8 ‘valuable’ home features that might actually be a waste of money

8 ‘valuable’ home features that might actually be a waste of money

No one likes to overpay for a purchase, and this is particularly true when buying a home. After all, every square foot of space or block closer to a top school will cost you big-time!

So if you’re a thrifty soul who must make every home-buying dollar count, check out these home features that often inspire sellers to jack up their price. That’s fine if you truly want these things, but if not? You’re wasting your money.

1. A huge yard you rarely enjoy

A sprawling green lawn may have a certain curb appeal at first sight. And if you have kids or plan to spend a lot of time outdoors, it’s a fine feature to splurge on. But if you doubt anyone will be out there much, you’re just tossing money out the window.

It turns out sellers charge a premium for that patch of grass, and you’ll funnel even more money going forward on lawn maintenance (or else spend your weekends mowing, weeding and pruning the yard).

“It could end up just costing you a lot of money to maintain, even though it’s not being enjoyed,” says Tim Bakke, director of publishing at the Plan Collective, a website that provides house plans.

2. A short commute you won’t use

If you work from home, commute at off-hours, work in the suburbs, or are retired, don’t pay extra to buy a house near mass transit, or within easy driving distance of major office areas—those are homes that regular commuters might covet, prompting sellers to charge up the wazoo.

“Homes closer to major commerce centers cost quite a bit more than homes in outlying or suburban areas,” says real estate agent Jamie Klingman at Boutiquerealtyflorida.com.

Is this an important factor to you? If not, consider a home that’s a bit farther out to save cash.

3. A top school district when you don’t have kids

A home zoned for a great public school will always command top dollar on the open market.

“And you’ll also pay for this through your taxes,” says Bakke.

However, if you don’t have (or plan to have) kids, why empty your wallet to send someone else’s child to school? Look for homes just outside the district to save on purchase price and property taxes.

4. A single-story house when you’re fine with stairs

In many locations, homes all on the same level command a higher dollar value because the boomer generation prefers them when downsizing, says Jen Nelson, an agent in Phoenix.

If you can handle going up a flight of stairs or two, consider a two-story house to get more bang for your buck. (Another bonus? A smaller roof to replace when the time comes.)

More From Realtor.com

5. A bigger house than you truly need

Very often buyers purchase a home that’s way bigger than they actually need.

“People end up with too much house and not even using the rooms they have,” says Pat Vosburgh, a certified real estate negotiation expert at Vosburghandvosburgh.com.

Since a purchase price directly reflects things like size, why overpay for bedrooms or media rooms you won’t use—and have to heat, cool, furnish, and clean? Instead, protect your bank account by looking only for homes that reflect how much space you’ll actually use.

6. A hot neighborhood

A hip neighborhood that everyone’s buzzing about can send home prices soaring. But getting caught up in the hype and overspending in an area where prices haven’t quite gelled yet can be a risky proposition where you end up (you guessed it) overpaying. Buy homes only in new areas that are still a relative bargain.

7. Fancy amenities you won’t use

Here’s a reality check: If you don’t drink wine regularly, you don’t need a wine refrigerator—or to pay for a house with one, either.

“A six-car, air-conditioned garage or a built-in commercial pizza oven may appeal to a specific buyer,” says Bruce Ailionof Atlanta’s Re/Max Town and Country. But such premium upgrades and add-ons will send a purchase price north, so you’d better make sure you use whatever you buy, often.

This is especially true when you buy a condo or a home in a planned community, since you’ll have to consider the monthly condo or HOA fees you’ll be paying as part of your purchase price. Make no mistake, those fees are for amenities—think a gym or lounge—so if you don’t plan to take advantage of these features, you’re squandering your money.

8. The nicest house in the neighborhood

It may be tempting to snag the home with the biggest price tag in a certain ZIP code for bragging rights. “But you never want to buy the most expensive home in the neighborhood,” says Vosburgh.

While it might be fun to know your casa is the area’s castle, having the top comp in a neighborhood may become an issue when it comes time to sell. This scenario leaves little room for your home’s price to appreciate, so you may not be able to recoup what you paid. So unless you’re truly smitten with this home, buyer beware.

 

 

 

By Margaret Heidenry

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Quick fixes and larger projects to make your home more energy efficient.

Quick fixes and larger projects to make your home more energy efficient

Don’t despair! To help solve some of the most common issues, here are some quick-fix projects that you can accomplish on your own, as well as some larger home upgrades that can make a huge impact. These changes could lower your energy bills in the near term–and make your home more valuable in the long run.

Here are the top four home energy efficiency issues that can be addressed with both a quick fix and a long-term solution.

What to do…

…If you’re constantly cranking your thermostat

Quick fix: Seal your windows

Even small gaps can waste a significant amount of energy. Test for leaks by moving a piece of tissue paper around your window. If you see movement, there’s a leak. Heat loss occurs through gaps between sashes and frames, so you’ll want to caulk around these areas, mainly around the exterior. For the best adhesion, you’ll want to clean all areas first, removing any old caulk and paint. Then apply caulk to all joints in a window frame and the joint between the frame and the wall. If possible, caulk in one continuous motion.

Long-term solution: Replace your windows

Windows play a big part in your overall energy use accounting for 25-30% of residential heating and cooling energy use.1 You’ll want to discuss with your window retailer and installer whether you’ll be able to replace your windows in their existing frame. Then you’ll need to decide on features—frame types, glazing type, gas fills and spacers and operation types. When selecting the windows themselves, you’ll want to keep energy use in mind and look for the ENERGY STAR® label, as well as review ratings on the energy performance label for the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC).

What to do…

…If your electricity and gas bills are consistently over the local average

Quick fix: Unplug—ensure that you’re not outputting excess energy

Do you use space heaters in the winter? Leave your appliances plugged in at all times, or leave your phone on the charger all night? All of these things eat away energy. If you use power strips, you’ll be able to turn off multiple devices with just the flip of a switch. When charging your phone, don’t leave it siting on the charger all night, and once it’s charged, don’t just detach your phone—unplug the charger as well. As for space heaters, you’ll want to ensure it’s safe and energy efficient. Which brings us to our long-term solution…

Long-term solution: Insulate to your attic

If you find you’re cranking up your thermostat or plugging in space heaters, some insulation could help with your home’s heating and cooling costs. Take a peak in your attic. If the insulation is level with your floor joists, you could benefit from additional insulation. There are a lot of factors that can cause the cost of   this project to fluctuate—the type of insulation you choose, the size of your attic, whether you need to seal fixtures, whether you have mold that needs to be treated and removed or whether you have junction boxes or cables that will require an electrician to safely insulate around those areas.

What to do…

…If a strategic plan needs to be in place when both your clothes and dishes need to be washed

Quick fix: Consider your laundry and kitchen appliance approach

Wash your clothes in cool water when possible. Approximately 90% of the energy used by your washer is used to heat the water.2 So, for loads that don’t require hot water, you don’t need to expend all that extra energy to heat water. And it’s gentler on your clothes! You’ll also want to try to wash only full (but not packed-to-the brim!) loads of laundry in order for your machine to operate at peak efficiency. Once you’ve found the Goldilocks of dirty clothes, you can do the same for your fridge and dishwasher—both of which run most efficiently when full but not overstuffed.

Long-term solution: Replace your old, energy-bleeding appliances

Is your refrigerator over 10-years old? Do you have a top-loading laundry machine? Consider updating your appliances to newer models that expend significantly less energy and can help cut down your monthly utility costs. Look for ENERGY STAR®products, as they meet the energy-efficient specifications set by the EPA and use 10-50% less energy than standard appliances.3

What to do…

…If you’re last, better shower fast—you have hot water battles in your household 

Quick fix: Install low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators

Standard showerheads use approximately 2.5 gallons of water per minute (GPM), while water-saving showerheads use no more than 2 GPM. So in just a 10-minute shower, you could save 5 gallons of water.4 To reduce further water usage, you can install a low-flow aerator to your kitchen faucet. Both of these fixes not only save water but can also save your furnace from heating excess water. And if a new showerhead isn’t going to cut it…

Long-term solution: Full bathroom and/or kitchen renovation

If you’re looking for some aesthetic changes as well, this is the perfect time to ensure your upgrades are going to conserve your resources. You’ll be able to select the most up-to-date and energy efficient appliances and make structural fixes along the way. For instance, you can check for water intrusion and condensation to improve your home’s indoor air quality by eliminating mold-friendly moisture. Or you can add HVAC ducts to parts of your home that are heated and cooled. This will ensure your heating and cooling systems are working efficiently, ultimately cutting your month-to-month utility bills.

Whether you’re looking to make some small tweaks or major changes, there are so many ways to make your home more energy efficient and cut down costs. Be green—save green.

[1] Energy.gov, Update or Replace Windows

[2] Treehugger, 11 ways to green your laundry

[3] Energystar.gov, How a Product Earns the ENERGY STAR Label

[4] EPA.gov, Showerheads

By Kristen Elliott on 9/24/2018

4 creative ways to come up with a down payment

Creative Ways to Source a Down Payment

Creative Ways to Source a Down Payment

Transforming Your Home With Wallpaper

Transforming Your Home With Wallpaper

Transforming Your Home With Wallpaper

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Top Spot for U.S. Vacation Homes Revealed

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How to Say Goodbye to Renting and Hello to Home Ownership

How to Say Goodbye to Renting and Hello to Home Ownership

How to Say Goodbye to Renting and Hello to Home Ownership

Becoming a first-time homeowner takes a lot more than a desire to buy a house. It takes a lot of effort on your part to save up a down payment — which is usually a pretty good sized chunk of change — research neighborhoods, get pre-approved for a loan and other steps. Fortunately, it is quite possible to say goodbye to renting and hello to homeownership, especially when homeowners-to-be consider the following tips:

Focus on the Down Payment

In order to leave the land of rent, you are going to need a down payment — plain and simple. While it is common to put down 20 percent, some lenders now allow a much smaller amount, and first-time home buyer programs may go as low as 3 percent. While a smaller down payment may sound enticing, a 5 percent down payment on a $200K home is still $10,000 — not exactly a small sum. If saving money does not come naturally for you, don’t worry. With some relatively minor lifestyle changes you can speed up the down payment savings process. Come up with a savings plan to determine how much you need to set aside every week or month and then find ways to “find” that money in your budget. Using the $10,000 example from before, if you are determined to buy a home in two years, you’ll have to come up with about $415 a month to stash into your down payment account. Take a close look at your monthly bills and determine what you can pare down or eliminate — maybe you are paying $75 a month for a gym membership you rarely use, or you pay $40 extra for premium satellite channels that no one watches. These services can be cancelled and the money can go directly into your savings account. Eat out less, have Starbucks twice a week instead of every day and if you need to, consider a side hustle on the weekends to reach this magical monthly amount of $415.

Avoid Identity Theft

Unfortunately, the chances of becoming a victim of identity theft increase when you are buying and moving into a new home. The stacks of documents that are part of buying a home and that are filled with your personal information may accidentally fall into the wrong hands, and once you move, mail may not be routed correctly and thieves may steal your mail and your identity from your old mailbox. Prevent this situation from happening by purchasing an identity theft protection program; find a trusted company that will help safeguard your personal data. In addition to letting you know when a bank pulls your credit report and asking if you have authorized this inquiry, certain services will monitor your financial activity and alert you if anything is amiss.

Check Your Credit Report

When you start the pre-approval process for a loan and then move on to the Big Kahuna of applying for an actual mortgage, your credit report will be pulled numerous times. Your credit score will then be used to determine if you are approved for a loan, and what type of interest rate you will get. Please do not wait until you have the down payment saved and you are champing at the bit to go look at houses to check your FICO score — check your credit as early in the process as you can. If you have a credit card that has been issued through your bank, give them a call and see if they can run your report for you for free; in the cases of some credit cards, they also offer a free monthly FICO score check. Read through the report and check for any errors; this includes credit lines you never opened and delinquent payments that you know were made on time. Dispute any mistakes that you find and look for ways to boost your credit score, like paying down credit card bills and setting up automatic bill pay so you are never late with your payments.

7 Home Items That Will Absolutely Make Your Life Easier

7 Home Items That Will Absolutely Make Your Life Easier

7 Home Items That Will Absolutely Make Your Life Easier

Work smarter, not harder. That’s how the saying goes, right? Whether you need an easy entry into Smart Home living or a better answer for the dog hair and dust bunny situation, these items will help you realize that reality.

A crumb and dog hair vacuum

We were at the hairdresser when we first spotted the EyeVac Home Touchless Sensor Activated Vacuum. She swept up a big ball of hair into this wondrous little stationary machine in the corner and it gobbled it all up. Clearly this had to be purchased for a home with three shedding dogs. Magic happens when you sweep (with the included broom) crumbs and hair and anything else collecting on your floor into the slot at the bottom. You can keep your malfunctioning Rumba. We’ll take our EyeVac.

vacuum

The Airmega 400S

While this is not a budget item (it’s currently on sale for $548, down from $849, on Amazon), you can’t put a price on good air quality, right? Whether someone in your household has bad allergies or you just want to make sure you’re breathing cleaner air, this air purifier is a great option. Technological advancements make it easy to use; the built-in air quality sensor can be controlled by Airmega’s app or by Amazon’s Alexa.

A hidden trash can

If you have dogs, and if those dogs like to get in the garbage, and if you’re sick of doing things like picking up half-eaten trash strewn about your home, you’re going to love this trash can. Not only does it hide away the trash so your pets can’t get to it, but it does so while looking good. There’s a nifty DIY tutorial here, but if you want one ready-made, be sure to look for a tilt-out version. They’re easier to empty.

Tile

Why are you not using Tile yet?! If you’re the type that misplaces your keys or other important items, it’s a must-have. “Tile is one of the most popular lost item trackers on the market,” said Tech Crunch. “The company, to date, has now sold over 10 million of its Bluetooth-connected dongles that work with an app on your phone to help you find misplaced items, like your keys, purse, wallet, tablets, laptops, luggage and more. And because of the way its app works, Tile can leverage its community of millions of app users to help you find your device, even when you’re out of range. That is, if another Tile user is near your missing device, an alert with the location attached is sent to your phone.”

A gel anti-fatigue kitchen mat

If you have to spend time making dinner and/or doing the dishes, at least make sure your feet and legs are comfortable and feeling good during—and after. There’s nothing worse than sore legs from housework instead of a good workout! The rub on comfy kitchen mats has always been that you can get cute or you can get effective—but not both. That is changing, as these GelPro mats actually have some stylish options.

Dash Deluxe Rapid Egg Cooker

We first saw this on vacation, where it was perched next to the buffet table, cooking up soft-boiled eggs for breakfast. You’ll want one, too, since it can “perfectly cook 12 eggs in less time than it takes to boil water,” said Dash, making “omelettes, hard-boiled, soft-boiled, and poached eggs.” Plus, it can “steam vegetables, seafood, dumplings, warm tortillas, and more.”

The Snap SmartCam for home security

“This is one of the most perfect gadgets you could want for home security,” saidMoney Inc. “Though it looks like a USB charger, it isn’t. It is a full HD 1080p resolution security camera that will watch your home while you are away at work, shopping, or any other necessary daily task. No batteries are required. But the advantages just keep on coming.The Snap SmartCam will continuously record the activities inside your home, and when it reaches the end of its maximum recording capacity it continues by overwriting the earliest videos on the device. You can download the recorded videos is you want to retain them for your records. Oh, the USB appearance not only conceals the security camera, but it actually functions as a charger.”

How to Keep Your Jewelry Safe While You Sell Your Home

How to Keep Your Jewelry Safe While You Sell Your Home

How to Keep Your Jewelry Safe While You Sell Your Home

It’s an unfortunate fact that thieves often target homes on the real estate market. Sometimes these thieves are serial offenders, but they can also be prospective buyers or real estate agents gone rogue.

To minimize temptation, store your valuables, especially fine jewelry, in a safe and secure place whenever you have potential buyers or agents in your home. Avoid leaving valuables unsecured in easy-to-access areas. We’ve outlined several ways to avoid mistakes and keep your valuables safe before and while you sell your home.

Before Listing Your Home

Protecting your belongings starts before your home even goes on the market. Complete these simple tasks ahead of time to ensure that you can protect yourself and recover any losses if something goes wrong.

1. Make sure you have a detailed receipt or appraisal for each piece of jewelry. A detailed receipt will have information about each item’s metal and diamonds or precious gemstones. It should also have the price you paid or a current estimate of the piece’s value. These documents will be very useful in the event something does happen to your valuables.

2. As you begin the process of listing your home and staging your house for pictures or virtual tours, take jewelry boxes off the counters and remove jewelry cabinets or armoires from view. Criminals often case homes using the listing photos, so don’t leave any signs of fine jewelry in these promotional images.

3. We’re focusing on your precious jewelry and valuables, but you can also apply these tips to any item someone may be tempted to steal.

While Your Home is on the Market

Now that you’ve appraised your jewelry and removed it from sight, let’s talk about how to protect your belongings while strangers visit your home.

Lock it up — Most real estate experts will tell you that the best way to keep any item safe is to lock it up. It’s not as simple as “out of sight, out of mind”; you don’t know who might open drawers or cabinets during an open house. Find a secure place that you can store your valuables, such as a safe or a locking drawer. If you don’t have a safe or secure place to lock away your jewelry, consider renting a safety deposit box while your home is on the market.

Find a friend — Your friends and neighbors will be sad to see you go, but you might be able to ask them for one last favor. Ask a trusted friend to babysit your valuables temporarily. Explain that you’d like to keep them out of the house while strangers are present, and be willing to reward them with homemade treats or a bottle of wine for their generosity. But before you ask, make sure they’re a good candidate for the job. Do they have small children who get into everything, or do they have contractors or other strangers in their home? No matter what, secure your pieces in a locked box before you take them over.

Take it with you — This won’t work for everyone, as some agents bring prospective buyers over when you’re out of the house. But if you require your agent to give you notice whenever they schedule a visit, this option may be the perfect fit for you. Keep your valuables ready to lock up and take with you before the appointment begins. This option may be the most difficult in today’s housing market, since many buyers want to see your home on short notice.

Whichever solution you choose, make sure to put your pieces into soft velvet pouches, jewelry boxes, or small plastic bags. This storage technique will keep each item separate and safe from scratching, tangling, or other damage. Check your homeowner’s policy to make sure your policy covers valuables. Your diamonds may be covered against chipping, cracking and loss from the mounting by your jeweler, but loss and theft of the entire ring may not be covered. If you need additional coverage, it’s best to know as soon as possible.

Selling a home can be a stressful time, but these steps will save you from worrying about your valuables. With some creativity and planning, you can rest assured knowing that prospective buyers won’t be tempted to take anything that’s not theirs.

 

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