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Katherine Farber

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  1. As you set out on your home search, it is important to understand what kind of home you want and can afford, what your monthly payments could be, and how much to save for a down payment. We believe that having a holistic picture of all of these financial considerations puts home shoppers in a stronger position and can help them stay on budget. Whether you are beginning your search or have already spent time exploring neighborhoods, you may be wondering, “What can I afford?” That’s why at realtor.com, we have a whole team dedicated to helping home shoppers answer that question. Along with tools such as Price Perfect which provides insights on the average market rate of a home for different home features, we recently launched the “How Much Home Can I Afford?” Calculator available on iOS, Android, and Web. The freshly designed calculator addresses two components of the affordability topic that consumers want answers for, “How much can I afford?” and “How much do I want to spend?” When we began designing the calculator, we wanted to provide home shoppers the opportunity to see how various financial considerations come together to answer questions related to affordability. By inputting details such as annual income, monthly expenses, desired neighborhood, expected down payment, and credit score, home shoppers can calculate how much they can afford to spend on their new home and see how what they spend on a down payment impacts their options. Interface of “How Much Home Can I Afford?” Calculator on mobile web.Once you know what you can afford, our newest features can be utilized to understand the estimated monthly costs associated with the home. By entering anticipated numbers of a home price and down payment, as well as information related to loan type and interest rates, the realtor.com “Monthly Cost Calculator,” available on iOS and Android, provides a detailed and transparent look at the estimated monthly payments of a new home. And if you are unsure about some of the numbers to enter, the feature will use averages that you can update later. With all of this information in hand, perhaps you would like to conduct your home search specifically focused on the monthly cost of a home. By leveraging the new realtor.com “Monthly Payment Filter” available on iOS, you can see all of the homes for sale that meet your search and budget criteria. Simply enter a home search, tap “Filter,” and select “Monthly Payment” to enter your expected down payment and monthly mortgage budget. The feature can be especially helpful for first-time home buyers who are familiar with paying monthly rent, but may not be accustomed to budgeting based on total home price. We are proud to share that this feature is an industry first among national real estate portals and are excited to see how it can serve as one of the many features that aid home shoppers in their search. Making the decision to set out on a home search is a big one that leads to all sorts of financial considerations. When we are designing tools and features with this in mind, our goal is to help make those considerations as seamless as possible. Because at the end of the day, it’s about finding the right home, and the right price, for you. View the original article
  2. Small bathrooms aren't the easiest space to work with. They’re usually super small and have limited natural light and awkward layouts. Whether it’s your powder room or your apartment bathroom that’s way too small for your style, here are a few tips for making any small bathroom seem bigger — no wall demolition required. 1. Brighten the room Bring in as much light as possible. Light, bright rooms always feel more spacious than dark ones. Wall color. Having your walls and ceiling the same color can make it feel double its size, while having them different colors can make it seem so much smaller. Windows. If you have a window, use sheer window coverings to maximize the natural light. Lighting. Install additional flush-mount wall or ceiling light fixtures to increase the light in the room. 2. Add mirrors Install larger — and more — mirrors than you typically would in a bathroom. The reflected light will open your small space into one that feels more spacious. 3. Streamline storage Try to keep all storage in your bathroom as unseen as possible; Having revolving cabinets can help minimize clutter. 4. Eliminate clutter Nothing crowds a space faster than clutter. A good rule of thumb: If you don’t need it there, store it elsewhere. Pare what you keep in the bathroom down to the bare necessities. 5. Raise the bar Raise your shower curtain bar all the way to the ceiling — it’ll draw your eyes up and make the ceiling seem taller, creating the illusion of a larger space. The same goes for any window treatments. Raising sheer curtain panels to the ceiling also creates the illusion of a larger window, making the small bathroom seem larger. 6. Hide the bathmat Having a bathmat on the floor all the time can make your bathroom feel smaller. Put your bathmats away when you’re not using them to expose the flooring and make the space appear larger. 7. Install a sliding door Swinging doors can take up almost half the room, depending on how small the space is. A sliding barn door or a pocket door won’t encroach on your bathroom’s already limited real estate. 8. Think pedestal sink The added bulk of a full vanity takes up valuable space, so try a pedestal sink instead. You may not have a place for soaps or towels on the vanity, but there are plenty of wall-mounted solutions perfect for bathroom accessories. 9. Choose light-colored flooring Even if your walls and ceiling are light and bright, a dark floor will negate their effect and close the space in. Keep the flooring light to create a space with a bright and open flow. 10. Go frameless, clear and cohesive in the shower Clear glass shower doors make the room appear larger, while frosted glass breaks up the space and makes it seem smaller. The same goes for a frame around the glass. A frame can make the area seem choppy rather than smooth and open. Additionally, install the same shower tile from floor to ceiling. The seamless look from top to bottom adds cohesion and openness. Just a few changes to your small bathroom can make dramatic differences in how open it feels. Once you’ve tried these tips and tricks in the bathroom, apply them throughout your home! It’s all about creating the illusion of space.
  3. Katherine Farber

    5 myths about real estate agents

    Do you need one? Do they pocket the whole commission? Let's set the facts straight. Buyers and sellers often enter the market with misconceptions about real estate agents — how they work, how the process works and what the agency relationship is all about. It’s helpful to point out, without getting too far into the weeds, that in any one real estate transaction, there are most likely two agents: one for the buyer and one for the seller. Here are five myths (and five truths) about working with both buyer’s and seller’s agents. 1. Agents get a 6% commission, no matter what Most people assume that their agent is pocketing the entire commission. That would be nice, but it’s just not true. Truth First, it’s helpful to know that the seller pays the commission, and they split it four ways: between the two brokerages and the two agents. Finally, the brokerage commission isn’t fixed or set in stone, and sellers can sometimes negotiate it. 2. Once you start with an agent, you’re stuck with them If you’re a seller, you sign a contract with the real estate agent and their brokerage. That contract includes a term — typically six months to a year. Once you sign the agreement, you could, in fact, be stuck with their agent through the term. But that’s not always the case. Truth If things aren’t working out, it’s possible to ask the agent or the brokerage manager to release you from the agreement early. Buyers are rarely under a contract. In fact, buyer’s agents work for free until their clients find a home. It can be as quick as a month, or it can take up to a year or more. And sometimes a buyer never purchases a house, and the agent doesn’t get paid. Before jumping into an agent’s car and asking them to play tour guide, consider a sit-down consultation or a call, and read their online reviews to see if they’re the right fit. Otherwise, start slow, and if you don’t feel comfortable, let them know early on — it’s more difficult to break up with your agent if too much time passes. 3. It’s OK for buyers to use the home’s selling agent Today’s buyers get most things on demand, from food to a ride to the airport. When it comes to real estate, buyers now assume they need only their smartphone to purchase a home, since most property listings live online. Truth First-time buyers or buyers new to an area don’t know what they don’t know, and they need an advocate. The listing agent represents the seller’s interests and has a fiduciary responsibility to negotiate the best price and terms for the seller. So working directly with the selling agent presents a conflict of interest in favor of the seller. An excellent buyer’s agent lives and breathes their local market. They’ve likely been inside and know the history of dozens of homes nearby. They’re connected to the community, and they know the best inspectors, lenders, architects and attorneys. They’ve facilitated many transactions, which means they know all the red flags and can tell you when to run away from (or toward) a home. 4. One agent is just as good as the next Many people think that all agents are created equal. Truth A great local agent can make an incredible difference, so never settle. The right agent can save you time and money, keep you out of trouble and protect you. Consider an agent who has lived and worked in the same town for around ten years. They know the streets like the back of their hand. They have deep relationships with the other local agents. They have the inside track on upcoming deals and past transactions that can’t be explained by looking at data online. Compare that agent to one who’s visiting an area for the first time. Some agents aren’t forthright and might be more interested in making a sale. Many others care more about building a long-term relationship with you, because their business is based off referrals. 5. You can’t buy a for sale by owner (FSBO) home if you have an agent In a previous generation, sellers who wouldn’t deal with any agents tried to sell their home directly to a buyer to save the commission. Truth Smart sellers understand that real estate is complicated and that most buyers have separate representation. And many FSBO sellers will offer payment to a buyer’s agent as an incentive to bring their buyer clients to the home. If you see a FSBO home on the market, don’t be afraid to ask your agent to step in. Most of the time the seller will compensate them, and you can benefit from their knowledge and experience.
  4. Perhaps you are a homeowner preparing to sell your home and are curious what features will make your home standout to potential buyers. You wonder if things like appliance updates really will grab more attention in listing photos and if you should do a bathroom remodel instead of updating the kitchen. At realtor.com, home is everything and we can help. Based on a recent survey by our consumer insights team, which took into account such factors as where people live by state as well as location type (urban, suburban, and rural), their age and gender, central air conditioning is one of the top-five home features that buyers look for across all regions and generations in the U.S. Not surprising, where it falls on the ranking varies by where people are located. For instance, buyers in the Midwest and South put it on the top of their list. In the Northeast it falls to No. 3 and then goes down to No. 5 for people in the West. Nationwide, central air conditioning is the top feature for baby boomers, but for millennials, the top feature is a large backyard. Based on our research, an updated kitchen with new appliances is much more important than updated bathrooms for buyers. Twelve percent of the buyers we surveyed ranked an updated kitchen in their top-three home features, whereas only about 4 percent ranked updated bathrooms in their top three. Our survey found that what people want in their home does vary by age, which is most likely driven by their lifestyle and needs. Millennials (21-36 years old) may be starting families and value a large backyard more than an updated kitchen. However, those in the silent generation (72 years old and up), prefer an updated kitchen over a large backyard. Another feature that has risen to the top of what buyers are looking for extends beyond the home and is about the community around the property. For boomers and the silent generation, proximity to healthcare facilities is essential and ranked as the No. 2 preference. In contrast, proximity to healthcare facilities came in at No. 6 for Generation X (37-52 years old) and at the bottom of the list for Millennials. Instead, given that these younger buyers may have children, having good schools in the area is imperative. Over 20 percent of millennials selected good schools as their top neighborhood feature and all groups ranked quality grocery stores at the top of their list. Despite the generational differences, our survey found that some features are timeless. Central air conditioning, updated kitchens and appliances, and a large backyard are what buyers are looking for regardless of age. View the original article
  5. Katherine Farber

    House shopping from long distance

    Searching for a house locally is not without its difficulties. Add hundreds or even thousands of miles to the equation, and it becomes infinitely more complicated. Though long-distance house hunting has its unique challenges, it’s not impossible. In fact, with the right agent and the convenience of modern technology, it’s never been easier to buy a house remotely. Here are a few critical factors to keep in mind when you find yourself in a home search from afar. Do your homework When it comes to long-distance home shopping, the internet is your best friend. You know the neighborhoods you live in, but you know nothing about your new one. You don’t know where the mall is, school, or grocery stores. Though nothing can substitute checking out the neighborhood in person, Shike recommends looking up commute times to work, crime rates in the area, and, most importantly, how the schools rank. Even if you don’t have children or don’t plan to have children, it’s still good to know the quality of the schools for resale purposes. One of the biggest pieces of the long-distance house-hunting puzzle, however, is to make sure you’re researching who the best local real estate agents are. It’s always crucial to hire an agent you trust, but with a long-distance search the agent can make or break the experience. You’re going to want someone local on the ground; Someone who is very familiar with the city, neighborhood, and prices. You need to understand how that person is. Are they going to be able to answer all of your questions and communicate well? Know what you want When you’re in the market for a home, you should always have a running list of features you want, but it’s especially crucial when you’re buying from a distance. Knowing exactly what you want out of a house and location allows your agent to help you narrow down neighborhoods and homes more easily, and assist you in making an offer quickly, which is especially important in a fast-moving market. Overcome remote home-buyer jitters For those buyers who are nervous about making an offer sight unseen, there is the possibility of adding a clause in the contract that the sale is contingent on the buyer seeing it. Of course, there is also always the option of renting first before you take the plunge. Overall, buying a house from a distance shouldn’t necessarily be looked at as a negative experience. In fact, it can give many shoppers new opportunities, and buyers are often more excited when purchasing long distance. It can be a nice change of pace for people. Another benefit to moving long distance is a fresh start: a new neighborhood, new culture, new people, and new experiences everywhere.
  6. Katherine Farber

    Plan home renovation costs

    Ready for a kitchen renovation? Anxious for a bathroom remodel? The easy part is knowing your goal for home remodeling — whether you’re trying to keep up with your growing family, add office space, or increase your home’s value. But figuring out how to plan a home renovation that doesn’t break the bank can be tricky. Here are five key steps in planning your home remodeling project. 1. Estimate home renovation costs As a general rule of thumb, you should spend no more on each room than the value of that room as a percentage of your overall house value. For example, a kitchen generally accounts for 10 to 15 percent of the property value, so spend no more than this on kitchen renovation costs. If your home is worth $200,000, for example, you’ll want to spend $30,000 or less. A kitchen remodel should cost no more than 10 to 15 percent of your home’s value. Photo from Offset. Something else to keep in mind: Contrary to popular belief, kitchen renovations offer among the lowest return on investment. Every dollar you spend on a kitchen remodel increases the value of your home by 50 cents. The highest return on investment? A mid-range bathroom remodel. 2. Consider home remodeling loan options If you plan on borrowing money to fund your home renovations, there are a plenty of loans out there to help with just that. Refinancing. Depending on your current interest rate, you might be able to refinance your mortgage at a lower rate and/or for a longer loan term, which could lower your monthly payments and help you save up for your renovations. Cash-out refinance. If you have enough equity, you could also consider a cash-out refinance, which means refinancing your existing loan for an amount that’s higher than what you owe. Going this route, you pay off your original mortgage and have cash left over. HELOC. If refinancing sounds like too big of a leap, a home equity line of credit (HELOC) might work better. A HELOC works a lot like a credit card in the sense that it has a set limit that you can borrow against. Home equity loan. Although it sounds similar to a HELOC, a home equity loan is a bit different. This loan requires you to take out all the cash at one time. They’re often referred to as “second mortgages” because homeowners get them in addition to their first mortgage. Refinancing, getting a HELOC or taking out a home equity loan are all big decisions, and it can be tough to know which one makes the most sense for you. 3. Get home renovation quotes from contractors Some contractors will give you an estimate based on what they think you want done, and work completed under these circumstances is almost guaranteed to cost more. You have to be very specific about what you want done, and spell it out in the contract — right down to the materials you’d like used. Make sure that contractors’ estimates include the full scope of your project. Photo from Shutterstock. Get quotes from several contractors, tossing out the bid from the one who gives you the lowest estimate. Going with this choice could be asking for problems, as low-priced contractors are known to cut corners — at your expense. 4. Stick to the home remodeling plan As the renovation moves along, you might be tempted to add on another “small” project or incorporate the newest design trend at the last minute. But know that every time you change your mind, there’s a change order, and even minor changes can be costly. Strive to stick to the original agreement, if possible. Even minor changes to your remodeling project’s scope can add significant costs. Photo from Offset. 5. Account for hidden home renovation costs Your home may look perfect on the outside, but there could be issues lurking beneath the surface. In fact, hidden imperfections are one of the reasons renovation projects end up costing more than you anticipated. Rather than scramble to come up with extra money after the fact, give yourself a cushion upfront. Factor in 10 to 20 percent (or more) of your contracted budget for unforeseen expenses, as they can — and do — occur. In fact, it’s rare that any project goes completely smoothly.
  7. Many homes come with kitchens that are less than ideal. The lighting can be off, the appliances old, the floors grimy and counter space- awful. Get the most out of the kitchen space you do have with these tips. Make room You can create extra space, even when it seems impossible. Over-the-sink covers, cutting boards and colanders help increase your workspace. Burner covers for your stove and a large cutting board or tray can create extra counter space when you’re entertaining and want to set out snacks (provided you don’t need to use your stove). Fold-up tables (attached to the wall or stand-alone) offer extra space when needed. If there’s room, a butcher block or island instantly create food prep or storage space. Another simple way to create space? Slim down your belongings — especially on the counters — and only keep the necessities. Go vertical A wall above the stove may be perfectly suited for a pegboard where you can hang pots, pans and utensils. Magnetic knife and spice racks can fit into small wall spaces under cabinets or above sinks. Refrigerators can serve as storage space for magnetic spice racks, towels, pot holders, or dry-erase boards or chalkboards, which are both useful and decorative. And over-the-cabinet hooks and towel racks add extra storage quickly and easily. Use bookcases Small bookcases are a kitchen’s best friend. They are perfectly narrow, they come in many heights and they offer tons of storage options. In addition to keeping cookbooks tidy, they can also hold pots, pans, dishes, food items, storage containers and baskets. Add hooks to the side of your bookshelf to store aprons or other lightweight tools. Add art and color Art and color are fast ways to personalize a small kitchen. Color-coordinated kitchen accessories become art in and of themselves, and a simple color palette lets the eye rest in a small space. When using every inch of space, don’t forget to leave room for a few decorative elements. Hang attractive tea towels with pushpins for a practical splash of color. And fresh flowers on a shelf or table instantly brighten the space and add life. If you have a windowsill, an herb garden is the perfect way to use the space and bring vibrancy. Cover eyesores Every older kitchen has at least one eyesore: an ancient microwave, a scratched-up refrigerator or a hideous vinyl floor. If you’re not ready to put down the cash for a remodel, cover these as best you can. Cover exposed sink pipes with curtains attached to the bottom of the sink (bonus: extra storage space). Store your old microwave or replace it with a newer, more attractive version. As for scratched or just plain ugly refrigerators and appliances, adhesive vinyl can create a like-new look in a matter of minutes. Cover unsightly floors with kitchen-friendly mats that also make standing at the counter easier on your feet, and refresh old cupboards and drawers with plain or patterned drawer liners. Upgrade lighting Lighting in any kitchen is hard to get right. Many fixtures make the space feel dated, and upgrading bulbs and cleaning light covers will make a difference right away. Consider installing adhesive under-cabinet lighting to better illuminate your workspace. If you can direct your lighting, such as track lighting, make sure it points to the kitchen triangle — that well-worn path from the stove to the sink to the refrigerator. If overhead lighting is scarce, consider using table lamps and even floor lamps. A floor lamp in a kitchen might seem odd at first, but put it at the end of a counter or tucked behind a table, and you’ll be grateful for the extra light.
  8. Katherine Farber

    Tips on unpacking in your new home

    So you’re finally in your new home, surrounded by piles of boxes, tired and glad that your relocation is about to end. To fully complete your moving adventure, you need to unpack your belongings and make your new place feel like home. But where do you even begin? First things first No matter how much you want to get it over with, there are three important things to do before you can actually start unpacking. Clean and prepare your new home. It’s easier to wipe down shelves, clean windows and mop floors before your things are in place. Make sure your new home is spotless when your things arrive. If you can’t get to your new place early enough to do a thorough cleaning, consider hiring professional cleaners to do the job for you. Inspect and organize your belongings. Check all the delivered boxes and household items against your inventory sheet to make sure nothing is damaged or missing. Then have each of your possessions taken to the room where it belongs. If everything was properly marked and labeled, sorting your items will be a piece of cake. Set major furniture and appliances. Position your large furniture pieces and bulky household appliances first. Then you can put any smaller items you unpack later in their rightful places. Plan your interior design well in advance so you don’t end up moving heavy pieces around several times. Tackle the necessities What matters most when unpacking your items after a move is ensuring that your essentials are immediately accessible. So prioritize your belongings, and unpack only the necessities first. Bedding You may not be able to unpack the entire bedroom right away, but you’ll definitely need at least the bed the day you move in. Reassemble the bed frame (if necessary), lay down the sheets, unpack the pillows and spread the blankets so you can get a good night’s rest — you’re going to need it! Provided that you have a change of clothes and some comfortable indoor shoes (as well as curtains on the windows to ensure your privacy), the rest of your bedroom items can wait until you find the time and the energy to deal with them. Bathroom items Without a doubt, your personal care items, toiletries and medicines should top the list of the most important items to unpack after your move. Put out toilet paper and soap, find your toothbrush and toothpaste, hang the towels and the shower curtains, and unpack any other bathroom essentials you’ll need to wash away the weariness and stress of moving. Kitchen necessities Kitchens tend to take a very long time to unpack and organize properly due to the large number of items that need to be sorted and carefully arranged. As soon as you’ve hooked up the large appliances, such as the fridge and the stove, move on to your smaller kitchenware. Plates, silverware and glasses should be the first to find their places in cupboards and kitchen cabinets, closely followed by cooking utensils, pots and pans, and pantry items. Kids’ and pets’ items If you have young children, unpack some of their favorite toys, books, games and blankets during the first few hours in your new home. Keeping your young ones happy and occupied will let you concentrate on your work and finish it faster. Of course, you should also take care of your pets’ needs immediately upon arrival. It’s a good idea to pack adequate pet food and some of your animal friends’ favorite toys in your open-first box. Finishing up When you’ve unpacked the three most essential rooms in your home (bedroom, bathroom and kitchen), everything else can wait a bit. There are no deadlines to meet, so you can set your own pace when unpacking and decorating your new place — just unpack in order of priority without procrastinating. If you stay organized, set reasonable goals, clean after every unpacking phase, and dispose of the packing materials in a safe and eco-friendly manner, your new surroundings will soon stop looking like a warehouse full of boxes and start feeling like home.
  9. You don’t need to stay in a hotel and play tourist to have a proper staycation. Look no further than your own home for a staycaytion dreams are made of. Make no mistake, an at-home staycation doesn’t just mean a lazy weekend on the couch. Turn your humble abode into a resort made for relaxation with a few days of planning and prep work. Here’s your guide to creating the ultimate staycation. Tackle chores in advance Make a list of chores you want to tackle a few days before your staycation begins. At the very least, cover the basics like washing linens, dusting and vacuuming. For an added level of sparkle, schedule time to clean your windows. That way when you’re staring out to your backyard garden or pool (aka your staycaytion resort spa), your windows will be as spick-and-span as those at a five-star bed and breakfast. Better yet, for a totally chore-free staycaytion, consider setting aside extra cash for a housecleaning service to do the work for you beforehand. Maximize your comfort Maybe your home is already perfectly comfy and cozy. But for maximum staycation relaxation, why not add a few extra elements to make your home feel like a luxury resort? Adjust your lighting. Look for soft ambient lighting options to create a calming environment. New lamps for bedroom and living areas and candles for the master bath can completely change the mood of a space. Add new rugs. Soft, plush area rugs boost the comfort level of a room and make a cozy reading spot if you add a few floor pillows. Buy new bedding. Not only will it feel like you’re truly on a vacation somewhere else, but new sheets are an added perk after your leisure time comes to a close. Create designated spaces Think about what kind of environment will help you reach peak relaxation. You can do a quick makeover of your bathroom to create a calming home spa or carve out a quiet corner for a meditation or reading nook. If a spa setting is more your style, look at bath pillows, aromatherapy candles and bath oils. Or if you simply crave a reading corner, pick up some new reads that have been sitting on your wish list for too long. If you have kids, create a designated craft or board-game corner, or come up with a few activities they can enjoy while you relax. Look outside for added comfort ideas too. Whether it’s a hammock, a porch swing or patio furniture, look for ways to blend your staycaytion lounging with the great outdoors. On that note, consider setting up your camping gear in the backyard for part of your staycaytion, or try out a DIY fire pit for late-night chats and s’mores. Manage meals ahead of time Don’t waste precious relaxation time planning menus. Pick your favorite family recipes, plan which meals you’ll have delivered and knock out grocery shopping before your staycaytion begins. If you enjoy cooking, consider using some of your staycation time to make more intricate meals than you typically have time for — or bring in a local chef for a cooking lesson. Plan ahead to make it count With a few preparatory tasks on your to-do list, you can turn your house into a staycaytion sanctuary. Map out what you want your staycation to be like, and delegate tasks. Soon you’ll be ready for a few days of ultimate relaxation — without ever leaving your home.
  10. Before everyone starts talking about the next recession, let’s all take a second to celebrate and recognize everything that has happened over the last decade. The U.S. economy is booming! Just take a look at some of these key stats: Gross domestic product in the first quarter of 2019 outpaced the average for the past decade The economy added 21 million new jobs during 2010 to 2019, and pushed the unemployment rate to 3.7 percent The U.S. population has grown about 8 percent in the past decade, and America skews younger With over 60 percent of the population under the age of 50, demand for housing remains solid So why are people scared over some dark clouds on the horizon? One of the reasons is that the Federal Reserve – the government system that determines monetary policy – reversed its commitment to tighten policy, and instead said it would be more patient. This means that the Federal Reserve wasn’t fully confident in the recovery of the U.S. economy. Rather than raise interest rates, it decided to hold off and even stated they may lower rates if they felt they needed to. In turn, the markets saw this lack of confidence on the Fed’s end, and while welcoming the continuing low interest rates, became concerned about the economic outlook. Although home sales have suffered this year in the wake of rising home prices and more economic uncertainty, there are several factors that provide a silver lining for housing. First, is that America is young and growing. That means housing is going to continue to be in demand, even more so than it is now, as younger generations continue to age and move out of their parents’ homes. Despite the fact that the Baby Boom generation is moving toward retirement, there are over 60 million Gen Xers, 88 million Gen Y and 65 million Gen Z Americans who are either in or moving into their careers. Remember when everyone thought millennials would never buy homes or cars? Yeah, that was wrong! So get ready housing, there is a wave of young and eager homebuyers about to hit the market in the coming years. And while more and more young people get ready to purchase their first home, we expect to see exciting shifts in the marketplace as technology, design, and consumer preferences ripple through the country’s neighborhoods. To learn more about housing trends and economic data, visit the realtor.com research portal. View the original article
  11. Moving may top the list of stressful experiences that can feel like a bad dream — one that can easily come true unless you take precautionary measures. Problems can occur at every stage of the relocation process, but the most common moving nightmares fall into three categories. Here’s how they typically play out — and how to avoid them. Poor organization Moving involves a lot of loose ends, and even the smallest oversight can result in a disastrous move. Packing chaos. You realize you’ve packed more items than previously discussed with the movers, and some items can’t be loaded onto the moving truck. Or maybe you don’t label the boxes properly. Worst of all, you may not be ready when the movers arrive. All these packing mistakes result in lost time and money. Furniture troubles. If your large furniture doesn’t fit through the doors, you may have to leave treasured pieces behind or request hoisting services that will cost you dearly and delay your move. Paperwork problems. If you forget to transfer the utilities, you won’t have electricity, gas and water on move-in day. If you forget to change your address, you won’t have your mail delivered to your new home. If you forget to update your driver’s license and car registration in time, you’ll be fined. Not taking proper care of your documents will most certainly get you in trouble. Overspending. If you book your movers at the last moment, require too many extra services, fail to create a realistic moving budget or pack all your items without sorting them out first, you’ll end up paying much more than you expected. Safety issues. Make every effort to prevent injuries and accidents on moving day, as getting hurt is one of the worst things that can happen during your relocation endeavor. The best way to avoid problems when moving house is to plan each phase of your relocation adventure in meticulous detail and stay one step ahead all the time. Traffic problems Heavy traffic or road accidents can also turn your move into a real nightmare. Traffic jams. The moving truck is delayed, and there may not be enough time to proceed with your move as planned. You may have to postpone the relocation to another day, or you may miss your flight. Traffic accidents. If there has been an accident on the road, the moving truck will have to wait until the damaged vehicles are removed and normal traffic is restored. However, the scenario could get much worse: You may lose all your possessions or receive them badly damaged if the moving truck crashes, catches fire or gets trapped somewhere because of adverse weather conditions. It’s even possible that thieves could break into the vehicle and steal your goods. Breakdown. If the moving truck breaks down on the road, you’ll have to wait for the moving company to send another vehicle. What’s more, your items can easily get damaged while being transferred. Parking issues. The moving truck has to circle the neighborhood for hours until an appropriate parking space is vacated, or the movers have to park far away from your home’s entrance. In such cases, you’ll not only lose valuable time but also have to pay an extra fee for the delay or an additional long-carry fee. Of course, there’s nothing you can do to prevent traffic accidents or breakdowns. But you can at least reserve a parking place directly in front of your old and new homes, and choose a moving company that has experienced drivers and several moving vehicles in good condition. Misleading movers Many moving horror stories involve rogue or incompetent movers. The movers are late or don’t show up at all. The agreed-upon time comes and goes, but you see no sign of an approaching moving truck. Regardless of the excuses you receive, the inevitable result will be lots of stress and wasted time. The movers are careless or inexperienced. If your movers arrive late or lack the proper equipment to handle your items safely and efficiently, your relocation can quickly turn into a nightmarish experience. The movers are scam artists. In the worst case scenario, you may fall victim to moving scams. Rogue movers will often request much more money than previously negotiated, based on alleged extra services. They may also hold your belongings hostage until you pay an extra “fee” as ransom or steal your more expensive belongings and discard the rest. The good news is that there is an easy way to avoid such nightmares. All you need to do is carefully research your movers before hiring them to make sure you are dealing with licensed and experienced professionals you can trust. It’s also a good idea to purchase appropriate insurance for your belongings, just in case.
  12. In today’s market, many buyers forego "fixer-uppers" for move-in ready homes. As a result, significant opportunities abound in prime locations as homes that need work linger on the market. In competitive markets, savvy consumers gravitate toward these homes that nobody else wants. Why? They can customize the home to their requirements and build equity along the way. That said, I often recommend that buyers live in a new home for a while before undertaking any expensive remodeling or big home improvements. I’m not talking about lighting or plumbing repairs necessary to make the house habitable. Rather, I’m referring to discretionary remodeling, expansions and other improvement projects. Here are three good reasons to at least consider holding off on the big home improvement projects until you’ve had some time to settle in. 1. Living in the home can change your mind You may have grand visions for what you’d like to do to a home, based on its condition and your priorities at the time you buy it. But until you’re actually living there, it’s difficult to know exactly how you’ll use the house, what will work for you and what won’t. Ultimately, it’s this day-to-day experience that will inform your home improvement decisions, instead of early notions of how you want your everyday experience to be. 2. After buying a home, you deserve a break Buying a home is a massive project, an enormous change in your life and a shock to the system — if not your finances. I’ve seen buyers jump through hoops, spending months on end looking for a home. In some situations, it becomes a part-time job. A home renovation can be yet another big and stressful project, what with all the decisions to make and contractors to deal with. My recommendation: Take a break from the stress of buying your new home. 3. You need time to plan Any renovation, no matter how small, should be designed with care. That means speaking to multiple architects, contractors or designers to get their take on your ideas and options — a time-consuming process. An hour with a well-qualified contractor can uncover opportunities where you least expected them. For instance, even though it may be an added cost now, moving the laundry machines from the garage to the top floor during a larger renovation may save you time and money down the road. Conversely, hiring architects and contractors while under the constraints of an escrow period is likely to cause problems for you later. Some buyers want to jump into renovations because they don’t want to live in a construction zone or pay rent and a mortgage at the same time. While this may make some economic sense upfront, it can still cause costly problems later. Often, buyers who said they don’t want a home that requires any work end up buying a home that needs at least some. It’s the natural evolution of the buying process. Rarely does someone end up buying the home they started off thinking they wanted. While you should be open to doing work on a home, don’t feel stressed about getting it all done at once. Live as-is for six months to a year. Take the home for a test drive and see how it runs. You may be surprised at how your perspective and priorities change once you settle in.
  13. Katherine Farber

    Credit recovery/missed payments

    Payment history is the biggest factor used in scoring, so being late on a payment can bring your credit scores down. That said, it shouldn't be reflected in your credit history unless you are at least 30 days past due. However, your credit card company may assess late fees as soon as you miss the due date. What to Do If You Miss a Payment When you miss a payment and you rectify the situation quickly and make your full payment before it is 30 days late, you can likely avoid having the delinquency reported to the credit reporting companies. However, missing the due date and having a check returned still can be reported against you. In addition to charging you a late fee, your credit card company may also charge a fee for the returned check, plus interest on the revolving balance. All these fees add to your credit card balance, which can make it harder to pay that balance and keep up with future payments. Additionally, your bank may charge an overdraft fee. All those fees can add up quickly. The most important thing you can do now is bring both accounts current as soon as possible. If you haven't already done so, contact both the credit card provider and your bank to explain what happened, and make arrangements to get both accounts back in good standing. When Are Late Payments Reported? Any time a payment ends up being 30 days or more past due, the lender will likely report that delinquency to Experian. Once a late payment is reported, it will show in your credit history for the next 7 years. Late payments have a significant negative impact on credit scores because lenders view them as a sign of financial distress. If your account is reported as past due, the best thing you can do to help your credit scores recover is to bring the account current and ensure all your accounts are paid on time going forward. The more recent a late payment is, the more it will affect your scores. If you use credit responsibly and keep your accounts current and your balances low, as time passes that late payment will affect your credit scores less and less.
  14. Our product team is always exploring new features to make it easier for our users to find the right home. One of the newest features we are currently testing is “Schedule a tour.” This feature came out of users’ need to get an up close, realistic view of homes they find online by making an in-person visit. Now, thanks to our “Schedule a tour” feature available in select markets, users can begin the process of touring the home with a local agent that knows the market and can offer insights about the specific home and the neighborhood. How does it work? Let’s say you are looking for a three-bedroom, three-bathroom home in a great school district and a commute time of less than 45 minutes (all of which you can do on realtor.com!) and you find a home that matches your unique needs. You obviously want to see this home in person as soon as possible. To do this, simply tap the “Schedule a tour” feature, select the day and time you’re available, provide your phone number, and we’ll help you from there. A realtor.com representative (not a bot!) will contact you to gather some basic information from you, and based on your needs, connect you to an agent who knows the market and who can help get you access to the home you’re interested in. This local agent can work with you to get answers to your questions about the home and the home buying process, and to finalize the details of your home tour. Mobile listing display page of Chicago home.“Schedule a tour” is one of several features that realtor.com is testing in an effort to make it easier for our users to accelerate their home search and make it easier for users to communicate with a professional. For instance, once you’re working with a matched agent, our new connected experience allows you to communicate with him or her while you’re searching on realtor.com. In just a couple of taps on your device, you can call or text your agent to ask questions about a specific property or schedule a tour with your agent. Your matched agent is there to answer any questions you have and be a trusted resource throughout your home journey. If you’re a frequent user, you might also have noticed that we now offer more homes on each search results page, offer real time updates, made key listing details more prominent, and have made it easier to learn about homes you are interested in with larger photos. When we asked our users about the “Schedule a tour” experience, they have shared how easy the feature is to use, the prompt response they have received from our representatives, and the quality of the local agents they were connected with. If you live or are searching for a home in one of these markets, you’ll see the option of scheduling a tour while you’re on realtor.com and we encourage you to check it out. It’s meant to provide added value to our users, and there’s no commitment. Many of our new features and site enhancements come from feedback from our consumers. The best part is that there is more to come. We’d like to hear, how do you think realtor.com can continue to make your home search easier? View the original article
  15. Katherine Farber

    Kitchen Fires 101

    Several of the biggest fire hazards in your home all live in your kitchen. The oven, the stovetop, your toaster… when you think of all of the heat sources your kitchen contains, it’s almost a wonder that it doesn’t burst into flames on the regular. Joking aside, the kitchen is usually a pretty safe place so long as you keep an eye on things. That doesn’t mean that you should ignore fire safety rules when in the kitchen, of course – knowing how to handle a kitchen fire can mean the difference between a scare and a tragedy. Kitchen Fire Safety There are a number of potential causes of kitchen fires. There are the usual fire hazards such as electrical shorts, but you also have kitchen-specific risks such as splashing oil or something falling onto a heating element. Because there are so many potential causes of a kitchen fire, your fire safety measures need to be a bit wider reaching than what you might use for other rooms in your house. A smoke detector is important in the kitchen, as is a fire extinguisher that you can access easily. Make sure you choose the right fire extinguisher, though; opt for an ABC fire extinguisher if possible. These can be used on Class A (trash/wood/paper), Class B (oil and liquids) and Class C (electrical equipment) fires. Establish an area where you can put oven mitts, cookbooks and similar materials far enough away from the stovetop to prevent any of them from falling onto a hot surface. Inspect kitchen appliances regularly for damaged cords or other fire hazards and replace anything that could present a danger. Oven Fires If a fire breaks out in your oven, your first instinct is likely to open the oven and try to put the fire out. That’s one of the worst things that you can do, though; opening the oven provides much-needed air to the fire and can make it significantly worse. Just opening the oven door can cause the fire to explode outward, potentially burning you and spreading to surrounding surfaces. Instead, turn off the oven and leave the door closed. This will limit the availability of oxygen, causing the fire to die down and eventually go out on its own. Keep an eye on the fire, though, since if it doesn’t start dying out or seems to be getting stronger, you’ll likely need to call the fire department to deal with it. Fires on the Stovetop Stovetop fires come in several forms. If something falls onto a hot burner, that can cause a fire. If oil or other flammable liquids get too hot or splash out of a pan, that can also cause a fire. Even letting a pan boil dry can cause a fire. Fortunately, the majority of stovetop fires are preventable by keeping an eye on the stove whenever there’s at least one hot burner. If a fire breaks out on the stovetop, there are a few things that you can do. If it’s a very small fire such as a grease fire in a pan, simply putting a metal lid on the pan may be enough to put the fire out. Slightly larger fires can be doused using baking soda, but do NOT use flour… though you may have heard that flour is okay to use, flour is finely ground dried plant material and is actually very flammable. Your fire extinguisher is also an option, as is calling the fire department before things get too far out of control. Keeping Your Kitchen Safe One key part of fire safety is making sure that your smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and other fire safety equipment stays in good working order in case you need them. HomeKeepr can help you find the pros you need for preventative maintenance, fire extinguisher inspections and more essential fire prevention services.
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