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.

How to Move Alone With Ease

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Americans have always been mobile people, but thanks to the rise of remote work, a historically turbulent housing market, and enticing moving incentives such as home buyer rebates, we’re moving even more than usual. In fact, 36 million address changes were filed in 2021, an 80% uptick from the 20 million filed in 2020, according to the U.S. Postal Service.

As anyone who’s packed up their life and moved across the city or country knows, moving is tough. One recent study found that people thought moving was more stressful than going through a divorce, having kids, or starting their first job. 

It’s expensive, too. Although most people who are moving will carefully negotiate their new home price or calculate their real estate agent’s commission, they often overlook the cost of a move. The same study found that Americans spend just more than $1,700 on the average move. 

As more Americans move and demand for moving services increases, prices rise too. However, there are a lot of ways to make a move easier. Here are eight of the best tips to make moving cheaper and less stressful.

Moving Alone

1. Consider Hiring Professional Movers

If you have the means to pay for professional movers and you’re willing to shell out the cash, it can save you a lot of labor. 

Professional movers can handle every aspect of your move from start to finish. They’ll come to your home, pack your belongings with packing supplies they provide, load your stuff, transport it to your new home, unpack, and dispose of the packing materials. They can also provide specialized services, such as disassembling and reassembling furniture, as well as packing and handling fragile objects.

However, professional movers can be expensive. Hiring a moving company to move a studio or one-bedroom apartment from New York City to Miami will cost between $1,255 and $4,964, according to moving website MoveBuddha. If you’re moving farther or you have more stuff, you can expect to pay more and may need to take measures to keep costs low.

Finding a good moving company is a lot like finding a great real estate agent. Start by asking friends and family for referrals. Carefully check online reviews and comparison shop to save money on moving costs.

2. Discard Your Stuff

Moving is a great opportunity to get rid of things you no longer need or use. As a bonus, anything you throw out is something you won’t need to pack and move. 

Start with items that are worn out, damaged, obsolete, or broken. This may include old power cords or outdated electronics, shabby furniture, and expired medications or toiletries. 

Next, look in your closet. Get rid of any clothes that don’t fit. If you haven’t worn an item for two years or more, you can probably live without it. Toss or donate it, depending on its condition.

Some experts also suggest making a list of everything you should keep and why. Get rid of anything that’s not on the list.

3. Assemble an Essentials Bag

Once you get moving boxes, start packing, and decluttering, it’s easy to lose track of important documents. Experts suggest that you gather important papers — such as mortgage documents, utility bills, contracts, basic IDs, and information about your destination — and put them somewhere you won’t forget. It’s best to have hard copies in case your electronics die en route.

The day before departure, you’ll want to add other necessities, such as medications, phone chargers, family contact information, and essential toiletries to your bag of vitals.

4. Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute

A lot of people wait until the weekend before their big move to start packing, and they end up working around the clock or having to delay their move.

Start weeks or months in advance by discarding items you know aren’t coming with you. You can also pack belongings that are out of season, such as coats in summer or summer clothes in winter.

5. Put a System in Place

Start by getting basic packing supplies, such as sturdy moving boxes of various sizes, packing tape, bubble wrap, and moving pads for delicate items.

If you’re moving heavy items by yourself, consider getting a dolly or hand truck. Print out a moving checklist to make sure you don’t overlook anything important.

If you’re packing the truck yourself, don’t assemble big boxes full of heavy items. Moving experts suggest keeping the weight manageable by putting lighter items in big boxes and heavy items in small boxes.

For example, put curtains, sheets, or pillows in big boxes, and put heavy items, such as books, in small boxes. 

Another tip is to pack items according to where you got them and label them carefully. The contents of kitchen and bathroom drawers can often be packed directly into a box and unpacked directly into drawers at your new home. The same applies to closets and bookshelves.

6. Treat Special Items With Care

Dishes will need to be packed individually and wrapped in paper to prevent breakage. Your mattress should be put in a special cover to prevent contamination during the move.

Many contemporary televisions, such as plasma TVs, need special handling to prevent damage. Even laying them flat can ruin the picture. Shoes may also need to be individually packed and padded. Valuables should be kept on your person during the move, just in case.

7. Get the Right Vehicle

Make sure the truck or trailer you rent can hold all your belongings. If you’re moving solo, many experts suggest getting a truck with a ramp. Being able to roll boxes and items into the truck instead of lifting them can make your move much easier and prevent injury.

8. Prepare Your New Home

If you’re moving across town, visit your new home the day before the move to make sure everything’s ready. If it’s an apartment building, make sure the building allows move-ins on the day you arrive. 

Regardless of how far you’re moving, call local utility companies to make sure your electricity, water, and heat are turned on before you get there.

There are few things more demoralizing than arriving at your new home after an exhausting move only to find that you can’t shower or charge your phone. You want to be able to hit the ground running when you move into your new home.

Hopefully, you have enjoyed all of these tips for moving alone.

7 Things to Consider When Buying a Home as a Pet Owner

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When shopping for a home, buyers need to ask themselves how the location and size of their new house will support their family’s lifestyle, as well as their pets’ comfort.

Most animal lovers consider pets part of the family, and it’s important to keep their needs in mind while house hunting. Here are seven things to consider when buying a home as a pet owner.

1. Proximity to Care, Amenities

Just like it’s important to look for homes close to schools and parks when you’re raising children, it’s crucial to buy near amenities that will benefit your pet. Moving with pets includes access to pet supply stores and veterinarian clinics, including a 24-hour health center for emergencies.

If you ever run out of food at the last minute or your pet has a health emergency, you may regret living so far away.

While looking for homes, consider how close you’ll live to dog parks, walking trails, or green spaces. Make sure to check the rules regarding pets on trails and in public parks. Some may not allow pets or have specific leashing requirements.

Buying a Home With Pets

2. Amount of Indoor, Outdoor space

Buying the perfect home for your pet could be challenging, but your focus will likely be finding a home with plenty of space for humans and animals.

You know your pets’ space needs better than anyone else, but as a general rule, bigger animals, such as large-breed dogs, are more comfortable in larger spaces with room to roam. If you have animals, such as fish, birds, and snakes, in cages or aquariums, make sure any home will have a secure place for their habitat.

Note any home features that may benefit your pet, such as big windows that create sunny patches and are perfect for watching the neighborhood. On the other hand, take note of anything that might cause problems for your pets, such as a fireplace that doesn’t have a proper cover.

If you have a dog or a cat that’s allowed outside, look for a yard with plenty of green space and a fence — or the ability to install one.

If the house does not already have one, you may be able to request a stipend for fence installation from the seller as part of their closing costs. You may also be eligible for a home buyer rebate that could subsidize the cost of any updates or repairs you need to make your home more pet friendly.

3. Durability of Building Materials

Animals can add a lot of wear and tear to a home, especially if they’re active. You can prevent significant damage to your new home by looking for properties that use durable or animal-friendly materials.

If you have a pet that sheds, consider looking for a house with hardwood floors or tile. Non-carpeted surfaces are easier to clean and less likely to be torn up or worn out by excited dogs or anxious cats.

Likewise, if you have a pet that’s prone to chewing or scratching on wood, learn more about the building materials used for trim, molding, and doors.

It’s best for the safety of your pet to use behavior modification techniques to eliminate destructive behavior, but while you’re training, you can help prevent wear and tear by buying a home with durable materials.

4. Accessibility for Aging Pets and Pets With Special Needs

Accessibility is essential for people and animals. If you have an aging pet or one with special needs, look for homes that accommodate them.

For example, if your pet has arthritis or poor vision, they will likely be more comfortable in a ranch-style home with fewer stairs than a multilevel property.

5. Storage for Pet Necessities

Top-notch real estate agents will be quick to point out closets and storage rooms when you’re touring a home. Don’t be shy about asking for space to store your pets’ necessities. This includes the adequate cupboard or drawer space for food, toys, waste bags, and your pets’ other needs.

If you’re a cat owner, note where you’d be able to store litter boxes in your home. As a general rule, you should have one box for every cat. You’ll be grateful you planned ahead before buying a home and discovering you don’t have a good space for stashing the litter.

6. Pet Friendliness of the Neighborhood

Animal lovers will want to look for a neighborhood that is pet friendly. If your pets spend a lot of time outside, you want to ensure they’ll be safe. Do you see other pets in the area? Are there a lot of cars traveling at high speed? A high-traffic area or a rural area with predators could pose a danger to your pets.

If you are looking at properties with a homeowners association, check if pet policies are in place.

In addition to having rules for animal waste management, some HOAs have requirements on what kind of fence you can install and whether you can make modifications to your home’s exterior to accommodate your pets, such as adding a doggy door or a garden window for your cat or bird to sit in.

7. Make a Moving Plan

Moving is stressful, and it’s no different for your pets. Keep your pets’ well-being at the forefront of your mind while moving and look for ways to reduce or remove stress as much as possible.

Some pets may benefit from pheromone plug-ins at your old and new place before, during, and after moving day. While you’re packing boxes and removing furniture, these plug-ins release relaxing pheromones that can bring your pets peace.

Make sure all pets are properly restrained or contained while moving. This will keep them from being stepped on or accidentally let loose during all of the activity.

Best DIY Home Renovation Tips

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Home renovations don’t always require a big budget. With some planning and know-how, you can DIY your way to functional, updated spaces without spending a fortune.

The possibilities are endless, but there are a few key things to keep in mind before you get started.

Know — and Grow — Your Budget 

Every project, no matter how big or small, needs a budget to stay on track and keep costs from spiraling out of control. 

Whether you’re a seller who’s renovating to get ready to list, a renter looking for a house, or a buyer anticipating projects in your new home, the fastest way to boost your renovation budget is by saving money on real estate costs. 

Using a flat-fee agent or broker, for example, could save you thousands, which ultimately means more money for renovations. 

Consider using a credit card to pay for renovations, especially if you have an opportunity to earn cash back, points, or other rewards when you purchase materials or supplies.

Be sure to pay the balance each month to avoid interest charges, or your DIY project could end up costing significantly more than you intended.

You might also grow your DIY budget with funds from a side hustle or gig work. Setting up a separate savings account for DIY projects, particularly if you plan to space them out over time, is an ideal way to set money aside so it’s there when you’re ready. 

Best DIY Home Renovation Tips

When to DIY and When to Call a Pro

Before you take on any DIY project, ask yourself if you have the necessary time and skills to accomplish it.

There’s nothing wrong with taking on a project as a learning opportunity, provided you have the time and patience to build up your expertise, but be honest with yourself.

If you bite off more than you can chew and need to pay someone to fix your DIY disaster, it could cost you more in the long run.

And of course, some projects are best left to professionals — anything that requires a permit or will need to pass inspection, for example.

Complex electrical rewiring, plumbing, or projects that involve the basic structure of your home like the foundation or roof should be handled by a pro; now is not the time to YouTube it. 

Choose Your Projects

There’s no limit to the projects you might choose to make your home more enjoyable for everyday living but also consider growing your equity with the right home improvements.

Here are a few ideas to get started:

Paint (Almost Anything)

Nothing creates an instant facelift or provides more bang for the buck quite like a fresh coat of paint. You might: 

  • Create a feature wall by painting one wall in the room a contrasting color or slightly lighter or darker shade. Consider adding a geometric shape to highlight a focal point like a sofa or a dining table. 
  • Forgo the hassle of wallpaper, and style your walls with a stencil and paint instead.
  • Paint your front door or garden gate an eye-catching color for more curb appeal.
  • Update your kitchen cabinets by painting them in on-trend colors.
  • Paint old hardwood floors in a solid color, geometric pattern or with a painted border around the perimeter. 

Create a Home Office

Working from home is here to stay, so it might be time to ditch the dining room table office and invest in upgrading your space. You don’t need an entire room — plenty of people are turning a quiet corner, attic nook, or even a closet into a home office. 

Remove the hanging rods from a closet, and install deep shelving for a desk and shallow shelving for storage. Paint the surrounding walls, or decorate with peel-and-stick wallpaper. Don’t forget a stylish (but functional) office chair to complete your new space.

These are all excellent home staging tips.

Update a Bathroom

Add new life to an old bathroom without a major remodel. Start by removing old wallpaper or repainting in a fresh new color. Update the lighting to fit your style, and trade old hardware for a new sink faucet, towel bars, and vanity pulls.

Upgrade your shower head or install a rain shower if it’s within your budget, and replace outdated mirrors or medicine cabinets with updated versions. 

Design a Gallery Wall With Floating Shelves

Floating shelves are relatively inexpensive, easy to install, and create extra display storage almost anywhere. Use floating shelves or picture ledges to display framed photos or other artwork of varying sizes — just be sure to adjust the spacing to accommodate your tallest piece of art.

Floating shelves allow you to switch out your artwork seasonally or whenever you feel the need for a change. Fill in any gaps and bring some life to the display by decorating with live plants

Add Crown Molding

Don’t forget to look up — if you wish your rooms had more architectural details, adding crown molding to the ceilings is an easy way to give any room a more polished look and vintage feel. 

While you’re looking up, consider adding wallpaper to a ceiling to make a bold statement with texture, color, and pattern. Don’t go overboard, though. Choose one room to make the most impact. 

Make it Stick

Peel-and-stick tiles are a quick and easy way to update floors, walls, and backsplashes. You can find peel-and-stick tiles in specialty stores as well as online, and in a wide range of materials — from ceramic and glass to felt and vinyl.

Make sure you follow the installation instructions carefully (practice first), and prep your surfaces thoroughly before you begin. With proper installation, peel-and-stick tiles can last anywhere from five to 25 years. 

Add Storage With Built-Ins

Create your own built-in storage using unfinished stock kitchen cabinets you can find at the hardware store. Upper cabinets tend to be less expensive than lower cabinets, and can be configured in a variety of widths and sizes to create a custom look.

Add high-end hardware and embellish with molding for an elegant look. 

While not everyone is a DIY expert, there’s no shortage of projects for homeowners of any skill level to choose from that can be accomplished with some patience, planning, and creativity.