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 to Get Your Home Ready to Sell

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Tips to Prepare Your House to Get Sold

Are you getting ready to sell your home? Home sale preparation is one of the most vital tasks when selling a home.

Homes are rarely ready to hit the market as is. Most of them need a slight (or major) makeover to attract potential buyers. 

There are certain tricks of the trade that real estate pros use in order to quickly sell a home at a desirable price. These tactics will cost money upfront but will ultimately help increase a seller’s overall profit.

The following tips range from low-cost updates to full-on renovations. Whether your budget is large or small, these strategies are sure to help raise your returns.

Although this advice is mainly geared toward homeowners, it can be used for other people as well (e.g., investors using a 1031 exchange to quickly sell an apartment building). 

Get Home Ready to Sell

Clean, Declutter, Depersonalize

Decluttering and depersonalizing your home can help potential buyers visualize themselves in the space. Remember, you are moving on and leaving this home behind. The goal now is to emotionally detach and present buyers with a blank slate. 

In addition to giving the place a good scrub, pack up personal belongings such as photographs, knickknacks, family heirlooms, and other decor. Basically, remove anything that will distract from the sale. 

Regarding items you no longer want to keep, consider selling or donating them to a local charity such as the Salvation Army or Goodwill.

All other items can be put in storage or tucked away in small boxes in your cabinets and closets. Although this may seem cumbersome, consider it a jumpstart on packing. 

Give it a Fresh Coat of Paint

Painting is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to increase the value of a home. At a 107% return on investment, repainting the interior walls has one of the highest values in terms of home improvements. 

When repainting a home, research common and popular colors. Keep in mind that this is not about your personal style but what potential buyers will like. The exterior should have a fresh coat of neutral paint, and the interior walls should be free of any chips or cracks. 

It’s best to stick to inoffensive colors such as off-white, eggshell, or “greige.” But not all colors work for all rooms. For smaller spaces, pastels and stark whites can make them seem larger.

For larger, potentially alienating rooms, darker, more intimate colors can help bring the room in.

Don’t forget the trim and other adornments. Painting the crown molding the same color as the walls can make a room feel bigger, and painting it a contrasting color can make it cozier. 

Stage The Home

Staging a home has been shown to increase the odds of selling it for a higher price. You do not necessarily need to stage every single room, but consider doing important areas such as the master bedroom and living room. 

You also do not need to remove all of the furniture in your home to stage it. Hyper-stylized items like a bright yellow couch or zebra rug can be distracting, though, so consider moving them into storage or at least out of sight.

Temporarily decorate the home with furniture and decor that’s ordinary yet in style. 

Make Renovations and Repairs

Depending on the condition of a property, the seller may need to make some repairs to sell the place. A leaky roof, some cracked tiles, or a faulty HVAC system could all make selling your house much harder. 

Other times, a room’s features may simply be outdated, and making renovations would help increase the home’s market value. Remodeling the kitchen is a common route many homeowners take because most buyers want a nice kitchen.

Installing stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, and new cabinets can transform the space into an inviting room for cooking and hosting. 

Financing renovations can seem tricky, but homeowners can use plenty of creative options to achieve their remodeling goals.

There are different lines of credit that owners can tap into, like credit cards and second mortgages, but make sure to pay attention to the interest rates.

If you don’t have the money to pay off the renovations immediately, then you will want a card or loan with a low rate. Otherwise, you could end up paying more on interest overall. 

If going through the process of making renovations isn’t for you, but you still want to give potential buyers the option to make updates, you could offer seller concessions in the form of credits toward renovations and repairs

Increase Your Curb Appeal 

First impressions matter. The outside of a property and the driveway are what buyers will immediately notice. In addition to painting the exterior of a home, redoing the landscaping and/or the driveway can help increase curb appeal.

If you’re dealing with a particularly run-down house or a fixer-upper, then decluttering the front yard and mowing the lawn could do wonders for your selling efforts. Power cleaning a driveway or installing a new one can make a huge difference as well. 

Do a Photoshoot 

Once you’re done preparing the home, make sure your listing properly showcases the property. It would be a shame to put in tons of effort only to have a property sit on the market due to unflattering or bland pictures.

Listings with professional photos have even been shown to sell homes up to 32% faster than homes with low-quality images. 

When preparing your home for sale, it’s all about emphasizing the details that will capture a buyer’s attention.

Going the extra mile will show people you are serious about selling and will likely increase the final sale price. If you’re working with a real estate agent, be sure to ask for their advice on staging and renovations.

They should be able to point you in the right direction and offer references for contractors, photographers, landscapers, and more.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you have enjoyed these tips on how to get your home ready to sell and can put them to good use.

The more you can do to get your home prepared for the real estate market, the greater the odds you will sell your house fast for the most money possible.

Never sell yourself short by putting your house up for sale before you’re ready.

5 Creative Ways to Add Equity to Your First Home

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Home Improvements to Increase Your Property Value

The way to think about equity in terms of owning real estate is simple. It is the total value of the asset munis the amount of debt currently owed on it.

Now, it’s important to note that if real estate prices drop, so could your equity. Your first home is a valuable investment and a major achievement in your life. As such, the actual value of your home should reflect that.

For many people, their first home will be one that they own for multiple years. That gives you plenty of time before selling your property to add even more value to it. If done correctly, this will increase the equity you have in your home.

You can take advantage of forcing equity by eventually selling your home. Additionally, time is on your side. If you own a property for multiple decades, there is a very high chance that you will naturally gain equity that way too. Keep this in mind when house hunting.

With time as a bonus, what are things that you can do today to create value? Here are five creative ways to add equity to your first home.

Home Improvements

1. Update Your Kitchen

A kitchen is the heart of most homes. Especially for a place that you are calling your first home, the kitchen is where you create great meals and even greater memories with friends and family.

This room is also one that house buyers look at instantly when deciding if they will want to make an offer of a property. What does that mean? If your kitchen is outdated, you can expect low offers when you go to sell.

By updating your kitchen, you instantly add value to your home. You can keep things simple if you are hesitant to jump into a full renovation. For example, you can swap out cabinets and add stainless steel appliances. This will give your kitchen a beautiful new glow.

More challenging, but worthwhile, kitchen renovations include items like replacing the floors or changing the entire layout.

Adding new hardwood floors can give your kitchen a completely new feel. Not to mention, floors are one of the most noticeable parts of a room. By adding high-quality material to your kitchen, the equity in your home will increase.

If you decide to change the entire layout of your kitchen, it is recommended to consult with an interior design expert to help with the plans. Regardless of the size of your renovation, updating a kitchen can add value to your first home.

2. Uplift your Outdoor Scenery

When it comes to your home’s exterior, making it attractive should be a priority. The outside appearance of a property makes the first visual impression that a person sees. The first element to your outdoors is the front exterior, also known as the curb appeal.

If you live in a home that allows you to make changes to the exterior landscape, do it. Aesthetic or repairs landscaping and keeping your curb clean can add value to your home by 28%l, according to several housing reports.

Consider adding a garden to your front or backyard. You can not only enjoy it while you live there, but you can also see it attract additional home buyers to your property when you are considering selling.

The current real estate market considers gardens as valuable parts of a home. Incorporating a garden is a thoughtful idea that’ll need you to create space and research plants to nurture. 

Another way to add equity to your first home is by adding a deck or patio. With the majority of people working from home, garden offices and conservatories have become a trend.

Both can add equity to your home and offer a unique feature. Always remember having a garden means tending to the plants and caring for them.

3. Add Energy-Efficient Features

Making your house more energy-efficient can save you money, and help save the environment.

Do you expect your utility bill to be extremely high this summer? Consider adding items like a Nest Thermostat to regulate your air conditioning use.

Energy efficiency goes hand-in-hand with upgrading your home to incorporate the use of smart technology. Innovative technological additions to your security or in-home living take your home to the next level.

When moving to your first home, consider buying energy-efficient appliances. For example, there are washing machines that use a smaller percentage of water while still cleaning your clothes thoroughly.

If you decide to sell your property down the road, you can leave the appliances and add that to the bottom line price you are asking for.

Even if you do not add a smart thermostat to your home, you can still upgrade your heating and air conditioning systems to ensure efficient functionality.

Your central cooling and heating system caters to indoor temperature, while filtration systems provide high air quality. Not only are these sustainable ways to live, but they add comfortability. With comfort comes additional value added to your home. 

4. Extend Your Current Layout

One of the best ways to increase the value of your house is through its layout. You can either remodel or extend how things are currently set up. However, when you switch the layout of a property, you must make sure that everything still flows.

Adding or enhancing space to your kitchen, dining, and living areas adds value to your home.

A house extension may require you to break down certain walls. Before taking a sledgehammer to the drywall, consider the existing layout. What actually makes sense to switch, extend, or build on?

It’s recommended to work with a professional builder for larger projects like this. They can check on safety issues before making any extensions.

In addition, buildings can also clue you in on the cost of larger projects like this. That is much better than going in blind! Knowledge is power when it comes to renovations.

There are numerous home improvement loans to choose from when making significant improvements such as this. They are well worth researching.

Do your best to make changes that will recoup your costs and add value to the house. Remodeling your kitchen and bathroom to the latest trends are safer ways to do so. 

5. Add Another Bedroom

Whether your plan on living alone or with others, adding a bedroom is essential for your home.

The number of bedrooms dictates the sale bracket of your home. It’s also one of the popular ideas to add value to your home. Adding a bedroom to your home may involve the conversion of another room or extending the existing layout. 

Converting your loft to a bedroom is aesthetically pleasing and creates space. You might as well convert unused space into something if you have the time and budget to do it.

Of course, make sure to double-check the current structure of your attic or loft before beginning this project. Homeowners should make sure that it is safe before shifting beams around.

If you rarely use your garage or basement, consider converting them into smaller auxiliary rooms.  

The five changes above are major points to consider when trying to add value to your first home. Other minor changes or upgrades you can make include:

  • Painting your home
  • Buying new windows
  • Chaing lighting fixtures
  • Adding a storage room

These are all great projects that will add value. Your first home is one of your most important investments. It means so much more than just ‘a house’.

If you plan to do renovations to your property, consider the 5 projects above. You might as well add value to your home along the way as you renovate things. You can recoup the costs later on when you go to sell your home.

Maintaining your home regularly helps you keep track of its value and saves you accumulative renovation costs.

How UAV Aerial Surveys Save Governments and Taxpayers Money

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What to Know About UAV Aerial Surveys

Aerial surveys are conducted more frequently than many realize, both by public and private entities. Government organizations will conduct aerial surveys for highway development, environmental reporting, civil engineering, general land surveys, and other major construction projects.

In the private sector, aerial surveys are increasingly being performed by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The benefits of UAV aerial surveys — including cost, speed, and safety — can easily be translated to public entities.

The Applications of Government UAV Aerial Surveys

Traditionally, aerial surveys were conducted by helicopter or by plane. These surveys can be expensive and always carry some risk, as all flights do. UAV surveys can be conducted with greater levels of safety and precision.

Fixed-wing UAVs perform very similarly to planes and can survey large swathes of land at a time.

Multi-rotor UAVs can hover similarly to helicopters. Their maneuverability allows them to access locations that would’ve been inaccessible to helicopters — such as the underside of bridges or the interior of caverns.

In addition to vastly improving construction and civil engineering, UAV aerial surveys can be used for:

  • Environmental studies and environmental change assessments.
  • Civil security and public safety.
  • Detection and mitigation of damage following major weather events.
  • Tracking of urgent events such as fire and flooding.
  • Routine coastal surveying.

According to Rostock University, UAV aerial surveys can save money in both the forestry industry and the agriculture industry.

Low-cost UAV aerial surveys have been studied for everything from studying dynamic tropical volcanic landforms to the assessment of damage following hurricanes. But the most common government use for UAV surveys would be in construction.

Aerial Surveys

The Cost Savings Associated with UAV Aerial Surveys

The more cost-efficient a government is, the better for the taxpayer. Government projects cost less, but money can be reallocated into other quality of life improvements.

Better UAV surveys can encourage better, more efficient, and cost-effective civil engineering programs, public transportation, and environmental waste management.

There are a few major ways that UAV aerial surveys can save the government money when it comes to construction projects.

Increased Accuracy and Precision During Surveying

UAVs fly lower to the ground than traditional, manned aircraft, creating higher resolution scans and, therefore, more detailed.

The more accurate the survey, the less risk there are of issues being uncovered over the project.

Most government projects are multi-million-dollar affairs, which can cost the taxpayer much more if they run over their deadlines or require additional (and unexpected) materials and labor.

In the past, surveys were often limited to being at a certain height. For both photogrammetric (photographic) and LiDAR (laser) surveying, this meant that there wasn’t always the necessary amount of detail.

Depending on the type of construction being done, a highly accurate, highly detailed model may be necessary.

Reduced Safety Risks, Insurance, and Permits

As UAV surveys are safer, they are inherently less expensive; a UAV survey doesn’t require the same level of permitting and insurance a manned aerial vehicle would.

With a UAV, a crash is a minor event that shouldn’t delay the project significantly. With a manned aerial vehicle, a single incident could drastically delay the project.

Every manned aerial flight needs to be taken more seriously than a UAV flight does. Consequently, UAV flights can also be deployed with far greater frequency — and at far greater utility — than human-crewed aerial flights.

At the same time, the enhanced monitoring provided by UAV surveying can also reduce risks throughout a construction project. Sites that have continual safety monitoring will naturally be more likely to following safety standards and regulations.

Consistent Monitoring for Development, Repairs, and Maintenance

UAV surveys provide a fast, affordable way to monitor the entirety of a construction zone. Any issues that arise will be noticed quickly, safety guidelines and regulations will be more strictly followed, and supervisors can be certain that the project is continuing as planned.

Even after the construction project has been completed, UAV surveys can be performed periodically for general maintenance purposes.

As UAV surveys are increasingly paired with sensors linked to the IoT, aerial surveys for maintenance are becoming more important.

Consider large-scale construction projects such as wind farms — in the past, technicians had to physically climb turbines to check their status. As UAVs enter common use, the entirety of a wind farm can be regularly surveyed without the need for technicians on the ground.

Detailed Modeling and Simulations

Following UAV aerial surveys, detailed 3D models and simulations can be completed to assess the project.

Not only can materials be costed out more effectively, but the consequences of the project on the surrounding terrain can also be explored.

UAV aerial surveys can be used to identify potential issues with light pollution or water run-off or to explore ways in which a construction project can be made to be more energy efficient.

In the future, these 3D models may even be used to restore existing construction projects in the wake of disasters.

By creating 3D models of new civil developments, the government can eventually make it easier to create disaster preparedness plans and other critical infrastructure items. Presently, 3D models are already being used to restore older, historic buildings, such as Notre Dame.

Once a construction project and its surrounding environment have been captured in 3D, the data is available and can be used forever.

Improved Environmental Assessment

Every government project needs to start with a comprehensive environmental impact study.

With UAVs, improved environmental assessments can be completed, even in areas that would normally be difficult to access.

UAVs can be used to thoroughly explore the areas around the construction project, simulate changes to the surrounding environment, and follow up on the environmental impact after the construction project has been completed.

When paired with advanced LiDAR technology, UAVs can even see through terrain that is covered in brush, consequently making it easier to assess any potential impact on the environment.

When it comes to installations such as pipelines, LiDAR technology and UAVs together can be used to identify issues such as the encroachment of surrounding plant and can mitigate any potential damage to the pipeline before leaks occur.

Faster Development (and More Reliable Milestones)

Apart from the other improvements, UAVs can save government entities money on construction projects by making the project itself faster and more reliable.

In the construction industry, some of the costliest issues arise from delays and re-works. The more accurate the survey is, the less likely the project is to have re-works. The faster the project is, the less likely it is to experience delays.

Altogether, this results in a project that operates far more smoothly and doesn’t have as many unanticipated overages. Not only does this save money, but it also saves on materials and waste.

In nearly every way, UAVs are preferable to manned aerial vehicles for aerial surveying. UAVs are also generally preferred to manned ground surveying, which can be both expensive and time-consuming.

As a new technology, UAVs are still being adopted within the government sector — but there’s no reason not to think that the majority of aerial surveying won’t be completed using drone technology in the future.

The UAV Industry Continues to Grow

The public and private sectors have invested $13 billion in drone technology, and it’s believed the drone industry will grow by 15.37% in the next five years.

Significant advances in drone technology have been made over the past few years — and both the private and public sectors are awakening to the benefits of UAV technology, especially in the case of aerial surveying.

As the technology improves, it will only become faster, more accurate, and more cost-effective. In the past, UAVs were held back by issues of range and battery power; these issues are being countered more significantly and substantially day by day.

By leveraging drone technology, government entities will be able to start construction projects faster, monitor them more thoroughly, and ultimately complete them both under deadline and under budget.

UAV surveys are, as a rule, faster, safer, and more accurate. And these are cost savings that will ultimately be passed down to the taxpayer. Hopefully, you now have a much better understanding of how they work.