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What Are Property Disclosure Statements? Info Buyers Need to Know

No matter how great a home looks at first glance, a host of problems could be hiding right under that fresh coat of paint—which is why buyers will want to scrutinize certain paperwork they’ll receive called property disclosure statements.

Property disclosure statements essentially outline any flaws that the home sellers (and their real estate agents) are aware of that could negatively affect the home’s value. These statements are required by law in most areas of the country so buyers can know a property’s good and  bad points before they close the deal. Here’s what all buyers need to know about real estate disclosures.

When do buyers receive property disclosure statements?

While it varies by area, most buyers will receive property disclosure statements after their offer has been accepted, says Atlanta Realtor® Bill Golden. That way, buyers can review this paperwork at about the same time that they typically hire a home inspector to check the property for any defects. In fact, disclosure statements can help point your inspector toward areas of a home you’d like to home in on, so try to read your disclosure statements before scheduling the inspection.

In certain areas, sellers might even hand buyers disclosure statements before an offer is made. But no matter what, it should be early enough to give buyers time to do their due diligence and spot problems that could make them reconsider whether this home is right for them.

What types of flaws must be disclosed?

Sellers are required to complete a variety of disclosure documents, which are often in the form of a government-issued checklist where they mark whether their home has (or once had) a variety of problems such as the following:

  • Windows that don’t close or doors that stick
  • Faulty foundation or leaky roof
  • Problems with appliances or home systems like the HVAC
  • Repairs made on any of the above as well as insurance claims
  • Renovations completed without a permit
  • Pest or mold infestations
  • Environmental hazards in the area (e.g., floods and wildfires)

The federal government requires certain disclosures anywhere in the U.S., like the existence of lead-based paint, asbestos, or other clear health and safety risks. However, states and counties also have their own particular laws on which issues must be disclosed. For instance, some states require sellers to disclose nearby sexual offenders, while others do not. Some require a death on the property to be disclosed, especially if it was a murder, while others leave you to do that kind of sleuthing yourself.

If buyers (and their real estate agent) read a disclosure document and see nothing to worry about, they sign off on it before moving one step closer to sealing the deal. If, on the other hand, buyers spot something worrisome, it’s in their interests to delve further.

What to do if a disclosure reveals something bad

If you spot something on a disclosure statement that you don’t understand or that raises concerns, have your real estate agent bring it up with the sellers (or their listing agent). In some cases, they might have an explanation that puts you at ease (i.e., “we had bedbugs back in 2012 but hired an exterminator and have been free and clear ever since”). Or, if the issue makes you seriously question whether you want to move forward, this could be an opportunity to renegotiate the sales price to compensate for the added risk you’re taking on buying this home.

At worst, you can always back out of the deal without penalty—meaning you won’t have to forfeit your earnest money deposit. And if you happen to find a problem that should have been disclosed but wasn’t, that’s all the more reason to consider carefully whether you want to move forward. After all, if sellers covered one thing up, what else could they be hiding?

However, keep in mind that the sellers are required to reveal only all known problems. That’s key. Sellers aren’t typically held responsible for problems they aren’t aware of. And that’s just one more reason why buyers absolutely should get a home inspection to root out any potential problems themselves.

But all in all, smart sellers inform buyers of everything they need to know upfront. While property disclosures exist mainly to protect the buyer from getting a lemon, this paperwork protects the seller, too.

“If sellers disclose everything they know about the house, a buyer can’t come back to them later saying they weren’t told about an issue,” says Golden.

Property disclosure statements save everyone time, hassle, and expense by preventing deals from falling apart—and that benefits both buyers and sellers.

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How to Flip a House: 7 Signs You’ll Rake in Huge Profits

It seems like just about everyone these days fantasizes about how to flip a house. The reality? Doing it successfully largely hinges on picking the right place at the right time—which is why veteran flippers keep a mental checklist to help steer them toward homes that are primed to gush cash.

Curious about those signs that indicate all systems go? Let’s check out those qualities deemed by real estate investors as signs a house flip will pay off big-time.

Sign No. 1: It’s in a neighborhood where homes sell fast

One of the first clues that a house is flip-worthy is that it’s in an area where homes sell quickly, says Larry Friedman of SDF Capital in New York and Connecticut. After all, in this game time is money—every extra month you own the house means you’re on the hook for more mortgage payments and maintenance costs. Fast-moving markets generally mean these overheads won’t last long.

Realtor.com data show that, on a national level, homes remain on the market for 62 days on average. Yet in a blistering area like San Francisco, homes typically sell in 25 days; in slow markets like Albany, NY, it’ll take 81 days. So be sure to check how long it will take in your own neighborhood by checking research.realtor.com.

Sign No. 2: The house meets the 70% rule

For a flip to be worth your time, effort, and money, you should make between 10% to 30% return on your investment. To determine your potential return, see if the flip meets the 70% rule. Can the house be bought for 70% of what it will be worth once fixed up, minus any needed repairs, closing costs, and real estate agent fees?

For example, if you can buy a house for $110,000 and fix it up for $30,000, you’ll want to sell it for around $200,000 in order for it to be worth your while, says Mark Ferguson, a Realtor and creator of Investfourmore.com.

To find what a home will be worth fixed up, check the prices of similar houses in the neighborhood (more on that next).

Sign No. 3: You can price the house right

To get a ballpark figure for how much you can sell a house for once it’s fixed up, one safe rule of thumb is to check the median home price for that market. (You can find this information by entering a home’s address or ZIP code at Realtor.com/local). In Parma Heights, OH, the median sales price is $117,000, while at the other end of the range in Manhattan, NY, buyers expect to pay $1 million. Of course, this presumes your home is typical in terms of size and number of rooms.

Sign No. 4: The property has more than one bedroom

Don’t buy a one-bedroom house to flip, because most home buyers are looking for two bedrooms and more. Anything smaller will minimize the demand at resale. Another flip-worthy must is a functional floor plan. Translation: You shouldn’t have to go through a bedroom to get to the kitchen.

Sign No. 5: The needed repairs are mostly cosmetic

The physical condition of the home should be fair and correctable without draining your bank account—like a kitchen or bathroom renovation or installing new flooring. Repairs that should give you pause include foundation and structural issues. Tackling these two problems can destroy a reno budget with overages and stretch the time frame of the flip.

“The home needs to be in good shape to begin with, unless you are planning a very large gut and addition, which is unlikely in most flips,” says Realtor Misty Weaver at Keller Williams Realty, in Winchester, VA.

Sign No. 6: Understand what scares home buyers

Most home buyers touring an open house can deal with a lime-colored wall they need to repaint or one appliance that dates to the Reagan administration. What many buyers can’t handle, though, are intimidating and pricey projects like replacing an old furnace (which will cost around $4,000), putting on a new roof ($3,000 to $10,000), electrical upgrades ($1,500 and up), or plumbing issues ($1,000 to $10,000). Not only do these issues spook home buyers, they also could make the home hard to finance with lender money.

Last but not least, a home shouldn’t have any “crazy characteristics like a railroad in the backyard, a very busy road out front, or other problems that can’t be changed,” says Ferguson.

Sign No. 7: The neighborhood itself doesn’t need flipping

People don’t just live in a house, they live in the surrounding area, too. A potential flip should be in a good neighborhood with access to transportation and amenities like parks. Perhaps the biggest indicator of a flip-worthy home is the quality of the schools.

“A large segment of the market buys to be in a good school district,” says Susan Naftulin, owner and president of Rehab Financial Group, who makes loans to house flippers. Even if you don’t have kids, most buyers see good schools as a huge plus.

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5 Reasons Why Buying an Old House Is a Great Idea

We understand the appeal of moving into a newly constructed home. After all, it’s hard not to be enticed by brand-new appliances, floors, and heating, cooling, and electrical systems. Plus, buying an old place that needs work can be intimidating, especially for those of us whose only brush with restoring a house has come from watching reruns of “Fixer Upper.”

However, home buyers can see all the beauty and potential in older houses. What some view as eyesores, others see as charm—four walls full of history that can’t be duplicated. Besides the nostalgia factor, an old house can be a smart purchase for the sake of your wallet.

Take a look at the top reasons why buying an old house might just be the best decision you’ll ever make.

1. Old homes are cheaper than new homes

What classifies as an older home? In general, if a home does not use or contain modern materials such as high-performance concrete, it qualifies as “old.” Normally, these homes would have been built before 1970.

Shelley Cluff, a real estate broker and owner of Park Place Homes, in Midland, MI, explains that an older home gives you substantially more bang for your buck.

“On average, a comparably sized new construction can sell for 10% to 20% more than an older, updated home,” she says. While newer homes might cost less to maintain, they are also built with different materials such as energy-efficient products that drive up the cost of building them and, by extension, the cost of buying them.

2. Old homes have better-quality construction

The saying “they don’t build ’em like they used to” is generally true. Established houses are built to last, and many aspects of the construction cannot be reproduced today. Older homes might be built with wood made from old-growth trees (trees that attained great age by not being significantly disturbed) and therefore more resistant to rot and warping.

Even the walls are likely different. In an older home they’re probably built with plaster and lathe, making them structurally stronger than the drywall construction of modern homes. These older materials also provide a better sound barrier and insulation.

3. Old homes are often in established locations

When choosing a neighborhood, home buyers weigh a number of factors—including the school district, crime rate, and walkability. If you’re looking at buying an old house, chances are it’s in a well-established, and probably stable, area. This is a good thing. 

4. Old homes have more character

See that mature oak tree towering over the front yard that took decades to reach such heights? You’re not going to get that kind of curb appeal from a new construction.

Some older homes have managed to maintain the amenities that are characteristic of the era it was built in—for example, original crown molding, herringbone-patterned hardwood floors, and built-ins.

While newer homes will reflect the trends of current times, they won’t satisfy other eclectic tastes. Victorian homes with authentic stained-glass windows or a midcentury sunken living room can’t be found in modern houses. While many designers do emulate these characteristics, you might prefer to go for the real thing.

5. Lot size tends to be larger with old homes

Newer homes might come with newer amenities, but on the outside (specifically in the backyard) things aren’t as remarkable. According to data from CoreLogic, new constructions tend to have a larger house with a smaller lot.

“The median size of a new home increased from 1,938 square feet in 1990 to 2,300 square feet in 2016, but lot sizes during this same period decreased from 8,250 square feet to 6,970 square feet.”

In an effort to keep the cost of new homes down and bring in more revenue, homebuilders have favored building larger homes on smaller lots. Why?

“When home prices appreciate at a fast pace, the land value rises even faster, which in turn drives the cost of homes higher,” according to CoreLogic.

So if a big backyard is on your list on nonnegotiables, you’re most likely to find that in an older home.

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7 Signs a Homeowner Is Desperate to Sell

Every house hunter hopes to move into a new home with as few hitches as possible. And that largely depends on how eager (or, let’s be frank, desperate) a homeowner is to sell. And while it’s gauche to ask outright why someone is selling—Divorce? Job transfer? Downsizing?—there are ways to sniff out the answer.

Here are some subtle signs a homeowner wants to find a buyer ASAP—and hopefully that buyer is you!

Sign No. 1: The listing begs ‘buy me!’

Granted, it won’t say that exactly, but read between the lines and you can pick up some valuable clues. The most obvious, of course, is multiple price reductions. But there are other signs, too, like an asking price below market value or a note that the seller is looking to unload the home “as is.” Another indicator that bodes well for you? A note that the seller is looking for a “cash” transaction.

“That could indicate a homeowner isn’t willing to wait around four months for a traditional bank mortgage,” explains Lucas Machado, president of House Heroes LLC a real estate investment firm in Sunny Isles Beach, FL.

Sign No. 2: The curb appeal isn’t up to snuff

“A lot of times motivation for a homeowner really means distress,” says Ed Laine, a real estate specialist with Miller Laine Properties in Bellevue, WA. “And when someone is in distress, they’re no longer focused on maintaining their yard or picking up their newspapers, so much so that they even try to close out the outside world.”

You might see an overgrown lawn or garden beds that could use a good weeding. Or there might be more subtle signs like closed blinds, even on a gorgeous day, or a stack of unread newspapers on the porch.

Sign No. 3: The closets are only half-full

“When showing a family home with three to four bedrooms or a finished basement, I’ll peek in the closet,” says Bob Gordon, a Realtor® with Berkshire Hathaway in Boulder, CO. “If it’s partially empty and only has a man’s or a woman’s clothing, it can be an indication of a divorce.”

And while you don’t want to benefit from someone else’s pain, the truth is that “divorcing sellers may be in a hurry to unload and be apart,” Gordon notes.

Other signs your home sale may go quickly because of a broken heart? Mismatched furnishings or empty spaces on the walls where art was recently taken down.

Sign No. 4: There’s been an addition to the family

A crib that barely fits in the parents’ bedroom. A hospital bed or oxygen tank in the living room.

“Small homes where there has been a recent birth or a family member who’s moved in for medical reasons can create a sense of urgency,” says Glenn Phillips, CEO of Lake Homes Realty in Pelham, AL. Here’s a family that needs more room, and fast.

Sign No. 5: The property is listed by an estate

When a house is listed by an estate—that is, the people who inherited it from the original homeowner—you might find that it’s more eager to give it up. That’s because the estate is likely looking to liquidate assets.

“There are exceptions, particularly if family members are not all in agreement about the sale,” Phillips says. “But if the family members are all out of town, then they’re usually more anxious to get the property sold.”

If you want to confirm this detail, check public records—or politely ask the listing agent, who might be at liberty to share.

Sign No. 6: The homeowners answer questions quickly and candidly

So there’s a leak in the roof? The basement flooded last year? Home sellers are rarely eager to disclose such information—but desperates seller won’t beat around the bush, because they know this could come back and bite them later by slowing down the sale.

“A seller’s willingness to disclose information about the property is one of the strongest indicators they’re eager to sell,” says Machado. “For people who are truly motivated, there’s a problem they’re looking for you to help solve, and so they’re more willing to be open and honest about their situation.”

Sign No. 7: The seller’s already moved on

If the house is vacant and the owner has already settled into a new home, then most likely they’re primed to sell, says Sacha Ferrandi, founder of Source Capital Funding, which offers real estate lending in California, Arizona, and Minnesota.

“Often, when a seller buys a home without selling the old one, their new mortgage is contingent on selling their old property,” he explains, “and every day that their home doesn’t sell puts stress on their current financial situation.”

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What Is an Energy Audit? Learn How Energy-Efficient Your Home Is

You’ve heard it before: Turning off the lights, closing the windows, and not taking 40-minute showers are all little ways to save energy in your home. But what if there was a way to determine which energy-saving solutions will pay off based on the configuration of your house? Say hello to the energy audit, a home assessment that can help you go green and lower your energy bills by potentially thousands of dollars. So what’s an energy audit, really? It tells you how energy-efficient your house is and offers home improvement recommendations to take your efficiency to the next level.

How a home energy audit can help buyers

While energy audit information is typically not included on home listings alongside the number of bedrooms and square footage, it can often be found in the multiple listing service, which has more specific details. Only licensed real estate agents can view the MLS, so you’ll want to ask your agent (or the seller’s) if an energy audit was performed. If not, you can request one during the home inspection.

The energy audit information will offer more insight into your home’s true energy potential than a review of past utility bills. That’s because the energy audit will tell you how the home is built, not how the home is used. Someone who perpetually cranks up the heat or leaves the lights on might have a high energy bill, even if the house itself is relatively energy-efficient.

“For owners and sellers, having an energy assessment done can be a powerful selling tool—or a wake-up call if it comes back low,” says Welmoed Sisson, a home inspector with Inspections by Bob in Boyds, MD.

The Home Energy Score

Home energy audits can be provided by various institutions (e.g., local utility companies) and go by different names. However, the one rating that is gaining the most traction is the Department of Energy’s Home Energy Score. It’s important to note that not all energy audits will give you an HES.

The HES measurements provide a standardized process for calculating a home’s efficiency, thus allowing two homes to be compared side by side, even if they are different ages or styles, or in different locations. All assessments take into account the local climate, too.

“The HES was developed to give buyers an easy measurement they can think of, like a car’s mpg rating,” says Sisson. “It’s a way to objectively compare a home’s energy use with others, knowing that the same standards were used to assess all the properties that have been scored.”

Other types of energy audits

The efficiency audits offered by other sources (e.g., utility companies) typically don’t involve specific measurements. Instead, they rely on visual inspections to see whether windows are double-glazed or if energy-efficient lightbulbs are in use, for example. The recommendations they offer are more general.

How much does an energy audit cost?

Depending on the size of the home, an energy audit can cost between $150 and $250, although some assessors may charge less if it’s included as part of a regular home inspection. Many home inspectors offer the service. If you want to get your home’s HES from someone who has been certified by the DOE, consult this database.

What the energy auditor looks for

An energy audit takes about one to two hours.

Using a tape measure, the assessor will measure the windows, floor space, and insulation. The assessor also records the type and age of heating or cooling appliances and water heaters, and notes the condition of the ductwork. These findings are then entered into a database to calculate the overall score for the home.

Homeowners will receive a report with a score on a 1-to-10 scale—with 10 representing a home among the top 10% in energy efficiency; 5 representing the performance of the average home; and 1 indicating a home that consumes more energy than 85% of U.S. homes.

The report also includes a set of recommendations tailored to the home, starting with the least expensive improvements that will yield the most return.

“Spoiler alert,” says Sisson. “It’s almost always ‘add more insulation.’”

The report offers an estimate of the savings you’ll enjoy after completing all the recommended improvements. For example, if you moved your home’s score from a 3 to a 7, you could save about $575 a year. On the recommendations page, the savings are broken out by improvement. While some pay off within a year or two, the DOE says that all recommended energy improvements will generally pay you back in 10 years or less. Score!

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Builders Finally Ramp Up on New Homes, but Can Buyers Afford Them?

A fresh infusion of new homes hit the market as the spring home buying season kicked off in March, adding a touch of relief to a housing market that’s been short on, well, homes. Still, the most cash-strapped buyers—typically first-timers—aren’t likely to be able to take advantage of the new additions.

About 621,000 newly constructed homes were sold in March—up 5.8% from February and 15.6% from the same month a year ago, according to a joint report by the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Realtor.com® looked only at the seasonally adjusted numbers, which have been smoothed out over 12 months to account for seasonal fluctuations.

But the majority of those residences with that new-home smell are well out of the price range of many first-time buyers. That’s because high land, labor, materials, and regulatory costs  drive up prices on these homes.

“The good news is, new home sales are surging,” says realtor.com Senior Economist Joseph Kirchner. “But the bad news is, the percentage of affordable homes” under $200,000 isn’t going up as well.

The median price of all new homes was $315,100 in March. That’s 33.3% higher than the median price of an existing home, although the lack of supply of all types of housing has driven up prices across the board. Existing homes sold for a median $236,400 in March, according to the most recent National Association of Realtors report.

Home builders doubled the number of abodes costing $150,000 or less that hit the market in March, compared with the previous month and year. But these inexpensive homes still only make up a minuscule percentage of the new home market—just 6%.

“A lot of that [increase] is because there are more homes [going up],” Kirchner says.

But the percentage of new residences costing between $150,000 and $200,000 went down—from 13% in February to 10% in March. Only 16% of all the new homes on the market in March cost less than $200,000.

The majority of new homes cost between $200,000 and $299,999 (about 28%), and $300,000 and $399,999 (about 24%). About 13% were between $400,000 and $499,999; 14% were between $500,000 and $749,000; and 5% were luxury homes costing $750,000 and up.

The most new homes to hit the market in March, about 323,000, were in the South, according to the seasonally adjusted numbers in the report. That was an increase of 1.6% from February and 5.9% from March of 2016.

Quite a few new abodes also hit the market in the West. About 175,000 homes were for sale or sold in March, up 16.7% from the previous month and 32.6% from the same month a year ago.

About 84,000 new homes went up for sale in the Midwest, down 4.5% from February but up 23.5% from March 2016.

And the Northeast received an additional 39,000 new homes in March. That’s up 25.8% from February and 21.9% from the same month a year ago.

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U.S. Home-Price Growth Climbs at Fastest Rate in Nearly Three Years

U.S. house prices continued to show no signs of slowing, hitting their highest in nearly three years as demand remains hot, especially in the Pacific Northwest and Dallas.

The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city index rose 5.9% in the three-month period ending in February compared to the same period a year ago, an acceleration from its 5.7% yearly increase in January. This is the highest rate since July 2014.

The 20-city index was up 0.4% for the month, or a 0.7% gain when seasonally adjusted.

Economists had forecast a 0.8% monthly gain and a 5.8% yearly gain for the 20-city index.

Metro Monthly change (%) 12-month change (%)
Atlanta 0.4 5.6
Boston 0.4 7.6
Charlotte 0.5 6.1
Chicago 0.2 6.2
Cleveland -0.3 4.5
Dallas 1.1 8.8
Denver 0.4 8.5
Detroit 0.3 6.2
Las Vegas 0.4 6.3
Los Angeles 0.4 5.1
Miami 0 6.7
Minneapolis 0.1 5.9
New York 0 3.2
Phoenix 0.4 5.3
Portland 0.8 9.7
San Diego 1 6.5
San Francisco 1.2 6.4
Seattle 1.9 12.2
Tampa -0.5 6.9
Washington 0.2 4.1

The national index, which just a few months ago regained the high last seen during the housing bubble of a decade ago, rose 5.8% for the year, a 32-month high.

The largest price increases are still in the Pacific Northwest, including Seattle and Portland. Dallas replaced Denver in the top three with an 8.8% increase.

Only Cleveland and Tampa saw prices fall in the February period. Prices were flat in New York and Miami.

Separately, the Federal Housing Finance Agency also released home-price data for February, which is based on mortgages backed or guaranteed by FHFA-regulated Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It showed a seasonally adjusted 0.8% rise for February and a 6.4% year-over-year improvement.

Over 12 months, the Mountain region — Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico — had the fastest growth of 9.5%.

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Remodeling by the Numbers: Americans Double Down on Home Improvements

Homeowners who have long hated their grungy floors, salivated over their neighbors’ fancy outdoor patios, and wanted to give their sagging homes a general face-lift since they moved in are opening their checkbooks wide.

Americans more than doubled what they spent on home improvements in the past year, dropping about $5,157 on average, according to a recent survey from home services marketplace HomeAdvisor. That’s up almost 57% from February 2016 to February 2017.

HomeAdvisor surveyed 500 homeowners aged 25 and up who had completed home maintenance or improvement projects within the past 12 months.

Homeowners are “feeling wealthier than before because of the improvement in their homeowner equity” as the economy and the real estate market have improved, says HomeAdvisor Chief Economist Brad Hunter. “People have more access to home equity loans and lines of credit.”

The biggest generations are the biggest spenders

So who’s likely to drop the most money on these renovations? Millennials and baby boomers. Members of Generation X, who were the most badly burned by the last housing bust, spent the least.

Many younger buyers were compelled to have work done because they tend to buy older (and cheaper) properties that need more repairs. Typically, they’re taking care of the most pressing projects first—like that leaky old roof. Then, over time, they’ll get around to putting in a new backsplash. And they often try to save a few bucks by doing whatever they can themselves.

Millennials spent an average of $5,046 on home improvements, compared with the $4,771 that Gen Xers plunked down. Baby boomers, who are more likely to have the cash to add a fourth bathroom or to open up the floor plan, spent the most—an average $5,604.

Boomers aren’t getting any younger—and they know it. So in addition to remodeling their kitchens and bathrooms, they’ve begun thinking about aging in place.

“I have boomer clients who are fixing up their homes for themselves, because they see their parents [struggling] in their own homes. So they think, ‘Wow, I think I’d better get my house ready in advance,'” says Dan Bawden, remodelers chairman at the National Association of Home Builders. “They say, ‘I love my home, I love my neighborhood. I’m going to stay here till they carry me out feet first.'”

Bawden’s company, Legal Eagle Contractors, in Bellaire, TX, helps them prepare by removing tubs and replacing them with wheelchair-accessible showers outfitted with grab bars. The company also removes stairs by the entrances, adds ramps, and swaps difficult-to-turn doorknobs with levers that can be pushed with an elbow.

New and established homeowners are most likely to splurge on remodeling

It’s not just age that determines who spends the most on remodeling. Brand-new homeowners and those who have been in their homes for more than a decade are most likely to invest in home improvements, according to the survey.

“When somebody buys a new place they want to personalize it,” says Hunter. “They paint, they refinish, they refurbish, and then they also may say, ‘I want to update the appliances.'”

Meanwhile, the established homeowners are more likely to have pricey but important maintenance projects and repairs.

Those living in the West and Northeast spent the most on home improvements, at an average $6,005 and $5,381, respectively. That’s often because their homes cost more, so they have more equity that they can tap to fund that fancy new deck or those sleek kitchen appliances.

Plus, home maintenance and remodeling work often costs more in pricier areas because labor and materials are also more expensive.

Higher mortgage rates are actually good for the remodeling market

Rising mortgage rates and the dearth of abodes on the market could spur even more homeowners to remodel, according to the survey. That’s because it might cost current homeowners more to trade up to a new home than to upgrade their current residence.

“They really like their neighborhood, like their neighbors,” says longtime remodeler Bill Brackmann, president of Brackmann Construction in Belton, MO. In some cases, “it was more efficient to make the home they’re living in the home they want to be in.”

Despite demand, remodeling could slow down

While homeowners may be demanding an open floor plan, sunroom, or new hardwood floors (with those must-have distressed wide planks for a rustic look), it might become more difficult to find a remodeler going forward.

The shortage of skilled laborers is a very real problem. Just as there aren’t enough construction workers putting up new homes, there aren’t enough entering the remodeling field. And that makes it tough for remodelers to take on more jobs.

“We worry about not having enough skilled labor,” says remodeler Bawden.

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Steer Clear: 7 Living Room Design Looks That Buyers Hate

Home decor is all about reflecting your own personal style. It’s an opportunity to use your home as a blank canvas and paint a masterpiece that is decidedly you. And that style is never more apparent than in your living room—the spot where your guests gather and your personality is most on display.

We’ll never tell you to betray your decor desires in this room (or the rest of your home). But if you’ve gone nuts painting your living room in wild colors or spent thousands laying down Moroccan tile, bear in mind how potential buyers might perceive your choices.

Buyers need to picture themselves living and loving that space: throwing parties, entertaining guests, enjoying a lazy Saturday with a book. If your favorite living room design looks are dated or divisive, buyers might give your home a pass. So ditch these seven polarizing decor choices while you still can—before they sink your chance of a sale.

1. TV looming over the fireplace

Marion Residence

No matter which side you fall on in the great TV-over-the-fireplace debate, none of that matters when it comes time to sell. Find somewhere else for your flat-screen TV—at least temporarily.

“Today’s buyers are interested in beautiful, serene rooms with seating revolved around a focal point of beauty,” says Chicago interior designer and stager Kara O’Connor. A personality-free black box is neither serene nor beautiful.

Heads up: If you’ve already mounted your television on a wall or over the fireplace, you may have to remove the evidence after you take it down. No buyer wants to see unpatched holes in your walls.

2. Dead things

Obviously you’re not leaving dead mice lying around your living room (we hope!). Perhaps you should get rid of the enormous steer head hanging over your fireplace, too.

“We totally get it. Cowhides and taxidermy are super kitschy and trendy,” says Justin M. Riordan, a Portland designer with Spade and Archer Design Agency. “The combination of creepy and beautiful is all the rage. Unfortunately, for many, the creepy is far more powerful than the beautiful.”

Real or not, you don’t have to say goodbye to your animal skulls. Just tuck them away until the home is sold. Far away.

3. Blond wood

Fire Island Home

Don’t stain your hardwood just because you’re listing your home, but if you’re thinking about doing it anyway, O’Connor has some advice: Go dark.

“Dark, wide-plank floors are ‘in,’ and blond wood is ‘out,’” she says. “If the floors are dated, I encourage refinishing. The impact is huge.”

Alongside new baseboards and neutral paint, deep chocolate floors will give your home the modern edge that could attract on-the-fence buyers.

4. Saturated walls

Complementary Colours

Yes, your deep teal walls look rad alongside your dark wood credenza and velvet chaise. But all potential buyers see are dollar signs.

“More likely than not, your home’s next owner has some very distinct taste in furniture, which they recently spent quite a bit of money on,” Riordan says. “They are not going to buy new furniture to match your saturated wall colors.”

Many buyers do repaint before moving in, but painting over saturated tones requires more coats, more time, and, naturally, more money. And some buyers don’t want to deal with any of that.

To get the highest selling price—and the most interested buyers—paint the entire place in simple neutrals.

5. Outdated furniture

Is your vintage look intentional?
Is your vintage look intentional?

vicnt/iStock

Buyers bring their own furniture. But picturing their gorgeous modern furniture in your space can be daunting if everything you own is outdated and overwhelming.

“If the furniture distracts the buyer from the square footage, a focal point, or hardwood floors, then it should be carefully edited out,” says Jill Hosking-Cartland, an interior designer in Windham, NH.

Not only might they struggle to see themselves in your place, they might also worry about the quality of your home.

“Old furniture can leave a buyer with the impression that there is a lack of attention to routine maintenance and updating,” Hosking-Cartland says.

Work with your Realtor® to stage your property using updated, on-trend furniture.

6. Narrow baseboards

We're all 'bout that baseboard, 'bout that baseboard.
We’re all ’bout that baseboard, ’bout that baseboard.

Stockernumber2/iStock

New baseboards and crown molding can take a room from blah to bangin’ with an afternoon’s worth of work. But make sure the sizes and designs you choose look modern.

“Crisp, white baseboards that are a minimum of 5 inches high are preferable to the dated, 2- or 3-inch baseboards from the ’90s and early 2000s,” O’Connor says.

Teeny-tiny baseboards might not be a deal breaker, but they can make a room feel kind of off. Beware of going too big—though it is possible to overwhelm a room with your molding. Find the right size trim for your space before you embark on that weekend project.

7. Faux finishes

You might hate ordinary paint, but funking up your living space with a faux finish can be a sticking point. Even if your DIY job looks amazing, buyers see only another thing they need to change. Paint over your fake Venetian plaster, reclaimed wood, or “textured” walls before the first showing.

“Asking a buyer to adopt your specific design style is risky,” Hosking-Cartland says. “Most buyers see these polarizing design elements as work they will have to do and spend money on to make the home a reflection of their own personal style.”

 

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7 Important Things Home Sellers Often Forget to Do

When you’re selling your home there’s so much to do: find a Realtor®, do touch-ups, get that balky air conditioner fixed, look into staging… It’s no wonder that sometimes things fall between the cracks. Big things. (We’re not pointing fingers, promise!) Our arsenal of experts—aka real estate agents who have worked with many home sellers—identify the to-do’s that sellers typically overlook. We promise you, these tasks are well worth the time it will take to complete them (which isn’t very long at all).

Heed this sound advice, and there’s a good chance selling your house won’t be nearly as stressful as everyone tells you it is.

To-do No. 1: Google your address

Not all sellers scour the Internet to find out what’s being said about their property, but they should. Nearly all buyers—90%—search online during their hunt for a home, according to the National Association of Realtors. You should be aware of what your online listing looks like, since it will influence the kinds of concerns buyers will have, says Avery Boyce, a Realtor with Compass Real Estate in Washington, D.C.

“Is the site’s estimated value very different from your asking price? It might be because tax records have the wrong information about the number of bedrooms or bathrooms your house has, and this is easily fixed,” Boyce says. Consider this too: Google Maps’ street view of your property may not show improvements that you’ve made, so you’ll want to be sure to include those updates in your listing.

To-do No. 2: Account for improvements and issues

“If you’ve owned your home for a while, make a list of all the problems you’ve solved while you’ve lived there,” says Boyce. This could include chimney fires, water damage, or a flood in the basement. Whether you solved the problem or not, you should disclose this information to the buyer so you don’t wind up in a lawsuit after the sale. Disclosing “invisible improvements” that you’ve made, like re-grading or adding a French drain system, can also be a great source of comfort for buyers, adds Boyce.

“The same goes for sewer lines or tanks, radon remediation, or leaky skylights.”

To-do No. 3: Check your real estate agent’s references

An agent’s bad behavior or incompetence could cost you time, money, and peace of mind, so it’s well worth taking extra steps to find the best real estate agent for you. Ask friends for recommendations.

Check that the people you’re considering have a current real estate license—with no complaints filed against them. Meet with the agent and reach out to a few of their references directly.

“Real estate agents should be happy to provide a number of references for a new client to call,” says Marianne Leonard Cashman a Realtor with William Raveis Real Estate in Andover, MA. As far as talking to your friends about a real estate agent recommendation, here are some questions Cashman suggests asking:

  • Did you have confidence in your real estate agent?
  • Do you think he/she had good knowledge of the local market?
  • Did your agent communicate well and keep you informed during the entire transaction?
  • Do you think that he/she negotiated well on your behalf?
  • Did your agent have good vendors who could assist you?
  • Did your agent returned calls/emails in a timely fashion?
  • Would you recommend this person? Why? (Or why not?)

To-do No. 4: Insist on social media marketing

You staged your home beautifully, picked a competitive price, and listed the property, but there’s something else you’ll need to prepare before you’re fully ready to sell—a social media marketing plan. Video tours, floor plans, and photo galleries promoted on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are must-dos, advises Cashman.

“You want to make sure that your agent is using all avenues to attract the right buyer for your home,” she explains. “Make sure your home has a presence on your agent’s website, their agency’s website, and is promoted on various sites that will market the home and give information about open houses.”

To-do No. 5: Make sure the doorbell rings

Ah, attention to detail. It’s those little cosmetic repairs that could cost you your home sale. If buyers see that you can’t even be bothered to repair a busted doorbell, they’re automatically going to think about what else may need fixing and view the home negatively.

“First impressions make all the difference,” says Cashman. “A well-kept home, starting with the view from the curb, gives the perception that the seller has great pride in the home and has taken good care of it—which translates into less energy and costs for the buyer as they prepare to move in.”

To-do No. 6: Clean inside everything

Storage is a huge selling point for homes. So be warned: Buyers are going to poke around inside closets, drawers, cabinets, ovens, refrigerators, and even the dishwasher, whether they’re cleaned or not—so you’d better make sure they are clean.

“Spending the money on a service to deep-clean your home will come back to you at least 10 times in your sales price,” says Boyce. Even if you’ve swept up and scrubbed all surfaces to a shine, you’re not done until dust, crumbs, and creepy crawlies are cleaned out from within the small spaces too.

To-do No. 7: Clarify which items are not included

You don’t want a buyer to fall in love with your house because of the custom window treatments and then rescind their offer when they find out the curtains aren’t for sale.

“The law says that anything bolted to the wall or ceiling goes to the buyer unless specifically excluded in the contract,” says Boyce. “If you want to take your flat-screen TV, chandelier, or custom pot rack, be sure to label it as soon as the house goes on the market, so that buyers don’t bank on owning that item and wind up disappointed.”

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