What is Curb Appeal?
In a word: curb appeal is all about facade. Curb appeal refers to how attractive your house looks to those who drive by.
Why is Curb Appeal Important?
An attractive exterior may make the difference between whether people become potential buyers or whether they drive right by without looking at your home’s appealing interior features. Curb appeal is like eye catching wrapping paper on a gift. First impressions are crucial to the real estate market. Nearly 65% of shoppers will come and check out a home they’ve driven by or looked at online if they liked what they saw.
Ways to Add Curb Appeal that won’t Break the Bank
Here are some sure fire ways to attract home buyers.
With a few inexpensive touches and some elbow grease, you can increase your home’s curb appeal.
Some people greet the coming of spring with a thorough cleaning of the rooms, closets, basement, garage, and attic of their homes. For others, housecleaning is an ongoing activity not reserved just for spring.
No time is more appropriate for housecleaning than when you are grooming your living space for resale.
Why is a thorough cleaning and purging a good idea before you put your house on the market?
Buyers are not just looking at the layout of the house and its amenities. They try to visualize themselves living in this space. Cleanliness and lack of clutter make a house much more appealing than the “lived in” look. Pack away personal items like photos and certificates. Store or donate seasonal clothes and children’s outgrown toys and clothes. Consider packing boxes in garage, attic, or even rented storage space. You want a “bare” look that allows prospective buyers to visualize their stuff in this new space. Your house should be a blank canvas for their imagination.
Buyers get distracted if there is a lot of stuff in a room. Personal items and/or things around take away from the house itself. They make potential buyers feel as if there isn’t enough storage space in the house and garage.
Clutter and uncleanliness give potential buyers the feeling that they would have to work hard to keep the home clean. A clean house will help dispel this thought, keeping the prospective buyers focus on the space and attractiveness of the home.
If you are moving, you are going to want to do a thorough culling of your possessions before you pack things to go. You might as well use the pre-selling time to get that task out of the way and create a roomier impression in your house for potential buyers at the same time.
Homes with minimal furniture and knick-knacks seem larger and airier. This is the impression you want potential buyers to have.
Buyers will comparison shop. You want your home to make the best impression of all the homes they will be seeing.
A fresh coat of paint is not a major expense when weighed against getting top dollar for your house.
Pay close attention to your home’s curb appeal. First impressions are critical. Make sure grass is tidy, any outside clutter has been removed, and some flowers have been planted. Make sure the front door is freshly painted; the space around it is clean and attractive.
Like many things in life, your credit score might not be that important to you until you really need it.
It’s important to know what goes in to a credit score, and equally important to know that there is no magical fix. Your credit scores are based on your ability to handle credit, and focused on factors like your payment history, amount owed, length of credit history, new credit, and type of credit used. There is no quick fix for your credit score, it simply takes time, patience and discipline to maintain your credit over a long period of time.
Here are six ways to improve your credit score:
Know your credit score. Start by checking your credit report for accuracy. Check to make sure no late payments are incorrectly listed, and that the amount owed for each of your counts is correct.
Pay your bills on time. It sounds obvious, but simply making your payments on time is one of the biggest factors to your score. Set up payment reminders, and if you have to enroll in automatic payments. Get current and stay current.
Check your credit limits. Your credit score will be artificially depressed if your lenders are showing a lower credit limit than you actually have. Call your credit card issuer to update the information, and ask to raise your credit limits. Reduce the amount of debt you owe. The most effective way to improve your score is to pay down revolving (credit card) debt. Pay the highest interest first, keep balances low and pay it off rather than move it around.
Add to your credit file. What really matters is the amount you owe as a percentage of your total amount of credit. Add available credit only as needed, manage it responsibly, and avoid closing cards. Think about adding a secured credit card or an installment (personal, auto, student) loan to the mix.
Use your credit cards lightly. Racking up big balances – which are what is typically reported to the credit bureaus – can hurt your score. Limit your charges to 30 percent or less of a card’s limit.
Are you looking for ways to improve your credit score? Check here for some tips to repairing your score.
Are you aware of the main factors that make up your credit score? Check out these tips for fixing your score.
What is your favorite or proven tip to fixing your credit score? Check out this list for fixing your credit score.
Buying your first home can be an intimidating decision. Not only will it likely be the biggest purchase of your life, but it is oftentimes both a lengthy and complex process.
It goes without saying that there are many factors to consider as a first-time home buyer. There’s a lot to learn, and a lot to know, about a process that commonly takes months to complete from start to finish. Even when things go smoothly, a first-time home buyer will require patience, organization and knowledge to navigate through the process.
Here are 10 things to consider when buying your first home:
The difference between wants and needs. When you have a clear understanding of what you want versus what you really need in a home, you will be in a position to make decisive, effective decisions that might help you land what you really want.
Getting pre-approved for a mortgage. Not only will you avoid homes you can’t afford, but pre-approval from a lender will give you the leverage to make a serious offer when you find the right home.
The real cost of home ownership. Sure, there is a mortgage payment, but what are the costs of living where you are buying? When you factor in all the expenses – utilities, property taxes, repairs – can you afford to own a home?
Where location ranks on your list. Know going into the process how important location is to you. It’s about your lifestyle. A bargain isn’t really a bargain in a neighborhood you don’t really want to live in long-term. Are you willing to accept a smaller or older home in a great area where value will rise?
Working with a professional. Buyers now have access to do a considerable amount of research online, but a qualified buyer’s agent should be an expert on the neighborhood, recent sales, trends, and negotiating the terms of an offer.
The surrounding area. Sure, one block might be picturesque, but the entirety of the surrounding area will determine the value of a home. Explore the surrounding areas for schools, hospitals, fire stations, airports and train tracks that might alter your opinion. Also drive around at different times of the day to see if the vibe of the neighborhood changes a few blocks away.
Pay attention to taxes. Review the property taxes several months back and talk to your realtor about taxes. Know that a re-appraised home can lead to higher tax rates.
Talking to neighbors. The people who know most about what it’s like to live in a neighborhood, how well the sellers took care of a home, and underlying issues that might not be obvious, are the neighbors.
Do as much homework as you can on the property. Along with a comparative marketing analysis to spot area trends, get detailed records of home improvements. Ensure the title is “free and clear” so there are no problems with assuming ownership, and purchase homeowner’s insurance. Get everything in writing.
Getting a home inspection. No home is perfect, and a reputable home inspector will find out as much as possible about what is wrong with a house. Determine the real issues and what should be accounted for in your offer, as well as what might need future attention.
What do you think are the most important factors for first-time home buyers? Check out this list.
What do you think should be the top consideration for a first-time home buyer? See if it made this list.
Should first-time home buyers talk to potential neighbors about an area? See the top 10 factors to consider.
The process of shopping for a mortgage loan can be a somewhat daunting task. Whether youre buying your first house or consider yourself a pro, it's good to educate yourself and know what the latest options. In a mortgage, the most popular home financing option, the house you buy acts as the collateral in exchange for the amount you borrow. Lenders in the current financial markets have many products, meaning there is a different type of mortgage for nearly every need.
The two main types of mortgages are fixed rate and adjustable rate. A fixed rate offers stability in a fixed interest rate over the term of the loan -- whether it's 10, 15, 20 or 30 years as payments are always the same. During the early part of the loan, the majority of each payment goes toward paying off the loan's interest. In the latter part of the loan, the payments are paying off mostly the principal.
An adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) offers an adjusting interest rate that may increase or decrease within certain set period of time. The interest rates are tied to a market index, and as the market fluctuates, so will your monthly payment. The intervals of time in which the interest rate is adjusted are specified in the loan contract, and often times there are caps placed on how much the rate can increase.
A hybrid ARM loan is a type of adjustable rate mortgage that start off with a fixed rate for a set amount of time before rates begin to adjust.
There are also two government-backed loans insured by a federal agency. An FHA loan is designed for first-time buyers and buyers with moderate or low income and is by far the most popular. The biggest benefit of an FHA loan is the low down payment (generally around three percent) and lower interest rates than standard fixed rate loans. If you qualify, VA and USDA loans are no-brainers, as no down payment is required.
If the most common types of mortgage loans don't fit your situation, look into interest-only mortgages, balloon payment mortgages, graduated payment mortgages (GPM), two-step mortgages, bi-monthly mortgages and bi-weekly mortgage options.
Buying a home is stressful enough, the last thing you want to worry about is home buyer fraud. But, even the savviest buyers might find themselves lured in by deceptive practices.
Keep these frequently-used schemes in mind when you are in the market for your next home.
The business of buying and selling homes revolves around mortgages. Unless you can afford to pay for your home in cash, you’ll need one in order to buy.
As such, there are many opportunities for predatory lenders to take advantage of prospective buyers. You might hear that you are qualified for way more money that you can actually afford to spend on a house because your mortgage lender misrepresented your income or is trying to ensure that you end up defaulting on your loan.
The best way to guard against this is to do your own math before applying for mortgage pre-approval. Look at your monthly income, expenses, and savings goals to determine how much money you have left over to allocate to your mortgage.
Match that with the estimated monthly payment on your mortgage to make sure the home you want fits in your price range. A good rule of thumb is that your mortgage payment should not take more than 25-30 percent of your monthly income.
A trustworthy mortgage broker can also help ensure that you will not take a mortgage you are not able to afford. Ask for recommendations from friends and family and look for someone who has your best interests in mind.
The other area where homebuyers can fall victim to scams is when it’s time to close on the home and make your down payment. The closing process is a complicated web of banks, title companies, and real estate brokers.
There are so many forms to complete and information to send; it’s easy to go on autopilot and provide whatever information is asked of you.
Because it’s such a large sum of money, many people rely on wire transfers to send the money to their bank. Be wary of third-party services set up to wire money and try to deliver your down payment directly to your bank if possible.
Sometimes we remodel because we want to create a more pleasant home environment to live in. Other times, it’s all about the bottom line and getting the most bang for the buck when the house goes on the market.
If you find yourself in the latter situation where you are remodeling with the goal of reselling, there are a few things you can do to maximize your return on investment and make your home as appealing as possible to future buyers.
Keep it Neutral
Remodeling a kitchen or bathroom for resale is not the time to go crazy with paint colors, fixtures, or other design elements. You want to present the image that the house is a blank canvas that the new owners can make their own.
Even though things like paint and fixtures are easy to change, you do not want to put the new owners through the hassle of having to do that right after moving in. You want to create a space they can live in for a while as they are determining what their design plan will be.
Choose Looks Over Function
This is one of the only times that you can prioritize the way something looks over the way it functions. If you have a limited budget, spend it on things that will make your home look as good as possible.
For example, a shiny new oven or refrigerator will impress potential buyers much more so than a new water heater or dehumidifier. As long as those more mundane items are in good working order, leave them alone and focus your time and money on items that you know potential buyers will want to see.
When it comes to a kitchen or bathroom, bigger is almost always better. If you have the opportunity to increase the size of these rooms without a major restructuring of your house, take it!
What separates a major change from a minor one? Think knocking out walls vs. rearranging furniture or buying new pieces that serve a functional purpose and double as storage. Before you go embarking on a big change, consider if there are any smaller (and cheaper) steps you can take first.
When you’re getting ready to buy a home, you prepare to make a down payment and pay for moving costs. But there are some hidden costs that you might not anticipate, and they can add up quickly.
Every dollar matters when you are buying a home, and you need to know exactly what to expect. Prepare yourself for some of these hidden home-buying costs.
Also known as a “good faith” deposit, this is a small precursor to a down payment that signals to the seller that you are serious about buying the home. Without it, anyone could make an offer on any house they wanted and back out without any real consequences.
Earnest money is typically around 1-2 percent of your home’s purchase price and it’s sent at the time that you make an offer on the house. The money is held by the title company and you can expect your check to be cashed right away. If you end up buying the home, it will be contributed toward your down payment.
Once the offer is accepted, it’s time for a home inspection. This is one place where you definitely do not want to cut corners in an effort to save a few bucks.
A good home inspector will identify issues that could turn into major problems down the road. It’s much better to deal with them before you move in when you can lean on the seller to help pay for some of the repair costs.
A general home inspection by a certified inspector will cost a few hundred dollars, but you may need to add additional inspections for things like termites or asbestos depending on where you live and how old the home is that you’re buying.
Closing is the time when the remainder of your down payment is due, but there are other costs that can add up to 2-5 percent of the home’s total cost. Closing costs include:
The bottom line? Buying a home is going to cost more than you might expect, so don’t take your savings down to the wire with a down payment. The last thing you want to do is start your time in a new home in more debt than you can afford because of hidden costs.
Buying your first home is a huge step for anyone, and it can be tempting to jump right in and start making it your own. You should definitely capitalize on your enthusiasm and strike while the iron is hot, but do so in a meaningful way! Here are a few common mistakes you can avoid with a little planning.
Focusing Solely on Cosmetics
If you spent time watching HGTV before buying your house, the first thing you probably want to do is replace old appliances with stainless steel and swap out dated countertops for shiny new granite.
Making those cosmetic improvements is great, but don’t let them come at the expense of larger, structural issues that might be lurking deeper in your home. Your home inspection should have flagged most of them, and it’s important to address them before moving on to more fun purchases.
Speaking of structural issues, once you’ve determined what needs to be fixed, you need to figure out whether it’s something you can comfortably tackle yourself or whether you need to get a handyman involved.
The answer will depend on your ability level and the amount of time you have to devote to home improvement projects. It’s important to be honest with yourself here — you don’t want to get in over your head, but you don’t want to spend unnecessary money on a handyman either.
When in doubt, consult friends and family for a second opinion, especially if they are homeowners themselves.
Rushing into Remodeling
Regardless of whether your home needs a little work or a lot of it, you’ll want to wait at least a few months before you start any major projects. Your mind may change over time as you adjust to the house and get a full understanding of how everything works.
Again, this is frustrating when you want to dive in and get right to work, but you do not want to make changes only to realize you want something else instead.
The break will also allow you to get a better handle on your finances. Once you have a few months of a mortgage payment and utilities under your belt, you will have a better idea of how much you can spend on renovations.
Want to increase your home’s value without spending too much? Here are some helpful tips: