A Well Schooled Decision
The quality of a school district is an important determinant of the market value of a house. For homebuyers with children, the quality and reputation of the local school system may be as critical to their decision as the appeal of the home.
The desire to give their children a quality education usually causes parents who are in the market for a home to ask questions about the local school district. What is the annual expenditure per pupil and the average class size? How do the district's standardized test scores compare with the national mean? Are special education programs available? What percentage of high school graduates go on to college? What is the physical condition of the schools and the district's record in handling school bond proposals? Parents may also want to know the school board's educational philosophy.
A professional real estate agent has the experience and knowledge to help you choose the right community and schools for your family.
Advantages of Buying Down
Your youngest child has just left home! Your present house now seems enormous. Your "empty nest" has prompted thoughts of selling your home and moving to a smaller, more manageable house.
Before you make a move, you should consult two important professionals--your real estate agent and your tax planner. A good real estate agent will be able to tell you the value of your current home and the availability of alternative houses in your preferred area.
Buying a smaller home or condo can have important advantages, such as lowering your property taxes, simplifying property maintenance, and generating cash which can be put into income-producing investments. You will also want to consider the tax laws which allow capital gain exclusions whether you "buy up" to a more expensive home or "buy down" to a less expensive one. If you are moving downtown from the suburbs in order to be close to cultural centers, theaters and restaurants, there may be "quality of life" issues, such as noise or parking. Your real estate agent and your tax planner can provide valuable information to assist you in making such decisions.
Buying New or Buying Old
New homes typically have a higher sales price than comparable existing homes, and buyers are usually willing to spend more on a new home because of lower maintenance costs. Builders' warranties on new homes, when combined with a new roof, appliances, and major systems, usually make major repairs unnecessary and help to counter a slower initial rate of appreciation.
Census Bureau Housing Surveys suggests that operating costs are lowest for brand new homes and slightly higher for relatively new existing homes. Operating costs per square foot of living space are consistently higher for progressively older existing homes. Utility costs represent the largest factor in operating costs. Energy consumption per square foot depends on the size of the home, the insulation and quality of the windows, air leakage and the efficiency of the furnace.
New homes require fewer expenditures for routine maintenance. The cost of maintenance first increases with age, then declines, so you will generally spend less maintaining a home built before 1960 than for a home built between 1970 and 1975.
Children and Moves
When you decide it is time to move, it is important to engage your children in the process. Depending on the reason for the move and the distance, moving can cause some concerns for children that parents may not be aware of right away. Moving often means going to a new school, leaving favorite playmates, and experiencing a lot of uncertainty about what the new neighborhood will be like.
The transition will be a lot easier if your children support your efforts to get your current home sold. How can you get them involved in the process? Include the whole family in discussions about the move and invite the children to participate in house-hunting trips. Ask for the children's cooperation in keeping their toys and clothes picked up. Teenagers may be especially touchy about strangers invading their space, and may resist keeping their room in "showing" condition. Stay communicative with your children about developments in the home sale to help them feel connected to the process.
Work with a real estate agent who is comfortable with children and can remain sensitive to your children's needs and concerns. When the house sells, take the whole family out to celebrate the event.
When their last child is married or graduates from college, many couples feel the urge to give up yard work, sell their homes, and become sophisticated city dwellers. They may consider a condominium or a home near theaters, restaurants, museums and other in-town excitement.
Although city living has many rewards, this type of move represents a major change in lifestyle. You will be relieved of a lot of maintenance chores, and you will be close to many activities that not available in the suburbs. However, some things that you take for granted, like a parking place, may not be readily available in a city!
Before you make a commitment to a condominium, talk to the people who live there. Like suburban developments, town house and condo developments often have covenants and owners' association restrictions which limit what you can do with your home. A professional real estate agent can get you the answers to any questions you may have about this important move.
The impending arrival of a new baby is an important catalyst for many couples to plan a move. You may need more space or prefer a larger yard or a street with less traffic. Having a baby represents a profound change in life. Your thoughts about housing suddenly begin to include considerations about schools, neighborhood playgrounds, and other families with young children.
If you plan to enlarge your family in the near future, it is a good idea to assess your real estate needs early in the planning stage. If you have a condominium or smaller house which you have to sell in order to buy a new home, talk to us about placing your current home on the market now. It could take a while for it to close, even if we find buyers relatively quickly. Most real estate agents have stories of closing attorneys bringing paperwork to the maternity ward. While this may provide witty repartee for the agent, it is not a lot of fun for the new parents trying to work out the last minute details of a major move when the baby is about to arrive.
Moving On Up
Many people buy their first homes before they start a family or become established in their careers. A few years later their life circumstance has changed. They need more space or have increased income to invest in a higher priced home.
Changes in lifestyle often create changes in housing needs. A big promotion may require you to do more at-home entertaining. This translates into the need for a larger kitchen and additional living space. If you are starting a family, it may be time to trade your sophisticated home in the city for a house which has a big yard and is located in a good school district. If changes in your life have prompted thoughts of moving, an agent will be happy to discuss all of the possibilities with you. Your agent can determine what your present home is worth and show you homes that will meet your current needs.
Planning the Move
The custom of relying on friends to help make a move from one place to another has been replaced by reliance on professional movers.
Professional moving companies offer a wide range of service options, including professional packing. It could cost you less if you pack your things in your own containers. However, some movers will not insure fragile items, such as dishes or glassware, if they do not pack them.
Begin your preparations for the move by calling several companies for estimates. And start early! Some companies want three-to-six weeks advance notice. Ask each company how they compute the charges, how much time they expect the move to take, and what kind of insurance coverage they offer against loss or damage. If you have to store your things temporarily, ask what arrangements can be made.
Long-distance movers may send a representative to your home for an estimate, while local companies may quote an hourly rate over the phone. Be sure to ask the same questions of each company so that when you compare bids you will be using the same criteria.
Whether you are moving across town or across the country, it is a good idea to shop around for a household mover. Local moving companies have always been very competitive. When interstate movers were more regulated by the Interstate Commerce Commission, they charged basically the same rates. Since that industry has been de-regulated, the rates are varied and even negotiable.
If you are in the market for a mover, get recommendations from friends or neighbors. Call several companies for estimates and ask how their rates are calculated. Find out what kind of insurance against damage or breakage is included in their charges and what additional coverage will cost. The charges are usually broken down into two areas--packing, and loading and unloading. You can sometimes save a considerable amount of money by doing your own packing, but doing so may limit the mover's liability.
Remodel Or Move
At some point your present home may begin to feel cramped. You would like enough room to have an "adult haven", but you must weigh the price of a larger home over against the prospect of living with contractors and plaster dust for a long time. Is it better to remodel or to look for a new home?
Before you decide on a major home improvement project, talk with a real estate agent who knows your neighborhood. Will the changes you have in mind over-improve your home, making it difficult to re-sell? Will you be able to recover the cost of your investment? Find out how much your present home is currently worth, and how much home equity you have. You may be able to make a substantial down payment that lowers your mortgage payments on a larger home. It may be worth making a move to avoid the stress and inconvenience of remodeling, if you can find a new home with all the features you would like to add to your present home.
Smart House Hunting
Serious house hunting can leave you worn out and confused at the end of the day. It is hard to remember which house had the great back yard and kitchen and which one you ruled out because of inadequate storage space. Some of the houses you visited looked familiar--like maybe you had seen them before. How can you conserve energy and keep it all straight?
The first step is to find a real estate agent who knows the area well and will only show you homes that meet your criteria. Next you should acquire a small note pad in order to keep a record of the homes you visit. Note the address, style and exterior color, as well as something distinctive about the house that will trigger your memory. Make a special note if a house has real possibilities. Jot down important pluses and minuses of each property and share this information with your real estate agent. This will help you to narrow down the houses so that you can focus on your favorites.
There are many details to handle when you move out of one house and into another. Since it is easy to forget things in the rush of moving, making a written checklist of everything that needs to be done is an invaluable aid.
Be sure to include such tasks as providing the post office, your bank, credit card companies, and publications to which you subscribe with your new address. Let your insurance agent know about the move to ensure that your personal property will be covered at both houses. Call the utility companies ahead of time to arrange for the cut-off and turn-on dates for gas, electricity, water and telephone service. Put important documents, such as birth or marriage certificates, tax returns and home ownership documents together in a safe place as you pack, so that you can locate them easily.
It will give you a great deal of satisfaction to check off each item on your list as it is handled.
The Big Move
The final step in selling a home is often considered the worst part--the packing and moving of all your possessions. The secret to a smooth move lies in advance planning. Arrange for the movers well in advance. Get estimates from several moving companies, and ask what their quotes include, what kind of services (and care) they provide, and which aspects of the move they will not handle. For example, many companies will not be responsible for removing light fixtures or other attached items.
Insure your possessions adequately during the move. Most moving firms can arrange insurance for you. You may be able to extend your homeowner's coverage to insure the contents of your home during the move. Be sure to get the additional cost and conditions of this agreement in writing.
If you prefer to do some packing yourself, it is better to confine your packing to the unbreakable items. Most companies recommend that you let them handle all the packing for an extra charge. They will not cover items against damage or breakage that they have not packed.
Time To Move
As your life circumstance changes, your housing sometimes must accommodate that change. When your children leave for college or move out on their own, it may be time to re-evaluate your housing arrangements. It is useful to consult with a real estate agent who can help you decide whether it is time to move.
When it is time to sell your home or to purchase a new one, the first step is to contact a professional real estate agent to discuss your situation. What is your home worth? Would it be better to sell it now or to keep the house and rent it out? What cost effective cosmetic improvements should you make before marketing the property? If you are moving to a new city, how can you contact a real estate agent to introduce you to the community and help you find the perfect new home in a neighborhood that meets your needs? Real estate agents are professionals whose experience and expertise can make your transition as smooth as possible.
When It Is Your Move
Contacting different moving companies is one of the first steps in moving to a new house. You will find a variety of service options and price ranges from which to choose, whether you are moving across town or thousands of miles across the country.
Call several companies for estimates. Ask each company exactly how their charges are calculated and what is included. How much insurance is included in the estimate? What is the cost for additional coverage? Are there special provisions for fragile or unusually valuable items? Is the delivery date guaranteed? If economizing is important, ask if there are ways to cut down on the bill by providing your own boxes and packing yourself. Household movers are competitive, and comparison shopping can help you get the best value for your moving dollars.
When Your House Gets Too Big
As the Baby Boomers of the 1950s send their children off to college, they join the part of the market called "empty nesters". At this point they no longer need six bedrooms and three baths, a family room and a gigantic yard. Many "empty nesters" are trading in the family home for something that is smaller, easier to maintain and has the amenities that are important to their more carefree lifestyle. If you are considering such a move, start out by consulting a good Realtor whom you like and trust. The good news is--- when you sell your primary residence, you are not taxed on your profit if (1) you have lived in the home for two out of the last five years and (2) your gain does not exceed $250,000 as a single taxpayer or $500,000 as a married couple filing jointly. These capital gain exclusions apply whether you "buy up" to a more expensive home or "buy down" to a less expensive one. If you are moving downtown from the suburbs in order to be close to cultural centers, theaters and restaurants, there may be "quality of life" issues, such as noise or parking. Your Realtor can help you find a home that has all the conveniences and amenities you desire.
Why Not Remodel
When your home starts feeling too small or outmoded, you may think that the solution is to remodel. Although it is a workable solution for many homeowners, others who do extensive remodeling end up selling their homes within a few years of completing the work. The decisions you make about your renovation could have a significant impact on whether you can recover your investment when you sell your home.
Real estate agents see a lot of homes and listen to a lot of buyers. Together with architects and professional kitchen planners, they can offer valuable advice on how to improve a kitchen or bath, or add a room that will increase your family's enjoyment and attract future buyers.
Before you decide to take the remodeling plunge, you should consider whether expensive improvements will over-improve your home in relation to the neighborhood. If you are inclined to make an investment in your home that far exceeds the selling price of other homes in the area, it may be better to sell your present home and buy one that corresponds to your needs.
Your Selling Strategy
Have your housing needs expanded along with your income? Are you are thinking about selling your property and looking for a new home? The transition can be accomplished smoothly by using a systematic approach.
As part of your selling strategy, it is advantageous to have your present house under contract before you begin a serious search for a new home. This will make you attractive to sellers in two ways. You won't have to include a contingency in your offer to cover the sale of your present home. You will strengthen your negotiating position by improving your financial circumstance with an accepted offer. In a situation where there are multiple offers on the new home, the chances of your offer being accepted are better if it isn't dependent on selling another house before you can make a move.