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Tips for Staging Your Home

April 20th, 2015 | No Comments

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January 22nd, 2015 | No Comments

How to Assess the Real Cost of a Fixer-Upper House
By: G. M. Filisko
When you buy a fixer-upper house, you can save a ton of money, or get yourself in a financial fix.
Trying to decide whether to buy a fixer-upper house? Follow these seven steps, and you’ll know how much you can afford, how much to offer, and whether a fixer-upper house is right for you.
1. Decide what you can do yourself.
TV remodeling shows make home improvement work look like a snap. In the real world, attempting a difficult remodeling job that you don’t know how to do will take longer than you think and can lead to less-than-professional results that won’t increase the value of your fixer-upper house.
Do you really have the skills to do it? Some tasks, like stripping wallpaper and painting, are relatively easy. Others, like electrical work, can be dangerous when done by amateurs.
Do you really have the time and desire to do it? Can you take time off work to renovate your fixer-upper house? If not, will you be stressed out by living in a work zone for months while you complete projects on the weekends?
2. Price the cost of repairs and remodeling before you make an offer.
Get your contractor into the house to do a walk-through, so he can give you a written cost estimate on the tasks he’s going to do.
If you’re doing the work yourself, price the supplies.
Either way, tack on 10% to 20% to cover unforeseen problems that often arise with a fixer-upper house.
3. Check permit costs.
Ask local officials if the work you’re going to do requires a permit and how much that permit costs. Doing work without a permit may save money, but it’ll cause problems when you resell your home.
Decide if you want to get the permits yourself or have the contractor arrange for them. Getting permits can be time-consuming and frustrating. Inspectors may force you to do additional work, or change the way you want to do a project, before they give you the permit.
Factor the time and aggravation of permits into your plans.
4. Doublecheck pricing on structural work.
If your fixer-upper home needs major structural work, hire a structural engineer for $500 to $700 to inspect the home before you put in an offer so you can be confident you’ve uncovered and conservatively budgeted for the full extent of the problems.

Get written estimates for repairs before you commit to buying a home with structural issues.

Don’t purchase a home that needs major structural work unless:
You’re getting it at a steep discount
You’re sure you’ve uncovered the extent of the problem
You know the problem can be fixed
You have a binding written estimate for the repairs
5. Check the cost of financing.
Be sure you have enough money for a downpayment, closing costs, and repairs without draining your savings.

If you’re planning to fund the repairs with a home equity or home improvement loan:
Get yourself pre-approved for both loans before you make an offer.
Make the deal contingent on getting both the purchase money loan and the renovation money loan, so you’re not forced to close the sale when you have no loan to fix the house.
Consider the Federal Housing Administration’s Section 203(k) program, which is designed to help home owners who are purchasing or refinancing a home that needs rehabilitation. The program wraps the purchase/refinance and rehabilitation costs into a single mortgage. To qualify for the loan, the total value of the property must fall within the FHA mortgage limit for your area, as with other FHA loans. A streamlined 203(k) program provides an additional amount for rehabilitation, up to $35,000, on top of an existing mortgage. It’s a simpler process than obtaining the standard 203(k).
6. Calculate your fair purchase offer.
Take the fair market value of the property (what it would be worth if it were in good condition and remodeled to current tastes) and subtract the upgrade and repair costs.
For example: Your target fixer-upper house has a 1960s kitchen, metallic wallpaper, shag carpet, and high levels of radon in the basement.

Your comparison house, in the same subdivision, sold last month for $200,000. That house had a newer kitchen, no wallpaper, was recently recarpeted, and has a radon mitigation system in its basement.
The cost to remodel the kitchen, remove the wallpaper, carpet the house, and put in a radon mitigation system is $40,000. Your bid for the house should be $160,000.
Ask your real estate agent if it’s a good idea to share your cost estimates with the sellers, to prove your offer is fair.
7. Include inspection contingencies in your offer.
Don’t rely on your friends or your contractor to eyeball your fixer-upper house. Hire pros to do common inspections like:
Home inspection. This is key in a fixer-upper assessment. The home inspector will uncover hidden issues in need of replacement or repair. You may know you want to replace those 1970s kitchen cabinets, but the home inspector has a meter that will detect the water leak behind them.
Radon, mold, lead-based paint
Septic and well
Pest
Most home inspection contingencies let you go back to the sellers and ask them to do the repairs, or give you cash at closing to pay for the repairs. The seller can also opt to simply back out of the deal, as can you, if the inspection turns up something you don’t want to deal with.

If that happens, this isn’t the right fixer-upper house for you. Go back to the top of this list and start again.
More from HouseLogic
What you need to know about foundation repairs

Budgeting for a home remodel

Tips on hiring a contractor
G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer whose parents bought and renovated a fixer-upper when she was a teen. A regular contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

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Leftovers Gobbling up Refrigerator Space?

January 8th, 2015 | No Comments

A well-organized refrigerator keeps food fresh longer and lets you grab and go faster. Before you unpack groceries, spend a second thinking about the right place for everything.
Here are common sense ways to declutter and organize your fridge:

1. The front of the middle rack, near eye-level, is prime refrigerator real estate. Put priority items there, like leftovers you want eaten soon and healthy snacks. The back of the fridge is the coldest part. Store milk there, and it will stay fresh longer.

2. Don’t waste fridge space on food that doesn’t need to be chilled. Examples: fresh eggs from backyard chickens (though store-bought eggs do need refrigerating), ketchup, vinegar, jam, mayonnaise, and butter. Put those items in the pantry. You can store fresh eggs in a bowl on the counter for eight weeks.

3. Never put tomatoes in fridge, or they’ll get mushy; onions will soften; honey will thicken; potatoes will turn too starchy. Keep onions and potatoes in separate paper bags and store in a cool, dark place (a lower cabinet drawer is great).

4. Rectangular or square bins are your friends (round ones waste space, so don’t use them). Designate one for healthy snacks and another for breakfast foods like bagels and cream cheese. In the freezer, use one big bin for frozen veggies, rather than stuff individual bags into the freezer.

5. Use plastic placemats as shelf liners, which makes cleanup easier.

6. Place drippy food, like red meat and seafood, on the bottom shelf. That way it won’t drip too far.

Related: Green Clean Your Refrigerator 3 Cool Ways

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December 13th, 2014 | No Comments

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Copyright 2014 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

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