- Solar panels: The upfront cost is big, but the long-term savings are huge. Solar panels will cost several thousand dollars to install, but ongoing maintenance costs are very low, and a typical system could save you hundreds of dollars per year. You can even sell your surplus electricity.
- Wood furnace: Wood-burning furnaces are relatively inexpensive, and though the yearly savings aren’t as dramatic (about 10% on heating bills), it adds up over the long run.
- Insulation: There’s a good chance your insulation isn’t very efficient, especially in older homes. Look into installing floor, cavity, wall, and loft insulation to reduce your heating bills.
- Rain barrels: Rain barrels are extremely inexpensive, and provide gallons of free water to use when you wash your car or water your garden.
- Geothermal system: OK, so the price tag is scary at first. A geothermal system uses the earth’s temperature to heat and cool your home, but can cost $30,000 to install. But tax credits allow you to get a lot of that money back, and the energy savings average about $1,900 per year. If you plan to be in your home for a decade or two, it’s a great investment.
Moving into a new home is an exciting time, and you’re probably daydreaming about decor and paint schemes and new furniture. But before you get into the fun stuff, there are some basics you should cover first.
Change the locks
Even if you’re promised that new locks have been installed in your home, you can never be too careful. It’s worth the money to have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that no one else has the keys to your home. Changing the locks can be a DIY project, or you can call in a locksmith for a little extra money.
Steam clean the carpets
It’s good to get a fresh start with your floors before you start decorating. The previous owners may have had pets, young children, or just some plain old clumsiness. Take the time to steam clean the carpets so that your floors are free of stains and allergens. It’s pretty easy and affordable to rent a steam cleaner-your local grocery store may have them available.
Call an exterminator
Prior to move-in, you probably haven’t spent enough time in the house to get a view of any pests that may be lurking. Call an exterminator to take care of any mice, insects, and other critters that may be hiding in your home.
Clean out the kitchen
If the previous occupants wanted to skip on some of their cleaning duties when they moved out, the kitchen is where they probably cut corners. Wipe down the inside of cabinets, clean out the refrigerator, clean the oven, and clean in the nooks and crannies underneath the appliances.
Once you’ve decided to put your home on the market, you’re looking to sell quickly for the best possible price. One tactic that can help sell your home faster is staging. At first, staging may seem like a real estate term that doesn’t actually mean anything. Isn’t staging just decorating? Well, not exactly…
Appeal to the masses
Your home is likely decorated to your tastes. It could be colorful and eclectic, or rugged and industrial. But when you’re staging your home, rather than appealing to a specific decorating sense, you want to furnish your home in a way that appeals to everyone-and more importantly, doesn’t turn anyone off who just isn’t into your personal style.
Tone down the personal flourishes
Buyers want to be able see themselves in a home and imagine how they’d make it their own. Unfortunately, that means less of your own style as you’re preparing for your move. Cut down on family photos, bold artwork, and unusual furniture. Do some major decluttering so the buyer can see all the space and storage opportunities. It may be sad to start removing the items that make your house a home, but it’s an important part of the process.
Mass appeal doesn’t mean “boring”
Your staged home can still be colorful, just stay away from extremes. If you paint, stick to whites, grays, or neutrals. Add flourishes of color with window treatments or accent furniture, but try to choose items that will appeal to both genders.
Call a pro
There are likely several staging companies in your area. If you need a recommendation, reach out to your trusted real estate professional.
But if you don’t pay attention to the details, your mortgage can end up dragging down the enjoyment of your new home and cause some major regrets. Here are a few mistakes to avoid to ensure that you love your mortgage terms as much as your hew home.
Don’t find your home first: Shopping around for the best mortgage rate should be the first step in the home buying process. You may even want to talk to a mortgage broker a full year before you plan to buy. It’ll give you time to get your affairs in order to qualify for the best rate, could save you thousands of dollars in the long run, and you won’t feel rushed to accept an unattractive loan because you’re worried you’ll miss out on your dream home.
Don’t forget your real budget: There’s often a big difference between what a lender says you can afford and what you can actually afford. Your debt-to-income ratio doesn’t include the money you spend on hobbies, or the cost of commuting to work, or maintenance and utility costs. Really sit down and examine your spending before committing to the loan amount the lender is offering. You won’t enjoy your home nearly as much if it’s eating into your favorite hobbies.
Some the features that increase property values are obvious-like a remodeled bathroom, a modern kitchen, or a sought-after neighborhood. But here are a few features and circumstances you have not have realized can affect property values.
- The neighbors: Not every neighborhood or community has an HOA that can keep the neighbors from going overboard with decorations or neglecting to care for their home. Homes adjacent to crazy neighbors can potentially be undervalued.
- Trendy groceries and coffee: Recent statistics suggest that if your home is a short walk from popular grocery stores like Whole Foods or coffee chains like Starbucks, it can actually appreciate faster than the national average.
- Mature trees: A big beautiful tree in the front yard is enviable, and it’s not something that can be easily added to any home. Homes with mature trees tend to get a little boost in value.
- Parking: This isn’t too much of an issue if you live in the suburbs or in a rural area, but residents in dense cities can have real problems with parking, and homeowners might need to rent a spot just to guarantee a place to park each night. That’s why having guaranteed parking in urban areas will raise property values.
- The front entrance: First impressions matter to buyers-many will cross a home off their list within 10 seconds of stepping through the front door. An appealing front door, a friendly entryway, and a functioning doorbell are all necessities for getting top dollar.
Budgeting for buying a home can be difficult enough when you’re just weighing mortgage options and a purchase price. But there are many other factors that go into the cost of home ownership. Some of them are one-time expenses that you’ll pay during the home buying process, while others will be recurring costs for as long as you own the home.
There are several smaller fees that add up to a rather large sum when you’re going through the closing process-loan fees, attorney fees, underwriting fees, and more. They typically add up to 2-5% of the purchase price. For a $300,000 home-roughly the national median-that’s in the neighborhood of $10,000, so be sure to budget for it.
Your lender will require an appraisal, and the appraisal fee (a few hundred dollars) comes out of your pocket. Inspection
The few hundred dollars you’ll pay for a home inspection is money well spent, but it’s something you have to keep in mind during the purchase process. You’ll have the peace of mind of knowing the house is free from any major issues, and you’re making a smart, solid investment.
Although homeowners insurance isn’t legally required, it’ll almost certainly be required by your lender. Further insurance, such as flood insurance, may also be required (depending on your location).
Home Owners Association
If you’re living in a property or community with shared spaces, you’ll almost certainly have an HOA fee. This pays for things like trash removal, maintenance of common areas, and for recreational facilities like gyms and swimming pools.