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Month: February 2021 (Page 1 of 9)

8 Ways to use Synthetic Turf to Beautify your YardRyan CastilloRedfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More

Choosing between installing artificial grass, also known as synthetic turf, and natural grass can be a difficult decision for some homeowners. While you may be drawn to natural grass for its feel and organic look, there are a number of benefits to choosing synthetic turf that may make you think twice. If you are too busy to upkeep your lawn, turf provides less maintenance and a longer lifespan compared to traditional grass. It’s also typically created from recycled materials, comes in a variety of textures and colors, and even has the potential to increase your home value.

In some locations, it might even make sense to install artificial grass over natural grass. For example, if you live in a city that has a hot and dry climate such as Las Vegas, NV or Austin, TX, having turf can prevent your lawn from wilting and dying due to the amount of sun those cities get annually. However, if you’re set on using natural grass for your lawn, there are still many creative and aesthetically pleasing ways to incorporate artificial grass into your lawn. Take a look at these 8 ideas on how to use turf to beautify your yard.

1. Install a synthetic turf golf green 

Your short game is just as important as your long, so installing an artificial grass putting green is the perfect way to get some practice without leaving your home. Golf greens are easy to install and can be customizable. Typically, they are around 1,000-1,500 square feet. For best results, source out an area that is flat, has minimal bumps and extrusions, and gets just the right amount of sunlight. A local turf company can then help excavate, cut, and install the artificial grass and holes. Finished with the proper landscaping, golf greens can serve as a stunning backyard feature that is both aesthetic and fun for the whole family.

2. Build a dog area for play and potty time

If you own a dog and live in a small place like an apartment, having a synthetic turf potty pad for your dog can be a great solution. Typically, they are built with short bristles for cleaning and a drainage system to catch urine. Turf doggy mats are versatile in size and can fit on a sunroom, patio, terrace, or balcony. They are especially great for training puppies or older dogs with bad bladder control. When not in use, synthetic turf potty pads blend in to look like a patch of grass. Not to mention, it saves your real grass from developing brown spots.

If you have the outdoor space, you can use turf to create a play area for your pet. Pet-friendly synthetic turf is a great option if you are trying to keep your dog away from natural grass chemicals. Installing artificial grass for pets also helps prevent fleas and ticks, worrying about patches and brown spots, and digging unwanted holes. Give your dog the ability to roll around in the grass without the worry of getting sick.

3. Use synthetic turf walls and dividers for privacy 

Fences can be an eyesore. However, they are critical for privacy and to keep intruders out. Installing artificial grass fences or hedges is a great way to maintain privacy, while also elevating the look of your backyard by adding greenery. If you are looking for flexibility, some individual paneled artificial grass fences come on rollers that can be used to section certain parts of your yard if you are hosting a garden party or small get together.

4. Make an entertainment area for backyard hangouts 

Do you love to have people over for bonfires, casual wine nights, or backyard parties? Maybe you want to kick your feet up by the fire while you sip on a glass of wine. If you are worried about your feet suffering from uncomfortable surfaces, installing artificial grass around your bonfire pits and patio is a comfortable and stylish solution. Section off a small area, place patio furniture on top, and enjoy a relaxing hangout area on the turf.

5. Create an elegant driveway

For a touch of added elegance, use synthetic turf in between your driveway to bring in patterns and color to the exterior of your home. Real grass can become compact due to the weight of a car. Installing artificial grass between flagstones or concrete can make your driveway pop and always looks fresh.

6. Cover your outdoor furniture with synthetic turf

If you’re tired of boring patio furniture, a fun and unique way to include synthetic turf in your backyard is by purchasing turf-covered furniture. These pieces are designed for outdoor living, are low maintenance, and can be left outside year-round. They are a great way to blend nature with your home and can be designed to look good under a deck, gazebo, fire pit, or play area.

7. Design a multipurpose sports field

For the athlete looking for a way to get some practice in, installing an artificial grass sports field in a larger backyard can get you the training you need without having to go to the local park. Multipurpose sports fields can be used for soccer, lacrosse, or even spikeball whether you want to increase your skills or just get a friendly game in. 

8. Construct a playground 

When constructing your playground, safety will likely be top of mind. In that case, you’ll want to choose a surface that has some cushion to it and is free of chemicals. Synthetic turf is a great alternative to wood chips or gravel, as it has a soft texture and natural aesthetic feel. You can even include a shock pad underneath turf to reduce fall injuries. 

*Before attempting these projects, consult with a turf professional.


The post 8 Ways to use Synthetic Turf to Beautify your Yard appeared first on Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More.

Choosing between installing artificial grass or natural grass can be difficult. However, there are many benefits to synthetic turf such as less maintenance and a longer lifespan. Check out 8 ways to use turf to make your yard look beautiful.
The post 8 Ways to use Synthetic Turf to Beautify your Yard appeared first on Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More.Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More

How Do I Find a Good (Scratch That — Great!) Real Estate Agent?Christine BartschHomeLight Blog

How on earth do I find a good real estate agent? you’re wondering as you attempt to squeeze in a little research between work meetings or while the kids are still at school. With a sandwich in one hand and your phone in the other, you’re overwhelmed with what’s only the first step in the home-selling process. There are so many in my city, and I don’t know who to trust!

Americans are busier than ever, and finding a good real estate agent is just one more task on a very long to-do list. For many, taking a “this agent will do” mentality might seem like the only way forward, with 77% of sellers resigning to hiring the first agent they contact!

However, a lack of research can seriously hurt your bottom line, as we’ve found that the best agents in a market sell homes for as much as 10% more than average. So who are these rockstars of your market and how can you find them?

Here are 10 pro tips to narrow your search and zero in on your top candidates!

Friends who are discussing good real estate agents.
Source: (Ben Duchac / Unsplash)

1. Don’t go with someone just because they helped a friend or family member.

Thirty years ago, asking friends or family for real estate agent recommendations was the only way to vet a real estate agent — which is why it became the go-to agent-finding method. But that trend is changing, thanks to the agent information available online.

According to the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) “2020 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers,” only 41% of sellers used a real estate agent found their agent through a referral by friends or family.

“Everybody knows someone who has a real estate license. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area we have over 20,000 real estate agents, however not everyone is an experienced professional,” explains Lily Moore, a top-selling agent in her Texas market. “It’s great to ask your friends and family, but that doesn’t mean the agent they recommend is going to be a good match. Maybe they worked with the agent 10 years ago, or they suggest a part-time agent who sells real estate as a hobby.”

Hiring a friend or family-recommended agent can also put a strain on relationships. It’s not so easy to push back if you disagree with your agent on pricing, marketing, or home repair projects — or even fire your agent when you know conflict could damage your friendship. And the last thing you want is to be walking on eggshells with your agent about a transaction that should be objective and free of emotion.

2. Conduct interviews with multiple agents before committing to anyone.

Commitment has practically become mandatory in the 21st-century. Get a cellphone, and you make a years-long commitment to purchase service. Go to a gym once and suddenly you’re stuck in a contract.

So many people feel like when they speak with a real estate agent about selling their house — they’re obligated to list your property with them.

Not so fast.

No company would hire the very first prospect who asked for a job without first running background checks and interviewing them to make sure they’re a good fit, and neither should you.

It’s time to set the pressure of social politeness aside, take your time, and meet with a number of agents before you make any commitment. Remember, every agent you meet with is interviewing for the job of selling your house — and just like any employer you have the right to consider a wide range of candidates before signing.

3. Factor in expertise by property type, whether it’s SFH, condos, or townhomes.

Between searching online and asking friends for recommendations, your list of potential agents may be getting rather long. You’ve got too many candidates to interview them all. One good way to hone down your list is to eliminate anyone who isn’t experienced with selling your property type.

If you’re selling a single family home on an acre of land, you don’t want to hire an agent who specializes in selling urban-area condos.

“You need to be careful about hiring an agent who specializes in condominiums to sell your single family home, because things can get complicated when your Realtor® is unfamiliar with your property type,” cautions Moore.

“The contracts and forms are different, and I have unfortunately seen agents make huge mistakes that cost their sellers thousands of dollars because the Realtor® didn’t check the right box.”

A neighborhood where a good real estate agent works.
Source: (Olivia Hutcherson / Unsplash)

4. Narrow down your list based on neighborhood expertise.

Home buyers aren’t just looking to buy a house, they’re looking to buy into a community with the kind of right atmosphere, amenities, and attractions. So it’s important for sellers to find an agent with experience marketing and selling properties in your specific neighborhood. That’s why every agent profile on HomeLight features an interactive map that indicates an agent’s concentration of homes sold by neighborhood.

“Sellers should ask every agent these questions first, ‘How many houses have you sold in my neighborhood?’ and ‘Where is your office located?’” suggests Moore.

“If they haven’t sold any or many houses in your area, or their office is 45 minutes or more away from your neighborhood, then they don’t know anything about marketing the local schools, the parks, or the community centers to potential buyers.”

Agents with local expertise will also have a network of nearby contractors to call in to help you get your home ready to sell.

5. Gauge industry knowledge on their recommendations for home prep.

The advice an agent gives to guide you in prepping your house for sale can tell you a lot about the effort they plan to put in.

Are they recommending that you put no effort into fixing up your house and just list at a low price? Are they recommending a major overhaul remodeling every room in the house that’ll cost you tens of thousands of dollars? Both are red flags that indicate an agent isn’t the right fit to sell your house.

“There are agents who will recommend listing as-is at a low price because they’re just trying to get a quick commission. A great real estate agent is going to come in, walk the house and let you know what you can do to increase the price by $25,000 to $30,000 just by putting $4,000 worth of work into improving the property,” advises Moore.

A good real estate agent speaking with a client.
Source: (Matthew Henry / Burst)

6. Give more weight to past performance than promises.

Every agent puts on their game face when they meet with prospective sellers, but just because they can talk a good game doesn’t mean they have the track record to back up their sales pitch.

Thankfully, stats don’t lie — which is why checking out an agent’s performance history is a vital part of finding a great agent. Here’s the key stats you need to look at:

Yearly number of transactions: The number of homes an agent sells annually is one good indicator of their success and experience. An agent who sells 30-40 homes each year obviously knows how to market and price a house to sell well.

Days on market: Days on market (DOM) tracks the time between when a house is listed and when it goes under contact with a buyer. If an agent’s average DOM is lower than average, it’s a good sign that they price homes correctly to attract quick offers and come out of the gate with a strong marketing plan for their listings.

Sale-to-list-price ratio: The sale-to-list price ratio tells you what percent of the asking price a home actually sells for. An agent’s average sale-to-list ratio indicates how accurate they are at pricing homes, and how much of a seller’s list price they’re likely able to deliver. The higher their average sale-to-list price ratio for sell-side transactions, the better their track record.

Awards and local involvement: If your agent has received recognition from fellow Realtors® or the local community for their real estate work, that’s a pretty good indicator of their dedication and involvement with your neck of the woods, which can translate into having more informed conversations with buyers about your property.

7. Look for ‘above and beyond’ tendencies in client reviews.

While you’re looking up your agent’s stats on their online profiles, it’s a good idea to take a look through their written reviews from past clients. But don’t just go by the number of 4- and 5-star reviews they’ve received. To find out if an agent you will go “above and beyond for you, take the time to dig into the review details.

What you’re looking for are personal stories that share concrete details on just how the agent went out of their way to help past clients.

For example, did the agent spend time preparing their client’s home for the market while their clients traveled the country in an RV? Have they helped past clients downsize after a medical emergency and helped declutter the home on an impossible deadline? Did the agent work out a complex lien against the property to get it sold?

Believe it or not, these are all real examples of things agents have done in the past to make sure their clients were happy. And you shouldn’t expect anything less!

It’s also wise to count how many times client reviews mention key qualities that all great agents have, like offering quality home prep advice, exhibiting patience, and great communication:

“Communication is important because agents need to move at the speed of the market. It’s a red flag if an agent takes 24 to 48 hours to respond to you,” says Moore.

A client calling a good real estate agent on the phone.
Source: (Andy Art / Unsplash)

8. Ask your agent finalists for references from past clients — and take time to call them.

Online reviews that share concrete details and personalized stories are a great way to narrow down your long list of potential agents, but when you’re getting close to hiring an agent, it’s important to ask your finalists for references who you can talk to personally.

“In the real estate industry, you can get online reviews from pretty much anybody. Family and friends can write reviews saying what a great person you are, but being a great person doesn’t make you a great real estate agent,” explains Moore.

“That’s why I provide references for my prospective sellers, so they can call up past clients and ask about their experience with me.”

9. Evaluate an agent’s additional certifications and specialties.

Just like snowflakes, no two home sales are alike and your unique property may call for an agent who has additional certifications or specializations beyond the standard real estate license.

NAR lists over 25 different specialized credentials that designate agents as experts in working with unique property types, clients, or sale types, including:

Even if you don’t need this level of specialized help, it’s a good idea to take a look at what designations, certifications, and specializations your agent has listed on their business cards, online profiles, or websites. These credentials say that your agent is dedicated to their profession and devoted to meeting their clients’ needs.

A coffee shop where a good real estate agent works.
Source: (Toa Heftiba / Unsplash)

10. Give bonus points to any agent who’s making a big community impact.

Good agents have in-depth knowledge about your neighborhood that’ll help them sell your house fast. Great agents go the extra mile and give back to the community.

There are plenty of ways that great agents show their community commitment, such as organizing charity events, or even making videos about moving to your city. These are signs that your agent has a great local reputation and are focused on building true relationships with their clients rather than treating sellers like transactional acquaintances.

“We personally put time and money back into our community by sponsoring local baseball and basketball teams, and we support the Children’s Hunger Fund in Dallas. We also host an event once a year where we invite the whole neighborhood and provide free ice cream to show that we can all be better together,” says Moore.

It’s worth the effort to find the right agent

Finding a great real estate agent to sell your home – your most valuable asset – is a huge pain point. In fact, it’s the reason HomeLight got started. We are committed to helping sellers fully evaluate potential candidates by providing detailed, stat-based profiles on our agents, interactive maps that track local home sale statistics, and offering multiple agent recommendations that fit your specific criteria. Whenever you’re ready, we’re here to help.

Header Image (Source: (Matthew Henry / Burst)

“How do I find a good real estate agent?” you think as you juggle a million other daily tasks. Use these 10 tips to narrow your search!HomeLight Blog

14 Upgrades and Routines to Be Happier in Your HomeJulia WeaverRedfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More

The pandemic has impacted our lives in countless ways, and many of our routines were flipped upside down as we struggled to wrap our heads around a new normal. From working and exercising, to online shopping and countless home-cooked meals – it may feel as if you’re surrounded by the same four walls day-in and day-out. 

It’s no secret that our surroundings affect our mood, but they might have a bigger impact on our well-being than you think. In fact, according to a recent study, 70% of homeowners said that the design of their home has affected their well-being during the pandemic. So, if you’ve been feeling down and can’t quite put a finger on why, your home may be to blame. Find out what you can do around the house to give yourself a much-needed mood boost to feel happy in your home – and even increase the value of your home.

Learn how to become more happy in your home with paint color

1. Design a home gym to make a happy home

Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and improve your overall well-being. If you were a regular at your local gym before the pandemic, it was most likely difficult for you when gyms across the country were closed to stop the spread of Coronavirus. You no longer have a place to go with weights, straps, or workout machines. Many people had to get creative with their at-home workouts, substituting household items for gym equipment in living rooms and bedrooms. 

It may have been difficult at first to adapt your routine, but if you’ve come to love the convenience of your home set-up, it may be time to make some upgrades. Start by clearing space and creating a dedicated exercise area in your spare room or garage. Next, add shock-absorbent rubber flooring for weighted exercises, gym equipment that’ll help you reach your fitness goals, and a mirror so you can keep an eye on your form. You can even include a fan to keep cool and a TV to follow along with a personal trainer or video workouts. 

The upfront cost of designing a home gym might be expensive, but don’t let that scare you. Did you know that the gym membership costs an average of $700 dollars a year? A home gym will practically pay for itself, considering the hundreds to thousands you can save over the years by no longer needing a gym membership.

2. Create a habit of routine cleaning

It’s hard to get in the right headspace when your home is dirty. A clean home is not only better for our overall health and well-being by reducing indoor allergens, but it also has a positive impact on our mood. Get in the habit of cleaning your home a couple of times a week. Routine cleaning includes vacuuming, dusting regularly, wiping down countertops and surfaces, and cleaning your bathrooms and kitchen.

Keeping your house clean can be a time-consuming task, and let’s face it – sometimes it’s hard to find the time to clean your house from top to bottom. Consider hiring a professional cleaning service. A happy home is a clean home and trust me, it will be worth it. They’ll be able to clean every nook and cranny of your home, plus you can choose the frequency of visits to suit your needs. 

3. Declutter your home and boost productivity

As a homeowner, it’s common to accumulate stuff over the years and not realize it until your home is in disarray. Your mess just becomes everyday junk that you no longer notice. But the piles of paper, boxes of toys, and mounds of clothes can negatively impact your overall mental state. Eliminate this source of stress in your life. Follow these general guidelines as you declutter your way towards a happier home:

  • Break your project up room-by-room, and don’t move on until the room is finished. This way, you don’t end up lost in an endless pile of stuff.
  • Begin categorizing. One for belongings you’d like to keep, one as a “maybe” pile, and another one for items you’ll donate. In a few days, come back to the maybe pile and make final cuts. If you don’t use it, don’t want it, or don’t need it, get rid of it. 
  • Check the expiration date and throw out any expired items. Be especially thorough when looking at items in the kitchen, pantry, bathroom, and medicine cabinet. 
  • Sort through your closet, and donate or toss clothes or shoes you no longer need.
  • Don’t allow papers to pile up. Our countertops can be quickly overrun with bills, flyers, and mail. Sort through these papers immediately, toss whatever isn’t important, and find a suitable storage option for the others

Decluttering is a big task, and attempting to tackle your entire home by yourself could turn disastrous. That’s why it’s best to hire a professional for assistance in sorting through your belongings, especially if you have a big job ahead. 

Home selling tip: If you’re trying to sell a cluttered home, buyers will be distracted and overwhelmed by your things. Hiring a professional to declutter can increase a home’s asking price by up to 5%.

4. Improve your home organization

There are countless benefits to becoming (and staying) organized. Organization doesn’t just mean your belongings are in the right place, it can also be beneficial to your well-being. Living in an organized home makes everyday tasks that much easier, even if it’s something simple like locating your house keys or finding your phone charger. Almost everyone wishes they were more organized, but the task of organizing itself can be daunting for some. 

It’s important to remember that there isn’t one tried-and-true way to organize your home. However, it’s crucial to organize in a way that fits your lifestyle so be sure to keep your everyday items in easy-to-reach places. Once you’ve decluttered, begin to categorize your belongings and store them in labeled boxes, bins, containers, and drawer organizers. A good place to start is your junk drawer. Always return items to their designated space after each use. It sounds simple, but it takes practice and commitment to develop this habit.

Sometimes finding the time to begin organizing, or even knowing where to start, can be the biggest obstacle. Work with a professional organizer to create a system that works for you and your goals.

Staying organized will create a happy home

5. Designate a space for mind and body practices

There’s nothing better than the immediate sense of calm that washes over you when you’ve stepped into a yoga studio or meditation center. If you’re looking for a way to bring more peace and tranquility into your home, think about designating a space for yoga or meditation. 

The best yoga or meditation sanctuary is calm and soothing, helping you to remain happy in your home. It should be a sanctuary you can escape to and where you can give 100% of your focus to your mind and body. Find a dedicated space, no matter how small, and designate it as your “studio.” This could be beside your bed, in the bonus room, or even on your balcony or back deck. 

Be sure to have everything you need in reach, including a water bottle, yoga mat, meditation cushion, blankets, and myofascial release tools. Create a relaxing ambiance with essential oils, and surround yourself with dim lighting, earthy elements, soothing music, and burning candles. This way you won’t have to leave your home to achieve the same sense of bliss you get at the yoga studio or your favorite meditation center.

6. Boost curb appeal to welcome you home with open arms

It’s common knowledge that a beautiful yard and a freshly painted exterior can increase the value of your home. But a home with curb appeal also has the ability to make you feel happier and is an essential ingredient for a happy home. A beautiful lawn with freshly trimmed plants, a stone walkway, and an inviting front porch is sure to make you smile as you pull into the driveway. 

But if you’re greeted by a yard overflowing with weeds and dead grass it may just add to your stress. If you can’t remember the last time you mowed, or it’s starting to wear on you, hire a professional to take care of your yard and trim the shrubs. Paint the front door, add potted plants, and pressure wash the exterior of your home. You’ll thank yourself for it every time you pull into your driveway. 

Home selling tip: Curb appeal not only helps your home sell quicker, but it also increases home value up to 11%.

7. Schedule an annual plumbing inspection

Maintaining a happy home and improving your overall well-being also includes regular maintenance and inspection of your home’s plumbing system. Before any issues spiral out of hand, and to help you save time, money, and heartache, schedule an appointment for a yearly plumbing check-up. A professional will be able to detect small or developing leaks, find the root cause of a clogged drain, and much more.

Home selling tip: A plumbing system that is in bad condition can be a deal-breaker for the buyer. Avoid any future issues by keeping up with your home’s annual plumbing maintenance.

8. Incorporate smart home technology

Thanks to smart home technology, healthy living is easier than ever. COVID-19 has brought to light just how easily germs can spread, which has amplified the demand for clean surfaces and filtered air. From air quality sensors and comfort-focused sleep technology, to water purifiers and UV disinfectant lights, your options are endless and will help you keep a healthy and happy at home. 

Home selling tip: It’s important to appeal to today’s buyers, and as more millennials break into the housing market, incorporating smart home technology will add more value than ever.

9. Reduce monthly bills with LED light bulbs

A happy home can also mean an efficient home. Since you’re probably spending more time at home than ever before, you might have noticed an increase in the time spent with the lights on, and therefore an increase in your energy bills.

Consider switching to energy-efficient LED light bulbs. According to the Consumer Federation of America, opting for LED lights can save you about $1,000 across the span of 10 years. In fact, residential LEDs use 90% less energy per day and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting. 

10. Refresh your space with a coat of paint

You walk into a yellow-painted, light-filled dining room to enjoy your morning cup of coffee and you immediately feel energized. If you’re not a morning person, you may be wondering why you’re suddenly feeling excited and upbeat about the morning.

The colors you choose to surround yourself with have a drastic impact on your mood. White walls can promote positivity and cleanliness, blue instills productivity and tranquility, and green relieves stress and has a calming effect. So, if you’re looking for a change in the mood of a room, consider painting your walls.

Home selling tip: Paint your walls a neutral color. Opt for beige, ivory, cream, or white-colored walls as these hues show best in photos and videos.

Paint in neutral colors when selling a home

11. Increase your vitamin D exposure with a sunroom

It’s no secret that sunshine has a profound effect on our mood and mental health. If you’re looking for a way to enjoy the many benefits of vitamin D and sunshine all year round, consider adding a sunroom to your home.

A sunroom is versatile, allowing you to adapt the space for numerous purposes. It’s most commonly used as a lounging area or sitting room, but a sunroom can easily be transformed into a craft room, office, yoga space, or garden. There’s just something about the radiant and airy atmosphere of a sunroom that can lift anyone’s mood and feel connected to nature without leaving your home.

Home selling tip: Adding on a sunroom to your home’s footprint will increase usable square footage, and therefore increase home value.

12. Instill peace of mind with an alarm system

Everyone wants to feel safe. While installing a home security system isn’t cheap, your peace of mind is priceless. Improving home security should be your first step towards feeling safer and happier at home.

There are countless benefits to installing a home security system. First and foremost, an alarm system can help protect you and your loved ones from intruders, smoke, and carbon monoxide poisoning. You’ll be able to protect your valuables from burglars and help deter crime. It can also lower your homeowners insurance by up to 20%. And, if you’re ever away from home, you’ll have the ability to monitor your home through your smartphone. Knowing that you, your family, and your home are safe will help alleviate worry and stress.

13. Create a reading nook to escape to

For many of us, nothing beats getting lost in a good book. It provides a temporary escape from reality and life’s everyday stresses. It can also improve your sleep, reduce anxiety, enhance social skills, and boost intelligence. If you love to cozy up with a book, consider creating a reading nook in a quiet space in your home. Find a private corner surrounded by bookshelves or a space you can only access by ladder, your options are endless. 

Personalize the space with plants, candles, and wall hangings. Adding pillows and blankets to your new space brings warmth and comfort. If your book nook is away from windows, be sure to add outlets and lighting so you can enjoy the space at any time of day. 

14. Replace your windows for better insulation

The temperature of your surrounding environment plays a very important role in how comfortable and relaxed you feel, and cold spaces can lead you to feel unmotivated. If your windows are drafty, consider replacing them to stay happier at home. After all, a warm home is a happy home. And, a better-insulated home can save you up to 15% annually on energy bills.

The post 14 Upgrades and Routines to Be Happier in Your Home appeared first on Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More.

The pandemic has impacted our lives in countless ways, and many of our routines were flipped upside down as we struggled to wrap our heads around a new normal. From working and exercising, to online shopping and countless home-cooked meals – it may feel as if you’re surrounded by the same four walls day-in and …
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The post 14 Upgrades and Routines to Be Happier in Your Home appeared first on Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More.Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More

The Proof is in the Plat Map: Your Neighborhood, DividedSally TunmerHomeLight Blog

Plat map: file under “things you would never know about unless you were buying a house, and maybe not even then.” A plat map is one of many documents in what seems like a deluge of paperwork a buyer encounters in the homebuying process.

If you’re wondering what on earth a plat map is and what it’s used for, you’re not alone. According to the National Association of Realtors®, a plat map is “a map, drawn to scale, showing the divisions of the piece of land” — that piece of land being where your home is located.

Plat, not to be confused with plot, shows more than the layout of a single property. If a plot is micro, then a plat is macro. It’s a parceled-out map of a defined area, like a neighborhood or subdivision. Essentially, a plat map is a bird’s-eye-view of your property and the surrounding area.

Typically, a plat map can be found somewhere in the pile of papers your title company presents to you at closing. It’s also something you or your agent can seek out ahead of time.

For those of us new to plat maps, which are probably all first-time homebuyers and even experienced homebuyers, what looks like a jumble of shapes and numbers can be hard to decipher.

Not to mention, you’ve surely had a site visit and walkthrough of your home before making an offer, unless purchasing it sight-unseen — not an uncommon practice during the pandemic. At this point, you know the location and have some sense of the area. So the question remains: What’s the purpose and benefit of a plat map?

Once you understand exactly what’s on a plat map and how to read one, it can offer a lot of useful information. We’ve done the research and talked to the experts to give you the critical insight on all things plat maps.

A plat map of Port Richey.
Source: (ghs1922 / flickr)

Plat maps: The what and the why

Let’s dig in further into what all a plat map shows and why it should matter to you, starting with a little history.

The origins of plat maps — also called cadastral maps, survey plats, or plat books — can be traced back to the 1850s as the first maps to document rural land ownership in the United States. Plat maps have evolved with the times, and it wasn’t until fairly recently that you could see a digital plat map.

The first plat map publisher was J.Q. Cummings, who founded Rockford Map Publishers in 1944. He meticulously researched and drew his plat maps by hand. Beginning in the early 21st century, with the help of Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping technology and computer software, plat maps were created digitally and eventually developed for smartphone and Google Earth compatibility.

Not all homes are platted. If the land around the house hasn’t been fully surveyed, or divided into different lots, then your house might not be found anywhere on a plat map until there’s more development around it.

What’s on a plat map and why it matters

A plat map outlines how your property is divided, the boundaries of the property, and all the surrounding property in the designated area, including other houses, residential land, streets, and any public land, like parks and playgrounds.

Sometimes, notes will accompany a plat map. The notes section can identify details like who is permitted to use certain tracts, who is responsible for maintaining public spaces, if there are any reserved areas for future development, and the locations of any protected trees or wetlands.

So, why is a plat map important? For starters, it provides an indisputable legal description of the property you own. Sellers don’t always list lot sizes and parameters accurately, so this is a valuable tool if there are any questions or discrepancies.

Furthermore, plat maps can confirm a lot of features and details about your future home-base, like trespassing lines, if the home is located in a flood zone, what direction each side of the house faces, any restricted areas of the property, and more.

These small details can have big implications. Some ways that analyzing the different components of a plat map could inform your purchasing and lifestyle decisions include:

  • Ensuring the lot size listed by the seller matches what’s on the plat map — a.k.a. confirming you’re purchasing everything that’s legally yours and paying the right price for it. There are instances when a lot size is listed incorrectly, especially for oddly shaped lots.
  • If you need flood insurance, and how to properly prepare for living in a flood zone
  • If the house would be compatible with solar panel installations
  • The available land space to build upon for a carriage house, shed, swimming pool, or another structure or outdoor feature
  • Determining if a neighboring structure or fence encroaches on your property

If you are an investor or land developer, plat maps are super important. Plat maps are essential for developers interested in owning a large piece of land to build new construction property on, or who want to consolidate existing property.

Plat maps will dictate lot sizes and boundaries for subdivisions, show roadways, rights of way, common areas, and other important details to know when developing real estate. They are also used for larger-scale planning and zoning projects, like creating neighborhoods and incorporating official towns or cities.

A plat map of Garden Grove District.
Source (re-sized): (Orange County Archives via Creative Commons Legal Code)

Plat maps vs. property surveys: What’s the difference?

While plat maps and property surveys are very similar, they aren’t exactly the same thing. Plat maps show the legal property lines that belong to the owner, but they offer more of a big-picture view of an entire neighborhood or subdivision, whereas a survey is a more in-depth look of a single property. Typically, the title company will order a survey of the property at the request of the buyer.

Plat maps can indicate a need for a survey if there is any question about a structure or feature of a neighboring property extending past its boundaries, known as an encroachment.

“If we notice any encroachments — fence is off the line, shed’s off the line — we can approach the seller before settlement and have any issues resolved,” says Sue Smith, a real estate agent in Northern Virginia who completes 84% more sales than the average agent in her market.

“I don’t like surprises, and I don’t like my clients to be surprised. I believe the settlement is a time to be happy as opposed to a time when you negotiate your contract. It’s a time to sign your papers and get your keys,” says Smith. Reviewing the plat map and ordering a survey in advance of closing will ensure that smooth and joyful experience.

Easements shown on a plat map could also signal the need for a survey to get a closer look at an individual property.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, the definition of an easement is the “right-of-way granted to a person or company authorizing access to the owner’s land; for example, a utility company may be granted an easement to install pipes or wires. An owner may voluntarily grant an easement, or in some cases, be compelled to grant one by a local jurisdiction.”

Glennda Baker, a real estate agent in Smyrna, Georgia with 29 years’ experience specializing in single-family homes, illustrates just how much easements can affect property regulations.

A previous client of Baker’s was under contract for a home that had a sewer easement by the storm drain runoff on the right and back sides of the house, which is “very common.”

Because of her knowledge and familiarity with the local market, she knew because of a terrible flood that occurred in the area in 2009, her client would need a survey, “because these setback lines on these drains change if there’s been a flood,” and sure enough, the flood map had changed. By a lot.

She pressed her client, who did not want to spend $650 on the survey, and it was a good thing she did, because the survey revealed that the buffer on the storm drain had extended from 7 feet to 25 feet. This decreased the building area on the lot. That meant in a worst-case scenario, if something irreparable happened to the house (like it burned to the ground), they could not rebuild a house of the same size that would be anywhere close to the same value.

There are all kinds of easements that can run through a property and prevent the owner from building any kind of addition, like a pool, fence, or shed.

“That’s why you engage a professional real estate agent — because a professional real estate agent can give you a warning of the pitfalls of buying without a survey,” says Baker.

While plat maps are an excellent reference and legal proof of a property’s ownership boundaries, a survey takes verification a step further for added protection.

A plat map of Bolsa Road.
Source (re-sized): (Orange County Archives via Creative Commons Legal Code)

Where can you find plat maps?

There are three main entities that produce plat maps: the Bureau of Land Management, local government, and title companies. The Bureau of Land Management provides plat maps for federal lands. Those are available to search through in their digital archives and at the nearest federal land office.

Once a licensed surveyor creates a plat map for a residential area, it is recorded as public record. City and county records offices as well as online databases like Q Public will have these plat maps available to search.

Once under contract for a property, buyers will have direct access to the location’s plat map through the title company. The title company will deliver the plat map along with the rest of the documents from the title search.

For history, family tree and ancestry projects, historic plat maps can be found by looking through archives of the Bureau of Land Management, Library of Congress, and searching specific locations and time periods online.

Breaking down the plat map

We know that in general, a plat map shows the layout of a residential area, divided by the individual plots and public areas, but let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of it.

On a plat map, you can expect to find:

  • The street names and the neighborhood or subdivision name will appear where applicable.
  • The orientation will signify the placement of each property by cardinal direction, showing which sides of the house face north, south, east, and west.
  • Plot details: Each plot will have an assigned parcel number, a lot number, a house number, and the measurements of the plot in square feet.
  • Easements will show any parts of the plat area that the city or private companies have the rights to, meaning reserved areas that can be occupied or built on for specified purposes. These types of easements include:
    • Utility easements include access for water, power, gas lines, phone, and internet.
    • Access easements are reserved for certain roads and community trails.
    • Native growth protection: This is an easement granted for the protection of vegetation within a critical area or its associated buffer. Its purpose is to preserve natural resources that benefit “public health, safety, and welfare” by controlling “surface water and erosion, maintenance of slope stability, visual and aural buffering, and protection of plant and animal habitat.”
  • Greenbelts or open space: defines greenbelts as “undeveloped, wild, or agricultural land that surrounds urban areas.” Greenbelts can be any natural land, from wildlife habitats, wetlands, and recreational parks.
  • Recreation areas: Trails, playgrounds, fields, and courts for sporting activities, parks
  • Monuments: Monuments on a plat map are simply any boundary or point on a map, which is physically marked on the land itself by a surveyor.
  • Roads: any roads or streets located within the defined plat area
The legend of a plat map.
Source: (AM Engineering)

How do you read a plat map?

So now we know what’s on a plat map, but how do you find all of these things? Let’s look at where each element is on the map and how it appears.

Keep in mind, all the plots — or each separate property unit — are represented by the individual square- or rectangle-shaped boxes on the map. Symbols and drawings will vary from one plat map to another, so always reference the legend.

Source: (AM Engineering)

To find the directional orientation of the plots, look for a prominent arrow-like figure, usually towards the top or the side of the map. This will show where north is, labeled with an “N” where the arrow is pointing, so you can tell which sides of the plot face north, south, east, and west.

Source: (AM Engineering)

The house number is located right outside the edge of the plot box at the street line.

Source: (AM Engineering)

The lot number is listed inside the plot box. The word “lot” will be listed with the number, or the legend will clarify which number inside the box is the lot number.

Source: (AM Engineering)

The parcel number is the other number listed inside each plot box that is not the lot number.

Source: (AM Engineering)

The plot dimensions can be calculated by looking at the numbers listed with a decimal or with the symbol for feet next to the number. These measurements appear around the plot’s edges, inside of the box. If multiple plots have the same dimensions, the number may be listed only once, meaning it’s consistent with the other plots.

Source: (AM Engineering)

Easements will be labeled along roads for access easements, within individual plots for drainage and utility easements, and anywhere else on the plat map indicated by the word “easement” and the corresponding type. Some easements, like sewer and utilities, will include the dimensions of the exact size.

Source: (AM Engineering)

The legend will indicate how to find monuments, which could be labeled with symbols like small solid black boxes or cross marks.

Source: (AM Engineering)

Recreation areas are labeled usually within a circular shape outside of the main residential area.

Source: (AM Engineering)

As you can see, what might seem like an insignificant document stuffed inside a folder from the title company holds a lot of pertinent information. While we all want to get to the closing table as quickly as possible, don’t sleep on your property’s plat map. It could be a crucial missing piece that shows exactly what you’re buying, which in some cases, might be different than what you thought.

Header Image Source: (Orange County Archives via Creative Commons Legal Code resized)

What is a plat map? While plat maps might seem like just another piece of paperwork, they are a valuable property tool for homebuyers.HomeLight Blog

Got an Old Fuse Box? What to Know About Selling Your HomeChristine BartschHomeLight Blog

Victorian, Mid-Century Modern, Art Deco, Colonial, you name it — buyers appreciate old houses with beautiful architecture and charm. But their love affair with history ends with outdated electrical systems still running on the original wiring. And an old fuse box, while it won’t technically prohibit you from selling a home, will hurt its value and raise other issues with the sale.

“In North Carolina, you can absolutely sell a house with an old fuse box,” explains Russell Wing, a top-selling real estate agent in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. “However, lenders and the insurance companies have a big problem with homes that have old fuse boxes instead of a modern breaker panel.”

Honestly, replacing your old fuse box is often the best option rather than trying to sell a house that isn’t up to today’s standards — and it might not cost as much as you think to make the swap depending on your home’s overall wiring. With this guide, you’ll get a little background on residential electrical systems, plus expert guidance on your options to move forward with a sale.

A living room with lights to demonstrate if you can sell a house with an old fuse box.
Source: (Ashley Byrd / Unsplash)

A brief history of electrical systems (and why it matters for your home sale)

Thomas Edison began illuminating the country in the 1880s, but by 1925, only half of all U.S. homes had electrical power. That early power wasn’t very robust at just 120-volts and 30Amps, a standard that stayed into the early 1950s.

As demand and usage of electricity expanded, so did the standard, increasing to 240 volts through a 60Amp fuse box during the 1950s and early 1960s. By the mid-1960s, early versions of the modern circuit breaker panel box became the electrical standard.

Like a ‘shut off’ valve for your electric

Fuse boxes and breaker panels serve the same purpose: to protect your electrical system by breaking the circuit if too much electrical current starts flowing through your system.

Functionally, the main difference is that with an old fuse box, the filament burns up when power surges, which is why you must replace blown fuses. With breaker boxes, an electromagnet breaks the circuit, which can easily be reset with the pull of a lever.

Increased electrical demands on the modern home

But replacing fuses isn’t the main inconvenience of an old fuse box; it’s that outdated fuse box systems aren’t designed to handle the electrical demands of the modern family.

When you add cellphones, televisions, computers, and other electronics on top of the lighting and appliances that electrical systems were originally designed to handle, an old 60Amp fuse box system cannot match the service provided by today’s modern 200Amp service in newer homes.

No buyer wants a house that will blow a fuse if you use the microwave while you’re charging your phone. Not to mention the safety hazards that arise.

A computer and lamp to depict if you can sell a house with an old fuse box.
Source: (Radek Grzybowski / Unsplash)

FYI: safety hazards of a fuse box

Fuse boxes aren’t as reliable and efficient as breaker panel boxes, but contrary to popular belief, fuse boxes aren’t automatically unsafe. The danger arises when old fuse boxes are modified by homeowners to handle higher electrical usage.

This is most often done by putting bigger fuses into old fuse boxes than they were designed to handle. For example, forcing a 60Amp fuse into a fuse box rated for 30Amp fuses may prevent the fuses from blowing, but you’re overtaxing your outdated electrical system, which creates a fire hazard.

“Electrical fires kill multiple people across our country every year. If you’ve got an old fuse box, just put your hand on it and it’ll be warm,” advises Wing.

How do I sell a home that has an old fuse box in it?

You have three main options available if you’re selling a house that still has an old fuse box. You can replace it, lower your asking price, or sell it as-is — a label that will most likely appeal to cash buyers and investors.

Let’s review each option more in-depth:

1. Replace the fuse box with a modern breaker panel

The cost of updating electrical systems is the big reason why home sellers shy away from replacing old fuse boxes before selling. According to Fixr, rewiring a 2,000 square foot home averages around $8,500.

The good news is that a house doesn’t always need to be fully rewired when you swap out an old fuse box for a new breaker panel.

“Whether or not you need to rewire the house when you replace an old fuse box depends on the age of the home. If your historic home has the old knob and tube wiring that can short out and start a fire, it’ll need to be replaced,” explains Wing. “But in a lot of cases, you can just change out the fuse box itself for a circuit breaker box in homes built in the ‘60s, ‘50s, or even the late 1940s. If you’re just putting in a new fuse box, you’ll probably spend $1,500.”

2. Price the home to account for the dated system (and any other needed repairs)

Option two requires reducing your listing price to account for passing on the expense of updating the fuse box (and potentially your wiring) to your buyer.

If you’re selling in a seller’s market, or listing in a neighborhood filled with outdated electrical systems, you may be able to get by with reducing the price solely based on an estimate for fuse box replacement and rewiring costs from a licensed electrician.

However, if your home is one of the last ones around with an old fuse box, or your market is sluggish, then you’ll need to reduce your price even more to get an offer. In that case, your price reduction may cost you thousands more than the $1,500 to $8,000 that you’d spend updating your fuse box and wiring.

Even if you do get a decent offer on your house with an old fuse box, that doesn’t mean the sale will close.

The house is essentially a lender’s insurance policy against the potential for borrowers to default on their mortgage. Should the buyer fail to keep up payments, the bank can foreclose on the property and sell it to offset their losses. With so much at stake, mortgage companies are reluctant to lend out on homes with the fire hazard potential of an old fuse box.

“The last thing you want is to get close to closing on your home sale, and then boom, the appraiser says that we’ve got to replace the old fuse box before the sale can close,” explains Wing.

3. Sell your house as-is to a cash buyer

Options two and three may sound the same, but there’s one very big difference: a cash buyer isn’t going through a lender, so there’s no chance that an appraisal citing the old fuse box will kill the deal.

You’re also selling the property as-is, which means that you can avoid any post-inspection negotiations over the price or any repair requests. Cash buyers are most often investors planning to rent out or flip the property, so they’re going to replace main components anyway as part of their remodel plans.

You’ll also benefit from a quick closing timeline. While this can be a swift and easy way to unload your home without the hassle and expense of replacing the old fuse box, it also means you’ll probably receive less than the fair market value of the home in the form of a price discount.

You can request a cash offer through HomeLight’s Simple Sale platform, our network of nationwide verified real estate buyers who buy homes in any condition. Just tell us a little bit about the property, and we’ll tap into our pool of buyers and connect you with the highest bidder. We estimate a home’s “Simple Sale” price to be 90%-95% of market value on average, but it could be less depending on the buyer.

Lights to depict if you can sell a house with an old fuse box.
Source: (Federica Giusti / Unsplash)

FAQs about selling homes with old fuse boxes

Buying an older home with an outdated electrical system is old hat for real estate investors, but for primary residence home buyers, the prospect of purchasing property with an old fuse box may have them worried. Put their minds at ease with these answers to their most pressing questions.

Is it illegal to have an old fuse box?

No, you’re not going to be hauled off to jail if your home has an old fuse box. It’s definitely legal to have one; however, your home may not be up to code.

The National Fire Protection Association publishes the National Electrical Code, which has been adopted by all 50 states. The NEC requires that panel breakers be installed on the outside of your home so that in the event of a fire, firefighters can immediately shut off the electrical system.

Historic homes may have their old fuse boxes mounted in the basement, garage, or even behind a panel inside the home. That’s not only a fire hazard, it may also make it difficult to get homeowners insurance.

Can you get homeowners insurance with a fuse box?

It’s difficult but not impossible to get insurance with an old fuse box. Some insurance companies won’t insure a house unless you replace the old fuse box, but other insurance companies will.

“You can always approach your current insurance company and chances are that your agent will re-insure the property,” suggests Wing.

While you’ll probably be able to find a company willing to insure a home with an old fuse box, it won’t be cheap. Most insurance companies will charge a premium to insure houses with higher risk fuse boxes over circuit breaker panel boxes.

Yes, you can sell a house with an old fuse box. But should you?

Selling an older home that still has its original wiring and an old fuse box may not be easy, but it’s definitely doable. Whether you simply list for less or seek out a cash buyer, you can sell a house with an old fuse box and save yourself the time, effort, and expense of replacing it with a modern breaker box.

However, if you want to sell your home fast and for the most amount of money, the smart move is to replace that fuse box before listing.

Source (resized): (Jereme Rauckman via Creative Commons Legal Code)

Technically you can sell a house with an old fuse box. However, replacing it with a circuit breaker is often the smart move so that you can maximize value.HomeLight Blog

How to Sell a Fixer-Upper House Fast: 9 Shortcuts to an OfferMelissa RudyHomeLight Blog

Your house needs more than a little TLC, and now something like a job transfer, family emergency, or financial rough patch has created urgency to unload it. You need to figure out how to sell a fixer-upper house — and do it fast — to avoid additional strain.

“We’ve learned that in order to sell a fix-and-flip property fast, the key is to find the balance between doing too much — spending excessive money or time that we won’t get a return on — and still making the house attractive enough in order to sell fast,” says Richard Latimer, the owner of a homebuying business in Huntsville, Alabama, where he helps people improve and sell unwanted or neglected properties.

If your house needs work and you don’t have the time, money, or inclination to make a full transformation, follow these 9 expert tips and tricks to sell it quickly, flaws and all, while recouping as much of your investment as possible.

Cleaning supplies to demonstrate how to sell a fixer upper house fast.
Source: (Rasanoa vz / Unsplash)

1. Create a clean canvas

No matter how rough or outdated your house may be, a deep cleaning makes a big difference in how it shows to potential buyers. According to HomeLight’s data, a deep clean can add more than $1,700 to a home’s sale price, and is likely to speed up the sale process.

Eva Cedillo, a top-performing agent in San Joaquin County, California, says a deep clean is by far the most important step in fast-tracking a fixer-upper sale. “90% of the time, the buyer is going to do a full rehab anyway, so they’re just looking for a clean slate,” she notes.

When going after the grime, focus on these key areas:

Declutter all counters, open areas, closets, and built-in storage areas:

Not only will this make the house appear more spacious and appealing to buyers, it will also make it easier to tackle the deep cleaning tasks.

Get the kitchen spic-and-span by scrubbing down all surfaces:

Empty the cabinets and wipe out any crumbs or dirt from the inside, purging contents as you go. Then, clean out and wipe down the inside and outside of the refrigerator, dishwasher, and oven. Finally, scrub down the stovetop and all countertops. Finally, sweep and mop the floors.

Clean all bathroom surfaces, including sinks, toilets, showers, bathtubs, and mirrors:

Freshen up bathroom tile with your preferred cleaning product or a natural mix of hot soapy water. Stanley Steemer recommends soaking grout in a mixture of one-fourth cup hydrogen peroxide, one-half cup baking soda, and one teaspoon of dish soap for 5-10 minutes and then scrubbing grout lines with a brush.

Wash the inside and outside of all windows, including windowsills, window tracks, and blinds:

Use a vacuum brush attachment to remove dust, debris, and bugs from the windowsills, recommends Molly Maid, a professional home cleaning service since 1984. Get rid of any mold with bleach water or a white vinegar solution. Apply a baking soda-vinegar mix to the remaining gunk. Let it soak and scrub it off with an old toothbrush.

Top it off with these cleaning tips:

  • Dust the fixtures and furniture in each room from the top up, starting with ceiling fans and higher furniture like bookcases and working your way down.
  • Wipe down all baseboards, doors, door frames, and window frames. Use a Mr. Clean Eraser to remove any scuffs.
  • Sweep and mop all hard flooring surfaces. Vacuum all carpets and then have them professionally cleaned. Even if the buyer ends up replacing the flooring, the freshly cleaned carpet will give the impression that the home has been well-maintained.

2. Knock out the low-hanging repairs

When time is of the essence, it’s probably not realistic to start tearing out kitchens and knocking out walls. And in most cases, an investor or flipper who purchases the home will want to make those bigger renovations themselves, as they have the expertise and resources to tackle them faster and less expensively.

That said, there are some minor repairs and upgrades you can do to make the house safe and comfortable in case the buyer wants to live there while making the bigger improvements.

Consult this list for guidance:

Blue kitchen cabinets to demonstrate how to sell a fixer upper house fast.
Source: (Vincent Erhart / Unsplash)

3. Disclose any potential “deal-killers”

In an ideal investing scenario, a fixer-upper would have only cosmetic issues, where the renovations would be low-cost and straightforward. That’s not to say you won’t be able to find a buyer who’s willing to take on a property with more baggage — you’ll just have to be prepared to adjust your pricing expectations.

If you know (or suspect) that your fixer-upper might have pricey problems, some experts recommend getting a pre-listing inspection so you know exactly what you’re dealing with. If you wait until the buyer’s inspection to uncover any potential pitfalls, you could face delays later in the process or the contract could fall through, sending you back to square one.

“A pre-inspection report negates the ability for potential buyers to haggle over non-functional systems or degraded house parts that they see,” says seasoned real estate investor Andy Kolodgie. “We’ve also found that pre-inspection reports actually create a more competitive environment for bidding, as all sides understand exactly what is available.”

Below are some of the major issues that inspectors will look for, especially with a home that needs work:

  • Faulty HVAC system
  • Electrical problems
  • Plumbing issues
  • Damaged or old roof
  • Structural/foundation issues
  • Insect/pest infestations
  • Mold
  • Water damage

4. Improve drive-by impressions with quick curb appeal boosters

While you may not have the time for a full-scale landscaping project, a few quick spruce-ups can help project the image of a clean, well-maintained home and help speed up the sale:

  • Declutter the porch, yard, and driveway. Store or purge any bicycles, toys, trash cans, empty planters, shoes, and other odds and ends.
  • Remove any weeds, leaves, branches and other lawn debris.
  • Cut the grass and trim the bushes.
  • Add some fresh mulch.
  • Give the shutters, front door, and exterior trim a fresh coat of paint if needed.
  • Power wash the outside of the house.
An image of a house and yard to demonstrate how to sell a fixer upper house fast.
Source: (Aubrey Odom / Unsplash)

5. Partner with a fixer-upper-friendly real estate agent

A great real estate agent is a valuable tool for any seller, but particularly for a seller looking to quickly unload a fixer-upper on a tight timeline. That’s because when a house needs TLC, the agent will be better equipped to:

  • Help you calculate how much the required repairs will cost
  • Set a realistic price that reflects the work that is required and ensures a profit for the investor while still meeting your financial needs
  • Recommend when it makes sense to list at market value and offer a credit
  • Potentially assist with the cost of basic repairs (Cedillo says she usually fronts the money for paint and carpet before listing a fixer-upper)
  • Target a network of investors and house flippers who are seeking properties to renovate
  • Shift the emphasis away from the property’s flaws and highlight its selling points

6. Set a fair and realistic price

Every seller wants to get the best possible price for their property. For an updated, well-maintained house in a desirable location, you can easily fetch the top of your price range. But a fixer-upper that’s selling as-is won’t command as high of a sale price.

Start with neighborhood comps.

Just as he would for a turnkey property, Kolodgie always looks at neighborhood comps to get an idea of what properties of similar sizes are selling for in the area.

“Looking at comps to price a fixer-upper can be beneficial to help you figure out what price you should be under,” he explains. “In faster-paced markets, starting with the comps and reducing the price by 110%-120% of the repair cost will typically lead to eager home buyers. However, in slower markets with less demand or inventory, the cost may need to be substantially reduced, or it could be sitting for several months to a year or more.”

Calculate the ARV.

When investors are considering buying a fixer-upper, the most important number is the after repair value (ARV), which is what the property would fetch on the open market after any necessary repairs and updates have been made. Most flippers prefer to keep their total investment at 70% of ARV or less, which will ensure that they still earn a healthy profit after deducting any commissions, closing costs, and capital gains taxes.

“If you’re selling the fixer-upper in a high-end market, the renovation budget will be higher. If you are in a lower market, new paint and replacing the countertops may be enough,” explains Nick Ron, founder and CEO of House Buyers of America.

“Study the market, analyze the homes selling at the top of that market, and think about what it will cost for the buyer to get your property up to that amount.”

Once you’ve determined the ARV, Ron recommends using this formula to calculate the maximum offer price:

65-85% of the ARV – the repair costs = maximum offer price

For example, if your fixer-upper’s ARV is $305,000 and needs around $50,000 in repairs, the minimum price would be $148,250 and the maximum price would be $209,250. Pinpointing these numbers early on will help minimize negotiation delays and ultimately get you to closing faster.

7. Play up the home’s potential in the listing

You may not be able to boast about quartz countertops, brand-new hardwood floors, or professional landscaping, but even the roughest property will have some selling points for the right buyers. Emphasizing those features is key to attracting more interest — and more offers — early on.

When crafting your fixer-upper’s listing, your agent should highlight some of the key elements that investors are looking for:

  • Potential resale value after repair. “Price point is key,” Cedillo says. “Investors want a deal. They want to make money on a flip.”
  • Any competitive differentiators. Does the property have any “sizzle features” that make it unique? Glen Gallucci, a veteran real estate investor and founder of Peak Properties LLC, recalls an older fixer-upper where it was difficult to add central air conditioning, so he installed AC units in almost every room of the house. It was a feature that really stood out when showing the house on hot, humid days.
  • Prime location and lot. Even if your property needs some serious TLC, if it’s situated in a desirable neighborhood or on a large, private lot, your agent should play up those selling points.
  • Floor plan: A fixer-upper may need a serious facelift, but an appealing layout will be more likely to attract interested buyers.
A house on a large lot demonstrating how to sell a fixer upper house fast.
Source: (Sigmund / Unsplash)

8. Consider going the ‘wholetailing’ route

Zach Kolman, a wholesale property investor in Tampa Bay, Florida, often uses the “wholetailing” strategy to unload fixer-uppers quickly. The idea is to fix up the house enough that an end buyer who is looking for a project can get traditional financing, since the property isn’t distressed and doesn’t call for major, time-consuming updates that would keep a bank from lending on it.

“For example, you might make the major repairs like electrical, mold remediation, septic, or plumbing issues, without updating the kitchens, floors, or bathrooms,” Kolman explains. “The house will no longer be in such rough shape that a bank wouldn’t lend on it, but not in such good shape it would demand top dollar for a buyer who wants a turnkey property.”

By using the wholetail method, you can widen the pool of potential buyers to include not only investors looking for a project, but also people who are looking to do their own work to make the house exactly what they want.

9. Prioritize cash buyers

While there may be bargain hunters who will opt to buy a fixer-upper on the open market, when it comes to really fast-tracking a sale, cash is king. Cash sales can close in as little as two weeks, compared to an average of 48 days for a buyer who is getting a mortgage.

Beyond those signs on the side of the road proclaiming “we buy ugly houses,” the iBuyer trend has made it even easier to find cash buyers online. HomeLight’s Simple Sale allows you to tap into the country’s biggest network of iBuyers — just enter your address and then answer a few questions about your property, and we’ll recommend the best matches for cash buyers seeking homes in your area.

Selling your fixer-upper as-is doesn’t have to mean sacrificing all of your profits, but it does mean thinking carefully about picking and choosing which improvements to make, setting the right price, highlighting hidden selling points, and being open to cash buyers. Partnering with an agent who has a track record for selling homes that need TLC can give you a step up toward achieving those goals.

Header Image Source: (Phil Hearing / Unsplash)

You need to figure out how to sell a fixer-upper house — and do it fast — to avoid additional strain. So what’s the plan?HomeLight Blog

5 Keys To Know About an ‘As Is’ Home Sale Before You Try OneValerie KalfrinHomeLight Blog

A couch with a red wine stain. An iPad with software issues. A car with a few dents and scratches. These are all items that you may see listed for sale “as is” on sites like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.

With the addition of “as is,” the seller sends shoppers a message: Hey, you can buy this thing, and here’s the price I’m asking for. But you must accept the item at hand in its current condition, warts and all, including any flaws that aren’t immediately visible or apparent.

So how do “as is” sales in furniture and retail translate to “as is” sales in real estate?

Like selling a well-loved armchair or old Jeep with a WYSIWYG mentality, some sellers also try their hand at an “as is” home sale.

While “as is” is always a bit of a red flag for a buyer, an “as is home sale” carries some extra baggage — namely, that you’re trying to unload a hassle or a fixer-upper. And because a house is one of the most expensive things you can buy, those red flags are amplified with a transaction of this size.

If you don’t have a lot of money for repairs around the house or you need to move in a hurry, selling your home “as is” might appeal to you. However, buyers, at a minimum, are going to want a guarantee that a home is safe and livable before they move in. Let’s look at five things you should know about an “as is” home sale before you list your biggest asset like a damaged La-Z-Boy.

1. ‘As is’ isn’t a free pass to hide known issues.

Buyers fear inheriting a house with a host of hidden problems. According to the 2020 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 44% of buyers who purchased new homes did so to avoid renovations and problems with plumbing or electricity.

Enter real estate disclosures

To protect buyers, real estate disclosure laws make it illegal for you to sweep major issues under the rug. Unless you live in a “Caveat Emptor” (or “Buyer Beware”) state, such as Arkansas, most states require you to disclose any “material defects” in your home and will hold you liable if you don’t reveal them upfront.

What’s more, even some “Caveat Emptor” states, such as Alabama, require disclosing information about issues that might affect a buyer’s health or safety. (Curious about your area’s disclosure laws? Consult our guide to all 50 states’ mandated disclosures).

Sharing issues that you’re aware of

“I think that’s probably the most important piece of this,” says Kim Tupper, a real estate agent of more than a decade in southeastern Pennsylvania who sells properties more than 69% faster than the average agent in the Lincoln University area.

“Your disclosure has to be everything that you know is wrong with the house. You can’t hide anything in that ‘as is.’”

In other words, you can disclose there’s a leaky roof, and ‘as is’ will mean, “I’m really not planning on repairing that for you.” But you can’t keep quiet about it, and neither can your agent. You might not be aware of every flaw — that’s for the home inspection to notice — but once you are, you can’t hide them, and legally, neither can your agent.

Risks of sweeping home flaws under the rug

As associate attorney Brett Wasserman puts it, actively concealing anything that could cause a potential buyer to value the property for less would be fraudulent. “You would want to disclose more than less. You don’t want to give the buyer any reason to turn around and say, ‘You didn’t tell me about this… I want X amount back,’” says Wasserman, an associate attorney who handles real estate law at the legal offices of Marc Bronstein in Santa Monica, California.

A home inspector reviewing an as is home sale.
(Source: Michal Jarmoluk / Pixabay)

2. Buyers can still get an inspection to unearth problems.

A home inspection is part of a buyer’s due diligence. In fact, 95% of purchased homes undergo an inspection before closing. By saying your sale is “as is,” you’re not preventing a buyer from requesting an inspection, just signaling that no matter what the inspection finds, you don’t want to negotiate on price. If a buyer’s contract includes an inspection contingency, they can walk away with their earnest money if the inspection uncovers a red flag such as a crack in the foundation, even during an “as is” home sale.

Because of the likelihood of an inspection, you’re better off being honest to avoid potential liability, adds top-selling real estate agent Vendela Bonner, who has served the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, area for more than a decade. “A buyer will buy a property if you’ve had a roof leak. The more important thing is whether or not it was fixed,” she says. “Do you have a warranty after you’ve fixed it? That’s a yes or no answer.”

3. Buyers tend to presume that ‘as is’ means the seller is stubborn or lazy.

When you consider the issues that might crop up during a home inspection such as electrical, plumbing, and structural problems, it’s understandable that some sellers want to throw up their hands and say, “Let’s sell this as-is.”

But not every “as is” home sale falls into that category.

Simplifying the sale while remaining flexible

Tupper has met many sellers, such as out-of-town adult children trying to sell a parent’s home, who are looking for a simple transaction because they don’t know the property well. However, even if they want to list the property “as is,” they’re willing to work with buyers on repairs related to health and safety matters — even if all they can manage financially is a credit at closing.

“None of them have been completely against entertaining any request from the buyer,” she says. “There are going to be those situations where the seller literally has no money … but especially when it comes to a safety or health-related issue, those sellers are willing to help out or willing to work with you.”

Use creative language to soften the ‘as is’ label

To avoid such preconceptions that “as is” carries, talk with your real agent about how to list your “as is” home sale without those two little words. For instance, Tupper in the Multiple Listing Service, or MLS, notes that inspections arranged by the buyer will be used for “informational purposes only” to provide buyers and their agents with such a heads-up.

“I just think that’s a little bit more acceptable expectation for the buyer … We never want to give the impression that the sellers are not motivated,” she says. “I don’t think it’s worth the perception and getting less showings because of that perception when in fact, that seller may be willing to credit the buyer if they don’t want to do [repairs] themselves.”

A person buying an as is home.
(Source: Gerd Altmann / Pixabay)

4. Cash buyers or investors will be more receptive to the ‘as is’ label.

Investors increasingly play a large role in the housing market, according to NPR, citing data from CoreLogic that investors purchased 1 in 5 starter-priced homes in 2019. In fact, NAR notes that cash sales comprised 19% of December’s housing sales.

While this has made it difficult for first-time buyers to compete in an increasingly crowded space, an investor or house-flipper tends to be less discerning about cosmetic repairs such as new paint and light fixtures than other potential buyers. This makes them a good buyer pool to target if you hope to sell “as is.”

How investors see “as is” differently

One survey of over 2,000 adults from real estate brokerage Coldwell Banker found that 80% of Americans want a move-in-ready home instead of one that requires renovations. By comparison, it’s common for house flippers to purchase a home without getting an inspection first and be comfortable purchasing properties in poor condition. The trade off is that an investor is going to factor the cost of necessary repairs and renovations into their offer, resulting in a lower bid than what a traditional buyer would pay.

However, by way of paying with all cash, an investor can offer you additional benefits, such as a fast and flexible closing. You also won’t have to deal with the hassles of stagings and showings, since most cash buyers prefer to make offers on homes that haven’t hit the market yet.

How to get a cash offer

If you seek a no-fuss, “as is” home sale, we’d recommend requesting a cash offer through HomeLight’s Simple Sale platform. Investors in our network often prefer to buy homes as-is, in any condition, and we handle all the buyer-side costs and paperwork on your behalf.

We get that convenience is huge, but we’ll also do our best to match you with the cash buyer who’s willing to offer you the highest price for your home. We do this by identifying the best cash buyer “match” for your property and location, based on that buyer’s preferred price point and the types of properties they’ve typically bought in the past.

To get started, answer a few questions about your home and selling timeline. Alongside your cash offer, we’ll present you with an estimation of what you could fetch on the market with the help of a top agent so you can easily compare your options.

A person buying an as is house.
(Source: Gerd Altmann / Pixabay)

5. When you sell ‘as is,’ you likely won’t get full market value.

Shane Underwood, a top-selling real estate agent in Lexington, Kentucky, has worked with homeowners relieved they were able to sell “as is” to a flipper because of personal or property issues. The drawback? They get “pennies on the dollar,” he says.

While a flipper targeting rundown properties often offers no more than 70% of a property’s after-repair value for a house they plan to flip, traditional buyers who notice that an “as is” home needs work also subtract a lot from the value.

For instance, if your carpeting reflects lots of wear and tear, you could replace it for $1 to $3 per square foot for builder-grade olefin and polyester, a cosmetic upgrade that makes a big impression. A buyer considering replacing the carpet might calculate using a higher grade that costs more.

“A buyer almost always estimates higher than what it would have been than if [the seller] had done that repair themselves,” Tupper says. “If the seller tells me that they want to list it ‘as is,’ or with buyer’s inspection for informational purposes only, they may get a lower price just because they have taken that stance.”

So in summary, whether you sell “as is” to an investor or “as is” to a regular buyer, the label tends to draw lower offers, period.

Selling ‘as is’ is just one of your home-selling options

Even if an “as is” home sale is your best bet because of your current circumstances, talk with your agent about how to maximize your offers. For instance, top HomeLight agents say that you can avoid leaving money on the table simply by deep cleaning and decluttering your home before putting it on the market. These projects not only help your home show better but have an exponential return on investment, making your home show better and adding thousands of dollars to your bottom line.

Also, talk with your agent about the current market. Tupper recently sold an older four-bedroom Colonial with two and a half baths, a two-car garage, and an unfinished basement for a family uprooting to Texas to restart a business. The family didn’t have the resources for upgrades, so after little traffic, Tupper suggested renting it until market conditions improved. It later sold above expectations for $370,000.

“It was just a function of good timing,” she says.


Header Image Source: (tkoch / Pixabay)

Let’s look at five things you should know about an as is home sale before you list your biggest asset like a damaged La-Z-Boy.HomeLight Blog

8 Tips for Selling a Rental Property: Navigating Taxes and TenantsMelissa RudyHomeLight Blog

DISCLAIMER: As a friendly reminder, this blog post is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to be construed as financial, tax, or legal advice. HomeLight always encourages you to reach out to a tax professional, real estate attorney, or other advisor regarding your personal situation.

Owning a rental property is great… until it’s not. Kyle McCorkel, a seasoned real estate investor in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, saw the writing on the wall when the property taxes for one of his rentals spiked by more than $2,000 annually. At that point he knew it was time to sell. Shortly after, a pandemic-driven housing market boom encouraged him to unload an additional two rentals while prices were hot.

“My expenses were going up faster than rent was going up, so I decided to seize the opportunity to cash out and move my equity into better performing investments,” he says.

Let’s not sugar coat it, though. Tricky tax rules, existing lease terms, and wear-and-tear from tenants can make selling a rental property a major headache. However, when the time is right, you need to act — and with the right approach and preparations, you can make a graceful exit without too much disruption.

With tenant communications and handling repairs weighing on your to-do list, here’s what experienced rental property owners, landlords, and real estate agents say it will take to pull off a smooth rental property sale.

An image of money used to depict selling a rental property.
Source: (Jessica Lewis / Unsplash)

1. Don’t get blindsided by hefty capital gains taxes.

When you go to sell a house you’ve used as your main residence, the upside you make from that sale is usually tax-free. Generally, you can make a $250,000 (if single) and $500,000 (if married) profit without owing in taxes on the sale so long as you’ve owned the house for two years, and lived in it for two of the past five years.

However, the IRS doesn’t extend the same generous capital gains tax breaks to property investors as it does to owners selling a primary residence. You’re playing the ball game with different rules.

Most likely, your rental property has increased in value over time, resulting in a capital gain i.e., the profit you earn when you sell) like any other house. However, since you’ve been renting the property rather than living in it, you won’t qualify for the “use” test of the capital gains exclusion, meaning that any profit you make, even under the $250,000/$500,000 threshold, could be taxable.

If you’ve owned the rental property for just one year or less, the profits will be considered short-term capital gains, which are taxed at the same rate as your income. That means depending on your tax bracket, you could owe anywhere from 10% to 37% per tax code as of this writing.

But if you’ve owned the property for more than one year, the long-term capital gains are taxed at a lower rate: 15% for joint filers earning between $78,750 and $488,850, or 20% for filers with taxable income of $488,851 or more.

If your taxable income is less than $80,000, you’re off the hook for paying capital gains taxes. But even if you earn more than that, there may be workarounds to avoiding them (read on to learn more).

2. Defer capital gains taxes with the 1031 exchange.

Maybe it’s time to unload a poor-performing rental property in a declining neighborhood, but you want to try your luck in an up-and-coming area. With the 1031 exchange, you may be able to sell one property and then buy another “like-kind” property with more income potential, without having to pony up the capital gains tax.

What exactly does “like-kind” mean? Well, you can’t use the 1031 exchange to buy a personal residence that you intend to live in — it has to be another investment property that you plan to rent out or flip. And the clock starts ticking as soon as you’ve sold the first property. You have 45 days to find and identify up to three properties you’re interested in purchasing, and a total of 180 days to close on the chosen property.

“In addition to the timing of the sale and subsequent purchase, there are many other rules that you must follow with a 1031 exchange, so the most important first step is to contact a qualified intermediary, whose job is to facilitate all aspects of the exchange and ensure that you follow all the required steps,” says Eric Hughes, founder and CEO of Rental Income Investors, an advisory service for new investors in New York.

A house with trees and sky to demonstrate the process of selling a rental property.
Source: (I Do Nothing But Love / Unsplash)

3. Consider living in your rental before selling.

If you don’t want to use the 1031 exchange to parlay your profits into a like-kind property, another option is to move into your rental home before you sell. As long as you live there for at least two years, you’ll pass the IRS’ “ownership and use” tests, which require that you’ve:

  • Owned the home for at least two years (the ownership test)
  • Lived in the home as your main home for at two years of the past five years (the use test)

When you pass these tests, you’ll be eligible to waive capital gains taxes for up to $250,000 (if filing single) or $500,000 (filing jointly). However, if the rental property is an investment turned sour, you may be better off unloading it now to cut your losses.

4. Honor your lease period, or give tenants ample notice to vacate.

If your rental property is occupied when you decide to sell, one option would be to negotiate with the tenants and offer an incentive for them to vacate. But if they’re intent on staying put, or if you have a good tenant and want to use that as a selling point, you’ll have to respect the terms of the lease.

In most states, the lease agreement will be transferred with the sale and the new owner can only make changes after the current lease has expired. “If your tenant has six months left on their lease, then buyers will have to accept the lease agreement as part of their purchase,” says Robert Taylor, a residential real estate investor with over 15 years of experience with renting and flipping homes in Cameron Park, California.

If your tenants are month to month, you can choose to give them notice to vacate. Check to see what the rules are in your state. In Taylor’s state of California, landlords must give 30-day notice to tenants who have lived in a property less than a year, and 60-day notice if they’ve lived in the property longer than a year.

“Also keep in mind that different states have different rules during the COVID pandemic regarding giving tenants notice,” Taylor warns. “Additionally, evictions without cause are currently prohibited due to federal moratoriums.”

An image of a woman in an empty house meant to depict selling a rental property.
Source: (Kari Shea / Unsplash)

5. Use a good tenant as a selling point.

Hughes points out that for some investors, an occupied property is preferable to an empty one. “If you’re selling with a tenant, remember that you’re marketing the property to investors only, so you should include information in the listing that investors will care about,” he says. These might include:

  • How long has the tenant been in place?
  • What’s the monthly rent?
  • Is the rent paid consistently on time?
  • Does the tenant cover any utilities?
  • What security deposits, licenses, or other permits are in place with the lease?
  • When does the lease expire?
  • Does the tenant take good care of the property?

To keep your tenants happy and cooperative during the selling process, you might consider offering some type of incentive — perhaps gift cards or discounts on rent — in exchange for keeping the property looking its best and being amenable to showings.

6. Evaluate the property for needed repairs (they’re tax deductible!).

It might be tempting to get a rental property off your hands as quickly as possible by listing it right away, warts and all. And you might get lucky enough to find an investor who wants a house that needs some work in exchange for a better deal. But it might be worth your while to fix that leaky faucet, jammed window, or creaky door before you sell.

“Generally speaking, a clean, updated, home sells for a higher price than a rental property in need of repairs,” says Taylor. “However, the cost of lost rents, repairs, and other expenses can often exceed any profit you may have made fixing up your property to sell it.”

When deciding whether or not to spend the time and money on a repair before listing, ask yourself these questions:

  • What’s the condition of the real estate market? Is it a low-inventory seller’s market, where buyers are more likely to forgive undone repairs, or are you competing against many other properties at your price point?
  • Will you need to work around tenants to make the repairs?
  • Do the repairs require the property to be empty, thus sacrificing rental income?

As long as you’re not doing a 1031 exchange, any repairs you make on a rental property — defined by the IRS as “expenses to keep your property in good working condition but that don’t add to the value of the property”— will be tax-deductible. The key is to know the difference between “repairs,” which are immediately deductible, and “improvements,” which the IRS treats differently because they’re seen as adding value.

“For example, if you replace the roof of your rental, the IRS considers that an improvement that must be depreciated over several years,” says Taylor.

“But if you make a repair by replacing some flashing or roof shingles, that could be considered a tax-deductible repair.”

When in doubt, consult a skilled tax professional for clarity.

Roof shingles on a house to depict selling a rental property.
Source: (Greg Rosenke / Unsplash)

7. Don’t count on rental income to drive up the price.

While a good, well-paying tenant could make your single-family property more marketable to investors, don’t expect it to inflate the value.

“When single-family rental homes are appraised, they are appraised just like any other single-family home,” explains Taylor. “But if your rental property falls under the classification of multi-family housing, meaning it has five or more units, your appraisal will be based on the rental income.”

That means raising a tenant’s rent won’t have an effect on the appraised value, but it could make your property more attractive to investors looking for reliable rental income.

8. Hire an investor-savvy real estate agent to market your property.

It might be tempting to try to sell your rental property on your own, but the marginal amount you’d save on commission costs (about 5.8%, per the national average) could pale in comparison to the higher price that a real estate agent would fetch.

Researchers at leading real estate data source Collateral Analytics, now owned by Black Knight, looked at numerous geographic real estate markets, including Phoenix, San Diego, and Boston from 2016-2017 to study the price differential between FSBOs vs. traditional agent-represented sales.

A chart depicting sales prices when selling a rental home in Phoenix.
Source: (Black Knight)

Their report concluded that the gap in “selling prices for FSBOs when compared to MLS sales is remarkably close to average commission rates.” On average, the study found, FSBOs sell for 5.5% less, and in some cases nearly 6% less, than agent-assisted sales, indicating that expertise real estate agents bring to a sale often more than makes up for their cost.

To get an even bigger advantage, consider looking for an agent who specializes in working with investment properties and can offer insider’s access to:

  • Rent trends in your area
  • Tax implications of selling a rental
  • A network of investors seeking properties like yours
  • Return on investment
  • After-repair value (AVR), an important metric for investors

It is possible to sell your single-family rental property and still maintain your sanity. If you’re not sure where to start, connect with an experienced real estate agent to get you on the right path. Along the way, you just might find your next rental investment waiting in the wings.

Header Image Source: (Trinity Nguyen / Unsplash) 

Tricky tax rules, existing lease terms, and wear-and-tear from tenants can make selling a rental property a major headache.HomeLight Blog

Understanding Residential Appraisals: The Homeowner’s Essential GuideValerie KalfrinHomeLight Blog

Waiting for the results of a residential appraisal can make you teeter between anxiety—“They said our house is worth what?”—and relief: “Yes, our price is right!” Yet as important as an appraisal is on the way to the closing table, many homeowners tend to misunderstand the overall process.

“A lot of times when I’m going into a listing appointment, I will ask the client if they understand that we need to sell the home twice: not only to the buyer, but also to the appraiser,” says Christie Wilkins, a top-selling real estate agent in the Duluth, Georgia area.

Starting out at the right price point is critical. Statistics from the National Association of Realtors show that appraisal issues accounted for 21% of delayed contracts and 11% of terminated contracts in December 2020.

“It’s never fun for a seller when you go under contract and then three weeks in, you find out that your home hasn’t appraised and your deal has the potential to fall apart,” Wilkins says. “I always like to walk them through what happens in that particular situation and what the options are.”

Great idea! Consider this your residential appraisal walkthrough, covering an appraiser’s general qualifications, how these professionals calculate value, and some common misperceptions about residential appraisals.

A woman on an iPad looking at a residential appraisal.
Source: (Tetiana SHYSHKINA / Unsplash)

Starting the appraisal process

As a seller, you can request a pre-listing appraisal, which can help you and your agent set an asking price if your market is changing fast or if you have a particularly unique home for which finding comparable properties (or “comps”) might be difficult.

According to Mike Ford, a Southern California-based general certified real estate appraiser since 1986, paying $450 to $550 is typically the minimum amount necessary for a credible home appraisal. Fees vary based on factors like the size of your property, where you live, and the overall complexity of the appraisal.

In a typical real estate transaction, though, you as a seller don’t have to do anything to get the ball rolling. The buyer’s mortgage lender will contact a third-party appraisal management company (AMC) to arrange for a residential appraisal, which verifies for the lender that the house is worth what the buyer wants to borrow for the purchase.

A residential appraiser must be:

Licensed and certified:

An appraiser must be licensed or certified in your state, according to the Appraisal Institute of Chicago, Illinois, a global professional organization of real estate appraisers since 1932.

Some appraisers have additional designations because of their education and experience, such as an SRA (Senior Residential Appraiser) designation for appraisers knowledgeable about analyzing and valuing residential real property.

Don’t be nervous if you happen to get a trainee appraiser, adds Mason Spurgeon, a certified general real estate appraiser since 2004 who handles appraisals in Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa.

All appraisers must work as trainees first, and they take courses in appraisal principles, procedures, and uniform standards of appraisal practice, he says. Plus, a certified appraiser takes responsibility for a trainee’s work.

Unbiased and independent:

While you won’t choose the appraiser who visits your property, the buyer won’t, either, because the appraiser’s client is the buyer’s lender. Appraisers are supposed to be independent, third-party experts — or “an objective and unbiased source of real estate information” — who work for a flat fee, not a commission. “Neither the lender nor the consumer benefits by entering into a mortgage that is more than the value of the property,” the Appraisal Institute writes.

Geographically competent:

An appraiser might have a large coverage area, but they should be somewhat familiar with the previous sales and market conditions wherever they’re evaluating property.

“If you get an appraiser who doesn’t really know that neighborhood and the building products and everything else, you can really see some low values,” Wilkins says.

This also comes into play with new economic developments, such as if plans to build a distribution center in your area. Your corner of the market might be hopping, but an appraiser unfamiliar with this news could be out of their element and might pull sales to compare to your property that are too old. That’s why it’s wise for appraisers to ask colleagues about an area that’s new to them.

Two people looking at a residential appraisal.
Source: (Romain Dancre / Unsplash)

Gathering relevant paperwork and information

An appraiser’s job involves a review of public records and comparable sales, as well as an inspection of your property’s interior and exterior. “We don’t turn the faucets on or that sort of thing,” Spurgeon says.

“We walk through it and do the best we can to see the surface amenities.”

Regardless, you should make sure that your property is tidy and accessible so that an appraiser can measure and view it accurately. Also, gather any relevant paperwork or digital documents, which may include:

Your most recent tax receipt or deed:

Appraisers find legal descriptions or parcel numbers helpful, provided they’re accurate. Your home’s square footage, easements, census tract, and source of utilities are among the many pieces of information that an appraiser gathers for their final report. “I’m very meticulous when I measure the outside of a home. I use a laser,” Spurgeon says. “Sometimes the assessor doesn’t measure correctly.”

Covenants and fees related to a homeowners’ or condominium association:

When you have your home appraised, you’ll need to be transparent about HOA fees and the like. New owners need to know about any rules or restrictions they will need to abide by, as well as the details of any dues or fees. HOA and other community fees are especially important to the buyer’s lender who needs to ensure the buyer can afford the fees on top of their mortgage.

A list of major home improvements and upgrades, including dates of installation, costs (include receipts), and permit confirmation (if available):

Appraisers must note the age and design style of your home, the type of attic and foundation, any car storage, the type of heating and cooling, appliances, and amenities. So any material that you provide can support the reasoning for your asking price. Wilkins suggests leaving this information in a spreadsheet on the kitchen counter for easy access.

Include information about neighborhood amenities, such as walkability and schools, if you can.

“There are going to be some things that an appraiser can’t physically see, and that can definitely be helpful. I did have a seller who did this, and they ended up having the highest appraised value in the neighborhood,” she says.

A kitchen used to depict the process of residential appraisal.
Source: (Clayton / Unsplash)

How an appraiser approaches value

Depending on the type of property, an appraiser calculates value using one of these methods that the Appraisal Institute describes:

The sales comparison approach: This is the most “apples to apples” comparison, where an appraiser compares the subject property to others of similar size and amenities, making adjustments for location, physical and economic characteristics, zoning, and even financing. “We shoot for at least five to six [comparable listings],” Spurgeon says.

The cost approach: Think of this as the sum of the parts equals the whole. An appraiser figures out the value of the land as if it were vacant, plus what the new cost of improvements on the property would be, minus depreciation. “This approach is particularly useful in valuing new or nearly new improvements and properties that are not frequently exchanged in the market,” the Appraisal Institute notes.

The income capitalization approach: This focuses on the value of the income that a property could produce, something that turns up more often with commercial and rental property than during a residential appraisal. An appraiser might calculate a property’s expected gross income along with its anticipated annual operating expenses.

For a residential appraisal, Spurgeon uses either the cost approach or the sales comparison approach, depending on the age and style of the property. For instance, the cost approach “is tough to do on a late nineteenth century home. You’ll have twelve-foot ceilings and trim that you can’t replace.”

If a property has particularly unique features and finishes, Wilkins says that she’ll provide an appraiser with the comparable properties that she used to arrive at the asking price. “I do a lot of luxury properties, and … you can’t just go based on square footage. The interiors are going to be different, from the quality of the woodwork and the cabinetry and the granite. … So certainly when I have a unique [property], I’m going to utilize those comps and set those out as well for that appraiser in advance.”

In addition to those calculations, appraisers take other factors into account, including:

  • Functional obsolescence: If your property’s layout and size is much different from other properties in the current market, an appraiser will note that as a loss in value. “Let’s say you have to walk through one bedroom to get to the other bedroom. Or the side walls are too short for modern equipment. We see that a lot on farms,” Spurgeon says.
  • External obsolescence: Anything that reduces the value of the home outside of the home itself, such as living near neighbors whose own home is an eyesore or a bustling street. For instance, people in Beverly Hills, California, who live about a block from the freeway could have a home valued at 10%-20% less than others several blocks away, purely because of the noise, Ford says.
A woman looking at a residential appraisal on a laptop.
Source: (Mateus Campos Felipe / Unsplash)

3 common misunderstandings about residential appraisals

With the abundance of home valuation tools online and different industry terms for appraised vs. market value in real estate, it’s only natural that many homeowners have some misunderstandings and misperceptions about residential appraisals. Here are a few common ones:

Misperception #1: An appraisal confirms the sale price.

Because sellers and buyers have emotional attachments to a home, they often assume that an appraisal is wrong if it doesn’t match the listing or contract price, the Appraisal Institute says. But an appraisal is only meant to reflect fair market value.

If an appraisal is low and the contract value can be supported, you’ll need comps to prove it. Wilkins said one seller terminated a contract involving a four-bedroom, 2,500-square-foot home after the appraisal came back $12,000 low. “Based on the comps that we had pulled, that was below value for that home.” A second buyer and appraisal later, the sale went through.

In other instances, an appraisal may save a buyer from overpaying for a home. That way, if said buyer ever falls on hard financial times and has to sell the home, they ideally won’t suffer as big of a loss because they purchased it at the right value to begin with.

Misperception #2: An appraiser never changes their report.

Wilkins has found it rare for an appraiser to modify a report unless there’s an error, such as the appraiser listing square footage incorrectly or mistaking a granite counter for laminate.

Ford echoes that you can submit what’s called a reconsideration of value to the appraiser. However, about 85%-90% of the time, the appraiser will be able to back up their opinion of value.

However, Spurgeon says appraisers do make adjustments. For instance, one of his colleagues recalculated a residential appraisal after an agent pointed out two comparable sales that the appraiser had overlooked. “An appraiser will admit when we’re wrong,” he says.

Misperception #3:  You can’t talk to the appraiser while they’re at your house.

Your real estate agent may advise you to give the appraiser space to work, much like with a home inspector, but some appraisers don’t mind chatting with homeowners while taking measurements and checking out the property.

An appraiser’s questions might even prompt them to provide information they’ve previously overlooked. “They follow me around and talk to me,” Spurgeon says. “It’s also nice to have the person there in case you see something: ‘There’s a hole here. What happened there?’”

Even though a residential appraisal can be nerve-racking, agents say to bear in mind that you and a buyer ultimately want the same thing: reassurance of a property’s worth.

“I would definitely recommend that a seller do everything possible to make sure that they’re going to get the most amount of value when it comes to an appraisal,” Wilkins said. “Because if you get the contract price, obviously, that’s good. But if it goes over and above, that’s going to make a buyer feel really good, too, like they’ve made a really good investment.”

Header Image Source: (I Do Nothing But Love / Unsplash) 

Consider this your complete guide to the residential appraisal, covering an appraiser’s qualifications, independence, and methods for determining value.HomeLight Blog

Evanston Is the First Municipality in the U.S. to Use Public Funds for Black Reparations — Here’s How it WorksAlesandra DubinHomeLight Blog

The systemic racism in real estate is well-documented — and its effects on people of color are real. This is especially true for Black people, who own a disproportionately low share of the homes in the U.S: For instance, consider that there’s a gap of nearly 30% between white and Black homeownership in America.

But what if there was something that could actually help reverse decades of damage? And what if that thing was … cannabis?

Those are questions that Evanston, Illinois, wants to answer with a revolutionary new program designed to use tax dollars generated from cannabis sales to help increase Black homeownership in the suburb. To be clear: Evanston is paying reparations, and pot is helping make it happen.

Here’s an introduction to Evanston’s ground-breaking reparations plan, and how it’s been working so far in the city where white homeownership is disproportionately high and the Black population has been diminishing.

An image of Northwestern University in Evanston to demonstrate recent reparation efforts.
Source: (hao chen / Unsplash)

Evanston’s diversity problem

Diversity in Evanston has long been recognized as a problem. The college town of about 74,000 residents, located 12 miles north of Chicago, is mostly white — and in the highest-home-value neighborhoods, it’s almost entirely white.

And the gap has only been growing in recent years: From 2000 to 2017, the Black population in Evanston decreased from 22.5% to 16.9% of the total population.

Locally, politicians and activists in Evanston had already recognized the issue and had been working on ideas for how to solve it.

“Our gaps were widening,” city alderman Robin Rue Simmons explained in an interview with The Guardian.

“I thought we were being delusional to continue in the same vein and believe we would bridge the gap.”

Bigger-picture housing inequality and the case for reparations

Now let’s step back and widen the frame for a moment. This is a nationwide problem — not limited just to Evanston. And the case for reparations has been gaining steam in recent years as part of scientific research, as well as in the larger cultural conversation.

In 2007, two Oregon State University professors published a study, “Housing Discrimination as a Basis for Black Reparations.” In it, they argued that historic housing and lending discrimination makes for a sound basis to consider Black reparations.

“Because of a number of policies and practices, particularly those of the federal government, many African Americans were unable to take advantage of the opportunity to buy a home on the favorable terms that were available to many white Americans,” the study noted.

Even when Black Americans could buy homes, these homes were less valuable and appreciated at lower rates, largely due to the same discriminatory policies and practices. All of this resulted in serious structural inequality in housing and the large wealth gap between Black and white households, and it in turn only further reinforced other aspects of racial inequality like access to schools.

Importantly, the study noted, the housing market won’t correct itself for this problem naturally over time. Therefore, the authors wrote, “Regardless of the specific measures that are taken, the essential point should be clear: Black reparations are called for, not just because of slavery but because of much more recent and very systematic injustices. Housing discrimination in the twentieth century forms an important part — though still only a part — of the case for Black reparations.”

An image of trees through blinds to demonstrate the importance of reparations in Evanston.
Source: (Adrien Olichon / Unsplash)

Evanston’s ground-breaking solution

Back to local politics in Evanston. In June 2019, the city council passed a resolution, 58-R-19, “affirming the city’s commitment to end structural racism and achieve racial equity.”

Next, a city equity and empowerment commission held community meetings to talk about reparations and gather input from the public. The commission summarized its findings from these meetings in a report for the city council, which created a subcommittee to start the planning.

By November of that year, the measure came to a vote at a meeting of the Evanston city council. While these types of meetings are often ho-hum affairs covering dry policy topics, this one came with a sense of history and pioneerism — and the measure passed nearly unanimously.

The vote was eight to one in favor of “A Resolution Establishing a City of Evanston Funding Source Devoted to Local Reparations.” In so voting, Evanston became the first municipality in the country to pledge public money to reparations for Black residents.

The language specified how it would happen: “The Chief Financial Officer is hereby authorized to divert all adult use cannabis funds received by the Illinois Department of Revenue for sales of adult use cannabis to a separate fund in a City account for local reparations.”

As part of the city’s 2020 budget, Evanston created a reparations fund that would draw tax revenue from adult recreational cannabis sales — up to $10 million. Members of the public are also invited to make a donation into the fund.

In February 2020, the reparations subcommittee met to discuss the history and possible solutions to housing and redlining in Evanston. Minutes show the meeting presented stark data on the state of housing in Black America.

For instance, Blacks have a 31.14% denial rate for mortgages; this population represents 14.6% of the U.S., but only receives 6% of new mortgages nationwide. In Chicago, of 13,190 Black applications for homeownership, only 5,200 were approved.

By the way, Black access to real estate is not only limited in terms of homeownership, but also in terms of professional access within the industry: According to research by Deloitte, fewer than 6% of active real estate agents and brokers identify as Black, compared with more than 11% of the population.

To address this, HomeLight recently announced a partnership with the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) to launch the Black Real Estate Agent Program, an effort geared at making the industry more inclusive while helping Black real estate agents get started — and thrive — in the business.

Rolling out the reparations program

At the February 2020 meeting, Mark Edward Alston, owner of Skyway Realty and Alston & Associates Mortgage Company, and a public policy strategist in the areas of housing and finance, outlined suggestions for needed remedies. Among them, he suggested the reparations fund starts a grant of $10,000 to $15,000 for homeowners and homebuyers in Evanston, particularly in its 5th ward. They should receive down payment assistance in the form of a grant, he said.

Months later, in August 2020, a subcommittee appointed by the city council recommended that the council approve the use of $400,000 from the fund for housing assistance programs meant to benefit 16 households. The money would provide housing assistance for Black residents who were discriminated against by the city, or whose ancestors were discriminated against by the city in the years between 1900 and 1969.

What now?

At a meeting in November, Alderman Ann Rainey explained that the city expects to collect $1 million in the fund within its first year, both through cannabis sales as well as personal donations.

She also said the city plans to develop a committee to review eligibility and determine funding. So these are important steps forward, the city council agrees — but there’s plenty of work to be done.

“Everyone is frustrated,” said Rue Simmons, as cited in Evanston daily news pub The Daily Northwestern. “This program is overdue. It’s not enough. I’m hearing all of that and I am completely agreeing, but I just have to say how proud I am that we are making these steps towards repair.”

Header Image Source: (Matthew Henry / Burst)

Evanston is testing a revolutionary new reparations program designed to use cannabis sale tax dollars to help increase Black homeownership.HomeLight Blog

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