New Construction at Hampton Rhodes Sterling MA

Searching for the Perfect New Home

The real estate market is very tight and many people are afraid to put their homes on the market.  Because they don’t know if they will be able to find the next new home they want, they just keep looking.  Since many of the existing homes do not meet their specific needs, they continue to wait for the right home.  If you have been looking for your next new home for a while, perhaps you might consider new construction.  Building a new home means you will be able to choose everything you want.

Outstanding Quality New Construction in Sterling MA

If you are searching for new construction, this beautiful neighborhood at Hampton Rhodes in Sterling MA has much to offer.  The homes at Hampton Rhodes are all very unique, with no two homes alike.  The builder made a decision early in the development process that there would be no cookie cutter homes.

The designer and builders pay special attention to make sure you can think about every possible detail.  They provide professional assistance with choices of lighting, flooring, custom tile work, and paint colors inside and out.  They will make this an exciting journey to the perfect new home.

Custom designed new construction

Take a Video Tour

Take a tour of the neighborhood at Hampton Rhodes and see what this outstanding neighborhood has to offer.  And then contact us to explore what it would take to build your perfect new home.

How to Choose Hardwood Flooring That Will Get Your House Noticed

As a house flipper, ensuring my renovated properties look great is very important to me. I love walking into homes with hardwood floors. From bamboo to cork to parquet, oak, pine, and mahogany, wood floors give an immediate feeling of quality and luxury. There are seemingly endless varieties, styles and textures of hardwood flooring to complement your home and the region where you live.

If you’re thinking of selling your home in the next few years or simply want to love where your feet fall, hardwood flooring can add value and give your home the design boost it needs.

Solid Wood vs. Engineered Hardwoods

With so many options available nowadays, making the right decision can be difficult. Consider these key differences when evaluating flooring for your home.

Solid Wood Flooring is milled from trees, and each plank is composed of natural wood. Within the realm of solid wood, there are varying degrees of hardness. The Janka Hardness Scale rates the hardness of wood and can help you choose the right flooring for your home.

Engineered Wood is made up of pieces of wood and composite materials that are layered to create each plank.

There are pros and cons to each option. Solid wood flooring can swell and retract based on humidity and climate, requiring proper installation to limit the chances of these occurrences. In most instances, hardwood flooring means paying a premium in the cost. On the other hand, engineered wood flooring doesn’t react like solid wood to humidity, but it can’t be refinished multiple times if it gets deep scratches.

Installation and Other Considerations

Engineered floors come prefinished, which saves a step or two in the process of completing your flooring project. They can be installed quickly, in as little as one day, and are ready for immediate move-in. Hardwood requires several additional steps in the process: installation and cleaning, and staining (often several times) prior to adding a final coat of varnish.

Weather conditions matter as well. High humidity requires a longer drying time between coats, and stepping on floors that have not cured properly is out of the question. Those with sensitivity to strong odors will want to wait until the smell disappears before returning home.

Color and Pattern Choices

Style can be imparted not only through your choice of a particular wood but also through the color of stain you apply. Light floors appear breezy and beachy, while dark floors feel sophisticated and urban. The direction you lay the flooring – vertical, horizontal or in a pattern – also influences how formal or informal the space appears.

Durable, Practical and Stylish

Installing hardwood flooring is one of those rare instances in life where the practical choice doesn’t leave you feeling like you’ve made a series of compromises to arrive at a responsible decision. Hardwood is beauty and brains wrapped in one tough package. The main choice to be made, really, is whether to install natural or engineered hardwoods.

Because each type has different properties, where you plan to put the flooring could supply you with the quickest answer to the type of hardwood you should select. Due to the expansion and retraction qualities of solid hardwood, it’s best to keep it out of spaces that have a lot of moisture, like the bathroom or kitchen, or in spaces where the flooring would be laid directly on top of a concrete slab. For this reason, basements and bathrooms are great places to use engineered wood flooring instead.

Rental Property Considerations

If your home is an investment property for rent, you may want to opt for solid hardwood over engineered. Solid hardwood floors can be refinished up to 10 times before they need to be replaced. This will allow you to refinish the floors between tenants. Conversely, engineered hardwood, while very durable, has a useful life that does not extend beyond one or two sandings.

Pet-Friendly Flooring

Hardwood flooring is a practical choice for pet owners as it’s relatively easy to clean and doesn’t trap dust and other allergens the way carpeted floors do. Although engineered wood can be more scratch resistant, its thin layer of wood can’t be refinished multiple times like hardwood can. So if you have active dogs, you may want to opt for solid hardwood floors that can be refinished multiple times.

Noise Reduction

If you prefer that the pitter patter of little feet – or big feet, for that matter – be muffled, cork flooring has sound-absorbing properties to keep your home quiet. Its leathery look and comfort underfoot make it an attractive option. Cork is also an eco-friendly product because it’s derived from the bark of the cork tree and doesn’t require constant replanting.

Written by Jacqueline Falla

How The Equifax Hack Affects Homebuyers And How You Can Protect Yourself

Half of the country is freaking out. That’s about how many people are potentially affected by the unprecedented Equifax hack. If you’re the average person who’s afraid of having your data stolen – and by data, we mean your name, Social Security number, birth date, addresses, credit card numbers, and driver’s license number that were reportedly involved in this breach – you may have already taken some steps to limit the damage. But what if you’re in the process of buying a home or are getting ready to do so? How does this hack affect you, and what can you do to make sure you are protected?

Potential fallout for homebuyers

“Take this scenario: Say your Equifax file was looted but you’ve done little or nothing to detect fraudulent activity on one or more of your credit accounts. You sign a contract to buy a house, and you apply for a mortgage. The lender pulls your credit and confronts you with shocking news: Your FICO credit score is too low for you to qualify for the loan because you’ve been running up too much debt on one or more accounts. Your ‘utilization ratio‘ on your available credit is too high, and that has depressed your score,” said the Washington Post.

“Or there’s a newly established account in your files that has put you deep in debt, even though you had nothing to do with it. It turns out that financial thieves have been racking up thousands of dollars in debts at your expense, and now – smack in the middle of a major lifetime investment – you’re stuck with having to get the file corrected, which takes time and can be a pain. In the meantime, what happens to your purchase contract? Will the sellers bear with you, essentially putting off the transaction indefinitely and possibly blowing up their own plans to move into another house on a specific date? It could all get really messy.”

Those who are already in escrow could also be derailed when the lender runs your credit before the loan closes and discovers fraudulent new accounts or charges that raise the debt-to-income ratio beyond what is allowed. “At the very least, whatever rate locks you had could be blown as you scramble to get your files corrected,” they said. “Or your entire loan transaction could be jeopardized if the process takes too long.”

Steps to take now

Have you still not checked to see if you were potentially impacted by the hack that affected as many as 143 million people? Not having dealt directly with Equifax doesn’t guarantee your safety. “You may have never used Equifax yourself, or even heard of it,” said CNN. “Either way, the credit reporting agency could still have a lot of your personal information. To find out if your data was compromised by the hack, go here.”

Keep in mind that you’ll have to enter your last name and the last six numbers of your Social Security number to check. Regardless of whether or not they believe you were impacted, you’ll be prompted to enroll in their TrustID Premier credit monitoring service, which will be free for a year. Despite earlier concerns, “Equifax has confirmed that signing up for TrustID Premier will not prevent you from joining a class-action suit over this issue,” said PCWorld.

Armed with this information, you can go about taking further steps to protect your credit and prevent thieves from stealing your identity. Pull your credit reports for free once a year at www.annualcreditreport.com. Look them over carefully to make sure there are not any fraudulent accounts and/or charges. If you see anything, get on the phone with the creditor right away and start the dispute process. If you’re in the process of applying for a home loan or are under contract, you’ll also want to call your lender immediately to alert them to what you found.

To freeze or not to freeze

There has been quite a bit of discussion about credit freezes since news of the breach broke, with some consumers concerned that “turning off” their credit could potentially damage their score or negatively impact them in some other way, especially during the homebuying process. The fact is that a credit freeze is “the most extreme method, but it’s also the most effective” at preventing your information from being stolen and used to open new accounts, credit expert Barry Paperno, who blogs at Speaking of Credit, told NerdWallet. And, it can be turned on and off as needed for, say, a mortgage application or credit re-check before a closing.

“There are no downsides to this: You can still use your credit cards with the freezes on,” said Realtor.com. “But no one will be able to check credit scores and personal information without your permission—so no bad apples can open up fraudulent new cards or get loans under your name. And you can undo the freezes at any time – typically for a small fee.”

That fee varies depending on the state, and Equifax has said it will offer free freezes for 30 days, but the need for freezing will extend long after that is over. “Because a freeze can prevent fraud, it’s better than a credit monitoring service, which only alerts you that fraud might have happened,” said NerdWallet. “It’s the difference between using a deadbolt to keep thieves out rather than a security camera to catch them after the fact.”

You can easily request a freeze online for the three credit unions: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Fraud alerts

“If you don’t want to lock out all creditors – perhaps you’re in the middle of mortgage shopping or refinancing – you can place a 90-day fraud alert on your credit,” they added. “This tells potential creditors to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name.” A fraud alert is a good idea whether or not you freeze your credit. In this day and age, when hacks are more frequent and more damaging to more people, ongoing monitoring just makes sense.

“The biggest fears of identity theft “center around identity theft on an epic scale. It isn’t tough to conjure up worst-case scenarios,” said Realtor.com. “Think about it: Bad guys with all of someone’s information could, at least theoretically, try to buy a home under that person’s name. It’s more likely, though, they would use those stolen credit card numbers – or use SSNs to open up new credit cards – and rack up lots of debt in that unsuspecting victim’s name. And that damage could make it much harder for someone to qualify for a mortgage or refinance an existing mortgage.”

Consumers have largely been turning to ID theft protection company LifeLock, who the Los Angeles Times said could be “one of the big winners from the big data breach suffered by Equifax.” Not surprisingly, the firm has upped its advertising outreach in the wake of the breach. The result: “An executive of Symantec, LifeLock’s parent company, told Bloomberg that since the Equifax breach was reported, LifeLock’s Web traffic has increased sixfold and enrollments per hour are running 10 times ahead of the pre-Equifax era.”

But, there’s a rub: “Here’s what LifeLock isn’t advertising so widely: When you buy its protection, you’re signing up for credit reporting and monitoring services provided by, yes, Equifax. LifeLock signed a four-year contract with Equifax in December 2015,” and the relationship is still active.

If any (or all!) of that makes you queasy, there are alternatives to LifeLock you may want to consider.

Written by Jaymi Naciri

City Or Suburbs: Where Should You Buy A Home?

Getting ready to buy your first home? You’re probably caught in that age-old dilemma of whether to buy in the city or move to the suburbs. There are plenty of reports out there that detail how millennials want to stay in the city to be where all the action is. Walkability isn’t just a catchword; it’s a life goal. And, the reports out there that detail how being within close proximity to a Starbucks, a Trader Joe’s, and a Target can raise your home value only strengthen the argument for urban living. Of course, don’t discount all those reports that show that millennials are moving to ‘burbs to buy homes.

“A recent report from the National Association of REALTORS® shows that, instead of settling down in urban areas, young homebuyers are increasingly scooping up properties in the suburbs,” said smartasset. Conventional wisdom may say that’s primarily an affordability issue, and that factor can’t be ignored. However, there are several additional reasons why the suburbs are calling out to millennial buyers. And, on the flip side, there are those who can’t even conceive of leaving the city for the ‘burbs, affordability notwithstanding.

So how do you know where to go? These are some of the key factors.

Being close to what you need

In a city, you can be close to bars, shops, restaurants, and everything else that makes the area so dynamic. Of course, the density can make it hard to find parking, limit the open space, and make it unappealing for young families who want to live among other young families. Millennials who have kids or who are thinking of having kids in the near future have to weigh the importance of being in what they consider an exciting location against the practicality of being in a more family-friendly area.

Schools

The schools may be better in the suburbs. “It should come as no surprise that urban districts tend to have lower graduation rates than suburban ones,” said The Hechinger Report. The reason: “They often have more disadvantaged students and fewer resources.”

While individual cities and districts continue to tackle this important issue, families move to the suburbs, where they’ll likely pay higher taxes on their home to accommodate newer schools and expanded resources. Stay in the city, and you may have to pony up for private schools or seek out a charter to get a comparable education for your present (or future) kids.

Living Space

“The closer you get to a city center, the smaller the living spaces tend to be, even in Texas where things are bigger,” said Square Cow Movers. “This could be doable for some single professionals or couples, but for families it can be an issue. The suburbs provide more space to spread out, which is part of the reason they are still so popular today.”

 

Jobs

“One thing to consider before heading to the suburbs is where you’ll work,” said smartasset. Do you currently work in the city? How long will your commute be, and are you sure you can live with it?

It’s also important to think in terms of a big, unpleasant, “What if?” What if your job situation changes? What will the prospects be like in the area you are considering? Asking yourself how much time you are willing to spend in the car every day and taking a good look at how that translates to options in the area can help you key in on some areas and nix others.

Outdoor space

In some urban areas, parks give residents a respite from all the high rises and commercial spaces. However, living in the city often means having to make tradeoffs, and ample access to nature is one of them.

Safety

While crime rates and data vary depending on the specific location, overall, the suburbs have a reputation for being safer. Obviously if this is an issue for you, you’ll do your due diligence to ensure the safety of your family. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that transitional neighborhoods can provide a great value for money-conscious homebuyers – as long as you’re willing to put up with some potentially unpleasant realities while the transition is under way.

This guide from Forbes can help you identify a neighborhood that’s about to take a turn for the better and might be a good buy. Or, you can heed these tips from Property Brothers’ Drew and Jonathan Scott. “This is when it’s really important to work with a real estate agent that knows the area. Proximity to downtown, transit, shopping, amenities, and schools are really important,” they said on POPSUGAR. “You can also go to the city planning department and find out any major developments that are going into the different communities. Also, drive through the neighborhoods that you are considering and look to see if there are a lot of recent sales. Trying to invest in emerging communities can be risky, so if you are new to real estate, then we suggest sticking to areas you are comfortable in.”

Age of properties

If you want something newer, it may be harder to find in the city. Infill projects tend to be rarer, depending on the location, largely because of their cost. “Real estate is generally more expensive in infill locations than in outlying areas because land is relatively scarce, sites are closer to services and infrastructure, and zoning and the market often support uses that have higher revenue potential,” said the EPA. “However, the assembly process itself involves additional costs.” And then, of course, the higher cost has to be passed on to the buyer, which ties right back in to that affordability issue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Jaymi Naciri

How To Buy A House Without Going House Poor

How much house can you really afford? Is it the amount the bank tells you when pre-approving your loan? That’s what most people go by, oftentimes spending up to their max approval amount to get as much house as possible – or to be able to afford something at all in tight markets.

The debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, along with your credit score, is what is used by lenders to determine your loan approval and amount. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) efforts to keep this number low notwithstanding, it has been rising to levels that are concerning to industry insiders who fear a widespread wave of home buyers overextending themselves and becoming unable to support their mortgage payment and other obligations.

The CFPB’s Qualified Mortgage (QM) Rule went into effect in 2014, intended to curb over leveraging by capping a borrower’s debt-to-income (DTI) ratio at 43 percent. “This means that a borrower’s total debt expense (including total mortgage payment) does not exceed 43% of their gross income (before taxes are withheld),” said the National Association of REALTORS (NAR). The rub: Many loans Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), are exempt from the 43 percent DTI limit.

The impact higher DTIs are having on the market is clear; a new WalletHub report “analyzed data from 2,533 U.S. cities and ranked all of them on the basis of a ‘WalletHub Home Overleverage Score,'” said 24/7 Wall St, finding that, in many cities, over leveraging is becoming the norm. “The score was derived from a city’s median mortgage debt, median house value, median income, mortgage debt-to-income ratio and mortgage debt-to-house value ratio.” The top 10 are all well over the 43 percent threshold, with the top three – San Luis Obispo, California at 59.62; Williamsburg, Virginia at 58.76; and Brooksville, Florida at 57.44) pushing 60 percent.

Getting in over your head with a house, either from the get-go when first purchasing, or later on with a home equity line that increases your monthly payments, is a dangerous scenario for homeowners (and for the market in general). So how do you keep yourself in check to make sure the house you’re buying is one you can actually afford and that you’re not in danger of becoming house poor?

Do your own calculations

The bank may be telling you that a $350,000 house is within your means, but are you OK with the monthly payment attached to that price? No one is more familiar with your spending habits than you. Are you really going to be able to cut $500 a month in discretionary spending (eating out, movies, clothes shopping, morning lattes) to comfortably make your new house payment?

Don’t forget about the extra expenses

If you’re buying your first home, you may not be estimating your new monthly expenses accurately. Did you include the HOA fee, if the community in which you’re looking to buy has one? What about any special assessments, if there are any? And private mortgage insurance (PMI) if you have an FHA loan and are putting less than 20 percent down on your home. That couple hundred dollars could put you over the top.

Have you also considered your utilities? You may not be accustomed to paying gas and electricity and water and trash if you’ve been living in an apartment. There could also be an increase in the cost of electricity if you have more square footage to heat and cool.

Watch out for HELOCS

A home equity line of credit (HELOC) can seem harmless. I mean, it’s your money, right? And you’re using it improve your home, which will only raise its value, right? But what seems like a great idea can also get you in trouble when you tap your home equity. You may be calculating the additional payment for now, but what happens later?

That’s the conundrum thousands are facing right now, as “HELOCs are resetting higher rates and over leveraging homeowners,” said Inman. “An analysis by Black Knight Financial shows that 1.5 million home equity lines of credit will see interest-only draw periods end this year with outstanding unpaid principal balances that average $62,500 per HELOC. The data reveals that average borrowers whose lines of credit reset will face an additional cost of $250 per month, more than double the current average payment.”

Keep an open mind

Finding a house you can afford may be challenging – especially for first-time buyers and those in competitive markets that push the affordability index. If you have tight parameters for your house hunt that are making it hard to find something within your budget, consider:

  • Extending your area search. You may not be aware of (but your Realtor probably is!) adjacent cities or communities that offer a similar lifestyle at a lower price or up-and-coming areas that provide a great value because they’re still slightly under the radar.
  • Buying a condo or townhome instead of a single-family home. Some buyers have an automatic aversion to condos and townhomes because they don’t like the idea of living attached. But your real estate agent may know of properties that are end units, that have private yards, and that are two-story units with no one above or below you. It may be that this is your best bet for homeownership you can really afford at this point, and you may find you like it far more than you expected – especially because so many of these communities come with great amenities like a pool and gym, plus front-yard landscaping that is taken care of, saving you time and money.
  • Looking at fixer-uppers. A little-known loan called an FHA 203(k) mortgage may be your “in” to a home you can afford and make your own. The bonus is that it’s also great for borrowers who may not have the credit and/or down payment to qualify for conventional loans. “The FHA requires a credit score of at least 580 if you want to make the minimum down payment; if you have 10% down, your score can be as low as 500,” said Interest.com. “You can borrow more than the home is worth, as long as the repairs will increase its appraised value. The most you can borrow is 110% of what an appraiser estimates it will be worth after renovations, or the cost of the home plus the estimated renovation cost, whichever is less, minus your down payment. The minimum down payment on an FHA loan is 3.5%.”

Written by Jaymi Naciri

 

New Advances In Technology Make Going Green A Breeze

Did you know that an automatic dishwasher uses less hot water than doing dishes by hand, which equals an average of six gallons less per cycle, or more than 2,000 gallons per year? Considering that an individual American uses about 2,000 gallons of water per month, that’s a pretty significant number.

The idea of “going green” has come a long way in recent decades. In the 1950s, some kinds of energy efficiency weren’t really a choice. From drying your clothes on a clothesline, to cutting your grass with a mechanical push mower, people often lived green without ever consciously considering their carbon footprint. These days, the story is a little different; you can’t turn a corner or pick something up without seeing some kind of “save the earth” signage or packaging.

Reasons to Go Green

There are a plethora of reasons to go green, most falling into either the money-saving or the earth-saving categories. On one hand, you could seriously put some green back into your wallet with things like energy-efficient appliances, and green building tax credits and rebates. Also, simple things like carpooling, limiting eating out, and starting your own vegetable garden are great ways to save money and help the environment.

On the other hand, eco-friendliness means making your community and the planet a better place to live not only for us, but also for future generations. Examples of things you can do in your home are unplugging unused electronics to prevent “phantom” energy consumption, switching to LED light bulbs, conserving water by taking shorter showers, and using reusable items like Tupperware and canvas shopping bags rather than plastic.

Home Automation Technology

New advances in technology are taking much of the guesswork out of going green. With home automation systems like the Wink Hub and free app, you can control the settings on many of your home devices with the push of a smartphone button or even just with your voice. The Wink ecosystem interconnects all of your smart home devices either first through the Hub, or directly to the app. Wink’s simplicity is one of its most attractive features: according to Home Depot technology professional and Wink test user, Ramesh Chaparala, “It’s very, very simple and self-explanatory,” continuing, “Installing the Hub is a no-brainer; in five steps you’re connected.”

What Can You Control?

With the Wink home automation ecosystem, you no longer have to “set it and forget it” when it comes to your home devices. You can control many of your smart devices from your couch, bed, work, or anywhere you are in the world. Here are just a handful of devices you can install in your home that will not only bring you into the 21st century, but also make your home a smoothly running, highly efficient machine.

Smart Thermostats

Thermostats are a great way to control your home’s energy consumption, and when you apply smart technology, you can control it from anywhere. One Wink App Ready device is the Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat, which not only adjusts to your schedule, uses automatic energy-saving settings, and Smart Response technology for precise temps, but also has a full-color, customizable screen to match your decorating scheme. You can be sure your home is aesthetically pleasing and at your exact desired temperature at all times.

Custom Window Shades

Motorized window shades allow for a clean, uncluttered look, are safer for pets and children with cordless technology, and help insulate your home with the setting of a timer or the push of a button. One quality option, Bali Custom Blinds and Shades with Somfy® automation & controls, utilizes a single control, wall switch, remote or programmable timer to operate single or multiple window coverings. Keep the shades drawn during summer to keep your home naturally cool, or leave them open in cooler months to let the sunshine warm your space.

Remote-Access LED Lights

Huge energy and money savings start by simply swapping out incandescent and even compact fluorescent light bulbs in your home for LED bulbs. LED solutions outlast incandescent and halogen bulbs up to 35 to 1, consume 85% less energy than incandescent bulbs, and emit less heat, which altogether drastically reduces replacing costs and landfill waste. Once you’ve decided to install LEDs, take it to the next level by installing smart light bulbs, like the TCP Connected Smart LED Light Bulb Kit with (2) A19 LED light bulbs. With this kit, you can remotely control lighting, dimming and smart lighting features from anywhere in the world with any computer, tablet, smart phone, or connected remote control. They have an estimated yearly cost of $1.32 and a life expectancy of 22.8 years (both figures based on three hours of use a day.)

Home Automation Technology is an Environmental No-Brainer

When it comes to eco-friendly new gadgets, it’s clear that home automation takes the cake. Having nearly complete control of your energy-consuming home devices right at your fingertips is certainly a big step forward for earth-conscious homeowners. In addition to these devices, several other smart green products are energy sensors, HVAC systems, irrigation systems, and outlet controls.

Which environmentally friendly automated devices will you install in your home?

Written by Sarah Kellner

Is This The Ultimate Example Of ‘What Not To Do’ When Listing Your House For Sale?

There’s a new home listing that’s been making the Internet rounds this week, and it’s a must-see for anyone who is selling their house, considering selling their house, or just wants to do a little point-and-stare. Oh, and for mannequin lovers. Let us explain.

The house in question is a large, gated estate on Jones Creek in the desirable Houston-area city of Richmond. I’ts listed for $1,275,000. At five bedrooms, five baths, and 7,406 square feet, with two acres of pastoral grounds backing to a scenic creek with a cattle ranch on the other side, and features including an art studio, game room, trophy room, swimming pool, outdoor kitchen, and a garage apartment, it’s seemingly a gem.

But that assumes you can actually see any of what the home has to offer. The owner of the home, whose identity is undisclosed, is an artist. And the home is her canvas. Oh, and her tools aren’t paint, they’re…well, see for yourself.

Did you notice the figure hanging on the stair railing? That’s a mannequin. And he’s not alone. In fact, one notable real estate insider has even teased a contest to guess the number of mannequins in the home. “Our team has been chatting about this house now for a few days,” said CandysDirt. “Home stagers are running for Xanax.”

It definitely begs the question, “What is art and what is clutter?” It also makes you wonder what the initial conversation was like between RE/MAX FINE Properties agent Diana Power, who’s listed the home, and her seller. We assume it, at least, included the words, “de-cluttering,” and “staging” and “storage.

It goes without saying that this array of art and accessories may be just a tad excessive and perhaps also a little bit distracting. And maybe also kind of weird, or at least eccentric. It makes for a great spectacle – and certainly brings a lot of attention. But will it sell the home? “She has lots of collections,” Power told Huffington Post. “It’s not hoarding or clutter; it’s art.”

But that’s hardly the end of the discussion, and it brings up a few more keys for selling your home.

Mind your curb appeal

A house that’s picture-perfect on the inside but questionable from the street isn’t doing a seller any favors. It takes just a few seconds to form a first impression. If the mannequin standing at the front gate (presumably, the community’s HOA either limited the number of mannequins to one or made sure it was inside the gate, or both) doesn’t raise an eyebrow, perhaps the knocked-down and haphazardly restacked mailbox will. I mean, we presume it was knocked down and haphazardly restacked. It could be “art,” after all.

 

Don’t creep people out

Yes, the clutter in this master bedroom is overwhelming. But beyond the sheer amount of stuff in the space, why is there a mannequin at the foot of the bed? Even more curious: all the dolls stuffed into the bookcases. One look and I’m heading right back out the door. You?

Bonus question: Where do you even get all those mannequins?

 

 

Wait. Foot-of-the-bed mannequin has a friend. Or two? Who’s that climbing under the table?

Show off the goods

Most sellers, and, certainly their agents, would insist on framing that view out to the pool and creek. But, between all the taxidermy (real or faux), pelts, knickknacks, dolls, blankets, and furniture, it’s hard to even focus the eye, even with that grand expanse of glass.

 

Maybe this serene view of Jones Creek makes it all better? Is that a mannequin riding the lawnmower?

 

This home has great features throughout. In the living room, there are beautiful built-ins, gleaming hardwoods, an elegant fireplace, and detailed dental molding all around. But you have to look hard to notice any of it.

“You can see the charm of the house underneath it all, from its $300,000 foundations to the way the windows are framed in cement and stone,” Powers told ABC13. “I think that the person who will end up buying this house can see the forest from the trees.'”

Let’s test that theory in the kitchen. This gourmet space has professional grade appliances and a huge island – and every inch of it has been covered with something to distract potential buyers from the great features.

At least the seller staged a mannequin at the island to showcase the eating bar. That is a mannequin, right?

 

 

 

Look at the features in this library. Behind all the books, papers, rugs, birdcages(?), and a mannequin that is WALKING ON THE CEILING, there are some stunning bookcases, and French doors that lead out to a patio and pool – if you can manage to get to them.

Does it make you more interested in seeing the home, and, if you do want to see it, is it only to count the mannequins?

And, P.S., don’t get any ideas about trying to buy the home with everything in it. The owner has stated she’s “taking everything” with her when she moves on.

Written by Jaymi Naciri

What You Need To Know Before You Buy In A Planned Community

A particularly active spring storm season left pockmarked roofs and tumbled fences throughout North Texas this year, including many in my master-planned community, thanks to an EF0 tornado that blew its way through the neighborhood (thankfully missing my house – this time). The process of repairs and replacements was as fickle as the tornado itself. Some homeowners received immediate or at least prompt approval from the community Homeowners’ Association (HOA) and its Architectural Review Committee (ARC), while others were forced to wait and wait and wait – which would be frustrating, even if this weren’t the wettest June in 13 years. In one case, a homeowner’s approval was inexplicably delayed so long, even though she was only looking to replace her damaged roof with the exact same roof, that she suffered leaks and damage to the interior of her home.

That’s one of the rubs of living in a community that is governed by an HOA: You need approval to do stuff to your house, even if that stuff is going to be an improvement over what it currently looks like. It’s not the only potential downside, but there are also plenty of advantages associated with an HOA. And with more than 40 million U.S. households “or 53% of the owner-occupied households in the America” living with an HOA, according to HOA-USA – a number that’s on the rise with new construction, of which more than 60% have an HOA – it’s something you might have to deal with. Get to know the pros and cons so there won’t be any surprises.

Pro: An HOA protects your investment. “HOA rules and regulations help ensure homeowners keep their homes well maintained and in compliance with overall appearance standards,” said Signature Homes. “Combined with proper care of amenities and common areas, the value of your home is more protected than one that does not have HOA oversight.”

Con: Limits your creativity and individuality. HOAs may offer limited options when it comes to updates. Older neighborhoods may have a small color palette available to owners and may be reluctant to expand it to current trends.

Pro: You won’t have to deal with neighbors painting their house pink or letting their grass grow to armpit height. “Homes within an HOA must meet the standards set by the association or face a fine, so you’re less likely to see unkempt lawns, peeling paint or a garishly painted house,” said Realtor.com. “Some HOAs have a design review board with the power to approve any changes to your home’s exterior.”

Con: Those restrictions can be Confining. An HOA demands that you ask permission before making any changes to your home – even if you’re just talking about staining your fence the very same color. Depending on how finicky your HOA is, you might also get fined because your landscaper took the week off or because the basketball net in your driveway is torn (true story).

Pro: File this under the umbrella of “protecting your investment.” Many HOAs have stipulations about how many cars, or what type, can be parked on your property, or even where they can be parked. That can help ensure that the neighbor down the street doesn’t turn his lawn into an auto body shop with multiple non-functioning cars up on blocks.

Con: Looking to park your RV or boat in your driveway? An HOA may nix that idea. Be sure you check ahead of time to make sure this is allowed.

Pro: An HOA decision may not be final. Get a rejection from the HOA on your submitted request to make changes to your landscaping? You can always appeal and state your case.

Con: Deciding to “ask for forgiveness instead of permission” rarely goes well, so, if you decide to go ahead with changes despite not receiving an approval from the HOA, beware: You might be fined.

Pro: Some HOAs take care of things like your front-yard landscaping and trash removal, which means you don’t have to pay for it or worry about it.

Con: That also may mean strict restrictions about what you can and can’t plant in your front yard. You may have to reconsider those rose bushes.

Pro: You might not have to put in a pool because there’s one in the community that you’re helping to pay for through your HOA dues, but don’t have to maintain.

Con: When the pool needs to be redone, it’ll be you and all your neighbors that are on the hook to pay for it – even if you never use it.

Pro: A pool is just the beginning. Planned communities with an HOA can have golf courses, tennis courts, clubhouses, playgrounds, and even private lakes for fishing and recreation.

Con: The more amenities you have, the more you’re likely to pay in HOA dues. In a large masterplan with a couple of pools, a playground, and a tennis court, you can pay as little as $50 per month. The more homes that are added, the more the overall cost is spread out. A more “typical range” is $200–400 per month, said Investopedia, adding that, “The more upscale the building and the more amenities it has, the higher the homeowners’ association fees are likely to be.” In some condos, the fees may be higher if parking and security are considerations, and, especially, in a luxury building with amenities including a fitness center and concierge. “Hollywood’s fancy Sierra Towers condo building, which is filled to the brim with amenities like 24-hour concierge service and valet parking. They charge residents of a 3,400-square-foot condo about $4,000 per month in HOA fees,” said Realtor.com.

Pro: You’ve got a built-in mediator. “Involved in a tiff with your neighbor over that big oak tree that’s losing limbs? You can settle some confrontations with your neighbors by taking your grievances to the HOA’s board or management company,” said RISMedia.

Con: Maybe you’re the type that wants to “handle” grievances in your own way?

Pro: Some HOAs allow you to pay monthly, quarterly, or annually.

Con: Falling behind on HOA dues can lead to foreclosure. “This is another reason you’ll want to make sure those HOA fees are in your budget,” said Credit.com. “An HOA can move to foreclose on your property if you fail to pay its dues and/or associated late fees. Laws can vary by state. A few, for instance, place limits on when an HOA can move to foreclose. So if you’ve fallen behind on payments, you may want to consult a local attorney about your best recourse.”

Pro: Part of what you’ll pay to the HOA every month goes to a reserve fund, which can be used for neighborhood repairs and emergency needs.

Con: The reserves may not be enough to cover large expenses. “In addition to monthly fees, if a major expense such as a new roof or a new elevator comes up and there aren’t enough funds in the HOA’s reserves to pay for it, the association may charge an extra assessment that can run into thousands of dollars,” said Investopedia.

Written by Jaymi Naciri

The First Offer May Be The Best Offer

Versions of this column have appeared before. It is still true. And for many, still relevant.For Sale Sign

Sometimes when everything goes right we have trouble accepting that fact. Perhaps nowhere is this phenomenon more clearly illustrated than in the case where a seller receives a good offer right away.

The annals of real estate are well stocked with stories of sellers who refused to take a good, but not perfect, first offer, and who then waited a long, long time before finally accepting something else at a considerably lower price. And most agents who have been around for a while know to shudder when a good strong offer is made almost at the outset of a listing; for the seller’s reservations are almost inevitable. “Did we list it too low?” “If someone will offer this much so soon, maybe we should wait a while and see if we can get more.” Etc.

When we read of Silicon Valley listings routinely selling at above list price, and while we are still in a period when multiple-offer situations are commonplace, it is understandable that such thoughts come to mind. Nonetheless, they are generally unfounded, especially if the market is anywhere near “normal”, as ours is today.

As an antidote to the ill effects of the “curse of the first offer”, a couple of observations might be kept in mind.

First, the fact that an offer is received early in the listing period — even in the first few days — doesn’t mean that the property has been listed too low.

It is easy to overlook how very efficient the residential real estate marketplace has become. Modern multiple listing systems (MLS) provide agents, and thus their buyer clients, with virtually instant access to information about existing inventory and about what has newly come on the market. In the old, old days a buyer’s agent did not become aware of new listings until “the book” (i.e. the compilation of MLS listings) was published. There might have been a lag time of ten days or more from the time the listing was taken.

Today, a good buyer’s agent will have electronically entered a “profile” of his client’s needs and price range into the system. Then, whenever he logs on to the MLS, he will be notified if a listing has been entered that matches that profile. In a low-inventory market such as we have had recently, buyers’ agents will log on a half-dozen times a day, or more, to see if an appropriate new listing has been entered. Moreover, in most systems the buyer’s agent is able to place the buyer himself on a similar notification.

The point is that potential buyers learn quickly of the existence of an appropriate new listing. Thus a flurry of activity at the outset of the listing does not necessarily imply a too-low price; rather, it reflects the efficiency of the system.

Secondly, an early first offer does not imply that the seller should hold out for full price.

We all know that there is typically a bit of a dance in the pricing and negotiating for a property. Sellers, with the concurrence of their agents, will usually list their property for an amount that is both higher than what they believe its value to be and higher than what they would be satisfied to receive. Why? Because they know that buyers almost always want and expect to pay less than the listed price

However, when an otherwise acceptable offer comes in near the outset of a listing period, sellers are frequently tempted to hold out for full price, or much closer to it than would normally be expected. Caution should be exercised in this regard.

For one thing, as we have noted, exposure of the property to buyers occurs pretty quickly nowadays, and sellers shouldn’t assume that there are going to be more, much less higher, offers as the listing period progresses.

Secondly, there often can be a transactional benefit to “leaving something on the table.” A real estate transaction is a process. These days, with inspections and disclosures, there are almost always “second negotiations” during the course of escrow. A buyer who feels ground down in the purchase negotiation may well be more difficult to deal with as other issues arise.

Written by Bob Hunt

Five Sanity-Saving Strategies For Home Construction

Construction - New

 

 

Is this the year you begin construction of your dream house?

 

 

 

What have you done to ensure your dream does not turn into the nightmare that house building has become for too many?

  • If you purchase a custom-built home from a subdivision developer, you may believe its construction will be smooth sailing, with just a few choices of interior and exterior finishes to resolve.
  • If you buy an amazing lot and hire an architect and contractor to turn your dreams into a stunning and practical design, on budget and on deadline, you may believe the hard work is behind you. Thinking there’s little to stress about until the agreed-upon move-in date does not make this true.
  • If you’re determined to self-manage and self-build your long-contemplated, inspired design, you may believe that keeping overall control of the build will ensure no surprises with budget, scheduling, and quality control.

In any and all of the above three scenarios, you’d probably be wrong.

The degree of unplanned problems, frustrating delays, and escalating costs will vary from situation to situation, but the unpredictability of construction will not. Because problems, delays, and additional costs are expected and accepted as part of the construction process, they appear.

Adopt the following Five Stress-Saving Strategies to minimize the unexpected and help the expected to materialize in all three of the dream-house construction scenarios above:

#1. Plan The Entire Project.

Just as homebuyers fixated on acquiring a chef’s kitchen can overlook many other aspects of the home, similar distractions can leave aspects of house plans incomplete or poorly thought-out. Mentally live in every corner of the dream home. “Walk” through every activity that will take place during each season. Consider all the elements of functionality you’ll count on to make the home practical, affordable, and a pleasure to live in. Architects, contractors, and every other professional involved in this project will rely on the future residents of the building to clarify exactly what they need and expect. However, remember:

  • Let an architect focus on ambitious design aesthetics instead of your budget and practical needs, and you and the house may suffer.
  • What you overlook or do not fully think through in the planning stage, may come back to haunt you during construction or after you move in. Getting it right from the start beats rebuilding once you move in.
  • Invest time on the wide range of variations and wild possibilities during this planning phase. Prioritize costs, price options and consider timing. For instance, your temptation to add a second lavatory sink, an extra bathroom, a skylight, a larger window, or a new amazing feature during construction will slow progress and raise costs.
  • Rely on others to fill in design gaps and make choices for you, and you may not be happy with the result that you’ll be living in and paying for.

Learn to read plans (scale, perspectives, symbols…) so you can see what the professionals see. You’ll save time, money, stress, and frustration. You’ll enjoy the process when you understand what is going on and should be coming next:

  • Computer graphics will make the visualization easier, but they may not tell the whole story and are not detailed enough for contractors to work from.
  • Architect’s design plans formalize concepts and aesthetics, but they may not be to-scale, “how to build the house” instructions. If the architect will not be involved in the entire build, who will project manage to translate design into precise reality?
  • Contractors work best from detailed architectural or construction plans. Incomplete plans mean expensive guesswork, delays, and changes. This is all true for self-builds, too. You want construction accuracy, building-code compliance, and first-rate craftsmanship, so take time to find the right professionals and help create the comprehensive plans they need to get the job done.

#2. “Hope” Is Not A Building Strategy.

Figuring out how much you can afford to spend and hoping this will be enough for what you want built is a formula for disaster. Have your plans costed out by construction professionals. Disagreeing with professional budget projections does not make their calculations wrong. Either your budget or your house plans may need revamping. Add a realistic contingency amount to the budget—an amount that would undermine your project if you had to come up with it out of the blue. Cost out interior finishing and flooring, including furnishings, and also landscaping. This part of the build may cost almost as much as the structure.

#3. Do Not Expect Your Schedule To Dictate Move-In Date.

You may hope to move in by the holidays or before your interim housing lease runs out, but this is not what drives the construction timetable. The more restrictive your interim accommodation arrangements, the more vulnerable you are to forced compromises, expensive shortcuts, sloppy workmanship, unplanned accumulating costs, and unseasonable weather. Ask about realistic schedules and what could cause delays. The fact that you have chosen to temporarily live precariously or expensively is not a construction criteria. Many would consider this bad planning on your part. You’ll pay for this one way or the other, so save by resolving interim accommodation issues at the start.

#4. Changes Change Everything.

Once construction is underway, moving a wall, window, or layout element is never “simple.” Many interconnecting systems and details, from wiring and plumbing to planning permission, may be involved. Changes on the fly can wildly inflate costs and add significant delays. This is where the nightmare ramps up.

#5. You’re Not The Only Customer.

You’ve put your life on hold to get the build complete, but contractors and suppliers of everything from roofing systems, engineered structures, heating systems, and windows must satisfy many clients at once—some of them more significant spenders than you. Trusting, respectful relationships and genuine expertise are key to a successful build. You’ve paid someone with exacting standards (architect, contractor, project manager…) to oversee the build and keep on top of the entire project. Now, do the same from the client’s (your) point of view, so you can help anticipate gaps and shortcomings instead of being forced to pay for what’s been overlooked or misunderstood.

What could possibly go wrong? Won’t everything just go according to plan?

Written by PJ Wade