Colorado Real Estate News

6 Home Renovations that Add Value

Home-Renovations

When it comes to making changes to your home, not all renovations are created equal. If you’re like most Americans, your home is probably your biggest investment, so it’s important to focus on renovations that add value to that investment, first and foremost. Of course, you need to make upgrades that are pleasing to you as the homeowner, but if you have any intention of selling your house in the future, you’ll also want to focus on improvements that provide the most value, too.

Before you go knocking down walls and installing subway tiles, it’s important to know which renovations will give you the most return on your investment. Here are six renovations to consider that add value to your home.

1. Landscape and curb appeal.

There’s nothing like a first impression, especially when it comes time to sell your home. You only get one chance to impress a buyer when they see your home for the first time, so it’s worth making sure that impression is a good one. According to a remodeling.net research study comparing the cost of renovations with the return you get on the investment, replacing your garage door yields the highest ROI, followed by adding stone veneer to the exterior and replacing your front door. Landscaping is also an important area to focus on, where simple things like refreshing the mulch, trimming back overgrown shrubs and planting colorful, seasonal flowers can be great curb appeal enhancers.

2. Kitchen.

The kitchen is the heart of the home, and creating an updated, modern kitchen will add more than just value to your home, it will also increase your enjoyment while you’re living in it. When it comes time to sell, the kitchen is the focal point of most listing showings, and many home buyers will be more forgiving of other outdated areas as long as the kitchen is upgraded. Consider replacing appliances with new, more energy-efficient models, refacing or painting your cabinets, replacing hardware, installing new countertops and new flooring, and adding a new sink and faucet.

3. Bathrooms.

Next to the kitchen, bathrooms are another space that make a huge impact not only in your enjoyment of your home, but also its resale value. Opting for a walk-in shower, and replacing and updating the vanity, mirror and fixtures will go a long way to improve the look and feel of the bathroom.

4. Outdoor Space.

Especially in a place like Colorado where we get plenty of sunshine all year-round (even in the winter!), adding a deck for outdoor entertaining is a great investment for your home. According to the remodeling.net research study, adding a deck will increase the value of your home enough to nearly cover the cost of installing it. Adding features like a fire pit will also increase the value, as it allows you to make the most out of the space in all seasons.

5. A fresh coat of paint.

Painting the interior of your home is one of the least expensive updates you can do that will make a huge impact on the look and feel of your home. Lighten up dark, cramped rooms with a light, bright tone that will make the space feel fresh, clean, and more spacious. If you’re selling the home, opt for neutral color choices that would be appealing to a variety of people, such as creams, grays and pastels.

6. Flooring.

In addition to light, bright walls, flooring also makes a huge difference in how your house comes across to guests and buyers. Many buyers gravitate to hardwood floors over tile or carpet, especially in common areas like the kitchen and living room.

Ultimately, there are endless projects that can be done around the home to increase its function, livability and value. The important part of any renovation, however, is taking the time to plan and budget accordingly, and focus on things that will not only make a positive impact in how you enjoy the home, but also protect your investment.

Colorado Real Estate News

7 Maintenance Skills all Homeowners Should Know

maintenance skillsOnce you make the leap into homeownership there are no landlords or building superintendents to rely on for help. While we wish homeownership came with an instruction manual, it’s likely you will have to learn through hands on experience. We can’t possibly know how to do everything when it comes to home maintenance skills, but it’s helpful to know how to do minor repairs around your home. Here are a few basic home maintenance skills every homeowner should master.

Changing Your HVAC Filter

It’s important to schedule a maintenance checkup for your HVAC system every spring and fall. But in the meantime, filters need to be checked once a month. When they’re dirty, change them. Dirty filters shorten the lifespan of your system. Fortunately, it’s easy to do. First, check your owner’s manual for the right part number in order to buy a new filter. Then turn off your HVAC system while you work, remove the old filter, and slide the new one in place.

Resetting the Circuit Breaker

If your house was built after 1960, your electrical panel is likely filled with circuit breakers, which supply power to appliances and lighting in every room. When a circuit becomes overloaded, the designated breaker trips, shutting off juice to that area. When this happens, you’ll need to reset the breaker. Just open the panel cover and look for the breaker that’s sitting in the off position; then push it to on. If you can’t find the errant breaker, you’ll have to turn each breaker off, then on again.

Repairing Drywall

No wall stays perfect forever. Nails pop, and furniture or broom handles cause dents, making your once-flawless walls look all banged up. Learning how to repair drywall can save a homeowner time and potentially a fair amount of money. Luckily, it’s easy to repair drywall yourself; all you need is some putty and a spackling knife!

Cleaning the Gutters

When gutters get clogged, water can be trapped on the board behind the gutter and even be forced under your roof shingles, causing damage. So clean them twice a year in spring and fall. Start near a downspout by removing large debris, and then use a hose to flush a stream of water through the downspout to clear out fine grit. If your downspout is blocked, it may need to be removed and cleaned out; if it leads to an underground pipe that’s blocked, that pipe can usually be cleaned out with a handheld snake.

Turning Off the Water Supply

If you ever come home to a flooded floor, you need to be able to shut off the water to the whole house ASAP, especially if the source of the water leak is unclear. That’s why every homeowner should know where their main shutoff valve is. Look near the perimeter of the house at ground level nearest your water meter. The shutoff valve might be in a basement, crawlspace, closet or garage. In an emergency, you can also shut off your water from the outside water meter, but the valve might require special tools to turn.

Dealing with a Flooded Basement

If you come home to standing water in your basement, time is of the essence. You have 48 hours to get the water out and get it dry. After two days, mold will start to grow, and once that starts you have to rip everything out. Call your insurance agent right away and take pictures; then get to work pumping out the water and removing all furniture to be dried off. Important: make sure the power is off if there’s standing water! As long as the water is below boot level, you can safely shut off the power from a basement panel if you wear rubber boots and gloves and use a wooden stick or hammer handle to trip the main power switch.

Unclogging a Drain

Harsh, pricey chemicals shouldn’t be your first option when a sink drain gets clogged — better to keep a small plunger and a drain snake on hand to work out the problem mechanically. After you’ve removed the primary clog, clean out smelly gunk by putting a cup of baking soda in the drain followed by four cups of boiling water; then end with a cup of vinegar. The vigorous chemical reaction will jar any remaining debris loose and leave the drain smelling fresh.

Colorado Real Estate News

5 Tips for Buying A House With Student Loan Debt

Buying A House With Student Loan Debt

Buying a house with student loan debt might seem out of reach for many people. But the reality is, your student loan debt shouldn’t hold you back from home ownership. Before you decide to take the leap, sit down, review your priorities, and make sure you are ready to take on this responsibility. Are you confident about your income? Is it large enough to comfortably take on a mortgage payment on top of your student loan payments? What other area of your life will have to be scaled back? Here are five things you’ll need to do when buying a house with student loan debt.

Lower Your Student Loan Payments

Even if you don’t have any other kinds of debt, your student loans can give you a high debt-to-income ratio. Refinancing your student loans or switching to an income-driven payment plan will help lower your payments, decrease your DTI ratio, and prove to a lender that you have the funds to make mortgage payments.

Before making that decision, be aware of the trade-offs involved with both options. If you choose to refinance federal student loans, they then become private loans. You will lose federal protections, including access to income-driven plans and federal forgiveness programs. An income-drive plan will cap your payments at a percentage of your income. If you choose this route, the amount of interest paid will increase over time because the term length will be extended.

Generally, mortgage lenders won’t care if your overall student debt increases, their primary concern is your monthly payment. But to save the most on your student loans, you’ll want to minimize the amount of interest you pay over time.

Improve Your Credit Score

The biggest thing that lenders look for when deciding whether to approve you for a loan is your credit score. Here are a few ways to boost your credit score ahead of applying for a mortgage:

Pay Your Bills on Time

This is the most important factor in your credit score. If you pay on time and in full you can build a solid financial foundation.

Don’t Close Old Accounts

Closing a credit card account might seem like an easy fix when trying to build your credit score, but often that’s not the case. An old account in good standing can help your credit. The longer your credit history and average age of your accounts, the better.

Use Different Types of Credit

A mix of revolving credit (as credit cards) and installment loans (car payments or student loans) show you are capable of handling different types of credit.

Manage Your Credit Utilization

The ratio of your credit balance to your total available credit is your credit utilization. Ideally, you want to manage your credit utilization so you aren’t using more than 30% of your available credit.

Save for Closing Costs and a Down Payment

Buying a home involves more than just taking on a mortgage – you’ll also be responsible for paying the down payment and closing costs upfront. Closing costs include home insurance premium, title fee, mortgage insurance, mortgage loan origination, and the home inspection. Overall, closing fees cost the average home-buyer about 2%- 5% of the total cost of the home’s price.

Traditionally, a down payment is about 20% of the cost of the home. But today, buyers have other options such as putting less down and paying for private mortgage insurance monthly until building 20% in equity. Just be aware, the less you put down the more you’ll pay in interest.

Consider Down Payment Assistance Programs

There are several down payment assistant programs that lenders will accept. Look into whether your state or city of residence may offer down payment assistance programs.  It’s also possible to take advantage of federal loan programs – even though you already have a student loan, you could qualify for an FHA loan. This could mean a down payment of as little as 3.5%. If you choose to buy your home in a more rural area, you could qualify for a USDA loan which does not require a down payment at all.

Research your options and talk to an experienced mortgage broker to find out what programs you may qualify for at the federal, state, and local levels.

Take Your Time and Choose a Home You Can Afford

Taking your time is the most important piece of advice that we can offer. When you make the decision to buy a home, it’s easy to get carried away. You might think you need to buy a house right away, with all the amenities and appliances you’ve ever dreamed of. But chances are, it’s not in your budget. Be aware that as a first-time home buyer, you’re likely buying a starter home which you will eventually grow out of.

Spend time analyzing what you’re looking for in a house, what are you needs and wants, what kind of neighbors would you like to have, and what can you realistically afford. When it comes to price, consider the 28/36 rule. 28 refers to the percentage of your gross monthly income that you should spend on your monthly housing costs. And 36 refers to the total debt payments you make – including your mortgage.

Colorado Real Estate News

Real Estate Apps All Homeowners Need

 

Real Estate Mobile AppsWhile the process of buying a new home is an exciting one, paperwork, crunching numbers, real estate jargon, and moving boxes can also make it stressful. But in today’s world, any need you might have, small or large, can be made easier with mobile apps. To help make your home buying experience a little less trying, we compiled a list of some of the most useful real estate apps for all homeowners!

Kentwood Mobile App

This app enables users to search for properties via GPS location, mark favorite properties, and receive notifications when a home comes on the market.

Kentwood Real Estate has also included cutting edge, augmented reality “Scope View” capabilities where a user can literally stand on the sidewalk and point their smart phone towards a home for sale to instantly view the price or other relevant information. The app also ties in directly with Kentwood’s website for seamless client interaction and follow-up.

The state-of-the-art app features a variety of search options and filters, making it easier than ever to search for homes on-the-go in Denver.  The app syncs to the user’s account on DenverRealEstate.com, ensuring saved data is accessible on the user’s mobile device as well as Kentwood’s website at DenverRealEstate.com.

Houzz Interior Design Ideas

Called the “Wikipedia of interior and exterior design” by CNN, Houzz has the largest database of home design ideas on the net, with over 5,000,000 high resolution photos. Browse photos by style, room and location then save them to your virtual ideabook —the equivalent of clipping design magazines to a scrapbook — making ideas easier to search, save, and share.

Find everything from products curated by our editorial team to top-rated local designers, architects, contractors, and other home pros who can help you realize your ideas.

 Moving Van

In a nutshell, this app allows you to quickly and easily identify the contents of your moving boxes without ever having to open them. It essentially does a bit of inventory during the packing process.

While packing, you can use the app to take photos of the contents of the boxes and write down any details. You can also assign each box a name, number, or room it belongs in.

Using this app will allow you to relieve some stress from playing the guessing game when it comes time to unpack.

Eden Garden Designer

Eden Garden Designer lets you design beautiful gardens on your mobile device. Start with one of the included gardens, ready for planting, or create your own through your camera or photo library.

Eden’s plant library is stocked with beautiful, vivid photo-realistic plants and flowers chosen from the favorites of North American and European perennials and annuals. Search for plants by name, height, zone, color, blooming season, sun exposure, or type. Each plant has lots of useful information and has a custom wiki link to dig for even more detail.

If you are new to gardening or are a real green thumb, Eden Garden Designer lets you design beautiful gardens without having to learn expensive and complicated garden design programs. Eden is designed to be a delightful and useful tool for gardeners of all abilities and interests.

Behr Color Smart

Ready to take on your next paint project? This is a convenient, easy to use tool to help you find your perfect color, discover new designer – coordinated color combinations, and preview your choices in room scenes and on exteriors.

This is an easy way to find paint color combinations for any room in your home. You can choose your colors and then see what they look like on the wall of a simulated room.

You can also access colors by scanning the barcode on the back of a Behr color swatch or brochure – a quick, simple way to validate your color selections.

The Real Estate Dictionary

Are you looking to buy your dream house and find yourself caught between the crossfire of complicated real estate terms? Here is solution to all that real estate jargon. Packed with over 2000 words across 11 different categories, it’s very simple to use.

This dictionary app comes in handy as you can learn new terms while traveling, when speaking with a real estate agent or while looking for a property. This app will help you with the various terms regarding concepts, laws, and fundamentals.

Mortgage Calculator

Who knew calculating your mortgage payment could be so easy! Calculate, save your favorites, and get real time mortgage rates all from this mortgage calculator.

Whether you’re a home buyer, homeowner or real estate agent, you’ll love all the features this app offer. Determine your monthly payment on a home while you are house hunting, figure out what your monthly payment would be if you refinanced, calculate the total cost of your loan and how much you could save by making extra payments, and effortlessly learn how much home you could afford.

Around Me

The Around Me app quickly identifies where you are to show you a complete list of nearby businesses and attractions, including the distance from your current location. This can be helpful when looking for a house in an area that is unfamiliar to you.

You can search for the nearest bank/ATM, bar, coffee shop, gas station, hospital, hotel, movie theater, restaurant, supermarket, theater, or taxi company.

Colorado Real Estate News

What to Look for When Buying a Starter Home

Happy Couple | New HomeBuying your first home is likely the biggest investment you will ever make. Therefore, it’s important that you make the right choices when choosing a starter home. Since your starter home is not intended as a forever home, there are some important features that first time buyers should be on the lookout for. Following are a few things to consider when hunting for your starter home.

Affordability

Don’t go biting off more than you can chew. The biggest factor when choosing a starter home is whether or not you will actually be able to afford it. First time buyers don’t have any equity to roll into a new home, therefore coming up with a down payment along with the financial burdens of owning a home should be their first priority. The best way to figure out whether or not the mortgage is affordable is to use a mortgage calculator, which helps to break down the monthly payments based on taxes and insurance. This will help determine a firm target price to aim for.

Location, Location, Location

Where you choose to purchase your starter home is crucial for multiple different reasons. The biggest of those being equity. Equity is the most important thing you will gain from your first home. So you want to find a neighborhood with stability, where there aren’t many “For Sale” or “For Rent” signs, and people have been living there for extended periods of time. These are the areas that are going to get you the best return when you eventually sell your home.

You will also want to consider security. How safe do you feel in the neighborhood? If you don’t feel comfortable and secure living in the neighborhood, chances are other buyers are going to feel the same way. Since this is just a starter home, you always want to be thinking about the future and the ease with which you can resell your home. Don’t be afraid to be selective!

Move -In Ready

Most first time home buyers are working within a limited budget and can’t afford to put a ton of money into a “fixer upper”, especially if you aren’t all that handy around the house. Be realistic about your ability to maintain the cost of owning a home. Often times, homeowners come armed to the gills with DIY projects that end up being too much to manage. Renovating a home is not inexpensive, quick or easy, so buying a move-in-ready home is highly recommended.

If you are forced to choose a home that is a project, prioritize the updates you are willing and can afford to make. Take a look at some of the big budget items which might cause you problems within the next seven to ten years, and make sure that they have recently been updated. This includes things such as the water heater, energy efficient windows, updated electrical wiring or a new roof. The bathrooms and kitchen are also important areas of a home to ensure are updated. These are two rooms that attract buyer’s attention the most.

Room for the Future

While a starter home is a place where you can settle to start a family or until your career takes off, most people tend to stay there for longer than anticipated. The average time a family spends in their first home ranges anywhere from seven to ten years. Therefore, when buying a starter home be sure to consider the kind of space that your family might need to grow into.

Even if you don’t plan on expanding your currently family, it’s smart to think about what future buyers might need. If you purchase a starter home with only one room, you are severely limiting the number of potential buyers you may have in the future.

 

Colorado Real Estate News

How to Successfully Navigate a Short Sale

Short Sale | Real EstateSelling a home for less than the amount the current owner owes on the property is called a short sale. Buying a home that is a short sale is different from buying a property that is actually owned by the bank, known as an REO, or real-estate owned property, or a property that is in foreclosure. Everyone shopping for a new home needs to understand how to navigate a short sale in today’s marketplace. Following is some advice from the National Association of Realtors.

Be prepared for a lengthy waiting period. Even if you’re well organized and have all the documents in place, short sales can still be a long process. Waiting for your lender’s review of the short sale package can take several weeks or even months. The length varies by lender and location, but these benchmarks can put your situation in perspective.

  •  If you have only one mortgage, the review takes about two months.
  • If you have a first and second mortgage with the same lender, the review can take about three months.
  • With two or more mortgages with different lenders, it can take four months or longer.

Your real estate professional and attorney, with your authorization, can work with your lender’s loss mitigation department on your behalf to prepare the proper documentation and speed the process along. When the bank does respond, it can approve the short sale, make a counter offer, or deny the short sale. The last two actions can lengthen the process or put you back at square one. Don’t expect a short sale to solve your financial problems. Here are post-short sale conditions to keep in mind:

  • Your lender may ask you to sign a promissory note agreeing to pay back the amount of your loan not paid off by the short sale.  If your financial hardship is permanent and you can’t pay back the balance, talk with your real estate attorney about your options.
  • Any amount of your mortgage that is forgiven by your lender may be considered income, and you may have to pay taxes on that amount.
  • Having a portion of your debt forgiven may have an adverse effect on your credit score.  However, a short sale will generally affect your credit score less severely than foreclosure or bankruptcy.

If you are considering a short sale or buying a short sale property, consult with your Kentwood Real Estate professional.

Colorado Real Estate News

6 Tax Benefits for Homeowners

ThinkstockPhotos-472537708With the housing market on the rise in many places across the country, lots of people are becoming first time home buyers. Lucky for these new home owners, the United States government has a laundry list of tax breaks they offer to encourage more Americans to purchase homes. These tax breaks can be applied to any type of home from a single family residence to condominium and even mobile homes. Here are six tax breaks that only homeowners get to claim.

First Time Home Buyers
The IRS will allow first time home buyers to pull up to $10,000 from their traditional or Roth IRA accounts penalty free to help them with the purchase of their home. You can also borrow half of your 401(k) balance up to $50,000. But the interest paid on the 401(k) is not tax deductible, unlike your mortgage payment.

Mortgage Interest
Since the majority of your mortgage payment goes toward interest, your biggest tax break comes in the form of the house payment you make each month. And unless your loan is more than $1 million, all that interest is deductible. Interest tax breaks don’t stop at your first mortgage either. If you are the proud owner of multiple properties, mortgage interest on a second home is also fully deductible.

Points
If you purchased a home in 2015, in addition to the mortgage interest, you can write off the points on your tax return. That’s because the IRS considers points to be pre-paid interest. One point is equal to 1% of the principal loan amount. The tricky part is whether or not you are eligible to deduct the points all at once or whether you have to spread the costs over the lifetime of the loan.

Property Tax
Property taxes are almost always tax deductible. To deduct property taxes, you will need to itemize. You cannot write off your attorney and appraisal fees, title insurance or credit report costs. However, transfer taxes can be written off. A property tax is deductible in the year that you paid it, rather than the year that the payment is for.

Energy Efficiency
If you made any efforts to make your home more energy efficient, the IRS wants to give you a tax credit. Anything from adding storm doors or new insulation to installing energy efficient window or air-conditioning and heating systems will qualify you for this tax break. The credit amount is a total of 30% of the cost of qualifying improvements, up to $1,500.

Home Expenses and Improvement
If you make or plan to make any home improvements, you can write of the cost of the home improvement, such as materials and labor. Then when you sell your home you can add the cost of those improvements into the asking price, which should diminish the capital gain.

Colorado Real Estate News

Hidden Home Buying Fees

hidden feesThe first step to buying a home is crunching the numbers. What can you realistically afford without breaking the bank? As many seasoned home buyers know, you’re going to pay much more than what is on the price tag. If you fail to take these additional fees into account, you risk derailing your entire plan. So when you start to budget for this life changing purchase, be sure to consider some of these hidden costs to buying a home.

Appraisal Fees
A home appraisal is something that all home-buyers will eventually encounter, and is needed to determine the current market value of the home. A professional appraiser inspects the size, condition, function, and quality of the home. Then they research similar homes and recent sales in the area to determine market value. Usually, the lender chooses the appraiser and the buyer pays for the appraisal fee, which ranges anywhere between $300 – $400.

Home Inspection
The mortgage insurer may want the buyer to get a home inspection done before closing on a home. Even if it isn’t required, it may be worth paying a professional to evaluate the home anyway. That way if there are hidden problems, you can avoid paying thousands of dollars to fix them. Home inspection fees vary depending where you live and what company you use, but usually cost anywhere from $300 – $500.

Escrow Fees
During closing, an escrow account is used to pay the homeowner’s non-mortgage related property expenses. With this type of account your mortgage company is able to pay your property taxes for you. If your down payment is less than 20%, you will be required to have one. Without an escrow account, you could get hit with property taxes twice a year.

Closing Costs
When you arrive to sign your closing documents, be prepared to pay thousands of dollars in closing fees. This usually ranges from about two to three percent of the home purchasing price. Such expenses can include processing fees, underwriting fees, recording fees and survey fees.

Property Taxes
Property taxes are expressed as a percentage of your home’s value and will vary depending on your location. Americans, on average, pay $2,216 in property taxes each year. If the seller has already paid property taxes on their home, the buyer may need to reimburse them.