By Erica Sweeney for Realtor.com
Here’s a look back at eight of Realtor.com’s most-read advice pieces of 2019. Check below to become a more knowledgeable homeowner in 2020!
Purchasing a new home is a long-term financial commitment, and you probably have a list of must-haves for the home. But you’ll likely be living in the place for decades, so before you seal the deal, take a look around to make sure the home will meet your needs for years to come.
Many buyers think they’ve snagged their dream homes, but, down the road, start hating what used to be some of their favorite features.
Look over this list of buyers’ most-wanted features that later drove them nuts to save yourself from buyer’s remorse.
Can’t miss tip: An open floor plan offers little in the way of privacy. This layout style has been a sought-after feature for house hunters, but many homeowners find that an open floor plan means everyone in the home is living on top of one another. Bummer.
Real estate deals come with a set of steps, like the need to get pre-approved for a mortgage and putting down earnest money when you make an offer. Yet along with these set-in-stone directives, there are many unwritten rules that can make or break a deal. Don’t overlook a few etiquette rules when buying a home to keep your deal on track.
Can’t-miss tip: Sign on with a real estate agent before asking the pro to show you homes. A buyer-broker agreement is a legal contract that spells out the relationship between the buyer and real estate agent, and lists the services the agent will provide. It shows that you’re serious about buying a home and committing to working with the specific agent.
If your relationship with your agent doesn’t work out, you can end the agreement and find someone else. It’s poor etiquette to work with more than one agent at the same time.
If you’re an HGTV fan, buying a fixer-upper and making it your own may seem like a dream. The reality isn’t always so romantic, however. Dealing with fixer-uppers can be time-consuming and costly.
Sometimes, a buyer falls in love with the home and is willing to take on the risk—and cost and responsibility of repairs and maintenance. One buyer of a fixer-upper shares her real-life story of what it’s like to purchase, fix up, and live in such a home.
Can’t-miss tip: Pets, cigarette smoke, or cooking smells can be off-putting for buyers, but a deep cleaning and leaving the windows open for a bit can usually get rid of these odors. Homes that smell wet and musty could signal a bigger problem—a sign of mold, mildew, or water damage, which could be a costly repair.
Selling a home can sometimes take a while, and major issues understandably delay a sale. But, sometimes, smaller, seemingly petty details can sabotage a home sale, too. Here are a few issues to get in check before putting your home on the market.
Can’t-miss tip: Specify whether window treatments are included in the sale. As a seller, make it clear to buyers if you plan to take drapes, blinds, and curtain rods with you when you move—and whether you plan to offer replacements.
Mortgage loan requirements, down payment rules, tax laws, and the overall financial climate can change from year to year. It may be tempting to seek advice from parents or others who have purchased homes before, but their guidance could be outdated and inaccurate. Beware!
With mortgage rates at an all-time low, it may be a great time to buy. Just be sure to have a firm understanding of what you can afford and your overall financial situation, and stay up to date with the current mortgage requirements. Talk to your lender and real estate agent over friends and family. Sorry, friends and family.
Can’t-miss tip: You probably don’t need a 20% down payment. Buyers with a good credit score may need only a 3% down payment to secure their dream home. Shopping around to see what different lenders offer and require will help you get the best mortgage terms.
Should I refinance? That’s a question on many homeowners’ minds these days, especially as mortgage interest rates continue to drop.
Along with a lower interest rate, refinancing also brings a lower monthly payment, which means you could pay off the loan faster and tap into the home’s equity. But there are several questions you should ask a lender before refinancing to make sure it’s the best financial decision for you in the long run.
Can’t-miss tip: You’ll have to pay closing costs when you refinance. Individual lenders can provide the exact amount of money you’ll need to bring to closing, but homeowners can expect to pay 2% to 3% of the loan amount to refinance.
It’s tempting to load everything in the washing machine for cleaning. While the powerful appliance is adept at keeping clothing, towels, and linens spotless, some items could be destroyed when put through the spin cycle. Others could destroy your machine.
Not sure what can go in the washer and what can’t? Read our story!
Can’t-miss tip: Keep king-size comforters out of the washer, but pillows can go in. Large comforters are usually too big for typical at-home washing machines. They could cause the water to overflow and break the machine. It’s best to take big comforters and blankets to a laundromat and wash in the industrial-size machines.
Pinterest and HGTV showcase stylish homes and inspire homeowners to take on DIY projects to spruce up their spaces. But these platforms also tend to make projects look a lot easier than they are. And in fact, the opposite is often true: They can cost more and take more time than you think. And, if a project fails, you’ll end up with the added cost of hiring someone to fix the mistake.
Can’t-miss tip: Installing new floors is the most expensive and time-consuming project to fix. Floors must be level, and the space must be measured meticulously so that new flooring fits perfectly. Making a mistake early in the process can cause many problems down the road.
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