Is This Really the End of ‘Flip or Flop’—and Tarek and Christina El Moussa?

What a crazy year it’s been for soon-to-be-divorced house flippers Tarek and Christina El Moussa: Between all the fighting and infidelities, it’s a miracle they didn’t cry, shout, or pout a whole lot more on camera (although we heard plenty of that was happening behind the scenes). But at long last, they’ve made it to the finish line. The “Flip or Flop” finale is upon us, and with no word on whether HGTV will continue the series, this might be the last time we see them on air together. Ever!

Although it must be an utter relief to Tarek and Christina that they don’t have to fake-smile at each other all day, we have to admit that for all their foibles, this house-flipping duo is riveting to watch. So, we clung to every last shot of this particular show, ironically titled “Beaming With Potential,” which kicks off with a doozy plot twist:

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Tarek gets caught in a lie.

Here’s how it goes down: Tarek walks into a nail salon where Christina and their daughter, Taylor, are getting mani-pedis. All is fine until his daughter invites him to get a pedicure, too. Tarek feigns being freaked out.

“This is more stressful than flipping houses!” he says as he gingerly sits down and puts his feet in the water. That’s when he gets caught.

“You want the same thing you had last time?” asks the nail technician as she begins to scrub his feet.

While Christina and Taylor gleefully crack up, knowing full well Daddy’s been busted, Tarek sputters, “No, there is no last time. … This is the first time!”

Yeah right, Tarek.

Once their tootsies have been buffed and polished to perfection, Tarek and Christina turn to business—and, as always, teach us tons about house flipping in the process. Behold these final few lessons from the finale of “Flip or Flop.” Godspeed, El Moussas!

Lesson No. 1: Even the homeliest homes can be flipped

Tarek wants to buy a four-bedroom ranch in Cypress, CA, for $425,000. At first Christina isn’t into it, describing the place as “the worst I’ve ever seen.”

We have to agree with her. You can almost smell the stench through the smart TV when Christina wrinkles her perfectly pert nose and cries, “Honestly, it smells like 5,000-year-old milk!”

She further exclaims, “There’s spiderwebs, there’s fur, there’s poo! I don’t even know what happened in there. This is a disaster!”

Still, they decide to take it on, so clearly they see something beyond this ugly exterior.

Lesson No. 2: Never mess with the structural integrity of a house

At first, this flipping team is encouraged by the presence of a “pony wall,” or half-wall, separating the kitchen from the family room, and it seems like it would be easy to open up the room by simply knocking through. Then the contractor notices that the ceiling above the pony wall is sagging. Further investigations reveal that the previous owners had removed a load-bearing stud, which means the ceiling could collapse at any time.

At this point, they have two options: Build a pillar in the middle of the room, or run a support beam across the ceiling. Christina persuades Tarek to do the latter. Sure, it costs them thousands of dollars they hadn’t planned on spending, but it beats getting buried in rubble.

Lesson No. 3: There’s always a way to create more space

The house is only 1,200 square feet, so there’s not much room for expansion. But hey, where there’s a will, there’s a way, right? This time, Christina and Tarek find a way to augment the cabinet space by closing off two unnecessary doors—one to the master bedroom, and one to the backyard. After all, both the backyard and master bed have other ways to get in and out, so why have two avenues when one will suffice?

Lesson No 4: Pests are gross. Period.

One of the bedrooms is paneled—and, once the panels are torn off, reveals something that makes Christina scream, “It looks like a horror movie! That is so disgusting! What is it?”

“It’s a whole termite colony,” explains the contractor. Yep, termites have created a “city” behind the paneling that looks like a flesh-eating virus has invaded the drywall. Thankfully, though, further digging reveals that these pests haven’t eaten all the way down to the studs. That’s their one stroke of luck in a whole hot mess of bad, from calling in an exterminator to overhauling the drywall.

How’d it go?

In the end, since comps in the neighborhood hover around $600,000 and Tarek and Christina have already spent $560,000, they decide to list the house for $629,900. But after a few weeks on the market with no offers, they lower the price to $619,000 and get an offer. After adding closing costs, they make just over $60,000 on the deal.

So Tarek and Christina finish “Flip or Flop” on a victorious note, at least from a business standpoint. Still, though, we can’t help but wonder what lies ahead for this couple. Will we ever see them again?

Although the future is uncertain, rumor has it that Christina is lobbying for her own spinoff. Meanwhile, HGTV has announced it’s developing new versions of “Flip or Flop” in Las Vegas; Atlanta; Fort Worth, TX; Nashville; and Chicago. The Las Vegas version will premier April 7. Rest assured, we will be assessing how these new shows compare with the original.

Still, we have to say it will be hard to replace Tarek and Christina El Moussa. We miss them already.


Moving With Kids: What Did They Love, Hate, And Learn?

Deciding to move is exciting, but the actual moving part can be downright tough. You try to plan for everything while juggling the process of settling into the new place. But, when you’re moving with kids, it’s a different challenge altogether! Not only are you tasked with helping them understand why they’re moving to a new place, they need help adjusting once you’re all there.

When we first decided to move, our youngest wasn’t on board, but our oldest was. It took a lot of discussion, but eventually everyone was excited for this new chapter. It’s been a month and a half since we moved, so I decided to sit down with my two kiddos, Kennedy (age 14) and Kelsey (age 13), to get their perspective on all things moving and the new house. 

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Kennedy and Kelsey sit down to give their own perspective on moving.

“What was your most favorite part of moving?”

Kennedy: “I love my new room!”
Kelsey: “We didn’t have a bathtub in our last house, so being able to take baths and use bath bombs is fun.”
Me: “Finally getting into the home we’ve been building for the past 6 months. In my head I’ve been planning things out, but it was finally time to make this house our home.”

TIP: When moving with kids, a great way to ease the transition is to celebrate any new home features that maybe you didn’t have before. In our case, we surprised the girls with bath gifts to celebrate having a new bathroom! It’s a small gesture, but can really help if they’re struggling to feel at ease. 

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To celebrate having a new bathroom, we surprised the girls with bath bombs and nail polish.

“What was the most stressful part of moving?” 

Kennedy: Figuring out which box I put my stuff in because I wasn’t very specific with my labeling.
Kelsey: Unpacking took FOREVER.
Me: Coordinating between all the deliveries and different companies who came to the house the first couple days. After that, getting unpacked and still enjoying the new neighborhood, it was definitely a balance.”

TIP: Moving with kids can be another level of stress not only for you, but for them. Having a smart, well-communicated moving plan and organized system in place can help minimize moving anxiety. 

(READ MORE: 5 Stress-Free Tips to Settle Into Your New Home Build!)

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“How have you made your new room feel like home?”

Kennedy: I’m redecorating my room the way that I want and what makes me happy.
Kelsey: I’m being more intentional with my room décor and only keeping things that I really like.
Mom: Even though I’m a DIY/ home décor blogger, I’m letting the girls take full control on their rooms. I haven’t decided if I’m even going to share their rooms on social media out of respect for their privacy. They’re getting older and privacy is a big thing right now.

“What do you wish you’d done to make the moving process easier?”

Kennedy: I should have labeled my boxes better.
Kelsey: I shouldn’t have dumped all my boxes out at once; I should have unpacked them one at a time.
Me: We didn’t have the wire racks put in the closets and wanted to do built ins instead. We should have installed the build-in closet system prior to moving. 

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Kelsey learned the hard way that dumping all the boxes at once wasn’t a good idea.

“What do you feel you need in the new environment? What are your concerns?”

Kennedy: Having everything in place and set up before we go back to school.
Kelsey: Making new friends in the neighborhood.
Mom: I want the girls to get adjusted to being in new schools and hopefully making new friends. We live in a great neighborhood, but they’re both in new schools this year and I want them to not feel so isolated like they did last year.

“What were you most thankful for during the moving process?”

Kennedy: The weather wasn’t too hot and we have a lot more room in our new house to move around.
Kelsey: I feel safer now that we live in a gated community.
Mom: The girls were able to go paddle board on the lake and go to the pool while we did the boring unpacking stuff. It’s great that they had that option and we felt safe letting them go do those things on their own. 

One of the perks of the new house is having a little lake behind the house for the girls to paddle board.

Always Remember to Check In and Show Gratitude

I loved sitting down and hearing what the girls had to say about moving and getting settled. Prior to moving, we all talked about packing, labeling, and unpacking — but in true teenager fashion, they didn’t quite listen. Now, they know firsthand why those plans were in place, and it gave us an opportunity to talk about what they’d learned and would do differently in the future. So take note, moving with kids can create some teachable moments!

Still, I give huge kudos to these two because they have been a tremendous help. Between loading the moving truck, unpacking, helping with the dogs, and countless other things, we were able to have a pretty successful move. Now that we’re almost two months into our new home, the move doesn’t seem that bad and now we can focus on making new memories as a family. 

Questions About Building a New Home?

If you’re considering a new home build, check out’s “How to Build” guide, a comprehensive look at the process from start to finish. From financing to finishing touches, it’s your one-stop resource for all your home building questions!

Brooke has a lifestyle blog called Cribbs Style and currently lives in Charleston, SC. This wife, mom of two almost tweens, and mom of three fur children enjoys all things DIY and organizing. When she’s not helping others tackle the chaos of life, she’s either working out, at the beach, or just enjoying time with family and friends.


When You Should and Shouldn’t Purchase Mortgage Points

When buying a home, there seems to be a ton of jargon to sort through and an endless sea of decisions to make, especially if you’re wanting to finance the purchase with a loan. Depending on your situation, lenders and real estate agents may suggest buying discount points during the homebuying process. But, what is a “point,” and what does it mean to buy one? If you aren’t sure, you’re not alone. While they’re not a solution for every financing scenario, understanding mortgage points may actually save you thousands of dollars over the life of a loan!

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What Are Mortgage Points?

Mortgage points, sometimes also referred to as “discount points” are fees you pay to your lender in exchange for a lower mortgage interest rate. Essentially, you’re paying more upfront to pay less over time.

While the name uses the term “points,” it’s easier to think of mortgage points as “discount percentages.” The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau explains that each point equals one percent of your loan amount. For example, if your loan amount is $200,000, then one point would equal $2,000, two points would be $4,000, etc. Typically, purchasing a point will lower your interest rate by a quarter of a percent; so, if your $200,000 loan is approved at a 4.5% rate, paying $2,000 upfront could lower your interest rate to 4.25%. Most lenders will also allow you to purchase fractions of points if you desire.

It’s important to note that mortgage points are paid in addition to closing costs and are out-of-pocket expenses for the buyer.

When Should You Purchase Mortgage Points?

While not every buyer can (or should) purchase mortgage points, they are a great solution for many buyers depending on what future plans are. Buyers who intend to stay with the initial loan long term (i.e., won’t be refinancing or selling) could benefit greatly from purchasing them, because they will remain in the loan long enough to recoup the upfront costs of purchasing those points, and save money over the life of their loan.

For example, in the current market, it’s expected that mortgage rates will start to rise by year’s end, and may continue to rise for quite some time. In this case, most homeowners won’t opt to refinance (after all, who wants to refinance into a higher interest rate?), which makes getting the best rate on a loan now and sticking with it long term the more ideal scenario.

When Should You Avoid Purchasing Mortgage Points?

Having a lower interest rate sounds appealing, but purchasing mortgage points may not be the best course of action for everyone. Depending on your loan and unique situation, it could be years before you recoup the costs of purchasing loan points. In fact, depending on the amount of mortgage points purchased, it could take the entire life of the loan to break even on the out-of-pocket expense of the discount points. Plus, if mortgage rates fall and you decide to refinance, any money paid for points on the original loan would become a wasted expense.

The Mortgage Reports cautions, “Paying a fee to lower your mortgage rates might make sense over a 5- or 10- or 30-year time window. But, if you plan to move within a few years; or refinance your loan, you’ll likely never recoup your initial investment.”

In short, if you only plan to live in the home for a few years, buying mortgage points won’t be a worthy expense because you won’t be in the loan long enough to reap the benefits. A better alternative could be to use those funds for a higher down payment.

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What About Other Mortgage Costs?

Another consideration: lenders require private mortgage insurance (PMI) if the down payment is less than 20% of the purchase price. PMI expenses vary from lender to lender, but tend to range from 0.5 to 1.5% of the original loan amount. Using our $200,000 example, that would tack on an additional $1,000 to $3,000 each year until a loan-to-value ratio of 80% is reached.

In this scenario, increasing your down payment instead of paying for points could be the more ideal solution, because it will get you closer to reaching the 80% loan-to-value ratio required to cancel PMI. On that $200,000 loan, increasing your down payment from 5% to 10% would not only reduce your principle (in other words, your money would go straight to the loan instead of the bank), it could also reduce the length of time you have to make PMI payments by almost two years, thus saving you more money.

Mortgage Points are Specific to the Individual

To know if purchasing mortgage points is the best option for you, it’s important to consult your lender to calculate the savings versus cost for your specific situation. An experienced lender will be able to weigh the options of a larger down payment versus paying for discount points, and also help navigate more complex scenarios such as loans for investment properties. In the meantime, if you’re looking for more insights into the mortgage process, visit the Mortgage Hub.

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.


How to Protect Yourself From a Mechanics Lien

Every homeowner who’s considering hiring a contractor to do some work in or around their house should make sure they’re familiar with their state’s mechanics lien laws before making a decision. Never heard of a mechanics lien? You’re not alone. Let’s uncover what it is and why you should protect yourself from it.

Think Twice About Not Paying

If you wind up having a beef with the contractor you employ for builds or repairs – poor workmanship, perhaps, or maybe they walked off the job before it was completed or failed to finish the work in a timely manner as promised – and you decide not to pay, that contractor can respond by attaching your house to a legal claim for unpaid work until some kind of settlement is reached.
That could turn into a waiting game if you are not considering selling your home. But, if you intend to put your home on the market in the near future, that lien could stop you in your tracks.
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What EXACTLY is a Mechanics Lien?

Sometimes known as a materialmans lien, every state has a a mechanics lien law granting tradespeople a way to protect themselves from those who fail to pay them for services and time rendered.
Here’s how Rusty Adams, a research attorney for the Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M University, described it in a recent edition of Terra Grande, the Center’s monthly magazine:
“It is an equitable interest that gives its holder the right to have satisfaction out of the property to secure payment on a debt. It is not title to the property, and a lien holder does not have ownership rights. Rather, it is an equitable interest that gives the lien holder the right to have satisfaction out of the property to secure the payment of a debt.”
In other words, it is an encumbrance the property owner must deal with, one way or another. Otherwise, it could result in a foreclosure and forced sale of your house.

How Mechanics Liens Work

None of what follows should be considered legal advice. Rather, it is intended only as a brief, mile-high overview.
A mechanics lien can be filed by anyone with a claim against the property. This concept isn’t new; for example, Uncle Sam can place a lien if you fail to pay your taxes, as can your state. Your homeowners association can do the same if you don’t pay your dues or a special assessment.
In the case of work done to your house, the contractor can file if you fail to pay, even if you feel you’re justified in withholding. The company from which he or she gets their supplies – roof shingles, for instance – can also file against your house if the contractor doesn’t pay them. And if the contractor uses subcontractors, they, too, can go against the house if the contractor doesn’t pay them.
The “very broad” law in Maryland “covers almost everything,” attorney Harvey Jacobs says. For example, if the developer doesn’t pay the paving company hired to cover your cul-de-sac, the company can file a mechanics lien against every house that touches that street. Ditto for the outfit hired to landscape, sod and plant shrubs.
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How to Protect Against Mechanics Liens

Fortunately, lien laws afford owners some protections. In some places, the amount owed must be of at least a certain amount. They also must be filed within a certain number of days from when the work was completed, and may require the property owner to be notified within a specified time that a lien has been filed.
The rules, which also apply to subs and suppliers, can be somewhat tricky for an owner to decipher. But the absolute best way to protect yourself is to require the contractor to provide lien releases before you pay anything more than your down payment. In other words, no draws or final payment until he or she certifies that everyone in the chain has been paid.
Often, says Texas attorney Adams, a notice of intent to file or the actual filing is enough to resolve the debt attached to the property without going through the process itself.
Once payment has been received, a contractor has a duty to remove the notice or the lien itself from public records. Failure to do so allows the property owner to file a lawsuit against the contractor to compel the lien’s removal. But to avoid that, Adams suggests making sure the release has been recorded.

(READ MORE: The Difference Between a Handyman and a Contractor)

Some Important Distinctions

A lien release is not the same as a lien waiver. Nor is it the same as a lis pendens. While a release removes an existing lien, a waiver is an agreement that prohibits a contractor or supplier from placing a lien on the property. But some states don’t permit waivers at all.
A lis pendens, which is Latin for “suit pending,” is a written notice that a lawsuit has been filed in the county land records office involving either the title to the property or a claimed ownership interest in it. The notice alerts a potential purchaser or lender that the property’s title is in question, making it less attractive, if only because the buyer or lender is subject to the suit’s ultimate outcome.
Beyond this, it is crucial for a homeowner to ensure the contractor, subcontractor or supplier has followed the rules of the road.  In Texas, said Adams, the claimant must give the appropriate preliminary notices, make the proper filing and give filing notice to the property owner.
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In Maryland, the unpaid amount must be at least 15% of the property’s assessed value. So if the house is assessed at $100,000, the lien must be for $15,000 or more. “Small jobs don’t count,” Jacobs said. Contractors must also file a lien within 180 days of performing the work in Maryland, but subs must file within 120 days.
In neighboring D.C., though, there is no minimum to file, and the contractor, supplier or sub has only 90 days to file.
(Note: In the case of mechanics liens, property value is an evidentiary question. Courts often use assessed value in deciding whether a lien can be brought.)
In Texas, though, contractors aren’t required to provide a preliminary notice, but they are required to present a list of all subs and suppliers before starting work. But subs and suppliers who have a contract with the original contractor must send notices to both the contractor and the homeowner by the 15th day of the second month.
As you can see, once you get into the tall grass with mechanics liens, it becomes fairly complicated. It’s at this point that it may be time to consult legal counsel.

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.


Cities with the Most Mobile Homes

When they peaked in popularity during the early 1930s, mobile homes were once considered a thing of the future — but now they seem to be a thing of the past to many people. Despite their decline in popularity, these styles are still a cheaper alternative to a traditional home. Some communities across the nation still honor the antiquity of the mobile home, and today, they can be customized to fit the needs of any family size and can feature just about all the amenities that a traditional abode offers. Here are some cities with the most mobile homes.

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21.5 percent of homes in Lakeland, Florida are mobile. Located in the Tampa Bay region, this Polk County city is the largest between Tampa and Orlando. True to its name, Lakeland mostly comprised of lakes — and some land. With so much space, it’s the perfect place to have a lot to put a mobile home on. Lakeland has over 30 mobile home parks for those looking to settle in one.

McAllen is a small Texan town that has a large percentage of mobile homes – 14.6 to be exact. According to data by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), An estimated 58 percent of all renter households live in single-family homes, duplexes, or mobile homes. The average price for a mobile home in McAllen in 2016 was just over $36,000, making it an affordable alternative to traditional houses. Columbia, South Carolina, the state’s capital, has a mobile home stock of 13 percent. According to data, South Carolina has the most mobile homes per capita than any other state. 12.8 percent of homes in Augusta, Georgia, located close to the South Carolina border, are also mobile homes. The Palmetto State actually makes our list twice, with a mobile home housing stock at 12.6 percent in Greenville, South Carolina.

Mobile Home Advantages

  • Mobile homes are generally more affordable than traditional homes
  • Renters living in a mobile home park usually have a lower rent than what traditional renters pay.
  • Mobile homes are often more energy efficient than traditional homes.
  • Mobile home parks can be situated in nice communities depending on the city.

Mobile Home Disadvantages

  • Mobile homes can often be harder to sell than a traditional home.
  • The cost of moving a mobile home, particularly if it is older, could cost more than what the home is worth.
  • In the event of a major storm, mobile homes aren’t as safe as traditional homes.
  • Mobile home living has been stigmatized by movies and TV shows.

Mobile Home Safety

Read on for more reasons to make your next home a mobile home.

Mahogany is a Content Marketing Coordinator for In her spare time, Mahogany enjoys reading, writing poetry, blogging, traveling, and loves a good southern idiom. Mahogany is also a certified Reiki practitioner and enjoys all things supernatural.


How to Decide Your Offer Price in a Strong Seller’s Market

As a buyer in this intense seller’s market, you may have experienced this unfortunate scenario: You find the perfect house, make what you believe is a strong offer, wait on pins and needles to see if it was accepted, only to find that you haven’t won this round of bidding wars. It begs the question: how do you choose your offer price so you know it’s competitive right out of the gate?

What the Current Market is Demanding of Buyers

As cash offers have risen sharply and multiple offer situations have become the norm, buyers are having to bring more to the table, employ strategic tactics, and work with an experienced, full-time real estate agent. But one of the biggest questions buyers are navigating these days isn’t merely how much they’re willing to offer; they’re having to decide how much they’re willing to offer over list price. And while there isn’t a perfect formula to help a buyer decide, there are several things to consider when creating a purchase offer that could help it stand a chance of winning a bidding war.

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How Much To Offer On A Home

The median existing home price is up over 17% from March 2020, and what this means for buyers is that they will need to pay substantially more than they probably want to pay and more than they would’ve paid just one year ago.

In some markets, offering a few thousand dollars over list price might be all it takes to win a bidding war. But in other markets, offering $50,000 over still won’t get the job done. Since real estate is a local endeavor, it’s critical to work with an experienced buyer’s agent that has a pulse on the current trends of your market.

Tips when deciding on the offer price:

  • Have your buyer’s agent pull the localized data on recent home sales to determine what percentage of the list price the previous sales received.
  • Determine if the local comps support a higher purchase price than the current list price.
  • Evaluate how much liquid cash you have to pay over appraisal value if need be.
  • Before you agree to an escalation clause, make sure your agent fully explains how they work.
  • In most cases, you don’t get to know what others are bidding on the home. You are blindly bidding against someone else, so in this market, offer your best right out of the gate, keeping in mind that the highest isn’t always the best if it means you’ll wind up “house poor.”

Other Ways To Strengthen Your Offer

There’s a reason real estate contracts are several pages long, and price is only one small section in the offer. While presenting a strong purchase price is critical, there are other factors that make up a home purchase contract — which means there are other ways to strengthen an offer in this seller’s market!

Remove Contingencies

One of the biggest ways buyers weaken their offer is by including contingencies. The most common contingency is the home sale contingency—the purchase is contingent upon the sale of their home. While needing to sell in order to buy is common and reasonable, in this market, sellers are just not wanting to entertain these offers if they can avoid it.

Buyers should consult their lender to see if they can safely purchase without having to sell. In addition, work with your real estate agent to determine a reasonable list price and sale price to get your home sold quickly. And while it’s not ideal, buyers should consider selling first and living in temporary or month-to-month housing while they search for a home to avoid having a contingency offer. If a home sale contingency is necessary, buyers can strengthen their offer by adding a kick-out clause.

Remove Requests

If you’re considering asking the seller to pay for your closing costs, you should rethink it depending on your local market. A strong offer these days means that it’s “clean” and over list price, so sellers won’t be likely to consider requests for concessions, personal property, or any others. Before buyers begin their home search, they should educate themselves on the upfront costs of purchasing a home, and become familiar with loan programs available to buyers that assist with some of those upfront costs.

Forego Repairs Or Offer A Repair Threshold

In this market, sellers are doing less and getting more. They’re not wanting to spend thousands on repairs, especially when there’s plenty of buyers who would purchase it “as is.” That said, offers that forego inspection and repairs or offer a repair threshold stand out among the crowd.

While waiving an inspection altogether can be highly risky (and is often not recommended), it is happening in many markets. But, if you still wish to have the comfort and protection of a professional home inspection without sabotaging your offer, consider an offer that specifies there will be no requests for repairs, or that you will request repairs only if they meet a certain financial threshold. This tactic gives buyers the protection of an inspection discovery while also reassuring the seller that they won’t be nickel-and-dimed on repairs.

Include An Appraisal Gap

In years past, the appraisal price was the dominant factor in the transaction and one of the biggest protection for buyers. Now, however, buyers are readily agreeing to pay well over appraisal. By including an appraisal gap in a purchase offer, buyers can substantially strengthen their offer. An appraisal gap is when a buyer agrees to pay all or some of the shortage between the offer price and the appraisal value. It’s important to remember that banks will only lend on the appraised value, so any appraisal gap is the out-of-pocket responsibility of the buyer.

What NOT To Do In A Seller’s Market

The best way to get your offer accepted? Submit an excellent offer and keep it ethical. Submitting a subpar offer but including a buyer love letter is no longer the way to win a bidding war. Not only is it risky, but it can also potentially violate federal law. So forego the love letter and instead submit your strongest, cleanest offer for the best chance to stand out from the crowd. It might not be the most convenient scenario, but if you’re really wanting to buy, it could mean all the difference between getting that coveted house or staying in the search pool!

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.


9 Technology Tools to Help You Buy a House

Technology has totally transformed the house buying experience. You no longer get in your agent’s car, and the agent drives you around to different properties. Now, you can sit on your couch and view hundreds of homes with the click of a mouse.

In addition to home listings, there are a bunch of other technology tools to help you find the perfect home. These tools are easy to use, at your disposal and can help you make a better decision when purchasing a home.

Google Maps

Many of us are familiar with Google Maps because we often use it for directions anytime we go somewhere. It’s also a valuable tool when buying a home. You can use the tool in several different ways. Most importantly, you need to know where the house is located and once you have the location of the home, you can easily calculate the distance to the airport, local schools and the closest grocery store.

Google Maps also gives you an overall view of the region when you pull back the view. You can locate the nearest park and get a sense of the community’s population density. You can use the street view feature in Google Maps to virtually drive around the neighborhood. This helps you better understand if the community fits with the type of neighborhood that you are seeking.

Local Property Search Tools

Most counties and cities have made property records easily accessible online. It’s not like the old days of going to the country courthouse and entering a room with hundreds of books with local property records. Now, you enter the address into a database, and the program pulls the property record. The listing contains recent sales of the property and the assessed value. These are valuable pieces of information when making an offer on a house. You want to better understand the owner’s selling position in the market.

School District Rating Sites

If you have or plan to have children, schools are an important part of the decision-making process when you buy a home. You want your children to attend well-rated schools. There are several school rating sites online — and a are two examples. All of these sites usually feature a grade and give parents the opportunity to comment on their experiences at the school. Most states also make the yearly report cards from standardized testing available online.

Digital Camera

If you are actively looking for a house, you are going to open houses and your real estate agent is setting up viewings. You can easily confuse different houses that interest you. You should take picturesoft the houses that you visit. You want to focus on the features that most interest you and areas that concern you. You can review these pictures when you are serious about a house.

Mortgage Calculator Website

When buying a house, you are most likely going to need a mortgage. That means you need to know what it’s going to cost. A mortgage calculator can quickly calculate your monthly payment. You just enter the price of the house, the down payment, interest rate, and whether you are seeking a 30- or 15-year loan. The website will kick out the monthly payment, and that will let you determine if the payment fits within your budget.

Sex Offender Registry

You want to get a sense of your neighbors when you buy a house. You also need to know if the neighborhood contains anyone on a sex offender registry. Most states make the sex offender registry public information online. You can search by the address of a house you are considering buying and the website you let you know if anyone in the area is on the registry.

Community Billboard Apps

NextDoor and several other community billboard sites have become popular over the last few years. These are sites where people post concerns and observations about the neighborhood. They also post questions. You get a sense of the important issues in the neighborhood and whether there are things that should concern you. The app. is easy to download. Once installed, you search for the particular neighborhood and find the bulletin board. You can scroll through the different posts.

Note-Taking App

When you visit a house, you might want to write down notes and document your thoughts on a house. Evernote and other note-taking applications allow you to easily organize your notes. You can add photos and other information to the note, and the information can be tagged for particular keywords. That makes it easier to sort in the future.


Drones are becoming common in the real estate industry. Real estate agents use them to fly around a house, and the camera footage is placed with the listing. But you can also use a drone to gather more information about the house. You can fly a drone around the neighborhood to get a bird’s eye view of the neighborhood. You can record the flight and watch the video later. It’s just another piece of information to help you in your real estate purchase.

James Shea is an award-winning journalist and author. He owns Media Lab, a content marketing and search engine optimization company is Richmond, Virginia.


How the New Tax Law Affects Vacation Home Rentals

The new tax law that took effect in January includes several changes that have a significant impact on owners of second homes, including vacation homes. It’s a good idea for current owners and those who are thinking of buying a second home to familiarize themselves with the new law now. It’s not too soon to plan for your 2018 tax returns.

The news isn’t so good for families that don’t rent out their vacation homes because they probably won’t be able to deduct as much as they have in the past. However, those who use their second homes only or mostly for the rental income may do better than they did under the old law.

A luxury home sitting on a lake shore.A luxury home sitting on a lake shore.

Deducting state taxes

The new law limits the total amount of state and local taxes you can deduct to $10,000 on a joint return for single and joint returns. The new limit covers sales, occupancy, income and property taxes, including taxes paid at closing on a new property. If you own a primary and secondary home, you will almost certainly exceed this limit. You will be able to deduct less-perhaps a lot less in property taxes than you did last year. The new limit on state tax deductibility will affect homeowners in high tax states more than others.

Mortgage interest deduction

Despite attempts to eliminate or seriously reduce its value to homeowners, the deduction for mortgage interest survived largely intact in the new law. The most significant change was the lowering of the limit on total amount of the cost of mortgage debt for all homes owned by a taxpayer.

The new law “grandfathers in” or exempts mortgage interest on homes purchased before December 15, 2017. Homes purchased after that date will come under the new lower limit for the mortgage interest deduction. Thus, homeowners who already owe $750,000 or more in mortgage debt and buy a second home this year, they can’t deduct any of the mortgage interest incurred in the new purchase.

The new law increased the standard deduction to $12,000 for single filers and $24,000 for joint returns. Because of the changes in the deductibility of state property taxes and mortgage interest, homeowners who have little or no mortgage interest and buy a moderately priced second home this year on which they pay less than 12 months of mortgage interest may find that they are better off taking the standard deduction on their 2018 taxes.

Incentives to become a landlord

For owners who want to use their second homes only for the use of their family and friends and not to rent out, the new tax law will create a disincentive to buy a home. For those who plan to rent out their property, if only for a few weeks during the year, the new law may be a boon.

Most landlords “pass-through” rental income so that it’s taxed as personal income. According to the Nolo website, if the rental activity qualifies as a business for tax purposes, as most do, you may be eligible to deduct an amount equal to 20 percent of the net rental income. If you qualify for this deduction, you’ll effectively be taxed on only 80 percent of your rental income.

Second, rental properties (even a vacation home used by the owner for several weeks a year), may not fall under the limits on deducting state taxes and the cap on mortgage interest.

Friendly realtor or landlord talking showing modern luxury house for sale to young couple customers, real estate agent discussing rental home with renters tenants, planning property purchase concept.Friendly realtor or landlord talking showing modern luxury house for sale to young couple customers, real estate agent discussing rental home with renters tenants, planning property purchase concept.

“On a rental property, you could have a mortgage of $10 million and deduct the full amount of the interest. If the property is part rental and part residence, you can deduct the mortgage interest without limitation for the period of time that it’s a rental property — provided it rented for 15 or more days,” said Robert Gilman, a partner at New York-based accounting firm Anchin, Block, & Anchin LLP recently featured in the Wall Street Journal.

If so, an owner of a vacation home that’s rented out for two weeks or more can write off on a pro-rated basis all mortgage interest and state taxes along with all other operating expenses incurred by owning and renting the property, including maintenance, advertising, and repairs.

According to Stephen Fishman on the Nolo site, “Thus, the portion of a rental host’s mortgage interest and property tax allocated to the short-term rental activity don’t come within the limits. These are rental deductions, not personal itemized deductions.”

Finally, the new tax law includes a new tax deduction for individuals who earn income from businesses owned individually or by pass-through entities like limited-liability companies or partnerships.

Family of four on wooden jetty by the ocean.Family of four on wooden jetty by the ocean.

“During 2018 through 2022, hosts will be able to use 100% bonus depreciation to write off in a single year the full cost of long-term personal property they use for their rental business. Bonus depreciation may now be used for both new and used personal property. It may not be used for real property,” writes Fishman.

Some economists forecast a drop in demand for vacation properties as a result of changes in the tax treatment of vacation homes. However, demand has remained strong in most of the nation’s vacation destinations.

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.


24-Hour Listings: What You Need to Know About Buying Sight-Unseen

What You Don’t See Can Hurt You (If You’re Not Careful)

Buying anything sight-unseen is always a risk, but when the “thing” you’re buying is a house, then the risks are about as high as they can get. For starters, the home may have hidden problems that the buyer won’t know about until they see the property in person. For example: the roof could have leaks; the HVAC system may not work; or, there may be an insect infestation.

While a home inspection can help the buyer gain a better idea of what the home’s quality is like, it is in no way a guarantee that there aren’t going to be issues.

Despite this, many home buyers and investors are willing to take on the risks of buying a home sight-unseen. For some buyers, it is just the fact that they live some distance away from the property and they either don’t have the time to visit or need a home quickly because they’re relocating to the area. For an investor, buying a home without seeing it can sometimes wind up being a good move. Of course, investors usually ensure they include contingencies in their contracts to protect their financial investments.

But what can a regular homebuyer do to protect themselves when they’re in the position of having to buy a home without ever seeing it in person? Here are some tips to help ensure the home you’re buying is worth it.

home buying sight unseenhome buying sight unseen

Use a Reputable Agent

The agent you choose to work with will have a big impact on your satisfaction level throughout the process. Therefore, you need to do your research so you can find an agent in the area where you’re looking to buy – one who is experienced, knowledgeable, and well-respected.

Make sure you check their social media pages and online reviews from past clients. You can even ask them for references, preferably recent clients, to contact, so you can learn more about how strongly the agent works for his or her clients.

Take Advantage of Technology

There’s an unfortunate growing trend in the real estate industry in which the photos uploaded for display on online listings are manipulated via Photoshop or other editing software. Rooms are made to look larger then they are. Colors and textures are made more vibrant. Dark rooms can be illuminated by computer-generating artificial lighting effects. Therefore, what the buyer sees online is often not the reality they find when they finally visit the property.

To prevent this misrepresentation, use technology like FaceTime, Google Hangouts, or other video chat programs so your agent can give you a real-time virtual tour of the home. This will help give you a better idea of the size, scope, and quality of the home’s interior, exterior, and property.

home buying sight unseenhome buying sight unseen

Send a Representative to See the Property for You

If you have family or trusted friends living in the area, then you can ask them to visit the property and provide you with their honest take on it. If possible, send someone who knows your tastes, preferences, and DIY skills. The individual can also serve as the liaison between you and your agent.

Get the Home Inspected

A professional home inspection will go a long way toward you determining whether the home is a sound investment or a money pit. While a home inspector won’t be able to tell you if something is about to malfunction, they can let you know about the state of the roof, the HVAC system, the plumbing and electrical systems, and other common concerns. The inspection report will also serve as a strong negotiating tool if the home does have some problems that will need to be fixed before you take ownership.

home buying sight unseenhome buying sight unseen

Always Include Contingencies

When buying a home sight-unseen, you are the only party in the transaction that is taking a risk. Therefore, you need to protect yourself by including contingencies in your contract. This way, you will have more room to deal with any unexpected problems or negative information you uncover while doing your due diligence. In bad situations, a contingency can even help you walk away from your contract without accruing any excess costs or legalities.

Find the Home You Want on offers home listings for every city in the United States. So, if you are looking to relocate, we can help you find the home of your dreams in your soon-to-be new city. We can even match you up with a preferred seller’s agent in the area where you’re looking to buy. Give us a try today and see for yourself why so many buyers find their homes with

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.


Five Surprising Facts About Luxury Homes

Do you like to surf to check out the most expensive homes to see how the “two percent” lives? Do you daydream about owning a luxury home yourself one day? Or have you earned enough to afford the very best and you want to see what’s available?

Luxury homes are different in more ways than just price. The luxury market is a distinctly different marketplace from the rest of residential real estate. Here are five notable facts concerning buying and selling luxury real estate that might surprise you.

luxury real estateluxury real estate

1. There are Several Different Definitions of a “Luxury” Home

For many years, the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing set a $1 million value as the dividing line between luxury properties and less expensive homes. As property values have risen, so has the dividing line. The institute now updates its “luxury home threshold” annually to adjust to any changes.

Luxury real estate professionals also realized that, since property values vary from market to market, the definition of “luxury” should reflect local market values. A million-dollar home would certainly qualify in Chicago, but not in Beverly Hills. Today, the most widely accepted definition of luxury real estate is the “top 5 percent of the local market.” Some agents also recognize an “ultra luxury” market which includes only the top 1 percent of the market.

Still, defining “luxury” differently in every market causes problems for calculating luxury data at the national and international levels. Christie’s Real Estate, which operates around the globe, sets the bar for luxury properties at $2 million. Other national and international organizations do the same. If you are searching for a specific market, it’s a good idea to find out how “luxury” is defined.

2. Luxury Homes Take Three Times Longer Than Average to Sell

Luxury properties spent an average of 116 days on the market in 2017, compared to three weeks for the median home sold in America last year. The primary reason for the difference is that luxury buyers and sellers have different priorities. “Luxury-home sellers have the psychology that they can afford to wait and see,” Tomer Fridman, an agent at Compass Real Estate, told the LA Times. “I try to explain: Every day that goes by, you don’t gain leverage — you lose it.”

Luxury KitchenLuxury Kitchen

3. Luxury Sellers are More Likely Than Average Sellers to Cut Their List Prices

Another reason that luxury sales take longer to sell is that their owners often purposely list their homes above market value and are willing to wait months for sale. After months have passed, they may lower the price. More luxury sellers than average sellers end up accepting a price lower than their list price. The list-price-to-sale-price ratio for all sellers last year was 99 percent while the list-price-to-sale-price ratio for luxury sellers was 97 percent. Two percentage points may not seem like much, but in May 2018, the average difference between median list and sale prices for luxury homes amounted $245,000 (97.62 percent LP/SP).

4. The Inventory Shortage That is Affecting Most Markets Today Does Not Exist at the Luxury Level

The causes for the current inventory shortage — strong demand from millennials, the conversion of millions of affordable homes into rentals and lack of new construction — do do not exist at the luxury level. Luxury homes are more profitable for builders, so many markets are flush with higher-end developments. Full inventories in most luxury markets result in market dynamics that are different than lower-priced homes. In May 2018, total existing home inventories were 6.1 percent lower than the previous year. The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing reported that 25 of the top 52 North American luxury markets were buyers’ markets, and only 16 were sellers’ markets. Despite the difference in supplies, year-over-year prices for both luxury homes and all existing homes appreciated at the same rate, 4.3 percent.

5. Luxury Listings Can be Difficult to Find

Many luxury sellers, especially celebrities and wealthy owners with children, don’t want interior photos, addresses and other information about their homes available to the public. They are concerned about compromising their security and privacy. Instead of listing their homes on the MLS, they use brokers who specialize in “pocket,” or off-market listings. These brokers may show exterior photos, prices, and general locations of their pocket listings on their websites, but they will not include interior shorts or addresses. Instead of marketing prospective buyers, these brokers may hold open houses and invite a select list of agents who specialize in wealthy customers.

These five facts are just the beginning of the differences between luxury and lower-priced real estate. If you are in the market now, make one of your first steps to hire a real estate agent who specializes in luxury properties where you want to live. If you’re not quite there yet, but you want to be ready for winning the lottery, has many homes to see.

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.