The Purchase You Can’t Afford To Ignore

Real estate owners who stay in touch with their neighbors can be first in line when the neighbor of an abutting property wants to sell.

Abutting or adjoining properties are neighboring real estate with at least part of one boundary touching part of your property.

If you own a house, semi-detached, recreational property, or even a condominium unit and the owner of a property bordering on yours considers selling, you want to be among the first to know and to act on that knowledge.

There are strong advantages to owning abutting property as well as your current real estate:

Proximity to neighboring homes may limit what you can do on your property. In turn, an adjoining neighbor’s add-on or build-up may have negative impact on your home. Buy the property beside you and you’ll have renovation “elbow room” and can escape being over-shadowed by a neighbor’s expansion.

Buy the adjoining real estate and you’ll may be able to combinethe properties into a large lot that which would enable you to build an even larger home or add more amenities or trees.

Rent out the second property and you’ll have income, deductible maintenance costs, a say in who lives there, and full benefit of that property’s appreciation in value.

Owning adjoining properties is equivalent to having a sound and privacy barrier—breathing space—between your real estate and that owned by others.

Townhomes and condominium units with common walls provide opportunities for expanding space without moving. Check out the legalities of such possibilities when you buy the first property or at least long before an abutting unit is on the market.

If you own a recreational property, buying an abutting property could improve your enjoyment by extending your waterfront or expanding your view. You’ll definitely have control over more of the environment.

Larger properties provide opportunities for development to add multiple units or build up, all of which can increase property value.

You’ve chosen to live in an area you believe in. With two properties you’ll at least double your investmentreturn as local real estate values rise. Buy more—whether you hold separate title on each property or combine some—and you’ll be investing in something you can live on or in and enjoy as it grows in value.

Here’s how buying the house across the driveway worked out for one couple: Mike and Melissa Russell (not their real name) struggled financially to buy their first house: one of the more modest detached two-storeys on a tree-lined residential street in the best neighborhood they could afford. They put location ahead of decor and house size knowing location could not be changed, and decor and size were what renovation was all about.

Years passed and the house became too small for their growing family. Moving was out because they had so many friends in the area, had so many connections to the neighborhood, and their children loved their schools. Then, the elderly neighbor living directly behind their property died suddenly.

The Russells knew the house and decided to approach the estate to buy it. After appraisals to establish fair market value and discussions between their lawyer and that for the estate, the Russells were proud owners of a second house.

They quickly completed cosmetic improvements on the house and rented it to cover costs including taxes, maintenance, and a mortgage designed to be paid off as quickly as possible. The two backyards were combined. The Russells created a large vegetable garden, outdoor kitchen, and patio. Over the years, friends helped the Russells add a pool and a basketball court to maximize the double yard.

After a few years as landlords, they could afford to carry the second house themselves. With the help of friends, the Russells transformed the basement into a sports playroom for the children, added a separate smaller rental unit, and created an office for Melissa’s online business.

Their plans for the future include selling the second home to subsidize travel and modernizing the original house once Mike takes a pension from his job. Living in their original home will mean no downsizing required, renovation without a mortgage, and staying in the neighborhood the Russells have always loved.

Whether you buy the house across your mutual driveway or backyard fence, the end unit beside you in your townhouse row, or the condominium unit above yours, buying abutting real estate should always be considered as a serious option before the opportunity is lost.

Be sure you have done your “homework”. You may only have a short headstart before everyone knows the property adjoining yours is for sale. Here are a few of the questions that help you prepare in advance:

  • The location was an excellent investment for your home, but does this neighborhood warrant further real estate investment?
  • Is staying in this location the best short and long term decision for you and your family?
  • How will you finance the purchase of the second property? Will rental rates cover mortgage payments and other expenses?
  • What municipal bylaws and other legal issues may undermine your projected use of the second property?
  • If you did not make this investment, how else would you put your money to work for your future?

Buying an abutting property is not always the right idea, however, it is always the right thing to consider very seriously when an opportunity to purchase presents itself. Be prepared by considering your options well in advance. You never know when a neighbor will knock on your door and ask…

WRITTEN BY

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What You Can Expect Your First Year In A New Home

Moving can be exciting, and it can also be scary. It can be smooth sailing or so wrought with silly (or serious) issues that your cat peeing in the box of towels because you haven’t unpacked his cat dish yet sends you into the kind of rolling-on-the-ground, slapping-your-leg, crying-big-fat-tears laughter that makes your family wonder if you need medical intervention. And that’s just the beginning of the adventure.

In the first year in a new home, you’ll likely experience the full spectrum of human emotions, sometimes in the span of a few minutes. And while you can’t know everything that’s going to happen, you can prepare yourself for some of the inevitabilities, of both the good and not-so-good variety.

Something’s going to break

It could just be a sprinkler head or it could be your air conditioning unit in the heat of summer, but knowing that something will eventually break in the house is the best reason of all to be proactive. Being able to quickly deal with a leaking water heater or a roof that’s been damaged in a hail storm is key to minimizing the damage to your finances, and your sanity.

There are four main keys to being prepared:

 

  • Saving your money -“Owning a house doesn’t change the rule of thumb that it’s wise to have approximately six months’ worth of income in a rainy day fund, and more experts are now recommending that you build up nine months to a year,” said Zacks Investment Research. “What changes is the amount of your monthly expenses that will be consumed if you need to tap into the fund. If your mortgage, tax, insurance, utilities and other payments rise with a new mortgage, you could use your savings up more quickly. With this in mind, if you were saving less than the guideline, intending to tighten your belt, the increased bills that come with homeownership makes skimping on your rainy day fund a dangerous business.”

 

 

  • Knowing where everything is located – You don’t want to get caught in an emergency situation and be scrambling around trying to figure out how to shut off your gas.

 

 

  • Finding a trustworthy handyman – Unless someone in the house is handy, and actually does the stuff they say they are going to do in a timely manner, you’ll want to find a handyman. Having someone you can call in a pinch to repair the doggy door or the garage door opener or add a ceiling fan to a room that stays five degrees warmer than the rest of the house is clutch. Next Door is a great place to find a handyman, as well as a babysitter, dog walker, and lost cat.

 

 

  • Getting a warranty – In many cases, you can buy a home warranty after you’ve purchased your home. If you have an older home, are someone who could be sunk by a broken air conditioning unit that costs several thousands of dollars to repair or replace, or just want to make sure you’re covered for all those things that could bust, a warranty might be a good thing to consider. “A home warranty is a contract between a homeowner and a home warranty company that provides for discounted repair and replacement service on a home’s major components, such as the furnace, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical system,” said Investopedia. “A home warranty may also cover major appliances such as washers and dryers, refrigerators and swimming pools. Most plans have a basic component that provides all homeowners who purchase a policy with certain coverages. Homeowners can also purchase one or more optional components that provide additional coverage at additional cost.”

 

Junk mail city

Expect to see a full mailbox for months after you move. A lot of it will be junk, but there will also be some valuable stuff in there, like coupons from local stores that can save you money on furniture and housewares. Don’t forget to also take advantage of the coupons that are part of the U.S. Postal Services change of address package.

You’ll probably also get some refinancing offers. If your home happens to gain equity during the first year and rates dip, you might be able to refi and lower your payment.


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You’re going to make friends

Unless you’re a total hermit who never exits the house even to take a walk, get the mail, or water the flowers, you’re bound to make some new friends in your new neighborhood. Maybe even lifelong friends. But, if anyone in the household is nervous about this aspect of moving, there are ways to increase the friendship-making quotient for kids, and adults.

The updates you knew you needed when you moved in will become a priority

That ugly floor and those outdated countertops are just staring at you, taunting you, even. When you just can’t take it one more minute, consider this: You don’t have to shell out a bunch of cash for them. Use interest-free credit at Home Depot or Lowe’s and you can break up the spend into manageable monthly payments over a period of time. Just make sure to make your payments by the due date every month. Missing one, being late, or not paying the minimum due for even one month will void your agreement and add a whole bunch of interest to your total.

Need furniture or electronics more than you need floors? Lots of stores like Rooms To Go and Best Buy offer the same type of interest-free deal.

You’re going to have big dreams and big realities checks

Unless you’ve bought a brand-new home, there are a few things you’re going to want to change, beyond furniture and furnishings. It may just be carpet in the bedrooms and a splash of new paint, or it might be ripping out your entire kitchen.

Budget concerns will probably keep the renovations in check for many people. But you’ll also want to assess the return on investment for the renovations you have in mind. Even if you’re not planning to turn around and sell your home in a year or two, knowing that the updates you make are valuable and will be a good investment is always important. Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report is a great guide to see which items pay you back.

It’s going to cost more than you thought

This ties back to the saving your money thing, because there will always be stuff that needs to be fixed and updated. But there will undoubtedly also be surprising costs. For instance, if you’re going up in square footage, you may not have considered the extra heating and cooling costs.


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There are tactics you can use to address some of these costs:

 

  • Do an energy audit -“A home energy audit, also known as a home energy assessment, is the first step to assess how much energy your home consumes and to evaluate what measures you can take to make your home more energy efficient. An assessment will show you problems that may, when corrected, save you significant amounts of money over time,” said Energy.gov. “Items shown here include checking for leaks, examining insulation, inspecting the furnace and ductwork, performing a blower door test and using an infrared camera.”

 

 

  • Research utility options – In many cities, you have options for your energy providers, and some may cost significantly less than the traditional providers you’ve gone with in the past. Be sure to check out solar options, too, especially if you’re interested in green living. The newest advancements in solar energy for residential homes make it possible to use the sun’s energy without having to purchase expensive systems and pay thousands of dollars upfront.

 

 

  • Check out alternative credit cards – If you’re looking for creative ways to save money, check that junk mail again. There may be some valuable credit card offers in there with lower interest rates or an interest-free balance transfer option.

 

You might have to do some things you never thought of

You probably weren’t thinking about cleaning out your ducts when you were envisioning your new life in your new home. But you probably won’t know how long it’s been since the last cleaning, and dirty ducks can can cost you money if you’re HVAC system isn’t running efficiently. Thet can also be dangerous because of the accumulation of dust and dirt inside. Poor indoor air quality can worsen allergies and asthma.

A clogged dryer vent can also cost you money because it makes your dryer work harder. But, more importantly, it can be dangerous and even deadly. “Lint is highly flammable and can pose a severe fire hazard when dryer vents are not cleaned regularly and properly,” said Barineau Heating and Air Conditioning. “According to the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Data Center, clothes dryers are responsible for more than 15,000 structure fires around the country each year, and 80 percent of those fires start with clogged dryer vents.”

You’ll get woken up in the middle of the night by a fire alarm

Because batteries only die at 3am. Every. Single. Time. You can avoid this nuisance and keep your family safe by changing your batteries when you first move in. While you’re at it, change your filters, which will help your HVAC to work more efficiently.

WRITTEN BY JAYMI NACIRI

Can You Trust Zillow’s Home Price Zestimate? In a Word: No.

I got an email from Zillow last week. Seems my house has gone up in value another $2,000+ dollars in the past 30 days. And it’s going to rise another 3.5% in the next year, according to their Zestimate®. Fab!

Except that it’s just speculation. When it comes to Zillow’s Zestimates, you have to take the numbers with a grain of salt. Make that a big shake of salt, right over your shoulder. And maybe a stiff drink. And a frank conversation with your real estate agent.

“Shoppers, sellers and buyers routinely quote Zestimates to realty agents – and to one another – as gauges of market value,” said the Los Angeles Times. “If a house for sale has a Zestimate of $350,000, a buyer might challenge the sellers’ list price of $425,000. Or a seller might demand to know from potential listing brokers why they say a property should sell for just $595,000 when Zillow has it at $685,000. Disparities like these are daily occurrences and, in the words of one realty agent who posted on the industry blog ActiveRain, they are ‘the bane of my existence.'”

Are faulty Zillow estimates irritating, dangerous, somewhere in the middle? It all depends on your personal situation. A real estate investor, a seller in a high-end neighborhood, or an obsessive real estate watcher (ahem) may be able to brush off a $15,000 error. But for many people across the country, the word of Zillow might as well be the word of God. So, yeah, dangerous.

Price errors

Errors in sales prices are one of the issues Investopedia pointed out in its look at Zillow’s Zestimates.


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“Zillow factors the date and price of the last sale into its estimate, and in some areas, these data make up a big part of the figure. If this information is inaccurate, it can throw off the Zestimate,” they said. “And since comparable sales also affect a home’s Zestimate, a mistake in one home’s sales price record can affect the Zestimates of other homes in the area. The Zestimate also takes into account actual property taxes paid, exceptions to tax assessments and other publicly available property tax data. Tax assessor’s property values can be inaccurate, though. The tax assessor’s database might have a mistake related to a property’s basic information, causing the assessed value to be too high or too low.”

In June, Zillow’s much-maligned (by industry experts, anyway) Zestimates got an upgrade with a new algorithm. Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff has famously called his company’s price estimates, “a good starting point” and copped to a median error rate of approximately 8%. With their new algorithm, they say it’s dropped to 6.1%.


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John Wake, an economist and real estate agent from Real Estate Decoded, applied Zillow’s updated 6.1% margin of error to “Zillow’s own estimate of the median sale price in the U.S. in May 2016 of $229,737 and got a typical error of $14,000. He then took a sample city, Denver – a city in which estimates are actually more accurate than average” – and found “the error spread in 2016 is a lot tighter and more focused on the bullseye of the actual sales price,” but that “their Zestimates are scattershot.”

In his example, “a Denver home has a fair market value of $300,000. According to Zillow’s Zestimate Accuracy Table, 10% of their Zestimate prices were off by more than 20% from the actual sale prices. Half of that 10% are Zestimates that are too high by 20% or more, and half are Zestimates that are too low by 20% or more. That means you have a 5% chance Zillow will give you a Zestimate of $360,000 OR MORE, and a 5% chance Zillow will give you a Zestimate of $240,00 OR LESS. Yikes!”

Missing data

It gets even more complicated without all the data that gets fed into Zillow’s algorithm. Limit the available info and the margin for error grows.

That same email I received included a couple of new listings and info on recent sold homes in the area. Notice anything interesting about these recent sales?

Yep, no sales prices. Texas is one of about a dozen states without a mandatory price disclosure law, which makes property appraisals challenging and which makes it even more difficult for Zillow to come up with an accurate Zestimate since it eliminates one of their key data points.

In the case of my home, they’re a good $11,000–15,000 high on their sales price estimate. And that’s based on my direct knowledge of sales prices in my neighborhood—not list prices, not tax assessments, and not assumed sales prices based on trends.

Which brings up another issue that leads to inaccurate estimates. In many neighborhoods, sales trends and prices vary street to street. But Zillow’s estimates are a one-size-fits-all program. In my masterplan, the building of high-density units on the southern edge of the community a few years back took a bite out of the value of homes on the perimeter streets. Sales of homes with a first-floor master also get a bump here.

And then there’s the fact that this community is also split between two elementary schools. Zillow wouldn’t know which one buyers prefer and wouldn’t account for a difference in sales price between two otherwise comparable homes. But, people who live here would, and so would the local real estate agents.

Which only reinforces the importance of working with one, BTW.

WRITTEN BY JAYMI NACIRI

How Color Helps Sell Your Home

Yes! Just like curb appeal matters, the colors of your home can and will influence buyers. With that in mind, we explore which colors tend to appeal to the masses.

The color scheme of your home, from the outside in, sets the tone. It’s like going to see a theatre play and seeing an intricately crafted and appropriately painted set for the production. It can immediately intrigue you–before the play has begun and even if you know few details about the play.

When it comes to color, be sure to consider the location. A peach-pink home in a retirement community might be okay, but that same color in an upscale, urban city may be unappealing to younger city dwellers.

The outside of your home is one of the largest areas potential buyers will see. So make your decision carefully and be sure to have a professional paint job done. If you choose white for the exterior, your home is likely to appeal to the masses, according to one study that indicated upwards of 40 percent of people liked white homes.

The great thing about a white home is you have plenty of options to make the home stand out by using an accent color for the trim. The downside is that white gets dirty very fast and shows it more than other colors. So before you list your home, make sure that you have a fresh coat of paint applied or pressure wash the exterior to bring back that newly painted look.

Also take into consideration the color of other homes on the block. Typically, white will not look out of place. However, if you had a purple home on a block where the homes are mostly beige and neutral colors, you’ll get noticed but won’t likely get the kind of attention you want.

Beige with neutral-colored trim is another popular color scheme. Both beige and white are safe exterior colors. They don’t turn buyers off.

There’s also been a trend to paint just the front door a deep, rich color like red. This may not be appealing to all. However, buyers would tend to overlook it because it’s a simple change as well as one that can easily and cheaply be changed to the new buyer’s choice. As long as the colors look good together, this wouldn’t necessarily turn buyers away.

The paint inside your home is equally important. In fact, one good tip for sellers is that if they can do nothing else, they should get some fresh paint up on the walls. The new paint helps showcase the home and gives it a new-home feel.

There are a wide variety of interior colors. Don’t feel like you have to go with only beige. You can be a little more daring, using bold accent colors. Just make sure the paint colors you choose don’t give a dark, closed-in feeling. Aim to create comfort, a sense of calmness, relaxation, and a place where family can unwind. Earth-tone colors convey this very well.

For a more chic and sophisticated look, interior designers often choose from the grey palette. A dark grey color can create a bold statement and attract the eye to a particular area.

Whatever colors you choose, remember that your aim is to appeal to the masses. Test the colors out first. Get opinions from the experts.

Your real estate agent has likely been in hundreds of homes and can offer you some very good guidance.

WRITTEN BY REALTY TIMES STAFF

4 Trends Affecting Millennials and Homeownership

If you’re under the age of 35, everything you know about owning a home could be wrong; but it’s not your fault. Parents of millennial children have taught them what was financially sound when they were the same age — go to college, get married, buy a home and have children; the formula for the American dream.

The American Dream is still real for many, but the details are murkier in 2016. The rising costs of college tuition are making it a riskier investment, young people are marrying later and having fewer kids and the appeal of buying over renting is now less obvious than it was for their parents. Blaming the shift on “a changing economy” is a cop-out, as the trends in millennial home ownership are just as cultural as they are economical. Here are some of the reasons why the nation’s youngest buyers are having an affect on the housing market:

1. Millennials Love Mobility

Economists are calling millennials the “job-hopping generation,” because they are more likely than previous generations to frequently change jobs, even if it requires moving. As unions are in decline and pensions are shrinking, job loyalty is on the fall and millennial workers are free to take their 401(k) accounts elsewhere. Because the next job, and next city, is always on the horizon, more millennials are opting for short-term apartment leases, which allow for freedom of mobility.

2. Millennials Love Cities

Millennials are more likely to buy their first home in the suburbs, not the city. Even outside of price-inflated cities like New York and San Francisco, urban housing costs are skyrocketing and forcing new homeowners outside the city limits. However, renting — still on the rise — is more manageable and gives young people the option to keep living in the city.

3. Millennials Love Incentives

The 2008 recession was a tragedy for homeowners who bought under inflated prices, but a silver lining for anyone buying after the fact. To help boost the economy and the new housing market, the IRS offered a hefty tax credit to first-time buyers until 2011. Just like a tax credit for electric cars, this was just the bump young people needed to buy homes after the biggest recession in nearly 70 years.

But now that the Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates for the first time since the recession, that boost in young home ownership could see a sharp turn in the other direction.

4. Millennials Do Not Love Student Loans

Perhaps the biggest hurdle standing in the way of homeownership, student loans account for the largest debt in the United States and are especially harsh on younger people. The more you owe in student loans, the less likely you are to buy a house. However, some programs like Income Based Repayment (IBR), which allows graduates to pay a lower monthly amount until the balance is forgiven in 20 years (10 for public sector workers), is helping ease this burden.

However, now that taxpayers could be on the hook for $108 billion in student loan relief, the future of this program could be in question under the new presidential administration. But if interest rates do go up and IBR is eliminated, the rate of buying from America’s 20- and 30-somethings could go downhill fast.

WRITTEN BY REALTY TIMES STAFF

3 Steps To Saving For Your Dream Home

3 Steps To Saving For Your Dream Home

According to Harvard University’s “State of the Nation’s Housing” report, while more people than ever before want to own their own home, fewer feel financially ready to do so yet. Reasons range from high rents to student loan debt.

Millennials, in particular, are waiting longer to get married, start families and purchase their first home. But this is not necessarily bad news for the housing market. In fact, it could mean that the millennial generation has something to teach us all about saving consistently towards a big life goal such as owning your own home!

In this article, learn three important steps to take when you start saving for your dream home.

Step 1: Pay down your debt to clean up your credit.

Your credit score is a tricky business when it comes to saving for your first home. You have no history of carrying a mortgage, so you can’t make any real impact there. What you can do is to clean up your overall credit report so your general credit score is as healthy as possible before you apply for your mortgage loan.

According to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), a surprising number of Americans think they have “above average” (60 percent) to “very good” (41 percent) credit, although a full 48 percent have not seen their credit score in the past three years or ever.

So clearly, this is where you need to start. The best way to differentiate yourself from your competition (other people who are trying to convince a direct lender to give them a mortgage loan) is to pay down your debt, clear up any disputes on your credit report and, in so doing, boost your credit score so you can qualify for the best mortgage at the lowest interest rates.

Step 2: Separate and automate your savings.

Saving money is never going to be the easiest goal you attempt. In fact, according to The Atlantic, one of the chief reasons that nearly half of all Americans have little or no emergency savings to fall back on is taking on too much mortgage debt.

So here is a clear area where you should proceed with caution. First, save. Then, buy a home. The best approach to make saving as painless as possible for you is to automate your savings. You can do this by setting up direct deposit on your paycheck and then regular auto-drafts into a savings account reserved just for dream home savings. This way, you never even touch those funds and feel tempted to spend them instead.

Step 3: Downsize to upsize.

Finally, one effective change many adults today are making to save more towards their dream home is to downsize while they save. This can mean anything from moving to a smaller apartment to getting rid of your cable television subscription. Also, you must continually remind yourself why you have downsized in order for this step to work well.

But the key to making downsizing work to serve your greater goals is to make sure you deposit every cent of what you save into your dream home fund. Referring back to Step 2 here, the easiest way to do this is to calculate for yourself exactly what you are saving by paying less rent, giving up cable, etc., and then setting up a monthly auto draft in that amount to deposit directly into your dream home savings account.

By following these three steps, you can make tangible financial progress in saving to buy your dream home. If you can save 20 percent towards a downpayment, you can avoid paying expensive Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) and you may even qualify for a lower interest rate. Scrimping and saving is never fun or easy, but it will be worth it when your realtor hands you that brand-new set of house keys!

 

WRITTEN BY DAMIEN JUSTUS

 

How To Sell Your Home In 2017

It’s 2017. Now what? Yes, the new year is typically a time for hope and renewal and for those who are looking to sell – and simultaneously buy – a home, it can represent a fresh start. But this year, political and social realities are giving some would-be home sellers pause.

Thankfully, the real estate market continues to show real strength, with many housing experts projecting home sales prices and inventory to rise in 2017, replacing doubts with consumer confidence.

“Housing prices rose nationally by around 6% in 2016, but the expected increase in 2017 ranges from 3% to 5%,” said 24/7 Wall St. “With inventory of existing homes at historic lows and a rise in interest rates thanks to the Federal Reserve, housing inventory for 2017 is almost certain to rise. For prospective sellers that means that if you were planning to sell your home this year, it’s time to get cracking.”

If you’re thinking about selling this year, these tips will help.

Be patient

Sales have been swift in many parts of the country for several years now. That can make sellers who don’t get offers on day one feel antsy. Despite some ultra-competitive markets where multiple offers and offer-asking-price sales skew the national numbers, across the country, the average days on market of a home for sale is 50.

Price it right

You may be tempted to price your home at the top of the market – or set a new top if you’re in an especially desirable area and if inventory is low. But overpriced homes don’t sell, which is probably why your real estate agent is recommending a lower listing price.


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If you’re insistent about your price, don’t be surprised if you get zero bites or the nibbles you do get are far below what you’re asking. Your agent’s pricing strategy will be based on market conditions and designed to get you the most money in the least amount of time. What it won’t be based on: What you owe on the home, what you think it’s worth based on your own estimation, or what you need to get out of it to buy your dream home.

Don’t be afraid to loan shop

If you’re selling your home to buy another, like most people, you might be concerned about rising mortgage rates. Rates are still near historic lows despite The Fed raising interest rates at the end of 2016 and indicating that further increases are in store for this year.

“Because the mortgage rate makes a big difference in how much you’ll pay for your home, it makes financial sense to shop around for the lowest rate you can qualify for,” said Investopedia. But many people don’t look beyond the first offer. According to a mortgage borrowers survey, “Almost half of borrowers seriously consider only a single lender or broker before deciding where to apply,” and “Seventy-seven percent of borrowers only end up applying with a single lender or broker, instead of filling out applications with multiple lenders or brokers to see which can offer the best deal,” said the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Asking your real estate agent for a few different trusted referrals could make a big difference. “Getting an interest rate of 4.0% instead of 4.5% translates into approximately $60 savings per month,” they said. “Over the first five years, you would save about $3,500 in mortgage payments. In addition, the lower interest rate means that you’d pay off an additional $1,400 in principal in the first five years, even while making lower payments.”


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Make sure your home is clean and lean

It’s more important than ever to make sure your home is as close to perfect as possible before you put it on the market. Unless your agent is planning to market the home as a “project,” it needs to be spotless. You’d be surprised how much better your home can look just by applying some simple staging secrets.

Listen to your agent’s advice

Staging may only be the beginning of what your home requires to get it sold, and your agent’s advice will be critical to getting it where it needs to be. “Sure, you no doubt know more about your home than anyone else. But your real estate agent knows more about how to sell it,” said Realtor.com. “And your agent may make some suggestions you might not like to hear. It’s tempting to take offense or just ignore this advice, but if you do, you could risk seeing your house sit on the market and grow stale.”

Be careful of over improvements

Getting your home in great shape may mean making some improvements, updates, and upgrades. But be careful not to go too far.

“Dying to install new kitchen cabinets or retile your master bath? Home sellers often assume any upgrades they make to their home will pay them back in full once they sell, but that’s rarely the case,” said Realtor.com. “On average you will recoup just about 64% of the money you spend on renovations once you sell—and certain improvements can actually work against you if they’re unusual or undesirable in your market, Jason Shepherd, co-founder of Atlas Real Estate Group, told them.

WRITTEN BY JAYMI NACIRI