Jay Falone's Blog
If you know absolutely nothing about buying a house, don’t learn the hard way. There’s plenty of information available to help you avoid the many potential pitfalls in the process. You want your first home buying experience to be exciting, not exhausting. Here are some tips to get you started the right way.
- Know when you’re ready. Sometimes the pressure to buy comes from well-meaning family and friends. Even your boss might press you to buy a home. But there are personal and financial milestones you need to pass before jumping into the housing market. These include paying down debt, monitoring your credit report and credit scores and freeing up cash to save for a down payment. If you can’t adjust your cash flow so that you can set some funds aside, you may not be ready to buy a home. Yes, there are zero-down and low-down-payment loans out there, but you still have closing costs, taxes, insurance and maintenance to cover. If you’re not there yet, start by making small adjustments to your financial picture. Trying living on a budget. You’ll find plenty of apps online or for your phone to help you follow the money. Once you know where your money goes, you can redirect it to where you want it.
- Learn what you want. While you’re working on your financial adjustments, start visiting open houses. Go to single-family homes, new builder developments, condominiums, townhomes, patio communities and hi-rise buildings. Keep a list of what you like and dislike about each. Then, consider the time it takes to maintain the property. Calculate the hours spent mowing the lawn or caring for landscaping, or the cost to have it done for you. Consider if you want a ready-to-live-in home, or if you’re up to the challenge of a renovation. If so, will you do the work yourself or hire out to have it done? While not a perfect depiction, watch television shows about home renovations and remodels. You’ll see some of the disasters that might be lurking behind an innocent-looking wall.
- Hire the right help. Buying a home for the first time is not the time to go it alone. Hire a professional real estate agent that represents buyers. You need someone in your corner during negotiations and the contract process so that necessary paperwork gets completed and a seller’s potential lack of disclosures doesn’t slip by you. Your agent can refer a home inspector to find out everything that might need repairs. Then they can negotiate for you to get the price reduced or the item fixed during the closing process.
If you follow these suggestions, when your agent finds the perfect home, you’ll be ready to take the exhilarating leap to purchase your first home.
18 Crystal St, Worcester, MA 01603
18 Crystal St, Worcester, MA 01603
While real estate has ups and downs, it has generally been a good long-term investment. Owning a home is one way of investing, but to really take advantage, you can buy property that you won’t necessarily occupy but will make you some money.
How Real Estate Makes Money
There are two basic ways. You can rent out your property, or you can sell it for more than you paid. The latter usually involves improving the property and then “flipping” it.
Before you start making offers on potential rental or flippable property, think about what you hope to accomplish. Are you going to be a landlord or a flipper? The two require different attitudes and skills. While it’s certainly possible to combine the two – to buy a building to fix up and rent, or to rent something you will eventually sell – most people focus on one or the other.
In either case, it’s wise to start small. You may aspire to own an entire apartment complex and rent to a building full of tenants, but it’s better to start out with a single unit and learn to meet the challenges of being a landlord. One hands-on way is to buy a duplex, live in one half and rent the other. If you’re a flipper, you might want to eventually manage a renovation team restoring houses all over town, but you’re better off to cut your teeth on just one.
If you’re a novice, you’ll want to buy locally, and you’ll need to understand real estate trends in your community. Which neighborhoods are changing for better or for worse? How are prices moving? Does the market favor buyers or sellers? Remember, locals trends can be different from national ones. What percentage of available rentals markets are occupied? If occupation rates are high, it’s easier to find and keep tenants.
You can scour local listings yourself, but you’ll do well to consult a real estate agent who understands the market and local rentals. It’s best to work with a banker and have financing in place before you start.
Be realistic about projecting your revenue and expenses. Renovations often cost more than you’d predict. Rental upkeep can be expensive. Eventually you’ll need to upgrade appliances and replace the roof.
If you’re going to be a landlord, decide how hands-on you can be. Can you make repairs yourself? Are you willing to locate tenants and deal with them on an ongoing basis? If not, hire a property management company to take care of day-to-day management.
Investing at a Distance
You don’t have to buy a property and take on the associated headaches to profit from real estate. A vehicle such as real estate investment trust (REIT) or crowdfunded real estate makes you a part-owner of a large real estate investment. Someone else selects and manages the properties. It’s similar to buying stock. You (and others) provide the money, accept the risk and potentially enjoy the profits.
Do you have an old garden shed in your yard that's outlived its original purpose? Perhaps your gardening tools and supplies have moved on to a new shed or been relocated to a convenient spot in the corner of your garage. If so, you may be considering tearing down your old shed. After all, these structures can harbor rodents and become safety hazards as well as detract from the overall aesthetic of your outdoor living space — even the most well-kept yard and garden space won't provide good curb appeal if a dilapidated garden shed is a part of the picture. Here's how you can take yours from sloppy to sensational in just one weekend.
First Things First
The first thing you need to do is walk around the outside of the structure to check for peeling paint, cracked windows and any other cosmetic issues that need attention. After that, enter the inside to ensure that it's stable and level so that you can fix any structural issues such as loose floorboards. Remove any residual gardening tools and supplies and sweep the place clean. You may have to get out the shop vac if debris has been allowed to accumulate for a long period of time.
Repair and Restore
The next step is to repair anything that needs it. Most old garden sheds are made from pretty sturdy stuff that holds up well, but the roof and the steps are likely to need some attention if the structure has been neglected for several years, so you might have to replace a few shingles and shore up the steps. Make it look new again with paint or siding, and add decorative elements like window boxes brimming with flowering plants. If you're going to use it as a backyard getaway or playhouse, provide carpeting, wall art and furnishings. Let your imagination lead the way, but be sure to keep the end result in line with the design of the rest of your home.
Add a finishing touch to your garden shed renovation project by installing foundation landscaping. Simply dig a trench around the structure, plant your plants, fill it in, and cover with an attractive mulching material such as colored pebbles or oyster shells. For old-school cottage garden charm, plant climbing roses or clematis. If your yard is more of a formal affair, choose something classic like boxwood. To add balance and extend the space, consider adding a small patio with potted plants and a comfortable seating area.
Once you finish giving your garden shed its makeover, don't forget to pour yourself a refreshing beverage to enjoy while you admire the results of your hard work.