Is spring the BEST Time to List My Home for Sale?

Have you noticed that there’s a study for just about anything you can think of?

In 2004, for instance, a Swedish study determined that “Chickens Prefer Beautiful Humans.” A study out of the UK let us know that yawning isn’t contagious among red-footed tortoises.

And, an online real estate portal swears that the best months to list a home for sale are from the middle of March to the middle of April.

But they dug deeper into the data and added a caveat: in regions where it remains chilly into early spring, “waiting until mid- to late-April is your best bet.”

Then, along came a super-hot sellers’ market and upended that study’s findings. The truth is, at least right now, there should be plenty of buyers for your home in this spring and summer real estate market.

That’s not all

According to a Wall Street Journal study, the day of the week you list your home can have an impact on not only the eventual selling price, but the time your home spends on the market as well.

The best day? Friday. Not surprising when one considers that homes that hit the market on Friday show up as fresh MLS listings for eager weekend homebuyers to view.

Friday listings sell for more than 99 percent of the original list price, while those listed on Sunday garner only 98.4 percent, on average, at least according to that study.

In other words, if you listed your home at $375,000 on Friday instead of Sunday, the statistics say you’ll have a good chance of walking away with an additional $2,625.

People must be in a hurry on Fridays as well, because homes listed then sold faster than homes listed on other days.

Coming in right behind Friday, however, is Tuesday – a head scratcher for sure. Why Tuesday?

According to the report, Tuesday-listed homes are the most attractive for home tours, getting almost 2.5 requests for a tour, on average, on that day.

Remember, all real estate is local and this was a nationwide study, so our mileage may vary.

That’s not to say that if you decide on a Thursday that you want to list your home, we shouldn’t wait until Friday to put the listing in the MLS. It might be a tactic to try, especially if you need to sell your home quickly.

What to expect when you list your home in this market

As mentioned earlier, the market is red-hot for sellers right now. With schools expected to reopen nationwide in the fall, folks are trying to get settled into their new homes before then, so there are lots of buyers in the market.

In fact, now may be the only time in the foreseeable future when you may have a chance to receive multiple offers on your home.

Homes are selling quickly as well. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, the nationwide average amount of time that a home is on the market (from listing to accepting an offer) is currently 20 days.

Furthermore, the median home price has increased more than 14% over this time last year. Homeowners are sitting on an amazing amount of equity right now.

Now, all of this good news for sellers will vanish if mortgage rates rise significantly or if there is a sudden downturn in the housing market, as we unfortunately learned during the housing crisis.

These are all good reasons to consider selling your home this spring or summer. Questions? Reach out to us. Advice is always free.

House feeling a bit cramped?

When the house is full of friends and family visiting over the summer, any home can feel a little smaller than usual.

But, if your home is small to begin with, that cramped feeling persists even when company leaves. If you aren’t planning on buying a larger home in the near future, there is a way to get more room in the one you have.

The basement. Think about all that “unused” space and consider finishing it to get maximum value.

If you are planning on selling, although you won’t recoup 100% of the money spent, the ROI is better than many other remodeling projects.

Cost vs. Value

The folks that compile Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value report assign a 70% ROI to a basement finishing project.

This is based on several specifics, including:

  • Transforming the basement into a “… 20-by-30-foot entertaining area with wet bar and a 5-by-8-foot full bathroom …”
  • An enclosure for the mechanical area
  • Insulated exterior walls
  • “… five six-panel factory-painted hardboard doors with passage locksets”

Plus, a few other common-sense items (wiring to code is one).

The truth is, you can transform that space into an additional bedroom with bathroom which will add value to the home as well.

If you are going to be selling in the near future, plan on a roughly 70% return of your money invested in the basement project. Consider that as lumber prices continue to increase, however, the ROI will decrease. 

See the entire breakdown at

 Planning Is Everything

When you move the kids from one bedroom to another, you can usually make the switch with very little planning. You can even rearrange the furniture or add new windows to the living spaces with little hassle.

But, when it comes to finishing a basement, you need to think it through thoroughly before you begin.

Consider what you can do on your own before hiring pros

Many of the jobs included in finishing a basement are best left to experts. Electrical wiring comes to mind. Oh, and plumbing as well.

But others may be within your talent set. Some of these include:

  • Flooring
  • Installing insulation
  • Painting
  • Hanging drywall

If you decide to take on any of these projects as DIY, ensure you have the proper permits before starting.

Home Systems – Although your basement may be a storage dumping ground, there are usually some seriously important functions that the area already performs.

Many of the pipes and drainage systems, along with the electrical components of your home, line the walls and ceilings of your basement. You will need to ensure you maintain access while still having a finished appeal when revamping this area.

You may want to bring the finished living area in to accommodate access without jeopardizing the look of this space.

Living Spaces – Most basements don’t have a lot of light. That’s great for cinema rooms, but it does make it difficult for living areas.

Most architects suggest centering living areas around the small pockets of existing light and working from those points outward.

Windows – When you finish your basement, you may find that your insurance company requires an additional exit. Typically, this can be solved with large egress windows that can serve as an emergency exit, as well as an additional source of light to your new, usable space.

A Guide to Buying Your First Home

Buying real estate, while once touted as a wise investment toward your future wealth, has become somewhat of a scary prospect to first-time buyers. The market, right now, is moving at warp speed.

Home buying is a process and, like any other, there are steps you should take to get you to your goal. While it’s natural to be anxious about becoming a homeowner, take the time to follow the steps and, before you know it, you’ll be in your own home.


One of the unpleasant tasks in the home buying process is figuring out how much money you can spend on a house and then locating a lender to give you that money at an attractive rate and good terms.

You’ll need cash for the down payment and, unless you find a seller that is willing to help with them, you’ll also need some cash for the closing costs.

If you’re on a tight budget, consider some of the government programs. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) backs low-cost, first-time buyer loans through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Learn more at

No matter which route you decide to take you’ll need to shop for a loan. Take your time when looking for a loan, as rates and terms may vary widely between lenders.

Shopping for Your First Home

Real estate buyer’s agents will tell you that making a wish list is one of the most important steps to take before looking at houses. You’ll actually make the list and then edit it several times. If you’re half of a couple, you should both make your own lists.

Your original list should be an exercise in dreaming. Write down everything your ideal home would have – even if you think these items may be too expensive.

Let your imagination run wild. After it’s complete, go back over it with a more realistic eye. If you’re on a tight budget you may wish to cross off the stables and tennis courts.

Once you’ve whittled the list down so that it fits your real world, choose one or two items on which you will not compromise. Then, compare your list with your partner’s.

Anything that shows up on both lists is a “must have.” That, along with your top must have and your partner’s can’t-live-without, gives your agent a clear idea on which types of homes to show you and which to exclude.

Next, you’ll need to decide on a neighborhood. If you have children, proximity to your chosen schools may be the deciding factor.

Perhaps a location that provides for a quicker commute to work is your ideal. Decide on several areas and do a quick check of prices in the areas ensure you can afford to live there.

Now you’re ready to choose an agent. Ask friends, family, co-workers and neighbors for recommendations.

You’ve Found a Home – Now What?

Finding a house you wish to purchase is the first step toward what may be smooth sailing or an absolute nightmare. Prepare yourself for the worst and, if all goes well, consider yourself lucky.

First you’ll make an offer. Determine what you want to offer on the house and then follow your agent’s advice as to how appropriate the offer is. When the housing market is moving fast, with multiple offers on houses, make your highest and best offer at the outset, as you don’t have time to bargain.

Once the offer is accepted it’s important to adhere to the time limits in the contract. Order your home inspection and shop for homeowner’s insurance immediately.

You hold the key to a smooth real estate transaction. By preparing adequately and choosing the right professionals to help you along the way, you guarantee your success.

How to declutter and depersonalize your home for sale

Congratulations on making the decision to sell your home. You couldn’t have chosen a better real estate market in which to do so.

Now, the journey begins. There’s a lot to do, and it starts with getting your home ready for the market.

Deep cleaning is critical but before you break out the Lysol and Dust Buster, you will need to declutter and depersonalize the home.

The reasons behind decluttering

Did you know that there are actually studies on the effects of clutter on our psyches? The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) spent four years studying the topic and found that clutter makes us stressed.

Since a stressed-out buyer is one who won’t spend much time in your home, getting rid of clutter is critical.

And depersonalizing?

There are several reasons behind the advice to depersonalize your home before putting it on the market.

The first is that buyers want to be able to see themselves living in your home. They can’t do that while staring at strangers peering out of photographs, awards on walls given to someone else and evidence that strangers brush their teeth in the bathrooms.

Personal items can be distracting, especially the very personal items we sometimes leave on bathroom counters.

Let’s get started

Grab some boxes. Since you’ll need them for the moving process later on, they’ll do double duty.

Depending on how cluttered your home is, you may need several boxes in some rooms (hello children!). Grab some cushioning material (newspaper, bubble wrap, etc.) for fragile items.

Choose a room in which to start. Some organizing experts recommend that you choose to start to the right or left of the front door and work your way around the home.

Pack up anything of a personal nature in the boxes you’ve gathered.

Bedroom decluttering and depersonalizing

Think about your favorite hotel room; that is how you want your bedrooms to look. The master bedroom is especially important and most homebuyers say that it’s their number one priority, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

Remove family photos and replace them with something generic. Since the bed is typically the focal point, think back, again, to that hotel room and splurge on some new bedding and extra pillows.

Clear off the nightstands, leaving a lamp, a small photo in an attractive frame and a plant or floral arrangement.

Need ideas? Check out

Tips for the bathrooms

Since bathrooms are, by their very nature, personal, depersonalizing them can be a challenge.

Start by removing everything of a personal nature from the counters and storing these items out of site. This includes toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, cosmetics and other toiletries.

The rule of thumb for countertops: If it isn’t decorative, stash it.

Extra toilet paper next to the toilet? Stash that too.

Next, check out the shower/tub. Yes, homebuyers will sneak a peek behind the curtain.

Remove razors, body wash and soap, hair products, back scrubbers and whatever else you keep in there. Everything.

Living Room and Family Room

Refresh your memory on that gorgeous hotel room and get to work on the living and family rooms.

Pack up:

  • Souvenirs
  • CD and DVD collections
  • Family photos
  • Framed awards, degrees, diplomas
  • Magazines, newspapers
  • Anything of a religious or political nature
  • Toys and other kid and pet paraphernalia

Time to tackle the kitchen

Kitchens can hold a lot of clutter, both in the cupboards and drawers and on the counters.

Remember what we said about the bathroom counters? The same holds true for those in the kitchen. When countertops are cluttered, they appear smaller and buyers love lots of counter space.

Clear them off and replace only decorative items. No toaster, food processor or waffle iron.

Get ideas on how to declutter and stage kitchen counters at:

The spring real estate market is upon us and, although homes are selling quickly, they sell for more if they’re decluttered and depersonalized.

Selling your home? Avoid these 3 popular renovation projects

Seven point nine five.

That’s how many years the average American homeowner lives in their home, according to the number crunchers at Attom Data.

Whether you are at the beginning, middle or end of this nearly eight-year period, some day you will sell your home. While it’s great to renovate for your comfort and enjoyment, keep in mind that what you do to the home now may have an impact on both how long the home takes to sell and how much money you’ll walk away with.

In other words, investing $25,000 in remodeling will not necessarily mean you can tack on an extra $25,000 to the asking price when you sell the home.

Let’s take a look at some of the worst renovations you can make if you hope to get a payoff when you sell.

Installing wall-to-wall carpeting or hardwood flooring

Yes, there was a time when new wall-to-wall carpeting or hardwood flooring would boost a home’s value. Those days are long gone.

The fact that flooring-giant Armstrong sold off its hardwood line is a tip that Americans are officially out-of-love with hardwood floors. And carpet?

Lowe’s had such a hard time selling carpet that they decided to offer free installation. To no avail; they still saw a nearly 8% decrease in carpet sales.

Today, homebuyers prefer luxury vinyl and will discount a home’s perceived value if they will need to replace flooring after they move in.

Converting the garage

Garage conversions are far more popular in some areas than they are in others. They are especially popular in older neighborhoods with small homes.

Hey, who can blame someone for converting a garage into a bedroom when they need the space?

Just don’t expect that the conversion will translate into more money when the home is sold.

In fact, “If it’s not permitted, they’ll have a problem selling,” cautions George Holmes of Eagle Appraisal of Las Vegas.  And, it if is permitted?

“It depends on the price class of the home,” Holmes said. “If it’s a cookie cutter home and it lacks a 2-car garage, we’ll deduct $8,000 to $10,000 from the value. It’s not cut and dry, however,” he cautions.

You can almost count on your home appraising for less than similar homes that have garages.

Permanent Conversion of a Bedroom

Bedrooms add value to a home. Often, however, homeowners permanently convert a third bedroom into an office, a gym or a family room.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with adding any of these conversions, if you can’t change the room back to a bedroom when you sell the home, the value of the home diminishes.

Since you now have only two bedrooms, the appraiser will compare your home to other two-bedroom homes.

Better Ways to Spend the Money

No matter how much you renovate or remodel a home, if deferred maintenance rears its ugly head, you will lose money on the sale of it.

Put your home renovation dollars toward the less sexy projects: new heating, plumbing and electrical upgrades and anything that boosts the home’s curb appeal.

Real Estate Glossary for the First Time Homebuyer

Every industry has its “inside” jargon and the real estate industry is no exception. Some of the lingo, such as “location, location, location” are a snap to decipher, while other terms are downright incomprehensible.

Real estate agents sometimes have a tendency to roll this stuff off their tongues assuming their clients understand when, in reality, they may as well be speaking a different language.

Here is a glossary of some of the most common terms you will hear during your real estate transaction:

Adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) – A mortgage with a fluctuating interest rate. ARMs tend to have lower initial interest rates for a set period of time, and then begin adjusting according to an index. They may adjust monthly, quarterly, annually or longer.

Addendum – A form describing a change or addition to the purchase agreement. Anything added in addendum should be looked at very carefully. Addendums are used for many changes, such as the extension of the closing date.

Appraisal – In a real estate transaction, the appraisal is a determination of the value of a house. The evaluation is required by the lender and prepared by the lender’s choice of an objective and impartial professional appraiser.

Certificate of title: The title certificate is a document that ensures the property being sold is legally owned by the seller(s) and that no other party owns any part of it or has any claims, such as liens, against it.

Closing – This is where the term “closing table” comes into play, and the process is also known as “settlement.” In the past, all parties would sit around a table to sign the closing documents. Today, there are a number of variants, including virtual closings.

Closing costs – All the additional expenses incurred in financing and purchasing the home. These expenses typically include attorney’s fees, a loan origination fee, escrow impounds, and other miscellaneous charges. There is no set cost but the ballpark range is between 2% to 7% of the sales price of the house.

CMA (Comparative Market Analysis) – A determination of a home’s market value for the purposes of determining a fair asking price. Real estate agents compile the CMA by comparing the subject house to those that have recently sold within close proximity. Although the CMA is similar to an appraisal, it will not replace a lender-required appraisal.

Comps – Properties that are comparable to the property being analyzed.

Contingency – A section of the purchase agreement that specifies certain conditions that must be met in order for the sale to proceed. Common contingencies in purchase agreements include those for inspections and loan approval.

Counter offer – A form that requests the addition or elimination of parts of the original purchase agreement.

CC&Rs – Covenants, conditions and restrictions. This is where you find out that, no, you can’t paint your front door blue. These documents set out the rules that homeowners must obey in a managed community.

Disclosures – Information about the home that a seller must provide, by law, to a buyer. The number and types of disclosures provided to the buyer depend on region. In California, for instance, the lengthy Transfer Disclosure Statement provides the buyer with information from the seller regarding the condition of the property and any repairs or modifications performed.

Deed – The deed is the legal document that provides proof of the transfer of ownership of real property.

Down payment – The down payment is the percentage of the purchase price that the buyer pays in cash. Depending upon lender and loan program, this percentage generally ranges from 3 to 20 percent. The down payment is a lender requirement.

Due Diligence – The responsibility of the buyer to exercise the appropriate care before closing on the purchase. Due diligence includes verifying all of the seller’s representations and uncovering any other pertinent facts that have not been disclosed but have a bearing on whether or not you want to purchase the property.

Earnest Money Deposit – The earnest money deposit is money provided by the homebuyer to the seller to prove her earnest intent to purchase the property. The amount varies, and the check is typically submitted with the purchase agreement. If the sale goes through, the earnest money deposit is applied to the down payment. If the buyer walks away from the sale, through no fault of the seller, he may forfeit his earnest money deposit.

Escrow – The escrow process assures that the purchase funds are released and that the transfer of the house is completed. The escrow company is a neutral third party to the process and uses the purchase agreement and other associated documents as instructions.

Escrow Impounds – The lender requires a deposit, as prepayment of taxes and insurance, at the close of escrow. This deposit goes into an escrow account and protects the lender in the event that you allow your insurance to lapse or don’t pay your property taxes. By law, the lender can only request an amount that is equal to no more than two months’ payments.

FHA Loan – This is a loan tendered by a traditional lender but insured by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered by the Federal Housing Administration. FHA offers several home loan programs, some offering low down payments, others to assist buyers of fixer-upper properties. FHA does not provide loans — it provides insurance for loans.

FICO Score: Your FICO score is a compilation of information from the three major credit reporting agencies and calculated by the Fair Isaac Corporation. Your FICO score reflects your debt payment history, amounts owed, length of credit history, new credit and the types of credit you use. The FICO score range is between 300 and 850. The higher your FICO score, the less of a credit risk you present to lenders.

Fiduciary duty – The broker under which your real estate agent works is your fiduciary. She is held to specific duties, outlined by state law, to her principal (you). Some of these duties include disclosure, confidentiality, reasonable care and diligence and loyalty.

Final Walk-Through – The buyer is allowed one last chance to walk through the home prior to the close of escrow. This inspection is not to turn up newly-discovered defects, but to ensure that the home is in the same condition as when the offer was tendered.

Fixed-rate mortgage – A type of mortgage in which the interest rate does not fluctuate over the life of the loan.

HOA Docs: Homeowner’s Association Documents. When purchasing a condo or a home in a managed community, you have a right to view recent HOA meeting minutes, a copy of their current budget, CC&Rs and other equally fascinating documents. Think boring, and you’ve got an idea of what’s included in the HOA docs. They’re important, though, so set aside an hour or two to go over them.

Loan-to-value (LTV) ratio – The LTV is a ratio that lenders use to assess risk when providing a mortgage loan. The LTV represents the amount of the mortgage divided by the appraised value of the property. Lenders consider higher LTV ratios as high-risk loans.

Mortgage – A legal document that pledges the house to the lender as security for the loan to purchase the house.

Mortgage insurance – An insurance policy that compensates the lender in the event a borrower defaults on the loan.

PITI (Principal, Interest, Taxes and Insurance) – Your monthly mortgage payment. Principal is the part of the payment that pays down the loan, the interest is the part of the payment that pays the lender for loaning you the money to buy the home, taxes and insurance are the necessary evils that must be paid for, typically into an escrow account each month.

PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance) – Like mortgage insurance, this policy protects the lender against a buyer’s loan default. Lenders on high-risk loans – typically when the LTV exceeds 80 percent — require PMI. When the homeowner’s LTV falls below the specified rate, PMI may often be discontinued.

Point – A one-time charge by the lender for originating a loan. A point is one percent of the amount of the loan.

Pre-qualification – The process of determining if a borrower qualifies for a loan and the approximate amount of money she may qualify to receive.

Title Insurance – An insurance policy that protects against damages due to defects in the chain of title.

VA Loans – These loans are offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs exclusively to members of the military. Veterans, those on active-duty and reservists are all considered as eligible to apply for VA loans, which typically require no down payment.

Homeowner Insurance Policy Definitions for Homebuyers

If you feel like you’re reading a foreign language when you look over your homeowner’s insurance policy, you aren’t alone.

Where simple language that’s easy for the layperson to understand will suffice, the typical homeowner’s insurance policy is loaded with industry jargon. Grab a cup of coffee to keep yourself awake while we pick that policy apart and see if we can come to grips with some of the terms.

Deciphering Insurance-ese

Pay very close attention to the Conditions clause of the policy. This sets forth your obligations and duties. It may be the most important clause in the entire contract, for if these conditions are not met, your claim may be denied.

One of the common terms found in most homeowner insurance policies is “Actual Cash Value.” This number reflects the amount the company will pay in the event of a disaster.

It is typically equal to what it would cost to replace the house, minus depreciation. Many homeowners confuse Actual Cash Value with Replacement Value, which is the amount the company will pay without the depreciation deduction, yet still subject to policy limits.

You will find a description of how the company arrived at this figure under the “Claim Settlement Provision” portion of the policy. The “Functional Replacement Cost” section of the policy describes the determination of Replacement Value.

We’ll Pay, But So Will You

Coinsurance is a term that confuses not only those in the market for a homeowner’s policy but health insurance as well.

You may find this concept listed as “Insurance to Value” in a homeowner’s policy. The first thing to understand about coinsurance is that it only comes into play in the event of a partial loss.

Described as a percentage, this provision defines the amount of the total damage that the company will cover. For instance, many insurers recommend that, if you don’t want to insure at full value, you should obtain a policy with at least 80 percent coverage.

In this case, the insurance company will pay up to 80 percent of the loss while you are responsible for the remaining 20 percent.

Now, to add even more confusion to the mix, this clause only comes into play when the loss and the policy limit fall below the coinsurance percentage.

Your policy’s deductible is the amount you pay in the event of a disaster. This amount may be listed as a specific dollar amount or a percentage of the home’s insured value. The choice of the deductible amount determines the premium (amount you pay for insurance), with the premium going down as the deductible goes up.

What happens if the home is so damaged that you can’t live in it until it is replaced or repaired? The “Loss of Use” portion of the policy spells this out, explaining how much you will be reimbursed for expenses incurred to find additional shelter during this time.

Endorsements are Only Good in Politics

Attached to your policy are the Endorsements. These forms modify the terms of the policy in some manner.

This is the toughest part of the insurance policy to understand for most homeowners. Some of these endorsements may negate policy clauses, or place conditions on them.

It’s a bit like reading the Internal Revenue tax instructions. If you have any questions on this part of your homeowner’s policy, consult with your insurance rep or attorney.

The Perils in Your Insurance Policy

In going over your insurance policy you may notice references to “perils.” These perils are then classified as either “open” or “named.” and this is where jargon takes a turn toward the ridiculous.

The peril is the event that caused the loss, such as theft or fire. If your policy provides for open perils, it will name which ones are excluded from coverage.

If you own a named perils policy, on the other hand, the policy will list every one of the perils that’s covered.  If you have concern about replacement of your personal possessions in the home, pay close attention to this part of the policy.

You may have an open perils clause for the home and a named perils clause for its contents. This is why updating your coverage as you acquire new possessions is so important.

If you live in earthquake country or in a flood zone you will need to purchase an additional policy. You may not be able to purchase this policy on the open market if you live in a high-risk area, but there are government-mandated insurance plans available. Check with your state’s insurance commissioner for details on these plans.

If you live in an area at high risk for hurricane activity your insurance choices become even more confusing. While most policies cover damage or loss from the hurricane, they won’t cover any damage from the ensuing flood.

The policies offered in hurricane-prone regions are definitely a mixed bag, though, with some offering limited coverage and some requiring a higher deductible.

As with homeowners in regions prone to earthquakes, check with your state’s insurance commissioner about government-mandated insurance plans that provide coverage that can’t be obtained on the open market.

Due Diligence: It’s Critical when Buying Insurance

It’s important to take your time when purchasing a homeowner’s policy and to never make assumptions based on the word of the insurance agent.

Learn how to read your policy and change it immediately if it doesn’t meet your needs.

According to the experts at United Policyholders, when shopping for insurance, make sure that you have enough insurance to replace your home (not the land) at full value, that you are protected against regional risks — such as earthquakes or floods — and that you have shopped around for the best price and have received all the discounts to which you are entitled.

In a nutshell: although not all homeowner insurance policies are the same, and they vary in their coverage, a policy typically covers the house and other structures on the property.

Personal possessions inside the home are covered (although pricier items may require additional coverage), as is your liability in the event someone is injured on your property.

Earthquake and flood damage is usually not covered and you will need to buy separate coverage for these events.

FHA appraisal basics

If you’re in the market to buy a home and are pursuing an FHA-backed mortgage, you’re not alone. Although the conventional loan is still the most popular, FHA is ideal for those with credit and/or financial challenges.

Because the loan is guaranteed by the American taxpayer, standards differ a bit from conventional loans. One of the biggest differences is the appraisal process.

Since we get so many questions about this aspect of the FHA-backed loan, we thought we’d devote today’s post to clearing up the confusion.

Appraisals, in a nutshell

The home appraisal process has one aim: to determine an estimate of the current market value of a property.

Just as you wouldn’t sell your used car without consulting the Kelly Blue Book or other evaluation guide, so a lender won’t lend money to purchase a home without knowing the home’s value.

Appraisals are performed by unbiased professionals, hired by the lender. The appraiser will visit the home and inspect both the interior and exterior before comparing it to similar sold homes in the area.

FHA appraisals

The appraiser of a home being purchased with an FHA-backed loan must be approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Aside from coming up with an estimated market value, he or she also checks that the property is in compliance with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development standards for safety and health.

These standards include:

  • All stairways in and outside the home must have handrails.
  • There must be at least one closet in each bedroom.
  • The home must be free of structural problems.
  • Each bedroom must have both access and egress to the outside of the home.
  • The appraiser will ensure that the lot is graded to slope away from the home. This prevents moisture from intruding into the basement or foundation.
  • The appraiser will also check for the presence of lead-based paint, if the home was built prior to 1978.
  • The HVAC system must be in good working order.

Any of these requirements that aren’t met during the appraiser’s inspection must be remedied before FHA will guarantee the loan.

What if the FHA appraisal is low?

If the FHA appraisal amount is less than the amount that you’ve agreed to pay for the home, you still have options. The three most common scenarios are as follows:

  • Request that the seller reduce the price to the appraised value. Many homeowners will balk at this. An experienced listing agent will explain to them, however, that no matter who buys the home, if they aren’t paying cash, they’ll need to get a loan and loans require appraisals. There is a very good chance that the next appraisal will be the same, or close to the amount this appraiser determined.
  • Increase the amount of your down payment. This reduces the amount of money you need to borrow.
  • The buyer walks away from the purchase.

What if you suspect the appraiser is mistaken?

Appraisers sometimes make mistakes. Before walking away from the purchase, ask your real estate agent to run the comps again. If he or she finds that the value is higher than what the appraiser estimated, if the appraiser clearly made a mistake, you may be able to appeal to the FHA.

Unlike conventional loans and appraisals, the FHA has the sole discretion to say yay or nay to an appeal. You’ll need solid documentation of the mistakes you’re claiming. Even then, you may not be granted an appeal. But, it’s worth the attempt.

Speak with your lender about how to start the process and try to enlist the lender’s backing of your claims.

Decorating tips for that area between the house and detached garage

The ideal landscape contains a balance of both hardscape elements – rocks, fences, patios, walkways, pavers – and softscape elements – trees, plants, anything living. Achieving this balance, whether with a nod to aesthetics or practicality, can be challenging.

When you have a spot of hardscape, such as a patio, lying between your house and garage, it’s tempting to use it simply as a pass-through from the car to the house, and many people do just that. It’s not difficult, however, to transform that space into an elegant, whimsical or relaxing outdoor retreat.

Whether you want a quiet, private space to enjoy your morning coffee or an area to entertain, here are some patio ideas between the house and detached garage.

Enclose it

Keep prying eyes out of the area and make it cozier by enclosing the patio on the two open sides. Enclosing it also creates an instant courtyard and a blank slate on which to work your creative magic.

The editors of Better Homes and Garden magazine suggest that the enclosure doesn’t have to be a solid fence, but anything that gives the area the feel of being enclosed.

They claim that “A vine-covered trellis or a hedge may close in a small space (perhaps less than 10 feet square) without making it feel claustrophobic.”

If you choose to use a fence, be sure to add something to soften the lines and make it less imposing. Plants are ideal for this situation, especially if you use trees and plants with various heights and textures.

An alternative to using plants to soften the hard lines of a fence or wall is to treat them as you do your indoor walls, by painting them. Stain is another option.

Once the walls are dry, hang waterproof artwork in frames to match your theme, or candle sconces, which will also add a soft glow to dinners on the patio.

Turn it into a courtyard

Courtyards, by definition, are enclosed on the sides and open to the sky. Many people, however, choose to cover the patio so that they can use it year-round.

What to use as a “roof” can be as simple as an umbrella on a small patio, a shade sail or awning or an elaborate pergola, covered in vines.

Keep in mind that when you block out the sky, the space will feel much smaller. If you’re already dealing with a small space you may have to scale back on outdoor furniture and other accessories to maintain an open feeling.

Furnish it

Creating outdoor rooms, that mirror those we find indoors, is becoming quite popular and the sky is the limit when choosing outdoor furniture.

In a large space you can divide the patio into rooms, such as using an outdoor sofa, coffee table and chairs to create a “living room,” or designate a kitchen area complete with a brick oven and outdoor refrigerator and sink.

Small patios benefit from furniture as well, even if you can only fit a small bistro table and two chairs.

Accessorize it

Take a tip from indoor decorators when considering accessories for the patio.

Artwork on the walls or even a mural adds color and character. Wall fountains don’t take up much space and can mask road noise and add ambiance. Hang strings of outdoor lights through the trees.

Other accessories to consider, depending on your space and design, include:

  • A fire pit or chimney to keep you warm on chilly evenings
  • Misters to cool you off on a warm day
  • Sculptures and plaques to add whimsy or texture
  • Decorative birdfeeders for your feathered friends

Give it a theme

If you’re having a difficult time deciding which furniture and accessories to use, it might help if you come up with a theme first. Once you have a theme in mind, you can shop for furniture and accessories and even plants that fit the theme. Here are several themes other gardeners use for their patios:

  • Southwest
  • Tropical
  • Cottage
  • Farmhouse
  • Resort
  • Coastal
  • Asian
  • Modern
  • Mediterranean

Find inspirational themes at

Plant It

The softscape components of your patio are just as important as the hardscape. If the patio is edged with planting beds, consider yourself fortunate.

If you don’t have beds you can still add plants to the patio by growing them in containers. Even certain varieties of trees do well in a suitable sized container so don’t shy away from larger plants.

If you combine more than one type of plant in a hanging planter, choose plants that have the same water, light and nutrient requirements, cautions Randy Drinkard, with the University of Georgia Center for Urban Agriculture.

In your decorating frenzy, don’t forget that this patio is the egress from the house and the detached garage, so leave room for folks to traverse that route.

Another place to find landscaping ideas is in new home developments. The model homes are typically professionally and tastefully landscaped and most patios are staged for potential buyers.

Still stuck for ideas? Check out these ideas for courtyards and these, for patios, at


Don’t-miss spots to tackle during spring cleaning

One year ago, on March 20, 2020, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak closed the iconic Las Vegas Strip.

Children across the country began going to school online and “Coronavirus,” “Coronavirus Symptoms” and “Coronavirus update” ranked among the top 5 Google searches.

This year isn’t a whole lot different, with the exception that Americans are stay-at-home-weary.

Spring is springing, however, and there is no virus that will stop it. Whether or not you’re still stuck at home, consider getting that spring cleaning started.

The experts claim that if no-one in the home suffered from the virus, your spring-cleaning ritual from years past will suffice.

If someone in the home did suffer from COVID-19, follow the CDC’s instructions for cleaning. You’ll find them at

We’ve rounded up some cleaning tips that homeowners may not consider (but they should) when they’re spring cleaning. This week, we start with the air you breath (and smell).

Filters, filters and more filters

Most homeowners forget that there are more filters in the home than the one for the HVAC system.

The drinking water/ice dispenser in your refrigerator-freezer, for instance, “… should be replaced every six (6) months or after every 200 gallons of dispensed water,” according to the pros at

And before you dismiss this chore, consider this:

The refrigerator water dispenser is one of the “germiest” areas of the kitchen (National Sanitation Foundation).

Follow the instructions in your appliance’s owner’s manual and make changing this filter a part of routine home maintenance.

Other filters to put on the list include:

  • HVAC filter: Replace every 3 months
  • Range hood filter: If you cook a lot, clean the filter every 1 to 2 months. If you own a ductless range hood filter: Clean these “… every one to three months or after 120 hours of cooking,” according to the experts with Proline Range Hoods. “If the unit recirculates air through the hood back into the room, it will likely also have a carbon filter behind the screen. Replace these as needed,” recommend the pros at Meticulous Inspections.
  • Dishwasher filter: Clean every 3 to 6 months, depending on how often you run a load of dishes. For tips, see this information at
  • Dryer lint filter: Clean after every load. This will help you to prevent becoming a victim of one of the county’s 2,900 dryer fires, reported each year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
  • 2,900 home clothes dryer fires are reported each year
  • Window screens: Yup, since they filter out dirt and bugs, window screens are considered filters. And, since spring is here, you’ll no doubt want to fling open the windows and let in some fresh air. Check for bends in the screens’ frames, holes and other damage.

Next week, we’ll tackle the kitchen and discuss some of the items that gather the most germs.