Colorado Springs Real Estate and Community News

May 23, 2019

Biggest Problems When Renovating Older Homes

Considering buying an older home and then renovating it? You don't want to be biting off more than you can chew but you also want to have a good return on your investment. The home with good bones might be the only thing good about it so it's important to have an inspection and understand all of the hurdles that you could face when you want to renovate or change older or historical buildings.Biggest Problems When Renovating Older Homes

Historical societies exist to protect various buildings and features in historical neighborhoods and if you're planning on purchasing an older home it's important to understand whether the building has any historical significance. If you attempt to renovate or remodel an older home, you could come under fire from public pressure, especially if your remodeling an older building in a designated historical neighborhood with certain relevance. There may also be laws against renovating certain homes in particular neighborhoods, especially if you're planning on completely changing the architecture.

Proper permits and permissions can be a nightmare for renovating older homes so before finalizing the sale, it's important to have an understanding of the building in question and ask questions to local building contractors, permit managers, and zoning facilities as well as any building agency that might be involved in an older or historical building.

Costs are usually one of the largest hurdles to renovating an older property. This is where having an inspection comes in handy. You can get a better idea of all the costs involved such as rewiring the entire house to stay up with code, installing new plumbing, new insulation, or the structural integrity of the foundation as well as top biography of the land that it sits on. Home inspectors can give you a good idea of the cost and work that would need to be done for renovating certain features and an older home.

Environmental issues are also another hurdle that you might face when renovating an older or historic home. Some older buildings may have exemptions from modern building codes and environmental regulation but raw materials may cause a hazard once removed during a remodel. Asbestos was actually used in fireplace mortar and bricks so removing a chimney or fireplace can be quite a hazardous ordeal and may need certain permits and professionals to remove it or other asbestos throughout the house. Lead pipes, old plumbing, and knob and tube wiring may all have environmental issues to deal with.

While these hurdles are not necessarily uncommon or a dealbreaker, it is important to understand them and know what you're getting into before finalizing the sale. Renovating an older home can be extremely rewarding but knowing all of the costs and issues involved will put you ahead of the game overall.

Give us a call if you're interested in learning more about older or historical buildings and homes throughout Colorado Springs.

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Posted in Real Estate News
May 23, 2019

Avoid These Decorating Mistakes Before Selling

There's a huge difference between decorating for your own pleasure and spiffying up your home to sell. If you're staying put and pining for a purple bathroom, go for it! The resale value of your eclectic tastes don't apply.

However, if you might put your place on the market in the next couple of years—and hope to fetch top dollar—then you'll need to tone down what you want and ponder what the masses want instead. Because while pea-green appliances might appeal to you and be oh-so-trendy right now, will they make future home buyers swoon ... or recoil in horror?

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We know, it's hard to tamp down and "blandify" your personal style, but it's a must. So, lest your Pinterest whims get the best of you, here are some "hot" home decor trends to avoid if you hope to sell anytime soon.

Wallpaper

Bold, almost kitschy wallpaper has been a big trend lately, especially in small bathroom spaces. We've seen tropicals, animal prints, cacti, geometrics, and just about every other kind of pattern in bright colors and metallics. Whether or not this trend has peaked (and we'll leave the debate about whether wallpaper in bathrooms makes sense for another day), it's a no-no for someone getting ready to sell.

Tile

Bold-patterned cement tiles are popping up everywhere from Instagrammable restaurants to hip backsplashes to bathroom floors. This is exactly why you should avoid them.

Don't use purpose or yellow

If you absolutely can't live without bold bright colors, purple or otherwise, "a few colorful pillows are perfectly fine," says Totty. And luckily, the pillows come with you, so you can take your colorful palette with you to your next home.

Too much white

That doesn't have to mean repainting, if you're already all-in on the all-white trend. Williams recommends adding warm tones and texture with accessories, pillows, throws, and other accent pieces.

Don't use too much brass

Copper, brass, rose gold, and other warm metals are having a moment. But like all moments, they will pass and these metals will cease to be appealing. Choosing premium bathroom or kitchen fixtures in these trendy, bright metals? Probably not a great idea. Brass especially can be a love-it-or-hate-it look, and hating it is the last reaction you want a buyer to have to anything in your home.

Instead, choose more neutral metals like stainless steel, chrome, or nickel for fixtures, and get your brass on in your accent pieces, lamps, or kitchen accessories.

The kitchen

Yes, stainless-steel appliances have been the go-to for years, and yes, someone is always trying to argue that stainless steel is on its way out, but 72% of people who remodeled their kitchens in 2017 went with stainless steel. Unless your kitchen has a design element that demands a different color (or you're springing for a Smeg), stainless steel is the "neutral" of kitchen appliances.

A bold color front door

It's hard to want to shell out your hard-earned cash for renovations that aren't to your taste and you're not going to enjoy, but comfort yourself with the fact that your restraint will pay off when it's time to find a buyer. And once you move into your next home where you plan to stay put, feel free to paint over all those neutral walls with any color you want!

 

Posted in Selling Your Home
May 20, 2019

How Social Media Can Help You Find the Perfect House

We use social media for everything nowadays whether it's Instagram, Facebook, Yelp, Snapchat, Twitter, or any one of the other hundreds of the social media accounts out there. But can they really help you find the right house?

Social media can be your doorway into finding out a lot about a neighborhood or community before even visiting it in person. Social media is really where we are getting all of our recommendations and referrals these days. People are leaving Google reviews and Yelp reviews on a daily basis and it really helps steer us into the direction we think we want to go. So how can you use social media to find the right house?How Social Media Can Help You Find the Perfect House

Social media is a great way to get to know your neighbors.

Obviously, you can get to know your neighbors by spending a lot of time in a neighborhood where you want to buy a house but you can also get access to websites such as Next door and Niche.com, where you'll get a behind-the-scenes peek at who actually lives there. You might find information on wild animal sightings, landscaping gripes, crime and safety information, or just how the neighbors interact with each other.

You may be able to find out more about an individual house.

If you know who is selling the house you may be able to get some information from their social media accounts. You can call it stocking if you want, but I find it's more research than anything. Maybe you'll get before and after pictures of renovations or recent remodels or maybe find out if the house had a flood or fire or other things that the seller may not want to disclose. The more information you can find out about a house and its condition, the more confident you could feel about making an offer or walking away.

Find the right mortgage.

Sites like Bankrate or Nerdwallet have social media accounts that can give you the most up-to-date information on mortgage rates, news, and changes to the mortgage industry. It really works when you're trying to save money wherever possible.

Learn about the market.

Next-door is also a great place to learn about certain homes for sale that might be for sale by owner and not listed in the MLS or even some rental homes if you're considering renting a home in a neighborhood before buying.

Homebuyers can go through a plethora of real estate related websites but social media really gives you a nonbiased viewpoint of the neighbors, the neighborhood, in the area in which you're buying. Plus, going with a real estate agent that understands current markets and neighborhoods can also help give you details about a neighborhood that an MLS listing may not cover. For more details about any neighborhood throughout Colorado Springs give our office a call. We have in-depth information about the communities and neighborhoods surrounding and within Colorado Springs real estate.

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Posted in Buying a Home
May 8, 2019

Why Should I Buy A Home?

If you're like most first-time home buyers, you've probably listened to friends', family's and coworkers' advice, many of whom are encouraging you to buy a home. However, you may still wonder if buying a home is the right thing to do. Relax. Having reservations is normal. The more you know about why you should buy a home, the less scary the entire process will appear to you. Here are eight good reasons why you should buy a home.

Pride of Ownership

Pride of ownership is the number one reason why people yearn to own their home. It means you can paint the walls any color you desire, turn your music up, attach permanent fixtures, and decorate your home according to your own taste. Home ownership gives you and your family a sense of stability and security. It's making an investment in your future.

Appreciation

Beyond pride of ownership, it's important to realize another benefit. First, real estate moves in cycles, sometimes up, sometimes down, yet over the years, real estate has consistently appreciated. The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight tracks the movements of single-family home values across the country. Its House Price Index breaks down the changes by region and metropolitan area. Many people view their home investment as a hedge against inflation.

Mortgage Interest Deductions

Home ownership is a superb tax shelter and our tax rates favor homeowners. Sometimes the mortgage interest deduction can overshadow the desire for pride of ownership as well. As long as your mortgage balance is smaller than the price of your home, mortgage interest is fully deductible on your tax return. Interest is the largest component of your mortgage payment.

Property Tax Deductions

You are able to write off the property tax depending on which state you live in a percent every single year. What a great investment! 

Capital Gain Exclusion

As long as you have lived in your home for two of the past five years, you can exclude up to $250,000 for an individual or $500,000 for a married couple of profit from capital gains. You do not have to buy a replacement home or move up. There is no age restriction, and the "over-55" rule does not apply. You can exclude the above thresholds from taxes every 24 months, which means you could sell every two years and pocket your profit—subject to limitation—free from taxation.

Preferential Tax Treatment

If you receive more profit than the allowable exclusion upon sale of your home, that profit will be considered a capital asset as long as you owned your home for more than one year. Capital assets receive preferential tax treatment. This means even if your profit exceeds the exclusion, the taxable portion will be much less than you might imagine.

Mortgage Reduction Builds Equity

 

Each month, part of your monthly payment is applied to the principal balance of your loan, which reduces your obligation. The way amortization works, the principal portion of your principal and interest payment increases slightly every month. It is lowest on your first payment and highest on your last payment. On average, each $100,000 of a mortgage will reduce in balance the first year by about $500 in principal, bringing that balance at the end of your first 12 months to $99,500.

Posted in Buying a Home
April 23, 2019

Can I still sell my home if I am behind on a mortgage payment?

If you're behind on your mortgage payments and don't see your situation improving, you might be thinking the only way out of this mess is to sell your home. But can you? The short answer is yes—that is, so long as your lender hasn't foreclosed on your home yet.Can I still sell my home if I am behind on a mortgage payment?

The foreclosure process begins once you fall behind on your mortgage payments. Miss just one payment, and you may soon receive a foreclosure notice in the mail. Once you're more than 120 days late, your lender has the legal ability to reclaim your home and sell it to recoup its money—and yes, you'll be forced to vacate the premises.

Adding to the pain, a foreclosure goes on your credit report and can drop your credit score by as much as 300 points, possibly more. This can hurt your ability to obtain a credit card, auto loan, or cellphone plan, and also prevent you from being able to get another mortgage loan down the line. 

But here's the bright side: You have up until the day that foreclosure takes place to sell the home on your own. Still, the process of selling your house before foreclosure isn't easy. Here's what you need to know.

Whether or not you can sell your house before foreclosure will depend, first and foremost, on whether your house is worth more or less than what you owe on your mortgage.

If you’ve fallen behind on your loan payments but aren’t underwater yet—meaning the market value is greater than what you owe on your home loan—you can sell your house and use the profits to pay back your lender.

If you choose to go this route, you’d follow the same steps you’d normally take to sell a home: You'd find a listing agent, accept an offer, and fulfill any contingencies before closing on the sale. Typically, you don't need to get your lender's permission to sell your home this way.

However, if your home is worth less than what you owe on your mortgage, you'll need to sell your property as a short sale to avoid foreclosure. The caveat is that your bank has to be on board with this kind of transaction.

Here's how a short sale works: Let's say the bid you get on your home is so low that it won't cover the total amount you owe on your mortgage. If you accept the offer, you're going to end up “short” on paying back your lender. That's OK only if your bank has agreed to accept less than what's owed on the loan.

Getting your bank's blessing, however, may be difficult. Since lenders lose money with short sales, they're not always eager to approve these transactions. But some lenders actually prefer short sales over foreclosing and repossessing homes, since owning and selling property can be huge hassles.

Before approving a short sale, your bank will require you to submit some paperwork, including your offer letter and a “hardship letter” explaining why you can no longer make your mortgage payments, along with financial documents such as income statements or medical bills to back that up. Also, most lenders will have your home appraised to determine if the offer you've received is fair. If it is, they may allow the deal to go through—though there may be stipulations.

Indeed, lenders will often counter short sale offers with their own demands in an effort to raise their bottom line. For example, buyers might hear, “We'll accept your offer, but you're responsible for all repairs, wire transfers, and notary fees.” It's ultimately up to you, though, to decide whether you're willing to absorb these extra costs. The good news: Your real estate agent can help you negotiate these terms with your bank.

As a home seller, a short sale is preferable to foreclosure, since short sales do way less damage your credit than a foreclosure. This means you’ll be in better shape to apply for a mortgage and buy a new home down the road. In addition, you get to stay in the home until the sale is completed. (Foreclosures force homeowners to vacate.) You also avoid the shame of having your property repossessed by your bank.

If you've fallen behind on your mortgage payments but would like to stay in your home, there are a couple of ways you can get back on track. You might qualify for a mortgage forbearance, a process where your servicer gives you a temporary break from your mortgage payments. Think of it as an “extended grace period,” says Guy Cecala, chief executive and publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance.

Another strategy is to negotiate a loan modification, in which case your mortgage lender agrees to let you change the terms of your loan. However, if you choose to modify your mortgage and your lender allows you to skip payments temporarily, those missed payments will be added to your loan’s principal to pay later—meaning this isn't a get-out-of-jail-free card that lets you walk away from falling behind on your mortgage unscathed.

Posted in Selling Your Home
April 19, 2019

5 Cheap Ways to Stage Your Home Like the Pros

Staging a home is relatively new in the past 20 to 30 years but more and more people are doing it and agents are almost requiring it in order to get the max profit from the sale of a home. While you can hire professional home stagers that cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars, there are some tips and tricks that they use that you can implement and save yourself a ton of money. If you're planning on selling your Colorado Springs home in the next few months, take a look at these five cheap ways to stage your home like a professional.

#1. Remove all personal items.5 Cheap Ways to Stage Your Home Like the Pros

As your agent, I'm going to say this anyway, but, nine times out of 10, many homeowners don't do it. Remember, you're trying to sell the house, not your personal collections, belongings, or photographs. Buyers don't care about that cute little family photo you took in the pumpkin patch last year. They need to see the house and anything that distracts them will only distract them from making an offer as well. Put away any religious items, personal photos, sports memorabilia, and collections. You want buyers to see themselves in the home, not you.

#2. Declutter.

Again, this is something that every real estate agent will tell you to do but it is extremely important, potentially one of the most important steps. If you've been watching Marie Kondo and how to organize your life, she says to get rid of everything that does not bring you joy. Now, I understand that a hammer may not bring you joy, but it is a necessity, however, do you need 12 of them? Remove everything out of closets, drawers, cupboards, pantries, and any other storage in the house and pack it up lovingly and put just a couple of things back so each storage area in the house looks clean and clutter free. Remove everything off of counters, desks, and dressers and put 1 to 3 things back, no more.

#3. Make sure every room has a purpose.

Have you turned your dining room into the makeshift playroom because you just don't use the dining room? It's time to turn that room back into what it was meant to be. Every room needs a purpose so stage the dining room with a lovely table and chairs and set the table. This works particularly good if you never use it. It stays beautifully set until you sell. Bathrooms should be arranged as if they are a spa-like oasis with baskets of toiletries and rolled up linens. A larger bedroom can have a sitting area in the corner complete with a lamp, table, book, and eyeglasses. Outdoor kitchen areas can set the stage for an evening of entertainment with a bottle of wine, a couple of glasses, and maybe a bowl of fruit, ready for that backyard barbecue.

Read More: Things NOT to Have Out During an Open House

#4. Clean and deodorize.

Many homeowners simply clean and miss the deodorizing part. Of course, you need to have a clean house in order to get the most profit from the sale, but have you become nose blind to the odors in your house? Do you have pets? Have you smoked in the house? Has there been a water leak in there still a mildew/musty smell? If you are unsure about your home's odors, have a trusted friend give the sniff test and then eliminate those odors before showing the house. If you have pets, remove all evidence of the pets including the pet during a showing.

#5. Don't forget about curb appeal.

Most featured images from a property listing will show the outside of the house or the view from the house so it needs to be amazing. That first impression is what will draw buyers to look further. Curb appeal is just as important as the inside of the house so make sure the lawn is carefully mowed, sidewalks and walkways are trimmed and edged, there's no debris or leaves on the sidewalk, the driveway is pressure washed, consider painting the trim or the front door, and verify that the front porch is clear for buyers and their agents as they wait to enter the house.

Related: 5 Ways to Make Your Neighbors Jealous of Your Backyard

These are probably the most common ways that stagers set up a listed home. By going down the list and making note of everything that needs to be changed, corrected, and designed, you can inexpensively stage your home just like a pro.

Every home is different so if you have a unique layout that you are stuck on how to stage, give me a call. I have sold hundreds of homes in the Colorado Springs area and would love to give some tips and advice on what Colorado Springs buyers are looking for.

 

Schedule a Consultation With Me Today

Posted in Selling Your Home
April 16, 2019

Colorado Springs is the #3 Best Place to Live in the U.S.

But, you don't have to take my word for it, according to US News & World Report, Colorado Springs has been named as the #3 Best Pl. to live in the country.Colorado Springs is the #3 Best Place to Live in the U.S.

US News & World Report measures affordability, the local job market, and quality of life to determine some of the best places to live in the country. This global authority in ranking and consumer advice has just recently unveiled its 2019 best places to live in the country. It evaluates the country's 125 most populous metro areas and for the third year in a row, Austin Texas takes the number 1 spot. Number two is followed by Denver, and our own Colorado Springs takes the #3 spot, followed by Fayetteville Arkansas, and Des Moines's Iowa.

The majority of the 25 best places to live are located in the middle of the country even though the tech boom on the Pacific Northwest, San Francisco, and Seattle market do make the top 10 and number 7, 8, and 9 respectively. Washington DC has dropped to number 19 after being 8 last year due to a decrease in housing affordability and net migration. The only city in the Northwest to crack the top 20 was Portland Maine coming ahead of Boston which was number 27. New York City ranks number 90 on the list.

Northeastern cities are the epicenter of higher education and economic development, however, they are not growing nearly as much is like places in Florida, California, and of course, Texas. Plus, northeastern cities are expensive to live in with a higher cost of living is low affordability. Some of the top ranking places have steady job growth, affordability, and high quality of life.

US News & World Report determines the ranking using a public survey of thousands of individuals throughout the country. They determine what qualities people consider important in a home town, at least towns larger than 125,000 people. They also look at rankings of best high schools, best hospitals, low cost of living, retirement usage, job growth, and the housing market.

So, congratulations Colorado Springs, you came in #3!

Want to find out why everyone is moving here? Start your online search here for free or simply give me a call and be connected to an award-winning Colorado Springs agent today!

 

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Posted in Community News
April 9, 2019

What keeps a home from selling?

Ever wonder what could keep a home from selling? Just ask a listing agent. They've seen some doozies.

Listing agents, as the professionals who help prep a home for sale, are often tasked with telling home sellers why their house might not sell in its current condition. It's a tough job, but it sure beats saying nothing and then watching a home sit indefinitely.

While most corrective tweaks are small—say, a fresh coat of paint or a solid decluttering—sometimes the things that stop a home from selling take everyone by surprise. Here are a few that listing agents have dealt with, and the solutions that saved the day.

1. The 'green monster'

Seth Lejeune, real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway in Collegeville, PA, coined this phrase to describe a "horrendously colored hunter-green carpet” in his home seller's living room. This home had already been listed once with another agent with no offers; Lejeune was quite sure this carpet was the culprit.

“So I told the seller to replace the carpet with something neutral,” Lejeune says. The seller "was surprised, but receptive. I explained the importance of first impressions, and he got it after a few minutes.”

Replacing the carpet cost only $1,500. “We got four showings within two weeks, and it was the fastest townhome sale of the year,” Lejeune says. In fact, the home buyers mentioned at settlement that they especially loved the living room.

Take-home lesson: Even simple cosmetic flaws, like an ugly shade of carpet, can make some home buyers run. Luckily swapping out carpet is an easy fix.

2. Too many pets

Seattle real estate agent Matt Parker recalls meeting with a landlord who was looking to sell his rental property. The problem? The home had been rented to, as Parker puts it, a couple of “pet enthusiasts.”

“They had about 30 injured birds, squirrels, dogs, cats, lizards, snakes, and dozens of fish in a 910-square-foot house,” he says.

The snakes were in cages and the fish were in bowls, of course, but the rest of the animals roamed free.

“You can imagine what the home smelled like, how stained the floors were, and how many ‘hidden treasure’ land mines there were throughout the house,” Parker says.

The carpet, flooring, subflooring, walls, and exposed wood throughout the house had been permeated with a foul odor, Parker says.

Parker told the home seller that his odds of selling were slim, unless it were a teardown. Thankfully, the seller accepted the news without much drama.

Take-home lesson: We love our furry friends, but that doesn't mean potential buyers want to see our pets (or any of their traces) when looking at a home they're thinking of buying. 

3. Noisy neighbors

Homeowners value privacy, but, alas, they don’t always get it.

Courtney Poulos, a broker at ACME Real Estate in Los Angeles, experienced this firsthand with a client who was looking to sell a stylishly remodeled three-bedroom home. Unfortunately, the house “was right next to a large apartment complex,” Poulos says.

“When you were in the backyard, you felt that the occupants of the apartment complex were looking right down on you," she adds.

Poulos agreed to list the house, but remembers a couple of troublesome open houses. During one, a couple living in the apartment building out back “were fighting and you could see them and hear them from the backyard,” she says. At another open house, “one of the neighbors had his TV on so loud that we had to blast music of our own in the open house to try to cover it up."

The fix? “Since we were not getting the offers we wanted after the first couple of weeks, we built a 12-foot fence, incorporated canvas sun shades, installed twinkle lights, and made the outdoor space much more private,” Poulos adds.

The costs tallied up to $3,000, but it was a modest expense considering “this backyard solution ultimately helped sell the property.”

Take-home lesson: No one likes noisy neighbors, especially those who can see right in your house without effort. So, if your home is located adjacent to an apartment building or another home, you’ll want to take steps to provide yourself some privacy.

4. An underground oil tank

“I sold a home earlier this year that an investor had purchased through a foreclosure auction,” says Christopher Pagli, associate broker at William Raveis Legends Realty Group in Tarrytown, NY. But a presale inspection turned up some unwelcome news.

“There was a buried oil tank on the property,” Pagli says. “This came as a surprise, because the home was fueled by natural gas.”

Altogether the testing, removal, and backfill for the oil tank cost the seller about $8,000. The good news? Once the oil tank was removed, the home sold in three weeks.

Take-home lesson: Underground oil tanks are rare, but if you suspect your property has one, you’ll want to have the land tested by an inspector who specializes in oil tank location and decommissioning before putting your house on the market.

5. Mold

No word strikes fear into the hearts of home buyers and sellers more than mold.

“It is a four-letter word, and most definitely has been the issue of greatest magnitude for my home sellers," says Michael Edlen, a real estate agent in Pacific Palisades, CA.

One particularly bad experience sticks out: Before listing a house, Edlen spotted mold in a relatively small area of the garage, but that was just the start.

 

Posted in Selling Your Home
March 26, 2019

Things That Homeowners Waste Money On

OK, we've said it time and again, but it bears repeating: Buying a home is a very big expense—and once you've kicked off all that spending, it's easy to find yourself caught up in rampant lifestyle inflation. After all, you've got an enormous, shiny new house just waiting to be filled with all sorts of nice stuff, right?

Well, take some quick advice: Don't keep spending.

Homeownership comes with its fair share of unique costs—property taxes and urgent repairs and energy bills, oh my. There's no need to add to their cost by shelling out for unnecessary expenses. Here are six major cash outlays that buyers can avoid.

Too much house

This one requires some thought before you actually nail the deal: How much house do you really need? Just because you're pre-approved for a hefty purchase price doesn't mean you should go as big as you can.

"The house that you can afford with the money you're lent can make the budget go out of whack," says Andrew Gipner, a financial adviser at Longview Financial Advisors in Huntsville, AL.

Not sure where to trim? Consider having less closet space, buying fewer bedrooms, or—especially—eliminating a formal dining room.

"You don’t use the dining room nearly as often as you think," says Noelle Hans-Daniels, a Sotheby's Realtor® in Indianapolis. "It's kind of a wasted space."

Fixing up your outdoor space ASAP

Once you close on your home and move in, you might be itching to host your first late-season barbecue. Or maybe you've been dreaming about a koi pond, like, forever. But hold on: Updating your outdoor space shouldn't be your first priority, especially if you're tight on cash. Unlike couches and beds, which are essential to a functioning house, landscaping and decor can be put on pause.

That goes double if you're building new: According to Hans-Daniels, building your backyard at the same time as your home can cost "a lot more than if you did it after the fact."

So exercise some caution before committing: Try pricing out your plans with a landscape contractor, and consider rolling them out in phases.

Old, outdated insurance

Still using the same company that offered you renters insurance seven years ago? It might be time for a change. Shop around.

"You may stay with the same company, but you may find something that's a little better price for the same thing," Gipner says. "Sometimes, people may not want to shop around or may be married to a particular company."

Just because the same company had a good deal on auto or renters insurance doesn't mean it’s the best fit to protect your home. Go through all your options with a fine-toothed comb, looking for a deal that won't crush you financially but also leaves your house and its belongings secure.

After all, now it's not just your stuff—it's your roof, yard, and foundation you have to protect, too.

Space-filling stuff

If you're moving from an apartment, chances are good you're astounded by how much space you have. There's another bedroom and a dining room and ... yet another bedroom!

Don't feel like you have to fill it all at once. Give yourself—and your home—time for personality to emerge.

"A lot of people will go out and say, 'Oh my gosh, I've got to fill this space and buy stuff,’" Gipner says. "I'm not against possessions, but the way some people do it can be seriously detrimental to their finances."

Instead of immediately stuffing the TV room with a generic, new couch and coffee table, wait it out. See what you really need and what you really like. In the meantime, stick the money you save into a renovation fund.

Extended warranties

Many homes don't come with appliances installed, so first-time homeowners might find themselves making large purchases (like a dishwasher or refrigerator).

Here's a tip: You don't need the extended home warranty.

"I'm against them," Gipner says. "What are the chances everything you own is going to break or not work anymore?"

Yes, something might break within the relatively slim service window—but the money you'll spend fixing one thing will be far less than the extended warranties on all the things. Your average warranty costs about $123 for major appliances, according to Consumer Reports, and a single repair costs not much more (and might not even be covered). Just risk it—you'll come out ahead in the long run.

Yard maintenance

Having your own yard is definitely exciting, and while it's important to keep it healthy and watered, you don't need to go overboard. Resist the pressure to hire additional help for your yard—even if you've lucked into an HOA that covers it.

"You can still be part of an HOA and cut your own grass," Gipner says. "You don't have to pay someone an exorbitant amount of money to come out and cut your grass."

Don't be tempted by the sales pitches you'll inevitably receive after your purchase goes through. A gorgeous lawn is achievable—and it can be done all on your own. Really.

Posted in Buying a Home
March 14, 2019

What Size of Storage Should I Get?

If you need a storage unit, there are many questions you should ask before you pick one. For example: What size unit do you need? How much does a storage unit cost?

Choosing a storage unit may seem daunting at first, but if you've reached that point where you've run out of space in your home for all of your belongings, it's time to dive in. Here are some questions to ask to ensure you find the right storage unit for you.

What size storage unit do I need?

Before you begin your search for the right unit, make a list of all the items you'll be storing. This way you can save time by focusing only on storage facilities that meet your needs in terms of size.

Storage units generally range in size from 5-by-5 to 10-by-25 feet, and some may be even larger. Wondering which size is best for you? Picture these:

  • A 5-by-5 unit is the size of a small closet and could hold several small- to medium-size boxes, a dresser, or a single bed.
  • A 5-by-10 unit is comparable to a walk-in closet, which could hold larger furnishings such as a queen-size bed or couch.
  • A 10-by-10 unit could hold two bedrooms' worth of furnishings.
  • A 10-by-20 unit is equal to a standard one-car garage, and could hold the contents of a multiple-bedroom house.

Prefer not to climb over mountains of tubs and boxes to track down something stashed at the far reaches of that space? Choose a unit that allows entry on either side.

"How many times do you put something in the back of a closet only to find that you need it? The same thing happens with a storage unit," explains Willie Dvorak, owner of AAA Storage in Mellette, SD. "Ensuring you can access your goodies from both sides of the unit makes it that much easier to find what you need quickly and safely."

How much does a storage unit cost?

Unless you're filthy rich (and then you probably have a big house with ample storage), you'll want to know how much this unit will set you back each month. CostHelper.com breaks down how much you can expect to pay on average:

  • A 5-by-5 unit costs about $40 to $50 a month.
  • A 10-by-20 unit costs about $95 to $155 a month.
  • A 20-by-20 unit costs about $225 a month.

Is this storage unit easily accessible?

What good is having a storage unit if it's hard to access, both in terms of its location and its design? Dvorak outlines what to look for when selecting a facility.

"If you can't get your vehicle close enough to the unit, you'll be lugging your stuff feet—even yards—in both directions," he says. "While it may not seem like a long walk as you look at the unit, imagine carrying all of your stuff back and forth all of that way. When you're storing stuff, every step is a nuisance. And, when you are stressed, you're more prone to accidents. Turning that rental truck around just adds to the stress. Be sure you can pull up the unit and get your vehicle turned around without any trouble."

What are the storage facility's hours?

Once you've unloaded your belongings, you still want to know that you can reach them in a hurry should you have the desire.

"It's hard to predict when you'll need that hiking gear you haven't used for years, Grandma's scrapbook, or that special award you want to show off," Dvorak notes. "Don't miss out because you think of it after they've locked things up for the night (or weekend). Make sure you can access your stuff 24 hours a day, 7 days a week."

What's the payment policy?

Fred Levine, founder of Little Hard Hats, recommends reading all of the fine print of the contract to determine how long the price is guaranteed.

"They routinely get you in, then shortly thereafter, once you’ve moved all your stuff in, they sometimes raise the rates," he cautions.

"Understanding the payment policy can also help you make decisions about a storage facility," says Caitlin Hoff of consumersafety.org. "What is the late fee or policy? Some facilities will auction your storage unit if rent is not paid after a certain amount of time. Does your facility allow for online payments? If it doesn't, do you have to pay in person? Knowing the full extent of the policy can narrow down a list of facilities."

What type of security is used?

Ask how the storage unit facility is secured. Is there a guard? Video surveillance? Alarms? Is the area well-lit? Also, don't assume the facility is going to cover damages to your possessions inside the storage unit in case of an accident. Check your homeowners policy, and purchase a rider if necessary.

Is it climate-controlled?

Depending on the items you are looking to store, you might debate whether or not you want a climate-controlled storage unit. A climate-controlled unit is better for items such as appliances or antiques that might be damaged in extreme temperatures.

How are pests handled?

No one wants to find that a family of critters has turned your family heirlooms into their home.

"If you are looking at an outdoor storage unit, you want to ask about pest control," says Hoff. "Ask if they have had issues with any insects or critters, and find out how they handle these situations."

Eric Hoffer, president of Hoffer Pest Solutions, suggests doing your own detective work when you preview the facility.

"Overgrown bushes, unkempt landscaping brushing up against the side of the building, and overflowing trash cans are not only a sign that maintenance may not be a priority for a storage facility, but these can be things that attract pests like rodents and roaches close to the building," he says. "All it takes is a small crack or gap in the wall to allow pests inside."

If you're going to the trouble of storing your items for later use, you want to know they'll be in the best shape possible when you want them. Finding the right facility can make all the difference.

Posted in Real Estate News