When it comes time to sell your home, take a close look around and see if your place has the goods that buyers are looking for. Considering the magnitude and expense of such a purchase, buyers want to fall in love with the home they plan to buy, and certain characteristics can help make that happen.
It might be worth your while to add or upgrade features in your home to help attract more buyers, and thereby draw in more offers.
Here are 8 traits in a home that buyers look for before making an offer.
1. Eat-In Kitchen
Just about every buyer expects to see an eat-in kitchen when they’re searching for a new home, especially if they’ve got kids. The kitchen is the hub of the home and is much more than just a space to prepare meals. If your kitchen doesn’t currently have the space for a table and chairs, you might be able to create this space by removing a wall rather inexpensively, as long as there is no additional repair work that has to be done.
2. Open Concept Layout
Newer homes offer spacious floorplans and soaring ceilings that older homes simply don’t have. Homeowners love to be able to entertain guests and converse with them no matter where they happen to be, and parents love the idea of being able to see their kids from every angle of the living space. An open concept layout is a must-have for situations like these.
3. Spacious Laundry Room
Homebuyers want a laundry room that’s not just conveniently located, they also want it to be spacious enough that they can do all the pre-washing, folding, and ironing all in one space. Having a space like this can help keep the mess out of your bedroom or living space, and prospective buyers will see that as a major advantage.
If you don’t currently have an existing laundry room, you don’t necessarily have to create an addition to get one. The basement is typically the easiest place to put one and can cost as little as $1,000 to create.
4. Energy Efficiencies
Homebuyers are much more environmentally conscious these days, and anything that they can do to contribute to the health and protection of the planet is a welcomed idea. One of the most effective ways to minimize their carbon footprint on the earth is having a home that operates much more efficiently. In particular, energy efficient appliances and windows can help to significantly reduce wasted energy, and even slash utility bills. The combination of saving the planet saving money is something that just about every buyer finds extremely attractive.
5. Garage Storage Space
Storage is often a huge issue for homebuyers, especially those with growing families. Of course, smart indoor storage options are critical, which include walk-in closets and oversized linen closets. However, added garage storage space is a bonus, especially when it comes to storing larger items, such as Christmas trees, lawn furniture, and large tools. This added space helps to cut down on the clutter inside the home and is just a few feet away for easy access.
6. Hardwood Floors
Hardwood flooring offers a more modern, clean look compared to other flooring options. It’s durable, easy to maintain, and doesn’t induce allergies like carpeting can. Good quality hardwood can last a lifetime and can be easily refinished every so often to achieve a new look. Buyers have come to expect hardwood in the homes they plan to purchase, so if your home currently has dated flooring, you might want to consider installing hardwood. The cost to install 120 square feet of hardwood is approximately $1,400, which you can easily recoup come sale time.
7. Exterior Lighting
Having your home beautifully lit up on the outside provides a welcoming feel and can easily draw the attention of buyers before they even reach the front door. Not only does exterior lighting create a wonderful look and ambiance, it’s also a security feature for your home.
Considering the mild climate in California, there’s no reason not to enjoy the outdoors year-round, and having a patio can make it a lot easier and more convenient to spend time outside. While the condition and esthetics of the interior of a home are critical, so is the outdoor living space which is quickly becoming one of the most important traits of a home for buyers.
The Bottom Line
When you’re thinking about selling your home, it’s helpful to understand exactly what buyers are looking for. If your home is currently not equipped with any of these highly coveted features, you might want to consider making a few upgrades to your home before listing it for sale. Done right, they could increase the value of your property and allow you to command more money when you sell. Just make sure you seek out the advice from an experienced real estate agent to make sure the changes you plan on making will bring you the return on investment you’re looking for.
If ever there was a state in the country that’s riddled with amazing vacation homes, California is certainly it. But when it comes to purchasing a vacation property for investment purposes, you’ve really got to look at the dollars and cents, along with all the amenities that each location has to offer. In many areas, the tight housing inventory and sky-high prices can make investing in a vacation home extremely challenging.
Investing in a vacation property can be hugely profitable through vacation rentals and future sales to those looking for a place to retire in. If you’re looking for somewhere to invest, consider the following places in the Golden State that are more affordable than many of the more popular beach towns, yet still offer breathtaking scenery and a fabulous lifestyle.
Big Bear Lake
With a median home sale price in Big Bear Lake currently at $299,400, affordability really isn’t an issue here. Considering the fact that home values have increased 7.5% over the past year, that means there is real potential for gains in equity through appreciation. In fact, it’s estimated that prices of homes in the area will rise anther 6.2% over the next year.
Big Bear Lake is located in the San Bernardino mountains, offering visitors snow sports in the winter season and all the summer activities one loves to partake in during the warmer months of the year. There are many vacation homes to choose from in Big Bear Lake, whether it’s a quaint cabin in the mountains or a large family home for the whole brood to enjoy. One of the biggest draws of Big Bear Lake is the benefit of living in comfort and getting to and from the lake quickly and easily.
Easily one of the most popular lakes to vacation at in California, Lake Tahoe offers plenty of recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike. The pristine turquoise waters of the lake are laid against a stunning backdrop of greenery that provides one of the most breathtaking views in the state. After enjoying the day at the lake, there are plenty of amenities to take advantage of in the city, including restaurants, shows, and events.
The median home price in Lake Tahoe is $392,700, which has gone up 9.2% over the past year and is predicted to increase another 5.6% over the next year. This price point is still a highly affordable while providing the possibility of any rental income covering the cost of homeownership.
Located in Fresno, Huntington Lake is a popular lake vacation spot for anyone looking for a quiet and relaxing holiday without the smog and noise of the big city. Couples, families, and retirees alike enjoy the lake and its stunning surroundings. Visitors and residents can enjoy everything that lake life brings, including swimming, boating, and even sailing. In fact, the Fresno Yacht Club hosts many sailboat races that enthusiasts can participate in. During the colder months of the winter, there are plenty of snow sports to enjoy that the landscape is seemingly designed for. After participating in outdoor activity all day, a stroll into nearby Lakeshore offers shops, eateries, and plenty of amenities to take enjoy.
The median home price in Huntington Lake hovers around the $432,700 mark, which offers some wiggle room to make a profit after peak season rental income comes in.
For something a lot closer to the ocean, there are still areas in California that are affordable enough to leave some room for profit potential. Located in San Luis Obispo County, Morro Bay is a traditional waterfront city in the Central Valley. The median home price in Morro Bay is $578,600, which is up 3.1% over the past year and expected to increase 2.5% over the next year.
Morro Bay features one of the state’s biggest remaining coastal wetlands and offers beach-front scenery and activities to enjoy. Although the climate is somewhat cooler than your typical L.A. beach, it still has all the tourist amenities and attractions that allow for an enjoyable vacation.
While more expensive than Morro Bay with a median home price of $772,300, Pismo Beach is in a warmer beach zone at the southern tip of the Central Coast. There are tons of tourist activities and amazing restaurants that the sophisticated vacationer would expect.
Located about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco along Pacific Coast, Pismo Beach offers long white beaches for strolling, sunbathing, swimming, or simply to enjoy the incredible views. There are even spots on the beach for surfing, body boarding, ATVing, and horseback riding! There’s also an award-winning boardwalk right next to the Pismo Beach pier for plenty of shopping opportunities and spots to grab a bite to eat.
For those who are interested in investing in one of the many vacation properties in California, there are still a few affordable options available. These particular areas offer just about all the vacation amenities tourists would expect with real estate that still make it possible to turn a profit through rental income, or at least for long-term wealth building. There are many real estate agencies out there that can help organize seasonal rentals, find tenants, collect rent, supervise cleaning between rentals, and deal with basic maintenance to make the investment both profitable and convenient.
The opportunity to get a great deal on a property through a short sale is very real. However, many times there’s no money to be saved in this type of real estate transaction, and the process can be a lot more complicated that your average contract.
Before you go out looking for short sales in an effort to get a deal on a home, there are a few things you should know about this unique scenario, and as always, be sure to team up with an experienced real estate agent to help you navigate these potentially murky waters.
What is a Short Sale?
Many people may confuse short sales with foreclosures, but they’re not the same thing. A foreclosure occurs when the lender takes possession of a home after the homeowner fails to make the mortgage payments. It’s essentially the last option for the lender who takes the home as collateral on the mortgage.
A short sale is arranged before the home goes into foreclosure when the lender and borrower both agree that this option is better than completely defaulting on the mortgage and entering foreclosure. When real estate prices either stagnate or even decline, and homeowners in these markets are unable to keep up with their mortgage payments, they may enter into a short sale.
With this type of arrangement, the net proceeds from the sale of the home will won’t entirely cover the amount that the homeowner still owes on the mortgage, but a sale can take place anyway. If the lender agrees to a short sale, the homeowner can sell the property and pay off part or all of the home loan balance with the net proceeds, depending on how much was still left to be paid back to the lender.
Short sales can be complicated and can take months to complete. Not only that, not every lender will necessarily agree to a short sale.
Before a mortgage company considers a shorts sale, the homeowner needs to be having a hard time keeping up with the mortgage and is already in default. The lender needs to be advised of this financial distress or else the foreclosure process will start once the mortgage is in default.
A hardship letter will need to be submitted to the lender which specifies why such financial hardship has occurred, such as an illness or the loss of a job. Proof of income and assets will also need to be provided, including bank statements, investments, or other real estate.
Before the home is listed as a short sale, local real estate sales prices in the area that the home is located in will need to be verified. After a buyer is found, the seller will have to supply a copy of the listing agreement and purchase agreement to the lender. A short sale is only approved after all parties – including the buyer, seller, and lender – agree on all the terms of the contract.
What’s in it For the Buyer?
Obviously, a short sale can be beneficial for the seller because it helps to avoid full foreclosure on a credit report. Even lenders can benefit from a short sale transaction by recouping more of what the borrower owed on the home through a short sale compared to foreclosure, the latter of which tends to be more time-consuming and riddled with liabilities since many foreclosures often come with delinquent taxes, code violations, and problematic titles. Lenders more often would prefer to just write off the amount that the borrower owed on the mortgage as opposed to foreclosing.
But there’s obviously a potential benefit to the buyer as well: getting a home at a reduced price. If the lender is eager to go through with the short sale in order to get back the money loaned out, there may also be a chance of getting favorable financing terms.
Taking over possession of a property sold through a short sale is much easier compared to a foreclosure. You’ll have the seller’s cooperation with the short sale process, but that’s not necessarily the case with a foreclosure.
However, the property will likely have a fair share of problems and will have a lot of hurdles to overcome in order to make the deal happen. After finding a property and viewing it, you will need to do some in-depth research on it and find out about all the liens that may be on title and how much was left to pay on the mortgage. The lender will then require a detailed short sale application to be completed and submitted, and a proposal will need to be put together.
This all comes after the seller has submitted the necessary documents and information in order to convince the lender to go through with the short sale. If the seller makes it difficult to provide this information, the short sale won’t go through. Your real estate agent should push for full honesty from the seller’s agent before spending any more time on a particular property.
The Bottom Line
No matter how you find out about a potential short sale, this is a process that absolutely warrants the assistance of an experienced real estate professional. There’s definitely the potential to realize a sizeable discount on the final price of a short sale, but you absolutely need to consult with an expert who comes into the game with a solid track record with short sales.
Real estate investing offers plenty of options for those looking to build wealth through this particular avenue. With mortgage rates as low as they are today, now is a great time to get into the real estate investment market, and a multi-family property is something you might want to consider for many reasons, including the following.
1. You Can Live in One Unit and Rent Out the Other(s)
If you’re just starting out in the world of real estate investing, a multi-family unit can be the perfect way to get your feet wet. You can live in one unit while you rent out the other unit(s) to generate cash flow. Buying a duplex, triplex, or four-plex will give you the unique capability of giving you a place to call home for yourself while boosting your real estate portfolio and building wealth.
2. Managing Multiple Units in One Location is Easier
If you plan on buying more than one property to rent out, having them all in one convenient location makes it a lot easier for you to maintain them all. It’s a lot simpler and less time-consuming to maintain three properties all under one roof compared to three properties spread out across the city.
You can make one stop to pick up the rent checks, mow the lawn, handle any repairs, and so forth. Even if you hire a property manager to handle the maintenance for you, you’ll only need one to handle multiple units in the same complex versus units that are miles from each other.
3. You Can Get a Tax Break From a Multi-Family Property
The government actually appreciates your efforts to provide safe, clean, affordable housing to people. As such, you’ll be able to take advantage of some tax breaks. Your investment in a multi-family complex is considered to be a business, which means there are certain tax deductions that you’ll be able to make. You can depreciate many items in a rental property come tax time.
Depreciation refers to the actual cost of the complex, which is not fully deductible the year that it was actually bought and paid for. You can get back the cost of your investment property through this depreciation, which involves deducting a portion of the property’s cost over many years.
You can also deduct interest from your mortgage, cost of repairs, traveling for rental activity, property insurance, and legal and professional services associated with the property.
4. They’re Easier to Finance Than a Single-Family Home
For the most part, multi-family properties are more expensive than single-family homes for investment purposes. Obviously, a typical one-bedroom condo unit would be a lot cheaper than a 12-unit apartment complex.
While it might be easy to assume that getting a mortgage for a single-family home would easier than raising money for a much more expensive multi-unit complex, in reality, the latter is more likely to be approved by for a loan than the typical residence.
Why? Multi-family housing can generate a healthier cash flow consistently each month, even if there are some vacancies in the complex. The more units in a complex, the better. For instance, if a tenant moves out of a single-family home, that investment property would be completely vacant. Instead, a four-unit complex with one vacancy would only be 25% vacant in comparison. For this reason, the chances of the multi-family complex going into foreclosure because of vacancies is a lot lower than with a single-family home.
5. You Can Make the Property Appreciate Faster Compared to a Single-Family Property
Appreciation is something that owners of real property can take advantage of over the long run. However, not all locations and properties appreciate at the same rate. In many instances, property values are stagnant or even depreciate over certain time periods. However, appreciation often occurs after improvements have been made, either to the property itself, or the surrounding neighborhood.
While you can force some amount of appreciation of a single-family home through various improvements, you can only do so much because you are forcing the appreciation of only one property. A multi-family complex, on the other hand, can increase in value much faster than a single-family home simply because you’ve got more units to deal with.
Boosting curb appeal, adding in-suite laundry amenities, making repairs to the units and common areas, and replacing all the windows and doors, for instance, can drive up the value of the property more aggressively. By making such improvements, you’ll be making your property more attractive to tenants compared to another nearby building, which will make it easier to fill vacancies and keep good tenants sticking around for longer.
The Bottom Line
Looking directly to single-family housing is quite common for newbie real estate investors. While this might be the right option under many circumstances, multi-family properties shouldn’t be ruled out. There are certainly plenty of benefits of purchasing a multi-family complex that should be considered before you make your purchasing decision. An investment like this can prove to be a very lucrative one if made with due diligence and the right team of real estate professionals behind you.
Luxury homes come with a host of ornate and opulent amenities and features that might tickle your fancy. Whether it’s a massive beach house overlooking the ocean, a sprawling expanse backing onto the 9th hole on a golf course, or a penthouse perched high above the city scapes with its own private elevator, properties valued in the millions will offer features that will leave you mesmerized and even completely overwhelmed.
If you’re paying big bucks for your new luxury home, you want to make sure it’s money well spent. While the buying process has its similarities with your average home, it’s also got some different aspects about it that will need to be dealt with.
Here are 5 tips to help you make the right purchasing decision that will get you the estate you want at a fair price and will leave you with no regrets.
1. Work With a Local Real Estate Agent
A real estate expert who is well-versed in the neighborhoods you have your eye on will have their finger on the pulse of any potential movement on certain properties, including high-end ones. Luxury homes typically don’t have many open houses, and you’ll likely have to visit them more than once in order to gain a clear perspective on them. Local professionals will know just what’s out there and what fits your criteria, including amenities and price.
You also want to make sure the expert you work with has experience buying and selling luxury homes. The listing and buying process is somewhat unique with $1 million-plus homes, and an agent who has a healthy history working with these high-end properties can give you the insight you need.
2. Get Familiar With This Specific Buying Process
Don’t assume that all luxury homes will make it to the MLS or be vastly marketed across all online platforms. Plenty of luxury homes are often not listed in order to protect the privacy and identity of the seller. Many times homes in this category are bought and sold through networking between agents, which is yet another reason to work with an experienced local agent with ties in the real estate community.
3. Get to Know Different Neighborhoods
You might have your heart set on a specific neighborhood, but don’t count out other communities. When it comes to finding the right luxury home, sometimes it’s wise to broaden your circle to increase the odds of finding something you’ll fall in love with. Take the time to become familiar with other neighborhoods. You just never know if you’ll find something that you’ll develop a real emotional connection with that’s outside the neighborhood you initially had your sights on.
Of course, location is the most important factor when looking for a house, especially when you consider how much you’ll be spending on it. Think about the type of amenities you want in your location, whether it’s being close to downtown, on a water front, or backing onto a golf course. Whatever your desires are, it’s important to have a good understanding of amenities, trends, and future plans of the area in question.
4. List the Priorities You Want in a Home
When you’re spending millions of dollars for a home, you’ll likely want to have as many desired amenities on your wish list as you can, and rightfully so. Before you even start-house hunting, make yourself a list of your needs and wants. You would likely be doing this even if you were looking at a $200,000 condo, but the list will likely be a lot longer with a luxury property. Depending on your exact budget, you might just be able to get everything you want.
Your agent will certainly make an effort to find a property within your price point that will allow you to check off every item on your list. Luxury homes tend to be very unique, so finding that right house that meets all your needs could take some time, but it’s out there.
5. Be Patient
On that last note, a little bit of patience is generally needed when you’re in the market for a luxury home. These types of properties require a lot more time to sell compared to lower priced homes because of their high prices, as well as their exclusive traits. While you might be lucky enough to find the home of your dreams right away, you’ll probably be looking for quite a while, as much as a few months or more.
The Bottom Line
Not everyone can afford a luxury home, but if you are able to, you should absolutely take the time and make the effort to ensure the home you buy is the right one for you. Get familiar with the luxury home buying process, understanding housing trends in various neighborhoods, and practice some patience as you go from house to house in search of the perfect home.
There are plenty of advantages of having a VA home loan compared to a conventional mortgage, including a minimal down payment requirement, no Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), and competitive interest rates. Most military members, veterans, National Guard members, and spouses of military members who died on active duty can apply for a VA loan and reap the rewards that come with some mortgages.
However, not only do you have to be eligible for this specialized type of home loan, so does your property. The reasons for this is to protect you against any unexpected and unpleasant surprises that can end up being very costly.
In order for a home to qualify for a VA home loan, it needs to meet Minimum Property Requirements (MRPs) to help ensure that military personnel and veterans have a safe place to live.
The property you’re trying to obtain a VA mortgage to pay for must be accessible all year long, no matter how your next-door neighbor’s property is being used. There also needs to be adequate space between your home and the one next door to allow for sufficient maintenance of each building.
VA appraisers will look at a number of things about the property before it is considered eligible for a VA home loan: it needs to have a space for living, sleeping, cooking and eating, as well as a bathroom.
Water, Sewer, and Mechanical Systems
Not only does the home have to provide an actual residential living space for the occupants, it also must pass certain requirements as far as its mechanical, sewer, and water systems are concerned. The property must have:
▪ Safe waste flow into a sewer or septic tank
▪ An adequate water supply that is continuous and safe to drink, and is sufficient for all its occupants if it is shared
▪ No more than four units that share a utility room, storage space, and laundry facilities
▪ A separate shut-off for gas, power, water and sewer
▪ An adequate and safe mechanical system
▪ Proper drainage away from the building with stable ground cover
The roof of the home can’t have any leaks, and if any repairs were done in the past, at least three layers of shingles had to have been removed before replacing the roof with new shingles.
Attic and Crawl Space
These spaces need to have natural ventilation that is void of any dirt or dust, and have plenty of room for any ductwork, plumbing, and electrical repair.
The actual building itself needs to be in good shape. That means no termite damage, mold, rotting wood, broken windows, bad construction, moisture, or exposed electrical wires should be present.
The Bottom Line
Basically, the MPRs associated with VA home loans require that a home should be safe, sanitary, and structurally sound for those who live in it. A VA appraiser will need to assess the home and the lot it sits on to ensure that it meets these requirements before a VA home loan can be approved.
Before you get the keys to your new home, there are a few steps you’ll need to go through first. After you’ve got your credit and finances in order, got pre-approved for a mortgage, found a reputable real estate agent to work with, and found the home of your dreams, the actual real estate transaction can begin.
If you’ve never entered into a real estate contract before, these are the steps you’ll typically go through in succession.
Making An Offer
All negotiations for the purchase and sale of real estate in California will typically be done via a written contract by way of a Residential Purchase Agreement. Your offer will be submitted to the seller through this completed document, which will include a number of components that can be negotiated, including your offer price, closing date, deposit amount, and contingencies, among others.
Be prepared for any one of these things to be negotiated by the seller. An offer is often followed by a counteroffer by the seller, which you can then counter again until an agreement can be reached that meets both parties’ needs.
Your real estate agent will make sure that the necessary contingencies are included in your purchase agreement to protect you. The most typical ones include financing and home inspections, which provide you with a certain amount of time after an offer is accepted for you to arrange for a mortgage and have a professional home inspector come into the home to identify any deficiencies, respectively. All of these items, as well as disclosure requirements and agreed-upon fees, are specified in the Residential Purchase Agreement.
Once the offer is accepted, all parties – including you, the seller, and real estate agents/brokers – must sign and date the contract. At that point, the contract is legally binding.
Entering Into a Representative Contract With Your Realtor
The California Association of Realtors (CAR) offers a standard contract that buyers enter into with their representing real estate agent: the Buyer Broker Representation Agreement. This form is an agreement between buyers and their real estate agents/brokers. It outlines what the real estate agent will do for you, and how you will be represented.
The agreement doesn’t make you obligated to the real estate agent for any services, even if the agent helps you find a home and a successful purchase agreement is entered into with a seller. Buyer representatives typically get paid through the seller or listing broker.
Even though it’s a contract, the Buyer Broker Representation Agreement can be canceled by the buyer or the agent at any time. There’s also an expiry date specified on the form, which outlines how long the agent will be representing you for.
Paying the Deposit
Once the purchase agreement is accepted and signed by you and the seller, you’ll have to provide the seller with a deposit check within the next day or so. This money is kept in an account by the listing broker, and is kept separate from any of the brokerage’s other accounts. On average, these deposit amounts are typically anywhere between 1% to 3% of the purchase price of the home. This money goes towards the down payment for the mortgage.
If, for whatever reason, the deal falls through, the deposit amount is either returned to you or kept by the seller, depending on the reason for the fallout. For instance, if you were unable to obtain approval for a mortgage and a financial contingency was included in the offer, you would typically get the deposit back. On the other hand, if no contingencies were included in the agreement and the home was sold firm, the seller often has the legal capability of keeping that deposit money.
Fulfilling the Contingencies
The majority of offers come equipped with contingencies, which can include any one of the following:
- Home inspection
- Clear title
After a purchase agreement is accepted by both you and the seller, you will be given a certain amount of time to fulfill the contingencies included in the offer. During this time, the home is said to be ‘escrow.’ This is the time for you to get approved for a mortgage from the lender, get a home inspection completed, have a lawyer ensure the title is free and clear of any liens or other issues, or have the home appraised.
Once these contingencies are fulfilled, the deal is done, and the title is transferred from the seller to yourself. However, if one or more contingency cannot be fulfilled by you, the deal is dead, and the home remains under title of the seller.
If all goes well, the deal will close. This is when the title of the home is legally and officially transferred from the seller to yourself, legal documents are signed, the down payment and closing costs are paid, and the keys are handed over.
You will also be given a copy of an HUD-1 Settlement Statement, which specifies all the little detailed costs of the mortgage, including the interest rate, escrow fees, mortgage insurance, and title insurance fees, among others. A final copy of this document is a part of the closing of a real estate transaction. The lender is required to provide a Good Faith Estimate of the total amount due upon closing within three days of the loan application being received.
An Initial Escrow Settlement Statement is also due at closing, or within 45 days of closing, which outlines the amount that needs to be paid to cover taxes, insurance premiums, and other fees that need to be paid out from the escrow account throughout the mortgage’s first year.
The Bottom Line
The real estate transaction can be a very detailed, complex, and lengthy process, and it often is. That’s why a deal of this magnitude should only be made with the help of an experienced real estate agent licensed in the state of California. With this guidance and expertise, the transaction should be a smooth and streamlined one.