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.

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.

How Marijuana Legalization Affects Home Prices

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What economic impact does legal marijuana have on real estate? How does a neighborhood dispensary affect nearby home values? Can savvy property investors take advantage of marijuana-related real estate trends?

When house hunting you may want to add this to your list of considerations or then again maybe it is something you want to avoid.

Whatever the case may be, you will be better equipped to make an informed decision when it comes to marijuana and home prices after reading our guide.

A recent study by Clever Real Estate can answer these questions and perhaps point you to a lucrative investment. 

Marijuana Legalization and Home Prices

Legal Marijuana and Home Price Appreciation: Is There a Link?

Researchers at Clever Real Estate analyzed publicly available data from Zillow, the US Census, and other sources to determine any relationship between real estate values, cannabis legalization, local dispensaries, and tax revenue.

Here are some of their findings:

  • Real estate values: Between April 2017 and April 2021, home values increased by $17,113 more in states where recreational marijuana is legal than in states where marijuana is illegal or allowed for medical use only. And housing values in states with some form of legal cannabis, whether medicinal or recreational us, increased by $6,338 more than in states without legal marijuana. 
  • Local dispensaries: Real estate values increased $22,090 more in cities with recreational dispensaries than in cities where recreational marijuana is legal but dispensaries are not available. And every dispensary in a city added increased home values by an average of $519.
  • Tax revenue: The eight states with fully developed marijuana programs earned $2.3 billion in tax revenue in 2020. On average, home values increased by $470 for every $1 million increase in tax revenue.

Why would the availability of recreational cannabis impact property values? It appears to create a virtuous circle — the industry generates new jobs and demand for residential and commercial space, which pushes prices and property tax revenue up.

Marijuana also increases sales tax revenue, which state and local governments use to boost public services and schools. This eventually makes an area more desirable and more expensive. 

How Does Recreational Marijuana Impact Local Economies?

The results of recreational marijuana’s impact on local economies are mixed and depend on the locality. 

Real estate markets with fully operational systems for recreational marijuana use may attract more homebuyers, including marijuana consumers, businesspeople, and employees.

With more marijuana stores opening up, says the Forbes Real Estate Council, “the demand for labor is on the rise, and so is the need for homes. Increased property sales and higher rents will be the most significant payoffs.”

A 2020 University of Oklahoma study concluded that “within states that legalize recreational marijuana use, homes experience a positive valuation shock when a dispensary opens nearby, and that “there is a large positive spillover effect on the housing market following legalization.”

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) conducted its own research and reported similar findings — that “states, where medical and recreational marijuana have been legalized for more than three years, have seen more increases in demand for commercial properties.” In fact, demand for warehouses increased by 42%, storefronts rose by 27%, and land by 21%.

However, the results are not uniform when it comes to residential real estate. In 12% of communities, says the NAR, property values rose after opening a new dispensary nearby. But prices fell in 27% of neighborhoods with new dispensaries.

So although legal marijuana might be a positive development for a state’s economy and overall property values, it might not be great for specific localities — it really depends on a town’s population, culture, political climate, and proximity to other towns that do or do not have dispensaries. 

Are Marijuana Dispensaries the New Trader Joe’s?

Back in 2019, Attom Data Solutions analyzed home prices and trends and concluded that homes flipped near a Trader Joe’s experienced an average gross return of 31% and a 5-year home price appreciation of 33%.

The Forbes Real Estate Council says, “It’s interesting to note that new dispensaries’ impact on housing prices is rather similar to new grocery stores’ impact. A preference for neighborhoods with more dispensaries for convenience could indicate that marijuana stores are increasingly seen as one of the top amenities for some homebuyers.”

When considering the “location, location, location” of a home purchase, it’s probably smart to factor in areas slated for the addition of dispensaries. 

Is There a Downside to Legal Marijuana?

There are varying opinions. A University of Wisconsin study found that Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, experienced a sharp increase in housing demand (attributed to marijuana-related employment growth), lower crime rates (because marijuana use was no longer a crime), and “additional amenities located in close proximity to retail conversions.”

However, groups against legal cannabis have brought up potential problems:

  • Increased suicide and mental illness
  • A rise in traffic deaths
  • Spike in drug-related crime
  • Reduced teen academic achievement
  • Harm to public health

Investigators at the Cato Institute reviewed previous studies and new data and concluded that these fears were largely unfounded. They assert that “we found that the strong claims made by both advocates and critics are substantially overstated and in some cases entirely without support from existing legalizations; mainly, state legalizations have had minor effects.”

Investment Opportunities: States to Consider

If you own income properties in states without legal recreational marijuana, consider trading some for investment property in established cannabis-friendly states or states with cannabis industries that are just getting off the ground.

You might, for instance, effect a 1031 tax-deferred exchange from a property in South Carolina, where marijuana is illegal, to one in Illinois, where marijuana is legal. Keep in mind that commercial properties also surged in value where cannabis is legal — you needn’t stick to residential buildings.

Illinois is surrounded by states that either has not legalized cannabis or have legalized it for medical use only. That creates more potential cannabis-related appreciation than a home right next to a cannabis-friendly state.

Oregon, for instance, has legalized recreational marijuana, but it’s adjacent to several established recreational use states — California, Washington, and Nevada. 

One question you may have when buying property is whether to buy in states that have legalized recreational marijuana but have not yet implemented sales, so they have not yet begun to see the increased sales tax revenue or the addition of industry-related jobs. That’s not a bad idea. Once these states fully develop their cannabis sales, expect home prices to rise faster than they otherwise would. 

Clever looked into five developing cannabis states and reports that, “According to our analysis, these five states (Montana, New Mexico, New York, Virginia, Vermont) would have seen home values increase by an average of $61,343 had they legalized recreational marijuana in 2017.” 

There are 22 states that have legalized marijuana but have not yet deployed sales. Of these, 19 have only legalized medicinal cannabis, while three have legalized all uses. It’s recreational use that drives higher home price appreciation, but even medical use has a positive effect.

Of course, many factors determine the potential return of investment property — but legal cannabis is an important consideration when you’re looking to build or buy an investment property.

Home Maintenance Tips for New Homeowners

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9 Home Maintenance Tasks New Homeowners Should Do

When someone buys a home for the first time, it seems there is always another person involved along the way.

For example, either the current homeowner or the real estate agent is present during the home showing.

You meet with your lender to sign the loan application and provide your asset & income information.

At the closing, there is usually an attorney, or at the least, the attorney’s assistant, to direct the flow of paperwork and get the signatures in the right place. The real estate agent and the seller of the home will likely be at the closing too.

Then, new key in hand, you visit your new home! But all of those other people are gone, and you are left to be the freshly minted homeowner all on your own.

That can be quite a bit of responsibility. Listed below are suggestions for keeping the home in top shape with home maintenance tips for new homeowners.

When you eventually sell the house, keeping your home in great shape will help immensely.

Do be sure that whenever you start making improvements that there are no building permits required. Many homeowners have gone down the road of making renovations and upgrades where permits were required.

It can certainly put you in a precarious position when it comes time to put your home up for sale.

Home Maintenance Tips

Review the Thermostat

Look over the thermostat and choose a temp that is comfortable for you. More importantly, review the type of thermostat.

Modern thermostats can be programmed to change the temp multiple times throughout the day. This can save you significant money on the power bill.

For example, during the winter months, you can have the thermostat automatically change to a cool temp as you leave for work. This keeps the house at a decent temperature while you are away. The temp can be increased slightly before your arrival.

A similar schedule can be set up if you are away on vacation.

Install New Locks on the Entry Doors

Contact a local locksmith and ask that they replace the main locks on the front and back doors.

You have no idea how many people had a key to your home before you moved in. It is a good idea to start on a clean slate and be the only owner of keys of the new place.

If you are handy with tools, you can also try to replace the locks on your own.

Test the Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Now is the time to put new batteries in both the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. This gives you peace of mind that they have power to them, and you know how long the batteries should last based on the package for the batteries.

Make sure to test these items at least once per year to ensure they will alarm if necessary.

Locate the Main Breaker Box

You never know when you will have to reset an electrical breaker or shut off a breaker.

Go through the exterior and interior of the home to locate the main breaker box.

Label each breaker so that you are aware of which control will terminate electricity to what part of the house. If you need to replace something, such as a light fixture or major appliance, it may be necessary to shut off the breaker. Labeling each circuit will greatly help you in the future.

Replace the Filters for HVAC System

The filters for the heating and air conditioning system are the primary maintenance item to keep the system operating efficiently.

Replace these filters when you first move in. Plan to replace these filters once per month as long as you own the home.

Inspect Area Around Windows and Doors

Windows and doors can be a big drain on the heating and air condition system, and also allow in too much water, if they are not properly sealed.

First, see if there is too much air getting in around the frame of the windows and doors. For windows, you can add caulk to stop any air leaks. For doors, you can add weather stripping.

Make sure to use the right kind of caulk. There are different variations, one for the exterior of the window and one for the interior of the window.

If you add fresh caulk and weatherstripping to the windows and doors, this should last for a handful of years before it is time to replace it again.

Clean out Vent for Dryer

Your clothes dryer has an exhaust that pushes out air and lint to the outside of the home. Over time, this exhaust can get clogged up and needs to be cleaned.

Simply disconnect the power source for the dryer, pull the dryer away from the wall, then disconnect the exhaust tube from the dryer to the wall.

Now it is time to use a vacuum or leaf blower to clean out the vent exhaust tube that leads to the outside.

Once it is cleaned, re-connect the dryer exhaust tube and put the dryer back in place.

To optimize the dryer’s function, this process needs to be repeated every 6 months.

Inspect and Clean Gutters

The gutters divert water away from the home’s foundation. This is a very important part of the home.

Take time to first inspect the gutters to determine that they are all in good working order and there is no issue with the connection of the gutter to the home.

Next, remove all leaves, twigs, and other items out of the gutter. Spray some water in the gutter and notice the flow of water coming out of the ends.

The gutters will need to be cleaned at least once per year. If you have numerous trees around the home, you may need to clean out the gutters twice in the autumn season.

Check Seal on Deck

If your home has a deck, the wood needs to be properly sealed to protect against weather.

Spray some water on the deck. The water should immediately turn into small beads that pop up on the wood. If not, this means the water is soaking into the wood and will lead to rot.

If the water is soaking in, you will need to purchase a sealer and apply it to the deck. This is done in a manner very similar to painting with a roller.

After you have applied the sealer, the wood should be protected for at least one year. The seal will need to be tested yearly to prevent rot.

Final Thoughts on Home Maintenance For New Homeowners

Following these home maintenance suggestions should keep your home in good shape and allow you to enjoy the home for years to come.

7 Popular Kitchen Design Trends For 2021 You Will Love

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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.

Conclusion

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.