How to Increase Your Chances of Winning a Bidding War

You’ve found the house you love. But, apparently, so have other buyers — and it’s the same house. When several buyers want to compete for the same property, how do sellers choose among offers? What can you do to increase your chances of getting the home? Freshome asked several experts to share the secrets of winning a bidding war.

Get to know the seller's agent

An amicable relationship can work in your favor. Image: Haywire Media/Shutterstock

Get to know the listing agent

We’re not recommending that you schmooze — although it might help. “Befriending the listing agent is a great idea,” Tracey Hampson at Realty One Group in Valencia, CA, says. “I always make a point of speaking with the listing agent and asking who she would like to use for services like escrow and title. Here in California, it is the listing agent who normally chooses. And I ask if there is anything specific the seller is looking for,” Hampson explains. She says you can get a lot of information out of a phone call.

Tory Keith, President of Natick, MA-based real estate firm Board and Park, agrees. “A good buyer’s agent will always have a conversation with the seller’s agent to get a feel for how competitive the situation is, whether there are terms besides price that are important to the seller and whether there will be a second opportunity to present best and final offers.” However, if the home is FSBO, you and your agent will need to get to know the seller since no agent will be involved on their end.

Your agent

Make sure your agent is up to the task. Image: Jeff Manes/Getty Images

Choose your own agent carefully

It’s important to get to know the seller’s agent, but make sure you know your agent as well. “An agent’s reputation can and does have an effect on the offer process,” says April Macowicz, Broker Associate and Team Owner at The MAC Group RE in San Diego, CA. “If your agent has a reputation for being difficult, you can say goodbye to that home, especially in a bidding war,” she warns.

Accommodate the seller

Try to accommodate the seller. Image: 10’000 Hours/Getty Images

Make the seller’s life easier

If you can give the seller more time or reduce their level of stress, you might give yourself an edge. “One way to make your offer stand out is by either removing the inspection contingency or reducing the timelines on those,” Macowicz says. “If you can get away with having a 5-day inspection period, that looks a lot better to the seller than a 17-day inspection period.”

This is why it’s important to meet with the seller’s agent to find out what the seller cares about. “There is nothing worse than writing a full price cash offer to close in 30 days when the seller needs 90 days to move out,” says Tom Matthews of the Tom and Joanne Team at Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty.

And letting the seller set the moving date is another way to gain an advantage. “Put in the contract that you will accommodate the seller’s closing/moving date,” advises Sissy Lappin, Founder of ListingDoor.com.

More Money

Don’t underestimate the power of offering more money. Image: Don Farrall/Getty Images

Money is important

Of course, a higher offer is usually the first thing that buyers consider. And Jon Tetrault, a team director at The Nick Slocum Team at Slocum Realty in Rhode Island, offers some advice on how to create a compelling offer.

“Make sure you run the numbers to be sure that the neighborhood supports the price you’re offering, but the higher the offer, the better your chances,” Tetrault says. “I always suggest buyers go slightly above an even number.” So, if the home is listed at $300,000 and his buyers want to offer $302,000, Tetrault suggests offering $302,250. “That will give them a leg up in the event that someone else offers $302,000,” Tetrault says.

Another tip is to make the offer as clean as possible, Hampson says. “Don’t ask for any money towards closing costs, etc.”

Be charming

Be charming. Image: MirageC/Getty Images

Attach a short note

Lappin also recommends including a short note on what you love about the home — like the architectural details — and why you want to make it your own. “I did this on one home that had seven offers and the seller was adamant the ‘nice lady’ was going to get her home,” Lappin says.

However, Vivian Cobb of Colorado Springs, CO-based Cobb Real Estate is against including notes and letters. “Remember, this is a business deal and it’s about what makes sense for the seller,” she says. “Keeping emotions out of it is good advice.”

 

The post How to Increase Your Chances of Winning a Bidding War appeared first on Freshome.com.

What is a Barndominium? Could It Be Your Next Home?

Barndominium Color Ideas

Choosing the right paint color for every room of your barndominium is easy when you’ve already created the perfect color palette. Image courtesy of PPG – Modern Farmhouse Palette.

You may be new to the barndominium style, but this pretty and practical home style is gaining in popularity. Barndominiums, nicknamed “barndos,” got their start as a practical living option. Many farmers and ranchers created a loft area above a working barn so that animal caretakers could stay close by.

Today, the popularity of barndominiums has evolved into luxury homes and vacation rentals, especially in upscale rural areas with ranch land and vineyards. Fixer Upper’s Chip and Joanna Gaines remodeled a barndominium on their show, creating a social media buzz about these unique homes. Most barndo construction uses a steel shell, then adds tons of interior customization options.

Entertaining is a breeze with large doors and windows that flow outside. Image: Mint Images/Getty Images

The Advantages of a Barndominium Home

There may be no ‘typical’ barndominium, but most share a few key advantages:

  • Simplicity: Barndos are often built as a shell with simple interior framing.
  • Construction Time: The popular metal shell construction goes up quickly.
  • Durability: Metal barndos withstand the elements and have a longer life than most standard home-building materials.
  • Flexibility: Barndominiums can be configured for living or work/live space.
  • Indoor/Outdoor Lifestyle: Rollup doors and large windows encourage indoor/outdoor living.

Designing the Interior of Your Dream Barndo

One of the barndo features owners like best is the flexibility of the interior layout of their new space. Some rooms will require a specific location due to plumbing and other utilities built into the home. Beyond that, though, the interior layout can be customized to your needs.

Plan your essential needs first, like square footage and how each room will be used, before you start your interior layout sketch. Knowing how you’ll live in your home is essential to a comfortable design. Barndominiums work best as an open concept home, often with a loft area above. 

The structure of a barndo encourages indoor/outdoor living. Rollup doors, big windows and wrap-around decks can give a feeling of spaciousness to your interior living space. 

Bring the outdoors inside with dramatic windows in your barndominium or open concept home. Image: hikesterson/Getty Images

Interior Design Tips for This Open Concept Home

A barndominium is truly an open concept home, so tips and ideas for an open interior layout definitely work here. When you’re decorating a barndominium or great room in any home, color becomes your easiest and best tool for defining space. To unify a large, open space, a colorful stripe that runs the perimeter of the room is a great trick that helps it look more intimate. Accent walls are still very much in style and can create a focal point in a large open space. And don’t forget, ceilings can be accents walls, too.

Furnishing the main areas of a large barndominium can be a challenge, but there are a few tips that make it easier to get a balanced look.

  • Choose Large Furniture: If you are furnishing a big, open space, using large furniture, like sectionals and oversized chairs, can fill the space without looking too busy.
  • Create Areas Within the Space: Grouping furniture together for conversation or eating areas prevents the “furniture store” look from which many open layouts suffer.
  • Use Color to Unify: If you’re grouping furniture within your barndo great room, stick with one color palette across all the areas you’re furnishing. That way, your colors tie everything together.

The HGTV Fixer Upper Barndominium Episode

HGTV’s Fixer Upper tackled a barndominium in Season 3 for a family looking for acreage and a unique home. Chip and Joanna Gaines reimagined a 1980s barn that already had an apartment upstairs. Their remodel used the upstairs apartment and the stable area downstairs to create a two-story, 2,700 sq. ft. home.

The Fixer Upper floor plan created a large upstairs kitchen and living room. Family bedrooms and an indoor/outdoor gathering space for entertaining complete the downstairs floor plan, including a 17-foot custom dining table for entertaining. The owners listed the totally remodeled barndo for sale in 2019 with a 1.2 million dollar price.

The post What is a Barndominium? Could It Be Your Next Home? appeared first on Freshome.com.

Zillow Offers is a New Way to Sell Your Home

Zillow polled their readers and uncovered that “homeowners want a faster, simpler selling option.” Zillow Offers is their answer. The service by Zillow basically buys your home on your schedule in as little as two business days (if you qualify).

zillow offers

Zillow wants to make the home selling process fast and simple. Image: PureRadiancePhoto/Shutterstock

How Zillow Offers Works

The process starts online with a simple questionnaire to answer basic info about your home, like:

  • The number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Square feet
  • Major changes you’ve made that aren’t in the public record
  • The date by which you’d like to sell

Next, you’ll submit current photos to help the agent price your home accordingly.

If your home qualifies, you’ll receive an email offer within two business days. This is a cash offer! You then have three days to respond to the offer or it expires.

zillow instant offers

According to Zillow, you’ll receive an offer via email in two business days. Image: fivepointsix/Shutterstock

If you accept the offer, a Zillow Offers Advisor will schedule a home inspection and recommend a licensed real estate agent to represent you, if you don’t have one already. Zillow may reduce the price after the home inspection if the home wasn’t represented as they expected or if it needs repairs. You can refuse their revised offer if you don’t like it.

Once you sign the sales contract, you can close on your home sale anytime between five days and 90 days — your choice.

online home offer tools

This new service streamlines the home selling process. Image: Stasique/Shutterstock

Zillow Offers is currently only available in certain markets: select zip codes in Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Raleigh and Riverside. They plan to add Miami, Minneapolis, Nashville, Orlando and Portland by fall.

home selling apps

According to this image from Zillow, it looks like the service will expand to include offers from other investors. Image courtesy of Zillow.

Should You Use Zillow Offers?

This is a great no-obligation service if your home has been listed for a while and not getting any offers. Or if you’re in a hurry to move and don’t have the time to wait for the listing, open houses, offer negotiations and closing process of traditional home sales. Or if you need cash fast.

It’s too soon to know if Zillow’s offers are competitive with the actual market. But since the whole process is no-obligation, it wouldn’t hurt to try it out.

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Here’s How Much It Costs to Sell Your Home in 2019

Zillow, the real estate database, just released a report showing the hidden costs of selling. So how much does it cost you to sell your house in 2019? Get ready to spend about $21,000. Don’t balk at the cost yet, though. Some of that cost goes toward home improvements and Zillow found that “sellers who make improvements to their homes are more likely to sell for more than their asking price than those who don’t.”

When you’re selling your house, here’s where your money will go:

how much does it cost to sell my house

A large portion of the selling cost goes to closing costs after your home is sold. Image: 

Closing Costs, $14,281 on average

The bulk of the expense in selling your house is the closing costs, which include real agent commissions, sales taxes and state transfer taxes. This figure is an average. The actual amount is a percentage based on the home’s sale price and can vary widely. Here’s a list of average closing costs throughout the U.S. from greatest to least:

San Jose, CA: $76,015

New York, NY: $28,090

Denver, CO: $24,443

Austin, TX: $18,522

Las Vegas, NV: $18,163

Philadelphia, PA: $16,296

Phoenix, AZ: $15,924

Dallas-Fort Worth, TX: $14,580

Tampa, FL: $14,291

Atlanta, GA: $13,286

Houston, TX: $12,342

Cleveland, OH: $9,046

The one positive of this expense is that it doesn’t come out of your pocket upfront. It’s usually deducted from the home sale’s proceeds.

how much does it cost to sell your home

Your house only has one shot to make a first impression, so make it a good one. Image: Artazum/Shutterstock

Home Improvements To Get The Home Ready For Sale, $6,570 on average

This amount is the average for sellers who hire professionals for their home updates. For those who wonder how much it costs to sell your house and want all the details, here is the $6,570 in home improvements, broken down by category:

  • Exterior painting: $2,600
  • Home staging: $1,805
  • Interior painting: $1,245
  • Local moving to the new home: $475
  • Full-service lawn care: $145
  • Carpet cleaning: $140
  • House cleaning: $160

Based on these projects, it looks like curb appeal plays a big role in successfully selling your home. If your time and budget are limited, it’s probably best to focus on presenting a clean, crisp home that is nicely but neutrally furnished to appeal to most buyers.

Home improvement costs will vary by market. The report found that sellers in Sacramento spent about $7,800 compared to Phoenix home sellers, who could spend around $4,000 for the same projects. And DIY curb appeal projects may help a home seller save money.

what is the cost of selling my home

Sellers that make some upgrades before listing their house are more likely to sell their home successfully (and for more money). Image: Andy Dean Photography/Shutterstock

If you’re selling this year, get started on updating your house now. Spruce up your garden and lawn, plant new flowers and freshen up the space both inside and outside with paint. As you get closer to listing your house, start decluttering and storing your personal items so that your house shows best. Don’t forget about the details like clean carpets, walls and windows.

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Comps 101: How Comparables Can Help You Sell Your Home

So you want to sell your house. You know there are some key things you need to do like stage the interior and work on your curb appeal. You might think, especially if you’re hiring a real estate agent, that everything else is handled. But that leaves out one of the trickiest parts of home selling: pricing your property. How do you do it? Sure, your agent will help, but you want to know you’re not leaving money on the table. You also don’t want to price your home too high and leave it languishing on the market for months. So what do you do? Look at comps.

comps 1

If you want to list your home to sell, use comps. Image: romakoma/Shutterstock

What are comps?

Comps — or comparables — are the single most effective way to ensure you’re pricing your home to sell while also maximizing your revenue from the sale. Basically, they compare other recently sold or pending homes in your area that are a lot like yours. Knowing what buyers are willing to pay for similar homes clues you in to what you can realistically get for yours.

The key is here is finding comps that are as accurate as possible for your home. The most effective comps score in three key areas:

Location, location, location

The old real estate adage strikes again. You can often get a four-bedroom house in a rural area for the price of a tiny oceanfront condo. Why? Location matters. And that’s especially true for comparables. So if you want to make sure you’re listing your home at the right price, it’s important to price it based on local market activity.

And you want to be as location-specific as possible. Existing boundaries — like school districts and neighborhood lines — are helpful here. The closer your comps are in location to your house, the more accurate they’ll be.

comps 4

If you’ve got a view of the park, make sure you factor it in. Image: Johner Images/Getty Images

Don’t forget features

Easy, right? Your next door neighbor’s house just sold, so you can use that as a comp, right? Wrong, unless that house also meets a few additional conditions. A good comparable is going to be as similar to your house as possible. Of course, that means the basics like the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms and similar square footage. But don’t forget about other features, either.

Maybe your neighbor has an electrical tower behind their house, while your backyard has panoramic views. They’re definitely not a good comp for you. You’d be better served by looking at the house up the street that has a slightly smaller square footage but a similar view. Other features like upgrades (e.g., granite countertops, walk-in closets), the overall condition of your house, whether you have a pool and how much parking you have are all considerations. At the end of the day, when you’re hunting for comps, it’s better to look for houses that are as much like yours as possible. If that means you have to extend the boundaries of your search, so be it.

Current listing status matters

Okay, so all you have to do is pop on Zillow, Redfin or Trulia and find some for-sale homes that look like yours and are relatively close by, right? Actually, no. Homes currently for sale aren’t a good place to go for comps because they still haven’t sold yet. If you base your comps on the batch of neighbors who think they’re going to be millionaires from selling their two-bedrooms, you’ll be way off.

Instead, look at homes that have closed in the last six months or less. The closer you can get to the present, the better. In fact, if you can find homes with sales pending, that’s ideal.

comps 2

The best comps are recently sold, similar homes nearby. Image: RikoBest/Shutterstock

Using comps to sell your home

Now you’re ready to price your home competitively. A good benchmark is to find five or six really solid comps. Once you’ve gathered the handful of recently sold or pending homes that are similar to yours and located near you, you’re ready to determine your own home’s selling price. If their prices are all very similar, your work is easy. Price yours just like them.

If most of them are similar but you’ve got one outlier, toss it. Base your list price on the majority.

If they’re all over the place, you’re in a tricky spot. You can either keep looking for comps until a pattern emerges or you can decide what’s important to you. If you want to sell by the end of the summer so you can have your family re-settled before the new school year starts, for example, it might be worth listing on the lower end of the spectrum. If you’ve got tons of time and are feeling patient, list high and see what happens. Either way, you’ll know that you’re making an educated decision based on what’s right for you and your current market activity.

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Home-Buying Millennials are Obsessed with Lawns and Gardens

The U.S. Census Bureau says homeownership is up over last year. In their words, “the national homeownership rate has risen to 64.4 percent.” And Realtor Magazine says that jump is “largely attributed to the rise in new, first-time homebuyers.”

These first-time homebuyers are millennials and they don’t care about a fancy eat-in kitchen. Instead, they’re obsessed with lawns and gardens.

A survey from the National Association of Landscape Professionals found that 79 percent of U.S. homebuyers agree that a spacious and manicured lawn is an important feature in a home. And here’s the kicker: millennials, who currently make up the largest percentage of homebuyers, ranked the lawn as the top priority when house hunting.

landscaping tips for selling your home

Lawns, gardens, patios and outdoor living are the #1 priority for house-hunting millennials. Image: Artazum/Shutterstock

Sure — a large, open kitchen and a huge master bedroom with custom his and hers closets are all nice. But for a large portion of the buyer’s market, it’s all about the perfect lawn and a spacious, landscaped backyard.

If you’re listing soon, make sure you set aside some money to make sure your patio and gardens look their best. Here are four quick landscaping tips for selling your home:

landscaping tips for selling your home

Set the stage outdoors with a furniture setting that enhances your outdoor space. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

1. Don’t Just Stage Indoors; Stage A Small Outdoor Setting, Too

Buyers like to envision what their life will be like in your home. Find a spot in your backyard or patio and add a small outdoor table setting or lounge area. Complete the look with hanging lights, an outdoor area rug or colorful outdoor throw pillows.

landscaping tips for selling your home

A fresh, vibrant lawn adds a new home feel to yours. Image: nazarovsergey/Shutterstock

2. Freshen Up Your Turf

If your lawn isn’t the best one in the neighborhood, it may be a very good investment to renew or replace your old lawn before listing your house. A fresh, green lawn looks inviting and gives your home a “new” feeling. Depending on the size of your outdoor lawn area, fake turf may be in your budget and would be a low-maintenance option for year-round green curb appeal.

landscape ideas for selling a home

Planted flowers are an easy way to add pops of colors to your garden. Image: 1000 Words/Shutterstock

3. Plant Flowers

Flowers are inexpensive and easy to plant. They add a splash of color to your garden and last long enough to get your home sold.

curb appeal for selling your house

Add LED lighting to your stairs, pathways and terrace areas. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

4. Add Lighting To Your Garden And Outdoor Spaces

You don’t have to spend a lot on electrical and wiring to light your lawn and garden. There are plenty of solar-power LED outdoor lights that are as simple as inserting a stake into the dirt. Focus on lighting a path, uplighting a large tree and lighting a sitting area or patio table setting.

Even if you’re not selling a home, get ready to embrace the outdoor living trend. Millennials have spoken and it looks like gardening and outdoor entertaining will be hot topics for a while.

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6 HGTV Secrets They Don’t Want You to Know

If you’re like me, there’s nothing you love more than unwinding with HGTV. At the end of a long day, there’s something soothing about watching other people make high-stakes decisions. Whether it’s buying a beach house, renovating a kitchen or choosing a family home, HGTV has a total lock on homeowner-based entertainment. But how much of what you see is real? As it turns out, HGTV secrets influence the way you watch.

While on-screen house hunts and renos seem to go smoothly, appearances can be deceiving. Don’t get discouraged if you feel like your house situation is less than picture perfect. Much of what you see is good, old-fashioned smoke and mirrors. Here are some of the HGTV secrets that keep you watching.

Some of the “hunted homes” might be off the market. Image: Andy Dean Photography/Shutterstock

1. Home hunting is already complete

If you’ve ever searched for a new home, you know that viewing three properties probably won’t cut it. And even if you’re lucky enough to decide on a new place, it’s not a guarantee you’ll be able to secure financing, win a bidding war and actually move in. So how is it that every owner on House Hunters is able to view, buy and move in what seems like a week?

The secret is that homeowners are usually already under contract for their chosen home before they’re cast on the show. They already know which home is theirs and view other homes to increase drama. It’s less of a hunt and more of a confirmation that they chose the right home. In some cases, they’ve already purchased the home and even moved in before filming starts. Creative filming and staging the home to look empty make it seem like prospective hunters are seeing their home for the first time.

2. Some homes aren’t even for sale

Feel like HGTV always has the best homes to choose from? That’s because they don’t limit hunted homes to those that are currently on the market. To ensure compelling content, House Hunters will lead prospective buyers through homes that have already been purchased by other buyers and even the homes of nearby friends and family. Not only have the hunters already chosen their home, but some of the places they see aren’t even an option. It’s all in the name of creating a narrative where you, as the viewer, become more invested in the process.

Kitchen and dining room

Staged homes might be more Photoshop than interior design. Image: Breadmaker/Shutterstock

3. Homes are virtually staged

Staging homes isn’t exactly one of the most protected HGTV secrets. It’s a well-known practice among realtors, homeowners and those in the industry. But what HGTV doesn’t tell you is that some of the staging you see is done virtually. They’ll utilize computerized models to make a home look more put-together than reality. Even grass can be painted and edited after the fact to make it look lusher. So when they say that the grass is greener on the other side, remember that it might be the result of Photoshop over fertilizer.

4. Construction is contracted

Anyone who’s ever renovated a home knows it never goes as smoothly as they show on HGTV. What’s more, many of the projects seem like they’re completed singlehandedly by a charismatic host and a plucky sidekick. A week under construction by a do-it-all TV star and voilà! The big reveal shows a home that has been renovated top to bottom.

In reality, most shows contract out the heavy lifting to local construction crews. The stars come in and demo a couple of cupboards or paint a few strokes before handing off the project to the real pros. Just remember that real renovations are the result of time, effort and expertise.

Contemporary master bedroom with metal accents

Not every room is renovated as part of the contract. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

5. Rooms are left out

The show Property Brothers is a ratings smash for HGTV, and why not? What’s not to love about a couple of attractive identical twins showing homeowners they can have their dream home for a little elbow grease and a small investment? The show doesn’t, however, make it clear what is left undone at the end of the big reveal.

The show actually only contracts for four rooms to be designed and renovated. Usually, homeowners pick their highest-traffic areas, like the kitchen and living room. But there is still a lot of work left once the brothers offer up the dramatic finish. Sure, renovating a cheaper home can be a sound investment, but remember it’s much more complicated than what’s show on HGTV.

6. Homeowners don’t keep decor

You might wistfully watch your favorite shows to see the gorgeous rugs, furniture and decor used in each show. Most HGTV shows finish with a before and after, with homeowners’ previously tired furniture replaced with updated, expensive decor.

Don’t get too envious, though. In most cases, the decor is used for staging only and doesn’t belong to the homeowners. After the “after” shot is filmed, that stuff gets put back into HGTV storehouses for the next before and after. In some cases, the owners get the chance to purchase the decor, but only if it’s in their budget. Usually, the renovation budget is long gone to pay for expensive staples like flooring and repairs. Those magazine-worthy finishing touches? They’re a short-term illusion.

Hey, I get it: HGTV is, at its best, pure escapism. No matter what your home is like, you can forget some of its challenges by watching other people deal with the ups and downs of homeownership. Still, it’s important to remember that as much as it’s billed as reality TV, most shows use HGTV secrets and have huge production budgets, directors, assistants, high-paid stars and behind-the-scenes experts. You don’t expect your home to always look like a professional movie set, so don’t make the mistake of comparing your place to what could be a TV mirage.

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6 Ways to Make a Temporary Living Space Feel Like Home

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Anyone who has moved or built a new home can tell you that the process is anything but seamless. Sure, you might hear from the one unicorn homeowner who made everything work perfectly but, in most cases, moving can be complicated and messy. There might be a gap between when an old home is sold and the new home is ready, or construction completion dates can be delayed. In these instances, a temporary living space might be the only option. Whether it’s moving in with family or a short-term lease, making a temporary situation feel like home can be tricky. If you’re not staying for long, it can be a struggle to get comfortable. But you don’t need to feel like a long-term guest. Make anywhere feel like home with a few genius tips.

Home office decorated with corkboard

A corkboard quickly brightens up a room and keeps it organized. Image: Africa Studio/Shutterstock

1. Utilize Removable Decor

Okay, so you’re not going to paint the walls or refinish the floors. But just because a temporary living space’s decor isn’t exactly your taste doesn’t mean you have to live with it. By bringing in a few removable pieces, you can perk up a space with your unique style. One of the best ways to make a space feel like home is with a big cork board. You can add things like pictures, memorabilia and even cute decor items you’ve picked up for your permanent space. Decorate the cork board and place it prominently and you’ll have a little bit of home.

You can also bring in smaller pieces that you’re planning to put in your permanent place. A couple of lamps or a vase can go a long way in warming up a space and making it feel like you. Just skip the oversized decor pieces. Larger pieces of furniture like couches or tables will just make moving day trickier.

Modern master bedroom

Having fewer clothes helps keep your temporary closet organized. Image: Beyond Time/Shutterstock

2. Edit Your Clothes

A temporary living space can make you feel like you’re a guest, no matter where you’re staying. Living out of a disorganized suitcase or searching through storage boxes to find your favorite shirt only makes it worse. While you might not want to move all of your clothes into a temporary closet, you can make day-to-day life easier by editing your clothing. Consider the season and the stuff you wear the most. Then, choose a week or two’s worth of clothes and accessories and put the rest in storage. Having fewer clothes might not be ideal, but it can help you settle in, hang a few things up and keep your clothes organized and neat. No moving box wrinkles here!

Small kitchen with open appliances.

Keep a few appliances and put the rest in storage. Image: Baloncici/Shutterstock

3. Pick Three Appliances

Some temporary living spaces come with appliances and some don’t. Either way, you can save yourself a lot of headache by keeping your temporary kitchen limited to three or four of your favorite appliances. Choose your most-used kitchen must-haves and limit how much you’ll have to move when it’s time to fly the coop. A few smaller appliances you love can also help you feel more at home in your temporary living space. You might be able to live without your blender or adapt to using someone else’s, but if your morning coffee is your sanctuary, definitely bring your coffee maker along. That way, whether it’s a couple of weeks or a couple of months, you won’t have to do without your favorite cup of joe made just the way you like it.

Mismatched kitchen table and chairs

Temporary furniture doesn’t have to match. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

4. Find Temporary Furniture

Moving is hard on furniture — just ask anyone who’s scratched their favorite armoire in the process. Don’t risk the wear and tear on your favorite pieces by getting temporary furniture in the meantime. While many temporary living spaces come furnished, you can add pieces as you need by checking online for temporary options. Need a nightstand? Check Craigslist or Freecycle for cheap options that you can live with for now. Then, when it’s time to move to your permanent space, you can pass on the pieces to someone else without worrying about scratches or dents. Your real favorites will stay safe in storage and can be moved directly into your new home — no harm, no foul.

Kitchen table with green apples and decor

Use everyday items as home decor. Image: Africa Studio/Shutterstock

5. Keep Decor Functional

A temporary living space doesn’t have to be dreary, but you might think twice about form and function when setting it up. Don’t make extra work for yourself by moving in a bunch of decorative items you’ll just have to move out again. Instead, choose decor pieces that function in other ways. A fruit bowl, for example, adds a much-needed pop of color while keeping healthy options front and center. A cute basket by the front door personalizes a space while helping you keep keys organized in an unfamiliar space. Even a low chest can pull double duty as a coffee table and a place to stash stuff in limbo. Make sure the decor you do bring in can do more than just sit and look pretty.

Living room with pillow accents.

Pillows and blankets are an easy way to warm up a space. Image: Aratzum/Shutterstock

6. Personalize the Space

Your temporary living space might not look like home but there’s no reason it can’t feel like home. Don’t feel guilty about adding a few things that make the space more familiar, even if you’re staying with friends or family. No one will object to a few pictures, of course, but you can also add temporary things. Textiles, like throw pillows or comfy blankets, are a great way to add personality and texture. Or use a candle that you used to have in your old home. The scent will make the space feel more familiar and help you weather the wait between temporary and permanent.

A temporary living space is less than ideal, but it’s important to remember it’s just that: temporary. Even if it’s not a perfect situation, it won’t last forever. Do your best to make a space comfortable and, no matter where you are, it’ll feel a little like home.

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What No One Tells You About Flipping Houses

House flipping tips

Learn the secrets of house flipping. Image: Perry Mastrovito/Getty Images

We love binge-watching house flipping shows while dreaming of tackling a flip of our own. House flipping can be fun, and sometimes profitable, but your favorite shows don’t tell you everything you need to know before you jump into your first flip. Here’s the lowdown on what you should know before you take on a house flip:

1. It can take a long time to find a house

Flippers and investors are scouring many real estate markets right now, looking for a good property to flip. There are entire companies dedicated to flipping homes. These investment firms employ scouts to find homes to flip in most markets. Expect to make several offers and wait months to find the right home.

2. You don’t need a weekend seminar to learn how to flip a house

House flipping seminars can be valuable and give you lots of inspiration, but even if you can’t attend one, you can still flip houses. You’ll still need to learn everything you can before you start flipping homes, though. Watching HGTV can inspire you, but you can’t see all of the details that go into a successful flip. You’ll need to learn about financing, permitting and marketing before your first project. If you surround yourself with professionals, they can provide you with knowledge that you can use on future flips.

3. A standard mortgage isn’t used for house flipping

When you’re ready for your first flip, you’ll need “hard money.” Potential flippers often ask online if they can use a long-term mortgage for flipping a home. The answer is “no.” Standard mortgages are structured and priced for long-term financing. You’ll need a loan that is designed for a house flip. Hard money lenders and investors are often project-based, rather than credit-based, so it may be easier to qualify for hard money as long as your potential flip meets their criteria.

House Flipping Math

Math is an important part of house flipping. Image: Natee Meepian/Shutterstock

4. Flipping a home is all about math

Be prepared to explain the ARV (after repair value) when you’re applying for a loan for your project. It won’t matter how amazing your vision is for the finished project; investors are strict about the bottom line. Your flip project must come in within that investor’s numbers or you won’t have a deal.

5. Timing is everything when you’re flipping a house

Your hard money loan can have a 6-month to 1-year end-date, after which you may incur penalty interest. Having an attorney review your contract can prevent expensive surprises later on. Unexpected construction hiccups are commonplace and permits can take a long time. Before you sign a mortgage with a short maturity, check with the local building authority to see how long the wait will be for permits. It’s not unheard of to experience a 6-month wait for permits in some areas.

6. Be prepared to account for every cent you spend on your flip

It’s crucial to keep your receipts, use a project tracking app and stay current on your budget. Your lender will ask for this information several times during your project as they release more funds to you. Spreadsheet skills are especially valuable for home flippers. Having detailed information on expenses and loan balance can help keep your funding flowing through each phase of the project.

Contemporary Kitchen Flip

Learn what buyers want before you plan your house flip design. Image: Artazum/Shutterstock

7. Step into the home buyer’s shoes

Buyers love neutral palettes and homes they can move right into, but don’t be a carbon copy of every flipped house in your market. For a few years, every flipped home seemed to have an aqua front door — now yellow is the most common color. Your goal as a house flipper is to create a home that doesn’t feel like a flipped home. If you have to make choices when you’re creating your budget, bath and kitchen remodels are buyer favorites.

8. There will be surprises

You won’t know everything about your home until you open a wall or remove flooring, but don’t let surprises derail your flip. Even in the most simple cosmetic flip, you will encounter complications. Make sure your budget has a contingency for surprises. Work to run your project efficiently so that you can handle whatever comes your way. You can weather any complication with a positive attitude and laser-focus on your long-term goal.

House Flipping Tiles

Choosing the right materials is crucial to a successful house flip project. Image: Severija/Getty Images

9. Your home’s tile work is more important than you think

Many beginning flippers miss the mark with their tile choices and installation. Choosing attractive tile for the kitchen and bathrooms can contribute to your flip’s buyer appeal. This is not the time for elaborate tile designs, crazy colors or to express your artistic vision. If you’re not experienced setting tile precisely, hire a pro to help. Buyers want a home that is move-in ready and don’t want to be faced with the expense and mess of redoing the tile.

10. Set a realistic budget

Make room in your budget to include specialty contractors if needed. (They’re usually needed on most projects.) Make sure you understand the laws in your area for permitting and using licensed contractors for some tasks, as it can cost you money and time. Hard money lenders will require you to submit a detailed budget and estimate of the work you’ll be doing, so be ready to pay a contractor to write this up. Their experienced eye can help you see exactly what needs to be done.

11. Flipping houses isn’t for everyone

If you’re not ready to take on a house flip, you can still use the same ideas and strategies to sell your own home. Approaching your home as a house-flipper would, you can create a fresh look that buyers will notice. Visiting open houses and model homes can give you inspiration for changes you can make in your own home. 

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Relocating? Watch for these Neighborhood Red Flags

In a perfect world, every neighborhood would resemble Mayberry. Everyone would know each other by name and your next-door neighbor’s yard would always look as manicured as your own. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a perfect neighborhood and every zip code has its own pros and cons. Still, there’s nothing worse than having home buyer’s remorse just because of your neighborhood. You might love a house, but if it’s in a problematic area, it could affect everything from resale value to the way you live your daily life. If you’re relocating, protect yourself by watching for the red flags that could warn you something’s not right.

Traditional neighborhood with craftsman homes

A mass exodus should be a red flag. Image: romakoma/Shutterstock

Red flag #1: Too much inventory

Having a lot of homes to choose from helps drive down prices. Great for a buyer, right? Actually, it depends. Having a lot of inventory might mean cheaper homes, but it could also mean there’s something causing homeowners to want to leave. It could be the area, but it could also be the homes. Consider some of these reasons a lot of homes might be on the market at once.

  • Homes are hard to maintain. A neighborhood that was developed by the same builder means that when one home starts to have issues, others might have the same. If you notice a bunch of homes by the same builder going up for sale at the same time, it could be a sign of poor quality.
  • Rising social issues. A sudden change in factors like crime rate or school ratings could have people looking for a way out. Gentrification could mean affordable housing is rare, or it could be the result of older residents downsizing in retirement. Consider some of the social issues that could change the way a group of homeowners views their area.
  • Low home values. Sometimes, when home values are poor, homeowners look to test their luck elsewhere before values dip even lower. While this could mean snagging a great deal, it could also mean gambling with future values.

Red flag #2: Shrinking schools

You can tell a lot about a neighborhood by asking a few questions about the nearest schools before relocating. Since schools are typically a reflection of a neighborhood and its attitude toward public services, a shrinking school could be a total red flag. On one hand, it might simply be the result of an aging population. Keep in mind that if you have kids, that means fewer playmates. On the other hand, if the local school is enrolling fewer kids, it might be that parents are opting to utilize private, home or charter schools instead. A less-than-stellar school should give you pause, whether you have kids or not.

Not sure about schools? Check for online ratings for schools in the area or seek out community social media pages where you can ask current and past residents about the specifics.

Traditional brownstone row homes

Watch for pride of ownership. Image: Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock

Red flag #3: Poorly maintained homes and yards

It’s no secret that poorly maintained homes equate to a poorly maintained neighborhood, but the issues are more than skin deep. Homes that are left in disrepair and poorly maintained yards tell you something about the level of pride in a neighborhood. When homeowners are proud of their area, they want to ensure their properties do the neighborhood justice. Homeowners that are happy in their area are more likely to keep their homes and gardens looking neat as a tribute to the location. It doesn’t matter if the average home is 1,500 square feet or 15,000 square feet: well-maintained properties are a community effort. If you notice that most homes are in disrepair, steer clear.

Red flag #4: Potholes

Hey, every street has a few cracks and potholes and it shouldn’t be held against your dream home. But when a city or town is lagging in public services, it could be a red flag signaling you to look elsewhere. Look beyond the other houses and your potential property. Does it look like the city takes pride in upkeep and services? Streets that are badly maintained don’t just make for a bumpy drive. It could mean slow snow removal in the winter, a lack of community events or even issues with water. Sometimes, it can even mean that the city is neglecting a certain neighborhood. When you’re at the mercy of city services, it’s important to assess a neighborhood on that level to ensure you’d be getting what you need — when you need it.

relacting

A lack of people could mean a dangerous neighborhood. Image: Stephanie A Sellers/Shutterstock

Red flag #5: No people

When you drive through a potential neighborhood, what do you see? If it seems like there aren’t a lot of people out and about, it could be more than just residents who value their privacy. People might limit how much time they spend outside — especially in their front yards — when neighborhoods are unsafe. A lack of kids playing and residents on their porches or even doing yard work should be a red flag that residents don’t feel safe spending time around each other. Sure, you might prefer privacy, but even if you’re not really into community events, you still want to feel safe in your new neighborhood. You can benefit from a safe community by looking for areas where residents spend time around each other, even if they aren’t directly interacting.

When relocating to a new area, you’re definitely focused on a house that can become a home for you. But don’t forget that a large part of the way you live is where you live. A neighborhood might seem innocuous, but some investigation is always needed. While one red flag might be no big deal, a slew of issues could seriously affect your day-to-day. Make sure that a community is safe and civil before you consider relocating and you’ll love your new home that much more.

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