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5 Can't Miss Tips When You're Buying A Fixer Upper

Buying a fixer-upper offers you an amazing investment opportunity and provides an endless assortment of projects for those who like to work with their hands.

No matter if you plan to flip the property quickly or live there for some time, you shouldn't cross a fixer-upper off your list when buying a house. Still, we all know that buying a house can be a complex challenge and fixer-uppers add a bit more for you to think about.

So... What do you really need to know when buying a fixer-upper?

Get off to a running start with these five tips:

  1. Start with Location
    Location is one of the most important things to think about in any home purchase. There are two strategies that may be effective here: One is the traditional "central location" that has the potential for a lot of curb appeal. The other is talked about less, but can still be a savvy choice: A more secluded and private property set back from the main road.

  2. Set Up a Sound Renovation Budget
    The perfect location can still be undercut if the needed repairs exceed your budget. The best way to get the real facts about what needs to be done is to get a complete house inspection. Then, get bids for the things you can't do yourself and figure out the cost in time and materials for those you can. When you have a figure that seems accurate, add 10% for the unexpected.

  3. Identify the Biggest Issues First
    Making repairs to the roof will not only add value but remove a major stumbling block that can easily scare potential buyers away. Working on the foundation isn't nearly as glamorous — it may add nothing at all to your future selling price — but you should double-check to see if it is necessary. What else can you look out for? Electrical, heating, and pest issues are important.

  4. Negotiate Hard
    So, you've done the calculations on what renovating your new find might cost you. Now, you can use that information as leverage in negotiating a better price. It's not unreasonable to ask for 20 percent or even 40 percent off the asking price. What other factors play in your favor? A property that's been on the market for a long time — or a good amount of cash to offer upfront.

  5. See if You Qualify for a Renovation Loan
    There are several different types of renovation loans, including the popular 203(k) loan backed by the federal government through the Federal Housing Administration. Many different banks can offer this loan as long as they follow federal rules. Homebuyers can get low-interest rates on a 203(k) and may be able to qualify even with less than perfect credit scores.

Buying a house can be the greatest step you ever take for your peace of mind, financial security, and yes — your enjoyment. The choice to make that house a fixer-upper can be considered a bold one. Still, for some people, there's simply nothing better.

Use our tips, and you'll find it's easier than you ever imagined to make the right decisions for buying a house. In just a matter of months, your very own fixer-upper could become the home of your dreams. If you go in with a clear view and realistic expectations, you can't lose!


Fixing a Fixer-Upper: Where You Should Start

Got a fixer-upper in your sights? Good for you. Whether this old house is going to be your dream home or you're angling for a rental income, it's best to know what you're getting into before you lay your money down. Don't be beguiled by the dream: make a cool-headed assessment from the top of the roof to the foundation and, if it's got one, the basement. 

Finding a Fixer-Upper
The local clerk of court's website is a good place to find deals, including foreclosures and short sales. Also, find foreclosure listings on Shop through auctions and estate sales. (Caution: Do your due diligence and research thoroughly; avoid careless bids.) Your real estate professional may also be able to help you with finding the right fixer-upper.

Home Inspection
Once you find a home you want to acquire, hire a home inspector. You might even enlist a couple of home inspectors. Or, ir you're competent to judge how well a house is holding up, you'll need to look at the following:

  • Structure
  • Roof
  • Foundation
  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • Heating
  • Doors and Windows

Pay particular attention to foundation and wall cracks, as well as water damage.

Flooring is likely one of the major renovations you will make. If you have hardwood, it may be worth refinishing. If it needs to be replaced, you might consider laminate, which looks good, is easily maintained, costs less than hardwood, and is very durable. You might go for carpet, especially if you're in a colder climate, while tile might be the best choice for the kitchen and bathroom.

Hiring a Contractor
Once you've got an idea of the scope of your renovation, interview some contractors — at least three. You'll want to hire someone who has the ability to create a prospectus for the work so that you can refer to it and be assured the contractor is on track with the timeline and knows what you want. By interviewing more than one contractor, you could have a backup if one starts giving you the run-around.

Planning Your Project
The kind of fix-up you will do should depend on whether you intend to stay in this home for the rest of your life, or if you want to fix it up for a shorter-term goal: to sell it or to use it as a rental property. For instance, if you intend to stay in the home you may want to spend more for better, long-lasting materials, personalized colors, and in general, unique touches that will appeal more to you and your family rather than to a potential buyer. If the home is to be a rental property, you will want to use durable materials. 

Fees and Permits
Chances are you'll need to pay fees and purchase permits to do some of the work on your fixer-upper. A reputable contractor may do this for you, but do follow up and ask questions about what kind of permits have been obtained. Check with your local authorities so you will know what is required.

Will You Stay or Go?
Staying in your home during renovations may work out if you're doing the work yourself — or not. It could be easier to remove yourself and the family to a motel until the work is done.

Fixing a fixer-upper can be an exciting and rewarding adventure. Above all, remember that good planning and organization can get you through the rough spots and will see you to the satisfactory completion of your project.


Should You Buy a Fixer-Upper?

Buying a fixer-upper home can be a great way to acquire a home in a neighborhood you might not otherwise be able to afford. Maybe you've picked out a charming older home you think just needs some tender loving care to bring out its best. That may be true, but beware of romancing yourself into a costly renovation nightmare, where you can't recover your investment once the house goes on the market.

That doesn't mean you should avoid fixer-uppers altogether. But do be aware of the possible pitfalls. Once you've weighed the pros and cons, you can make a more informed decision about investing in that sweet little mid-century modern you've had your eye on.

Consider these points before buying a fixer-upper.

DIY Skills Can Make a Fixer Upper More Affordable

So you've fallen for a fixer-upper, and you're weighing the possibilities. One of the first things to consider is how much of the work you're able to do yourself. If you love to work on old houses, you're a step ahead. But those with no DIY skills may be locked into overseeing contractors for every renovation. That can cause some headaches and will certainly cost more than if you can do the work yourself.

Renovations: Cosmetic or Structural?

Once you make an offer for a home and it's accepted, you'll need a home inspection. An inspection can help assure your fixer-upper is a good investment, or it may provide a warning that you should take a pass. 

Be mindful that major repairs — foundation fixes, roof and wall renovations, plumbing, and electrical system redos — may not raise the house's value sufficiently to offset the renovation cost. Ideally, a fixer-upper should require mainly cosmetic repairs. These repairs don't cost a lot, and they raise the value of the home. They might include painting touch-ups, fixing doors, installing new light fixtures, drywall repairs, refinishing floors, and updating bathrooms and kitchens.

Also, be aware that if your fixer-upper has some differences that set it off from other homes in the neighborhood — for example, two bedrooms instead of three, or one bathroom instead of two — these may impede selling it.

Further, you will want to avoid renovations that promise to take an extraordinarily long time. By the time you finish, you may find that the home's market value has gone down. 

Can You Afford It?

Add up the cost of materials and labor — that is, your labor and that of any contractors. Then, subtract that figure from the estimated market value of the home post-renovation. Compare your fixer-upper with other homes in the neighborhood to determine estimated market value. Deduct another 5 to 10 percent for extras, possible problems you may encounter, and inflation. The figure you arrive at should be your offer.

Financing Renovations

You've got several options when it comes to financing your renovation. Putting the bills on a credit card is easy, but you'll be paying high interest rates. A renovation loan lets you finance a house and improvements together. The interest rate is lower than many other financing types, and you can take longer to pay off the loan. Some types of renovation loans include:

Is a fixer-upper worth it? The answer, as with any investment, is: "It depends." For many homeowners, a fixer-upper will be the right choice. Just be sure the renovation is not more work and more expensive than you're anticipating. A good real estate agent will also help you make a more informed decision.


Do You Have What it Takes to Tackle a Fixer-Upper?

Buying a house that needs renovations can be a great way to find a deal, but the choice between a move-in ready home and a fixer-upper is about more than just the purchase price. The cost of renovations, the time you have available to tackle DIY tasks, your timeline for moving in, and your risk tolerance all play an essential part in making the right choice. If you have what it takes to tackle a fixer-upper, you may be able to customize your home and save some money on the purchase price.

  • Can Your Budget Accommodate Renovations and Unexpected Costs?
    Naturally, the draw of a fixer-upper is that you can purchase it for a much lower price than a similarly sized and located move-in ready home. The trick is deciphering exactly how much work the home needs, how much it will cost, and whether the combined renovation/purchase cost of the home will ultimately be more affordable than buying a house that's ready right now. When calculating renovation costs, it's also important to budget for the unexpected, because there are often surprises when renovating an older home.
  • How Much of the Work Can You Handle Yourself?
    One way to keep renovation costs down when buying a house is to handle as much of the work as possible yourself, but it's important to be realistic about what projects truly qualify as DIY. If you have experience in the contracting trades or have renovated a home in the past, then you may be able to tackle some of the more costly aspects of renovating. Most people who are buying a house will be able to handle smaller renovation tasks DIY but will need to leave the bigger, more costly aspects of renovating to the pros.
  • How Soon Do You Need to Move In, and Do You Have a Place to Stay?
    When we talk about surprises during renovations, we don't just mean in terms of cost. Time is also an important factor. If you have a place to stay and don't need to move into your new home right away, then time may not be a major issue. If you need to move in ASAP, then a fixer-upper probably isn't the right choice when buying a house.
  • Do You Have Trusted Service Providers?
    No matter how much or how little of the work you can handle DIY, you'll likely still need contractors, an architect, and other service providers to tackle key tasks. It helps to have people you know and trust – or referrals from trusted sources – when coordinating work on a fixer-upper. Having quality service providers helps keep added costs down, and makes it easier to keep the project on schedule.
  • Do You Have a Vision for the Home You'd Like to Create?
    Success with a fixer-upper depends in large part on having a plan and being able to see it through to completion. So it's essential to have a vision of the home that you want to create. If you don't have the desire to customize every detail, then buying a move-in ready house may provide more value for your investment.

While there are risks involved, buying a house that needs work can allow you to maximize your budget and customize your new home to your preferences. The key is to be honest with yourself about whether a fixer-upper fits your needs, and set clear goals when buying a house.


5 Roofing Choices for Your Home

A new roof is one of the most expensive home improvement projects owners may have to tackle. If you've been thinking about replacing your roof, you may be surprised by the number of important decisions you'll have to make. This includes figuring out your financing, choosing a great roofer, and deciding on the best roofing materials for your home. 

When it comes time to choose your roofing materials, you may be surprised by the number of options available. Each option brings varying costs, quality, and aesthetics. Not sure which to choose? Start by reviewing the pros and cons of the following five popular roofing options. 

  1. Asphalt 
    Asphalt shingles are the most common choice for homes in the United States. The popularity comes from the fact that it's fairly inexpensive, comes in a variety of colors, and is easy to install.

    When choosing the material, however, you'll need to be careful as the quality can vary. Asphalt also doesn't offer much insulation and has a shorter lifespan than some other types of roofing materials

    The cost of asphalt roofing typically runs between $70 and $120 per square foot and the average lifespan is about 20 to 25 years. 
  2. Wood
    Wood shingles have been a staple among homeowners for hundreds of years. They offer a rustic look that adds a ton of personality to the home and they age beautifully. Some popular options include cedar, southern pine, and redwood.

    Although this is an attractive option, wood roofing can split, rot, or mold in wet climates. Homeowners in fire-prone areas may also decide that wood roofing isn't the best choice for them.

    The average cost of wood roofing is $100 to $150 per square foot and the lifespan tends to range between 25 and 30 years. 
  1. Metal 
    If you're looking for a durable and environmentally-friendly roofing material, then metal roofing might be a great choice for you. It looks great on contemporary homes, bungalows, and cottage-style homes.

    One drawback is that metal roofing tends to be more expensive than some of the other options. Depending on the style you choose, you can pay anywhere from $100 to $800 per square foot. However, it's a great investment. Metal roofs have an average lifespan of 40 to 75 years.
  2. Clay
    Clay roofing is both beautiful and durable. It's popular among owners of Mediterranian, Spanish-style, and Southwestern-style homes. It's also non-combustible, energy-efficient, and has an expected lifespan of 40 to 50 years.  Clay tiles are very heavy and will usually require extra framing and professional installation. The cost ranges between $300 and $500 a square foot. 
  1. Slate
    Want to invest in a home improvement that will really add value? Consider a slate roof. It's one of the most beautiful types of roofing you can choose, and it's also durable, fire-resistant, eco-friendly, and long-lasting. The average lifespan is 50 to 100 years or more! 

    Many homeowners find that a slate roof is out of their price range as the starting cost is about $600 per square foot. It's also quite heavy, requires extra framing, and must be professionally installed.  

Some Final Tips

Before making your final decision, you'll need to consider a wide variety of factors including your budget, the environmental conditions where you live, and the overall look you want to achieve. 

Since replacing your roof is definitely your run-of-the-mill DIY home improvement project, you might also consider asking your roofing company to help you determine which material is the most appropriate for your home and the goals you're trying to achieve. 


5 Reasons to Buy Instead of Rent

While renting a home is a rite of passage for most people, there comes a time when most of us get tired of stroking a check to the landlord every month. If you've started thinking about joining the 65 percent of Americans who own their own homes, you'll be glad to know that now is a great time to do it! 

Not sure if you're ready to take the leap into homeownership? Check out these five huge advantages of buying a house over renting.  

  1. It's a Great Long-Term Investment
    It's true that buying a home adds some expenses you won't have as a renter. You'll have to pay for things like closing costs on the mortgage, taxes, insurance, and maintenance expenses. However, when you're paying down your own mortgage instead of paying monthly rent, you're investing in your future.  Buying a house allows you to build equity that you can later pull out if you need it. Owning a home also gives you an asset that you can sell when you get older or pass onto your loved ones. 
  2. You May Qualify for Tax Benefits
    Although tax laws are complicated, many homeowners are able to take deductions for the mortgage interest they pay. This gives those who buy a home a clear advantage over those who continue to rent. 
  3. Buying a House Give You More Control
    When you sign a rental lease, there are usually a ton of stipulations you'll need to follow. You may not get to decide what color to paint the living room or whether you'll add a dog to your family. Want to put a pool in the backyard or add an extra bathroom? If you rent, you're out of luck. Buying your own home gives you the power to make all of these decisions and more. You can control the landscaping and all of your home's interior and exterior features. You also get to decide who stays in your home with you, and for how long. 
  4. Homeownership Gives You More Security
    As long as you make your mortgage and property tax payments on time, no one can throw you out of a home you own. As a renter, however, there's always a chance that the property owner will decide to sell the property, and you'll have to move. When this happens, it's almost never at a time that's convenient for you.

    There's also the chance that your landlord will eventually raise your rent as the cost of living continues to rise. Homeowners who have locked in a fixed mortgage payment are creating extra stability in their lives. While your homeowner's insurance, utility expenses, and property taxes will likely rise, you'll at least have the peace of mind in knowing that your mortgage payment will never go up. Even better, once you pay off the mortgage, you can eliminate that expense from your budget. As a renter, you'll never have that opportunity. 
  5. You'll Feel a Huge Sense of Accomplishment
    For many people, buying a house is one of the biggest accomplishments of their lifetime. You'll be able to feel proud of what you've done, and know that you've done what it takes to make your dream of owning a home a reality! 

Consider the Pros and Cons Before Buying a Fixer-Upper

When you're buying a house there are lots of decisions to be made. One of those decisions is whether or not you're willing to purchase a fixer-upper. You're sure to find plenty of examples glamorizing the fixer-upper experience, and it can be tempting to want in on the action. You've likely heard tons of stories about incredible deals people got because their home needed a little work. Not to mention all those TV shows where houses no one could even lives in gets turned into something worthy of a magazine spread and sold for top dollar. Fixer-uppers can definitely be an amazing find, but before you dive in head first, weigh the pros and cons to make the right decision for you.


  • Fixer-uppers are usually discounted. Fixer-uppers generally have lower asking prices and do sell for less than move-in ready homes. There is often less competition too.
  • You can remodel the way you want. You don't have to hope you find what you want. You have more control over how the home looks, feels, and functions when you're the one in charge of the remodel. You can spend your money on what's important to you.
  • You may be able to afford a larger home or a different neighborhood. Since fixer-uppers tend to sell for less even in the most desirable neighborhoods, your purchasing dollar can go further.
  • Ensuring the repairs are done right. You'll have control over the repair process so you don't have to worry about the quality of materials or workmanship. If you think the contractor is cutting corners, you can hire someone else.
  • Remodeling boosts your property value immediately. This can be a plus if you're planning on living there only short term or looking at buying a house for an investment property.


  • Your home isn't move-in ready. You'll have to wait until construction is finished to enjoy your new home or rent it out. That can impact your budget.
  • It's a lot of work. Whether you plan to do it yourself or hire contractors, there is a lot of effort involved. Not everyone is willing to take it on. Being honest with yourself is the best strategy here.
  • Remodels can easily go over budget. It's not unusual for any kind of remodel to go over budget. There can be unexpected surprises, additional costs, or design changes. It's a good idea to leave room in the budget for additional costs.  
  • There's a risk of ending up with a bigger project than you planned. In some cases, it's just not possible to know the full extent of repairs until the job is in progress. That can negatively affect your budget and timeline for repairs.
  • You may overestimate your DIY skills. Often when someone is buying a house, they plan on doing some projects themselves. Especially for first-time buyers, it can be easy to underestimate how much work a project is or how much time you'll have to do it. Additionally, some repairs may require hiring a contractor to comply with local ordinances.
  • It can be harder to get financing. The current condition of the home and types of repairs needed may mean it's more difficult to get financing or limit your financing options.

When you're buying a house, you need to look at the pros and cons to make an informed decision. And that strategy is even more important if you're planning on purchasing a fixer-upper. But doing your homework, getting estimates and budgeting appropriately may make that decision the right one for you.


Buying a House with a Pool

In-Ground vs. Above-Ground Pools

A swimming pool can be a major perk when you're shopping for a new home, allowing you to maximize the use of outdoor space and providing plenty of warm-weather family fun just outside your door. Whether you're shopping for a new home or adding a pool to your current home, it's important to consider your options. Both in-ground and above-ground pools come with their own unique advantages and drawbacks. Choosing the right option depends on your budget, space, future plans, how you will use the pool, and a variety of other factors. Consider the most important factors to find the right fit:

  • Space
    How much room do you have in your potential home's back yard, and how much of that space are you willing to give up to accommodate a pool? While in-ground pools often offer more swimming area and take up more space, that's not always the case. A large above-ground pool can offer the same swimming space as an in-ground pool, and cover about the same amount of area in your yard. So if you have room for one type of pool, then you probably have room for the other.
  • Longevity
    Do you want a pool that may last decades or one with an average lifespan of 8 to 15 years? Above-ground pools cost less to install but tend to need replacement after a maximum of 15 years. In-ground pools are often last longer, especially if they are made from fiberglass. If you want a pool that will last for the long haul when buying a house, then in-ground has the edge. But above-ground pools still offer a fairly substantial lifespan.
  • Cost
    While you won't have to worry about installation costs if you're buying a house that already has a pool, the cost of the pool may factor into the price of the home. An above-ground pool typically costs less to install, even if you're also installing decking around the whole pool. In-ground pools cost more to install, and the difference can be significant. If keeping costs down is a primary concern, then above-ground may be the way to go.
  • Maintenance
    No matter which type of pool you choose, maintenance will be required – whether you handle it or you find a local pool company to do the job. The good news is that routine maintenance costs really don't differ too strongly between the two types of pools. However, in-ground pool systems are often more complex, which can lead to higher repair costs when something does break.
  • Variety
    While above-ground pools offer many of the same perks of their in-ground cousins, there's no doubt that in-ground pools ultimately offer more variety. Whether you're talking about the shape, depth, look, or construction of the pool, there are simply more options with an in-ground pool. If you're buying a house and looking for a pool with a deep end or a unique shape, then the payoff of an in-ground pool may be worth the cost.

In the end, the right option for you depends upon personal factors. An in-ground pool is more expensive to maintain, but also longer lasting. An above-ground pool may be more affordable to operate but doesn't always offer the same longevity or variety. Fortunately, both options offer plenty of potential for outdoor fun.


Home Sellers: 5 Exterior Features Buyers Want

If you're thinking about selling your home, now is the time to start making any necessary renovations and updates. While you might think you know exactly what needs to be done, it's smart to talk to a real estate agent before you get started. He or she will be able to tell you exactly which features are most popular with homebuyers so you can focus your time and money on the projects most likely to improve your bottom line. 

While buyers often have varying priorities when it comes to a home's interior, most may want the same features on the outside. Investing in the following five projects will help increase the chances of selling your home for top dollar. 

  1. Exterior Lighting
    Illuminating the outside of your house with landscape lighting and spotlights can transform it from a beautiful home to one that's absolutely breathtaking. Not only will it bring attention to the home's architectural features and perfectly manicured lawn, but it also adds an element of safety that's highly desirable. Add solar-powered lights, motion-sensors, and smart lights to make an even greater impact. 
  2. Outdoor Patio
    If you have a large backyard, potential buyers will love imagining themselves relaxing outdoors with a cool drink in their hand. An outdoor patio and seating area expand your home's livable space, making it more attractive to potential buyers.

    Adding a well-designed concrete patio is one of the best ways to make your home appear larger without undertaking a major renovation. If you already have a patio, put the effort into repairing it and making it look as new as possible. This small project can bring a huge return on investment. 
  3. Firepit
    Homes with outdoor fire pits allow owners to enjoy spending time in the backyard almost all year long. A nice-looking firepit will entice homebuyers, especially if it runs on natural gas. Build a beautiful structure, and you're likely to recoup almost all of your investment in the form of a higher sale price.

    Before jumping into this project, make sure you're following all of the local ordinances and necessary safety precautions. The last thing you want to do is add something to your home that will cause you problems down the line. 
  4. Landscaping/Garden
    Even if you don't make any major changes to the outside of your home, paying attention to your landscaping and garden will have a major impact on its curb appeal. Fertilize your lawn, touch up the mulch, and trim your bushes and overgrown trees.

    Maintain your perennial flower beds and add some annuals for instant color. If you have unique plants around your home, consider labeling them as they might help attract the right kind of buyer. Finish your project off by adding a water feature to make your yard feel like a relaxing oasis. 
  5. Outdoor Kitchen
    Outdoor living is hugely popular right now, making a great outdoor kitchen one of the most coveted features for home buyers. Depending on the scope of the project and the size and location of the home, sellers adding an outdoor kitchen can typically expect to break even or make as much as 20 percent back on their investment.

    When building an outdoor kitchen, you'll want to focus it around the grill and make sure you have plenty of counter space. Keep it simple and avoid adding extras like a pizza oven, as the new homebuyer might not want these features, causing them to be undervalued. 

7 Tips for Single Women Buying a Home

Buying a home is a worthy objective for a single woman. It is also a significant accomplishment that involves planning, saving, and achieving a good credit score. It takes a bit more effort when you are the only source of income, so here are seven tips for the single woman interested in buying her first home.

  1. Check Your Credit Report
    Checking your credit report is the first step towards homeownership. Not only will you see your credit score, but you will also look at all accounts you have had over the years including credit cards, student loans, and auto loans. You will also see late and on time payments towards those accounts and accounts in collections (if you have any).
  2. Fix Problem Accounts
    Problem accounts will typically be in a separate section of the report so that you can find them easily. If you haven't previously reviewed your report, you may be surprised by what could be there. Try to get any accounts up-to-date if they are legitimate and work to have incorrect information removed before applying for a mortgage.
  3. Determine a Budget
    Determining your budget is a crucial financial decision. You may pay less for a mortgage than your rental payment. However, you will also have property taxes, homeowners insurance, and potential repairs. Be realistic and work those costs into your budget before buying a home.
  4. Get Pre-approved
    After saving for your down payment, work with a mortgage company to get pre-approved for a loan. You will be better prepared to make an offer when you find your dream home. The sellers will also view your offer as more sincere and workable.
  5. Research Real Estate Agents and Neighborhoods
    Finding a real estate agent with extensive knowledge about the neighborhoods in which you are interested is essential.  You want to move to a safe neighborhood that is also affordable, and you want to have an experienced, reliable real estate agent to help you. Determine in advance the type of neighborhood you want. Are you looking for an area with an active singles scene? Or are you looking for someplace close to work?

    Check with family and friends for referrals to real estate agents. Look for one that has experience working with first-time single home buyers. You should also make it a priority to find an agent with the patience to answer all of your questions and will show you homes within your budget.
  6. Check Everything Twice Before Closing
    Once your offer has been accepted, you and your real estate agent will prepare for closing the transaction. You will need a home inspection before closing. Read this report carefully and look for any potential issues that could lead to repairs. If you find any, you can ask through your agent that the sellers repair them as a condition to closing.

    Also, read your loan agreements closely. Be sure you understand every provision and ask the agent or loan officer to clarify anything that may confuse you. Now is the time to get answers to any lingering questions.
  7. Enjoy Your New Home
    The last tip is the best. Enjoy your accomplishment and your new home. 

How Much to Budget for Home Repairs

Whether you're a first-time buyer or experienced homeowner at some point you'll need to make home repairs. And those repairs will cost money. It's something first-time buyers often don't think about ahead of time and experienced owners may have learned the hard way. So budgeting at least some money in advance for these expenses is a must. Here's how to figure it all out.

Common Budgeting Approaches 

The first step is deciding how much to save for home repairs. Here are a few different ways you can approach budgeting.

  • Save 1 to 3 percent of the price of your home per year. That means if your home was $200,000 you should devote $2,000 to $6,000 per year to your home repair budget. This rule is based on a per year average over a longer period of time. Some years you'll spend less and some years more. Depending on other factors, you may want to be on the lower or higher end of that range.
  • Save $1 per square foot per year. This makes sense because larger square footage means there is more house to keep repaired. For a 2500 square foot house that comes out to $2,500 per year.
  • A basic budget plus a project specific budget. If you know a major repair is a few years out, use the average costs in your area or actual estimates for those repairs and break it down into payments. You'll still need money to cover the little repairs too, but knowing you need to save at least $300 per month to make that new roof a reality in a few years can be a starting point. Your budget can change a little based on the projects.

Adjusting the Basic Budget for Your Home

Once you have a starting point you'll need to adjust your budget to account for the specifics of your home.

  • Age of your home. Older homes often (but not always!) require more upkeep costs.
  • Current condition of your home
  • Climate. Climate variances can make your home more likely to need certain repairs. Knowing what you're likely to see down the road can help you adjust your budget and take the necessary preventative measures.
  • Exposure to extreme weather and the possibility of storm damage.
  • Single-family vs. condo or townhouse. Condos and townhouses have a lower repair budget because some of the costs are covered by your homeowner's association fees or project specific fees.

Add 10 percent of your basic budget per year for each factor that increases the likelihood of repairs. For example, a basic budget of $2,000 per year for an older home in an area where bad weather is common, would increase that budget to $2,400 per year.

Money Saving Tips

  • Use a separate savings account and automatic deposits. Designating a separate account specifically for repairs and setting up automatic deposits or transfers makes saving easy. Don't tie up this money in long-term investments, you'll want to be able to access it immediately if you need it.
  • Use a budgeting app. It can help you cut costs on everyday expenses so you can divert that money to your home repair budget.
  • Consider DIY projects. Many smaller home repairs require only basic skills that are easy to learn. Just be realistic, and do your research ahead of time. Save calling the professionals for the big jobs.

While no one can guess exactly what your home repair costs will be, being prepared and budgeting in advance will save you lots of headaches later and allow you to enjoy the benefits of homeownership for years to come.


10 Tools for the New DIYer

Whether you are in the middle of a home improvement project or just working in the garage, having access to the right tools for the job can make the entire process much easier. Of course, having access to the right tools is especially important for someone new in the DIY world, and here are the top ten tools that everyone needs for a wide range of projects.

  1. Tape Measure 
    A tape measure is a must-have for any homeowner. Whether you are measuring the length of a board or determining the amount of space between a wall and the couch, a tape measure is a handy tool that is excellent for nearly any DIY project.

  2. Circular Saw
    A circular saw is highly versatile for any woodworking project and is fantastic at making precision cuts. This mobile tool is excellent for building outdoor structures, such as a fence or a wooden deck.

  3. Hammer
    A hammer is an essential tool for the vast majority of projects. Whether you need to drive a nail into the wall or build a birdhouse, a hammer is a versatile tool that is great for a wide range of activities. A fiberglass claw hammer is especially useful, as it absorbs the shock much better than a wooden hammer.

  4. Cordless Drill
    A cordless drill is a popular choice for a wide range of projects, whether you are installing drywall or a doing a woodworking project. A cordless drill quickly adds or removes screws, which is much more efficient than a traditional screwdriver.

  5. Standard Level
    A standard level is a perfect tool for almost any DIY project. Instead of worrying about a crooked shelf or picture frame, a level will help you maintain the perfect balance by aligning the small bubble in a vertical or horizontal position.

  6. Putty Knife
    Do you have small nail holes or cracks in a wall that need filled? A putty knife is a fantastic tool for the job, as you can easily spread plaster to cover up any deficiencies in a wall or other material.

  7. Table Saw
    A table saw is the standard for making rip-cuts and is great for cutting large sheets of wood for furniture or cabinets. A table saw also excels at cutting off the rounded edges of boards and is an essential item for any woodworking projects.

  8. Adjustable Wrench
    An adjustable wrench is a handy tool for repairs, whether you need to tighten or loosen bolts. An adjustable wrench is also highly versatile, as you can alter the size for many different sizes of nuts and bolts.

  9. Utility Knife
    Trying to use scissors to open boxes or trim wallpaper is not always an easy task. However, a sharp utility knife will allow you to easily open boxes or shave wood without accidentally cutting yourself because the blade is stored inside the handle for maximum protection.

  10. Flashlight
    Working in a dimly lit area such as the attic or a basement compounds the difficulty of any DIY project, but a flashlight gives you the flexibility to work in areas with minimal lighting. A flashlight is also important to have if the power ever goes out for an extended period and can help you find your way around your house.

Of course, there are plenty more tools available, but these tools are a great starting point for anyone beginning a new home improvement project. Whether you are a beginner or have many years of experience, you can save the added expenses of using a contractor and start your DIY project today!


Is a Fixer Upper the Right Choice for You?

A fixer-upper can be one of the best deals in any housing market--if you're prepared.

Many people especially first-time home buyers start their search at the top of the budget range they can afford or get financed. However, the decision to take on a fixer-upper can not only save lots of money but give you a special sense of pride as you put your mark on your future dream home.

The choice to consider a fixer-upper will open a whole new segment of the market to you.

But: It's important to take some extra precautions with this kind of "home improvement."The process of finding the right fixer-upper comes down to three big steps:

  1. Insist on a Home Inspection
    A complete inspection is absolutely essential for any fixer-upper, especially if the home is offered "as-is." An as-is property doesn't always have serious problems, but it's more likely. An inspection often costs only a few hundred dollars and can alert you to issues that may be too costly to fix.

    Some big problems to look out for include:

    • Old or faulty wiring and electrical system.
    • Major problems with plumbing or well water.
    • Presence of termite damage or signs of pests.
    • Mold or mildew anywhere in the structure.
    • A weakening of the building's foundation.

    Remember, some government-backed mortgage programs require inspections and won't approve funding of a home with significant safety concerns, regardless of planned home improvement.
  1. Develop Priorities and a Budget
    With an inspection report in hand, you have the opportunity to figure out what your top priorities are. Planning should begin with repairs or fixes that will make things safer, then those that make you more comfortable in your new home, followed by aesthetics.

    Once you've written a list, the next step is to clarify which home improvement items you would like to do yourself versus which ones you'll want a contractor's help for. You can get bids for anything that needs to get done fast. Visit your local hardware store to price supplies for DIY.

    Ideally, you should also factor time into the equation. If you're interested in a "fix and flip," then you'll usually have to move pretty quickly to take advantage of favorable market conditions. On the other hand, if you're planning to stay, you have all the time you could need.
  1. See If It's Still a Good Deal
    Once you have a handle on what a fixer-upper will ultimately cost, then you can determine if it is still a true bargain. Your real estate agent will be able to advise you on your other options and the trade-offs that could be involved in your choice: For example, by looking at smaller homes, you could find attractive prices without the challenge of having to do major renovations.

    In many cases, there are relatively small issues that make a fixer-upper look like it's in worse shape than it really is. This is especially true in larger and older homes. If previous owners just haven't had time to keep up with maintenance, a property might simply need some paint and TLC.

Many buyers--from first-time homeowners to "fix and flip" investors--seek out fixer-uppers all the time. Fixer-uppers are not only uniquely satisfying, they present other opportunities as well. For example, a low-priced fixer-upper might make it easier for you to obtain financing.

Whatever the case, finding the right real estate agent for you is essential. Personalized advice from an expert you can trust will make the process easier and help you avoid oversights.

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