Questions to Ask Before Buying a House



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.

Questions to Ask When Buying a Home

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 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.

7 Popular Kitchen Design Trends For 2021 You Will Love


Are you looking to update your kitchen? In 2021, there are several trends that are being adopted widely.

Kitchens are one of the most commonly used rooms in the entire house by many homeowners and families. You can spice up your current layout by considering one of these stunning and notable designs.

Renovating your kitchen is not only practical, but it can also add value to your property. If you have plans to sell your house in the future, an updated kitchen will typically increase your final sale price. Don’t skimp out on this renovation when altering the design.

Here are several popular items that homeowners typically upgrade:

  • Countertops
  • Sinks
  • Faucets
  • Lighting fixtures
  • Backsplash
  • Flooring

Now, let’s review the top kitchen design trends of 2021.

Stunning Kitchen Designs

1.) Compact Design

When working with a smaller space, it is important to consider the layout so that you can utilize every available inch. It does not matter whether the kitchen space is narrow, wide, or broken up – compact designs can fit nearly any mold.

Popularized by tiny homes, a compact kitchen brings a modern and fresh look to your home. The design ensures maximum efficiency and minimal clutter while cooking in this room.

How do you design a compact kitchen? One way is to create a section of cabinets along one wall, leaving other walls open and creating more space.

Tall wall units are preferred as compared to narrow ones to maximize the space you have. You can also include a breakfast bar or kitchen island which provides an additional sitting area.

Many of these items can really help your home sell when the time comes.

2.) Dark Colors

Interior designers are more frequently incorporating dark colors into their kitchen designs. The shift towards darker tones is giving kitchens an entirely new feel in 2021.

They typically pair well with neutral grays and whites that you can find in many modern-style houses.

These colors allow a kitchen design to become extremely adaptable, as the owner can easily offset the darker countertops with light furniture and bright colors. This creates a feeling of sophistication and luxury and also ensures space pops out.

Accent colors with shades of black and dark gray are the most common for kitchens in 2021.

Dark tones and colors are used on surfaces where they are combined with textures of wood to achieve an inviting, rustic, homely charm.

3.) Pendant Lighting

Based on last year, people are spending more and more time at home. To counter that, homeowners have been getting creating with adding light to the interior of their property.

Designers are hanging multiple spotlights and light fixtures in one localized area of the kitchen since it’s one of the most frequently used rooms in the house. 

These lights take different heights and are grouped to create an abstract art piece. This particular style of lighting is unique and artistic.

It gives the kitchen a completely different feel. Tiny homes and unique Airbnb properties also have creative lighting fixtures like these.

4.) Bold Sink Faucets

Faucets are an essential element of the kitchen. Depending on the material – whether it’s gold, silver, brass, or copper – a kitchen’s faucet sets the tone of the room.

From modern to rustic, any theme or style can be embodied by the kitchen sink. Brass industrial taps with unique handles and other interesting features are currently very popular.

Designers are coupling these faucets with similar brass material in the cupboard and drawer grips to achieve a shine across the entire room.

The advancement of technology is even making this trend go a notch higher. Touchless faucets are hygienic and also bring a luxury ambiance to the kitchen.

5.) Concealed Appliances

Despite there being an influx of tech gadgets, homeowners are still embracing the idea of concealment.

Gone are the days when the kitchen used to be a place of clutter. The aesthetics of kitchen appliances and concealment options can be the difference in creating a modern kitchen design.

This trend comes in handy at a time when the open kitchen is being adopted widely. The integration of the kitchen into our living rooms is making them the hearts of our homes.

Therefore, presenting them as the most comfortable space has never been this important. The simple trick described will also help with home staging as well.

6.) Dining Islands

Who doesn’t want to be cooking while at the same time socializing? Island and breakfast bars offer an additional spot for dining and kitchen preparations, as well as storage space. In this type of design, there is an extension of the kitchen that features a countertop and storage space.

For some, it is the ideal breakfast area.

7.) Quartz & Quartzite Countertops

Quartz is the top trending choice for countertops today. Despite being popularized in past designs, engineered quartz is also on the trending list.

A benefit of these two materials is that manufacturers use natural materials in their production.

This material can make your countertop pop. Quartz and Quartzite create an ambiance of sophistication that cannot be compared to standard kitchen granites. Consider these when thinking about your next kitchen design. 

You can also spice up things in your kitchen by adding favorite pieces of art, live plants, and statement décor pieces. This will spring your kitchen back to life and make the time spent there happy moments worth cherishing.

Every day we see new and better designs for our kitchens. Moreover, the coming of the pandemic and shift in the normal order saw a lot of changes being introduced in our home spaces.

The situation forced us to remain in our homes, making us spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Thus, appearance is one of the factors put into consideration during the design process.


The trends in cabinetry, kitchen appliances, sinks, and backsplashes are revolutionizing the kitchen game.

Despite all these new trends being suitable for nearly any type of kitchen, consider consulting with a professional designer if you plan to do a large design change.

Professional expertise can help when navigating tough design decisions during the planning phase. Moreover, you will have an objective view of what is achievable and what is not based on various factors.

What to Know About Cross Country Moving Including Tips


Tips For Moving Across The Country

You’re moving cross country, and you’ve got to figure out how to successfully move your life from here to there.

You may have just completed the process of closing on a house and now you need to move to stage two of the relocation process.

Well, a lot of folks have done this, and you can use their knowledge to get this right. Here are some things you need to take care of for this move.

Follow this guidance and some other moving tips and you’ll be in good shape.

Tips For Moving Across The Country

Insurance Is Vital

One thing you must obtain before moving is insurance. It’s one of the most important long-distance moving tips to consider. The road is not predictable. If you’re going to hire movers, be sure to purchase enough insurance for your peace of mind.

If something happens to your things, you can at least replace them, thanks to the insurance coverage.

Pest Inspection

It’s important to do a good pest inspection of your belongings, especially outside furniture. Of course, one reason you should do this is to avoid taking pests with you. Another reason you’re doing this is that pests and insects shouldn’t leave the area.

Each state tries to ensure that pests from other regions don’t invade their territory. Look for government-provided pamphlets that discuss regulations regarding pests so that you know what to look for before you pack.

Purge Items

A great piece of moving advice is to get rid of items you no longer need or want. You should go through your belongings before you pack. Chances are there’s a lot in there you don’t need anymore, and that means you can leave those things behind. Make sure you’re honest during this process.

Don’t mistake things you need to keep versus things you’re just keeping because you spent money on them. The more you take with you, the more you’ll end up spending on moving. Donate or sell what you can and throw away what can’t be of use to anyone.

Make a List

Be sure to write down everything you’re packing. This is good for you, and it’s good for your insurance. Knowing what you’re taking should make it easier to ensure everything arrived at your new home.

It might even be a good idea to take a few pictures of your items, just to be sure nothing is damaged during the trip. This part is going to take some time, so start on the list as soon as you can.

Use Professionals

Professional packers are vital for a cross-country trip. These folks will help ensure that everything is packed safely. They’ll use proper packaging material and cushions to make sure that even the most fragile items you’re packing are secure.

Again, a long trip is unpredictable, so having cushions and fasteners, and other tools movers use to secure items is important.

It may feel like you’re doing too much, but you’ll be happy when you arrive at your new place and see all of your belongings in one piece.

Get Estimates

Don’t hire the first movers you find. It’s better to talk to a few people and get a few quotes to see who’s going to provide the best service.

Cheap isn’t always better, so make sure you pay attention to what benefits they will offer you.

It might be a good idea to check out the reviews of each company you’re considering to make sure you’re making the right decision. Be sure to check out 3rd-party reviews and not just the ones on their website.

One of the most significant mistakes when selling a home is not carefully planning out your move in advance.

Be Organized

If you hire professionals, they should organize your belongings for you, but if you don’t, you’ll have to do this yourself.

The easiest way to organize your packing is to separate everything by room. Label the boxes that go in one room so that by the time you get to your new place, you only have to place each box in the right room.

It’ll be easier for everyone to unpack if you take the time to organize your belongings. Again, it’s going to take some time, but it’ll be worth the effort.

Keep Essentials

Once you get going with your packing, it might be easy to get carried away a bit. This is something you don’t want to do because you might end up packing essential items that you’ll need to have handy.

You want to keep your social security card, birth certificate, driver’s license, and other important documents with you. These are things you might need as soon as you arrive at your new place.

You should probably pack some essential clothes, too, just in case your movers don’t get there on time.

Get Sitters

On the day you move into your new place, it would be a good idea to get some sitters. You’ll want sitters for your pets and kids.

A lot is going on during this time, and it’s best to keep young kids and pets out of the way. If your kids can help, then, of course, they should stay with you, but if you’re just going to worry about them the whole time, it’s better to have them stay with professional sitters. Things will go much smoother if you do this.

Clearing The Move-In

If you happen to be moving into an apartment or a complex, then you need to make sure you clear the move-in with the building manager. Yes, this is something you have to do beforehand to avoid any issues on the day you’re moving in.

Some building managers only allow folks to move on specific days and specific hours.

Sometimes, you have to reserve elevator use to move in. Talk to the building manager before you arrive so that everything goes smoothly.

The last thing you want is to have the movers waiting outside when they should be moving your stuff in. This will end up costing you more money. Having a successful move all boils down to being prepared in advance.

You’ve got plenty of tips to help you move cross country. It’s not going to be easy to do all of this, but if you start early enough, then you’ll be okay. Don’t delay and start your planning now. Your mind will be at peace if you do.

About the author: The above article on what to know about cross country moving was written by Nancy Zafrini. Nancy is the general manager of Oz Moving & Storage in NYC. A day-one employee of Oz, she has 25 years of experience in the moving industry. As a New Yorker, Nancy also has lots of experience dealing with small apartments and organizing.

What Are Your Options for Selling a House With Code Violations?


How to Sell a Home With Building Code Violations

Do you suspect there may be some building code violations at your home? There are many tasks that need to get done before you sell your house, and making repairs is one of them.

Obvious repairs include checking your roof and fixing water leaks, but some other repairs might not be as apparent — like code violations.

Code violations often occur when homeowners do not take out the proper building permits when doing when making improvements or repairs to their property.

This is one category of fixes that might make your head spin, and it can be daunting to figure out which ones you need to make and which ones can be passed on to the next owner of your home.

The answers will depend on the value of your home and how much it might cost to remedy these code violations.

You’ll also want to have a clear picture of any fines that you might have to pay for not fixing violations and whether or not a buyer will want to take those on.

You definitely want to do your research about possible code violations in your home, before putting it on the market.

Here is an overview of your options for selling a house with code violations, with expert tips from realtors, to help relieve some of the stress involved in the process. 

Sell House Code Violations

What Does it Mean if a House Isn’t up to Code?

Building code violations range from simple fixes to major repairs requiring a professional’s expertise. Building codes protect public health, general welfare, and safety with different rules by county, state, and even nationwide, such as with the National Electric Code (NEC), focused on safe electrical design, installation, and inspection of all types of electrical equipment.

This code is frequently updated and that means that even a functional electrical system may not be up to code if it hasn’t been updated during the last few years.

Code violations are not only a problem to address because they can make it more difficult to sell your home, they can also lead to fines.

For example, homeowners can accrue citations, violations, and fines for not cleaning their pool, forgetting to mow the lawn, and generally not maintaining their property following homeowners’ association requirements.

In fact, city fines for code violations can even accumulate by the day, meaning that the expense of fixing code violations could be less than the fines that result from a house that isn’t up to code. 

Remedy The Code Violations Before You Sell

One obvious choice, if you have the financial resources, is to bring your house completely up to code before selling it.

A Realtor can advise you on whether this is the best way to go, making considerations for the market value of your home, the return on investment for making repairs, and the possible cost of fines for not being in compliance with code rules.

Some code violations are definitely worth addressing as they may be relatively easy to fix — like making sure ceiling-mounted smoke alarms are at least 4 inches away from walls and wall-mounted alarms are 4 inches to 12 inches down from the ceiling. However, others may be better left to the next owner, especially if they are going to mean a huge job in terms of time and money.

For example: If you have a piping issue and need to re-plumb your house, that may be a greater expense than you want to take on. A contractor can be a necessary asset to figure out the fixes that are a must. 

Offer Buyers a Credit or a Lower Price to Account for Code Repairs

In the current housing market, sellers are finding buyers lining up for homes because there is not enough supply to keep up with demand. That means it could be easier now to sell a home with code violations.

You may find that buyers are willing to compromise and accept a credit or lower price which takes into consideration code violations. Not every house will fit this scenario, but if the violations are minor repairs, or are relatively easy to fix, you may be able to skip making them before selling.

If you do decide to let the buyer foot the bill for code violation fixes, there is more than one way to come to a compromise. Some sellers might offer buyers a credit at closing, considering the expense to make repairs on the home, as long as the code violations don’t pose a safety or health threat.

What’s key is to let buyers know upfront about all of the code violations that are present in your home, and then lowering the price accordingly — working with your agent and a contractor.

A similar solution is selling your house as-is at a lower price, with buyers knowing that they will need to make repairs. This can be done with a traditional sale, where the buyer finances the purchase with a mortgage, or to a cash buyer, which is a special type of buyer that may not be purchasing a house to live in. 

Sell Your House as-is to a Cash Buyer

If you are trying to sell a house with code violations that affect your home’s livability or that would be cost-prohibitive to fix, you may be better off selling it “as-is” for cash.

Cash buyers are the most likely type of buyer to accept a house “as-is” with code violation fixes. One of the most common categories of cash buyers is iBuyers. iBuyers are institutional investors, national house flippers, or startup ups, which are in the business of purchasing homes directly.

While you are likely to get less for your home with this type of buyer than going the more traditional route of selling your house, if you have a lot of code violations and don’t want to deal with them before selling, this may be the way to go.

A real estate agent can help you figure out how much you might get for your home from a cash buyer vs. a traditional sale.

While a real estate agent is your best source, you can start by doing your research on HomeLight’s Simple Sale Platform, which partners with over 100 nationwide pre-approved iBuyers to connect sellers with cash buyers.

Selling a house as-is to a cash buyer is often faster than a traditional home sale, which is another advantage if you need to move quickly. 

Code violations don’t have to mean a long process before you can sell your home. Depending on the violations you could opt for a quick fix, or pass the repairs on to a buyer.

There are so many variables to consider that it’s wise to research the fixes and the cost to remedy them before making any decisions about how to proceed. Selling a home in bad condition almost always means you’ll net less money so you have to decide if it’s worth it.

The right solution will depend on your specific situation and a real estate agent and contractor can advise you about different options from making the repairs, offering buyers a discount with some repairs still needed, or selling your house as-is.

With more than one option, the key is to consider your timeline and goals for your sale and then weigh how you can make your home sale fit in with them. Selling a house with code violations is definitely possible, with, or without, making all of the repairs ahead of time.