To Remodel or Sell Your Home?

Do the walls seem to be closing in on you? Are your cupboards and closets overflowing with stuff? Can you see more toys than flooring at your feet? If so, you need more space. And your choices are remodel your home, move to a larger one, or move to a home that you want to remodel.
How can you decide which approach is best for you? Start by considering your priorities. If you are basically happy with your current location, the relative cost of your options is likely to make the decision for you.

Wish List
Take an inventory of your current house to determine whether remodeling will work for you. Look at each room. Do all of them need help? If so, remodeling may be too expensive and a move might be your only practical choice. If just one area of the house needs work that can be accomplished by bumping out a wall or adding on, then remodeling may be the correct move for you. Consider what you would have to do to the basic structure of your house to arrive at your dream home.
Cost
How much money can you afford to spend? Would you need a construction loan to remodel, or would you take money out of your home’s equity? If you must borrow money to remodel, will the cost of the loan, combined with your existing mortgage payment, be more than the monthly payments for a new home with the space and amenities you want? Moving may be easier and less expensive.
Calculate how much it would cost you to replace your current home with one that meets your needs. What improvements could you make to your current home for the same investment? Will a new addition of, say, a master bedroom suite, be enough to satisfy your desire for a new look and more space? Or do you need more living space all over the house?

Is your desire for newer amenities the driving force for a new home? If you’re looking to modernize wiring and plumbing or increase hi-tech capabilities, it might be better to move into a house that already has these features.

Payback
Most homeowners start remodeling with the kitchen or a bathroom, both of which can cost a fair amount of money to upgrade but also show better-than average payback at sale time. Will it be a worthwhile investment? The answer depends on the type of payoff you’re looking for.
If you decide to remodel, don’t expect to recoup the funds spent on home improvements when you eventually sell the property. Some remodeling projects are likely to be far more financially rewarding than others, yet few yield a 100% return. If you can keep costs down, however, perhaps by doing some of the work yourself, your project might pay you back in full at sale time, maybe even show a profit. Remember, though, the primary reason for remodeling is to meet your living needs, not to make your house worth more.

The point of some projects is simply to bring a house up-to-date. Remodeling a 1960s-era kitchen would make your home more competitive (at sale time) with 21st Century homes. A new kitchen would almost certainly increase your home’s value compared with neighborhood homes that haven’t been upgraded.

Recognizing Limits
Don’t make the expensive mistake of remodeling your house just to sell it faster or at a higher price. You’ll waste your money, frustrating your ability to move into a home that better meets your own needs. Put your current home on the market in clean, well-cared-for condition, but save your money to redesign or decorate your next, more-spacious house.
Also, be careful when remodeling or expanding your home that you don’t over-improve. Remember, your home’s value reflects (and is limited by) the value of homes in your immediate neighborhood.

House Or Community?
For some homeowners, the community or lifestyle they enjoy in their current home is a great reason to stay put. You can’t buy a sense of community — it’s something you develop over the years. If you are unwilling to trade familiarity, friends and neighborhood for a larger home in another area, then remodeling could be the best solution.
As you consider remodeling, however, be sure your current neighborhood can carry the evolved house. If yours is the only house in the community that has been bumped out or up, it may be difficult to sell eventually, and you’re not likely to recoup much of your remodeling investment.

Don’t forget to check local zoning laws and homeowner association limitations if you intend to add on to the dwelling. If your house already takes up a large portion of the lot, local zoning may limit how much more house you can build.

As you consider improvements to your home, keep in mind that landscaping and exterior appearance will attract buyers to your home. Once they get inside, they’ll be looking for functionality, durability and convenience.

Before taking on remodeling projects or major additions to your home, give us a call to see if we can help you find an existing home that meet your needs.

How to Pick the Right Home for You!

Once you’ve determined how much you can afford to spend on a home — ideally with a mortgage pre-approval — take some time to consider what you’re really looking for.

Make a list of features you want: number of rooms, lot size, amenities (e.g., fireplace, up-to-date kitchen), sidewalks, architectural style, particular neighborhoods or school systems, etc. Also consider whether you’ll need financing from the seller, a particular occupancy date, or other specific contract terms. (Seller listings may mention certain contract terms they will and will not support.)

Now place your preferences in two categories: “must haves” and “wants.” With a clear picture of your preferences, your agent will be able to focus quickly on locating and showing you appropriate properties. You’ll save time and energy, and you’ll be able to choose a home with less anxiety.

Take Notes

One of the frustrating aspects of home shopping is remembering all the properties you look at. You can better keep track of them by creating a standardized form to fill out as you tour homes. (Although some homes may offer a summary brochure of features, others won’t.)

Your form should leave room for each home’s distinctive details: number of bedrooms and baths; interior colors and decorating style; proximity to schools, shopping and work; neighborhood atmosphere; yard amenities, etc. You may even want to take a Polaroid or digital photo of each home to jog your memory.

Cost Vs. Location

Remember, in the world of real estate, a good location is always a good investment. It’s likely to cost you more too.

Home values reflect proximity to good schools, shopping, recreation, cultural opportunities, places of worship, and places of employment. Although you may be able to get more home for your money (or the same home for less) away from such things, consider whether increased travel time and hassles are worth the trade-off. A remote location could be your ticket to serenity or a passport to isolation, depending on your unique circumstances and priorities.

Ask yourself:

Where will family members go most often from this new location? How easy will it be to reach those places? How accessible are schools, churches, grocery stores, medical care, public transportation, shopping malls and neighborhood services?
What is the view from the house and yard? Is the yard right for your anticipated activities? What uses are possible for nearby undevloped land? Is a new road or road-widening project planned?
Is rush hour traffic a problem? What will be the impact of special events such as local high-school games or church picnics?
How easy is it to get into and out of the driveway? Are streets well-lit at night?
What utilities serve the property? Are the rates competitive? Where will you get your mail? Where are the easements, if any?
Is the soil stable? Is part of the property on a flood plain — if so, what is the history of floods on the property?
Does the community have special by-laws or architectural controls over changes to a home? What are the pros and cons?
Assign priorities to important elements of the home’s location. Then make a list of the positive and negative aspects of each property you tour.

Appreciation Vs. Neighborhood

Areas that have experienced healthy market appreciation over the past few years are certainly worth considering. Remember, however, past performance is not always a reliable predictor of future appreciation or depreciation. A variety of factors affect the stability of property values, including local and national economic trends, the quality of original construction, and the life-stage of the neighborhood.

While newer homes tend to appreciate faster than older ones, they may lack amenities that are important to you — shade trees, sidewalks, variety of architectural designs, etc. If you seek the charms of an older neighborhood, the presence of an active homeowners association, preservation group or renewal effort will help ensure the soundness of your investment.

New Vs. Resale

With a new home, you’ll have the advantage of being able to choose the colors and finishes for floors, bath tiles, kitchen counters, cabinets and appliances. You can opt to upgrade and select builder options, and often you can choose a specific lot. Everything will be clean and new when you move in.

On the other hand, you may not be able to see your new home until the final walk-through. There may be a number of items on your “punch-out list” that need to be fixed or finished by the builder’s crew. Often, new-home buyers have to deal with continuing construction traffic, debris, mud, dust and unfinished roads — at least until the development and adjacent developments are completed. And new homes do have a break-in period, often with problems related to settling.

With a pre-owned home, you can actually walk through the home you are buying, and many personal touches, such as drapes and curtains, will likely have been added. You can also tell what the neighborhood will be like by driving through both during the day and in the evening. Shade trees and mature landscaping often give older neighborhoods a more charming ambiance. Generally speaking, you’ll get more home for your money buying an existing home.

The down side of resales: You may find that the seller’s tastes are not yours. It may be necessary to redecorate, even remodel, to tailor the home to your own color scheme, design preferences and lifestyle. Also, appliances and systems may be several years old, perhaps approaching the need for replacement.

Outlay Vs. Return

Some financial planners recommend buying as much home as you possibly can to maximize the significant tax advantages of homeownership and the potential return on your investment. (After all, a $300,000 home that appreciates 20% over five years would sell for $30,000 more than a $275,000 home appreciating at the same rate.)

If your income is likely to grow in years ahead, it might be wise to stretch your budget for the first few years, buying a home that will accommodate your needs well into the future.

Be careful, however, not to ignore the costs of upkeep when making your budget calculations. The more expensive the home and the larger it is, the more costly (and time consuming) it will be to furnish, maintain and repair. Will you have enough discretionary income and time left over for the other priorities in your life?

House Vs. Home

Buying a house is certainly a major financial investment. Buying a home, however, is an investment in your family’s future. Ultimately, the most important question to answer when looking at any home is, “Will we be happy living here?” No one can answer that question for you, but when you find a home that sparks an enthusiastic “yes!” it’s time to consider making an offer.

7 Steps to House-selling Success! Part 7 of 7 (courtesy of Realtor.com)

Step 7: Moving!

Even the smallest home contains a lot of furniture, clothes, kitchen equipment, pictures and other items. For a short move, it may be worthwhile to transport small goods by yourself, but larger items will likely require a professional mover.
Realtor.com’s moving center provides calculators as well as information on moving options, storage, truck rentals and related topics. This information, plus assistance and advice from your REALTOR®, can ease the moving process.

How do you plan a move?
The time to plan your move begins once you’ve decided to sell your home. Some of the activities required to sell the home can actually help with the moving process. For example, cleaning out closets, basements and attics means there will be less to do once the home is under contract.
Your planning will be guided by a number of things:
Are you moving a long distance? If yes, you’ll likely require an interstate mover and the use of a large van.
Moving internationally. Contact the embassy in Washington, D.C., for information. Be aware that items which may be entirely common in the United States can be prohibited in foreign countries. Ask about customs protocols, duties and taxes.
Moving locally? If yes, will you move yourself? You’ll need to consider packing boxes, peanuts, blankets or padding and a van rental.
Planning is key. Stock up on boxes, packing materials, tape and markers. Always mark boxes so that movers will know where goods should be placed.
Who should you use?
The decision of who to use can begin with a visit to REALTOR.com’s® moving center and discussions with the REALTOR® who is marketing your home.
There are a number of factors to consider. Money is one issue: You’ll want to spend as little as possible, but choosing only on the basis of cost can be a mistake. Movers must have the right equipment, training and experience to do a good job. A mover, no matter how large or small, should be able to provide recent references for homesellers with a similar volume of goods to transport.
Get mover estimates in writing. Be aware that it’s possible to get discounts through membership organizations and, sometimes, on the basis of your profession: Clergy, for example, sometimes qualify for a discount.
Always confirm mover credentials. Movers should be licensed and bonded as required in your state, and employees should have workman’s comp insurance.
Get a checklist.
Moving is a big job and checklists can make it more organized and easier. Here are some of the major items to consider:
Money. If you’re moving more than a few miles then you should have enough cash or credit to cover travel, food, transportation and lodging.
Medicine. Keep medicines and related prescriptions in a place where they will be available during the move.
Number boxes so that all items can be counted on arrival. Make a list of boxes by number and indicate their contents.
If moving with children, make sure that each has a favorite toy or toys, blankets, games, music and other goods.
Moving historic, breakable or valued items? Such goods routinely require special handling and packaging.
Have address books readily available in case you need help.
If you have a laptop computer with a modem, make it accessible during your trip to pick up business and personal e-mail.