Top Things We Miss About Old Houses

12 07 2010

Hey, my house had one of those! (© Steve Lovegrove; Library of Congress)

Hey, I remember that!

For anyone lucky enough to own an old house, quirky features such as a hand-cranked dumbwaiter, gurgling radiator or shutters that actually work may be a part of everyday life. For the rest of us, such details now exist only in memories of visits to Granddad’s. The passion for old houses can start at an early age, as evidenced by all the letters and e-mails that This Old House readers sent in recalling special details from homes they knew as kids. In fact, it makes us wonder what today’s kids will talk about tomorrow — the silence of radiant heat?

Deep front porches

“My grandfather built my childhood home in 1936. Its front porch was 10 feet deep and ran the length of the front facade. It was a great place to play as a child and a great place to gather with the family.”

—Michael Purnell, Springfield, Ill.

Wooden screen doors

“I miss our old wooden screen door and my mother yelling, ‘And don’t slam the’—BANG!—’screen door!'”

—Hank Kennedy, Goffstown, N.H.

Milk-bottle boxes

“The house I grew up in had a metal milk box that held four milk bottles in an exterior wall. It had doors on each side — one was for the milkman to deliver freshly filled bottles and pick up empties, and the other opened into the kitchen.”

—Susan Allen, Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Floor registers

“In the floor of my old bedroom there was a heat register. It had an iron grate you could pull out and then peer into the room below you. Mine looked right down into our living room. Perfect for Christmas morning.”

—Kate Craney-Welch, Wauwatosa, Wis

Deep overhangs

“The thing I miss most about old houses is the eaves. Before air conditioning, the eaves extended far out from the roof on all sides to protect the house from the summer sun. Lying in bed at night when it rained, I could hear the water dripping off the roof. It was such a comforting feeling.”

—LaureL Glasco, Newport News, Va.

Dumbwaiters

“Our dumbwaiter took up the space of a chimney, but it sure was useful for moving laundry and trash to the basement and food and dishes to and from the kitchen.”

—Joan Phelps, Hot Springs, Va.

Steam radiators

“When I remember the 100-year-old Minnesota house I grew up in, the thing I recall most fondly is the old-fashioned steam radiators. In winter we used to come home after a freezing-cold day of ice skating, take off our mittens and socks, and drape them over the radiator. I can still smell the damp wool. Radiators make old houses feel so warm and cozy.”

Article By Connie Roth-Ames, Salem, Ore

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Real Estate Deal-Breakers that shouldn’t be.

11 07 2010

Read Article Lending From A Loan Officer's Perspective

Purchasing a new home can be a very stressful experience. Most people are making the largest single purchase of a lifetime when selecting a primary residence. In addition to the monetary implications of such a large purchase, the actual process of buying a home contributes significantly to this stressful event of purchasing a home. Especially in today’s markets, buyers must be well informed and have a good understanding of a property’s underlying value before making the purchase decision. Prospective buyers saw real estate values plummet across the country during the mortgage meltdown.

Even in a difficult market, once buyers are able to select a residence that meets their personal and financial criteria, it is important for them to remain diligent until the property closes. Buyers should not let the home of their dreams escape them over minor differences during the buying and negotiating processes. Let’s examine some of these minor roadblocks and maybe you will be able to overcome, or at least recognize, them when you decide to purchase your dream home.

Aesthetics
Prospective buyers should not let minor aesthetic differences hinder their big picture view of their dream house. If appliances or the decorative theme are not up to your expectations, keep in mind that most of these things can be easily modified over time.

Perhaps more important when viewing the interior of the home is to check for overall structural soundness and try to focus on potential rather than current appearance. So, how do you do this? A good strategy is to secure a licensed home inspector prior to closing on your deal.  The inspector will provide a detailed analysis and cost breakdown on actual required repairs. Depending upon which state you reside in, the home inspection can be part of the actual contract. The home inspector will assess every aspect of the home’s interior and exterior. The inspection findings may be legally used as leverage in the home buying process:

If the cost of repairs exceeds a preset dollar amount, the contract can be revoked if that is explicitly stated in your contract. For example, if the home inspection requires $8,000 worth of repairs for “structural soundness,” but your contract states that you will not purchase the home unless repairs are below $1,000 then you have legal recourse for getting out of the deal. Typically, you are responsible for the non-refundable cost of the inspection, but most people are willing to incur that cost in order to save thousands of dollars down the road. The idea here is to focus more on the integrity of the home itself as a first step rather than your distaste for the current interior design or décor.

Sweat Equity
Buyers should not get discouraged when their potential dream homes require some old-fashioned manual labor to get it up to their standards. Real estate professionals refer to this as “sweat equity.” Sweat equity is a time investment by the potential buyer to clean, redo and repair the potential property once the purchase is complete. Rarely are homes purchased that require no effort on your part. New construction is perhaps an exception, but a poor real-estate market can be littered with short sales and foreclosures – many of which are neglected, vacant properties. Also, many purchases are older properties with excellent construction characteristics but needing some “elbow grease.”

Similar to the aesthetic differences mentioned above, leveraging resources such as a licensed real estate sales person or family and friends is a good first step. Licensed realtors are likely to point out things that can be accomplished by the typical home buyer versus those things that would be better served with professional assistance or advice.

Conclusion
Purchasing a home is a long-term investment. The process of buying a home can be taxing. Many of today’s homes will be purchased as short sales or bank-owned properties. These distressed properties typically will take longer to close than the traditional, seller-owned properties. Remaining patient and diligent and not letting minor repairs or a few thousand dollars in price will likely pay dividends for years to come. 

Article by Stephan Abraham

Article from Investopedia





Selling your House? Avoid these Mistakes.

10 07 2010

Selling your home, especially if you’ve never done it before, can be surprisingly time consuming and emotionally challenging. Strangers will come into your home and poke around in your closets and cabinets. They will criticize a place that has probably become more than just four walls and a roof to you, and then, to top it all off, they will offer you less money than you think your home is worth. With no experience and a complex, emotional transaction on your hands, it’s easy for first-time homesellers to make lots of mistakes, but with a little know-how, many of these pitfalls can be avoided altogether. Read on to find out how you can get the highest possible price for your home within a reasonable time frame, without losing your mind.

Once you decide to sell your home, it can be helpful to start thinking of yourself as a businessperson and a homeseller rather than as the home’s owner. By looking at the transaction from a purely financial perspective, you’ll distance yourself from the emotional aspects of selling the property that you’ve undoubtedly created many memories in.

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Mistake No.1 – Getting Emotionally Involved

Also, try to remember how you felt when you were shopping for that home. Most buyers will also be in an emotional state. If you can remember that you are selling not just a piece of property but also an image, a dream and a lifestyle, you’ll be more likely to put in the extra effort of staging and perhaps some minor remodeling to get top dollar for your home. These changes in appearance will not only help the sales price, they’ll also help you create that emotional distance because the home will look less familiar.

Mistake No.2 – Not Hiring an Agent
Although real estate agents command a hefty commission (usually 5-6% of the sale price of your home), trying to sell your home on your own, especially if you haven’t done it before, is probably ill advised.   A good agent will help you set a fair and competitive selling price for your home that will increase your odds of a quick sale. An agent can also help take some of the high emotion out of the process by interacting directly with potential buyers so you don’t have to, and eliminating tire kickers who only want to look at your property but have no intention of putting in an offer.

An agent will also have more experience negotiating home sales than you do, potentially helping you get more money than you could on your own. Further, if any problems crop up during the process – and they commonly do – an experienced professional will be there to handle them for you. Finally, agents are familiar with all the paperwork and pitfalls involved in real estate transactions and can help make sure the process goes smoothly.

Mistake No.3 – Setting an Unrealistic Price
Whether you’re working with an agent or going it alone, setting the right asking price is key. Remember the comparable market analysis you did when you bought a home to figure out a fair offering price? Buyers will do this for your home, too, so as a seller you should be one step ahead of the game.

Absent a housing bubble, overpriced homes do not sell. Don’t worry too much about setting a price that’s on the low side because, in theory, this will generate multiple offers and bid the price up to the home’s true market value. In fact, underpricing your home a bit can actually be a strategy to generate extra interest in your listing.

Mistake No.4 – Expecting To Get Your Asking Price
Any smart buyer will negotiate, and if you want to complete the sale, you’ll have to play the game. Most people want to list their homes at a price that will attract buyers while still leaving some breathing room for negotiations. This will allow the buyer to feel like he or she is getting a good value and allow you to get the amount of money you need from the sale. Of course, whether you end up with more or less than your asking price will likely depend on whether you’re in a buyer’s market or a seller’s market and on how well you have staged your home.

Mistake No.5 –
Selling in Winter (When You Have the Option Not To)
Winter, especially around the holidays, is typically a slow time of year for home sales. People are busy with social engagements and the cold weather makes it more appealing to just stay home. Because fewer buyers are likely to be looking, it may take longer to sell your home and you may not get as much money. However, you can take some consolation in knowing that while there may not be as many active buyers, there also won’t be as many competing sellers.

Mistake No.6 – Skimping on Listing Photos
So many buyers look for homes online these days and so many of those homes have photos that you’ll be doing yourself a real disservice if you don’t offer photos as well. At the same time, there are so many poor photos of homes for sale that if you do a good job, it will set your listing apart and help generate extra interest. Good photos should be crisp and clear, should taken during the day when there is plenty of natural light available, and should showcase your home’s best assets. Consider using a wide-angle lens if possible – this will allow you to give potential buyers a better idea of what entire rooms look like.

Mistake No.7 – Not Being Properly Insured
With the above-average number of people who will be on your property, you want to make sure you are insured in case someone has an accident on the premises and tries to sue you for damages. You also want to make sure that there are not any obvious hazards at the property or that you take steps to mitigate them (keeping the children of potential buyers away from your pool and getting your dogs out of the house during showings, for example).

Mistake No.8 – Trying to Hide Significant Problems
Any problem with the property will be uncovered during the buyer’s inspection, so there’s no use hiding it. Either fix the problem ahead of time, price the property below market value to account for the problem, or list the property at a normal price but offer the buyer a credit to fix the problem. Realize that if you don’t fix the problem in advance, you may turn away a fair number of buyers who want a turnkey home. Having your home inspected before listing it is a good idea if you want to avoid costly surprises once the home is under contract.

Mistake No.9 – Not Preparing Your Home for Sale
Sellers who do not clean and stage their homes are throwing money down the drain. If you can’t afford to hire a professional, that’s OK – there are many things you can do on your own. Failing to do these things will not only reduce your sale price, but may also prevent you from getting a sale at all. For example, if you haven’t attended to minor issues like a broken doorknob, a potential buyer may wonder whether the house has larger, costlier issues that haven’t been addressed. Have a friend or agent with a fresh pair of eyes point out areas of your home that need work – because of your familiarity with the home, you may have become immune to its trouble spots. Decluttering, cleaning thoroughly, putting a fresh coat of paint on the walls and getting rid of any odors will also help you make a good impression on buyers.

Mistake No.10 – Not Accommodating Potential Buyers
If someone wants to view your house, you need to accommodate this person, even if it is inconvenient for you. And yes, you have to clean and declutter the house before every single visit. A buyer won’t know and won’t care if your house was clean last week if it isn’t clean when he or she views it. It’s a lot of work, but stay focused on the prize.

Mistake No.11 – Signing a Purchase Contract With an Unqualified Buyer
It’s more than reasonable to expect a buyer to bring a pre-approval letter from a mortgage lender (or proof of funds for cash purchases) showing that he or she has the money to buy the home. Signing a contract with a buyer whose purchase of your home is contingent on the sale of his or her own property may also put you in a serious bind if you need to close by a particular date.

Conclusion
Even if you do all of these things when selling your home, it’s best to prepare mentally and financially for less-than-ideal scenarios. The house may sit on the market for far longer than you expect, especially in a declining market. If you can’t find a buyer in time, you may end up trying to pay two mortgages, having to rent your home out until you can find a buyer, or in dire situations, in foreclosure. However, if you avoid the costly mistakes listed here, it will go a long way toward helping you put your best foot forward and achieving that seamless, lucrative sale every homeseller hopes for.

Article by Amy Fontinelle





7 Fixes to Boost you Homes Value

7 07 2010

Article By Investopedia

It’s time to tackle home-improvement tasks you put off during the cold winter weather. There are lots of relatively simple and affordable things you can do to give your home a face lift. Your house will look better and your family will feel happier in it. As a bonus, you will also boost your home’s value.

1.  Add the perfect touch with paint

“A fresh coat of light paint on the interior walls can work wonders,” says Kelly O’Ryan of Coldwell Banker in Lexington, Mass. “Paint will always clean up dirty walls and give a room a better image.”

Although dark colors can be stylish, O’Ryan advises going for lighter shades to brighten things up in warmer seasons. Karol Nickell, editor-in-chief of Fresh Home magazine, offers this advice: “Smart color selections can make a small or cramped room appear dramatically larger. In the foyer, make a good first impression with similar tones mixed at different strengths. In the living room, a bold color paired with a white ceiling makes the room seem taller than it really is.”

2. Focus on the flooring

Good, well-maintained flooring can set a positive tone for the entire interior of your home.

“Like paint, flooring can help create an impression of spaciousness and airiness,” Nickell says. “Whether it’s a floating laminate floor, tile or a natural ‘green’ alternative, lighter-tone flooring can make formerly drab areas appear modern and streamlined.”

3. Lighten up the accents

“Spring (or summer) is a great time to change your window treatments and area rugs,” O’Ryan says. “Once again, dark colors are associated with winter months; a lighter, airy curtain will give any room a brighter and more pleasant appearance. If your floors are in great shape, you may want to remove the area rugs and leave the floors bare. Eliminating the rugs will open up the room and make it appear larger.”

4. Update the windows

Old windows aren’t just ugly — they can also let your heat and air conditioning escape, costing you big bucks.

“While window treatments are typically a focus in many home makeovers, the actual windows themselves are often overlooked,” says Victor Gonzales Maertens, an energy efficiency expert with Lennox Industries. “However, upgrading old single-pane windows with new Energy Star-qualified windows can save an average of between $126 and $465 per year on energy bills, and some new windows qualify for the federal tax credit.”

5. Weed out bad landscaping

Neglected bushes and overgrown lawns can kill a home’s curb appeal. Don’t worry – you don’t need a green thumb to spruce up your yard.

“Clean up the site by removing any dead or dying plants, branches and flowers,” suggests Jennifer Hoxsie, landscape designer with Greenhaven Landscapes in Lake Bluff, Ill. “Prune overgrown shrubs along the home’s foundation so they are below the windowsills and off walkways and driveways. Fill empty holes with site-appropriate plants. Have all the planting beds weeded, edged and mulched for a clean, crisp look. Finally, weed and fertilize the lawn and provide supplemental watering if necessary to maintain a lush green carpet.”

6. Add decorative touches to the yard

We’re not talking about plastic pink flamingos or creepy garden gnomes. Taylor Graves of CertainTeed building products says, “Adding benches, steppingstones, fountains or other garden accents could go a long way in making your outdoors a visually appealing and welcoming environment.”

7. A few final exterior touches

While you’re outside, a few other quick moves can make a big difference.

“Add color with paint to outdoor features such as window frames, decorative beams and porches,” says Kurt Gleeson, national vice president of sales for RealEstate.com. Stick with calm colors that complement the home’s exterior color scheme, avoiding shocking shades and drastic contrasts.

“Clean external brickwork or concrete slabs with a liquid masonry cleaner to make them look new and neat. Power washing can give external stonework, walkways and front stoops a quick makeover.”