You hear it a lot – there are best and worst times to make any sort of purchase. Whether it’s a television, a car, or a home, statistics are available that may influence your decision on when would be the best time to make a purchase.
Numerical data isn’t the only thing you should be taking into consideration, though. Each season has something different to offer in terms of making the home buying process easier or more challenging. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of buying during the summer or winter.
What to Think About When Buying a Home During the Summer
Did you know there are more homes on the market during summer? According to the National Association of Realtors, inventory in the U.S. is actually 15% greater in the warmer months than in the colder months.
If you have a lot of items on your home wish list, you might be better off searching during summer as you’ll have more homes from which to choose. The only disadvantage (depending on the climate where you live) is that summer results in more competition, as a greater amount of people are likely to visit open houses in nicer weather.
It probably goes without saying, but moving during summer is a bit more pleasant than moving during winter. For many, sweating beats freezing while trying to pack and unpack a moving truck. You can always cool yourself down, but it’s usually harder to warm up. It also tends to be safer if you reside in or are moving to an area that gets snow or ice.
If you have school-aged children, moving during their summer vacation offers more flexibility than trying to move during the winter holidays or spring break.
Lastly, one nice thing about summer is the lack of snow. That can be a huge obstacle when trying to look at the exterior of a home. You might miss the fact that a few shingles (or the entire roof) need to be replaced when there’s a pile of snow on top of it. The same goes for cracks in the driveway, and curb appeal in general.
What to Think About When Buying a Home During the Winter
There’s less competition in the winter as most people are busy with the holidays, their new year’s resolutions, or getting back into the swing of things at work. At this time of the year, buying a home isn’t typically at the forefront of most people’s minds.
What does that mean for you? No bidding wars, and more room to negotiate if a seller is feeling a bit desperate.
They might be if the reason why they’re moving is a pressing one. Combined with having to work around their real estate agent’s holiday schedule, having less showings, and subsequently, less interested buyers, sellers might be willing to give you a better deal or include more bonuses in the offer.
Again, depending on where you live, the weather during winter can be brutal. You’ll be able to easily identify drafts from windows in a house, and you’ll notice how effective the heating system is.
While snow can work against you, it can also work for you as you’ll be able to see how well the roof and driveway handle several inches of accumulation. Are there noticeable dips in the driveway? Have ice puddles formed on the property? These fairly major repairs can give you an advantage during negotiations.
Considerations for Both Seasons There are a few factors to be concerned with during both seasons – namely, your real estate agent’s availability, and your neighbors.
Obviously, real estate agents may take time off during the holidays in the winter, but if they have children, they may also be likely to take off during the summer as well. Before you work with an agent, ask them about their availability over the next few months. You want to ensure that their planned absence won’t negatively affect your intentions to buy.
On the other hand, an agent looking to work through the winter holidays may be more motivated to help you, given the number of prospective buyers is lower.
Additionally, when you buy a new home, you’ll want to be surrounded by good neighbors, right? Summertime is great for seeing which neighbors excel at lawn maintenance and which ones let their grass grow for weeks on end. If you’re someone that cares a lot about a home’s upkeep, this might concern you.
At the same time, you’ll be able to see if neighbors work together to get rid of snow during the winter, or if houses on the block are nicely (or obnoxiously) lit up with holiday decorations.
Which Season is Better for Buying a Home? As you may conclude, there’s no right or wrong answer. There are benefits and impediments to searching for a home in any season. You shouldn’t let weather or the trending numerical data hold you back. When you’re ready to buy, you’ll know it.
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How alive the city is, how alive, how alive, how alive.”
– Alfred Kazin
Contrary to popular belief, there is no better time of year to be in a big city than during summer. Sure, the subway stations feel like they’re 123 degrees, but apart from sweltering train commutes, the city is a magical place during this time of year.
In a big city anything can happen, especially during summer – and only in the best ways. A trip to the farmer’s market can lead to day long expeditions to unexplored neighborhoods in town, and a cup of coffee with friends can lead to great conversations with strangers at a rooftop party later in the day. The great weather and relative calm that comes with a less congested city make summer a time for coming together, meeting new people and discovering new reasons to fall in love with your city and your home.
While we may not have sprawling residences or acres of backyard space, we do in fact have outdoor areas tailor-made for entertaining come summertime. Our yards are our little havens from busy city life, and our terraces are where we sit and admire the ingenuity of man.
In honor of summer in the city, our latest “Summer Fridays” post pays homage to a few of our favorite urban yard and terraces from homes listed for sale on coldwellbanker.com. Let’s take a look!
This urban refuge offers up sweeping views of Puget Sound, Mt. Rainier, The Olympic Mountains and downtown Seattle! Featuring not just one but two outdoor terraces, this home gives you plenty of space to enjoy beautiful Summer nights with good company.
Sometimes the best views of New York City come from just outside New York City. This meticulously renovated brownstone on the Hudson River features a sprawling terrace that offer up some of the best Manhattan skyline views you’ll find anywhere!
This home really does have it all. You’re located in the heart of Chicago, but it also feels like you’re tucked away on your own little private island. It doesn’t get more zen and restful than this sprawling rooftop terrace with ample spaces for relaxing and enjoying that great Chicago summer weather.
Miami!! The city where you can at once feel like you’re living in a city and right on one of the finest beaches in the world at the very same time! This beautiful home offers up stunning waterfront views and even a pool out on the terrace..because it is Miami.
Join us next Friday for another installment of our “Summer Fridays” series.
Even if you don’t have kids, buying in a good school district is always a good decision — if you can afford it.
Ever hear the old adage “Location, Location, Location”? Well, here’s more proof!
Learn why buying in a top-notch school district can benefit you — even if you don’t have kids.
Living in a good school district doesn’t just bring better teachers, better books, and better test scores — it also can help preserve home values and ensure faster resale rates.
It’s a smart move to consider the quality of school districts in your home-buying decision — although there are pros and cons to buying in top-notch school regions. Parents hoping to land a good home deal and give their kids access to a high-quality education have several costs to weigh. If you do the math, you’ll find that pricier homes in a strong public school district may actually be better bargains than affordable homes in districts where many children attend private schools.
Seeking good public schools
Many buyers search for real estate by school district, and say school districts are among the key factors in their home-buying decision. In a recent Trulia survey, 19% of Americans indicated that their dream home is located in a great school district. But among parents of children under 18, the percentage of Americans who want to live in a great school district jumps to 35%.
How can you tell if your potential new home is in a district that makes the grade? Consider the age of the schools, the condition of their facilities, the student-to-teacher ratios, and, of course, standardized test scores.
The bigger picture
It’s not as simple as it may seem to draw conclusions between school districts and real estate, though. A poorly ranked public school district doesn’t necessarily mean that the overall quality of local education there is poor.
And there are private schools to consider as well. Parents looking for homes in lower-rated districts but who still want quality education may need to factor in the cost of a private education, which runs well into the thousands per year. Tuition rates vary widely, but the average tuition cost is $10,940, which is the same as $912 per month in mortgage payments, according to a 2014 Trulia analysis.
Put it this way: A homeowner with a $1,326 mortgage payment on a $300,000 house who is also paying the $912-per-month average tuition could, in effect, afford a $520,000 house with public school education in a better-quality school district. Because home prices and school tuitions vary so widely, buyers will have to calculate these differences on their own (and obviously there are more factors than just local school districts and housing prices that drive real estate decision making).
Considering the future
When it comes to resale value, though, even for buyers without children, investing in a home in a good-quality school district can pay off. Homes in good school districts tend to sell faster than homes in lower-quality school districts. And during tougher economic times that trigger declines in home values, homes in better school districts usually hold their value more than homes in lower-quality school districts.
On the downside, these homes in better school districts also tend to be more expensive. Buyers here will pay higher property taxes, and much of that money will be allotted right back to the schools. For childless buyers, that’s no bargain. But in general, buying in a good school district does matter and, with more stability in home prices and more savings from costly private school education, it usually works in favor of the buyer.
So you have settled in and ready to start exploring your new neighborhood? Check this out!
Ready or not, it’s time to jump into your brand-new lifestyle. These tips will help you find your place within your community and make it feel even more like home.
After the hard work of finding and moving into the perfect home, you’re finally ready for the best part: exploring your new neighborhood and city! Here’s what you should do in your first week, month, and year in a new place to help make it your home sweet home.
The first week: Organize and settle in
Get your bills in order.
You probably had the essentials switched over to your name so you wouldn’t be without them on move-in day. But you’ll need to make appointments for other services, like cable or home security, right after you move in. Other essentials may also have slipped off your radar, like neighborhood trash pickup dates, suggests Michael Kelczewski, a real estate agent with Brandywine Fine Properties Sotheby’s International Realty in Wilmington, DE.
Find your local resources.
No matter how organized you are, there will be items, like extension cords and towel rods, that you will need to pick up quickly to make sure that you feel settled, says Joan Kagan, sales manager at TripleMint Real Estate in New York, NY. Your first week is the best time to seek out these essentials and more. You’ll no doubt become well-acquainted with the nearby hardware store, but you’ll also want to stock that new fridge at the local grocery store, make friends with the barista at the neighborhood coffee shop, and hit the closest post office to have your mail forwarded.
Meet the neighbors.
This will give you some comfort in knowing who is around you, says Pat Eberle of RASO Realty in Cape Coral, FL. Neighbors are a great resource for [discovering] where all the local hot spots are, where to go for necessary services, and more. If you have children, this will also help them meet the neighborhood kids their age and start making friends.
Find your community online.
Nextdoor and neighborhood or community groups on Facebook are an easy way to start following what’s happening in your new neighborhood. A subscription to the local city magazine can’t hurt either. This way, you can stay on top of community events, safety issues, and meet more neighbors! says Lisa Sinn, a real estate agent with Keller Williams in San Antonio, TX. Want to untether from the laptop? Head to your local library or coffee shop and scope out the bulletin boards for upcoming events or local businesses to try.
Study the rules.
Before you jump into those home improvement projects, make sure they’re not against the rules of your homeowners association (HOA) or local zoning laws. If you live in a historic district, you may even have to get your paint colors approved! And be careful not to overlook those easy-to-forget loose ends. During your home-buying process, there are lots of deadlines and time frames to be aware of, explains Eberle. After closing, you will also need to check on items like your property taxes, can you request a homestead exemption, etc.
The first month: Explore and grow
Dine like a local.
Try different restaurants, supermarkets, coffee shops, and bars in the neighborhood, says Kagan. One of the great things about living in a city like New York is the great variety of resources within walking distance. You can choose your favorites and start to build a community.
The sooner you make friends in a new city, the sooner it will start to feel like home. When people find out that you are moving to New York, they will tell you about their college roommate’s niece, their brother-in-law’s cousin, their former baby sitter, all of whom have moved to New York, says Kagan. Whether you live in the city or in a more suburban area, don’t roll your eyes at these connections. Make the effort to get together with all of them they will invite you to meet others and share their tips.
Follow your interests.
Local charities are always looking for volunteers and church groups are always looking for new members. City recreation facilities often offer classes for kids and adults. This can also be a great way to meet other locals that have similar interests.
Offering to assist a neighbor with a project can also be a great way to break into the neighborhood. If you are in a cold area with snow, help with snow removal. If you are where the weather is nice, help with lawn mowing, trimming, raking leaves, or other projects. The favor will likely be returned in the future!
Meet your HOA president.
This person can be a great ally when it comes to neighbors breaking the rules (ahem, not mowing their lawns, partying too loudly, etc.). Get to know them well, advises Sinn, so you can get your voice heard.
The first year: Practice good citizenship
Take advantage of your city.
You chose your neighborhood for its character, proximity to work, or its other perks. Now’s the time to explore other neighborhoods nearby for hidden gems. Go to the theater! Visit museums and concerts. Take advantage of your town’s amazing parks! says Kagan. Explore a different neighborhood every month. Knowing your city better will help you feel more connected and give you even more favorite places to come back to again and again.
Start a group.
Make an effort to stay connected with your neighbors, even if you don’t click right away. In the first year in a neighborhood, you will find that some of your neighbors and you will click and they will become friends. They’re a built-in source of information and support nearby. To stay in touch, launch a book club, dinner club, or other type of regular get-together on a schedule that works for everyone. It’s a low-pressure way to forge a deeper connection with those around you.
Host for a holiday.
Pick a holiday and plan an event in your home. Invite the neighbors or friends from unconnected groups. Think of it as your own mixer. Who knows? Maybe you’ll inspire some more friends to move to your neighborhood and make next year’s parties even better.
Attend HOA meetings.
Attend as many as possible so you’re aware of exactly what’s happening in your community regularly, says Sinn. If you have time, you might consider joining in a more official capacity, which lets you contribute to future plans and provides insights into neighborhood changes.
Make goals for next year.
Reflect on your first year in your new neighborhood and make goals for the next one. Would you like to get more involved, perhaps in a leadership role with your HOA? Have you noticed congestion or traffic issues that you could work with your neighbors to resolve? Maybe you’d like to support a local nonprofit or school by organizing a 5K race through your neighborhood. Or perhaps there’s a beautification effort you could launch. Whatever you choose, you’ll be on a path to deepen your involvement in your community.
Interesting food for thought. Depending on the dynamics of the other homes in the neighborhood, fair market values can vary.
Whether you’re buying or selling, remember that your neighbor’s sale price is just one piece of the puzzle. Whether you’re buying or selling, make sure you look beyond the data to get the big picture on home values.
After researching the sale prices of his neighbors recent home sales, Steve Rennie thought he knew exactly what his Kansas City, MO, house was worth. But when the Rennies decided to sell and started interviewing real estate professionals, they discovered they needed more and more relevant information. While the sale price of homes on your street can provide important insight into the price of a home you’re selling or buying, here are some of the other factors you should consider to make your best deal.
Unique or unusual home? Comparable sales may not exist
The Rennies quickly realized that recent sales near them wouldn’t be the perfect way to gauge their home’s value. We had interviewed several agents, and most came back with prices for homes that were not truly comparable to ours, because we had a unique older home in an area of newer ones, recalls Rennie. Eventually, the couple called real estate agent Dan Vick, vice president of RE/MAX Results in Kansas City, who offered a different perspective.
Since I didn’t have comps in their exact neighborhood, I went a half-mile away to find homes of similar age and style, says Vick. They’d said they wouldn’t list their home for one penny under $180,000, but based on my comps, I asked: Would you mind if I listed it for more? The house sold the first day it was on the market for $189,500. The Rennies were thrilled.
While comps give sellers a point of reference and an understanding of how strong the real estate market is, Vick suggests calling a professional familiar with your neighborhood to interpret comps properly and gauge what your home is worth. In newer subdivisions, especially if one or two builders have built the majority of the homes there, you can look at similar floor plans. But in older areas, that rule doesn’t apply, because you don’t have the same house four doors down the street.
Stick to the facts and expert advice when pricing a home
Even when you’ve studied comps and have noted relevant details about recent nearby home sales, it’s often easy for sellers to overlook important information when setting a price, says Michael Kelczewski, a real estate agent with Sotheby’s International Realty in Centerville, DE. I continuously encounter sellers who value their home above fair market price, he says. Cosmetically upgrading a kitchen or bathroom won’t usually generate a 100% ROI, so I’m tactful when explaining the reality of property valuations or asset depreciation.
Pricing your property appropriately, regardless of what your neighbor sold for, is key in today’s market, adds Matt Laricy, managing partner with Americorp Real Estate in Chicago, IL. A couple of years back, people would price a home high, get lowball offers, and be willing to negotiate, he says. Nowadays, with low inventory, many sellers are too aggressive: Their neighbor’s house sold in one day, so they think, I’ll overprice my place because I know I’m the only one on the block. But buyers are smart; they may not even look at it until the price comes down.
Bottom line? Don’t be greedy, Laricy says. If you price your home realistically, you’ll likely get more than one offer and net more money in the long run.
Understanding how agents set prices can help buyers score the perfect home
Buyers can benefit tremendously from checking what homes in their chosen neighborhood have sold for, says Laricy. In Chicago, we don’t do price per square foot, so knowing what a neighbors house sells for is huge, he says. If it sold really low, that’s good news for you as a buyer.
However, buyers sometimes overlook other crucial details in their quest to zero in on the best price, he adds. That can lead to a harder sale or lower profit in the future. In big markets like New York, Chicago, Miami, and LA, where people are coming and going all the time, you’re buying an investment, he explains. Buyers usually don’t think about value: why certain buildings trade at different rates now, which ones will trade higher than others in the future, and which neighborhoods are worth more. These are things you need an expert eye for.
He notes that younger buyers tend to neglect that all-important real estate factor: location. They chase kitchens and bathrooms, he says. They’ll buy in a less desirable location to get a nicer kitchen. You can always change a kitchen, but you can’t pick up a property and move it.
Yet even as buyers and their agents leverage comps to make a good buy, sometimes the heart wants what it wants, says Vick. I think you can get too caught up in the comparable data. If your buyers have looked at 15 homes, and this is the one they’ve fallen in love with, it really doesn’t matter what the comps are; you’d better go after it with a strong offer, he suggests. A note of caution to buyers: be careful not to overestimate a home’s appraisal value, since an offer that’s much higher than appraisal value could put your purchase at risk.
Buyers should bring their best offers from the start!
Especially in red-hot real estate markets, Laricy advises buyers to bid smart the first time or risk losing out to another buyer. Usually, buyers who lowball are the ones who end up missing out on two or three properties before actually getting something, says Laricy. Be realistic by putting in a strong offer upfront.
First-time homebuyer Corinne Hangacsi followed that advice before purchasing her two-bedroom townhouse in Wilmington, DE, this spring. We did our research through Trulia. Our real estate agent definitely clued us in to what was happening in the area, but we also looked at other comparable properties ourselves, she says. That in-person research helped Hangacsi feel comfortable making a strong initial offer. My biggest piece of advice for first-time homebuyers is to be patient and do your homework. Go with your gut; when you find the right place, you’ll know.
Where would be without our PUPPIES!! They are family members too. Looking for a dog friendly neighborhood? Here’s how:
Look for these puppy-friendly factors before making your move.
With more than 36% of U.S. households including a dog (according to a 2012 survey from the American Veterinary Medical Foundation), it’s no surprise that finding a pet-friendly neighborhood is an important consideration for many homebuyers. But how can you tell which neighborhoods are truly welcoming to your four-legged friends? Here’s what to look for on the house hunt.
1. You see a lot of dogs out and about
An obvious sign of a pet-friendly neighborhood is one that has lots of dogs exploring with their humans. You want to make sure that people, neighbors, landlords, and business owners are going to welcome your pet, and the best indicator of that is if there are lots of other dogs around, says Janine Acquafredda, co-founder of Realtors 4 Rescues, a nonprofit that helps keep animals out of shelters. And where there are lots of dogs, there are lots of dog owners that care about animals, so your dog will be in a safer and happier environment. There’s more to this pet activity than just scoping out the canine social scene, though. A neighborhood with lots of dog activity is also much more likely to have dog-loving neighbors and those nearby dog-lovers are much more likely to help you find your pup if he ever gets loose or runs away.
2. There’s a nearby dog park and the dogs playing in it look happy and relaxed
Not all dog parks are created equal, and you want to be sure the one near your future home will be a pleasant experience for your pooch. Read: the big dogs aren’t picking on the little guys. (For a quick scan of nearby green spaces your dog might enjoy, check out Trulia Maps and the Places to Play layer.) Visit on a weekend morning, when the park is likely to be crowded, says Amy Robinson, a dog trainer and dog expert in Vero Beach, FL. Observe the owners too. Are they watching their charges or chatting and drinking coffee while their dog is a hundred yards away? How clean is the place? Are people picking up after their dogs? All of these answers will give you an idea of what type of dog and owner frequent the park, she says. Bonus: Hanging at the dog park can help you make friends in your new neighborhood.
3. You can easily find an animal shelter, veterinarian, and pet supply store
The existence of all three essentials shows that the community cares about the well being of animals, says Ashley Jacobs, CEO of Sitting For A Cause, a site that matches pet owners with local petsitters. When you have a community who cares about animals, keeping them healthy and controlling the pet population, that’s always a telltale sign that your dog will be welcome and loved, she says.
4. There are plenty of sidewalks and places to walk
We bought our house because of the size of the lot .98 acres for the dogs, says Peter Taylor, a photographer who has three dogs and lives in Mountainbrook, a neighborhood in Charlotte, NC. And the roads are wide, with very little through traffic, great for walking. After all, you’ll walk your dog often, so you’ll want a neighborhood that makes this accessible. In addition to sidewalks, are there trails or beaches to explore? Bonus points if the neighborhood provides waste bags or dog-accessible water bowls, which are a sure sign an area welcomes pooches, says Jacobs.
5. Places for people also welcome pets
If a neighborhood looks promising, call or stop by some of the local restaurants, stores, or coffeehouses and ask about their policy on pets. Look for dogs lounging on local restaurant patios while their human family members enjoy lunch or dinner nearby. Spotting dog treats on the counter at the neighborhood bakery or brewery is a good sign. These little extras will enhance the quality of life for you and your pet and make your new neighborhood feel like home.
Here are some GREAT tips to get the skinny on houses that have made it to your hot list. Fire up your Google!
Search-engine sleuthing is worth the effort to unearth the niceties — and perhaps negatives — when searching for your new home.
There’s probably not a day that goes by that you don’t Google something — the weather, a foreign phrase, directions, or news, just to name a few. With all the information Google can provide through its bird’s eye view, not Googling your address is practically a crime — especially when you’re searching for a new home (whether you’re house-hunting for a waterfront home in Benicia, or looking for a ranch house in Vacaville). Here’s what you could find.
Get a sense of the neighborhood using Google’s Street View
We can’t transport ourselves Star Trek–style to other places … yet, so the next best experience may be Google’s Street View, sort of a pre-virtual-reality experience. Simply type in an address, and if there’s an image of the property in the results, click on it. Other factors to note while on your Google stroll? Scope out yard size, proximity to neighbors, how many trees are on the property and the privacy provided by them, a view of the front of the home, a view of the neighbors’ homes (such as any nearby eyesores or hoarders), and the size of nearby roads. Don’t forget to use the aerial view while you’re at it, because it might let you know the condition of the roof (but keep in mind the image could be old.)
A caveat: Google Street View can be outdated, so it’s possible you could be looking at old news. The house you’re interested in might have been newly renovated, but you wouldn’t know that if the remodel happened after Google was there.
2. Map the proximity of the house to potential health hazards
The last thing anyone wants is to find out their dream home is located near a former meth lab or directly under a busy flight path. These aren’t just concerns for comfort; in unfortunate (and rare) cases, homes can be health hazards. When house hunting, be sure to search for whether or not that Los Angeles home for sale is in a safe area. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration maintains a database of homes that have been identified as drug labs, and some of these properties require intensive, expensive cleanup before they can be healthfully inhabited. Radon and industrial and airport zones are also pretty easily discoverable with a Google search and, in most states, via disclosures that most sellers will provide. (Some people find living near an airport or other noisy zone impacts their sleep, even if there is no chemical concern.)
3. Imagine your life in this home and its neighborhood
One of the deciding factors for saying “yes” to a house is if you can imagine yourself living there. Seeing listing photos and stats can let you know whether the house meets your specifications, but sometimes — especially with a long-distance home search — but to really imagine yourself living in that neighborhood could be difficult. Googling can help).
Kids can scope out their potential new school and spot signs of other kids living nearby, you might map your drive to the office, learn whether there’s a local farmer’s market nearby, or look to see whether the house is in a danger zone.
4. Get valuable details about the HOA
When you buy a home that is part of a homeowners’ association (HOA), you should receive the bylaws in advance of your purchase. But if you dig a little deeper by Googling the association’s name, you could find out that your new HOA is one of a surprisingly large number of HOAs that have been reviewed online. Grab your popcorn, because you’ll most likely find a variety of rants (and raves) about the subdivision, complex managers, neighbors, and amenities.
5. Scope out the neighborhood’s potential growth
Will you jump for joy to learn that Whole Foods is coming to town? Or is that just the sort of growth you’re trying to escape? Google your potential new neighborhood’s nearest major street or intersection for permit applications that have been filed recently. You might get lucky. If not, try searching the city or county planning departments. This can help you discover community plans for expansion in that area. Reading the online applications — and any notes from city council meetings discussing the permits — might help you understand the landscape of community-development issues at hand.
What surprising information has Google revealed during your house hunt?