Should I Buy a Foreclosed House?

Should I Buy a Foreclosed House?

As a result of the housing bubble and resulting financial instability, many communities have a high rate of foreclosed homes. Even though the rate of new foreclosures is slowing, the number of foreclosed homes in a specific the market can make buyers leery of purchasing there — even if it seems like a really good deal.

Conversely, savvy buyers can snap up some really great deals. The trick is to know where it is a good deal in a neighborhood poised for recovery, or where you might be risking your money.

What to avoid

When looking at a foreclosed property, make sure to check out these things:

  • The house itself—since most foreclosed homes are empty and sold as-is, the cost of repairs to bring the home back up to its original condition can be costly. While empty, the home may have been looted or vandalized, had a leak or burst pipe, experienced mold or infestation by bugs or rodents.
  • Liens—If the former owner owed money to contractors, utilities or taxes, the buyer may be responsible for paying those in order to have a clean and clear title to the house.
  • Neighborhood instability—Make sure to check out crime rates, signs of gang activity, school ratings and other indicators of an unstable area.

What to look for

Homes in any neighborhood could be subject to foreclosure if the owner’s situation changed—business downturn, job loss, illness, injury, or death—so just the fact that it is a foreclosure is no reason to avoid a really good deal.

  • Value—if neighborhood values are stable, and the foreclosed home is a financial deal in relation to comparable homes, then the foreclosed home should retain much of its value. When a higher percentage of the homes in a neighborhood are in foreclosure, all of the homes in that neighborhood will experience a decrease in their market value. As those homes are purchased, repaired and lived in, the entire neighborhood’s values will begin to appreciate.
  • Affordability—It is in the bank’s best interest to unload foreclosed properties since the cost of maintenance and upkeep can eat away at any profit they may make. When there are more foreclosed homes in the neighborhood, the more quickly the bank will want to unload it, so you might get a really great deal.
  • Community—Pay attention to the other homes in the community … the ones still lived in. If those owners are working at keeping up their homes, landscaping and general curb appeal, this may be the best indicator of whether or not to purchase in this area. In fact, if you and several friends all purchase in a high foreclosure area you can create that community yourselves.

How to know

We can help you figure out if a specific foreclosed home is for you. We know neighborhoods, schools and community trends. We also know how many other homes in the neighborhood are on the market and the market value, and can help determine how anxious the bank is to unload the property. We’ll help you evaluate the risks and rewards available in the neighborhood. Most of all, we can help you navigate the ins and outs of liens, clear titles and bank qualifications.

It is in all our interests to bring stability and appreciation to neighborhoods that have experienced a high number for foreclosures, so let us help you find the right home for you.

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Early Spring Landscaping

Early Spring LandscapingBulbs, tubers, perennials and indigenous plants beautify your home and give year-round enjoyment for decades to come. If you bought your home in the fall or winter, you may not know what is under the snow or mulch, but you can prepare for spring planting anyway and liven up the atmosphere with color inside your home as well. Bulbs and tubers planted in the spring typically bloom in the summer. To get a head start on those blooms, consider forcing bulbs indoors.

Bulbs

There are two types of bulb: those that are native to warmer climates and those native to colder climates.

A warm climate bulb, like an amaryllis or paperwhite narcissus can be grown indoors without chilling in a pot or shallow bowl and then transferred outdoors when the weather warms. Amaryllis come in reds, whites, pinks, peaches and yellows.

If you like, you can grow these bulbs in soil or simply in a shallow bowl with pebbles and water to hold them in place. They usually bloom about four weeks after you begin watering them. It is ideal to keep stems short so that they remain sturdy. To do this, keep them in indirect light and temperatures around 50°F for the first couple of weeks. Move them to a lighter, warmer location after that.

Cooler climate bulbs require chilling at temperatures of 35-45°F in order to stimulate the bulb to start developing. Most of these bulbs need four to five months of cooling before they begin developing and forming flowers inside the bulb. If you don’t already have bulbs, consider purchasing pre-chilled bulbs from a nursery. Once you expose the bulbs to warmth of around 60°F with indirect light, either indoors or outdoors, they will begin blooming in about three to four weeks. When you have shoots between three and five inches high, you can move them to a sunny window. Once the buds have color, if you are keeping them indoors you should move them to indirect light and they will bloom longer.

Great cooler climate bulbs include tulips, hyacinths and daffodils, all of which come in a variety of colors and have fascinating names like Apricot Beauty (tulip), Negrita (purple tulip), Orange Emperor (orange tulip), Peter Pan (while crocus), Pickwick (striped crocus), Bridal Gown (double creamy daffodil) and February Gold (miniature yellow daffodil).

Tubers, corms and rhizomes

Other “bulb-like” plants are actually tubers (like potatoes) and tuberous roots (like sweet potatoes), corms or rhizomes. For example, a crocus is actually a corm. Other corms include gladiolus and freesia. Begonia, anemones, caladiums and cyclamen are tubers, while dahlias and daylilies are tuberous roots. Begonia and caladiums make great indoor blooms.

Rhizomes include tiny delicate blooms like lily-of-the-valley and the tall brilliant flowering stems of canna. Irises are a creeping rhizome which means that they fill in space in dense clumps year after year unless separated and replanted further apart. There are more than 300 species of iris, but the best ones to grow indoors are the dwarf irises. They need to be chilled for about eight weeks in barely moist soil and shoots will form before you need to bring them into a sunny location.

Curb appeal

Forcing bulbs, rhizomes, corms and tubers indoors means that you can add a bright spot of color to your flowerbeds as soon as the weather warms.

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New High-Tech Home Gadgets

New High-Tech Home GadgetsAs with The Jetsons cartoon, our imaginations run wild with the idea of modern gadgets to make our homes efficient and automated, and make our lives simpler. For cutting-edge products you can control from your smartphone, check out these contributions from the International Consumer Electronics Show. Held each year in Las Vegas, the event showcases technological advances and products that offer cutting-edge advances in consumer technology.

Home security

Home security cameras work well when you’re home, but what about when you’re away? The DoorBird home security camera sends an alert to your smartphone every time your doorbell is rung. The integrated speaker system allows you to talk to the visitor even if you’re not there, and keeps track of who comes and goes. You can even open your door for delivery, cleaning and repair personnel from another room or another location.

The system comes with a motion sensor, Wi-Fi connection and available add-on cameras. The DoorBird runs from an app on your Apple iOS or Android device.

Climate-control

No matter how efficient the heating and air-conditioning is in your home, one room or another may be warmer or cooler than the rest of the home simply due to its orientation to the sun. There is no longer any reason for one room to be sweltering and another to be freezing with the Ecovent.

Working with your existing central air system, the Ecovent replaces your current wall, floor or ceiling vents with battery-powered vents that open and close automatically to send the cool air to where it’s needed most. The system knows the temperature in every room and adjusts the vents accordingly. Operating from your smart phone app, the system also works with smart thermostats such as the Nest learning thermostat. Easily installed by most do-it-yourself-ers, the Ecovent system improves energy efficiency by up to 30 percent.

Attitude

Okay, your home doesn’t really have an attitude, but you do. And bright an early in the morning it can be a little testy until you get your first jolt of caffeine. Or, what about a fresh cup when you walk through the door at then end of a long day? Introducing the Smarter Wi-Fi coffee machine that grinds, brews and pours your coffee all from the control of your smartphone app.

This coffee maker alerts you when your coffee is ready and offers you a fresh cup of coffee when it detects that you’ve arrived home. While there are other smart coffee makers on the market, this one differs in that it brews a single serving instead of an entire carafe.

Having high-tech gadgets for your home is great, but what if you just need the home? We can help you with that. Give us a call and we’ll help you find a home for all those gadgets to go in.

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Is Adding a Skylight a Good Investment?

Is Adding a Skylight a Good Investment?During the gray and cloudy days of winter, a bit of sunshine can make a huge difference in how you feel about your home and yourself. The physical and psychological affects of daylight are well documented. You could leave the drapes and blinds open, but then you lose privacy and the thermal insulation they provide. An alternative is to add a skylight to your home, or alternatively, to install a light tube.

Skylights

A skylight is a “window” in the roof of your home that brings light into a room from above. Some skylights are fixed so that they do not open and others open to allow fresh air and ventilation. Some skylights offer emergency egress or even roof access, depending on the layout of your home. Since skylights must be installed in the roof, they work well in single-story homes to add light to a kitchen or family area. In a multi-storied home, a skylight would add light to a bedroom, home office or upstairs game room. For example, if your home has a large attic that you want to convert to a home office or exercise room, skylights allow you to have windows even though you may have no walls.

Specialty skylights offer preinstalled window coverings or blinds, tinting, insect screens and other options. Turn a room in your home into an atrium with a fixed glass dome skylight with architectural detailing, or just add light to a room with a simple glass panel skylight.

Light tubes

If the home has an attic, the skylight might be recessed into the attic so that the light shines down into the room inside recessed walls. An alternative to a recessed skylight is to install a light tube, such as the Solatube. A light tube or solar tube is a pipe that reflects daylight via its reflective surface that mirrors sunlight to a location in the home. Light tubes may be installed in the ceiling in the same manner as a skylight, or they may be installed in walls. An advantage of a light tube is that the rooftop location does not have to be directly above the light-point in the room.

Because the “tube” reflects or bends the light, the architectural applications are endless. You can install light tubes in showers and closets, to light up a niche or brighten up a dark corner. Light tubes often include LED lights so that they are useful with or without sunlight.

Energy efficiency

A correctly installed skylight or light tube can increase a home’s energy efficiency by decreasing the energy required to light a home. However, when the wrong skylight is installed for your home or location, or the skylight is installed incorrectly, the result can be a decrease in energy efficiency.

Adding value

When you add a skylight or light tube to your home, the perceived value to a buyer can be immense as long as the addition:

  • Is installed correctly.
  • Does not diminish the home’s energy efficiency.
  • Blends well with the home’s design.

Before adding a skylight to a home you intend to sell, check with your local real estate professional to determine if the perceived value would result in actual market value.

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Minimalist Home-buying

Minimalist Home-buyingWhen you’re house hunting, it’s good to know your “living personality.” The home you choose should reflect the way you like to live rather than the latest trend in home design. If you are a minimalist at heart, you may be looking for something different from the average homebuyer.

What is a minimalist?

Minimalism isn’t about owning a very small house, although it can be for some, and it isn’t about getting rid of everything and eating and sleeping on the floor. What it is about is getting rid of (or not acquiring) the excesses that can clutter our lives and cause us to be discontent and overwhelmed. While some people tout “rules” for how much a minimalist can own or how big their home can be, true minimalism is a mindset about what makes us happy versus what just litters and disorders our lives.

Minimalist living is an aim to living with what you need, but not with what consumerism and advertisements tell you that you should want. It’s not about being frugal; it is about quality over quantity. It is about making choices.

Are you a minimalist?

You might be a minimalist if

  • Clutter makes you uncomfortable or irritated.
  • You hate the junk drawer.
  • You give stuff away every chance you get.
  • You’ve considered buying a tiny house.
  • You’re attracted to minimalist architecture.

What is minimalist architecture?

In the design world, minimalism is about simplifying and paring down the design elements. Often used in Japanese design and architecture, minimalism is a design aesthetic that seeks to achieve simplicity. Using basic geometric forms, simple materials and natural light, minimalist architects design homes with clean, open lines, natural wood, stone, glass and other fundamental components.

Can you be a minimalist in a traditional home?

While you may be naturally drawn to minimalist architecture, most homes, particularly in neighborhoods or associations, do not fit into the minimalist design aesthetic. A traditional home may be the perfect option for your minimalist lifestyle. Simply adopt these concepts when decorating your new space:

  • Window coverings: to keep your space minimalist, simplify your window coverings. Leave windows bare, where possible, or use wood blinds or cellular blinds that sit inside the window opening.
  • Furniture: Choose fewest pieces possible without sacrificing comfort and utility. Forego ornate or heavy pieces in favor of simple, clean lines and solid colors.
  • Floors: Consider wood, tile or stained concrete floors.
  • Artwork: Simple art objects or accents that draw the eye can add a dash of color to a basic room. Keep knick-knacks to a minimum.
  • Organization: Forego the junk drawer, but have a space out of sight for the items you need to keep. Except for those that require hard copies (birth certificates, diplomas, marriage licenses) store “paper” items on your computer or in the cloud.
  • Landscaping: Choose native plants and hardscape to minimize the amount of upkeep your property requires.

Finding a minimalist home

If we know what you’re looking for, we can help you find the perfect home for your minimalist lifestyle. As real estate professionals, we know what is available in our area, and what you can do to make it fit the aesthetic you’re looking for.

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Growing an Indoor Garden

Growing an Indoor GardenWith several more weeks of winter to go, you might be hankering for some fresh greens, herbs or sprouts in your diet. Changes and improvements in lighting, soil and planting techniques mean that you can grow lovely plants in your home year round. You can have a simple herb garden or an elaborate hydroponic system.

Container gardening is a collection of pots, jars, boxes or other containers that can hold a plant medium (soil, commercial soil-less mixtures, sand, bark or mulch). The medium supplies the plant’s roots with nutrients, moisture, air and physical support. Hydroponic or aquaponic gardening uses fertilized water (sometimes including live fish) as the growth medium.

9 indoor garden ideas:

Here are a variety of indoor gardening ideas. Add one to your décor and give your home a much-needed lift in the winter months.

  • Terrarium: you can create a terrarium in a jar, hurricane lamp or unused fish tank.
  • Force bulbs: Tulips, amaryllis, hyacinth, narcissus, crocus and other bulb plants can be “forced” to bloom indoors in the winter.
  • Simple terra cotta pots: Start your herbs in small pots on the windowsill. In the spring, you can transfer them outside.
  • Rock garden: Grow succulents or parasitic plants on a rock. Since they don’t need soil they can live for months with periodic watering.
  • Hanging planters: When space is limited, hang planters on the wall or from a hook in the ceiling. A variety of options can be found at retailers like Home Depot.
  • Mini greenhouse: For herbs, cherry tomatoes and other hothouse plants, try a mini greenhouse like this one at IKEA.
  • Potted citrus trees: Grow you own oranges, lemons, limes or cumquats in an indoor pot and add some homegrown vitamin C to your diet.
  • Mason jars: Set mason jars in the windowsill or shelf and grow simple herbs like rosemary, cilantro and basil.
  • Plant table: Buy or build a garden table for your living room. A plant table is like a box with legs. You can plant directly into the box, or fill it with small pots.

Environmental control

If you don’t heat your entire home throughout the winter, consider a soil heat mat for your garden. Sort of like a heating pad for your plants, the soil heat mat keeps the soil warm from underneath. Most plants thrive best at about 75-85°F and a heat mat will keep the soil at the perfect temperature.

Automatic watering systems can keep your plants moist even if you forget. The same as an outdoor drip system, a series of tiny tubes supply water on a timer system. A simpler and more mobile option is the use a watering globe. Typically made of hand-blown glass, you fill the globe with water once a week or so, place it tube side down into the soil and it keeps the soil moist. Homemade water globes (from wine or glass soda bottles) will work as well.

Finally, consider the light. If you don’t have a well-lit window, or if you’re winter days are often overcast, consider a grow light. These come in a variety of intensities and sizes. A gardening shop can advise you on the best light for your situation.

If you’re selling your home in the winter, simple indoor plants can add cheerful appeal for potential homebuyers. We can advise you on the best way to include plants when staging your home for an open house, so contact us today and let us get started.

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What is Live-Work Space?

Live-Work SpaceMany buildings tout themselves as live-work spaces, but live-work designations are not all equal. For example, a primarily residential building that has no restriction on working from home can be called a live-work space but it is hardly comparable to a building that allows you to have employee, walk-in customers or clients, public access parking, or locations that allow more hazardous or noisy commercial activity.

Planning and zoning regulations differ in live-work or work-live spaces compared to those that are primarily residential, but do not restrict a home occupation. Typically, these locations are part of an urban renewal between the industrial and residential parts of a city. Creating lifestyle lofts that include workspace, or work space that includes living areas can be a strong part of a vibrant mixed-used development district. Reuse of historic structures that would otherwise be allowed to decay through vacancy typically enjoys some relaxation of the standard residential building codes under state and municipal laws in many areas. However, new construction live-work spaces usually must adhere to residential codes, including the impact on local school districts.

Who lives in live-work properties?

  • Artists: the phenomenon of live-work properties started in the artist communities when artists and musicians could not find workspace they could afford and so chose to forego personal space and live in their workspace. Many urban centers offer so-called “Artists’ Protection Zones” that impose certain restrictions on rent increases to keep space more affordable for artists.
  • Start-ups: live-work spaces often appeal to entrepreneurs that see their space as an incubator of new ideas. They want to be close to their work so that living doesn’t interrupt the development of their business ideas.
  • Virtual or telecommute employees: unlike artists and entrepreneurs, employees that connect to their place of work via the Internet may find that live-work properties have better access to high-speed Internet that other residential areas. While they may not need to have a separate workspace, many virtual employees prefer to be surrounded by the sounds of other people working to keep them on task. Some live-work buildings even offer community spaces for workers to gather, meet each other, share ideas and generally encourage one another. Often, residents in live-work spaces find that they can use each other’s services.

Is a live-work space for you?

Only you can know if a live-work situation will work for you. Often, live-work lofts and warehouse conversions are near to factories, railroad tracks and other noise-producing industries. If you need quiet for your work, a live-work loft might not be the best place for you. But, if you thrive on the energy and industry of others, and like the idea of waking up and walking across the hall to your place of business, studio or office, we can help you find the live-work space that works for you.

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Getting Organized to Sell Your Home

Getting Organized to Sell Your Home

When you’ve lived in it for a long time, getting a home ready to sell can seem daunting. If you are considering selling your home this year, make it your New Year’s resolution to get started early. That way, whether you decide to sell or not, your home is organized and easier to maintain.

6 Ideas to help you get organized now!

  • Stop adding to the clutter. If it is your habit to purchase multiples of sale items, stop! Or, if these are items you use all the time, reduce the number of multiples to no more than you will use in a month or so. Instead of ordering large quantities, place items you use consistently on a schedule for reorder instead. That way, you’re not filling up your shelves and closets with the extras, but you won’t run out either.
  • Plan where things go. Set aside a couple boxes or bags to handle items you plan to give to charity and those you plan to give to family members and set aside what to sell at a garage sale. Consider keeping the boxes or bags in your trunk. That way, as soon as they get full you can deliver them where they need to go. For items that you intend to keep, take them to the location they belong immediately.
  • Choose one thing. This week, simply choose one thing to organize. It can be a drawer, a closet, a storage bin… It really doesn’t matter what you choose, but make sure it is achievable in one day. So, if your attic is a massive project, don’t start there. Each week (or each day if you’re really motivated) choose another item to organize. Even if it is just your medicine cabinet, organize it by getting rid of expired medicines (take them to your pharmacist for proper disposal), old make-up and items you haven’t used in a couple years.
  • Don’t fear your piles. Sometimes, when you’re in the midst of getting organized, you need to have piles, stacks or other groupings of things that need long-term storage or that you need to deal with. If the item is long-term, you can set it in one of your planning boxes. If it needs to be dealt with soon, choose one evening (or morning) each week to quickly go through and file, mail, respond, etc.
  • Find a way to handle paper. There are a few papers that must be kept: original birth certificates, marriage licenses, contracts, etc., but many items we keep in paper form could be kept digitally in far less space. Consider getting an organizing scanner such as a Neat scanner that can scan and organize receipts, bills, business cards and myriad other paperwork for you.
  • Let go of items you don’t use. Just because Aunt Sally gave you a toaster for your wedding six years ago, don’t let it fill up your counter or cupboard space if you’re not using it. Donate it to a charity that can get it into the hands of someone that will use it. To make certain to protect the sentimental value of the gift, start a virtual scrapbook with images of items you give away, and a short note of who gifted you with the item, a special memory about that person and where you gave the item.

Organizing just the first step toward preparing for a sale.

We can help you plan for your home sale by walking through your home and showing you what items to consider fixing or updating, items of furniture you might want to pass on or put into storage to prepare your home for staging and things to consider to add curb appeal. Contact us today to get started.

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Should You Put Your Home on the Market Before or After the Super Bowl?

Should You Put Your Home on the Market Before or After the Super Bowl?As strange as it may seem to football fans, a majority of homeowners do not arrange their schedule around the Super Bowl. That being said, the Super Bowl typically signals the end of the Holiday season and New Year’s slump, so putting your home on the market around the time of the Super Bowl might be the perfect option for you. Markets vary, so only your local professional real estate agent can advise you on what is best in your area, but there are some reasons you might want to put your home on the market BEFORE the Super Bowl.

Here are some reasons why you may want to consider selling now rather than waiting:

While some analysts tout springtime as the best time of year to sell a house, these same analysts advise buyers to make an offer on homes in January. With lower inventories available, homebuyers looking for a deal in the cold of January may find what they are looking for in your home. Those with early tax refund checks may be ready sooner than others to snap up a good deal.

If your home is near the Super Bowl venue, some investors may snap it up to rent to Super Bowl attendees. On the other hand, if your home is far away from the Super Bowl venue, but you have a large bonus or media room, your home may lure Super Bowl partiers looking for the perfect place to host their Super Bowl gatherings.

But let’s face it: not everyone cares about the Super Bowl. What homebuyers care about most is finding the right home in the right place for the right price. According to a National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) study, homebuyers want energy efficiency appliances, windows and other features that permanently lower utility bills; extra storage and organizational features that include a laundry room, linen closet in the bathroom, a walk-in pantry, and extra storage space in the garage.

To sell your home in midwinter, consider staging that takes weather into account:

  • Make sure the walks and entryways are free of snow and debris. Take the time to clear off the patio too. You may not use it in winter, but your buyer needs to know it is there for the summer.
  • Keep your home warm and cozy. Now is not the time to worry about heat costs. If buyers are cold and uncomfortable, they will not stay long enough to experience your home’s special features.
  • If you have a gas fireplace, light it. Consider placing a grouping of candles in a wood fireplace and lighting them during your open house or showing. (NOTE: some buyers may be allergic to smoke from wood-burning fires, so consider not lighting a wood fire unless it is integral to heating your home).

Since daylight is at a premium in winter, try to have your house shown during daylight hours. Make sure your windows are clear and free of winter grime and that window treatments are clean and dust-free. If you must show your house after dark, turn on every light in the house and yard so that your home is warm and inviting.

Rely on specific advice from us, your local real estate agents, for optimizing your home for a winter sale.

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