Is the Condominium Lifestyle Right for You?

 

Condominium homes are a great, low-maintenance choice for a primary residence, second home, or investment property. This alternative to the traditional single-family home has unique issues to consider before buying, as well as unique benefits.

Increasingly, condos are not just for first-time homebuyers looking for a less expensive entry into the housing market. Empty-nesters and retirees are happy to give up mowing the lawn and painting the house. Busy professionals can experience luxury living knowing their home is safe and well-maintained while they are away on business.

If you are considering buying a condominium for a home, here are a few things you should know:

 

Condominium basics:

With condominiums, you own everything in your unit on your side of the walls. Individual owners hold title to the condominium unit only, not the land beneath the unit. All owners share title to the common areas: the grounds, lobby, halls, parking areas and other amenities. A homeowners’ association (HOA) usually manages the complex and collects a monthly fee from all condominium owners to pay for the operation and maintenance of the property. These fees may include such items as insurance, landscape, and grounds up-keep, pool maintenance, security, and administrative costs.

The owners of the units in a condominium are all automatic members of the condo association. The association is run by a volunteer Board of Directors, who manage the operations and upkeep of the property. A professional management company may also be involved in assisting the board in their decisions. The condo association also administers rules and regulations designed to ensure safety and maintain the value of your investment. Examples include whether or not pets are allowed and the hours of use for condominium facilities, such as pools and work-out rooms. Should a major expense occur, all owners are responsible for paying their fair share of the expense.

The pros and cons of condominium living:

The condominium lifestyle has many benefits, but condominium ownership isn’t for everyone. Whether living in a condominium works for you depends on your current and planned future lifestyle. By necessity, condominium associations have a number of standardized rules. You need to decide whether these regulations work for you or not. Here are some points to keep in mind if you’re considering condominium living.

Convenience: People who love living in condominiums always cite the convenience factor. It’s nice to have someone else take care of landscaping, upkeep, and security. Condominium homes are often located in urban areas where restaurants, groceries, and entertainment are just a short walk away.

Luxury amenities: May condominiums offer an array of amenities that most homeowners couldn’t afford on their own, such as fitness centers, clubhouses, wine cellars, roof-top decks, and swimming pools. Lobbies of upscale condominiums can rival those of four-star hotels, making a great impression on residents.

Privacy: Since you share common walls and floors with other condominium owners, there is less privacy than what you’d expect in a single-family home. While condominiums are built with noise abatement features, you may still occasionally hear your neighbors.

Space: Except for very high-end units, condominiums are generally smaller than single-family homes. That means less storage space and often, smaller rooms. The patios and balconies of individual units are usually much smaller as well.

Autonomy: As a condominium owner, you are required to follow the laws of the associations. That means giving up a certain amount of control and getting involved in the group decision-making process. HOA bylaws vary greatly from property to property, and some people may find certain rules too restrictive.

 

Things to consider when you decide to buy:

Condominium homes vary from intimate studios to eclectic lofts and luxury penthouses. The right condominium is the one that best fits your lifestyle. Here are a few questions to ask to determine which condominium is right for you.

How will you use it? 

Will your condominium be your primary residence? A second home? An investment property? While a studio may be too small for a primary residence, it might be a perfect getaway. Also, consider how your lifestyle may change over the next five to seven years. If you are close to retirement, you may want to have the option of turning a vacation condominium into your permanent home.

What amenities are most important to you?

Amenities vary location to location. Decide what you want, and you can be assured of finding it. Most urban and resort condominiums have an enticing array of extras, from spas to movie screening rooms to tennis courts.

What are your specific needs?

Do you have a pet? Some associations don’t allow them; others have limitations on their size. Most buildings will have a rental cap, so be sure to know what that cap is if you’re buying as an investment. Parking can also be a major issue, especially in dense, urban areas. How many spaces do you get per unit? Do you pay extra if you have more vehicles?

Cost: Condominium homes typically cost less than houses, so they’re a great choice for first-time buyers. However, because condominiums are concentrated in more expensive locations, and sizes are generally smaller than a comparable single-family home, the price per square foot for a condominium is usually higher.

 

Finally, once you’ve found a property you like, examine the association’s declaration, rules, and bylaws to make sure they fit your needs. The association will provide you with an outline of their monthly fees and exactly what they cover so you can accurately budget your expenses.

Ask to review the association board’s meeting minutes from the past year to get an idea of any issues the association is working on. An analysis of sales demand and property appreciation compared to like units may help ensure that you make the best possible investment.

Posted on December 4, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Buying, Living, Windermere Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

So you bought an investment property, now what?

Investing in a home is a great way to build passive income but earning from your investment will take a little groundwork to become a well-oiled machine. This is your beginner’s guide to owning an investment property so you can set up that foundation properly to avoid future headaches.

 

Make sure it’s livable

It’s important to start with your home inspection before you start making plans. Use the inspection report to prioritize the maintenance issues.

Before a tenant moves in, make sure the home is livable. Handle the important items that affect the livability of the property, either now or in the near future. If the inspector noticed a leak in the roof or holes that could lead to infestation, take care of those first. Other maintenance issues to prioritize are the fuel and the hot water source.

If your city has inspection and registration requirements, be sure to cross check those inspection checklists with your current property. If the property wouldn’t pass now, make sure it will pass by the time the city sees it.

 

Upgrade the space

Once your property is in livable condition, it’s time to upgrade. If you have any left-over budget after the necessities are handled, consider adding a bedroom or a bathroom where you can find the space. These rooms heavily impact the rental price, and the more you have the higher the price. If there’s no space for another bed or bath, think about finishing the basement or upgrading some of the appliances to make the property more attractive to potential tenants.

Use similar properties in your neighborhood as your inspiration. These units are your competition, think about what you can add, or even take away, that would help you compete. Ask yourself what about your home is unique and in what ways does that affect your rentability? If every unit in your area has hardwoods, how can you make your carpeted home appealing? Maybe new carpet? Or is switching to hardwoods, or vinyl laminate that looks like wood, worth it?

 

Market it to future tenants

You need two things in your listing: 1) Great Photos 2) An Amazing Description

After you’ve perfected the property, it’s time to tell potential tenants that it’s available. Creating the listing is essential in drawing eyes on the unit so you can show it to as many people as possible.

Renters looking to move are quick to make their first impression of a property with thumbnail photos on a map. So, take lots of great, bright, photos of the entire place to showcase the amenities and show potential tenants what it looks like, then choose the best photo to be the first in the lineup. Remember to get the lighting is just right to show every corner of the listing. Dark photos scare tenants away, making them think the unit is dingy and dirty. Light and bright photos show a clean home that’s move-in ready. They can imagine themselves living there a lot easier than in dark and cramped looking units.

Next, they’ll read the description. This is again where other listings in your area can help you.

Read other listings to structure your description and to draw inspiration on what tenants might think is important. Find the selling points and emphasize those above the unique features, especially if those unique features are obvious in the photos.

Posted on December 2, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Buying, Fort Collins Real Estate, Housing Trends, Northern Colorado Real Estate, Windermere Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Benefits, Risks and Things to Consider Before You Add an Accessory Dwelling Unit to Your Home

 

Have you ever rented the unit in someone’s basement? Maybe your spouse’s mother moved into your “Mother-In-Law Unit” above your garage? Or have you ever traveled and stayed in a pool house for your stay? Commonly referred to as “Mother-In-Law” units, homeowners use these as a way to fill the space in their home and gain residual income, either from vacationers or long-term tenants.

The official terms for these units are Additional Dwelling Units (ADU) or Detached Additional Dwelling Units (DADU’s), and are defined as extra spaces in homes and on properties where someone can live completely independent of the main house.

These units can be almost anywhere on the property, but they are usually located in the basement, in the backyard, or above the garage. They have their own bathroom and kitchen facilities, and sometimes they share laundry with the main house.

Thinking of adding a unit to your home? Here are some benefits and risks, as well as important aspects to consider before you build:

 

Benefits

Homeowners can maximize their investment by renting out the extra space to long-term tenants for short-term vacationers. These tenants can help pay off debt or create an extra stream of income to pay for other needs or wants.

Depending on several factors, including the size of the unit, the market in the area, and other factors, each homeowner should decide which option they are more comfortable with. These decisions should be made before they list the unit for rent to best market to the right audience.

 

Risks

An obvious risk is that when you open your space to a stranger, there’s a possibility that things might end poorly. Either the tenants could turn out to be untrustworthy, or unreliable, leading to a financial burden.

To minimize the risks, it’s a good idea to use an application process to check backgrounds and employment history as a tool to get to know the potential tenant. Make sure to adhere to the National Fair Housing Laws and your local regulations.

 

Things to Consider:

  • What are the shared spaces?
    • Would you be comfortable sharing those spaces, and potentially appliances, with a new person each weekend, or would you rather get to know the long-term tenant who would use those on a consistent basis?
    • Rooms like the kitchen can be great for those who want to get more interaction from their vacation renters. However, sharing one bathroom between the homeowners and the visitors can be uncomfortable and risky.
    • Would you be okay with a long-term renter using your laundry facilities? What kind of access would they need to the house in order to use those machines?

 

  • What is the size of the ADU/DADU?
    • Is it truly a space where someone could live, or would it be too tight to fit all the necessary appliances?
    • Does the unit adhere to your local housing codes as a livable space?

 

  • How close are the units and what noise level are you comfortable with?
    • As a long-term landlord, tenants have the right to quiet enjoyment without the landlord barging into their space or controlling their activities. If the unit is in the basement and the tenant has friends or family over, that noise could permeate into your unit in the late hours of the night. A way to prevent this is to be sure to layout quiet hours and expectations before they sign the lease or make an agreement so that you and the tenant are on the same page.
    • The same goes for the rules in the vacation rental listing. Managing expectations is the first way to create a relationship with the tenants, even those there for the weekend.

 

  • What improvements are required to make the unit livable?
    • Do you need to add a kitchen or a bathroom? What are the costs associated with those improvements and would the market-rate rental prices make up for those improvements? You might not get your money back within the year, but if you’re dedicated to making the space worth it to rent it out over the next few years, these improvements, and financial obligations are necessary.
    • If these initial investments aren’t viable for your situation, it might be a good idea to look at other options to earn rent from your home, including adding roommates with whom you’re willing to share all the common spaces.

 

Whatever you decide, it’s important to be familiar with the rental market and regulations in both your local region and your neighborhood.

 

Do you have an ADU or DADU on your property? How do you use it? Let us know in the comments.

Posted on September 27, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Housing Trends, Living, Northern Colorado Real Estate, Windermere Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Renting vs Buying: Which is better for you?

Posted in Buying by Meaghan McGlynn 

The debate about whether it makes more financial sense to rent or buy has been raging for decades. Advocates of buying argue that when you pay rent you’re paying for someone else’s mortgage. When you buy, you are making an investment, which can significantly increase in value every year you live in the home.

Supporters of renting say that the extra costs associated with owning a home, such as interest payments, taxes, maintenance, can add up. They add that there’s no guarantee that those expenses will be recouped when the house is sold. Instead of investing in a home, you may be better off investing your savings in stocks, bonds, and other financial securities that hold less risk.

Matthew Gardner, our Chief Economist, forecasts, that we will not break 5% for 30-year fixed Mortgage rates for 2019, and likely won’t break it next year.

This means that getting a mortgage is relatively cheap, raising the question, ‘Is it really worth it to keep renting?’

Even if interest rates stay low, whether to rent or buy has a lot to do with each person’s specific situation. Here are a few considerations to make as you decide.

 

What’s the real estate situation in your city?

Industry groups put out reports every quarter stating the average national sales price for a home, and the average monthly payment for a U.S. rental. These reports are typically based on an average of all the cities in the U.S. But what really matters is what the numbers show when you dig into them on a local level.

Investigate the local sales and rental markets, and you’ll see there are some cities that fall well below that average, and some that rise far above it. When comparing housing costs, be sure to base your evaluation on what’s happening in your city and neighborhood, not the nationwide averages.

 

How long do you expect to live there?

If you don’t plan to be living in the same place for at least five years, renting is probably your best bet financially. But if you think you’re ready to settle down for as long as 7 to 10 years, chances are very good that any home you purchase will appreciate during that time even if the economy runs into some bumps along the way.

 

What’s the mortgage rate?

One of the other key factors to consider is the cost of your loan (the interest you’ll pay the lender). Fortunately, our Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, does not expect interest rates to hit or break 5 percent, meaning money is relatively cheap.

Your mortgage rate will depend on how much money you have saved, your credit score, and other factors, so make sure to talk to a loan officer before you start looking for a home. Being pre-approved for a mortgage narrows down your price range and helps strengthen your offer when it comes time to compete for your new home.

 

Can you pay a bit more?

It can be advantageous to work a lower monthly payment to the bank so that you can pay a little more than the payment.

For example, if you can afford to pay a little extra towards your mortgage bill each month, say $300 more per month, on a 30-year, $300,000 loan, can knock eight years off the life of the loan and reduce your final bill by more than $63,000. That’s savings you would never see if you rented.

 

Will you need to make repairs or improvements?

Buying a fixer-upper may seem like a great way to get a deal on a house, but if the money you spend on the repairs is too great, your profit could be diminished when it comes time to sell. The same is true for remodeling and improvement projects.

Additionally, you can work with your Mortgage lender for a repair loan. This can help you get that lot you want, and help you pay for the repairs.

But ultimately, if you can only afford a home that demands major improvements, and you don’t have the skills to do much of the work yourself, it’s probably better to rent.

 

Do you have other ways to invest?

Many see a home purchase as an easy way to invest—a place where they can generate savings through home equity. But others say you can make more money renting an apartment and investing your savings in stocks, bonds, and other financial securities.

This is where a financial advisor might come in. They’ll be able to break down what you need to do in order to get the best return on your investments. They’ll also be able to see the big picture when it comes to your money.

 

Can you rent part of the house?

Speaking of a diverse portfolio, let your investment work for you. If you buy a house that includes a rental (extra bedroom, mother-in-law unit, etc.), you could be the landlord instead of paying the landlord. With that rental income, you could pay off the mortgage faster and contribute more to your savings. But, of course, you need to be willing to share your home with a tenant and take on the responsibilities of being a landlord or working with a professional property manager to help you with those duties.

 

Making your decision

To make your decision about whether to rent or buy easier, input the key financial facts regarding your situation into this Realtor.com Rent vs. Buy Calculator:  For help making sense of the results and analyzing other factors, contact an experienced Windermere Real Estate agent by clicking here.

Posted on June 17, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Buying, Housing Trends | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

The Risks, Rewards, and Benefits of Owning Rental Property

PiggyBankSavings

One area of the real estate market that is thriving right now is rental property. In the first quarter of this year, landlords and property managers across the country rented more apartments and homes than they have during the first quarters of the past ten years. And according to the Wall Street Journal, the amount that renters are willing to pay has also jumped to a nationwide average of $991 per month.

All indications suggest that the rental market will continue to improve because of the combination of low vacancy rates and rising rents. In fact, the demand for rentals is predicted to far exceed supply through 2015, with some 4.5 million new renters expected to enter the market in the next five years.

What to consider before buying a rental
Being a landlord has its challenges. The recession took a toll on rental prices for a few years and any future economic downturns could do the same. Once the job market returns to normal, there’s a strong possibility that more people will choose to move from rentals into homes of their own. And the demand for rental properties could become oversaturated at some point, resulting in an investment bubble of its own.

What’s more, while the income from a rental property can be significant, it can take at least five years before you’re making much more than what you need just to cover the mortgage and expenses. In other words, the return on your investment doesn’t happen overnight.

However, in the long run, if you select the right property, it could turn out to be one of your best investment decisions ever—especially since rental real estate provides more tax benefits than almost any other investment.

Tax deductions for the taking
One of the great things about owning rental properties is the fact that you’re able to deduct so many of the associated expenses—including a sizable portion of your monthly mortgage payment.

The commissions and fees paid to obtain your mortgage are not deductible, but the mortgage interest you pay each month is—including any money you pay into an escrow account to cover taxes and insurance. Whatever your mortgage company reports as interest on your 1098 form at the end of each year can likely be deducted.

For example, you may be eligible to deduct credit card interest “for goods and services used in a rental activity,” repairs made to the building, travel related to your rental, expenses related to a home office or workshop devoted to your rental, the wages of anyone you hire to work on the building, damages to your rental property, associated insurance premiums, and fees you pay for legal and professional services. However, as is the case with any transaction of this type, be sure to consult your attorney or accountant for detailed tax information.

What to look for
As with any real estate investment, the location of the property and its overall condition are both key. But with rental properties, there are some other factors you’ll also want to consider:

 Utilities: Look for a building with separate utilities (water, electric, and gas, etc.) for each rental unit. This will make it far easier to legally charge for the fair use of what can be a very costly monthly expense.

 Competition: If your property is one of the few rentals in the neighborhood, there will be less competition for interested renters.

 Transportation: Rentals that are near popular public transportation options and / or major freeways (without being so close that noise is an issue) are usually easier to rent—and demand more money.

 Landscaping: Properties with small yards and fewer plantings are far easier and less expensive to manage.

 Off-street parking: Not only is off-street parking a desirable feature (people with nice cars usually don’t like to park on the street), it’s also a requirement for rental properties in some communities.

How to start your search
Unlike homes, rental properties do not typically have a visible ‘for-sale’ sign standing out front (as landlords don’t want to irritate, bring attention to their current renters, or turn off any prospective renters). Therefore, if you are interested in a rental property, your best option is to schedule an appointment with your real estate agent/broker to discuss your investment goals and identify what opportunities currently exist in your market place.

Posted on June 4, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Buying, Fort Collins Real Estate, Housing Trends, Loveland Real Estate, Northern Colorado Real Estate, Timnath Real Estate, Wellington Real Estate, Windermere Real Estate, Windsor Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Home Improvements That Will Boost Your Property Value

A home is the largest investment most people will make in their lifetime, so when it comes time to sell, homeowners often wonder what they can do to get the most return on their investment. Many have the misconception that remodeling is the way to go, but that isn’t always the case. Rather than going all-in on upgrading your home, you should know which home improvements are worth it, and which ones aren’t.

We’ve sifted through the research and come up with a quick list of five home improvements that’ll help buyers fall in love with your home when it comes time to sell.

1. Add a little curb appeal 

Curb appeal is critical. As the name suggests, it’s the first thing buyers see when pulling up to the front of any home so it needs to be in nearly pristine condition. Start with the garage door for the most immediate return. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2018 Cost vs. Value report and Money.com, the cost of updating your worn builder-grade garage door with an upscale steel model is about $3,470, and it’ll boost your home’s value by 98.3 percent of the installation price, which means you’ll lose about $60 when it’s all said and done.

Landscaping can also go along way for a minimal upfront investment. Six rounds of fertilizer and weed control will set you back about $330, but when it comes time to sell, you’ll see an ROI of about $1,000 according to a survey by the National Association of Realtors.

Other improvements you can easily make to your curb appeal include:

  • Pressure wash the exterior
  • Liven up your front door with a fresh coat of paint
  • Replace hardware such as doorknobs and knockers
  • Install updated house numbers
  • Make your walkways pop with new greenery or flowers
  • Plant a succulent garden
  • Update your porch lights
  • Add a little charm with window flower boxes
  • Stage your porch

 

2. Install hardwood floors 

Installing or upgrading hardwood floors is pretty failsafe as most buyers love it. Ninety-nine percent of real estate agents agree that homes with hardwood floors are easier to sell, and 90 percent of agents say that they sell for a higher sale price, according to the National Wood Flooring Association. Similarly, research from the National Association of Realtors shows that 54 percent of homebuyers are willing to shell out extra cash for homes with hardwood.

As for your return on investment, NAR’s 2017 Remodeling Impact Report projects that homes that already have hardwood floors will likely see 100 percent return. On the flip side, installing hardwood flooring pays off almost as well with a 91 percent return on investment. It can cost about $5,500 to install, and it’s projected to add about $5,000 to the home value. These estimates may vary depending on the type of flooring you install.

 

3. Upgrade your kitchen

According to the National Association of Realtors, real estate agents believe that complete kitchen renovations, kitchen upgrades, and bathroom renovations will add the most resale value to a home (in that order). However, complete kitchen renovations can be costly and unnecessary. In fact, kitchen remodels have some of the worst return on investment stats. Remodeling Magazine’s 2017 Cost Vs. Value report found that a mid-range kitchen remodel cost exceeds its resale value by more than $21,000, and that number more than doubles in an upscale remodel. Rather than spend a ton of cash and weeks (or months) on renovating, put a little elbow grease and a small budget into it.

Instead of doing a full renovation, focus on these smaller updates:

  • Clean
    • Organize your pantry
    • Use a little Murphy Oil Soap and hot water on all of your cabinets
      • Polish cabinets with Howard Feed-In-Wax
      • Tighten all hinges
    • Clean grout and tiles
    • Shine your sinks and hardware until you can see your face in it
    • Deep clean your stove
  • Give your kitchen a fresh coat of neutral paint
  • Update lighting fixtures, and replace light bulbs
  • Spring for a new cabinet and door hardware
  • Make your countertops look new
  • Upgrade your appliances

 

4. Go green

Today’s younger generations are embracing eco-friendly living, and millennials are leading the pack. According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2018 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report, millennials make up the largest segment of buyers, holding strong at 34 percent of all buyers.

When it comes to attracting buyers who are willing to pay top dollar, going green makes sense. A Nielson study found that, of more than 30,000 millennials surveyed,66 percent are willing to shell out more cash for conservation-conscious, sustainable products. Depending on where you live, consider installing solar panels, wind turbines, and eco-friendly water systems.

No matter where you live, attic insulation replacement and weather stripping are safe bets. Attic insulation replacement was a top home improvement upgrade last year, and homeowners saw a 107.7 percent return on the investment. Weather stripping, a fairly inexpensive DIY project, costs, on average, about $168 nationally.

 

5. Create a summer retreat

Homes with pools can fetch a higher selling price if done properly. There are in-ground pools and above-ground pools. To truly add value, you’d want to go with an in-ground pool. It’s a permanent investment that costs more upfront, but above-ground pools don’t really add anything to a home other than a nice personal oasis from hot weather.

Pools cost about $1,000 on average to maintain between the seasonal openings and closings, necessary upkeep and utility bills, according to Houselogic.com and financial consultant Dave Ramsey’s website. Some buyers might not be up for that cost. However, pools can help sell a home especially when you live in a higher-end neighborhood where everyone has pools and in warmer climates like Florida, Arizona or Hawaii.

Ramsey wrote that a well-marketed in-ground pool can boost a home’s value as much as 7 percent, but he stresses the importance of making sure the style of the pool matches the house and surrounding property. Be sure that any pool doesn’t completely consume the outdoor space. Pools that make sense locationally and complement the property are the best. If the pool is just an expensive eyesore, it’s probably better to remove it.

With these upgrades, your home will surely see a higher price tag when you go to sell because, as the numbers show, buyers swoon for an outdoor retreat, a like-new kitchen, classic hardwood flooring, and green upgrades.

 

Our guest author is Sarah Stilo, the Content Marketing Coordinator for HomeLight, which helps pair homebuyers with agents. They can be found at HomeLight.Com.

Posted on February 19, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Back Patio, Fort Collins Real Estate, Housing Trends, Northern Colorado Real Estate, Wellington Real Estate, Windermere Real Estate, Windsor Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,