Why Newly Built Homes Are a Better Deal Than You Might Think

Most first-time buyers don’t bother to look at new home listings in their home searches because they expect them to outside their budget. However, the same market forces that are making existing homes more expensive today are making new homes attractive, or at least worth a look for buyers who have saved hard and waited a long time to buy.

Newly built homes have customarily cost 15 to 25 percent more than comparable existing ones, based on national median price data that date back to the 1960s. But in recent homes, that difference has been shrinking as existing homes have been appreciating at a record pace, and newly built homes haven’t.

New home under construction with wood trusses and supplies against blue sky.New home under construction with wood trusses and supplies against blue sky.

The average new home in the U.S. went for $324,467 in June, 28 percent more than the $254,200 price for existing homes, according to data from John Burns Real Estate Consulting LLC, cited recently by Prashant Gopal of Bloomberg. That’s down from a 37 percent gap in 2015 and is the smallest difference since the end of 2010.

The price difference is forecast to continue to shrink as leading economists expect prices for existing homes to continue to rise in 2019 than this year, though at a slower pace. For three years, the inventory drought has driven existing home prices to record peaks, but the drought is slowly ending. Existing home price growth is up 48 percent from 2011 to 2017 and is likely to rise an additional three percent by the end of 2018.

With the housing recovery, home builders cranked up production and increasingly focus on building homes for new moderate-income buyers. The National Association of Home Builders reports that inventory of new homes for sale rose to 336,000 in October, but the median sales price fell 3.6 percent to $309,700, as the market for new construction shifts to less expensive townhouses and other lower-cost houses. Affordability is hurting home builders nearly as much as existing home sellers. Just as existing home sales fell for six months in the second and third quarters this year, new home sales are at a two and a half year low. First-time and move-up buyers, still looking for homes they can afford, rarely explore new construction in their markets.

Short inventories have been less of a problem for home builders, who sell as many of their homes as they can before they are built. In October 2018, there was a 7.4 months supply of new homes for sale in the nation compared to only a 4.3 months supply for new homes. A six months supply is considered normal.

The real payoff with a new home is what you get for the money.

Here are some of the “extras:”

  • The opportunity to personalize the house by choosing finishes, fixtures, decor, and even location.
  • A “honeymoon” period when everything is new, and repairmen aren’t needed.
  • With a new-construction home, many developers build repair costs into the price premium and include a builder’s warranty and manufacturers’ warranties.
  • Cutting-edge architecture and design, including kitchens and bathrooms.
  • The latest home automation, including energy-efficient heating, ventilation and cooling, and energy-efficient home appliances. New homes come wired for cable and internet.
  • Age and condition are important factors in appraising home values. Newer homes generally do better in this categories than older homes.

Adding these “extras” to an existing home could add 50 percent or more to its price.

Websites like Homes.com are helping buyers find new construction in their markets by including new listings among within their site for affordable homes. Or, home hunters can just search for new homes listed in a community search by price and location. Most new home listings are for homes that have yet to be built and were labeled “ready to build.” Buyers can reach out builders directly to answer questions and show the properties. Often, buyers can pick their location and provide input as the house is being built.

New home with an old country feel.New home with an old country feel.

Housing economists of all stripes realize that new homes are the only way to relieve the inventory shortage. Housing markets won’t fully recover until the housing stock can handle the demand of both millennials and their younger brothers and sisters of Generation Z, who are projected to be even larger than the Millennial Generation.

“To increase home ownership, more home construction is needed, which could be boosted by delivering regulatory relief to community banks, removing the lumber tariff, re-examining stringent zoning laws and training more workers for the construction industry,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors.

A newly built home will always be more expensive than a comparable existing one, but it still may not be the best buy for you. If you’re at DIY whiz and don’t mind living in someone else’s house until you have the time and money to personalize it, you’ll probably be happiest with an existing home in need of a little love. If circular saws and plaster trowels aren’t your things, you’ll easily spend more on remodeling than a new home would cost — and you’d still own an older, aging house. Today millions of prospective first-time buyers are saving for a down payment, improving their credit, and waiting until existing home prices come back down to earth. Many move-up buyers desperate for more space feel as though the kids will be in college before they have rooms of their own. Meanwhile, mortgage rates, rents, and home values continue to rise.

As the price gap between new homes and existing homes continues to shrink, next year might be a good time for you to widen your horizons and see what new homes can offer.


Steve Cook is the editor of the Down Payment Report. He is a member of the board of the National Association of Real Estate Editors and writes for several leading Web sites, including Inman News. From 1999 to 2007 he was vice president for public affairs at the National Association of Realtors.

Source: homes.com

Why Hiring An Attorney Makes You a Better Real Estate Investor

You’ve watched HGTV and read all the online forums. You’ve decided real estate investing is for you, and you’re salivating at the potential profits and wealth building opportunities. Maybe you bought a fixer-upper with grand plans to slap some new paint on the walls, swap out countertops, and then sell for a sizeable profit. Or maybe the passive-income landlord approach caught your attention. Either way, you’re probably intrigued by the potential of becoming a real estate investor, and it’s not hard to see why: real estate has consistently outperformed the stock market.

As a real estate investor, there are many hats to wear and multiple moving parts to reach success. An investor must constantly monitor accounting, deadlines, taxes, project management, local laws, marketing…to name just a few. But if you’re wise, you’ll add hiring an attorney to the top of your list. Investing in an experienced attorney can offer numerous benefits to a real estate investor from contract creation, conducting closings, offering legal advice, and creating LLCs and partnership.

Contract Creation

One of the critical points in investing is utilizing a contract that offers you the most protection. If you’re utilizing a licensed Realtor, they may have access to attorney approved state forms; however, if you’re buying off-market or selling For Sale By Owner, you need a comprehensive contract that will protect you as the buyer or the seller. Even if you are utilizing state Realtor forms, you have the right to have your own attorney review and approve them.

Seeking out an experienced Real Estate attorney to draft contacts will be worth the expense with the protection it can offer. Prior to buying- or selling- consult with your attorney about your goals, your needs, and even your fears. He or she can take those into account when drafting a contract that gives you the most benefit.

Conducting Closings

In some states, closings are routinely held at title companies; however, many states still utilize attorneys to conduct closings. Regardless where you live, you have the right to hire an attorney to conduct your closing. During the closing process, the attorney will review all the numerous documents you will sign and thoroughly explain them (and their risks!).

Title companies charge you to conduct closings but can’t offer legal advice. Your attorney, however, can do both. Consult your attorney about his or her fee to conduct a closing- and you may be surprised by how affordable it is!

Offering Legal Advice

As a seasoned real estate investor myself, I rely heavily on my attorney’s advice. Prior to starting any project, I consult my attorney about my future goals, potential risks, and reducing liability. These meetings do not have to be formal. In fact, the vast majority of communication is done via emails and phone calls.

While you may think you know what you’re doing, there are far more risks and liabilities looming than you may be aware of. A seasoned attorney can identify and mitigate those on your behalf. Kendel Grooms, Member Partner at Campbell & Grooms, PLLC in Little Rock, Arkansas reminds investors: “If the investor had any reason to be aware, or had the opportunity to become aware, of a defect or other situation with the property that was not immediately and adequately addressed, which later resulted in someone getting injured or having their property damaged, there is a high likelihood of exposure to legal liability.” Both landlords and house flippers operate with the potential for liability, but seeking competent legal advice can help you to mitigate those before they land you in court!

Creating LLCs and Partnerships

For both financial and liability reasons, a real estate investor should consider forming a partnership. There are multiple types and consulting an attorney can provide you with the most logical choice for your situation and goals. Grooms says that while “the primary benefit is for tax deductions and benefits…the secondary benefit is shelter from liability.”

The primary tax benefit of an LLC, according to Grooms, is that it “can use pass-through status to create above-the-line deductions that would not normally be available to a sole proprietor or individual not using a corporate entity for business dealings.” Hiring an experienced real estate attorney can help your bottom line by setting up partnerships to offer you more favorable treatment on your taxes.

The other substantially appealing benefit of an LLC is mitigation of liability. However, setting up an LLC or partnership does not immediately relieve an investor of all liability. Grooms states that “This is limited depending on how the LLC is to be operated.” The counsel of a real estate attorney can provide you with direction on how to set up your LLC, how to run day-to-day operations, and where the potential risks lie in the process.

Greater the Risk, Greater the Reward

Ask any experienced investor or attorney, investing in real estate can be risky…not just financially, but legally. Don’t let the risks hinder you from starting your real estate investing journey, however. Operating wisely and legally will offer you the most protection. Recognize you aren’t capable of doing it all or knowing it all and surround yourself with those that are knowledgeable and experienced to help you. Mr. Grooms’ final words of wisdom to real estate investors: “If you have any doubts about making a specific deal or transaction, do not do it. You cannot get burned by a bad or risky deal if you back out of it.”

Reminder, when seeking legal counsel, seek out a seasoned real estate attorney. Not all attorneys specialize in real estate, so finding one that is experienced and knowledgeable in this field is essential!


Jennifer is an accidental house flipper turned Realtor and real estate investor. She is the voice behind the blog, Bachelorette Pad Flip. Over five years, Jennifer paid off $70,000 in student loan debt through real estate investing. She’s passionate about the power of real estate. She’s also passionate about southern cooking, good architecture, and thrift store treasure hunting. She calls Northwest Arkansas home with her cat Smokey, but she has a deep love affair with South Florida.

Source: homes.com

5 of the Best Cities to Move to in Arizona

If visiting a natural wonder like the Grand Canyon is on your bucket list, set your sights no further than the state of Arizona. You’ll be able to soak up exquisite sunsets, visit wineries, enjoy endless outdoor activities and more. Plus, its easy enough to take side trips to California, Lake Mead, Mexico and Las Vegas.

Desert beauty aside, Arizona has done a lot in recent years to make the most of its dry climate and abundance of sunshine. It’s pushed for clean energy and solar power. As a result, homeowners who choose the sustainable route may be eligible for tax rebates. SolarNation also reports that they can save as much as 70 to 100 percent of their total electric bill.

Where is the best place in Arizona to live?

Whether you’re new to Arizona or a current resident deciding to make a fresh start in a new city, planning a move starts with choosing the perfect location. To help you weed through all the data, weve compiled a list of some of the best places to live in Arizona. You’ll want to think about whether you prefer a big city or suburb and any other factors that tip the scale for you.

1. Phoenix, Arizona

A thriving city with natural vistas, Phoenix Arizona is one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. The Valley of the Sun is home to start-ups, entrepreneurs, and Fortune 500 companies alike, such as Avent and ON Semiconductor. Aside from dry heat and authentic Mexican food, Phoenix has great terrain for hiking, mountain biking, cycling, fishing, rock climbing, tubing, golf and horseback riding. Its also reputed to have light traffic and an affordable light rail.

Top on Niche’s list for families are Gilbert, Chandler, and Atwatukee Foothills. For millennials, Camelback East and Encanto score high rankings.

Median home value (Census 2017) $197,800.

2. Tempe, Arizona

If you’re inclined to rent, and prefer the suburbs and need nightlife, Tempe might be the right city for you. Smaller than Phoenix, the recent population count here is more like 185,000 give or take. Here you’ll find a mostly young professional vibe which brings restaurants, cafes, shopping, concerts, and lots of beautiful geology. Public schools are also really good.

Homesnacks likes neighborhoods such as Broadmor, Alta Mira, and McClintock. Digging deeper though, Tempe may not be among the safest places in Arizona so check on crime data to see whats what.
Median home value (Census 2017) $237,200.

3. Prescott, Arizona

Prescott takes desert living to new heights. Because its so close to the Prescott National Forest, Prescott has more flux in temperatures. Here you’ll have to limit your use of electricity at night, which means clearer views for astronomy enthusiasts. There are also several lakes nearby (Lynx, Willow, Watson, and Goldwater) which adds value if you love the outdoors. It has a small population for the state (42,731) and you’ll get a taste of the Old West on famous, Whiskey Row.
Median home value (Census 2017) $301,600.

4. Mesa, Arizona

If you’re in the market for a new townhouse, single-family home or lot that you can develop, you might look into Mesa. It has an interesting personality between the Mesa Grande ruins, an annual chicken wing festival, and several cultural attractions like the Commemorative Air Force Museum. You can also find hiking trails, go tubing, play golf, and pick oranges in season. For the middle-class suburban feel, with amenities that go with a population of 496,401, Mesa ranks as one of the best cities to buy a house in the U.S.
Median home value (Census 2017) $197,800

5. Scottsdale, Arizona

According to Niche, Scottsdale is one of the larger cities in Arizona (population 249,950) and often pops up as the best place to retire. It would be accurate to say there are sprawling adobe roofed mansions, luxury golf courses, and excellent spas here. What you may not know is Scottsdale still attracts young professionals and those who want good public schools for their children (Old Town Scottsdale, Arcadia). Its also one of the safest cities in the state. You’ll stay healthy through weekend hikes at the Sonoran Preserve or shopping for organic produce at a local family farm. Also a great place for that hot-air balloon ride you’ve always wanted.
Median home value (Census 2017) $433,500


Rana Waxman parlays years of work experience in several fields into web content creation aligned with client needs. Rana’s versatile voice is supported by a zest for research, a passion for photography, and desire to provide clients with a purposeful presence online. In her non-writing hours, Rana is a happy yogini, constant walker, avid reader, and sometimes swimmer.

Source: homes.com

Is a Smart Home a Smart Buy?

Any home can become “smarter” with the addition of a smart speaker to access Alexa, Cortana, or Siri hooked up to thermostats, light switches, television sets, and the garage door. Add a Ring security system, and a robot vacuum cleaner and your house will probably be the smartest in the neighborhood.

Most homeowners can buy and install these themselves, but owners can’t compete with a smart home built from scratch by a professional home builder. They have all the amenities listed above plus excellent Wi-Fi in every room, switches that unlock doors and dim lights, sensors and camera to detect motion and smoke, motorized blinds, a gizmo that turns water faucets and showers off and on, and a hub using Z-wave technology hooked up to a router to make sure everything runs smoothly. About 35 percent of all newly built homes today come with at least one device that uses smart-home technology.

smart homesmart home

Smart home builders believe an “automated home” gives them a competitive advantage over existing homes and traditionally-built new homes that require owners to get up and open the front door when it rings and turn a faucet manually. Automated homes are particularly popular with millennial buyers.

Pros and Cons of Smart Homes

Pros

  • Some systems allow you to better monitor and regulate your energy use.
  • Lighting and remote communication help keep your house secure when you are away by creating the illusion of someone being at home.
  • Automation can even adjust watering times for your garden or lawn.
  • Checking your doors and windows remotely reduces your security concerns while you’re away.

Cons

  • Available systems are incredibly varied. Be sure to research your system thoroughly before you buy.
  • Different brands aren’t always compatible with one another.
  • Most systems have a monthly subscription fee. It’s important also to be aware of the additional fees hidden within contracts. Read contracts thoroughly to avoid unpleasant surprises.
  • All systems require power to operate, so be sure your home has a backup power supply. Blackouts and brownouts can render your systems inoperable. Smart home automation systems won’t work without a reliable internet connection.
smart home hubsmart home hub

Cost and Value

An automated home system that is bought and installed by the owner can cost from $40 for a starter kit to $15,000 for a hardwired system, according to Jeff Collins of the Orange County Register. Hardwired systems are preferable to wireless and are much easier to install as a house being built than retrofitting an existing home. Most builders consider smart home technology to be a standard feature and do not charge more for it.

For a homebuyer considering buying a home, a built-in hardwired smart home system will add value to the home and make the home easier to sell, just as homes with central air conditioning systems are worth more than homes with window units. As time passes, smart home living will become part of American home and hardwired systems will become the norm. Hardwired systems will become a standard feature, and homes without them will be penalized just as buyers expect to find central air conditioning today.


Steve Cook is the editor of the Down Payment Report. He is a member of the board of the National Association of Real Estate Editors and writes for several leading Web sites, including Inman News. From 1999 to 2007 he was vice president for public affairs at the National Association of Realtors.

Source: homes.com

10 Ways to Be a Good Neighbor and Build Community

A Strong Community Makes for a Safer and More Enjoyable Neighborhood

When you live in a neighborhood, it pays to have good rapport with those who live around you. Close-knit communities tend to be safer, happier neighborhoods and as such, they tend to lose far fewer residents.

Whether you’re moving into a new neighborhood or you have a new family moving in next to you, being the best neighbor you can be will help make your time in the community more enjoyable and satisfying. Here are ten easy ways to be the neighbor you’d want to live next to.

building communitybuilding community

1. Be a Resource

When new people move into the neighborhood, they’re not always familiar with the area. You should help the new arrivals out by being a source of information. For instance, you can provide them with the names and numbers of reliable tradesmen, landscapers, and other service providers in the area. You can let them know which grocery stores are the best in town, and which gas stations they might want to avoid.

2. Invite the Neighbors Over

If you’re new to the neighborhood, you can invite your neighbors over so you can get to know them better. Let them know beforehand that you are not accepting housewarming gifts, and that you just want to host a social event with some refreshments so you can get to know your neighbors. As you get friendlier with your neighbors, you can start hosting dinners, game nights, and other get-togethers if you so desire.

3. Keep Your Home’s Exterior Tidy

Now that you are part of a community, you want to add to it, not diminish it in any way. Everyone in the neighborhood will appreciate you keeping your home’s exterior clean and neat. After all, you don’t want to be the one house on the block with knee-high grass and trash in the front yard.

4. Be Mindful of Your Pets

Pets can add beauty to a community or they can be a curse; it all depends on the pet owner. When walking your dog, make sure you keep them on a leash and always pick up after them. Make sure your dog doesn’t bark excessively when you’re not at home. Similarly, don’t let your cat roam the neighborhood. Remember, just because you love your pet doesn’t mean that everyone else will.

building communitybuilding community

5. Follow the Community’s Rules

If you live in a community that’s overseen by a homeowner’s association, then you will need to comply by the HOA’s set of rules. Make sure you look them over so you can get familiar with what is required of you. Breaking them will not only see you being fined, but your neighbors won’t take kindly to your lack of responsibility, as well.

6. Help Out

Being a helpful neighbor benefits both your neighbor and yourself. If you see someone struggling with groceries or attempting to do a two-person job alone, then offer your assistance. Your neighbor will appreciate the help, and you’ll feel great by providing it.

7. Keep an Eye on Their Home While They’re Away

Once a level of trust has developed between you and your neighbors, you can offer to watch their home for them in the event they go on vacation or leave the home for a period of time. From watering the plants to feeding the pets to just keeping an eye out for suspicious people, you will give your neighbors peace of mind, knowing that you have their best interest in mind.

8. Shovel Their Driveway

If you’re home from work on a cold and snowy day and the snow is starting to pile up, then after you are done shoveling your driveway, head over and do your neighbor’s. When they get home from work, they will be so appreciative because they won’t have to go back out in the cold to shovel, or at the very least, you’ll lighten their load.

building communitybuilding community

9. Be Respectful of Their Time

If you’re a talkative person, you should be careful you don’t take up too much of your neighbor’s time if you start talking to them. You don’t know what they have going on or what they need to do, and odds are they will be too polite to try and break the conversation. Be respectful and don’t hog your neighbor’s time or attention.

10. Discuss Any Issues Face-to-Face

It’s not always going to be heaven in your neighborhood. Issues or concerns can and will arise between neighbors. The important thing is that when they do come up, you should discuss them with your neighbor face-to-face. Don’t complain to other neighbors or via text or email. These are easy ways for your words to be misunderstood. Be respectful and try to work a solution out that benefits all parties.


Carson is a real estate agent based out of Phoenix, Arizona. Carson loves data and market research, and how readily available it is in today’s world. He is passionate about interpreting these insights to help his clients find and buy their perfect home. Carson got into the real estate industry because he loves the feeling of handing over the keys to a new home to happy clients. In his free time, he works on his backyard bonsai garden and spends time with his wife, Julia.

Source: homes.com

What is Gentrification and What Happens to Neighborhoods that are Gentrified?

Do you love the energetic pace of living in a city but find home prices out of reach? You might explore some of the gentrifying or up-and-coming neighborhoods in your metro area. Despite the bad rap that the word gets, we’ve taken a look at what the term really means and how it can be effective for cities and aspiring homeowners.

A busy corner filled with people waiting at a coffee shop.A busy corner filled with people waiting at a coffee shop.

What Is Gentrification?

Gentrification is one of the by-products of urban sprawl. You can think of it as an expansion to a city’s boundaries. Sometimes, it happens when developers buy industrial properties like warehouses, homes, and abandoned buildings, no longer in use, and gives them a makeover. There may also be empty lots for sale, which is typically not the case within a downtown core.

According to a Governing Magazine report, “gentrification particularly accelerated, though, in recent years as growing numbers of Americans opted to pursue urban lifestyles.”

Most Gentrified Cities in the U.S.

To figure out whether a specific zip code is gentrified, RentCafe conducted a study of the current real estate market. The study took into consideration changes (upward trends) over time based on three data points:

  • Median home value
  • Household income
  • Education (bachelor’s degree and above)

Of their top 20 most gentrified zip codes, 5 were located on the East Coast:

  1. Brooklyn, New York (11211, 11222,11216, 11237, and 11221)
  2. Manhattan, New York (10039 and 10026)
  3. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (19123 and 19146)
  4. Washington, DC (20001, 20021 and 20010)
  5. Baltimore, Maryland (21224)
Brownstone building in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn, New York City.Brownstone building in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn, New York City.

The top spot for most gentrified area went to Gallery Row-Fashion District in downtown Los Angeles. This area is undergoing a huge revitalization of mixed-use developments. This includes renovations to historical properties, an influx of hotels, and a huge transformation to the banks of the Los Angeles River.

In other words, an area that was once avoided is fast-becoming a magnate for all kinds of new tenants and with it, a home value change of 707 percent.

What to Expect When You Move to a Gentrified Neighborhood

Gentrified neighborhoods, as you might imagine are in transition. Often, you’ll find ‘work-in-progress” signs and construction projects underway. What else can you expect when you move to a gentrified neighborhood?

Investment Property

If you want to buy with an eye to the future, a gentrifying neighborhood, one that’s on an upswing, could be a smart investment. Investopedia reports that buying property in a gentrifying part of town can “result in a big windfall if the neighborhood does turn around and the property values increase.” This is also true if you can afford to buy an income property – one you’ll be renting out.

Crime

One study by MIT reports that “gentrification reduces crime rates and increases public safety in city neighborhoods.” Their analysis looked at the results of the rent de-control in Cambridge Massachusetts (circa 1995). They assert that modernizing run-down buildings may attract businesses like yoga studios and coffee shops while displacing some criminal activity. It’s still a bit ambiguous whether what they call “urban renaissance” actually improves public safety. But, if this worries you, there are resources to help you assess whether your neighborhood is safe.

Parking

If you’re a newcomer to city-living and you own a car (or two), you’ll need to factor in the cost of a parking space. Due in part to scarcity, expect to pay a premium in urban cores. Studies show that in Philadelphia, houses with garages typically sell for an average price that is 10.3% higher than houses without garages. One of the perks of buying in a gentrified neighborhood is lower purchase prices. As a result, you maybe able to get that allocated parking spot you always wanted but could not otherwise afford.

Public Transport

The buzz word “transit-induced gentrification” means that properties closer to transit hubs are more favorable to developers.  Young professionals do care about access to subways, light rail, bus rapid transit, pedestrian and bicycle paths. If you can live a little further out from work, avoid traffic and take public transit, this may be a huge perk of living in a gentrified area. Though, you’ll need to invest in street-wise shoes.

A city bus going down the street.A city bus going down the street.

Fun, Hip and Exciting

Practicality aside, it can be really fun to live in a neighborhood with start-up energy. And for current residents that have watched the revolution of their neighborhoods, the added revitalization can be viewed as a sigh of relief for homeowners that want to boost the value of their home, yet still enjoy their beloved stomping grounds. A recent study by Harvard used Yelp, Census, Federal Housing Finance Agency, and Streetscore data and found that “gentrifying neighborhoods tend to have growing numbers of local groceries, cafes, restaurants, and bars.” Does this sound like the lifestyle for you?


Rana Waxman parlays years of work experience in several fields into web content creation aligned with client needs. Rana’s versatile voice is supported by a zest for research, a passion for photography, and desire to provide clients with a purposeful presence online. In her non-writing hours, Rana is a happy yogini, constant walker, avid reader, and sometimes swimmer.

Source: homes.com

Understanding Walk Scores, Bike Scores, and Transit Scores When You’re Ready to Move

Looking for Help Finding a Home? Just How Livable Is the Neighborhood?

One of the many benefits of using Homes.com to find your home is the vast amount of data that we provide. Among this information, you’ll find such handy things as our walk scores, bike scores, and transit scores. But what do these scores mean, and how do you interpret them? Here are the basics.

understanding walkability scoresunderstanding walkability scores

Walk Scores

A home’s Walk Score is essentially the measurement of the neighborhood’s walkability. According to WalkScore.com, the methodology for this score “was developed with the Walk Score advisory board and has been validated by leading academic researchers.”

So what exactly is walkability? It is a measure of the number of amenities within a short walk of the address in question, as well as of pedestrian friendliness, which is determined through metrics like population density, intersection density, and block length.

How to Interpret Walk Scores

Again, via WalkScore.com, Walk Scores are determined on a scale of 0-100, with scores under 50 meaning car-dependent, with most errands requiring a car; between 50 and 69 being somewhat walkable, where some errands can be completed on foot; 70-89 being very walkable with most errands completable on foot; and 90-100 a walker’s paradise where no car is required for daily errands.

Bike Scores

If you’re a bike rider, lack of walkability won’t slow you down as long as there is good bike infrastructure in your location. An address’s Bike Score will provide you with just this information, using data from the U.S. Census, USGS, and other sources to determine whether an area is bike friendly or not.

understanding walkability scoresunderstanding walkability scores

How to Interpret Bike Scores

Bike Scores follow a very simple 0-100 rating system, where a score under 50 indicates minimal bike infrastructure; scores between 50 and 69 indicate a bikeable area with some bike infrastructure; 70-89 is a very bikeable area where you can bike for almost anything; and 90-100 is a biker’s paradise where you can accomplish virtually all daily errands via bike.

Transit Scores

If you can’t walk somewhere and don’t have access to a car or bike, you need to know if there’s public transit nearby; that’s where the Transit Score comes in. This is a measure of how well the address is served by local public transportation.

You can find public transport options just about anywhere in the world where they exist with the Walk Score® transit map. Transit Scores are based on public transit agency data, and are a combination of the usefulness of all nearby public transit routes, defined as the type of route, frequency of availability, and distance from the address.

How to Interpret Transit Scores

Transit Scores follow a similar scale to the other two scores, where 0-24 means there are minimal transit options; 25-49 indicates a few nearby public transit options; 50-69 implies good transit with a variety of public transportation options; 70-89 is excellent transit, meaning for most trips, there is a convenient transit option; and 90-100 is a rider’s paradise, with the best possible public transportation options easily available from your location.

understanding walkability scoresunderstanding walkability scores

Learn More About Finding Your Ideal Home With Homes.com

Homes.com is your full-service source of information and guidance when it comes to buying, selling, renovating, or renting your next home. For more useful facts about homeownership, visit the Homes.com blog today.


Carson is a real estate agent based out of Phoenix, Arizona. Carson loves data and market research, and how readily available it is in today’s world. He is passionate about interpreting these insights to help his clients find and buy their perfect home. Carson got into the real estate industry because he loves the feeling of handing over the keys to a new home to happy clients. In his free time, he works on his backyard bonsai garden and spends time with his wife, Julia.

Source: homes.com

When Does a Condo Make More Sense as a Starter Home?

The Pros and Cons of Making a Condo Your First Purchased Home

The thought of buying a single-family house can be overwhelming for someone who has never purchased a home before. After all, there are so many responsibilities included, and the expenses can sometimes be more than expected.

Meanwhile, renting an apartment means the money you are paying in rent isn’t working for you, but rather your landlord. For many, purchasing a condominium offers the best of both worlds. But, does buying a condo actually make sense when you’re looking to buy a starter home? Here are the pros and cons of making a condo your starter home.

buying a condobuying a condo

Pros of Buying a Condo for Your Starter Home

A condo is partly like a home and partly like an apartment. You can purchase a condo outright like a home, but you live in a multi-unit building, like an apartment. For some people, buying a condo as their first home has advantages. These can include:

Fewer Responsibilities – When you own a home, you are responsible for absolutely everything. With a condo, you have substantially fewer responsibilities. For instance, you won’t have to worry about mowing the lawn, raking leaves, or shoveling snow. Everything pertaining to the exterior of the building is the responsibility of the condo association that manages your community.

More Affordable – Traditionally, a condominium is going to be more affordable than purchasing a single-family home. Of course, there are exorbitantly priced condos out there as well, but for the most part, the average condo tends to be cheaper to buy. Because the living space is considerably smaller than a single-family home, the expenses of owning a condo, such as heating and cooling, tend to be smaller, too.

A Community Setting – In a condo, you live in a community and for some, this sense of community is wonderful. Condo communities often hold gatherings and events where you can meet the neighbors and make new friends. On the other hand, this tends to only happen in the very closest of neighborhoods, where the residents have all lived in the same homes for many years.

A Condo Prepares You for Owning a Home – If you don’t want the pressure of owning a home from the start, then buying a condo will help you prepare for home ownership when you’re ready for it. You’ll learn how to manage your money better, you’ll learn how to care for your living spaces, and you’ll learn what you really need to live the life you want.

buying a condobuying a condo

Cons of Buying a Condo for Your Starter Home

Buying a condo, just as with buying anything substantial, isn’t always guaranteed to be a dream. In fact, there are several reasons why buying a condo for your first home might not be the best thing for you. Here are some of the common reasons why some condo owners regret their decisions.

Inefficient Condo Association – Before purchasing a condo, you need to find out as much as you can about the condo association that manages it. The last thing you want to have happen is to buy your condo, only then to find out that the condo association does a terrible job of maintaining the grounds, roads, and sidewalks.

Condo Association Fees – In exchange for you not having to worry about doing any outside work, you’ll be paying a monthly fee to the condo association. Depending on the community, this fee can range anywhere from $100 to $1,000 and in smaller communities, the association’s services will suffer if more than a couple of people struggle to pay their dues.

Bad Neighbors – You can’t pick your neighbors. You can have bad neighbors living in a residential neighborhood, too, but in a condo community, sometimes those neighbors live right on the other side of the wall.

Harder to Sell – If you’re buying a condo as a starter home, then you should know that selling a condo can be more of a challenge than selling a home. You might find yourself living in your condo for longer than you intended, or you might have to face paying two mortgages until the condo sells.

buying a condobuying a condo

Looking for the Perfect Condo or Home? Find It at Homes.com

Whether you choose a condo over a house as your starter home all depends on what you want from your first home purchase. Check the listings on Homes.com to see what types of condos are available in your area and compare them against the available homes. Consider everything before making your final decision.

By understanding the pros and cons of buying a condo and doing your own research, you’ll be able to make the most informed decision you can. After all, you only get one chance to buy a starter home.


Carson is a real estate agent based out of Phoenix, Arizona. Carson loves data and market research, and how readily available it is in today’s world. He is passionate about interpreting these insights to help his clients find and buy their perfect home. Carson got into the real estate industry because he loves the feeling of handing over the keys to a new home to happy clients. In his free time, he works on his backyard bonsai garden and spends time with his wife, Julia.

Source: homes.com

How the Government Shutdown Impacts Mortgage Loans

Compared to some federal government functions, the government shutdown that began on December 22, 2018, is having relatively minor effects on services that are essential to homebuyers, sellers, and homeowners. However, the longer the shutdown continues, the more significant the impact will be upon consumers because backlogs may develop, since skeleton staffs are keeping critical functions operating in HUD, FEMA, and other agencies. Also, as time passes, funding may run out and even minimal staffs will have to be shut down.

What’s Closed

  • Reverse mortgages. Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM) are backed by FHA and are not being processed during the shutdown because the appropriations funding these loans are capped.
  • Title 1 loans (including 203k loans). These are fixed-rate loans used for home improvements, repairs, and rehab that are insured by FHA. As with HECMs, the amount that can be spent to ensure these loans are capped annually.
  • USDA Rural Development mortgages (Section 502, 503, 504). Direct and indirect low down payment mortgages for rural residents financed by the US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Service is not being processed. Borrowers are not able to secure loans, make loan payments, or reamortize loans.
  • Social Security verification. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac require lenders verify Social Security numbers before closing. The Social Security Administrations is shut down, and SS numbers cannot be processed during the shutdown, Fannie and Freddie have temporarily revised their policies to allow lenders more time for validation.
  • Housing statistics. Housing data and all other housing research will not be available during the shutdown. The Q4 2018 Homeownership report due January 29 and the January new homes starts release due January 17 may be postponed.

What’s Backlogged

  • IRS transcripts for verification. Lenders verify mortgage applicants’ income with the IRS. Borrowers must sign a release allowing the lender to obtain a transcript of their tax returns. Usually, this is included with the closing documents but can be added later Shen the shutdown began on December 22; the IRS stopped verifying returns. Under industry pressure, verification resumed on January 4.
  • FEMA flood insurance. On December 26, FEMA announced it would not process applications for flood insurance during the shutdown. It changed its mind two days later in response to an uproar in the housing industry. For more information refer to the flood insurance policies and FEMA Reversal.
  • FHA Applications. HUD will process new loans during the shutdown (except for Title 12 and 203k rehab loans cited above). However, HUD is working with a skeleton staff and cannot process loans that require assessment by an FHA underwriter or other intervention by FHA personnel.

What’s Open

  • VA Loans. The Veterans Administration and all its programs, including VA home loans, were fully funded under appropriations legislation that was passed by Congress earlier in 2018 and is not subject to the shutdown.
  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These are not government agencies and are not funded by Congress. Though the shutdown impacts some of their policies, both Fannie and Freddie are open for business.
  • HUD. In addition to FHA, HUD will continue to make Section 8 housing voucher payments, which assist low-income families.

Summary: The Shutdown Is Having Little Impact on Real Estate

On January 7, the National Association of Realtors conducted an online survey of its members and found that only about 11 percent are reporting any problems affecting their businesses from the shutdown.

NAR’s online survey of its members had 2,211 usable responses. Seventy-five percent reported no impact to their contract signings or closings. However, 11 percent did report problems affecting current clients and 11 percent impacting potential ones. Those respondents were asked for further details and could give more than one response.

The most common impact, noted in 25 percent of responses, came from non-government employee clients who decided not to buy due to general economic uncertainty. Some 9 percent of Realtors reported federal employees also were not ready to buy. Six percent of respondents had a seller who could not sell because of their employment. Three percent had a buyer who received a lender rejection because they were either a federal employee or a contractor furloughed by the shutdown and another three percent had a federal contractor employee who decided not to buy because of lost income.

Lender delays were another reported problem, and 17 percent reported that this occurred with a USDA loan, 9 percent with an FHA loan and 6 percent a VA loan. In addition, 13 percent said they had encountered problems due to a lack of an IRS income verification. There were also bids lost due to the type of buyer financing; 6 percent because the buyer was using an FHA loan, 4 percent because of a USDA loan, and 3 percent due to a VA loan.

Read on to find out how the government shutdown could stop rental subsidies to low income and the elderly.


Steve Cook is the editor of the Down Payment Report. He is a member of the board of the National Association of Real Estate Editors and writes for several leading Web sites, including Inman News. From 1999 to 2007 he was vice president for public affairs at the National Association of Realtors.

Source: homes.com

What Could Tempt You To Buy a New Home?

Is the flipping of the calendar to a new year a catalyst to propel you towards one of the biggest changes of all, moving?

What exactly could tempt you to buy a new home? Do you need more room, desire a better view, a better school district, a shorter commute or perhaps a new adventure? Or, are you looking to down-size, simplify… or simply to start over?

While I don’t plan to move, I am always intrigued by what’s on the market in my area. I love to keep my finger on the pulse of current home prices, on what homes are available… and maybe to daydream a little, too. I am definitely a home lover, and I get equally excited about all sorts of home scenarios, from turnkey to gut and remodel.

I live on the Southern Oregon Coast in the Coos Bay/North Bend area, and I’m sure like most of you, I’ve got my list of “must-haves” when shopping for a new home.

Before you even begin looking I think it’s of the utmost importance to have a must-have list of at least the minimum amenities any future home would need to have. It’s smart to know what your expectations are ahead of time. Do you like to shop well under-budget so you can make substantial changes after the close of the sale, or do you need a turnkey home that will be completely move-in ready?

To inspire me to move, a house would need to be pretty special, and my budget pretty substantial. Our home must-haves would be a 3 bedroom/2 bath, with at least 2000 square feet, and a garage. I’m not going to include a shop because it makes the search too narrow. Hence, why we built our own here on our property.

But it’s fun to pretend, and when I started my house hunt I did so by popping our current zip code in the search bar. It shared all the new listings with me, I scrolled through those and then I hit “more homes” and started plugging in all my must-haves, which will keep your search really drilled down for you. This function can help you can stay on point as you scroll through the listings, and I can imagine that it would be most helpful for the budget portion of the search.

I, however, decided to completely forgo reality and search without a budget.

The first home I found to share with you is a 3 bedroom, 2 bath with a 2,100 square foot floor plan. It’s listed for $489, 000.

We’ll call this the Garfield House. It’s brand new and move-in ready. The Garfield House is a beautiful custom built home with an attached two car garage.

The Garfield Home

The kitchen features black hickory cabinets and white ice granite, an open layout and trayed ceilings. And while the kitchen is well appointed and beautifully laid out, I tend to prefer a different aesthetic. Though I can appreciate the beauty & quality of this one, as well as the window at the kitchen sink — that is always a nice feature to have.

Interior of spacious kitchen.Interior of spacious kitchen.

The master bath has a glass & tile shower and a large soaker tub! This home meets my must-haves as far as bed and bath requirements, and I have to admit, it would be nice to have a one-story home. Whoever ends up calling this custom built house their home will be lucky!

Gallery images of a modern bathroom.Gallery images of a modern bathroom.

The Glasgow House

Home number two boasts 5 bedrooms, 4 baths and 4,758 square feet. The listing price is $949,000.

The Glasgow House sits on over two acres and was constructed by one of the premier home builders in the area. There is currently a sale pending.

The setting of this home is quintessential Oregon Coast, with the heavily forested area and close water proximity. Being mindful of not having the trees too close in to the house is very wise, as they are very hard on a roof — and with our storms, it’s best not to test Mother Nature. The Glasgow House is a custom built Craftsman Lodge. The secluded location, within 5 minutes drive to town is definitely a nice-to-have feature.

And while the interior finishes aren’t quite to my taste. I could most definitely manage to make do. It has lovely features, like an iron-railed catwalk that lets the light spill into the home, a gourmet kitchen, a spa bath with jetted tub and a sumptuous walk-in shower that would be so nice to have, this one is seriously tempting. I’m sure a little creamy white paint could brighten it right up and make it feel like my kind of home.

It even has attached RV parking, a very coveted feature. The grounds are also wonderfully landscaped and the expansive decks provide the perfect place for a hot tub with a view!

 The Isabelle House

Our third residence is a 3 bedroom, 3.5 bath waterfront home with 4,798 square feet. It is currently listed for $1,020,000.

The Isabelle House was built in 1924. I will admit I may have squealed a wee bit when I saw it was for sale, just for the opportunity to get to peek inside! I’ve driven by and gazed longingly at this house on many occasions.

From the street side, you are greeted by a charming, low-slung brick wall and an iron gate that spans across the single car, hedge-lined drive. She absolutely oozes grace and curb appeal.

Five years shy of turning 100, she is, without a doubt, my favorite home for sale in the entire city. This home doesn’t have a white kitchen, and wait until you see the pink bathroom… but as with any home hunt, sometimes they just speak to you and none of that matters. And this one whispers to you about how special she is.

From the waterfront side, you’ll see a brick path leading to the front of the home and the proper entry.

The formal entryway is light-filled, bright and welcoming. The front door looks to have the original hardware, and I’d bet the floors are original as well.

This fabulous home has both a formal living room and a more relaxed family room. Both take in the sweeping bay views, and each features stunning fireplaces.

The wood ceiling in the family room is incredible and adds a warmth to the space that I’m sure is extra cozy when watching storms roll in through those picture windows! And the brass ships lanterns flanking the fireplace mantel give a nod to the home’s coastal location and deep nautical roots. Not shown, delicately patterned leaded glass windows.

As you can see, the kitchen has a beautiful beamed ceiling feature, a wall of three large windows over the sink (always a great plus for the dishwasher in the family) and counter prep area, appliances to please the most discerning chef, as well as a dumbwaiter. Now wouldn’t that be a nice feature to have!  I can just spy that gorgeous family room ceiling around the corner to the left, a perfect location so close to the kitchen. The home also has a lovely formal dining room just on the other side of the stove and oven wall.

There is much more to the home, including a huge den with a built-in media center and wet bar. The outdoor entertaining area and the breathtaking views aren’t bad either.

I wasn’t even thinking about moving before, and now I suddenly wish I had an extra million dollars lying around. Houses just get under my skin. Isabelle wants me to come take care of her, I just know it. And I promise I would even paint the kitchen white. But I would have to give that pink bathroom an update. You’ve got to take the virtual tour. It will give you a real sense of the property and all the grounds. If you do, at the very end you’ll see one of the other most-amazing-houses in North Bend Oregon. It’s a million dollar location, that’s for sure!

Did You Have a Favorite Home out of the Three?

What are your must-haves in a home? And when you run into something that makes you think, hmm… that would be nice to have, do you feel like it influences your final choice? I was thrilled with the photo-filled listings and the clean, easy to navigate site at homes.com. It sure made searching much more enjoyable and detail-filled. The video tours are definitely a bonus. If you were searching for a home in another state, they would be an extra amazing tool to help in the decision-making process.

Do you have a favorite home of the three? If so, cast your vote in the comments section for a chance to win a $100 VISA gift card! Best of luck!


Shannon Fox lives in a coastal town in the Pacific Northwest, where she cherishes the short, but magnificent summer season. She writes full time at foxhollowcottage.com where she shares her love of everything home with an audience she affectionately calls her “Foxy Friends”. With the help of her handy husband, Shannon keeps busy bringing their 1929 cottage bungalow and guest house back to life with lots of simple DIY and beginner-friendly projects. And while she doesn’t consider herself an expert in anything particular, she makes up for it with passion, a can-do attitude, and the belief that as long as you are happy and content with your home choices, you’ve made the right ones! Shannon is a voracious reader, doesn’t follow trends or a carb-free diet, and loves her vintage, junk hunted treasures most of all. Over the years Shannon has partnered with brands like Better Homes & Gardens, HomeGoods, and World Market, and has traveled to tour and cover both DIY Network Ultimate Retreats and HGTV Dream Homes.

Source: homes.com