Home shopping makes you a little (OK, a lot) house-obsessed. Between stalking online listings, flipping through all the design magazines, and gorging on HGTV marathons, you know exactly what you want in painstaking detail.
Ain’t nobody gonna say you can’t have what you want. And hey, we’re totally on board. You’ve earned this! Buy whatever you like (within your means of course)!
But we’re here to share an unsolicited word of caution. All those custom details you’ve dreamed about? Make sure you really,really want them before you put in an offer—and that, in order to get them, you’re not sacrificing other things that willultimately drive you bonkers.
We could go on and on about the flip sides that have the potential to fill you with regret. But we talked to some experts in the biz and boiled the list down to seven features. Pay close attention to these things that might set you up for the dreaded buyer’s remorse.Is the big backyard really worth all the hours of mowing and landscaping? Is your desire for more space making your home feel less cohesive? Are those floor-to-ceiling windows, which made you fall in love with the home, a total PITA to clean?
1. Don’t go big, just go home
You may want the space to spread out, but consider what rooms you’ll actually use once you move in. Do you really need five bedrooms, a game room, an office, and two formal living rooms? If you buy too big a home, you might end up regretting it when it comes time to cool, heat, andclean the place. And don’t forget room size. If the space is too big, your furniture will seem miniaturized. To avoid going too big (or too small), bring a tape measure and measurements of your own furniture to verify everything will look the way you want.
2. Don’t get boxed in
On the other hand, if you’re planning to stay put for a while, consider the home’s architecture. You may want to expand one day, and not all homes are set up for that. “Many buyers of split-foyer-style homes—where you enter and you’re at midlevel with the stairs and must go up or down—complain that it is difficult to expand their home,” saysCathy Baumbusch, a Realtor® in theWashington, DC, metro area. Instead, look for more flexible, one- or two-story homes where additions are easier.
3. Don’t let your stairs become an uphill battle
Finally, when you’re walking the floor plan, think of how you’ll use the space when you own it, especially if you’re looking at an older home. “Most buyers in my area want the standard three-story—two upper floors and a basement—Colonial-style home,” Baumbusch says. “This type of home often has the laundry room in the basement, which means the family has to haul laundry up and down two flights of stairs. “It can get oldfast.”
4. Get off the island … maybe
What we often consider to be an amenity can create remorse. Take, for example, the kitchen island. It looks cool. It adds more prep space. We all want one. Or do we?“Kitchen islands can be a mistake if you don’t take your ‘work triangle’ into account,” Baumbusch says. Walk around the kitchen, following your usual prepping and cooking pattern. If you’re bumping into the island, you may end up hating it.
5. Pay attention to what’s missing
If the home is modern (or previous owners did some upgrading), take a hard look and ask yourself if anything is missing. Often architects and remodelers will take something out to give a room a cleaner,more minimalist feel, and you may feel the loss after you move in. “There is a trend to eliminate the bathtub in favor of just a shower,” Baumbusch says. “Some homeowners regret that decision, because sometimes they find themselves wishing for a nice long soak after a tough day.”
6. Pools may not be so cool
You step outside, see a pool and immediately picture all the backyard parties you’re going to have. We know, we know, pools are cool. But pools are also a huge expense. On top of the regular monthly maintenance and cleaning (and there will be a lot of that),pools in seasonal areasare often opened and closed by a pro. Those costs add up. “It can cost upward of $600 just to open a pool and prepare it for swimmers,” Baumbusch says. Moral of the story: Pools are a big regret if the expenses cause a burden. Make sure you can comfortably afford the upkeep.
7. Don’t fall for fads
Today’s popular ice-white appliances, steel countertops, and Edison bulb light fixtures are yesterday’s saloon doors, linoleum, and brass hardware. If you buy a house just for its trendy look, you may end up regretting it when the styles change, especially if you have to sell the outdated design. Instead, Baumbusch recommends looking for timeless features. When all is said and done, look for a classic, well-designed home to ensure the smallest chance of stinging regret. It may not sound like as much fun, but you can always add a little (or a lot) of your style in the finishing touches.
The differences between buying and renting are massive. According to the Federal Reserve, a typical homeowner’s net worth was $195,400, while that of renter’s was $5,400. The data reflects 2013 and the next survey of household finances, which is conducted every three years, will be out in 2016. Based on what has happened since 2013 and projecting a conservative assumption of what could happen next year to home prices if we see only 3% price growth, the wealth gap between homeowners and renters will widen even further. The Fed is likely to show a figure of $225,000 to $230,000 in median net worth for homeowners in 2016 and around $5,000 for renters. That is, a typical homeowner will be ahead of a typical renter by a multiple of 45 on a lifetime financial achievement scale.
Though there will always be discussion about whether to buy or rent, or whether the stock market offers a bigger return than real estate, the reality is that homeowners steadily build wealth. The simplest math shouldn’t be overlooked. A vast majority of homebuyers take out a 30-year fixed rate mortgage to make a home purchase. After 30 years, there is no mortgage payment (nor rent payment). So the home price growth over that time period would be the equity that the homebuyer would have accumulated. For example, the median home price of a single-family dwelling in the U.S. thirty years ago in 1985 was $75,500. This year, it will be at least $220,000. That figure of $220,000 is the housing component of the person’s wealth. Even had home prices not risen, the person would still have $75,500 in wealth today – on top of not paying any further monthly mortgage after 30 years.
This simple example does not play out nearly as neatly in the real world, since people do not stay in one residence over the 30 year period. Almost all homeowners trade up, change neighborhoods, or move to a better school district at some point. However, they are able to make those residential relocations due to the housing equity accumulated, even over a shorter period, and can immediately apply that equity to the next home as a downpayment. Therefore the conditions of steadily building housing wealth still hold.
We also know that not everyone can or should be homeowners. The memories of easily accessible subprime mortgages and subsequent harsh foreclosure pains are still fresh, and remind us of the devastating impact on the families involved, local communities, and to the broad economy. In addition most young adults have not developed the financial standing or have found a stable, desirable career and, therefore, choose not be homeowners until later. The homeownership rate among households under the age of 35 is 35% currently and rarely rises above 40% historically. For those under the age of 25, the current ownership rate is 23% and rarely rises above 25%. But the time will eventually come when people want to convert to ownership. By the time people are in their prime-earning years of 45-to-55, nearly three-fourths do eventually become homeowners. By retirement, nearly 80% are homeowners.
A recent survey of consumers commissioned by my organization revealed that 80% believe that purchasing a home is a good financial decision (2015 National Housing Pulse Survey). Most consumers appear to already understand the simple math and the benefits of homeownership. So don’t overthink the matter of whether now is a good time to buy, or whether stock market returns will be better. The exact timing of a home purchase will have little financial impact in the big scheme of things. Just know that homeowners generally do come out ahead of renters in the long run.
Lawrence Yun is Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of Research at NAR. He directs research activity for the association and regularly provides commentary on real estate market trends for its 1 million REALTOR® members.
Marriage and Money: Merging Your Finances By: Navy Federal Credit Union
Combining finances goes deeper than names on the checkbook. Explore ways to make it work for the two of you.
Sharing your life with another is a huge commitment, full of exciting changes and challenges. But once the honeymoon is over, reality sets in—including the need to plan your financial future together.
If you've discussed how to approach your joint finances before the big day, congratulations—you're one step ahead. If you haven't, it's important to sit down and consider some options.
Some couples choose to combine their finances completely, closing old financial and credit card accounts and opening new, joint ones. Potential advantages include:
A clean slate
Ease of budgeting, since there are fewer accounts to keep track of
No delays in access to funds in emergency situations
For this strategy to work, both partners must agree on how the money is to be spent. Even the smallest expenditures may require a discussion, and frequent clashes could arise if one person is a saver and the other a spender.
For those who have long managed their own money, keeping finances entirely separate may seem to be a no-brainer. However, it's not a simple solution. You'll need to determine who pays for what; for example, one spouse may be responsible for paying the rent or mortgage, while the other pays for utilities, food and insurance. Or, you could decide to split expenses and have each partner contribute his or her share.
The advantage of this approach is that both partners are free to spend their discretionary money as they wish, as long as they fulfill their agreed-upon financial responsibilities. However, this method usually works best if both partners make similar salaries. If one earns appreciably more than the other, deciding how to split expenses fairly—in half or proportionally according to income—can be a challenge.
A hybrid approach
This approach combines the merged and separate account strategies. For example, you could set up a joint account or accounts for household bills (rent, mortgage, utilities, insurance, food, etc.) and mutually agreed-upon expenses (such as vacations or entertainment). In addition, each partner would have a separate account or accounts to pay for discretionary items.
This method still poses the same challenges of who contributes how much. However, it may help foster your financial partnership while giving each of you the ability to spend some money independently.
Have "the talk"
Regardless of your approach, it's important to maintain open and honest communication. Be frank with each other about existing debt—your spouse or partner should be aware of how much you owe. Talk about future financial goals, such as buying a home, paying for college, having children and eventual retirement. If each partner has adequate information and equal input into decisions, things may go more smoothly no matter how you divvy up the cash.
As a Navy Federal member, you have access to a wide range of savings, checking and loan products to help you manage your joint and separate finances. You can also talk to a Financial Counselor to help create your strategy as you plan your new life together.
Federally insured by NCUA. This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.
Gone to the dogs? Today’s home design has pets in mind
Homeowners today aren’t just remodeling with their own needs in mind – they are keeping their furry friends in mind as well.
The concept of pet-friendly home design has been growing over the last few years. Today, homeowners are building features directly into their homes to accommodate their pets’ eating, sleeping and exercise needs.
In fact, here are three of the more common pet-focused home design trends across the country:
1. Built-in dog dishes Where to put the dog dish? The answer to this question has some homeowners thinking outside the box. For example, a popular choice is the built-in eating nook into a kitchen island. Other homeowners have made a similar change at the end of the kitchen counters. Dishes can also be built into a floor-level cabinet, so they can slide in and out as needed.
2. Hidden kennels An overarching theme of pet-centric home design is seamless integration. That concept continues with the next design feature: the hidden kennel. Homeowners are building kennels directly into the home itself. The kitchen island is once again a popular spot, but some homes even have one built into the wall. This removes the need for a metal or plastic kennel in a room or the garage.
3. Pet-friendly fabrics The last design trend is as much for the human as for the pets. Homeowners are looking for more ways to keep their homes clean while owning animals, and for many the answer is pet-friendly, stain-resistant fabrics. One popular option is actually indoor-outdoor fabric, which can withstand a wider variety of spills and messes. Best of all, it can clean a whole lot easier.
These are just three pet-focused home design trends. Have you seen any interesting ideas in your neck of the woods?
Paint has remodeling power when you use it to emphasize a room’s best features or play down the flaws. Every home suffers a few negatives, but not every solution requires pricey structural changes. Paint is an often-overlooked, low-cost remodeler’s remedy for common complaints with interiors, offering the chameleon-like ability to lighten, warm, enlarge, erase, or attract attention.
“Paint is a powerful tool that can enhance the architectural character and intent of space,” says Minneapolis architect Petra Schwartze of TEA2 Architects. “As you choose your paint, think about what the experience in the room should be.
More Schwartze advice: Always sample paint colors on a few walls. Don’t be shy about painting a few large swaths on walls and trim to consider the effect of natural and artificial lighting. Add samples to opposite sides of a room to judge the paint color from different angles. Check the space with the samples in place and watch how the paint color changes at different times of the day. Evaluate your reaction to the proposed colors: Does the space feel cozy or is the openness enhanced?
How to Enlarge Space with Color
Painting walls white, cream, pastels, or cool colors (tinged with blue or green) creates the illusion of more space by reflecting light. Paint trim similar to walls (or use white on trim) to ensure a seamless appearance that visually expands space.
In addition, using white or light colors on walls lifts the ceiling; darker shades can have a similar effect if you select a high-gloss paint sheen, which reflects light and enhances space.
Use a monochromatic scheme to amplify the dimensions of a room. Select furnishings in one color and paint walls and trim to match. Lack of contrast makes a room seem more spacious.
Make walls appear taller by extending wall color onto the ceiling. Create a 6- to 12-inch-wide border of wall color on the entire ceiling perimeter, or wherever walls meet the ceiling.
Vertical and horizontal stripes of alternating color can make a room grand. Although vertical stripes enhance room height by drawing the eye upward, horizontal stripes lure your gaze around the perimeter, making walls seem further away. Use similar light colors for low-contrast stripes, and your room will look even larger. Creating Intimacy
When a space feels cavernous, draw walls inward and make it cozy with warm colors (red-tinged) because darker hues absorb light. Similarly, a dark or warm color overhead (in a flat finish) helps make rooms with high or vaulted ceilings less voluminous. Give Peace a Chance
The right paint choice can lend tranquility to a bathroom, master suite, or other quiet, personal space. A palette of soft, understated color or muted tones help you instill a calming atmosphere. Some good choices include pale lavenders, light grays or greens, and wispy blues. Define Your Assets
Call out notable features in a room with paint. Dress crown moldings and other trims in white to make them pop against walls with color. Make a fireplace or other feature a focal point by painting it a color that contrasts with walls.
“Using a higher sheen of paint on woodwork, such as baseboards and door or window casings,” says Schwartze, “creates a crisp edge and clear transition from the wall to the trim.” Hide Flaws
Not everything should stand out in a space. Using a low-contrast palette is a good way to hide unappealing elements or flaws. Conduit, radiators, and other components painted the same color as the wall will seem to disappear.
Selecting low-sheen or flat paint colors also helps hide flaws. Unless walls are smooth, avoid using high-gloss paint because it reflects light and calls attention to an uneven surface. What’s the Cost?
As a DIY job, painting a 12-foot-by-12-foot space costs about $150, including paint, primer, brushes, drop cloths, and other painting tools and supplies. A professionally painted room using high-quality, brand-name paint costs $200 to $400.
Tackle curb appeal projects in the fall, and your property will shine when things get green again in the spring. Image: gardenfancy.blogspot.com
Planning on selling your home in the spring? Good news — that leaves plenty of time to tackle all sorts of projects this fall that will help you snag top dollar when the tulips start blooming. Take an objective look around your home from a buyer’s perspective. What would stop you from making an offer? What do you need to do to put your home’s best face forward?
Here are some fall projects to jump on now in order for your home to be in tip-top shape for a spring sale:
“Curb appeal is important,” says Steve Modica, sales associate and property manager at HomeXpress Realty Inc. in Tampa and St. Petersburg, Fla. “Make sure the bushes are all trimmed. Re-mulch or replace stone walkways and paths. Remove any dead plants and trees, and aerate your lawn so it will be lush come spring. Pressure wash the driveway, the front walk, and the exterior of your home. If need be, have the exterior of the house painted and, at the very least, apply a fresh coat of paint on the front door.
The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® says 77% of homebuyers have an inspection done before completing a home purchase. To avoid nasty surprises once you’re in the process of selling your home, have your own inspection done and make any repairs over the winter months before you list the home. Homebuyers often use flaws and needed repairs to negotiate a lower price.
3. Replace Flooring and Paint Walls
Determine if your carpets need replacing or just a deep, professional cleaning. If they need to go, consider if hardwood or another flooring material might be more appealing to buyers.
You’ll also want to inspect interior rooms for dirty or scuffed walls that need a fresh coat of paint. “Paint the whole wall, don’t just do touch-up repair work, because it never looks as good,” says Modica. Also, if you have eccentric or loud wall colors, now is the perfect time to update to a more neutral palette. Stagers recommend beiges, light grays, and off-whites.
4. Tackle the Basement, Attic, and Garage
Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic
Often overlooked, these storage meccas can become a catch-all for junk. Use cool, fall weather as an excuse to get down and dirty in these hot spots and organize them from top to bottom. Install shelving, pegboards for tools, and hanging brackets for bicycles and other large sporting equipment. Your goal is to pitch the junk, sell what you no longer need, and categorize the rest.
“Donate or recycle clothes and bedding you don’t use anymore in order to free up storage space in your closets, basement, and garage,” says Amy Bly, a home stager at Great Impressions Home Staging in Montville, N.J. These areas should look roomy, well-organized, and clean.
Buyers need to picture themselves living in the house, and they may have trouble doing that if all your personal effects are on display. In order to accomplish that, a professional stager can create a plan for you that you can spend the winter months implementing. Bly spends about two hours walking through a property assessing curb appeal, interior flow, closets, bookcases, media cabinets, flooring, and more.
“I give homeowners a multi-page, room-by-room form they can use to take notes on my recommendations,” says Bly. She typically recommends things like neutralizing out-of-date decor, removing old furnishings and carpeting, and updating light fixtures. She also suggests the type of shower curtains, towels, bedding, and pillows to display for an upscale look.
Getting a jump on these fall projects will give you a leg up on selling in the spring. Today’s buyers are savvier than ever before, especially millennial first-time homebuyers who may have searched homes online for months prior to getting in the field. More than just listing your home in the spring, you want to make it’s as perfect as possible. That means everything works and looks immaculate, and there are no glaring issues that will turn off buyers. When you’re ready, have a friend or relative drop by for a tour and point out anything you may have overlooked.