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Backyard Farming: Fad Or The New Future

July 18, 2018 Comments off

Backyard Farming: Fad Or The New Future

While a kitchen herb garden or pot-grown tomatoes may be commonplace in both suburban backyards and on urban condo patios, an increasingly large number of homeowners look to backyard farming as a way to relieve some of the stresses of modern life. Other benefits include cutting grocery bills, living a more sustainable life, and teaching children about food.

The New Food Landscape 

Do new trends signal a return to simpler times, or are they a pushback against higher food prices and loss of control over the food supply? Is it a lasting change that will spread across the country or a trendy, elitist phenomenon?

The answers may not be simple, but a huge increase in the popularity of farmers’ markets and community gardens leads some analysts to predict that a major change in attitude as well as lifestyle is taking place in American neighborhoods.

There is evidence that family health and nutrition improve when access to gardens and fresh food is made easier. It is as true in affluent neighborhoods as it is in disadvantaged communities.

In cities as diverse as Seattle, Boston and Fort Worth, Texas, community groups and activist neighborhoods have developed community gardens. Some of the more innovative offer food free for the taking to anyone in need. Seattle boasts more than one edible park, meant to help eliminate the city’s food deserts. Numerous community gardens throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex encourage pick-your-own plots that are open to all.

Growing Food for Personal Consumption

For homeowners who want to grow their own fresh produce and salad greens, the way forward is not always as easy. Zoning stipulations and HOA regulations sometimes specify that food plants are unauthorized landscaping elements. The times, however, have begun to change in many communities. 

New subdivisions in some cities offer community gardens for homeowners that are every bit as popular as community pools and clubhouses. They exist in million-dollar neighborhoods as well as more modest surroundings. Other cities allow some types of food gardens while discouraging plants like corn. Still others allow edible plants only behind a backyard fence.

The Future Of A Backyard Farm

The movement goes beyond growing edible plants, however. Keeping chickens and even goats is allowed by some municipalities, and urban farmers experience success with soil-free growing methods, including aquaponics, hydroponics and aeroponics.

While these alternative methods are usually found under roof, some aquaponics systems — which incorporate growing fish and plants together in a closed loop system — thrive in simple outdoor hoop-house structures. The growth of food-based “cottage businesses” is also worth watching. 

In short, as huge farms disappear from the scene, smaller home-based farms may take their place, not only in the Midwest, but in cities large and small from coast to coast.

If you are in the market for a new home with a garden-friendly yard, contact your trusted mortgage professional to get pre-approved today!

 

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5 Critical Tips For Buying In A Seller’s Market

July 17, 2018 Comments off

5 Critical Tips For Buying In A Seller's MarketThis summer, quality homes are being scooped up almost as fast as they’re being listed – and for top price. Yes, it’s a seller’s market out there, which is great news if you’re planning to list your home. For those looking for a home, the competitiveness can be frustrating and aggravating.

Frustrating as it may be, there’s plenty of reason for buyers to stick it out until their offer is accepted. For starters, interest rates are still fairly low. And secondly, there are great homes out there if you act fast enough.

How can you successfully get that dream home in a seller’s market? Here are some top tips:

Stay Dedicated

Make sure that you and your Realtor are on the same page with your must-haves for your new home. Then, make sure you check for new listings daily. If any look good, make an appointment to see it that day. Don’t wait, or it will likely be gone. It can be tempting to make an offer based on listing photos alone, but be very wary of doing this. Go out and see it – and do it quickly.

Start With Your Best Offer

With some good properties gone in a matter of hours, this is no time to nickle and dime a seller. What’s more is that the seller will be unlikely to even entertain the offer and counter it. The best practice in competitive times is to start with your very best offer on the property and give the seller something to seriously consider. Chances are your offer isn’t the only one they’ll be receiving. You want it to make an impression.

Include A Personal Note

Even though they’re essentially getting rid of their property, sellers often like to work with a buyer who is going to appreciate and care for the home they’re purchasing. That’s where a personal note included with your offer to the seller can come in handy. In your note, talk about the things you love about the home and how you know it will be the perfect fit for you and your family. You can even up the ante and include a family photo. 

Make A Significant Earnest Money Deposit

Generally speaking, the larger your earnest money deposit, the more serious of a buyer you are. In a seller’s market, you will want to look for any competitive advantage over the others that are likely to make an offer on a particular property. A big deposit can serve as that advantage.

Stay Patient

Like we said in the opening, a seller’s market can be frustrating for buyers – so try to stay patient. The right home is out there for you, and good things come to those who wait. 

Contact your trusted mortgage professional to get your pre-approval today.

In-Law Apartments Provide Tangible Benefits For Home Owners

July 13, 2018 Comments off

In-Law Apartments Provide Tangible Benefits For Home OwnersMany homeowners are looking for ways to maximize on their investment. One idea that is gaining popularity is a space set aside for aging parents known as an In-law apartments. These additions are living spaces that can set a property apart from others on the real estate market.

In-law apartments generally enjoy a private entrance and include things like a private bathroom, bedroom, kitchen and living room. Although generally smaller than the main residence, in-law apartments provide all the elements of a home. Because these living spaces are often built after the original floor plan was conceived, spaces such as walk-out basements, garages or separate wings of a homes are converted.

The size and location of this unit is also dictated by adherence to local zoning ordinances and building codes. Once they are established, the door to turning them into a straight rental unit may be opened. If you are considering buying or selling a home with an in-law apartment, consider these benefits.

Benefits Of An In-Law Apartment

In terms of buying or selling a property that includes a separate residence, there are pragmatic reasons they are seen as attractive. These may include the following.

  • Elder Care: Our valued parents and grandparents will come to a point where they require some assistance from younger loved ones. An in-law apartment allows homeowners to offer them a private living space while providing effective care. In-law apartments are wonderful spaces that allow you to give back to aging family members in a dignified setting.
  • Building Relationships With Grandparents: The economic and time pressures placed on working families often compels parents to place children in daycare or after-school programs. While these are certainly viable options, they may be secondary to family members. An in-law apartment may create an opportunity to have a grandparent or other family member spend quality time with your child. In-law units can enhance the bonds of family while maintaining a level of privacy.
  • Guest Space: With family members relocating for employment opportunities, the ability to spend time together has become increasingly difficult. An in-law apartment provides a space for extended stays.
  • Rental Income: An in-law apartment that gains approval can be an excellent revenue-generator. That extra income can help offset mortgage, insurance and tax costs. That makes homes with rental units attractive to buyers.
  • Increase Property Value: Home improvements such as decks, smart technology and other amenities tend to add to a property’s value. Not only does an in-law apartment include all of the necessities of a living space, it can also bring in revenue. That’s why in-law apartments provide added value for home sellers.

If you are considering buying a home that may include an in-law apartment or if you are planning to do some remodeling to accomodate long-term guests, be sure to mention this to your trusted mortgage professional. This increase in property value and potential income can open doors to additional financing options for your property.

The Case for Making a “Smart” Garage

July 12, 2018 Comments off

The Case for Making a Smart GarageEnergy-efficiency, smart electronics and automation have come home to the rest of the house, but many garages still look and feel like neglected warehouses. Why not update the lighting and add some high-tech features that will bring your garage into the 21st Century. Doing so will make your life easier and need not cost a fortune!

Rethink Room Function

Most homeowners use the garage for more than a car park. If it’s part storage room, part play space and part project area, manage the corresponding needs for specialized task lighting, additional circuits for a second refrigerator or freezer, conveniently located space for gadgets, gizmos, bikes and sports gear, and how you’ll deal with yard equipment and gardening tools and trash receptacles. A comprehensive lighting/electrical plan will be a great benefit.

Power Up 

Consider your lifestyle, and plan for the uses and activities you envision in the garage. Whether you have built-in storage cabinets, a fully-equipped home workshop, a hobby center, or play space for neighborhood kids, you’ll need handy receptacles for air compressors, charging stations and a variety of portable tools and devices. Trailing extension cords from the receptacle on a door opener is not only unsafe, but inconvenient. If you have or are considering an electric or hybrid vehicle, think about a car-charging station; it will require a 220-240 volt circuit.

Become Energy Efficient

Install sleek, energy efficient recessed cans, and use LED bulbs for bright, attractive general garage lighting that offers greater flexibility than typical fluorescent tube fixtures. They are available for both new construction and remodeling. Also look at insulated garage doors with a row of windows for natural light. Add insulation to walls and ceiling if necessary. Modern garage door openers have advanced safety sensors and lighting timers; but those that are truly smart allow you to monitor operation and control opening and closing via smart phone app as well as by wireless remote.

Go Hands-Free

It’s not uncommon for exterior lighting to be motion-activated, particularly if you have a long driveway or security spotlights on your home’s perimeter. But you can also automate interior lighting, either with motion sensors, or by using door-jamb switches. You’ll love the convenience of never having to fumble in the dark for a light switch!

Tie the Garage Into Home Security

In addition to an intrusion alarm and various sensors for your home’s interior, incorporate air quality sensors and fire and water detectors, even a security camera, in your garage space. Home security is a major concern among potential buyers.

If you’re in the market for a new home, make sure to contact your trusted mortgage professional to get started on the pre-approval process as soon as possible.

 

 

 

Rebuilding Costs: Rethinking How Much Homeowners Insurance You Really Need

July 11, 2018 Comments off

Rebuilding Costs Rethinking How Much Homeowners Insurance You Really NeedBuying a home comes with numerous financial planning obligations. It’s far from a turn-key operation and one of the significant challenges involves developing a working knowledge about things often outside your area of expertise.

For example, working as an educator, police officer, investment banker or office staffer does not necessarily make you an expert about home repairs or insurance coverage. Yet, the average homeowner is tasked with carrying a certain level of homeowners insurance coverage without a strong working knowledge.

Many homeowners just purchase enough insurance to cover the purchase price or take the advice of others. Both of those methods could prove wildly deficient.

Rethinking Total Replacement Costs

A distinct difference exists between a home’s purchase price, assessed value and total replacement costs. Let that idea sink in a minute. What you paid for your home and it’s assessed value have zero to do with what it would cost to rebuild in the event of a total loss!

If you based your homeowners coverage on purchase price or estimated value, the word that comes to mind is “Yikes.” Here’s why.

Construction costs are based on prevailing market prices that include building materials and labor costs. These vary from region to region and can pique do to materials shortages and shifting prevailing wages. National home-building averages run anywhere from $117 to $125 per square foot. But, even as you read this article, that could change.

Beyond the fundamentals of calculating home construction costs on a square-foot basis, consider that rebuilding your home means that some type of catastrophe occurred. Whether that was a hurricane, tornado, flooding, fire or another disaster, there will likely be cleanup costs.

Before starting new construction, the damaged property will likely need to be razed and damaged materials removed. That comes at a cost.

Building permits and licenses will come at an additional cost. An architectural blueprint and design may need to be secured and that also comes at a cost. The permitting process can be challenging and that could result in you having to rent a temporary residence while your home is rebuilt. Obviously, there are plenty of unforeseen expenses.

Specialty Building Costs

Although average building costs per square foot are a viable standard measure, many homes enjoy specialty items.

Consider that you own a home built decades ago. The high-quality building materials used in construction may be considered specialty items today. They may inevitably be far more expensive than common building materials. If you want the home fully restored, that could cost more than the estimated average.

Accents such as rounded archways or plank-board floors are also more expensive to replace than many average materials. Those are all considerations that need to be tallied when insuring a home.

How To Recalculate Homeowners Insurance

Take the time to calculate the square footage of your home against average construction costs in your area. Factor in specialty items, permitting, razing and other potential hidden costs. Add 10-20 percent. According to some insurance experts, the average home is underinsured by upwards of 22 percent. After the carrier has paid out the coverage limit, overages could become out-of-pocket expenses.

Don’t hesitate to consult with a reputable home builder or insurance expert. Full coverage means accurately accounting for all of the rebuilding costs. 

Contact your trusted mortgage professional to inquire about current rates for home construction loans, referrals to an insurance agent and more.

Working From Home: 5 Best Tips To Make It Work

July 10, 2018 Comments off

Working From Home 5 Best Tips To Make It WorkCarving out space for a home office isn’t always easy, but if you have the option to work from home even part of the time, it’s essential to have a space that works for you.

Here are 5 great ways to meet those needs:

Adapt A Closet

A guest room closet with bi-fold doors can become a perfect workspace with the addition of a shelf at the proper height to hold a computer or calculator and proper task lighting. Hang a bulletin board or add open shelving on the back wall. Multiply the functionality with a small cabinet or a portable file rack. The advantage of going to work in a closet is that you can close it off completely without having to do a daily cleanup. 

Grab A Corner From Living Room or Bedroom

Tuck a table desk into a corner of the living room or bedroom, assuming that you can work during the day when others aren’t sleeping or actively “living” in the space. Small table desks serve a variety of purposes, from serving snacks to displaying artwork, and are perfectly adaptable as work space, with a minimum of effort. All you really need is a good lamp and a nearby electrical plug in order to create an office. 

Claim Space In A Wide Hallway

With a space as narrow as about 30 inches and minimal depth, it’s possible to set up a small tabletop and chair to serve your needs for making phone calls, organizing schedules or planning appointments. It may not be ideal, but if space is at a premium it can be functional for short bursts of work at home.

Look For Multi-Purpose Furniture

A home office can exist in a den or dining room that has either a credenza or a tall cabinet with doors. Think about your needs, and seek out furniture that will fill the bill. Traditional period “secretaries” with closed door storage and a fold-down desktop are perfect, but even ramshackle armoires can be repurposed as office cabinets. 

Look For Unused Space

If you have a mostly empty storage room, even if it’s located in the garage, clean it out and clean it up. Add proper lighting, and even a portable heater or air conditioner. Brighten the space with fresh paint and an area rug, find second-hand furniture at garage sales or estate sales, and get creative with accessories. 

Be Aware Of Your Needs

There are two primary requirements for a home workspace, no matter what kind of work you do: storage space for the tools, supplies, files and accessories that you need; and privacy. It’s nice to be able to close the door on your work and “go home,” so the more insulated your home office is from other family activities, the more efficient it will be. Even if space is minimal, it can work for you!

Be sure to contact your trusted mortgage professional to get started with the pre-approval process as soon as you are in the market for a new home.

 

Home Automation Conveniences Attract Buyers

June 28, 2018 Comments off

The rise in Millennial homebuyers will inevitably change the items that promote faster and more lucrative home salesThe rise in Millennial home buyers will inevitably change the items that promote faster and more lucrative home sales.

Consider trends over the past decades that have included conveniences such as built-in dishwashers, central air, energy efficient appliances and many others. As mechanical and technological advances move into the mainstream, prospective home buyers seek them out and favor properties that come tech ready.

While Millennial buyers have a vastly different world view than previous generations, Baby Boomers and Gen X homeowners are also enjoying the ease of technology. For many homeowners, automation equals convenience and improved quality of life. That’s why having the latest automation integrated into a home can make it a priority home on the market. These are some of the latest — let’s call them gadgets — that seem to be piquing the interest of today’s home buyers.  

Automation Home Control Devices

The era of clap-on lights and voice-controlled systems has given way to smart technologies. Homes that are integrated with smart technologies are getting a leg up in the market and future-leaning companies are rolling out devices to fill the need.

A company called Nanoleaf is marketing a 12-sided remote that can be programed to automate and control an entire smart home. The Nanoleaf Remote is expected to interface with Apple Homekits to produce amazing home scenes and manage devices throughout the household.

If you saw the movie “Minority Report” starring Tom Cruise, you may remember him interacting with a 3D holographic interface. The new “Talon” smart ring hitting the market is a wearable smart remote that looks similar to the popular Fit Bits. It also interfaces with your home in a futuristic way and can automate most everything. The point is that smart homes are popular and complimentary devices will only make them more so.

Alexa Is The New BFF

Alexa became America’s best friend by providing everything from favorite music to voice-command Google searches. Alexa looks to be everyone’s BFF going forward and more and more home automation technologies are developed to directly connect with the little Echo Dot. iDevices’s new light switches can be brightened or dimmed via Alexa. Consider Alexa-driven automation.

Automated Home Security

In an era when security is frequently on people’s minds, things like motion detectors, security cameras and smart locks are looked upon more favorably when they are integrated into the home and fully automated. Homeowners are not looking to take on home security as an after-work task.

The Ring company, among others, is introducing everything from smart doorbells to outdoor lighting. When fully automated, security can be a huge boon for home sellers.

The Real Estate market remains competitive and seemingly small differences between properties can set them apart. Automation and smart-technology integration can be a game-changer in terms of days on the market and asking price.  

Contact your trusted mortgage professional to get your financing pre-approved so you can be ready to make an offer on your new automated dream home.

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