Q. We’ve purchased a new house, and are selling our existing home. We don’t have a lot of money to fix up our existing home before selling it. Do you have any inexpensive suggestions?
A. My first suggestion is to deep-clean the house and “make it sparkle!” Here are a few more tricks of the trade to help you get the most for your money:
- If your master bedroom looks drab, add new linens, pillows, and shams to spice it up the bedroom and add a little color.
- Buy a bright colored shower curtain and rug to perk up a dull bathroom. Re-grout if your bathroom grout is chipped or discolored.
- Eliminate clutter. Remove photos, knickknacks, refrigerator magnets and other personal items. Organize your cabinets and closets.
- Clear off kitchen and bathroom counter tops. Put away appliances.
- Arrange your furniture so it focuses on your home’s strongest feature (it may a view, a garden, flowers, or a painting). Remove excess furniture. Create a “model home” look, clean, attractive with well-place items.
- Dress up your rooms with attractive area rugs and framed prints.
- Install new light fixtures if they’re damaged or unappealing.
- Paint your walls in neutral tones. Paint the front door if needed.
- Trim bushes and make sure the outside landscaping is neat and clean.
Q. How can I net more money selling my own home?
A. Here are three important tips:
- Set the right price from the start. Homes that sell for the most money are priced right when they go on the market.
- Create a comprehensive plan to market your home. You can target buyers though flyers and open houses, but your home should be listed in the official MLS database by a REALTOR® so more buyers see it and you get a price closer to what you’re asking.
- Hire an experienced Home Marketing Expert. A REALTOR® who knows how to effectively market your home can net you more money. Plus, they can save you time by assisting you with every aspect of the sale, from pricing your home to coordinating the closing process.
Q. I’m thinking about purchasing a home. What should I know before buying?
A. If you’re thinking of investing in a house now or wondering whether you should wait, here are three important things to consider:
- Renting vs. Buying. If you rent a home, it could cost you less each month…and you might have more money to invest in other endeavors. But if you put your money in a low-interest money market fund, generally you will not earn as much as if you had invested your money in a house.
- Housing Prices and Interest Rates. You may be waiting for the housing prices in your area to fall. They may not. However, usually when they do, the interest rates will be higher. The amount you gain could be significantly less over the long-term cost of the mortgage. Therefore, waiting may not be in your best financial interest.
- The Break-Even Point. The average break-even point for buying and selling a house is five to seven years. If you plan to move before then you may want to seek professional advice before purchasing property if you want to realize a profit on your investment.
Q. What are pros of buying a new house vs. an existing one?
A. Buying a brand new house offers some real advantages to a home buyer. There are fewer repairs on heating and cooling units, and you’ll have new appliances that are less likely to need service.
Most newer homes have garages—a real plus! New homes also have some technology benefits. Most are pre-wired for computer systems, entertainment, and modern appliances and conveniences.
Conversely, existing or older homes have their advantages too. These homes are located in established neighborhoods and near conveniences like parks, libraries, schools, and shopping centers. You’ll also have mature vegetation from large trees, to greenery, and shade…another big plus. New homes and new neighborhoods just can’t offer that.
Older homes may have more architectural charm and style. Older homes may have hardwood floors, alcoves, built-in bookcases, and amenities not found in newer homes. They also may have larger lot sizes, giving your family a little more room to roam.
It really comes down to what you want in a home, and where you want to live.
Q. My wife and I are thinking of buying a house as a rental investment. What should we know before taking the plunge?
A. Buying right is the “secret.” Your first step is to make sure the property is in an area desirable to tenants and suited for appreciation. Next, you want to purchase the property at a price and financing that will allow you to make a profit (and positive cash flow) while renting it out. Don’t forget to include any fix-up expenditures for getting the home in rental shape. You’ll need to create a budget of your expected rental revenue and all costs associated with owning the home – and be sure to allow for contingencies such as vacancies, unexpected repairs and maintenance, and tax and insurance increases.
Seek out the assistance of a competent real estate attorney to create a rock-solid lease document that protects you from problem tenants. You can use the document for future leases and tenants.
Determine whether you’re going to manage the property yourself, or pay a management company – and don’t forget to include management fees into your budget estimates.
Q. We’re getting ready to purchase a home. What’s involved in a home inspection, and is it mandatory when buying a house?
A. A home inspection is not mandatory when you purchase a house, but I recommend that you have any home you’re planning on buying inspected by a licensed inspector. In fact, I’d insist upon it.
A home inspector has the training and expertise to provide an objective opinion about the condition of the home. The inspector will carefully examine the home’s structure, roof, plumbing, electrical wiring, heating and cooling system, and appliances. He or she will provide a written assessment of the house’s condition.
The inspection will tell you what repairs might need to be made before buying. The inspection can alert you to any serious problems the house may have—before you buy the house. There’s a period after a contract is accepted when you can have the inspection completed. Fees are paid to the inspector by the buyer.
If there are problems or repairs that need to made, you can request in writing during the specified period that these repairs be made as a condition of the sale.