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Stay updated with the latest real estate trends, ideas, and expert advice.

Month: December 2020 (Page 1 of 10)

Are Granite Countertops Out of Style? New Rivals Challenge a ClassicMelissa RudyHomeLight Blog

You can’t tune into a single HGTV show without hearing house hunters ogle over beautiful granite countertops in the kitchen or bath. For decades, the natural stone material has been the poster child for home luxury. In fact, according to the Builder Practices Survey (BPS) in 2016, 64% of new homes were built with granite countertops.

A graph explaining the popularity of granite countertops.
Source: (NAHB)

But lately, there have been rumblings that granite’s days as the counter king are numbered. With solid-surface options and other natural materials riding a trend wave, could the granite craze be gone for good — or is its appeal just as strong as the stone itself?

A grey kitchen with granite countertops.
Source: (Carl GARTMAN / Unsplash)

The rise of granite countertops

Granite is a durable, natural stone mined from quarries in places such as Brazil and Italy. After the material is mined, technicians cut the material into slabs and polish it to a smooth, shiny finish you see in the showroom. From there, fabrication specialists transform the material into specific shapes and sizes based on a customer’s needs.

Granite catapulted into the limelight when designer Deborah Sussman had the countertop material installed in her kitchen in 1986. At the time, the stone was still pretty far out of the average homeowner’s budget.

But in the 1990s, when more countries started quarrying and processing granite, the supply increased and prices started to come down. According to the International Trade Commission, by 1996 the U.S. was importing around 206,000 metric tons of granite, and that number had risen to two million metric tons by 2014.

Granite then and now

Barbara Turns, owner of Designer Kitchens and Baths in Las Vegas, has been in the construction industry since 1990 and launched her remodeling company in 1999. She remembers when granite snowballed in popularity in the 1990s and early 2000s.

“It was a cheaper version of what we see today,” says Turns. “It wasn’t sealed properly, very little was known about the characteristics, and in my opinion it didn’t look good. But the builders advertised it as the ‘next best thing’ so they could use it as an upgrade in their new homes.”

Compared to what came before it, granite was a clear upgrade. Laminate (Formica) had the benefit of being budget-friendly, but the tradeoff was a cheap, flimsy appearance.

Ceramic tile countertops required grout, which was a pain to clean and maintain. Then there was Corian, a brand-name for a solid-surface countertop made from a blend of polymer and natural materials. It was a step up from laminate and tile, but Corian lacked the shine and “wow factor” of granite.

Throughout the 2000s, granite began popping up in more and more mid-level and entry-level homes. It also started to replace marble countertops in luxury homes, as granite offered enhanced durability and stain resistance.

Is granite on the way out?

But as we head into the second decade of the century, the great granite craze appears to be tapering off, or perhaps just entering a lull. If you ask a handful of designers, builders, and real estate agents to name the most popular countertop material today, a sizable portion of them will likely name something other than granite.

Monique Walker, a top-selling real estate agent in Phoenix, says buyers aren’t as in love with granite as they used to be. Out of a sampling of 30 homes that recently sold in the most in-demand part of her Phoenix market, she estimates that 95% of them had quartz countertops and the other 5% had marble — and the same goes for the properties built in the area over the last year.

But Doug Fernandez, a residential homebuilder in San Jose, California since 1985, believes granite is still alive and well. Many of the clients he works with prefer granite because it’s easy to keep clean, can hold up to hot pans in the kitchen, and doesn’t have any grout joints that require maintenance.

Turns agrees that granite is still in high demand, partly because the available color options have increased substantially since the early 2000s. “Because no two slabs of granite are exactly the same, the variety is enormous,” she says.

Evolution of granite design trends

Among the homeowners who are still going the granite route, the design preferences seem to be changing. In the 1990s and early 2000s, people gravitated toward bolder, busier, and darker granite slabs. These days, Fernandez is seeing a shift toward solid, lighter colors, such as white with subtle grey-veined patterns that emulate Carrera marble, or more subdued speckled patterns.

The selection of granite color also hinges on the colors of the cabinets and floors. “Nowadays, consumers are looking for cabinet colors and countertops that strongly contrast each other,” Fernandez explains. “We also take the floor colors into account to make sure they contribute to that contrast.”

A kitchen with quart countertops that are in style.
Source: (Watermark Designs / Unsplash)

Quartz as competition

Granite isn’t expected to disappear anytime soon. According to a global research report, the granite, marble, and stone market is anticipated to grow at a considerable rate through 2025. However, quartz is quickly emerging as granite’s biggest rival.

While granite is a purely natural stone, quartz is a manmade material consisting of a blend of around 90% ground-up quartz and around 10% polyester resin and polymers. Over the past decade or so, quartz has won over many former granite diehards with its many attractive benefits:

  • Color choices and consistency: Because quartz is an engineered material, the manufacturers can control which pigments are added during the process, allowing them to create unlimited colors and patterns. With natural stones like granite, the slabs are mined from quarries, so the colors and patterns are pre-set by nature and can’t be “dialed up” like they can with quartz.
  • Nonporous composition: Granite is porous, which means it will absorb liquids if left on the countertop for a long period. For this reason, many manufacturers recommend sealing the granite to keep out mold and harmful bacteria. Quartz is a solid, nonporous surface, so it will never absorb moisture and requires no sealing. That makes it highly resistant to staining from wine and acidic liquids.
  • Eco-friendliness: While granite requires a lot of energy and transportation to be quarried and fabricated, quartz is an engineered material that doesn’t tap into natural resources and is more environmentally friendly.

Other alternatives to granite

While quartz might be granite’s biggest rival in countertop choices, some other alternative materials are also starting to edge into the market.

  • Quartzite, not to be confused with quartz, is a natural stone, similar to granite. Although it is harder and more durable than granite, it must be sealed regularly to prevent staining. Quartzite can be found in a range of attractive colors, but can be on the pricey side, ranging from $90-$150 per square foot installed.
  • Marble is another natural stone that is often used in upscale homes, but it’s a bit of a risk to use in the kitchen, as it stains and scratches more easily than granite. This stone ranges from $40-$100 per square foot.
  • Dekton is an engineered stone countertop made from a blend of the same materials found in quartz, glass, and porcelain. It’s billed as being the hardest, most durable surface available, standing up to heat, scratches, and stains, but it’s also on the expensive side, ranging from $55-$115 per square foot with installation.
  • Butcher block countertops, which are wood slabs made up of many individual wooden strips layered together, add a warm look to the kitchen. They’re an affordable choice, ranging from $30-$40 per square foot, but are vulnerable to liquids and must be sealed on a monthly basis.
  • Concrete countertops offer the benefit of limitless customization, as the concrete can be poured in any shape, thickness, and color. Although they’re scratch- and heat resistant, they do require periodic sealing to prevent stains. Due to the skill and artistry required to pour them, concrete countertops come in on the high end price-wise, ranging from $65-$135 per square foot.

So, should you go with granite?

Your choice in countertop material is an individual one, and should be based on your lifestyle and budget. Walker typically recommends quartz as the best choice for her clients, as buyers in her area are seeking it out for its customization, resiliency, and sleek, upscale look. That said, granite is still a popular choice among builders and buyers. Just make sure your color selections lean toward the light neutrals trending today.

Header Image Source: (Chastity Cortijo / Unsplash)

With solid-surface options and other materials gaining popularity, could the granite craze be over — or is its appeal as strong as the stone itself?HomeLight Blog

7 Things You Didn’t Know Real Estate Attorneys Do For SellersValerie KalfrinHomeLight Blog

A Georgia home seller had fallen on hard times and missed a few mortgage payments. Although she caught up, there was a breakdown in communication that looked like the bank owned her house once she was ready to sell.

“That’s something the attorney caught and has worked diligently with an attorney in Atlanta to get resolved,” says Teresa Cowart, a top real estate agent serving the Richmond Hill and Savannah areas of Georgia. “If we didn’t have them involved, I don’t know that we’d ever get to closing.”

Although many states require a real estate attorney’s involvement at closing, regardless of the complexity of the transaction, using an attorney is more than a formality.

Real estate attorneys help sellers, buyers, and their agents resolve various issues surrounding the title, clarify whether someone can back out of a deal, and even act as go-betweens when buyers and sellers become acrimonious. “I call the attorneys we use regularly whenever a buyer and a seller are in dispute about something,” Cowart says.

Let’s break down some situations where a real estate attorney becomes a valuable member of your home selling team.

A real estate attorney working on a laptop.
Source: (Austin Distel / Unsplash)

What does a real estate attorney do for the seller?

A real estate attorney shields your home sale from legal trouble by tackling difficulties that arise along the way.

Statistics from the National Association of Realtors show that 30% of closings in October 2020 were delayed because of complications, including issues related to financing, appraisals, home inspections, titling, distressed property, or contract contingencies. What’s more, 5% of buyers and sellers who entered into contracts into October terminated those contracts, according to NAR.

“Our main objective is to make sure you are ready to close on the closing date and prepare the documents required to close,” says Steven B. Herzberg, a real estate attorney at Vazquez & Associates in Miami, Florida. “That means communicating with the buyer’s attorney or title agent, reviewing the title and lien search for any issues, making sure any issues are resolved, and preparing the documents the seller signs for closing.”

Depending on where you live and how involved the attorney is with your home sale, a real estate attorney also can draft and negotiate the contract for the sale, as well as prepare the deed, says Jeffrey L. Nogee, a New York City-based partner at the nationwide firm Tully Rinckey PLLC.

Here are some specific areas where sellers and agents rely on a lawyer’s expertise.

1. Solve documentation disputes.

Titling or deed issues amounted for 10% of delayed contracts in October and can be some of the knottiest problems to resolve, involving documents that weren’t drafted or recorded correctly years ago.

Herzberg handled the sale of a Miami Beach condo that the seller inherited from a relative. It had been transferred through a quitclaim deed, but because the death certificate hadn’t been filed with the deed 20 years ago, he had to obtain another death certificate and record it with the sale to provide a clear title.

Open permits are a problem that Nogee often encounters. He recently worked with the seller of a house built in the 1700s that had an open permit for an addition from 1942. He arranged for the proper electrical and plumbing certificates for the building inspector and obtained a certificate of completion so the sale could close.

A permitting issue doesn’t always crop up during a standard records search, he adds. Sometimes the buyer does a survey inspection and compares the physical property to the survey. If the property has a rear deck that’s not on the survey, that raises the question of whether any work was permitted properly, he says. The seller — or their attorney — has to get a definitive answer.

New York City has some other real estate quirks. Failing to pay your water bill winds up being listed on your real estate tax bill, so most of the time buyers will insist on an official meter reading to ensure there are no outstanding charges, Nogee says.

Some properties also have shared driveways, but the layout might entail crossing your neighbor’s portion to enter your home. A home sale might involve obtaining an easement for the buyer to access this part of the driveway legally.

2. Navigate short sale or foreclosure hurdles and complexities.

If you’re financially underwater and contemplating a short sale or foreclosure, a real estate attorney (along with your agent) is one of the experts authorized to negotiate with your lender on your behalf.

They’ll provide records and documentation to prove your financial instability and also make sure this information is up-to-date so that you can reach closing. An attorney also will know your state law’s specifications regarding short sales and foreclosures, adds Nogee, who handles a lot of estate and probate work. He helped to resolve one case where the executor of a woman’s estate in New York City didn’t pay the bills, sending the property into foreclosure.

A stack of papers used by a real estate attorney.
Source: (Pixabay / Pexels)

3. Sort paperwork related to an inherited property.

Dealing with an estate or inherited property can be an intricate transaction. Nogee once represented a person interested in buying a co-op in Queens. When he asked to see the documents regarding the underlying ownership, he learned the property was in the name of the seller’s mother — and she’d died about a decade ago. No one had done any probate work on her estate, so even though her son said he was the only heir, the deal couldn’t move forward.

He’s currently involved in the sale of a two-family building in Brooklyn that an elderly woman deeded to a trust and made her granddaughter the trustee. Meanwhile, the granddaughter’s uncle moved into the basement and refused to pay rent or leave; he changed the locks and even harassed his mother and sister, forcing them to leave the building. Ultimately, the trustee found a buyer who was willing to take the property at a reduced price with the uncle still there, although Nogee expects the buyer will move to have the uncle evicted.

4. Discuss liability regarding repairs.

Even after a home inspection, issues with repairs or last-minute issues can arise. For example, sometimes the refrigerator breaks the day before closing.

“You work that out with money usually,” Nogee says. But even though the seller would replace the refrigerator, the money wouldn’t be for a brand-new appliance — only the cost of one that’s the same age as the one that broke.

Roof leaks are another hurdle to be ironed out to all parties’ satisfaction. “The buyer doesn’t want somebody else’s workmen coming in; the seller doesn’t want the buyer’s workmen gouging them for the cost,” he says.

Cowart, in her capacity as a real estate agent in Georgia, has referred buyers to the real estate attorneys that helped with closing if the seller didn’t disclose something properly, such as a garage that floods, ruining the buyer’s plans to convert the space to a workout room. “I said, ‘You need to call the attorney; they’ll tell you what kind of recourse you have,’” she says.

5. Handle sales with out-of-town owners.

Herzberg’s office often represents people in other countries who sell real estate in Florida. Because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, he’s had to find ways to get the necessary paperwork signed remotely, such as coordinating with notaries in the sellers’ home countries and working with the buyers’ underwriters to obtain their approval about these means.

Cowart has worked with real estate attorneys to facilitate home sales for people serving in the military, which also involves remotely transmitting and signing documents. She’s also found an attorney’s staff helpful when dealing with out-of-state sellers who are “technology-challenged.” She once sold a home for a woman now in Ohio who didn’t have the ability at home to print out or e-sign the required paperwork.

So Cowart found a retail printing outlet, the paralegal highlighted where the seller needed to sign, and the two spoke to a worker there about printing out the pages for the seller, then returning them. They also paid for the necessary fees.

A group of sellers working with a real estate attorney in a conference room.
Source: (Christina @ wocintechchat.com / Unsplash)

6. Mediate sales with multiple owners or sour feelings.

Whether you’re selling property that you own with a spouse or one that you’ve shared with siblings, a sale with multiple owners can dissolve into chaos if there’s no agreement in place (such as a joint tenancy or living trust). While a real estate agent is a neutral party in this situation, an attorney can ensure there are no conflicts of interest — or be prepared to go to court in a partition action if necessary.

Sometimes even a sale with one owner can turn adversarial, though. While many buyers and sellers will close in the same room, trading light chit chat, every so often things turn frosty, Cowart says. “Occasionally, we have things where they don’t like each other and they don’t want to be in the same room.” A real estate attorney winds up ferrying the paperwork between both parties so that the sale can close.

7. Protect your interests.

Attorneys also are prepared for those situations where a buyer has a change of heart — or raises an issue at the last minute. “I have a buyer who now doesn’t want to close because they don’t think the house is clean enough,” Cowart says.

An attorney can weigh in on what concerns are worth renegotiating and whether either side can walk away. “That’s extremely helpful to me because it’s not me, the agent who’s going to get paid, saying what’s going to happen if you don’t close,” Cowart says.

As much as you rely on your real estate agent for their expertise, agents like having a trusted resource to consult, too, especially when a deal becomes complicated. A home is for many people the biggest investment they have, and therein lies a real estate attorney’s value: offering peace of mind.

Header Image Source: (Tingey Injury Law Firm / Unsplash)

In some situations a real estate attorney becomes a valuable member of your home selling team. Here are 7 examples of what attorneys can do for sellers.HomeLight Blog

5 Steps to Sell Your Mobile Home Quickly and At a Great PriceValerie KalfrinHomeLight Blog

Your mobile home might have been a cozy comfort for the past few years, but thanks to living conservatively, you’ve saved enough to trade up for one of those site-built homes in a chic development or downtown. Now, how to handle selling your starter place so you can have more money in your pocket for the future?

There are some logistics involved — you’ll need to make sure your property is legally attached to land so it’s not considered a movable asset, plus make it appear spacious and inviting in spite of the ranch-like challenge of a boxy shape.

“There are some mobile homes that are so well done and so upper-end and kept up so well, it’s hard to tell it’s a mobile home,” says Sheila Newton, a veteran real estate agent and single-family homes expert serving Anderson, South Carolina, who has sold several mobile homes.

To make yours look like the type of home Newton describes, here are our expert tips on how to prepare your manufactured home so it fetches a great price and sells at a fast clip.

An agent and a client chatting about selling a mobile home.
Source: (Christina Morillo / Pexels)

1. Sync up with a real estate agent who has experience in local mobile home sales.

Just like selling a site-built home, selling a manufactured home can have its hurdles. But a seasoned real estate agent with experience in selling mobile homes is a valuable resource in helping you stage your property, advise you on repairs and improvements, and know what housing codes you need to meet to get to the closing table.

HomeLight collects information about your property type to find you the best agents in your area with relevant experience, including selling manufactured housing, so you can list with confidence and find your next place to call home.

2. Detitle your mobile home to officially classify it as real estate.

People can and do sell mobile homes that aren’t attached to land, such as those on leased lots, but those are considered personal property transactions. Selling a mobile home as personal property is similar to selling a vehicle and transferring the title to a new owner.

If you’re looking to sell your mobile home as real property, it must be classified as such. The process of attaching a mobile home to a piece of land is called de-titling. This legal process retires the DMV-issued title and changes it to a warranty deed for people who own both the mobile home and the property where it sits.

The cost for this may vary depending on where you live. Some municipalities charge just a filing fee. In South Carolina, Newton says this costs about $500 to $700; some owners opt to have an attorney handle it because the process can be complicated.

Other areas, such as Bay County, Florida, put the application to retire the certificate of title online for the owner to print and record with the local clerk of court.

Check with your real estate agent or whatever local agency handles vehicle registrations and titles. In some states, this may be the department of motor vehicles while in others, it may be your county tax collector.

3. Check whether your home meets all installation standards.

All manufactured homes built in the United States after June 15, 1976, must be constructed in accordance with the Model Manufactured Home Installation Standards from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These standards specify how the home should be anchored in place, locations for the perimeter support piers, and other requirements for the ductwork, heating, air conditioning, drainage, water supply, and electrical system.

Newton works with a structural engineer who assesses manufactured homes to check that they’re tied down properly and meet the most current codes. “Even if it was certified fifteen years ago, it’s probably not certified now,” she says.

If the engineer says that, for instance, the piers need to be mortared correctly or that the vinyl skirting should be replaced with brick, Newton will list the property noting that these repairs will be done before closing with an acceptable offer.

“Generally, when you’re dealing with a mobile home, a lot of times people don’t have the money to spend to do that,” so it’s written in the contract a certain way that the cost comes out of the seller’s proceeds, she says.

In addition, manufactured homes are eligible for government-insured loans offered by the FHA, the Veterans Administration (VA), and the Rural Housing Services (RHS) under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which many buyers in this price range will use.

To open up your potential buyer pool, you’ll need to be sure that your manufactured home meets certain standards to be eligible for both these loans and related mortgage insurance. For instance, to qualify for FHA mortgage insurance, a manufactured home must be larger than 400 square feet, certified as meeting installation standards, and classified as real estate.

Mobiles homes that are for sale.
Source: (hans engbers / Shutterstock)

4. Set an attractive price for your mobile home.

Data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which oversees the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, indicates that the prices of the manufactured homes purchased through federal lenders perform similarly to those of homes built on site. However, there are several factors that definitely affect price, including:

Location:
Some states have a more robust mobile home market. California, for instance, has about 18% of the U.S. housing market but only about 4% of manufactured homes, based on units shipped, according to the Urban Institute, a nonprofit research organization founded in 1968. The top markets for manufactured homes in 2019 based on housing units shipped were Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Michigan, and South Carolina.

Land:
We mentioned checking whether your home is attached to land for the sake of appealing to a broader selection of buyers, but it also impacts your pricing. That’s because land generally appreciates more than structures, the Urban Institute notes, citing data from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy from 1995 to 2016 showing that land had a total appreciation rate of 204% compared to 87% for structures alone. The type of land also can add value, for instance, if a manufactured home sits on lakefront property, Newton says.

Size:
A double-wide mobile home fetches a higher price than a single-wide. The average sale price in 2019 of a single-wide manufactured home of about 1,072 square feet was about $53,000 compared with that of a double-wide manufactured home. The larger home had about 1,747 square feet and sold for about $104,000, Census data shows.

Amenities:
Much like with a home built on site, a manufactured home can have a higher asking price for amenities such as an attached deck, a screened porch, or a sunroom, provided they’re in good condition, Newton says.

To arrive at an asking price, Newton says her team doesn’t look at square footage but what the market says. She pulls three to five comparable listed properties, plus three to five comparable sold properties, and adjusts for acreage, amenities, and possible repairs such as meeting federal housing codes. “We build these numbers in so the seller knows what to expect,” she says.

5. Head off any issues that might crop up through the home inspection or appraisal.

Manufactured homes use a different appraisal form than the one for single-family homes. This includes information for an appraiser to note the area’s topography and other factors particular to this type of housing, such as locating the HUD Data Plate/Compliance Certificate that verifies it meets installation standards, says Mason Spurgeon, a certified general real estate appraiser since 2004 who handles appraisals in Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa.

“We don’t compare a manufactured home to stick-built homes because they are two different types of properties,” Spurgeon says.

“Manufactured homes differ from stick-built homes because they tend to have a shorter economic life, at least in our market; however, appraising them is the same [basic] process because we compare a manufactured home to manufactured homes.”

However, you’ll want to be sure that the property is accessible for the appraiser and that you’ve gathered any relevant paperwork, such as your most recent tax receipts, a list of home improvements and upgrades, and details about the neighborhood such as walkability and nearby schools.

A home inspection may not raise as many issues because of the amount of metal beneath the home, but you should still be sure that the inspector can access the attic, crawl space, plumbing, wiring, and ductwork, Newton says. A pre-listing inspection can help point out any red flags, such as termites. “People mistakenly think mobile homes cannot have termites. They can,” Newton says. “We have that happen around here quite a bit, unfortunately.”

A mobile home with curb appeal.
Source: (nito / Shutterstock)

6. Spruce up your interior and your curb appeal for an attractive listing.

The Multiple Listing Service, or MLS, that real estate agents use in your area likely separates listings for single-family homes from manufactured homes because they’re different property types. Regardless, with 90% of homebuyers searching online for their next home, you’ll want your manufactured home to look sharp, especially in photos or video.

Boost your curb appeal with the following tips:

  • Go beyond traditional lattice or vinyl skirting and choosing brick, stone, or a polyurethane version that mimics such natural material.
  • Repaint or repair your siding, particularly any dents in your aluminum or cracks in the fiber cement.
  • Create architectural interest — and break away from that boxy look — with eye-catching details such as awnings, flower boxes, and vertical greenery such as vines on carport supports.

Potential buyers might wonder about how spacious your manufactured home is, so spruce up the interior with these hints from the magazine Mobile Home Living:

  • Remove the curtains to let in more natural light. (Add blinds or roman shades for privacy if needed.)
  • Clutter can make rooms feel smaller, so clear it by using multi-purpose furniture such as a coffee table with storage compartments and paring down what you display.
  • Avoid dark wall paint and flooring. Lighter colors seem to reflect light, making your space feel more open.
  • Stage rooms with furniture with exposed legs instead of those hidden under upholstery. Again, this creates an open, airy appearance.
  • Choose a focal point. Instead of hanging several photos or multiple pieces of artwork (which a real estate agent would say is a personal touch that distracts buyers), pick one item as a statement to draw visitors’ attention.

Sell your mobile home with confidence

Selling a mobile home, like selling any house, can be stressful. But keep in mind that your property type holds a lot of appeal. With an average size of about 1,400 square feet and a cost of about $82,000, manufactured housing suits a wide pool of buyers because it’s an affordable way for many to achieve homeownership. The cost alone is roughly 35% to 47% cheaper per square foot than housing built on site. And with proper upkeep and curb appeal, you can show buyers that there’s little difference day to day in mobile home living versus owning a single-family home.

Header Image Source: (agil73 / Shutterstock)

Get expert-backed tips on how to sell a mobile home by getting your legal ducks in a row and boosting the curb appeal and staging of your dwelling.HomeLight Blog

Your Home Maintenance Checklist Organized by Months of the YearValerie KalfrinHomeLight Blog

This home maintenance checklist, organized by months of the year, can help you stay ahead of problems that will otherwise snowball into those code-red issues, like a roof leak or basement flood. Rather than try to cram everything into the spring or fall, you can spread out the work evenly and tackle issues most urgent for the season.

For every month, we’ve surveyed a pool of experts including inspection professionals and experienced real estate agents across the country to give you one meaty project to take on and a few additional maintenance items to check off your list.

“Regularly checking your home for maintenance needs throughout the year is the best way to keep your home safe and prevent the need for costly emergency repairs,” echoes Kathleen Kuhn, president and CEO of HouseMaster Home Inspections, an inspection franchise system founded in 1979. Your work will also pay off in the form of a 1% value increase for every year you adhere to a good maintenance schedule.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Landscaping in front of a house that has been well maintained.
Source: (Canna Curious Club / Unsplash)

January

Big project: Landscaping

It might seem counterintuitive to call your landscaper before anything blooms, but doing so in January vs. March will save you money. According to one HomeLight Top Agent Insights Survey, 91% of agents believe builders and contractors are busiest in spring and summer, so yard care costs less in winter. “If the sun’s out, the temperature really doesn’t matter,” says Nick Pontarelli, a top-selling Chicago real estate agent. Winter is a great time to get a jump start on weed control, examine tree damage after any storms, and plan your mulching for the spring.

Additional maintenance items:

  • Trim all trees and shrubs, particularly any too close to the house or blocking any air intake or exhaust vents.
  • Check window sills for signs of water damage.
  • Look for any signs of insect or pest activity, particularly at the foundation areas and any wood components close to the ground.
  • Keep an eye on the water levels in your boiler to make sure they don’t fall too low.
  • Check and change the heating system filters. Most HVAC and furnace filters need to be changed at least every three months, according to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. Change them more often if you have a large family, pets, occasionally use a fireplace, or have allergies.

February

Big project: Paint

Now’s the time to touch up those chips and dings in your interior trim, cabinetry, and walls that you’ve noticed while you’ve been in the house more. Manufacturers offer the best deals on paint during the late fall and winter. Professional painters also have fewer clients in winter, meaning lower prices. Because of less moisture and humidity in the air during this season, paint bonds to surfaces better and dries faster.

Additional maintenance items:

  • Clean your kitchen sink disposal and your range hood filters.
  • Remove any dead or dying trees. The colder ground can keep nearby vegetation in place, making tree removal less disruptive to the surroundings (though you may need to wait until the ground thaws to complete the stump removal).
  • Inspect and clean your interior doors.
  • Give your garage door a tune-up in about 10 minutes.
  • Replace locksets, door handles, and old cabinet hardware.

March

Big project: Power wash

Remove the winter grime by renting a power-washer or hiring someone to power-wash your exterior and driveway (the average cost nationwide is about $287). Algae or mold tends to grow on homes with a lot of shade, which may take an added treatment with moldicide, says Wade Wostal, a top selling agent of 15 years serving Topeka, Kansas. Either way, you’ll want to take “spring cleaning” to heart and start on the outside. Consumer Reports recommends a 40° angle or a low-pressure nozzle for easily-damaged surfaces like wood or stucco.

Additional maintenance items: 

  • Got a deck and features such as seating in an outdoor kitchen? Power-wash those too. “Backyard kitchens and that sort of thing are extremely popular right now,” Wostal says.
  • Inspect your roof for rotting wood, missing shingles, and any gaps that might have appeared because of winter weather. You’ll want to hire a roofer for a thorough inspection, but you can use a pair of binoculars from the ground to get started, Kuhn says.
  • Test your sump pump. Pour water into the pit and see if that triggers the pump.
  • Add mulch to your flower beds, along with spring plantings, and remove weeds, Wostal adds. About 69% of top HomeLight agents say that prospective buyers care more about landscaping and backyard space during the spring. Bright plants and fresh mulch boost curb appeal, 83% of top agents agree.
  • Change the battery in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. The International Association of Fire Chiefs uses the reminder “Change your clock, change your battery” to encourage residents to update the batteries in these life-saving devices twice a year. (Replace any unit over seven years old, Kuhn says.)
An AC condensor that is maintained each month.
Source: (RF-2020 / Shutterstock)

April 

Big project: Clean your AC condenser

As buds and foliage return, so do problems with your air condenser and air filters. “We have a lot of cottonseed and things floating in the air. The air condensers outside fill up really quickly,” says Wostal, noting that this causes your HVAC unit to run less efficiently. To clean your condenser, follow Family Handyman’s guide to turn off the power, vacuum away grass clippings and other debris with a soft brush attachment, and straighten up the fins with a dinner knife.

Additional maintenance items:

  • Arrange for regular AC service with a licensed technician before the temperatures get hotter. A simple tune-up costs about $75 to $200.
  • Own a pool? Before anyone takes the plunge, take off the cover, clean out the leaves, and make sure that all the pump systems are operating correctly. Having your pool cleaned upon opening it costs about $400 on average nationwide; monthly maintenance runs about $115.
  • Touch up or repaint your home’s exterior, which costs about $1,700 to $4,000, depending on the number of stories and square footage.
  • Replace any weathered siding or refresh worn shutters.
  • Fertilize your lawn and fix any bare spots in the yard with a product such as Scott’s PatchMaster from Lowe’s.

May

Big project: Tidy up the yard

Clean out any remaining debris from winter and help your home look bright and beautiful with added lawn care and landscaping. One Remodeling Impact Survey from the National Association of Realtors says that the biggest returns on cost for outdoor upgrades are upgrading with seed lawn at 417%, standard lawn care at 303%, and upgrading with sod lawn at 143%.

Additional maintenance items:

  • Clean out the rain gutters and downspouts. The average cost for this nationwide is about $160, depending on their condition and the height of your house. (It’s a maintenance must that pops up again in the fall.)
  • Stain your deck, stairs, and other exterior wooden features.
  • Check your sprinkler system and make needed repairs.
  • Need a new refrigerator? Manufacturers tend to roll out their new models for the summer, so you can find a good previous year’s model at a discount, Money Crashers says.

June

Big project: Bug control

Warmer weather means it’s time to guard against mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks, which will keep you from enjoying the yard. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that vector-borne illnesses carried by these pests have doubled in the United States since 2004, so check the exterior for any leaky pipes, pour out stagnant water from pots and planters, and talk to a pest professional.

Additional maintenance items:

  • Fix any holes, rotting boards, loose nails or screws, or other damage in your fence. Paint or stain it if necessary.
  • Fill cracks in your concrete driveway, sidewalk, and/or patio. Use concrete caulk or liquid filler for smaller holes. For wider cracks, seal with a concrete patching compound.
  • Stage your outdoor space with new patio chairs or simple decorations such as potted plants.
A bathtub that has been well maintained.
Source: (Erik Mclean / Unsplash)

July 

Big project: Remove bathroom mold

Your bathroom experiences humidity year-round, making it a prime spot for unsightly mold to grow. Take advantage of the opportunity to send your family outside more (or use facilities at a health club or a friend’s) and repair any grout or replace any caulk that needs it.

Additional maintenance items: 

  • Wash your windows and repair any weather-stripping or window caulking before it gets cold.
  • Clean your exterior doors.
  • Cut down any overgrown landscaping.
  • Use those summer rainstorms to check your drainage. All rainwater should drain away from the foundation, Kuhn says.

August 

Big project: Clean your carpets

After a summer full of sand and flip-flops, this is a good time to clean your carpets in advance of the fall and winter (when your family may be more mindful of leaving their shoes by the door). You can hire a local professional to clean four rooms for $100-$300 or rent a Rug Doctor from Home Depot for $32 per day.

Additional maintenance items:

  • Clean the refrigerator and freezer coils, and clean and empty the drip trays.
  • Replace the washers in any exterior and interior faucets if needed.
  • Remove lint from dryer vents.
  • Oil all door hinges, including those on the garage door.
A fireplace that has been maintained each month.
Source: (Charles Deluvio / Unsplash)

September

Big project: Clean your fireplace

If you have a fireplace or a wood stove, get it checked and professionally cleaned before you want to cuddle in front of it or toast S’mores, says Todd Bartusek, a top-selling real estate agent in Omaha, Nebraska, with more than 20 years of experience. The National Fire Protection Association recommends homeowners do a chimney sweep once a year to check for deposits and correct clearance, which will cost $244 on average.

Additional maintenance items:

  • Check and clean the exhaust fans in the bathroom, kitchen, and laundry room to eliminate mold and provide good airflow.
  • Need any new appliances? September and October are the best months to purchase major appliances because that’s when manufacturers unveil their latest models. (You might find a good deal on older inventory later in the year, but the selection will be thinner.)
  • Give your roof a good checkup — and repair or replace what’s needed. Roofers say that fall is the ideal time to replace a roof because temperatures fall between 45 and 85 degrees (warm enough for shingles to adhere, but not so hot that the roofers become overheated easily). Our top agents also estimate that you’ll recoup 94% of your roof investment at resale.

October

Big project: Replace worn materials

If you’ve found a few things during the year that need major repairs, or you have renovations on your mind, now’s the time to schedule them. Labor and building materials tend to be most affordable from October through December, 35% of top HomeLight agents say, so pencil in new flooring, new countertops, and other projects that could boost your home’s marketability rather than waiting until the spring or summer.

Additional maintenance items:

  • Prepare your sprinkler system for winter by hiring a plumber to blow out any residual water in the valves or sprinkler heads with an air compressor. Any water that freezes over the winter can break the valves in the spring, Bartusek says. Expect to pay about $80 for this service.
  • Check and clean the gutters and downspouts. Falling leaves can hamper your drainage and lead to moisture problems along your roof and in your basement.
  • Spray for insects around the foundation of your home, as well as the door openings and windows. People tend to think of pests during the warmer months, but in the winter, “The bugs are looking for heat,” Bartusek says. “That’s when you start to see an influx of insects inside your house.”

November

Big project: Scope your sewer line

Just like insects look for a cozy hideout as the temperatures drop, trees look for water when it’s cold and dry. Have a plumber scope your main sewer line for about $100 to $1,000 (depending on the length of your plumbing and any additional services), especially if there are large trees close to your home. “The tree roots get into those hairline cracks of a home’s sewer system. It’ll back your main line up,” Bartusek says. “I had one [home] just last week where they had to scope it and … they had just a big ball of roots.”

Additional maintenance items: 

  • Clean your siding (again) to clear away any pollen or dirt from the spring and summer, plus check for rot or mildew.
  • Plant trees, if you need to replace any or fill out your landscape. One of the best times to plant trees is in the fall after the leaves drop, arborists say.
  • Have your furnace or central heating system inspected and cleaned for about $130 to $470 (prices vary by gas versus electric) to reduce your energy bills over the winter and prevent any health or safety risks during frigid temperatures.
An outlet that was replaced in a home.
Source: (Charles Deluvio / Unsplash)

December

Big project: Improve your energy efficiency

As you get ready for the holidays and count down toward a new year, you can wrap up your home like a gift to prevent moisture and heat loss. Sealing leaks in the siding, plus around windows and doors, and adding insulation can save homeowners an average of 15 percent on heating and cooling costs, or an average of 11% on total energy costs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says.

Also:

  • Inspect your lighting fixtures. Test outlets with Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters, or GFCIs, using the built-in button.
  • Winterize your water pipes to prevent freezing. Also, unless you have a frost-free faucet, drain and store any garden hoses, and shut off and drain hose bibs.
  • Check the weather tightness of all exterior surfaces and components. Seal any foundation cracks. Experts say that foundation problems can reduce your home value by as much as 15%.
  • Inspect your attic ventilation and insulation for position and condition to ensure uniform coverage.
  • Check for roof leaks, particularly at chimneys, vents and valley areas.

Keeping your home in good working order can seem exhausting, if not overwhelming. If you have other questions about home maintenance, talk with a trusted contractor or real estate professional about your home’s size and needs, then hammer out a timeline and a checklist that works best for your budget and your lifestyle. When you’re ready to sell one day, you’ll be excited to see how your hard work has paid off.

Note: We understand that your climate impacts many of your home maintenance decisions, so some recommendations might not apply if you live somewhere that, say, snowfall is rare. Be sure to check out our seasonal home maintenance checklist divided by region (the Pacific Northwest, Midwest and Northeast, Southwest, and Coastal areas) as a companion guide.

Header Image Source: (Taylor Simpson / Unsplash)

This home maintenance checklist, organized by months of the year, can help you stay ahead of problems that will otherwise snowball into emergencies.HomeLight Blog

10 Things to Know About the ‘Sale Pending’ Phase, aka House Closing LimboChristine BartschHomeLight Blog

You can put so much effort into prepping your house for sale that you forget what happens after you receive an offer. Putting your John Hancock on a home sale contract might feel like the completion of a major financial deal, but it’s actually just the beginning of the home sale process. Now, you’ve entered the “sale pending” phase.

What does “sale pending” mean?

The sale pending period is one of three listing phases that your home will go through. The first is the active period, when your home is listed as available for sale in your local MLS. The final status is sold, which means that the deal is complete and the home is now the property of new owners.

Sale pending is the status in between active and sold, which indicates that you’ve accepted an offer and are in the process of selling, but that the sale is not yet completed.

In its own way, the sale pending period is just as stressful as the days spent working and waiting for your home to sell. Not only will you need to be packing, cleaning, and getting the house ready for your buyer, there’s also a lot of waiting and hoping that all of the moving pieces fall into place and your home sale closes on time, if you make it to closing at all.

Real estate agents keep an eye on sales pending properties because there are a number of ways that the deal could fall through and the house could come back on the market. Things that could derail a sale during the sale pending period include:

  • The home inspection
  • The property appraisal
  • Contract negotiations between the buyer and the seller
  • Contingencies that fail to be met or lifted
  • The buyer’s financing with a lender

These are the primary ways a home sale could fall apart, but there are other closing regulations that vary from state to state.

“A lot of the closing process is area specific because there are different regulations in California or Florida, compared to where I am in New York state. Even downstate New York is done differently than upstate New York,” advises Christine Marchesiello, a Move Safe Certified agent located in the Albany, NY area.

Let’s take a look at the top 10 pieces of information that every seller needs to know about the sale pending period that’ll apply in almost every state. For further details, you should talk to your agent about your area’s local market customs and norms.

1. You’re locked into the contract once you sign

Once you’ve reached pending sale status, it becomes difficult for you as the seller to walk away from the deal of your own volition. When you sign the papers and accept your buyer’s earnest money, you are entering into a legally binding contract that obligates you to fulfill your commitment to sell the house.

It doesn’t matter if you get cold feet, start to feel seller’s remorse, or receive a more attractive offer than the one you’ve already signed: it’s going to be really hard to back out of the contract from here. If you do, the buyer could sue you for damages and demand through the courts that you sell through a type of legal action called “specific performance” — which is basically a way to force you to sell as promised.

However, one way to protect yourself in a contract for a smoother “sale pending” phase is to work with your agent to pencil in a kick-out clause. A kick-out clause gives you the right to continue showing the home during the contingency period. If you receive another offer, your original buyer will have a certain period of time (usually 24, 48, or 72 hours) to remove the contingency holding up escrow. This is particularly helpful when the buyer’s offer is contingent on the sale of their existing home.

Understand the meaning of sale pending
Source: (Joshua Rainey Photography / ShutterStock)

2. The buyers can walk away more easily than you can

While you’re locked in to the home sale as soon as (or soon after) you sign the contract, your buyer is not. Most buyers will add a number of contingencies to the contract, such as the home inspection, appraisal, and financing contingency. Their purchase is contingent on all of these steps in escrow going according to plan. However, a number of hiccups can prevent those contingencies from being lifted, including:

  • Irresolvable issues that arise during due diligence
  • An appraised value that comes in under the contract price
  • Buyer encounters financial trouble and their financing falls through
  • Repair request negotiations break down
  • Title work reveals unresolved issues

If a buyer encounters any of these roadblocks any they are protected by contract contingency, they can cancel the contract and keep their earnest money. To keep these escape hatches to a minimum, work with a top real estate agent who can advise you on how to remove certain contingencies before signing the contract. A great agent will also help you hold buyers accountable to their contract deadlines to keep escrow on track.

3. Line up backup offers to hedge your risk

When high demand and a low number of houses for sale result in a strong seller’s market, buyers are willing to agree to almost anything for a chance to get into a house. This creates the perfect opportunity for sellers to line up a backup offer from another buyer that only comes into effect if the original pending sale falls through.

“If sellers are able to secure a backup offer, it gives them a little bit more power in any inspection negotiations that might arise,” advises Marchesiello.

“If their buyer is unreasonable with the inspection repair requests, the sellers can stand their ground more firmly during that inspection negotiation period, knowing that they have another offer already in their back pocket.”

Just make sure that backup offer is one you’re willing to accept — because that backup is a legally binding contract, too. If you arrange a so-so backup offer simply to use it as leverage and your current pending sale does fall through, you could be stuck.

You aren't entitled to the full inspection report when sale pending
Source: (KomootP / ShutterStock)

4. You’re not entitled to see the full inspection report

Once assured that all parties are all in, the first step buyers take is hiring a home inspector to find any issues that may exist. The inspection report is usually done right off the bat after you sign the sales contract.

Just don’t expect to get your hands on the full report after the home inspection is completed.

“One thing sellers misunderstand is that they’re not entitled to see it. It’s the buyer’s inspection report,” explains Marchesiello. “However, if the buyer uses the report to ask for a major repair or credit, they are required to submit the relevant pages of the inspection report. But they still don’t have to give you the entire inspection report.”

In addition, demanding a copy of the report can actually backfire as the buyer can use it to say your home is defective.

5. Come ready to negotiate after the buyer gets their inspection report

If the home inspection finds a surprise repair item and your buyer wants a full credit for that amount, you do not have to agree. You can make a counteroffer to your current buyer’s request and negotiate a compromise.

“During closing, sellers rely on their buyers to operate in a way that is a win-win for everybody. That’s what happens 60% of the time, but often in negotiations, one party wants to feel like they’re winning everything and not compromising,” says Marchesiello.

“There’s always a really fine line when negotiating, because buyers tend to ask for the most extreme amount and sellers obviously want to give the least amount of credit. So be prepared to get counter estimates for any of the buyer’s repair requests.”

For example, if the inspector finds a crack in the foundation, and the buyer gets a $12,000 repair estimate from a mason, you don’t need to negotiate based off of that number. The buyers could shop for the highest estimate they can find to put themselves in a better bargaining position.

You need to get an estimate from your own contractor or mason and get an estimate as well. Your contractor may determine that it’s not a structural crack, but a cosmetic one that wouldn’t necessarily need to be repaired at all.

There are no rules regulating these negotiations, though. It’s the discretion of the buyer and seller to come to an agreement over the repair requests.

If you cannot negotiate a compromise, you can say no to the request and let the current buyer walk away. Then it’s up to you if you just want to try your luck with the next buyer, or you can pull the house off the market and relist after making the repair.

Come ready to negotiate when sale pending
Source: (vchal / ShutterStock)

6. …But know that you aren’t always required to negotiate

Brand new landscaping, resurfacing the pool, a carpet credit because they don’t like the current color — buyers come up with all sorts of crazy requests during the negotiation period.

However, while you are legally obligated to sell them the house at the completion of the sale pending period, you are not required to transform it into their dream home by fulfilling their every request.

For the requests that are purely cosmetic or just personal preference, you can simply say no without any negotiation. Depending on your state, you may even be able to say no to some legitimate repair requests. Every state has their own standard in terms of what qualifies as a repair that would require negotiation after the inspection report comes in.

“In New York state, a seller is only required to renegotiate the contract terms if the inspection finds one major structural defect with a repair cost totaling at least $1,500. However, in other parts of the country, pretty much anything can be asked for or renegotiated,” explains Marchesiello.

Knowing that a flat “no” is an option, it’s tempting for some sellers to take a hardline against any and all buyer repair requests, but not so fast. There are some repair requests that buyers are likely to take a stand on and could be required to make the house safe and livable, including:

  • Water damage
  • Structural issues
  • Old or damaged roofing
  • Damaged or old electrical system
  • Plumbing problems
  • Insect and pest infestation
  • Issues with the HVAC system

7. Know your options if your buyer’s appraisal comes in low

The other major sticking point that can cause your pending sale to fall through is the home appraisal required by lenders to verify the market value of the home. When a low appraisal comes in, you have four main options:

  1. Drop the price to meet the appraisal amount.
  2. Require your buyer to find the cash to make up the difference.
  3. Meet somewhere in the middle (you drop your price a bit, the buyer brings some cash to the table).
  4. Ask your buyer to request a second appraisal (FYI, their lender may not agree).

Ask your agent to advise you on which option is the best in your specific situation. They’ve got the insider knowledge to know if the appraisal is on point or incorrect.

“Good seller’s agents have their finger on the pulse of the market in a very different way than appraisers do. So if an appraisal comes back low, a good real estate agent can submit new comparables for the lender’s consideration, or even try to get a second appraisal,” advises Marchesiello.

Don't worry if things get quiet when sale pending
Source: (freestocks / Unsplash)

8. Don’t panic if communications get quiet for a stretch

Once you’ve gotten through your inspection contingency and the buyers have their mortgage commitment in place, you probably won’t hear a lot on how the sale process is progressing, but it IS progressing.

“It’s going to get quiet because there’s a lot of background things happening,” explains Marchesiello. “There’s title work, which takes anywhere from two to five weeks. The bank is also collecting final documents because even though there is a mortgage commitment, it’s often contingent on review of final documents from the buyer. So it can feel like nothing’s happening, but during that time, no news is good news.”

The title work period is the quietest one because there’s simply nothing to communicate when the attorneys are waiting on the title report to come back. Once it does come in, it must be reviewed to make sure the title is clean and ready to be transferred.

This can take longer than you’d expect because most attorneys will not even order the title work until after all other contingencies have been removed. They don’t want to pay for a title search on a property if the buyer doesn’t have their mortgage commitment completed yet.

9. Use that quiet time to get your home ready for the final walkthrough

Communications may be calm and quiet for a stretch, but you can use the downtime to clean up your house for the approaching final walkthrough.

Things start moving fast once the title is cleared for transfer. That’s pretty much the last step before the sale closes, so once the title has cleared, your buyer will want to schedule a final walkthrough to ensure the house is as it should be before the sale closes.

If your buyer has a great agent, they’ll advise them to wait until you’ve completely moved out of the house before scheduling the final walkthrough. This is the only way they can make sure that you haven’t taken anything you’ve promised to leave, like that dining room chandelier or the kitchen appliances.

They’ll also want to ensure that you’ve left the house in broom clean condition so that it’s move-in ready, not cluttered with junk you’ve left behind.

Prepare yourself when sale pending
Source: (fizkes / ShutterStock)

Prepare yourself for the uncertainty of the sale pending period

Accepting an offer can feel like the exciting conclusion of your home sale adventure, but it’s only the beginning of the sales process. The sale pending period that follows is filled with ups and downs that can threaten the completion of your sale, which can leave you feeling anxious and uncertain. But if you enter the sales pending period armed with the knowledge of what’s going on, and how to respond to any issues that arise, you’ll be equipped to see your sale through to a successful closing day.

Header Image Source: (Sheila Fitzgerald / ShutterStock)

Heading into the sale pending period on your home sale? Ease your anxiety with these 10 things every seller should know during their house closing.HomeLight Blog

The Rent vs. Sell Debate: Are You Landlord Material, or Should You Cash Out?Melissa RudyHomeLight Blog

A new job, a desire to live somewhere else, or the opportunity to seize your dream home can create an agonizing decision: Should I sell my house or rent it out? If you go the rental route, you could get stuck with a property that becomes too expensive or time-consuming to manage. But selling too soon can be just as risky, causing you to forfeit sizable equity in a fast-appreciating property. Take it from two investors who have experienced both sides of the coin:

A kitchen in a house that is rented out.
Source: (Viktor Forgacs / Unsplash)

Bad renters turn investment sour

Greg Kurzner, a leading real estate investor in Atlanta, bought and renovated a home in Stone Mountain, Georgia a few years ago. Several agents asked if he was interested in selling, but he decided to rent it out.

He had trouble attracting tenants with decent credit and rental histories, so after the house sat empty for a few months, he relaxed his criteria and got a tenant. Everything seemed OK for three months, and then the problems started: late rent, excuses, and finally, a drawn-out eviction.

When Kurzner got possession of the house, he found that all of the brand-new fixtures and hard work he had put into it was ruined.

“I let my hope override my common sense and made a costly decision to rent a home to an unqualified tenant rather than have a vacant house and no rent,” he says. Kurzner eventually sold the property, but not until he had spent another $12,000 in repairs to fix what his tenant had damaged.

A missed $185k opportunity

TJ Sayers, a real estate investor in Birmingham, Alabama, owns a company that typically buys 50-60 properties per year, many of which become rentals. To this day, he still regrets selling a property that was his old personal residence.

He bought the house in 2010 for $105,000 and lived there until 2017, when he sold it for $185,000. At the time, he owed around $80,000. After commissions and closing costs, he profited about about $85,000. Today, the property would sell for $225,000, and Sayers could have rented it for $1,250 per month for the last three years.

“If I had used all of the rent to pay down the mortgage, I would only owe around $40,000 today, so I would have $185,000 in equity (minus commissions and closing costs) if I still owned the property,” he says.

List vs. lease: How to navigate the dilemma

To help you avoid a regrettable decision, we took the biggest factors investor property specialists advise factoring into your “lease versus list” dilemma. We sorted them into two camps: signs you should rent, and signs you should sell. You may check boxes in both categories, but if you’re lucky one will outweigh the other and you’ll gain clarity on next steps.

Venice, where you should rent your house out.
Source: (Juliana Malta / Unsplash)

Signs you should rent out your home

2020 hasn’t done many favors for the economy as a whole, but the housing market has remained surprisingly strong through it all — and that includes rentals. Although many landlords have felt the brunt of missed rent payments and eviction moratoriums, rent price growth has been strong in many cities. One survey found that nearly 66% of landlords, investors, and property managers are optimistic about the state of the rental market as we head into the new year.

According to Apartment List’s National Rent Report of 2021, the mid-size cities of Boise, ID (9.7%); Chesapeake, VA (8.8%), and Fresno, CA (7.9%) have seen some of the highest growth in rental prices.

A table explaining rental prices in mid-sized cities.

But not every city has seen the same degree of rent growth. Cities such as San Francisco (-26.7%), Seattle (-22%), Boston (-20.6%), and New York City (-19.9%) have seen sharp decreases in rent prices, driven by COVID-triggered relocations from pricey urban areas.

A table explaining rental prices in mid-sized cities.

In addition, not every house is a prime candidate for a lucrative rental. Before veering into landlord territory, be sure to run your property through the “rental litmus test” to ensure that it makes financial and logistical sense to take on a tenant. Below are just some of the signs that it might be a good idea to keep possession of your property and lease it out to a renter:

Demand for rentals is high in your area.

Monique Walker, a top real estate agent and investment property specialist in Phoenix, Arizona, has seen a spike in rental demand in her market, which has prompted more owners to list their properties on VRBO or Airbnb.

“It’s a business venture that’s growing in popularity, and many property owners are seeing a lot of success,” she says.

“Particularly in urban areas, in luxury areas, around colleges, and in up-and-coming neighborhoods, the rents have been really strong.”

Rental demand can also spike in communities with booming job growth or new developments. After Amazon decided to set up its headquarters in Seattle in 2010, the median rental rate in the city skyrocketed 41.7% over the following seven years. For a sense of how that compares to other cities, the national median rental rate increase over that same timeframe was just 17.6%.

To help gauge the rental demand in specific parts of the country, Apartment List publishes market-specific reports for dozens of the biggest U.S. cities, including San Francisco, Chicago, and Orlando. And Apartment Guide’s October 2020 Rent Report details the state of the rental market, including rent trends and price fluctuations across the country.

You’ve always wanted to own rental property.

Being a landlord isn’t for everyone, as it comes with its fair share of hassles and obligations. That said, if the idea of renting out and managing properties has always appealed to you, the personal interest and passion could help increase your chances of success. As with any endeavor, there’s a big difference between being forced into it and choosing it willingly.

Jimmy Moncrief, a multi-family real estate investor and bank credit officer, wrote a blog post about why he loves being a landlord. In addition to helping him build wealth and save for retirement, rental investments have also enabled him to involve his family in his day-to-day work, afford to take more family vacations, tackle challenges that ultimately deliver more skills and knowledge, and do the rewarding work of keeping properties up and running for the tenants who need them.

You have a personal attachment to the house.

Maybe you’ve been forced to relocate due to a job transfer, family demands, or some other uncontrollable circumstance, but don’t want to permanently give up your property. Particularly if the house has unique characteristics that are hard to come by — like a stunning view, a storied history, a one-of-a-kind layout, or just a personal appeal that can’t be easily found elsewhere — turning it into a rental could be a fiscally sound way to keep ownership until you’re ready to return.

Your house offers appealing amenities to renters.

Even if it no longer meets your needs, your property could be someone else’s dream home. If it offers features that set it apart from other rentals and make it more appealing to renters, it may be in your best interests to maintain ownership. Close proximity to a park, a finished basement with a walk-out, or a peaceful and private backyard could all be enticing characteristics that attract tenants.

ApartmentGuide dug into what renters really want in a 2018 survey. Topping the list are the two obvious factors: location and price. But once those are checked off, renters are also hunting for a place that’s pet-friendly (19%), accessible for seniors or people with disabilities (18%), or is good for families (13%).

In Walker’s experience, short-term renters are most focused on things like the number of bedrooms, availability of a swimming pool, and spectacular views of the surrounding areas. For long-term renters, the items on their wish lists emulate what home buyers are looking for: proximity to work, a quality school district, a desirable lot and location. Newer or well-maintained fixtures, appliances, flooring, and other core components of the home are also of heightened importance to long-term renters.

You’re confident you could make a profit.

The question of whether it makes fiscal sense to rent out a property comes down to number-crunching. Sayers provides an example of when the numbers support the decision to rent out a house:

Let’s say your $250,000 home will rent for $2,500 per month or $30,000 per year. If your mortgage payment is $1,250 per month and your property taxes and insurance total $400 per month, then you would “cash flow” $850 per month (assuming you didn’t hire a property manager and had no repairs, maintenance or vacancies). That means under ideal circumstances, you would make $850 per month. By renting the property, it would take you over seven years to make the $75,000 that you could likely get from selling.

“Again, this is in an ideal scenario, and you should factor in 7%-8% each for vacancy and maintenance expenses,” says Sayers. “So in reality, it would take quite a bit longer to get the $75,000. However, in seven years, you would have much more equity in the property, because your tenants would have been helping you pay down the mortgage over time.”

A house that you can sell rather than rent out.
Source: (Freddy G / Unsplash)

Signs you should sell your home

In some situations, it might make more financial and logistical sense to let go of a house altogether — especially in times of economic uncertainty. In SimplyWise’s recent survey of more than 1,000 American adults, one in 10 respondents said they are considering selling their home to free up liquid assets. Read on for some signs that you should consider cashing out.

It’s a “seller’s market.”

In a seller’s market, low housing inventory meets robust buyer demand. House hunters have limited supply to choose from, which means if you decide to sell, your home will receive a lot of attention — provided that you’ve priced and marketed it well. When buyers are plentiful and you could potentially maximize value with a bidding war, selling becomes a more attractive option.

To keep tabs on your local housing market, go to your local Realtor® association website and check for the most recent month’s market report. Check for stats like inventory changes year over year (the lower the drop in inventory, the better — unless you’re also looking to buy), and how fast houses have appreciated over the last five to 10 years. If you have several years of strong price growth behind you, it could be a good time to cash out.

You couldn’t charge enough rent in relation to the home’s value.

Kurzner points out that as homes increase in price, they become less desirable as rentals because the return of rent goes down. It’s all about the gross rent multiplier (GRM), which is the ratio of the price of real estate to the rental income it generates. For example, you can likely rent a $100,000 home for $1,000 per month (1% GRM), but you probably wouldn’t be able to rent a $200,000 house for $2,000.

“The higher the value, the flatter the rent curve becomes,” explains Kurzner.

You don’t have enough liquid cash on hand.

Sayers says that for renting to make sense, you need to have enough liquid cash to maintain the property, property taxes, and mortgage payments in the event of a vacancy.

“When a rental property becomes vacant, not only do you lose rental income, but you still have to pay for the normal property expenses and any mortgages, and in most cases there are capital expenditures needed to get the property in shape to rent again,” he explains. “If you don’t have a solid cash position that allows you to make all of these payments and upgrades, then I would recommend selling rather than renting your house out.”

Walker recommends having at least $10,000 in discretionary income at your disposal when renting out a property. If you’re short of that, selling may be the safer option.

You’ve got a ton of equity to cash in on.

If you need cash for a down payment on your next home and you have a big chunk of equity in your current home, selling will likely help you reach your goals faster than renting.

According to CoreLogic’s Homeowner Equity Insights report, the average homeowner has gained close to $10,000 in home equity over last year. That earned equity translates into more profit for sellers.

However, calculating your potential profit involves more than just subtracting what you owe from the estimated sale price. You’ll also need to consider any necessary repairs and maintenance, as well as roughly 10% in commissions and closing costs. To determine whether it makes sense to sell, it’s important to understand the fees involved with selling, and then plug your numbers into our Net Proceeds Calculator to get an estimated profit.

The age of your property raises maintenance costs and concerns.

There is always some degree of regular maintenance to be expected when you manage a rental, Faucets leak. Water heaters get cranky. Ant colonies invade. But according to the National Association of Homebuilders, a property’s average annual maintenance costs skew higher for older homes.

Built before 1970 Built 1970-1979 Built 1980-1989 Built 1990-1999 Built after 1999
Annual Oper. Cost / Value 3.95% 3.44% 3.27% 2.80% 2.53%

Source: (National Association of Homebuilders)

The easiest properties to manage are those that are newer or have been well-maintained and updated. If your property is older and still has a lot of the original components, like the HVAC system, roof, and appliances, it may not be worth the future expense of renting it out.

Walker currently has five older properties on the market that are selling for this very reason: The homeowners would rather unload their houses as-is in the current hot market than run the risk of big expenses on the horizon.

You’re not thrilled about becoming a landlord.

Renting out a property can be a good source of cash flow, but that profitability comes at a price. Ongoing maintenance and repairs are part of the package. You can hire a property management company to find quality tenants and field 2 a.m. phone calls when the heater sputters out on a sub-zero night. But the cost (an estimated 8%-12% of the monthly rental value) will cut into your monthly profits. And if you decide to handle the management on your own, Kurzner warns that you could face some legal and operational risks.

The crux of a landlord’s obligation is to keep a “warranty of habitability,” which means providing a rental property that is safe, clean, and fit to live in. At a minimum, habitability entails offering these basic essentials:

  • Safe drinking water
  • Hot water
  • Heat during cold weather
  • Functioning electricity
  • Adequate ventilation
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Functioning bathroom and toilet
  • Sanitary premises, including the removal of insect or rodent infestation
  • Locking doors and windows to protect against intruders
  • Conformity to current building codes

Landlords are also responsible for performing any necessary maintenance and repairs to the property, as well as handling all taxes, utilities, insurance, and financials. They also must adhere to all federal, state, and local rules and regulations.

If all of that sounds daunting and you’re unwilling to take on the extra time, expense, and risk associated with owning a rental property, selling may be the better option.

It’s just not a ‘good’ rental.

Sometimes, the rental stars align and a property is a landlord’s dream: It rents easily to reliable tenants, has low operating costs with no major or expensive issues, and yields good returns. But that’s not always the case.

Kurzner has owned rental homes that proved to be too much of a hassle and a cash drain, leading him to sell them rather than keep them in his portfolio. “Generally, if the home that is rented constantly has issues with vandalism, bad tenants, costly maintenance or excessive HOA or other hassles, it can be better to sell that home and buy a different property.”

A pen used to decide whether to sell a house or rent it out.
Source: (Antoine Dautry / Unsplash)

To rent or to sell: It all comes down to numbers

You’ll weigh many factors in your “rent vs. sell” decision, but they all boil down to the same basic concept: how much you’ll earn by selling (after the related expenses) versus how long it will take you to make that same amount by renting the property. Then you can decide if the monthly income is worth the potential hassle of renting out a house.

“When deciding whether to sell or rent, start with what your goals are, what you would do with the proceeds if sold, and what you will do to manage the house if you rent, and then proceed accordingly,” suggests Kurzner.

While it’s always good to do your own research, you can also reach out to a well-regarded professional real estate agent to get their opinion on the local market factors, whether your house would make a good rental, and the value of your home.

Header Image Source: (Norbert Levajsics / Unsplash)

A new job, a desire to live somewhere else, or the opportunity to seize your dream home can create an agonizing decision: Should I sell my house or rent it out?HomeLight Blog

5 Ways to Get a Real Estate Price Estimate for Your HouseMelissa RudyHomeLight Blog

Chances are the value of your home has changed since you purchased it. Its price will fluctuate year over year due to changes in your local market, natural appreciation, developments in your neighborhood, and any home improvements you’ve made.

Whether you’re planning on selling or staying put, it’s good practice to keep tabs on your real estate investment, and there are a few commonly used approaches that can help you gauge your property’s current market value.

Some home value estimates cost money to obtain, so they’re better saved for when you’re looking to sell or refinance your mortgage. You can also use various online tools for a quick-hit value estimate, but some are more accurate than others.

A qualified real estate agent will always be one of your best allies when it comes to arriving at a suitable sale price, but it doesn’t hurt to get an understanding of some of the approaches used to predict that magic number. Here, we’ll dive into five of the main real estate price estimate tools and resources available to homeowners.

A keyboard used to get a real estate hour price estimate.
Source: (Drew Thomas / Unsplash)

Use a reputable online estimator tool

Real estate valuations look a whole lot different today than they did in past decades. Thanks to advances in technology, it’s now possible to hop online, plug in an address, and get an instant estimate of what your home might be worth.

How AVMs work

An automated valuation model (AVM) is a tool that uses mathematical modeling, tapping into a database of recent sales of the property in question, comparable sales in the area, and other public data to come up with an estimated property value. The AVM can serve as a good starting point or a quick check of estimated value.

One of the biggest benefits of home value estimators is their ease and transparency, providing homeowners with an instant glimpse into their property’s approximate worth. It can also be useful for correcting inaccuracies related to a home’s value and planning for renovations.

It’s important to remember that all online valuation tools don’t have the same capabilities. HomeLight’s Home Value Estimator starts by asking you to answer seven questions about your property, and then pairs that personalized information with public data to provide the most accurate estimate. You can even take it a step further by tapping into our network of Simple Sale buyers to get a real offer on your property.

Limitations to online pricing tools

AVMs aren’t the end-all-be-all of real estate price estimates, however. “An online assessment won’t be able to tell if a home has hardwood versus laminate, or whether the basement is finished or has other upgrades,” explains Christie Wilkins, a top real estate agent in Duluth, Georgia.

In the upscale neighborhoods where many of Wilkins’ listings are located, most of the homes use different builders. That means even if they’re a comparable size, two homes can differ by up to $1 million in value based on what’s on the inside. In that case, the online valuator may not have enough information to come up with an accurate number.

However, in neighborhoods where most of the homes were built in the same timeframe — perhaps even by the same builder — and have more or less of the same features, the online estimators are usually more reliable.

Rachel Massey, a certified residential appraiser in Ann Arbor, Michigan, agrees that online valuators can be reasonably reliable or wildly inaccurate, depending on the type of housing and the location.

“For  a condominium unit that is in average condition in an area with many sales, the tool should be quite reliable,” she says. “On the other hand, a lakefront property will probably be very inaccurate, because the tool will pick up houses that don’t have frontage and include them in the algorithms.”

When an online valuator might be a good choice:

  • The property is in a subdivision where the houses are all similar in size, age, and features.
  • You’re considering remodeling your home and want to gauge its current value prior to making upgrades.
  • There have been multiple sales of comparable properties in the area.
  • You want to run some baseline calculations of what your house might sell for, so you can then subtract the projected selling fees and current mortgage balance to get an idea of your estimated net proceeds.
  • You want to confirm or refute a valuation that was made based on sales comps.

Do your own comps analysis

Anyone who has bought or sold a house has no doubt heard the word “comps” tossed around. This is an industry term that refers to the sale prices of surrounding, comparable properties, which is used as a benchmark for assigning values (and prices) of similar homes.

Not all that long ago, the sales comps for surrounding properties were only accessible to real estate agents via private databases. But in today’s high-tech industry, it’s possible for anyone to go online and pull up listing and pricing information for pretty much any home in the country.

Keep your comps close together

Benjamin Shrauner, a Kansas City-based real estate investor who has been featured in USA Today, says it’s possible to conduct your own comps analysis to get an approximate value. He advises looking for similar properties that have sold in the last six to 12 months within a mile away and are in similar condition. “It’s also important to avoid crossing dividing lines, like highways or vastly different neighborhoods, as those would not be included in a bank appraisal,” he says.

Understand your agent’s pricing strategy

Wilkins isn’t against her clients running their own comps, as having them do some preliminary research can sometimes make her job easier. If a homeowner has already gotten an idea of what’s going on in the market and how their house fits in, it can help strengthen Wilkins’ case when it comes to making pricing recommendations. “When a seller has already looked at comps, it can help take some of the emotional aspect out of it, and I may not have to fight them to accept a more realistic price based on the market,” she says.

That said, agents specializing in certain areas may have some inside scoop that the general public may not know about, says Wilkins. And, of course, running sales comps won’t take into account any interior details that can influence a home’s value.

When it might be smart to run your own comps:

  • You want to confirm a valuation that has been determined by an agent or appraiser.
  • You have an emotional attachment to a house and want to help temper any bias.
  • You’re not in a rush to sell and are just doing some preliminary research.
  • You want to arm yourself with recent market data before meeting with an agent or appraiser.
An agent helping clients get a real estate house price estimate.
Source: (wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock)

Reach out to a top local real estate agent

While technology has helped remove a lot of the mystery surrounding real estate transactions, there’s no electronic substitute for the knowledge and experience of a real estate professional. When it comes to pricing a home, an agent offers unique value that goes above and beyond what an online value estimator provides, including knowledge of the area, characteristics and condition of the property, local market trends, and buyer preferences.

Wilkins says that in some cases, homeowners have contacted her after getting an estimated value online, only to find that their estimate was 20% higher than the fair market value. In this case, she comes up with a well-researched comparative market analysis (CMA) based on market conditions and comp sales in the area. “We work as a team with the seller to make sure we select the right price,” she says.

It’s a good idea to contact a few qualified agents to collect a few different CMAs. Then, you can pair that information with an online valuation tool to arrive at the most accurate possible estimate.

When contacting an agent is a wise choice:

  • You’re not comfortable tracking down or analyzing the data yourself.
  • You’ve done some preliminary research, but want to confirm the accuracy of what you’ve found.
  • The property has unique features that won’t be included in sales comps or an online valuation.
  • You’re ready to list your property and need guidance throughout the process.

Find out what a cash buyer would offer

Yet another option for gauging the potential value of your home is to find out what a cash investor would pay for it off-market. At HomeLight, we call this your home’s Simple Sale price, which is typically 90%-95% of its market value.

Wilkins says this route can work well in some situations. A lot of sellers appreciate the convenience and privacy of an off-market cash sale, as they can pick a closing date and avoid having people coming through their house for showings. This route also eliminates the hassle of inspections, financing contingencies, repairs, and other challenges that can come with a traditional retail sale.

Shrauner often purchases homes for cash. After providing an evaluation of the property, he determines what repairs need to be made and then calculates an overall after-repair value (ARV). He also looks at comparable sales in the area before making a cash offer. “Keep in mind that an investor’s offer will reflect the expected cost of the needed repairs and profit required,” he says.

When contacting a cash buyer could be the way to go:

  • You need to sell quickly and don’t want to wait for the listing process.
  • You want the flexibility of choosing your own closing date.
  • You don’t want to have to worry about staging your home or opening it up for showings.
  • You’re selling a property from afar and won’t be available to be physically involved in the sale.
  • You don’t want to deal with making any repairs and would rather back out those costs from the purchase price.
  • You want to have a “backup offer” in case the regular listing process doesn’t work out.

Check the FHFA HPI calculator

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) offers the FHFA HPI Calculator to gauge what a property purchased at a prior time would be worth if it was sold today, taking into account the average rate of appreciation of all homes in the area. Simply choose your state, the quarter and year that you purchased the property, the quarter and year when you’re looking to sell, and the original purchase price, and the tool will calculate the approximate increase in value.

A calculator used to get a house price estimate.
Source: (FHFA)
A calculator used to get a house price estimate.
Source: (FHFA)

The FHFA HPI Calculator provides more of a general idea and doesn’t calculate the actual value of any specific property. Your home’s actual value will depend on its age, condition, upgrades and local market factors.

When you might want to check the FHFA HPI Calculator:

  • You want to get a general idea of the rate of appreciation in your area.
  • You want to gauge the trends of average house prices in your area over time.
  • You’re not quite ready to sell yet and are just doing some preliminary research.
A computer used to get a house price estimate.
Source: (manny PANTOJA / Unsplash)

Order an appraisal

Most lenders will require a professional appraisal before finalizing a home loan, but it’s also possible to order your own appraisal to help determine the right sale price before listing.

Wilkins will sometimes order a pre-listing appraisal when selling a property that is unique, or when there aren’t many local comps. “We want to make sure we’re not leaving any money on the table, but we don’t want to price too high, either,” she explains.

Having an appraisal already in hand can help boost the seller’s credibility, justify the listing price, and help prevent lowball offers.

For pre-listing appraisals, Massey suggests that the seller seek out the opinions of a local professional appraiser as well as a few real estate agents.

“The agent is going to look at pricing a house for sale related to the current offerings, which may be stratospheric and unrealistic, while the appraiser will look at sales that have closed and are verifiable, as well as pay attention to current activity,” she explains. “The more complex the situation, the more important the appraisal and the higher fee the seller should expect to pay.”

While an early appraisal could cost a few hundred dollars, it could be worth the benefit of knowing what your home will likely appraise for when the lender orders another valuation for the buyer.

This way, you and your agent can set the price accordingly and plan for any gaps between the sale price and appraised price. However, remember that getting an appraisal doesn’t guarantee that the home will ultimately sell for that amount.

When it might make sense to get a pre-listing appraisal:

  • The house has unique features that won’t be reflected in comps.
  • There are limited (or no) sales comps in the area.
  • You have an emotional connection or bias that may drive unrealistic pricing expectations, and you want an appraisal to serve as a reality check.
  • The home has had recent upgrades or improvements.
  • You want to get a more specific and accurate gauge of the home’s value, but don’t want to list it just yet.

Cosmetic upgrades, the age of your HVAC system, the condition of surrounding homes — there are countless details that go into the elusive value equation. You need to keep tabs on your property’s value to keep expectations in check and help guide your planning. Fortunately, you have options for crunching the numbers and determining where your home stands in the market.

“It’s best to get a few opinions and then use the average for your final number,” Shrauner recommends. “After a week on the market, you should have feedback, and then you can adjust the price appropriately if you haven’t already accepted an offer.”

Header Image Source: (WHYFRAME / Shutterstock)

It’s good practice to keep tabs on your home’s value. Here are 5 paths to get a real estate price estimate, whether you need a quick checkup or official assessment.HomeLight Blog

Can You Write Off Home Improvements on Your 2020 Taxes?Emma DiehlHomeLight Blog

2020 was a big year for consumer remodeling. Since the pandemic began, 76% of real estate agents reported that renovation activity was on the rise in their market. As late as November, Home Depot sales surged 23.2%, exceeding the company’s performance forecasts across the board.

With tax season right around the corner, many homeowners are wondering: Can I write off the costs of my expensive bathroom remodel, patio addition, or kitchen upgrade?

We hate to disappoint, but “the vast majority of home improvements won’t qualify for deductions,” says Stephanie Ng, CPA and author of How to Pass the CPA Exam. The truth hurts, but it’s better to know the tax code than assume your pandemic renovation spree will help you save big on what you owe to Uncle Sam.

In this guide, we consulted CPAs and dug into IRS paperwork to clear up misperceptions around home improvement tax deductions and shed light on a few lesser-known tax breaks you just might qualify for as a homeowner.

A pool that is considered a capital improvement that can be written off.
Source: (Pixabay / Pexels)

How capital improvements work

Let’s be clear: the cost of your new shower or roof repair won’t directly reduce your income taxes. Confusion arises over online reports that may erroneously refer to dated federal IRS code that allowed home sellers to deduct “fixing-up” expenses, such as “the costs of painting the home, planting flowers, and replacing broken windows” completed in the 90 days prior to closing on their home for resale.

That tax break no longer exists.

While you can’t write off home improvements as an item on your income tax return, certain home renovations will qualify as “capital improvements.” Capital improvements can save you from paying more in capital gains when the time comes to sell your home. So even if you didn’t sell your home during the previous tax year, you should still keep track of receipts for any major projects for whenever that time comes.

Here’s why:

Capital gains on your primary home, explained

When you sell a capital asset like real estate, the government typically wants a piece of the profits. However, as an incentive encouraging homeownership, you can exclude up to $250,000 of profit on the sale when filing taxes as an individual — so long as you’ve lived in it and owned it for at least two of the past five years. Taxpayers who file a joint return with a spouse can exclude up to $500,000 of that gain. In either case, if your gain doesn’t exceed the maximum limit, you likely won’t need to report the home sale on your tax return.

Capital gains are calculated by taking the sale price of your home minus its adjusted cost basis. Adjust cost basis is a fancy way of saying the original value of the home (i.e., what you paid for it at the time of purchase) plus the cost of any qualifying capital improvements and selling fees like agent commissions.

Capital improvements and your cost basis

Still with us? Here’s where capital improvements come into play.

Let’s say you bought your house for $250,000 but spent $30,000 to improve it. Years later you sell it for $525,000 in a fast-appreciating market.

You’d calculate your capital gains as follows:

$525,000 (sale price)

$280,000 ($250,000 original price + $30,000 in improvements — for simplifying purposes we’re going to leave out selling fees)

= a capital gain of $245,000

In this case, the $30,000 capital improvement reduced your taxable gain from $275,000 ($525,000 – $250,000, no renovation included) to $245,000 with the improvement factored in.

For a single filer, that’s significant. You just went from having to pay taxes on $25,000 worth of gain, to not needing to report the sale at all because the gain falls below the $250,000 exclusion cap.

Without the improvement, you would need to pay long-term capital gains tax of 0%, 15%, or 20% depending on your income bracket on that extra $25,000, assuming you’ve owned the house for more than a year. If you’ve owned the house for less than a year, the gain would be taxed as regular income.

Capital improvements vs. repairs

The trick is that you can’t assume any old plumbing repair will constitute an improvement. As defined by the IRS, a capital improvement has to increase the home’s value, alter its uses, or materially extend its useful life. If you’re fixing something that’s broken, that’s usually considered basic maintenance and it will not qualify as a tax deduction, unless you’re using the home as an investment property. For more on deducting repairs and improvements as a rental property owner, visit IRS Publication 527.

According to IRS Publication 523 on Selling Your Home, capital improvements include:

  • Home additions: adding onto a home’s bedroom, bathroom, deck, garage, porch, or patio
  • Lawn and grounds: landscaping, driveway work, walkway improvements, fences, retaining walls, or a swimming pool
  • Exterior: a new room, siding, storm windows/doors, or even a new satellite dish
  • Insulation: adding insulation to the attic, walls, floors, or ducts
  • Systems: adding or completely replacing HVAC systems, a furnace, duct work, central humidifier, central vacuum, air or water filtration systems, new wiring, security systems, or lawn sprinkler systems
  • Plumbing: improvements to the septic system, water heater, soft water system, or the water filtration system
  • Interior: installing built-in appliances, modernizing the kitchen, new flooring, carpeting, or a fireplace.

You can consult our guide on capital improvements vs. repairs for a better idea of which projects offer any tax benefits. But before undertaking any project that you think will add to your cost basis, double check that it qualifies as an improvement by consulting a trusted tax professional.

A pile of receipts used to write off home improvements.
Source: (picjumbo.com / Pexels)

Keep those home improvement receipts for when you sell

If you’re relying on home improvements to add to your home’s basis and reduce potential gain due at the sale of your home, you’ll need to keep a thorough record of receipts and bills around the projects. That’s generally a good practice anyway, says Amanda Jones, a San Francisco real estate agent with nearly 20 years of experience under her belt.

“Keeping receipts isn’t just good for taxes,” Jones explains. “In many cases, you need to provide them as part of disclosures. A lot of the California disclosures ask you to attach receipts, plans, anything that you have done regarding your home or renovations.”

Records that help determine your cost basis include invoices from contractors, sales receipts from DIY projects, and permitting costs associated with each improvement.

Renovations for medical purposes

If you, your spouse, or a dependent requires renovations to your home for medical purposes, you have an opportunity to write-off the cost of those projects per the capital expenses Publication 502 of the IRS tax code. These improvements would fall under medical expenses, not home improvement expenses, and could include anything from permanent renovations to the cost of installing medical equipment.

However, if the renovation does add value to your home, deductions can get complicated, says Ng. Let’s say you renovated your kitchen cabinets and had them lowered to improve accessibility. The project costs $20,000 and would add $8,000 to your home’s value. In that case, the remaining $12,000 could be deducted as a medical expense.

Being able to take advantage of this deduction does have a significant barrier to entry, Ng explains. You have to itemize your annual tax return to get this benefit, but because of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) it’s much harder to exceed the standard deduction than it once was.

Adding to the complexity, you can only deduct the medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). “Meeting all of these criteria is nearly impossible for the vast majority of taxpayers,” Ng says.

Moving expenses for the military

If you’re moving and in the military, you may be able to write-off your moving and relocation expenses that are not already reimbursed. However, according to the IRS, the move must be a permanent change of station under the following circumstances:

  • The move to your first active duty post
  • A move from one post to another
  • The move from your last post to a home within the U.S. This move must occur within a year of you ending active duty.

According to Publication 3 of the IRS, active military members can deducting the following costs associated with moving:

  • Travel: lodging, airfare, and driving expenses (gas, tolls, and oil)
  • Moving items: costs associated with trailer rental, professional moving services, packing, and insurance as well as the costs of storage for up to 30 days after your move

While active military personnel can write-off costs associated with their move, Ng cautions that you “can only count reasonable costs.” That means lavish hotel stays or over the top white glove moving services may be excluded. In addition, most moving expenses are covered by authorized military allowances anyway which may render the tax break useless.

A home office that can be written off as a home improvement.
Source: (Andrea Davis / Pexels)

Space used as a home office (self-employed only)

It’s estimated that 30% of the workforce will work from home in 2021, piquing curiosity around home office tax deductions. However, according to the IRS, only those who are self-employed and conduct the majority of their business out the room may qualify for a home office deduction. The TCJA eliminated the ability for remote workers who work under an employer to claim this deduction.

If you qualify for the deduction, you can calculate the write-off in one of two ways:

Actual expenses:

With this method, you can deduct certain non-deductible house expenses as business write-offs based on the percentage of the home used exclusively as office space. So if you have a 100 square foot office in a 1,000 square foot home, your office accounts for 10% of your home. That means you can deduct 10% of annual cost of your utilities, HOA fees, and homeowners insurance and the like.

You can also deduct costs as direct expenses. Let’s say you decide to repaint your office a fresh shade of greige — you can deduct the total cost of the expense to buy the paint supplies and any other costs associated with completing the project. You can also deduct the costs of a second business phone line (separate from your main phone line) as a business write-off.

Simplified method:

If all the math above seems like a pain to sort through, you can instead take the simplified home office deduction. For the 2020 tax year, just multiply $5 by the area of your home. For a $2,000 square foot office, that’s a $1,000 deduction. Note that this deduction is limited to 300 square feet.

For more details on home office write-offs, consult IRS Publication 587: Business Use of Your Home.

A house with solar panels that can be written off.
Source: (Vivint Solar / Unsplash)

Energy efficient improvements

According to the IRS form 5695, installing any of the following energy efficient improvements can lead to a tax credit:

  • Solar panels/shingles
  • Solar water heaters
  • Small wind turbines
  • Fuel cell property
  • Geothermal heat pumps
  • Energy Efficient improvements

This tax credit only pays for a portion of the equipment amounting to 30% of the cost of installation for most improvements. The only exception is the fuel cell property, which is limited to a $500 credit, no matter its cost, Ng says.

Write-offs on home improvements: Know the limitations

When budgeting for home improvements, you generally can’t count on tax savings to lighten the financial burden. In that sense, it’s important to prioritize improvements that not only preserve value, but that you can also comfortably afford. “When making decisions about how much to invest in your home improvements, leave possible deductions out of the conversation,” advises Ng. “Any reliance on home improvement deductions can backfire.”

DISCLAIMER: Information in this blog post is meant to be used as a helpful guide, not legal or professional tax advice. If you need help sorting through your available tax deductions related to the home and otherwise, please consult a skilled tax professional. 

Header Image Source: (Karolina Grabowska / Pexels)

We consulted CPAs and dug into IRS paperwork to clear up misperceptions around home improvement tax deductions and shed light on a few lesser-known tax breaks.HomeLight Blog

Are Window Valances Stuck in the ’90s, or Do They Have a Place in Modern Design?Melissa RudyHomeLight Blog

Window valances came into their own during the Victorian era, spanning the mid- to late-1800s. Victorian homes were all about lavishness and excess: ornate patterns and flourishes, heavy tapestries, rich wall coverings, and dramatic window treatments were popular home decorations at the time.

While curtains and draperies insulated homes in the winter, cooled them in the summer, and offered privacy from prying eyes, valances have primarily been an aesthetic feature that conceals any hardware or drilled holes at the top of the window, which can sometimes be unsightly.

But somewhere along the way, valances got saddled with a reputation for being outdated and frumpy. Many associate them with the white, lacy, ruffled affairs that might be seen on Grandma’s windows, or the shapeless, low-quality, garishly patterned versions that gave valances a bad name in the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s.

So are valances out of style, definitively? We asked half a dozen sought-after interior designers to weigh in from across the country on the fate of valances in modern design. As you redecorate your home or prepare to stage it for the market, keep their advice and photos (which they were kind enough to share!) in mind.

Faux Roman valance frames Manhattan view

Kathie Chrisicos, one of New England’s most respected interior designers and former president of the International Furnishings and Design Association (IFDA), believes when it comes to styling with valances, less is more. She, among other designers we spoke with, often recommends the streamlined faux Roman shade:

“If designed and implemented correctly, the faux Roman can be an elegant solution to either disguise the top mechanism of a shade or to add fabric and warmth to a room.”

In this Manhattan kitchen, Chrisicos used a simple valance that tied in with the neutral color scheme and helped soften the space without impeding the city views:

A window with roman valences, which are in style.
Source: (Chrisicos Interiors)

Chrisicos used soft, Roman-style valances in a creamy, neutral shade to soften this seating area without blocking the natural light:

A room with window valences that are in style.
Source: (Chrisicos Interiors)

Arched valance ties together bathroom design

Amy Youngblood, a designer in Cincinnati, Ohio who has been designing residential interiors for more than 20 years, still uses valances in her spaces, although she says the look and feel of them has completely changed from the days of swags and jabots.

Valances aren’t limited to kitchen and living areas. Youngblood used an arched valance as a finishing touch for this modern bathroom:

A bathroom with a window valence that is in style.
Source: (Amy Youngblood)

In another design by Youngblood, a simple valance is mounted over a transom to frame the top of the window. The dark brown banding pulls in the light fixture:

A window valence near a chandelier that is in style.
Source: (Amy Youngblood)

Valance livens up neutral kitchen

Jess Harrington, owner of Boston-based staging and design firm JessFinessed, says valances were a peak treatment option in the ’90s, especially jewel tones, pastels and country-style prints. These days, most of her clients prefer bare windows if light filtering and privacy aren’t a concern. However, sometimes she’ll incorporate valances. This sleek patterned valance adds a modern touch and splash of color to an otherwise monochromatic kitchen:

A blue valence that is in style.
Source: (Jess Harrington, StyledbyKG)

Custom valance pairs with unique artwork

Award-winning luxury interior designer Pamela O’Brien of Pamela Hope Designs, based in Houston, Texas, says that decorative window treatments — including valances — are alive and well in her area, although they’ve changed a lot since the days of the matronly, ornate styles of past decades.

She opts for simple, streamlined valances paired with functional blinds or shades. “We use valances to help raise the eye, sometimes creating the illusion of a taller window,” she says. “We also use them to create interest on a large wall or a wall with a lot of large windows.”

In this design, O’Brien created a shaped, upholstered cornice to complement the client’s artwork. A solid pink fabric was used to create a subtle contrast welt:

A room with a colorful window valence that is not out of style.
Source: (Pamela Hope Designs)

Here, O’Brien used a valance to add height and drama to a colorful bedroom. She selected a neat, menswear-style, black-and-white fabric and lined the pleats with solid black to create depth:

A pink room with a matching valence that is in style.
Source: (Pamela Hope Designs)

Flat valance complements living room design

New York City based interior designer Cathy Hobbs appeared on Good Morning America and was a finalist in the HGTV series Design Star. Her staging firm serves the Tri-State area of New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. In this design by Hobbs, flat valances add an additional subtle pattern to warm up this living/dining space:

Floral valences in a living room.
Source: (Cathy Hobbs)

What to look for when selecting a valance

Now that you’ve seen some excellent examples of how valances can be used in modern interior design, you may be eager to funnel the inspiration into your own home. Every window and every room is unique, so there’s no such thing as a universal valance.

The shape and size of the window, the design and colors of the room, any mechanical limitations for installation, and personal preference are all factors to consider when shopping for toppers. The designers we spoke with shared the most important things they look for when selecting valances to enhance their clients’ windows:

Fit

Youngblood prefers valances to fit snugly, ideally outside the moulding, approximately 1-1/2” beyond the mounting on each side and in proportion with the width of the window. She also likes to mount valances higher if possible, to give the illusion of more height in the room.

And the old “measure twice, cut once” rule applies here. Kitchy Crouse, an interior designer in Southern California who was named “Best of Houzz” for design, stresses the importance of getting the windows measured by a professional before purchasing valances.

“Windows can be tricky, as the bottom measurement usually doesn’t match with the top one,” she explains. “And because valances are made to a custom size, you can’t return them if something goes wrong.” Some window treatment companies will offer measuring services for free or for a small fee.

Fabric

Most window valances are made from cotton, chintz (a high-sheen cotton), jacquards (cotton or polyester with a pattern woven into the fabric), woven polyester, or a blend of cotton/rayon or cotton/linen. Silk valances are also an option, but they aren’t as durable or water-resistant, so a quality liner is important.

When choosing a valance fabric, Crouse matches it to any existing window treatments and furnishings for a cohesive look. She prefers a mid-weight fabric. But a room’s natural light is another big factor to consider when choosing a valance fabric.

“Pay attention to the way light hits the room throughout different times of day, and be mindful of how much light you prefer,” Harrington recommends. “You can choose a light-filtering liner or a blackout liner. Or, opt for a top-down shade that allows you to pull the shade down from the top, giving you the benefit of letting plenty of light through while maintaining privacy.”

Design

Youngblood’s go-to valance is a simple box style for modern spaces or an arched valance for more traditional rooms. If the main fabric is very light and neutral, she often adds a 2”-3” banding at the base to add visual interest. Some of the designers we chatted with also incorporate a contrasting welt for a pop of style.

Inside vs. outside mount

When it comes to the “ins or outs” of mounting window valances, the short answer is: It depends. Youngblood ideally likes to mount outside of the moulding, as she thinks it frames the window nicely. But in “quirky” older homes, she occasionally mounts to the moulding when there is no space available outside for mounting.

For bedrooms, Crouse points out that using an inside mount will leave a little gap where light can come in. If you want full blackout, choose an outside mount to eliminate that ambient light.

A window in a dark room with a valence.
Source: (Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash)

Should valances come off when selling your home?

Like everything else in the world of windows, the question of whether to remove a valance when staging and showing a home depends on the specifics of the situation. Christie Wilkins, a top real estate agent in Duluth, Georgia, says that if her sellers have valances that are more dated-looking, she’ll recommend removing them before selling. But if they’re more of a modern style and complement the home’s aesthetic, it may be OK to leave them. “It’s really a case-by-case basis,” she says.

If any of these apply to a valance, it’s probably a good idea to remove it:

  • It’s outdated or doesn’t complement the home’s style. “Some of the more scarf, tulip and tie-up valances can be read as dated,” says Harrington. In this case, remove it in favor of a cleaner look.
  • The valance is limiting natural light in a room. “In this case, I would remove it to maximize the amount of light while potential buyers are coming in,” says Crouse. “No-one likes a dark room.”
  • It has a busy or floral pattern. When staging a home, it’s best to opt for neutral designs that will appeal to a broad base of buyers. Unless the valance is a neutral color in either a solid or a very subtle pattern, it’s best to remove it.
  • The valance limits the view from the window. Any window treatments that cover up too much of a window should be hung higher or removed to expand the window view, says O’Brien.

On the other hand, if a valance is neutral, simple, and high-quality, it can create the perception of a custom-designed home, which could add value.

“Well-designed window treatments are an important part of high-end interior design and can enhance the aesthetics of a home,” says O’Brien. “If questioning the valances when staging a home to sell, I’d suggest taking down inexpensive, ready-made options and only leaving high-quality window treatments.”

Header Image Source: (Elis Blanca / Shutterstock)

We asked sought-after interior designers to weigh in from across the country on the fate of valances in modern design. Their opinions may surprise you!HomeLight Blog

Does Removing That Sticky Old Wallpaper Increase Home Value?Valerie KalfrinHomeLight Blog

Of all the cosmetic elements in your home, your wall color is just about the easiest one you can change on a whim — unless you have wallpaper. With the exception of modern day peel-and-stick wallpaper, which is designed for simple installation and removal, wallpaper can be a beast to take down. You’ll need to dedicate a full day’s work to strip the walls of each modestly sized bedroom in your home for a change of scenery.

Older wallpaper especially can be a lot of work to remove and you’ll need to go to war with the sticky residue it leaves behind. Peeling back the paper could also reveal wall damage underneath. If you decide to take this project on, it would help a ton to know: Does removing wallpaper increase home value? Here’s the dispatch from real estate experts who talked to us about whether the effort to strip wallpaper is worth it from a resale-value perspective.

Floral wallpaper that will not increase home value.
Source: (Patricia Hammell Kashtock / Flickr via Creative Commons Legal Code)

Wallpaper and home value: What the experts say

When you think about the impact of wallpaper on your home’s worth, there are two types of value measures to weigh: What homebuyers see, and what appraisers see.

Style preferences won’t factor into the appraisal

According to Mason Spurgeon, a certified general real estate appraiser since 2004 who handles appraisals in Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa, appraisers view wallpaper as purely cosmetic. So long as the underlying walls are in good condition, an appraiser is not going to reduce your appraised value based on the stripes on your bathroom walls or the border with herbs and spices in the kitchen.

Buyers will pay less for dated homes

Appraisers do not value homes based on a seller’s style preferences, so your frilly couch and green carpet are safe from their judgment, too. However, “older wallpaper can make a home look and feel outdated,” Spurgeon says. “While this may not directly impact the value of the home, it may affect the marketability. Most buyers prefer paint because it is easier to change without a huge hassle.”

Clean walls are a good way for a buyer to view your home as a clean slate. About 57% of top HomeLight agents recommend that homeowners paint the interior before selling their homes. Painting the exterior alone has a 51% return on investment — not bad for a project that costs under $3,000.

Expect wallpaper to draw lower offers

Sheila Newton, a veteran real estate agent and single-family homes expert serving Anderson, South Carolina, who has completed 17% more sales than the average agent there, confirms:

“Most of the time, wallpaper is something that the buyer looks at as something that dates the house, and they consider things that are dated to be repairs. In their mind, they’re going, ka-ching, ka-ching, and taking numbers off. Nine times out of ten, they’re gonna subtract a good bit of money.”

Like it or not, that wallpaper you’ve lived with for years will impact your offers, Newton says. “Whether we reduce the price or not, the buyer will decrease their offer. That’s the problem.”

Today’s buyers want turnkey

Unless they’re house-flippers or enthusiastic DIYers, most buyers are not looking for a project to take on once they’re settled, adds Amanda Mosness, a South Carolina home staging expert certified by the Real Estate Staging Association and co-owner of Designing Impressions, a staging firm founded in 2004.  “They do not want to spend their free time fixing up a home. The more you leave unfinished, the less buyers will offer, and they will typically reduce the offer by more than it would have cost the homeowner to complete the work,” she says.

Should you remove wallpaper before selling?

Before checking whether you can remove your wallpaper, it’s worth evaluating whether you should. As much as our experts recommend it, they also understand that some homeowners don’t have the money or the know-how to remove it. Before you decide that’s necessary, check out the following:

  • The location of the wallpaper: Removing wallpaper from multiple rooms can be cost-prohibitive. “I’ve seen it where the wallpaper is in every bedroom on every wall and down the hallway. That’s going to cost thousands of dollars to have it removed,” Newton says. One or two rooms would be a more reasonable project to tackle before resale. Sometimes, you can get away with a single bad wall and still sell the home. “If it’s one accent wall and it’s not hideous, it’s probably OK,” Newton says.
  • The design of the wallpaper: “A retro pattern on an accent wall is doable” for buyers, says Mosness. “But then there’s what happened in the ’80s and ’90s with the matching border, the wallpaper, and curtains…” A lot of big patterns can make a room look small, Newton adds. However, some modern design publications say certain wallpaper styles are making a comeback such as sophisticated chintz, bold graphic patterns, florals, and even murals.
  • The condition of the wallpaper: If your wallpaper has holes, rips, or doesn’t adhere to the wall anymore, then it needs to go, provided you can remove it without doing more damage (more on that in a moment). Otherwise, it’s an eyesore, regardless of the pattern.
  • The age and style of the home: Sometimes the wallpaper fits the house — another rarity but it happens. “My first house was built in 1930 and had blue and white floral wallpaper in the tiny kitchen. It was actually super cute with the white cabinets and the oak floor, thanks to a bunch of windows,” Mosness says. “It just goes to show that sometimes you can get lucky and tastes align.”
A tool used to remove wallpaper to increase home value.
Source: (Savchenko Ruslan0212 / Shutterstock)

Can you remove it? That’s a sticky question

Removing wallpaper isn’t as simple as lifting a corner and tugging it off in sheets (again, unless it’s the peel-and-stick kind).

Risks to the scoring tool method

Newton has worked with a scoring tool to remove wallpaper, which she says can damage the Sheetrock underneath if you press too hard but won’t remove the paper if you don’t press hard enough. “If that wallpaper was put up when the house was built and was not sized, then you’re going to have a major issue getting it off without damaging the wall behind it,” she adds.

Layers on layers of wallpaper

Wallpaper also can hide surprises, such as a wall full of dings and cracks or worse, says Darla DeMorrow, a professional organizer and home stager who owns HeartWork Organizing in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “I still remember the house [where] I insisted that the painter remove the wallpaper, only to reveal two more layers beneath, neither of which was coming off. In every single room. Ugh,” she writes on her blog.

The paint-over approach? Not ideal

Some people paint over wallpaper, but depending on the paint, the type of wall underneath, and the wallpaper, this can cause it to bubble underneath or curl along the edges, according to the DIY Network, which offers tips on evaluating whether painting over wallpaper is an option.

For best results, use a steamer

DeMorrow tried a chemical wallpaper remover to redo her daughter’s room. It was very messy and didn’t work well, and she found better luck with steaming it off. She used a HomeRight steam machine, which sells for about $130 and has a steam plate for wallpaper as a separate attachment.

Steaming one small section at a time separated the back layer of the paper from the wall; she then went over that area with the steamer a second time while a helper scraped off the remaining glue with a wide putty knife. For any tough spots, some sites such as Architectural Digest recommend a bucket of hot water, liquid dish soap, and a tablespoon of baking soda to apply to the walls. For an extra kick, add a cup of vinegar per gallon of water.

Smooth out dents and scratches

With the wallpaper gone, you can paint the wall, but it may need to patch up blemishes with spackle or a skim coat beforehand if it’s damaged. Skim coating involves applying a thin coating of a diluted joint compound to a surface to cover blemishes, then smoothing it with a trowel or drywall knife, says the home services directory Porch.com. The cost for a professional painter to do this can range from about $1.10 to $1.30 per square foot, depending on where you live and the size of the job.

What to do once you have a clean wall

If your walls turned out smooth, you can prime and paint them in a neutral color. HomeLight agents recommend variations of gray, beige, and white, such as Agreeable Gray by Sherwin-Williams.

However, if the wall beneath seems a little worse for wear, you could try textured paint (and not the popcorn ceiling kind). Textured paint helps hide wall damage, adds a rustic feel, or  creates a faux finish such as concrete or plaster, according to Architectural Digest. A home store can mix an additive such as silica sand to a gallon of paint to increase the texture to your liking, or you can buy a ready-mixed textured paint, such as Homax Roll-On Texture.

Newton applied a textured paint in her home bathroom where she removed the wallpaper. Applying it involved a technique of painting Xs on the wall, which took a while, but the result looks good, she says.

A table and decor used to stage a house with wallpaper.
Source: (3523studio / Shutterstock)

Walls that sell: What to do if the wallpaper won’t budge

If your wallpaper is stuck tight or you don’t have the finances to tackle removing it, talk to your real estate agent about your options, such as:

1. Obtain an estimate from a contractor for the cost of removal and painting.

Your agent can present this as an option for buyers with a solid offer. “Usually you can get it done right before closing so it comes out of the seller’s proceeds if they don’t have the money upfront. That’s a win-win because the buyer can choose the paint color, which is nice,” Newton says.

2. Use clever staging to minimize wallpaper shock.

You also can stage a room to neutralize a wallpaper’s impact, Mosness says. Furniture and accessories in a neutral but complementary color can “calm” busy wallpaper. Hanging a mirror or a neutral piece of art on the wall also can break up the pattern. If there’s a more desirable focal point, such as a fireplace or a picture window with a view, arranging the furniture with those in mind will draw buyers’ attention there instead of the wallpaper.

“Sometimes, especially in small bathrooms, you just have to go with the theme. For example, if there is a red, white, and blue star border, then embrace it with towels in matching colors and a couple of stars on the wall,” Mosness says. “But make sure you modernize it as much as possible to again help buyers visualize the possibilities.”

Wallpaper: Worth the effort to remove?

You might have learned to live with your wallpaper, but worrying about whether buyers will appreciate it shouldn’t have you climbing the walls. A seasoned real estate agent can ask a contractor to remove a small section to gauge how difficult it will be to remove and provide an estimate. They also can advise how much of a hurdle it is depending on your circumstances. “It really does come down to the house and the unique situation of that house,” Newton says.

Header Image Source: (alexandre zveiger / Shutterstock)

Home appraisers won’t reduce their assigned value based on a home’s cosmetics, but dated wallpaper can really hurt a home’s marketability.HomeLight Blog

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