An important thing about your new home that your real estate agent is forbidden to tell you

“What’s the crime rate in this area?”

It’s a common question and we understand completely why homebuyers want the answer. Unfortunately, real estate professionals are forbidden from answering it.

So, when your question is met with silence, or you’re directed to the local police station or a website or two, please don’t think we’re brushing you off.

The Fair Housing Act

Passed into law in the late 1960s, the Fair Housing Act’s aim was to end housing discrimination. In our case, it prevents us from answering certain questions because our answers may be construed as “steering.”

Steering is when a real estate agent tries to discourage a client from buying a home in a certain area. Even if we don’t intend to steer you, crime statistics, racial demographics and even which churches are in the area are topics that are off-limits to us.

The law applies to listing agents as well. For instance, advertising a home as “within walking distance,” could be a violation of the law in that it appears we are discriminating against the handicapped.

Agents get around this by saying that a home is “within close proximity to” or “near” an amenity.

Back to safe neighborhoods

There are several ways to check crime statistics or the general safety of a community.

Crime mapping services

Crime mapping services collect data from police. In addition to gathering data from the local sheriff and police departments, some, such as crimereports.com, enlist the help of homeowners with security cameras, allowing them to register their cameras with the site.

My local police department uses crimemapping.com to get the word out. Other sites to visit include spotcrime.com and mylocalcrime.com.

City review sites

Other sites, such as areavibes.com, encourage residents to give a general overview of their cities and these reviews will often contain community-level crime information.

Neighborhoodscout.com’s Crime Risk Reports “provide an instant, objective assessment of property and violent crime risks and rates for every U.S. address and neighborhood,” according to its website. They also offer lots of informative lists, such as Murder Capitals of America, Most Dangerous Cities, Most Dangerous Neighborhoods, Safest Cities in America and more.

Social networks

NextDoor.com is growing in popularity, which please us to no end. NextDoor is a social network at the neighborhood level. It’s neighbors talking to other neighbors, sharing information on local service people, lost and found pets and, yes, crime.

You’ll get a deeper insight into a particular neighborhood here than you will on a national site.

Nextdoor is a private platform so ask your agent if he or she knows anyone who lives in the neighborhood who may be a member. Perhaps the home seller is and you can log in with his credentials.

Sex offender databases

Familywatchdog.us is probably the most popular database of the nation’s sexual predators. The site also offers a list of state registries, facts and statistics and safety tips.

The U.S. Department of Justice offers the National Sex Offender Public Website with a “regularly updated database that allows you to enter an address and map sex offenders nearby.”

Talk to the neighbors

Nobody is more in touch with local crime than residents of the community. Drive the neighborhood at different times of the day and when you see neighbors outside, stop and chat with them.

Not only will you most likely get information on how safe the neighborhood is but you may learn other valuable things about it as well. So, open your ears and soak up the gossip.

3 benefits of buying a newly-constructed home

Look at three or four resale homes during your house hunt and you’ll start getting the feeling that, should you purchase one of them, you will be buying someone else’s poor design ideas, lousy home maintenance and lack of cleanliness. Yuck.

It’s for this reason that many homebuyers choose a newly constructed home instead. Yes, they typically sell for more per square foot, but the extra money is worth the extras that come along with a new house. Let’s take a look at three reasons you may want to choose a new home over a resale.

1. Energy Efficiency

It’s a fact that energy efficient features lower your monthly utility bills. Many of today’s new homes are rated by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), which assigns each home a score. This score is readily available to homebuyers to use when comparing the energy efficiency of homes.

In addition to the money-saving aspect an energy-efficient home provides, resale values are higher. According to Zillow’s Housing Trends Report, nearly half of homebuyers say that energy efficiency is a desirable feature in a home.

In fact, according to another major real estate conglomerate’s studies, homes with energy efficient features sell for 7 percent more than homes that lack these features.

2. Fewer Headaches

Why purchase a home that needs new paint, carpet, cabinets, appliances and flooring? In a newly-constructed home everything is new. Everything is clean. No nasty grease smells, pet odors, scuffed up baseboards or well-worn floors.

Shoddy home maintenance isn’t a concern either because the home is brand new. Then, many homebuilders will supply you with a one-year home warranty, especially if you ask for it. That kind of peace of mind is priceless.

3. The Opportunity to Customize

The ability to take a blank slate and impose one’s personal tastes onto it is the biggest reason many buyers choose a new home over an existing one.

Some of the customization features that you may be able to choose include:

  • Location – often, you’ll pick which lot in the community you want to live on.
  • Flow – if you purchase before the home is built you may be able to dictate where the bathroom is located or ask that the laundry room be built upstairs instead of downstairs.
  • Design features – from wall color to flooring to cabinetry, you’ll be making a lot of personalized decision when you purchase a new home.

Buying a newly constructed home is a buyer-centered experience. As experienced new home buyer representatives, we are happy to walk you through every step of the process to ensure you get the home of your dreams.

Want maximum profit from your home sale? Hire a listing agent

Selling a home looks so easy, doesn’t it? After all, what does a real estate agent do to get homes sold that you can’t do?

Russel Baze, the winningest jockey in thoroughbred horse racing, makes his job look like a snap. If you pleasure-ride, you wouldn’t be the first to think you may have what it takes to do what he does. But, we dare you to try it.

You must not only be fit enough to remain perched atop a nervous, high-strung horse but remain still as the horse accelerates  down the track at speeds in excess of 30 miles-per-hour.

You’ll simultaneously need to fight the push-back that the acceleration causes, all the while maintaining your balance using only your heels and calves.

It’s common to lack appreciation and understanding of other peoples’ expertise – we take for granted our doctor’s skill and knowledge, the scissor wizardry of our hair stylist and, yes, the marketing chops of a good real estate listing agent.

Which leads us to the number one factor that will get your home sold.

Marketing

Unless you work in marketing as your profession, it’s safe to say you may know little about how to market a home. To do so, strategically, requires:

  • Understanding current market conditions
  • Knowing homebuyer trends
  • Determining the most likely buyer for the home
  • Knowing where to market the home
  • Knowing how to present the home for maximum impact
  • Pricing the home strategically
  • Having the money to put a robust marketing plan into action

Example of a DIY home seller disaster

A few weeks ago, while looking through the MLS listings for homes for a buying client, I came across a home that was priced so low that I naturally assume it needed major work.

I took a closer look at the listing and learned that it was being sold by owner. It had been on the market for nearly a year, in a market where the average home sells in 34 days.

Typically, a home that sits on the market for too long does so because it’s overpriced. This home, however, was priced at rock bottom and STILL no takers.

I have no idea what other marketing avenues the seller was using, aside from an MLS listing, but even with that, he or she failed miserably.

The first thing buyers look at in a listing are the photos. This listing had only four photos, the first of which was a shot of the front of the home. It was not only blurry, but it was snapped from too far away. The home has curb appeal, but you can’t see it in the photo.

The next photo was of a long, narrow, empty room. I assumed it was the living room. If it were staged, potential buyers wouldn’t be left guessing the room’s purpose.

The kitchen, the most important room to most buyers, lacked any appeal whatsoever. Or, was it that the photo was so dark and, again, blurry?

Then, the homeowners included a photo of a pool table.

No, not a room that held a pool table, but a closeup of a pool table

The final image was the bathroom (the second most popular room for homebuyers). The toilet seat was left up, the shower curtain was open, the counter was littered with toiletries and the photo had almost no lighting.

If this home seller is trying to make less for the home than it’s worth, he is doing a bang-up job.

I certainly don’t expect a homeowner to have professional photography skills any more than I hope my clients don’t expect me to have them. Which is why it’s so important to rely on a pro to snap the photos of this HUGE investment you’re trying to sell.

Crisp, sharp, well-lit, compelling photos – and lots of them – go a long way toward getting homebuyers off the internet and into your home.

Staging empty rooms is vital if you want to sell quickly and for top dollar.

Where’s the info?

Photos aside, the homeowner also suffered a DIY disaster in the remarks section of his MLS listing. There was not one word in the remarks section. Nothing.

Imagine you’re trying to sell your car on Craigslist. Will you merely post dark and blurry photos of it without a bit of text outlining the car’s details? If so, will you really expect to be inundated with inquiries about it?

A professional listing agent understands how to use the limited remarks section for all its worth. He or she knows who is in the likely-buyer pool for the home and targets these people by highlighting the features they demand.

This is knowledge that the average homeowner lacks

The final nail in this home’s coffin

I did an even deeper dive into MLS statistics for this home and the results were fascinating. As mentioned earlier, the home went on the market nearly a year ago. Two months after listing it in the MLS, however, the homeowner dropped the price $10,000.

Naturally, he or she noticed other homes flying off the market and assumed he’d priced his too high. If that were really the case, lowering the price would provide fresh exposure and a new round of buyer interest.

Two months later he again dropped the price, $10,000

Still didn’t sell. So, and this is quite curious – four months later he raised the price $10,000. This happened three months ago and the home is still on the market.

Sadly, at this point the home is stigmatized. Buyers tend to steer clear of homes that have been on the market this long, assuming there is something wrong with them.

The competition is kicking his hiney

The listing that comes up next to our homeowner’s is priced $29,000 higher and being marketed by a pro. The home has been staged, the photos are brilliant and the listing remarks top-notch. In a side-by-side comparison, the slightly-more expensive home wins, hands down.

Now, this example is of the MLS listing, just one aspect of what it takes to market a home for sale. We have no idea if the homeowner is utilizing other marketing vehicles, but we doubt it. Homes just do not sit on the market for this long when they’re marketed professionally.

This is a textbook case of how lost a DIY home seller can become

Without a professional to guide him, he will take a beating on price when and if the home finally sells.

In the hands of a capable listing agent, this homeowner would’ve priced the home competitively out of the gate. The home would’ve been completely prepared for the market, thus justifying the price.

The appropriate research mission would let the listing agent know who to target in the marketing plan and where and how to reach them.

If I knew this homeowner, I would’ve cautioned him against dropping the price until he’d fixed the home’s presentation issues, re-photographed the home for the MLS listing and added some compelling text to it.

Now, I know that what I do isn’t rocket science. Statistics show, however, that your home, in the hands of a professional, experienced listing agent, will sell for more than you’ll make if you go the DIY route.

What you need to know about buying a home on a septic system

Not all homes are on city services – some have their own systems to deliver water and remove waste from the property. If you’re considering putting in an offer to purchase a home that has a septic system, read on for what you need to know.

General septic system anatomy

Whatever substances go down the home’s drains ends up in the septic tank. This means everything that is flushed, swirls down the sinks’ drains, and the stuff that drains from the washing machine and shower.

This tank is built to be watertight, to trap the solids it receives and then release what’s left (wastewater) into the systems drain (or, “leach”) fields.

Yes, that’s a simplistic explanation and if you’re interested in a more detailed look at septic systems, check out homeadditionplus.com or the U.S. EPA’s “Homeowner’s Guide to Septic Systems.”

If you buy it, you’ll need to maintain it

One of the biggest benefits of homes on city services is that the homeowners typically don’t have to worry about sewer maintenance. Buy a home with a septic system, however, and those chores are all yours.

And, like all home maintenance tasks, ignore them and you may end up with a rather large repair bill.

In fact, the national average cost for septic system repair is $1,472

according to homeadvisor.com.

So, what’s involved in maintaining a septic system? Ongoing maintenance includes:

  • An annual inspection – A professional will check the system for, among other things, leaks, inspect the scum and sludge levels, check the effluent screens and inspect the mechanical and electrical components.
  • Pumping out the tank – every three to five years

The nationwide average cost of pumping or cleaning a 1,000-gallon septic tank is $378, according to homeadvisor.com.

On the flipside, you’ll save money by not having to pay the city for sewer services (and, possibly water since many homes on septic have well water)

We can ask the homeowner for a ballpark figure of how much he or she pays for septic system maintenance each year and then compare it to what comparable homeowners on city services pay.

Think you can put off taking care of the system?

You don’t really want to find out.

Left unchecked, a leaking septic tank can saturate the leach field. If the field floods, sewage may come to the surface. Most likely, however, it will come back into the house – to the bathtub or sink. Neither a pretty site nor a healthy situation.

Although you may be tempted to put off the system inspection, it’s not wise. You have no way of knowing if everything is working as it should and that the groundwater isn’t being contaminated.

Then, there’s the cost of replacing what you failed to maintain. If you need a new tank, it will cost between $600 and nearly $4,000, depending on size and material. Then, you’ll need to have it installed which will cost between $2,753 and $8,016, according to HomeAdvisor.

The cost of installing a new drain field varies, according to the problem that caused the failure. Plan on spending between $5,000 to $20,000.

Don’t let this scare you off

If you’ve fallen in love with a home that comes with a septic system, don’t let the maintenance requirements scare you away. As mentioned earlier, the annual costs may just beat what you’d pay to be on a city sewer.

We’ll order a septic inspection before you finalize the deal and bring problems found to the seller.

Then, decide that you’ll have the system inspected annually to prevent any large surprises and that you’ll have the tank pumped out every couple of years. This way, the cost of living off the city grid doesn’t have to be a huge surprise of a bill somewhere down the line.

Who Pays for Termite Inspections in FHA Loans?

Warning: We’re about to give you the creeps.

It’s termite swarming season – that time of year when subterranean termite populations within colonies reach the carrying capacity and they swarm out in search of new digs.

Although they may start out underground, a few strategically constructed and placed mud tubes will allow them entry into the home.

They can also gain access to the home through wood that is in contact with the soil. This includes porch steps and supports, doorframes, deck supports and more, according to the pros at Orkin.

Evidence of an infestation can throw a real estate transaction into turmoil. The homeowners may be clueless about it and it scares the daylights out of the buyer.

Termites aren’t a problem in many parts of the country, but if they are prevalent where you live, you’ll naturally want to have the home inspected by a pest control expert before purchasing. If you’re using an FHA-backed loan, get to know its policies when it comes to pest inspections.

What FHA has to say about it

While some states, such as Nevada, require pest inspections, the FHA only requires borrowers to order a pest inspection under any the following circumstances:

  • If the FHA appraiser sees evidence of an active infestation.
  • If state or local jurisdictions mandate the practice
  • If wood destroying pest inspections are customary in your area
  • If the lender requests one

So, what does the inspector look for?

 

  • The mud tubes mentioned earlier are one indication of an infestation. For several reasons (access to a food source is one), termites construct these tubes from the soil to wood. Sometimes the inspector has no trouble finding mud tubes. Sometimes, they are hidden inside walls, behind the homes baseboards, under the floors and behind walls.

Check out Orkin’s website to learn more about mud tubes and to see photos to help you identify them.

  • The inspector will also look for termite wings. Like moths, termites may cluster around light sources, so one sign of an infestation are their wings littering windowsills or stuck in cobwebs.
  • The inspector may check any wood structures on the property, such as fencing, wood mulch in the garden, firewood stacks and wooden structures.
  • Termite damage is a sure-fire sign of an infestation, so the inspector looks for evidence of such on wood surfaces, such as floors.

Who pays for the inspection?

Although FHA doesn’t care who pays for the inspection, and it is a negotiable item, whether the seller or the buyer traditionally pay for it varies by region.

Homebuyers who live in regions with a high probability of an infestation may want to make the inspection a contract contingency, requesting that the seller pay for it.

If, on the other hand, the lender demands an inspection, the buyer will typically pay for it. Again, this varies by region.

What if an infestation is found?

Termite reports are broken down into two parts, Section 1 and Section 2. The former includes a report of active infestation and damage — items that must be remedied now.

Section 2 items are those that may lead to an infestation in the future.

If you have any concerns about wood destroying pests in a home you are interested in purchasing, have the home inspected. The national average cost of the inspection is $537, according to homeadvisor.com.

The national average cost for termite treatment, however, varies according to the scope of the problem, the size of the home and other factors. Plan on paying between $1,150 and $3,300, according to costhelper.com.

Should you sell your current home or rent it out?

There is no one answer and many, many things to consider when deciding about whether to sell or rent out a house that no longer suits you.

First, I urge you to speak with your accountant or financial planner before doing anything else.

He or she will be able to help you determine if keeping the home to rent to a tenant is a sound financial move – whether or not is will produce positive cash flow. If it won’t, and you’ll be looking at a loss every month, consider selling the home.

But here are a few other things you may want to consider while waiting for your accountant to get back to you.

Condition of the home

Selling a home as-is isn’t quite as easy as you may think. If there are significant problems, a buyer’s lender may require them to be remedied before proceeding with the loan.

Even smaller problems may cause a significant reduction in the selling price and a lengthier sale process. Tenants are far more likely to overlook a home’s flaws than a potential buyer.

If you don’t have the funds to make repairs, renting the house out may be the best option, provided your financial counsellor agrees that all other considerations point to renting as well.

Can you tolerate being a landlord?

Now, if your home is in pristine condition and you have even a small emotional attachment to it, you may not want to rent it out. Tenants are notorious for not caring for homes as a homeowner does, allowing problems to fester without notifying the owner, causing additional damage.

Let’s face it, the mere act of living in a home can cause damage, from scuffed baseboards to burnt countertops and dead plants. If the thought of any of this damage breaks your heart, perhaps you should reconsider becoming a landlord.

Then, there is the routine home maintenance that you’ll be on the hook to perform, despite not living in the house. Guess who pays for the plumbing bill when the tenant’s child tries to flush his toys down the toilet?

If the roof leaks, the refrigerator dies or the HVAC unit needs repair, the onus is on you to set things right. If you lack the energy, desire or the funds to make repairs or replacements, landlording is not for you.

Your tolerance for risk

Becoming a landlord is a risky endeavor. What will you do if the rent is late or if it isn’t paid at all? Will you have the money to make the house payment?

Will you have the time and money to spend on protracted and stressful eviction proceedings? If not, you either shouldn’t become a landlord, or find the extra money to pay a professional property manager.

State and federal income taxes

I’m not a CPA, so, again, I urge you to contact yours. Taxes are complicated and become even more so when you own an investment property. I do know that there are many tax deductions for investment property owners, from being able to write off the interest associated with the mortgage to depreciation.

“The cost of repairs to rental property (provided the repairs are ordinary, necessary, and reasonable in amount) are fully deductible in the year in which they are incurred,” claims Stephen Fishman, J.D. at nolo.com.

Your tax professional can let you know what, if anything, has changed in the tax laws.

Selling the home

If you sell the home, you’ll be taking advantage of one of the best seller’s market in history. You’ll no doubt be pleasantly surprised when you learn how much the home worth right now.

Since you don’t need the money to purchase the new home, why not consider investing it for your future? Or, maybe take that family vacation you’ve been dreaming about?

Another real estate term defined: “Agency”

When you list your home for sale or buy a home with the help of a real estate agent, get ready to sign a whole pile of paperwork.

In most states, one of the first you’ll be asked to put your pen to is called the Agency Disclosure and we often see our clients sign it without reading and understanding it.

It’s rather boring, but you need to know what it means

In contract law, “agency” is a word used to describe the relationship created when one party, the principal, grants permission for another party, the agent, to act on his or her behalf (but under the principal’s control) to deal with a third party.

I see those eyes glazing over.

Here it is in English: You are the principal and your real estate agent’s broker is the agent.

“Wait, what about my real estate agent; isn’t he the agent?”

Yes, but not your agent. He or she is the broker’s agent.

Confused?

When you hire a real estate agent to help you sell or buy real estate, he or she is acting on behalf of the broker. You may never meet the broker, but she is, in reality, your agent.

Agents have duties

Agency relationships are fiduciary, meaning that they are based on trust and confidence. Your agent has a fiduciary duty to you to never breach your confidence.

One of the agent’s primary duties is loyalty—he or she is obligated to always act in your best interests, to the exclusion of all other interests. Keep this one in mind as we explore types of agency relationships, later on.

If you are buying a home, your agent has a duty to disclose the following, if it is known to her:

  • If the seller will accept less than the asking price
  • Why the homeowner is selling the home
  • Her estimation as to the value of the property
  • Whether the property is owned or co-owned by the broker or any of her relatives
  • The number of days the home has been on the market
  • Any information she has on other offers presented to the seller

As you might imagine, the seller’s agent has similar duties to his client.

What happens, then, if you go to a Sunday open house, fall in love with the house and you aren’t currently working with a real estate agent?

Will you sign up with the agent at the open house? If you do, this situation is known as dual agency – legal in some states, illegal in others. The agent must disclose to both buyer and seller that he or she is representing both of them.

Dual agency (in some states it is known as “designated agency”) can also occur when two agents from the same brokerage represent both the buyer and the seller.

The bottom line with this form of agency is that the agent’s duties are divided. Acting in his clients’ best interests, “to the exclusion of all other interests,” becomes challenging.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t enter into such a relationship. Take the time to check the agent’s qualifications. Seasoned, professional real estate agents are more likely to be able to handle the challenges inherent in dual agency situations.

When your agent passes the Agency Disclosure form across the table for your signature, take the time to read it and do ask questions about anything you don’t understand.

Learn more about the different types of agency relationships in real estate at realtor.org.

Location: The 3 “Rules” of Real Estate

Real estate has three primary rules:

  1. Location
  2. Location
  3. Location

When something has to be repeated three times for it to sink in, you know it’s an important issue. And, when it comes to determining a home’s value – now and in the future – location is king.

When real estate agents, lenders and appraisers talk about location, however, they aren’t just referring to whether the home sits on a sandy beach. There are many aspects they take into account when determining how a home’s particular location impacts its value.

Commute times

Studies in California show that the most expensive housing markets have the longest commute time.

In San Francisco, for instance, homes in and near “The City” are exorbitantly expensive, so most homebuyers need to buy in the surrounding suburbs in other counties. The average commute time there is “between 45 and 59 minutes,” according to RealtyTrac.

If you want a cheaper home in an expensive market, plan on a long commute, because this aspect of location – proximity to business and retails centers – makes for higher home values.

Proximity to schools

Parents of school-age children naturally gravitate to neighborhoods near quality school districts. These “in-demand” neighborhood homes, in turn, boast higher values than homes located near lesser-quality schools.

Quality, when it comes to local schools’ impact on home values, is typically determined by student test scores. In fact, “economists have estimated that within suburban neighborhoods, a 5 percent improvement in test scores can raise prices by 2.5 percent,” according to the New York Times’ Quoctrung Bui and Conor Dougherty.

The flip side, however, is that studies have found that the closer to the actual school the home is located, the lower the value. This is only natural when you consider the amount of noise and traffic generated by most schools.

The bottom line is that a decent home in a good school district will hold its value better than a comparable home located in a poor school district.

Homes located near open space are worth more

A few years ago, Katherine Kenyon Henderson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill submitted the results of her study of how open spaces impact home values. These spaces include parks, golf course and more.

She found that “open spaces have a statistically significant effect on a home’s sale price,” especially in areas where the homes have smaller backyards. Furthermore, the larger the space, the more value it adds.

The neighborhood’s proximity to commercial amenities

Contrary to popular belief, a new shopping center developed within a community does not negatively impact the value of the homes in closest proximity.

In fact, although a new commercial development does cause an immediate drop in value for homes closest to it (within a .75-mile radius), those values tend to rise by 1.3 percent each year.

Within four years after development, those homes have regained the lost value and more, according to Jonathan A. Wiley, Ph.D. with the Department of Real Estate at Georgia State University.

So, don’t let news of an impending commercial development in the area scare you away from the home of your dreams.

Other location attributes, such as crime, jobs and housing inventory all impact an area’s home values, but location is chief.

Here’s what to kick to the curb and what to keep before you sell your home

If you’ve chosen your listing agent wisely, he or she will determine the most likely buyer for your home and then laser-focus the marketing materials to that pool of buyers.

Various studies of what different types of buyers are seeking in a home help the agent figure out which of your home’s features will attract them.

Now, there’s one more survey to add to the arsenal and it was published at builderonline.com.

Overall, if your home offers better energy efficiency than your competition, expect it to be popular with potential buyers. Other turn ons for buyers include floor plans that can be personalized and a home that is easy to maintain.

All of these features are more in-demand than a home with the latest technology, according to the survey.

Interior features that repel homebuyers

When asked what they dislike most about their current homes, the majority of homebuyers report that the outdated features drive them nuts. In fact, these are the most common features they are fleeing:

  • Linoleum floors
  • Popcorn ceilings
  • Wood paneling
  • Ceramic tile countertops in the kitchen
  • Shag carpet
  • Avocado green appliances

Yes, I’m sure you love that wallpaper you put up in 1988, but buyers will hate it. The same goes for the “gold” bathroom faucets or those with plastic faux crystal handles.

Features buyers love

Wood flooring is still the overwhelming favorite among buyers, with 65 percent of those surveyed showing a preference for it. Internet connectivity (ethernet and USB ports) came in second, with 44 percent of respondents.

Surprisingly, 56 percent said they were willing to give up square footage in a home if it meant having a larger yard. And, across all demographics, the most important exterior feature of a home is “distance from neighboring homes.”

Broken down by generations, here are the home feature preferences:

Millennials

  • Whirpool tub
  • Home theater
  • Wine refrigerator or cellar
  • Dining room
  • Darker, richer wall color

Gen Xers

If you have a larger home in the suburbs, members of this cohort may be your buyer. Gen X homebuyers are seeking:

  • A detached single-family house.
  • A home with lots of square footage (the average, according to study respondents, is 2,315 square feet).
  • A single-level home, or one with the master bedroom on ground level.
  • A home near trails or other amenities to help them keep fit.

Baby boomers

  • A home with 2,000 to 2,999 square feet of living space.
  • Planned community with amenities and a resort-like vibe
  • A community with a diverse age range, or “stroller-to-walker,” Tammy Barry, director of marketing for a marina resort master-planned community near Chicago tells newhomesource.com’s Camilla McLaughlin.
  • Boomers seek low-maintenance homes with large rooms and plenty of storage. 

Even homeowners on tight budgets can make minor changes to the home to attract more interest.

Small changes, such as changing out dated kitchen and bathroom faucets, buying new panels for the front of your appliances and replacing dated flooring with something attractive yet inexpensive can make a world of difference.

Retiring and thinking of downsizing your home?

When the last time you bought a home was far enough back that your mortgage is paid off, or nearly so, can we give you some advice? A lot has changed in the real estate industry since the 1980s, in both the selling and buying process.

First, you’re no longer looking for areas with good schools for the kids or a strong job market for Mom and Dad. So, your priorities have changed as well and you have far more freedom now to live where you want and how you want.

It’s liberating, isn’t it?

If you’re considering downsizing your home, read on.

Right now, half of the “most viewed” articles on AARP’s website deal with romance, sex and vacations. Retirees — or those contemplating retirement — don’t have a one-track mind though.

When they aren’t reading about hooking up, or the birds and the bees, they think about their finances. And downsizing a home isn’t just a way to save on home maintenance costs but also a way to free up all that equity you’ve built up to use during your retirement.

Whether you’ll be shopping for another, albeit smaller, single-family house or a condo, downsizing doesn’t really differ that much between the two. Since it’s a major life event, however, it’s a bit scary, “like having an empty nest after the children leave,” says gerontologist Karen Owen-Lee.

Be that as it may, baby boomers are a hardy bunch and it takes a lot to frighten them off what they truly want. In fact, of the 14 percent of Americans age 65 and older who say they plan on moving in the next five years, 67 percent say their priority is to move to a smaller home.

My best advice to you is to first consult with your accountant or financial adviser before taking any concrete steps toward that new future. Armed with his or her good advice you’re in a far better position to make this move, sans the emotions.

Then, you’ll need to consider whether you want to try to time the sale of your current home with the purchase of the new one. It’s a tricky process but we’re happy to walk you through it.

Consider the advantages and disadvantages

With the home paid off, you’re in a far better financial position than many retirees but you should still consider the costs of selling a home. You’ll pay real estate fees, perhaps concessions to the buyer and mortgage fees. These can add up to a big chunk of money.

The advantages to downsizing, however, may just offset those costs

First, if you don’t pay cash for the new home, you’ll have a mortgage payment. Since you’ll be buying a smaller home, however, your payments may be far lower than they were when you had a mortgage on the current home.

And, because the home will be smaller, you’ll save money on utility bills and, if you choose a condo, home maintenance chores may be picked up by the HOA.

But, before you can make a plan for the future, you’ll need to consider both sides of the issue, the good and the bad.

Yes, there are disadvantages

In a perfect universe there would be perfect timing in all that we do. Selling your current home would coincide with a hot sellers’ market which would magically morph into an equally fiery buyers’ market when you look for the new home.

Ah, that dratted universe – nothing is perfect

And, the late Steven Hawking agrees. “One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist … without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist,”

The upside to this, however, is that one of the markets will prevail so you are ensured of saving money on at least one of your transactions.

Next, consider that condo living offers many advantages (low maintenance, amenities you might not find in a single family home community, etc.) but it has drawbacks as well. Chief among these are the HOA fees and any special assessments which may crop up in the future.

It’ll work with a good plan

My advice is to plan on selling your home as soon as possible. We are still in one of the best sellers’ markets we’ve seen in decades, but interest rates may hike again this year, locking many buyers out of the market.

To make the most money possible on the sale of your current home, get it on the market soon

Then, to really get the most bang for your home-buying buck, consider moving to a less expensive community. AARP’s Shelley Emling compared the “best places to retire” cities from both Forbes and USA Today and found that both lists had three cities in common:

  • Iowa City, Iowa
  • Madison, Wisconsin
  • Columbia, Missouri

Both publications’ rankings used a variety of criteria, but of the three, the city for retirees on a tight budget appears to be Iowa City.

There, you’ll pay no state income tax on your Social Security income and receive a tax break on what your pension brings in. The median home price there, by the way, is $204,000, according to Emling.

Downsizing, coupled with a move to a less expensive city or even a cheaper community right here in our hometown, may just mean all the difference, financially, during your retirement.

When considering downsizing, it’s important to consider not only the type of neighborhood and home in which you want to live, but the financial aspects of the move as well.

Again, I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to seek counsel from your financial planner or accountant before making any decisions. Then, call me and we’ll get started on the real estate part of your plan.