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

Category: Real Estate (Page 1 of 27)

Real estate is an ever-changing industry.  This page will allow you to stay up to date with the latest insight. As a Realtor, I also believe it is vital to share my general knowledge and experience. In my blog posts, you will find info about the process of selling a home, how to afford a house, mortgages, and more. Not to mention the various tips for homeowners.

The next thing you will find in this category of real estate is news feeds. Therefore, you can keep up with the latest trends, advice, and interior-exterior designs. All of which are from industry experts. At the present time, there are currently three sources—Redfin, Homelight, and Keeping Current Matters. They cover a broad range of topics, such as foreclosures, the overall housing market, DIY tips, etc. Likewise, I also write about the marketplace I serve as a Realtor, Williamsburg, Virginia. On that note, I wrote a blog post about Virginia’s first-time homebuyer programs. This is a good read if you’re going to buy a house for the first time.

Generally speaking, the real estate category is a data hub for anyone with property needs. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out at any time. As a Realtor, I’m not really in the real estate industry, so to speak. I’m really in the sales, marketing, and consulting business. For instance, suppose you’re a homeowner in Williamsburg, Virginia, and you plan to sell your home in the future. In that case, I offer a broad range of marketing services to get your home sold.

How Much Leverage Do Today’s House Sellers Have?KCM CrewKeeping Current Matters

How Much Leverage Do Today's House Sellers Have? | Keeping Current Matters

The housing market has been scorching hot over the last twelve months. Buyers and their high demand have far outnumbered sellers and a short supply of houses. According to the latest Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), sales are up 23.7% from the same time last year while the inventory of homes available for sale is down 25.7%. There are 360,000 fewer single-family homes for sale today than there were at this time last year. This increase in demand coupled with such limited supply is leading to more bidding wars throughout the country.

Rose Quint, Assistant Vice President for Survey Research with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), recently reported:

“The number one reason long-time searchers haven’t made a home purchase is not because of their inability to find an affordably-priced home, but because they continue to get outbid by other offers.”

A survey in the NAHB report showed that 40% of buyers have been outbid for a home they wanted to purchase. This is more than twice the percentage in 2019, which was 19%.

What does this mean for sellers today?

It means sellers have tremendous leverage when negotiating with buyers.

In negotiations, leverage is the power that one side may have to influence the other side while moving closer to their negotiating position. A party’s leverage is based on its ability to award benefits or eliminate costs on the other side.

In today’s market, a buyer wants three things:

  1. To buy a home
  2. To buy now before prices continue to appreciate
  3. To buy now and take advantage of historically low mortgage rates while they last

These three buyer needs give the homeowner tremendous leverage when selling their house. Most realize this leverage enables the seller to sell at a good price. However, there may be another need the seller has that can be satisfied by using this leverage.

Here’s an example:

Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist at First American, recently identified a situation in which many sellers are finding themselves today:

“As mortgage rates are expected to remain near 3%, millennials continue to form households and more existing homeowners tap their equity for the purchase of a better home…Many homeowners may want to upgrade, but do not for fear that they will be unable to find a home to buy.”

She then offers a possible solution:

“While the fear of not being able to find something to buy will not disappear in a limited supply environment, new housing supply can incentivize existing homeowners to move.”

There’s no doubt many sellers would love to build a new home to perfectly fit their changing wants and needs. However, most builders require that they sell their house first. If the seller sells their home, where would they live while their new home is being constructed?

Going back to the concept of leverage:

As mentioned, buyers have compelling reasons to purchase a home now, and many homeowners have challenges to address if they want to sell. Perhaps they can make a deal to satisfy each party’s needs. But how?

The seller may decide to sell their home to the buyer at today’s price, which will enable the purchaser to take advantage of current mortgage rates. In return, the buyer might lease the house back to the seller for a pre-determined length of time while the seller’s new home is being built. A true win-win negotiation.

Not every buyer will agree to such a deal – but you only need one.

That’s just one example of how a seller might be able to overcome a challenge because of the leverage they have in today’s market. Maybe you feel a need to make certain repairs before selling. Perhaps you need time to get permits or approvals for certain upgrades you made to the house. Whatever the challenge, you may be able to work it out.

Bottom Line

If you’re considering selling your house now but worry a huge obstacle stands in your way, contact a local real estate professional. Maybe with the leverage you currently have, you can negotiate a deal that will allow you to make the move of your dreams.

The post How Much Leverage Do Today’s House Sellers Have? appeared first on Keeping Current Matters.

The housing market has been scorching hot over the last twelve months.
The post How Much Leverage Do Today’s House Sellers Have? appeared first on Keeping Current Matters.Keeping Current Matters

Is it Cheaper to Build or to Buy a House? The Best House for Your BuckAmna ShamimHomeLight Blog

It’s time to think about packing up your belongings and moving into your dream home. But what is your dream home? Is it a remodeled existing house, or something you build from scratch? Does a new construction meet your needs and your budget? Do you know off the top of your head if it’s cheaper to build or buy a house?

You’ll want to maximize the features and space you’re going to get for what you’re spending, so that six months from move-in, you’re not regretting your decision. So let’s break down what you’ll pay with self-built, new construction, and existing homes, so you can narrow down your search enough to have a great real estate agent take you the rest of the way to your dream home.

A desk with glasses and papers used to depict if it is cheaper to build or buy a home.
Source: (KimSongsak / ShutterStock)

Self-built homes

There are build-your-own-house programs that can make this cheaper, or you can use shipping containers or tiny homes, so you have a lot more flexibility with price here — to a point. You may also encounter surprises (some unpleasant) when it comes to budget and timelines.

HomeLight’s own experts have determined you can build your own home for anywhere from $16,000 and $350,000, depending on various factors including square footage, energy efficiency, and the level of DIY.

If you’re thinking of building your own home, Ben Marciano, seasoned contractor and owner of A-List Builders, has some sound advice.

“In general, it is totally possible to build your dream home, but it’s critical to work within your budget, and be realistic about it, to make it happen. Understanding how to measure for materials is key, in addition to understanding the skeleton of your home for remodels that aren’t just skin-deep.”

Pros of building your own home

There are several pros to building your own home as opposed to buying one that was constructed to someone else’s specifications.

You can customize the house to your exact desires. You can ensure the primary bedroom has that giant jetted tub you always dreamed of, or that your living room has the reading nook you want. Whatever you desire, you can ensure your custom-built home has it.

They can cost less to live in. New construction tends to be more energy-efficient, and you won’t be heating or cooling any unnecessary or unused spaces.

They can cost less to maintain because everything is new. All new fixtures and appliances means you have a while before anything needs repair.

You’re not paying for any features or amenities some other homeowner wanted. Every amenity or feature is one that you carefully selected and prioritized, and therefore is worth your investment while you live there.

There’s no competition from other buyers to get the house you want. Building your own home means there is no risk you’ll be outbid by another buyer.

It’s new, and you’re the first to own it! Who doesn’t love the fact everything is pristine and perfect?

Cons of building your own home

It is more expensive than buying an existing home. Buying an existing home will nearly always be cheaper than building a new home.

You’ll have to handle every little expense, and it can get pricey fast. Some of the factors you’ll need to consider are land costs, foundations, permitting, systems (HVAC, plumbing, electrical), appliances, finishing, roofing, fixtures, and so much more. For an idea of what these costs can look like, check the helpful chart at the bottom of this article.

As Marciano warns homebuyers, “Materials and finishes truly rack up your budget. People underestimate just how much cabinetry they require, how many tiles, how much flooring materials, and so on.

“Be sure to calculate the measurements of your space, and give yourself wiggle room when ordering your materials. Order a bit extra — always. Mistakes in cabinetry measurements can often be the most costly, for example.”

If you are able to find and qualify for a build-your-own-house program, you may have a bit more leeway, budget-wise.

Trends might fade more quickly than you think, leaving you with a dated house that is hard to sell.

You don’t have a lot of options for negotiating on price here, but you can make decisions upfront that can help you dial in the cost. Decisions like where to build and how much help to leverage can have a huge impact on the price tag for your self-built home.

Construction on an empty lot to depict if it is cheaper to build or buy a house.
Source: (Jamar Penny / Unsplash)

New construction

In 2019, the average cost of 2,600-ish square feet of new construction was $485,128, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

While the final cost per square foot will depend on several factors, including location, house size, and customization, you do have some control over many of those factors, which means your new construction home could be well above or well below that number.

Pros of buying new construction

Buying new construction offers many of the same pros as building your own house but is much more convenient. Your options for customizations will be more limited, but you can still choose from different floor plans and finishes.

A developer will manage hooking you into the sewer system and electrical grids. Given how time-consuming and expensive this can be when building your own home, this is a major plus.

Lower lot costs are common with new construction managed by a developer.

Andrew Dellavecchia, a single-family-home expert in the Pittsburgh area who recently purchased a new construction home himself, offers firsthand insights.

“If you go with a developer or builder in the neighborhood setting, your lot cost is very inexpensive because they tie in the cost of your lot to the build so they can make it a lot more affordable, and you’re not paying for tap-ins or land development.

“The builder takes all that cost off of you so you can focus on putting the money that you want to spend in the square footage, the fixtures, the finishes, and things like that.”

New construction homes often have warranties for the systems, and those will cover many big issues for the first 10 years you own the house. If you’re unlucky or just put a lot of wear-and-tear on the systems, this can lead to big savings on repair bills.

Chosen wisely: New construction homes can hold their value or even increase in value after you buy, making them a good real estate investment option.

Cons of buying new construction

In many ways, buying new construction will mean a house that’s less customizable than building your own house. You won’t have complete customization abilities with a new construction home, as the developer will be working on a tighter schedule.

Generally, it’s hard to negotiate on price with new construction. Developers have a certain price they need to sell the home at in order to make a profit (on average, the builder’s profit is just 9.1% of the sales price) and are less likely to give up that margin.

There might be construction happening around you for some time after you move in! Just because your home is move-in-ready doesn’t necessarily mean the entire development is, so you might be dealing with ongoing construction for a bit.

You’ll pay extra for premium upgrades to finishes or appliances. While upgrades always cost money, expect to pay more than you would on the open market.

There might be other fees that you need to pay while you own the house. Homeowners association (HOA) fees are a good example of ongoing fees, so keep them in mind when determining your budget.

A house in a neighborhood to depict if it's cheaper to build or buy a home.
Source: (Dillon Kydd / Unsplash)

Existing homes

The median cost for an existing home was $309,800 in December 2020, according to the National Association of Realtors, which is less than the cost of a new construction. If you’re very budget-conscious, an existing home can be a good option, but there are other potential drawbacks you’ll want to consider.

Pros of buying an existing home

It’s the fastest way to get your foot in the door of homeownership. An existing home is already built, which means you aren’t waiting months to move in while you work with architects and builders and zoning regulators and so on.

The landscaping looks better. The trees and landscaping are likely to look nicer than with a newer home because the plants have had a chance to grow and settle into the design.

It’s easier to optimize for a better buyers market by choosing to purchase when everyone else is waiting for spring.

As Dellavecchia clarifies, “In a seller’s market, as it’s been here for about four years now, the opportunity to get a better deal is in the fall and winter on buying, but most buyers don’t realize that and like to wait for the spring market.” You won’t always have that option when you’re buying new construction, and when building a house, you’ll also be constrained by the climate and weather in your area when it comes to hiring contract workers to help.

Cons of buying an existing home

It might need repairs sooner. Because other people have been putting wear and tear on the home, you may need to repair parts of it sooner than you would with a new construction.

You’ll have to renovate or upgrade to make it what you want, and even when you do, it might not be exactly what you want depending on the floorplan, size, and other variables.

Marciano elaborates: “One major contender in navigating your home remodel is understanding if what you want is structurally possible. Usually, it can be, but if you’re doing this solo, then you run the risk of wanting what seems to you as a cosmetic change but may actually be a significant structural change to your home.”

“An example would be when homeowners come to a contractor and want to ‘open up their kitchen,’ not realizing that the wall making it a “closed” kitchen is a supporting wall for other parts of their house. This could result in going well over budget and cause delays in work if realized too late.”

It will likely be less energy-efficient than a new home as many of the regulations, and best practices of energy efficiency are improving every year.

So what should I do?

While it is almost always cheaper to buy a house that’s already been built, there can be ways to minimize your spend and ensure you end up in your dream home without blowing your budget.

Finding a great real estate agent who understands your needs and budget is a critical step to making your dream home happen, whether it’s already been built or needs to be constructed from the ground up.

Average costs for: Self-built New construction Existing home
Land & site work $3,000 – $150,000 $3,000 – $150,000
With an existing home, these have already been covered by the original homeowner and you only need to worry about the sticker price + the cost of any adjustments you may want to make.
+ Connecting to city sewers
The cost of these will depend on how much you want to DIY vs hire contractors to help.
$1,300 – $5,000
+ Connecting to city electric grid $1,000 – $30,000
+ Connecting to city water lines $1,000 – $5,000
Foundation $4,000 – $25,000
+ Slab costs $4,000 – $7,000
+ Basement (not including finishing) $10,000 – $30,000
Framing $20,000 – $50,000
Exterior finishing costs $40,000 – $60,000
+ Roofing installation $5,000 – $11,000
+ Windows $3,000 – $9,000
+ Exterior painting $2,000 – $4,0000
Major systems
– Electrical wiring $20,000 – $30,000
– HVAC costs $1,500 – $13,000
– Rough-in plumbing costs $1,500 – $20,000
Interior finishes $50,000 – $175,000+
– Cabinet install fees $2,000 – $30,000
– Countertop installation costs $2,000 – $4,000
– Door installation costs (multiple doors) $5,000 – $20,000
– Drywall installation prices $5,000 – $30,000
– Flooring install price $10,000 – $35,000
– Interior painting prices $4,000 – $11,000
– Appliance prices $3,000 – $15,000
– Lighting fixture costs $2,000 – $12,000
– Fireplace installation fees $1,000 – $10,000
Median post-purchase adjustments $0 $0 $346,800

Sources: HomeAdvisor 2021 “How Much Does It Cost to Build a House?” and St. Louis Federal Reserve Q4 2020 median home price

Header Image Source: (sculpies / ShutterStock) 

Is it cheaper to build or to buy a house? The pros and cons of self-built, new construction, and existing homes, broken down for budget-conscious buyers.HomeLight Blog

Palm Trees, Historic Homes, and Ocean Views: How to Buy a House in Boca RatonHatie ParmeterHomeLight Blog

Boca Raton, Florida, is well-known as a warm oceanside getaway where palm trees sway in the breeze amid Japanese gardens and beautiful beaches. But Boca’s not just for tourists. The southernmost city in Palm Beach County of just under 100,000 is a mix of families, young professionals, and seniors who enjoy year-round temperatures between 60 and 90 degrees, plenty of outdoor activities for humans and canines alike, museums, shopping, and a thriving restaurant scene.

Boca is known for historic waterfront mansions and excellent schools. Homes here have median price tags over $100,000 above the national average, and the real estate market is highly competitive. Potential buyers must have skilled, locally knowledgeable real estate agents to ensure sellers and brokers are interested.

We spoke with a lifelong Florida resident and real estate agent about the unique real estate climate in this seaside locale. Our comprehensive guide will help you choose a neighborhood, understand local inventory, and learn why it’s critical to get a home inspection when you buy a house in Boca Raton.

A house with palm trees that you could buy in Boca Raton.
Source: (Tessa Wilson / Unsplash)

What’s the lay of the land in Boca?

Boca Raton is about 20 miles from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and 23 miles from Palm Beach International Airport. You can easily access it from global destinations like London, England; São Paulo, Brazil; and Toronto, Canada. Boca Raton Airport serves recreational, corporate, and training clients who want a more personalized experience.

How do people get around?

About 76.1% of Boca Raton residents drive to work, but there are a lot of other transportation options. It can be less expensive and more sustainable to take public transportation to get around — and beyond — the city. The Tri-Rail regional commuter rail system runs from Miami Airport to Mangonia Park, stopping at the Yamato Road Tri-Rail Station in Boca. There are also free shuttles from the stop to local hotspots like the Town Center at Boca Raton and nearby universities. The Palm Tran is a countywide bus system that features seven routes throughout the area, connecting to the Tri-Rail Shuttle. This makes it easy for visitors to get from the airport to most areas of the city.

What do people do for fun?

Boca Raton earns an A+ for amenities on AreaVibes because there is so much to do! If you like getting outside, head to one of the three public beaches or 46 parks to catch some sun, play Frisbee, or relax. Dog owners can head to Mizner Bark Dog Park off Banyan trail, or visit the Bark Park Dog Beach to play fetch and cool off. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen and your pup’s favorite toys!

The Festival of the Arts Boca is an annual cultural arts gathering spread throughout the city. The gathering includes concerts, theatrical productions, and author talks. This year is the 14th anniversary of this area staple! If you like outdoor concerts, check out the many musical performances at The Pavilion at Old School Square. Recent performances include The Wailers, Keller Williams, and Easton Corbin. Bring ear plugs or covers for little ones as this venue can get pretty loud.

The Fogelman Sports Museum at FAU houses over 1,200 sports-related items for public viewing. Check out Babe Ruth’s New York Yankee uniform and the 13 original rules of basketball. These exhibits are free and will entice sports lovers of all ages. It’s an excellent place to cool off after playing in the waves.

Visitors and locals love the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach. The park features stunning Japanese gardens that’ll calm even the busiest of minds! Head to the museum to sip authentic tea and view rotating exhibits. Past galleries have included tattoo art, pottery, and samurai armor. And you just might leave with some inspiration to update the landscaping on your property!

For those who like to hit the links, there are a handful of golf courses within city limits, including the 200-acre Boca Raton Municipal Golf Course. This well-manicured 18-hole, par 72 Championship Course is open to the public year-round, and requires reserved tee times. Grab your argyle socks and slather on the sunscreen to fit in and stay sun-safe.

Is the area environmentally focused?

Boca Raton residents are increasingly focusing on sustainability and minimizing their impact on the environment. The area gets sunshine nearly 230 days a year on average, and homeowners are tapping into the solar potential. The Palm Beach County Solar Co-op is free for residents to join to earn competitive installation rates and bulk pricing on solar energy. Why not take advantage of this free, limitless natural resource? Residents also may be eligible for help paying for new systems by partaking in PACE, the Property Assessed Clean Energy program.

Will the schools be a good fit for my kids?

If you buy a house in Boca Raton, you’ll enjoy excellent schools. In fact, Addison Mizner Elementary and Waters Edge Elementary have earned 10/10 GreatSchools scores. This measurement accounts for academic improvements, performing above-average on state testing, and offering opportunities for disadvantaged students.

A sidewalk with palm trees to depict how to buy a house in Boca Raton.
Caption: (Jude Infantini / Unsplash)

Getting to know local housing

Chris Cusimano is a lifelong Florida resident with nearly 16 years of experience as a real estate agent. He has sold 82 percent of his listings and sells 13% more Boca Raton homes than local agents. Cusimano lives in Boca Raton, and he — like his clientele — loves it for the weather and variety of houses.

Condos

If you like condo living, you’re in luck. Boca Raton offers these private residences with shared common areas throughout the city, including waterfront penthouses with unforgettable views. Many condo communities offer pools, patios, and fitness facilities perfect for people interested in staying fit, having fun, and getting to know their neighbors.

Check out One Thousand Ocean condos off Ocean Boulevard for one- and two-story villas and penthouses. The waterfront residences each have a plunge pool, private terrace, and outdoor kitchen. Listings range from a three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bathroom condo for $3,995,000 to penthouses around $13 million.

Akoya Boca West off Boca West Drive features luxury residences with over 400,000 square feet of clubhouse amenities from golf courses to pools. Condos range from $1.4 million to over $4 million, and residents love the immediate access to nearby I-95, Mizner Park, and Town Center at Boca Raton. Amenities include private elevators, private parking, and a top-notch fitness center that is open 24/7.

Historic architecture

People looking for older, historic homes should head to East Boca Raton. Many of these houses are Old Floresta style, offering Spanish Mission style with stucco, lots of windows, and barrel tiled roofs. Mizner Industries, a local developer in the late 1800s through early 1900s, created this architectural trend.

Prices range from $824,900 for a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home to $2,750,000 for a five-bedroom, six-bathroom estate. These large homes also feature larger lots. However, they may require more maintenance because of their age and proximity to the ocean.

Some of these residences are a part of the Historic District, which preserves important area architecture. The narrow, tree-lined streets give way to beautiful beaches, shopping opportunities at Mizner Park, and The Boca Raton Resort & Club. Families love the Science Explorium at Sugar Sand Park, where they can check out the science playground and try interactive educational exhibits. It’s a great place to entertain your kids during South Florida rains.

Retiree living

Check out West Boca for retiree communities and residences for those age 55 and over. Century Village is a popular social living space with amenities like a theater, clubhouse, and library. Listings here run from $54,000 for a 715-square-foot unit to $365,000 for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo. You’ll barely use a car when you have immediate access to all this entertainment.

Family-friendly neighborhoods

Many families move to western Boca, where homes were built in the 1990s or more recently, and have less upkeep than their eastern neighbors. Neighborhoods like Clint Moore Rd/Jorg Rd offer many parks and walking paths. Here, you’ll find Calusa Elementary School and Waters Edge Elementary School, which have earned 10/10 ratings on GreatSchools.

A house on the beach that you could buy in Boca Raton.
Source: (QPro / Unsplash)

What’s your Boca budget?

The median home value in Boca Raton is $529,415 as of February 2021. That’s higher than the national average home price of $309,800, but the wide variety of offerings make the city a desirable place for many to call home. Boca homes range from $85,000 for one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartments to $16 million for seven-bedroom, 13-bathroom mansions. There’s truly something for everyone.

Property taxes in Palm Beach County are around 3.68%, around three times the national average of 1.1%. If you want a better idea of how much taxes will add to your bottom line, you can use a calculator to estimate the property taxes on a listing you’re interested in. Owners can pay property taxes once or twice a year, depending on what fits their budgets.

Are you thinking about renting, instead? The average cost for rent in Boca is $2,000, about $500 more than the national average. High-end areas like Boca West average $2,614, while Royal Oak Hills averages $1,662 monthly rent.

If you’re looking for a home to live in seasonally and rent out on Airbnb, Boca may not be the place for you. The local legislature is cracking down on short-term rentals, barring them from many single-family neighborhoods. Some area residents support this ruling because it limits unruly parties and potential security risks. Snowbirds hoping to winter in the area may be in luck, as rentals of 6 months or more may be legal. Talk with your agent about whether listings you like are legally rentable.

Competing in a hot market

The Boca housing market has started the first months of 2021 hot, and Cusimano advises buyers that there is no room for negotiation. “Multiple bidding wars are very common right now, and sellers have the luxury of choosing,” he says. “Contracts are being accepted above market value.”

With mortgage interest rates around 2.88%, demand is high, making it a seller’s market. Additionally, COVID-19 has contributed to low inventory levels, as many people, especially seniors, don’t want to risk exposure through open houses and showings. As a result, simultaneous closings are common, with sellers waiting to accept an offer before searching for a house themselves. The turnaround time is typically 60 days from offer acceptance to closing, allowing sellers to purchase and relocate.

Cusimano says buyers can make their offers more appealing by attending showings with immediate access to pay the listing price in cash or with multiple mortgage pre-approvals.

Understanding Florida HOAs

It’s difficult to find a home in Boca that isn’t part of a homeowners association. Residents pay annual and/or monthly fees for the HOA to maintain community property, such as landscaping, paved areas, clubhouses, golf courses, and pools. These prices go up in accordance with the number of and size of the community features.

Many monthly HOA costs are under $400, while low-cost HOAs may have annual fees under $500. Cusimano says some homes on golf courses or within clubhouse communities may have fees topping $20,000 per year.

These governing bodies may facilitate utilities like garbage pickup and internet access, and make rules on what aesthetic and construction changes are allowed for yards and buildings. Be sure to ask the listing agent about the last 10 years of HOA fees to understand the changing cost. The HOA fee may seem more reasonable when you account for all the utilities and amenity fees you won’t have to pay separately.

A swimming pool used to depict how to buy a house in Boca Raton.
Source: (Juan Patlan / Unsplash)

Are there common concerns when buying a home in Boca?

If you plan to buy a house in Boca Raton, it’s important to get a home inspection to provide insight into potential issues with the house, like roof leaks, foundation instability, and electrical wiring problems. Boca homes also come with additional considerations that are unique to the area.

Pests

Boca Raton homes are vulnerable to many ant species that make their homes in walls along moisture-damaged areas or in kitchens, basements, and crawl spaces. Homeowners can help avoid infestations by caulking potential entrances around pipes, vents, or foundation cracks. Address leaks immediately to limit moisture damage that may attract insects and keep kitchens clean so you won’t attract the tiny invaders. But if you’re going to buy a house in Boca Raton, it’s worthwhile to get a pest inspection to identify infestations and damage so you can prevent repeat offenders.

Storms

Boca Raton is vulnerable to damaging winds due to tropical storms and hurricanes. Buyers looking to own houses adjacent to the ocean should get seawall inspections to understand the structural stability, necessary repairs or updates, and the wall’s lifespan. You don’t want to invest in a property only to find that it could be under water!

Flooding

Most of the city is in a flood hazard area, designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This means it’s a region with drainage trouble, and that may require special building permits. Areas near waterways like canals and inlets can flood as the city is only 9 meters above sea level. Those who buy a house in Boca Raton should look into getting flood insurance, as standard homeowners insurance policies don’t typically cover damage from rising waters.

Find a top buyer’s agent

If you buy a house in Boca Raton, you could be trading busy, gray city streets for tropical pathways and oceanside dining!

The key to having your Boca Raton offer approved is to work with a top agent who understands the local market and area. They’ll know how to negotiate on your behalf and can leverage their relationships with local brokers to give you a leg up on competing offers.

The best local buyer’s agents sell 4.5 times more homes per year than their competitors, and at a 52% lower sale price. Talk to a top Boca Raton real estate agent to start your home search today.

Header Image Source: (katie manning / Unsplash)

This sun-soaked destination isn’t just for tourists. Learn how to navigate a competitive market and buy a house in Boca Raton.HomeLight Blog

Heartbeat on the Hudson: How to Buy a House in Jersey CityDave StintonHomeLight Blog

Imagine Manhattan, plunked down in your backyard.

You’ve just imagined living in Jersey City, New York’s honorary “Sixth Borough,” combining the cosmopolitan energy of NYC with the homey feel of a smaller town. This city is a gem (though not quite as “undiscovered” as it once was).

It’s New Jersey’s second-most populous city, with a steady growth of 5.8% in the past decade. If you want to buy a house in Jersey City, you’ve made a wise choice. There’s a spate of new construction and development, as well as historic buildings waiting to be rediscovered. Jersey City also offers restaurants that rival those of its neighbor across the Hudson, top-rated schools, and the Statue of Liberty.

[record scratch]

Yep. Lady Liberty, that classic NYC icon, is within the borders of Jersey City. So yeah. It’s close.

And the market keeps heating up. New Yorkers, in search of the next cool place to live, have plundered the once-affordable neighborhoods of Brooklyn and started exploring westward into New Jersey. The median home value in Jersey City is $373,700, and you can expect that to climb.

Street in New Jersey Neighborhood
(Source: Khürt Williams / Unsplash)

A city with a heartbeat

Nestled between the Hackensack and Hudson rivers, the layout of Jersey City resembles a human heart. That makes sense — it throbs with the pride and resilience New Jersey is famous for. Its six historic wards are further divided into countless smaller neighborhoods, which can be daunting for a newcomer.

So we had a heart-to-heart with top-performing real estate agent Michael Klein, who’s spent 17 years matching buyers with homes in Jersey City and the surrounding area. He walked us through some of the challenges and rewards of buying a home here.

Klein is adamant that Jersey City is too big and varied for a quick summary. “It’s one of the most diverse areas, from what I understand, in the United States.” The schools buzz with 75 different languages, the wards are dotted with cultural enclaves, and the city defies easy categorization.

But we have to start somewhere, so …

Ward to the wise

Here’s a rundown of Jersey City, ward by ward.

Downtown

The most sought-after neighborhood in the city is also the most expensive. Historic Downtown real estate prices are about 46% higher than the city average, and Klein says you can expect to pay within 5% of a home’s asking price. But a median-priced home between $630,000 and $690,00 treats you to the breathtaking waterfront, beautifully restored brownstones, and countless arts destinations, from ballet to galleries to rock concerts.

Klein estimates that in Downtown, the market is “probably [composed] of 85% condos” and “probably only 5% single-family homes.”

Looking for a fixer-upper? Look elsewhere. Downtown’s prices make it less likely you’ll find a bargain waiting for you to work your magic. (And the few projects in the area generally get snatched up by professional flippers before they’re listed.)

Journal Square

You might find that fixer-upper in this neighborhood, named for the former headquarters of the Jersey Journal newspaper. Its new residential construction is surrounded by established condos and historic brownstones.

The city’s Transportation Center is here, allowing quick access on the PATH trains (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) to anywhere from Newark to Midtown Manhattan. This rests upon what Klein calls the “good infrastructure” of the area: small, local shops and services anchoring a neighborhood ripe for potential.

“Journal Square is actually still starting to go through a change and may be coming into fruition somewhere over the next 10 years.”

But for now (as of February 2021), real estate prices are 15% lower than the city average, so if you want to buy a house in Jersey City, it’s a good time to harness this area.

West Side

This neighborhood features absolutely jaw-dropping Victorian and Edwardian mansions that have been divided up into (rarely available) apartments. But there are also many condo developments and not-quite-discovered microneighborhoods among the cafes and row homes.

West Side also contains the beautiful Lincoln Park, the “jewel of the Hudson County Park System.” The paths brim with locals playing tennis, softball, or soccer — or just ambling around with a dog and spying on osprey and egrets. If Manhattan is in Jersey City’s backyard, then Lincoln Park is a front lawn full of active, socializing neighbors.

The Heights

The north end of the city truly feels like the top, with beautiful views over the Hudson River Palisades.

This area beckons with multi-family houses and a hip, urban scene, alongside stately, historic homes and burgeoning condo developments. Enjoy a meal or a gourmet cake at the Argentine-inspired Dulce de Leche Bakery, pick up some specialty kicks at the Sneaker Room, or just take in some of the ward’s vibrant murals.

The Central Avenue Shopping District is a ¾-mile stretch of dozens of storefront businesses. A recently approved budget aims to improve its streets and sidewalks so it’s easier to visit them.

Greenville

This neighborhood, at the southern end of the city, is considered vulnerable and underserved. The I Love Greenville initiative seeks to improve the livability for existing residents, with an eye toward resisting (or mitigating) gentrification.

Obviously, it’s not a forbidden neighborhood to buy in, but the focus of the community is less on attracting outside buyers and more on nurturing the roots of the families there now.

Bergen-Lafayette

This neighborhood (“BeLa” for short) keeps getting more rewarding, with attractive real estate prices (12% lower than the city average) and an ongoing influx of cool stuff.

For example: BeLa’s Berry Lane Park opened in 2016 as a way to transform this formerly junkyard-dotted area into a thriving public space. Its most recent addition: the largest skatepark in New Jersey (created with help from Tony Hawk!!!).

If your taste in tricks is more intellectual, the Liberty Science Center awaits in nearby Liberty State Park to fill young people’s heads with scientific and technological possibilities.

New Jersey home in winter
(Source: Matej Sefcik / Unsplash)

What else do you need to know?

Winter brings a cooler market — and that might be good

When is the best time to buy a house in Jersey City? “Wintertime, there’s usually less on the market,” Klein says, “but there’s also usually [fewer] buyers, so it could be a potentially better time to have a negotiation.” So if you’re prepared — and you’d prefer a smaller and more manageable selection — you could use the winter to your advantage.

As Jersey City’s real estate heats up, so does the planet

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy laid bare the city’s vulnerabilities, flooding much of the city and knocking out electricity. The City Planning Division is brainstorming how best to anticipate the next one, and while direct hits are still relatively rare, a team of scientists recently increased the odds of landfall from 2% to 3%. That may seem slight, but a homeowner in this area should prepare.

“Codes have changed drastically,” Klein says. For example, if a new structure is built in a flood zone, the ground floor may be forbidden from holding a residence. Instead, it might be reserved for storage, nudging the lowest inhabited floor up one story. Electrical panels have to be a certain height in relation to sea level as well.

“You’d need to be aware of water penetration issues,” says Marshal Datkowitz of Optimal Home Inspections. “There’s a lot of older housing stock, so the inspection usually is going to entail a lot more — how can I put it? — ‘issues.’ We’re talking about a housing stock that could easily be 120 years old.”

Keep in mind that the flood-prep codes only apply to new structures; they don’t require older buildings to be updated. So be prepared to ask about the age and preparedness of homes during your search.

Lots of your neighbors will work in Manhattan …

You can get from Jersey City to Lower Manhattan on the PATH subway in 11 minutes. (It’s tough to get anywhere within Manhattan in 11 minutes.) There’s also a reliable ferry, and, if you insist on driving, the nearby Holland Tunnel.

Plus, a fun little tax benefit: NYC levies a city tax of about 4.9% on its residents. But if you work in Manhattan and live in Jersey City, that doesn’t apply to you. More of that Manhattan paycheck stays in your pocket.

… but they’ll play in Jersey City

This isn’t just a dormitory for Manhattan’s workforce. There’s plenty to do and see here (did we mention the Tony Hawk skate park?!!) and plenty of in-city transportation options to get there.

  • Hudson-Bergen Light Rail
    These electric trains run along the east side of the city and across the middle through Bergen-Lafayette and West Side.
  • NJ Transit Buses
    The city’s bus routes are run by NJ Transit, though many residents don’t feel it has successfully accommodated a growing population. This has led to Jersey City thinking outside the bus with …
  • Via Jersey City
    A brand-new success story, this is billed as an “on-demand public bus service,” providing affordable ridesharing that connects areas previously underserved by existing bus lines.
New Jersey neighborhood
(Source: Erik Mclean / Unsplash)

OK, so you want in on this. What next?

Figure out your budget

The first thing to do when you decide to move forward and buy a house in Jersey City is to determine how much home you can afford.

Get yourself a lawyer

(Even though you don’t legally need one in New Jersey …)

“Although we’re not an attorney state by mandatory,” Klein tells us, “I’d say [in northern New Jersey] 99% off all real estate transactions utilize a real estate attorney,” someone who knows the ins and outs of the region. Klein estimates that most attorneys will run you between $1,400 and $2,000.

Schedule an inspection

As with attorneys, home inspections are generally not required in New Jersey, but they are recommended. Datkowitz of Optimal Home Inspections says that with the market heating up, it may take longer to schedule yours. “If people are looking for inspections, they should be aware that a lot of inspectors are booked weeks ahead of time. In the past, there’d be an opening in a day or two.” Book your inspection well in advance, so you don’t jeopardize your schedule.

Partner with a top Jersey City buyer’s agent

Now that you’ve decided to buy a house in Jersey City, it’s important to partner with a buyer’s agent. A top buyer’s agent in Jersey City transacts 1.8 times more than the average agent, and can save homebuyers $96,263. With a top agent by your side, you have an ally who knows Jersey City like they know their own heart. They’ll streamline your search, leap through local idiosyncrasies, and get you the best value in a timely fashion.

Header Image Source: (Saketh Garuda / Unsplash)

Discover your next home in Jersey City: Learn the neighborhoods, attractions, and tax benefits of this vibrant, growing city with the help of a top agent.HomeLight Blog

What if the Vacation Never Has to End? How to Buy a House in Key WestKaitlynn CopingerHomeLight Blog

Key West, a tiny island located at the end of the Florida Keys, fuels many a big vacation dream. U.S. News & World Report has named Key West one of the top places to visit in the U.S., pointing to its plentiful water activities and interesting history.

With its warm weather, laid-back culture, and happy-hour vibe, it’s also an attractive place to live. If you want to buy a house in Key West, you’ll be in good company. Ernest Hemingway, the Nobel Prize winner, lived and wrote on the island for more than a decade.

Before you bid farewell to the mainland, it’s important to understand what makes Key West a singular place to call home, like its historic Old Town district, its regular throngs of tourists, its walkability, the termites and iguanas, the climate, and the unique architecture.

We interviewed experts like Ed Salazar, a Key West native and real estate agent, who is part of a team led by top-performing agent Bascom Grooms, another lifelong Key West resident with 22 years of experience. We also dove deep into the unique qualities of Key West’s neighborhoods and did the math to help you understand what your budget will look like if you decide to set sail.

So slide on your sandals and meet me on Duval Street. This guide will give you the information you need to brave the competition and buy a house in paradise.

A street in Key West, where you can buy a house
(Source: Brian Urso / Unsplash)

Put together your Key West budget

Everything seems to cost more on vacation, and the same can be true when you live in a destination spot. According to the Key West Association of Realtors®, the median price of a sold home was $732,500 as of December 2020, well above the national median of $309,800, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Rental costs aren’t much better. As of December 2020, the average rent for a Key West apartment was $2,461, once again well above the national median of $1,465.

Your heart might be set on owning a piece of island property, so let’s crunch the numbers. Assuming you put down 20% on a $732,500 house at January 2021 market rates, your monthly interest and principal will be $2,417.

Deciding to own versus rent is always a personal decision. Here’s an idea to consider: Many of Salazar’s clients who want to buy a house in Key West invest in income-producing property, renting it out for most of the year, with the plan to move there full time to retire. “It’s a good investment, a good place to put your money,” he says.

Perhaps it’s a strategy that can work for you? As you do the math, remember to figure in property taxes. For a house with a market value of $732,500, your Key West taxes will be about $6,400, according to Monroe County, Florida’s online tax estimator. You can reduce property taxes by about $400 if you apply for a homestead exemption.

We also can’t forget about insurance. Florida has some of the highest insurance premiums in the country. The average Florida rate of $3,643 is 58% above the national average, according to Insurance.com.

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation put together a tool to help homeowners broadly compare rates. For a Monroe County home built in 1990, with a replacement value of $150,000, a $500 non-hurricane deductible, 2% hurricane deductible and no claims for the past three years — and that has wind mitigation features like hurricane shutters — the average premium is just under $3,000 a year.

Flood insurance is another cost you’ll need to consider, since flood damage is often not covered under home insurance policies. According to the Key West city government, there are 8,000 active flood insurance policies, each costing an average of $1,510 annually.

A home you can buy in Key West
(Source Joshua Case / Unsplash)

Get the lay of the land in Key West

Located at the very end of Florida’s Highway 1, Key West is 4 miles long and 2 miles wide, with a population of 24,500 as of 2020. Given its small size, you can sell your car and opt to bike or walk around the island instead. Chances are good you’ll be running into friendly faces in no time.

Nine different neighborhoods, each with their own character, make up Key West’s One Human Family. Grab your sunscreen and we’ll explore some of them.

Soak up the history in Old Town

Located on the western portion of Key West, Old Town is the island’s historic heart. If older homes, leisurely walks, and plentiful restaurants and bars are what you’re looking for, this neighborhood is an excellent choice, and it’s where most of Salazar’s clients are looking. “It’s like stepping back into time,” Salazar says.

“The narrow streets, the old houses, small lots, everybody riding around on bikes or walking. It has that ambience to it.”

Old Town is often divided into two parts: the areas north and south of Truman Avenue. Many of the homes in this area date back to the 1800s. Key West’s Historic Architectural Review Commission governs updates and upkeep to preserve the area’s charm. The historical charm comes with a steep price tag: The average price of a sold Old Town listing was $1,267,625 in December 2020.

Keep in mind that this neighborhood, which includes the well-trafficked Duval Street, is a top tourist draw, so you’ll have to contend with sunburned out-of-towners crowding you at the Green Parrot Bar. Even in the aftermath of 2017’s Hurricane Irma, Key West and the Florida keys attracted 5.1 million visitors, according to 2018 county tourism data.

Enjoy the quieter life in New Town

While Old Town draws the tourists, New Town houses the locals. With larger lots and lower prices ($502,223 is the average sold price in December 2020), this is where 75% of Key West residents live. If you want the island lifestyle, but also some of the suburban living amenities that make full-time island living a little easier, this is a great neighborhood to explore.

Located on the eastern part of the island, New Town includes shopping centers and grocery stores including Publix and Winn-Dixie. It’s also close to Key West High School, which rates as average compared to other schools in Florida. And if you are planning on traveling off the island regularly, New Town puts you right next to Key West International Airport.

Go upscale in Truman Annex

If you’re looking for a quiet residential spot where you can be part of Key West’s fascinating history, you might be interested in exploring the Truman Annex neighborhood. Formerly the site of a naval station, the area was redeveloped by a private investment company and completed in 1996, earning the 1994 Florida Design Arts Award from the Florida Arts Council. This upscale gated community has a mix of housing, including mansions and townhomes, and features manicured landscaping and interconnecting walkways that give it a park-like feel. Homes here tend to be larger than in Old Town, many with open water sunset views.

You’ll be close by the Harry S. Truman Little White House and within walking distance of Old Town attractions. Plus, history buffs will enjoy the proximity to Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park.

A house for sale in Key West.
(Source: Joshua Case / Unsplash)

Know the housing in Key West

The architecture of Key West is unique. Heavily influenced by its Caribbean neighbors, the island has preserved many of the wooden structures constructed by shipbuilders-turned-carpenters.

A popular style in Old Town, where houses can be 100 to 150 years old, is the conch house. These two-story houses usually feature large verandas and shutters over the doors and windows. Other styles include shotgun houses, single-story cottages built by Cuban cigar barons for their workers, and Victorian-style homes. Many homes are painted in bright pastel colors, a nod to the Bahamian influence that still can be seen throughout the island.

In New Town, the housing stock is newer, yards are larger and prices are significantly lower than in Old Town. Buyers can find mid-century and ranch-style homes. Those with deeper wallets can find ocean-facing condos in the Truman Annex neighborhood.

No matter where you buy a house in Key West, you’ll need to factor in upkeep. A Key West home must withstand the effects of a hot, humid climate and the damaging impact of wind and rain.

“It’s definitely a lot of maintenance and a lot of upkeep to maintain it, especially one of the old ones,” says Hans Van Aller IV, a home inspector for highly rated Low Keys Home Inspectors.

And that’s what makes the home inspection so important. Some of the red flags Van Aller sees are termite infestations, spalling concrete, mold and mildew — and iguanas, which can damage both the house and the yard. An inspection should include a review of the house’s wind mitigation and the condition of the roof; both can be submitted to an insurance company to try to attain a more favorable rate.

Find a top buyer’s agent

The top 3% of Key West real estate agents handle an average of 404 properties and move them in 70 days.

Plenty of people want to live in paradise, so you can expect strong competition to buy a house in Key West, especially during the high-demand winter season. A strong buyer’s agent will help you navigate the city’s hot market, while avoiding some of the pitfalls that can make living here challenging.

There’s a rum runner waiting for you. Get in touch today and connect with a top Key West agent.

Header Image Source: (Amber Kipp / Unsplash)

If buying a house in Key West is on your bucket list, this comprehensive guide will tell you everything you need to know about making the island home.HomeLight Blog

Cobblestone Streets and a Competitive Market: How to Buy a House in CharlestonOlivia ForgetteHomeLight Blog

Defined by enchanting southern delight, Charleston, South Carolina, has an abundance to offer homebuyers. World-class restaurants, year-round outdoor activities, and endless quirk and charm in both the architecture and the residents are just a taste of the laid-back lifestyle Charleston offers. Imagine rocking on your new front porch, in a quintessential Charleston Single house you adore, and sipping some sweet tea. A horse-drawn carriage goes by a row of pastel-painted homes. Life is good.

It’s no wonder so many people want to call Chucktown home. The housing market is competitive, so you need to make sure you’re prepared to successfully navigate it — as well as a few red flags you’re likely to encounter.

We spoke with Jonathan Wells, a top local real estate expert with a decade of experience, for the inside scoop on the local market. We also sifted through countless pages of information and statistics to bring you a comprehensive guide of everything you need to know to buy a house in Charleston.

A colorful house to buy in Charleston
Source: (Ella de Kross / Unsplash)

What’s the housing market like in Charleston?

According to Wells, there is hardly any inventory in Charleston in the early months of 2021. This means if you find the home you like, make an offer and make it a good one! He recounts the quick turnaround of sales he had recently, and that homes almost always have multiple offers and sell for above asking price.

The market is hot, especially for property valued over $1 million. In 2020 this price point of homes saw a 144% increase in sales, according to a local Charleston real estate group. This is likely due to Charleston residents relocating for more square footage, and new residents seeking a relaxing lifestyle with year-round outdoor activities.

Charleston’s trending home styles

Charleston is packed with character and history, and that includes the city’s homes. Pastel colors often coat the exterior of homes, perhaps the most famous example being Rainbow Row, a series of 13 brightly colored houses on East Bay Street.

The most common home type in town, the Charleston Single, dates back to the founding of America. Wells describes it as a two-story piazza home with a unique side porch, and says the style originated for the purpose of sleeping on the porch during hot Charleston nights.

Culture and lifestyle

The culture and lifestyle draw many homebuyers to Charleston. The city is home to many start-up businesses, loads of hospitality industry opportunities, world-class restaurants, and more. The lifestyle is laid-back with a focus on water-oriented activities like fishing, boating, and paddle boarding.

Everywhere you look, you’ll find fun fashion and eccentric people. Wells says residents are often sporting bow ties, suit jackets with Bermuda shorts, and lots of exciting colors. The city has a great mix of people of all ages — from those coming to retire, to the young and hip. You’ll also find an abundance of Southern hospitality, with friendly waves and hellos wherever you go.

This enchanting city also has endless areas to explore, like the nine secret alleyways, and some of the town’s best hidden gems, including tea gardens, and Hampton Park, which boasts gorgeous blossoming trees, many amenities, and quite a rich history.

An alleyway next to a house to buy in Charleston.
Source: (David Martin / Unsplash)

What kind of budget do I need to live in Charleston?

Home costs in Charleston can vary widely, depending on the neighborhood and design of the home. So if you want to buy a house in Charleston, the best place to start is to figure out how much you can afford. If your dream is to live near the beach and downtown Charleston, you’re looking at around $450,000 or more as of January 2021, according to Wells.

If you’re interested in James Island, West Ashley or Johns Island areas, for example, home prices would be around $350,000 to $400,000. James Island features a true laid-back lifestyle and is known for Folly Beach and a massive fishing pier. West Ashley offers buyers scenic waterfront vistas and marshes, while Johns Island is the largest island in South Carolina. Johns Island features beautiful views and is home to the world famous 1,500-year-old Angel Oak tree.

If you’re working with a smaller budget, you can get beautiful property within a top-notch school district — and just outside of downtown — for around $300,000 in the Summerville area.

The median home value in February 2021 is $388,851. The median age of residents is 37.6 years old, and the median household income sits at just about $64,000 annually, according to data from the Charleston Regional Development Alliance.

Property taxes in Charleston county sit at a mere 0.47%, which is one of the lowest tax rates in the state. A property tax calculator can help you determine a more specific figure to expect regarding property taxes in Charleston.

Red flags for buyers to know

Flooding

Charleston is considered “low country,” meaning it sits below sea level. Wells says that flooding can be a major issue when looking at property, especially in downtown Charleston, where flooding is most common. Standard home insurance policies generally don’t cover flooding, so make sure to talk to your insurer about your options.

Termites

When you buy a house in Charleston, it is important to get not only a standard home inspection, but also a termite inspection. “We have very moist air that [termites] love,” Wells says. He notes that inspectors almost always do a CL-100 inspection, which is an official South Carolina Infestation Report that can only be performed by a qualified, licensed South Carolina inspector to ensure there is no termite damage in the home before you buy.

Extreme weather conditions

Another factor to keep in mind is that in Charleston it can be an extremely hot climate at times. During peak summer months, the heat index can skyrocket in both temperature and humidity, making for an intense sweaty season, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. On top of extreme heat, hurricanes are common here as well. Hurricanes mostly occur between the months of June and November.

Neighborhoods to consider

On top of the neighborhoods already spoken to above, Wells highlights Old Village and Mount Pleasant, which are close to the vibrant urban center and beaches. The location makes this area super-hot to buyers wanting to be right on the water. Homes downtown that are around 10 minutes to the beach are extremely hot in the market, but cost a pretty penny of $10 million plus.

For young professionals, Wells suggests looking in the Wagener Terrace area of Charleston. This area on the Ashley River has a hip vibe and is home to eclectic restaurants, cool bars, and beautiful green spaces. He notes that this area is being turned around and that homes here go for around $500,000.

If you think these budgets seem a tad out-of-reach for you, Wells suggests looking for homes just outside of downtown Charleston, in Summerville or Kane Bay. These areas boast big developments and offer a lot to buyers, including a highly rated school district, and a more affordable price point, with the median home price sitting at $288,000.

A photo depicting houses to buy next to water in Charleston.
Source: (David Martin / Unsplash)

The best time to buy a house in Charleston

Seasonal trends can greatly affect the housing market in Charleston. Wells advises that the best time to buy is in the colder months, when you can get the best deals. That said, Wells adds:

“I think the best time to buy a house is whenever the right house comes along.”

How to make your offer stand out

With the fast-paced sellers’ market in Charleston, it is important to make your offer stand out when you find the perfect home. Wells says something small that can make a big impact is creating a personal letter about why the home is perfect for you.

“You always want to [say amazing things] about the house and how much you love it,” he says. Wells also advises making sure your offer is strong financially, and includes a large down payment and solid earnest money. A squeaky-clean contract (meaning no contingencies) also will go a long way if you want to buy a house in Charleston.

Discover the importance of using a top agent

The quick-turnaround market in Charleston means it’s more important than ever to work with an agent that will utilize their skills and find you the perfect property.

Having a buyer’s agent on your side is essential to edge out the competition in the hot Charleston housing market. Top agents negotiate purchases that are, on average, 32% lower in cost than competitors, and can help you navigate local nuances, including insurance considerations. Their knowledge of the area means they can help you find a home that fits your priorities, be it top-notch school districts, or being close to nightlife.

There is no denying the historic appeal that Charleston has to offer. Whether you are looking for year-round water activities, a quiet place to retire, or a spot to call home for you and your growing family, Charleston has a neighborhood and charming hospitality for you.

Header Image Source: (Cody Silver / Unsplash)

Buying a house in charming Charleston comes with competition. Learn the secrets to this city, tips to navigating the market, and how to buy your dream home in Chucktown.HomeLight Blog

The Reason Mortgage Rates Are Projected to Increase and What It Means for YouKCM CrewKeeping Current Matters

The Reason Mortgage Rates Are Projected to Increase and What It Means for You | Keeping Current Matters

We’re currently experiencing historically low mortgage rates. Over the last fifty years, the average on a Freddie Mac 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has been 7.76%. Today, that rate is 2.81%. Flocks of homebuyers have been taking advantage of these remarkably low rates over the last twelve months. However, there’s no guarantee rates will remain this low much longer.

Whenever we try to forecast mortgage rates, we should consider the advice of Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American:

“You know, the fallacy of economic forecasting is don’t ever try and forecast interest rates and/or, more specifically, if you’re a real estate economist mortgage rates, because you will always invariably be wrong.”

Many things impact mortgage rates. The economy, inflation, and Fed policy, just to name a few. That makes forecasting rates difficult. However, there’s one metric that has held up over the last fifty years – the relationship between mortgage rates and the 10-year treasury rate. Here’s a graph detailing this relationship since Freddie Mac started keeping mortgage rate records in 1972:The Reason Mortgage Rates Are Projected to Increase and What It Means for You | Keeping Current MattersThere’s no denying the close relationship between the two. Over the last five decades, there’s been an average 1.7-point spread between these two rates. It’s this long-term relationship that has some forecasters projecting an increase in mortgage rates as we move throughout the year. This is based on the recent surge in the 10-year treasury rate shown here:The Reason Mortgage Rates Are Projected to Increase and What It Means for You | Keeping Current MattersThe spread between the two is now 1.53, indicating mortgage rates could rise. Actually, a bump-up in rate has already begun. As Joel Kan, Associate VP of Economic Forecasting for the Mortgage Bankers Association, reveals:

“Expectations of faster economic growth and inflation continue to push Treasury yields & mortgage rates higher. Since hitting a survey low in December, the 30-year fixed rate has slowly risen, & last week climbed to its highest level since Nov 2020.”

How high might they go in 2021?

No one knows for sure. Sam Khater, Chief Economist for Freddie Mac, recently suggested:

“While there are multiple temporary factors driving up rates, the underlying economic fundamentals point to rates remaining in the low 3% range for the year.”

What does this mean for you?

Whether you’re a first-time buyer or you’ve purchased a home before, even an increase of half a point in mortgage rate (2.81 to 3.31%) makes a big difference. On a $300,000 mortgage, that difference (including principal and interest) is $82 a month, $984 a year, or a total of $29,520 over the life of the home loan.

Bottom Line

Based on the 50-year symbiotic relationship between treasury rates and mortgage rates, it appears mortgage rates could be headed up this year. It may make sense to buy now rather than wait.

The post The Reason Mortgage Rates Are Projected to Increase and What It Means for You appeared first on Keeping Current Matters.

We’re currently experiencing historically low mortgage rates.
The post The Reason Mortgage Rates Are Projected to Increase and What It Means for You appeared first on Keeping Current Matters.Keeping Current Matters

10 Relaxing Home Decor Ideas to Transform Your SpaceAlison BentleyRedfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More

Much of our time these days is spent at home. Whether you’re still working from a home office, meal-prepping in your kitchen on weekends, or spending most of your leisure time looking at other homes for sale on your favorite real estate app, you may feel your home is not the calming space you’d hope it to be. Regardless of how you spend your time, your home is your sanctuary, where you should feel relaxed and be able to unwind from your daily life. If you want to design a more calming space but don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered.

From adding cozy blankets and scented candles to dedicating a space to practice meditation, creating a relaxing house is just a couple of design steps away. Whether you live in warm Los Angeles, CA, or rainy Seattle, WA, one of these 10 relaxing home decor ideas is sure to transform your home into an even more calming place you’ll be happy to spend time in.

relaxing-home-decor-ideas

1) Design your space with cozy fabrics

There’s no better place to start designing a calming space than decorating with cozy fabrics. Whether that’s getting a new throw blanket for your couch or reupholstering your chair with a crushed velvet fabric, you can decorate just about anything with textiles. Soft fabrics bring a soothing, cozy feel to your home and can make you feel like you’re in a serene environment no matter the season. So break out the quilts, incorporate a fuzzy shag carpet, or pick up some soft throw pillows to make your space more relaxing after a long day.

2) Create balance between colors

When looking for the right relaxing home decor idea, think about how you’ll strike a balance between the colors in your space. Rather than bringing in lots of bright colors, consider adding a pop of color with a pillow or throw blanket against a neutral couch or chair. Unless you find yourself drawn to vibrant colors, less is more when it comes to incorporating these statement elements in your home. 

3) Choose classic and calming decor ideas

When it comes to choosing relaxing home decor, you may find yourself tempted by all the up-and-coming home trends. Opting for the latest trends can be fun, but if it’s not something you totally love, chances are you may not feel that relaxed in your space. One of the keys is to pick trends that you like along with those that will stand the test of time. If you’re interested in a new style but not sure how that fits into your home, looking into reversible home design ideas may just be your best option. 

4) Carve out a space for yoga or meditation

Nothing makes a home more relaxing than creating a designated space to wind down. Whether that’s a simple corner of your living room or a small room of its own, you can easily design a space that feels secluded from the rest of your home. With a yoga mat or a floor pillow, a few green plants, and a photo you love, you can easily make a calming nook for your yoga flow or mindfulness practice.

relaxing-house

5) Use a weighted blanket in your bedroom

Chances are you’ve heard about weighted blankets. If you haven’t, weighted blankets range from 5 to 30 pounds and mimic therapeutic techniques of deep pressure stimulation, much like a massage. For those that have trouble balancing work and home life, choosing a weighted blanket for your bed or living room may help you relax. Either way, having a great blanket is one of the easiest relaxing home decor ideas to bring into your space to help you shut off for the evening. 

6) Light candles or diffuse essential oils throughout your home

Scents can be the gateway to creating a relaxing environment in your home. Whether you gravitate towards a calming chamomile scent or the smell of lavender before you go to sleep, there’s an essential oil for everything. If you’re more of a candle user, you can find a variety of scents perfect for cultivating a relaxing space. Fresh baked cookies, check. Christmas cheer, check. Nothing beats lighting your favorite candle or turning on your essential oil diffuser after a long day and letting your favorite aromas fill your home.

7) Mood lighting makes a relaxing home

If the weather is gloomy or it’s dark by the time you finish your workday, some much needed light can be all you need for a peaceful home. From sun lamps that mimic the benefits of sunlight or just incorporating string lights throughout your home, the options are endless. You can easily make your space more relaxing by switching up your lights and bringing a new vibe to your home. 

bright-living-room

8) Embrace any and all natural light

Natural light is one of the easiest elements to brighten up your space. But if you live in an apartment with minimal windows or your living room doesn’t let in much natural light, there’s no need to worry. It all starts with embracing what natural light you do have in your home. Highlight the windows with high drapes to draw your eyes upward or keep window shades pulled open for as long as the daylight hours allow. Making an effort to let in any light from clouds or sun into your home can make your space more calming and welcoming. 

9) Take inspiration from nature for relaxing home decor

If getting out into nature makes you feel more relaxed, look to nature for inspiration when designing your house to be more relaxing. Incorporating the right shade of wood furniture into your home can evoke feelings of the mountains or the beach. Consider lighting a Fraser fir-scented candle or adding a few drops of pine essential oil in your diffuser to bring the mountain relaxation into your home. Taking inspiration from nature may be as simple as hanging a picture of your favorite beach or lake. That way you’ll have a serene feeling every time you see the photo.

10) Incorporate a plant garden

Plants are known to be a great way to incorporate nature and its properties into your relaxing home decor. The key is to choose plants that work with your space, like small succulents against a windowsill or tall fiddle leaf figs in a sunny room. For greenery that has multiple uses, consider starting an herb garden so you’ll have fresh herbs year-round. No matter how you bring plants into your home you’re likely to find yourself enjoying the greenery you see each day.

The post 10 Relaxing Home Decor Ideas to Transform Your Space appeared first on Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More.

Check out these 10 relaxing home decor ideas to help to create a more peaceful house. With more time spent at home, you can finally make your home a more calming and serene place to be.
The post 10 Relaxing Home Decor Ideas to Transform Your Space appeared first on Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More.Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More

Everything You Need to Know About Closing CostsJeff AnttilaRedfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More

If you’re a first-time homebuyer, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of making plans for your new space. Even as you dream about color schemes, furniture placement, and what the ideal layout of your new home will be like, you’re probably also keeping a close eye on interest rates and what your future mortgage payment will be. However, there are other transaction details you may easily overlook, such as the myriad of additional fees and costs charged to buyers as part of their home purchase transaction, also known as closing costs. These costs can add up quickly, so keep reading to find out more about closing costs, what to expect, and how much you may need to pay.

Don't forget about closing costs when buying a home

What are closing costs? 

As your closing date approaches, your lender will provide a closing disclosure for you to review. It may be the first time you see an itemized list of one-time fees you are expected to pay on closing day, these will be in addition to your down payment. These standard closing costs are used to pay the various parties involved in transferring ownership of the house from the previous owner to you. 

Your lender should provide the closing disclosure at least three days before your final closing date. You should review this disclosure for accuracy and to understand the various charges. This is the time to ask any questions before the deal is finalized. Here is a sample closing disclosure to familiarize yourself with the form.

What does closing disclosure include? 

Your disclosure will itemize your loan terms and the breakdown of the purchase price, principle, interest, and payment amounts, along with any fees associated with securing the loan. 

  • You’ll see line items for costs for the title process, any county or state fees for taxes and utilities, and any interest rate points or closings costs you prepaid. 
  • The disclosure will break out the calculations from your purchase price, payments, and how that amount gets divided up to cover all of those fees and costs. 

The closing disclosure outlines every single cost associated with your loan and ownership transfer. You want to make sure you understand the math and run through it yourself to double-check the numbers. No matter how professional and experienced your lender’s team is, mistakes do happen now and then.

For a first-time homebuyer, closing costs may come as a big surprise. As you’ve seen from the closing disclosure statement, the amounts can be significant enough to have you scrambling at the last minute if you’re not prepared. Your lender should provide both timely and reliable estimates, but you can get ahead of the curve by calculating your own estimates so you’ll have a good idea of what to expect. 

How do I estimate closing costs? 

Several factors influence your closing costs, and as a result, these costs are not set in stone and will vary from one home purchase to the next. 

 Factors to include in your closing costs:

  • The purchase price of the home
  • Your down payment amount
  • The type of loan you choose 
  • Any adjustments you negotiate with the seller 

Typically, closing costs run between 2% and 5% of the price of your home. On a home purchased for $300,000, closing costs could range from $6,000 to $15,000, which is a significant range. 

For more context, the median value for a single-family home in January was $330,485. So the average closing costs for such a home could range between $6,609 and $16,524 (2-5% of the purchase price). This amount covered taxes, bank fees, and third-party fees such as those charged by the title company.

Estimate your closing costs by preparing for an amount at the higher end of the range, this will hopefully leave you with extra money if your closing costs come in lower.

How do closing costs affect a home purchase? 

This is an excellent question, one that more homebuyers need to ask. Before closing on the property, you have likely paid several fees already.

As part of your contract, you paid earnest money to secure the property. This payment showed the seller that you were a good-faith buyer who planned to move forward with the home purchase. Earnest money usually applies to the downpayment but can also be used for the closing costs. 

To secure a mortgage, the lender requires an appraisal. An appraisal fee ranges from $400-$550 depending on the home’s size, purchase price, and distance the appraiser must travel. You may pay this separately ahead of time, or it may show up as an item on the closing disclosure statement, which will become payable on the day of closing. 

If your contract included a home inspection contingency, a home inspector would have performed a home inspection which you’ll also have to pay for. During this process, the inspector checks the home’s systems (plumbing, heating, and electrical) and structural items (roof, siding, windows, and foundation.) Home inspections can cost upwards of $500, depending on the home’s size. You may have paid this upfront, but most likely, it will be a charge listed on the closing disclosure statement. 

Most of these contingencies and fees should be satisfied to fulfill your purchase contract. If you paid them directly to the service provider, they should not show up on the closing disclosure. If you didn’t pay them ahead of time, they will be payable on the final closing day. 

Closing day: a couple agree to all closing costs before taking ownership of their new home.

Here are the most common closing-related costs payable on the day of closing

Lender fees 

Lender fees include credit report fees, points, flood determination, homeowners insurance, and private mortgage insurance (if applicable). 

There are two types of points in a mortgage process, origination points and discount points. Homebuyers can prepay discount points as a way to lower their interest rate. In some cases, you can use points money toward closing costs. Origination points are the fees your lender charges for the upfront work done to secure your loan. 

Lenders may also require a flood determination to ascertain if the property lies in a flood plain. The borrower pays the cost of the determination. If it is discovered that the home exists within a flood plain, your lender will require you to get special flood insurance for the property. 

Your lender will also require proof of homeowners insurance before releasing funds for the purchase. The lender will need the first year’s worth of insurance to be paid by the closing date. You can make future payments through escrow if you set your mortgage payments up to collect that from you monthly. 

You will also see charges for documents and processing fees or loan origination fees. These fees can include loan application processing, underwriting, and other services.

Third-party fees

These are fees charged by the title company to complete all of the necessary background checks on the property. The title company will perform a title search to ensure the seller is the actual owner of the property and to make sure there are no liens against the property or other issues that may prevent the sale. As part of this process, the title company issues title insurance to protect against past defects in the property’s title, such as forged documents, undiscovered heirs, or undisclosed liens—to allow for a clear title for purchase. 

Your title company will also check local tax records to ensure the previous owner has all taxes paid up to date. If not, the seller must settle all payments before closing on the home. The tax information allows the title company to prorate the new buyer’s taxes. For example, if you close in September, the previous owner will be credited taxes paid through the last three months of the year. As the new buyer, you will see a tax charge for the last three months of the year. 

The title company also checks for unpaid utility charges and homeowner association fees, unpaid charges show up as part of the tax bill. The previous owner will have to clear any outstanding fees before closing. 

Real estate commissions are also paid out to your agent and the seller’s agent at the final closing. These fees will show up on the closing disclosure statement. If you negotiated with your real estate agent for a reduced commission, be sure to double-check those commission numbers. 

Other potential homebuyer fees

If you are buying the property without a real estate agent’s help, you may want to hire an attorney to review your contract or represent you throughout the purchase process. Attorney fees are typically paid directly, but if you don’t, then you will need to pay them at the closing. 

By now, you know that purchasing a home is a dynamic process that demands your careful attention. Many moving parts need to fall into place to determine the final closing amount. If you paid for a fee at any point along the way, keep track of it and examine your closing disclosure statement closely. This way, you won’t pay twice.

Possible seller credits

For some home purchases, certain repairs identified in-home inspection reports do not get completed, or the seller offered an allowance for the new owner to complete the work after closing. These items will show up on your closing disclosure statement as a credit from the seller. In effect, such credits lower the purchase price and reduce closing costs. A typical allowance might be for new carpeting or new appliances. 

Is it possible for closing costs to change? 

Yes, your closing costs could change at the last minute. For example

  • If the home appraises for less than the sales price, the buyer and seller may have to renegotiate the price. 
  • A title search could turn up a problem such as a lien on the property. 
  • If the interest rates jump, you may want to change the type of loan you take out as the buyer. You may also decide to pay more or less for a downpayment. 
  • Before releasing final funds, the lender may find a new issue with your credit history. A situation like this could change the closing costs if you need to pay down a credit line with loan funds or if the credit issue affects your interest rate and points.

Are closing costs set in stone, or can we reduce them? 

As a buyer, you can negotiate prices and fees with any party involved in the purchase process to reduce closing fees. In some cases, the seller may be willing to cover some or all of the closing costs to finalize the purchase. 

You can also shop around for a new lender and possibly a different home insurance company to find better rates and terms.

If you want to reduce your closing costs, it may take some leg work but it’s possible, especially in today’s competitive housing market. You may find you are better off in the long run by investing time before closing to negotiate lowering your costs wherever you can. 

Homebuyers should plan for closing costs

As the clock ticks down to your closing date, the last thing you want is an issue popping up and causing the sale to fall through. When you prepare properly for closing costs, you can eliminate this last-minute stressor. 

Conventional loans require a downpayment of 20% of the home’s purchase price to eliminate private mortgage insurance (PMI). If it’s going to be challenging to come up with an additional 2-5% for closing costs, it may be worth making a smaller downpayment. You can then put the difference towards the closing costs and finalize the purchase of the home. Though you will have a slightly higher mortgage payment with PMI, you’ll still be able to close on the home. 

Can homebuyers receive assistance for closing costs?

There are many first-time homebuyer programs that can assist homebuyers with down payment and closing costs assistance. Many of these programs specifically serve first-time homebuyers, especially buyers with moderate and lower incomes. A first-time homebuyer is anyone who has not owned a home in the last three years. So, if you’ve owned a home previously, you might still qualify for one of these programs as long as you have not owned a home recently. 

As a homebuyer, you can also use monetary gifts from friends and family to pay for closing costs. Ask your lender about any gift letter requirements and limits on amounts. 

There are many fees and costs that make up the final closing costs when buying a home. Don’t let all of the numbers intimidate you. If you have questions, ask your lender, ask the title company, and ask your real estate agent to clarify. It is their job to help buyers and sellers finalize a property transfer. Just like you, they want the transaction to proceed smoothly – so you can move into your new home and begin enjoying your new space.

The post Everything You Need to Know About Closing Costs appeared first on Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More.

Small details may get overlooked when you purchase a home, such as all the additional fees charged. Here is everything you need to know about closing costs, what they are, and how to estimate their costs.
The post Everything You Need to Know About Closing Costs appeared first on Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More.Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More

5 Ways to Win a Real Estate Bidding War without the Highest BidRyan CastilloRedfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More

You may shortly find yourself in a real estate bidding war if you’re one of the many first-time homebuyers looking to buy in competitive markets like Austin, TX or Denver, CO. You may also think the only way to win the house is by putting in the highest offer. While this sounds like the right and possibly only strategy, you might be surprised when a homeowner selects a lower bid. 

Winning a real estate bidding war doesn’t always come down to price – there are actually many other tactics that are extremely effective. All-cash offers, pre-approval letters, and flexible timelines are all strategies that can beat out the highest offer. When you’re planning your bidding strategy, consider the following tactics to help make your offer stand out amongst the competition.

1. Get pre-approved for a mortgage

One of the first steps you should take towards purchasing a house is obtaining a pre-approval letter. A pre-approval letter states that a lender is willing to lend money up to a certain amount. These are typically acquired from a mortgage company or a bank. 

Getting pre-approved is almost always beneficial when buying a house, but especially if another buyer puts in a large offer during a real estate bidding war, but isn’t pre-approved. By having this letter, you can show the seller that you’re a qualified and serious buyer, even if you don’t have the highest bid. Pre-approval letters typically have an expiration date of 30 to 60 days, however, they can be updated with reverification of your information.

2. Go in with an all-cash offer

We’ve all heard the term “cash is king,” and when it comes to real estate bidding wars it’s no different. Having cash on hand means that mortgage companies don’t need to get involved, escrow closes faster, and you don’t have to worry about appraisals. All-cash offers show the seller you mean business and are ready to buy the house today.

3. Provide a flexible timeline

Flexibility around specific details in real estate transactions is nearly as good as offering the highest bid. Sometimes sellers need more or less time in the home than the typical 30-day closing period. If you are not in a rush to move, be flexible with your closing timeline and let the seller decide when works best for them. This can go a long way in a real estate bidding war especially if competing offers come in with hard deadlines. 

4. Eliminate contingencies during a real estate bidding war

Of course, there will always be contingencies when buying a house. Home inspections, financing, and appraisals are all important, however, you want to make sure that you aren’t overwhelming the seller by asking for too much. If you want to be the victor in a bidding war without the highest offer, you should remove as many contingencies as possible. However, it’s important to note that as you eliminate contingencies, you’re effectively taking risk off the home seller (which is why it’s a winning strategy) and putting it instead on yourself. 

5. Write a personal letter about why you are the perfect homeowners

Almost all sellers want to make sure their home is going to people that will take care of it and love it as much as they do. Including a personal offer letter, complimenting recent renovations, stating why you would be the perfect caretakers, and sharing what you love about the home, will help you stand out. It won’t always make a major difference, but this personal touch can help compliment an offer even if it’s not the highest bid. 

Real estate bidding wars can be extremely competitive, but implementing these five strategies can help your offer stand out. You should also consult with your real estate agent, as they may have additional insight on how to make your offer more attractive. In the end, the sellers are going to choose the offer that’s most attractive to them, so do whatever you can to make your offer the best on the table.

The post 5 Ways to Win a Real Estate Bidding War without the Highest Bid appeared first on Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More.

You might be in a real estate bidding war and think that putting in the highest offer is the best way to win. However, there are many other tactics and strategies to consider that may just beat the highest bid.
The post 5 Ways to Win a Real Estate Bidding War without the Highest Bid appeared first on Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More.Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More

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