The Mortgage Challenge

MortgageChallenge

 

Home Is Never Far Away

The majority of renters who plan to buy a home soon don’t expect to move far when they do. More than half will stay in the same county, if not the same neighborhood.


Get the App – Palos Verdes Dream Homes

Palos Verdes Dream Homes

 

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Make cost-effective home improvements

Imagine walking into an important job interview looking like you just dragged yourself out of bed. You’d be unlikely to make a good impression and diminish your chance of securing the job.

The same goes for selling a home. First impressions are lasting. Some buyers won’t even look at the inside of a listing that doesn’t have good curb appeal.

Today’s buyers are picky. There is no sense of urgency in the market, so buyers are holding out for the best home they can find that will work for them for years to come. In some areas, there are a lot of homes for sale. It’s important to make sure that buyers will be attracted to your home before they even walk through the front door.

Fortunately, exterior improvements needn’t be expensive. The recent Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report 2010-2011 found that the improvements that yielded the highest return on the investment when sold were a new steel front door and a new garage door.

The average cost nationally for a new front door was $1,218; the return was 102 percent. The average cost for a new garage door was $1,191; the return was 83.9 percent. The top nine of 10 most cost-effective improvements nationally were for exterior projects. Curb appeal is as important as ever, and may be more so in this market.

The Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report is a collaborative report done annually by Remodeling Magazine and the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. It compares construction costs with resale values, which are based on estimates from more than 3,000 REALTORS® and appraisers.

Sprucing up the front yard for sale needn’t be costly. Clean out weeds and dead plants. Add flowering plants for color and mulch to tidy up areas that aren’t heavily planted. Replace a lawn that has seen better days with less lawn and a border bed of flowering shrubs.

Do in-ground planting well in advance, if possible, so that plants have a chance to get established before your home goes on the market. If you have no choice and must plant at last minute, be sure to remove the ID tags from the nursery.

A deteriorated fence should be removed, repaired or replaced. Any peeling paint on the front walk and steps and house exterior and trim should be refreshed. The side of the house that gets the most exposure needs the most maintenance. If you’ve let it go, you’ll be docked dollars by the buyers unless you repaint where needed before you sell.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: The amount returned on home improvement investments varies from one location to the next. It’s important to consult with your local real estate agent before you embark on an upgrade to make sure that you don’t overpay on an improvement that won’t generate the desired result. Most homeowners assume they’ll get their money back and more when they sell. In fact, most upgrade investments often don’t return 100 percent of the amount invested, particularly in a down market.

A minor mid-range kitchen remodel returns 72.8 percent nationally, according to the 2010-11 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Index. In the Pacific region of the U.S., you’re likely to recoup 84.1 percent.

However, a major upscale kitchen remodel pays back only 59.7 percent nationally and 66 percent in the Pacific region. It makes sense to take on a major remodel project only if you’re staying in your home and can enjoy the use of the improvements before selling. A deck addition ranked high on the list of popular exterior improvements. Although, nationally the cost recouped is only 72.8 percent, it may be an essential enhancement if your home has no outdoor living space and all the homes for sale in your neighborhood do.

THE CLOSING: Supply and demand in your local area will also impact how much you’ll recoup from your fix-up investments.

Should I buy an investment property?

Historically, real estate has been a great investment. Those with enough money to purchase an investment property and hold on to it for a number of years were able to expect appreciation in the value of the home and a steady stream of renters to foot the month-by-month bills. Are those days long gone?
Maybe not. Sure, the market has been on a real roller coaster ride for the last few years, but that doesn’t mean that you’ve missed your chance to purchase an investment property. In fact, today may be a great time, and here’s why:

  • Interest rates are historically low.
  • Home prices have dropped significantly in the last few years.
  • A large inventory of homes on the market means sellers are willing to negotiate on price.
  • Tax benefits continue to apply to owners of investment properties.

According to the National Association of Realtors, sales of investment homes soared 64.5% in 2011. If you’re thinking about getting your hands on a piece of the investment market pie, consider these tips:

  1. Assemble your team. As with any home purchase, it’s important to have a group of advisors you trust. This obviously includes your real estate agent and mortgage broker, but it also includes a home inspector, contractor, accountant, and property manager. Start asking around for recommendations from friends and relatives.
  2. Have a healthy down payment. Buying an investment property is different than buying an owner-occupied home, when it comes to the lending process. Many banks want to see a down payment of at least 25%, if not 50%.
  3. Calculate your out-of-pocket expenses. If you’re going to be using the home as a rental property, consider costs like improvements to the home in order to make it tenant-ready, ongoing maintenance, property management fees, and the mortgage payments you’ll be responsible for in between tenants. If your plan is to renovate a home and resell it, consider not only the renovation costs, but also carrying costs if you can’t sell it as quickly as you’d like. You can find great investment property cost calculators online.
  4. Find the right location. Experts agree that you should buy the worst house in a nicer neighborhood, instead of the nicest house in a bad neighborhood. If you’re going to be renting, think of what kind of renter you’re hoping for (families, students, adult roommates) and think of what they’ll be looking for in a house: multiple bedrooms, parking, a fenced yard, proximity to public transportation, or a good school district, for example. Also, research comparable sales and rental rates in the neighborhood you choose.
  5. Make your offer contingent upon an inspection. If anything, an inspection is even more important on an investment property than your primary home. Your profits can quickly go down the drain if there are significant structural, plumbing, or electrical problems in the home you purchase.
  6. Don’t go overboard with renovations. Yes, it’s important to upgrade your investment property in order to make it livable and have it appeal to potential rentals or buyers. But, that doesn’t mean you have to put in hardwood floors, granite countertops, and stainless steel appliances. Consider the wear-and-tear that renters put on a home. If you’re planning on selling the home, you don’t want to out-price the neighborhood.

With a combination of preparation, research, analysis, and a little hard work, an investment property can be a great investment in today’s market, both in terms of short-term cash flow, and long-term real estate appreciation.