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 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’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 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. 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. 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. website on 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.


What You Should Watch Out For When Buying an 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


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”


What Parents Look For When Buying a Home


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 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?


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


Queen Frontman Adam Lambert Sells Hollywood Hills Home for $2.92 Million

Adam Lambert, American Idol alum and current lead singer for legendary rock band Queen, has long been looking to part ways with his Hollywood Hills digs.

The singer recently re-listed his three-bedroom, 3,049-square-foot home nestled above the Sunset Strip for $3.35 million, after a failed previous attempt at selling the contemporary home. The house was first listed for sale back in 2017 for $3.995 million, with different representation.

But it wasn’t until The Agency’s Emil Hartoonian and Nicholas Siegfried took charge of the listing that the right buyer came in sight and Adam Lambert’s house finally sold for $2.92 million.

Granted, that’s $430,000 less than Lambert was asking — and $75k shy of what he paid for the home six years ago — but it’s worth noting that the artist has long moved on (he bough a $6.5 million house in a neighboring area back in 2018). But that doesn’t mean we won’t take a moment to soak in his former home’s beauty, and bid it a proper farewell.

adam lambert's house in hollywood hills
Adam Lambert’s house in Hollywood Hills. Image credit: The Agency

From the outside, Lambert’s house oozes rock star coolness. The architecture of the Los Angeles home is reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright’s clean-cut lines and geometric details. Most of the living spaces inside offer views of the outdoor swimming pool, and light flows in through massive, floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the house. 

The 1947-built house looks fresh and modern, but it also has a timeless vibe. The main level houses a light-filled, spacious living room, perfect for entertaining guests, and it features a sliding glass wall connecting it to the outdoor pool area. 

inside adam lambert's house in hollywood hills
Adam Lambert’s house in Hollywood Hills. Image credit: The Agency

The lower level also houses a fab designer kitchen featuring a massive kitchen island, marble finishes, high-end appliances, and an intimate breakfast setting. The kitchen also offers views of the poolside area. 

adam lambert's house in hollywood hills
Adam Lambert’s house in Hollywood Hills. Image credit: The Agency
adam lambert's house in hollywood hills
Adam Lambert’s house in Hollywood Hills. Image credit: The Agency

Upstairs, the master bedroom offers stunning views of the city lights and the glamorous Hollywood Hills. The suite also incorporates a gorgeous walk-in closet, a master spa, as well as a private terrace overlooking the pool. 

Adam Lambert’s former home also includes an additional suite that comes with its own private entrance. This room could be used as a private studio, a home office, a gym or even a home theater. 

adam lambert's house in hollywood hills
Adam Lambert’s house in Hollywood Hills. Image credit: The Agency

The private gated estate is also perfect for entertaining guests or just relaxing after a long day. The poolside lounge area offers complete privacy, right in the heart of Los Angeles, incorporating comfy couches and offering views of the house and the Hollywood Hills. 

Adam Lambert’s house in Hollywood Hills. Image credit: The Agency

According to the Los Angeles Times, Lambert won’t be moving far, as he paid $6.5 million back in 2018 for a bigger home just a mile away, in Hollywood Hills West.

Adam Lambert first rose to fame in 2009 after finishing as runner-up on the eighth season of American Idol. Since then, he has sold over 3 million albums and 5 million singles worldwide, with his second studio album, Trespassing, released in 2012, premiering at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 — making Lambert the first openly gay artist to top the charts. He followed that success with the release of his third album, The Original High, in 2015.

On top of his successful solo career, Lambert has been collaborating — and going on several worldwide tours — with legendary rock band Queen as lead vocalist for Queen + Adam Lambert. A recent Netflix documentary called The Show Must Go On: the Queen + Adam Lambert story chronicled how Adam Lambert took over from the legendary Freddie Mercury as the frontman for the rock group.

More celebrity homes

See Travis Scott’s New House: a $23.5M Ultra-Modern, Yacht-Inspired MansionSylvester Stallone Sells Villa Set in an Exclusive Golf Community Full of Celebrity Neighbors
Tour Dakota Johnson’s House in Hollywood, which She Calls ‘Her Anchor’
10 Major Celebrities — and Celebrity Couples — Who Call Beverly Hills Home


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

With a rapidly changing market and low inventory, homes are selling faster than ever. New listings can have several offers before you have even had the chance to see it. With this being the case, not only do you have to spring into rapid action, you have to come prepared with an offer that will stand out above the other buyers out there. 

Read: How is COVID-19 Impacting Homebuyer Preferences?

While it can be difficult to be the first of multiple offers coming in, you can make your offer the one that will get you the home that you have fallen in love with. The tips could be exactly what you need to get into your next home. 

Get The Inside Scoop

Say you have decided to purchase a home that you have fallen in love with and you’re prepared to put in an offer on that home. Before you meet with your real estate agent to write the offer, you should ask your agent to get the inside scoop of what the seller may want by asking the listing agent. 

When your agent contacts the listing agent, make sure that they ask questions about the home’s availability and if there are multiple offers for that home. If there are other offers, you will have to evaluate just what you are willing to do to get the home. Keep in mind that the listing agent may not be able to disclose anything to your agent at the request of the seller. 

You should also ask your agent to inquire about the seller’s preferences and what they may want. Some sellers prefer you use a specific title company or have a specific possession date that would align with a date that is convenient for them. The more your offer aligns with the seller’s goal, the better a chance of getting your dream home. 

Read: Is the Home You Love Worth it? Home Pre-inspection Tips to Put to Use

Make a Simple Offer

While making an offer on a home can be complex, you should aim to make your offer as simple as possible. The fewer contingencies that you have put in place, the better. 

Some contingencies you might put in place range from a financing contingency to a home inspection contingency. 

Realtor showing terms of contract on tablet to couple. Real estate agent sharing property details with clients.Realtor showing terms of contract on tablet to couple. Real estate agent sharing property details with clients.

Also, when you put in an offer, keep in mind that it’s not all about price. You may be prepared to go well over asking, but remember that the best offer will be the sum of the terms that work best for the home’s seller. While you want to get this home, you do not want to overextend yourself financially. 

Things Will Move Quickly

As you embark on your home search, you will want to see as many homes as possible. If you work with an agent that has a busy schedule, ask to utilize one of their team members to see the homes on your list.Remember, you will want to move quickly especially when the market is hot and your agent will do the best they can to work with you to get you the house you want. 

One Last Tip

Writing an offer can be cumbersome and can take more time than you may be willing to wait. The key tip: be patient. Let your agent provide the seller and the listing agent with your offer and wait a few days to find out if they accept or not. This is completely normal so do your best to be patient in hopes that you are able to get your next home. 

One thing that you may be able to do to get your offer accepted is to suggest to your real estate agent that they outline the terms and contingencies of your offer in a pager on the front pack of the offer package. This will give the seller and listing agent the opportunity to see what the offer entails from the beginning. 

During a hot market where homes are selling as fast, you have to be diligent in writing your offer so that they will stand out from the rest. For more tips and tricks on the homeowner journey, read through our free How To guides on buying, selling, and financing your home.

Dru Peters

As a Sr. Marketing Coordinator for, Dru provides information and resources for agents and Realtors spanning from market reports to technology advances in the industry. With the knowledge gained from working closely with real estate professionals, Dru also shares advice for consumers on how to best navigate the homebuying and selling waters.


To Buy or Sell First? That is the Question


It may be the ultimate catch 22 – do you buy a new home first then sell your current property or sell first then search for a new one? Each approach has its pros and cons so what’s best for you?

Traditionally, homeowners prefer to sell first but in hot markets where bidding wars and multiple offers are more common, some are willing to buy their dream home first, anticipating their current one will sell quickly.

Here’s a rundown of your options:

Pros to selling first

  • You know exactly what your budget for a new property is and can hone in on homes priced right in your neighbourhood.
  • You’re able to make a firm offer on a new home with a closing date that works for you.

Cons to selling first

  • The clock begins ticking and you need to find and close on a new home before the closing date for your sold home – forcing you to potentially compromise on the kind of home you buy or the neighbourhood you and your family want to live in.
  • If you don’t find a new home in time, you’re faced with the unlikely scenario of negotiating to extend the closing date on your sold property, or finding a short-term rental to live in while you continue your search.

Pros to buying first

  • You only buy the house you love if and when you find it – you’re under no pressure to settle because time is running out on a sold property’s closing.

Cons to buying first

  • You may have to finance two homes if selling your current one takes longer than expected.
  • You could have to sell your current home for less to avoid losing a sale – that might require a larger down payment or an increase on your new property’s mortgage.

5 few more tips to help you decide

  1. If you can carry two properties temporarily with little or no bridge financing, buy the home you love first.
  2. Closing dates can be a sticking point for buyers and sellers, but if finding a new home or selling your old one is a concern, try negotiating a long closing date – like three months or more.
  3. Do your homework and connect with a real estate agent you trust well in advance of making any move so you fully understand the buying and selling realities in your area.
  4. Before you’re pressured to do so, ask yourself what you’re willing to compromise on and what’s non-negotiable.
  5. Get your home properly appraised free by an experienced agent with superior knowledge of your area.



Lowering Your Mortgage Interest Rate (After Buying a Home)

Refinancing Your HomeSo, you’ve been living in your home for a few years since securing your home loan, and your credit score has increased! Now, it’s time to look into securing a better interest rate. First and foremost, it is important to understand how your credit initially impacts your mortgage rate.

Credit Score and Your Mortgage

Your credit score is a financial tool. It directly affects the ease at which you are able to secure financing. It also has a significant impact on your interest rate. It can be difficult to pinpoint what is and is not a good credit score for a low-interest rate. This is up to specific lenders, but it all comes down to the higher your credit score, the better the interest rate that you qualify for will be.

There are many calculators you can use to determine what a loan costs at different interest rates such as this one: Loan Comparison Calculator.

Mortgage Refinancing

A mortgage refinance is the process of taking out a new loan to pay off the previous mortgage loan that you took out on your house. Typically, if your credit score has improved, even by just a few points, you can qualify for a lower interest rate. This will help to save you a lot of money paid to interest over the many years of your mortgage length.

Simply put, if your credit score was low, or just lower than it is now when you bought the home, you are likely to have locked in a higher interest rate than you qualify for today. That is why many people will purchase a home with a lower credit score, make a series of on-time payments over the course of a year or two to establish the ability to pay the loan and boost their credit. This shows responsibility. They will then benefit from a refinance.

Current Interest Rates

It should be noted that it is also a good idea to take a look at the current market mortgage and refinance interest rates. Coupling an improved credit score with lower overall interest rates is a win-win. The overall goal is to lower that payment and doing so at the best time will save you cash in the long run.

You can always check the current mortgage interest rates HERE.

Mortgage Refinance Process

To refinance, take a look at where you would like to be and do your research to determine the feasibility of that number by taking into account your credit score and the current market analytics. Know what your exact credit score is. Look at what your equity in your home is in excess of what you owe the bank on your current mortgage. You can do this by checking your mortgage statements for your current balance. From here, you can work with a real estate agent to determine the current estimated value of your home.

It is important to note that after finding a lender that you would like to go with for your mortgage refinance, many lenders require an appraisal of your home. You will have a closing for this mortgage, similar to that of your first mortgage. It is not a terribly long process, but it certainly requires some assistance from the lender.

Mortgage Refinance Benefits

After all, is said and done, your mortgage refinance not only secures a better interest rate, but it helps to create more cash available to you each month after you pay your lowered monthly mortgage. You may have even been able to refinance into a lower term, allowing you to pay off the home faster. This was all made possible by boosting that credit score!


Sir Anthony Hopkins Just Sold His Malibu Home Perched on a Cliff’s Edge for $10.5 Million

Lead image: Nareg Frandjian /Open House Foto & Elena Torre via Wiki Commons

Sir Anthony Hopkins has found a buyer for his charming (and fire-resistant) Cape Cod residence in Point Dume, Malibu, roughly six months after putting the estate up for sale.

The 82-year-old actor decided to part ways with his five-bedroom home at the beginning of the year, listing the property for $11.5 million back in February. Santiago Arana of The Agency was the listing agent for the property and he told the Wall Street Journal that Hopkins’ decision to sell was prompted by a desire to be closer to Los Angeles.

While Anthony Hopkins’ home was in the path of the devastating Wolsey Fire which destroyed much of the area in 2018, the mansion survived the blaze, largely unscathed. The same can’t be said about the home next door, which was completely destroyed by the fire.

Set on a cliff’s edge and overlooking the ocean, Anthony Hopkins’ house sits on about an acre of land between Zuma Beach and Point Dume, opening up to breathtaking beach views.

anthony hopkins house in malibu
Anthony Hopkins house in Malibu. Image credit: Nareg Frandjian /Open House Foto

Built in the 1950s, the house is reminiscent of an English manor, with dormer windows jutting out of the distinguished brick red roof. Spanning roughly 4,000 square feet, the mansion comes with five bedrooms and five bathrooms, two fireplaces and a large living room. 

There’s also an art room in a cabana by the pool — which comes with the added appeal of knowing that Anthony Hopkins has been using it extensively throughout the past years, with works of art created here ending up on the walls of his oh-so famous friends (Hopkins has reportedly been gifting paintings to all his celebrity friends).

Another particularity of the home is that the master bedroom comes with a sauna fitted with a wall glass — to maximize beach views even when relaxing inside. Though admittedly, who would want to spend any time inside with the ocean spread right outside your front door?

anthony hopkins house in malibu
Anthony Hopkins house in Malibu. Image credit: Nareg Frandjian /Open House Foto
anthony hopkins house in malibu
Anthony Hopkins house in Malibu. Image credit: Nareg Frandjian /Open House Foto

With the home selling for $10,500,000, Hopkins has made quite a profit, even if the sale price was one million dollars short of the asking price. And that’s because the actor reportedly paid only $3.8 million for the Malibu property back in 2001.

But it was never about the money for him. In an older 2011 interview with People magazine, Hopkins shared his love for Malibu, and how excited he was to be living here: “I come from a country where everything is gray,” the Welsh-born actor said at the time. “I came out here in 1973 and loved the color. I thought I was in paradise. Still do.”

Anthony Hopkins, a regular presence on our screens for the past half a century, has starred in iconic movies like The Remains of the Day, Meet Joe Black, Legends of the Fall, and The Elephant Man. And despite great critical acclaim for his most recent work in The Two Popes, he will always be remembered as Hannibal Lecter, with his 1991 performance in Silence of the Lambs landing him countless awards, including the coveted “Best Actor” nod at the Oscars.

Beyond his Hollywood nods, Anthony Hopkins was honored as Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1987, only to later be knighted by the Queen a few years later, in 1993.

More celebrity homes

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The Playboy Mansion: the Full Story of Hugh Hefner’s Party PalaceWhere Does Lady Gaga Live? Check Out Her ‘Gypsy Palace’ in MalibuThe Beverly House, where Jackie O & JFK Honeymooned and where Coppola Shot “The Godfather”


Acronyms of Real Estate: What Homebuyers Need to Know

Real estate is a regular smorgasbord of acronyms – everything from APR to REO. Here’s a list of the ones you’re likely to run into and what they mean when you’re buying or selling a house:

Acronyms You’ll Hear Associated with Real Estate Professionals

Real estate agents, builders and most other realty-related professions have numerous professional designations, all designed to set them apart from those who haven’t taken advanced courses in their fields. These designations don’t mean that professionals without letters after their names are not as experienced or skilled, but rather only that they haven’t taken the time to further their educations.

Read: How to Build Your Real Estate Team

Let’s start with the letter “R,” which stands for Realtor. A Realtor is a member of the National Association of Realtors, the nation’s largest trade group. NAR says it speaks for homeowners, and it usually does. But in that rare occasion when the interests of its members and owners don’t align, it sides with those who pay their dues.

Read: A Timeline of the History of Real Estate

NAR embraces a strict code of ethics. There are about 2 million active and licensed real estate agents nationwide, and 1.34 million can call themselves Realtors.

NAR members sometimes have the letters GRI or CRS after their names. The Graduate, REALTOR® Institute (GRI) designation signifies the successful completion of 90 hours of classroom instruction beyond the continuing education courses required by many states for agents to maintain their licenses. After the GRI, an agent may become a Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) by advancing his or her education even further.

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Builders can obtain the GBI – Graduate Builder Institute – designation by completing nine one-day classes sponsored by the educational arm of the National Association of Home Builders. Those who pass more advanced courses become Graduate Master Builders, or GMBs. Remodeling specialists with at least five years of experience can be Certified Graduate Remodelers, or CGRs. And, salespeople can be CSPs, or Certified New Home Sales Professionals.

In the mortgage profession, the Mortgage Bankers Association awards the Certified Mortgage Banker (CMB) and Accredited Residential Originator (ARO) designations, but only after completing a training program that may take up to five years to finish. To start the process, CMB and ARO candidates must have at least three years’ experience and be recommended by a senior officer in their companies.

Acronyms Associated with Mortgage Lending

When obtaining a mortgage, you will be quoted an interest rate; however, perhaps the more important rate is the annual percentage rate, or APR, which is the total cost of the loan per year over the loan’s term. It measures the interest rate plus other fees and charges.

An FRM is a fixed-rate mortgage, the terms of which never change. Conversely, an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) allows rates to increase or decrease at certain intervals over the life of the loan, depending on rates at the time of the adjustment.

Female client consulting with a agent in the officeFemale client consulting with a agent in the office

A conventional loan is one with an amount at or less than the conforming loan limit set by federal regulators on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two major suppliers of funds for home loans. These two quasi-government outfits replenish the coffers of main street lenders by buying their loans and packing them into securities for sale to investors worldwide.

Other key agencies you should be familiar with are the FHA and the VA. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insures mortgages up to an amount which changes annually, as does the conforming loan ceiling. The Veterans Administration (VA) guarantees loans made to veterans and active duty servicemen and women.

LTV stands for loan-to-value. This important ratio measures what your are borrowing against the value of the home. Some lenders want as much as 20% down, meaning the LTV would be 80%. But in many cases, the LTV can be as great as 97%.

Private mortgage insurance (PMI), is a fee you’ll have to pay if you make less than a 20% down payment. PMI covers the lender should you default, but you have to pay the freight. Fortunately, you can cancel coverage once your LTV dips below 80%.

Your monthly payment likely will include more than just principal and interest. Many lenders also want borrowers to include one-twelfth of their property tax and insurance bills every month, as well. That way, lenders will have enough money on hand to pay these annual bills when they come due. Thus, the acronym PITI (principle, interest, taxes, and insurance).

Real-estate owned (REO) properties are foreclosed upon by lenders when borrowers fail to make their payments. When you buy a foreclosure, you buy REO. Short sales are not REO because, while they are in danger of being repossessed, they are still owned by the borrower.

houses real estate market selling buyinghouses real estate market selling buying

Acronyms You’ll Hear During an Appraisal

There is no acronym for an appraisal, which is an opinion of value prepared by a certified or licensed appraiser (though sometimes other types of valuation methods are used in the buying and selling process).

A Certified Market Analysis (CMA) is prepared by a real estate agent or broker to help determine a home’s listing price. A Broker Price Opinion (BPO) is a more advanced estimate of the probable future selling price of a property, and an automated valuation model (AVM) is a software program that provides valuations based on mathematical modeling.

AVMs are currently used by some lenders and investors to confirm an appraiser’s valuation, but they are becoming increasingly popular as replacements of appraisals, especially in lower price ranges.

Other Terms to Know

If you hear the term MLS, you should know it stands for multiple listing service. An MLS is a database that allows real estate brokers to share data on properties for sale, making the buying and selling process more efficient. There are many benefits to both homebuyers and sellers utilizing an MLS, for more information on how to get your home available through an MLS, work with a real estate professional when selling.

Read: What Buyers and Sellers Need to Know About Multiple Listing Services

Did you know? has some serious MLS partnerships, no joke! When you start your home search on, you’ll see accurate property information quickly so you’ll never have to wonder if a home is actually available.

House tourHouse tour

However, not all properties for sale are listed on the MLS. A home may be a for-sale-by-owner (FSBO), if the owner is selling his or her property without an agent and bypassing an MLS listing. In addition, some agents fail to enter their listings in the MLS for days or weeks at a time in hopes of selling to a list of preferred clients.

Read: Advantages of Buying With or Without an Agent

Finally, you may find yourself buying into a homeowners association (HOA) when you purchase a house or condominium apartment. HOAs are legal governing bodies that establish requirements everyone must adhere to in order to keep the community it oversees running smoothly and ensure property values are maintained.

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.