Designing a Home Office for Remote Work: Ergonomics and Productivity Tips


The work-from-home revolution has made home offices a requirement in many markets, with some agents reporting that a property’s home office is nearly as important to buyers as the kitchen. 

But properly setting up a home office isn’t as easy as buying a desk and chair from IKEA. A good home office takes light, sound, space, and ergonomics into account to create a workspace that maximizes your productivity. Whether you’re using your home office for your full-time salaried job, or for a few side hustles, let’s go over some basic principles of how to set up the right home office for you.

Home Office Productivity

Create a Separate Physical Workspace

You want to choose a location for your home office that’s quiet, aesthetically appropriate, and conducive to concentration. Ideally, this would be a separate room you won’t use for any purpose other than work.

This deliberate separation of space will help you get into a “work mindset” when you’re in your office and preserve the rest of your living space for relaxation and other activities. (Anyone who’s worked from the sofa in their living room knows how hard it can be to toggle between work and home mode.)

If you don’t have a separate room to spare and have to make do with a corner or nook, try to establish some separation. Use a privacy screen to cordon off the space, or make it visually distinctive so you’ll know you’re in a designated “work space” while you’re there. 

If you opt for a nook, design experts suggest using a drop-down desk that can be folded up when not in use, or a glass one that will take up less “visual space.” And since you’ll likely be facing a wall while using your home office nook, take special pains to make the area you’ll be facing visually interesting — for example, with a mood board, art, or a large wall calendar.

Optimize Your Light

Maximizing the amount of natural light in your workspace is always a good idea. Sunlight has health and mood benefits that will increase your productivity and comfort, so place your workspace near windows. 

You should also consider how much light your workspace will get at different times of day. If you need to be at maximum productivity in the afternoon, but your home office only gets sunlight in the morning, it might not be an ideal fit. Track how sunlight moves through your workspace over the day and place your desk accordingly. 

Beyond natural light, studies have shown that cool, blue light boosts alertness and mood and reduces eyestrain. Interestingly, it boosts alertness by lowering melatonin production, producing an anti-fatigue effect similar to drinking coffee — which is why experts suggest avoiding screens close to bedtime. Installing blue-tinged lightbulbs in your home office could measurably increase your productivity. Consider using dimmers so you can finely adjust their intensity.

Also, consider using warmer, softer light in the rest of your home to encourage relaxation and differentiate your living space from your workspace. Not establishing some separation between work and living space is a bad idea in the long run because it can make you feel like you’re living in your office. Establish those boundaries now, or you may be offloading your space to a cash buyer and starting over in a new home.

Proper Desk Placement

Where you put your desk in your home office can have a massive impact on your productivity. Home design experts suggest placing it near a natural light source, facing the door, with your back to a wall. 

Specifically, consider putting your desk perpendicular to a window. Facing the window could be too distracting, and putting the window behind you could produce an annoying glare on your computer or TV screens. Don’t forget to consider your backgrounds. In the Zoom era, you’ll want an uncluttered, pleasant-looking backdrop for your video calls. 

The Right Furniture

Start with a good-quality office chair. Experts say you need a chair that supports the natural curve of your back, especially the lower part. Look for sufficient padding and adjustability, especially when it comes to height.

Although many low-priced goods and services are just as good as more expensive alternatives — for example, most 1% real estate agents offer the same services as full commission agents — a high-quality office chair is worth the money. If you really don’t want to shell out for an expensive chair, you can also upgrade your existing office chair if you buy a lumbar support pillow and a nice seat cushion. 

Your chair should be ergonomically compatible with your desk. Ideally, you’d want a desk with a fully adjustable height, giving you the option of converting it into a standing desk at times. Look for a desk that can be set to a height where your elbows are at a 90-degree angle when using your keyboard. If you have a non-adjustable desk, you can elevate your keyboard or use a keyboard tray to lower it to the proper level.

In this same vein, look for a monitor that can be raised or lowered into your eyeline so you don’t risk eyestrain or neckstrain. If you won’t use a separate monitor, try to get the best laptop within your budget.

Finally, you’ll need a good amount of storage, so consider multi-purpose furniture with built-in storage. Having consolidated storage will also come in helpful if you end up buying a new home and have to move a lot of electronics. If you’re committed to working from home, installing high-quality built-ins is a great way to keep your clutter out of view. 

Don’t Forget Sound

Don’t forget to take a few soundproofing or sound reduction measures, especially if you spend a lot of time on video or phone calls. If you live in a noisy house, consider installing some discreet sound-absorbing panels in your office. If you have a media room or home theater you don’t use much; it’s an easy home upgrade to turn this into a soundproofed, high-productivity home office.

You can also use white noise machines or noise-canceling headphones for your concentration. One straightforward but effective sound reduction measure is to establish “quiet hours” with your roommates or family members so you can count on having a portion of the workday nice and quiet. 

15 Tips for Handing a Disagreement with Your HOA


You’ve recently bought a house and moved in, and are ready to embark on the journey of homeownership. However, along with the joy of settling into your dream home comes the responsibility of dealing with your Homeowners Association (HOA). HOAs play a vital role in maintaining community standards, but disagreements with them can be challenging, especially for new homeowners.

Understanding your homeowner’s association dues and what they cover will be one of the most vital aspects of homeownership.

This comprehensive guide will provide you with 15 actionable tips to effectively handle disagreements with your HOA. By understanding your rights, communicating clearly, and finding common ground, you can confidently navigate these challenges.

Negotiating With HOA

1. Familiarize Yourself with HOA Bylaws

Understanding the rules outlined in your HOA agreement is crucial. Take the time to read the HOA bylaws thoroughly. This knowledge will empower you to make informed decisions and effectively articulate your concerns, whether dealing with HOA fees or considering home renovations.

2. Attend HOA Meetings

Participating in HOA meetings lets you stay updated on community developments and voice your opinions. It also provides an opportunity to understand the concerns of other homeowners, fostering a sense of community and solidarity. This engagement can be crucial, especially when considering significant home renovations that might impact the community.

3. Communicate in Writing

When addressing concerns with your HOA, it’s best to communicate in writing. Written communication records your conversation and ensures all parties are on the same page.

4. Be Clear and Concise

When drafting written communication, be clear and concise about the issue. Provide relevant details and suggest potential solutions. A well-structured message is more likely to receive a prompt and thoughtful response.

5. Stay Calm and Respectful

Among the many challenges that new homeowners will face, engaging with an HOA can seem like one of the most stressful. Emotions can run high during disagreements, but remaining calm and respectful in all your interactions with the HOA is essential. A respectful tone can go a long way in fostering open dialogue and finding resolutions.

6. Seek Mediation

Consider utilizing professional mediation services if direct communication and negotiations with your HOA are challenging. Mediators specialize in resolving conflicts and can facilitate a productive dialogue between you and the HOA board.

Their neutral perspective often leads to creative solutions that benefit all parties involved, making mediation a valuable option when dealing with complex disagreements related to HOA fees, home renovations, or other community matters.

7. Propose Alternative Solutions

When discussing the disagreement, come prepared with alternative solutions. Being proactive and suggesting compromises shows your willingness to work together and find a resolution that works for everyone.

8. Document Agreements in Writing

Reaching an agreement with your HOA is a significant step toward resolving disagreements. However, verbal agreements can sometimes be misremembered or misinterpreted over time. To solidify any agreements and protect the interests of all parties involved, it is crucial to document these agreements in writing.

9. Know Your Renovation Guidelines

If you’re planning home renovations, familiarize yourself with the HOA guidelines related to renovations. Understanding the rules and regulations can help avoid conflicts and ensure your renovations meet community standards.

10. Involve Your Neighbors

Engage with your fellow homeowners to garner support for your cause. Present your concerns at community meetings, and encourage neighbors who share similar issues to voice their opinions. Collective support can pressure the HOA board to address concerns more seriously, making it essential to unite with your community members to advocate for positive change.

11. Propose Alternative Solutions

When discussing the disagreement, come prepared with alternative solutions, especially when it involves decisions about HOA fees or home renovations.

Being proactive and suggesting compromises shows your willingness to work together and find a resolution that works for everyone.

12. Understand the Dispute Resolution Process

Familiarize yourself with your HOA’s official dispute resolution process outlined in the governing documents. Every HOA has specific procedures for handling disputes.

Understanding these processes ensures you follow the correct channels, making it easier to address your concerns effectively. Adhering to the established protocols demonstrates your commitment to resolving the issue within the framework set by the community guidelines.

13. Stay Organized with Documentation

Maintain a well-organized file of all communication, including emails, letters, and meeting minutes, related to your disagreement with the HOA. Having a clear record of your interactions will provide a solid foundation if legal action becomes necessary. Proper documentation can also serve as a reference point during discussions, ensuring that both parties are on the same page and facilitating a more focused resolution process.

14. Know Your Legal Rights

Educate yourself about your legal rights as a homeowner within an HOA community. Familiarize yourself with state and local laws governing homeowners’ associations, as well as your specific HOA’s governing documents. Understanding the legal framework can empower you to make informed decisions and advocate for your rights effectively. If you believe your rights are being violated, consulting with a real estate attorney experienced in HOA matters can provide valuable insights and guidance.

15. Foster Positive Relationships

Building positive relationships with your neighbors and the members of the HOA board can create a more harmonious living environment. Attend community events, volunteer for neighborhood initiatives, and engage in friendly interactions. Positive relationships can lead to better communication, understanding, and cooperation when disagreements arise. By fostering a sense of community, you contribute to a more collaborative atmosphere, making it easier to address concerns.

Navigating disagreements with your HOA can be challenging, but with the right approach, it is possible to find resolutions that work for both parties. Remember, buying a house and moving in should be an exciting experience, and a harmonious relationship with your HOA can contribute significantly to your overall happiness as a homeowner.

10 Ways to Tell if a Live-In Flip is Right for You


Live-in real estate flipping, also known as house hacking, is a popular strategy for people looking to invest in real estate while also having a place to live. But is this strategy right for everyone? Before you dive in, there are a few things to consider.

This article will explore ten things to consider when deciding whether a live-in real estate flip is right for you.

1. Your financial situation

Before embarking on a live-in flip, you need to assess your financial situation. Do you have enough savings to cover the down payment, closing costs, and unexpected repairs or expenses?

You’ll also want to ensure you have enough money saved for emergencies and cover your living expenses while you work on the property.

2. The real estate market

It’s important to understand the real estate market in the area where you plan to invest. Is it a buyer’s or a seller’s market? Are home prices going up or down? What are the rental rates in the area? Understanding these factors will help you make an informed decision about whether to invest in a live-in flip.

How to Tell if a Live in Flip is Right For You

3. Your timeline

Flipping a house takes time, and you must be prepared for the work involved. If you plan to do most of the renovations yourself, you’ll need to factor in the time it will take to complete the work while still living in the property.

Most people don’t realize that mistakes are easy to make when renovating a house.

You’ll also want to consider how long you plan to live in the property before selling or renting it out.

4. Your skills

If you plan to do most of the work yourself, assessing your skills and experience is important. Do you have the necessary skills to complete the renovations, or will you need to hire contractors? Remember that hiring contractors will increase your costs, which could impact your profits.

5. The property’s potential

Before investing in a live-in flip, you need to assess the property’s potential. Is it located in a desirable area? Does it have good bones? Are there any major repairs needed? You should also consider the amount of work and potential return on investment involved with different property types.

For example, a condo may be less work than a single-family home to flip, but you could be limited on the amount you can make when it’s time to sell or rent it out. You’ll want to look for a property with the potential for appreciation and rental income.

6. Your goals

What are your goals for the live-in flip? Are you looking to make a quick profit or generate long-term rental income? Short-term profit means buying a property, renovating it, and selling it quickly for a profit.

Long-term rental income means buying, renovating, and renting a property to generate ongoing income. Short-term profit goals may be suitable for investors who are looking to make a quick return on their investment, while long-term rental income goals may be better for investors who are looking to generate ongoing passive income.

Understanding your goals will help you determine the best strategy for the property.

7. Finding an agent

Working with a real estate agent can be invaluable when investing in a live-in flip. A knowledgeable agent can help you find properties that meet your criteria and provide guidance throughout the process. Look for an agent with experience in investment properties and house hacking.

8. Commission and fees

When working with a real estate agent, it’s important to understand the commission and fees involved. Typically, the seller pays the commission, but in some cases, the buyer may be responsible for a portion of the commission.

You’ll also want to factor in any closing costs and other fees associated with the purchase. You can also consider buying or selling the property without an agent, but you will want to carefully consider the pros and cons before doing so. 

9. Your exit strategy

Before investing in a live-in flip, you need to have an exit strategy in place. Are you planning to sell the property for a profit? Or will you rent it out for long-term income? Having a clear plan will help you make informed decisions throughout the process.

10. Making money

Ultimately, the goal of a live-in flip is to make money. To ensure a profitable investment, you’ll need to carefully calculate your potential profits and expenses. This includes the cost of renovations, financing, and any ongoing expenses associated with owning the property.

Bottom Line:

Live-in real estate flipping can be a great way to invest in real estate while also having a place to live. However, it’s important to carefully consider your financial situation, the real estate market, your timeline, skills, the property’s potential, your goals, finding an agent, commission, and fees, your exit strategy, and making money.

Considering these factors, you can determine whether a live-in flip is right for you.

Tips For Seniors Buying Home Insurance


Homeowners insurance is a vast and confusing topic, so it’s difficult to know where to begin with finding a plan.

If you are hunting for the best home insurance for seniors, there are some key factors to consider. We’ll walk you through homeowners insurance benefits and help you figure out where to begin.

What does homeowners insurance cover?

Homeowners insurance has some significant benefits that you may not realize. Here’s a broad look at what most plans cover as well as some details from AARP’s program, The Hartford.

Let’s look at what these policies cover and don’t cover.

Seniors Home Insurance

Homeowner’s insurance covers:

  • Damage to your home from fire, lightning, theft, freezing pipes, hail, and more
  • Damage to other structures on your property
  • Water damage from rainstorms or leaking pipes within the home
  • Personal property damage or theft, even if this occurs outside of the house (for example, in your car)
  • The cost of relocation and hotel bills if you can’t stay in your home during repairs
  • The cost of moving companies if you need to move furniture during repairs
  • Liability protection if someone gets injured in your home

Homeowner’s insurance often does not cover:

  • Damage from the earth shifting, such as sinkholes and earthquakes
  • Water damage from floods, backup from sewer lines, or a maintenance problem that the homeowner did not address
  • Bird, rodent, and insect damage
  • Wear and tear and normal aging of the home
  • Poor quality or defective craftsmanship

While this list may seem daunting, just make sure to clarify the policy details with your insurance company before signing. Also, think about the common natural disasters in your area, such as flooding, tornadoes, hail, or earthquakes, and make sure the plan has that covered or add on specific coverage for that event.

Factors That Go Into a Home Insurance Premium

Many companies offer senior discounts for those over 65, so when you get quotes from companies, make sure to ask. There are various other factors to consider when choosing a plan, and companies look at more than just age when determining your premium.

As far as premiums go, companies look at many factors, such as:

  • Age of the home
  • How close the house is to a fire station
  • Whether the home is in a floodplain or a high-crime area
  • Whether you are retired. If you’re retired, you are more likely to be at home and notice a home issue sooner to get lower rates.
  • The quality of the home and the material. For example, wood siding is a higher risk than metal.
  • Your history of filing home insurance claims. Some companies offer discounts if you haven’t filed any claims recently.
  • Whether you have locks and a security system
  • Where you park your car
  • Whether you live in a gated community

The list could go on, but the point is that most of these factors are not related to age but the home or location of the house.

Deciding on a Homeowners Insurance Policy

If you are a first-time home-buyer, make sure to price multiple companies. Start early in your home-buying process when you think through all the other home-buying questions, so you have time to find the best rates.

If you currently have a homeowners insurance plan and have turned 65, ask about additional senior discounts. Shop around to other companies, as insurance companies often give new customers lower rates than existing customers.

One great plan for seniors and pensioners is the AARP’s plan called The Hartford, which gives seniors an affordable premium that can be lowered even more if you bundle it with their car insurance. However, you can also find good plans at many other companies and possibly get a senior discount, as well.

How to Save Money on Homeowners Insurance

The most recent data from Bankrate puts the average yearly cost of homeowner’s insurance at $1,312 per year for a plan with a $250,000 dwelling coverage limit. That is a reasonable number, but finding ways to cut down on your costs during retirement is essential.

Another tip for saving money is making sure to have working smoke alarms and locks as well as a home security system. This is not only a critical maintenance aspect of owning a home, but it also can lower insurance premiums. Ask the insurance company what other discounts they give, as these can add up.

Finally, bundle as much as you can. When you bundle home and car insurance with the same company, they will often give a discount on your premiums. However, you need to ensure that the bundled rate is lower than what you’d get from a competitor.

Insuring at Replacement Cost, Not Market Value

When you insure your home, you want to avoid insuring for the amount you’d get if you listed the house today. Insure the home at its replacement cost by talking with the insurance company about the cost it would take to replace your home.

We are talking about lumber and cement and windows, not the inflated price of your home in the current market. By only covering the replacement cost of your home, you can get yourself a less expensive plan.

High or Low: Which Deductible to Choose

Though seniors may opt for lower-deductible health insurance plans if they have chronic conditions, the same logic does not apply to homeowners insurance. Here you want to choose a higher deductible plan.

The reason is that homeowners insurance is meant to cover significant losses like significant hail damage or a fire. It is not meant to fix a dog jumping up and breaking a glass window pane. In the latter case, it’s better just to replace the window pane and not file a claim to your insurance company.

Just choose the plan with a deductible that you could pay if you needed to, but one that is still high. Having a higher deductible plan will allow the monthly premiums to be much lower, and you will still have good coverage for catastrophic events.

What about veterans?

If you are an active-duty military member or a veteran, you may be able to get a military discount from many insurance companies. You can also consider one of the two insurance companies that serve only vets and active military: USAA and Armed Forces Insurance.

Remember to price out the competition to find the cheapest rate, as these companies aren’t necessarily giving you the best deal.

Luke WilliamsAbout the author: The above article on insurance tips for seniors was written by Luke Williams. Luke writes and researches for the insurance comparison site, His passions include writing about personal finance, insurance, and other ways everyday people can spend better.

Guide to Buy and Hold Real Estate Investing


Buy-and-hold real estate investing is a strategy for wealth building that does not require a large infusion of cash to get started. With a little bit of research — and a lot of elbow grease — it can be a great way for beginners to start investing their money.

Buy-and-hold real estate investing, also known as the BRRRR method, is a strategy in which investors buy properties in need of rehabilitation, rent them out, and refinance them to repeat the process.

It’s a great way for those new to real estate investing to have greater control over short- and long-term investments.

Buy and Hold Real Estate Investing

The Benefits of BRRR

Tax Benefits

A buy-and-hold investment offers tax benefits via a 1031 exchange if you sell a property and invest the proceeds into another like-kind property.

This can be especially profitable if you’re utilizing a 1031 exchange in Florida, a state with few regulations and a white-hot housing market.

Save Money on Property Management

More money will flow back into your pocket if you manage your properties. Some investors may not have the time or expertise to act as property managers, but if you do, it’s a great way to improve your return on investment.

Earn Passive Rental Income

Once you’ve completed the buy-and-hold process, rental income is passive. You’ll need to complete repairs as needed and clean units between tenants, but it can be a low-maintenance way to earn extra income if done correctly.

Utilizing one of the best home rental websites will allow you to quickly and easily find a tenant. This is how you build wealth. Your investments make money for you. 

Investment Appreciation

In addition to passive income, real estate values generally appreciate. In 2021, the average home price rose by nearly 17%. That beats the stock market’s rate of return by 7%.

How To Get Started

There are six steps to a buy-and-hold real estate investment strategy.

Step 1: Work With the Best Realtor

A crucial step is to locate the best property, so you’ll need to start with a great Realtor. You can save money on this step by using an experienced discount broker to save money on commission. 

Step 2: Buy the Right Property

Once you secure a Realtor, you can start looking for the right property. 

  • Look for properties that will provide at least a 1% monthly return on investment. For example, if you buy a property for $200,000, your rental income should be at least $2,000 a month. Have your real estate agent perform a comparative market analysis of similar homes that have sold recently in the area to ensure you don’t overpay for a property.
  • Avoid condos, properties with homeowners associations, and properties in historic districts. These are typically more challenging for new BRRRR investors and can eat into the bottom line.
  • Purchase a “value-add” property. This investment requires a little sweat equity to bring out its true value. If the work’s already been completed, your return on investment will plummet.

Step 3: Be Smart About Remodeling

That “value-add” property is going to need some work. You’ll have to put some money into it upfront, but there are ways to save while you make improvements.

Ensure you always pull permits so there are no building code violations.

  1. Use a cash-back credit card. If you spend $100,000 rehabbing and charge it to a 2% cashback card, you’ll save $2,000.
  2. Use professionals when you need them and DIY the rest. For repairs, such as electrical and plumbing, that are highly technical or require a licensed contractor, let the professionals handle it. Do it yourself if you’re just refreshing the paint or making small cosmetic repairs. Having reliable contractors can be a godsend.

Step 4: Choose Good Tenants

Rental properties are a lot like your children. No one will care for them exactly the same way you do. That said, taking the time to pick the perfect tenants will help you protect your investment. 

  • Start with a solid lease agreement. This might require a conversation with a  lawyer, but it’s worth it to draft a document that is clear, specific, and free of loopholes.
  • Consider a property manager. This can add anywhere from 8–10% in monthly expenses, but if the property is large — or you don’t have time to do the job — it might be worth the cost.
  • Screen tenants carefully. If you choose to manage the property yourself, take time to find excellent tenant screening tools. You’ll want to look specifically for good credit and a rental history free of evictions.
  • Be fair. Treat every tenant exactly the same way, regardless of circumstances. You might be tempted to offer benefits and exemptions to some tenants, but resist that temptation. In the end, the BRRRR method is a business, and a consistent approach is best for you and your tenants.

Step 5: Refinance

You’ve bought, rehabbed, and rented your property. Now it’s time to refinance. 

  • Choose a lender. Credit unions and small community banks tend to have more favorable rates. Online banks are another resource, often with lower — or zero — closing costs. Don’t forget to compare rates and fees.
  • Get an appraisal. This helps you realize the fruits of your labor during the rehabilitation phase.
  • Make sure you can cash out. Your lender should be able to offer a new mortgage that’s higher than the original. Cashing out puts money in your pocket for the final step — building your portfolio. 
  • Mind the seasoning period. Some lenders require you to keep your first mortgage for a set period of time before refinancing. 

Step 6: Start Looking for a New Property

With your refinancing complete and your cash in hand, it’s time to look for your next property.

Before starting your search, take time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t in your first buy-and-hold real estate investment. There’s no sense in making the same mistake twice.

All the investment books in the world don’t replace experience, so figure out what parts of BRRRR worked for you.

Why the Great Resignation is Causing Disruption in the Housing Market


As the world experienced its second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus made its mark on the housing and job markets. In 2021, more than 47 million Americans resigned from their jobs, creating a movement dubbed the Great Resignation.

At the same time, the housing market boomed, driving up home prices with more people looking for homes than selling.

Bidding wars have become the norm and not the exception. Buyers have been forced to do out-of-the-ordinary things like pay cash, waive home inspections, or offer appraisal gap coverage in the event house doesn’t appraise.

To say that real estate markets have been different would be an understatement.

A recent study conducted by Real Estate Witch surveyed 1,000 many Americans who were part of the Great Resignation about why they left their jobs and how their priorities in life have shifted.

As more companies seek to hire or retain employees by allowing them to work from home, workers are growing more accustomed to having flexibility in where they live. Working remotely has become far more commonplace.

A home close to work is no longer a top priority, allowing people to purchase houses in less urbanized areas with lower costs of living.

Let’s take a closer look at the study’s findings, including how the Great Resignation and the housing market are affecting each other.  

Great Resignation Disrupts Housing Market

A Change in Culture and Lifestyle

Experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic seems to have shifted the mindset many employees have about their needs in a job and workplace.

The pandemic was at the forefront of employees’ minds as they changed jobs, with 80% of respondents saying it influenced their decision to quit. Of those, 41% said their employers didn’t implement enough health and safety measures and 28% did not want to follow newly established protocols.

Asked to list the main reasons why they left their jobs, the most common answer (31% of respondents) was that workers quit to leave behind toxic work environments that included discrimination, harassment, and a lack of work-life balance.

Early in the pandemic, many jobs shifted to a work-from-home structure. During this time, some employees found they enjoyed working from home because it freed them from stressful workplaces. 

Others enjoyed the extra time that working from home gave them for their personal lives, particularly by cutting down on commuting and after-hours work functions.

The appeal of escaping the office and establishing a better work-life balance has led to increased interest in online jobs that offer more convenience.

With people shifting to work from home, houses are becoming more than a place to live. Homes have to meet more needs, serving as an office, gym, classroom, and more. With the freedom of working from home and the need for more space, many homeowners in 2021 wanted to trade in their smaller homes in more expensive zip codes for larger homes with a lower price per square foot. 

When looking for a home that has multiple functions to meet, it’s important to know how to find a real estate agent who can help you locate properties that fulfill your growing list of needs.

This also became a peak time for real estate investors looking to take advantage of the 1031 exchange and roll over the profits of their investments by buying new properties in places like Texas, which has a lower cost of living than other parts of the country and is in demand for buyers and renters alike. 

Financial Considerations at Stake

With housing prices and inflation on the rise, it may be surprising to find that salary was not the primary consideration for all of the survey respondents.

As they quit their jobs, 80% of employees received a counteroffer from their employer.  

A counteroffer might have persuaded some to stay on board, especially those who did not have a new job already lined up. 

Of the 55% of people who had a job lined up before quitting, 53% left to take a job that had a decrease in salary while 42% reported an increase in pay.

On average, respondents reported an $8,000 annual pay cut, and many said they would’ve taken an even bigger cut to leave their job in exchange for better working conditions or an opportunity to work from home.

For households experiencing a drop in income — either by going from two salaries to one or having an overall reduction — many were looking to trim expenses by moving somewhere with a lower cost of living than their current community.

Employees working from home have more freedom to choose where they live, allowing them to take things like personal and lifestyle goals into account instead of having their options limited to places close to their employer.

As people look to save money when house hunting, it’s important to work with a real estate agent who can not only get you a bargain on your new home but can save you money throughout the process.

One way to do this is by working with a real estate agent who charges a lower commission fee than traditional realtors. While most agents charge 2.5% to 3% of the purchase price, some agents are willing to work for a flat fee or a rate of 1% to 1.5%.

Having commissions set in stone is one of many common real estate myths.

Quick Decisions and Long-term Outcomes

During the height of the housing boom in 2021, homeowners in the process of selling were accepting offers almost as soon as they listed their homes on the market, with buyers making quick decisions to find the home of their dreams. 

Many employees moved equally fast when deciding to leave behind their old workplace. Nearly one in four people resigned after mulling it over for less than a week.

About half of the employees gave one week of notice or less, while one in four gave their employers zero notice, quitting the same day.

Looking back at their decision to quit, respondents had mixed feelings. In their responses, 56% had some regrets about quitting, but 58% also said they wouldn’t return to their old jobs without major improvements. While some were anxious or stressed about leaving their employers, most expressed feelings of relief, happiness, and excitement.

Many people quit on short notice whether they had another job lined up or not. Only 55% of those surveyed had a new job lined up before quitting. However, out of the 1,000 people surveyed who quit in 2021, 35% still do not have jobs. Of that group, 50% of people have been unemployed for at least six months. 

Out of those who quit their job without another gig lined up, 56% said they don’t regret it. 

Of those who left for new jobs, they were 47% more likely to be very satisfied with their new role in comparison to the one they quit. And out of those who quit their jobs for new ones, 44% are considering leaving their new jobs within the next six months.

Where things evolve from here is anyone’s guess but the smart money is trending towards more flexibility on where you work.

What to Know About Real Estate Appraisals


When you’re in the market to buy or sell a house, getting an appraisal is one of the most important steps. Whether you’re buying your first home, listing your house on the market, or investing in a property using a 1031 exchange, it’s important to understand what an appraisal is, how it works, and why it matters.

What is an appraisal? 

An appraisal is an evaluation of a home’s value. It is performed by a licensed appraiser who does not represent the buyer, seller, or lender so the results are more reliable for everyone involved.

Appraisals are typically required for homes that are financed or refinanced by a mortgage lender. The purpose of the appraisal is to ensure that the purchase price does not greatly exceed the property’s fair market value. 

Appraisers will use similar comparable sales to determine the market value.

An appraisal isn’t required for homes bought with cash, although the buyer might want one to verify that the price is fair. The house may sell faster if the buyer decides to skip the appraisal.  

What to Know About Real Estate Appraisals

What happens during an appraisal? 

An appraiser will inspect a home’s interior and exterior to assess its value. The evaluation includes the size of the lot, the number of square feet, and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, as well as significant upgrades that have been made to the property.

The appraiser will also consider the home’s proximity to schools, public transportation, stores, restaurants, and other local features that add to its value. 

After the on-site assessment, the appraiser will check similar properties that have sold recently in the same neighborhood to compare how the property should be valued.

What is the difference between an inspection and an appraisal?

The biggest difference between an appraisal and an inspection is their purpose. An appraisal establishes a home’s value, while a home inspection looks for problems that may be of concern to buyers before they purchase a property. 

Problems can include structural damage to the roof and foundation, as well as health concerns, such as mold. An inspector can also provide feedback on the quality of the HVAC systems and major appliances.

If problems arise during an inspection, a buyer can ask the seller to make repairs or reduce the price.

There are no mandatory fixes for a seller after a home inspection, however, if the problems are significant enough they could prevent the seller from getting financing for the property.

How the seller responds may depend on contingencies in the initial offer. Find a real estate agent to help you understand what contingencies should be included before you make or accept an offer. 

Why is an appraisal important?

Appraisals are important to the buyer and the seller. Buyers want to make sure they’re getting a good value, and sellers want to make sure they’re getting the most profit from their investment.

The appraisal also provides peace of mind to lenders. They want to make sure they aren’t loaning more money than the property is worth. Should a home be foreclosed, the bank wants to make sure it will recover its losses.

It’s not uncommon for buyers to receive low appraisals if homeowners are selling their houses in a hot seller’s market. That’s because bidding wars for a limited number of properties may drive home prices beyond their appraised values. 

If the appraisal is lower than the agreed-upon sale price, a lender may not approve the loan. There are a few ways to complete the transaction without losing the property. The buyer can make up the difference by providing a larger down payment or asking the seller to lower the price.

In some cases, neither option may be available. If there is an appraisal contingency clause in the offer, a buyer can withdraw the bid and walk away. 

Property owners might also hire an appraiser if they are considering listing it for sale. This is a particularly useful step for someone who is selling their house for sale by owner and does not have knowledge of the local market. 

Who pays for an appraisal? 

The costs of buying and selling a house add up. If you’re the buyer, you’ll have to pay for the appraisal in most cases. It typically costs between $300–$500. Buyers pay for the appraisal at closing, along with other costs.

How should you prepare for an appraisal? 

Preparing for a real estate appraisal is essential.

Start by reviewing previous appraisals conducted on the property. Take special note of things that caused changes to the home’s value. If you’re selling or refinancing, be sure to take care of any problems before the appraiser arrives to increase your home’s value.

Collect informational documents that can impact your home’s value. These include documents from when you purchased the property and the official land survey, which establishes property size. You should also assemble receipts and work orders from improvements you’ve made on the property.

Just like when you’re listing your home for sale, you want it to look its best for the appraisal. Thoroughly clean, declutter, and make necessary repairs. Add some instant curb appeal by mowing the lawn and trimming the hedges.

Don’t Make These Mistakes When Flipping a House


House flipping is a wholesale real estate investment strategy in which investors buying a fixer-upper renovate it to sell for profit. Properties can range from single-family homes to condominium units, to entire buildings or groups of buildings.

Unlike other real estate investments, which create profit in the long term, house flipping relies on a quick buy-low, sell-high turnaround strategy to protect the investor’s capital investment. For example, an investor might purchase a distressed home in a hot market, renovate, then sell for profit when the home’s value appreciates and capital improves.

Property flipping looks easy on TV — where full renovations appear to happen over a weekend — though it’s not without its pitfalls and risks. Below, we outline a few common house flipping mistakes, but do your due diligence and thoroughly research house flipping before jumping in with both feet.

Skipping a real estate agent

Many flippers believe enlisting the help of a real estate agent will chip away at a profit margin, but research shows that experienced agents typically sell homes for 6% more than those sold without one. That’s a margin large enough to cover almost any broker’s commission.

A budget-friendly real estate broker is an invaluable resource — someone who can answer questions, offer market advice, pull comparative analyses, help you price the property correctly, and market it when it comes time to sell.

Mistakes Flipping a House

Buying an expensive property

Experts recommend purchasing a property for no more than 70% of the property’s after-repair value (ARV), minus the renovation costs. This buffer ensures you have enough margin to make a profit and the budget to make the repairs and upgrades.

For example, if a property’s ARV is estimated to be $200,000 after putting in $15,000 worth of repairs, your purchase price should be no more than $129,500 ($200,000 – $15,000 × .70 = $129,500).

If you can’t reach that price point with the seller, it’s probably not the right property for you. Particularly if you’re a novice flipper, you don’t want to jeopardize your budget or your ability to maximize your profit.

It’s valuable to remember the 70% rule of thumb is a guideline. Plenty of factors can affect your budget and projected profit margin including market fluctuations, costs of materials, or unexpected renovations. But basing your budget on the cost to renovate the home — versus the home’s future market value — will help to prevent you from overspending on the wrong home and eating up your profits.

Blowing the budget

New flippers tend to grossly underestimate expenses. Don’t “guesstimate” or judge the cost of renovations, upgrades, and repairs on your own.

Instead, consult your real estate agent on which improvements are appropriate for the property and the neighborhood and will therefore get you the most return on your investment. Have an experienced and reliable contractor provide estimates for everything from the cost of labor and materials to appliances and permits.

Regularly refer to a working budget to see if you’re on track or if your spending is spiraling. Don’t forget to factor in the fixed costs — mortgage, insurance, property taxes, and utilities — that you’ll be carrying until you sell the finished flip.

Buying too much of a fixer-upper

Homes with major structural damage are seldom good candidates for flipping as you’re unlikely to recoup your expenses after renovating. And some homes simply need too much work to make them a good investment. Focus on properties in established neighborhoods that need cosmetic updates or renovation on one or two rooms.

If you’re planning to do any of the work yourself, be realistic when it comes to assessing your skills, available time and money, and willingness to do the work. If you’re an experienced DIYer and are confident you can install that backsplash, go for it.

But leave jobs that involve electrical, plumbing or anything else that needs a permit or will have to pass an inspection to the pros. This is not the time to learn how to rewire a home from top to bottom from online tutorials. Selling a home with code violations is a big no-no.

Over improving the property

Tempting though it may be to go all out on new appliances and other upgrades, renovating too much may actually hurt you in the long run. If your property is the most expensive house in the neighborhood, it can make it harder to sell — so keep your improvements commensurate with what the market will bear if you want to sell quickly.

Do a reality check to make sure you’re renovating to the neighborhood, and not to your own personal tastes. So if your flip happens to be in a high-end neighborhood, high-end finishes may be called for. Otherwise, choose durable, middle-of-the-road finishes — neither the cheapest nor the most expensive.

Overpricing when it’s time to sell 

House flippers often make the mistake of pricing the property based on how much money they spent renovating it or how much profit they’d like to make. But buyers only care about market value.

Price the property correctly so that it moves quickly. Overpricing can lead to a home sitting on the market for months. And if it lingers too long, carrying those costs will ultimately eat into your profits.Flipping homes can be enormously profitable and rewarding, but it’s not a part-time hobby. There are significant risks to consider before taking on a fixer-upper. Consider partnering with an experienced flipper who’s willing to mentor and educate you before venturing out on your own.