Maximizing Your Outdoor Space

You’ve found the perfect home and it has everything you’ve ever dreamed of! Spacious, modern kitchen. Gloriously open floor plan. Giant bedrooms. Great location and neighborhood. The only downside is the backyard is slightly smaller than you’d hoped. But no reason to stress. There are many ways you can optimize your outdoor space to make it feel much larger! Check out our favorites below.

Separate Your Space

Breaking up your outdoor area into separate spaces or nooks can help make your backyard feel larger. Place items like planters, small walls, or outdoor light fixtures in between the spaces or separate them by installing different ground surfaces, such as decking, gravel, grass, and concrete. 

Use Plants Creatively

Place plants throughout your backyard to help open up the space. Use plants with larger leaves to create depth, place warm-colored plants, such as red, yellow, or orange, near the front or in the center of the yard to catch attention, or install a trellis or plant taller plants to draw the eye upwards.

Incorporate Strategic Decor

Use big structures like pergolas and arbors to frame your outdoor space and give it a grander feel. Add a large sculpture or water fixture in the center or towards the back of the yard as a focal point, then arrange your furniture around it. Finally, hang large mirrors with steel, stone, or wooden frames to reflect light and trick the eye.

By using these techniques and more, you can alter perception and make your small yard feel like the large one of your dreams.


Take 5: How To Vet An Offer

Many sellers may be tempted to select the highest offer they receive, but there are several other factors to consider. Here are five areas important to evaluate.

  1. Down payment. The size of the down payment should be heavily considered when comparing offers. It is often tied to the size of the loan the buyer is taking out and a larger one indicates higher financial stability.
  2. Earnest money deposit. The EMD is the sum of cash the buyer is willing to put up when the sales agreement is signed to show their high level of interest in purchasing the home. If they back out of the transaction without a good reason, the seller typical keeps it, and if the sale goes through, it typically goes towards their down payment.
  3. Contingencies. Contingencies are standard for most offers and outline the evaluations and appraisals that need to be completed before the sale is final, such as financing, appraisal, sale of current home, title, and home inspection. The fewer contingences, the higher the chance of reaching the closing table.
  4. All-cash offer. Not only does putting down an all-cash offer boost the likelihood of loan approval, but the buyer will not need an appraisal or financing contingency, reducing the chance of the sale falling through.
  5. Closing date. Consideration of the closing date differs for each seller. For example, if you have already purchased a new home, you may want to close quickly. But, if you are waiting on the money from the sale to start house hunting, you may be okay with a slower settlement.

Need-To-Knows For Buying Your First Home

Buying your first home can be one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of your life, but it can also be a scary and stressful process. To ensure you have a smooth transaction from start to finish, familiarize yourself with the home buying process, note the tools and resources available to you, and get all your ducks in order. To get you started, we’ve made a list of our top three ways to set yourself up for success.

Outline Your Musts and Wants

Before starting your search, make a list of must-have and nice-to-have features for your home and neighborhood. This will help you narrow down your search early on and prevent the hunt from becoming overwhelming.

Solidify Your Financing

When starting the home buying process, ensure your finances are in order by reviewing your credit score and taking steps to boost it, saving for a down payment, and avoiding any major purchases. Then select a lender that is right for you, talk to him or her about your loan options, and get preapproved for a mortgage. Once you know your budget, you can more effectively find the right home for you.

Find a Real Estate Agent

Working with a great real estate agent can make a world of difference when it comes to navigating the ins and outs of the home buying process. With their vast background and experience and local knowledge of neighborhoods and cities, they will be your go-to resource every step of the way. By implementing these tips and remembering to enjoy the process, you can set yourself up for a great first home buying experience!

The Truth About Viewing Homes Online

It’s easy to get sucked into looking at home listing after home listing online, drawn to the stunningly filtered photos of manicured lawns, sharp-looking kitchens, and giant bedrooms. Although this is a great place to begin, it’s important to keep in mind that all may not be as it seems. 

Here are our top tips to avoid getting duped by listings online.

Photos don’t always capture the full picture. Real estate photographers are very good at highlighting the best features of the home and often use wide angle lenses to make spaces appear larger than they really are. But, be aware that there may be less photo-worthy features they aren’t displaying. Don’t forget to look at the property features listed below to gather a better idea of what the home has to offer.

Ensure you are looking at current listings. Nothing is worse than falling in love with the perfect home, only to check out the listing date to find it was posted two years ago. Make sure you use websites that are pulling information daily from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and have your real estate agent verify it is available.

Use your real estate agent as a resource. If you find a seemingly great listing online, always run it by your agent to confirm you aren’t missing something important. He or she can also provide neighborhood details, price comparisons for similar properties sold in the area, additional listings that match your criteria, and more. Once you a find a home you’re ready to view, make sure you bring them with you to answer questions and be an extra set of eyes.

How To Be A Good Open House Guest

It is exciting to go to open houses and dream of the possibilities a new home brings. Going to open houses is crucial to finding the right home. The next time you take a tour of a home, keep these tips in mind to ensure it is a positive and useful experience. 

Respect When the House is Available for Viewing Most sellers have discussed available times interested buyers can view the property outside of the scheduled open house. If the open house does not line up with your schedule, nor do the additional available times to view the property, ask your buyer agent to reach out to the listing agent to set up a special showing that’s convenient for you. 

Be on Time (Early is Better) Show up shortly before an open house is scheduled to start and beat the rush. You will get one-on-one time with the selling agent to ask questions. When you are done viewing the house, you can check out the neighborhood. 

Ask Questions with Caution 
The selling agent is there to answer questions. However, it’s best to not overshare information or say anything that will give the agent negotiating power over you. Don’t forget, the agent works for the seller. Good questions to ask the selling agent include: – Have you gotten a lot of offers on the property? – When does the seller plan on moving? – How long has the property been on the market? – Have there been any price changes? – Does the house have any negative issues that need to be addressed?

While the information is still fresh, take some notes and final impressions of the home to help you make your final decision. 

5 Simple Steps For A Better Home Appraisal

If you’re looking to refinance your home or possibly sell, you’ll need a killer appraisal. A bank will not refinance a home for more than it is worth, and a potential buyer will not pay more than the recognized value of the home. 

Here are 5 simple steps for a better home appraisal. 

Tidy your space Make sure your yard looks well-groomed and the interior of your home is clean clutter-free. It is well worth the investment to have the home professionally cleaned and have your yard serviced. 

Invest in the right types of renovations Kitchens and bathrooms are the best types of renovations. They will typically provide 80% ROI. High-efficiency appliances and upgrades that improve the overall efficiency of the home are well worth the investment. 

Document your upgrades Provide the appraiser with a list and documentation of all upgrades, renovations, and improvements to the home. 

Do your homework Research and provide your own comparable valuations for similar properties in the area. Note your tone. You don’t want to come off as defensive but rather helpful. 

Be available but not in the way Be present to assist with the process but don’t be the appraiser’s shadow. You want to appear helpful, not nervous that he’ll find something wrong!

Appraisals can be helpful in increasing the sale of your home or assisting in refinancing your mortgage. Use these tips and you’ll get a better value for your home.

Be A Better Landlord

Rental properties are one of the best ways to earn passive income and build wealth, but “passive” is a little misleading—it can still be a substantial amount of work. However, with a little planning and dedication, you can run your properties efficiently while also keeping your tenants happy.

Treat it like a business
Successful businesses have plans and procedures that keep things running smoothly, and the same should be true for renting and managing your properties. That means committing to customer service, outsourcing work appropriately, and paying close attention to income and expenses. Don’t just assume that you’ll collect a check each month and everything else will be a breeze.

Thoroughly vet your tenants
Collecting applications, interviewing tenants, and checking references means a lot of legwork up front, but it’s worth it in the long run. Choosing the right tenant could mean going years without incident—no late payments, no legal issues, and no property damage. Choosing the wrong tenant could mean monthly calls and visits to collect late rent, expensive property damage and repairs, eviction processes, court dates, and a whole lot of stress. 

Make sure your lease is rock solid
Lease agreement laws vary from state to state, so don’t cut corners—find a lawyer who specializes in lease agreements. You’ll be glad you were thorough if you ever have legal issues with a tenant.

Hidden Fees To Be Aware Of When Purchasing A Home

Purchasing a home is arguably one of the biggest financial decisions you will make in your lifetime. As you start your hunt, don’t forget there will be other costs associated with your purchase then the price of the home. Here are 5 fees to keep in mind as you begin to budget.

  1. Home inspection. This is a crucial step in the home buying process. The findings that come from the inspection can help you negotiate price and repairs. Generally, you can expect to pay between $300 to $500 depending on the home and the location.
  2. Title services. Title services encompass the transfer of the title from the seller and a thorough search of the property’s records to ensure to no one will pop up with a claim to the property. Additionally, you may need to buy title insurance which will protect the lender or your investment in the home.
  3. Appraisal fee. Before getting a loan, you will likely be required to get an appraisal of the home to determine its estimated value. This will be conducted by a third-party company and the cost can land anywhere between $300 and $1,000, depending on the size of the home.
  4. HOA fees. Many communities have a homeowners’ association that enforces monthly fees. This money is used for general maintenance and updates to areas like pools, parks, and more. Typical HOA fees are around $200 per month.
  5. Taxes. The taxes each buyer pays at the closing table differ, but it is not uncommon for it to be up to two months’ worth of county and city property taxes. Additionally, there may be taxes for the transfer of the home title.

Staging Strategies For Your Home

Staging your home is all about putting the best foot forward for potential buyers. By highlighting its most desirable features, you can draw more interest for your home and leave a lasting impression that is sure to help you sell it more quickly. Here’s what you should keep in mind as you prepare for your next open house or viewing!

  • Help them visualize it as their own. Make it easier for buyers to imagine themselves making your house their home by removing personal memorabilia, knick-knacks, and photos. Instead replace them with simple décor, such as paintings, nature images, and plants. 
  • Think sleek instead of comfy. Modern-day buyers are leaning toward modern, crisp, clean interiors over comfy, homey looks. When staging your home, keep a minimalist mindset and incorporate bright colors and metal accents.
  • Deep clean the small spaces. It’s obvious to say you should clean your home before viewing, but don’t forget to cover your bases by deep cleaning the small spots. Take time to scrub porous areas like grout that may hold on to stains and baseboards where small pet hairs and dust love to cling.
  • Spruce up your landscaping. The first impression your home gives to potential buyers is its exterior. Ensure you have a freshly mowed lawn, neat hedges and shrubbery, bright flowers, and a clean driveway. 
  • Set the mood. A home is so much more than just the way it looks, so you need to appeal to the other senses. Prior to having potential buyers over, set the mood by burning delicious smelling candles and selecting an upbeat, happy soundtrack to play in the background.

What You Should Know About Using Home Equity

One of the huge benefits of owning property is the home equity you can build. But with equity comes the temptation to dip into it if a large expense or possible investment arises. There are many strategic ways to use your equity without ruining any personal financial advances you have made. The most crucial step you need to take is to fully understand your options for tapping into that money and the associated risks.

Simply put, your home equity is the market value of your home relative to any loan balances remaining. There are two main ways to utilize this value. Getting a home equity loan provides you with a lump sum of money that you pay off in monthly installments, generally over five to 15 years. As with any loan, you will be required to pay interest on the amount, but it is usually a fixed rate. Choosing to use a line of credit instead offers similar benefits, but instead of receiving the money up front, you are given a pool you can draw from as needed. With this option, the lender provides a maximum borrowing limit and you can choose to use it or not until it is reached. 

Before dipping into your home equity in, either way, it is important to understand the possible consequences. In both instances, your home is used as loan collateral. This means if you are unable to make payments on the loan for any reason, the lender can sell your property or take your home in foreclosure. Additionally, there will likely be closing costs and fees you have to pay in association with the loan.