Monthly Archives: October 2016

Five Best Kitchen Remodeling Tips

When you shop for a home, what do you look for in the kitchen? Granite counters? Storage? Breakfast bar? Sparkling stainless appliances? If you’re buying an older home like most buyers, you may have to update to get the look and features you want. Here are five tips to get started:

  1. Work with a kitchen design professional. They’re trained to help you solve the most challenging kitchen problems and to work within your budget. A kitchen designer can recommend contractors and oversee all installations to make sure they are done correctly. Some can serve as contractors for a turnkey job.
  2. Hire qualified contractors. Cheaper isn’t necessarily better. Check references, licenses, and make sure their subcontractors are also bonded and insured.
  3. Consider the age of the home for a more organic look. For example, mid-century linoleum floors are more in fashion now than ever before. New patterns and colors in tile can mimic wood or stone for easy upkeep. Try porcelain instead of wood on cabinets for a sleek minimalist look.
  4. Be willing to compromise on costs or space. Cut the expense of new cabinetry by replacing some uppers with trendy open shelving. Splurge on granite for the island, but finish the other countertops with a workhorse stone-like laminate or tile.
  5. Don’t try to save money by doing work you aren’t qualified to do. You may be able to install flooring or a backsplash with a friend and a tutorial, but if a job requires a license like an electrician or plumber, it’s best to hire a professional.

Of course, always remember to call your favorite Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed Realty agent at 703-836-1464 for tips, suggestions, and referrals to our list of vetted contractors.

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Renegotiating After the Home Inspections

Negotiations don’t necessarily end when you and the seller sign the contract to purchase. You have the right to have the home you’re buying inspected for soundness, which you can include as a contingency to your offer. That way, if the inspection reveals a serious issue, you and the seller can address it through renegotiations.

During the inspection process, the inspector is required to tell you about the condition of the appliances, heating and cooling, electrical and plumbing systems, foundation, roofing, exterior materials and so on.

Depending on where you live, you may also get separate inspections for pests and environmental issues such as radon. You’ll also learn if your future home is up to current building codes and what needs to be done to bring it up to code.

Most sellers expect to make reasonable repairs and replacements if the inspection reveals an issue that wasn’t obvious when you first agreed to terms. As long as communication remains open and civil, the seller should have as much desire to make the sales contract work as you do.

Sleeping in the Kitchen? Unusual Layout for a Tiny Apartment

In some of the world’s most famously tiny micro apartments, like a $300K closet in London and a 12-by-7-foot hole in the wall in New York City, creative division of space is just a given. Shortages of affordable accommodations in desirable cities often mean house hunters and renters have to wo …

Source: Sleeping in the Kitchen? Unusual Layout for a Tiny Apartment

The Seller Who Tests the Market

When you see the market rising, it’s tempting to price your home even higher than nearby homes that recently sold. So you tell your listing agent that you want to “test” the market to see if you can get even more for your home.

Sometimes, it’s appropriate to choose a list price higher than recent comparable sold homes, but that strategy seldom works unless the market is climbing rapidly. If you’re looking for a quick, hassle-free sale, you need to decide which is more important – getting more for your home or moving on to your new life somewhere else.
Let’s say your neighborhood’s highest, most recent home sale was $500,000, and your agent suggests a listing price of $510,000. You want to test the market at $530,000 – which is $20,000 more than your agent recommends, and $30,000 over the latest comparable.

Your home hits the market at $530,000 and has tons of showings the first week. Your strategy is working, except that you don’t receive any offers. By the second week, there are few to no showings. Agents are reporting back to your listing agent that their buyers said your home “needs work,” or that they “found something more suited to their needs.”

After months of making two mortgage payments, your home finally sells at $518,000. Meanwhile, you paid months of overhead to get $9,000. You actually lost peace of mind and threw away a lot of money.

Overpriced homes simply take longer to sell. If you’re tempted to “test the market”, remember that the market will test you.

For accurate pricing, staging, and home selling assistance, always remember to call your favorite Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed Realty agent at 703-836-1464.

Ask the Expert: What Should Homeowners Know about Energy Efficiency?

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Today’s “Ask the Expert” column features Mark Walker, Director with NRG Mass Sales.

Q: What are the top five things new homeowners need to know about energy efficiency?

A: First-time homebuyers have many questions, ranging in scope from a home’s square footage, what the neighborhood is like, whether the asking price is negotiable, and more. Typically, it’s not until they receive the first electricity bill that they begin to think about energy efficiency.

As many REALTORS® know, new homeowners are one of a kind. They’re excited about their purchase, but perhaps nervous about the costs ahead. At Reliant in Texas and NRG Home in the Northeast, we want the electricity bill to be one less thing that causes concern. That’s why it’s helpful to understand what drives energy use, and how to be more efficient. Naturally, new homeowners consider their REALTOR® the go-to source for all things home-related, so here are five energy efficiency tips you can share with first-time homebuyers.

1. Insulation is tops. For re-sale homes, it’s important to make sure the home is well insulated. The most cost-effective improvement any new homeowner can make is adding insulation. Without proper insulation, a home can lose up to 40 percent of cooled or heated air.

2. Heating and cooling account for most energy use. Did you know that heating and cooling your home can account for up to half of its energy use? Save energy by following these simple tips:

  • Follow the 4×4 principle. Setting your thermostat four degrees higher when away from home for more than four hours can help reduce electricity costs.
  • Rotate ceiling fans. Turning your fan counter-clockwise during the summer helps create a wind chill effect for a more comfortable living environment. In the winter, set your fan clockwise to move hot air downward
  • Always use the automatic A/C fan setting. Keep your A/C fan on the “auto” position. Turning it to the “on” position can increase energy costs and make it harder for your A/C to maintain the desired temperature.

3. Air filters and vents should not go unnoticed. Homeowners often overlook replacing air filters, but it’s important to change filters regularly to keep your system working efficiently. Also, ensure return air vents are free from obstructions. If air flow is hindered, the system can’t operate properly, and your energy bill will suffer.

4. Energy-efficient appliances matter. If appliances are more than 10 years old, it may be time to invest in new, energy-efficient models, from refrigerators and dishwashers to washers and dryers. Look for the ENERGY STAR® label when upgrading.

5. Small actions add up. Turning lights off when leaving a room and shutting blinds to block summer heat are just a couple simple ways to decrease energy costs and make your home more comfortable and efficient.
Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2016. All rights reserved.

The Home-Buying Equation

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Buying a home for the first time can seem daunting. One way to alleviate the process is to organize your finances before embarking on the house hunt. Unsure how to get yours in order? Remember A + B + C + D + E:

Ask + Budget + Check + Differentiate + Estimate

Before you start searching for a home, ask a real estate professional for guidance. He or she will have expertise related not only to financing, but also to negotiating a deal in your favor.

Next, set a budget that takes into account your down payment, your anticipated monthly mortgage payment (with interest), and your closing costs. These figures are all important considerations in the home-buying process.

Prior to house-hunting, check your credit report and score. Your credit is a determining factor in a lender’s approval or denial of your mortgage loan application, as well as your mortgage interest rate. Take steps to correct any errors on your report, or improve your score, if necessary.

Shop around for mortgage lenders to differentiate between loan offerings—even a slight variation in rates or terms can lead to significant savings over the life of your loan. Your real estate professional may recommend a lender, but it is ultimately your choice with whom to obtain a mortgage.

Estimate oft-forgotten homeownership-related expenses, such as your monthly homeowners insurance premium, your maintenance costs, your moving expenditures, your property taxes and your utility rates. These will all play a role in your overall affordability.

Completing A, B, C, D and E will not only prepare you for the home-buying process, but also lay a strong financial foundation for you as a new homeowner. The result of the equation speaks for itself!

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2016. All rights reserved.