Moving With Kids: What Did They Love, Hate, And Learn?

Deciding to move is exciting, but the actual moving part can be downright tough. You try to plan for everything while juggling the process of settling into the new place. But, when you’re moving with kids, it’s a different challenge altogether! Not only are you tasked with helping them understand why they’re moving to a new place, they need help adjusting once you’re all there.

When we first decided to move, our youngest wasn’t on board, but our oldest was. It took a lot of discussion, but eventually everyone was excited for this new chapter. It’s been a month and a half since we moved, so I decided to sit down with my two kiddos, Kennedy (age 14) and Kelsey (age 13), to get their perspective on all things moving and the new house. 

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Kennedy and Kelsey sit down to give their own perspective on moving.

“What was your most favorite part of moving?”

Kennedy: “I love my new room!”
Kelsey: “We didn’t have a bathtub in our last house, so being able to take baths and use bath bombs is fun.”
Me: “Finally getting into the home we’ve been building for the past 6 months. In my head I’ve been planning things out, but it was finally time to make this house our home.”

TIP: When moving with kids, a great way to ease the transition is to celebrate any new home features that maybe you didn’t have before. In our case, we surprised the girls with bath gifts to celebrate having a new bathroom! It’s a small gesture, but can really help if they’re struggling to feel at ease. 

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To celebrate having a new bathroom, we surprised the girls with bath bombs and nail polish.

“What was the most stressful part of moving?” 

Kennedy: Figuring out which box I put my stuff in because I wasn’t very specific with my labeling.
Kelsey: Unpacking took FOREVER.
Me: Coordinating between all the deliveries and different companies who came to the house the first couple days. After that, getting unpacked and still enjoying the new neighborhood, it was definitely a balance.”

TIP: Moving with kids can be another level of stress not only for you, but for them. Having a smart, well-communicated moving plan and organized system in place can help minimize moving anxiety. 

(READ MORE: 5 Stress-Free Tips to Settle Into Your New Home Build!)

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“How have you made your new room feel like home?”

Kennedy: I’m redecorating my room the way that I want and what makes me happy.
Kelsey: I’m being more intentional with my room décor and only keeping things that I really like.
Mom: Even though I’m a DIY/ home décor blogger, I’m letting the girls take full control on their rooms. I haven’t decided if I’m even going to share their rooms on social media out of respect for their privacy. They’re getting older and privacy is a big thing right now.

“What do you wish you’d done to make the moving process easier?”

Kennedy: I should have labeled my boxes better.
Kelsey: I shouldn’t have dumped all my boxes out at once; I should have unpacked them one at a time.
Me: We didn’t have the wire racks put in the closets and wanted to do built ins instead. We should have installed the build-in closet system prior to moving. 

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Kelsey learned the hard way that dumping all the boxes at once wasn’t a good idea.

“What do you feel you need in the new environment? What are your concerns?”

Kennedy: Having everything in place and set up before we go back to school.
Kelsey: Making new friends in the neighborhood.
Mom: I want the girls to get adjusted to being in new schools and hopefully making new friends. We live in a great neighborhood, but they’re both in new schools this year and I want them to not feel so isolated like they did last year.

“What were you most thankful for during the moving process?”

Kennedy: The weather wasn’t too hot and we have a lot more room in our new house to move around.
Kelsey: I feel safer now that we live in a gated community.
Mom: The girls were able to go paddle board on the lake and go to the pool while we did the boring unpacking stuff. It’s great that they had that option and we felt safe letting them go do those things on their own. 

One of the perks of the new house is having a little lake behind the house for the girls to paddle board.

Always Remember to Check In and Show Gratitude

I loved sitting down and hearing what the girls had to say about moving and getting settled. Prior to moving, we all talked about packing, labeling, and unpacking — but in true teenager fashion, they didn’t quite listen. Now, they know firsthand why those plans were in place, and it gave us an opportunity to talk about what they’d learned and would do differently in the future. So take note, moving with kids can create some teachable moments!

Still, I give huge kudos to these two because they have been a tremendous help. Between loading the moving truck, unpacking, helping with the dogs, and countless other things, we were able to have a pretty successful move. Now that we’re almost two months into our new home, the move doesn’t seem that bad and now we can focus on making new memories as a family. 

Questions About Building a New Home?

If you’re considering a new home build, check out Homes.com’s “How to Build” guide, a comprehensive look at the process from start to finish. From financing to finishing touches, it’s your one-stop resource for all your home building questions!


Brooke has a lifestyle blog called Cribbs Style and currently lives in Charleston, SC. This wife, mom of two almost tweens, and mom of three fur children enjoys all things DIY and organizing. When she’s not helping others tackle the chaos of life, she’s either working out, at the beach, or just enjoying time with family and friends.

Source: homes.com

4 Tips for Buying a Fixer-Upper

In this article:

While the process of buying and renovating fixer-upper homes has increased in popularity due to fix-and-flip home improvement TV shows, not everyone is cut out for  major renovation projects. 

In fact, only 19% of homeowners said their home needed serious updates, and only 3% said their home needed a complete overhaul, according to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2020. 

Buying a fixer-upper involves purchasing the least desirable home on the block and overseeing its transformation. Whether you’re considering a fixer as an investment — and you plan to sell after construction is complete — or you’re fixing up a home to make it your own, there’s a lot to consider when buying a fixer-upper, from home price to construction costs to financing. 

What is a fixer-upper home?

A fixer-upper is a home that needs repairs, but not so many that it’s uninhabitable or worthy of being torn down. 

Fixer-uppers are usually offered for a lower price than homes in better condition, which makes them appealing to buyers looking to maximize their purchasing power or investors looking to flip the property and turn a profit. 

Should I buy a fixer-upper home?

Most often, people buy fixer-upper homes because the cost of purchasing the home plus renovation costs may total less than what they’d pay for a comparable home in good condition. 

Here are some of the key reasons buyers decide on buying a fixer-upper:

Reduced price

If you have your eye on a popular neighborhood, either for resale value or your own lifestyle, you may be able to get a better deal buying a fixer upper in your desired location and renovating it than purchasing an already-updated home. 

Customizable improvements

When you purchase a fixer-upper, the sky’s the limit when it comes to fixtures and finishes (within your budget, of course). Renovating a fixer-upper can be ideal for buyers with very specific tastes or those who want more control over the aesthetics of their home. When buying a fixer-upper, you avoid paying for the renovations someone else completed, especially if you don’t like them. 

Older home charm

The character of older homes isn’t easy to replicate. Buying an older home in need of some TLC can allow you to restore and maintain time period details, while bringing the home up to today’s efficiency, safety and comfort standards. 

Make a profit

Whether you’re planning to flip or live in the home for a few years before selling, you may be able to turn a good profit based on the renovations you make. Your return on investment depends on the types of renovations you complete, the materials you use and the quality of the work. If profit is the goal, select popular home improvements in your market to increase property value and appeal to a wide variety of buyers. 

Tax incentives

In some metropolitan areas, such as Philadelphia and Cincinnati, buyers who purchase a fixer-upper and renovate to improve the property value may be eligible for a tax abatement or credit. 

How to find fixer-upper homes

Finding the right fixer-upper is all about where you look. Here are a few strategies for finding the right home. 

Search online: Use Zillow to search for homes below market value. You can search keywords such as “fixer upper,” “needs work” or “TLC” to narrow down potential properties. 

Work with an agent: A local buyer’s agent should be able to help you find fixer-upper homes in your desirable neighborhoods. Well-connected agents may even be able to show you homes that haven’t hit the market yet, via word of mouth. 

Search auctions, foreclosures and short sales: Distressed properties may be in fine structural condition but are sold below market value in order to offload them quickly. It’s important to note that these homes are usually sold as-is, and disclosures might not be available, so be sure you have enough extra money in your budget to cover surprise issues. 

What to look for when buying a fixer-upper home

When shopping for a fixer-upper, prioritize the things you can’t change about a home (like its location), or things that would be too costly to change (like significant structural renovations). Here are key factors to consider:

Location

Location is the most important thing to look for, because it can’t be changed. Look for a fixer-upper in a desirable or an up-and-coming neighborhood in order to maximize potential resale value. Finding the right location will also ensure that you’re happy in the home. Pay attention to things that might be important to you, like school ratings, nearby parks and restaurants and commute times. 

The home’s location will also play a part in determining your renovation budget and estimating the home’s post-renovation value. The quality of finishes and upgrades you select should be in line with comparable homes in the same neighborhood if your goal is to recoup costs on resale.

Layout and size

With a fixer-upper, you might be able to change the layout as you see fit, but pay attention to any design and layout ideas that would require removing load-bearing walls. This can be a costly exercise, and sometimes it’s just not possible. Home additions to increase square footage are also expensive and might not be allowed, depending on local zoning requirements and laws. 

Home condition

There’s a difference between a fixer-upper and a home with significant structural defects. Structural and mechanical problems are a lot more expensive to fix than cosmetic ones. Be sure to hire a home inspector to gain knowledge of the home’s positives and negatives — hiring a home inspector is an invaluable step, even if you’re buying a home as-is. Here’s what should be on your home inspection checklist for a fixer-upper:

  • Strong foundation
  • Up-to-code electrical
  • Proper plumbing
  • Solid roof condition (should come with roof certification)
  • HVAC and/or central AC
  • Functional windows

Straightforward cosmetic updates

Prioritize homes that have outdated or worn out finishes that don’t appeal to the general public but can be updated affordably and without too much effort. Ideally, the fixer-upper you buy will only need cosmetic upgrades. Look for homes with:

  • Peeling or dated paint (interior and exterior)
  • Older bathroom fixtures and tile
  • Dated kitchen cabinetry
  • Laminate or tile countertops
  • Stained carpeting
  • Hardwood floors in need of refinishing
  • Leftover belongings or trash that need to be removed
  • Neglected landscaping
  • Old or non-functioning appliances

How to buy a fixer-upper

Buying a home that needs work can be risky, because you won’t know the full condition of the home until you start tearing down walls. That’s why doing your due diligence on the property and neighborhood ahead of time is key.

Get a professional home inspection

When you put an offer on a house, be sure to include an inspection contingency. An inspection contingency allows you to back out of a deal and get your earnest money deposit back if the inspection reveals that the home has serious hidden defects.

Even homes marketed as being in “as-is condition” can be inspected — the only difference is with an as-is home, the seller is telling you that they do not want  to make any repairs based on your findings. 

The buyer is responsible for the cost of  an inspection, which ranges between $250 and $700, depending on the size of the home and your location. In addition to a general inspection, you might also opt for specialized inspections for trouble areas. Common specialty inspections include pests, sewer lines, radon, lead-based paint and structural inspections. Costs for specialty inspections are similar to general inspections. 

A structural inspection reviews the home’s structural integrity, but also lets you know of any natural hazards nearby that could impact the resale value or your own health and safety. You may also consider hiring a structural engineer to assess the property before you make an offer. It will cost between $500-$700 but could save you thousands of dollars in future foundation repairs.

Hire an architect and general contractor

An architect can create a new layout for a home, create plans and blueprints and tell you what is and isn’t possible. Some cities require you to submit architectural plans to acquire home permits, making an architect a necessity. The average cost for an architect is around $5,000, depending on the scope of your project. 

Your home inspector should be able to give you a rough estimate of what it would cost to adequately repair problem areas that come up in an inspection, but since they’re not the one who will be doing the work, it’s best to get a more accurate quote from a contractor. Whatever they quote you, add a 10% contingency for any problems that come up along the way. Be sure to get quotes from a few contractors and do your due diligence in checking their licensing and customer reviews. 

Budget for improvements

Working with your contractor, be sure that your budget takes into consideration all applicable costs. Don’t forget to include:

  • Permit fees, if applicable
  • Cost of materials, like flooring, paint, light fixtures, cabinetry, countertops and hardware
  • Cost of labor, including general contractors, plumbers, electricians and inspectors
  • Cost of living during renovations, if the home will be uninhabitable during the project

Know your limits

Above and beyond the financial concerns, you also need to gauge your tolerance for a major renovation project, especially if you plan to save money by doing some of the work yourself. Home renovations are not as easy as they look on TV and if it’s your first time, a lot can go wrong. Even if everything goes right, there’s a lot of hassle involved in a large-scale construction project. You’ll have to live in a construction zone or move elsewhere temporarily, while still paying all the carrying costs for the home. 

If the thought of a months-long renovation is more than you’re willing to take on, but you’re looking for a move-in-ready home, consider a Zillow-owned home. Every home has been recently repaired for buyers to avoid costly surprises. 

Financing options with fixer-upper loans

You can purchase a fixer-upper with a traditional conventional loan then pay for all the improvements out of pocket. Or, you can get a fixer-upper mortgage that’s designed to help you finance both the house itself and the renovations. Common types of home loans for fixer-uppers are: 

FHA 203(k) standard

An FHA 203(k) Standard loan finances the purchase and renovation of a primary residence. Here are the key requirements:

  • Minimum credit score of 500 with a down payment of 10%, or a credit score of at least 580 with down payment of 3.5%
  • The total cost of the loan must fall under FHA mortgage limits in your area
  • No luxury improvements (like pools) are allowed, but structural work is allowed
  • Requires a HUD consultant to approve the architectural plans, oversee payments to contractors and review inspections to ensure the home meets structural integrity and energy efficiency standards
  • There are limits on how soon you can resell (not within 90 days)
  • The contractor is paid out of an escrow account managed by the lender

FHA 203(k) streamlined

This financing option has similar requirements as the FHA 203(k) Standard, but it’s meant for simpler, cosmetic renovation projects, as it has a spending limit. 

  • Minimum credit score of 500 with a down payment of 10%, or a credit score of at least 580 with down payment of 3.5%
  • For cosmetic upgrades under $35,000
  • There are limits on how soon you can resell (not within 90 days)
  • The contractor is paid out of an escrow account managed by the lender

HomeStyle loan

A HomeStyle loan is a combination home loan and home improvement loan, guaranteed by Fannie Mae. 

  • Minimum credit score of 620; minimum down payment of 3 or 5%, depending on a few factors like owner occupancy, first-time home buyer status and income
  • Allows for other improvements that aren’t covered under an FHA 203(k), like pools and landscaping—but note that all improvements need to be “permanently affixed to real property (either dwelling or land)”
  • The contractor is paid out of an escrow account managed by the lender
  • You must use a certified contractor

CHOICERenovation

A CHOICERenovation loan is a combination home loan and home improvement loan, guaranteed by Freddie Mac. 

  • You can finance renovations that cost up to 75% of a home’s value
  • Money can be used for upgrades that prevent natural disasters
  • You can DIY the work and get a down payment credit
  • Requires multiple appraisals to ensure you’re upholding the terms of the contract and that the agreed-upon renovations make the home meet its estimated value

Source: zillow.com

When You Should and Shouldn’t Purchase Mortgage Points

When buying a home, there seems to be a ton of jargon to sort through and an endless sea of decisions to make, especially if you’re wanting to finance the purchase with a loan. Depending on your situation, lenders and real estate agents may suggest buying discount points during the homebuying process. But, what is a “point,” and what does it mean to buy one? If you aren’t sure, you’re not alone. While they’re not a solution for every financing scenario, understanding mortgage points may actually save you thousands of dollars over the life of a loan!

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What Are Mortgage Points?

Mortgage points, sometimes also referred to as “discount points” are fees you pay to your lender in exchange for a lower mortgage interest rate. Essentially, you’re paying more upfront to pay less over time.

While the name uses the term “points,” it’s easier to think of mortgage points as “discount percentages.” The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau explains that each point equals one percent of your loan amount. For example, if your loan amount is $200,000, then one point would equal $2,000, two points would be $4,000, etc. Typically, purchasing a point will lower your interest rate by a quarter of a percent; so, if your $200,000 loan is approved at a 4.5% rate, paying $2,000 upfront could lower your interest rate to 4.25%. Most lenders will also allow you to purchase fractions of points if you desire.

It’s important to note that mortgage points are paid in addition to closing costs and are out-of-pocket expenses for the buyer.

When Should You Purchase Mortgage Points?

While not every buyer can (or should) purchase mortgage points, they are a great solution for many buyers depending on what future plans are. Buyers who intend to stay with the initial loan long term (i.e., won’t be refinancing or selling) could benefit greatly from purchasing them, because they will remain in the loan long enough to recoup the upfront costs of purchasing those points, and save money over the life of their loan.

For example, in the current market, it’s expected that mortgage rates will start to rise by year’s end, and may continue to rise for quite some time. In this case, most homeowners won’t opt to refinance (after all, who wants to refinance into a higher interest rate?), which makes getting the best rate on a loan now and sticking with it long term the more ideal scenario.

When Should You Avoid Purchasing Mortgage Points?

Having a lower interest rate sounds appealing, but purchasing mortgage points may not be the best course of action for everyone. Depending on your loan and unique situation, it could be years before you recoup the costs of purchasing loan points. In fact, depending on the amount of mortgage points purchased, it could take the entire life of the loan to break even on the out-of-pocket expense of the discount points. Plus, if mortgage rates fall and you decide to refinance, any money paid for points on the original loan would become a wasted expense.

The Mortgage Reports cautions, “Paying a fee to lower your mortgage rates might make sense over a 5- or 10- or 30-year time window. But, if you plan to move within a few years; or refinance your loan, you’ll likely never recoup your initial investment.”

In short, if you only plan to live in the home for a few years, buying mortgage points won’t be a worthy expense because you won’t be in the loan long enough to reap the benefits. A better alternative could be to use those funds for a higher down payment.

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What About Other Mortgage Costs?

Another consideration: lenders require private mortgage insurance (PMI) if the down payment is less than 20% of the purchase price. PMI expenses vary from lender to lender, but tend to range from 0.5 to 1.5% of the original loan amount. Using our $200,000 example, that would tack on an additional $1,000 to $3,000 each year until a loan-to-value ratio of 80% is reached.

In this scenario, increasing your down payment instead of paying for points could be the more ideal solution, because it will get you closer to reaching the 80% loan-to-value ratio required to cancel PMI. On that $200,000 loan, increasing your down payment from 5% to 10% would not only reduce your principle (in other words, your money would go straight to the loan instead of the bank), it could also reduce the length of time you have to make PMI payments by almost two years, thus saving you more money.

Mortgage Points are Specific to the Individual

To know if purchasing mortgage points is the best option for you, it’s important to consult your lender to calculate the savings versus cost for your specific situation. An experienced lender will be able to weigh the options of a larger down payment versus paying for discount points, and also help navigate more complex scenarios such as loans for investment properties. In the meantime, if you’re looking for more insights into the mortgage process, visit the Homes.com Mortgage Hub.


Jennifer is an accidental house flipper turned Realtor and real estate investor. She is the voice behind the blog, Bachelorette Pad Flip. Over five years, Jennifer paid off $70,000 in student loan debt through real estate investing. She’s passionate about the power of real estate. She’s also passionate about southern cooking, good architecture, and thrift store treasure hunting. She calls Northwest Arkansas home with her cat Smokey, but she has a deep love affair with South Florida.

Source: homes.com

What You Should Know About Easements and Rights-of-Way

Don’t be startled to discover that you must “share” part of your land.

In certain types of real estate transactions, it’s not until the middle of the deal that home buyers realize the land they’re purchasing with their home is not 100% theirs. They are startled to discover that they must allow their neighbors to “share” part of their land, or that the local utility company has a right to access a pipe buried in their back yard.

How can this be? In both examples, the properties have what’s known as an “easement,” otherwise known as a “right-of-way.” This easement grants other designated people the right to specific types of access. Easements can be granted to another person, such as a neighbor, or to an entity, such as an electric and gas utility.

A property easement is generally written and recorded with the local assessor’s office. The documented easement will show up when a title search is conducted and it stays there indefinitely, unless both parties agree to remove it.

Without getting too deep into legal details, here are the types of easements worth knowing about.

1. Right-of-way through your property

As a homeowner, you would probably assume that you’re purchasing the land around your home, front yard, back yard and driveway. But that’s not always the case. Often, when you review the preliminary title report, you may discover that someone actually has a right-of-way through your property.

This is common in the case of a long driveway or a home that may be set back from the street. It could have been that in order for a neighboring home to have been built, that property’s owner negotiated with a previous owner to gain a right-of-way through the front of the parcel or driveway for the home you are buying.

In this scenario, you own the land, but the owner of the neighboring property has been granted right to pass through your property. In some instances, the previous owner might have been compensated for granting this access. The important thing to know is that easement carries over when a new owner assumes the property.

2. Right-of-way grant

If you’re the homeowner who needs access to a neighboring property, or you discover that the driveway or walkway to your home is actually not 100 percent yours, there’s usually nothing you need to do. It’s just important to be aware of these conditions, and that this is not entirely your land.

Depending on the size of the easement and the type of land it covers, there may be some issues regarding maintenance. For example, it may be your responsibility to keep up the land: Mowing the lawn, shoveling the pathway or maintaining a fence. If there’s a maintenance ambiguity, check with the current seller to understand how she and the other owner worked this out in the past. Many times an easement like this, known as a “Right-of-Way Grant,” has been on title through the course of three or four owners, making the original intentions or understandings not explicit. Understanding how the easement has worked in most recent practice is your best course of action.

3. Other types of easements

Anyone who lives in a condominium or some type of planned development likely spends many hours working on property they don’t own outright but have access to. Most likely, the condo or planned development’s homeowners association (HOA) actually owns those areas, but each resident or owner has a right to pass through, which is one obvious type of easement.

But some easements aren’t so obvious and take buyers and homeowners by surprise. A classic example is one in which a utility company, such as an electric and power company or a telephone company, has an easement through your land for the purpose of maintaining the utility.

There was a situation near San Jose, CA, in which the electric and gas utility had an easement through someone’s backyard. It had been on title for many years, but the existing owners didn’t know about it. One day, the electric company showed up with digging machines and materials and made a mess of the yard digging to fix a faulty line. Though the owners were shocked, there was nothing they could do.

Situations like these show why it pays to be cautious if an easement shows up in a property title search. Ask the title company, attorney or your real estate agent to retain all documents pertaining to the original easement in order to review the details. That way, you will know the exact location of the easement, its size and scope and how it’s to be utilized.

Often, there’s not a problem with easements, but it’s still important to check. Any potential red flags might wind up affecting the value of your home.

In the case of the house in San Jose, for instance, what if the utility company had done permanent damage? What would be the homeowner’s recourse, if any? It’s best to vet these things before closing, rather than facing a serious real estate dilemma down the road.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Source: zillow.com

How to Protect Yourself From a Mechanics Lien

Every homeowner who’s considering hiring a contractor to do some work in or around their house should make sure they’re familiar with their state’s mechanics lien laws before making a decision. Never heard of a mechanics lien? You’re not alone. Let’s uncover what it is and why you should protect yourself from it.

Think Twice About Not Paying

If you wind up having a beef with the contractor you employ for builds or repairs – poor workmanship, perhaps, or maybe they walked off the job before it was completed or failed to finish the work in a timely manner as promised – and you decide not to pay, that contractor can respond by attaching your house to a legal claim for unpaid work until some kind of settlement is reached.
That could turn into a waiting game if you are not considering selling your home. But, if you intend to put your home on the market in the near future, that lien could stop you in your tracks.
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What EXACTLY is a Mechanics Lien?

Sometimes known as a materialmans lien, every state has a a mechanics lien law granting tradespeople a way to protect themselves from those who fail to pay them for services and time rendered.
Here’s how Rusty Adams, a research attorney for the Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M University, described it in a recent edition of Terra Grande, the Center’s monthly magazine:
“It is an equitable interest that gives its holder the right to have satisfaction out of the property to secure payment on a debt. It is not title to the property, and a lien holder does not have ownership rights. Rather, it is an equitable interest that gives the lien holder the right to have satisfaction out of the property to secure the payment of a debt.”
In other words, it is an encumbrance the property owner must deal with, one way or another. Otherwise, it could result in a foreclosure and forced sale of your house.

How Mechanics Liens Work

None of what follows should be considered legal advice. Rather, it is intended only as a brief, mile-high overview.
A mechanics lien can be filed by anyone with a claim against the property. This concept isn’t new; for example, Uncle Sam can place a lien if you fail to pay your taxes, as can your state. Your homeowners association can do the same if you don’t pay your dues or a special assessment.
In the case of work done to your house, the contractor can file if you fail to pay, even if you feel you’re justified in withholding. The company from which he or she gets their supplies – roof shingles, for instance – can also file against your house if the contractor doesn’t pay them. And if the contractor uses subcontractors, they, too, can go against the house if the contractor doesn’t pay them.
The “very broad” law in Maryland “covers almost everything,” attorney Harvey Jacobs says. For example, if the developer doesn’t pay the paving company hired to cover your cul-de-sac, the company can file a mechanics lien against every house that touches that street. Ditto for the outfit hired to landscape, sod and plant shrubs.
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How to Protect Against Mechanics Liens

Fortunately, lien laws afford owners some protections. In some places, the amount owed must be of at least a certain amount. They also must be filed within a certain number of days from when the work was completed, and may require the property owner to be notified within a specified time that a lien has been filed.
The rules, which also apply to subs and suppliers, can be somewhat tricky for an owner to decipher. But the absolute best way to protect yourself is to require the contractor to provide lien releases before you pay anything more than your down payment. In other words, no draws or final payment until he or she certifies that everyone in the chain has been paid.
Often, says Texas attorney Adams, a notice of intent to file or the actual filing is enough to resolve the debt attached to the property without going through the process itself.
Once payment has been received, a contractor has a duty to remove the notice or the lien itself from public records. Failure to do so allows the property owner to file a lawsuit against the contractor to compel the lien’s removal. But to avoid that, Adams suggests making sure the release has been recorded.

(READ MORE: The Difference Between a Handyman and a Contractor)

Some Important Distinctions

A lien release is not the same as a lien waiver. Nor is it the same as a lis pendens. While a release removes an existing lien, a waiver is an agreement that prohibits a contractor or supplier from placing a lien on the property. But some states don’t permit waivers at all.
A lis pendens, which is Latin for “suit pending,” is a written notice that a lawsuit has been filed in the county land records office involving either the title to the property or a claimed ownership interest in it. The notice alerts a potential purchaser or lender that the property’s title is in question, making it less attractive, if only because the buyer or lender is subject to the suit’s ultimate outcome.
Beyond this, it is crucial for a homeowner to ensure the contractor, subcontractor or supplier has followed the rules of the road.  In Texas, said Adams, the claimant must give the appropriate preliminary notices, make the proper filing and give filing notice to the property owner.
mechanics lienmechanics lien
In Maryland, the unpaid amount must be at least 15% of the property’s assessed value. So if the house is assessed at $100,000, the lien must be for $15,000 or more. “Small jobs don’t count,” Jacobs said. Contractors must also file a lien within 180 days of performing the work in Maryland, but subs must file within 120 days.
In neighboring D.C., though, there is no minimum to file, and the contractor, supplier or sub has only 90 days to file.
(Note: In the case of mechanics liens, property value is an evidentiary question. Courts often use assessed value in deciding whether a lien can be brought.)
In Texas, though, contractors aren’t required to provide a preliminary notice, but they are required to present a list of all subs and suppliers before starting work. But subs and suppliers who have a contract with the original contractor must send notices to both the contractor and the homeowner by the 15th day of the second month.
As you can see, once you get into the tall grass with mechanics liens, it becomes fairly complicated. It’s at this point that it may be time to consult legal counsel.


Lew Sichelman

Syndicated newspaper columnist, Lew Sichelman has been covering the housing market and all it entails for more than 50 years. He is an award-winning journalist who worked at two major Washington, D.C. newspapers and is a past president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

Source: homes.com

How to Decide Your Offer Price in a Strong Seller’s Market

As a buyer in this intense seller’s market, you may have experienced this unfortunate scenario: You find the perfect house, make what you believe is a strong offer, wait on pins and needles to see if it was accepted, only to find that you haven’t won this round of bidding wars. It begs the question: how do you choose your offer price so you know it’s competitive right out of the gate?

What the Current Market is Demanding of Buyers

As cash offers have risen sharply and multiple offer situations have become the norm, buyers are having to bring more to the table, employ strategic tactics, and work with an experienced, full-time real estate agent. But one of the biggest questions buyers are navigating these days isn’t merely how much they’re willing to offer; they’re having to decide how much they’re willing to offer over list price. And while there isn’t a perfect formula to help a buyer decide, there are several things to consider when creating a purchase offer that could help it stand a chance of winning a bidding war.

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How Much To Offer On A Home

The median existing home price is up over 17% from March 2020, and what this means for buyers is that they will need to pay substantially more than they probably want to pay and more than they would’ve paid just one year ago.

In some markets, offering a few thousand dollars over list price might be all it takes to win a bidding war. But in other markets, offering $50,000 over still won’t get the job done. Since real estate is a local endeavor, it’s critical to work with an experienced buyer’s agent that has a pulse on the current trends of your market.

Tips when deciding on the offer price:

  • Have your buyer’s agent pull the localized data on recent home sales to determine what percentage of the list price the previous sales received.
  • Determine if the local comps support a higher purchase price than the current list price.
  • Evaluate how much liquid cash you have to pay over appraisal value if need be.
  • Before you agree to an escalation clause, make sure your agent fully explains how they work.
  • In most cases, you don’t get to know what others are bidding on the home. You are blindly bidding against someone else, so in this market, offer your best right out of the gate, keeping in mind that the highest isn’t always the best if it means you’ll wind up “house poor.”

Other Ways To Strengthen Your Offer

There’s a reason real estate contracts are several pages long, and price is only one small section in the offer. While presenting a strong purchase price is critical, there are other factors that make up a home purchase contract — which means there are other ways to strengthen an offer in this seller’s market!

Remove Contingencies

One of the biggest ways buyers weaken their offer is by including contingencies. The most common contingency is the home sale contingency—the purchase is contingent upon the sale of their home. While needing to sell in order to buy is common and reasonable, in this market, sellers are just not wanting to entertain these offers if they can avoid it.

Buyers should consult their lender to see if they can safely purchase without having to sell. In addition, work with your real estate agent to determine a reasonable list price and sale price to get your home sold quickly. And while it’s not ideal, buyers should consider selling first and living in temporary or month-to-month housing while they search for a home to avoid having a contingency offer. If a home sale contingency is necessary, buyers can strengthen their offer by adding a kick-out clause.

Remove Requests

If you’re considering asking the seller to pay for your closing costs, you should rethink it depending on your local market. A strong offer these days means that it’s “clean” and over list price, so sellers won’t be likely to consider requests for concessions, personal property, or any others. Before buyers begin their home search, they should educate themselves on the upfront costs of purchasing a home, and become familiar with loan programs available to buyers that assist with some of those upfront costs.

Forego Repairs Or Offer A Repair Threshold

In this market, sellers are doing less and getting more. They’re not wanting to spend thousands on repairs, especially when there’s plenty of buyers who would purchase it “as is.” That said, offers that forego inspection and repairs or offer a repair threshold stand out among the crowd.

While waiving an inspection altogether can be highly risky (and is often not recommended), it is happening in many markets. But, if you still wish to have the comfort and protection of a professional home inspection without sabotaging your offer, consider an offer that specifies there will be no requests for repairs, or that you will request repairs only if they meet a certain financial threshold. This tactic gives buyers the protection of an inspection discovery while also reassuring the seller that they won’t be nickel-and-dimed on repairs.

Include An Appraisal Gap

In years past, the appraisal price was the dominant factor in the transaction and one of the biggest protection for buyers. Now, however, buyers are readily agreeing to pay well over appraisal. By including an appraisal gap in a purchase offer, buyers can substantially strengthen their offer. An appraisal gap is when a buyer agrees to pay all or some of the shortage between the offer price and the appraisal value. It’s important to remember that banks will only lend on the appraised value, so any appraisal gap is the out-of-pocket responsibility of the buyer.

What NOT To Do In A Seller’s Market

The best way to get your offer accepted? Submit an excellent offer and keep it ethical. Submitting a subpar offer but including a buyer love letter is no longer the way to win a bidding war. Not only is it risky, but it can also potentially violate federal law. So forego the love letter and instead submit your strongest, cleanest offer for the best chance to stand out from the crowd. It might not be the most convenient scenario, but if you’re really wanting to buy, it could mean all the difference between getting that coveted house or staying in the search pool!


Jennifer is an accidental house flipper turned Realtor and real estate investor. She is the voice behind the blog, Bachelorette Pad Flip. Over five years, Jennifer paid off $70,000 in student loan debt through real estate investing. She’s passionate about the power of real estate. She’s also passionate about southern cooking, good architecture, and thrift store treasure hunting. She calls Northwest Arkansas home with her cat Smokey, but she has a deep love affair with South Florida.

Source: homes.com

5 Stress-Free Tips to Settle Into Your New Home Build!

For the last 6 months we’ve watched as our new home build was brought to life from the ground up. Seeing the floor plan and all our design choices come together was such a fun part of the process! As the house crept closer to completion, we packed and prepped for our big move.

The week before closing day, we met with the builder and walked the home looking for any items that needed to be fixed, drywall that needed patching, ensuring appliances worked, etc. The day of closing we walked the house again to make sure all the things we found were fixed and taking note of any items that still needed to be addressed (for example, our shower glass was delayed). Finally, we signed the papers and this long-awaited new home build was all ours! Now that we’re moving in, here are the 5 tips I’m practicing as we start settling into living in our new home. 

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Gorgeous gift from our sales agent.

Expect Controlled Chaos on Moving Day and While Unpacking

I find no matter how well you mark the boxes and have a plan for moving in, the process can still be overwhelming. This is especially true for a new home build. In my head, I already had an idea of where I wanted things to go and how I wanted things to function. But, once we started moving our stuff in, I realized that while we gained space in a lot of areas, we actually lost a few key things we were used to in our prior home, like a junk drawer. But it was ok! I came up with a creative solution simply by moving the junk drawer to another location. 

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Getting the moving truck loaded up.

Keep a Punch List

With a new home build you may have a few follow up meetings with your builder to review things you find that are either broken, not working as they should, are missing, etc. We opted for a 2-week meeting, 30-day meeting, and 11-month final meeting.

Until those meetings happen, keep a list of anything that you find that needs attention. For example, we found a missing piece of shoe molding in the girls bathroom, our outdoor flood light isn’t working correctly, and our kitchen range is acting sort of funky. Keeping this list will ensure we don’t forget anything in those key meetings. 

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Missing shoe moulding on the floor next to the cabinet.

Unpack One Room at a Time

I know this kind of goes hand and hand with the first tip, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. Your first instinct might be to unpack a little here and there in each room, but that can actually be more stressful because it makes it harder to achieve that motivating satisfaction of a completed space.

We chose to unpack the kitchen first since it’s the hub of our home. Seeing all the boxes everywhere made my head spin, but I found that if I focus on one room at a time, it kept me from spiraling and getting overwhelmed. We then unpacked the girls rooms because it was super important that they get settled in and start feeling like they’re home. Everything else next fell into place. 

Save Decor for Last

I designated a non-bedroom closet to hold all our pictures and decor items so I could focus on getting the furniture and other major items in their place. Once all that’s done, it makes it so much easier to start decorating because nothing will have to be moved again. The visual clutter can be overwhelming, but by keeping the decor items out of the way it allowed my brain to realize I didn’t need to keep looking at those stressful boxes. Plus, it was an incentive to get unpacked so I could get to the fun part of moving! 

(READ MORE: Why We Build a New Home, and What We Learned Along the Way)

Give Yourself Grace

Thankfully, we have a bit more space where we need it in this home compared to the home we moved from. However, we opted not to have the wire closet systems installed in the bedrooms and instead purchased a closet system which will function more efficiently. Unfortunately, there’s a shipping delay which means the closets will take a lot longer to unpack.

Bottom line: life happens, and it’s much easier to just roll with the punches. Moving into your new home build is exciting, but it doesn’t have to be unpacked in a day. We’re taking our time and thinking through how we really want the house to function, which will hopefully eliminate needing to redo anything in the future. This closet pause is temporary and a year from now won’t even matter. 

Without clear expectations, moving can certainly be frustrating. But remember, everything will eventually find a place to live in the new home. We’ll establish a natural function and flow as we continue to live in our home. And in the meantime, we’ll get to watch this house turn into the home we envisioned in our minds on a piece of paper so many months ago!

Advice For Your New Home Build!

If you’re considering a new home build, check out Homes.com’s “How to Build” guide, a comprehensive look at what goes into new builds. From financing to finishing touches, it’s your one-stop resource for all your home building questions!


Brooke has a lifestyle blog called Cribbs Style and currently lives in Charleston, SC. This wife, mom of two almost tweens, and mom of three fur children enjoys all things DIY and organizing. When she’s not helping others tackle the chaos of life, she’s either working out, at the beach, or just enjoying time with family and friends.

Source: homes.com

6 Tips to Negotiating Your Lease Agreement

The time to negotiate your lease agreement is not when you are sitting down at the table with the landlord or property manager ready to sign the agreement.  You need to talk the terms through before the lease signing date is set, but not until after you have an approved application.  If you start off the initial conversation with the landlord/property manager requesting lease term negotiations, you will probably rub them the wrong way.

1. Make Sure The Timing Is Right

As a property manager, I get first-time phone calls from potential tenants wanting to know if I will take a lower amount for the rent.  I don’t even know their name yet, nor if they will qualify for the property, so I am already put off by their request and probably won’t be willing to negotiate anything with them.  You must show some good faith by turning in your application stating your interest in the property.

2. Respect The Landlord’s Rules (Policies) First Before You Start With Your Negotiations

Respect goes a long way.  For example, the landlord may have written into their lease agreement that they have a right to be in unit at any given time in order to make inspections, repairs, etc.  You may not like this and want some sort of notice first before they show up.  So be sure to make your request with a respectful tone and say something along the lines of “I’m fine with your right to inspect the property, however I would like to request a 24-hour notice by phone or e-mail before you come.”  This will go a long way with the landlord/property manager if you respect their terms, they will likely reciprocate.

3. Don’t Be Greedy In Your Negotiation Requests

“Shoot for the moon” should not be your goal in making requests.  Asking for 3 months free of rent AND a reduction in the monthly rent amount will turn off an owner.  They will be more likely to let the property sit vacant for three months in an effort to get the full rent amount. Keep your requests reasonable and scale back any over-the-top ideas.

4. Remember That Negotiations Are Two-Sided

While the market may be favorable for tenants, you still need to have some consideration for the landlord/property manager.  Maybe a reduction in rent is not possible for the whole one-year lease term.  However, maybe the reduction will be considered for the first 4 months and then offer to pay a graduated rent amount for the remainder of the lease term.  If you show an effort of unification and benefit to both parties, they will most likely be willing to work with you.

5. Rent Is Not The Only Thing You Can Negotiate

While you may be trying to get a deal on your monthly rent amounts, the landlord/property manager may be set on receiving a specific amount and may seem to stonewall you on reducing the rent amount.  But you can still negotiate a benefit.  Consider requesting that the landlord/property manager either clean the carpets, paint the interior living room, or offer to have the property generally cleaned once a month for the first 3 months for you.  Or maybe you will be able to work out a security deposit adjustment.

6. Be Sure That All Negotiations Are In Writing and Agreed Upon

If anything is handwritten into the lease agreement, then be sure that all parties initial (or sign) and that it is consistent on all copies of the lease agreement.

Keep a good attitude in check and do not give an aura of an ungrateful or arrogant attitude.  The worst thing that a landlord or property manager can say is “no.”  You are not forced to rent that property, so you can always say “no thank you” too and move on to another property if the lease terms are not what you want.  However, arrogant and ungrateful attitudes will only result in a stronger “no” from the landlord and less tolerance for negotiations and agreements.  Keep that in mind.

Jessica Hickok is a REALTOR® Broker and Property Manager/Landlord with Dizmang Properties, Inc. (www.getpaul.com) in Springfield, Missouri. She can also be found on Twitter as @SugarCube.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Source: zillow.com

Rental Property Investing 101 – Tips for Future Property Moguls

The media and real estate professionals continually report that 2012 is the year to buy real estate. Since home values have dropped considerably, the U.S. median list price has dropped considerably, too. Couple that with interest rates that are the lowest they’ve ever been and it’s a perfect storm of real estate buying opportunity, especially for starting out your career as a landlord.

Note: If you are one of those folks that believes you can predict the future and hopes prices will go down, they may. But interest rates might go up which would nullify any gain you would hope to obtain from any price decrease. But more importantly, all investments fluctuate in value over time. You should not be concerned about short-term fluctuations in a long-term investment, like real estate. If you buy sooner over later, ten years down the road not only will you own more properties overall than someone who waits, but you’ll most likely have earned significant equity in all of them. And you won’t care about any price fluctuations that might have occurred in 2012, 2013, or 2014.

Here are tips to get started. And, if you start a few years out of college, and amass several properties, you will probably be retiring early.

Go for the long haul — Rarely do people increase their wealth by owning property for short periods of time. Long-term investing in cash flow-producing assets like real estate is the way to go.

Don’t’ give up your day job! – You need a solid job to be able to save money for a down payment and be able to obtain financing to buy properties.

Buy cash flow-positive properties – If you don’t understand why to do this, you might want to skip real estate ownership. See “What is a Good Real Estate Investment” article.

Buy a property that you love! – The more you love the property for all the right investment reasons, the better chances you’ll own it long term.

Skip the prize properties – Prize properties have negative cash flows and are NO prize, it’s the moderately priced properties that are the real prizes.

Buy as a personal residence to change to rental – Buy properties in life that make good rental property investment sense and first live in them as a personal residence. When you buy as owner occupant, you get the best financing and can put down a smaller down payment if you so desire. Plus you learn the property characteristics, issues, and can fix issues so they won’t be issues once you make it a rental. Then, move out after one to three years and into your next personal residence that will become a rental property a few years later. This also ensures you will only buy properties in areas where you are willing to live, and that’s very important to do as a real estate investor.

If it sounds too good to be true, it is! – Real estate is high risk as there are many things that can go very wrong. If it sounds too good to be true, be very careful. Once you take ownership of the property, you have to correct the problems and issues,or live with them.

Fully educate yourself for 3-6 months – Talk to other people who own properties, read books, go to the local real estate investment clubs, etc. The better you educate yourself, the higher the chances you will take the proper steps to reduce your risks and make smart and safe decisions.

Buy properties in good shape – Fixer-uppers are money pits and rarely sell at a large enough discount to compensate for all the work needed. Buy properties that are as close to rental ready as possible. A great move, if possible, is to buy a property with a good tenant already renting the property!

Be conservative on your expectations – Always overestimate the amount it will cost to renovate a property, underestimate the rental income you will earn, and overestimate the expenses you will have to pay. Then, when you blow it out of the water, you’ll have a big smile on your face and be able to gloat to all your friends!

Stay away from high vacancy areas or declining cities – Buy properties in nice, moderate, working class areas where there are not too many foreclosures, empty properties, or in a city or area that is in decline.

Start young, but not before you are settled in a particular city – You want to start early, but make sure you’re somewhat settled before you take on this big responsibility. Have fun when you are young, there is still plenty of time to get rich on real estate. Just start saving your pennies for that first down payment.

Death, taxes, and…. – Those two items are guaranteed in life. But, there is one more item if you are a real estate investor, and it’s 100% guaranteed: If you own real estate, you will feel pain along they way. Things will go wrong, but you will recover and will likely look back on the journey with fondness when you retire early.

And let’s end where we started, once again with the most important item in real estate investing:

Go long! – Long-term ownership will give you the highest chances of entering retirement with a nice rental property cash flow stream. And long-term ownership equity gains will compensate for the hassles and issues you have along the way.

Related:

How to Figure Out the Value of Empty Building Lots

Rent to Own Properties are Usually Good for the Sellers, Not the Buyers

Why Property Price Can Be of Low Importance

Leonard Baron, MBA, CPA, is a San Diego State University Lecturer, a Zillow Blogger, the author of several books including “Real Estate Ownership, Investment and Due Diligence 101 – A Smarter Way to Buy Real Estate.” Read useful tips for real estate buyers in his blog, Making Smart and Safe Real Estate Decisions. See more at ProfessorBaron.com.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Source: zillow.com

Pros and Cons of Building on Developed or Undeveloped Land

In the simplest sense, developed land has been fully prepared for home building while undeveloped land has not.  Each has advantages and disadvantages. If you’re thinking about building your home on undeveloped land, be sure to consider the additional work and expenses.

Are We There Yet?

One of the most important things that a developer does with raw land is bring roads onto the site and connect those roads to the public right-of-way. Lots are usually located adjacent to the new road and have direct access to it. If the subdivision remains private, the homeowners will maintain the roads but often they’re deeded to the city and maintained by the municipal service department.

Vehicular access to undeveloped land can be more difficult, although isolation might be one of your primary goals in choosing a rural location. You’ll almost certainly spend much more to build an access road back into the site (I can recall several “driveways” that are more than one-third of a mile long) and you won’t have city snowplows to clear it for you.

Red Tape and Green Paper

Buying a lot in a subdivision means buying into additional layers of government regulation including building departments and homeowner associations. Both groups will have a say about the size, location, design, types of exterior finishes, and maintenance of your house. Municipal building departments usually hold builders to a higher standard of construction quality than rural departments – a definite benefit to the homeowner – but that can mean higher construction costs, too. Subdivisions also usually have minimum house size requirements, so your home might even end up being larger than you want.

On a rural property you’ll have much greater freedom to decide what your home looks like, what it’s made of, and how it’s arranged on the land. And with that design freedom comes more control over the costs of construction. Because the options are far less limited, undeveloped land is where most truly unique custom home designs are built.

Power to the People

The development of a lot in a new subdivision typically includes bringing all utilities onto the site, where the new house is easily connected to them. Electricity, gas, water, and sanitary sewer services are available at the edge of the property, ready to be used.

Undeveloped property won’t have water and sewer taps on site. In fact, there may be no utilities anywhere nearby. Building on undeveloped land usually means providing your own private septic system and water well, installing a propane storage tank for gas appliances, and bringing electric service lines in from a distance – maybe a very long distance.

Can You Dig It?

By the time a subdivision is ready for construction, the developer’s engineers have tested the soil and graded the land for proper drainage. You’ll have access to information about the possibility of sub-surface conditions that might affect your construction plans and in many cases the developer will take some responsibility for the site’s suitability for building.

If you want the same information about your rural property, you’ll have to order and pay for it yourself. Your county extension service can provide some of this information but it may not be recent, or specific to your site. If you discover bad soil or underground rock in your building area, you’ll have no avenue for redress except your own pocketbook.

More Than One Kind of Value

A house in a subdivision may have a temporary price advantage over a “stand-alone” home, since its value will be related to the selling prices of other homes in the area. If you value predictable price appreciation, closer neighbors, and want less “hands-on” involvement in the creation of your house, you’ll probably find your dream home in a development. The majority of American home buyers do just that.

Building on undeveloped land will require more from you, your architect, and your builder. But if you’re willing to assume the risks of undeveloped land; if you’re interested in a truly custom home design; if you want to be more involved in the creation of your home, you might find your piece of paradise somewhere a little further outside of town.

Richard Taylor is a residential architect based in Dublin, Ohio.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Source: zillow.com