Posts Tagged ‘Real Estate’

Solar Roof Panels: A Mainstream Option For Homeowners?

April 25, 2018

Solar Roof Panels A Mainstream Option For HomeownersDo rooftop solar panels add value to a home, and are they cost-effective in terms of energy savings? The short answer is yes, say the experts. Although more than a million U.S. homes boasted solar panels in 2016, the percentage of solar-equipped households is still miniscule. 

That may change, however, as domestic prices for solar installations continue to decrease and property values rise.

The Pros And Cons Of Solar

While there is global agreement on the need to encourage cost-effective, non-polluting renewable energy sources, it is also acknowledged that solar effectiveness is not equal in all locations or situations. 

Several Southwestern states boast abundant sunshine, a high percentage of roofs that face in the proper direction for solar capture, and high consumption of electricity, including the the need for air conditioning. Experts predict that California could supply 74 percent of its total electrical needs if its roofs were clothed in solar panels.

On the other hand, Nevada, with a much smaller population and a different climate, only has the ability to supply 14 percent of its total need. The truth is that solar is not equally beneficial in all locations.

Solar Costs On Par With Grid Electricity

Even so, according to information provided by the Union of Concerned Scientists, more than half of U.S. states have reached or are close to the point where rooftop solar costs are on par with grid costs for electricity. In areas where utility companies offer net metering, solar producers can return excess energy for credit, which results, in the best of cases, in a monthly electricity bill that is extremely low, perhaps even zero.

Before committing to rooftop solar panels, homeowners should ask some pertinent questions. An investment in solar is still pricey, even though installation costs have dropped by about 50 percent over the past decade. With government incentives of various kinds, the total cost may dip to $10,000 or below for an average size home.

On average, the payback on that initial investment will be long-term, even though monthly savings on electrical bills can be immediate. Panel leasing is a popular option, with no initial down payment required, although the lease term may extend for 10 or even 20 years. Another option in some areas is to invest in a solar farm or cooperative.

Important Questions For Homeowners

Pertinent questions include personal motivation: Are solar panels simply a way to save money or do they demonstrate eco-consciousness and a concern for quality of life? Owners should also consider how long they plan to own a specific home before investing in rooftop panels.

Current data suggests that buyers will pay a premium for solar-equipped homes. A study by Energy Sage confirms that buyers in some states are more “pro-solar” than other U.S. residents, but notes that the national value boost is around $15,000 for an average solar home, and higher in select locales. That equates to between $3 and $4 per kilowatt of solar power generated.  

Even though the added value is not uniform throughout the country, it is obvious that rooftop solar panels are emerging as mainstream home amenities. Talk with your trusted mortgage professional about the impact of solar improvements to your home.

 

 

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Your Guide To Aging In Place Home Modifications

April 20, 2018

Your Guide To Aging in Place Home ModificationsIf you’ve had to watch your parents transition into assisted living, you may have no desire to call such a place home. You are not alone. According to the Aging in Place Housing Survey conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), more than 90 percent of seniors want to remain in their home.

Many survey respondents said that they would rather use nursing home funds towards purchasing a home that is suited for aging in place or making accessible home modifications.  

You’ve probably heard the buzzwords — aging in place, non-assisted living, universal design — these phrases mean the same thing: growing older in your home. Today, home modifications can help you continue to live in your home as you age. Plus, aging-in-place home modifications are much less expensive than moving into a nursing home or assisted living facility.

The problem is that most existing homes are not conducive to aging in place. There are more than 100 million homes in the United States. However, only one percent of them are currently set up for accessibility. Fortunately, there are a variety of home modifications that you can do to make any home more accessible. Here is a handy guide to accessible home modifications.

Think About Your Future Needs

The first step in making sure your home is suited to aging in place is to consider how your needs might change in the future. Everyone’s situation is different.

If you have a chronic illness, such as diabetes or heart disease, it is best to talk with your doctor to determine how these health issues might make it hard for you to live on your own in the future. Consider what modifications you’ll need to make to ensure that your home will suit your future needs.

For example, if you are thinking of buying a new home with an upstairs, you might use the upper part of the house for your home office now and convert the area into caregiver’s quarters in the future.

Consider a First-Floor Master Suite

An essential home modification for aging in place is first-floor living. Although you might not have mobility issues now, hip replacements and other problems that affect mobility are frequent with increasing age.

Plus, a first-floor suite can increase the value of your home should you sell in the future. According to data from Builder Online, out of the best-selling new home floor plans, more than 83 percent feature accessible master suites.

Choose Slip-Resistant Flooring

Falls are a serious threat to the independence and health of older adults. They are the leading cause of injuries among Americans ages 65 and older. That is why it is so important to take steps to reduce the likelihood of a fall.

One of the easiest modifications that you can make in this area is to choose slip-resistant flooring. Cork and bamboo flooring are both popular for aging in place as they are softer and thus more forgiving during a fall.

These are just a few of the aging in place modifications that you can make to your home. There are many others. The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to sacrifice lifestyle or luxury to have a home that is also accessible.

Many of the above modifications can be made anytime and can help enhance the beauty and comfort of your home. As you plan for your future in your home, please contact your mortgage professional to explore finance options for these and other necessary home modifications.

 

Best Tax Deductible Home Improvements for Homeowners

April 19, 2018

Best Tax Deductible Home Improvements For HomeownersBefore delving into tax-deductible home improvements, it’s important to understand that these tax deductions won’t be applied immediately. In most cases, homeowners can only benefit, tax-wise, from their home renovations later, when they sell their home.

It’s important for homeowners to keep receipts for their improvements, though so they have proof of the improvements they made, even if it’s years later when they sell their residence.

Typical Renovations/ Home Improvements That Can Yield Eventual Tax Benefits

A home improvement is any project that substantially adds value to a home. It can include adapting it to be more useful or be improvements that allow it to be used differently. The following are some general home improvements that can yield tax savings when a home is sold for a profit.

  • Room additions.
  • Upgrades to plumbing.
  • Kitchen improvements.
  • A new roof.
  • New bathrooms.
  • Upgraded landscaping.
  • Improvements to fencing.
  • New decks.
  • Improved wiring.
  • New walkways.
  • Driveway improvements.
  • Plumbing upgrades.

How Delayed Tax Benefits Work

While a homeowner can’t take the amount of money they spent on one of the above home improvements and deduct it that same tax year, they can sometimes benefit from the investment in their home. This is true because a homeowner can effectively reduce the amount of taxes they have to pay if they sell their home for a profit down the road.

When an improvement is made, the cost of those improvements are added to the tax basis of a home. The basis is the investment in a home for tax purposes. The greater this number becomes, the less the profit is from selling a home.

The following explains it a little better:

Example Of Tax Basis And Home Improvement Tax Savings

A fictional homeowner purchases their home for $600,000 and sells their home 20 years later for $1,000,000. Their original “profit” from the sale would have been $400,000, which would have been taxable income at the time of the sale. However, throughout the 15 years when they resided in the home, this homeowner made around $60,000 worth of home improvements, including a roof improvement and a kitchen update. The $60,000 is then added to the original investment this homeowner made in their home, bringing their tax basis to $660,000.

The homeowner’s profit when they sell their home is then reduced from $400,000 to $340,000. Many homeowners use home improvements as a way to reduce the amount of taxes they will one day have to pay when they sell their home for a substantial profit.

Other Ways For Homeowners To Benefit From Their Home This Tax Season

Homeowners can make their home work for them each and every tax year by qualifying for the home office deduction. This only works if they own and operate a legitimate business out of their home, though. A part of the home must be used either regularly or exclusively for the business to qualify.

The above is some pertinent information on how homeowners can use home improvements to reduce their tax burden.  As always, check with your trusted tax professional for accurate advice on your personal situation.

6 Money Making Tips For The First Time Home Seller

April 6, 2018

6 Money Making Tips For The First Time Home SellerToday’s homebuyers can have specific ideas and personal preferences that influence their decision on what attracts them to a particular property. While some prefer a fixer-upper, many desire a home that’s as close to turn-key as possible.

First time home sellers may help expedite the process with these six home selling tips. 

Determine Right Listing Price

A home priced competitively in its market typically sells faster. Professional REALTORS® know the area and look at comparative listings to help determine the right listing price.

First time home sellers often think their home should list higher, and this can turn away buyers. Trust a real estate agent to know the right price that will attract potential buyers for a sale that makes all parties happy.

Curb Appeal Makes a Difference

Great curb appeal has the power to attract buyers and create a positive first impression. Simple enhancements add to curb appeal:

  • Mow the lawn or make sure the walk/driveway is clear of snow/ice
  • Prune overhanging branches and trim bushes
  • Remove any sickly or dead vegetation
  • Replenish missing mulch or rocks in landscape beds
  • Replace worn house numbers and/or mailbox
  • Add fresh potted plants to porch for pop of color
  • De-clutter yard by removing lawn ornaments/art and all kids’ toys
  • Have all exterior lighting in working condition

A fresh coat of paint on the front door, clean windows, and a sidewalk swept free from leaves and debris also add to the overall welcoming look. 

De-clutter and Depersonalize

Once potential buyers enter the home, it’s time to make another important impression. Homebuyers should be able to visualize themselves living in the space.

De-cluttering and depersonalizing the home helps. The fewer items in a room, the larger the space feels. Key areas to de-clutter include the kitchen and bathroom, in particular the countertops. Remove all personal items, storing out-of-sight in a closet or cabinet. 

In addition, remove personal photographs and large collections if possible. Children’s rooms don’t need to be completely depersonalized, but it’s essential to de-clutter the space to show it to its best advantage.  

Repairs and Replacements

Every home has a few small items that need repair but have fallen to low priority. Before listing the home, take the time to make these repairs and replacements.

Tighten that loose cabinet in the kitchen, replace the torn bathroom window screen, and refresh the caulk in the showers. Sometimes it’s the little things that turn off homebuyers and these small repairs may be the tipping point for a sale. 

Offer the Extras

In a competitive market, offer extras to entice buyers. Generally, these extras are appliances that stay with the home as part of the sale. Other extras a seller may include within the price of the home are items like window treatments and outdoor accessories like patio furniture. 

Consider a Pre-inspection

A pre-inspection can help reduce concerns potential buyers have regarding the home’s current condition. It’s a way to reassure buyers that the house doesn’t have any hidden issues.

However, getting a pre-inspection doesn’t mean homebuyers won’t want their own home inspection, too. Consult with a real estate professional to help determine if a pre-inspection may be helpful.

First time home sellers don’t have to be overwhelmed with the process. With the right preparation and the help of a professional real estate agent, home selling can move swiftly. 

 

7 Tips To Plan A Spring Yard ‘Tune-Up’ Before Listing A Home For Sale

March 30, 2018

7 Tips to Plan a Spring Backyard Tune UpThe oft-repeated maxim that there is never a second chance to make a great first impression is especially true when it comes to real estate. Street appeal may focus on a dramatic approach to the front door, but prospective buyers will be especially “wowed” by an appealing back yard.

Early spring is the perfect time to add some new plants, set out pots of blooming flowers and focus on one memorable feature. A little work now will pay big dividends later, in terms of buyer interest, increased showings, quick offers, and even a higher price.

Here are 7 ideas that are cost-effective weekend projects:

  1. Create a focal point: Find an antique garden trellis and plant some vines to create an arbor. Add a piece of sculpture or statuary either in the center of the yard or in a secluded garden spot. Install a “gate to nowhere” and add bright flowers on one side. Paint giant sunflowers on a privacy fence or on the side of a storage shed. 
  2. Build a partial wall or shade trellis: There is little that’s more appealing that an an “outdoor living room.” Accent and define your patio space in an interesting way — use a sisal rug or paint a graphic design on the concrete — and fill the room with appropriate furniture. Add a small fountain or a charcoal fire pit to create a real gathering spot.
  3. Install a simple drip irrigation system: Minimize landscape upkeep by planning DIY drip irrigation that will keep planting areas looking their best. All that’s really needed is some tubing and a few fittings; the system itself can be attached to an outside hose bibb and operated by a simple timer. It’s not necessary to extend the system to the entire lawn; that would be a more costly and time-consuming project perhaps best left to a professional.
  4. Create a dry creek bed: If parts of the yard or garden are plagued by standing water following heavy rain, give drainage an assist by making a dry creek bed. It’s not too difficult and will add function and beauty to the back yard. Add some large boulders or a “Zen bench” to boost the appeal.
  5. Plant or hang solar lights: Define a pathway, highlight planting areas or just add night-time interest to the yard with solar lighting. Buy inexpensive versions at a home store, or order artistic lights from a catalog. They’re fun, functional and portable.
  6. Plant a specialty garden: Attract butterflies and hummingbirds with a patch of wildflowers. Build a small raised garden plot to grow kitchen herbs, or plant seasonal vegetables and edible flowers. Carrots. kale and rainbow chard are especially pretty and don’t take much space. Melons, squash and pumpkins have beautiful flowers and yield great fruit, but they do spread! 
  7. Clean up, trim, weed and mow: Finally, don’t neglect the routine maintenance that is required in every yard, both front and back. Nothing else is as important to prospective buyers as an attractive, well-kept home exterior. 

 

5 Tips For Prospective Buyers To Submit A Winning Offer

March 28, 2018

5 Tips For Prospective Buyers To Submit A Winning OfferIn a hot real estate market, agents often tell buyers they must expect to make multiple offers before one is accepted. Disappointment may be the new normal rather than an exception. The stress of repeated rejections isn’t easy, so be prepared.

Significant numbers of first-time buyers find the process difficult, and recent research indicates that about 60 percent of Millennials choose to rent rather than own, delaying other important life decisions, including marriage and family. 

There are, however, at least 5 ways to strengthen your buyer profile and give yourself an advantage: 

Check Your Credit

Take advantage of the free credit checks offered by the three credit reporting agencies, and clean up any questionable entries. At the very least, be prepared to offer clear and cogent reasons for any late payments that appear within the last couple of years. Pay down credit card balances and student loan debt as much as possible, and assure that your employment record is stable. 

Sock Away Some Cash

Try to delay your home search until you have enough money for a reasonable down payment and required closing costs, plus a comfortable nest egg or contingency fund. Demonstrate a consistent savings habit. If you plan to borrow the down payment from parents or other family members, be certain it will be adequate and available when you need it.

Talk With Your Loan Officer

Get a definitive idea of how much you can comfortably afford. If you’re a veteran or qualify for other special loan programs, find out in advance. Gain a comfort level with a lender, and listen to the advice that is offered. Interest rates are currently still low, but any rate change will affect the amount you can borrow. Limit your home search homes priced lower than your loan limit.

The only thing better than a pre-qualification letter is approval confirmation for a specific loan amount. In a fast-paced real estate market, seek that pre-approval, so that you’ll be able to move quickly when you find the right property. A pre-approved loan, an offer with no contingencies, and a quick closing date are the marks of an “A-list” buyer.

Define Your Needs

Know your preferred neighborhoods, and prepare a list of “must have” items as well as a wish list to guide your search. But be realistic. Know that home-buying is a matter of priorities and a game of give and take.

Look at a home’s structure and condition; consider the location, and realize that there is no such thing as the perfect house. Know that tired style can be updated, and decor changes are relatively easy on the pocketbook.  

Make the First Offer Your Best Offer

In a seller’s market, it’s wise to make the initial offer your best offer. A lowball bid will not impress the seller, and you may never get a chance to submit a higher bid. When there is serious competition for homes, it pays to be serious about every offer. 

Finally, know that if you’re persistent and prepared, you will find a home to suit you. Practice patience!

6 Top Trending Green Features To Consider When Remodeling

March 23, 2018

6 Top Trending Green FeaturesSustainable materials, energy savings and smart home technology are high on the list of buyer wants in a home. But there are some other architectural and design trends that will change the way Americans live this year and beyond.

When planning a remodel, it pays to pay attention to green features, as well as to improved floor plans that will make a home more comfortable, more appealing and more functional. 

Here’s a list of what’s hot right now:

Natural and Sustainable Materials

Eco-consciousness and concerns about individual health and wellness prompted a return to natural woods and stone, as well as organic forms and living greenery. All are prominently featured in today’s show houses and and on design shows. For both residential and commercial design, there is renewed emphasis on the importance of natural light, views, air quality and open space as elements that affect not only mood and function but also health and well being.

Reclaimed and Recycled Products

No matter what the design or decor, there is a way to incorporate previously used materials. Recycled plastic is commonly used for roofing tiles, carpet, insulation, composite lumber and decking material, decorative trim and landscaping rocks. Reclaimed beams, distressed wood flooring, stunning countertops fabricated from recycled glass, wood chips and even cardboard, are only a few trendy possibilities. For a planned remodel, be sure to investigate what’s available, including “repurposing” used building materials like old windows, vintage gates or antique furniture.

LEED Certified Construction

Resource conservation and energy-savings are a way of life and worthy of attention. In some ways, Europe and Asia lead the U.S. in terms of conservation, but one way to assure that new homes are built to a certain standard is to insist on LEED certification, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It’s a compliance and rating system for both residential and commercial construction that is recognized internationally.

Energy-Star Rated Appliances, Systems, Fixtures and Fittings

It would be difficult today to buy a new appliance or furnace that is not energy-efficient. But in an older home, even if existing appliances, faucets and fixtures, heating and cooling systems are still operational, it might be wise to consider replacing them. Sometimes the savings on monthly water and electricity alone makes financial sense. And new replacements always add to a home’s appraised value.

Rooftop Solar Panels

There is ample evidence that buyers will pay a premium for solar homes. Although the initial investment is relatively high, an owner will benefit from an immediate reduction in energy cost, and the added property value might make such an investment worthwhile.  

Smart Home Technology and Home Automation

Buyers today almost universally want a wireless security system and some form of programmable temperature control. Additional smart home features high on the list of consumer wants include lighting controls, wireless hubs that integrate entertainment and convenience features, and trendy apps that allow control of home functions via smart phone, whether from across the block or across the globe. 

Owners who are motivated to sell will look to these buyer wants in order to be competitive in today’s hot real estate market.

7 Excellent Ideas For Building An Eco-Friendly Home

March 21, 2018

7 excellent ideas for building and eco friendly homeIn recent years, building an environmentally friendly home or updating an existing home to be more energy efficient has become much more mainstream. While building an entirely green residence isn’t always fiscally possible, simple eco-friendly building techniques and upgrades will ultimately lower your water and electricity bills.

These green home improvements will save you money in the long run, while also saving the planet. The following are some of the easiest ways to lower your carbon footprint when building or updating a home. 

Build or Purchase a Smaller Home

Smaller homes naturally have a lower impact on the environment. There is less square footage to cool and heat, which keeps energy consumption down. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to give up your dream home. Instead, create an ideal floor plan with usable space, and downsize rooms you know you will not use on a daily — or even weekly — basis. 

Use Energy-Efficient Windows

When building a home or updating an existing home, use Energy Star-labeled windows. This important label means that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has deemed them as energy efficient. The money saved on future heating and cooling bills often more than make up for the initial cost differential. 

Use Energy-Efficient Products

Like windows, certain appliances are also Energy Star-labeled. Energy Star appliances conserve energy, without sacrificing performance. Everything from a single light bulb to a geothermal heat pump can come with this important, government-approved label. 

Use Proper Insulation

Heating and cooling typically accounts for approximately half of a home’s energy consumption, and this energy usage is often wasted due to poor insulation. Start by making sure there are no drafts by windows and doors. This is one of the easiest things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and the price of your monthly bills.

Install Solar Panels

Solar energy is both clean and renewable, and solar panels are the perfect way to harness this remarkable form of energy. While the initial cost of installation can seem high, the money saved in the long term is extraordinary. Plus, there are often tax breaks and other monetary incentives. When building a new home, consult with a knowledgeable architect about positioning the property and the solar panels for maximum sun exposure.

Use Sustainable Building Materials

Sustainable building materials can be utilized throughout the entire building process. When picking out wood for the frame of the home, use a supplier who practices an environmentally friendly planting and harvesting process. Once in the design phase, consider bamboo and/or cork flooring. They are both eco-friendly and trendy. 

Save Water

There are numerous ways to cut back on water usage. To start, install low-flow aerators on toilets and shower heads, invest in a tankless water heater and only use an Energy Star-rated washing machine. Next, capture rainwater on your property in a cistern or barrel. This water can be used for landscaping and irrigation.

Creating a green home doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple updates and a bit of forethought can drastically reduce monthly bills, while simultaneously reducing fossil-fuel emissions. 

Moving From An Apartment To A House? Here’s What You Need To Remember About Your Lease

March 16, 2018

Moving From An Apartment To A HouseThe major problem that the vast majority of buyers will run into – especially when purchasing their first home – has to do with a lease agreement that is still active with their apartment complex at the time of the purchase. If you locate the perfect home in February but your lease isn’t over until August, you can’t be expected to wait around.

But at the same time, the remainder of that lease agreement could represent thousands of dollars that you’ll be paying to essentially “live” in two different places at the same time.

Luckily, all hope is not lost. There are a variety of steps that you can take to help mitigate your remaining financial risk at your apartment as much as possible.

Breaking Your Lease Early: What You Need to Know

First, look at your existing lease agreement and make sure you understand their early termination policy. This will outline the various acceptable ways, usually dictated in large part by state and other local laws, that you can break a lease early without being forced to pay through the duration of the agreement itself.

Much of this will vary based not only on the state, but also the property manager in question. Your property manager may very well allow for early termination for home buyers – particularly if they’re in an area where they know they can rent the apartment quickly.

This is not always the case, though, which is why you need to begin by reviewing the situation thoroughly so you know what you’re dealing with.

Next, you should review what state laws have to say about your landlord’s duty to find a new tenant in the area of the country that you’re living in. In some states, for example, your landlord MUST make “reasonable efforts” to re-rent your unit as quickly as possible, regardless of the reason you’ve decided to leave.

Many state housing laws require landlords to make every effort to keep their own losses at a minimum – meaning that you may not have to pay much, if anything at all, to break your lease early provided that you give said landlord enough notice. 

Why Conversations Matter

Finally, you’ll want to sit down with your landlord face-to-face (if you haven’t already done so) and explain to them exactly what is going on. Landlords are people too and oftentimes they can be more sympathetic than you think.

According to an authority on the matter, the “worst case scenario” for most renters-turned-buyers breaking a lease agreement is often that they’ll need to pay an early termination fee to break their agreement early. This can be as little as one month’s rent to “a few month’s rent” depending on the situation.

At the very least, this is better than being forced to pay every month for the remainder of your term.

In the end, it’s important for you to understand that you should not let anything get in the way of buying the home you’ve always wanted – even if you’re currently living in an apartment with an active lease agreement.

You just need to know as much about the specifics of that agreement as possible so that you can move into your new home while mitigating as much risk as possible for both yourself and your landlord at the same time.

It’s wise to consult with your trusted home financing professional about the implications of your specific situation.

Should You Improve Your Home Before Selling Or Not?

March 6, 2018

To Improve or Not to ImproveSelling your home is one of the most stressful things you’ll ever go through and one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. However, there’s a lot more to selling your home than just sticking a sign out in the front yard. Most likely, your home will need a little work before it is perfect.

Therefore, you’ll have to decide whether you need to take care of home improvement issues yourself or, to sell with the expectation that the buyer will be the one to do so.

We put together a few pros and cons to doing it each way to make your decision a little easier.

Do The Improvements Yourself

Choosing to complete needed improvements yourself means that you will likely get a higher sales price for your home. In addition, with less work to do, it opens up your home to more buyers than one that is a fixer-upper does. Selling will usually be faster and closing more likely to go smoothly.

On the other hand, chances are good that you will not get the full value you put into those improvements at the closing table. In addition, when you are moving, money may be tight making this an even more difficult proposition.

Sell It As A Fixer Upper

The main benefit of selling your home as a fixer-upper is that you will not have to put additional money in up front to pay for updates or repairs. If you are in a difficult financial situation or selling your home at a loss, this may be necessary.

Additionally, you would avoid coordinating work with contractors and obtaining bids on all of the work.  This can be an especially strong consideration if you are selling a home at a distance from where you live or for a relative who no can no longer stay in the home.

One of the downfalls to selling your home as a fixer-upper is that you’ll likely get a lower price and some buyers won’t even come out and view your home if they think there is too much work that needs to be done.

One consideration may be to look at the most inexpensive updates that you can afford to do that will present your home in the best way possible.  Oftentimes painting is one of the most economical ways to improve the look of your home and freshen it up for new buyers.

Discuss your concerns and speak honestly about your financial picture with your trusted mortgage professional and perhaps you will have a better idea of which of these options is the smart choice for your situation.