Should You Buy a Second Home?

Should You Buy a Second Home?Having a second home in a favorite vacations spot can be a great investment or an expensive luxury. A beach cottage or mountain retreat is enticing while both interest rates and home prices are low. How do you decide if it’s right for you?

Make it your retirement home

If your second home is in the area where you plan to retire, buying it now, before you stop working and your income is higher might be beneficial. Beware, however, of tying up your cash or extending indebtedness beyond your retirement date. Also, avoid using funds from your 401K or other retirement accounts to purchase a second home.

Create a family getaway

If several family members will use the property, consider buying the property together. This concept is not without pitfalls, so make sure all family members understand how and when the property is available for use. Be sure to designate how interest in the property transfers to heirs or create a Cottage Limited Liability Plan (LLC) that governs both the use and transfer of the property. This is similar to a corporation, where members own “interest” in the property rather than the property itself.

Income property

You might be considering buying income property. Remember that the IRS considers income property a business that has tax ramifications. Be sure to check with your financial advisor or retirement planner before investing in property that you plan to lease or rent.

Rental property ownership requires ongoing expenses, including taxes, maintenance, mortgage payments (especially if the property sits empty), repairs between renters, insurance, and other costs. Income property ownership may provide ongoing income and be a great investment, but consider all the expenses before jumping in.

We can help you find properties with positive cash flow, so be sure to let us know that you are looking for investment property. If you need a property management service for your new investment, we can direct you to the resources you need.

Other considerations

Before investing in a second home and especially before financing a second home, review the potential for your situation to change. Is your job secure or could you be moved across the country? Does your family live near you, or near enough to the property for those family gatherings you envision? Do you have extra income to cover those empty months? Is the home in an area prone to natural disasters? Is it an area useful only during certain times of the year? If your second home is a condominium or a part of an association, can you cover the ongoing dues, assessments, or fees? Does the association require owner occupation?

We can help you determine the best investment or vacation property for your situation, so call us and we’ll get you started in the right direction.

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Cleaning to Sell

Cleaning to SellWhen getting your home ready to sell, spending some elbow grease cleaning can save you some money and make your home more attractive to buyers. Here are a few of the items to try.

Cleaning Painted Walls

When cleaning painted walls, start with a clean microfiber cloth or sponge and water. Gently wipe or sponge walls. If the grease, grime, and dirt persist, use mild water-based cleaner or dish soap. For difficult stains like soot or tobacco smoke, use a spray kitchen cleaner or all purpose cleaner. Do not use the abrasive side of a sponge, steel wool, or other metal mesh cleaners as these will remove the paint and may mar the drywall.

Caring for Stainless Steel

Ideally, clean stainless steel appliances once or twice a week. Disinfect with a disinfectant spray or bleach and water solution (1 part household bleach to 9 parts water), then use a wax-based aerosol spray. Lightly mist a soft, lint-free cloth and wipe over the surface to remove fingerprints and other marks. Don’t use anything abrasive—not even liquid cleansers or soft scrubbing pads as they can scratch or ruin the surface. If you have hardened, burned-on foods on your stove burners, remove them, and soak them in warm water and dish soap until it is soft enough to remove.

Caring for Your Tiles

Clean your bathroom and kitchen tiles using a neutral pH cleaner or make your own with a gallon of water and to 1/4 cup baking soda. Apply the mixture to floors with a soft mop or sponge. To clean your grout, use the same baking soda and water mixture, or use a toothbrush to apply a paste of an oxygen-based bleach and water. Allow the mixture to sit for 10-15 minutes, the wipe with a soft cloth or sponge and water. Once grout is clean, use a grout sealer to protect it. Apply the sealer with a small, slanted foam brush.

Countertop Stains

Various types of countertop material requires different approaches:

  • Granite: wipe up stains immediately and have your granite sealed yearly. For rust stains, use a poultice of a half-gallon of water to 1/4 cup household ammonia. Use hydrogen peroxide in water for juice or coffee stains. Add a couple drops of ammonia for harder stains. Everyday scratches and wear respond to superfine, grade 0000 dry steel wool.
  • Butcher block: To remove stains and scratches from solid butcher block, sand lightly with a fine wood sand paper. Oil the surface with food-safe wood oil.
  • Solid Surface: Composite, solid-surface materials respond well to gently sanding with a fine dry steel wool or mildly abrasive cleanser. Remove stains with the oxygen-based bleach and water paste described above.
  • Laminate countertops: Stains on a laminate countertop respond will to the bleach and water mixture or kitchen cleaners, but scratches are more difficult to disguise. Try a wax-based polish to fill in small lines and scratches or try this recipe. If your countertop is very marred, consider replacing it or using one of the DIY countertop faux finishes to give it an updated look.

Wood Floors

Clean wood floors with a water-based household cleaner or wood soap, or follow the instructions here. If your floor has scratches, use an oil-based polish in a color similar to your wood to fill in the scratches. If you have many scratches, consider lightly sanding the area and applying a stain-finish combination available at most hardware or paint stores.

Carpet

For synthetic carpets, you might rent a carpet-cleaning machine. Be sure to use only the soap or cleaning solution suggested, and avoid applying too much soap as the residue may attract more dirt.

If you are unsure of any of these projects, call in the professionals. We can offer suggestions for you, so give us a call.

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Quick Tips for Adding Resale Value

Quick Tips for Adding Resale ValueWhen you’re in a hurry to sell, you need top dollar, try some of these tips:

  1. Have us evaluate your home. As real estate professionals, we know what sells and what doesn’t and we can help you spend your money wisely to get the best return.
  2. Have a home inspection. A certified home inspector can point out areas that need correcting, fixing or removing.
  3. Paint walls a neutral but modern color. Gone are the days of all white walls, but sticking to taupe and gray tones gives a hint of freshness while remaining timeless.
  4. Request a home energy audit. Most utility companies offer this service. Sometimes simple lighting changes or additions to insulation give your home a higher energy rating and make it more attractive to buyers.
  5. Clean up landscaping and add regionally appropriate, low maintenance ground cover.
  6. If your home has “popcorn” texture on the ceiling, removing it and replacing it with a smooth or more modern texture will increase home value. Before you DIY this, however, make sure that your ceiling texture is not made with asbestos. Up until the late 70s, many textured ceiling preparations used asbestos flakes. If your home is newer than this, you’re probably fine doing this on your own, but if your home is older, higher a licensed professional with experience in asbestos removal and disposal.
  7. Replace your roof. If you live in a storm-prone area, your roof may have hail or wind damage that you cannot see. Have your roof inspected (most roofing contractors do this for free) and if your roof has storm damage, contact your homeowners insurance to see about getting it replaced. Often, storm damage replacement is time sensitive, so if you’ve had a heavy hail or windstorm, do not delay in having your roof evaluated or you may end up paying for it yourself. A new roof may not allow you to increase your sale price, but a damaged roof will lower your home’s value.
  8. Remove dated wallpaper. Simple removing outdated, stained, peeling, or faded wallpaper from kitchens, baths and bedrooms gives the home a fresher, less outmoded look. Instead of replacing it with new wallpaper, simply finish and paint the area with a neutral color in an appropriate finish.
  9. Replace light fixtures. Ceiling and vanity lights that you replace with high-efficiency fixtures upgrades your home with very little expense and bring your home into the compact fluorescent era. Upgrading exterior lights with automatic lighting options adds a safety factor to your home’s exterior while reducing energy costs.
  10. Expose your hardwood. If you have hardwood flooring hiding underneath stained, faded or worn carpeting, remove the carpeting and expose the hardwood. If you can refinish the floor, do so, but even if you cannot, you can use some quick fix options to make your wood floors look inviting when your home is showing.

When in doubt, refer to number one above: call us. We’ll help you determine the best options for your home.

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Choose the Right Paint

Choose the Right PaintWhether you’re preparing your home to move in, or preparing it to sell, choosing the right paint from the myriad choices available to day can be daunting. Paints come in up to six different finishes, so even if you’ve chosen the colors, you still have to decide on the finish for your application.

On a gradient from matte or flat to high gloss, there are both textural and visual differences in paint finishes. In texture, the gradient moves from a “dryer” feel to a “slicker” feel, but visually, it moves from less light reflective to more light reflective.

 

  • Matte Finish: Called either Flat Finish or Wall Paint, this basic paint type has a chalkier feel and is not light reflective. It also hides imperfections, cracks and bumps because light does not bounce off them. This finish works well on interior walls such as living rooms and bedrooms, but can be more difficult to clean and may mark easily. Because it absorbs rather than reflects light, a darker matte-finish paint color is perfect for a media room.
  • Flat Enamel Finish: The addition of the enameling elements combines some of the advantages of flat paint with a more durable finish that holds up to periodic cleaning. This is a good choice for interior walls in homes with children. Sometimes this is called “Kids Room Paint.”
  • Eggshell Finish: Slightly more durable and light reflective than matte or flat, eggshell has just a minimal amount of gloss added to it, and a deeper color saturation. It holds up to cleaning better and often works well for living rooms and dining rooms where more light-reflection is desirable but a glossier finish is not necessary.
  • Satin Finish: Often used for window and door trim, or ceilings needing a more reflective finish such as a the bath area or a workroom, satin finish holds up to cleaning and resists stains, marks and smudges better than matte, flat enamel or eggshell.
  • Semi-gloss Finish: Used for trim, doors, cabinets and railings, semi-gloss resists most stains and marks while cleaning more easily. It reflects and refracts light, so it magnifies imperfections or textures in the surface. When using semi-gloss, care with surface preparation is vital to the finished product. Semi-gloss can work well in bath areas too, where a more reflective surface is helpful to make the room lighter and brighter.
  • Glossy Finish: When applied properly, glossy or high gloss paints have a reflective surface similar to enamel, and creates a smooth finish for furniture and cabinetry. Because of its light-reflective quality, a glossy finish reveals and amplifies imperfections, but is the easiest surface to clean. When using high-gloss paints, carefully follow preparation instructions to get the best results.

 

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Should I Sell As-Is?

Should I Sell As-Is?As one of the most difficult decisions in real estate marketing, the idea of selling “as-is” (without making any repairs, renovations, or upgrades) appeals to homeowners needing to sell quickly or that are cash strapped.

Can you do it? Yes.

Should you do it? Well…that depends on your market and how badly your home needs fixing, how much you owe on it and how much you need from it.

Buyers that lean toward purchasing a fixer typically fall into three main categories:

  • Flippers – a flipper is a real estate investor that purchases property with the intent to generate revenue quickly. Often, they are willing to purchase a fixer or distressed property with good “bones” (structure, foundation, etc.), fix it up quickly for resale or rental.
  • Fixers – a fixer purchases distressed property to fix up, but they tend to live in the property while they fix it with the goal of eventually selling or renting when they invest in a new property to fix. Different from flippers, they look to own the home longer term, so may be more willing to purchase a home that needs more work.
  • First-timers – a first-time buyer is either someone that has never owned a home, or someone that has not held title to a home for more than three years so they are not rolling the proceeds from a previous property into the new one. First timers that have never owned a home, but have some skill in the DIY area may look for lower cost, as-is properties for the low entry cost. This category includes former property owners that may have lost their home during a financial crisis or bankruptcy and are now in a position to buy again.
  • One final category is investors purchasing a home for the land and location, intending to demolish the home and build new. If your property is on the verge of a rezoned business area, is transitioning to multi-family dwellings, hotels or some other type of property, an investor may purchase your home for its location rather than for its amenities.

In each of these cases, you might benefit from a quick sale, freeing up cash for yourself. Just know that the buyer expects a discounted price that reflects the additional amount they will have to invest to make the property livable. Seeking these types of buyers in a hot market is more likely than in a slow market area.

Note: FHA has specific minimum property standards (MPS) required, so selling “as is” may reduce your buying pool by those wanting FHA loans if your property does not meet those standards.

What are the minimal fixes?

Fixing up your property, at least by bringing it up to code, will increase its value and bring you nearer to fair market value for your home. If you owe money on your home, this is an important consideration. Unless the investment to fix it up will cost more than the amount you might still owe if it sells low, you should figure out a way to fix it up. We can help you determine which items are important to fix, which can be concessions in your contract and which you can ignore.

Here is a short list of items to consider fixing if you can:

  • Patch cracks in ceilings and walls
  • Remove peeling paint
  • Paint walls with a neutral color
  • Replace broken windows
  • Fix code violations
  • Repair leaky or broken pipes
  • Repair the roof if there are leaks
  • Remove and replace moldy drywall
  • Trim overgrown vegetation
  • Remove anything dangerous that could make you liable for injuries to potential buyers visiting your home.

If you need to sell your home quickly, let your real estate agent know immediately so that they can best advise you on which items to repair, which to ignore, and which to offer concessions for.

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Avoid Budget and Time-Busting Scope Creep

Avoid Rremodelling Budget and Time-Busting Scope CreepWhether you’re remodeling to sell or renovating to make your place your dream home, there are two faces to the enemy of your plans: time scope creep and budget scope creep. Either can wreak havoc on your project, and both together can spell disaster.

What is scope creep? It is the unintended expansion of both a project’s size and expense, causing the unavoidable extension of the time it takes to complete.

Budget Scope Creep

Even the best estimate for a project is still only an estimate. Experienced builders and contractors can be blind-sided by astronomical increases in materials costs, unforeseen shortages in normally available fixtures and fittings, unseasonable weather delays and myriad other events out of their control that raise costs and introduce scope creep into your best planned remodeling project.

Another cause of budget scope creep happens when you have a new idea or what to change something after your contractor has quoted his price. You see an advertisement for a different light fixture. Or, you walk through a home improvement store and see the latest in paint or carpet colors or any other amendment that you ask for after the quote.

Unforeseen causes: A natural disaster on the opposite side of the country can affect the prices of materials in your location. If the disaster is very large—like a tornado—those costs can rise monthly as materials are redirected to the disaster area for rebuilding. If your contractor bid your project just a couple months earlier, but you didn’t start purchasing materials until now, your whole budget is just a bunch of meaningless numbers.

Another unavoidable change may be increases in the cost of permits. Local and state governments probably don’t consult you before they make changes and set timetables for implementation. Changes in materials necessary to comply with a new code may cause delay from the manufacturer or require reconfiguring your scope to include an alternate choice.

To avoid budget scope creep:

  • Hire an experienced builder or contractor. They know about scope creep, so they will warn you about each change and how it will affect your budget.
  • Purchase materials near to the time of the bid.
  • Know what you want before you get started and avoid making unnecessary changes.
  • Add 15 to 20 percent to any bid you get.

Time Scope Creep

When your project takes longer than you anticipated, it may disrupt your whole life. If you are remodeling to sell, scope creep delays putting your house on the market. You may miss that window of opportunity for your area, or be unable to buy the place you have on contingency. If renovating to live in, scope creep throws your family life into disarray. When the project stretches into a different season, for example, your best-laid plans for coping (cooking outdoors on the barbecue while your kitchen is torn up) become meaningless.

Any of the causes of budget scope creep can increase time scope creep. In addition, delays in receiving materials, illness or injury, and a host of other unavoidable events can stretch the time it takes to finish your renovations.

Don’t add to time scope creep by constantly making changes, additions, or “little requests”— changes that seem minor to you, but take much longer than you anticipate for your contractor to make. When you request changes, it throws off the entire timetable for that special dance between one sub-contractor and another required to finish your remodel.

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What to Know about Summer Lawn Care

What to Know about Summer Lawn CareLush greens and rolling verdant fairways stoke homeowner dreams of the perfect lawn. In most areas, July starts the season with the highest demand on the water supply. So maintaining those lavish landscapes takes knowledge and a plan.

Planting

Not all grasses are equal. When designing your lawn, be sure to use a grass that tolerates your climate. If you spent your childhood in one part of the country and have visions of a deep dark thick-bladed St. Augustine as your ideal lawn, but now live in a more drought prone area, where a Bermuda may be the optimal choice. The wrong grass species can increase watering and feeding requirements and reduce your enjoyment of your lawn.

Consult a local turf expert before you order seed or sod and end up with a lawn-care nightmare.

Watering

Drought or wet conditions in your location determine how often your lawn needs watering. With drought conditions being widespread, however, you may only have one or two days per week that you’re allowed to water, so it is important to maximize your results.

  • When to water: If walking across your lawn leaves visible depressions in the grass and blades don’t pop back up immediately, your grass needs water.
  • Water summer grasses once every three days (or as allowed by your city’s watering plan).
  • Use sprinklers designed to deliver larger droplets nearer to ground. Mist and small drops evaporate more quickly than large drops. For more information on sprinkler systems, read the section below.

Irrigation Tips

Install sprinklers based on your property’s topographic needs. Consult and expert for your area even if you plan to install the system yourself. Most manufacturers can help you develop a plan and offer custom-designed systems for you.

Once installed, check your sprinkler heads often. Adjust sprinklers to water only your lawn sidewalks or the side of the house. If water runs down the street, both your frequency and spray may need adjusting.

  • Only apply water as fast as the soil absorbs it.
  • If you have water runoff, divide watering times into shorter periods.
  • Adjust your watering schedule each month to match seasonal conditions and landscape requirements.
  • Have your system checked yearly for leaks and broken parts.

Water Saving Tips

Periodically aerating your lawn allows water to seep to the roots rather than run off the surface. A pattern of holes every six inches provides excellent root access for most lawns.

Avoid cutting lawn too low. When you cut to a height lower than 1.5 to 2 inches, grass blades can no longer shade the soil, allowing water to evaporate more quickly. When you mow, leave the clippings on the lawn to further protect the soil and hold in moisture.

We can help you find a property with the lawn of your dreams, so give us a call today.

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Three Home Safety Features You Should Keep Up To Date

Three Home Safety Features You Should Keep Up To DateIn the midst of all the summer activities, there are a few things you should add to your to-do list to keep you and your family safe in your home. Here are three:

Fire Extinguishers

If you don’t have a fire extinguisher, you should get one. Install one in the kitchen and other areas prone to fire. Once installed, however, we tend to forget them, but even if you have not used it, a fire extinguisher may depressurize and you won’t know it until you need it unless you check it. Your owner’s manual should have a maintenance schedule. If not, contact the manufacturer to get one.

When checking it, make sure:

  • Nothing blocks it so that you can quickly access it in an emergency. If installed in a cupboard, place it at the front or mount it inside the door.
  • Check the pressure. Most extinguishers have a gauge, so make sure the pressure is in the safe zone.
  • Make sure the pin and tamper seal are intact, the nozzle and hose are not cracked and there is no corrosion on the tank.

The last thing you want is to learn that your extinguisher is inoperative during an emergency. Have your extinguisher serviced or replaced every five to ten years.

Smoke Detectors

Check your smoke detector at least once a month, and according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, replace batteries at least twice a year. Check them more often when:

  • Frequent cooking smoke activates it. Constant activation can wear it out.
  • It gives false alarms.
  • The alarm regularly emits short beeps.

Never put old batteries in a battery-powered smoke detector. Even if powered by your home’s electrical system, be sure to check the back-up batteries to be sure it will function during power outages.

Electrical Panel

Many of us never think about our electrical panel unless we blow a breaker or the power goes out. Preventative maintenance to this vital home system is far more economical than repairs once it fails. Breakers and wires age and can cause arching and overheating. Have your panel and electrical system checked by a certified electrician every three years, and more often if you

  •        Often have to reset a breaker.
  •        Have frequent power outages.
  •        Have medical or other equipment reliant on electricity.
  •        See sparks, flame or smoke when flipping a switch or plugging into an outlet.
  •        Have a very old home with an old electrical system.

We can help you find home safety specialists to inspect your home’s systems, so contact us today.

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