5 Tips for Buying a Starter Home

First-time homebuyers might well wonder: Where are all the starter houses? With housing inventory low and soaring home price, starter homes are becoming increasingly scarce in many housing markets. What’s a first-time buyer to do?

Here are five tips for finding a starter home:

1. Be realistic about today’s market

Sellers clearly have an advantage in the current market. Inventory is low, which keeps pushing home prices to record levels. Buyer competition is fierce, as homes in the lower price ranges fly off the market. Unfortunately, that leaves many first-time buyers (especially those with tight budgets) on the sidelines. If you’re searching for your first home, be realistic about what you can afford and what amenities come with that budget. Don’t get carried away by amenities you see in more expensive homes — those things are probably not as expensive to put in as you might think. A starter home isn’t necessarily your forever home. Be prepared to make some compromises to get your foot in the homeownership door.

2. Adjust your wish list

Buyers shopping for their first home need to be open-minded about the location, size and condition of the home they want to buy. For many buyers, a classic starter home, which traditionally doesn’t have many amenities, is more achievable. Look for an older home in a well-established neighborhood. Older homes typically need more maintenance and repairs, which offset some of the savings; however, buyers who choose a used home might be able to do repairs and renovations over time, pacing themselves to make the cost manageable.

3. Rethink location

If you’re thinking about starting a family in the future, don’t focus too much on your home’s location, size and school district just yet. If you sacrifice location for affordability you might find yourself in a neighborhood far from major job centers with a long daily commute and expensive transportation costs. Sometimes that trade-off makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t. Look at how much you make and how much you can afford to spend for gas. You might actually be better off buying a house that’s closer to town so you have more cash flow for property taxes, insurance and living expenses.

4.Make a strong offer

When a well-priced starter house comes on the market, you want to make a strong offer. One way to strengthen an offer is to present a loan pre-approval that includes everything but a title search, appraisal and hazard insurance, offer above asking price (if you can afford to), keep repair requests to a minimum, make a larger down payment or give them more time to move after closing.

5. Hire the right real estate agent

When you’re up against stiff competition, working with an experienced real estate agent who knows the local market is key. Look for an agent who specializes in the neighborhoods you’re interested in. Savvy agents should be able to answer your questions about neighborhood amenities, local schools and nearby home values. Ask friends and relatives to recommend agents they have used and were happy with. Also, interview two or three different agents. Find out how they prefer to communicate with clients and how often you’ll get updates. Finally, research the agents you’re considering online to see what past clients have said about their work.

When you are ready to buy your starter home, we would love to talk to you about how we can help you find the right home and what strategies we would use to win in a competitive market.



Source: RisMedia

What’s the Deal with Seller’s Disclosures?

State and federal laws are strict in requiring sellers to tell what they know about the condition of their homes that isn’t obvious or discernable to potential buyers. Buyers can’t see behind walls or under houses, so they rely on truthful information from the seller about the operations, appliances and systems of the home.

When you sell your home, your real estate agent will present you with a disclosure form called a ‘Residential Seller’s Property Real Disclosure Statement’. It’s important to answer every question as truthfully as you can. You must answer the questions yourself – your real estate professional can not fill out the disclosure for you, but he or she can help you understand what’s being asked of you. If you’re in doubt about what to disclose, such as a repair, it’s best to err on the side of too much information than not enough. If you answer that you don’t know the condition of an appliance you use daily, such as a sink or bathtub, you might raise suspicions in the buyer.
Even if the seller has never occupied the property he or she can certainly complete the property address, and several other items on the SPDS, such as information about ownership and utilities. It is also very likely that when they purchased the property they had inspections done or received SPDS themselves. Whatever they found out at that time still needs to be disclosed.

When you disclose a problem to the buyer that has previously been fixed, be sure to provide a copy of work orders, receipts and invoices. If the problem hasn’t been fixed, expect the buyer to either ask you to fix it, or to offer a little less for the home. Remember, the more that’s left unrepaired, the more the buyer will discount the offer, if he makes one at all. Homes in the best condition sell the best.

The seller’s disclosure is designed to do one thing — hold you and your real estate agent harmless if you’ve disclosed the truth about your property. You don’t want to give the buyer any room for complaint or litigation after the closing. Don’t be afraid of the seller’s disclosure. It’s not meant to be a deal-killer, but a deal-maker. Many agents provide a copy of the disclosure to interested buyers, so they can get an idea of the home’s condition before they make an offer or have an inspection.


Source: Realty Times

4 Viable Alternatives to IKEA for Stylish, Inexpensive Furniture

We all want to save money on home furnishings, but there are limited options out there to choose from. That’s why Ikea has been a staple for most people; however, it’s not the only source anymore. Read on for 4 great alternatives for affordable furniture.

If you’ve recently moved into a new home or apartment, you know how daunting the task of furnishing it can be. All of a sudden you have empty rooms that need filling — but your wallet is only so big! You could go the Ikea route, but everyone you know has at least one item from Ikea. Instead, check out these other great options for affordable furniture.


HomeGoods is a part of the same corporation as TJMaxx and Marshalls. It offers a huge selection of home essentials, such as furniture, décor, dinnerware, cleaning supplies and more. HomeGoods stores can be found throughout the country and offer household items at steep discounts. You can find a selection of goods from various designers such as Nicole Miller Home, Le Creuset, Ralph Lauren Home and more. Their stock can be somewhat unpredictable, but you are always guaranteed a bargain. Larger pieces of furniture, such as sofas, aren’t as easy to find as accent chairs, stools and side tables, but they do make an appearance every so often. You’ll also be impressed by the store’s wide variety of area rugs. For truly great savings on all home-related items, check out HomeGoods.


Target is known for a lot of things, including an extensive health and beauty department, great clothes at a great price, and even a grocery department. However, not many people tap into its furniture department, which has awesome designs at affordable prices. Lots of people are aware of Target’s housewares, but since its furniture stock is on the smaller side, it often gets overlooked. Although the variety isn’t anything compared to Ikea or Bloomingdale’s furniture department, Target has some modern pieces that fit nicely in just about any home. You can find desks, floor lamps, accent chairs, ottomans, benches and more. It’s recommended to check out their stock online because they don’t always have the full range of products in the store. You can order what you want online and have it delivered to your local Target for pickup or right to your door.

Urban Outfitters Apartment

Furniture isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of Urban Outfitters. It’s usually associated with teens and tweens and on-trend fashion. However, Urban Outfitters has had an extensive homeware and furniture line for many years now. Prices aren’t quite as low as they are at Ikea, but they’re much cheaper than Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel. You can purchase a full-size sofa for less than $1,000. Also, Urban Outfitters has a great range of unique textiles found on their upholstered furniture as well as in their bed linens, rugs and curtains. If you’re a fan of the bohemian trend, you are guaranteed to find just what you’re looking for at Urban Outfitters.

World Market

Word Market is a great place to find one-of-a-kind furniture and homeware. They carry amazing textiles inspired by different cultures and parts of the world. Furniture such as sofas are reasonably priced in the $500 to $800 range, but World Market has lots of sales so that you can save even more. They also have a great line of wall art for under $100!

Easements 101

Real estate has many intricate ins and outs, and understanding easements is no exception. When an easement is requested by a neighbor or neighboring developer, or when a homeowner needs to obtain an easement from a neighbor or a municipality where they live, it helps to understand the particulars.

According to the American Bar Association (ABA), an easement is an interest in land which is owned by a person who is not the owner of the whole parcel. An easement can provide someone the right to use or control a portion of a parcel, or an area above or below it, for a specific limited purpose such as to cross it for access to a public road, to share a common drive with a neighboring property, or to install and maintain utility wires or lines.

Unlike a lease or license, the ABA says an easement may last forever, but it usually doesn’t give the holder the right to exclusively possess, take from, improve, or sell the land. And the owner whose property is impacted by an easement is normally free to use their property as he or she chooses, provided that use doesn’t impair the rights of the holder of the easement.

So, what happens when someone else has a properly recorded easement over property you’re interested in buying? The ABA says if the survey of the property reflects a path labeled “easement” but no document is of record creating the easement, you will want to inquire as to where the surveyor obtained the information about this easement.

If the unrecorded easement is shown on the survey, the ABA says the title company will likely list this unrecorded easement on your title policy as an exception to coverage. That means that if someone were to claim the right to use this easement, your title insurance would not pay to resolve this issue.

The best person to advise you regarding obtaining an easement—or a property upon which an easement exists—is a reputable real estate attorney.



Source: John Voket/RisMedia

4 Survival Tips for Your Family Vacation Road Trip

You can probably hear it already: the kids fighting over the radio and asking “Are we there yet?” Sometimes a picnic is no picnic. If you’re planning a family road trip this summer, you must plan ahead to ensure you have a smooth ride. Although this can be a daunting task, there are strategies you can put in place so that you’ll have the best trip possible. Just follow these five tips for surviving the summer road trip.

1. Pack Light

This is the worst part. We know. We don’t like it either. But try not to stress too much. Remember, you can almost certainly buy anything on the road. Know the weather of the destination you are visiting, which helps reduce over-packing. Keep in mind the activities you will be doing so you can pack appropriately. The types of accommodation will also determine which clothes or equipment you might need. Pack your bags and then reduce by a third. Then do it again. You will always pack more than you need. Do it! Do it!

2. Food and Drinks

A hungry kid – or husband –  is a grumpy kid! We don’t know about you, but as soon as we are hitting the road, all of the sudden you’re getting hungry (let’s be honest, you just want to snack). So remember to bring healthy snacks and water! Great snacks to bring are fruit (nature’s fast food!), nuts or seeds, veggies or crackers (with or without hummus), trail mix (make your own, way cheaper and healthier) and sandwiches to your liking.

3. Entertainment

How long will your drive take? Two hours? Ten hours? Thank heavens for modern technology (and Google Maps)! Even if you don’t have a drop-down screen in your car, just bring your tablet or smartphone and log in to your Hulu or Netflix account to keep the kids occupied. Try to pick a movie or show they want to see but haven’t yet seen so they pay attention. Blast your favorite music (show your kids “what real music is”) or start listen to an audiobook. There are even great children audiobooks out there. Speaking of books: don’t forget reading books, either in physical or electronic form! Coloring books are also a great way of staying busy and calming you down (kids or mum).

4. Stop Early, Stop Often!

One way to keep the kids from getting too antsy is to take frequent rest stops. Great places to stretch are public parks, playgrounds or picnic spots. If there’s a beach nearby: jackpot! Leave yourself more time for the trip than you think so you don’t feel rushed and can schedule in time for sights along the way. A good rule of thumb is to split drive time and doing stuff 50/50. If you want to know family-friendly activities along your route, check out the app Roadtrippers.  Sometimes we are so focused on the final destination that we blaze right by. Having said that, road trips can be exhausting, so slow down and enjoy the journey!



Source: www.ytravelblog.com