Real Estate

5 ways to start investing in real estate — even if you’ve never invested before

By Arielle O’Shea, NerdWallet

If you’ve ever had a landlord, you probably don’t dream of being one: Fielding calls about oversize bugs and overflowing toilets doesn’t seem like the most glamorous job.

But done right, real estate investment can be lucrative, if not flashy. It can help diversify your existing investment portfolio and be an additional income stream. And it doesn’t always require showing up at a tenant’s every beck and call.

The trouble is that many new investors don’t know where or how to invest in real estate. So here are five options, ranging from high maintenance to low.

Real estate can be lucrative when done right. Matt Cardy/Getty Images

1. Invest in rental properties

Tiffany Alexy didn’t intend to become a real estate investor when she bought her first rental property at age 21. Then a college senior in Raleigh, North Carolina, she planned to attend grad school locally and figured buying would be better than renting.

“I went on Craigslist and found a four-bedroom, four-bathroom condo that was set up student-housing style. I bought it, lived in one bedroom and rented out the other three,” Alexy says.

The setup covered all of her expenses and brought in an extra $100 per month in cash — far from chump change for a grad student, and enough that Alexy caught the real estate bug. Now age 27, she has five rentals and is a broker and owner of Alexy Realty Group in Raleigh.

Alexy entered the market using a strategy sometimes called house hacking, a term coined by BiggerPockets, an online resource for real estate investors. It essentially means you’re occupying your investment property, either by renting out rooms, as Alexy did, or by renting out units in a multi-unit building. David Meyer, vice president of growth and marketing at the site, says house hacking lets investors buy a property with up to four units and still qualify for a residential loan.

Of course, you can also buy and rent out an entire investment property. Find one with combined expenses lower than the amount you can charge in rent. And if you don’t want to be the person who shows up with a toolbelt to fix a leak — or even the person who calls that person — you’ll also need to pay a property manager.

“If you manage it yourself, you’ll learn a lot about the industry, and if you buy future properties you’ll go into it with more experience,” says Meyer.

2. Fix up and resell properties

This is HGTV come to life: You purchase an underpriced home in need of a little love, renovate it as inexpensively as possible and then resell it for a profit. Called house flipping, the strategy is a wee bit harder than it looks on TV.

“There is a bigger element of risk, because so much of the math behind flipping requires a very accurate estimate of how much repairs are going to cost, which is not an easy thing to do,” says Meyer.

His suggestion: Find an experienced partner. “Maybe you have capital or time to contribute, but you find a contractor who is good at estimating expenses or managing the project,” he says.

The other risk of flipping is that the longer you hold the property, the less money you make because you’re paying a mortgage without bringing in any income. You can lower that risk by living in the house as you fix it up. This works as long as most of the updates are cosmetic and you don’t mind a little dust.

Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for FMB Development

3. Use a crowdfunding service

If you’re familiar with companies such as Prosper and LendingClub — which connect borrowers to investors willing to lend them money for various personal needs, such as a wedding or home renovation — you’ll understand the concept behind investing through a real estate crowdfunding site.

Companies including RealtyShares and RealtyMogul connect real estate developers to investors who want to finance projects, either through debt or equity. Investors hope to receive monthly or quarterly distributions in exchange for taking on a significant amount of risk and paying a fee to the platform. Like many real estate investments, these are speculative and illiquid — you can’t easily unload them the way you can trade a stock.

The rub is that you need money to make money. Real estate crowdfunding is generally open only to accredited investors, defined by the Securities and Exchange Commission as people who’ve earned income of more than $200,000 ($300,000 with a spouse) in each of the last two years or have a net worth of $1 million or more, not including a primary residence.

4. REITs

REITs, or real estate investment trusts, allow you to invest in real estate without the physical real estate. Often compared to mutual funds, they’re companies that own commercial real estate such as office buildings, retail spaces, apartments and hotels.

REITs tend to pay high dividends, which makes them a good investment in retirement. Investors who don’t need or want the regular income can automatically reinvest those dividends to grow their investment further.

REITs can be varied and complex. Some trade on an exchange like a stock; others aren’t publicly traded. The type of REIT you purchase can be a big factor in the amount of risk you’re taking on, as non-traded REITs aren’t easily sold and might be hard to value.

New investors should generally stick to publicly traded REITs, which you can purchase through an online broker. (See the NerdWallet analysis of the best brokers for beginners if you’re new to this world.)

5. Rent out a room

Finally, to dip the very edge of your toe in the real estate waters, you could rent part of your home via a site like Airbnb. It’s house hacking for the commitment-phobe: You don’t have to take on a long-term tenant, potential renters are at least somewhat prescreened by Airbnb, and the company’s host guarantee provides protection against damages.

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Steps to Sell a House: How Long Does Each One Take?

By Jamie Wiebe

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Adam Gault/Getty Images; realtor.com

Even in the hottest markets, selling a house is by no means a transaction that happens overnight. Every step—from listing your house to getting an offer to closing—takes time. But how much time?

To help you pace yourself, here are the steps to sell a house, and how long each one typically takes so you can plan accordingly. Depending on where you live, you may need to settle in for a long ride!

How long does it take to list a home?

Answer: 3 to 5 days

It will take your listing agent a few days or a bit longer to gather all the necessary info on your home (e.g., square footage, special features, and photos). But once your agent has it all, things generally happen fast. Your agent will then upload these details onto the multiple listing service, which will make the listing viewable to agents. A shorter, consumer-friendly version of the MLS listing will also appear on sites like realtor.com®—and since this site refreshes its data at least every 15 minutes, your home will be in front of plenty of eyeballs in no time at all.

How long does it take to get an offer on a home?

Answer: 65 days

The current average age of properties on the market is 65 days. That said, this varies greatly by location and time of year, so there’s no one right answer to how long you’ll wait for that blessed first offer. Is your market hot or chilly? San Francisco residents might sell their house in a hot second, but if your place is rural, expensive, or unique, you’ll probably wait longer.

How long does it take to close after we receive an offer?

Answer: 50 days

Currently, there’s an average of 50 days between when buyers apply for financing and when they get approved and can close on a home. Yes, that’s a long time, especially if you’re selling and eager to get on with it. But buyers and mortgage companies need to do their due diligence—and you certainly don’t want any last-minute surprises before the buyer takes possession. Closings fail for a number of reasons, like contingencies (perhaps the buyer’s home didn’t sell, or the bank rejected her loan). Whatever you do, don’t be a pain and not fix issues that arise during inspection (assuming, of course, you agreed to fix them). Final walk-through surprises can delay closing even longer.

How long before I get paid?

Answer: 0 days!

Here’s good news: Your money should be available immediately after you sign on the dotted line. Cash is typically disbursed by the title or escrow company, which will wire the money to your bank account or cut a check on closing day with little to no lag time. Make sure to check with your attorney or real estate agent, though—they’ll be able to provide specific details on the process for your sale.

How long do I have to move out?

Answer: 0 days, except by special agreement

Typically, sellers are expected to move out by the day they close on the home so the new buyers can move in as soon as they’ve signed on the dotted line. Most people move out in advance of the close, but if you need more time, you can negotiate a rent-back agreement, which allows the new buyers to essentially become your landlords for a few months while you find a new place to live. But considering how long the home-selling process takes, odds are you’ll be chomping at the bit to get out!

What Is a Smart Home? How to Create One Even If You’re Not a Nerd

By Cathie Ericson
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David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ever since “The Jetsons” aired on TV in the early 1960s, we’ve been dreaming of the day our own homes would be “smart” enough to pretty much run themselves. (We kinda had a thing for Rosie the Robot, too.) And now that the term “smart home” seems to be everywhere, that day has apparently arrived! But what exactly is a smart home?

A smart home is equipped with technology that operates with minimal human input: You can lock your doors from miles away by pressing a button on your smartphone; or your heating/AC adjusts all on its own based on your preferences. There are homes that are completely tricked out, and others that make use of a clever gadget or two.

“Smart products utilize machine learning and can adapt to the environment, or the behavior of the users in their surroundings,” explains Tom Flanagan, founder of Real Estate Things, a blog that explores the intersection of technology and real estate.

Here’s how smart homes have evolved since their inception, and what it takes to have a smart home of your own.

A brief history of smart homes

While the idea of a “smart home” has been bandied about since the dawn of science fiction, Bill Gates turbocharged the concept in 1995 when he wrote “The Road Ahead,” which included his vision of the home of the future, encompassing technology like touchpads that control lighting, temperature, music, and even art. He wrote about an electronic wearable pin that “will tell the house who and where you are, and the house will use this information to try to meet and even anticipate your needs—all as unobtrusively as possible.”

Gates’ predictions turned out to be surprisingly (or, perhaps not surprisingly) on target. Starting after 2000, devices like security systems could be hooked up to a homeowner’s Wi-Fi, and smart home “hubs” grew from there, enabling more and more gadgets to be controlled from one central device. Some can even “talk” to each other (i.e., your clock can tell your coffee maker to brew a cup of joe once you’re up).

In 2013, the Consumer Electronics Show, a trade show showcasing all things tech, introduced the term “smart home,” and by 2016, the show was devoting two entire floors to smart home technology. Homeowners today are wooed by an assortment of smart home systems, including Amazon’s Echo, Google Home, Apple HomeKit, Samsung’s Smart Things, and more.

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Google Home, Amazon Echo, and Apple HomeKit are some of the leading smart home technologies

Many smart home products have already come and gone, but it’s clear that smart home technology is here to stay and of growing interest to homeowners. One survey found that almost half of all Americans either already own smart home technology or plan to invest in it soon.

According to Flanagan, almost 2 billion smart home devices will be shipped by 2019, generating an estimated $490 billion in revenue.

Steps to create a smart home: Where to start

If you’re curious about incorporating some smart home features into your house but aren’t all that tech-savvy, you’ll probably want to hold off on the cutting-edge stuff for starters. Sure, it may be cute if your toaster starts making breakfast as soon as your Jawbone registers that you’re awake, but how useful is that, really?

A more sensible place to start is smart home tech that’s simple and will save you money. Some of the most popular smart home devices include the following:

  • Smart thermostats like Google’s Nest that will automatically lower your home’s temperature at night, cutting your electricity bills.
  • Smart home smoke detectors: Installing one (which will alert you to smoke by phone even if you’re not at home) can save about 5% on your insurance premiums.
  • Smart locks: These handy locks can be programmed with special codes so you know who’s entering your house. For example, when your kids arrive home from school, you’ll get an alert so you can call and start nagging them about their homework. You can also program guest codes that work at certain times, such as for when a housecleaner or dog walker is expected. Codes can be canceled, if you decide that you don’t want the window washer inside after all, or changed remotely at any time. No more wondering who has one of your house keys, or whether your kids are going to be locked out.
  • Smart video cameras: These connected cameras allow you to check your home when you’re away. They can also be programmed to send alerts when there is activity. For example, they can start recording and send you a video clip when your kids come home from school or if they detect motion in a certain room.
  • Smart lighting: Some lighting systems allow you to set timers that you can override with an app if you’re going to be home later than expected. Other systems have sensors that recognize when dusk is approaching and turn on automatically.

 

While no one can predict for sure what smart homes of the future might look like, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg—who built a rather imperfect artificial-intelligence assistant modeled “kind of like Jarvis in ‘Iron Man’”—cautions, “AI is both closer and farther off than we imagine.” In other words, don’t get too caught up in any sci-fi fantasies of martini-mixing robotic butlers just yet.

 

From the Credit Check to Getting the Keys: Answers for the Big First-Time Homebuying Questions

By Brittney Morgan

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New to the home-buying process? If you’re ready to start looking for your dream home—or if you’re just looking to learn more about how buying a home works for the future—there’s a lot you’ll need to know. The process is long and can be as stressful and confusing as it is exciting. Sometimes you’ll feel like celebrating, while other times you’ll feel like you’re drowning in paperwork, but in the end, when you finally close on your new home, it’ll all be worth it. In the meantime, you’ll probably have a lot of questions come up, so here’s what you need to know.

What’s the first step in the process?

If you haven’t started doing research about homes and mortgages or saving up money, those should be your first steps. But, if you’re ready to really get into the home-buying process and have some down payment money saved up, your first step is to talk to your bank and different mortgage companies and mortgage brokers to find out your lending options and get pre-approved for a loan.

Can I buy a home if I don’t have great credit?

If your credit score is below 700, you’ll be at a disadvantage, but that doesn’t mean you can’t buy a home. You may have to pay a higher interest rate, or you may be able to qualify for a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan if you have poor credit that’s still above a score of 580, but you’ll have to pay mortgage insurance (which protects the lender) which will cost you.

What are points?

Points, or discount points, are fees that the buyer pays to the lender during closing in exchange for a reduced interest rate on their mortgage. One point is the equivalent of 1% of your mortgage amount, and while they cost money up front, they can save you potentially thousands of dollars in the long run.

What is a foreclosure?

When a homeowner fails to pay their mortgage, their home is foreclosed on—it’s a legal process in which the homeowner gives up the rights to their home. If the homeowner can’t pay the balance or sell the home, it goes to auction. Prospective homeowners can buy foreclosed homes—it’s one option for getting a great deal on a home, but it can also be extremely risky. If you’re considering buying a foreclosure, HomeFinder has a great breakdown of all the related issues.

What does a Realtor do?

Realtors handle negotiations between home buyers and sellers. When Realtors represent buyers, they help their clients find the best property for them at the best price, and navigate them through the offer and closing process. Realtors representing sellers market their client’s property, help them find qualified buyers, and help them get the best price for their property.

Who pays the Realtor?

According to Realtor.com, the seller is generally responsible for paying the Realtor’s fees and commissions, since the Realtor represents them and helps them make the sale. The seller’s realtor typically splits their commission with the buyer’s realtor—that’s how the person representing the buyer makes money on the deal.

What is earnest money?

An earnest money deposit, or good faith deposit, is a deposit the buyer makes once their offer is accepted in order to show the seller they’re committed to buying the property. The deposit means that it’s unlikely a buyer would enter into multiple purchase contracts on multiple homes at once (which would take all of those homes off the market). Once the sale goes through—a.k.a. at closing—the earnest money deposit is applied towards the down payment.

How long does it take to close?

A 2016 study from Realtor Mag shows that the average closing time is around 50 days, and the time to close depends on funding, appraisal disparities, and more. You can help speed up your closing by addressing any title issues and repairs.

What happens at closing?

At closing (also known as the settlement) the buyer provides a check for what they owe on the home, the seller signs over the deed to the home to the buyer, the title company registers the new deed to the home, and the seller receives any proceeds they earned from the sale. According to the Home Buying Institute, it’s a lot of paperwork and you’ll likely sign your (full) name anywhere from 10 to 30 times. Get your arm ready.

Who pays closing costs?

Both the seller and the buyer have closing costs to pay, but they differ a lot. According to Zillow, the seller’s costs are usually higher (since they pay the Realtor’s commission) but they cover less costs in general. The buyer, on the other hand, pays for more line items. Those items include several fees, from appraisal fees and origination fees to bank processing fees and title insurance.

How much does the inspection cost?

According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of a home inspection in 2016 was $318, but could cost as low as $200 or as much as $470.

Who pays for the inspection?

Since the inspection is to benefit you, the buyer, you’ll pay the cost of the inspection (it’ll likely come out of pocket ahead of your closing)—although you may be able to negotiate to have the seller pay it, but it’s unlikely.

What and when is the final walk-through?

The final walk-through takes place after the inspection and is usually scheduled for the day before closing. This is your opportunity to check the house before the settlement, to make sure everything is in good shape and that any repairs the seller was required to make were completed.

Do I need homeowners insurance?

It’s often required, but not always (although, even if it’s not required in your area, it is a good—nay, really good idea). Homeowners insurance can help protect your home in case of damage from fire and natural disasters like floods and earthquakes, also from liability in case someone gets injured on your property, and it generally doesn’t cost that much to get a policy.

When do I get the keys?

Usually, you’ll get the keys to your new home at closing, or after closing if you need to wait until your county officially records the title (which could take a few days) or if there’s a delay with your loans. It all depends on local laws and your mortgage.

NYC real estate agents turn Snapchat into a listing tool

By Sean Barry

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Dive Brief:

  • A handful of real estate agents in New York City are using the mobile image messaging application Snapchat to show homes for sale or rent, including multimillion-dollar properties, according to CNBC.
  • The Snaplistings account gives followers an inside look at available apartments and allows them to connect directly with the real estate agents to learn more.
  • The account’s founders told CNBC that the majority of leads coming through the app are focused on the lower end of the market, since those properties are more accessible to Snapchat’s younger audience.

Dive Insight:

The recent increase in investment and development concerning mobile, web-based tools for real estate is being driven by competitive market conditions and an influx of tech-savvy homebuyers and renters. Younger buyers and renters are more likely than previous generations to engage with internet tools when looking for a new property, a recent Zillow survey found.

Last month, real estate listing website Zillow announced that it had revamped its app to feature iMessage functionality. Now, users with iOS-based mobile devices can use the app to share photos and information concerning a home for sale or rent with their regular contacts via text messaging.

Meanwhile, Realtor.com launched an automated response application for Facebook Messenger that allows users of its Doorsteps rental listing website to receive new home listings that meet their preset criteria at a set time each day through the social media platform’s web and mobile app.

 

4 Ways to Survive Future Real Estate Market Crashes

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BY LARRY ALTON

The real estate market may be very healthy compared to what it was five years ago, but that doesn’t mean we’re in some sort of eternal bliss. There will be rough patches ahead — and likely a couple more crashes in your lifetime — but how can you as an investor safeguard yourself against them?

4 Ways to Protect Yourself

“Historically, economic activity rises and falls in marked business cycles,” senior market strategist Susan Green explains. “Periods of recession appear and recede approximately every 5-10 years.” Thus, it’s reasonable to expect that we’ll encounter some economic issues in the next few years. They may not be as dramatic as what happened in 2008, but reverberations will likely be felt in the real estate market.

Luckily, there are a few ways you can protect yourself.

1. Buy properties that rent below the median.

You have to think one step ahead of the market. While it’s a good rule of thumb to have the best property on the street, you don’t want to be stuck charging a rent that’s higher than the median in the area. This may be fine during times when the market is healthy, but you’ll get swallowed up when the market falters.

People still need a place to live in a down market, but they’re naturally going to gravitate towards what they can afford. By purchasing properties that rent below the median, you can maintain steady occupancy rates, regardless of what’s happening in the larger economy.

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2. Be the best landlord possible.

It pays to be a good person. When you’re a likeable landlord who works with people, deals with maintenance issues in a swift manner, and charges affordable rent, people are more likely to stick with you when the market turns.

Related: How to Make Money in Real Estate — Whether You’re in an Up OR Down Market

On the contrary, if you’re a jerk and tenants are just renting from you because you were the only option at the time, they’re going to bolt the moment they can. Focus on building a strong reputation now so that you’re better equipped to survive a potential crash.

3. Be realistic with cash flow numbers.

When purchasing a new property, it doesn’t do anyone any favors to plug in vague numbers to determine monthly cash flow. Be conservative and honest.

“You should sit down at the computer, open a spreadsheet, and factor in all your expenses,” real estate investor Jason Hanson says. “What is insurance going to cost? Is there an HOA fee on the house? Are you getting a home warranty? You want to know down to the penny what your cash flow will be on a property.”

When the market does eventually take a downturn and rental rates decrease, you’ll at least know that you have some play in your numbers. On the other hand, if you were liberal with your computations, you’ll find yourself underwater in very little time.

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4. Pay down mortgages when possible.

There’s always the question of whether it makes more sense to pay down on an existing mortgage or put that money into a new piece of real estate. While there are schools of thought that apply to both, consider paying down rental property mortgages when you can. This gives you some leverage if the market crashes and you have difficulty making payments.

Related: The Best and Worst Markets for Residential Real Estate Investors, 2016

 

Never Put All of Your Eggs in the Same Basket

At the end of the day, financial diversification is your friend. Real estate may be one of the more stable and appreciation-friendly investments you can make, but don’t put everything you have into real estate. Spread yourself out a bit and diversify as much as possible. This mitigates your risk and provides more tolerance in a down market.

What Is a Multifamily Home? A Budget-Friendly Way to Own, Rent, or Invest in Real Estate

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Greg Chow

What is a multifamily home? It’s a building with more than one unit where people can live, each with their own separate kitchens, living rooms, electric bills, and so forth. Also called a multidwelling unit, or MDU, they are typically found in densely populated areas such as cities where space is at a premium. Multifamily homes can be rented, be owned, or serve as an investment property where landlords can collect rent from tenants.

There are around 4 million multifamily dwellings nationwide, compared with 90 million single-family homes. Although living in close quarters with others may not be ideal in terms of privacy or noise, people in multifamily homes generally pay less than those in single-family homes and are taxed with less home maintenance, because a management company may be responsible for repairing the building’s exterior or mowing the lawn.

Types of multifamily homes

Multifamily homes come in all shapes and sizes. Here are some of the more common designs:

  • Duplex: Two homes in one freestanding structure
  • Townhouse: Any number of homes attached at the sides with separate entrances
  • Condominiums (condo): A private residence in a building or community with multiple units
  • Apartment building: Could be up to hundreds of homes in one structure. Unlike the above dwellings, apartment building units are often rented by tenants rather than owned.

 

How to invest in a multifamily home

Buying a multifamily home to rent out (or where you live in one unit and rent out the rest) is a smart financial strategy—today more than ever. The reason: Homeownership is decreasing, recently dipping below the 66.6% historical average.

“That makes it a great time to think about buying investment properties, because people have to have a place to live,” says Daren Blomquist, senior vice president of ATTOM Data Solutions, a property data company based in Irvine, CA.

Unlike house flippers, who invest a little time and tolerate a lot of risk, investors in multifamily housing should anticipate owning the property and playing landlord for decades, advises Blomquist, who owns two rental properties with his wife.

“If you take care of a rental property for 20 years, it will take care of you for life,” Blomquist says. “The goal is very much long-term.”

The trick is to expect the unexpected: You’re likely to experience flaky renters and issues with damage. Consider these factors before investing.

  • Cap rate: The capitalization rate is a formula that indicates the potential return of an investment. Calculate the cap rate by dividing the net operating income (how much you pocket after expenses) by the price of the property. Blomquist would consider a rental property with a cap rate of more than 6% to be acceptable.
  • Expenses: Some multifamily property expenses such as mortgage, taxes, and insurance are relatively fixed; maintenance, however, is always unpredictable. New properties, with appliances and furnaces still under warranty, usually require little maintenance. However, properties more than 20 years old are bound to require new roofs, foundation repairs, and upgraded HVAC equipment. These unexpected maintenance bills can really eat into the profit of investment properties.
  • Turnover: Rarely does one tenant leave and another move in the next day. Blomquist says two months between tenants is common, and that means two months without income likely coupled with higher-than-usual expenses as you repair walls, clean carpets, and maybe paint to make the property more appealing.
  • Your personality: Do you have the patience of a saint? Can you focus on the forest rather than the trees? You’ll need those Zen-like qualities, along with some handyman chops, to succeed in multifamily investing. If your personality isn’t suited to being a landlord, you can always hire a property manager to fix things and find renters. But don’t forget you’ll be charged a fee, usually about 6% of your rental income, which eats into profits.

Are You Wondering What It Takes To Buy Your First Home?

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There are many people sitting on the sidelines trying to decide if they should purchase a home or sign a rental lease. Some might wonder if it makes sense to purchase a house before they are married and have a family. Others may think they are too young. And still others might think their current income would never enable them to qualify for a mortgage.

We want to share what the typical first time homebuyer actually looks like based on theNational Association of REALTORS most recent Profile of Home Buyers & Sellers. Here are some interesting revelations on the first time buyer:

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Bottom Line

You may not be much different than many people who have already purchased their first home. Meet with a local real estate professional today who can help determine if your dream home is within your grasp.

Get the Best Return on Investment with Your Next Home Improvement Project

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Home is where the heart is, but sometimes it’s also where a homeowner’s savings plan comes into account. Homeowners may have a long wish list of home renovations and projects, and sometimes the work is never done. While return on investment (ROI) may not be the biggest consideration in a homeowner’s mind when deciding which projects make it to the top of the list, knowing which projects see the highest returns may be helpful in the decision-making process.

Happiness in the home can be a part of the ROI, but other cost vs. value factors vary by region and even by room.ROI, as defined in Remodeling’s 2015 Cost vs. Value report, can be broken down as the percentage of the estimated average cost of a renovation project that is projected to be recouped in resale value, as aggregated from real estate and appraisal estimates. Let’s take a look at some of the most common renovation projects and how their ROI breaks down.

According to Huffington Post’s 10 Most Popular Remodeling Projects Across the Country, the most common remodeling job request projects in the United States are in the bathroom. A midrange bathroom addition cost, a complied in Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value report, in 2015 was estimated at $39,578. The ROI was estimated at 57.8 percent. For those needing a bathroom remodel, the cost averaged $16,724 with an ROI of 70 percent. Upscale additions and remodels naturally went up in cost, but the ROI didn’t quite hit the level of a midrange upgrade, with 58 percent and 59.8 percent, respectively. Bathroom remodeling projects that were big in 2015, according to Forbes, included custom vanities, feature floor tiles, bigger showers and plant life.

Kitchen remodel job requests accounted for 69 percent, the second most common in the U.S. Major midrange remodel costs in 2015 averaged at about $56,768 with an ROI of 67.8 percent, while minor remodels saw an ROI of 79.3 percent and a cost of about $19,226. A major upscale remodel could cost upward of $113,097 in 2015, with an ROI at 59 percent. According to My Home Ideas, trends in 2015 included built-in coffee centers, dual-fuel ranges, Italian cooking gadgets, designer dishwashers and wine refrigeration.

Not all projects, of course, are room-centered. Window/door replacement accounted for 44 percent of home remodeling job requests in 2015. This included window replacement, entry door replacement and steel, with ROIs of 72.9 percent, 78.8 percent and 72 percent, respectively. Finished basements also were high on the list, as complied by House Logic, with 27 percent of remodeling job requests. Coming in with an average cost of $65,442 in 2015, the ROI on these projects was 72.8 percent.

Additionally, home remodeling job requests vary by U.S. region. In the East-North Central (Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio), the midrange top five requests include entry door replacements, garage door replacements, manufactured stone veneers, vinyl window replacements and vinyl siding replacements. The upscale top five requests include fiber-cement siding replacements, garage door replacements, vinyl window replacements, foam-backed vinyl siding replacements and wood window replacements. In the East-South Central (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee), the midrange top five requests were much of the same, however an upscale request of fiberglass grand entrances made the cut.

The Middle-Atlantic (New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania) followed suit, along with many of the same requests in the Mountain area of the nation (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming). New England home owners (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont) in the midrange chose steel entry door replacements, manufactured stone veneers, garage door replacements, vinyl siding replacements and wood deck additions as their top five. Top upscale requests included garage door replacements, fiber-cement siding replacements, foam-backed vinyl siding replacements, vinyl window replacements and wood window replacements.

Midrange top five requests in the Pacific region (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington) mirrored New England, along with the South Atlantic (Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Washington, D.C., Florida) region and the West North Central (Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska) region.

Finally, in the West South Central (Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas), the midrange top five were manufactured stone veneers, steel entry door replacements, garage door replacements, basement remodels and roofing replacements. The top five upscale requests were fiber-cement siding replacements, garage door replacements, foam-backed vinyl siding replacements, vinyl window replacements and roofing replacements.

Advantages of Buying a Home During the Wintertime

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By Published December 23, 2015 Buying Home FOXBusiness

Spring and summer are popular times to look for a new home, but house hunters willing to brave the cold might be rewarded with a great deal. Although you’ll have fewer houses to choose from, there are also fewer buyers to contend with.

“You can leverage colder weather to your advantage because you’re a rarity — there’s less competition and buyers, which gives you negotiating power and puts you in the driver’s seat,” says Cara Ameer, broker associate and Realtor at Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty based in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. “A seller knows that someone who drives through the snow and cold weather to see their house is a pretty serious buyer.”

You may benefit from a discount too as sellers are eager to unload their homes. “Homebuyers can take their time when they’re looking for a home because there’s less people in the market and there aren’t as many bidding wars,” says Lisa Foradori, Head of Consumer Direct for Mortgage Originations at Chase.

If you need a mortgage, while rates are expected to increase eventually, they’re still low from a historical perspective. “It’s going to remain a good time to buy for a while,” says Foradori. “Getting in now as rates start to pick up, with rates where they are, makes the winter look attractive too.”

As you decide whether to hunt for houses during the cold winter months, experts provide advantages and disadvantages to consider.

Fewer Bidding Wars

Fewer buyers frequent open houses during the winter as compared to the spring, when there’s more inventory. The benefit is that you’ll have some breathing room — hot markets known for bidding wars and multiple offers tend to cool down in the colder months. “It saves buyers money and their sanity,” says Mazen Fawaz, CEO of OpenHouse.

Less Housing Supply

“The selection of houses may be less because of lower inventory versus what’s going to come on the market during the spring, but there will also be more competition in the spring,” says Ameer. The weather can make getting a home ready for showings cumbersome for a homeowner. “Sellers may have to shovel snow,” she suggests, “and people would rather wait until the holidays are over and they can take their lights and decorations down.”

Motivated Sellers

Time is money for a seller, and those sellers that open their doors to showings during the holiday season and cold-weather months want their homes to sell. “A seller probably doesn’t want to sit with the house through the winter months, particularly if they don’t live there anymore and have to make sure the home’s being maintained and safe,” says Ameer. A buyer may very well benefit from a lower price because the seller doesn’t want to continue paying for the expense of the house and would like to get it off their plate.

Quicker Mortgage Closings

“Lenders have less inventory in the winter because there are less people buying and selling and we can move the loan through the process faster,” says Foradori.

End of Year Tax Benefit

“There’s also tax implications for buying before New Year’s Eve, which fuels a lot of the activity in the ‘off season’,” says Fawaz. If you close on a new home before December 31, you can apply the purchase of your home towards deductions for that year, otherwise you’ll have to wait a full fiscal year to reap any tax benefits from your purchase.

Cheaper Moving Costs

Securing time and negotiating with vendors, movers and contractors may be easier in the wintertime. “There’s more flexibility with scheduling, and you’ll feel less rushed and under the gun,” says Ameer. “Since these companies aren’t as busy during the winter, they may be open negotiating their prices.”

Cold-Weather Inspections

“When you’re searching in the wintertime, you’re seeing the home during extreme weather and when the home’s systems like heating and plumbing, the roof, doors, windows, and insulation are being tested,” says Foradori. You can schedule your inspection during a time when you can see the house’s problems. “Depending on what you find, you can probably negotiate the price even further,” she adds.

Mid-Year School Change

People don’t always want their child to change schools midyear for continuity reasons, but this can work in your favor. Depending on your child, a midyear move could give them an opportunity to get acclimated to a new environment before summertime, says Ameer.

Shorter Daylight Hours

“You’ll see how the house holds up in harsher weather, but you don’t know what the lawn looks like,” says Ameer. Getting a sense of the exterior condition can be a challenge when it’s dark outside by 4 p.m. If you buy a home, you may not know what the landscaping actually looks like and if the grass needs to be resodded or the condition of the bushes until all the snow has melted in the spring.