From home-buying grants to veterans’ home buying-assistance programs, there are lots of resources available to military members and veterans looking to purchase a home. Our VA home buying guide breaks it all down.
Homeownership has long been an integral part of the American Dream for many people. That includes military members and veterans who have sacrificed so much to protect that dream.
But buying a new home is no simple feat—whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or experienced when it comes to homeownership. Fortunately, service members have access to a few unique programs that can alleviate that burden and make achieving the American Dream easier. This VA home loan guide will explain it all.
In this guide:
Pros & cons of homeownership
Homeownership certainly comes with some key opportunities, but it’s not without difficulties. Make sure to consider both sides carefully before making any moves.
- You can build equity: No more throwing rent into the proverbial black hole. With each mortgage payment you make, you gain a larger stake in your property—and its sales profits later on.
- You can alter your home as you wish: Forget landlord rules about paint colors, nail holes, and other alterations. As part of homeownership, you can make any changes to your property you see fit.
- You’re eligible for certain tax deductions: Homeowners get to leverage tax deductions for their mortgage interest, property taxes, home office costs, and other expenses, in certain cases. Some of these write-offs aren’t available for renters.
- You’re responsible for all maintenance: One of the biggest perks of renting is that the bulk of your repair and maintenance tasks fall on the landlord. When you own a home, these tasks (and their costs) are up to you.
- You’ll have additional expenses: A home comes with a number of expenses that just aren’t there with a rental—things like property taxes, HOA dues, maintenance costs, closing costs, and more. You may also have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI), depending upon the terms of your home loan.
- It’s often a long and daunting process to buy a home: It can take a significant amount of time and energy to buy a house. You have to get your finances in order, apply for a mortgage, find the right property, get it inspected, and complete a number of other to-dos before the home is yours.
Veteran Home Buying Assistance: Tips & tools to know about
If you’re set on buying a home, there are a number of veteran assistance programs you can leverage along the way. See below to learn more about each one.
VA loans are mortgages just for veterans, military members, and their spouses. To qualify, you need to meet certain military service requirements set by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Some Reservists and members of the National Guard may also be eligible for VA loans.
VA loan process
To get a VA loan, you’re going to need a Certificate of Eligibility from the VA, which essentially proves you meet the service requirements to qualify for the loan. To get your COE, you need to head to your eBenefits account and apply there. It can often take more than a month to receive this document, so apply well ahead of your planned home purchase.
Once you have a COE in hand, you’ll need to get pre-approved for your VA loan with a mortgage lender. Be careful here: Not all lenders offer VA loans, so make sure the one you’re considering offers them before submitting an application.
After you’ve been pre-approved, you can find the right property, sign your sales agreement, and fill out your lender’s full application. In addition to your COE, you’ll need to provide various financial documents (bank statements, W-2s, paystubs, etc.), as well as submit to a check of your credit score.
How to buy a house with a VA loan
The exact underwriting and approval process for your VA loan will depend on your mortgage lender, but you can generally expect it to take anywhere from four to six weeks.
You’ll need to submit your application, provide all the requested financial documentation, and work with your VA loan officer to address any concerns that might crop up along the way. Your home will also need to be appraised by a VA-approved appraiser to make sure it meets certain safety requirements.
Finally, at closing, you will need to pay your VA funding fee, a one-time payment on the VA loan designed to offset the cost of the loan program to U.S. taxpayers. You can also choose to roll this into your loan balance. VA loans are the only type of mortgage product that requires a funding fee (most others require mortgage insurance).
VA renovation loans
VA renovation loans allow you to purchase a home and fund its rehabilitation and renovation all at once. You can also use a VA renovation loan if you want to refinance your existing mortgage to help fund any upgrades or repairs your property may need.
Though VA renovation loans are fairly flexible, they can only be used to tackle certain approved renovation projects, so make sure yours are on the list before choosing one of these loans for your property. Our guide to VA renovation loans can help.
The GI Bill is designed to provide service members returning home from active duty with much-needed education and training as they restart civilian life. It affords vets money for tuition and educational fees, as well as a monthly housing allowance while they attend school.
How to use the GI bill to buy a house
Naturally, many veterans wonder if they can use their GI Bill housing allowance to buy a home of their own. Unfortunately, for the most part, lenders won’t consider your GI income when qualifying you for your home loan—largely because it’s short-term. To prove you have the capability to repay your home loan, lenders generally want to see consistent, long-term income.
You could find a rental property for less than your monthly housing allowance, though, saving the leftovers to put toward a down payment, closing costs, or other fees associated with your home purchase. This could help you buy a home sooner or achieve a lower monthly mortgage payment.
Dream Makers program
The Dream Makers program is a grant program that veterans and military members can use to lower the costs of buying a house. It offers up to $5,000 in matching grants to be used toward closing costs or a down payment.
The total amount for which you can qualify depends on the earnest money and down payment you put up. The program will match your contribution at a 2-to-1 rate. Your down payment has to total at least $500, and applications can be submitted through the PenFed Foundation.
Special Housing Adaptation grant
SHA grants can be used to buy, build, or update your permanent place of residence in order to accommodate a service-caused disability. You can apply for up to three grants, totaling $17,130.
To be eligible, you or your veteran spouse must have one of the following service-related injuries:
- Loss (or loss of use) of both hands
- Severe burns
- Severe respiratory or breathing injuries
- Blindness in both eyes
Specially Adapted Housing grant
If you’re living with a loved one (i.e., not on your own property), then you can use a SAH grant to increase the home’s accessibility. These grants offer up to $37,596 in assistance.
To qualify, you need to have one of the service-related disabilities noted above (under SHA grants) and be living temporarily in a family member’s home.
Many states also offer veteran and military homebuying assistance programs, so be sure to check with your state housing agency, too. In Texas, for example, veterans’ down payment assistance is offered through the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation.
Whether you’re starting a family, moving for your job, getting ready to retire or embarking on a new chapter in your life, when your home no longer suits your current situation, it’s time to think about selling it. Although this can be a bit complicated, with the help of your agent, you can minimize the hassles, get the best possible price, and shorten the distance between “For Sale” and “Sold”.
Price it right
If you want to get the best possible price for your home and minimize the time it stays on market, you need to price it correctly from the beginning. Your agent can give you a clear picture of your particular market and can provide you with a comparative market analysis (CMA). A CMA contains detailed information on comparable homes in your area, including square footage, date built, number of bedrooms, lot size and more. It lists pending sales and houses sold in your area in the past six months, along with their actual sale prices.
By comparing your home to similar homes in your neighborhood and reviewing their list prices and actual selling prices, your agent can help you arrive at a fact-based assessment of your home’s market price.
Prepping your house for sale
You want to make a positive first impression when you list your home for sale. Here are some tips on how to enhance your home’s best features:
Work on your curb appeal
Some great things to improve your home’s curbe appeal are to get rid of moss on your roof, power wash your front walk, porch, deck and patio. Clean up the garden and mow the lawn, trim the hedges, weed the flowerbeds and add spots of color with container plants. Clean all the windows inside and out and repair them if they don’t open and close easily.
Refresh, repair and repaint
This goes for interiors and exteriors. If you see peeling paint, add a fresh coat. If it isn’t already, consider painting rooms a neutral shade of white or grey. It’s also a good idea to make necessary repairs as you don’t want to turn off a buyer with a dripping faucet, a broken doorbell, a clogged downspout or a cracked windowpane.
Deep-clean, from floor to ceiling
Clean rugs, drapes and blinds, and steam-clean carpeting. Get rid of any stains or odors. Make sure kitchen appliances, cupboards and counters are spotless and that bathrooms shine.
Declutter and depersonalize
Clean, light-filled, expansive rooms sell houses. So be sure to downsize clutter everywhere in your home, including cupboards, closets and counters. You might also consider storing some furniture or personal items to make rooms look more spacious. Take advantage of views and natural light by keeping drapes and blinds open.
Show your house
After you’ve taken care of all the repairs and cleaning tasks outlined above, your home is ready for its close-up: an open house. It’s actually best for you and your family to leave when potential buyers are present so they can ask your agent questions. But before you go, you might want to:
· Take your pets with you
· Open the shades and turn on the lights
· Light a fire in the gas fireplace
· Bake cookies or use candles and plug-in’s
· Keep money, valuables and prescription drugs out of sight
Be flexible in negotiating
If you get offers below your asking price, there are a number of strategies you can try in your counteroffer. You could ask for full price and throw in major appliances that were not originally included in the asking price, offer to pay some of the buyer’s fees, or pay for the inspection. You could also counter with a lower price and not include the appliances. If you receive multiple offers, you can simply make a full-price counter.
Your agent can suggest other strategies as well and help you negotiate the final price.
If your house doesn’t sell or you’ve received only lowball offers, ask your agent to find out what these prospective buyers are saying about your house. It might reveal something you can consider changing to make your house more appealing in the future or switch up the marketing strategy a bit to better manage expectations.
Breeze through your inspection
When a buyer makes an offer on your home, it’s usually contingent on a professional inspection. A standard inspection includes heating and cooling, interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; and the foundation, basement and visible structure. The inspector will be looking for cracks in cement walls, water stains and wood rot.
You can always opt for having an inspection done prior to putting your house on the market, so you can address any potential problems in advance. Your agent can give you several recommendations for qualified inspectors in your area.
Close with confidence
Whether this is your first time or your tenth, your agent can help guide you though the complex process of selling a home. Moreover, he or she can answer any questions you may have about legal documents, settlement costs and the status of your sale.
Your agent’s expertise, resources and extensive network also work for you when you’re buying your next house. Even if you’re moving out of the area, your agent can refer you to a professional agent in your new community.
You’ll never have a second chance at a first impression, so let’s make it count! When it comes to upping your home’s curb appeal, there are plenty of small changes you can make that have a big impact. And best of all, you don’t need to call in the pros or spend a fortune to get beautiful results. Below are some helpful and affordable tips.
A Well-Maintained Yard
Mowing: The first step to a well-manicured lawn is to mow it regularly. The experts recommending mowing high because mowing it too short can damage the grass and allow weeds to set root.
Weeds: To prevent weeds like crabgrass use a pre-emergent herbicide in early spring. These herbicides manage the weeds by stopping the seeds from sprouting in your lawn. Broadleaf weeds like dandelions can be stopped by applying granular weed control products.
Feeding: Lawns consume mostly nitrogen, so look for mixes of fast and slow release fertilizers; they will feed your lawn over time while keeping it lush and green.
Watering: Nighttime watering can result in long spans of moisture on the blades, potentially exposing your grass to disease. Consider watering your lawn in the morning – the sun helps dry out the blades throughout the day.
Flowers: You can quickly and affordably dress up your yard with colorful pre-made flower pots and containers. When placing your flower pots and containers remember that asymmetrical arrangements and staggering plants will provided the liveliest setting.
Dress up the Front Door and Porch
Paint: A fresh coat of paint in a pop color can give your home a well-deserved facelift. Get some color inspiration from House Beautiful.
Replace Old Hardware: Clean off any dirty spots around the door knob, and use a metal polish on the fixtures. Change out house numbers for an updated feel, put up a wall-mounted mailbox, or add an overhead light fixture. Keep in mind that well thought through elements, instead of mix-and-match pieces, will add the most curb appeal.
Create Perfect Symmetry: Symmetry is one of the simplest design techniques to master and is the most pleasing to the eye. Maintain symmetry by flanking your front door with two sidelights (just make sure that your hardware matches); find two urn planters or a unique visual detail to put on either side of your door.
What’s the best remodeling project for your home? The answer, in part, depends on where you live. Every year, Remodeling Magazine evaluates which projects bring the most return at resale in different markets around the country in their “Cost vs. Value” report. For the purposes of this blog, we are focusing on the Pacific states (WA, OR, CA, AL) and the Mountain states (MT, ID, UT, CO, NV).
According to Remodeling Magazine, these are the six top projects in those two regions that currently have the best return on your investment when it comes time to sell. To see the full report, click here.
Garage Door Replacement
The project with the most return from Washington State to Nevada? A new garage door.
In the Pacific States, replacing your garage door will cost an average $3,785, but will increase your resale value by $4,686, recouping 123.8 percent of what you paid for it. Homes in the Mountain States will also benefit from a garage door replacement, recouping 98.6 percent of their costs.
Due to its size, a garage door can have a big impact on a home’s curb appeal. But adding to your home’s aesthetic is only one advantage; the warranty that comes with the new garage door is also a selling point for potential buyers who can trust that they likely won’t have to deal with any maintenance issues in the near term.
Manufactured Stone Veneer
As long as the new stone veneer is consistent with your neighborhood’s overall look, this siding is the second-best project across the Pacific and Mountain states.
Stone veneer can replace your home’s existing siding, adding a fresh, modern look that conjures a cozy vibe all the way from the street, before buyers ever step foot inside. Along the West Coast, it can recoup 110.4 percent of the cost when you sell, and Mountain states will recoup 96.5 percent of the cost.
Wood Deck Addition
While building a deck might seem like a big undertaking, it’s actually a pretty cost-effective way to positively impact your home’s resale value. Pacific states can expect to pay around $15,000 and Mountain states just above $13,000, but they’ll see 87.8 percent and 74.3 percent recouped respectively when they sell.
Adding a deck extends the living space of your home and provides even more area for entertaining, relaxing, and enjoying the outdoors. Whether you choose a natural wood deck or a low-maintenance composite deck, you can pick from a variety of styles based on the lay of your land and the areas of your backyard you wish to highlight.
Minor Kitchen Remodel
No need to move walls or appliances around, a minor kitchen remodel will do the trick to recoup 87.1 percent of the cost in the Pacific states, and 80.3 percent in the Mountain states.
An outdated kitchen can go from drab to fab and become a focal point with a fresh palette. Replace the cabinet doors with new shaker-style wood panels and metal or metal-looking hardware. Switch out the old counter tops with laminate that matches the new look. Think about adding a resilient flooring option, then finish the project with a fresh coat of paint to the walls, trim, and ceiling.
Looking to improve your curb appeal and create an entrance that guests and homebuyers won’t soon forget? Add a fiberglass grand entrance. This project involves replacing a standard-sized front door with a larger opening with dual sidelights (glass panels). Typically costing around $8,000, Pacific states will see 85.1 percent of that recouped in the sale, and Mountain states will see 71 percent.
Depending on the size of your home, replacing the siding can be an expensive undertaking. However, it’s a project that comes with high returns. For Mountain states, sellers can expect 75.4 percent of the costs recouped, and Pacific sellers will see 84.3 percent.
Not only is siding one of the first things a buyer sees, but it also serves as an indicator of the overall health of the home. Broken or damaged siding could mean that there are other problems with the home, such as pests and rot. Replacing old siding is a cost-effective way to boost your home’s curb appeal and ensure buyers are going to walk through your front door.
We’re in the thick of autumn now, with Thanksgiving just days away. That means it’s time to start considering how to best showcase your home before the guests arrive.
One of the cheeriest bits of fall is the shifting colors that bring a canopy of rustic hues to a walk through the neighborhood. You can bring that cozy feeling inside yourself with some golden-dipped creativity.
Gilded Pears – Use real or fake pears, whichever you prefer, spray paint gold, and allow them to dry completely. You can add little flags to the top if you’re really feeling crafty.
Magnolia Wreath – Collect some Magnolia branches and use a wreath frame as a base. Spray paint the green side of each leaf with gold and then assemble using wire. It’s not as complicated as it looks!
Dipped Pinecones – First, you’ll want to make sure your cones are clean and dry. Apply gold leaf adhesive using a foam brush; deciding how much you add will determine how much of the cone is covered in gold. After they dry, consider gold leafing the cone’s scales. Wrap it around the cone and use a clean foam brush to rub it into the adhesive. Then give it a light spray with sealant and allow them to dry.
Gold Acorns – Hand pick your acorns, clean, and oven-dry them to make sure they are pest free. Paint them gold and then add a layer of clear shellac for a shiny look. Lastly, you’ll want to use a hot glue gun to attach the caps since they naturally fall off after the acorns dry. You can use these as filler in a glass vase or simply scatter them on a tabletop.
Shimmering Maple Garland – All you’ll need is a bag of artificial leaves, bought at any craft store, some Elmer’s glue, glitter, and string. Use a paintbrush to apply glue to each leaf and sprinkle lots of glitter over them. Let the glue set, then shake off the excess glitter, punch a hole at the top and attach a ribbon. Tie them all to a large strand and voilà, a perfect garland for the holidays.
Petite Pumpkins – If you are still head over heels for pumpkins, then using small ones for place cards will add some spice to your table. Tape each pumpkin halfway with painters tape, choose a design with horizontal, diagonal, or however you want! Next paint the bottom portion with gold craft paint (may require multiple layers) and with the last layer still wet, generously sprinkle gold glitter over the painted half. After your pumpkin is dry and you’ve shaken off the excess glitter, wrap beading foil tightly around the stem. Leave a little extra at the end for you to bend for your place card.
The following analysis of the Oregon and Southwest Washington real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact your Windermere agent.
The State of Oregon added 29,300 new jobs over the past 12 months, representing an annual growth rate of 1.5%. The current pace of job growth has slowed as we’ve moved through 2019. I anticipate this trend will continue.
The Southwest Washington market (Clark, Cowlitz, Skamania, and Klickitat counties) added 2,200 new jobs over the past 12 months, which represents an annual growth rate of 1.3%.
Oregon’s unemployment rate was 4% in August, down from 4.1% a year ago. In Southwest Washington, the unemployment rate was 5.8%, up from 4.9% a year ago.
- Third-quarter home sales dropped a very modest 1.5% compared to the same period last year, with a total of 17,885 transactions occurring.
- Sales rose fastest in Crook County, which saw a significant 23% increase compared to the third quarter of 2018. There were also solid increases in Tillamook and Klickitat counties. Home sales fell the most in Skamania, Klamath and Wasco counties, but they are relatively small markets so I am not overly concerned.
- Year-over-year sales rose in 13 counties and dropped in the other 13 counties contained in this report.
- Sales in the third quarter rose 7% compared to the second quarter of this year, which suggests that the region’s housing market remains quite buoyant.
- The average home price in the region rose 3.5% year-over-year to $403,584. Sale prices were 0.6% higher compared to the second quarter of this year.
- Skamania County led the market with the strongest annual price growth. Homes there sold for 26.3% more than a year ago. The greatest contraction in sale prices was in small Hood River and Tillamook counties. Smaller markets can be prone to significant swings, though, so I see no cause for concern.
- All but three of the counties contained in this report experienced price growth compared to the third quarter of 2018. Although prices continue to appreciate, we are seeing some softening in appreciation in many markets.
- The takeaway from this section is that price growth continues to moderate. Pervasively low mortgage rates will allow prices to continue rising, but at slower rates than over the past several years.
DAYS ON MARKET
- The average number of days it took to sell a home in the region dropped two days compared to the third quarter of 2018 and was down eight days compared to the second quarter of 2019.
- The average time it took to sell a home last quarter was 62 days.
- Compared to a year ago, 12 counties saw the length of time it took to sell a home drop, 1 remained static, and 13 saw market time rise.
- Homes again sold fastest in Washington (27 days) and Clark (29 days) counties.
The speedometer reflects the state of the region’s real estate market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors.
Although sales activity moderated in the quarter, there appears to still be significant demand for housing in the region. Inventory levels, although rising, are still lower than I would like. Given economic vitality in the state and low mortgage rates, I expect to see more home buyers start their search for a new home.
Because of these factors, I have moved the needle a little more in favor of home sellers.
ABOUT MATTHEW GARDNER
As Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, Matthew Gardner is responsible for analyzing and interpreting economic data and its impact on the real estate market on both a local and national level. Matthew has over 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.
Matthew also sits on the Washington State Governors Council of Economic Advisors; chairs the Board of Trustees at the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington; and is an Advisory Board Member at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington.
If you’ve suddenly been hit with a home improvement project that’s pinching your budget, like a roofing issue or heater malfunction, a personal loan might be an option to help cover the cost.
What is a personal loan?
A personal loan is an installment loan that’s typically issued by a bank, credit union or online lender. According to the Federal Reserve, the average interest rate on a two-year personal loan is 10.22% but varies depending on your credit score and other criteria. Some lenders offer repayment terms anywhere from 12 months to five years.
A benefit of using a personal loan for emergency home improvement projects is that the approval process is generally quick so you can address urgent home repairs sooner. Some online lenders can run a credit check, approve your application and send funds your way with a couple of days. The approval process for banks and credit unions, on the other hand, can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, if the lender needs additional information.
How to find a personal loan
If you’ve decided that a personal loan makes sense to fund your next home project, make sure you’re aware of these next steps.
1. Assess your budget
The last thing you need is taking out a personal loan only to realize after the fact that you can’t afford to repay it. Calculate how much you realistically need for your home improvement project, giving yourself a reasonable buffer for unforeseen repair expenses (e.g. permit fees, price changes for a specific material, etc.)
Then, tally your monthly income and financial obligations to ensure you still have enough cash on hand to keep the lights on and make monthly installments toward your loan. Using a spreadsheet or budgeting app can help you track these numbers easily.
2. Know your credit score
Generally, you need a good credit score to get approved for a personal loan. Your credit score is one of the key factors that lenders use to determine whether your application is approved, and a higher credit score results in a lower interest rate offer.
Check your credit score with the three credit bureaus to ensure there isn’t an error or suspicious activity that might inadvertently lower your credit score. For a free credit report, go to AnnualCreditReport.com to see where your credit stands before moving forward in the process.
3. Compare rates and terms
When you’ve confirmed that you have a good credit score that can get you competitive interest rates, it’s tempting to accept a loan from the first lender that approves you. But like other major purchases, it’s important to shop around.
Compare interest rates, annual percentage rates (APR), and term durations available, and read the fine print for any conditions or fees that might offset any benefits.
To start, try reaching out to your existing financial institution first to see what they can offer; sometimes credit unions, in particular, offer rate incentives for loyal members. Also, consider using a personal loan aggregator website to compare offers from multiple online lenders at once (just do your due diligence to ensure the site is legitimate).
4. Submit an application
If you’re ready to submit an application, you can either complete a form online or apply in-person, depending on your lender. Although all lenders require different information to process a loan application, some common information to prepare ahead of time include:
- Personal information
- Employment information
- Reason for the loan
- Amount you want to borrow
To minimize any delays on your end, it’s helpful to prepare copies of verification documents, such as a driver’s license, proof of address like a utility statement, information about your home and pay stubs. Your prospective lender will likely reach out to you if they need any other information to make a decision.
Although it’s always best to have emergency savings set aside for a sudden home improvement project, turning to a personal loan is a useful option when you’re pressed for funds and time. As urgent as your project might feel, however, always take the time to do your research to ensure you’re making the right move for your situation.
When I was growing up, my family must have moved a dozen times. After the first few moves, we had it down to a science: timed out, scheduled, down to the last box. Despite our best efforts, plans would change, move-out and move-in days would shift, and the experience would stress the entire family out. Despite the stress, we always managed to settle in our new home and sell our old one before the start of school.
With a lot of planning and scheduling, you can minimize the stress of selling your house and moving. Here are some tips:
Know when you want to be moved out and into your new home and have a backup plan in case it falls through. Before you sell your home, familiarize yourself with local and state laws about selling a home so you’re not caught by surprise if you forget something important.
Lists and schedules are going to be your new best friend through the process. Have a timetable for when you want to sell your house when you have appraisers, realtors, movers, etc. over. Also, keep one for when your things need to be packed and when you need to be moved into the new place. I suggest keeping it on an Excel sheet so you can easily update it as the timeline changes (and it will – stuff happens).
First time selling a house? Check out some great resources on what you need to know. US News has excellent, step-by-step guides on what you need to know to sell. Appraisers and realtors can also be good resources, and since you’ll be working with them through the process, be sure to ask them questions or have them point you to resources.
Have your house appraised before you sell so you know your budget for your new home. This will help you look for an affordable home that meets your family’s needs. It will also help you maximize the amount you can receive for your old home. You can also learn useful information from an appraisal, such as which repairs need to be made, if any.
Does your house need repairs before you move? If so, figure out whether you’ll be covering them, or whether your buyers will (this will be a part of price negotiations, so factor it in with your home budget). Will you need to make repairs in your new house, or will that be covered? Either way, make sure you know which repairs need to be made – and either be upfront with buyers about them or make them before you sell.
Prepare to Move
If you’re moving to a new town or a new state, you need to prepare more than just a new home. Research doctors and dentists, places to eat, and what to do for fun. If you have school-aged children, look at the local school district or private school options – not only to learn how to enroll your kids, but also to get a feel for the school culture, see what extracurricular activities your kids can do, what standards/learning methods your kids’ new school will implement, etc.
Think: how soon are you moving, what will you need to use before you move, what can get boxed and what needs to stay out? The sooner you’re moving out, the sooner you need to pack, but if you have time, just take a day per weekend to organize a room, pack what you want to take and arrange to donate what you want to get rid of.
Moves are a great time to purge old, unwanted and unused stuff from your home. Sometimes, it’s necessary if you’re moving into a smaller space. Either way, as you pack each room, think about whether you use what you’re packing to take with you. If you do, pack it to go. If not, put it in a separate box to go to your local donations place. You can also call some organizations to have your unwanted things picked up, no hassle.
If You Have Kids
Moving with kids can be extra stressful. Be sure to include them in the process. This is a wonderful opportunity to teach younger children about moving and prepare them for the changes it brings. Older children can help out with responsibilities, like packing their room or researching their new town.
Your New Place
Moving into a new place takes some planning as well. Once you’ve bought your new home or condo, design at least a basic outline for where your stuff will be set up. Make necessary repairs and decorate (painting, for example) before you unpack. Ideally, you should have some time to do these things before, but if you don’t, don’t be in a hurry to unpack everything – it can be a hassle to paint if you have all your furniture and bookshelves up!
Staying In Touch and Making New Friends
Finally, moving can mean good-byes with family and/or friends. Social media is a great way to keep in touch with people after you’ve moved, but distance can still weaken these old relationships. Make some time to call or message your old friends to keep in touch. Pair that work with a concerted effort to meet new people. See what hobbies or groups are in your new area and start there. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it can make your new house a home and make your new town a community you can enjoy.
12 Tips for Making Your Bedroom Cozier
At the end of a long day, your bedroom should be a sanctuary of comfort that welcomes you in. But, as a room that guests rarely see and in which homeowners spend most of their time with their eyes closed, its upkeep frequently gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. Thankfully, there are some little design tricks that can make a big difference. Turn your bedroom into a restful retreat when you up its coziness factor with a few of these easy ideas.
- Layer textures. Sheepskin rugs, a down comforter, plush pillows, and knit blankets can add a softness to the room that will make you want to sink right in. Lift these textures upward, with a canopy, tufted headboard, billowy curtains and hanging textiles (like a weaving) so even the walls and ceiling feel snuggly.
- Pick the right paint. Dark, saturated colors make a room feel like it’s embracing you, which is ideal for setting a sleepy environment. But if you’re nervous to commit to a dark color on the wall, choose a pale dusty blue, sage green or another light natural color for a soothing tone (just steer clear of energetic hues). Have you ever wanted to sleep on a cloud? Go with all-white paint and decor which makes even a basic bedroom feel soft and spa-like.
- Personalize it with reminders of the places and things that make you feel at home. Do you have a fondness for flowers? Bring floral patterns in on your textiles. Do you dream of vacation at the lake? Frame a photo of your favorite spot! Photos or paintings of uncluttered natural landscapes—like a sunset reflecting on water or a hammock under the shade of an oak—can rekindle memories of relaxation and are perfect for creating a sense of calm.
- Add mood lighting. Soften the light to mimic dusk for an intimate mood with dimmer switches, lamps, lanterns or even string lights. Just make sure you can reach the switch from bed, so you don’t have to disturb your peace to get up and turn it off when you’re ready to roll over and fall asleep.
- Skip metallic finishes. Choose warm natural decor options like wood and fabric instead of cold, manufactured metallics. This goes for everything from your bedroom furniture to window treatments. Faux wood blinds, especially when paired with floating curtains, fit with a cozy aesthetic and let you filter out harsh sunlight and maintain privacy for a truly sheltered slumber.
- Bring on the books! Stacks of good reads invite you to snuggle in and get lost in another world. A true retreat is a room with plenty of books that begs you to stay.
- Fix up—or fake—a fireplace. If your bed sits hearthside, embrace this romantic accent with styled logs and a decorated mantle. If you don’t have such a luxury, create a faux fireplace to add comfort and warmth through your décor: Arrange oversized candles and lanterns safely within a homemade hearth to bring in that cozy fireside feeling without changing the structure of your home.
- Keep the room uncluttered. When you want to settle in, a mess distracts you from finding comfort, to minimize the amount of stuff that makes it to your bedroom. Watch your nightstand, which often becomes a catch-all, by making a point to rehome any wandering wares now, and put things away as soon as they enter the room in the future. If you’re apt to let laundry pile up, keep it behind the closed doors of your closet so it doesn’t crowd your peace.
- Create a sense of timelessness. Tuck clocks and electronics away so they’re nearby if you need them, but their wires and harsh silhouettes aren’t reminding you of life outside your sanctuary. The hush that falls in a room devoid of gadgets will allow you to easily disengage from the stresses of reality.
- Rethink your bedding. Add a pillow-top pad to your mattress so it feels like your bed is hugging you when you climb in. Or, bring in a contoured body pillow which actually can hug you! Linen sheets feel luxe compared to cotton and are a simple swap to boost your bower. Many people also swear by skipping the top sheet while dressing their beds, which allows them to burrow directly into a fluffy comforter.
- Appeal to your sense of smell. Aromatherapy can have a huge impact on your perception of a space, so find some soothing essential oils or a sweet candle to blanket the room with an ambiance you adore. As soon as you open the door, you’ll be eager to plunge into your little oasis.
- Nestle into nooks. A window seat, a reading nook or an upholstered seating area are all inviting spaces that can draw you in from the doorway. The more intimate alcoves you can create, the cozier your bedroom will feel!
Flooded with soft lighting, plush textures, and other comfy touches, your bedroom environment will envelop you at day’s end. And, perhaps even better than the idea of your bedroom refresh itself, is knowing that none of these tips take longer than a weekend to complete! So, slide into your slippers as you settle on which cozy updates you’ll select for your new favorite room of the house.
A trope as old as horror movies: a family moves into a beautiful house that they bought for well under market value. They’ve put all their savings into the move, and they’re looking for a fresh start. When they meet the neighbors and other townsfolk, they quickly learn that there’s a history to the home that they weren’t aware of.
When they start to experience the abnormal, it’s easy to brush off as new home jitters. The children who hear noises in the closet, and a husband who starts sleepwalking, are chalked up to stress and anxiety from the move. It’s only when the experiences escalate beyond control that the family finally realizes the extent of the haunting.
While sharing a home with the supernatural can be a selling point for some buyers, it’s quite the opposite for others. In fact, a 2017 survey by Realtor.com found that 33% of people were open to living in a haunted house, 25% would consider it, but 42% said it was a deal-breaker. So how do you make sure you’re fully informed about a home’s history? Knowing the right questions to ask is the first step.
Ask to see the seller disclosure form
In the famous 1991 case Stambovsky v. Ackley, the new homeowner, Jeffrey Stambovsky, won a lawsuit against the previous owner for not disclosing the history of hauntings.
In this case, the previous owner had published stories about the family’s experiences in Reader’s Digest and their local newspaper. In her writings, she explained several interactions with ghostly beings in the home, including finding that her children had been given rings, which would later disappear, bed shaking, and conversations with the floating specters.
The court took this evidence and ruled the “defendant is estopped to deny [the ghost’s] existence and, as a matter of law, the house is haunted.” Setting a new standard, this case created a basis for future seller disclosers. In this instance, they found that the history of the home, and the seller’s experiences in the home, would have influenced the marketability, and therefore, omitting these facts was unfair to the buyer.
Fast forward to 2019, there is not a specific section on seller disclosure forms for hauntings or ghostly sightings, but thanks to Stambovsky v. Ackley, sellers in many states are obligated by law to disclose things that affect a house’s marketability.
Ask Google about the history of the home
In 1991 when Mr. Stambovsky bought his haunted house, search engines didn’t exist. Today, we’re lucky enough to have things like Google which would have found the previous home owner’s stories in mere seconds. Search keywords like the address or town name, and words like “haunted” or “ghosts”, as well as “murder” or “news report” should help you start your dive into the history of the home.
Ask the neighbors and your agent
This is where nosey neighbors come in handy. When you find a place you’re serious about, contact the neighbors to see what they know about the home’s history. The same goes for your real estate agent; he or she can reach out to the listing agent to see if there is anything haunting you should know about prior to buying. While many states don’t require sellers to disclose paranormal activity or deaths in the home, if asked, all real estate agents must, by law, answer truthfully.