Questions to Ask Before Buying a House

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What to Know When Buying a Home For The First Time

Buying a home for the first time can be daunting. Before you put down your hard-earned deposit and sign away the next 15-20 years of your lives, there are a few points to clarify, and this is the time to ask the questions.

When you are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, there are no questions that are too trivial. If you have a real estate agent, make sure you lean on them for advice. If they are worth their salt, they will be someone to lean on for all the things you’re unsure of.

Having a first-time home buying guide is always useful. You can also seek assistance from family and friends that have already been through the process.

Consider a few of the following points as a first time home buyer. These are great questions to ask yourself as you journey towards owning your first house.

  • How far will you be from work, and how good is the public transport?
  • How long does the commute take?
  • Do you want to live near shops, schools, hospitals, cafes, and parks?
  • Will you be near enough to Mom and Dad so you can drop in for dinner?
  • If you are pregnant, how near is your hospital?
  • Can the kids walk to school? Homes in sought after school districts always sell really well! So even if you are not having children consider this fact from a resale perspective.
  • You want a neighborhood with a good community appeal, where you have a large enough population to support cafes and diverse restaurants, and possibly a good pizza/sub shop.
  • Do you have a dog? You will want an off-leash dog park, to take Fido for a run, and a local vet.
  • You are busy, so look for a home requiring minimal renovation. Major renovations are not affordable when you are in your first home. It would help if you got a bit more equity first. Having said that, even minor renovations require a handy hardware store nearby.
  • Try not to exceed your budget. The lender will look for some leeway in the budget, so when you choose a home, make sure, based on your combined salaries, that you can afford it. You want to keep your housing costs, including insurances, between 25% and 28% of your monthly take-home pay. This is a bit easier for a couple than for a single buyer.
  • Are you eligible for any first home buyer grants or incentives? The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also provides grants to first home buyers. If you apply early in the new financial year, you may be eligible to receive one, important to apply early as the program has limited funds, is soon exhausted, and is not refunded until the following fiscal year. You just may qualify!

Questions to Ask When Buying a Home

Questions to Ask and Things to Do Before Buying a Home

Get a Mortgage Preapproval

Once you have everything in place, try to get your mortgage preapproval in writing from a well-known lender. It is always a good idea to comparison shop a few lenders as well before settling on one.

Be prepared to have your financial information (proof of employment and income) verified for written preapprovals.

These last for about three months and you are then ‘buyer ready.’

Make Sure You Have a Professional Home Inspection.

Have a look to be sure that the roof, foundation, HVAC systems, flooring, and walls are all in good order. Make sure you have a house inspection before closure done by a well respected local professional.

You really want to know before you put the escrow deposit down if there is anything to be done. Home inspections are also a great learning exercise about the property you are purchasing.

The home inspector will go over all the systems, especially the furnace, air-conditioning, and electrical. They will check the basement for dampness and mold. A good inspector will also have a keen eye for evidence of termites, other insects, and rodents.

Getting a home inspection done is especially important when you are purchasing a fixer-upper home.

Is The Home Low Lying?

Is the house near a river or a low lying flood plain. You don’t want to be paying for flood insurance as it is costly. If the area is a flood zone, it might be why the home is cheaper. Once a house is flooded, it is never the same again. So, avoid any possible flood area.

Is The House on a Busy or Noisy Road?

Houses on major roads are usually less expensive. If you decide to purchase on a major road, make sure that the house has insulation, as a major road can be very noisy and polluting. Avoid big thoroughfares if you can, because it won’t have a good resale value.

Think About Using a Buyer’s Agent?

If you are having difficulty sifting through the choices available, you may decide to hire a buyer’s agent. It likely won’t cost you anything as real estate commissions are typically paid by sellers.

A great buyer’s agent will be in your corner working hard to find you the right home. The best agents will not offer any pressure for you to purchase. If you are a busy professional, having someone scouring the multiple listing service for you every day can be a godsend.

Make an Offer Stick

Start attending open houses to get a feel for the market. Are real estate values rising, falling, or stable. If home prices are falling, that will be good news for you. It might be possible to find a house you previously thought to be unaffordable.

When you find the home that makes you happy, you’ll want to pounce on it, especially if it is an excellent deal. Get together with your real estate agent and write the offer. Be prepared to have some give and take, which is often the case. Negotiating is something buyers, and sellers do. Try to make it a win-win if you can.

If the seller has already bought elsewhere, you will probably be in the driver’s seat as there will be some urgency to get a deal done.

On the other hand, if you are in a hot seller’s market, be prepared to move quickly. There could be multiple offers and bidding wars. Unfortunately, there will be less flexibility. To get the house you really want, you’re probably going to need to step up to the plate and give the seller their desired terms.

It is vital to be proactive at this stage, as you want to get into a house before your preapprovals expire. The financial markets are very mercurial, and especially in a rising market, conditions change very quickly.

Prepare For Moving

One of the most arduous tasks when buying or selling a home is moving. The move can not only be physically stressful but mentally as well. There are so many things to get done. Did you change your address with the post office? How about getting one of the best moving companies in the area?

Maybe you have found that hiring professional movers will be too expensive and rent a moving truck instead? Lots of folks choose to rent a moving truck from U-Haul because of the convenience and lower cost.

These are all things that should be thought about well in advance. Proper planning goes a long way when buying your first house.

Final Thoughts on Buying a First House

Once you have the finance approved for your new house, it is important to be ready to recognize and grab a good deal when it comes along. Buying a home for the first time can be a full time and stressful job. You will have a limited amount of time to perform what seems like an endless list of tasks. The good news is, it will soon be over, and you will be in your own home.

Hopefully, you have found some of these first-time homebuyer tips to be useful.

Would You Buy a Haunted House in This Real Estate Market

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Purchasing a Haunted House in 2022

With Halloween just around the corner we thought we would take a look at buying a home that has paranormal activity. Would you buy a haunted house?

If you said yes, you’re not alone. According to new research, 73% of Americans say they’d consider purchasing haunted real estate in a competitive market (but 52% say they wouldn’t pay full market value). 

Read on to learn more spooky stats and freaky findings from the survey.

76% of Americans Believe in the Supernatural in 2021 

Of those supernatural believers, 44% say they’ve experienced more supernatural events since the start of the pandemic. Millennials are 3x more likely than boomers to report an increase in supernatural activity. 

44% of Americans Believe They’ve Lived in a Haunted House 

Perhaps with 71% of Americans with remote-friendly jobs now working significantly more hours from home, there’s more opportunity to observe ghostly comings and goings than in the pre-pandemic days. In 2020, just 24% of Americans believed they have lived in a haunted house. 

Buy Haunted House

Some Things Are Scarier to Homeowners Than a Haunted House

Only 5% of respondents said ghosts were the scariest part of homeownership. Homeowners, instead, are more afraid of:

  • ​​Mold (57%)
  • Foundation issues (56%)
  • Termites (54%)
  • Asbestos (54%)
  • Water damage (54%)
  • Pests (e.g., cockroaches, mice, spiders, etc.) (53%)
  • A leaky roof (53%)
  • Outdated electrical system (51%)
  • Lead paint (51%)
  • A leaky basement (48%)
  • Old plumbing (47%)
  • Radon (44%)
  • A broken furnace (41%)
  • Broken central air conditioning (41%)

Whether you’re buying a home for your family or are an investor taking advantage of a 1031 exchange, there may be worse things than ghosts when it comes to living in or flipping a home.

If the potential for ghosts or other paranormal activity is there it may be one of the questions you ask when buying a house.

Also Scary: Many Americans Lack Basic Safety Features in Their Homes

Although American homeowners fear floods, tornadoes and other natural disasters (54%), fires (49%), and other hazardous threats, many households don’t have basic safety features in their homes. 

For example, many homeowners lack a radon detector (66%), an alarm system (45%), a carbon monoxide detector (40%), fire extinguishers (38%), and smoke detectors (29%). 

Ghosts Are Not a Top Deal Breaker for Most Americans

Nearly half (48%) of Americans would rather purchase a haunted house than live within a mile of a dump or waste management facility. Other deal breakers that top home buyers’ lists include buying a home near the scene of a violent crime (47%), a former meth lab (45%), or within a mile of a prison (44%). 

Many homebuyers are also not interested in property located next to a cemetery (39%), where someone died of natural causes (26%), or with an address featuring “666” (33%).  It might take some sleuthing to know if your potential home has a haunted or notorious history, but if it means you’ll be more comfortable knowing, it’s time well-spent. 

Americans Find a Competitive Housing Market Scarier Than a Haunted House

Buying a home in the 2021 ultra-competitive housing market is tough, and 73% of Americans said they’d consider purchasing a haunted home — up from 59% in 2020 — especially if there were other benefits to offset the occasional paranormal activity. 

A surprising 27% of respondents even said they’d be willing to pay above market value for a haunted house. 

For the most part, though, 63% of respondents said they’d consider a haunted house if it came with a lower price tag. Respondents also said they would consider one if it had: 

  • A safer neighborhood (57%)
  • Friendly ghosts (53%)
  • Modern renovations and/or appliances (41%)
  • A larger yard or more land (39%)
  • More square footage (38%)
  • A better school district (37%)
  • Closer to amenities (28%)

In a competitive market, buyers have less opportunity to be selective based on limited housing stock. 

The tight market could also be why more than 1 in 10 Americans said they wouldn’t move immediately even if they saw signs of paranormal activity. In one survey, 48% of respondents said they’d try to get to know the ghost, 13% said they’d try to get rid of the ghost, 17% said they’d ignore the ghost, while 21% said they would sell their house

Buying or Selling a Stigmatized House in a Competitive Market

Although many homeowners apparently feel comfortable sharing their space with spirits, others said they would put their home on the market immediately under certain conditions, including if objects moved or levitated on their own (45%), they saw a ghost (37%), or their children suddenly behaved strangely in the home (40%).

Others said they’d move if a serious crime was committed nearby (38%) or if they learned about a crime previously committed in the home (34%). 

Buying or selling a stigmatized home in a competitive market can be either a blessing or a curse, depending on which side of the buying/selling coin you’re on. A home might be stigmatized from its reputation for hosting paranormal guests, but it can also suffer from negative associations with infamous crimes, violence or other unfortunate events that may have occurred in or near the home. A famous home featured in movies or TV might also be stigmatized if it attracts an endless stream of tourists or fans. 

Because stigmatized properties are harder to sell — typically they sell for 3% less and take 45% longer to sell — buyers willing to overlook the negative psychological impact of such a home may be able to get a bargain. As a buyer, tell your real estate agent that you’re open to the possibility of a haunted or other hard-to-sell home if it means you can make an offer that allows you to stretch your dollars further. 

Keep in mind that even if the house you’re buying is stigmatized, you still need to do your due diligence, especially if the market is ultra competitive. Make sure your credit score is healthy, your financing is in order, and this is the right house for you. Remember, chances are, you may encounter the same challenges in eventually selling the home in the future. 

Homeowners desperate to unload a stigmatized home and move as quickly as possible should be aware of the disclosure laws in their state. Some states require that sellers inform buyers of any stigmas associated with the property, but 62% of the survey’s respondents said they wouldn’t disclose a haunting to potential buyers if possible, (including 10% who would refuse even if the law required it). 

Work with a broker who can help you frame the sale as an opportunity for buyers looking to make a wise purchase and don’t mind working with, rather than against, the notoriety.

What to Know About Moving Long Distance

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Moving is one of life’s most exciting and stressful times. The thrill of moving to a new location with opportunities to explore and get to know a new community can be quickly chilled by the logistics of a long-distance move.

Whether your next move is across the country or across the globe, here’s what you need to consider during a long-distance move.

Planning for a long-distance move

Proper planning for a long-distance move is the difference between a relatively seamless transition and a total nightmare. It doesn’t matter if you are leaving a small rental property or a luxury home.

Here’s how to plan so your long-distance move goes smoothly. 

Manage your moving timeline

Begin at the end: When do you need to be settled in your new home? Pinpoint that date and then build out a calendar of the major tasks to complete before you can hit the road.

Start by creating a personalized move checklist that includes prioritized tasks (with a timeline for completion).

Long Distance Moving

If you’re a homeowner, make a plan for the home you’re leaving. You can sell it yourself or list it with a realtor. Finding a great realtor can take time,  so keep that in mind as you set up your move timeline. If you are moving out of state as part of a divorce and need to calculate a house buyout, a realtor can help with this, too.

Are you moving for a job? Your new company may be able to help with locating housing and managing the moving process. Check-in with them to see what assistance they offer.

Should you hire long-distance movers?

You’ll need to decide whether to hire a long-distance moving company or to move yourself. The main advantage in hiring a long-distance mover is their experience with complicated logistics. Regardless of the size of your house, a long-distance move is tricky. 

The easiest part is deciding which size van to rent. After that, consider:

  • What would you do if your moving van broke down?
  • How will you move your car?
  • How do you pack for long distances?
  • How many packing supplies do you need?
  • If a van seats two and you have a family of four, how will you move everyone?

And that’s just the beginning. Long-distance movers have the experience and equipment to safely, efficiently, and professionally pack and move your belongings. They also offer various service levels, from packing everything you own and moving it for you to simply loading boxes and furniture into their truck and delivering them to your new home.

Moving yourself can save you money, but in the end, you may find that hiring a long-distance moving company is worth it. Leave plenty of time to get quotes from at least three long-distance movers.

Inventory your stuff

You never know how much stuff you have until it’s time to make a long-distance move. Chances are good; you have way more than you think, so make a detailed assessment of what you’ll take, what you’ll donate or sell, and what needs to head to the trash. 

Now’s a good time to really pare down and decide what’s essential. Consider what you use, what’s sentimentally irreplaceable, and what “sparks joy.” Everything else should find a home elsewhere. 

If you are packing your own belongings:

  • Set up a schedule for packing
  • Gather packing supplies (bubble wrap, padding, moving boxes, etc.)
  • Follow your packing schedule
  • Label boxes clearly (i.e., “open first,” kitchen, kid’s bedroom, etc.)
  • Enlist help (friends and family)

Set aside a box of items you will need on the road. If you are driving over multiple days, make sure each family member has what they need to be comfortable. This includes any prescriptions or medical supplies they might need.

Take care of pets

Our pets are part of the family, and they need long-distance move prep, too. Please make sure all of their shots are up-to-date and have the proper gear they need for moving (e.g., crates, travel food and water bowls, etc.) well before you move.

Some animals require sedation to move — leave time to fill that prescription so your beloved pets can be comfortable.

Cats and dogs should also have a properly fitted collar with identification on it at all times. If you have not already, consider chipping your pets to be returned to you if they run away and lose that collar.

Make sure you plan for plenty of rest stops so that your animals can take breaks if they need them. 

Long-distance move paperwork

As with almost every major transition in life, a long-distance move comes with considerable paperwork. 

Before the move 

Before the move, you’ll handle the following paperwork:

  • Set up utility shut-off dates (and schedule essential utilities for your destination)
  • Cancel delivery services (food kits, newspapers, etc.)
  • Request school records
  • Request health records
  • Empty and cancel safe deposit boxes
  • Cancel local gym memberships and classes

Another major piece of paperwork involves documentation for taxes. Both selling and buying a home come with tax implications.

For example, if you sell a home in Texas and benefit from capital gains, immediately investing that growth in another house is known as a 1031 exchange. This type of transaction — reinvesting capital gains into a similar property instantly — can save you money at tax time, but only if you have proper documentation. 

Don’t forget to have your mail forwarded to your new address. Mail forwarding is a service provided by the USPS for one year. It can forward any critical mail that slips through the cracks as you move.

During the move

As you travel to your destination, keep the professional mover’s estimate, bill of lading, and inventory with you. 

You’ll also keep essential papers and documents with you on the move. These include:

  • Birth certificates
  • Death certificates or divorce papers (plus custody agreements where applicable)
  • Passport
  • Health insurance cards
  • Proof of car insurance
  • Mortgage documents 

Have a system for keeping track of all receipts during the move, as many of these expenses are tax-deductible.

After you arrive

No matter where you go, paperwork follows you. Once you arrive, set up utilities, and transfer your driver’s license, car registration, and insurance to your new home address. Most schools require evidence of residence to enroll students, so a driver’s license is critical.

With a new license and utility bill, you can also register to vote, get a library card, and join a local gym. You’ll also need to find doctors and set up new healthcare.  

Don’t forget to change addresses for: 

  • Credit cards
  • Life insurance
  • Investment accounts

Send copies of your moving receipts to your accountant, or create a file for tax purposes later.

Enjoying your long-distance move

When moving day arrives, proper planning means you should be able to wake the family up, have breakfast, and hit the road.

You’ve picked a tremendous long-distance moving company, and they’ve just hit the road. You’ve packed bags and supplies for everyone, and your route is planned and plugged into your navigation system.  

With all your hard work, it’s time to enjoy the trip to your new home.

Fall Decorating Tips After Buying Your First Home

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The Best Fall Decorating Advice For First Time Buyers

Buying your first home can be exciting with the prospect of having a space that you can make completely your own. The idea of decorating a whole home can also be overwhelming at first, especially if you are beginning from zero.

If you are just starting out as a homeowner, it can be helpful to go for improvements that offer an upgrade without a big investment of time and money.

From bringing nature indoors, to making your outdoor living space more comfortable, there are a lot of ways to up-level your new home that doesn’t involve buying all new furniture or reconfiguring your whole house.

Best of all these are great staging tips when it comes time to sell your home

Go Green

If your new home is feeling a little bare, adding plants can go a long way to add some energy and light without a big investment. The versatility of plants means that you can add them to every room and in all sizes and in a variety of containers.

Even if you don’t have a lot of floor space, you can hang a planter from your ceiling, or create a wall filled with on-trend air plants. For lower maintenance green, air plants or succulents are an ideal option.

By choosing plants that are easy to take care of, you are more likely to keep them looking their best and to keep them as a decorative feature in your home for longer.

An added benefit of plants is that they can create oxygen and light in your home, and also up the relaxation level.

While it might be tempting to go for faux plants, they won’t offer the same benefits as the real thing, and so you’re better off getting a few low-maintenance plants that you know you can take care of.

Let There Be Light

As part of your real estate due diligence, you probably looked over the lighting carefully of all the homes you visited. It is not unusual as most buyers favor bright homes vs those that feel like a cave. That’s not to say you can’t make your house even better.

If your new home has a lot of natural light, optimizing it can transform your space into a modern sanctuary.

To maximize how light enters your home, instead of drapes or other heavy window coverings, pick light-colored blinds, or even go without blinds, depending on the kind of privacy that you need.

For blinds, if you are going with wood or wood tones, the lighter the better to really add a modern touch. If you don’t have a lot of natural light, adding floor lighting or even making an extra upgrade with a skylight for single-level homes can be worth the investment.

You can opt for lampshades or pendant lights in on-trend materials like bamboo, jute, or wicker, to brighten your room even more.

Return to Nature

Design trends for 2021 are all about bringing nature indoors, not only with plants, but also with natural fibers for rugs, furniture, and other home decor pieces. That might mean rattan, wicker, or bamboo furniture, or pillows and rugs in linen or cotton.

If you already have furniture from your previous home that you want to update, you don’t have to buy new furniture but can add pillows, carpets, and throw blankets in natural fabrics.

A few decorative pieces can transform how your furniture looks in your space, and give it a refresh, without having to spend a lot of time or money.

If you do want to opt for updated furniture or decorative items in bamboo or rattan — and you are sticking to a budget for your first home — you don’t have to buy these items new, but can look at consignment stores for vintage pieces that have a contemporary feel, as styles from the 1960s are now back in.

Get creative with your space and think of small ways that you can incorporate some natural elements.

Even a detail as simple as a wooden bowl filled with fruit can change the energy of your kitchen or dining room with a natural touch.

Make it Cozy

A big trend for 2021 is optimizing outdoor living spaces to transform them into living rooms in their own right.

Even in fall and winter, you can take advantage of your outdoor space and also think ahead to warmer months. That means replacing uncomfortable patio furniture with cushioned chairs and couches like you’d find in a living room, but instead covering them with all-weather fabric.

Coordinated pillows and rugs (also in all-weather materials) are another addition to make your outdoor area feel like a designated extension of your home.

As we head into fall and winter, fire pits are on-trend to keep that outdoor space cozy all year round. A moveable, above-ground fire pit is the easiest to start with as you can put it together in an afternoon and then move it to wherever it fits the best in your yard, or bring it inside when you aren’t using it.

With firepits in a variety of sizes, it’s an upgrade that can work for almost any home.

Get Creative With Your Space

In 2021, designers are talking about saying goodbye to open floor plans, and hello to spaces that can serve multiple functions.

In your new home, you might want to think about arranging your furniture so that you can follow this decorating tip, not only to give your home a modern layout, but to efficiently use your space for working, studying, relaxing, and maybe even home workouts.

That might mean moving a couch into the center of a room to divide your space, or adding a work nook in the kitchen. For lounge areas, cocooning furniture is in, with comfortable fabrics and overstuffed cushions.

Deep pile rugs and chairs in heavy-weight wools, mohair, and sheepskin can also be added to create an easy relaxing area.

Decorating your first home can be a fun project and thinking about design trends can give it a modern look with a few simple additions.

Focusing on plants, updated furnishings, and bringing extra comfort to indoor and outdoor space can be a great place to start. With just a weekend you can turn your new house into a home that you can get comfortable in.

About the author: The above article on fall decorating tips was written by the Homelight team. HomeLight provides helpful advice to buyers and sellers to make smart real estate decisions.