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10 Home Upgrades That Attract Millennial Buyers

by Amy McLeod Group


Think millennials aren't in the market to buy a home? On the contrary, by early 2019, millennials represented 42% of all new home loans. What does this mean for home sellers? It means it's time to start revamping your house to attract these buyers!

Luckily, there are plenty of simple and relatively affordable upgrades homeowners can make that appeal to millennial buyers. We asked the experts to share some of their top tips for attracting these young buyers, so your home can sell in a jiffy.

1. A home office space

Photo by Elms Interior Design 
 

The remote work trend is on the rise for all groups, but especially among millennials. As a result, Kerron Stokes, a real estate agent with Re/Max Leaders in Colorado, suggests showcasing a home's live-work versatility by carving out space for a home office.
 

"More than 13 million Americans work from home, according to the most current U.S. Census data. And all signs point to that trend continuing," Stokes explains. "It doesn’t have to be big, but millennial buyers are looking for somewhere to go for a last-minute conference call or to get additional work done during the day."

Luckily, this is an easy fix for sellers. If you're looking to make your property more attractive to millennial buyers, consider staging one of the smaller bedrooms (or even a bonus space like a nook or alcove) as a home office. It's a small touch, but it will help your potential millennial buyers picture the space working with their lifestyle.

2. Smart tech

Yes, this one seems obvious: Of course millennials are drawn to smart home tech—but what type?

"Appliances such as smart thermostats, smart doorbells, and more that can be controlled from an app are all the rage," Stokes explains. "Connectivity is king when putting a house on the market these days."

Yuri Blanco, owner of Re/Max Executives in Idaho, adds that millennials also crave low-cost tech.

"They crave smart security systems that don’t require a monthly subscription," says Blanco. "Any new technology that comes at a low cost is a major bonus to this age group."

3. Energy-efficient appliances

Energy-efficient products are also hugely important (and a huge selling point) for millennial buyers.

"Millennials are choosing eco-friendly materials such as nontoxic paint, Energy Star appliances in and around the home," Blanco says.

4. A game room/gathering space

When it comes to staging, Blanco suggests highlighting how a space could be used as a gathering place for friends—something millennials actively consider when viewing homes.

"Millennials think about friends' needs, so they want big areas where everyone can gather for entertainment, whether this be a TV or a game room," Blanco explains.

5. USB outlets


 

According to Stokes, it's particularly important to install USB outlets in bedrooms, living rooms, and kitchens if you want to catch millennial buyers' eyes. Smartphones are a fact of life today, and showing that your home is ready to make life easier with accessible charging ports will impress younger buyers.

"I recommend sellers swap out standard outlets for the outlets that include USBs for charging," Stokes says. "Constantly being on a smartphone drains a lot of power. When your home offers a charging hub or outlet for people, especially in unconventional rooms like the kitchen, they are more likely to stop and take a second look."

6. Neutral colors

When it comes time to paint a property, opt for soft, light neutrals to appeal to millennials.

"Millennials favor neutral colors," Blanco says. "Particularly grays have gained wide appeal, along with more whitewashed gray variations, soft neutrals, and creams."

7. Modern design

When it comes to upgrading cabinets and other built-in features, experts say to opt for modern design elements if you're hoping to woo millennial shoppers.

"In recent years, we are seeing millennials prefer modern, sleek designs with clean lines and minimalist aesthetics," Blanco says. "To them, less is more. Homes that have new, stainless-steel kitchens, and simple cabinetry draw millennials in."

8. Outdoor living space

In addition to upgrades inside the home, Stokes recommends making sure that the backyard feels like an extension of the living space—something that's proving important to millennial buyers.

"Millennials have demonstrated a desire to personalize their homes, and large yards provide that opportunity," Stokes says. "Spaces designed to spend time with friends around fire pits, room for a garden, and room for pets to roam is desired. However, sellers should keep in mind that these areas shouldn’t require a lot of time and maintenance, as this is something that repels millennial buyers."

Amy Bonitatibus, chief marketing officer with Chase Home Lending, reiterates this point and adds that it's important to not forget the front yard as well.

"According to the recent Chase Housing Confidence Index, a survey which used data from the U.S. Housing Confidence Survey, millennial homeowners ranked landscaping first on their renovation wish list, ahead of bathroom and kitchen remodels," she says. "Everyone wants that Instagram-worthy curb appeal. Over 40% of young homeowners are looking to install new landscaping in the next few years."

9. Garage outlets

Millennials are also more likely than older buyers to extend that smart tech to the garage and try electric vehicles, which makes power outlets in the garage increasingly important to them.

"Having the option to power, from smart cars to toy batteries to an outdoor fridge, will instantly up your home’s appeal to millennials," Stokes says.

10. Storage space

Photo by Closets by Design Louisville 
 

Millennials aren't all about fashion over function, despite what some may (wrongly) assume. Blanco says that millennials are drawn to homes that have a lot of practical storage space.

"Millennials have a desire for storage," Blanco says. "If a home contains a multifunctional piece of furniture with storage options, even better. A home with plenty of built-in closets and drawers is more likely to be sold to buyers in this age group. Garages are also a notable place for increased storage."

Thinking about selling your home? Contact The McLeod Group Network at 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Kayleigh Roberts 


Once your offer on your dream home is accepted, it doesn't mean you can just grab the keys and move in. If you need a mortgage, securing this home loan takes time. The good news is that it's faster now than ever.

According to a recent three-year study by LendingTree, the length of time it takes to get a mortgage—aka closing—is an average of 40 days in 2019. That's down from 51 days in 2018, and 74 days in 2017.

And here's some good news for homeowners who've already moved in: The time it takes to refinance a mortgage is also dwindling. Refinancing takes an average of 38 days in 2019, down from 43 in 2018, and 55 days in 2017.

Home buyers should be thrilled to hear that the mortgage process is speeding up—who doesn't want to move into their new home as quickly as possible? Earlier closing times can also save home buyers money, especially if they are paying high rent or having to find temporary housing while waiting to move into the new home.

Why it takes less time to get a mortgage today

The digitization of the mortgage process is the main reason for the shorter closing times, according to the LendingTree report. The mortgage industry has become increasingly digital since the 2008 financial crisis, when companies operating in the paper-centric system of the past lost or misrecorded some details from their clients, causing problems and legal issues during the foreclosures that often followed.

Since then, some lenders have created new mobile-friendly products to speed up the mortgage-approval process. For example, Quicken Loans launched the app Rocket Mortgage in 2015 to help borrowers close earlier than the industry standard, reportedly sometimes as quickly as eight days.

Another factor contributing to shorter closing times is that mortgage volumes have been decreasing, says Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at LendingTree. However, he says that given the recent drop in interest rates, “that’s kind of reversed itself a little bit, but we’re still seeing shorter times than in 2018.”

The LendingTree study also found that loans for smaller amounts took longer to close. Loans of under $150,000 averaged 47 days, versus 39 days for those above the conforming loan limit, which is $484,350 in 2019.

“You'd think something being more valuable or bigger risk for the lender, they might take a little bit more time with it, but it's the exact opposite,” Kapfidze says. One possible reason is that lenders may require a more extensive appraisal for lower-priced homes, which might have some type of damage or other problem.

How to get a mortgage fast

So what can consumers do to reduce as much as possible the length of time it takes to get a mortgage? To speed up the closing process, Kapfidze urges home buyers to choose a lender with a more digital, less paper-driven process. Before signing on with any lender, ask if the company can digitally link to a borrower’s bank, the IRS, or other institution to get information to process the mortgage, since this is the key to a speedy approval.

Online lenders make it easier for borrowers to compare mortgages, and they often offer better rates and faster approvals, but they come with less customer service, so they may not work well for complex home loans. Mortgage industry experts suggest that borrowers look over the application process, check out online reviews of the company, and make sure it is registered with the Better Business Bureau before they sign up.

Here's more on how to get a mortgage fast:

Work on your credit score

Before starting the home-buying process, make sure your credit score is in check. According to the LendingTree study, consumers with higher credit scores saw shorter closing times.

People with a credit score of above 760 have an average 38-day closing time in 2019, while closings take an average of 45 days for those with scores of below 720.

Have your financial documentation in order

“A lot of the delay in closing times is just the back-and-forth between the lender and the borrower,” Kapfidze says. He suggests having all documentation well-organized and easy to access, so that it doesn’t take long to send it to the lender.

Also, make sure that all the information that you provide is accurate, he says. If a mortgage lender goes to verify something and finds a discrepancy in what a borrower provided, that can slow things down.

The exact documentation that borrowers need to provide depends on the type of loan they’re seeking, but generally, the required documents relate to a borrower’s income, assets, and employment, such as a W-2 form, pay stubs for the previous 30 days, and bank statements. Borrowers also need valid identification, a loan application, a contract for the home purchase, and homeowner insurance contact information.

Get pre-approved for a mortgage

Many loan experts urge home buyers to get pre-approved for a mortgage before they start shopping for a home, especially if their financial situation is complex. A pre-approval helps buyers better understand what type of home they can afford and can shorten closing times.

“You're going to have to go through this process at some point anyway, so you might as well get it out of the way upfront as quickly as you can,” says Hayden Hodges, a Dallas-based mortgage loan officer at U.S. Bank. “I would want to know what my ceiling is, what my conditions are, as quickly as I can, as opposed to perhaps getting into unnecessary fire drills towards the end of a transaction.”

Lenders can work quickly to get borrowers pre-approved. Borrowers can speed up the process even more by providing all the documentation needed for pre-approval, Hodges says.

Make sure you have cash on hand

Having cash available to supply earnest money and to pay closing costs can help you close faster, Kapfidze says. Some closing costs need to be paid in cash, so make sure you can easily access the funds.

“You don't want to get to closing, and it's like, ‘Hey, you need to have a $12,000 check,’ and then realizing your money's not liquid," he says.

Contact The McLeod Group Network to start the search for your new home! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Erica Sweeney 

Should You Prepay Your Mortgage? The Pros and Cons

by Amy McLeod Group


Should you prepay your mortgage? For some homeowners it’s a financially savvy move—but for others, beefing up their loan payments just doesn’t make sense. To help you figure out whether prepayment is right for you, here are the pros and cons cited by financial experts.

Pro: You'll cut down on the interest you owe

Interest is the extra fee you pay your lender for loaning you the cash you needed to buy a home. After all, lenders don’t just hand out dough for free—they’re in the business to make money.

By increasing your monthly mortgage payments—also called “prepaying” your mortgage—you’ll effectively save money in interest charges. Those savings can add up big-time.

For example, let’s say you take out a $200,000 mortgage with a 4% fixed interest rate and a 30-year term. If you continue to make your minimum monthly payments, you’d be forking over $143,739 in interest over 30 years until the debt is paid off. But, by paying an extra $100 per month, you’d pay only $116,702 in interest over a 25-year time span—a savings of $27,037.

Pro: You’ll get your mortgage paid off sooner

By accelerating your mortgage payments, you’ll also be shortening how long it takes to pay off the loan, which would increase your cash flow in the future. That’s a huge incentive for some borrowers.

“For families with young children, where the parents are concerned about paying for their children’s college tuition, sometimes we will recommend they increase mortgage payments so that when their kids head off to college their mortgage obligation is gone,” says Joe Pitzl, a certified financial planner for Pitzl Financial, in Arden Hills, MN.

Paying more money each month toward your mortgage’s principal can also give you peace of mind, says Marguerita Cheng, a certified financial planner at Blue Ocean Global Wealth in Gaithersburg, MD.

“Emotionally, it’s gratifying knowing that you’re paying your mortgage sooner than you originally planned to do,” Cheng says.

Pro: You’ll build equity faster

No matter how much money you put down on your mortgage, your home equity is the current market value of your home minus the amount you owe on your loan. So say your home is worth $250,000 and your mortgage balance is $200,000. In this case, you’d have $50,000, or 20%, in home equity.

Making larger mortgage payments toward your loan's principal would enable you to build equity faster. Having more home equity can be a tremendous boon if you’re looking to get a home equity loan or home equity line of credit, such as to pay for home improvements, says Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at Lending Tree.

Pro: It helps your credit score

Showing that you have less debt—and that you manage your debts responsibly, by paying your mortgage off early—can raise your credit score. That can help if you’re planning to apply for a car loan or a second mortgage on a vacation home, since your credit score would affect the interest rate you qualify for.

Con: Prepaying reduces mortgage interest, which is tax-deductible

Because prepaying your mortgage reduces your mortgage interest, it may not make sense from a tax-savings perspective. Mortgages are structured so that you start off paying more interest than principal.

For example, in the first year of a $300,000, 30-year loan at a fixed 4% interest rate, you'd be deducting $10,920. (To find out how much you paid in mortgage interest last year, punch your numbers into our online mortgage calculator.)

Nonetheless, taking a mortgage interest deduction under the new tax law requires itemizing deductions—and itemizing may no longer make sense for many homeowners, since the standard deduction jumped under the new tax plan to $12,200 for individuals, $18,350 for heads of household, and $24,400 for married couples filing jointly.

Another thing to consider: In the past, you could deduct the interest from up to $1 million in mortgage debt (or $500,000 if you filed singly). However, for loans taken out from December 15, 2017, onward, only the interest on the first $750,000 of mortgage debt is deductible, says William L. Hughes, a certified public accountant in Stuart, FL.

Con: You could miss out on more lucrative investment opportunities

Every dollar you put toward your mortgage principal is a dollar you can’t invest in higher-yield ventures, such as stocks, high-yield bonds, or real estate investment trusts, Pitzl says.

That being said, “you’d be assuming more risk by investing your money in, say, the stock market instead of putting the money toward your mortgage,” Pitzl points out.

“You have to consider your risk tolerance before you decide where to put your extra cash,” says Cheng.

Con: You may miss paying off higher-interest debts

For many homeowners, paying off higher-interest debt—such as from a credit card or private student loan—is more important than prepaying their mortgage, Cheng says.

Think about it: If you’re carrying a $400 debt on a credit card from month to month with a 20% interest rate, the amount of money you’re paying in credit card interest is $80 per month—that would be leaps and bounds higher than what you’d be paying in mortgage interest on a home loan with a 4% interest rate.

Con: Prepaying a mortgage could hamper achieving other financial goals

Building your retirement savings is crucial, of course. However, some people make the mistake of prepaying their mortgage instead of maxing out their retirement contributions, Cheng laments.

“At the bare minimum, I recommend my clients do a full 401(k) match with their employer,” she says.

Moreover, Pitzl encourages people to build a sufficient emergency fund—typically, a fund large enough to cover three to six months of their essential expenses—before they focus on prepaying their mortgage.

“If you get into a bind, you can’t sell off windows and doors to make ends meet,” Pitzl says.

Con: There may penalties for prepaying your mortgage

Some lenders charge a fee if a client’s mortgage is paid in full before the loan term ends. That’s why it’s important to check with your mortgage lender—or look for the term “prepayment disclosure” in your mortgage agreement—to see if there’s a penalty and, if so, how much it is.

The bottom line: If you don't have enough money to pad your savings before you begin paying off your mortgage early, prepaying your home loan may put you in a financial hole if an emergency crops up.

Still not sure what direction to go in? Consider sitting down with a financial planner to discuss your options based on your personal finances.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Daniel Bortz 


The empty-nest drill used to go something like this: As your kids move up the rungs of the educational system, you and your partner wonder whether to move to a condo in Boca, a bungalow in the Carolinas, or another relaxed-living locale. (Let’s overlook the fact that most of us can’t afford to retire.)

But times are changing. More and more 50-plus Americans are going the urban route. Stats from the National Association of Realtors® indicate that the percentage of 50-something home buyers purchasing property in cities is edging upward. And another study found that boomers are seeing a massive uptick in renting versus owning—which makes sense if they're moving to a big city.

About those renters of over age 50: I’m one of them! When we were in our 30s, my husband and I fled the city and bought a house in the suburbs. The main reason was that our two sons had hit school age in an overcrowded public school system, and were quickly outgrowing the small bedroom they shared. So we headed to a tree-shaded town in a well-regarded school district, where our kids could enjoy separate bedrooms and a yard where they could get their ya-yas out (Stones fans, am I using that correctly?).

And so it went—and went well—until the kids grew up and skedaddled, leaving me and my husband alone in a lovely house with shriveled social connections (the days of blabbing with neighbors about that overly tough AP History teacher were over) and feeling way isolated. We both worked in the city, and without the school system anchoring us, why were we commuting, we wondered? And why were we paying that hefty school tax bill now that our kids had flown the coop?

So we decided to sell our family home (sorry, boys!) and move. For us, it was a great decision. Here’s why:

1. Boosting our bank account

At least for the moment, my husband and I are happy not to have money tied up in real estate. As you may know, the current tax laws don’t incentivize having a mortgage the way they used to. We don’t feel the imperative to own a home in order to get that deduction come April 15, so why not feel a little unencumbered and mobile for a while?

2. Getting off the train schedule grid

Now that we are not running home after work to make dinner and supervise algebra homework (as if I could be of any use on that), my husband and I can reclaim our evenings, which feels a lot more fun in the city. We can take a walk by the river, try a new rooftop bar, or stop by a gallery opening without doing commuter math, which goes something like, “If the train is at 10:30 p.m., that means I need to leave here by 10. … Then, let’s see, I should get to the station at home at 11:30, drive for 15 minutes, and be in bed by midnight.” For a couple trying to reinvent our life after two decades of kid focus, freedom from the commuting schedule is a very good thing.

3. Jettisoning all that home maintenance

Praise the Lord, I no longer need a contact list full of electricians, roofers, masons, tree-stump grinders, landscapers, the highway department (responsible for pickup of garbage over a certain size), pest-control specialists (wasp nests, gah!), HVAC folk, etc. All of the homeownership stuff, so long! And the winter drama of nor’easters, tree limbs flying down, power going out, and frantic efforts to find somewhere—anywhere—to do a load of laundry are over.

4. Enforced downsizing

City life is apartment life, and it’s forcing me to go minimalist. There’s no basement, attic, or other place to hide the accumulated stuff of life, so I need to get rid of it. Or at least I’m trying to. I have a storage unit holding the contents of my former attic, having been unable to Marie Kondo my way to lean-and-mean status pre-move. But our lack of storage is making us think twice about accumulating any more crap.

5. Urban adventuring

In the city, quirk and culture abound. While I miss the sound of the wind whispering through the pine trees and the squirrels and birds darting around my yard, the city has a seductive pulse of discovery. There’s an aura of possibility that makes life feel more exciting, even if I just sit on my butt at home. Knowing that a midnight cheese-tasting event or a mermaid parade are just a quick subway ride away brightens my day in a big way. Yes, I’ve forsaken space, fresh air, peace and quiet. But I feel as if I’m sharing an amazing and varied human experience with fellow urban explorers.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Janet Siroto

6 Green Gardening Rules Every Eco-Friendly Homeowner Should Know

by Amy McLeod Group


You shun plastic straws and carry your own tote bags to the grocery store (well, most of the time). So why not continue the green theme in your garden and plant with the planet in mind?

Low-water, zero-waste, and chemical-free options abound for both flower beds and containers. And by embracing green gardening, you can help improve your yard's soil quality and attract beneficial pollinators. To get started, try some of these green gardening techniques below.

1. Use green containers


Photo by Noelle Johnson Landscape Consulting

Milk jugs, yogurt cups, and egg cartons are all reusable and free for starting seedlings.

"Just make sure you place egg cartons on a cookie sheet or something else that holds water as they're porous," notes landscaping expert Chris Lambton, host of DIY Network's "Yard Crashers" and "Lawn and Order."

He also reuses Solo cups left over from parties (poke holes in the bottom and transplant tomatoes into them as they outgrow egg cartons or other small cups).

Feeling creative? Make your own seed containers from folded newspaper (most publishers use soy ink, which is nontoxic). Newspapers are biodegradable, and the whole thing—paper, dirt, and seeds—can be planted in the ground, explains Susan Brandt, the plant pro at Blooming Secrets, an e-commerce gardening site.

Two other green containers include Mason jars (excellent as succulent planters, says Brandt) and peat pots.

"Peat cups are made from natural fibers and can be planted directly into the garden without causing root shock," reports Chris Cassell, director of sustainability at Lowe's.

2. Add a rain barrel


Photo by Scot Eckley, Inc.

Catch rain in just about any type of container, and then use it to water your garden.

"Plants benefit from rainwater as it's free of the chemicals and minerals found in tap," says Cassell. If you install rain barrels around your downspouts, you'll really save on your water bill, too.

A word of caution: Make sure rain barrels are installed correctly so they don't cause flooding around your house, and elevate them to fit your watering can under the spigot, suggests Lambton.

3. Go chemical-free

Roundup or any pesticide is a no-no in an eco garden. Instead, try neem oil (an organic pesticide extracted from the tropical neem tree) for bugs and liquid seaweed and compost for fertilizer, says Lambton.

"Neem oil has low toxicity and, when mixed with water, it can be used as an insecticide, fungicide, and miticide," says Cassell.

4. Water wisely


Photo by Willard & May

Don't just spray willy-nilly and then walk away. There's a smart (and green) way to hydrate your garden. The pros say to water early in the morning, when there's usually less wind and temperatures are lower. The result? Water is absorbed more effectively and less is evaporated.

If you can, use a drip irrigation system or soaker hoses, which are most effective at watering at soil level, says Brandt.

5. Make some DIY fertilizer


Photo by Smalls Landscaping 

Yes, you can make your own fertilizer. Cassell says to find a hidden corner of your garden where you can layer grass clippings and fallen green leaves with brown materials like dried-up leaves and even coffee grounds. Cut larger pieces into smaller ones, add water to the pile and top with garden soil.

"Turn your mound during the season to expose the ingredients to oxygen and then use it in the spring as fertilizer," he says.

Grass clippings can also be applied as mulch. Pine needles are another green mulch pick as they acidify soil, says Brandt. Try it on azaleas, which are acid-loving.

Or got a compost heap for your kitchen scraps? Compost can also be used as fertilizer—just spread it on your flower and vegetable beds to add nutrients and beneficial microbes to the soil.

So how do you know when your compost is ready?

"Check for a good earthy smell in your compost, and be sure it's dark in color and feels crumbly," notes Cassell. If it's not quite ready, give it more time (ingredients that are still decomposing can attract unwanted pests). Here's more on how to make compost.

6. Attract plant pollinators

Photo by Healy Design Inc.

Nothing is greener than a bunch of butterflies and bees circling your flowers to pollinate the plants. And don't forget hummingbirds, moths, flies, and even some beetles—they all move pollen from flower to flower, says Cassell.

Plants that'll attract these important creatures include catmint, lavender, cosmos, calendula, butterfly flower, sunflowers, sweet alyssum, and lantana.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Jennifer Kelly Geddes

Don't Screw Up! 7 Mistakes to Avoid When Building a Deck

by Amy McLeod Group


A deck is high on the list of must-haves for homeowners who enjoy the great outdoors. It expands your usable living space and provides a great place to relax or entertain. It's little wonder that so many folks opt to extend their decks or build a new one from scratch.

But if you decide to take on this big-time home improvement project alone, you need to do it right. Any mistakes can be a waste of time and money, especially if you end up needing to calling in someone to fix your errors.

What can you do to prevent a major building misstep? Avoid the following flubs.

1. Ignoring codes and permits

Your home is your castle, and you have the right to build any type of deckyou want, right? Sort of.

“You need to have a copy of your local codes for decking and railing, and build your deck plan accordingly,” says Geoff Case, senior merchant for pressure-treated wood products at the Home Depot.

The building code is often derived from the International Residential Code, and amendments are made at the local level.

"While you need to be aware of IRC requirements, it's often the local changes that do-it-yourself builders forget about,” Case explains.

Fortunately, it’s not hard to find the information you need to stay in compliance—you can find many of the municipality-specific requirements on your city or county website.

But the deck will likely be in your backyard, hidden from the public, so do you need a building permit?

Doug Fritsch, director of web and package sales at 84 Lumber, warns against taking the chance.

“If your project is flagged by a building inspector, you may have to rebuild significant portions, or maybe even tear the deck down,” he says.

2. Choosing the wrong materials

There are a variety of woods and treatments to choose from, so you’ll need to know which one is best for your project.

“A popular treated deck board is 5/4-by-6 inches, which has a rounded edge and a great finished look,” Fritsch says. However, composite decking is also popular because it’s mostly maintenance-free.

The type of treatment you use is also important.

“Using the incorrect treatment type for your decking can cause it to deteriorate at a faster rate,” Case warns. “Make sure deck joists, beams, and ledgers are installed using wood treated for ground contact use.”

3. Waiting too long to make changes

It’s understandable to change your mind when building a new deck, but try to make any modifications as early in the process as possible.

“Make your mistakes and changes in the design phase, not when construction has started,” says Fritsch. He recommends using the free design service offered by most lumberyards.

“This will help you visualize your deck in 3D and collaborate efficiently with everyone involved in the construction,” he says.

4. Forgetting to seal the deck

To extend the life of the wood, you must seal the deck.

"Wood that is unsealed can get weathered and deteriorate much faster than sealed decks,” says Case.

5. Using the wrong type of hardware and fasteners

Your deck’s strength depends on more than just the decking boards.

“Homeowners should buy and use products like joist hangers, railing mounting brackets, post-to-beam hardware, and correct-length deck screws that are approved specifically for deck building,” says Case. “Usually, these are stainless-steel, polymer-coated, or hot-dipped galvanized materials.”

Why can't you just use the nails and screws you have on hand? They might not stay in place.

“When wood expands and contracts, nails have a tendency to pop out above the surface,” says J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman. He recommends exterior-grade screws instead, since they’re less likely to come loose in the future, but can be taken out if you need to replace a board.

6. Skimping on handrails

For specific types of decks, handrails are required, so make sure you don't forget them.

“Any stairs over four steps in length must have a continuous handrail on at least one side, and it must be graspable for the full run of the stairs,” Case says.

7. Ignoring aesthetic details

Don't get so obsessed with sturdiness that you lose sight of making the deck look good, too. Don’t make the mistake of neglecting aesthetic details.

“I recommend adding a band detail around the edge to conceal the end of the joists,” says Patti Wynkoop, vice president of product development and purchasing at Miller & Smith, a home building company in McLean, VA.

She also recommends wrapping the structural posts and trimming the cap and bases. “This gives a sense of proportion and finish,” she says.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Teri Williams

The One Thing That Can Make or Break How People Feel About Your House

by Amy McLeod Group


Considering the time and energy homeowners put toward making their house look great (particularly if they're trying to sell), many make the critical mistake of neglecting another one of our senses that can be far more powerful: smell.

Even if you’ve decorated or staged your home perfectly, if potential buyers walk in and detect an unpleasant odor, they could skedaddle fast. Good scents, on the other hand, entice them to linger.

“One of the easiest ways to evoke pleasant feelings about a space is to enhance the way it smells,” says Ben Creamer, a managing broker in Chicago. “It’s often the first thing a person will notice upon entering a space—and it’s one of the things that, when done poorly, can kill a sale, no matter how beautiful the home.”

Before considering what options you have for making your home smell amazing, you want to be sure you’re starting fresh.

“The first step to a good-smelling home is to get rid of any odor,” says Barb Boehler, a real estate agent in Madison, WI. “Make sure to scrub all surfaces, wash all rugs, and have the carpets cleaned. Until this is done, you'll only be masking smells.”

In addition, be mindful in creating a home scent that will be as universally appealing as possible.

“The definition of ‘pleasant’ when it comes to the olfactory senses can vary widely from person to person, so it’s best to keep the scent subtle and clean throughout, with a special emphasis on the kitchen and bath,” says Creamer.

With that in mind, here are 11 tips for making your home smell amazing before guests or home buyers arrive.

Scrub down the bathroom

It goes without saying that scummy showers and grubby toilets are major buyer turnoffs. Use Fabuloso liquid cleaner for bathroom surfaces, including tubs and showers, for a lovely lavender scent, recommends Lisa Jacobs, an organizing professional and founder of Imagine It Done.

Freshen the fridge

Yes, there’s a good chance people will open your refrigerator and take a peek inside. Toss any smelly leftovers or expired condiments, then leave a fresh box of baking soda on a shelf to take care of any lingering odors, says Jacobs.

Take out the trash

Obviously, get rid of any and all garbage before you welcome guests. If your trash cans still carry an odor, sprinkle baking soda in the bottom to absorb it, advises Lisa Molinari, a real estate agent in Morristown, NJ.

Get underfoot

Carpets and rugs can trap a ton of bad smells, especially if you wear shoes in your home or have pets—and warm weather can make them even worse.

An easy fix: Get them shampooed or steam-cleaned regularly, and especially before an open house, says Jennifer Snyder, owner of Neat as a Pin Organizing & Cleaning.

Don an apron

You know all of those hours you’ve spent watching bake-offs on reality TV? Put them to good use by whipping up something sweet that will do double duty making your home smell enticing and providing a snack for potential buyers.

Cedric Stewart, a residential sales consultant in Washington, DC, loves pulling a batch of pumpkin bread or banana bread out of the oven right before the open house begins.

“This provides a great smell, and treats seem to stick in the buyers' mind after they leave,” he says. (It’s also not a bad idea to brew a fresh pot of coffee to go with the baked treat.)

Just add soap

Round up all of those unused bars of fancy soap you’ve been gifted over the years, and place them in a pretty bowl on a bathroom counter. Dove brand soap also works great for this.

“It can fill a room with a remarkably clean, fresh scent for weeks,” says Creamer. “You can even hide a bar or two in a walk-in closet to freshen the space.”

Play with matches

Tried-and-true candles can make a room feel peaceful, as well as fill it with a pleasant scent—provided the scent isn't overpowering.

Jacobs loves Apotheke’s bamboo three-wick candle, while Los Angeles–based real estate agent Melissa Okabe always turns to Diptyque’s baies candle, which smells fresh and fruity.

Light the candle 10 to 15 minutes before the open house begins and, of course, keep it in a well-ventilated area away from anything flammable.

Focus on essentials

Oils, that is. If you’d rather stay away from open flames, you can opt for essential oil diffusers for a similar effect.

Okabe recommends fresh, neutral scents such as lemon or lavender, to add to a high-quality diffuser such as this one from West Elm. (It will be a gadget you use long after you sell your home, too.)

If you don’t want to invest in a diffuser, you can use essential oils in a few other ways.

Tangela Walker-Craft, a home and family blogger, recommends dabbing a drop of oil on cold lightbulbs before turning them on—it’ll give off a subtle fragrance as the bulb warms up. You can also add a few drops to cotton balls and hide them strategically around your home, then simply toss them after the open house concludes.

Raid your laundry room

Face it: Potential buyers are likely going to be peeping through your drawers and cabinets, so you'll need to consider how they smell, as well. An easy way to freshen up confined spaces like these is to add dryer sheets a few days before the open house, says Ben Mizes, a real estate agent in St. Louis.

“These places don’t see a lot of light, so they can have some funky smells—but dryer sheets make them smell like fresh laundry,” he adds.

Simmer down

If you don’t have time to bake, you can create a similarly appealing sweet scent by simmering vanilla extract diluted in water on the stove.

Molinari makes a natural potpourri by adding five cinnamon sticks, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 tablespoons cloves, three bay leaves, and an orange rind to a pot of simmering water.

Catch air

High-efficiency particulate air, or HEPA, purifiers can be a little expensive, but they’re extremely effective in removing any lingering strong, strange odors from the air, says Mizes. Combining an air purifier with another method, such as baking cookies, can make a big difference in how your home smells.

At the end of the day, remember to not overdo it. Avoid having multiple scents competing with one another in various rooms.

Instead, “find one neutral, mild scent and let it breathe,” says Molinari. “A scent throughout helps give your home flow and connectivity—so allow it to become the background of the experience.”

 

Contact The McLeod Group Network to find out how much your home is worth in today's market! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Kelsey Ogletree 


Buying a foreclosure home, also known as a distressed property, might seem like a less expensive way to get into your next place. These homes usually sell for about 15% below the home's actual value. But buying a foreclosure property isn’t always what it seems. While it may look like a bargain, it could end up being more expensive (and more trouble) than it’s worth.

“On the surface, foreclosed homes can seem awfully appealing,” says Beatrice de Jong, consumer trends expert at Opendoor. “However, costs can be extremely unpredictable, and underlying damages could make a property undesirable.”

With big risks associated with foreclosures, a buyer could end up with a money pit, rather than an affordable new home. That's why you should always budget for the worst-case scenario.

"It's better to be pleasantly surprised than to not have the funds to solve the problem," says Avery Boyce, a real estate agent with Compass Real Estate in Washington, DC.Gt Pre-ApprovedFina lender who can offer competitive mortgage rates and help you with pre-approval.

Here are some of the hidden costs you need to look out for when considering a foreclosure home.

Home repairs

Foreclosures are likely to need some work—and the list of needed repairs and renovations can be long indeed. The worst part is, you might not even have a ballpark estimate of what repairs are needed until you receive the keys.

“The bank will be limited on the disclosures they can provide regarding the condition of the home and previous repairs done," says de Jong.

In some cases, you can get a home inspection before finalizing the sale, but often, a foreclosed house is sold as is.

“Keep in mind that if the previous owners couldn’t make their mortgage payments, they likely also fell behind on regular maintenance," de Jong says. "The home may have foundation problems, need a roof replacement, and require a heavy workload to bring the home up to code."

The property could have also been sitting there, uncared for, for a while. You might have to factor in the additional costs from overgrown lawns, graffiti, weather damage, and more.

Paying too much in a bidding war

Buyers—especially those purchasing a home for the first time—should be careful to not get stuck in an expensive bidding war. Why? They could end up paying too much for a house that they can't afford to fix.

There can be a lot of competition from other eager buyers, real estate developers, and flippers.

“For damaged homes that are priced well below market value, you will probably be competing with developers who plan to rip out everything anyway, and can afford to solve big unknown problems,” Boyce says.

Steer clear of a bidding war and avoid busting your budget on a home that needs more work than you can afford. Before making an offer, set your upper limit, and stick to that number. There will be other houses later on, and it's often better to play it safe when it comes to foreclosures.

Challenges in getting funding

Even if you can get a great price on a foreclosure property, many buyers will still need a loan to help them purchase it. Before you make an offer on a foreclosure, don't bank on being able to get a mortgage.

Some lenders simply won’t offer funding for foreclosure properties. The most common reason: The house is in such bad condition, it can't pass an inspection.

“To get traditional financing, the home needs to be in really good shape,” Boyce explains. “All the utilities need to be on and testable, there can't be holes in the drywall or floors, and there can't be water inside the home.”

Plus, most banks favor all-cash offers on foreclosures because they have already lost money on the property and they don't want to end up in the same situation again.

If you can’t do all cash upfront, it is likely to help to get pre-approved, and it also helps to be willing to put down 20% or more. This way, at least the bank knows you’re serious about buying the house and paying the mortgage.

No room for negotiation

When buying a home the traditional way, the seller may be willing to negotiate on the price. You submit an offer, the seller might counter, and in the end, you could end up paying less than the asking price.

“Dealing with the bank is a more formal and corporate process than dealing with a seller, so expect limited flexibility, if any, when negotiating on the offer price,” de Jong says. “Banks are not likely to budge on the price, since they are mostly concerned with recouping the costs from their investment.”

However, if you'd like to test the waters, Boyce suggests you ask your agent to search for past sales by the bank to see whether the sale price is lower than the list price.

"That will give you some insight into whether it's worth submitting a lower offer,” she says.

Property tax increases

If, after learning about all these hidden fees, you’re still seriously considering a foreclosure, you'll be aware that some properties will need to be overhauled. And while you might be ready to put some serious cash into the project, know that there’s an extra fee associated with a major home makeover: increased property tax. Fixing the house up will increase its value, and in most places, that means your property tax bill will go up.

This may seem like a no-brainer to some seasoned homeowners, but it’s important to remember this tax increase when budgeting for repairs. Don’t get stuck going all in on a home and finding yourself strapped for cash when it’s time to pay taxes.

Let The McLeod Group Network help you find your new home !971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com,  


Owning your home feels great—that is, until the roof leaks. Or a pipe breaks. Or the HVAC just dies—in the middle of a summer heat wave, no less. Which begs the question: How much should homeowners set aside to take care of regular home maintenance and repairs?

If this question catches you off guard, don't feel bad—you have plenty of company.

Xavier Epps, finance expert and CEO of XNE Financial Advising, in Washington, DC, has prepared hundreds of financial plans for new and current homeowners.

"You'd be surprised at the number of clients I've prepared financial plans for that didn't want to consider budgeting for the repairs and maintenance of any sort," he says.

Epps finds that almost 70% of the time, clients actually reject the idea of adding such a line item in their budget. But here's why you should—and how much you should allot to this important fund.

Emergency fund vs. home maintenance fund: What's the difference?

First things first: Budgeting for predictable maintenance and repairs is not the same as saving up for the emergency fund every household should have. An emergency fund, equal to living expenses for a minimum of one to three months, is often recommended as a buffer for unexpected expenses and loss of income.

For example, if you get sick and can't work for two months, your car breaks down (beyond normal maintenance), or you have to travel on short notice to a funeral—those are all emergencies.

If you've already used your emergency fund to perform routine home maintenance and repairs, you won't have any cash reserves left when a true emergency strikes. You should have an amount in your monthly budget allocated specifically for home maintenance and repairs, both planned and unforeseen, so you can afford to keep your house in tiptop shape without jeopardizing your important emergency fund or going into debt.

How much should I budget for home maintenance and repairs?

"Budget between 1% and 4% of the purchase price of your home for annual preventative maintenance and repair costs," says John Bodrozic of Sacramento, CA, who's co-founder of HomeZada, a digital home management platform.

Where your actual costs fall in that range depends largely on the age and condition of your home.

If your home is newer, or if it has been recently and thoroughly renovated, you might be able to budget less for maintenance and repairs, at least for the first few years.

"If your home is less than 5 years old, then use the lower percentage of 1%, as most of your home's equipment, appliances, building materials, fixtures, finishes, etc. are still relatively new, thus probably in good working condition," says Bodrozic.

If you bought your place new from a builder, you may even have warranties on individual items in your home, or an overall warranty. That could substantially reduce the amount you have to spend on repairs while the warranties are in effect.

Don't assume that living in a new home is maintenance-free, however, or that you won't need to make changes and improvements to it. A home that hasn't been lived in before may not have all of the features you need. And homebuilders often do a cursory job of landscaping. When you discover how little topsoil they used in your yard, you may need to budget for outside improvements, too.

If your home is more than 25 years old, on the other hand, plan on budgeting closer to 4%.

"Nothing lasts forever. The natural life span of the collection of materials your home is made of is getting older, therefore you will have more fix-it and repair costs," Bodrozic says.

Another way to predict expenses for home upkeep is to look at how many square feet you have, both in the house and outside. Home prices vary widely throughout the country, but as a general rule, the bigger the house and lot, the higher your maintenance costs. A home on significant acreage generally requires more maintenance than a tract house on a postage stamp–size lot, regardless of how much the house is worth. Or when you need a new roof, you'll pay a lot more on a larger house.

Reasons to keep track of past home maintenance expenses

If you've lived in your home for a number of years and you've kept the place up, one way to budget for maintenance and repairs is to look at what you spent last year. Repairs and replacements, especially, can seem like one-time expenditures. However, over time they tend to average out. The refrigerator may have been replaced last year, but in a 20-year-old house, that's not the only thing that's wearing out. This year, it may be the dishwasher or water heater. Get ready for it.

If you haven't lived in your house for long or if you don't have records of how much you spent last year, consider tracking your home maintenance and repair costs. At least mark them on your credit card bills, or keep the receipts in a marked file.

How can I save money on home maintenance?

Follow these tips to keep your annual home maintenance and repair expenses as low as possible, and still keep your house in tiptop shape:

  • Know your home. If you're about to buy a home, be sure to have it inspected, and try to determine how old each appliance and major home component is. "Remember, every piece of the home has a useful life attached to it, so it's best to get a feel for how old the items are as soon as you can," says Epps. "If you buy a home with 10-year-old hardwood floors, there's a great chance you'll need to budget for replacement or refinishing." Likewise, wall paint usually needs to be redone in five to 10 years, and an HVAC system may last 10 to 15 years, according to Epps. Consider creating a schedule of when you may need to replace major items.
  • Be proactive in your home maintenance. You'll save money in the long run by proactively maintaining your home, rather than waiting for something to quit working. This includes obvious upkeep such as mowing and pruning your yard, plus the jobs that are more easily forgotten—like changing the air filters, cleaning your dryer ducts, and checking your fire extinguishers, according to Bodrozic. "It's important to keep a recurring schedule of these tasks, because if you don't do them, you are more likely to have larger, more expensive repair costs when things break," he explains. You might even want to use an organization app such as HomeZada to create a recurring list of maintenance tasks for you.
  • Don't delay when you discover signs of trouble. If the dryer isn't getting the clothes dry, clean out the vents now. Don't wait until it is impossibly clogged or starts a fire. Any dripping sounds or signs of water intrusion? Fix it or call for professional help, before structural damage and mold occur. Pests and wildlife intruders also need to be dealt with promptly—termites cause over $5 billion in property damage every year, which is rarely covered by homeowners insurance, according to Tommy Giardino, senior vice president of operations at Arrow Exterminators in Atlanta. If you hear noises from rodents and squirrels, take action immediately. "Rodents and squirrels are known for using insulation for building nests and gnawing on wires, which can lead to electrical fires," he says.
  • Learn the basics of home maintenance. You can save a lot of money by learning home maintenance basics. Know your limits, however. It's more cost-effective to hire a pro than it is to take on more than you can handle, or worse yet, to get hurt trying.

Dreaming of homeownership? Let The McLeod Group Network find your find your new home !971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Sally Herigstad

Is Renting Right for Me?

by Amy McLeod Group


If you’re currently renting and have dreams of owning your own home, it may be a good time to think about your next move. With rent costs rising annually and many helpful down payment assistance programs available, homeownership may be closer than you realize.

According to the 2018 Bank of America Homebuyer Insights Report, 74% of renters plan on buying within the next 5 years, and 38% are planning to buy within the next 2 years.

When those same renters were asked why they disliked renting, 52% said rising rental costs were their top reason, and 42% of renters believe their rent will rise every year. The full results of the survey can be seen below:

It’s no wonder rising rental costs came in as the top answer. The median asking rent price has risen steadily over the last 30 years, as you can see below.

There is a long-standing rule that a household should not spend more than 28% of its income on housing expenses. With nearly half of renters (48%) surveyed already spending more than that, and with their rents likely to rise again, it’s never a bad idea to reconsider your family’s plan and ask yourself if renting is your best angle going forward. When asked why they haven’t purchased a home yet, not having enough saved for a down payment (44%) came in as the top response. The report went on to reveal that nearly half of all respondents believe that “a 20% down payment is required to buy a home.”

The reality is, the need to produce a 20% down payment is one of the biggest misconceptions of homeownership, especially for first-time buyers. That means a large number of renters may be able to buy now, and they don’t even know it.

Bottom Line

If you’re one of the many renters who are tired of rising rents but may be confused about what is required to buy in today’s market, let The McLeod Group Network help to determine your path to homeownership. 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: KCM Crew

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The McLeod Group Network
Keller Williams Capital City
1900 Hines St SE #220
Salem OR 97302
971-208-5093
Fax: 971-599-5229

**Disclaimer: Amy McLeod, and her team, do not initiate, process, or service mortgages.  And provide this information only as a service.  You should confirm information here with your Licensed Mortgage Lender.