Second-time Homebuying Experience: Lessons I’ve Learned and Buying During COVID-19

Hi there! My name is Lindsay Aratari and I have a lifestyle blog called Aratari At Home where I share everything from home to motherhood to recipes to style to wellness and more! I’m so honored to be sharing about our second time home buying experience and lessons learned on Homes.com today!

If you followed our journey last year, you may have known that we tried selling our house so that we could move closer to family. You can read all about my adventure listing my home andthe lessons I learned selling it on Homes.com’s Blog. From there, our second-time home buying adventure began and it sure was a wild ride!

family wearing masks in front of home just purchasedfamily wearing masks in front of home just purchased

Placing Offers

Back in March, when we sold our house, as we know, the world entered into the global pandemic so it wasn’t the most ideal time to be buying a new house. We held off on looking at any houses or even browsing Homes.com because we wanted to be 100% sure our house would actually go through to closing. We were slightly jaded that this would even go through because of the three failed offers we had had the year before.

Come April, we had gotten through many of the selling steps and figured this one was the real deal so we should start looking at houses. Homes.com was such a great resource for us while searching for homes. The listings were always up to date and current thanks to their Multiple Listing Service partnerships. They always had contingent/pending offers on listings so we didn’t waste our time asking our agent for more information. We could narrow down our search so easily with our new must-have items too. Homes.com made it SO easy to look for new houses!

Since we were in the beginning of the pandemic, it made things quite difficult to actually go into any houses to see them. We had to go off of zoom walkthroughs, virtual tours, and/or photos of the properties we were interested in. We never could have imagined that we would be placing offers without stepping foot in the door of the house. It was a bit scary and nerve wracking to be making such a huge life decision without being able to go into the house first.

homes.com website on computerhomes.com website on computer

Read: A Quick Guide to Virtual Tours for Buyers and Renters

We submitted six offers before we had 1 that was accepted. Even though we were living through the pandemic, houses were going like crazy in the areas that we wanted!  We were competing against tons of other offers. In fact, one offer we submitted was up against 21 other offers!

Read: How to Make an Offer Stand Out in a Seller’s Market

Lucky number seven finally worked out! Again, sight unseen, we placed the offer and it was accepted! This was mid May at this point and we were set to close on our old house at the end of May. After we had an accepted offer, we were able to view the house, however no touching anything, no opening doors, drawers, or cabinets. Still a crazy experience, but at least we got to see if we actually liked the house that we submitted an offer on! Luckily, we loved it and could see all the potential it had for our family.

If there is anything we learned from our first time buying a house it’s that location is EVERYTHING! We now have two young children and we wanted to live in a nice neighborhood setting in a great school district. What this meant is that we would be paying more and/or having a much smaller house than our first one. Our first home was beautiful and amazing, but the school district wasn’t our favorite and we didn’t have a great neighborhood setting that we wanted our kiddos to have.

looking at houseslooking at houses

Road to Closing

Let me start by saying the road to closing was not easy! This was a very drawn out process and we are so glad it’s over! So when we placed our offer, the sellers needed to find suitable housing and requested a 30-day window to do so. We were ok with that because we were planning to live with my in-laws until closing on our new house and since we had so many offers not accepted, we didn’t want to lose this house. This 30-day window kind of kept us at a stand still since we couldn’t look at any other houses or place other offers. We also had to wait for the home inspection and starting the mortgage application since we didn’t know if they would find suitable housing within the 30 days.

We were coming up to the end of the 30 days and the sellers requested an extension of 10 days because they had found a house, but needed the extra days to ensure their home inspection came back ok. Luckily, it did and that contingency was dropped so that we could start the mortgage application process!

Read: FICO’s® New Credit Scoring Method and the Effects on Mortgages

lindsay aratari on the computer with sonlindsay aratari on the computer with son

The mortgage application started out perfectly fine and normal. We sent in all the paperwork, signed all the documents, answered all the questions, etc. Again, the pandemic made this a challenge because everything was being done virtually so we were relying on emails and phone calls to make this all happen rather than seeing anyone in person.

Over the course of the next couple of months, there was a lot of back and forth with the bank and getting everything that they needed. It seemed to take a very long time and lots of items were requested multiple times. Our agent and attorney were amazing throughout this experience and were huge advocates for us in getting the bank to speed things along.

We were told closing would be August 7th as the sellers wanted a simultaneous close with their old house and new house. That worked perfectly for us and we were getting so excited! Well, come to find out, the bank was not prepared and we wouldn’t be able to close then, but were told August 10th would be our close date. That date came and went and the bank still needed more information from us. It was quite a whirlwind. We sort of felt like chickens with our heads cut off running around getting things signed, printing things out, and doing a lot of paperwork which we had already thought was done.

We were finally told we would be closing August 14th at 9am. We had everything ready to go from the utilities being set up, our home insurance being set live, our POD being delivered, ending our storage unit, getting childcare for our babies, and taking vacation days from work. After working hours on the 13th of the month, our attorney had received an email requesting that we close later. It was very frustrating and stressful. 

The day we closed was wild! We didn’t think we would be able to close that day. I bet you could imagine our frustration and how upset we were! Our agent and attorney worked so hard for us on that day and after lots of back and forth emails with the bank, we finally got clear to close at 4pm. It was the best news ever!

family outside of home they just boughtfamily outside of home they just bought

Lessons Learned

We definitely learned some new things this time around compared to our first time buying a home. 

  • Make sure you love your agent and attorney. I don’t think we could have closed on 8/14 if we didn’t have both of them advocating and pushing to get this done. They were true rock stars!!!!
  • Research the bank that you will be using for your mortgage. Do some shopping around to get a bank that will work best for your family. You don’t have to go with the first bank that you research or know
  • Patience is truly a virtue. Our patience was tested so many times over these past few months. Try to stay calm and clear minded… you will eventually find a home and close
  • Place strong offers. It’s hard to test the waters in the market so be sure you have a strong offer that will stand out
  • Focus on items that are true must haves. Location, a backyard, and 3 bedrooms were some of our top 3 must haves. We didn’t settle for anything less than that. Our nice to have list we knew we could make work (open concept kitchen area, a 4th bedroom, finished basement)
  • Be sure the bones of the house are solid. This house is so different from our last one, however the bones are great! Over time, we will be able to make it our own and change a lot of it to make it feel like ours.

I’m so thankful that we are now in our new home and our kiddos can grow up living near grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. This whole process was intense and stressful at times, but 1000% worth it! I know our family will make many new memories in this home and I can’t wait to watch our babies grow up here. We are so excited to make this little house our home! I hope you will follow along and watch us transform this mid century split level house into a bit more of our style!


Lindsay Aratari

My name is Lindsay Aratari and I blog over at Aratari At Home! I live in Buffalo, NY with my husband, John Paul, our son, Dominic, & puppy, Freddy.  We live in a house built in 1900 & have slowly transformed it into our dream home. Other than being a mom; fashion, antiques, & a good DIY project are some of my favorite things.

Source: homes.com

What You Should Watch Out For When Buying an Older Home

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what-you-should-watch-out-for-when-buying-older-home

When house hunting, many buyers prefer the history and character of an older home versus the cookie-cutter design that often comes with new developments.  However, if you’re looking into buying an older home, it’s important to arm yourself with knowledge so you can assess the house objectively and protect yourself from costly surprises down the road.

Leave it to the professionals – but ask around

One of the most important things to remember with older homes is the worst problems are often the least apparent. There may be clues to the naked eye, but only professional home inspectors can accurately verify the state of a home. Therefore, it’s recommended you get a few different opinions, and if there’s something specific you’re still unsure about, find an inspector with a background in that area or obtain a repair bid from an expert in the trade.

Additionally, you should consult with the real estate agent and ask when major components were installed, updated or replaced (if ever). The goal is get as full a picture of the home’s history as you possibly can. Most sellers will disclose any plumbing, electrical or roofing issues. Don’t hesitate to talk to neighbours as well – they’re a great source of information and chances are they’ll be honest if their basements have flooded recently or they have mice scampering around.

Be aware of the following risks associated with old homes:

  1. Foundation

Head down to the basement and check the foundation for signs of cracks, crumbling or shifting. Mold could also be a sign of a weak foundation. Check the grade at the perimeter of the house – settling near the foundation may indicate water in the basement. Quite often, older homes have porous stone foundations and lack effective waterproofing systems, which can lead to water damage.

  1. Water damage

Water damage is one of the most common dilemmas in old homes and can lead to a range of problems, from damp walls to fungal decay and woodworm. Damaged plaster and stained walls and ceilings are a telltale sign, and you may even feel a temperature difference in the walls. Look for missing or broken roof shingles, rotted or loose trim boards, and disconnected or plugged-up gutters and downspouts.

  1. Electrical

Read the electrical panel’s amperage rating – modern homes require at least 100 amps, and preferably 200 since we have so many devices plugged in.  Look around to see where the switches and outlets are. Three-pronged sockets with reset buttons are good; two-pronged ones with scorch marks are bad. Original knob-and-tube wiring and aluminum wiring pose a fire hazard, and watch out for fuses.

  1. Plumbing

Test the water pressure in faucets and showerheads, keeping an eye (or ear) out for dripping taps. Duck under the sink and take a look at pipework, tanks and cylinders if you can. The plumbing system should be copper pipes with copper soldering, or PVC piping. Lead or cast-iron pipes will need to be replaced. If you’re thinking of installing an extra bathroom, establish where the water supply and waste pipes run.

  1. Sewage and drains

Many older properties still have clay pipes, which are susceptible to tree roots that grow through the pipe walls and cause blockages. Be alert for overflowing manhole covers or drain covers, and unpleasant smells. A qualified inspector will be able to tell you if the sewer system and drains work properly. If possible, figure out when the sewage service from the street was last upgraded.

  1. Insulation

If the house has older plaster walls, it probably has little or no insulation. Even if there is insulation, it may well be deficient or contain asbestos. You’ll also want to look for double glazed rather than single pane windows. These things will make your home more energy efficient.

  1. Heating

Find out how old the furnace is and what type of energy is used to heat the home: oil, electricity, natural gas or boiler system? Radiators may add charm, but they’re an expensive option and complicate air conditioning in the summer.

  1. Roof

What condition is the roof in? Definitely poke around in the attic. Some clues that you may need to replace or repair it include leaks or water stains near the chimney and on the inside of the top floor ceiling. Be sure that the ridges aren’t bowing or the eaves sagging. Don’t forget to examine the chimney’s brickwork too – any chipping or crumbling is a red flag.

Remember, safety first and trust your instincts! Also, be sure to check out this article if you’re still weighing the pros and cons of buying an older home versus a newer home.

For more helpful tips and advice, keep reading Zoocasa.com.





Source: zoocasa.com

Paying Taxes as a Freelancer

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

Paying taxes as a freelancer can be a bit more involved—and expensive—than paying taxes as a W-2 employee. When you’re a freelancer, you’re the boss. That’s great if you want some flexibility, but it also means you’re self-employed, so you are responsible for both the employer and employee parts of employment taxes.

When you work for someone else, your paycheck amount is your pay minus all appropriate deductions. That includes deductions for federal and state income taxes as well as Medicare and Social Security contributions.

But what you might not realize is that your employer covers part of the Medicare and Social Security amounts. As a self-employed individual, you have to pay the total amount yourself. That’s 12.4 percent for Social Security and 2.9 percent for Medicare—a total of 15.3 percent of your taxable earnings, not including federal and other income taxes.

When Do I Have to Start Paying Taxes as a Freelancer?

According to the Internal Revenue Service, if you earn $400 or more in a year via self-employment or contract work, you must claim the income and pay taxes on it. The threshold is even lower if you earn the money for church work. If you earn more than $108.28 as a church employee and the church employer doesn’t withhold and pay employment taxes, you must do so.

What Tax Forms Should I Know About?

Freelancers report their income to the IRS using a Form 1040, but they may need to include a variety of Schedule attachments, including:

  • Schedule A, which lists itemized deductions
  • Schedule C, which reports profits or losses from their freelancer business
  • Schedule SE, which calculates self-employment tax

These are only some of the forms that might be relevant to a freelancer filing federal taxes. Freelancers must also file a tax form for the state in which they live as well as with any local governments that require income tax payments.

If you’re planning to do your taxes on your own as a freelancer, it might be helpful to invest in DIY tax software. Look for options that cater specifically to home and business or self-employment situations. These software programs typically walk you through a series of questions designed to determine which forms you need to file and help you complete those forms correctly.

Six Tips for Doing Your Taxes as a Freelancer

As a freelancer, chances are you spend a lot of your time attending to clients and getting production work done. You may not have a lot of time for business organization tasks such as accounting. But a proactive approach to paying taxes as a freelancer can help you prepare to do your taxes and pay what can be a surprisingly big bill each year.

Here are six tips for handling taxes as a freelancer.

1. Keep Track of Your Income

Track your income so you know how much you may need to pay in taxes every year. Keeping track of your numbers also helps you understand whether your business is profitable and how you’re doing with income compared to past years.

You can track your income in a number of ways. Apps and software programs such as QuickBooks and Wave let you manage your freelance invoices and track income and expenses. Some also help you generate financial reports that might be helpful come tax time.

Alternatively, you can track your income in an Excel spreadsheet or even a notebook, as long as you’re consistent with writing everything down.

2. Set Money Aside in Advance

It’s tempting to count every dollar that comes in as money you can use. But it’s wiser to set money aside for taxes in advance. Depending on how much you earn as a freelancer, you could owe thousands in federal and state taxes by the end of the year, and if you didn’t plan ahead, you might not have the money to cover the tax bill.

That can lead to tax debt that comes with pretty stiff penalties and interest—and the potential for a tax lien if you can’t pay the bill.

3. Determine Your Business Structure

Make sure you know what your business structure is. Many freelancers operate as sole proprietorships. But you might be able to get a tax break if you operate as an LLC or a corporation. Talk to legal and tax professionals as you set up your business to find out about the pros and cons of each type of organization.

4. Know About Relevant Deductions

As a freelancer, you may be able to take certain federal tax deductions to save yourself some money. Tax deductions reduce how much of your income is considered taxable, which, in turn, reduces how much you owe in taxes. Here are a few common deductions that might be relevant to you as a freelancer.

Home Office

You can take the home office deduction if you’ve set aside a certain area of your home for use by the business. The IRS does have a couple of stipulations.

First, you have to regularly use the space for your business, and it can’t be something you use regularly for other purposes. For example, you can’t claim your dining room as a home office just because you sometimes work from that location.

Second, the home has to be your principal place of business, which means it’s where you do most business activity. You can’t claim the deduction if you normally work outside the home but sometimes answer work emails while you’re in the living room.

Equipment and Supplies

You can also deduct the cost of equipment and supplies that you buy for your business. That includes software purchases and relevant subscriptions, such as if you pay monthly for Microsoft 365 or annually for a domain name.

Make sure you have backup documentation for any business expenses you deduct. That means keeping receipts that show what you purchased so you can prove that the expenses were for business. You also have to be careful to keep business and personal expenses separate—art supplies for your child’s school project, for example, wouldn’t typically be considered valid business expenses.

Travel and Meals

Meals and travel expenses that are related to your business may be tax deductible. If you stay in a hotel, book a flight or incur other travel expenses that are necessary for the running of your business, you can claim them as a deduction. The same is true for 50 percent of the value of meals and beverages that you pay for as a necessity when doing business.

The IRS does set an “ordinary and necessary” rule here. For example, if you’re traveling to meet with a client and you need to eat lunch, that is likely to be considered necessary. But if you opt for a very lavish meal for no other purpose than to do so, it might not be allowed under the “ordinary” part of the rule.

Business Insurance

If you carry liability or similar insurance for your business, you can deduct it as a cost of doing business. You may also be able to deduct the cost of other insurance policies if they are necessary for your trade.

5. Estimate Your Taxes Quarterly

The IRS offers provisions for estimating your employment taxes on a quarterly basis. Self-employed individuals, including freelancers, can make these estimated tax payments, too. Paying as you go means you won’t owe a large sum every April, and if you overestimate, you may get a tax refund.

Quarterly payments are due in April, June, September and January. They can be mailed or made online. Depending on how much you earn, you may need to make quarterly estimated tax payments to avoid a penalty at the end of the year.

6. Consult a Tax Professional

As you can see just from the basic information and tips above, paying taxes as a freelancer can get complicated quickly. Consider talking to a tax professional to understand what all your obligations are and how best to reduce your tax burden using legal deductions. You might be missing a major deduction every year that could save you a lot of money.

And remember that as a freelancer, you’re running your own small business. That means paying attention to all your finances, including your credit report. If you ever want to take out a business loan or seek other funding to grow your business, you might need to rely on your good credit score.

Check your credit score, and if you find inaccurate negative information making an impact on your score, contact Lexington Law to find out how to get help disputing it.


Reviewed by Cynthia Thaxton, Lexington Law Firm Attorney. Written by Lexington Law.

Cynthia Thaxton has been with Lexington Law Firm since 2014. She attended The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in International Relations and a minor in Arabic. Cynthia then attended law school at George Mason University School of Law, where she served as Senior Articles Editor of the George Mason Law Review and graduated cum laude. Cynthia is licensed to practice law in Utah and North Carolina.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

How the 2020 Pandemic is Affecting Credit Scores

How COVID-19 is Impacting Credit ScoresThus far, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses and individuals have felt the heat and are left struggling. Children are out of school and learning virtually in many parts of the nation, restaurants are closed, sporting events are canceled, bars are closed, and the entertainment industry is absolutely demolished. As a result, credit scores are at risk or taking a hit. This impact on credit scores may be felt for much longer than the pandemic ends up lasting.

Credit is an essential part of life and a huge financial tool. In purchasing homes, taking out loans, buying or leasing cars, or even getting an apartment, your credit plays a part in decisions banks make on whether or not to lend to you and at what interest rate.

The Financial Strain

Sure, all qualified individuals received a stimulus check to assist financially in the beginning month of the pandemic. However, with children not in school, because many school districts are deeming the pandemic to be too much of a risk to send children back full time, many parents are struggling to find child care and are forced to stay home and out of work.

Others have lost their jobs altogether, not to mention unemployment benefits are a struggle to obtain and may not be enough to cover their cost of living. Many have been furloughed, temporarily laid off, or laid off altogether. Work is scarce to come by, as the competition for a job is a little tougher with so many applicants.

As a result, many families and individuals have turned to use credit cards as a safety net, putting their finances at further risk. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Bankrate, 33% of cardholders have made at least one credit misstep during COVID-19 – which, in turn, has negatively impacted their credit scores.

The Impact on Businesses & Credit Scores

The huge drop in business revenue as many storefronts are closed and the loss of work altogether is making an impact. Many are turning to put necessities on credit cards and it is beginning to stack up. It is not a myth that the interest rates on plastic tend to be higher than those from bank loans. This just creates more of a problem as that debt to income ratio that highly affects your credit score goes up.

Wallethub, a large financial advisory website, conducted a survey: The Coronavirus Credit Score Survey. They found that 87 million people nationwide are fearful for their credit score as we endure the pandemic in 2020. According to Wallethub, the total US credit card debt was already at $1 trillion.

Prioritizing Your Finances to Avoid Damaging Your Credit Score

It only makes sense that priorities are maintaining your mortgage and keeping food on the table. Doing so without income can prove to be difficult, and paying credit card bills is last on the list for many Americans. Missing payments negatively affects credit scores. It is said that the longer you wait to pay the bill, the more the credit score drops. With no end in sight for the pandemic, credit scores are at risk for many.

It is a common misconception that being unemployed can negatively impact your credit score. This is not true. The fallout from unemployment, leading to missed payments, and high balances on cards and loans are what do the damage to credit scores.

Stay Informed & Find Ways to Protect Your Score

It is true that every component of people’s lives is affected right now, and credit scores fall into that. A “CARES Act” has been put into place to offer assistance in protecting coveted credit scores. Requesting creditors for “accommodations” allows you to possibly put a loan into forbearance, or some creditors may allow partial payments. CARES stands for Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security and is aimed to provide Americans with economic assistance during the pandemic.

The best thing you can do to prevent a negative impact on your credit score is to stay informed and continue to check your credit. Do research on any assistance you may be able to acquire. Knowledge is power.

For Credit Counseling and Repair, Contact Credit Absolute today for a free consultation.

Source: creditabsolute.com

Jeffree Star Takes Fans on Tour of Hidden Hills Mansion

Jeffree Star’s dream home is now almost done, with renovation work close to completion, but the make-up wiz/YouTube star couldn’t wait to share it with the fans. And, seeing that we’re all stuck inside, what better way to kill some time and connect with fans than by inviting them into your home?

“Today I’m showing what’s changed and new in the Jeffree Star Pomeranian Palace!”, Jeffree Star’s latest YouTube post reads.“I haven’t left the house in over a week and I thought it was a good time to also sit down and give you all a life update, ALL things personal.” And personal it was, as Jeffree Star walks us through the entire mansion (even the rooms that aren’t yet finished) in an extensive video posted on his channel.

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Jeffree Star’s house tour

Late last year, Jefree paid $14.6 million for a bonafide mega-compound in Hidden Hills, the guard-gated community that lies immediately adjacent to their home of Calabasas, Dirt reports.

In fact, Jeffree Star’s house is one of the largest and most opulent in the area — which says quite a lot, as celebrities like Kris Jenner, The Weeknd, or Will Smith all call Hidden Hills home.

Jeffree Star's mansion in Hidden Hills
Jeffree Star’s mansion in Hidden Hills. Image credit: Redfin

With over 25,000 square feet, the massive residence sits on 2.3 acres, and was previously owned by Stacey Feinberg, daughter of late sports agent Bob Woolf and her husband, Jeff Feinberg, a wealthy financier and hedge fund manager. After the two separated, they both left the home and listed it for sale; but before Jeffree came in to snap the property off the market, the massive estate sat vacant for years.

Designed in the French Normandy architectural style, the Hidden Hills mansion was built in 2007. It’s not the only structure on the estate though, with two attached guest houses and a 5,400-square-foot barn are also included.

jeffree star house tour
Jeffree Star standing in front of his new house in a video released earlier this year.

All in all, Jeffree Star’s house comes with eight bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, a kitchen with more than $100,000 worth of custom cabinets, a two-story gym, a sauna, a movie theater, and a huge outdoor kitchen. Oh, and a spa that’s seen an iconic transformation — also covered extensively in one of Jeffree’s videos:

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Star calls the house Pomeranian Palace

Soon after purchasing the home, the YouTube star took his fans on a tour, proudly sharing every inch of his new manse; he did however mentioned plans to renovate the property to better suit his style.

And while fans were quick to think Jeffree Star’s new house will replicate the pink wonderland of his previous crib, the YouTuber shared that he has different plans for the 25,000-square-foot home. “We’re not going to do a Barbie house, and I think a lot of people may be shocked by that,” Star said. “But I just want to — I don’t know. I’m just feeling a whole different vibe of, like, opulence and, like, black velvet and gold and white and, like, woodsy.”

Skip to four months later, and you’ll see exactly that: a spacious, opulent home, adorned with gold (shout-out to the luxurious gold Versace wallpaper) and velvet drapes — though admittedly, he opted for a rich brown velvet instead of black.

the gold versace wallpaper

Jeffree has even found the perfect name for his new crib: Pomeranian Palace, as a tribute to his beloved four-legged friends. And it only makes sense, as the home’s most striking feature was designed with the doggies in mind: Jeffree’s sprawling bed is bigger than the size of a regular room — and that’s because the YouTube star needed a bed large enough to fit all his dogs. Awww.

With the home renovation now almost complete, all that’s left for Jeffree Star to feel right at home is to get along with the neighbors. Because let’s not forget, Hidden Hills is also home to Star’s arch-nemesis, billionaire beauty guru Kylie Jenner, so that’s bound to get interesting.

More celebrity homes

Dakota Johnson Gives AD a Tour of Her Hollywood Home, which She Calls ‘Her Anchor’
Queen Frontman Adam Lambert Re-Lists Hollywood Hills Home for $3.35 Million
Everything We Know about Trevor Noah’s Apartment — the New Set of the Daily Show
Mindy Kaling is Moving Into Frank Sinatra’s Beach House in Malibu, Known as Ol’ Blue Eyes’ “Happiest Place on Earth”

Source: fancypantshomes.com

The New Must-haves of Homebuying: What Buyers are Looking for

At the start of COVID-19, homebuyers felt uncertain about applying for a mortgage during a time filled with so much uncertainty. Now, as the pandemic and restrictions become more “normal,” we’re seeing demand grow and housing inventories shrink. But, what new homebuyers this year are likely to find are larger houses with smaller kitchens, master baths and garages. They’ll also find fewer models with open floor plans, too, as builders rework their square footage to accommodate home offices, gyms and other specialty rooms. And, buyers will likely have to venture further out from major metros to find what they’re looking for.

Read: The Future of Homebuying: Questions to Ask in a Post-pandemic World

Larger Homes for Post-pandemic Buyers

For the last four years, the size of new, single-family houses has been trending downward as builders added entry-level houses to their mix in an effort to boost supply. But, the National Association of Home Builders says its members might reverse course as buyers seek more space as a result of the pandemic, perhaps to accommodate extended families or those aforementioned extra rooms.

Spring has arrived in a residential neighborhood of ChicagoSpring has arrived in a residential neighborhood of Chicago

Actually, there already are signs of the shift. In this year’s first quarter, the Census Bureau found that the median of single-family floor area ticked up to 2,291 square feet; up from 2,252 in last year’s fourth quarter. But, while a June survey by John Burns Real Estate Consulting found that some recent buyers moved because they disliked the layout of their previous homes, many wanted more space.

Even before the pandemic struck, size was important to many buyers, according to a poll of nearly 1,800 people in late February and early March by Michigan-based builder Lombardo Homes. Price was paramount, of course, but size was more important than the house’s layout, schools or even property taxes.

Moving to the Suburbs is on the Radar

Buyers are likely to find houses with more space in the suburbs, exurbs and distant outposts. Already, the NAHB is seeing construction expand at a more rapid rate in smaller cities and rural areas. Before the pandemic hit full throttle in March, the builder group found activity increasing at a higher rate in inner and outer suburbs than in high-density places. And while the pace of construction was increasing everywhere prior to the lockdown, the outlying suburbs registered the strong growth.

The Rise of the Home Office

What is the extra space likely to look like? With the movement to work from home, count on more square footage for a home office, whether it be a room dedicated as such or a converted extra bedroom. “For years, people were scared of working from home,” said one Urban Land Institute member during a recent digital happy hour. “Now they are seeing it can and does work.”

Comfortable workplace with computer near wooden wall in stylish room interior. Home office designComfortable workplace with computer near wooden wall in stylish room interior. Home office design

Read: Working from Home? Create a Home Office from Any Small Space

The same goes for employers, who have since discovered their workers can be just as productive working from home, if not more so. More and more companies are joining the likes of Twitter, American Express and Morgan Stanley, all of which have told their employees they can work from home, either through the end of the year or forever. “Some companies,” offers Tim Sullivan of Meyers Research, “may never go back to office space.” Families also need space for children or college students who are learning for home. Only 17% of parents feel prepared for the upcoming school year, so a home office is important for those families to best feel ready for fall semesters.

Studies by the NAHB have shown that many buyers have always wanted an home office. In a 2018 survey, for example, 65% said it was a key feature on their shopping lists, and the builder group says that percentage is likely to grow.

The Forgotten About Home Gym

Another strong possibility: An in-house gym, or certainly at least a dead-end hallway that has been dubbed the “Peloton® room” where an exercise bike can be parked. Of course, there’s “only a finite amount of space” with which builders can work before the cost of their products becomes prohibitive, Dan DiClerico of HomeAdvisor points out. Consequently, he and others believe there will be a major “redistribution of space” in newer models.

The End of the Open Floor Plan?

Younger buyers, in particular, “displayed a clear preference for flexible spaces in their next home” in the latest national survey by Atlanta-based home builder Ashton Woods.

“Instead of rooms dedicated to just one purpose, home buyers now want a living, breathing floor plan that can flex as their lives change,” says Jay Kallos, the firm’s senior vice president for architecture. “They want it to adapt easily for when they’re newlyweds, starting a family, becoming empty nesters and even inviting family back into the home later in life with aging parents or boomerang kids.”

Spacious kitchens going forward could be less so. “Fewer people are going to want the great big open rooms that include the kitchen, with more now wanting the kitchen to return to having some separation to hide the smells, mess and noise,” suggests Bill Ramsey of the Denver architectural firm, KTGY.

Big master bathrooms also could become smaller, too. And builders may be taking space from large garages. Even though most people don’t park their vehicles in their garages, two-car pads are the norm nowadays. Nearly two out of three new houses sold in 2019 had two-car garages, and 19% had three bays or more.

While things continue to change in the world of homebuying and building, one thing remains the same. Homes.com is your go-to resource for everything buying, selling, renting, or financing. From our popular search tools that let you find a home you love in an instant to an optimized mobile app to take homebuying on the go, there’s not much you can’t find. For more resources, visit Homes.com’s Blog or our How-to Section if you’re looking for tips, advice, and guidance on all things home-related.


Lew Sichelman

Syndicated newspaper columnist, Lew Sichelman has been covering the housing market and all it entails for more than 50 years. He is an award-winning journalist who worked at two major Washington, D.C. newspapers and is a past president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

Source: homes.com

What Parents Look For When Buying a Home

child-backpack-park

Shopping for a home isn’t easy. Every family has different requirements, from number of bedrooms to easy access to transit and parking.

Parents, however, have an added challenge. Although you’re doing the shopping, your children are going to live and grow in the home and experience it in ways you won’t. You have to be sure your children will be able to thrive in the home you choose, and anticipating their needs before even putting in an offer can be challenging.

Here are the most common factors parents should weigh when buying their next home.

The floor plan

The actual layout of your home should come first, since that’s where you interact with your kids the most. Consider stairs if you have small children, as they can be a hazard. A master bedroom on the same floor as your kids’ rooms is always nice, to combat 1 a.m. nightmares. Indoor play areas, like rec rooms, are a must-have if you live in a cold climate.

Essentially, as you’re walking through the home, envision how your children would move through the home. What obstacles could they encounter? If we stay here for 10, 15, 20 years, will they be able to grow and succeed here? If we have more children than expected, is there room for that growth as well?

Outdoor space

If you’re buying a house, a nice yard is definitely ideal—you have room for the kids to use up all that energy, play sports, and play with friends. Think about the access from the deck to the grass, and vision from the house into the yard. On the flipside, remember that yards take time and money to maintain, and will add to the overall cost of a house, so weigh the need against the cost.

If you’re buying in a condo, assess the safety and size of the balcony. Look around the neighbourhood for nearby playgrounds, parks, and outdoor areas so your kids don’t go crazy running around on the 10th floor. Even if you’re buying a house, your needs might be filled by a play area nearby.

The neighbourhood

If you’re dead-set on a home, it’s important to wander the neighbourhood, both during the day and in the evening. Are there lots of families and resources for children? Is there lots of safe space to walk with a baby stroller? Is commuting as painless as possible? Look for businesses, daycares, anything that will make your life easier and is within close proximity to the house.

Also, if you think condo buildings are only for singles, you’d be wrong. Certain buildings attract families, so ask your agent and the building manager if this building is a kid-friendly building.

Schools and school zones

All parents want their kids to have the best education possible. School ratings are a good, preliminary way of assessing nearby schools—you can check those out on sites like Scholarhood.ca. It’s also a good idea to visit schools in person, to talk with administration about after-hours activities, programs for kids with special needs, and unique curriculum.

You should also think about distance and travel to school. Could your kids walk to school? Are they on a school bus route? If you have to drive them to and from school, do you have the time and capacity to do that every day?

Conclusion

You know that your kids’ needs are your needs. Although it’s not a great idea to take your children to a showing, they should be front and centre in your mind’s eye. If you don’t know if something will work, if a certain place is too far away, ask your agent—they’ve sold to countless families so they’re a good second opinion.

Flickr: Bridget Coila

Source: zoocasa.com

7 Other Types of Precious Metals to Invest In (Besides Just Gold & Silver)

When you think of precious metals, chances are the first two that come to mind are gold and silver. Most people would be hard-pressed to name five precious metals off the top of their heads.

As you invest, you often hear that precious metals make great safe-haven investments. So, you’ve looked into gold bullion, silver coins, and maybe even some physical platinum, but are these all your choices?

No!

There are several metals that are considered “precious” and act as solid safe-haven investments. So, if you’re not interested in buying silver and gold coins or you want to practice diversification within your safe-haven holdings but don’t want to stray too far away from precious metals, you’re in luck; you have several options.

What Are Precious Metals?

By definition, precious metals are rare, naturally occurring metallic chemicals that hold significant economic value. The vast majority of precious metals will not oxidize (rust) under normal environmental conditions, providing longevity in the value placed on them.

For example, you’re able to wear your gold ring and silver necklace any time you’d like. While they may collect dust and need a good polishing here and there, your ring and necklace will never rust or decay.

Moreover, due to the rarity of gold and silver, these metals maintain a significant value that often grows in times of economic uncertainty.

Why Investors Are Attracted to Precious Metals

Precious metals are a common component of successful investment portfolios, especially during economic downturns. These investments provide protection from market volatility, and often see price growth during economic declines, making precious metals a great store of value when economic and market conditions are uncertain.

Precious metals are attractive during positive economic times as well. Many of these metals are used in the manufacturing of electronics, automobiles, and even batteries, helping to keep the industrial and technology sectors alive.

That value makes precious metals a go-to asset class to include in any well-diversified portfolio.


How to Buy Precious Metals

When most people think about buying precious metals, they usually think of buying silver and gold bars and coins by the troy ounce. Although that is an option, there are several ways to gain exposure to the precious metals market, especially to alternative metals that aren’t typically minted into coins.

1. Buy Physical Precious Metals

One way to go about investing in precious metals is to buy hard assets like ingots and coins or even buy gold bars through Vaulted. Often referred to as bullion, for some precious metals these coins and bars are available at market price from various websites or at your local coin or pawn shop.

2. Buy Precious Metals Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) and Mutual Funds

If you’re not interested in having bars and coins made out of high-value metals in your home or safe deposit box, you have the option to invest in precious metals without physically possessing a single coin.

There are several exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds that are centered around investments in the precious metals market. These funds use assets pooled by a large group of investors to buy physical precious metals or shares of stock in industrial or mining companies that focus on the production of precious metals.

Taking the ETF and mutual fund approach gives you the ability to step back and let the pros handle your investments for you. Moreover, like most other investment-grade funds, precious metals ETFs and mutual funds generally practice heavy levels of diversification, protecting your investments from any sudden decline in the value of one or more of the fund’s holdings.

3. Buy Mining Stocks

Without mining companies, there would be no precious metals on the market. These companies are rewarded when spot prices for the commodities they mine are high and feel pain when market prices fall.

As a result, the stocks that represent these mining companies ebb and flow with the values of the commodities they’ve centered their business around. Thus, by investing in the mining companies that produce the precious metals you’re interested in, you’re getting indirect exposure to the precious metals market.

Pro tip: You can earn a free share of stock (up to $200 value) when you open a new trading account from Robinhood. With Robinhood, you can customize your portfolio with stocks and ETFs, plus you can invest in fractional shares.


Precious Metals Other Than Gold and Silver

Gold and silver are great safe-haven investments, but if you want to practice diversification within the precious metals asset class, there are several other metals to choose from. Some of the most popular investments include:

1. Copper

Copper is often referred to as a precious metal, although by the strictest definition, it’s not. For one, copper oxidizes under normal environmental conditions. Moreover, the metal is vastly available around the world, missing the rarity threshold.

Nonetheless, due to its extensive uses, the metal is considered by some to be precious, and is an investable asset regardless.

To mine copper, mining companies dig pit mines and collect copper ore, which are materials known to contain copper and, in many cases, iron compounds.

Copper Uses

Copper has a wide variety of commercial and industrial uses. The majority of copper is used in electrical applications because the metal is a great conductor of electricity. Copper is also commonly used in components that keep motors running.

2. Iridium

Iridium is a metal that’s part of the platinum group of metals. It is a hard, brittle metal with a silver look. Iridium is extremely hard, has a very high melting point, and is one of the rarest elements in earth’s crust, making it overwhelmingly valuable.

As is the case with traditional precious metals, iridium doesn’t oxidize under normal environmental conditions. It is among the most corrosion-resistant known metals. Aside from its industrial uses, it is a prized collectible asset due to its rarity and high value.

Iridium is produced in two ways. Most commonly, it is a byproduct of nickel mining, as nickel is found in the same layer of the earth that iridium is. However, there are also mining companies that focus on the mining of platinum ore, which tends to be rich in iridium.

Iridium Uses

Like most precious metals, iridium has many uses. Most importantly, it is used as a hardening agent for a wide range of platinum alloys. These alloys are used for tipping pins and compass bearings.

The precious metal is also used in crucibles and equipment used at high temperatures as well as a source for heavy-duty electrical contacts.

3. Lithium

Lithium is a versatile precious metal. Although it is deposited around the world, found in rocks and brines, it is always found in low concentrations, making it quite rare overall.

Lithium is a relatively soft, silvery metal used in various applications around the world. Lithium salts, the raw material from which lithium is developed, can be found in many areas around the world. These salts are found in underground deposits of clay and mineral ore, in geothermal brines, and even dissolved in ocean water, and there are a wide range of extraction methods.

Lithium Uses

Lithium is used in a wide array of applications. Most notably, the precious metal is used in some batteries, including those used in electric vehicles, solar power systems, and marine applications. Many point to the use of the metal in electric vehicle batteries as the catalyst for the recent gains in value it has experienced.

Lithium is also known as a stabilizer in the world of psychiatric medicine. Lithium compounds are used to treat some serious mood disorders, including bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia.

4. Osmium

Osmium is another precious metal in the platinum group. The metal is hard and brittle, and has a silvery-blue hue. Osmium is one of the rarest metals found in the earth’s crust and has multiple applications, leading to its high economic value.

Osmium can be found naturally in platinum-bearing river sands in North America, South Africa, and the Ural Mountains of western Russia, but its concentrations are so low and difficult to find that osmium is more efficiently produced as a byproduct of nickel refining operations.

Osmium Uses

Compared to other precious metals, osmium has relatively few industrial uses, but is useful in multiple applications. Osmium is often found as a component of platinum alloys, and has also been used in fountain pen tips, instrument pivots, needles, and electrical contacts.

5. Palladium

Palladium is a prized precious metal among investors. It is highly resistant to corrosion and bears an attractive silvery-white appearance. Palladium is a relatively soft metal and is particularly rare — significantly rarer and more expensive than silver or gold.

Palladium is found in very small concentrations in nickel and copper ore. However, because so much nickel and copper ore are processed, these small concentrations collected as a byproduct can add up to a substantial secondary income stream to mining companies.

Palladium Uses

If you own a vehicle, there’s a strong chance you own a small amount of palladium because the metal is likely present in your catalytic converter, its most common application. However, it’s not the only use of the metal.

Palladium is used in medical applications like blood sugar test strips, surgical instruments, and dentistry. The precious metal can also be found in aircraft spark plugs, electrical contacts, and even jewelry.

6. Platinum

Platinum is a very soft metal with a white-silvery look. The name platinum comes from the Latin “platino,” meaning little silver. Not only is the precious metal highly resistant to corrosion, it has high levels of conductivity and maintains stability at high temperatures.

Platinum occurs naturally deep inside the earth’s crust and is generally mined in deep pit mines found in South Africa.

Platinum Uses

Platinum is recognized as a metal commonly used in jewelry, but bling isn’t this precious metal’s only thing. It also has several applications in the medical industry, including in dental work, medical equipment, and laboratory equipment. You’ll also find platinum used in some of the world’s strongest magnets. Finally, with its high levels of conductivity, platinum is often used in electrical contacts and fine resistance wires.

7. Rhodium

Rhodium is an ultra-rare, silvery-white, hard metal. Like others in the platinum group, rhodium is highly resistant to corrosion under natural environmental conditions.

Rhodium is a very rare metal, naturally occurring only in small concentrations. It is generally mined as a byproduct of other mining activities. This is yet another precious metal commonly found in small concentrations in nickel deposits; it is also found in platinum ore.

Rhodium Uses

Rhodium is a versatile metal with several commercial applications. Rhodium is used in jewelry and catalytic converters. However, the metal is most commonly used as an alloying material in platinum and palladium alloys that are found in airplane spark plugs and medical and laboratory equipment.

8. Ruthenium

Finally, ruthenium is yet another member of the platinum family of metals. The silvery-white metal is hard and brittle, yet incredibly shiny, and will not tarnish.

Ruthenium is primarily collected as a byproduct of nickel mining. The metal is extracted through a series of chemical processes that separate it from other platinum group metals like platinum, palladium, and osmium.

Ruthenium Uses

Ruthenium has multiple commercial uses. It is commonly used as an alloying agent in platinum jewelry. It’s also used as a hardening agent in platinum and palladium alloys, which are found in electrical contacts designed for severe wear resistance.

Interestingly, ruthenium is an important component of various solar panels. The metal is used to convert solar energy into usable electrical energy.


Pros and Cons of Investing in Precious Metals

Precious metals are hot commodities that are just about always in high demand, so it makes sense that many people want to invest in them. However, as with any investment vehicle, investments in precious metals come with advantages and disadvantages.

Pros of Precious Metals Investing

Some of the most significant benefits to investing in precious metals include:

  • Stability. Precious metals aren’t known for volatility. Investments in this category are generally stable, and these investments can provide a shelter against economic hardship as safe havens.
  • Predictability. With the exception of those used largely as industrial materials, like copper, precious metals have an inverse correlation with the economy. When economic conditions are negative, investors ditch stocks and squirrel their money away in safe havens like precious metals. Conversely, when economic conditions are booming, investors ditch precious metals to dive into the stock market. Therefore, by following economic trends, you’ll be able to correctly predict the direction of most precious metal prices.
  • No Credit Risk. When you own precious metals, you own that metal. When it’s time to sell, you can turn that metal into cash. When investing in a company through stocks — or even in a municipality through bonds — you’re accepting the risk that the organization may default and you may lose a significant portion or all of your principal investment. That’s not the case with precious metals — at least in terms of owning the hard assets. You own a real, physical asset and aren’t dependent on any particular company or government succeeding in order for your investment to hold its value.

Cons of Precious Metals Investing

Although there are plenty of reasons to be excited about investing in precious metals, there’s always a downside. The most significant cons to investing in this category include:

  • Slow Growth. Investing is all about growth, but precious metals are stable. These commodities tend to experience slow, steady price growth, whereas the right stock picks can result in significant gains over a short period of time.
  • Numismatic Markup. Precious metals bullion comes with a numismatic markup. Essentially, creating coins and bars takes work, which costs money. As a result, you’ll pay more per ounce for coins and bars than the spot price of the precious metal you’re investing in.
  • Liquidity. If you hold physical precious metals, it may take time to find a buyer who’s willing to pay a reasonable price. As a result, certain precious metals investments come with liquidity risks.

Should You Invest in Precious Metals?

Precious metals have a place in just about every investment portfolio out there today. Due to their rarity and the generally high level of demand for these metals, they provide a level of stability that few assets on the market have the ability to provide, making them a perfect asset class for the safe-haven allocation within your portfolio.

So, it’s not necessarily a matter of if you should invest in precious metals, but a matter of when.

As a result of the relationship between precious metals and the global economy, when economic conditions are positive and markets are bullish, it’s best to keep your precious metals holdings to a minimum. On the other hand, when economic conditions falter and markets fall into bear territory, it’s time to rebalance your portfolio, putting an emphasis on precious metals and other safe-haven investments.


Final Word

Precious metals investing is about much more than investing in gold and silver bullion. There are several different types of precious metals and multiple ways to invest in them without even holding a piece of the metal in your hand.

Like any investment, it’s important to do your research and get an understanding for what makes precious metals move in value before risking your first dollar.

Nonetheless, with the price stability and shield from inflation offered by this rare class of metals, investments in precious metals are an important part of most well-balanced investing portfolios.

Source: moneycrashers.com