing radon, but according to the EPA, merely sealing, although it can limit radon entry, should not be you only method of lowering radon levels.
3. Have a mitigation system installed. You do not need to make major changes to your home and can sometimes be put into crawl spaces. The system prevents radon gas from entering the home from below the concrete floor and from outside the foundation. Radon mitigation contractors would be the best ones to determine the best method and place to install the system.
4. Have your home retested . Once the system is installed, but sure to have your home retested to make sure it is doing its job. Be sure to retest your home every few years as levels can change and additional measures may be needed to mitigate its entrance into your home.
If you would like any additional information on radon, home inspection items, and other real estate questions, please contact me and we can talk in more detail and buy or sell your castle.
As an agent, I hear it all the time, "Do I really need to 'stage' my house? Won't the right person walk in and just love it just as it is?" Well, yes, that is possible but not for the majority of people. People may love your home but you need to set the "stage" so they can see themselves living there. They need to see it as their home with their things. Staging does not mean you have to buy new things. There are simple ways to get your home ready.
1. Clean up the Clutter. We all collect things and often times they end up in the storage, garage, or closet because we just know one day we will use it. Now, four years later, not only have you not used it, but you forgot you even had it!
* Needed: Three tubs - Save, storage, and give-away & trash bags
* Set a timer for an hour
* Start in one corner of the room you want to declutter
* Ready....go! After an hour, take a break, and go again until the area is finished
2. Depersonalize. Yes, your wedding was beautiful and your oldest was adorable when she was a toddler. The problem with not putting away the photos and personal items is the buyer pictures you in the home and we want them to see themselves living there. Although it may be difficult to do, pack up the photos and put them away.
3. Clean. This is the most inexpensive way to stage your home. You want the buyer to see the beautiful counter and not the dust. Clean the baseboards, the corners and the ceiling fans. This is like spring cleaning to the extreme. Don't forget the windows, inside and out! Bathrooms and kitchens are where many buyers focus so be sure to give them a lot of care. Buyers will look in drawers, closets, ovens, under beds, and in the refrigerator so don't forget them. Just because you can shut a door doesn't mean it might not be seen.
4. Neutralize. Your son's favorite team was the Broncos so it only made sense to paint his room orange and blue. He loved it! New buyers might not and even though painting may seem to be an easy and inexpensive project for new buyers, it can make or break a deal. Buyers often do not want to walk into a home and instantly feel the need to paint, clean, etc. unless it is a flip house. Painting is a very inexpensive way to stage. Use neutral colors. Gray is the "in" color right now with buyers moving away from tans and beiges.
5. Modernize. Most people could use some updating in their home. Even changing small things like cabinet handles from gold to chrome or nickel can make a difference in how modern a room can appear. Some appliances can have an overlay that appears to be stainless steel applied to the front for a cleaner look. There are even special paints to use. If you can, replacing the appliances completely with stainless steel will not only give the kitchen a cleaner look, but also the buyers will be told there are new appliances in the home. - one less thing for them to worry about and possibly a higher offer for your home.
Obviously there are many other ways to stage but if money is tight, these are some good things to start with. If you would like more information on selling your home and how to prepare, get in touch with me and we can talk about the process and options.
You found your dream castle, your house is under contract, and things are moving forward. You close on both homes in two months. You are going to have extra money after down payment on the new home. Perfect timing to spend that cash on new things for your new house, right? Well, you might not want to start charging those cards to the max just yet! Some things are "warning signs" that can hurt your credit scores and the interest rate of your new loan.
Here are a few things you DON'T want to do when applying for a loan
1. Do NOT apply for a new credit card. You walk into that furniture store and wow! That couch would go perfectly in the new house! A new home means you need a new couch! "Would you like to open a credit card with us and save 10% today?" It IS an expensive item so and you will have some extra cash to spend and pay it off in a few month so, sure! It is best to wait.
2. Do NOT pay off collections. This seems a bit contrary to what would seem to be something that would help your credit score, but believe it or not, it can actually hurt.
3. Do NOT change jobs. Even if it pays more, if you can, do not change jobs. Having a work history and stability for the prior two years is more desirable.
4. Do NOT co-sign on a debt for someone else. This will show as an additional debt for you and could affect your credit scores.
5. Do NOT miss a payment. You may not think it matters now since it will all be paid off in a few months, but just missing one payment can affect your credit score and loan rate.
As always, talk to your loan officer about any changes that you may want or need to make. If you have legal issues that may effect your credit score or loan rates (i.e. divorce), be sure to also speak with an attorney as well.
I am a real estate broker, attorney and mediator. I am blogging from my own ideas and perspective. Although I am a licensed attorney, these are not intended to be legal advise.