The Commonwealth Blog

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Selling a Fixer-Upper to a Prospective Buyer

When selling a fixer-upper, you’ll first need to decide who you’re selling it to: traditional buyers or investors. Homes that require simple to moderate repairs might be attractive to eager buyers willing to do some remodeling themselves. Contrarily, homes with major issues can be sold to investors if traditional buyers are intimidated by daunting repair work. Whomever you sell your home to ultimately depends on the current state of the property and the amount of work you’re willing to put into renovations.   

Selling to Investors

Homeowners sell dilapidated homes to investors instead of traditional buyers for several reasons. Firstly, financing may not be possible if the home doesn’t meet safety standards. Repairs may also be too much of a burden for homeowners and traditional buyers to take on themselves (which is to say your home needs more than just a little TLC).

In these cases, selling to a buy-and-hold or wholesale investor can take a huge load off your shoulders. Instead of making expensive and time-guzzling repairs yourself, you can count on an investor to do the prep work for you. Additionally, the escrow period usually takes less than a month because inspections, appraisals, and mortgage issues no longer determine your sale. Selling run-down homes to investors as-is encourages cash offers and flexible closing dates, making the transaction simple.

Selling to Traditional Buyers

Traditional buyers are the families, friends, and individuals looking to make your house their home, and they likely come with a set of requirements. Your home doesn’t have to be perfect to sell to this demographic, but you should put in a bit of grunt work to receive reasonable offers without drastically decreasing your asking price.

Start by tackling safety issues to avoid problems with inspectors or financers. Take a good look at your roof, electrical panel, water heater, pipes, and septic and HVAC systems, and check for damage from water, mold, or termites. After these major issues have been addressed, you can move on to easy cosmetic fixes, like painting rooms, caulking bathrooms and kitchens, fixing lighting fixtures, and cleaning carpets.

Marketing Your Fixer-Upper

You’ll still need to market your home appropriately, no matter whom you’re selling it to. For investors, market your home on Multiple Listing Service (MLS) or sites like Zillow and Trulia with photos of the place, and know that you’ll likely still need to hold showings and inspections.

For traditional buyers, market your home by focusing on the positives. Highlight the property’s size, location, and floor plan to distract from the less seemly features. Using descriptive keywords like “landscaped,” “remodeled,” or “historic” will also give you a leg up. Lastly, price your house appropriately by researching the market and prices of homes selling in the area.


Monday, April 15, 2019

Should You Invest in a Guesthouse?

Building a cottage in your backyard could be a fun and fruitful project, but you’ll want to think twice about investing large sums of money into an additional property. While convenient for family, friends, and renting to tenants, guesthouses require a lot of planning and maintenance to become worthwhile investments. If managed properly, your new guesthouse will make tenants happy and be a source of extra money.

Planning Properly

Begin by investigating local building codes and real estate laws. Hiding an unpermitted building behind your home will cause more harm than good if insurance companies consider your property risky or illegal. Even if your guesthouse properly meets construction standards, ADU (accessory dwelling unit) laws may prohibit building in your neighborhood. Many counties have relaxed regulations, so check local laws to ensure your guesthouse can be built in the first place.

Consider Financials

Mortgage programs determine if you can own a property with multiple residencies (and how you can use each property). Research conventional, Federal Housing Administration, and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs loans for a better understanding of their impact on housing regulations. Consider, too, that a lender may calculate your rental income to determine how much money you’re allowed to borrow from financial institutions.

Local housing markets also impact earnings. Research the demand in your area, and look up guesthouses in your neighborhood that are similar in size and style to estimate the value of your planned project.

Lastly, you’ll want to think about managing utilities to increase your cash flow. Certain companies can set up utilities for guesthouses separately, requiring tenants to handle their own gas and energy usage. If this isn’t an option with your provider, determine your own energy usage beforehand to accurately charge renters for their own usage once they move in.

Welcoming Guests

A guesthouse is a great source of extra cash as a rental property (if managed properly), but there can be other perks, like welcoming friends and family into your home. If you’re prepared to host friends or strangers for a night or longer, you’ll likely enjoy the experience. If you’re not prepared to live in a communal environment, owning a guesthouse can quickly become a stressful ordeal. Consider how much you value privacy before welcoming others onto your property.  

Keeping Things in Tip-Top Shape

Owning a guesthouse also means maintain the property to keep tenants happy. If you’re not willing to make repairs and tend to the landscape, investing in a guesthouse may not be the best idea. Contrarily, if maintaining a clean and beautiful space excites you, renting out your little home can be very profitable.

Increase Your Property Value

Investing in a guesthouse increases your property value. After you’re through with all the research and building, you can rest assured knowing you’ll see a larger return on your investments if you ever decide to sell the place—perhaps one of the best reasons for adding a cute little cottage to the back of your home. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Owning a Rental Property for the First Time

There are many things to consider before purchasing a rental property, including financials, location, and logistics. Before signing the deal on your new property, go over the following steps to ensure you make a worthwhile investment. 

Where Will You Buy?

You want your rental property to be occupied, so make sure it’s nestled in a city or town bustling with activity and tourists. Before purchasing, know the major employers and the area’s economic outlook. This ensures you don’t buy in a neighborhood that’s on the way out. By doing a deep dive into potential buying markets, you’ll have a better idea of which locations are most lucrative.

First-time buyers also benefit from buying in their own neighborhood because they already have a feel for the area, local attractions, and buyer behavior. If you don’t have to buy a destination rental property, make things easy on yourself by beginning your rental business in your own neck of the woods.

Think About Your Financial Future

Owning a rental property can be a great source of extra income if you’re thinking about your financial future. Make sure you’re not only taking into consideration your own personal preferences while investing in a property—save those desires for your own home. Figure out what you need to secure a nice rental property for temporary residents, and save the fancy flourishes for your own residence.

There are other important financial factors to consider too. HOA fees, taxes, repairs, property management fees, and utilities should all be considered to determine how much money you'll save. Determining the capitalization rate allows you to compare different deals you're considering. Be prepared by doing your financial research to save the big bucks.

Lastly, think about how the addition of a new mortgage will impact you. Investment properties commonly require at least 20% down, so make sure you have enough saved up to make payments alongside unreliable tenants, repairs, and other unforeseeable expenses.

Becoming a Landlord

Congratulations, you’ve purchased a rental property! Now, who’s going to manage it? Will you play the role of the landlord or hire a third party to do the work for you? Payments must be collected, repairs need to be made, and tenants might have to be evicted. Whoever takes over must be prepared to successfully complete these tasks.

With a bit of preparation and work, you’re well on your way to owning a rental property your guests love and that provides you with a bit of extra cash.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Renovations Worth Investing In

Boosting your property value partially depends on the number of home improvements you’re willing to make. Some renovations are more valuable than others, so we recommend investing in work that pays off in the future. Depending on the improvements you make, you can increase your home’s value by 10% to 12%.

Interior Walls

New paint raises the value of your home and appeals to buyers as they walk into a clean and airy space. Choose light, neutral colors over bold, dark ones to make the room feel bigger. Painting with these colors allows visitors to more easily envision a life in your home when they’re not overwhelmed by intense hues of purple, green, or any other color you may personally love.  

Expect to pay $200 or less to do the painting yourself and around $400 for a professional to do the heavy lifting for you. Whether you rely on a professional or not, shoveling out a couple of hundred bucks up front will pay off in the future with a faster, more lucrative sale.

Installing crown molding costs a bit more ($300 to $500 per room) but has a similar effect. By adding it to the top edges of walls, door frames, and cabinets, rooms appear clean and finished with the addition of classic flourishes. Not every home in the neighborhood will incorporate these details, and installing crown molding helps set your home apart from the rest.

Bathroom Renovations

The bathroom used to be a room that didn’t’ draw much attention. Now, homeowners want a large enough space to relax and unwind in. Soaking tubs, whirlpools, heated floors, and natural light are desirable in bathroom spaces but can easily add up to a small fortune to install. Consider your budget and the other homes you’re competing against in the neighborhood to decide how much money you’ll invest in creating a luxurious bathroom. Expect to pay between $35,000 to $65,000 for fancy bathroom renovations. If that amount isn’t in your budget, you can still replace old floors with tiles, paint vanities, and install new bathroom hardware for a cleaner, more attractive look. 

Kitchen Improvements

The kitchen is now one of the main focal points of the home. Open floorplans have living rooms leading to kitchens, a common place for friends and families to gather around tasty appetizers and drinks. The kitchen is, for many, a celebratory place and should look clean and attractive. Consider installing high-end appliances, marble countertops, and wine racks to impress buyers. While these renovations can cost upwards of $75,000, sellers usually recoup around 65% of costs.

Renovate Wisely

Investing in the right home improvements raises your property value and contributes to a faster sale. Renovate with your buyers in mind so you can spend your well-deserved money on renovations for your new place.


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

How to Create an Effective Real Estate Listing

Advertising your home, either online or on flyers distributed throughout the neighborhood, determines how quickly it will sell. To ensure you receive a handful of competitive offers quickly, put some thought and effort into designing an attractive listing that accounts for the needs of buyers in your area. 

It’s All in the Details

A listing comprises descriptive information and pictures of your home's interior and exterior. The attention and personality you put into each of these elements could determine your listing’s success. When in doubt, follow these guidelines to sell your home quickly and for a great price.

Property Description

Creating an inviting and authentic description of your home’s best features and unique attributes is important. Determine what buyers are looking for in your neighborhood and communicate how your home meets or exceeds their expectations. For example, if your home is in a family neighborhood with a stellar backyard, tell buyers this is the home for summer playdates and cul-de-sac barbecues (alongside the more traditional list of renovations and calculated square footage). You don’t want to overwhelm potential buyers with too much text, but it’s worth adding a few catchy sentences that convey your home’s real essence.


The need to include professional photos of your home can’t be stressed enough! Just because you have easy access to a cell phone camera doesn’t mean smartphone pictures are appropriate for a listing. Instead, invest in professional listing photos taken by photographers with specialized knowledge of lenses, lighting, and angles. They’ll be able to capture entire rooms and other features of your home in the most appealing way possible.

Home Staging

Staging lets buyers more easily see the potential your home has to offer. Thoughtfully positioning furniture in a way that’s both functional and aesthetically pleasing will help buyers understand how a room works—and if it will work for them. Failing to decorate open floor plans can dampen a buyer’s enthusiasm if they get lost trying to understand the purpose of the space. Help them (and yourself) out by hiring a professional stager or doing a bit of the work yourself.

Go Forth, Listing Pro

You’ve written a fantastic description, taken great photos, and even staged the place. Now, you’re ready to publish your listing! With these strategies under your belt, you’ll experience more success than if you blindly put something together. Your thoughtful listing will get you far. We’re happy to have helped. 

Monday, April 1, 2019

Pros and Cons of Selling in the Spring

Spring is a great time to buy a home, and not just because of the beautiful weather while you look. In fact, it’s the most popular time of the year to hunt for a house, with the largest number of available homes on the market for buyers to choose from. While spring provides many pros for eager buyers, it also comes with cons you may want to investigate before prowling the market for your dream home.

The Benefits of Purchasing a Home in Spring

Historically, more homes flood the market in spring, so you’ll have many options to choose from while house hunting this time of year. Just be careful to keep your parameters in mind while you look so you don’t become overzealous or get overwhelmed. We suggest having a set budget in mind and a list of must-haves before you begin your search.

Buying during one of the busiest seasons also means you’ll have access to more open houses. Visiting homes in person is the best way to know whether or not you actually love the place. While you’re at it, scope out the neighborhood to see if it’s suitable for your family. When you attend an open house, you'll also get a sense of your competition by meeting other prospective buyers.

Negative Aspects of Purchasing a Home in Spring

The competition is intense during a busy home buying season. More buyers are on the prowl for the perfect house, and more people will bid on the same property, resulting in bidding wars. Not expecting competition may set you up for disappointment, so know what you’re getting into.

To ensure you stay ahead of the game, sign up for instant alerts that inform you when a home hits the market. Working with a real estate agent throughout the process will help, too, because they sometimes have the inside scoop on a property before the listing goes public.

If you fall in love with a house that's in high demand, you’ll also need to make an offer fast. You may not have time to ponder your decision, but entering the process with a clear set of requirements and guidelines will help you decide more quickly.

Lastly, having more competition means having less negotiating power. During a slower season, you may be able to make a lowball offer to a desperate homeowner. This likely won’t be the case during a busy season—other parties may have more than enough to bid on your dream home. Coming prepared with a bit of extra cash will help you here.

Prepare Like a Pro

There are several pros and cons of buying a home in the springtime. Increase your chances of moving into the home you want during a busy market season by doing the right research and collecting helpful resources.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Indoor Decorating with Flowers and Houseplants

Adding some greenery to your home décor doesn’t have to be complicated. Decorating with seasonal flowers and plants is a great way to liven up your space, add color, and create intrigue. Additionally, flowers and plants are a perfect way to boost your mood, while also benefiting from their clean air and beautiful fragrance. With a little water and attention, we’re confident you can keep these low-maintenance houseplants alive and looking bright. Use our guide to find the best houseplants for indoor decorating and add extra life to your living space before spring. 

Create a Floral Centerpiece for Your Table

Spring is the perfect time to try out a new floral arrangement for your dining room table centerpiece. A floral arrangement automatically adds extra character to your table and is a great way to effortlessly add elegance to your dining space. Find a bowl or a short vase to fill with flowers, as you want to ensure the centerpiece isn’t too tall to allow for chatting across the table. Some of our favorite flowers this season for spring centerpieces are Gerbera daisies, daylilies, and of course—roses. Fill extra open spaces with greenery or petals and you’ll have a beautiful spring centerpiece everyone at the table will notice.


Add Sunshine to Your Kitchen

Nothing is more welcoming than coming home to the greeting of fresh flowers in your kitchen. Spruce up your kitchen by adding summery flowers that stand out and create the pop of color you are lacking. We recommended something bold and bright, such as sunflowers or daisies.  Create an eye-catching arrangement by using a vase that adds texture, such as a vase with mixed metals or a rustic finish. Similarly, get creative and add curiosity by repurposing other items to hold your floral arrangements, such as an antique teapot or a vintage pitcher.



Hang Plants Vertically

Create a vertical garden of luscious excitement by hanging plants. It’s important to consider how much light the area where you are hanging the plant receives, in order to choose a plant that will thrive. An ideal place for hanging plants is an open living space, where the plants have access to sunlight and their beauty is visible to anyone who enters your home.  A popular hanging plant that will create attention in any space is the spider plant. It is easy to maintain, grows great in bright to medium light, and its unique look is the perfect way to make any room stand out.


Add Style with Succulents

Succulents are one of the best indoor houseplants as they are easy to maintain and come in a variety of colors that can match any existing décor. Add succulents to any shelf or cabinet that is lacking charm and you’ll instantly create a statement. Since succulents require little upkeep, they will blossom beautifully on any shelf without daily maintenance. Line windowsills with succulents this spring season to add extra color. Succulents require very little sunlight, provide instant color, and are an effortless way to add greenery to any room. 

Monday, March 25, 2019

Spring Cleaning Tips

Spring brings a new season of rebirth and is the perfect time to refresh and rejuvenate your home. Help your home transition from the winter months by making small changes to spruce up its look, colors, and cleanliness to start the season feeling organized and prepared. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of spring cleaning, use these tips and tricks to have a sparkling home for the spring season.


Organize and Declutter

Start spring cleaning by getting rid of anything you don’t use daily or that no longer serves its purpose. Make it easy by separating items you are unsure of into categories: throw away, give away, put away, or keep. This will help you decide what you really need and will streamline an organization process, so everything has a proper place. Motivate yourself to get rid of clutter to create a fresh space for new decor and decorations that reflect the cheerful season ahead. Make cleaning clutter fun for the whole family by challenging the kiddos to see who can collect the most items to give away to charity or host a garage sale for some extra bucks.


Clear out Your Kitchen

Cleaning out your kitchen doesn't have to be an overwhelming chore. Start with organizing your kitchen cabinets and drawers. Rearrange bowls and plates to have the items you use most in the front so you can easily find them when you need them. Organize your silverware drawer and do a deep cleaning of any fine china that might have been overlooked during the winter months. Free up space in your fridge by throwing away unnecessary items or any perishable foods that might be past their expiration date. Wipe down drawers, counters, and cabinets to give your kitchen a clean shine and an organized feel.


Wash Windows and Walls

It’s easy to neglect your windows and walls throughout the year. Spring is the perfect time to give them the extra attention they deserve. Dust your walls and baseboards and don’t forget to always start at the top and work your way down. Clean your blinds using a damp towel to lock any dirt that might have built up during the winter months. Remove the window screens outside and give them a good cleaning to easily increase your curb appeal. Giving a little extra attention to areas of the house that usually go unnoticed will go a long way.


Start Fresh and Feel Inspired

Giving your house a deep clean before the business of spring starts is a great way to feel organized and accomplished. It's the perfect time to set a new tone and establish cleaning habits that can last throughout the year. Invite spring’s bright energy into your home by sprucing up a few forgotten areas to help your home shine year-round.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Why You Need an Expert Listing Agent

Accurately pricing a home is a listing agent’s top priority. While they have many other duties, landing on the right price for your home is the most important part of their job. Pricing your home too low results in a loss of profits, while pricing your home too high means potentially watching your home sit on the market while you slowly lose money.

To ensure your home sells for the right price, rely on an experienced listing agent who can yield promising and fast results. While their aim should never be to inflate the sale’s price, an agent should be able to get the best deal on your home in relation to what it authentically has to offer.

Pricing and Marketing

Before you get an offer on your home, an agent first determines its price. A listing agent may study sales prices of homes in the neighborhood to price your home within a similar range. The location and neighborhood provide context for your home’s value, so an agent will consider these relevant regional factors.

An agent will also devise a marketing strategy to ensure your home comes attached with a nice price tag. Many tactics may be used, but agents commonly focus on improving your home's aesthetic and publishing listings.

If your home looks a little shabby, your agent may suggest you spruce up the place. Home improvements and staging are two things that help guarantee you walk away with more money quickly. Part of this process includes taking great photos of the interior and exterior of your home to showcase its best features.

More importantly, your agent has the knowledge and connections to market your home on multiple listing services, helping to bring in more foot traffic to your open houses. Don’t worry about communicating with pools of potential buyers with an experienced listing agent who does this work for you. 

Negotiating Like a Pro

Negotiating is the next phase taking place after receiving an offer. During this phase, the agent presents the seller with a buyer’s proposal. If the price isn’t where you want it to be, it’s the agent’s job to negotiate with the buyer to try and get a better offer or decide on a faster closing date. Remember, it's the job of the listing agent to haggle. Expert negotiating can save you quite a bit of money if your agent negotiates properly.

How to Choose a Listing Agent

Searching for the right listing agent takes time. Before making any final decisions, do your research. An agent with years of experience is more reputable and will get you a better deal on the price of your home. Don’t hesitate to shop around and ask questions while searching for your all-star agent. Asking how many homes they’ve sold in the area, the average price range of homes they’ve sold, and how they’ll construct a marketing plan get you closer to finding an experienced agent who can sell your home quickly.

A Successful Sale

With an expert listing agent, you’ll receive help with pricing, prepping, marketing, and negotiating. Take the time to find an agent with experience selling homes in your neighborhood to make the home-selling process more straightforward. You deserve to experience a profitable sale with the help of an agent with key industry knowledge and expert negotiating skills.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Here's How to Show Off Your Bonus Room

Effectively staging a home requires more than placing an attractive couch in the corner with a stylish lamp by its side. Prospective buyers want to envision a life in your home, and decorating a room intentionally makes them imagine how they'll use the space themselves. When staging a bonus room, keep these tips to in mind to make potential buyers instantly fall in love with your home's additional space. 

Tidy Up the Place

Begin by decluttering the room, placing all personal belongings in closets or dressers if you haven’t already moved items to your new place. No one wants to see clothes or books thrown across the floor in a frenzy. So, get organized and do a proper cleaning before you invite buyers into your home to tour the place. 

Be Cohesive 

A bonus room can be used for many reasons, but you’ll want to stick with one theme to avoid confusion. Buyers will be confused if they happen upon a bonus room with a treadmill in one corner and a crib in another. Be cohesive with your décor to help give the room a clear purpose. After all, a bonus room offers space and privacy for specialized work and play. Create a library, workout room, or kids’ playroom—just don’t mix and match! 

Create a Private Gym

After a hectic day at work, come home to a private gym or peaceful yoga studio. If this sounds appealing to you, buyers will likely find the idea amusing too. Create a defined workout area with a water dispenser, area for towels, and workout equipment (if you have any). A yoga studio is also easy to construct by placing mats in the center of the room with warm lighting in a corner. Add a plant or two and comfy pillows to create a tranquil space.


Invest in Your Hobbies  

Having extra space is definitely a selling perk. With a landing on the second floor, basement, or an attic, you have plenty of room to complete that novel you’ve always talked about finishing or practice tricky yoga moves in privacy. With such a space, there’s no reason not to showcase your passion projects. If you get crafty (but still specific) with your design, you’ll inspire buyers to dive into their own hobbies in the extra space that's now available to them. 

Storage, Storage, and More Storage

Extra room can also be used for storing papers, books, and miscellaneous items. For this reason, your bonus room may best be used as an office. Design the ultimate workspace with a spacious desk, bookshelves, and cabinets. This is especially appealing for those who work from home or stay up late at night finishing projects. Whatever your own personal work style may be, you can appeal to buyers with a carefully constructed home office. 

Don’t Go Overboard

While we’re proponents of staging, we don’t recommend pretending to be a parent, artist, or yogi if you're not. Buyers will smell your dishonesty and think twice about your bonus room. Instead, showcase your room as you’ve used it, as long as it’s not cluttered and full of miscellaneous items. Opting for a clean, minimalist space is usually good enough. 

Be Proud of Your Bonus Room

Having extra space is attractive to buyers. Be proud of the room you’ve created, and show others why they should be excited to move into a home with a landing space or extra working alcove. With these tips and tricks, you’ll create a space prospective buyers can’t help but fall in love with. 

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