Anna Messina's Blog
If you're a homeowner or are planning to become one in the near future, hiring contractors to maintain and upgrade your home is a fact of life. Although older homes often need more TLC than newer ones, "newness" (like youth) can be a fleeting quality! Time passes quickly, and before you know it, your house needs a fresh coat of paint, landscaping improvements, or even wet basement solutions.
There may be times when you're tempted to accept the first estimate you're given for a home improvement project, but there are sound reasons for taking your time and choosing home contractors carefully and in a methodical way.
- Saving money: It's not unusual for one home contractor to quote a price that is literally thousands of dollars more than the competition. While, on one hand, very low prices may be a sign of inferior quality, there is no guarantee that high prices assure superior quality. Fortunately, there are plenty of good contractors who charge competitive prices and make it their business to provide customers with exceptional value. If you get references, read online reviews, and make sure your prospective contractor has all the necessary insurance coverages, licenses, and relevant experience, then you'll be ready to make an informed decision based on quality, service, and pricing. Regardless of the caliber of a contractor's work, if you don't get at least two or three estimates, you'll always be wondering if they overcharged you. When you get multiple quotes, you'll never be plagued by that nagging question!
- Getting helpful ideas: In addition to finding a qualified tradesman with solid expertise, project management skills, and competitive pricing, it also pays to choose one who offers innovative suggestions and creative ideas. By interviewing three contractors, you'll gain insights into their communication style, their overall attitude, and their willingness to provide helpful advice when needed.
- Personality factors: After meeting with prospective contractors, you'll know which of the three you feel the most comfortable doing business with. Many home improvement projects can easily last between 3 days and a couple weeks, so you'll tend to be a lot more satisfied with a contractor who's courteous, punctual, above the board, friendly, professional, and customer-service oriented. If they seem annoyed with your questions or evasive in their responses, you can be reasonably sure there will be problems down the road in working with them -- possibly even quality assurance issues. If they tend to complain about other customers or berate their competition, then that is also a potential red flag.
Have you heard a lot about HUD homes, but aren’t sure if you should buy one or what the process entails? HUD stands for The Department Of Housing And Urban Development. The FHA (Federal Housing Administration) is a part of HUD. The FHA is where federal mortgage insurance comes from. If a home is foreclosed on and insured by the FHA, the lender has a right to file a claim for the balance due on the mortgage. The FHA will pay this claim, and then transfer the ownership of the property to the HUD who will sell the home.
Will A HUD Home Provide A Price Break?
The answer to this question is not necessarily. A HUD home is appraised just like any other home for sale. The price is based on the fair market value of the home. The prices may be adjusted according to any repairs that need to be made to the home. It’s a good idea to have your realtor look into comparable prices for HUD homes, as these properties aren’t guaranteed to be a deal.
Know that HUD homes are sold as-is. There isn’t much negotiating like that of a typical home purchase. As the new owner, you’ll be responsible for all of the repairs. It’s a good idea to invest in a home inspection before you buy a HUD home for this reason. You’ll have a better understanding of what you’re getting into with this type of home purchase.
How Do You Begin The Search For A HUD Home?
Housing and Urban Development homes are listed by state on the department’s website. This is a good place to start your search. The site also lists brokers who are approved by the HUD. You can then contact local brokers to show you the HUD properties that you’re interested in.
The Process Of Making An Offer
Buying a HUD property can be very different than buying any other type of home in that the offer process is a bit different. These properties are sold through bids. You must hire a licensed real estate agent to assist you in this process, you can’t just put a bid in on your own. You’ll need to be sure that your offer is placed during the designated offer period. Either the highest bid is accepted or the bid that came in first in order will be taken. Generally, the HUD wants to take the offer that will get them the most profit.
Careful With Financing
The HUD does not finance homes. You’ll need to apply for a mortgage just as you would in buying any other home. Before you can even make an offer on a home you must have approved financing. If for some reason you get through the process of having your offer accepted on the home and the financing falls through, there’s a chance that you could lose your earnest money deposit.
If you plan to sell your house in the near future, it often pays to focus on your garage. In fact, doing so may help you find innovative ways to differentiate your residence from other available houses and boost your chances of a fast, profitable home sale.
Ultimately, there are many quick, easy ways to transform an ordinary home garage into an exceptional one – here are three tips to help you do just that.
1. Remove Clutter
From rusty automotive parts to assorted paint cans and tools, your garage may be filled with a wide range of excess items. However, if you spend some time decluttering, you can cut down on excess items and improve your garage's appearance.
Separate must-keep items from excess ones in your garage. Then, if you have an abundance of clutter, you can host a yard sale or list excess items online.
Furthermore, if you're struggling to get rid of garage clutter, you may be able to donate some items to charity. By doing so, you can do a good deed and eliminate clutter from your garage at the same time.
2. Perform Deep Cleaning
A neat, well-organized garage can make a world of difference in homebuyers' eyes. Thus, you should focus on cleaning your garage from top to bottom.
Sweeping the floors usually offers a great starting point for garage cleaning. You also can wipe down tool benches and other garage surfaces and vacuum your garage as needed.
In addition, don't forget to err on the side of caution as you clean your garage. And if it's been many months since you last cleaned your garage, you should wear goggles, hand protection and a face mask while you clean.
3. Consult with a Real Estate Agent
When it comes to getting a home garage show-ready, hiring a real estate agent is a must. With a real estate agent at your side, you can find the best ways to enhance your house's appearance both inside and out.
Typically, a real estate agent will meet with you before you list your house. He or she then will examine each area of your home – including the garage – and offer honest, unbiased home maintenance and improvement tips. That way, you can prioritize various home upgrades.
A real estate agent will even provide expert support throughout the home selling journey. For example, if you need extra help cleaning your garage, a real estate agent can put you in contact with professional home cleaning companies in your city or town. Or, if you're unsure about how much your home is actually worth, a real estate agent can provide housing market data to help you price your residence appropriately.
Unfortunately, home sellers sometimes ignore garage cleaning as they prep their residences for the real estate market. But with the aforementioned tips, you should have no trouble upgrading your garage and transforming this area into a key differentiator for your home.
For generations, people have been saying that "the kitchen is the heart of the home." The meaning of that expression is open to interpretation, but just about everyone would agree that kitchens are generally a relaxing place where family and friends congregate.
Although there are a lot of things to consider when searching for just the right house that meets your needs, the size of your next kitchen and its practicality are important things to keep in mind. If you enjoy hosting dinner parties and family gatherings, a large kitchen with plenty of seating room and counter space is highly desirable.
In addition to the fact that you need space to prepare and serve food, you may also need room to put out snacks, hors d'oeuvres, and beverages. If your objective is to serve meals "buffet style" or "family style," then you'll also want to line up the necessary supplies, such as plates, napkins, utensils, cups, and condiments.
While a large, open kitchen is not absolutely essential to the success of a dinner party or holiday gathering, it does provide convenience, food serving options, and more mingling space. If you end up buying a home with a narrow galley kitchen, then you'll have to rely more on adjoining rooms for entertaining guests and serving food.
On a day-to-day basis, spacious eat-in kitchens are usually much more practical for busy families, too. Otherwise, space is at a premium and family members may find themselves bumping into each other as they prepare meals, wash cookware, or put away dishes. As you can imagine (or have experienced first-hand), a claustrophobic kitchen does not lend itself to family harmony! On the other hand, having a place where family members can comfortably sit across from each other at meal time lends itself to open communication and, hopefully, better family relations.
Other characteristics of an "ideal kitchen" might include energy-efficient appliances, a floor that's both attractive and spill resistant, and sufficient lighting in food preparation and eating areas. If homes you're considering don't have dimmer switches, that's a relatively simple and inexpensive feature to install -- preferably with the help of an electrician. Having the ability to soften the intensity of light will enable you to decrease the room's brightness and transition to a "relaxation mode" at the end of the day. Being able to turn the brightness back up will come in handy for paying bills at the kitchen table, reading the newspaper (if you don't access it online), helping your kids with their homework, or playing cards or board games.
Whether your kitchen requirements include stainless steel appliances, a quartz or granite island with a gas stove, or just plenty of room for a large kitchen table and chairs, your real estate agent will work with you to find the home that best matches your needs, lifestyle, and budget.
If you plan to pursue a condo, it generally is a good idea to know exactly what to expect. That way, you can map out a successful condo buying journey, one that ensures you can avoid potential pitfalls along the way.
Ultimately, there are many factors to consider as you get ready to embark on the condo buying journey, and these include:
1. Where You Want to Live
The condos in a big city often are very different from those available in a small town. Thus, you should make a list of your condo must-haves prior to starting a condo search to boost the likelihood of a seamless condo buying experience.
Furthermore, think about where you want to live before you kick off your condo search – you'll be happy that you did. Because if you can narrow your condo search to properties in a group of cities or towns, you may be able to speed up your condo search.
2. Your Budget
If you intend to buy a condo, you'll likely need a mortgage. Thankfully, many banks and credit unions are available, and these lenders can teach you everything that you need to know to put together a successful budget.
Banks and credit unions employ friendly, knowledgeable mortgage specialists. If you connect with these mortgage specialists, you can learn about a variety of mortgage options and make an informed mortgage selection.
Also, don't forget to plan ahead for potential condo dues. Most condos provide lawn care, snow removal and other amenities that are covered under monthly or annual condo fees. Although these fees may not be included in your mortgage, you'll need to put aside funds each month to cover them. Therefore, you'll want to account for potential condo fees as you craft your condo buying budget.
3. Condo Living
Living in a condo and residing in a house are not the same thing. As such, you should try to prepare for condo living as much as possible to ensure that the condo lifestyle is right for you.
For example, condo owners typically won't have to worry about performing lawn care thanks to their condo fees. At the same time, condo owners will need to comply with various regulations established by a community's homeowner's association (HOA). In fact, failure to comply with HOA rules could result in fines or other penalties.
If you want to get a better understanding about what it's like to live in a particular condo community, it may be beneficial to consult with a real estate agent with condo buying expertise. This housing market expert can offer insights into different condo communities in your city or town. Then, if you want to pursue a condo in a specific community, a real estate agent can help you purchase your ideal condo.
Ready to take the guesswork out of buying a condo? Consider the aforementioned factors, and you can streamline the process of going from condo buyer to condo owner.