Family Vacation Ideas that Won’t Break the Bank

A family vacation is one of the best ways to celebrate great weather and take a break from the long, hardworking months of winter – but not if it puts a dent in the rest of your year’s budget.

Americans alone are estimated to spend over $100 billion in vacations this year – up 16% from 2016.

But don’t let these numbers deter you from sticking your toes in the sand. With just a little bit of planning and these five budget-saving vacation ideas, relaxing and exciting family vacations that don’t drain your wallet are only within a summer’s day reach.

1. Splash Around at the Beach

Beautiful beaches don’t just exist in the Caribbean Islands. In fact, some of the very best beaches lie on our own beautiful coast, offering just as much sunshine and relaxation as your favorite 5-star resort. What’s the best part? Most beaches are free, while others simply charge a small parking fee. If you don’t live in a coastal region, skip the pricey plane tickets for a family drive. Just don’t forget to make time for your favorite stops along the way.

Saving Money on VacationSaving Money on Vacation

2. Plan a Road Trip Around Your State

Road trips are one of my favorite ways to spend quality time with my family. Not only do you save on expensive airfare, but you also have the freedom of planning your destinations, and can always change your course along the way. Instead of spending money on a hotel room, plan to stay at popular campsites along your journey. Who knows? You may just create a new family tradition and discover something new along the way.

3. Check Out Parks and Nature Centers

Most people look forward to summer as a chance to spend time in the great outdoors, so why not use this to your advantage? Check out local tourism websites both inside and outside of your city to give you ideas of places you’ve never been before that will get your family active and moving. Most towns have a plethora of great views, biking/hiking trails, and wide-open spaces that are open for exploration to the public.

4. Visit Historic Sites

Looking for an awesome family vacation that is also educational? Visiting our nation’s historic sites is not only an affordable way to pass the time, but it is also a great way to create family memories while learning about our history. Most historical landmarks are free or very low-cost. Find out what kind of history your state and the surrounding areas have to offer. Look for things like landmarks, ghost towns, ruins, battlefields, museums, and other activities that are rich with history.

5. When in Doubt, Head to the Backyard!

A great family vacation doesn’t mean you have to spend a ton of money and travel far away from home. In fact, some of the most classic summer memories can happen in your own backyard. Enjoy all of the benefits of summer near the comfort of your home by setting up your very own camping experience in the comfort of your home! Cook your dinner over the fire, tell scary stories, and sleep under the stars. This is a great way to get younger children accustomed to the camping experience. Just don’t forget the s’mores!

Finding a vacation destination that will accommodate the whole family is tough, but discovering a vacation spot that doesn’t destroy your wallet can be even more difficult. Avoid the crowds and save your wallet this year, with a family-friendly money-conscious vacation that doesn’t compromise on summer fun.


What You Need to Know Before You Move to Massachusetts

When it comes to the New England region, Massachusetts is the most populous state. Home to prestigious schools, many historic sites, and booming businesses, this coastal state has become the sixth-most popular destination for foreign travelers. The Bay State is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, and the states of Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. Great for urbanites and nature lovers alike, Massachusetts has a variety of different communities and regions.

Boston SkylineBoston Skyline

Housing Trends in Massachusetts

Since Massachusetts is a popular state, you’ll want to get on board with home scouting quickly. One of the most prominent housing trends in Massachusetts is the lack of supply. This shortage has created a surge on home prices according to a recent statement by the Eric Berman, director at the Massachusetts Association of Realtors. In fact, there were fewer than 10,000 single-family homes for sale in December and January in Massachusetts, compared to 38,000 in September 2006.

A Seller’s Market

Yes, it’s a seller’s market in Massachusetts. Here’s the lowdown. Although single-family home sales in January were slightly down — 1.2 percent — compared with the same period last year, the median price jumped 4 percent to $369,000, per the Massachusetts Association of Realtors. For condominiums, the median price increased more than 6 percent to $355,000 for the month of January, though sales fell by about 7 percent.

Why the price hikes? It’s due in part to the lack of available land for new construction. Also, in some of the more affluent areas, people seem to be staying put in favor of remodeling or adding extra space. Together, these decisions may limit housing supply – at least in some areas – for first-time buyers and moderate budgets.

Renting in and Around Massachusetts

Should you rent instead? If the idea of buying appeals to you but you just can’t pull it off, renting may be an option. The average rent for an apartment in Boston is $3,001, a 3% increase compared to $2,925 in 2017. For this price, you may get – on average – 815 to 986 square feet.

But other cities may be more reasonable. As of May 2018, the average rent for an apartment in Springfield was $1,061 which is a 0.94% increase from last year when the average rent was $1051, and a 1.23% increase from April 2018 when the average rent was $1048. Naturally, you need to factor in your location needs and maximum tolerance for commuting.

Primary Housing Styles in Massachusetts

With a history of settlement since the Pilgrims in 1620, New England boasts a spectrum of architectural styles that are older and more varied than in any other part of the country. One of these, not surprisingly, is the Cape Cod. It is one of America’s oldest home styles and has a very cozy feel. Other popular styles include an easy-living ranch and a country-style with a wrap-around porch.

Harvard SquareHarvard Square

Multi-Faceted Massachusetts

Massachusetts has something to offer whether you prefer the beach or big city bustle. Here are a few places to keep in mind when you are ready to put down some roots. What is your neighborhood style?

  • The Quainter Side of MA: To experience the quainter side of Massachusetts, you may want to head about an hour’s drive north of Boston to the seaside town of Rockport for, yes, rocky beaches, seagulls, and probably a lobster roll. Marblehead, a town of about 20,000 people, is less than an hour north of Boston and is often called the birthplace of the American Navy. Its known for its yachting, sailing, kayaking, etc.
  • Mountain Hip: Great Barrington has a Railroad Street, the Guthrie Center, eateries and folk music with some skiing close by if you like winter sports.
  • Outdoor Adventure: 90 miles of the Appalachian Trail runs through Massachusetts, so get your hiking boots and head out for a long-distance or day hike. Or walk the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile, brick-lined route that leads you to 16 historically significant sites in Boston.
  • Way Cool: Three of Boston’s neighborhoods get high marks for cool and are cited by the Boston Globe: (1) Jamaica Plain as “edgy cool,” (2) Allston – Brighton as well-educated and “up-and-coming,” and (3) Davis Square for trendy, walkable, and “prime hipness.”
  • Charmed I’m Sure: Massachusetts really turns up the charm in Cambridge. A classic university town, here you can find cobblestone streets, musicians busking, street vendor artists and small cafes. Harvard Square in the center is always action filled and great for people watching.
  • Great Day for a Swim: Woods Hole in southern Cape Cod could make for a perfect day at the beach. This area shows off a great bike path along the coast leading to Falmouth, golden beaches, aquariums devoted to marine biology, shops, and the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard. Provincetown, aka P-town, is another Cape Cod city that attracts events like the International Film Festival, a strong LGBTQ community, art galleries, and craft stores.
  • High Crime: North Adams, Fall River, and Brockton are areas to watch for. You can also check current FBI stats to help you determine whether to pass through or put down roots.
  • Tech-Savvy: Cambridge is home to MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology so there’s potential recruiter heaven. According to Built in Boston, there are 50 start-ups to watch over the next year, as Boston’s tech sector flourishes and venture capital firms pour money into edtech, fintech, and healthtech.

It seems that modern Massachusetts is also somewhat of a global leader in biotech, engineering, higher education, finance, and maritime trade. Perhaps this is why Forbes ranks Boston #30 in its list of Best Places for Business and Careers and #77 in job growth.

Find Your Perfect Home in Massachusetts

We can help you find your perfect home in Massachusetts. Whether it is to rent or buy, start your search on today!

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.


Turning Your Vacation Destination into Your Permanent Residence

We take vacations as a means to escape reality, kickback, and relax. We head off to places that differ from our normal day-to-day. We love the views, the attractions, the food, and the way we feel when we’re at our destination. What happens if you fall in love with the area so much that you decide to live there instead of just visiting? This exact situation happened to my family nearly six years ago.

A tall, white building reminiscent of classic Charleston architecture.A tall, white building reminiscent of classic Charleston architecture.

The charm of downtown Charleston, the history, and the culture is what drew us in.

My husband and I knew that we always wanted to retire to the Carolinas, but a life changing situation had us question our need to wait that long. After much discussion, we decided to make the big move from Ohio to Charleston, SC, a place we had visited friends twice in one year.

Unsure of exactly where we wanted to plant our family, we decided to rent for the first year. Much like buying a house, we searched for spaces in the location and school district we wanted since that was our top priority. Renting gave us the chance to live in the city and explore other possibilities without the commitment. We expected a different feeling actually living in our vacation destination, especially in the off season, instead of just being visitors.

A large, blue, multi-story Charleston home with a Palmetto tree in the yard.A large, blue, multi-story Charleston home with a Palmetto tree in the yard.

Our temporary home had all the charm of Charleston, including the Palmetto Tree.

Living in a coastal town for a whole year made us realize that our priorities had shifted from when we lived in Ohio. We desired to live close enough to the beach, but far enough from the activity during peak tourist season. Staying in our current school district was a definite must because our girls absolutely loved their new school and so did we.

A scenic view of a Charleston beach at sunrise.A scenic view of a Charleston beach at sunrise.

Catching a beach sunrise whenever I want is a perk of living on the coast.

While we didn’t need to have a pool in our backyard, we did want a pool in our neighborhood. We surprised ourselves when we actually wanted a smaller house than what we typically purchased in the past. The best part, you can highlight which items are a “must have” on your search to help find the best houses that match your needs. Narrowing the search helps to save you time when you actually see the house because you’ll know it has all the things you desire.

Sunset at a boat pier in Charleston.Sunset at a boat pier in Charleston.

Nothing can beat a Charleston sunset.

Once we started looking at houses, we learned that to get the size house we desired, it may cost more because of the area we chose. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the property taxes were about a third of what they were in Ohio. On the other hand, because we were now in a flood zone, property insurance would cost more than what it did in Ohio. Having a Realtor knowledgeable and familiar with the area you’re considering, can make a huge difference in explaining all the things you need to know when purchasing your home.

Here are a few other things to consider when deciding to move to your vacation destination:

Jobs and salaries: We were lucky in that my husband found a job and my job transferred. If you’re going to need a job once you get there, are there any jobs available and if so, will you make enough income to cover your living expenses?

Crime rates: Often, when we’re in new cities we have blinders, but when deciding if your new town is going to work for you and your family, your safety also needs to be a priority.

Weather: Obviously, we love Charleston for the longer hot seasons, but then there’s this thing called hurricanes, which was a new experience for our family. Check out the average temperature and types of weather the area receives. Develop an emergency preparation plan for your family.

Cost of moving: Out of state moving can be expensive and may require you to hire a moving company where the price is by the poundage and not just amount of stuff you’re moving. When we moved, not only did we have to decide what would make the move, but also where we would store things during our temporary housing.

Not able to move far away, but still love the charm of the houses in your vacation destination? A great tool to utilize is the “Snap & SearchBETA feature on Simply take a picture of your favorite style of house and the search will find houses in your area for sale that match the same or similar exterior architectural features that you love. For us, we fell in love with the Charleston Single-style for our first home and found one in the area that we loved, which was actually 30 minutes from downtown Charleston.

Aa single-style, yellow home in Charleston.Aa single-style, yellow home in Charleston.

We were able to find the Charleston Single style we fell in love with when we purchased our first home here in Charleston.

Whether you’re thinking about or just starting to plan a big move to your favorite vacation city, or you want to stay local and have the vacation vibe, having the right tools can better prepare you for your next home. Thankfully can provide you with all you’ll need in one location to make this transition enjoyable for your family.

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.


All You Need to Know About Moving to California

The Mama’s & the Papa’s nailed it with their hit song, “California Dreamin’”! Over 39 million people call the Sunshine State home, and it’s easy to see why. From sandy beaches to the Hollywood Hills, California’s many facets include hi-tech industries, lush redwood forests, Napa wineries, miles of coastline, and idyllic sunshine. No wonder it’s the most populous state.

Newport Beach CaliforniaNewport Beach California

The Time is Right to Move to California

Considering a move to California in the near future? Forbes describes the housing markets as booming, though affordable housing is at record lows. Nonetheless, they say the time is right to invest in California real estate. You should, however, gear up for:

  • A sizable down payment
  • Bidding wars – about 54% of homes sold above the asking price
  • To act fast — homes stay on the market around 19 days

Hmmm, What About Rentals in CA?

California’s rents are some of the most expensive in the nation, but there may be more inventory of available rentals than a supply of homes. In some locations, generally, you could expect rising rents and competition for available units.

10 Major Cities in California for Your Move

Before you settle down with your coffee and the real estate section, you will want to unpack your needs, because California is huge. Are you looking for a family-friendly burb or bustling cosmopolitan area? What is your max patience for commute time? How much space do you need?

There are 58 counties and 482 municipalities to choose from all with unique features and property values. Here is a brief low-down on 10 major cities in CA:

1. San Diego

California’s most southern stretch of sun-drenched Pacific coastline, San Diego is popular with young families, college students, beachgoers, hipsters, millennials and about 1.3 million people. With forecasts in the 70’s most days, this is also a prime spot to hike, explore the beaches of La Jolla, play a round of golf, and take the kids to the famous San Diego Zoo. Or, appreciate the big city amenities like a thriving foodie scene and local culture. There’s a commuter train from the North County to downtown – Niche gives high marks to Torrey Hills, Del Mar Mesa, Villa de la Valle.

  • Average Home Price: $529,000
  • Rent Instead: 1000 sq.ft. = $2150 monthly

2. Los Angeles

LA is the biggest city in CA and where you can cheer on the Lakers, Dodgers, Kings, Clippers. It’s also the entertainment capital (Hollywood!) and may appeal to singles, the fashionable cool, millennials and urbanites to-the-core. There are hundreds of neighborhoods to match with your personality. Some more modern (South Park), others more laid back (San Fernando Valley).

  • Average Home Price: $939,500
  • Rent Instead: 332 sq.ft. = $1478-$3028 monthly

3. San Francisco

SF is located on the bay and identified by the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. There are tons to see despite the fog, and it’s great for keeping in shape (oh, those hills). The suburb of Emeryville is ranked by Niche the #1 best suburb in CA for millennials and there are newly built homes and condos to check out. There’s also Showplace Square, South Beach, Rincon Hill and many more. Expect an overall housing crunch in San Francisco – you may need to look at metro area communities like Oakland and Brisbane. But, SF is a vibrant, happening area – ranked #20 for best places to live in the states by U.S. World News and Report.

  • Average Home Price: $1.6 million
  • Rent Instead: 223 sq.ft. = $2100 monthly
Golden Gate BridgeGolden Gate Bridge

4. Berkeley

Just across the bay from SF, Berkeley has a small-town and energetic college vibe compared to LA and is also diverse and friendly to small businesses and cyclists alike. Home to scenic parks, the Bay Trail, artist studios, cafes, UC Berkeley, and gourmet food, Berkeley is also on the map for its many unique festivals and tons of bookstores. Expect some smart conversations and an eco-conscious group of residents. Fun to know – 57 percent rent vs. own and #1 healthiest city in the US.

  • Average Home Price: $1.1 million
  • Rent Instead: 750 sq.ft. = $2075-$2099 monthly

5. Sacramento

Sacramento may be the perfect choice for those who are being priced out of the coastal areas and want a lower cost of living. As the state’s capital, Sacramento has a hip downtown core that appeals to young working professionals who want to live in a walkable area. Some of the more suburban areas are noteworthy for their lush tree-lined streets and great schools (e.g. Folsom). You can also have some great outdoor adventures in Lake Tahoe which is close enough for a road trip.

  • Average Home Price: $300,000
  • Rent Instead: 783 sq.ft. = $1195-$1495 monthly

6. Santa Barbara

Dubbed the ‘American Riviera,’ Santa Barbara is a gem. Located between the Pacific Ocean and Santy Ynez mountains, the weather is gorgeous and the views – picturesque. Here you’ll find adobe rooftops and Spanish style architecture, palm trees, surfing, hiking and bike lanes. There are also three cities to look into: Montecito, Santa Barbara, and Goleta. There’s also plenty in the way of wineries, fashion, food, and nightlife though in a smaller scale than LA.

  • Average Home Price: $464,392
  • Rent Instead: 1026 sq. ft. = $3500 monthly

7. Fresno

At the base of Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia national parks, a move to Fresno puts you in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley. Residents here enjoy tons of outdoors fun – you can golf, hike, snowboard, ski, white water raft, boat, rock climb, and much more. Apart from the leisure scene, Fresno has performing arts, music, theatre and a unified school district. Thirteen of its high schools are recognized by U.S. News & World Report’s best. It’s also surrounded by farms so if you like to eat healthy, here you’ll find a strong agricultural economy – California peaches, tomatoes, almonds, pistachios and more.

  • Average Home Price: $270,000
  • Rent Instead: 602 sq.ft. = $1064-$1369 monthly

8. Santa Clara

Listed by Niche as one of the best cities for millennials, Santa Clara has lots in the way of local bars, restaurants, nightlife, diversity, weather, and location. As one of the main cities in Silicon Valley, Santa Clara has recently attracted more than hi-tech, with the relocation of the 49ers to their new home at Levi’s Stadium. Other draws include free Wi-Fi throughout the city, high marks for quality of education (Cupertino) and a community that values reclaimed water and conservation.

  • Average Home Price: $1,080,000
  • Rent Instead: 853 sq. ft. = $2270-$2736 monthly

9. Irvine

Regarded as one of the more affluent suburbs in California’s Orange County, Irvine has a lot going for it. In fact, WalletHub recently listed Irvine in the top 25 ‘happiest’ cities in the states. Here, you’ll get your joie de vivre on from the beautiful weather alone. Lots of parks, nearby organic farms where you can pick California strawberries and trails make this mid-size city a good coastal location for families and outdoors enthusiasts. Irvine also gets great family-friendly marks from NerdWallet and has strongly supported schools. While not inexpensive, it’s a city with a fairly low unemployment rate and a strong economy.

  • Average Home Price: $987,000
  • Rent instead: 1050 sq.ft. = $1750-$2671 monthly

10. Fremont

Tesla calls it home. Located in Alameda County, Fremont is another one of the cities in America with the happiest residents, especially with young families looking to nest. WalletHub recently ranked Fremont the 5th (out of 105 U.S. cities) for best city to raise a family. It scored really well for family fun, health and safety, so expect great walkability, bike paths, and recreational facilities.

  • Average Home Price: $1,082,9000
  • Rent Instead: 640 sq.ft. = $2298-$2920 monthly

Other Useful Resources

Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure to thoroughly research your neighborhood. Here are a few useful resources to keep on hand as you plan your move to California.

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.


Buying an Old House? – Common Problems, Hidden Costs & Benefits

America has lots of old houses. According to Eye on Housing, the average owner-occupied structure was about 37 years old in 2016, the most recent year for which data is available. For reference, that’s nearly the U.S. median age of 38.2.

In some parts of the country, the housing stock is far older. On average, owner-occupied housing in New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania is more than 50 years old. Though there are exceptions to the rule, homes tend to be older throughout the Northeast and Midwest and in urban cores across the country.

By contrast, newer homes and bona fide new construction homes are more common in Southern and Western cities in general, and in suburban and exurban communities across the country. For example, the median age of owner-occupied homes in Nevada is barely 20 years old.

What Counts As an Older Home?

As a general rule of thumb, homes built after 1990 are considered newer, and homes built before 1920 are considered old or antique. But housing age is a subjective condition that turns on numerous factors, including construction style and quality, local climate and geology, and work done over the life of the home.

The most important factors include:

  • Construction Style and Quality. Prefabricated and mobile homes are generally constructed to lower quality standards than solidly built Tudors, Craftsmans, or Colonials. Mass-produced houses, which tend to be newer, can have quality issues as well. However, custom-built new homes may be constructed even more solidly and durably than older homes. Ultimately, construction quality comes down to the quality of the materials used and the skill and diligence of the builders.
  • Climate and Geology. Climate — particularly humidity, temperature extremes, and storms — accelerate the aging process. Homes in the eastern half of the U.S. are more likely to experience problems attributable to these issues, such as roof damage and basement or foundation moisture, than homes in coastal California cities like San Francisco and Oakland. Geological factors that can accelerate the aging process include seismic activity, sinkholes and limestone geology, and high water tables.
  • Renovations. In some cases, antique homes are updated so dramatically that it’s difficult to define their age any longer. For instance, my wife’s parents owned a farmhouse built in the 1880s. But successive owners thoroughly updated, modernized, and expanded the house over the years. In fact, the only original components are an old cinder block foundation and basement (now completely encased by a newer, expanded foundation and basement) and a few structural supports rising above the original footprint. Most other components date from the 1970s or later. So is it really fair to say the house is an original 1880s farmhouse?

Common Older Home Problems & Potential Solutions

Even well-maintained older homes can present problems that owners of newer homes simply don’t need to deal with. These include health hazards such as asbestos and mold, serious pest problems that can lead to structural issues, and issues with utility systems like wiring and plumbing.

1. Lead and Asbestos

Lead and asbestos are two hazardous materials that were used in residential applications until relatively recently.

Lead is a neurotoxic metal that’s particularly harmful to children. It’s commonly found in exterior and interior paint made before 1978. It’s also found in substantial quantities in pre-World War II plumbing systems and in smaller quantities in water pipes installed before the mid-1980s.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material that causes a serious form of lung cancer and other respiratory problems. It was a ubiquitous insulation and fireproofing material until the mid-1970s. Successive EPA actions banned most asbestos applications by the late 1980s, but the agency never required building owners to remove existing asbestos products. Accordingly, many older crawlspaces, walls, and pipes still contain asbestos insulation.

If you determine that you need professional help to deal with either of these environmental issues, use a resource like HomeAdvisor to find reputable, pre-vetted contractors in your area.

Possible Solutions: Lead

When you buy a home built before 1978, you’re usually required to affirm your understanding that the home may contain lead paint. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of coexisting with lead paint, invest in professional lead paint removal services. According to HouseLogic, professional removal costs $8 to $15 per square foot. The medical literature isn’t conclusive on the matter, but removal is recommended for homeowners with small children.

If your home’s plumbing system is very old, it could still contain measurable quantities of lead. The most cost-effective way to deal with this is a water filtration system, either for the entire house ($1,000 to $3,000, depending on house size and system quality) or the kitchen tap ($200 to $1,000, depending on brand and quality). Replacing the home’s entire piping system is the only way to ensure totally lead-free water, but doing so can cost upward of $5,000.

Possible Solutions: Asbestos

Though direct, prolonged exposure to asbestos is a serious health hazard, insulation tucked away in inaccessible walls is not likely to pose a direct risk. However, removal is recommended if you plan on knocking down walls, expanding your home’s footprint, or attempting other expansive projects likely to uncover asbestos-laden material.

Asbestos removal costs vary greatly by project size. A single pipe or wall runs in the high three- or low four-figure range, while a whole-house project costs $20,000 to $30,000.

2. Termite Damage

Over time, termites can devastate homes’ wooden and wood-like components, including floors, structural supports, and drywall. The problem is particularly acute in the southern half of the country, where termites are active for most or all of the year. Older homes are more likely to have active termite infestations or preexisting termite damage due to compromised foundations or drywall.

Depending on the length and severity of the infestation, termite damage repairs can range from cosmetic fixes (such as replacing damaged floorboards) that cost a few hundred dollars to structural remediation projects that can cost $10,000 or more.

Signs of termite damage include:

  • Sagging or buckling floors
  • Pinpoint holes in drywall
  • Hollow-sounding wood supports or floorboards
  • Bubbling or peeling paint

Possible Solutions

Prevention is the cheapest and least invasive termite solution. Remove all loose wood vectors — including shrubbery, mulch, building materials, and stacked firewood — from contact with the lowermost portion of your house. Prevent water from pooling near or against your home’s foundation by filling in low ground or installing a surface drainage system. Use treated lumber (toxic to termites) for decks and other wooden structures attached to your house. Remove dead stumps and root systems from areas near the house. And seal visible foundation cracks, which provide ready entry for termites.

For infestations in progress, hire a pest control professional to shrink or eliminate the colony. Exterminators typically charge $3 to $16 per linear foot (as measured around the home’s perimeter), according to HomeAdvisor. The average home’s perimeter ranges from 150 to 200 feet, so expect comprehensive treatment to cost anywhere from $450 to $3,200. But bear in mind that your actual all-in cost will depend on the foundation type and the infestation’s severity.

If you catch the problem before you buy, perhaps during a professional home inspection ($200 to $500), get a repair estimate from a general contractor. Then negotiate with the seller to cover part or all of the repair costs, as well as the cost of professional pest control services if the infestation is in progress

3. Mold and Mildew Damage

Over time, homes exposed to excessive moisture often develop mold and mildew problems. Though particularly common in basements and bathrooms of wet-climate homes, moisture-related microorganism growth can occur anywhere. The problem is more likely to occur in old homes because moisture more readily seeps through cracked foundations and leaky pipes. However, since infestations can start inside walls, it’s possible to walk through a mold-infested older home for sale without realizing there’s a problem.

While small amounts of indoor mold growth are permissible and even expected, uncontrolled growth can exacerbate allergies and existing respiratory problems (such as asthma) in healthy children and adults. More serious infections can develop in the very young, the very old, and those with compromised immune systems.

Also, mold eats away at its host surfaces, particularly wood, drywall, grout, and other porous or semiporous substances. Unchecked mold infestations can cause structural problems and render a home temporarily or permanently uninhabitable.

Possible Solutions

Your mold and mildew solution will depend on the severity of the problem:

  • Prevention: As with termite infestations, the best solution to mold and mildew is prevention. Buying a dehumidifier (anywhere from $100 to $500 new, plus $30 to $100 in annual electricity costs) for your basement can work wonders. Ensuring proper ventilation through a combination of floor or ceiling fans and open windows during dry, mild weather can help on higher floors.
  • Minor Infestations: You can treat small mold infestations, such as on an isolated area of a basement or bathroom wall, with store-bought mold spray, abrasive sponges or brushes, kitchen gloves, and lots of elbow grease.
  • Major Infestations.: For larger infestations, the spray-and-scrub approach is impractical. According to HGTV, whole-home mold remediation can cost as much as $5,000 and possibly more if the infestation affects hard-to-reach areas like the attic, basement crawl spaces, or inside the walls. To reduce remediation costs, make sure your homeowners insurance policy covers mold cleanup before you buy an older home, and consider switching policies (using a comparison engine like PolicyGenius to save time) if your policy doesn’t.

4. Plumbing Problems

The biggest danger of an old or substandard plumbing system is the possibility of a pipe failure that floods the home or causes major water damage in the walls and floors. A serious failure can temporarily render the home uninhabitable and cost tens of thousands of dollars to clean up, though the damage is often covered by homeowners insurance. It can also cause longer-term problems, such as mold infestations.

Before purchasing an older home, ask the seller how old the plumbing system is and about the material used in supply and drain pipes. Whereas brass and copper pipes typically last 50 years or more, steel pipes can wear out after as little as 20, according to HouseLogic. Pipes made from PEX, an increasingly common plastic material, typically last 40 or 50 years.

Special care is warranted if the pipes are made of polybutylene, a grayish, flexible plastic material used from the 1970s to the 1990s. Chlorine, which is found in bleach and other household cleaners, corrodes polybutylene pipes over time and can lead to spontaneous failure.

Root damage is another old home plumbing issue that’s particularly common in heavily vegetated neighborhoods. Over time, tree roots work their way into older drainage pipes under or outside the home’s foundation, busting through pipe joints and tapping the year-round supply of nutrient-rich water flowing within.

Without proper maintenance, this leads to clogs and backups that can interrupt washing routines and cause water damage in low-lying parts of the house. Remember that tree roots can travel a long way underground. There may be no obvious culprit near your main drain outlet, but that mature tree across the street or around the side of your house could be responsible.

Possible Solutions: Pipes

If you’re eying a home with polybutylene pipes, ask the seller to install (and pay for) new pipes. If not, consider whether you can put up with the inconvenience and cost of replacing the pipes yourself, which you should do as soon as your budget allows to minimize failure risk.

For other common pipe materials, you simply need to ascertain the system’s age and target a date several years before the end of its life expectancy. If you plan on still owning the house when that date arrives, begin saving for a full system replacement now, keeping in mind the effects of inflation.

In a 1,500 square-foot house, whole-house pipe replacement costs range from $2,000 to $6,000, depending on the pipe material, size and floor count of the house, and number of water fixtures, according to HouseLogic.

Possible Solutions: Root Damage

Root damage fixes can be even costlier. Replacing a root-infested main drain pipe typically requires excavation, a notorious cost multiplier. Expect to pay up to $25,000, depending on the length of the pipe and required depth of excavation, per HomeAdvisor.

Root-and-line jobs, which remove existing roots and install impermeable liners that prevent further intrusion, are nearly as expensive: $5,000 to $15,000, on average.

Periodic root removals, which need to be repeated every couple years, are much easier on the wallet: anywhere from a couple hundred bucks to around $1,000, depending on the severity of the problem.

5. Foundation or Structural Problems

Over time, nature catches up with even the most solidly built homes. Older homes are prone to a variety of foundation and structural problems, such as:

  • Major cracks or unevenness in the slab or perimeter foundation wall
  • Corrosion, dry rot, or moisture damage in pilings or concrete foundation supports
  • Damaged piers (support footings)
  • Dry rot or moisture damage in above-ground studs

These issues are particularly common, and tend to occur sooner, in regions with abundant soil moisture, unstable bedrock, seismic activity, and other perils. Though alert homeowners generally catch structural problems before they render homes uninhabitable, remediation is costly and inconvenient.

Signs of foundation or structural problems include:

  • Doors that jam or fail to latch
  • Visible wall cracks that grow over time
  • Cracked tile or concrete floors
  • Persistently stuck windows
  • Floors that are clearly off-level

Possible Solutions

Any apparent foundation or structural issue requires an expert opinion from a structural engineer ($500, on average). Addressing a modest foundation issue, such as a crack in the perimeter wall, can cost a few hundred dollars. More serious problems, such as uneven soil that requires support piers underneath the foundation, can cost $10,000 or more. And in seismically active areas, foundation anchor bolts are required or recommended — at a cost of at least $1,500 apiece. Many homeowners insurance policies don’t cover these costs.

If the foundation requires extensive repair or wholesale replacement, costs can quickly escalate. Expect to pay a minimum of $20,000 to raise your home and replace the foundation, per HomeAdvisor. Again, homeowners insurance often doesn’t cover these costs. If you’re seriously thinking about buying an older home with obvious foundation damage, factor repair costs into your offer price or ask the seller to address the problems before closing.

Also, note that the cost of repairing secondary issues related to foundation damage (such as damaged upper-level flooring, walls, and doors) varies greatly and can add substantial expense to your project.

6. Radon

Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally in certain types of bedrock. The Environmental Protection Agency says that radon tends to persist at higher concentrations in the Northeast, Midwest, and Intermountain West, but it can occur anywhere.

Radon enters homes through cracks in the foundation perimeter and basement walls, which are more common in older homes. The gas then circulates throughout poorly ventilated houses over time. Though it’s not toxic when encountered intermittently and in small doses, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer for nonsmokers, and exposure over the generally accepted safe concentration is not recommended for long periods.

Possible Solutions

Radon mitigation typically involves capturing gas in the soil or rock surrounding the foundation and piping it up to a rooftop vent, then sealing foundation cracks to prevent further leakage. It can also involve installing multiple depressurization vents outside the house (venting radon before it reaches the foundation), as well as negative-pressure fans that essentially blow radon from the basement or lowest level back into the soil.

According to Kansas State University, the average cost of a radon mitigation system is about $1,200. But the actual cost can vary between a few hundred dollars to more than $3,000, depending on the home’s size, foundation type, and the problem’s severity.

Amazon sells radon testing kits for less than $15. This can be an inexpensive way to see if you need to call in the professionals.

7. Roof Problems

Older homes tend to have older, possibly deteriorating roofs. This presents numerous problems, including pest infestations, interior water damage, and less-effective insulation. Problems stemming from a compromised roof, particularly once interior leaks begin occurring regularly, can cost tens of thousands of dollars to fix and may not be covered by homeowners insurance.

Warning signs of potential roof issues include:

  • Missing or damaged shingles
  • Crumbling roof cement
  • Bowed or sagging gutters
  • Persistent moisture in the attic
  • Evidence of water damage in the upper floors
  • Critters in the attic or upper crawlspaces

Possible Solutions

Before you buy an older home, assess the roof’s age and condition to the best of your ability. Unless the seller put the roof on, they might not be aware of when it was installed, so consider hiring a roof inspector ($100 to $600) if there are obvious signs of wear.

Next, consider the likely lifespan of your current roof and its potential replacement:

  • Shingles. On sloping roofs, asphalt shingles typically remain in good shape for 15 to 20 years. Treated wood shingles last 20 to 30 years.
  • Metal. Metal roofs are typically warranted for 20 to 40 years, though they often last longer and require little maintenance.
  • Tile and Stone. Tile and stone roofs can last up to 100 years with proper installation and maintenance.

Within these categories, construction matters. For example, on sloping shingle roofs, a rubber or thermoplastic coating layer can mean the difference between a roof that goes bust at 15 years and one that keeps on chugging well beyond that. Of course, no matter the material, a roof’s actual lifespan depends on installation quality, prior maintenance record, roof slope, and local climate.

Replacement costs vary greatly by material, but you can expect to spend anywhere from $5,000 to more than $10,000 to replace an entire asphalt shingle roof. Slate (stone) roofs cost $11,000 to $24,000 to replace, on average.

If the roof’s problems are confined to a small area and the roof isn’t near the end of its predicted lifespan, you can save money by replacing or repairing only the damaged section. If the roof is older or widely damaged, it makes long-term financial sense to replace the entire thing, or at least one whole side.

8. Inefficient Windows

Old homes are more likely to have older, inefficient windows. The primary downside of inefficient windows is higher electricity bills because the home’s climate control system has to work harder to compensate for leaks. According to the Federal Government’s ENERGY STAR program, installing the most efficient class of windows in your entire home can reduce your annual electric bill by as much as $600, depending on the size of your home and where you live.

Possible Solutions

Address inefficient windows temporarily with passive heating and cooling methods, such as shutting windows and blinds on hot days and opening them at night, and by using plastic film ($10 to $20, on average) to seal leaks during the winter. Sealing cracks around your windows and reinforcing your home’s insulation, a more permanent solution, can cost upward of $1,000.

The ultimate leaky-windows solution is simply to replace old windows with more efficient ones. While judicious window replacement is often cited as one of the top home improvement projects to reduce long-term homeownership costs, bear in mind that super-efficient windows are costly. Installing them in your entire house could set you back $10,000 or more, meaning you might never earn back your investment.

9. Inadequate or Unsafe Electrical Systems

Electrical problems fall into two categories: convenience and safety.

First, convenience: Unless their electrical systems have been updated, older homes lack sufficient numbers of electrical outlets to address our collective addiction to electronic devices.

Second, and more importantly, safety: The lifespan of electrical wiring itself is limited by the lifespan of the wire’s insulation. Wiring installed before 1960 lasts roughly 70 years, while newer wiring is estimated to last at least 100 years. Once the insulation deteriorates to the point that the actual wire is exposed, the risk of electrical fire, shocks, short circuits, and localized (single- or multiroom) power failures increases dramatically.

Electrical service panels and circuit breakers are also prone to deterioration. Service panels last 60 or 70 years, while breakers last 30 or 40. Failing panels and breakers can cause shock, power failure, fire, and other dangers.

Note that water damage, fire, pest infestation, and other unusual events can harm some or all of an electrical system’s components, necessitating repair or replacement long before they reach their life expectancy.

Possible Solutions

Electrical work is dangerous and confusing for novices, so avoid taking the DIY route with your electrical project. Instead, hire a licensed electrician.

A qualified electrician typically takes 30 to 60 minutes to install a single outlet, at a cost of anywhere from about $100 to about $400. If a new circuit is required, the cost will be higher, though not excessively so.

A new service panel starts at about $500, but a higher-amp option (which may be required for high-power appliances) costs closer to $1,500

10. Failing or Inefficient Mechanicals and Appliances

Old homes are more likely to have old mechanical equipment, such as water heaters, furnaces, and air conditioning units, as well as older household appliances. Mechanical and appliance lifespan varies by item, brand, and workload. On average, expect major mechanical equipment and appliances to age as follows:

  • Water Heater: 10 to 15 years
  • Furnace: 15 to 30 years
  • Central Air Conditioning System: 15 to 25 years
  • Refrigerator: 15 to 20 years
  • Washers and Dryer: 10 to 15 years

Equipment near the end of its useful life is more prone to failure, raising the possibility of an inconvenient or dangerous situation — such as the heat going out in the dead of winter or an electrical fire — that needs to be addressed immediately. Moreover, older equipment is usually less energy-efficient, resulting in ballooning utility costs.

Possible Solutions

Older homes with recently updated mechanical equipment and appliances typically fetch a premium. If you’re fine with buying older mechanicals and appliances, research each unit and determine about how much longer it can be expected to last. Draw up a replacement schedule commensurate with your time horizon and begin saving for the most pressing projects. If your furnace has 15 years left and you plan on selling in five, replacement isn’t necessary.

Mechanical and appliance replacement costs vary by item and brand. For instance, natural gas furnaces, ideal for colder climates, cost about $2,000 to $4,000, on average. Heat pumps, sufficient in warmer climes, cost less. Efficient tankless water heaters can cost as much as $6,000, though the average installation cost (per Fixr) is closer to $2,000. Traditional tank heaters cost even less, in the $1,000 to $2,000 range.

If you plan ahead to replace your old water heater or laundry machine, finding room in your household budget won’t be an impossible task. Set up an interest-bearing, FDIC-insured savings or money market account earmarked specifically for the project.

An unexpected replacement can really set you back, particularly if there’s damage involved. A family friend recently had to replace his old dryer after a massive electrical fire was sparked by faulty wiring and exacerbated by a clogged dryer vent. Including cleanup, the bill came to more than $20,000, though his homeowners insurance policy covered most of the cost.

11. Unhelpful, Unfinished, or Outdated Updates

Older homes typically have more than one previous resident, and sometimes a lot more. All those past homeowners had license to do what they wished with the property.

While many older homes retain the charm and function of their original construction, others have a host of unhelpful or anachronistic updates that detract from the homeowner’s experience and potentially add to the cost of ownership. Particularly costly updates that may need to be rectified shortly after moving in include:

  • Poorly designed, inadequate, or simply tasteless kitchens
  • Illegal basement bedrooms (lacking egress windows, for instance)
  • Incomplete projects, such as a partially finished basement or partially laid patio

Before we bought our current house, my wife and I went to an open house at a 100-year-old home with a half-finished basement , half-finished screen porch, and a literally transparent exterior paint job. The home had been purchased just a few months earlier for far less than the current asking price, suggesting the current owner had attempted to flip the house and had become overwhelmed. Our real estate agent remarked, “It looks like this guy ran out of money and bailed.”

Possible Solutions

As long as they’re not unsafe, you can live with unhelpful or outdated features until you have room in your budget to fix them. The cost of said fixes varies widely. A full kitchen update typically runs into five-figure territory, while replacing outdated moldings or rectifying a hideous interior paint job might cost only a few hundred.

Half-finished add-ons, such as the porch at the abandoned flip mentioned above, are another matter. They can be unsafe, particularly for small children, and may provide access points for insects and rodents. Think twice about buying an older home with too many wonky updates or haphazard design touches, as they often disguise bigger problems.

For instance, we found out later that the abandoned flip had serious foundation problems that would cost tens of thousands of dollars to fix. The scale of the foundation issue likely compelled the flipper to walk away from the property before completing the job.

12. Substandard or Unsafe Features

Older homes sometimes have too much charm. Depending on the style, location, and history of a particular house, some original features may be obsolete, not up to current building codes, or actually unsafe. Examples include:

  • Old laundry chutes
  • Servants’ staircases
  • Staircases leading nowhere (commonplace in houses that were once divided into multiple dwelling units)
  • Steep staircases
  • Low ceilings
  • Blocked-off chimneys
  • Nonworking fireplaces.

Our current home is by far the nicest place we’ve ever lived, but it nevertheless has a steep, winding staircase we’d feel uncomfortable allowing a toddler to traverse, as well as an obsolete chimney that’s showing early signs of deterioration.

Possible Solutions

Many jurisdictions are lenient about substandard or against-code features in owner-occupied residences, relative to rental or commercial properties. Accordingly, you likely won’t be required to fix such issues (unless they threaten other properties) after taking possession of your older home. However, fixing these issues can preserve or increase your home’s value, not to mention enhance the safety and comfort of its occupants.

Some problems have straightforward, affordable solutions. For example, childproofing our steep staircase simply involves installing a latching door or child gate at the entrance. Others, such as a crumbling chimney, require regular upkeep (repairing flashing and any damaged roof materials) that can cost a few hundred dollars per year.

Potential Benefits of Owning an Older Home

You wouldn’t guess it from the litany of potential problems owners of old houses can face, but old-home ownership has its benefits too. Older homes are often conveniently located in established, amenity-rich neighborhoods; inside, they offer abundant charm and equity-building opportunities.

1. Convenient Location

Because most cities grow outward over time, older homes tend to be located closer to employer- and amenity-rich downtown cores. A convenient location offers many time-saving and healthful benefits, such as shorter commutes (and the opportunity to use public transit or commute by bike) and easier shopping trips.

By contrast, newer owner-occupied homes tend to be built where land is cheapest, often on the edges of existing towns and cities. Such places aren’t always convenient.

However, these rules aren’t universal. Big cities have plenty of newly built condos downtown or close by, and many rural homes are quite old.

2. Hard-to-Duplicate Original Features

Though some older homes lack character, many showcase charming, period-specific features that are pleasing to the eye and may increase resale value. For instance, the built-in storage and display cabinets in our older home’s dining room definitely influenced our purchasing decision because it was both aesthetically pleasing and practical. In our region, the only new homes that contain such built-in furnishings were well out of our price range and preferred neighborhood.

3. More Established Neighborhood

In towns and cities, older homes are often located in established neighborhoods with long-term homeowners who care about the area and community, mature landscaping and tree cover, and a general sense of community. Such areas are also more likely to be connected to municipal infrastructure, such as sewer and water systems.

By contrast, less-established neighborhoods tend to have less community engagement, particularly if the homes are very new and most residents are busy professionals without the time to engage their neighbors. Plus, newer subdivisions look bleak until newly planted trees and shrubs fill out.

4. Potential for Better Construction Quality

Depending on the building style and location, an older home may be constructed more solidly and durably than newer homes. This is particularly true for budget-friendly new homes in recent subdivisions, which are typically built by big companies with the ability to cheaply mass-produce the structures.

Then again, some of America’s original suburbs were mass-produced housing tracts built shortly after World War II. When considering any home built to standardized specifications, learn as much as possible about the materials, methods, and labor used by the construction company.

5. More Opportunities to Build Equity

Creative, enterprising, diligent homeowners see opportunity in older homes’ shortcomings. Every poorly designed kitchen, unfinished basement, or non-landscaped yard is a project in waiting. A well-chosen, well-executed renovation or update can boost a home’s appraised value, and its eventual resale value, by more than the project’s cost.

Your budget is likely to limit the scope of your vision, particularly right after you move in. But equity-building projects become more manageable when they’re planned and budgeted for well ahead of time. My wife and I are already kicking around ideas (and saving) for a finished basement and brand-new detached garage, even though we won’t start on either project anytime soon.

Final Word

Even a charming, beautifully staged older home in a convenient, tight-knit neighborhood is likely to have some of the drawbacks mentioned above. If you choose to fix most or all issues as they arise, you’ll likely end up spending tens of thousands of dollars during your time in the home.

Alternatively, if you choose to ignore serious issues or do only the bare minimum to fix them, you’ll likely have to accept a lower sales price or cover the cost of major repairs just before selling. Either way, you could limit or negate the overall return on your real estate investment by purchasing an older home.

That’s not to say that newer homes don’t require major repair and upkeep investments over time. And new homes often come with additional expenses that owners of older homes aren’t likely to face, such as homeowners association fees. Ultimately, it’s more important to choose the home that feels right to you and your family than to obsess over what could go wrong with your new abode.


15 Real Estate Markets Offering the Most Bang for Your Buck

Happy couple buying a home in a new city
Monkey Business Images /

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on Porch.

The classic saying in real estate is “Location, location, location.” Everyone who buys a home knows that where homes are located — by market, by neighborhood, and even by block — can cause wide variation in what they will list and ultimately sell for.

Changes in the real estate market during the COVID-19 pandemic have shifted some of the calculus when it comes to choosing both the location and the particular home. On the one hand, low interest rates have increased the amount of money buyers are willing to spend, as evidenced in part by the ratio of contractor-built to owner-built housing starts. When interest rates are high, many potential buyers opt to build their own home as a way to save money, pushing the ratio down. Conversely, when interest rates are low, buyers are more willing to pay a premium on a home that someone else built, and the ratio rises.

Alongside lower mortgage rates and the corresponding increase in what buyers are willing to spend, COVID-19 has ushered in a resurgence of interest in large homes. With more people transitioning to virtual work and schooling, many previously high-demand markets have cooled off, while lower-cost markets offering larger houses and more “bang-for-the-buck” have new appeal.

Large metros offering the best “bang-for-the-buck”

goodluz /

To find the real estate markets where buyers can get the most for their money, researchers at Porch analyzed data from Zillow,, and the U.S. Census Bureau. They created a composite score based on five key metrics related to price, affordability, home size, and the recent and projected changes in value.

At the state level, Kansas leads the nation by a large margin, followed by a number of other lower-cost states in the South and Midwest. Notably absent from the top of the list are coastal states like California and Massachusetts, where price per square foot and home payments as a share of income are much higher than in the rest of the country.

At the metro level, it is unsurprising to find that many of the best bang-for-the-buck markets are located in the same states that rate highly for value. Oft-overlooked large metros like Indianapolis, Kansas City, and Cleveland top the list, a function of low housing costs both on a per-square-foot basis and as a share of income.

Here are the best large “bang-for-the-buck” real estate markets.

15. Phoenix, AZ

Aerial view of Phoenix, Arizona
Tim Roberts Photography /
  • Composite score: 78.6
  • Median list price: $403,792
  • Price per square foot: $201.21
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 25.9%
  • Median home size (square feet): 2,121
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +7.9%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +16.1%

14. Rochester, NY

Rochester New York
TarnPisessith /
  • Composite score: 78.8
  • Median list price: $236,986
  • Price per square foot: $125.99
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 16.2%
  • Median home size (square feet): 1,761
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +11.3%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +8.9%

13. Richmond, VA

Richmond Virginia homes
Noel V. Baebler /
  • Composite score: 79.2
  • Median list price: $347,950
  • Price per square foot: $156.34
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 20.8%
  • Median home size (square feet): 2,207
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +7.5%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +10.1%

12. Grand Rapids, MI

Grand Rapids Michigan homes houses
Fsendek /
  • Composite score: 79.5
  • Median list price: $306,125
  • Price per square foot: $150.52
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 19.8%
  • Median home size (square feet): 2,018
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +6.4%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +12.0%

11. San Antonio, TX

San Antonio, Texas home
Natalia Silyanov /
  • Composite score: 79.9
  • Median list price: $301,805
  • Price per square foot: $144.93
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 20.5%
  • Median home size (square feet): 2,220
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +1.7%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +11.1%

10. Oklahoma City, OK

Shane Wilson Link /
  • Composite score: 80.0
  • Median list price: $268,581
  • Price per square foot: $130.13
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 18.7%
  • Median home size (square feet): 2,105
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +7.7%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +8.1%

9. Dallas-Fort Worth, TX

Dallas, Texas Homes
Trong Nguyen /
  • Composite score: 81.1
  • Median list price: $351,276
  • Price per square foot: $152.27
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 20.5%
  • Median home size (square feet): 2,320
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +1.0%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +12.6%

8. Houston, TX

Houston homes neighborhood
Stephanie A Sellers /
  • Composite score: 82.1
  • Median list price: $322,206
  • Price per square foot: $136.89
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 19.6%
  • Median home size (square feet): 2,368
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +2.7%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +10.8%

7. Birmingham, AL

Birmingham Alabama home
Carolyn May Wright /
  • Composite score: 82.9
  • Median list price: $263,736
  • Price per square foot: $122.40
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 18.8%
  • Median home size (square feet): 2,091
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +5.7%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +11.7%

6. Charlotte, NC

Home surrounded by greenery in Charlotte,NC.
Jon Bilous /
  • Composite score: 83.1
  • Median list price: $358,347
  • Price per square foot: $153.40
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 23.3%
  • Median home size (square feet): 2,331
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +5.1%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +15.1%

5. Salt Lake City, UT

Salt Lake City, Utah
Rigucci /
  • Composite score: 83.1
  • Median list price: $491,591
  • Price per square foot: $191.74
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 27.0%
  • Median home size (square feet): 2,664
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +13.4%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +16.0%

4. Raleigh, NC

Raleigh North Carolina home
KAD Photo /
  • Composite score: 83.2
  • Median list price: $378,824
  • Price per square foot: $154.92
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 20.5%
  • Median home size (square feet): 2,480
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +3.4%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +14.0%

3. Cleveland, OH

Woman eating breakfast
Henryk Sadura /
  • Composite score: 83.8
  • Median list price: $208,061
  • Price per square foot: $98.97
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 15.2%
  • Median home size (square feet): 1,901
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +6.2%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +10.4%

2. Kansas City, MO

Kansas City Missouri homes
Sabrina Janelle /
  • Composite score: 84.6
  • Median list price: $338,726
  • Price per square foot: $145.98
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 20.9%
  • Median home size (square feet): 2,294
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +9.3%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +14.8%

1. Indianapolis, IN

winter scene homes in Indianapolis, Indiana
Ted Alexander Somerville /
  • Composite score: 87.0
  • Median list price: $283,562
  • Price per square foot: $113.70
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income: 18.9%
  • Median home size (square feet): 2,308
  • Previous 1-year change in home price: +5.5%
  • Projected 1-year change in home price: +14.1%

Detailed findings & methodology

real estate agent realtor
Sean Locke Photography /

The data used in this analysis is from Zillow,, and the U.S. Census Bureau. To determine the best “bang-for-the-buck” real estate markets, researchers created a composite score based on the following factors and weights:

  • Price per square foot (40%) – the median price per square foot for 2020
  • Monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income (10%) – the estimated monthly mortgage payment based on the median list price and median household income; assuming a 30-year fixed rate mortgage with a 20% down payment
  • Median home size (20%) – the median home size in square feet for 2020
  • Previous 1-year change in home price (5%) – the average monthly year-over-year change in list price for 2020
  • Projected 1-year change in home price (25%)* – the forecasted one-year change in home price from Zillow

With the exception of the monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income, higher values corresponded to a higher score for all factors considered. In the event of a tie, the metro with the lower median listing price was ranked higher. To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 residents were included.

*Not available for U.S. states.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.


The 10 Best Countries to Retire Overseas in 2021

Retiree in Costa Rica
Lopolo /

The middle of a global pandemic might not seem like a good time to move away, but it is a great time to explore your overseas retirement options.

Exotic locales where you might live larger for less than in the U.S. include everything from tropical beaches and mountain hideaways to culture-rich cities.

The editors of International Living magazine, a monthly publication for subscribers, recently ranked their top 10 countries for overseas retirement for 2021. Using statistics and on-the-scene journalists, they average scores on these 10 areas important to retirees:

  • Cost of living
  • Housing
  • Health care
  • Retiree benefits
  • Visa/residence requirements
  • Fitting in/entertainment
  • Development
  • Climate
  • Governance
  • Opportunity — even as a retiree, you might want to start a new career

If you go, you won’t be alone. A significant number of American retirees live abroad. The Social Security Administration sent more than 430,000 benefit checks to retired workers in foreign countries as of December 2019, the latest month for which figures are available. That’s up from more than 320,000 sent 10 years earlier.

Here are International Living’s Top 10 rankings, its scores, and what it and others say about the countries. Take a peek and see if any appeal to you.

10. Vietnam

vuong kha thinh /

Average index score: 75.5

Cheap prices, French-influenced food and wine, pristine beaches, waterfalls in pine-filled forests and the hustle and bustle of developing cities sprouting high-rises lure Americans to Vietnam, say international travel experts such as publisher Live and Invest Overseas.

Vietnam’s location in Southeast Asia also serves as a great base for travel, says Purdie Worldwide, a moving and storage company.

With more than 100 million people in a country just a bit larger than New Mexico, Vietnam is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

9. Malta

Valletta, Malta
fokke baarssen /

Average index score: 76

This Mediterranean nation of three tiny islands south of Italy boasts plenty of sunshine amid architectural treasures left from the many cultures that once ruled the ancient shipping pitstop.

Dramatic cliffs, picturesque fishing harbors and vinyards of wine grapes abound. Food from bakeries, fishmongers and local cafes runs cheaper than in the U.S., says International Living, but you’ll pay a premium for sea-view homes.

As a British colony that gained independence in 1964, Malta lists English along with Maltese as the official languages of its half-million people.

8. France

Provence, France
Konstanttin /

Average index score: 76.4

Retirees find life tres magnifique in France. Hundreds of museums and galleries, historic sites, cafe culture and revered cuisine may draw you to the romance of pricey Paris, home of the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum and Arc de Triomphe. Or you can find a variety of lifestyles and living costs from small Provence villages to the French Riviera’s Mediterranean beaches, experts such as Live and Invest Overseas say.

France has 68 million residents and is almost the size of Texas. Health care is great, but the cost of living and lack of availability of middle-class housing might be a deterrent, says Purdie Worldwide.

7. Malaysia

The Strait of Malacca in Malaysia
nelzajamal /

Average index score: 79.8

If you’re looking for a hot destination — literally — try Malaysia, where the daily temperature averages 82 degrees, says Purdie Worldwide.

Cross-Asian influences create an extraordinary and affordable melting pot of customs, dress, architecture and cuisine in Malaysia. Choose from big-city living in Kuala Lumpur or explore the natural beauty of its rainforests and white-sand beaches. Another plus for retirees: Foreigners are allowed to own land freehold, notes USHEALTH Group’s rankings of overseas retirement communities.

The country of 33 million on the Malay Peninsula totals an area a bit larger than New Mexico.

6. Ecuador

Cuenca, Ecuador
Matyas Rehak /

Average index score: 83

Facing the Pacific Ocean and lying directly on the equator in the northwestern corner of South America, low-cost Ecuador offers T-shirt weather and sandy beaches year-round. You’ll find cooler climates as you move up into its mountains.

But even its populous capital, Quito, at more than 9,000 feet above sea level, is too warm to see snow, and you don’t have to shovel its frequent rain.

In an area slightly smaller than Nevada and with a population of 17 million, Ecuador uses the American dollar as its currency, the CIA World Factbook notes. Explore Incan and colonial architecture, hike in the Andes mountains or the rainforest, or hit the beach. The Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean are also part of Ecuador.

5. Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal
Steve Photography /

Average index score: 83.2

Portugal offers lots of sunshine, plenty of beaches along its sliver of Europe’s coastline and relatively bargain-level prices, especially away from its big cities such as Lisbon, says Live and Invest Overseas.

Despite its medieval cobblestone appearance, Portugal is full of modern conveniences. English is commonly spoken in the Algarve region, where many European retirees live.

The country of 10 million is about the size of Virginia and is generally peaceful, but watch out for pickpockets on its jammed public transit system, the U.S. State Department warns.

4. Colombia

Medellin, Colombia
Luis Echeverri Urrea /

Average index score: 83.3

Showcasing the Amazon rainforest, the Andes mountains and coastlines along both the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean, Colombia is more naturally diverse than most any other place on Earth.

Colombia’s population of 50 million in a country twice the size of Texas is found mostly in the north and west. With its easy residency requirements, you can enjoy seaside living, the friendly big city of Medellín or smaller mountain-nestled villages showcasing Spanish colonial architecture.

3. Mexico

Mexico City cathedral
WitR /

Average index score: 83.5

With two coastlines boasting beautiful beaches, mild year-round temperatures and a budget-stretching cost of living, it’s no wonder our southern neighbor, Mexico, is already home to 1.5 million Americans.

About 130 million people live in the culturally and historically rich country about three times the size of Texas.

Top-notch affordable health care, zesty food-and-fun-filled festivals, proximity to the U.S. and easy residency requirements are all part of Mexico’s lure. That is true whether you are in expat havens like beachside Mazatlán or closer to the capital, Mexico City.

2. Panama

Panama City, Panama
Milosz Maslanka /

Average index score: 84.4

Best known for its canal connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific, Panama lures visitors with its natural splendor of coastal beaches, unique jungle plants and animals, and a tax-advantaged retiree program that includes discounts on a lifestyle already discounted compared to U.S. costs.

While Panama is slightly smaller than South Carolina, about half of its population of 3.9 million clusters mainly around the capital, Panama City. Smaller cities attracting expats include Santa Fe in the highlands and Pedasi, surrounded by Pacific beaches.

The country uses U.S. currency, so there’s no worrying about exchange rates.

1. Costa Rica

Galyna Andrushko /

Average index score: 85.2

You don’t have to be rich to retire comfortably in Costa Rica, which literally means “rich coast.”

Although prices are rising along with the popularity of the Central American beach-rainforest-mountain country, you can still live there for less than in the U.S., especially away from its capital, San Jose, experts say.

About 120,000 Americans, including many retirees, lived in the country pre-pandemic. Slightly smaller than West Virginia, Costa Rica has a population of just over 5 million. While the country is known for peace and abolished its military in 1948, petty theft and drug-related crime are rising, the State Department warns.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.


Lean FIRE vs. Fat FIRE — Differences in Early Retirement Strategies

Short for “financial independence, retire early,” the FIRE movement has many adherents — and each of them brings their own take on how to approach FIRE.

In this context, financial independence refers to the ability to live on your passive income from investments. As soon as your investments bring in enough income to live on, your job becomes optional, and you can retire whether you’re 30 or 70.

But there’s a big difference between enough money to live in a van down by the river and enough money to live in style for the rest of your life. Enter: lean FIRE vs. fat FIRE. Which says nothing of all the quirky nodes in between, such as “barista FIRE” and “coast FI.”

If you love the idea of building passive income and rendering your job optional, the following tour of the FIRE spectrum will help you find your own path to financial independence.

Concept Zero: Focus on FI, Not Early Retirement

In my other life I teach people how to reach financial independence with real estate. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that people come for the “early retirement” but stay for the “financial independence.”

Everyone knows what early retirement means. It makes for an easy marketing hook. But too many people foster the fantasy of storming out of their dreary day job in a blaze of glory, telling off their boss and all their hated coworkers.

If that sounds like you, let me offer another suggestion: find a job you actually enjoy.

Don’t get me wrong, you should still pursue financial independence. A higher savings rate, net worth, and monthly passive income will always come in handy, regardless of whether your long-term financial goal is to retire at 40 or pay for your children’s college education — or both.

Creating passive income and pursuing financial independence take the pressure off your day job. The more passive income you have from investments, the less dependent you are on your job — and the easier it is to abandon it for a lower-pay, higher-fulfillment career.

That could mean volunteering or working for a nonprofit. It could mean starting a hobby business or side hustle you love, such as travel blogging as you explore the world. Or it could simply involve doing fun work like pouring wine at the local winery, whether full or part time.

More wealth and passive income mean more options and easier lifestyle design. Look beyond the notion of sitting on a beach for the rest of your life because FIRE doesn’t have to mean retiring early.

The real fruits of FIRE come from designing your own perfect life.

FIRE Planning 101: Savings, Withdrawal Rates, and Passive Income

Before breaking down the difference between lean FIRE and fat FIRE, you first need a basic understanding of retirement planning concepts. First on that list: safe withdrawal rates and their impact on how much you need to save for retirement.

Your “withdrawal rate” in retirement refers to the percentage of your nest egg that you pull out in your first year of retirement. The classic safe withdrawal rate is 4%.

For example, if you have $1 million saved for retirement, you can withdraw $40,000 in the first year, and then raise that each successive year to keep pace with inflation.

But the classic “4% rule” was designed to preserve your nest egg for 30 years of traditional retirement after age 65 or so. To retire early, you need your nest egg to last much longer, ideally indefinitely.

Fortunately, you don’t have to slash that withdrawal rate by much for it to last forever. Financial planner Michael Kitces demonstrates mathematically that a 3.5% withdrawal rate would allow your nest egg to grow indefinitely — at least based on historical returns.

All of which matters because how much you can withdraw determines how much you need to save for retirement. A $1 million retirement portfolio following a 3.5% withdrawal rate yields $35,000 per year.

To reverse the formula, divide 100% by the 3.5% withdrawal rate to reach 28.6, which serves as your multiplier. However much annual passive income you want in retirement, you can multiply by 28.6 to determine how big your nest egg has to be.

For example, say you want $60,000 per year in passive income. You can multiply 60,000 by 28.6 to calculate your target nest egg: $1,716,000.

With that background, you’re ready to explore lean FIRE vs. fat FIRE.

What Is Fat FIRE?

Think of FIRE planning and retirement planning more generally as a spectrum.

On one extreme of the spectrum lie those who want to live an extravagant lifestyle in retirement, or at least an unrestrained lifestyle. In the FIRE community, we call that “fat FIRE.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum lies leanFIRE: living an extremely frugal life post-retirement. More on that shortly.

When middle-class people envision their future retirement, many envision something like fat FIRE. They imagine a comfortable existence with little or no drop in living expenses. But they also have 40 or more years of working to allow their savings to compound.

Compounding does much of the heavy lifting for you. It takes only $267 per month in savings to reach $1 million in 40 years at historical average rates of return. A person earning minimum wage can become a millionaire given 40 years of compounding.

If you want to reach $1 million in 10 years, expect to save $5,467 per month. Not quite so easy.

So, people pursuing fat FIRE tend to work longer, and they tend to earn more money. They have to in order to save enough money to afford a relatively carefree fat FIRE lifestyle.

Sample Fat FIRE Budget and Savings

The most recent data from the Census Bureau puts the median household income at $68,703. For fat FIRE, let’s say you want to live on 50% more than that, or $103,055.

Following a 3.5% withdrawal rate — which means a multiplier of 28.6 — you’d have to save a nest egg of nearly $3 million: $2,947,359. No trivial sum, no matter how much you earn.

Keep in mind I’m simplifying the math to some extent. In the real world, you can “cheat” with more income-oriented investments like rental properties, REITs, real estate crowdfunding investments like Groundfloor and Fundrise, private notes, syndications, and other private equity. You can also use tax-sheltered accounts to complement FIRE rather than hinder it.

Even so, if you want to live an unrestrained lifestyle, it takes a lot of money to retire young.

If you want to live in an expensive coastal city, have multiple children, pay for their college education, travel frequently and expensively, eat at restaurants often, and otherwise live a traditional middle- or upper-middle-class lifestyle post-retirement, you’re looking at fat FIRE numbers.

What Is Lean FIRE?

Alternatively, if you’re willing to live a frugal, low-expense lifestyle, you can reach financial independence relatively quickly.

Those who subscribe to the lean FIRE model aim to slash their living expenses to the bare minimum. It serves them in two ways. First, it enables them to boost their savings rate and build wealth faster. Second, it means a much lower target nest egg.

Lean FIRE typically involves living in a lower-cost area, or even other countries with a lower cost of living. Many adherents find a way to house hack for free housing, or live without a car — I do both and live quite comfortably.

They prepare most of their own meals and send their children to public schools if they have children. When they travel, they do so inexpensively, usually at hotel alternatives rather than four- or five-star hotels.

If that sounds like a “sacrifice” to you, you probably aren’t a good fit for the lean FIRE model. If you enjoy savings hacks and living simply and frugally, lean FIRE could fit you perfectly.

Sample Lean FIRE Budget and Savings

If we added 50% to the median household income for a sample fat FIRE spending model, let’s cut 50% for a target lean FIRE budget. That puts the annual passive income target at $34,352.

At a 3.5% withdrawal rate (a 28.6 multiplier), that means you’d need to save $982,453. No minor sum itself, but a far cry from the $3 million you’d need in the fat FIRE example.

Living on $34,352 per year comes out to $2,863 per month. Eliminate your housing payment by house hacking, and a monthly budget of $2,863 looks far more feasible.

And you can live a downright luxurious lifestyle in many countries for $2,863 per month. There are some countries where $2,000 a month buys the good life, including several in Europe.

If you earn a strong living but spend at lean FIRE levels, it doesn’t take long to reach financial independence.

I know a couple that earns over $10,000 per month and spends around $1,500, and through real estate investing they reached financial independence in under three years.

They live outside New York City, where the cost of living is higher than most of the country, but they house hack for free housing, they share an older car, and they mostly cook their own meals.

How Does Lean FIRE Differ From Coast FI?

A more obscure concept in the FIRE community, coast FI refers to saving enough to “coast” to financial independence. It occurs when you save enough of a nest egg to compound and grow on its own to reach financial independence by your target age, without you having to invest another cent.

For example, imagine a couple that marries at age 25 and spends the next five years living an extremely frugal lifestyle. They save $350,000 by the time they turn 30.

At 30, they get pregnant and buy a traditional house in the suburbs with a dog named Fido. Their previously high savings rate goes out the window — in fact, they stop saving at all.

But over time, their $350,000 investment will compound on its own. If they left it invested for 10 years at a 10% return, it would balloon to $907,810. If they opted to give it 20 years and retire at 50 instead of 40, they’d have a hearty $2,354,625.

They saved enough money while they were young to coast their way to financial independence and retirement, no more monthly savings required.

“Barista FIRE,” Health Insurance, and the Uncertainty of Tomorrow

I hear objections to the concept of FIRE all the time:

  • “How will I pay for health insurance if I retire before I’m eligible for Medicare?”
  • “What if I get hit with a financial emergency?”
  • “What if stock markets go through a prolonged depression?”

Yes, life is uncertain. Aliens could invade tomorrow, after all.

But I respond to all of these with a question of my own: What’s stopping you from picking up more work, on your own terms?

When you retire at 70, you may no longer be able to work. Even if you can still physically and mentally perform, older workers increasingly find themselves pushed out of high-paying jobs.

When you retire at 40, you can pick up work any time. Whether that means a full-time job, a part-time job, a side hustle, freelance work, consulting work, or something else entirely, you can always earn more money if you want or need it.

In fact, many people pursuing FIRE specifically pick up a part-time job that provides health insurance when and if they quit their day job. The extra money helps, but the insurance saves them from paying hefty premiums.

This model even comes with its own kitschy moniker: barista FIRE.

You earn enough passive income to cover your bills, but you work 10 to 15 hours per week to get out of the house, have some fun and social interaction, and of course score health insurance benefits.

Final Word

The classic retirement model feels like flipping a light switch on your career. One day you’re working full time, the next your company throws you a party with a gift-wrapped watch, and you stop working forever.

Consider an evolving model for financial independence instead. Too many middle- and upper-middle-class people earn a decent living doing something they don’t love, but they’ve come to rely on the salary and benefits through lifestyle inflation.

They don’t want to use the term “golden handcuffs,” but if they’re honest with themselves, there’s something else they’d rather do. Yet they don’t change careers to do it because it would involve a pay cut or learning new skills.

Forget the binary model of retirement, of flipping an on-off switch. Instead, plan out what it would take to transition toward your perfect career and lifestyle, regardless of the pay cut.

Start cutting your spending now, both to invest more while you still earn a strong salary, and to prepare for a more fulfilling career and life.

Reaching FIRE doesn’t mean never working again. It means working on your own terms, whether that involves a fun post-retirement job or a hobby business that you love.


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 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 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.