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Be Snow Storm Ready!

Winter weather has a way of catching people by surprise. Even if you know a snow storm is coming, the amount of snow or speed of accumulation can sometimes take you by surprise. Unexpected snow can create a number of dangerous situations, so it’s important to be as prepared as possible in case a snow storm hits.  To that end, here are a few ways that you can be ready to face snow storms or other hazards that winter might throw your way. Some of these tips may be useful for facing down other types of bad weather as well. Regardless of what the weather’s doing, though, make sure that you stay safe first and foremost. Get Travel Done Early If you need to go to the store, help relatives get ready for the snow or otherwise get out on the roads, try to get everything done as early as possible. If you can, try to be back home before the snow falls. If that’s not an option, head out at your earliest opportunity and avoid the temptation to break the speed limit. You shouldn’t waste time, but trying to rush increases your likelihood of an accident, so avoid going too fast while you’re behind the wheel.   Stay Inside Ice and low temperatures typically accompany snow storms, so it’s best to stay inside where it’s warm. This will also eliminate the risk that you might slip on ice and injure yourself in a fall. Also remember that this rule applies for pets, too; either bring them inside or provide a safe and warm place for them while the weather outside is frightful.   Stock Up Dry goods and canned foods are important staples to have when the snow is coming down outside. They might not be as tasty of an option as fresh-cooked meats and other meals, but the tastier options are sometimes harder to cook if your power is flickering due to the snow storm. Be sure that you include pet food, bottled water and similar items that you might not always get on a shopping trip! (And no, you most likely won’t need bread and milk unless you’re running low on those items anyway).   Stay Warm Power outages can be a real hazard during snow storms. Make sure that you have multiple blankets available to cover up with in case the power should go out for a while. Home generators or even portable generators can be very useful if the power goes out, but remember to keep them outside as they often produce dangerous exhaust. The same goes for gas-powered heaters; you shouldn’t place them in the house since it can be hard to ventilate the gases that can build up when using those heaters indoors.   Have a Plan Before a snow storm hits, take the time to develop a plan for your family in case of snow emergency. This should include making sure that everyone in the house knows where emergency supplies are located, how any generators you have work and other details like whose responsibility it is to go on a grocery run or evaluate potential damage after the snow stops falling. Make sure that you include something in your plan about checking in on your neighbors as well, since it’s important to make sure that nobody gets stuck in the cold once the snow starts to fall.   Is Your Roof Snow Storm Ready? One part of your home that takes a real beating during snowy weather is your roof. To help prevent leaks or other roof failure during the winter, have your roof checked out by a professional each year. HomeKeepr can help you find a roofer to check the integrity of your roof and make any repairs that might be necessary. Sign up for your free account today to get your roof checked before the big snow hits.  

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Insulation 101

Insulation is an essential part of your home. Not only does it help keep the home warm during the winter, but it also plays an important part in keeping you cool during the summer. Once you start looking at the different insulation options that are available, though, the whole thing can get a bit confusing. To help you make sense of it all, here are some of the basics you need to know about home insulation. How Insulation Works Insulation works by providing a physical barrier to the transfer of heat through parts of the home such as the walls, ceiling and roof. Depending on the type of insulating material used, it may simply provide a barrier to heat transfer, or it could actually reflect some of the heat back in the direction it came from. In the summer, this means that heat is prevented from entering from outside; in the winter, the insulation stops heat from moving out of the house.   Understanding R-Values Insulation effectiveness is measured by R-Value. The higher a material’s R-Value is, the more resistant it is to heat penetration. Insulations that have a higher R-Value tend to be thicker or made of denser materials able to resist greater amounts of heat transfer than thinner insulations. Some forms of insulation may have a lower R-Value but are still effective; an example is aerosol can spray foam, which can’t be placed very thick, but seals out air. So keep in mind that R-Value isn’t the only measure of how effective insulation is.   Types of Insulation Insulation isn’t exactly a one-size-fits-all product. There are different types of insulation available to meet different needs. Though the specifics of different insulation types may vary, these are the most common types of insulation you’ll see:   Batt Insulation – This is what most people think of when they picture insulation. Batt insulation comes in rolls of material such as fiberglass or cotton that is applied in walls, floors, ceilings or other areas where large amounts of insulation is needed. Spray Foam – As the name implies, this insulation comes in the form of a liquid foam that is sprayed onto the surface where insulation is needed. The foam expands and hardens, providing a layer of insulation that can fill gaps, cracks and other areas that other insulation types often miss. Blown-In Insulation – Similar to spray foam insulation, blown-in insulation is applied by a blower instead of coming in rolls. Instead of originating as a liquid, however, this insulation is made of small bits of fiberglass or cellulose and fills in the area where it is blown. It provides excellent heat retention and creates a sound barrier where applied as well. Radiant Barriers – A specialty insulation generally made of layers of perforated aluminum, this insulation is applied in the attic walls and rafters in areas with warm climates. The insulation reflects radiant energy from the sun, reducing attic temperatures and making heating and air conditioning more efficient. Window Insulation – This can come in the form of films applied to the window surface, plastic sheeting applied over the windows or even insulation built into the windows themselves. You may encounter other types of insulation as well, though they are typically intended for more specialty uses than those listed here.   Air Sealing Even high-quality insulation can’t do much if there are cracks and gaps in your walls or foundation that let air flow in and out freely. Finding and filling cracks with a sealant is an important part of insulating your home. There are different sealants available for this purpose, though spray foam insulation works as both an insulator and an air sealant.   Insulation Installation Making sense of different types of insulation and figuring out which is best for your needs isn’t always easy. Fortunately, HomeKeepr can help you find a professional installer who will match you to the best insulation for your home and seal up any air leaks as well. Sign up today for a free account so you can get to work on insulating your home.

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Is Peel and Stick Wallpaper Right for You?

When you think of wallpaper, you likely picture rolls of material that are plastered or glued in place. Once the wallpaper is up on the walls, that’s pretty much it; while wallpaper can be removed, the process usually isn’t very quick or easy. If you want the look of wallpaper without the hassle, however, there is another option: peel and stick wallpaper. If you weren’t aware that this was available, it might be worth looking into. What Is Peel and Stick Wallpaper? Similar to some other wall decorations, peel and stick wallpaper is a vinyl applicant that has its own adhesive on one side. A protective paper backing covers the adhesive and is peeled off before application, allowing it to be placed without the need for glue or other messy adhesives. The adhesive on the back of peel and stick wallpaper is strong enough to hold the wallpaper in place, but not so strong that it can’t be removed with ease; when you’re ready to take it down you can simply peel it off without having to worry about the wallpaper tearing or causing any sort of damage to the wall surface beneath it.   Peel, Stick and Adjust As with more traditional wallpaper options, peel and stick wallpapers typically feature repeating designs that are essentially seamless once everything has been installed. The self-adhesive nature of the wallpaper makes it easy to start a wallpaper installation since you can position the first piece more easily than you might with wallpapers that have separate adhesives. There is another advantage to using this self-stick adhesive as well. Because it’s designed to release easily, you can adjust the positioning of the wallpaper with ease during the installation process. This helps to ensure that none of the wallpaper is crooked or out of alignment, since you can correct any problems as they occur without having to reapply adhesive or worry about damaging the paper.   Residue-Free Removal One big advantage that peel and stick wallpaper has over more traditional wall coverings is that you can remove it and replace it whenever you need to. The vinyl material that peel and stick wallpaper is made from is harder than paper, so not only is it less likely to be damaged in day-to-day life but it’s also much less likely to tear during removal. The adhesive on the wallpaper leaves no residue behind and isn’t going to peel off paint or other surface details. While peel and stick wallpaper typically isn’t designed for reuse after removal, you can remove one peel and stick design and replace it with a different design, or even more traditional wallpaper, without any issue.   Multiple Surface Options Peel and stick wallpaper goes well on walls, but it can also be applied to other surfaces as well. The main requirement for application is a clean, dry surface without texture. Your walls should be painted with at least a base coat, but the paint shouldn’t have any texturing agents added. Surfaces with non-stick elements added (such as non-stick paint) or residues need to be cleaned or painted before application as well. Peel and stick wallpaper can be added to drywall, wood or any other surface that either meets its requirements or can be painted to provide the clean, smooth surface that the wallpaper needs for adhesion.   The Perfect Install Even peel and stick wallpaper can be stressful if you’ve never installed your own wallpaper before. Whether you’re looking for someone to install it completely or you think your walls could use a touch up before the wallpaper goes up, it’s not a bad idea to find a painter in your area to get the job done right. HomeKeepr can help; sign up for a free account today and get matched with the perfect painter to make your peel and stick plans succeed.

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

10 Trending Design Fads for 2020

10 Trending Design Fads for 2020 Dining rooms with personality? Tiled bathtub aprons? Houzz offers its picks for the hottest trends to watch throughout the year. January 16, 2020 By:  Melissa Dittmann Tracey
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

When Should My Child Get a Credit Card?

You typically have to be 18 years old to get a credit card on your own. But credit card issuers make it easy to get a credit card for a child under 18 as an authorized user on your account. In fact, T. Rowe Price found in its 2017 Parents, Kids and Money survey that 18% of kids ages eight to 14 have credit cards.   Did You Know?   18% Children Between 8-14 Who Have Credit Cards*   $2,047 Average Credit Card Debt Gen Z Carries** Sources: * T. Rowe Price: 9th Annual Parents, Kids & Money Survey **Experian, 2017 State of Credit Report     The right age to get your child a credit card depends on the reasons for getting it and whether your child is ready to manage it. It's also important to know which credit card to get so that you can benefit most from the arrangement.   Why It's Smart to Get a Credit Card for a Child Under 18 Here are three key reasons why you might want to get a credit card for your son or daughter: 1. It Can Help Them Establish a Credit History Any credit account that lenders report to the three credit bureaus can affect your credit. And if your child is heading to college in the next few years, establishing a credit history sooner than later can help them immensely. For example, private student loan companies typically require a credit check and having some credit history can also help your child get their first student credit card. They may even be able to finance their first car without needing you as a cosigner. Keep in mind, though, that not all credit card issuers report authorized user account information to the credit bureaus. To find out if yours does, call the number on the back of your card and ask a customer service representative. Also, depending on which credit scoring model is used, your child's authorized user status may not impact their credit as much as if they were to be the primary owner of the account. 2. You Can Teach Kids About Smart Credit Card Use Credit cards can be dangerous if you're not careful. The average credit card balance was $6354 at the end of 2017, based on Experian data. If you can teach your children about responsible credit card use, they'll be less likely to make mistakes out of ignorance. Talk to them about the card's annual percentage rate (APR) and how credit cards typically charge higher APRs than other typical debts. Explain how it's important to avoid charging more to the credit card than you can afford to pay off each month. Also, show how you can avoid interest altogether by paying off your credit card balance on time and in full. Teaching your children these lessons in a training-wheel environment can help them develop good financial habits that will serve them well when they enter the adult world. 3. They Can Use It in an Emergency If you gave your child a cell phone so they can call you in case of an emergency, why not do the same thing with a credit card? It's unlikely that your son or daughter will need to use the credit card often for emergencies. But it could provide you with some peace of mind knowing that they won't get stranded without gas money. It's a good idea to put rules on using the card, though, so you both agree on what qualifies as an emergency expense. Also, you can teach your child the value of saving up an emergency fund so you can immediately pay off any surprise credit card expenses that arise. Is Your Child Ready for a Credit Card? Using a credit card requires a great deal of responsibility, and it's not for everyone—even some adults. It's important to have a conversation with your child to determine if they're ready for a credit card. Keep in mind their age isn't as important a factor as their maturity level and willingness to learn. For example, does your son or daughter typically have problems following rules you set? Do they have a healthy attitude toward money? You know your kids better than anyone else, so use your judgment and make the call based on that knowledge. Whether or not your child is ready for a credit card, it's wise to create some ground rules for their new spending power. For starters, decide who's going to pay the bill. According to the same T. Rowe Price survey, 41% of parents have their kids pay their own credit card bills. Doing this may encourage your child to use the card more responsibly than if you were to foot the bill each month. If you aren't going to have your child to pay off their own credit card purchases, discuss and agree when it's appropriate to use the card and when it isn't. If you find that they're breaching these boundaries, follow up and remind them of your agreement. Which Issuers Allow You to Get a Credit Card for a Child under 18? Adding your child as an authorized user can be a good thing, but you may run into issues if your credit card issuer doesn't allow it or has an age requirement. To help, we've done some research to determine how the top credit card issuers handle it. Credit Card Issuer Age Requirement American Express 13 or 15 years old, depending on the card Barclays 13 years old Bank of America No minimum age requirement Capital One No minimum age requirement Chase No minimum age requirement Citi No minimum age requirement Discover 15 years old U.S. Bank 16 years old Wells Fargo No minimum age requirement If your credit card issuer isn't included in this list, call the number on the back of your card and ask about their age requirement. If you find that your credit card issuer doesn't allow you to get a credit card for a child under 18 as an authorized user, or has a minimum age requirement that's too high, consider applying for a new credit card. There are plenty of great rewards credit cards from top issuers that have no age minimum. Also, keep in mind that your child's purchases as an authorized user generate rewards just like yours. So, getting a card with better rewards can make the arrangement more valuable for you. Proceed With Caution Adding your son or daughter as an authorized user on your credit card can help them build credit and develop good credit habits. But if you're not careful, you could be on the hook for purchases they've made, whether you approve of them or not. But if you follow the tips we've outlined, you'll be able to turn this into a positive experience for both you and your child.          

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Are You Sure You Own Your Fence?

As Robert Frost (somewhat facetiously) said, “Good fences make good neighbors.” While many people have much better relationships with their neighbors than the saying implies, there is something to be said for a good fence on your property. Not only can fences add some visual appeal to the property, but they can also be functional. Fences are often a godsend if you own animals and don’t want to keep them chained up outside, and a fence around your backyard can afford you some privacy with your family or friends as well. Sometimes, though, fences need to be updated, removed or replaced. At these times, homeowners have found themselves in conflict with their good neighbors over the question of who actually owns the fence between their properties. While this might seem like an odd question, if the fence was already there when you moved in, are you completely sure that it belongs to you? Just whose side of the property line does it really fall on? Figuring Out Ownership Before you start tearing down an existing fence, it’s important to figure out if you actually have legal ownership of the fence itself. Friendly neighbors can become bitter enemies pretty quickly if you start tearing down a fence that belongs to the people living next door. You can also cause some hurt feelings if you start taking the fence down and accidentally tear up gardens or other plants that grow next to or on the fence. This is why it’s essential to determine ownership before you make any move on the fence. Not clearing things beforehand can not only cause hurt feelings and ruin a neighborly relationship, but in some cases a neighbor might even get the police or lawyers involved.   A Neighborly Conversation One of the first things that you should do if there’s any question about the ownership of the fence is go over and have a chat with your neighbor. Explain that you want to replace the fence, provide your reasoning on why the fence has to go, and ask if they know whose property the fence falls on. If the fence is on your property, the neighbor should tell you; if it’s on theirs, then you can open up a larger conversation about replacing it. This also gives you an opportunity to talk about any plants or other features that might be disturbed during the process and make accommodations for pets or other animals that gaps in the fence might put at risk. Be sure to approach the topic casually and with a friendly tone; if you come across as too aggressive or seem defensive about the question then it can cause the conversation to head south pretty quickly.   Checking That Property Line Unless your conversation with your neighbor sorts things out neatly, it’s a good idea to get a survey done to settle the matter of where the fence lies. A surveyor will ensure that the property line is clearly marked so you can see exactly where the fence lies on the property line. In some cases, it will clear the matter up readily, since the fence will obviously fall on one property or the other. In other cases, you might find that the fence actually straddles the line or moves from one property to the other. In this case you may need to discuss the issue more with your neighbor or consult the property deed or other official description of the property to see whether the fence is mentioned. Regardless, knowing where the property line falls gives you a lot of leverage in solving the issue.   Solving Your Fencing Woes Whether you’re in need of a surveyor to help you figure out ownership or a contractor to replace the fence, HomeKeepr is here to help. With a free HomeKeepr account you can connect with professionals in your area that will assist you in getting your fencing issues cleared up in no time. Sign up for a free account today so you can get started on your fencing project tomorrow.
 

Financing Outside of Single-Family Homes

Most of the time, if you think about taking out a loan to purchase real estate, you’re likely picturing a single-family home. Depending on your needs and the properties available in the area you’re searching, though, you may find that other property types are actually a closer fit for you. Multi-family properties such as duplexes and similar units might end up being a better choice, or you could wind up shopping for a condo. You might even be in the market for a property that contains both commercial and residential aspects. Regardless of what you’re looking for, though, you should have options for financing your purchase. Borrowing Differences None of these property types are exactly rare, but they are outnumbered in the market by single-family dwellings. As such, the loans that you’re likely most familiar with are geared more toward those properties than properties for multiple families or dual-zoned use. Because of this, you need to be prepared for potential hurdles when you start looking for a loan. Lenders may have different requirements for these loans than they would for mortgages on a single-family unit, and some lenders may not offer loans for multi-family units or similar properties. This doesn’t mean that there are no loan options available, but you should be prepared for the possibility of a different borrowing experience.   Loan Options When it comes down to it, many of the same options are available for purchasing multi-family units, condos and other properties as you would find when shopping for a loan for a single-family dwelling. Organizations such as the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and others that are commonly used for single-family purchases also offer loan programs or insurance to cover these types of dwellings. Most local and national banks offer these loans as well, as do other mortgage lenders. With that said, you may have to meet different qualifications to get these loans than you would if borrowing to purchase a single-family home.   Qualifying for a Loan Though specific qualifications may vary from one lender or program to the next, some of the most common items that are considered during qualification may include:   Larger down payments than what would typically be used for a single-family purchase Reserve requirements of at least 2 percent and as high as 6 percent of the unpaid principal balance For multi-family properties, a cap on the loan amount calculated on a per-unit basis Minimum or maximum numbers of units within a property Restrictions on any repairs that may be needed for the property   There are other qualifications that may be required by specific lenders before authorizing a loan for a condominium, multi-family dwelling or other less-common property. Depending on the property and the amount of the loan, higher credit scores, co-signers or other additional requirements may also be necessary.   Finding a Lender As with any loan, it’s important to spend time looking for the best loan option to meet your needs. This is especially important with these types of loans, as in many cases you’ll be borrowing more than you would with a single-family mortgage and may be subject to more restrictions as well. Taking the time to explore different options and check with different lenders will help ensure that you get the best terms for your loan and will keep you from having to settle when it comes to buying the property you want.   Getting Your Loan When you’re ready to start your loan search, HomeKeepr can help make sure that you get just the loan you need to finance the property of your dreams. By signing up for a free account you can connect with lenders and other pros who can point you in the right direction for your loan whether you’re buying a condo or an entire apartment building. Create your free account today so you can get started.
 

Renovation Investors and You

Depending on the condition of the house, renovation can be a major expense. However, this can also present real estate investors with significant opportunities. For those with the right know-how and a good eye for investment properties, homes in need of renovation can be reworked and then flipped for a profit. Some investors actually make a very good living doing just that. So how can these investors help you? Part of that depends on exactly what it is you’re looking for, and whether you’re a potential buyer or you’re looking to sell a property that’s in need of repairs. Let’s take a closer look at how renovation investors work and how that benefits both buyers and sellers to see how this matches your needs. Renovation Investors Investors who specialize in renovations seek to buy properties at a discount because of issues the property has or repairs that it may need, in order to be habitable. Depending on the state of the property, the renovations may be extensive before it’s time to sell. The end goal is to get the property in good enough condition that the investor can sell it for more than was spent buying the property and performing the renovations.   In some cases, the investors themselves are the ones doing the renovations. Some investors work with contractors and have them perform the renovations instead. Regardless of who does the work and how involved the investor is in the process, any labor costs are included in the amount that the investor seeks to recoup when the property is finally sold.   Renovation Sellers If you have a property that you want to sell that’s in need of repairs, a renovation investor might be able to cut you a good deal on the property. While you won’t make as much from the sale as you would if the property had already been repaired, this can be a viable option if you aren’t sure of how much repairs will cost or if you’re afraid of a “money pit” situation where the cost of repairs might balloon out of control.   While most renovation investors want to purchase properties at as low a price point as they can to maximize their eventual profits, there should be room for negotiation to help ensure that you get a fair deal on the property when its current state of repair is taken into account. If you speak with a renovator who simply refuses to work with you to find a fair price for the property, you always have the option of looking for different buyers or undertaking some repairs yourself to bring up the overall value of the property before it goes to market.   Renovation Buyers If you’re in the market to buy a home, renovation investors can help you get into a nice house at a good price. In most cases, the homes are slightly older – but the repairs that were done by the investor should have the property in much better shape than similar homes of the same age. You may even find renovated homes that are as nice or possibly even better than houses that are newer than the one that was renovated.   Of course, when buying a renovated home, it’s important to find out what repairs were done and whether there are any repairs that still need to be made. Local ordinances may require the renovator to have made at least a minimum level of repairs before the property can be sold. When you have an inspection performed, the home inspector should be able to point out any potential issues that might cause a conflict with these legal requirements.   Finding a Renovator Investors interested in renovating and selling properties come from several different sectors of the real estate and finance industry. Fortunately, HomeKeepr can help you find renovators from just about any of them. Sign up for a free account today and make the connections you need to take advantage of the next big renovation opportunity.
 

Should You Rent Your Home Decor?

It might seem like kind of an odd concept, but there are a number of companies that let you rent your home décor these days. Companies like Feather and CasaOne allow you to lease your furniture and other décor for a limited period or until you decide to buy it outright. Even some older rent-to-own companies have options to change furnishings after completing a portion of your lease. The big question is, how viable is this as a way to decorate your home? Renting vs. Buying With just about any situation where you have the option to rent or buy something, there will be proponents on both sides extolling why that option is the better deal. People will discuss markets when talking about renting or buying a home, or depreciation rates when discussing automotive lease options versus outright purchase. With furniture, however, the discussions have long been fairly one-sided due to the excessive cost associated with many rent-to-own furniture options. Unless you had another other choice, buying your furniture was the only way to avoid paying nearly twice as much in some cases.   The difference here is that these new options are intended as a way to provide flexibility in your décor instead of simply providing a path to purchase. While you do have an option to purchase, you also have the option to change your furniture options as your needs and tastes change. Because services like Feather are focused more on providing an actual service than simply selling furniture with installment plans, they have a larger focus on benefits than what you would get from a standard rent-to-own purchase.   Is It a Viable Option? There are two questions to ask when trying to decide if renting home décor in this fashion is a viable option for you. The first concern is the cost: is it really worth it to you to have the sort of flexibility these services provide, versus owning your furniture outright? Feather, for example, has a $19/month service charge in addition to the monthly furniture payments for members on annual contracts. If you don’t plan on taking advantage of all the services that Feather offers, it might not be worth paying this extra cost in your case. On the other hand, if you’re the sort that would like to be able to reinvent your living space on a regular basis, then the discounts and annual free change that membership provides might be more than worth that added monthly fee.   The second thing to consider is how viable these companies are in the long term. If there’s no market for this sort of a service, then you might find yourself without a service to use a few years down the road. This may not be a concern, however; the market has supported multiple more traditional rent-to-own services over the years, but companies like Feather aren’t really competing with those. Instead, they’re taking an updated version of their model and targeting a slightly higher income bracket. With reasonable pricing, some great style and a solid service model in place, these early movers into this new bracket could have significant staying power.   Nailing Your Décor Regardless of whether you plan to rent or buy, it’s a good idea to plan out your décor before you start decorating. This is especially important if you’re using an online service like Feather where you’ll be doing your planning and shopping online. This is where it can help to have a professional interior decorator or designer there to assist you in choosing the pieces that will work best together. Fortunately, HomeKeepr can help you with that. Sign up for free today to find a decorator who will really help you pick the perfect accents for your home and tie everything together. Signing up is free, so you’ve got nothing to lose.      
 

I Love a Parade! High Traffic Flooring Options

A nice deep pile carpet can look great in your home, but if you have a lot of foot traffic then it’s just asking for trouble. Not only will you have to work harder to keep it clean, but you’ll also have to replace it sooner than you’d like because all those feet and shoes will leave their mark over time. If you want nice-looking floors without worrying about your own personal parade wearing them down before their time, you need to find a flooring option that’s better suited for high-traffic areas.   Laminate Flooring An increasingly popular option in homes, laminate flooring uses laminated wood slats with images applied to them to create the look of a premium flooring option without the premium price. Laminate is available in a wide range of sizes and types; choose thicker 12mm or 15mm laminates to help ensure that they won’t wear down due to excessive foot traffic. If you want something a bit different than standard laminates, some companies are also now making vinyl flooring that functions similarly to laminate floors but with the water resistance and other benefits of using vinyl.   Natural Stone If you really want something that can stand up against some foot traffic, consider going with natural stone. These stone tiles add a touch of beauty and class while giving you the wear protection that only stone can provide. Depending on the option you choose, this may run a bit more expensive than other options, but there is very little out there that can match the look of stone in the end.   Concrete Flooring Though this may sound unappealing when you first think of it, there’s a lot that can be done with concrete flooring. You can add color, stains, etchings, stamps and even embedded features such as stones or tiles to really bring the floor to life. Best of all, you already know that concrete can stand up to a lot of traffic and use without showing any wear, so you won’t have to worry about your floors showing their age for quite some time.   Hardwood Another option, which can be a bit pricey depending on the wood you go with, is hardwood. There is very little that can beat a hardwood floor when it comes to beauty and wear resistance. You have several woods to choose from, each giving the floor its own touch of color and personality. The maintenance of hardwood is a little higher than some other options if you want to keep it looking its best, but the little bit of extra time you spend keeping up your floor is more than worth it.   Ceramic Tile Flooring There are a lot of benefits to using ceramic tile in your high-traffic areas. Tile is versatile, comes in a wide range of colors and styles, creates a classic look, and is relatively easy to repair and replace if individual tiles get broken. Don’t worry that the look of ceramic tile is dated, either; while you might think that tile will give you the generic “tile floor” look of decades past, modern ceramic tile is truly a sight to behold.   Traffic-Resistant Carpet Yes, carpet isn’t always the best flooring option for high-traffic areas. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t carpeting options available for rooms that see a lot of use, however. Not only are there low-pile carpets and other options designed with higher-traffic use in mind, but you can also get carpet tiles and other carpet options that are both easy to maintain and easy to repair if parts of them start showing a bit too much wear.   Finding the Right Flooring Option Obviously, there are a few options available to keep your floors looking nice despite the amount of traffic they see. If you aren’t sure which is the best option for your specific situation, check out HomeKeepr to match up with a professional installer who can help. Not only will you find out which flooring options are best for different situations, but you’ll also get a great deal on having your new floor installed. Sign up for free today to get started.
 

Still sizzling: Wilmington property market stays hot entering 2020

Tight inventory has homes selling quickly; high-end market sets record Homes sales remained brisk across the Cape Fear region as 2019 drew to a close, showing the region’s resilience from recent hurricanes and continuing attraction to both retirees and those in search of a little fun in the sun. This November was the best on record as sales for the month increased by 11.7 percent from November 2018. The year to date sales jumped 3.2 percent, with the Wilmington-area seeing over 10,896 home sales. The average price also was up 10.2 percent from November 2018, rising to $322,857. Pending sales rose as well, meaning the strength of the market is likely to continue heading into 2020. Reflecting the high demand from buyers, homes spent an average of 25 days on the market this November compared to 47 days last year -- albeit last November many areas, especially along the coast, were still recovering from Florence.  High-end luxury homes also did well in 2019, with a record-breaking five $4 million-plus homes sold in New Hanover County. The record for the number of $3 million homes sold previously set in 2006 at the height of the market was also broken this year at 13. Pender and Brunswick counties also saw an increase in the number of luxury homes sold, a result of increased prices of high-end homes closer to the coast. In 2020, as more and more builders take advantage of the land opportunities in New Hanover’s neighboring counties, it is likely that there will be an increase in buyers looking to buy in Pender and Brunswick counties. The strength of the market is likely to continue into the new year.
 

Still sizzling: Wilmington property market stays hot entering 2020

Tight inventory has homes selling quickly; high-end market sets record Homes sales remained brisk across the Cape Fear region as 2019 drew to a close, showing the region’s resilience from recent hurricanes and continuing attraction to both retirees and those in search of a little fun in the sun. This November was the best on record as sales for the month increased by 11.7 percent from November 2018. The year to date sales jumped 3.2 percent, with the Wilmington-area seeing over 10,896 home sales. The average price also was up 10.2 percent from November 2018, rising to $322,857. Pending sales rose as well, meaning the strength of the market is likely to continue heading into 2020. Reflecting the high demand from buyers, homes spent an average of 25 days on the market this November compared to 47 days last year -- albeit last November many areas, especially along the coast, were still recovering from Florence.  High-end luxury homes also did well in 2019, with a record-breaking five $4 million-plus homes sold in New Hanover County. The record for the number of $3 million homes sold previously set in 2006 at the height of the market was also broken this year at 13. Pender and Brunswick counties also saw an increase in the number of luxury homes sold, a result of increased prices of high-end homes closer to the coast. In 2020, as more and more builders take advantage of the land opportunities in New Hanover’s neighboring counties, it is likely that there will be an increase in buyers looking to buy in Pender and Brunswick counties. The strength of the market is likely to continue into the new year.
 

Turn Any Bedroom Into a Dreamy Sanctuary

Turn Any Bedroom Into a Dreamy Sanctuary Expect home buyers to scrutinize the master bedroom. Here’s how to set the perfect scene that’ll make them fall in love. January 6, 2020 By:  Karen Post
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5 Design Trends to Watch in 2020

5 Design Trends to Watch in 2020 From balanced earth tones to unique lighting, find out which designs you can expect to gain popularity in the new year. December 30, 2019
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Bargain Buying 101: Things to Look for In a Deal

When you’re shopping for a new home, it’s not uncommon to face a little bit of sticker shock when it comes to price. This often leads to buyers trying to find a good balance between what they want and what they can afford. However, if you’re smart (and maybe a little lucky), you may be able to find some really great deals if you know what to look for. One of the keys to finding a good deal is to look for properties that have qualities that might seem unappealing at first but that can be corrected fairly easily. Some of these things can drive prices down significantly but won’t require a major renovation to fix. If you’re hoping to find a bargain, here are a few things to look out for. Ugly Paint Even though there’s a lot of damage that can make your paint look ugly, sometimes the paint is just ugly because someone chose to bring together colors that should never coexist. It could be awful colors, it could be cheap paint that’s faded over time or it could even be an amateur paint job that never got touched up. Regardless of the reason for the ugly paint job, it can drive the price of the property down by thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. It doesn’t even have to be the entire house; one ugly room can give you an opportunity to find a good deal on an otherwise nice property. Landscaping Issues A property’s yard is one of the first things that potential buyers see. If it’s obviously been neglected or has bald patches and overgrown flower beds, this can make a negative first impression because it suggests that the house itself might not have been taken care of either. That isn’t always the case, though. Even if the house is in good condition, a yard that needs some TLC can usually shave some money off the asking price and help you to net a great deal. Fixtures and Accents There are a lot of cosmetic elements in houses that can start looking rough over time. Handles and knobs can come loose or become tarnished, shutters can get loose, bathroom tiles can become cracked… the list goes on. While updating these issues won’t break the bank, many sellers will drop their asking price quite a bit due to how these little things make the house look. Bathroom Concerns A lot of buyers shy away from houses that have obvious bathroom problems, causing those sellers to bring the price down significantly in many cases. Depending on the extent of the issues in the bathroom, though, there could be a real opportunity here. If the problem with the bathroom is mostly cosmetic, then you may be able to fix it on the relatively cheap side and save a lot of money in the process. Just be sure to keep an eye out for signs of water damage or mold, since that could indicate problems that would be much more expensive to fix. Previous Foreclosure One other strategy for finding a deal is to look for bank-owned properties that were previous foreclosures. These properties are often sold at a discount because the bank isn’t necessarily trying to sell the house at market value, it’s simply trying to recoup the money it lost when it had to foreclose. The amount you can save will depend on both the bank and the amount of equity that was in the home when it was foreclosed, but you may luck into a great deal on a nice house this way. Just be aware that while there are legitimate programs that can help you find a foreclosed property, there are also some scammy ones out there as well. Call in the Experts Having your Realtor, like me, help you with your search is another way to find hidden gems and get a bargain on your next home.  I can find you properties that need some of these little fixes and give you an idea of what sort of updates the property could need.

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Things to Know Before Jumping into Solar

Home solar may be the energy solution of the future, offering clean, reliable energy without having to depend on power companies and their high energy rates. With new financing options in the works from some companies, getting into solar could soon be easier than ever before. If you like the thought of energy-independence, then picturing your home with its own solar panels might make you giddy. Before you get too excited, though, there are a few things that it’s important you know about solar energy first. Solar Is Expensive If you want a full solar array capable of powering your home, there could be a significant expense involved. Depending on the size of your home and the extent of your energy needs, your solar setup could easily cost you $30,000 to $45,000 or more. You may be able to finance the panels and installation, but it’s still a major expense. Tax credits or other incentive programs may help to offset the cost, but the availability of these programs and what’s required to qualify can vary from year to year or by locale. Recouping Your Investment The money you save on your electric bill should eventually be more than what you pay to have solar panels installed, but it may take a while for you to save more than you spent. Depending on the size of your solar panels, where your property is located and how much of an effect the panels have on your electric bill, it could take 10 years or longer for you to recoup your initial solar investment. Solar Mounting Concerns Not all homes are ideal for solar. If your property has a lot of tall trees surrounding it or you otherwise experience a lot of shade on your house, this can have a negative effect on how well your solar panels function. Also, if you’ve had issues with your roof in the past you may have a hard time installing a roof-mounted solar array given the weight of the equipment. If you opt for an off-the-roof array to take advantage of the best lighting on your property, there will be added expense involved since you’ll have to put in a concrete slab and use different mounting equipment as well. Do You Have a Battery? Many people think of solar as being a way to keep power no matter what’s going on with the grid, but that isn’t always the case. Many solar arrays are designed to back-feed power into the grid itself, essentially selling the power that you generate to the electric company and reducing your bill that way. If there’s a blackout or other problems with the grid, though, you’ll still be affected because that power isn’t being stored locally. If you want local power storage, you’ll need batteries… and that can be even more expensive, depending on your home energy usage and whether you want the batteries to supply some or all of your power needs. Cleaning and Maintenance One thing that’s left out of a lot of solar conversations is the ongoing cleaning and maintenance requirements that solar panels have. The effectiveness of solar panels can be affected by dust and dirt buildup, so your panels will have to be cleaned as part of your normal spring or fall cleaning routines. Damage to panels and dead cells can also affect them and will require an installer to come out and fix. If you have batteries as part of your unit, these may have to be replaced after several years as well as they can start holding less of a charge over time. Home Valuation Effects Having a functional solar installation can have a nice positive effect on your home’s value, especially as energy costs continue to rise. It may reduce the number of interested parties a bit while solar is still relatively uncommon for homes, however. While some buyers will be excited about the idea of buying a home with solar, others may wonder how trustworthy it is or worry about future maintenance costs. While you’ll be able to get more for your property if you decide to sell, it could take you longer to find a buyer.  

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Care and Feeding of Your Home's Roof

While the roof is one of the most important parts of your home, it’s also one of the most neglected. The average homeowner gives little thought to the condition or maintenance needs of their roof until it starts to leak, at which point it’s usually too late. With a little bit of care and planning, you can add years to the life of your roof. Even better, you can also improve both the look and overall condition of the rest of your home in the process. Roof Safety First Before you start any plans to take care of your roof, be sure that you know how to safely access the roof and work on it. Ensure that you have a ladder in good condition that you can secure in place, with a spotter there to keep an eye on you and hold the ladder stable. If possible, connect a rope or safety harness to a solid surface on the roof in case of accidental slips or falls. Wear slip-resistant shoes or work boots and walk carefully with each step to test for weak spots before putting your whole weight down. A fall from a roof can be very dangerous, so don’t skimp on the safety procedures when you’re leaving the ground. Check It Out Annually Don’t wait for there to be problems with your roof before you decide to do anything about it. At a bare minimum, you should inspect your roof once a year, ideally in the fall, before freezing temperatures set in. This lets you take care of any problems before ice, snow and other winter issues can make them worse. While this works as a minimum amount of attention, your roof will maintain its good condition longer if you also check it in the spring or early summer as well. Clean the Debris There is more on your roof than just a frisbee. The limbs, dirt and other debris can take a toll on your roof material over time. Wash the debris off your roof or climb up and remove it with a broom, being sure to follow good safety habits if you decide to go up yourself. If you’re unable to remove some of the debris safely, leave it and call a professional. Look for Overhanging Branches Trees near your home can provide good shade during the summer, but as winter sets in they can become a hazard. Limbs and branches that hang over your roof can not only drop seeds, leaves and pollen that can make a mess, but as temperatures drop and everything starts icing over those same limbs can gain a lot of weight. Trimming back the limbs or other hazards can go a long way toward preventing damage to your roof over the course of the winter. Keep Your Gutters Clean Most people clean their gutters to keep the water from falling over the side, but there are other reasons to keep them clean. If your gutters are clogged, all of that organic material holds moisture and keeps it right next to the edge of your roof. Over time, this can cause the wood in the roof edge to soften and rot. This can, in turn, lead to your gutters pulling free and possibly even part of your roof collapsing. Look for Signs of Damage Even quick visual inspections throughout the year can make a big difference in keeping your roof healthy. Areas that seem damp even when everything else looks dry, shingles or flashing that is visibly damaged or pulled up, mold growth on certain spots, damp spots in the attic and other signs of distress are all good ways of telling that there’s some problem with your roof that needs to be handled. Calling in a Roofer Even if you’re diligent when it comes to keeping your roof clean and looking for signs of damage, you may reach a point where you’ll need to bring in a roofer for repairs or a full roof replacement. If that sounds intimidating, don’t worry I am here to help! I have partnered with the top professionals that provide exceptional customer service and work. 

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Top Gifts for Homeowners This Holiday Season

Figuring out what to buy for friends and loved ones during the holidays isn’t always easy. While some people are easy to shop for, there are always a few people on your list who seem to already have everything they might want. Fortunately, there are a few things that you can get for around the home that they might never buy for themselves. Here are a few suggestions for things that they’ll not only appreciate, but actually USE. Digital Assistants Both Google Home and Amazon’s Echo smart speaker with Alexa are pretty common these days, and both platforms are adding new features frequently. Not only can you use one of these digital assistants to play music or find out the weather forecast, but you can also have them tell you jokes, cast video to smart TVs, look up recipes and even set timers or access your calendar. Companion apps for smartphones will even let your recipient take their assistant with them when they’re away from the house as well. Smart Thermostats Heating and cooling costs are a major expense. Fortunately, there are an increasing number of options out there for smart thermostats that adjust temperatures automatically to help keep costs low. These thermostats can not only make changes based on their programming, but some can even make adjustments on their own when they sense that no one is in the house. Connecting them to smartphone apps would even allow your recipient to control the temperature while away from home so that everything’s just perfect when they get back. Home Automation Accessories Digital assistants and smart thermostats aren’t the only home automation options out there. Smart lighting, smart locks, window sensors, leak sensors and even smart smoke detectors are all available to give your friends or loved-ones new ways to interact with their home. Best of all, most of these devices can be configured to work together to achieve effects like automatically turning on lights when the door is unlocked. Alternative Appliances The modern homeowner deserves so much more than an oven and a microwave can give them. Fortunately, there are a number of options out there that offer up new culinary options while also being extremely giftable. Instant Pot cookers, sous vide cookers and even air fryers offer new options for fixing meals that your gift recipient might never have considered. Many of them are programmable as well and can even be monitored or controlled remotely via dedicated apps. High-Quality Streaming More people are “cutting the cord” and moving away from traditional cable television than ever before. In addition to Netflix, consumers looking for quality digital content have options with Amazon, Hulu, Disney+, CBS All Access and more, and the forthcoming HBO Max streaming service will be here next year. This could be a great time to get your recipient ready for all of this content with a Roku or other streaming device capable of handling HD or 4K streams without buffering or losing picture quality in the process. Pair it with a sound bar or other sound solution to really take their entertainment experience up a notch. Clearing the Air There are a number of common pollutants that can foul the air we breathe. Help your recipient to breathe a sigh of relief by giving them an ionizing air filter or other air purifier to cut out a lot of these unwanted smells and irritants. This will help to keep the air breathable and odor free, and the units themselves are easy to clean so it won’t add a significant new chore to their routine.

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Best Practices for Winter Pest Control

You’ve likely heard the phrase “if you’re cold, they’re cold” in relation to pets. Unfortunately, the same reasoning can also apply to pests that might see your home as a source of warmth and food during the winter months. Squirrels, mice, bugs and a number of other pests can find their way indoors if you aren’t careful. In some cases, it can get so bad that you need to call in an exterminator to take care of the problem. It doesn’t necessarily have to get to that point, however. There are a few different ways that you can stop pest problems before they start as you get your home ready for winter. Cover Your Trash One easy way to cut back on pest issues is to make sure that trash cans and other receptacles are in good condition and covered. Old food and other garbage can be a big attractor for pests, and once they’ve accessed your trash can it usually isn’t a very big leap to your house. Empty Your Feeders Some people like to keep their bird feeders stocked over the winter to make sure that birds don’t starve during the cold winter months. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with this idea, but it’s important to remember that birds aren’t the only creatures that are attracted to filled bird feeders. If the feeders are out in your yard and far away from your house then it might not cause an issue, but if you have feeders mounted near the house so you can see the birds then you may be inviting trouble. The same goes for hummingbird feeders or any other sources of food too near your home: Empty it out and clean it up if you don’t want it to attract pests. Watch Your Scraps Just like you need to watch food sources outside of the house, make sure you’re not leaving inviting sources of food out inside the house either. Whether it’s in a bin for compost or just scraps left on plates that haven’t been scraped off yet, if there’s food in the house then it could attract a number of uninvited guests. Fill in the Gaps Before the weather gets too bad, take the time to go around your house and try to identify any cracks, holes or other bits of damage that could let in unwanted pests. Make sure that your inspection covers the foundation, areas around windows, the garage, the gutters and the roof, as well as other features of your home that don’t typically get much attention through the year. Fill in holes with steel wool and make repairs as needed to close off those potential access points into your home. Use Plastic Storage Containers If you keep bags of cereal, dry pet food or similar dry goods out in the open in cardboard boxes or bags with clips, it might be time to upgrade to a tougher storage solution. Even though these items are technically put up, thin plastic bags and cardboard boxes don’t offer much of a defense against pests. Put these items in hard plastic storage containers instead. This can even go for boxed dry goods in your cabinets if you don’t access them often; get sealable plastic containers that will fit on the shelves and put dry goods in them – box and all. Be Careful with Wood Piles Fireplaces and wood-burning stoves are popular during the winter, but if you aren’t careful, they can make your pest problems worse. Insects and other critters can burrow into wood piles, hitching a ride indoors when you bring in a few extra pieces for the fire. While some may get caught in the wood when you burn it, other pests can escape into the home before that log hits the flame. Be sure to rotate your wood piles frequently and inspect wood before bringing it into the house.

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Houzz's Most-Viewed Kitchen Photos of 2019

Houzz's Most-Viewed Kitchen Photos of 2019 These pictures capture the hottest kitchen design trends over the past year. December 23, 2019 By:  Melissa Dittmann Tracey Design Trends, Kitchen & Bath
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

What Causes Ice Build-Up on Homes?

When the weather is cooler than cool, it can turn ice cold. Unfortunately, this can lead to a lot of ice on and around your home. There are few things that can make you lose your chill faster in the winter than ice-related falls or damage to your home. Excessive ice build-up can create a number of potentially dangerous situations during the winter, so knowing what causes it (and more importantly, how to prevent it) is an important part of staying safe as temperatures drop. Ice Build-Up There are a few different ways that ice can build up during the winter. The most basic ice buildup is just a thin layer of ice that covers large portions of the house, sometimes accompanied with snow or other precipitation. This usually isn’t that big of a deal. Of greater concern are large icicles, sheets of ice and snow that build up on the roof, frozen gutters and built up ice at the edge of the roof known as an ice dam. These can be dangerous in several ways, both to you and to your house. Frozen Gutters When ice freezes in your gutters, it places extra strain on the screws or clips holding the gutters in place. Overflow can result in icicles hanging from the gutters, and if the buildup gets too heavy it can actually pull the gutters away from your roof. This is particularly dangerous because that heavy ice can then fall to the ground… bringing part of your gutter with it. Ice Dams If a portion of your roof becomes warm enough to melt some of the snow and ice on top of it, an ice dam can form. That melted snow or ice will trickle down the roof as water, reaching the eaves or gutter and encountering much colder materials where it will freeze again. This process continues until there is a buildup of ice at the very edge of the roof, with liquid water attempting to flow underneath it. The ice can overflow onto your gutters, while the water forces its way under shingles and possibly through other materials until it freezes and expands. The longer the ice dam continues this process, the thicker it becomes and the more damage it can do. Other Forms of Ice Ice sheets and icicles also present dangers during the winter. Icicles form when liquid water gradually drips at the same spot over time, freezing more and more until it grows large enough to potentially break free and fall to the ground. Ice sheets form similarly to ice dams, but instead of melting entirely the heat of the roof only melts a small portion of the ice sitting on it. The remaining ice is able to shift under its own weight due to the thin layer of water underneath it, and in some cases may slide down the roof and fall to the ground. Removing Ice Build-Up Care should be taken when trying to remove any form of ice build-up. Don’t use any sharp implement as it can damage your roof, gutters or walls. Instead, tap away at the ice with a blunt mallet or pole. Work in small sections, making sure that there is someone with you to brace your ladder in case the ice shifts. Apply a calcium chloride ice melter to the ice beforehand, if possible, to melt as much of it as you can (but don’t use rock salt or other chemicals that can damage your home.) Take every precaution you can before you start trying to remove the ice, because even when you’re prepared, it can be dangerous. Preventing Build-Up To prevent ice build-up, work on improving ventilation in your attic to ensure even heating and consult an energy efficiency expert to see if there are other steps you can take. Use a snow rake to remove snow and ice buildup from the roof before it can become a problem, and clean your gutters thoroughly before winter weather sets in. If you have a continuing problem with build-up, you might also consider replacing some or all of your existing roof with a standing-seam metal roof with a water-repellant membrane underneath it. Playing It Safe Removing built-up ice dams and sheet ice can be dangerous. If you’re not careful, you can also damage your roof in the process. Contact me today for a list of experienced experts in our local area. 

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Making connections that bring you home

Every day at realtor.com, we help people get connected to real estate professionals and information they need to aid them in their home-buying journey. And when those connections lead to a home shopper becoming a homeowner, we celebrate that. Robert Sellers had always wanted to live in South Beach, a Miami neighborhood known for its art deco architecture and umbrella-lined beaches. While on vacation there, Robert found a home he was interested in and reached out to us. That’s where realtor.com Consumer Experience Specialist Brandon Coleman came in to help. After Robert inquired about the home he saw on realtor.com, Brandon called him, and the first thing he asked Robert was if he had an agent helping him in his search. When Robert told Brandon that he didn’t, Brandon’s focus was on finding the right one for him. Brandon says, “When speaking with Robert, I listened to the criteria of his property search and learned exactly what he was looking for.” After discussing Robert’s timeline and budget, Brandon introduced him to Hayley Wilson, an agent with experience in South Beach where Robert was looking to buy, who knows the market well and could accommodate Robert’s timeline.  Robert is now a homeowner and has made his dream of living in South Beach a reality. “It’s not that often that you can meet someone and do business with them and become friends…I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” he says. As a customer experience specialist, Brandon speaks to dozens of consumers each week, and through the connections he makes to local real estate professionals, he plays a role in helping people achieve their dream of buying a home.  “Purchasing a home is a very complicated process that can be very stressful,” he says. It’s a great feeling knowing we are here to assist and hold a consumer’s hand throughout the process. The best part of working for realtor.com is the satisfaction that comes along with knowing I’m helping people all over the country in their journey to purchase their dream home!” At realtor.com, we want to make buying, selling, and living in homes easier and more rewarding for everyone, and we couldn’t do it without our employees like Brandon.
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

How one millennial is taking on the 2020 housing market

If you’re wondering who that first-time millennial home buyer is — it’s me. I graduated from college during the height of the recession, do enjoy avocado toast, would prefer to venture through a walkable city center than fill my car with gas any day, and wasn’t always so convinced of the value of buying a home. Fast forward to the cusp of 2020 and yours truly is aggressively saving with a singular focus on buying a home. While working at realtor.com with this goal in mind is one timely demonstration of serendipity at it’s finest, the fact of the matter is that I do fit the millennial mold. I got married just over a year ago. My spouse and I have a dog that we’d eventually like to provide a backyard for, and down the road, would like to add children to our family. All this to say that my perspective has certainly changed with life transitions. Despite my wish to have my figurative avocado toast and eat it too, I also deeply care about financial security and making the right decisions for my family. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area with the cost of living as it is, it makes more sense to put our money towards a mortgage than go toe-to-toe with increasing rent prices.  And guess what? We’re not alone. According to the realtor.com 2020 Housing Forecast, millennials will surpass 50 percent of all home-purchase mortgages in the coming year.  Am I nervous? Excited? Of course. There’s much to consider. One of the things my spouse and I have done to prepare is something we talk about frequently at realtor.com — evaluating the costs of needs versus wants. Even though a three-bedroom home sounds lovely, we may need to compromise and target two-bedrooms instead. Going along with that is having a thorough understanding of a realistic budget.  When we started looking into homes for sale on realtor.com, we reached out to the realtor.com concierge service. After spending a few minutes with us on the phone, they suggested that our first step should be to connect with a mortgage broker. Based on a subsequent conversation with a mortgage broker, my spouse and I realized we wanted and needed to sit down with a financial advisor to identify how we would reach our down payment goal and optimize what a realistic number would be for us.  Since then, discipline has been the name of the game. I definitely love a morning latte just as much as the next person, but have had to cut down on this sort of fringe expense. Just think how much you could save by cutting down on a daily coffee run over the course of a year.  I’m also taking heed with the front row seat I have from my colleagues to stay up to speed on economic trends and how they apply to my own home-buying journey. For instance, our economics team believes that interest rates are likely to continue to be low throughout 2020, but so is inventory at the entry-level category. That means a few things for my millennial home shopper peers and me.  It will be crucial to lean on the expertise of a real estate professional who is familiar with my locale to know when homes that could be the right fit become available on the market. Similarly, I’ve set up saved searches and alerts on realtor.com so I don’t miss the potential home of our dreams. And after working with a financial advisor and mortgage broker, my spouse and I have pre-approval next on the to-do list. Since the number of homes is expected to be low, getting pre-approved will enable us to quickly make an offer when we find the right home instead of wasting time with the process later and risking missing out because another buyer was ready. The other bonus of pre-approval is that it shows the seller and their agent that we are serious about buying. If there’s one thing you should know about housing trends heading into 2020, it’s this: millennials’ home-buying profile is changing, just as mine is. Some of us are about to turn 30 this year, some of us are approaching 40, we are a dynamic cohort of career go-getters, and we want to have a home to call ours. We’ve always been an ambitious bunch, so you know what that means. We’re probably going to be your new neighbors. At least we hope to be. Wish us luck! To learn more about first-time home buying resources and tips, access the realtor.com first-time home buyer guide.
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

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