Five Things to Consider When Downsizing

Downsizing is on the minds of many homeowners today. Some are ready to retire, others want to live more simply, and many want to save money and say goodbye to home maintenance. If you can relate to any of those sentiments, ask yourself these five questions:

 

Have you done the math?

The financial savings that can be generated by downsizing can be significant – especially as they add up over time. When doing the math, make sure the move will save money, rather than spend unnecessarily.

 

Have you researched elder-care options?

Many homeowners hold on to their current home longer than they should because their parents / parents-in-law may need to come live with them in the future. While a noble gesture, there are many excellent elder care living options available today. Often, all it takes is a tour of those facilities to realize that your loved one may actually be happier, and far better served, in a place devoted to their care and happiness.

 

Have you considered off-site storage?

You don’t need to immediately discard a big chunk of your belongings in order to downsize. In fact, trying to do so in one fell swoop only creates needless stress. Most people find it works much better to move some of their belongings into off-site storage for six months. During that time, you can gradually incorporate some of those items into your new living arrangement, and slowly figure out what to do with the others.

 

How do you feel about sharing costs and decision-making?

Townhomes and condominiums are popular downsizing options. But both require that you share the decision-making and expenses associated with any maintenance and improvement projects with your neighbors and potentially an HOA. If you’re a people-person and agree that two heads are better than one, and you like the idea of sharing the cost/responsibility for expensive repairs, you’ll enjoy condo living. If not, this may not be the best option for you.

 

Have you consulted with a real estate agent?

Many homeowners don’t think to consult with a real estate agent until they’ve made the decision to downsize. This leads to guesstimating about some of the most important factors. The truth is, your real estate agent is someone you want to talk with very early in the decision-making process.

Posted on July 5, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Living, Selling | Tagged , , , , , , ,

A Beginner’s Guide to Securing a Mortgage Loan

Entering into debt is a concept I grew up diametrically opposed to. I was raised, like many with frugal family members, to understand that anything you couldn’t pay for on the spot was something you couldn’t afford. But as we age we learn the pathway to financial growth requires a commitment beyond what many of us can deliver up front. Building and stabilizing wealth is, for many families, tied to home ownership. To reach that initial threshold, most aspiring homeowners will need to apply for a mortgage loan. That process can be daunting, but the long-term rewards of securing your home are worth it.

Step One – Break down your budget

A major financial decision like this can’t be made lightly. Many experts recommend a 50-20-30 style plan for finances, particularly for first-time homeowners. That means 50% of your budget is committed to core, unavoidable, monthly expenses like rent, groceries, loan payments, utilities, insurance, etc. The 20% segment is savings, placed in reserve towards a general or specific future financial goal. The final 30% (at maximum) is left as a remainder for personal spending, however, is most desired. Once this is set, you’re ready to evaluate the rate at which you can repay your loan and adjust accordingly.

Step Two – Take the time to get it right

It’s exciting to be in a position to purchase your first home, but if you find the right spot and realize the funds aren’t there yet it can be a huge disappointment. That’s what makes seeking pre-approval for a loan a must – particularly if it’s your first time. Having your credit in order, along with all key financial documentation (bank statements, tax returns, debt copies, prior records of significant ownership). If your credit isn’t in a great place, it’s likely worth taking the time to amend it before applying for your mortgage loan. When you earn lower interest rates and more manageable monthly payments you’ll be thankful for your prudence.

Step Three – The bigger the down payment the better

It’s rare that first-time homebuyers have significant cash on hand, but whatever you can muster makes a difference. Typically, the greater a down payment you can muster, the lower your subsequent interest rates will be. For many, there’s only so much that’s tenable as a bulk sum up front, of course. If that fits your situation, seeking a loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) can earn you a healthy loan for a down payment of just 3.5% of your home’s total value. To calculate the limitations of your target home’s loan options, you can input your information on the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website here.

Step Four – Stick to the plan!

After all the effort you’ll go through to secure a mortgage loan, you’ve earned the home it’s helped you purchase. That loan, like any loan, is contingent on your continued monthly payments. It can feel daunting and dispiriting after a time to continually be paying for a home you’re already living in, but maintaining your financial balance is vital. You’ll never be able to predict every expense that comes up but maintaining your budget towards paying off your mortgage loans will set you up to be more financially flexible in the future. Should you ever hope to purchase a second home or other major investments requiring of loans, having a record of consistent mortgage loan payment can help you secure far more favorable interest rates in the future.

A mortgage loan, like any loan, is a major commitment, but entering into homeownership is a massive step towards financial stability and future life-planning. With proper patience and focus, you can get the loan you need at the rate you can afford.

Posted on April 26, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Buying, Fort Collins Real Estate, Homes for Sale, Windermere Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Home Addition Construction

When dissatisfaction with your current home strikes, it can be exciting to launch into a plan for a new addition. A new living room, bedroom, or more can add value to your home while improving your quality of life.

On the other hand, even a modest addition can turn into a major construction project, with architects and contractors to manage, construction workers traipsing through your home, hammers pounding, and sawdust everywhere. And although new additions can be a very good investment, the cost-per-square-foot is typically more than building a new home, and much more than buying a larger existing home.

Define your needs

To determine if an addition makes sense for your particular situation, start by defining exactly what it is you want and need. By focusing on core needs, you won’t get carried away with a wish list that can push the project out of reach financially.

If it’s a matter of needing more space, be specific. For example, instead of just jotting down “more kitchen space,” figure out just how much more space is going to make the difference, e.g., “150 square feet of floor space and six additional feet of counter space.”

If the addition will be for aging parents, consult with their doctors or an age-in-place expert to define exactly what they’ll require for living conditions, both now and over the next five to ten years.

Types of additions

Bump-out addition—“Bumping out” one or more walls to make a first-floor room slightly larger is something most homeowners think about at one time or another. However, when you consider the work required, and the limited amount of space created, it often figures to be one of your most expensive approaches.

First-floor addition—Adding a whole new room (or rooms) to the first floor of your home is one of the most common ways to add a family room, apartment or sunroom. But this approach can also take away yard space.

Dormer addition—For homes with steep rooflines, adding an upper floor dormer may be all that’s needed to transform an awkward space with limited headroom. The cost is affordable and, when done well, a dormer can also improve the curb-appeal of your house.

Second-story addition—For homes without an upper floor, adding a second story can double the size of the house without reducing surrounding yard space.

Garage addition—Building above the garage is ideal for a space that requires more privacy, such as a rentable apartment, a teen’s bedroom, guest bedroom, guest quarters, or a family bonus room.

Permits required

You’ll need a building permit to construct an addition—which will require professional blueprints. Your local building department will not only want to make sure that the addition adheres to the latest building codes, but also ensure it isn’t too tall for the neighborhood or positioned too close to the property line. Some building departments will also want to ask your neighbors for their input before giving you the go-ahead.

Requirements for a legal apartment

While the idea of having a renter that provides an additional stream of revenue may be enticing, the realities of building and renting a legal add-on apartment can be sobering. Among the things you’ll need to consider:

  • Special permitting—Some communities don’t like the idea of “mother-in-law” units and therefore have regulations against it or zone-approval requirements.
  • Separate utilities—In many cities, you can’t charge a tenant for heat, electricity, and water unless utilities are separated from the rest of the house (and separately controlled by the tenant).
  • ADU Requirements—When building an “accessory dwelling unit” (the formal name for a second dwelling located on a property where a primary residence already exists), building codes often contain special requirements regarding emergency exists, windows, ceiling height, off-street parking spaces, the location of main entrances, the number of bedrooms, and more.

In addition, renters have special rights while landlords have added responsibilities. You’ll need to learn those rights and responsibilities and be prepared to adhere to them.

Average costs

The cost to construct an addition depends on a wide variety of factors, such as the quality of materials used, the laborers doing the work, the type of addition and its size, the age of your house and its current condition. For ballpark purposes, however, you can figure on spending about $200 per square foot if your home is located in a more expensive real estate area or about $100 per foot in a lower-priced market.

You might be wondering how much of that money your efforts might return if you were to sell the home a couple years later? The answer to that question depends on the aforementioned details, but the average “recoup” rate for a family room addition is typically more than 80 percent.

The bottom line

While you should certainly research the existing-home marketplace before hiring an architect to map out the plans, building an addition onto your current home can be a great way to expand your living quarters, customize your home, and remain in the same neighborhood.

Posted on April 18, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Home Maintenance, Housing Trends, Windermere Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , ,

A Beginner’s Guide to Managing a Remodel

Browsing photos and ideas can be a fun part of creating your dream room. But making your designs a reality also takes smart planning and organization. Project management is an essential part of remodeling, and there’s nothing like the feeling of implementing a plan to create something new and beautiful. These tips can help you achieve your desired results.

Find a Local Contractor to Create Your Dream Home

YourSpace Contractors, original photo on Houzz

Become a list writer. Making lists is key when it comes to project management. It’s the only way to properly organize your thoughts and prevent any details from being forgotten.

The most important list is your scope of work, or specifications, document. This is basically a detailed list of everything to be done, from start to finish. If you’re dealing with one main builder who’s organizing all the work, then you’ll need to make sure he or she gets a copy, so the goals are clear and all the information is provided.

Also, having detailed specifications makes it easier if you want to obtain multiple quotes, and you’ll know it’s a fair comparison since all the builders will be quoting using the same criteria.

frenchStef Interior Design, original photo on Houzz

Make sure you’re all on the same page. If you’re coordinating separate subcontractors (cabinetmaker, plumber, electrician), then it would be worth indicating who’s responsible for each task. Give a complete copy of the specifications to all of them, so they’re all aware of what everyone is doing. Discuss the specifications with your subcontractors since they may be able to provide help and advice. A schedule is also useful, so you can keep track of progress and everyone knows who’s going to be on-site on which day.

With prior knowledge that a partition wall will feature some lighting, for instance, the builders will know to leave the stud frame open for the electrician to run the wires through before it’s boarded up and plastered over. Trying to feed wires through after the fact is much harder, takes longer and risks unnecessary damage.

Sian Baxter Lighting Design, original photo on Houzz

Break into subsections. In addition to your main specifications, it’s a good idea to have sublists for each separate element of your design. For example, your main specifications may say “install 6 x recessed LED downlights in ceiling,” but your lighting specifications will detail where they are to be positioned, the type of bulb, the hardware finish and so on. The more information you provide, the more accurate your quote should be and the less likely it will be for mistakes or misunderstandings to occur. It will also minimize any unexpected costs.

This bathroom has a minimalist elegance, but it’s far from straightforward. This project would have required a builder’s spec, including layout and elevation drawings with dimensions, an electrical spec with lighting plan, a plumbing spec with layout drawing, and a decorating spec — phew!

Plan like a pro. Finalize your design before starting any work, rather than trying to do it as you go along. The process will be much more enjoyable without constant deadlines presenting themselves, and if you haven’t planned, you may find your options restricted based on work that’s already taken place.

Take a couple of weeks to put it all together, write your specifications, draw up the plans, get everything ready and make all the decisions before proceeding. This will save you time and money along the way, and significantly reduce stress levels during the project.

This clever design features well-thought-out lighting and custom cabinetry. Careful consideration would have been given to where to position the outlets, radiators, lights, switches and other details.

Yellow Letterbox, original photo on Houzz

Never assume. You know the saying. When writing your specifications or drawing your plans, never assume that someone else will know what you want unless you explicitly state it. Include every tiny detail, no matter how picky it may seem. As well as avoiding mistakes, it also prevents any disputes over what is and isn’t included in the quote.

This bathroom just wouldn’t have looked the same if white grout had been used, for instance. You may think it would be absurd to even consider using white grout in this case, but if you haven’t asked for dark gray, you can’t expect it and you can’t assume that you will be asked what color you want. White is standard, and a tiler may use it if nothing has been specified.

Stand by for decisions. Your builder will present many questions and decisions to you along the way. Which tiles do you want on the walls? Where do you want these wall lights? What color do you want on the baseboards?

Your best bet will be to try to pre-empt as many of these decisions as possible and have the answers ready or, even better, provide the information in advance. Making these decisions under pressure can lead to impulse moves you may regret later. However, taking too long could hold up the project, costing you time, money and the patience of your builder. No one wants an unhappy builder.

Inevitably, there will be some questions you couldn’t have anticipated, but if you communicate well with your contractors, they should, where possible, give you time to make a decision without holding up the project. Don’t be afraid to ask their opinion on the best course of action, but don’t feel pressured to compromise on the design if you don’t want to.

Brilliant Lighting, original photo on Houzz

Give yourself time to deliver. This is one of the classic pitfalls, so take note. When pulling your design ideas together and deciding which products and materials to use, make a note of the lead times. Many pieces of furniture are made to order and can have lead times of up to 12 weeks, sometimes longer. Similarly, tile and natural stone can take much longer than expected to arrive, and products from abroad can encounter holdups during transit.

This chandelier was custom-made for the project and looks fantastic. This is no last-minute, off-the-shelf, next-day-delivery job. It can be a huge shame if you’ve spent hours, days, weeks choosing the perfect product, but when you come to order it, you find that it will take too long to be delivered, perhaps time you can’t afford. Then you have to decide whether to hold up the work or pick something else based on the fact it can be delivered quickly.

Find a Bathroom Vanity for Your Bath Remodel

Factor in a contingency. Even when you have the very best of intentions, issues that you couldn’t have predicted may arise during your project. So it’s a good idea to factor in a 10 percent contingency within your budget for these matters, especially with old buildings. Who knows what condition the walls are in behind those kitchen cabinets before you rip them out? Or what may be lurking underneath that carpet when you pull it up?

In these situations, it’s important to expect the worst and don’t let it throw you off your game. You are a project manager extraordinaire, and you’ve totally got this. Just accept that these things happen, find out what the options are and make a decision. Your contractors will be able to advise on what to do, so harness their expertise and trust them to help you find the right solution.

Elayne Barre Photography, original photo on Houzz

Call in the cavalry. If you choose to manage your project yourself, it’s certainly an enjoyable and rewarding process, but it also takes a certain type of person. You have to be organized, calm under pressure, strategic and confident — not to mention being able to afford the time to plan, coordinate and oversee the work.

If you have qualms about taking it on yourself, then consider hiring a project manager. Yes, there will be a fee, but consider that a badly managed project can cost you time and money, and you may not achieve the results you were after. A pro will take care of everything and allow you to rest easy, knowing you’re in safe hands.

By Jennifer Chong, Houzz

Posted on February 27, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Buying, Home Maintenance, Housing Trends, Landscape | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Moving On Up!

Moving is stressful, whether it is across town or cross-country.  Once you have closed on your house, the reality of packing, moving, and setting up a new home can become overwhelming. While no list can make a move “stress-free”, planning ahead and staying organized can help make your move a little smoother.  Here is our list of tips:

Getting started:

· Once you know your prospective move date set up a quick timeline to make sure you can get all the important tasks done and ready in time for your move.

· Consider how much stuff you have by doing a home inventory. This can help you decide whether you need to hire movers to help you or if you will be managing your move on your own. Many moving companies supply inventory lists to help you assess the size of truck you will need.  You can use your list as double duty for insurance purposes later.

· As soon as you decide how you will be moving, make your reservations. In general, moving companies and truck rental services are over-booked at the beginning and very end of the month.  If you are planning on hiring a moving company, contact a few in your area for a price quote. To find companies ask your real estate agent, family, or friends, and consult online reviews.  It is also a good idea to request a quote and compare companies.

Preparing for your move:

· Moving is a great opportunity to get rid of clutter, junk or outdated items. Set aside some time to sort through your closets, storage spaces, files, drawers, and more.  Go through cluttered areas and organize items by “keepers”, “give-aways” and “garbage”. You will have less to pack and an opportunity to update after you move. Contact a local nonprofit organization for your donations; some will arrange to pick up larger donations like furniture. If you have items of value, eBay or Craigslist are good options.

· Changing your address is one of the more tedious tasks in the moving process. You will need to change your address with the United States Post Office. You can find the online form here: https://moversguide.usps.com/icoa/icoa-main-flow.do?execution=e1s1.

· You will also need to change your address with each account you have. Here is a list to get your started:

· Employers

· Bank(s)

· Utilities (Electric, Water/Sewage, Oil/Gas)

· Cable/ Telephone

· Cell phone service

· Credit Cards

· Magazine subscriptions

· Insurance companies (auto, home/renters, health, dental, vision, etc.)

· Pharmacy

· Other personal services

Let the packing begin:

· Before you start packing, it may help to visualize where everything you have will go. Perhaps furniture will fit better in a different room? Consider the floor plan of your new home and figure out what will go where. This will aid in packing and labeling as you box everything up.

· Use a tool like floorplanner.com to plan where furniture and items will go.

· When it comes to packing, you have some options. You can work with a service that provides reusable boxes for moving or you can reuse or purchase cardboard boxes.  Make sure you have enough boxes, packing tape, dark markers, and packing paper.

· Pack rooms according to your floor plan. Label boxes with contents and room. This will make it easier to unpack your home, knowing where everything is going.

· Real Simple magazine has some great tips on packing for your move.

· If you have to disassemble any of your furniture, make sure you keep all the parts and directions together.

· Make sure you set aside your necessities for the day you move. Being tired and unable to take a shower or make your bed can be hard at the end of a long moving day. Here are some ideas of what you may like to pack in your “day-of-move” boxes.

· Clean linens for the beds, pillows and blankets

· Clean towels

· Shower curtain, liner and hooks

· Toiletries, hand soap, tooth brush, etc.

· Disposable utensils, cups, napkins, etc

· Rolls of toilet paper

· Snacks and water

· Change of clothes

· Tools for reassembling furniture, installing hardware, and hanging photos

Making your move

· Come up with a game plan with your family, so everyone has a role and a part to play

· Once the house is empty, do a once over on your old place to make sure it is clean for the next owners/occupants. Here is a useful checklist for cleaning.

Warming your new home

· Once you have settled into your new home, warm it up by inviting friends and family over to celebrate. Here is a great infographic about housewarming traditions and symbolism.

· Announce your move to far-away friends and family through moving announcements to make sure you stay on the holiday card mailing list.

Do you have any other tips or advice for achieving a smooth move?

Posted on February 18, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Buying, Fort Collins Real Estate, Homes for Sale, Housing Trends, Northern Colorado Real Estate, Wellington Real Estate, Windermere Real Estate, Windsor Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , , ,