If you’re thinking of selling your house, there are factors that increase your home value that are out of your control, including its location and the popularity of that market. But you can keep up with repairs and make smart improvements, both proven ways to increase home value. Although renovations rarely recoup 100% of their cost, they can make your family more comfortable and help your home sell faster. USA Today offers five tips to raise the value of your home, whether you want to build equity faster or get top dollar when you sell. 1. Make it more attractive Curb appeal—how your home looks from the street—is your first chance to make a good impression. A home’s exterior should entice a prospective buyer to walk through the front door. Make sure existing landscaping is well-maintained. If your yard seems dull in comparison with your neighbors, consider planting flowers or repainting the front door. Once the exterior looks good, focus on the kitchen and bathroom. When these two rooms are outdated, they can keep a property from reaching its highest valuation. A minor kitchen remodel recoups 81 percent of its cost in added value on average, versus 53 percent for an upscale kitchen remodel with stone countertops, custom cabinets, and commercial-grade appliances, according to Remodeling magazine’s “2018 Cost vs. Value Report.” The same is true for bathrooms; a midrange remodel with new flooring and a few updated fixtures deliver a 70 percent return on investment, while an upscale bathroom remodels with heated flooring, custom cabinets and designer fixtures nets an average of 56 percent. 2. Make it low-maintenance Since many homebuyers worry about purchasing a home that will need constant maintenance, replacing a major component—such as the furnace, water heater or even the roof—before placing it on the market may calm fears of an emergency repair in the near future and help you get a higher price. Improvements that make things easy to clean and maintain also may increase home value. Consider replacing easily stained carpet with hardwood flooring or high-maintenance wood siding with vinyl siding. 3. Make it more efficient Depending on what area of the country you’re in, energy conservation features can have a significant impact on home value. Energy-efficient mortgages (EEMs) allow borrowers to take on additional debt to cover both the purchase of the home, as well as energy-efficient upgrades. EEMs also can offer lower mortgage rates to increase purchasing power. Consider double-paned windows, enhanced attic insulation, LED lighting, efficient appliances and solar panels. Schedule an assessment with a certified energy auditor or your utility company to determine where your home is wasting energy and which upgrades will save you the most money. 4. Make it bigger Price per square foot is one way to compare homes that are similar in style and upgrades. Bigger homes often command higher values, and even if an appraiser doesn’t officially acknowledge the full value of added space, a buyer likely will notice. Adding a room is the obvious way to make your house bigger, but you also can create additional living space by finishing the basement or building a deck. 5. Make it smarter Most buyers are seeking “smart” technology in their new homes, including thermostats, fire detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, security cameras, door locks and lighting. While smart technology doesn’t always increase home value, it does add appeal, with those who see themselves as “techies” more likely to pay more for these items. Unlike replacing the roof or renovating the bathroom, you usually can install these devices yourself for about $1,000 or less.
Thinking of selling your home? You might want to try incorporating well-placed throwbacks from decades such as the 1930s into your kitchen’s cooking and dining spaces, as well as rethinking your culinary center’s size and color palette. According to Realtor.com, these are the types of vintage style trends that today’s homebuyers are seeking. Pastel hues Today’s younger generation is pairing the popular rosy shade with gentle hues like robin’s-egg blue and mint. To make these shades sing, choose a modern countertop, such as a butcher block, but consider skipping dated wood cabinetry. Petite kitchens For millennials to afford housing, smaller kitchens are becoming more popular. Instead of having eating, cooking and entertaining in one large room, consider seeking out separate—and, subsequently, smaller—spaces. To make your limited square footage feel grand, look beyond white walls: bold colors and bright metals add vintage glamour and turn the cozy space comfortable. Retro furniture design A smaller kitchen lends itself nicely to retro furniture. Vintage designs—such as Eero Saarinen’s tulip chairs—are designed to squeeze into tight spaces without looking bulky or oversized. Remember, though, it’s easy to go overboard with retro looks. Balance these styles with modern elements—such as stainless-steel appliances or waterfall islands—to keep your home stylish. Dining nooks An open kitchen layout is the perfect place to rock the latest retro trend: dining nooks. Built-in benches add character while also providing an easier alternative to cluttering an open space with a lot of chairs. Decorative flooring Hardwood flooring (laminate or otherwise) might be standard issue in builder-grade housing, but many buyers are seeking decorative flooring styles often seen in their parent’s and grandparent’s homes. Whether it’s vintage black-and-white or funky-patterned tiling, today’s kitchens are all about making a statement. Not quite ready to go so bold? Add a subtle nod to retro chic by upgrading to white and light-gray checkerboard tiling makes. Vintage appliances Retro refrigerator maker Smeg had its moment in the kitchen spotlight with its candy-colored appliances, and now other manufacturers are following suit with a variety of vintage-inspired appliances. Not only are they ideally suited for Mid-century Modern–style homes, they work equally well in a beach cottage or cabin—or any kitchen setting in need of a sense of fun and personality. You don’t have to go pastel to integrate vintage appliances into your own kitchen. Many manufacturers, like Northstar, offer retro lines in white, and Elmira makes the look modern with stainless steel. Bold pops of color Pastels aren’t the only option when adding vintage color. Bold shades are perfectly retro—and makers of small appliances offer unlimited options. Pick a vivid, colorful coffee maker or a mixer that is modern, while still having a vintage look. Or choose eclectic accessories and artwork to bring cheer and drama to your space. Just don’t go overboard: You want your kitchen to be bold, not loud. Limit the use of bright colors to appliances and a few accent pieces to make the design easier to live with for an extended period.
Thousands are still without power in Los Angeles after a triple-digit heat wave prompted high demand for electricity this past week. Although Summer is still peak time for selling houses, potential buyers sometimes are less likely to venture out to view homes because they’re distracted by barbecues and vacations to escape the extreme temperatures in Los Angeles. Here, Realtor.com offers five smart home-selling tips to lure buyers through your door during the busy summertime season. Turn your open house into a summer party If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em…after all, attending a barbecue or pool party sounds a lot more fun than an open house, right? Advertise your open house as a party, complete with lemonade and iced tea, as well as summer-themed appetizers or sliders cooked up on the grill. Timing also can make a difference here. Instead of holding your bash at midday, wait until the evening when the temperatures are cooler and people are ready to venture out to a house party. Embrace rush-hour traffic Many Saturday and Sunday afternoon open houses can wind up nearly empty due to would-be buyers spending long weekends out of town. Choosing an alternative time frame might turn that around. During the summer months, holding rush-hour open houses—on Thursdays from 4-6 p.m. when people likely are heading out of town for the weekend, for example—can be highly successful. This creates a chance for buyers to view the property during a time that may be more convenient for them. Shine a spotlight on the outdoor space Nothing’s more appealing on a hot summer day than a backyard pool. Play up this feature and other outdoor amenities to convince buyers that this is the warm weather oasis they deserve. Also be sure to keep the patio areas, pool and outdoor furniture clean, and to incorporate cushions, towels, lanterns and string lights, to entice buyers to want to re-create the charming atmosphere for their family and friends. Create a community event Try hosting a summer block party at the front of the property, rather than in the backyard, to invite more attention and foot traffic from neighbors and others passing by. Choose a theme—such as a luau or a summer barbecue—and include entertainment for kids. Make sure to design and pass out event fliers around the neighborhood days in advance. And also consider renting food trucks to help serve your guests. As you mingle with guests, invite them to take a tour of the property and ask them to spread the word to friends and neighbors. Advertise early, often and offline People sometimes become unplugged from their devices during the summer, so advertising online well in advance will help give them the heads-up to clear their schedule for an open house. To capture more attention offline, place signs on roadways headed toward the beach, campgrounds and other popular summertime destinations. Add extras such as balloons to draw even more attention, and make sure that buyers know that it doesn’t take long to get to your property so they can pop in quick if they’re on their way somewhere.
High-end hotels deliberately employ the use of sumptuous bedding, chic décor, and breathtaking views so their guests will never want to leave. Here, Realtor.com offers tips on how to artfully stage that same type of welcoming, luxurious environment to sell your home to potential buyers. Beautify your entry Hotels definitely influence residential design—beginning with the lobby. When walking into most fine hotels, you’ll discover an area with a beautiful, round elegant table boasting a huge spray of flowers. This automatically provides a very welcoming, comforting feeling. Add a table with an overflowing vase of flowers, lamps and some seating to re-create that chic hotel atmosphere and to ensure buyers get that same emotion upon stepping into your house. Tell a story with your belongings You always should depersonalize and declutter your space to appeal to as many buyers as possible, but you don’t have to completely wipe the slate clean. Think about your home as an experience and use your treasured objects to lure house hunters. Put some historic books on a table to create interesting focal points, and if you have a beach home, create a coastal vibe. Be careful to distinguish between artful vignettes and annoying surface clutter. A good rule of thumb with design? Only have two to three objects on every surface—five, maximum, if it’s a very large surface—as to not distract from the eye; it’s also reminiscent of a fine hotel room. Choose hues carefully Although bold jewel tones are hot right now, keep in mind that most upscale hotels prefer timeless neutral yet luxurious shades, such as warm gray, taupe, rich brown and even black. Potential buyers want the same—rather than a house with walls they know they’ll have to immediately paint. Also use a lot of glass and black metals to create a European chic feeling, sticking to two or three colors maximum throughout your home. Dazzle with plush bedding For an elegant look, replace your duvet covers and pillow shams with striped hotel bedding—all-white linens embroidered with one stripe of color—and a couple of matching throw pillows. Or you might want to try doubling the duvet at the end of the bed by placing two or three inexpensive duvets into one duvet cover to appear thick and fluffy. Transform the bath into an oasis Plan to redo one of your tired bathrooms before listing your property? Be sure to stick to classic materials, such as Carrara marble for your walls and shower, with a smaller version of it for the floors. People are used to seeing this everywhere, from grand old grand to chic Manhattan hotels. If you’re on a budget, choose similar-looking porcelain or ceramic tiles in a soothing, simple white palette. Add in all-white towels, hand cloths, and washcloths to create a spa-like environment. Create the illusion of space If you’re challenged with a dark space or low ceiling, mirrors are the easiest and least expensive way to create an illusion of depth and light. Using large, floor-to-ceiling glass mirrors can be dramatic, especially when incorporated with glass side tables and coffee tables to open up the space. Solid wood pieces with huge, dark legs cut up the feeling of the entire space, while glass helps buyers see the vision of the room. And when it comes to art, bigger is better; under-sized works actually can make a room feel smaller. Also, consider recessed lights in the ceiling or wall sconces to evenly light and to increase the scale of a room. Continue the vacation vibe outside Transform your deck with comfortable seating and a separate space for dining to remind buyers of al fresco dinners on hotel patios. Set up white candles in large hurricane lamps and casual vases of fresh flowers for an added touch of luxury, and add flowing, sheer white drapes to the doorways. And the lighter you can keep the colors for outdoor furniture, the better. If you have a dark weave, then top that with white cushions. Use biophilic design Finally, try incorporating the latest hotel trend—biophilic design—which takes its inspiration from the outdoors. If you’re on the coast, pull in the sea, grasses, and palms as references for patterns on pillows. Or use other textural materials, such as a rich grass-cloth wall covering or large-scale piece of art that captures a coastal scene. Even if you’re not on the beach, look to the outside to see what you can bring inside.
Selling your home? These 3 popular summer home features that buyers will pay extra for. Outdoor showers garner the highest listing premium, while barbecues, backyard pools, fireplaces and fire pits add to the home value. According to a new nationwide analysis conducted by Realtor.com—The Home of Home Search—properties that offer amenities geared toward summer activities have major appeal for buyers. In fact, homes with summer features often are listed with at least 10 percent higher prices than similar homes in the same state. The summer features correlating with the highest price per square foot boost when compared with similar homes without these features? Outdoor showers (with a 97 percent price per square foot premium), barbecues (26 percent), entertainer’s pool or spa (26 percent), fire pits or outdoor fireplaces (25 percent) and zoned sprinklers (21 percent). Here, a closer look at the top summer features desired by homebuyers. Outdoor showers Mentions of outdoor showers are associated with the largest listing-price premiums of any feature analyzed. This is probably, in part, because they typically indicate waterfront property or extra amenities. Homes with outdoor showers tend to list for nearly double the asking price per square foot of other homes. Barbecues, fireplaces and fire pits The most popular summer-fun listing feature is a barbecue grill. Barbecues are mentioned in nearly 9.6 percent of U.S. listings, and are most popular in Arizona and California where they appear in 15.8 and 9.5 percent of listings, respectively. Homes with barbecues are 26 percent more expensive than similar homes without them. Entertainer’s pool or spa Homes that offer pools with space for friends and family to hang out nearby—known as an “entertainer’s pool”— are listed 26 percent higher than similar homes without the feature. Entertainer pools are most popular in Florida, where they were mentioned in more than 3 percent of listings. California, Arizona, and Hawaii follow closely, with mentions in a little more than 2 percent of listings.
There are plenty of reasons why many people today aren’t financially prepared for retirement and question whether or not to sell your home when you retire. Americans are living longer, so they have to stretch their savings further, and the pensions that helped previous generations have largely vanished. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to panic quite yet. Many on the cusp of retirement do have one source of cash that could help them close the gap between what they have for retirement and what they’ll need to live well: their home. In fact, the majority of senior Americans have more money in home equity than they do in their retirement portfolios, according to an analysis last year by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. So how much cash are you sitting on, anyway? To figure out your home equity, subtract the amount you owe on your mortgage from the current market value of your property. Next, to see whether you’ll need that money in retirement, plug your other info (excluding the value of your home equity) into a retirement calculator, then see whether you’ll be able to comfortably live without it. If it looks like you’re going to have to tap your equity, you’ll want to make a plan for the best way to do so. Here, Realtor.com offers five options and the benefits of each. Sell and move This is probably the first thing retirees think of doing with their home, and for good reason: Many retirees feel liberated after shedding their excess stuff to move to smaller digs. By selling and moving to a less expensive house or region, you’ll not only bolster your portfolio with the proceeds, you’ll also lower your monthly expenses. And if you move to a condo or apartment, you won’t have to deal with external home-maintenance issues anymore. Open a HELOC If you have enough cash to cover your day-to-day needs but no cushion for unexpected expenses, such as medical bills, a home equity line of credit can serve as an emergency fund. You get to stay in your home. You’ll have to pay only the interest on the amount you use during the draw period, typically 10 years. Interest rates are so low now that those payments will be pretty minimal. Use a reverse mortgage A reverse mortgage allows you to tap your home’s equity but is different from a HELOC in that you don’t have to pay it back until you move or pass away. Unlike a HELOC, which is good for short-term borrowing, a reverse mortgage gives you cash for the long haul in the form of monthly checks. Become a landlord It may not be a huge investment to turn part of your home into an apartment with its own kitchen, bathroom, and entrance. Or, you can rent out your entire home for all or part of the year, rent a smaller unit yourself and pocket the difference. You can cover or offset your housing costs with rental income—and postpone selling your home for longer. Do a sale/leaseback to your kids If passing the family home to your children is important to you, you may be able to sell it to them now and then pay rent so that you can continue living there. You get to stay in your home and ensure that it remains in the family.
A newly released survey of 1,000 nationally representative U.S. college-educated adults reveals that today’s housing and financial environment is impacting home-purchasing decisions. According to the survey—conducted by Wakefield Research for the national online lender and FDIC-insured bank Laurel Road—Americans are eying the housing market with caution, with more than half (53 percent) who have or plan to buy a home saying that they’re concerned about their ability to afford housing in the current market. The findings also revealed that Americans, on average, believe a housing crash similar to the one in 2008 will occur during the next five years, with almost one-fifth of respondents anticipating a crash in less than one year. The survey examines how misconceptions and unclear options are inflating anxieties when it comes to housing market decisions. For example, the down payment often is considered one of the main barriers to affordability, but nearly half (46 percent) of Americans are unfamiliar with alternative down payment options. Similarly, the National Association of Realtors found that, in 2017, the median down payment for first-time buyers was 6 percent of the total home price for three straight years. However, almost three-in-five respondents (58 percent) plan to put down a traditional 20-percent down payment, while 42 percent feel they would need to tap into other means, such as mortgage insurance (14 percent). The survey found that women, in particular, are potentially underestimating affordability, as they are significantly less likely than men (49 percent versus 59 percent) to be familiar with the alternatives. This lack of knowledge around alternative options potentially contributes to the fact that more than one-third (35 percent) of respondents—and 46 percent of millennials—do not feel confident that they could afford a 20-percent down payment. Women (45 percent) feel particularly less confident than men (24 percent), while more than two-fifths (42 percent) of student loan carriers do not feel confident. A knowledge gap also surrounds current interest rates. The survey revealed that Americans think mortgage interest rates in the U.S. will reach 6 percent, on average, by the end of the year, while the Mortgage Bankers Association expects a more modest 4.6 percent. Interestingly, millennials (70 percent) are the most concerned about the impact of rising rates, compared with 60 percent of Gen Xers and 35 percent of boomers. Compared with boomers (78 percent), millennials (53 percent) are less likely to think it’s best that others pull the trigger and buy now, suggesting those that are more likely to be buying their first home are apprehensive about purchasing decisions. In summary, these findings suggest consumers are concerned and cautious about housing decisions in the current market, despite the fact that interest rates are historically low. In fact, the majority of people (74 percent) who have bought, or plan to buy, a home would only accept an interest rate of less than 6 percent before deciding not to move forward with a purchase. However, a lack of historical context may contribute to this sentiment. Americans believe the highest U.S. mortgage rates have ever reached was 12.25 percent, on average. In reality, rates have exceeded 18 percent—a fact only 8 percent of Americans know. Here, some additional findings from the study: Setting timelines: Americans estimate they will buy a home in the next six years, on average. First-time homebuyers plan to purchase a home in just two years—at age 36, on average. Concern may even play a role in buying patterns, as 62 percent of those who are concerned about affordability are currently looking or plan to buy in less than five years, compared with 33 percent of those who aren’t concerned. Planning ahead: Among Americans who have ever bought, or plan to buy, a home, 85 percent have plans for their savings if they refinanced their mortgage. Forty-eight percent would put it into savings; 41 percent would pay off debt, such as credit cards or student loans (50 percent of millennials versus 45 percent of Gen X and 32 percent of boomers); and 27 percent would remodel their home. Spurring action: Among current and prospective homeowners, nearly one in three (32 percent) are more likely to refinance their home, specifically because of the potential for a future rate hike.
Great news! You just found the perfect home in the ideal neighborhood. However, if you’re a first-time home buyer, you need to prepare for additional—and often unexpected—home-buying costs. Here, Zillow details some expenditures that might catch many home buyers unaware. Unexpected costs Homeowner’s insurance and closing costs, such as appraisal and lender fees, usually are easy to plan for because they’re added into the home-buying process. But most costs beyond those vary. If the previous owners of your home take appliances when they move out, you’ll have to buy more to replace them. You also will have to pay for any immediate improvements the home needs, unless you negotiate them as part of your home purchase agreement. And you’ll definitely want to hire a home inspector to look for bad electrical wiring, weak foundations, wood rot and other hidden problems you may not find on your own. Keep in mind, these problems are rarely covered by home insurance. If an inspector discovers a serious problem, you then will have to decide if you still want to purchase the home. Either way, you’ll be out the cost of hiring the inspector. Creature comforts Once you move in, you’ll start thinking fully about what you’re expecting from your new home. Are you used to having cable? If so, is your new home wired for cable? It’s much more difficult to watch a technician crawling around punching holes in your walls when you own those walls. And if you’re moving from renting to owning a home, you likely will be faced with much higher utility bills. You also could find yourself paying for utilities such as water and garbage pickup that once were covered by a landlord. Planning ahead The only ways to face the unknown and unexpected is with research and planning. This begins with budgeting both before house hunting and throughout your search. Look at homes in your budget that need improvements, and then research how much those improvements could cost. Nothing is worse than buying a home thinking you can fix the yard for a few hundred dollars and then realizing it will cost thousands. There really is no limit to how prepared you can be. For example, you may save money on the list price if you find a nice home that’s priced lower than others in the area because of its age. However, with an older house, you could be faced with a much higher home insurance payment, making the house more expensive in the long run. This is where preparation comes in. Research home insurance and property prices in the areas you’re considering to make more educated decisions before you ever make that first offer. Clearly define how much you intend to put toward your down payment, and then look at how much cash that leaves for improvements and minor costs, such as changing the locks. That way, when you find a house at the high end of your range, you’ll know to walk away if it requires a new washer and dryer or HVAC system upgrade. Establish a rough estimate for as many costs as you can think of, and be extremely critical of homes at the top of your budget. Otherwise, you could easily end up being house poor.