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5 Critical Questions to Ask When Buying New Construction

Posted by on May 20, 2016 in Real Estate | 0 comments

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Brand-spanking new comes at a price these days. Here’s how you can get the best deal on a new construction home.

If you’re in the market for a brand-new home, you’ve got a ton of options. Sales of new homes surged to an eight-year high in 2015, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau, and single-family production is estimated to reach 840,000 units in 2016, an 18 percent increase over 2015, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

Unfortunately for home buyers, new residential construction is coming at a steeper price: Last year the average price of a new home jumped to $351,000, up $100,000 from 2009, reports the NAHB.

Ask prospective builders these six questions in order to find the right home at the right price.

“What financial incentives do you offer for using your preferred lender and title company?” (more…)

4 Keys to Buying a Flipped House

Posted by on May 18, 2016 in Real Estate | 0 comments

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Head over heels for a flipped house? Here’s how to make sure you’re getting a great deal.

Many home buyers wrongly assume that a newly renovated home is, well, just that: new. They perceive it as move-in ready and free from hassles. The newly renovated home typically pulls in top dollar, because the buyer assumes it is perfect, turnkey and ready to go.

Although house-flipping shows on television often make the process seem easy and feature beautiful homes with happy stories, they don’t follow through to see how the home withstands daily use, weather patterns and typical wear and tear.

Some contractors or property flippers want to move on to the next job as soon as the first one nears completion. Others may uncover unforeseen expenses that send them over budget. As a result, their work may be rushed or subpar. (more…)

Green Features: Do They Sell a Home?

Posted by on May 13, 2016 in Real Estate | 0 comments

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Your home’s solar panels and geothermal system probably seem like big selling points to you, but buyers may feel differently.

Home builders and sellers of upgraded homes with “green” features want their prospective buyers to know about these features because they likely spent a good amount of money on them. But do the buyers always care? Will they pay extra — and does “green” actually sell a home? The answer is, it all depends.

The feature, fixture or finish?

Buyers pay for features they can touch, feel and show off to their friends and family — the spa-like bath, media room or a chef’s kitchen. They probably won’t pay extra when it comes to the home improvements they can’t see or appreciate, such as the roof, boiler or new plumbing. (more…)

Why Insuring a Solar Home Isn’t More Expensive

Posted by on May 11, 2016 in Real Estate | 0 comments

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If you’re thinking about going solar, don’t let home insurance concerns stop you. In fact, those silicon panels could save you some greenbacks … and not just on your utilities.

Some researchers have predicted that solar energy will reach a huge milestone in 2016: The number of American homes using solar panels may finally hit the one-million mark. Considering that the U.S. had only 30,000 solar homes a decade ago, the market has grown at a pace best described as — forgive the expression — torrid.

Despite all that growth, however, some potential solar users remain undecided longer than others. Even the most enthusiastic shoppers have questions. They may wonder about cost, aesthetics or even what could happen to their insurance premiums once they decide to put a few hundred pounds of silicon and glass on the roof.

If questions like these have made you hesitant to take part in the sun run, you may have less reason to worry than you think. Residential solar panels continue to become more affordable, as well as more attractive, and reducing your carbon footprint doesn’t necessarily mean increasing your insurance payments. Here’s why. (more…)

The Pros and Cons of Month-to-Month Leases

Posted by on May 6, 2016 in Real Estate | 0 comments

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Month-to-month leases offer renters flexibility, but what other advantages and disadvantages should you consider before signing the dotted line?

Navigating the rental market isn’t easy. Between bait-and-switch listings on sites like Craigslist, deceptive landlords, and confusing legal language in lease agreements, finding the right apartment can be a time-consuming, mentally taxing process.

Not sure where you stand? Consider these advantages and disadvantages to month-to-month leases — then decide what makes the most sense for your needs.

Pro: You get greater flexibility (more…)

Is Your Home the One Buyers Want?

Posted by on May 4, 2016 in Real Estate | 0 comments

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Boost your home’s sales appeal by adding key amenities and playing up hot features.

When it comes time to sell your home, whether you’ve lived there for three years or 30, you need to see it as a product for sale. And just like an item on a store shelf, you want your home to stand out from the competition.

Of course, your feelings and emotions about your home — and all of the memories you made there — may make it difficult to detach and view your home as a product. But sellers who quickly transition away from the emotional connection and into investment mode will reap the financial benefits many times over.

What’s on buyers’ wish lists (more…)

3 Common Moving Nightmares (and How to Prevent Them)

Posted by on Apr 29, 2016 in Real Estate | 0 comments

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There’s no other way to put it: Moving is stressful. But it doesn’t have to be a waking nightmare. Here’s how to avoid a move from … you know where.

Moving house tops the list of stressful experiences that can feel like a bad dream — and it can easily come true unless you take precautionary measures.

However, the most common moving nightmares fall into three main categories. Here’s how they typically play out — and how to avoid them.

Bad movers (more…)

Hidden Fees and Add-ons to Watch for in Your Lease

Posted by on Apr 22, 2016 in Real Estate | 0 comments

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You know how much your rent is, but are you paying attention to the extra fees for utilities, pets, parking, amenities and even moving in?

But consumers sometimes forget their landlord is running a business, too — until they sign a new or renewed lease, that is. Renters may discover that while the rent seems reasonable, the landlord has included itemized charges for utilities or other amenities that add up to a sizable bottom line difference.

The rental market is extremely competitive in many urban markets right now. The most recent U.S. census data showed the largest increase in the number of renters over any 10-year period since 1965, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The jump in the number of renters — up about 8.5 million from a decade ago — has put pressure on both tenants and landlords. Tenants are scrambling to find the right place, while landlords are trying to find the right price. And both parties are getting creative about how and when to spend their money.

Power play

Utilities are not exactly a hidden cost, but they are often overlooked by tenants eager to move into a new apartment or renew their current lease. Tenants need to take the expense into consideration when determining the overall cost of the property. Landlord/tenant laws in each state govern how utilities can be billed, and what recourse either party has in the case of missed payments or shutoffs.

Sometimes, utilities are included in the overall rent charge, and stay in the landlord’s name. Other times, tenants are required to place the electric or gas bills in their names. (Many municipalities require the water and/or sewer accounts to stay in the landlord’s name.)

Then there are situations where master meters serve an entire building, in which case the landlord splits the charges among all the tenants and then bills them individually. This is referred to as third-party billing. Third-party billing makes sense for the landlord, who can advertise a base rental price, but then charge the utilities as an add-on.

City ordinances

Certain cities have clamped down on third-party billing, which they view as deceptive. In Seattle, for example, the third-party billing ordinance covers all residents living in buildings with three or more units. The ordinance was written to protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords who were fraudulently overcharging them.

The Tenants Union of Washington State, a nonprofit formed in 1977 and dedicated to “education, organizing, and advocacy” for tenants, provides detailed information for renters about third-party billing and other important issues related to utility costs.

Many of the best practices they recommend apply to all tenants, regardless of location:

  • Ask questions about utility service beforeyou sign a lease
  • Set up your utility accounts quickly
  • Pay utility bills promptly and keep documentation of all payments
  • Take steps to protect yourself with the landlord
  • Act immediately to resolve utility disputes

Other “hidden” charges

There are other fees, besides utilities, which might be charged by the landlord. Some of these are optional add-ons determined by a certain tenant’s particular situation, but others apply to everyone. Landlords in a competitive rental market might even increase these fees based on supply and demand.

The add-ons can include pet fees or a separate charge for parking. Some properties charge an application fee — whether or not the prospective renter is approved.

Other properties, particularly condos or developments subject to homeowners’ associations (HOAs), charge move-in fees for tenant-occupied units. Amenities, such as cable TV or Internet access, which are not considered utilities under most ordinances, might also be billed through an HOA or the landlord.

Of course, this is all in addition to a security deposit and any rent you might have to pre-pay, like first and last month’s rent due upon move-in.

Have questions? Need help?

Advocacy organizations, like the Tenants Union in Seattle, operate around the country. These nonprofits offer help and information to renters.

State agencies also provide information for both tenants and landlords. For example, Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs publishes a Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook on its website. A quick internet search will yield similar results in most states.

Sometimes, though, problems and questions can’t be resolved just with online information. That is where consulting an expert can be a smart solution. Lawyers who specialize in landlord/tenant law are familiar not only with the underlying law in a given geographic region, but also have experience with the systems and processes that can resolve disputes efficiently and economically. Often, spending money for expert advice early on can yield big savings in time and dollars in the long run.

Should You Use the Listing Agent When Purchasing a Home?

Posted by on Apr 20, 2016 in Real Estate | 0 comments

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It may seem easiest to go with the agent who already knows the home, but not having a buyer’s agent represent you could be a mistake.

First-time home buyers aren’t typically versed in the intricacies of agency disclosure, nor do they understand the concepts of a buyer’s agent and seller’s agent. They only know that the person they meet at an open house or email about a listing is an “agent.”

When they start getting more serious and want to inquire about a property, its price, condition or history, they typically direct their questions to the seller’s agent — which presents an immediate conflict of interest.

A real estate agent’s loyalties and responsibilities change depending on the transaction. Here’s a quick rundown of the different roles an agent can play in any one transaction.

The listing agent (more…)

What to Do When a Seller Rejects Your Offer

Posted by on Apr 15, 2016 in Real Estate | 0 comments

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You’ve got your heart set on that 2-bedroom charmer, but the seller turned you down. Now what?

Searching for a home can be similar to searching for true love. You may meet many prospects before you find the one. And sometimes, you may long for a prospect more than he or she longs for you.

The same holds true with homes. But homes don’t have feelings — their sellers do. And it’s these sellers you must grapple with before making the love connection. If you’ve fallen in love with a home, made the best offer and the seller won’t cooperate, you might find yourself trying to figure out what to do.

Here are three ways to cope with a seller who’s keeping you from your dream home.

  1. Don’t waste time over-analyzing the seller

(more…)

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