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 Homes.com 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.

Source: homes.com

Simple Tips to Meet Your New Neighbors When You Move

Building Community Around Your New Home

Researchers have understood for a long time that having a developed community is very important to our sense of personal well-being and to our health. But sometimes, finding or building that community is challenging. Finding and building community is especially difficult, perhaps most difficult, when we relocate to a new area.

In the good old days, getting to know your new neighbors was an important part of the ritual of relocating to a new neighborhood or community. Likewise, members of most communities felt it was their responsibility to reach out to new neighbors as they moved in and to welcome them to the community.

Unfortunately, the days when you could expect a welcome gift of baked goods or a fruit basket from the neighborhood welcome wagon are pretty much over in many neighborhoods around the country. So, how do you go about meeting your new neighbors in our increasingly insular and compartmentalized times? These tips should help you break the ice and start to build that all-important sense of community around your new home.

get to know your neighborsget to know your neighbors

Tip 1 – Seize the Moment!

When you’ve just moved in, after the truck has departed but before you get into the heavy work of unpacking and decorating, take a break from the stress of completing your move and approach your neighbors. The longer you leave things, the more awkward they can become.

Why not use the move as a great excuse for banging on their doors and introducing yourself. It sure beats waiting by your recycling bin on pick-up day so you can “accidentally” bump into them at the curb!

Tip 2 – Make Use of Their Expertise!

You are new to the neighborhood, the town, or even the state or region. You don’t know where the nearest post office, DMV, movie theater, or whatever you may be looking for, actually is. You don’t know what your pizza and other delivery options may be. You don’t know much of anything, presumably, about your new environs.

Sure – you could try to Google all of the information you need, but one way to begin to develop relationships with anyone is to solicit their advice in person.

get to know your neighborsget to know your neighbors

Tip 3 – Play the Host!

If you’re new to the neighborhood but have established relationships in the greater area, throwing a little housewarming party is a no-brainer. Just remember to invite your neighbors! Even if you have relocated to the other side of the country, a housewarming party is still a great idea. Invite your new coworkers and your neighbors – after all, parties are built for getting to know people.

Tip 4 – Get Involved!

Your new neighborhood or community, like nearly every community the world over, has organizations that its members belong to. Maybe they are charitable or fraternal organizations, or maybe they are more simple organizations like workout clubs or gardening groups.

Regardless, getting involved in local organizations — while it may not introduce you to your physical next-door neighbors, it can be a great way to begin to build your new local community.

get to know your neighborsget to know your neighbors

Finding Home in the Neighborhood You’ve Just Relocated To

If you were paying attention at the end of The Wizard of Oz, then you already know that home is where the heart is. Building community is a part of finding your way to that new home. Take the initiative as best you can and break the ice – more often than not, you’ll find that people, no matter where you’ve moved, are similar all over the world.

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

Source: homes.com

The Best Schools and School Districts in the Nation

It’s back to school time and across the country, parents are gearing up for after school programs, homework, and packed lunches. Aside from that, parents are preparing for the first day of school by going back-to-school supplies shopping and attending open houses at new schools. For potential homeowners, settling into a neighborhood with a decent school district is a major buying factor. It can often be a deal breaker for many families as high-performing schools tend to raise property value and vice versa. Homes.com has compiled a map of the best schools and school districts in the nation to highlight some of the best areas to live and raise a family.

Blue backpack with school supplies against brick wall.Blue backpack with school supplies against brick wall.

Whether public or private, communities across America are ranked based on the quality of the schools in their area. In fact, the quality of a neighborhood, including its schools, is among the top six home buying factors according to Inman. If you want to know why schools are so essential to the home buying process, then continue reading below.

Schools and Community

The quality of the schools around your home is important for many reasons. Education is an intricate part of the lifeblood that keeps a community thriving. School boards and city officials that regulate school districts interweave a system of support between parents, neighbors, children, and local resources to promote the well-being of the entire community. Engagement and participation from the community also strengthens the quality of the local school ecosystem. Many people, even those without kids, attend Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and school board meetings, help local kids with fundraising, and are committed to schools in their neighborhoods in other ways, but how do school districts effect home values?

Home Values and Schools

Research has shown that homes in close proximity to great school systems sell at higher prices than homes that aren’t in good school systems. With that being said, the demand for these homes also rises. This combination makes for extremely hot markets in areas that have good schools.

Factors like funding also play a role in the quality of school and home value correlation. Neighborhoods in wealthier communities are more likely to spend funding for schools more effectively.

Looking for a home in a perfect neighborhood? Those near these great schools might be just the perfect match!

What Parents are Looking For

Academics isn’t the only thing that makes or breaks a school district, according to Jennifer McMurray of McMurray and Associates Real Estate in Northwest Arkansas, parents are also looking for schools with good athletic programs as well somewhere that can prep their children for their secondary education.

“The two dominating factors for most home buyers are the academic and athletic opportunities available to their children. Parents want to set their children up for success post-high school, so choosing a school that has routinely sees students getting scholarships is important, or a district that trains athletes for college sports, etc. These are all factors that parents consider, and this routinely trumps several other factors in the home buying process.”

Although those living in homes in high-ranking school districts seem to have it made, those looking to move to a great area with a strong school system aren’t quite living on Easy Street just yet. Those relocating can often have some difficulty finding homes in areas with great schools. But, keep trying, although the market might be in high demand, research is the key to finding a great home in a great community.

“My advice to anyone would be to do your homework. Research the district where you’re looking to buy. Schools are proud of their accomplishments, so finding information like graduation rate, amount of scholarships awarded, number of state championships won, etc. are usually easily accessible. There are certainly districts that are more in demand than others for whatever reason, and those see quite a bit of interest for home buyers. That interest is good news for sellers,” said McMurray.

The Winner’s list

Jericho Union Free School District is the best school district in the country. Located in Jericho, New York, this district is governed by a five-person Board of Education that is committed to ‘success for every student.’ Five schools make up this district including Jericho Middle and High School, Cantiague Elementary School, Jackson Elementary School, and Robert Seaman Elementary School. The top public school is Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora, Illinois. The top private school is Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.

To find the home of your dreams, begin your simply smarter home search with us today!

This map was compiled using data from Niche.com, findings were created based on overall rating, academic grade, teacher grade, administrator grade, number of students, and student/teacher ratio.

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

Source: homes.com

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.

Source: homes.com

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.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Dogs Digs: How to Find the Perfect Home for You and Your Furry Friend


When It’s Time to Find a Palace That’s Fit for a Puppy…

As a dog owner, you likely place your pup’s needs right up there with your own. If this is the case, then choosing a new home shouldn’t be an exception. In fact, several studies show that people are placing more and more importance on the happiness and safety of their dogs when it comes to home buying. An article by Time cites a study conducted by SunTrust Mortgage that found that one-third of millennials purchased homes strictly based on their pet ownership.

When purchasing a home with your dog in mind, there are a few factors to remember. In addition to finding a home with enough space, you also want to keep in mind any pertinent city ordinances and neighborhood regulations. Check out this article for home buying tips that are geared just for dog owners.

Consider the Pros and Cons of Townhouses or Condominiums

Depending on your budget, a single-family home with a sprawling backyard may or may not be in your budget. If an apartment, townhouse, or condominium is more in your price range, be sure to look for spaces that are dog-friendly. Read the fine print, as some apartments only accept dogs up to a certain weight limit.

When searching online for pet-friendly listings, you can often narrow your search to show only apartments and housing options that accept dogs. Check out the pet-friendly section of Homes.com here to find the perfect apartment, condo, townhouse, or home for you and your four-legged friend.

Find a Home With a Pet-Friendly Layout

When looking at properties that will accommodate you and your dog, think about the details of the layout of your home. Not only is space to run around outside ideal, but certain details inside are also very important. For instance, try to look for homes that don’t have delicate wood floors that could easily get scratched as your dog romps around.

If your pet is older and has stiff legs, a huge staircase leading up to the front door may not be ideal. If you prefer to keep your dog confined to certain rooms of the house, you’ll want to know if the layout is conducive to this, or if there’s a super open floor plan. Mulling over these details beforehand will help you avoid expensive renovations in the future.

Consider Neighborhood Street Traffic With Your Dog

Living on a super busy road can be nerve-wracking if you have a dog that likes to bolt off unexpectedly. If you are the type of owner who likes to let your dog roam around in the yard, a more isolated, quiet neighborhood might be more ideal.

If you decide on a neighborhood with busier streets, think about nearby outlets where you can take your pup to let out some energy in a safe environment. Dog parks and dog-friendly parks are a great asset to have in your neighborhood, and will also help you to meet like-minded dog people.

Read up on Homeowners Associations Rules

Not every HOA allows pets, so make sure the neighborhoods you’re looking at are dog-friendly. There may also be restrictions on the size, type, and number of pets you can have in your home.

In addition to checking out homeowners association rules and regulations, take an informal tally of how many other dog owners you spot in any given neighborhood. The more dogs you spot, the higher the chances of having an awesome dog community in that neighborhood. Keep your eyes out for dog walking paths and pet waste bag receptacles, as these can also be good indicators of how pet-friendly the neighborhood is.

Research the Pet History of a Home

As you look at homes and apartments, ask your Realtor about previous pets who have lived in those homes. Keep your eye out for any damage that could be caused by pets. If you’re renting, make sure that you note scratches on the floor and other pet-related damage before you sign your lease, and document everything with photographs.

Keep in mind that pet odors can be difficult to remove from a home. Look for spaces with good ventilation and tile or wood flooring that won’t hold onto musty pet odors. This could help you get back your security deposit and avoid paying fines if you are renting.

Find a Pawsitively Perfect Home for You and Your Pup

Once you’ve found the right digs for you and your dog, you’ll love spreading out in your own space with your best four-legged friend. Remember that moving locations can be stressful for animals, so make sure to give your dog a little extra attention as moving day approaches.

Cheria is an aspiring homeowner and the Content Marketing Coordinator for Homes.com. When she isn’t working, she stays busy sewing, designing, and diving into all sorts of DIY projects.


Source: homes.com

The Best Neighborhoods in Chicago

Find the best place to call home in the Windy City.

Chicago is known for being home to a number of Fortune 500 companies in a variety of industries, including finance, retail, transportation and food processing. It also has world-class hospitals and universities, a robust tech scene and several welcoming start-up hubs and incubators. And, of course, a handful of great Chicago neighborhoods.

The best neighborhoods in Chicago feature a welcoming atmosphere, alongside award-winning restaurants and bars, coffee shops and independent businesses whose shopkeeper’s will ask you how you’re doing when you stop in. The difficult decision isn’t whether to move to Chicago. The hard part is deciding in which neighborhood to move.

Here are 10 of the best neighborhoods in Chicago to consider.

Andersonville, Chicago, IL

Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago

Some people might find A’ville, as Andersonville is sometimes referred to, a bit too north for their taste and that’s fine with residents who live along tree-lined streets and frequent their local indie coffee shop, gift and home décor boutiques and restaurants along Clark Street.

It’s a popular area among LGBTQ residents, too. The current owners of Women and Children’s First bookstore, which has been around since 1979 and at this Andersonville location since 1990, consider themselves intersectional trans-inclusive feminists. They curate their bookshelves of more than 20,000 books on feminism, books by and about women, children’s books and LGBTQIA+ literature.

Kenwood, Chicago, IL

Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago

Located on the South Side and just north of Hyde Park, Kenwood was once home to Muddy Waters, credited to be among the Chicago Blues pioneers, as well as Louis Sullivan, known as one of America’s greatest architects. The tree-lined streets of Kenwood are lined with 19th-century mansions and architecturally-significant apartment buildings.

The Burnham Nature Sanctuary is just one of the many reasons to escape to the outdoors within the 100-acre urban wilderness that makes up the Burnham Wildlife Corridor. Then, check out Goree Cuisine for a Sengalese meal before popping into Carver 47 Cafe half a block west for a drink made from ingredients from their in-house garden.

Lakeview, Chicago, IL

Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago

Lakeview is all over the board when it comes to neighborhood personalities. At one point, Wrigleyville seemed to be the place where every college graduate decided to move so they could be closer to cheering their beloved Cubbies. It still attracts a younger crowd but there are plenty of seasoned residents who’ve learned to live with the crowded bars and congested streets whenever a baseball game is in play.

Just west of Wrigleyville is more subdued. The stroller brigades take residence so expect to see strollers parked outside popular brunch hangouts or the kid-friendly boutiques that line Southport Avenue.

Then there’s Lakeview East, also known as Boystown since it’s a popular LGBTQ-friendly neighborhood and where Pride Parade and the annual Halsted Street Market Days takes place. The recent controversy over the Boystown name resulted in a new name for the area: Northalsted. The jury is out whether that name will stick.

Lincoln Park, Chicago, IL

Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago

The Lincoln Park neighborhood is home to the Lincoln Park Conservatory, the Lincoln Park Zoo and Lincoln Park, a 1,208-acre park situation along Lake Michigan. It’s a tony neighborhood filled with million-dollar single-family homes along tree-lined streets. Thanks to its close proximity to Lake Michigan, it’s also home to several high-rise and low-rise apartments that range in rental rates.

Locals love strolling along the South Pond, which some call the Lincoln Park Lagoon, or visiting the animals in the free Lincoln Park Zoo. Shoppers who love independent stores will appreciate the cute indie shops along Armitage Avenue as well as a mix of locals and chains along Clark Street near Diversey.

Lincoln Square, Chicago, IL

Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago

For those who want more of a family community feel, Lincoln Square is loaded with single-family homes, condos and apartment buildings and families with kids who are attending local public and private schools. This is very much a community at heart.

Neighbors and families often meet up at Welles Park to watch Little League games and many a new parent has brought their wee one to Wiggleworm classes at Old Town School of Folk Music just south of the park.

Logan Square, Chicago, IL

Photo courtesy of Megy Karydes

What was once a quiet neighborhood with a large immigrant population has become more gentrified as young and hip Chicagoans who don’t want to pay the higher rental rates in Wicker Park or Bucktown head farther north to Logan Square.

Having a few stops along the Blue Line and easy access to both Milwaukee Avenue, which runs through Logan Square, and the Kennedy Expressway makes it convenient to live here and get around other parts of the city relatively quickly.

Locals love having their own farmers market along Logan Boulevard and tons of shops along Milwaukee Avenue, including a food co-op, boxing gym, tons of independent restaurants, bars and coffee shops, as well as their own movie theater.

Near South Side, Chicago, IL

Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago

The Near South Side includes the South Loop, Printers Row and Chinatown. Within walking distance to the Loop and Lake Michigan, it’s popular among both professionals who live in the business district and families who love the convenience of the location since it also includes the Museum Campus and a healthy dose of restaurants, bars and coffee shops.

The South Loop is filled with mostly high-rise apartments and condo buildings. Printers Row, formerly part of the printing and publishing industry, is comprised of industrial-era brick buildings that have been converted into residential lofts. Chinatown has a mix of apartment buildings and single-family homes — the large Asian population that lives in this community appreciates having easy and walking access to restaurants and grocery shops stocking sizable selections of Asian sauces, meats, seafood, vegetables and more.

South Shore, Chicago, IL

Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago

The South Shore is one of Chicago’s 77 defined community areas which includes several neighborhoods within the area. It lines Lake Michigan, and residents love the easy access to Rainbow Beach, as well as the South Shore Cultural Center, a 65-acre park with a nine-hole golf course, tennis courts, culinary center, nature center and a variety of cultural programming and classes.

The Japanese Garden within Jackson Park is another oasis within this city. Since the Stony Island Arts Bank re-opened as an art gallery, media archive, gorgeous library and community center in 2015, it’s quickly become not only a gathering space for the community but a place for scholars, artists and researchers to engage with the rich history of the South Side.

West Loop, Chicago, IL

Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago

As the name implies, West Loop is west of the Loop, and what was once an industrial meatpacking district has become one of the hottest and most expensive parts of the city. Developers razed those warehouses and replaced them with shiny new luxury condo and apartment complexes. Even Harpo Studios, which used to air the Oprah Winfrey Show, was demolished to make way for the new McDonald’s corporate headquarters.

It took some time for businesses to follow but once people started filling in those tall buildings, and corporations like McDonald’s Corporate and Google Chicago Headquarters moved in, daycare centers, puppy boutiques, florists and bike shops starting filling in those first-floor retail spaces. Randolph Street quickly became known as Restaurant Row with its high-end restaurants and bars.

This is a busy neighborhood so if you like the hustle and bustle of city living, West Loop might be a good fit for you.

Wicker Park, Chicago, IL

Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago

As one of the best neighborhoods in Chicago, Wicker Park is known for its quirky shops and equally quirky residents. At the heart of Wicker Park is the Flat Iron Arts Building, which houses artist studios, tattoo parlors, galleries, creative businesses and restaurants. While the building is open daily to the public, the first Friday of the month is when the artists open their doors and invite the community in to see their work.

The area has become more gentrified and the low rents that once attracted the artist community have given way to larger condo buildings. Night and day, the area is bustling with activity, whether it’s locals heading to Quimby’s Bookstore for the latest ‘zine or meeting up with friends over coffee at Wormhole.

The best Chicago neighborhood: Yours

Chicago may have 77 community areas with unique neighborhoods within them, and choosing the best Chicago neighborhood can be hard. The best part of living in Chicago is no matter where you live, the entire city is accessible to you to have fun and explore. Whichever neighborhood you choose, you can find an apartment to rent or a home to buy to meet your needs.

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Source: rent.com

10 Tips for Fall Homebuyers Using the New Homes.com Site

If you are a home buyer who hasn’t found what you are looking for, don’t miss the fall sales season. Traditionally, it’s the best time of the year to find bargains. Homes.com’s new website, which uses artificial intelligence to locate listings you might miss, is a great tool to find homes you might have missed and new listings that meet your criteria as soon as they come on the market.

Homes.com Homes for saleHomes.com Homes for sale

Shop for Bargains in the Fall

Before real estate listings became available on the Internet, the home sales season ended at Labor Day. Only homeowners who were desperate to sell or were moving listed their homes in the fall. Access to millions of listings on the Internet has made it easier for buyers to house hunt year around.

Nowadays, the fall season is a more active market for sellers and buyers, but it’s still a smaller market than the spring and summer. There are fewer buyers and fewer properties to buy. Many families with school-age children like to get moved and settled before school begins. Also, buyers have only about six weeks to shop if they want to close before the holiday season kicks in. Waiting can make it harder to line up appraisers, home inspectors, title insurance and settlement attorneys.

This fall may see more properties in your market than normal. Sellers are more motivated than this fall than last. Many who list their homes after Labor Day fear that conditions for them will be worse next year as inventories continue to improve and prices flatten, as predicted by leading economists. More than three out of four Americans think the third quarter of this year is a good time to sell, according to the latest survey by the National Association of Realtors.

Because they have a limited window of time to sell if they want to close before the end of the year, sellers will be more willing to negotiate. Many will reduce their asking price to generate interest. Fall can be a great time for buyers looking for a good deal.

Use Homes.com to Stay on Top of Your Market

This fall will be the first for buyers to use the tools in Homes.com’s new site. Its intuitive features help identify what you are looking for and match you with existing listings and new listings that you might miss. The new Homes.com provides buyers the critical information they need to stay on top of their local markets in the fall when the timing is so important.

Here are ten tips to help buyers take advantage of Homes.com’s new features:

  1. Review your settings

    Since fewer homes will be listed after Labor Day, buyers should make sure they are seeing every listing that might interest them. Review your settings in Homes.com Match. Make sure your filters for price, size, and other features are accurate.

  2. Adjust filters to increase your options

    Your market will probably have fewer listings in the fall than the summer. To increase the number of your “favorite” listings that you track, consider changing some of your filters from “must have” to “like to have,” or even deselect some filters altogether. Loosening up on your filters will help Homes.com identify listings you might otherwise miss.

  3. Search a larger area

    You can also increase your prospects by increasing your geographic reach. Search adjoining neighborhoods and expand your search by searching by zip codes. You can scan sales trends across your entire metro by click on entire states and scrolling down for a list of towns within each state. Filter your town by price and zip codes to locate areas that you may not have considered.

  4. Save searches, lists, and favorites

    Save your listings you want to track by clicking on the “save” button at the top of the screen to add them to your “favorites” list. You can create lists of favorites by price, location and other features that you use to search. You can save each search, list and the favorites that you select to review regularly. They will be saved on the “My Homes” page.

  5. Do a search at the next highest price bracket

    There might be a perfect home that you’ve never seen because it’s priced just a little higher than the price bracket that you have been tracking. In the fall, sellers whose asking prices are a little above your budget are more likely to consider a lower offer than they were in the summer. Find these prospects by search at the next highest bracket and save the results as a different list on your My Homes page. When negotiating with sellers, be careful not to go higher than your budget allows.

  6. Identify price reductions

    In a search on Homes.com, you can find all the homes whose prices have been reduced. Look for the words “sort by closest match.” Click on the little downward pointing arrow and you will see a drop-down menu. Click on “price reduced” to see all the homes in your search that have reduced their prices. Each home with a reduced price will have the new price in a yellow box on the upper left of the house photo. Scroll down to the bottom of the listing and under “Price history” you can see when the price was reduced, by how much it was reduced and new and old prices.

  7. Identify stale listings

    Near the bottom of each listing on Homes.com is the price history of each home. Look for homes that have been on the market for two months or longer and homes that have been reduced in price. You can sort for stale listings by looking for “newer” homes using the drop-down menu that appears by clicking on “sort by closest match” as discussed above. Then scroll down to the bottom of the listings and click on the last number in the page counter. Sellers with stale listings are going to be more motivated than those who have just listed their homes.

  8. Identify bargains

    You can get a sense of whether a home is overpriced or is a good bargain by using Homes.com’s valuation tool. At the top of each page of listings, click on “Home Values” and enter the address. You will see a map of the neighborhood and the price and location of the home. The value is an estimation based on thebest available local pricing data, but it still may vary from an appraised value. By comparing the estimate to the list price of a property, you can compare the value with the asking price.

  9. Be ready to close quickly

    Get pre-approved and line up your settlement attorney, title company and home inspector in advance so that you won’t be unpleasantly surprised should they not be available during the holiday period. Review your lists and try different searches several times a week.

  10. Reduce contingency clauses

    Consider reducing contingencies in your offer to speed up the process (be sure to keep contingencies providing for financing and inspection.) If you plan to itemize your tax deductions on your 2018 taxes, be sure that you close before December 31.

Successful house hunting in the fall takes persistence and discipline. Buyers must take advantage of the best available technology to improve their chances of finding the right home. Using other search engines, it is difficult to find homes that meet both your “must haves” and your budget. Homes.com intuitively identifies prospects that meet your criteria and notifies you by email of prospects as soon as they come on the market. You will have more choices and more opportunities to find the right home with Homes.com.

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

Source: homes.com

Fall Housing Market Outlook: Change Is Underway

As we enter the fall sales season, fundamental changes are underway in many housing markets. According to the most recent existing home sales reports from the National Association of Realtors, after three years of shrinking supplies of homes for sale and rapidly rising home prices, the inventory crisis is waning and prices are leveling off.

One reason for the change in direction is lagging demand. Existing home sales fell below last year’s levels in April, May, June, and July―the heart of the home-buying season. Price hikes generated by shortages of inventory have outpaced incomes and put buying a home beyond the reach of hundreds of thousands of potential first-time buyers and move-up buyers.

Lower Sales, Moderating Prices and Improving Inventories

Higher prices have had at least one good outcome. They are encouraging more buyers to list their homes. For the first time in three years, inventories of existing homes did not decline over the summer months. NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun says several consecutive years of strong home price growth are enticing homeowners to consider selling. “Though the vast majority of consumers believe home prices will continue to increase or hold steady, they understand the days of easy, fast gains could be coming to an end. Therefore, more are indicating that it is a good time to sell, which is a healthy shift in the market.”

Unaffordability varies greatly by locale. The national statistics mask substantial variation across different parts of the U.S. Almost all Southern and Midwestern households live in affordable neighborhoods, while large shares of Northeastern and western neighborhoods have price-income ratios that would stretch middle-income family budgets. Though prices are moderating in some regions, mortgage rates affect buyers nationwide. With rates now approaching 5 percent on a thirty-year fixed rate mortgage, the highest level since 2001, the Federal Reserve is expected to raise rates one more time before the year ends.

Traditionally both demand and supply decline this time of year. With fewer buyers in the market, many sellers may pull their listings and wait until next spring. Many of those who keep their homes on the market through the fall reached or exceeded the 90-day listing period. Aging listings can scare away buyers who wonder what’s wrong with houses that haven’t sold in today’s active marketplaces and owners with stale listings.

Buyers Are Not yet Reacting to Changing Market Conditions

Fannie Mae’s authoritative Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI) a monthly consumer survey (August results) and NAR’s quarterly HOME Survey (third quarter 2018) report that consumers have not yet picked up on the slowdown of price increases and improvement of inventories over the summer has improved. In the NAR survey, a record high 77 percent of Americans believe that now is a good time to sell a house, while those that think now is a good time to buy continues to decline.

Fannie Mae’s Index improved slightly due to improving consumer income rather than better market conditions for buyers. In the third quarter of 2018, the HOME survey found that the percentage of people who believe that now is a good time to buy a home (is the lowest recorded since the survey started in 2015. (You might click on the link above for Fannie Mae’s current monthly survey results.)

Source: Fannie Mae

The jury is out on whether the current lull in sales, the stabilizing of inventories and a slight decline in the rate that prices are rising will continue through the balance of the year. Economists at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac expect year-over-year sales to stabilize over the balance of the year and prices to continue to soften. Sellers who stick it out through the fall will be stuck with 90-day plus listings have their eyes on the calendar and are super-motivated to make a deal as the holidays approach. Conditions probably won’t improve enough to encourage many first-time buyers to return to the marketplace, but it could be a good time for bargain-hunting buyers who really do their homework on local market trends and have their financing in order.

Fall Season Tips for Buyers

  • Prices will either moderate or decline slightly in most markets. Sales may drop from last season’s levels.
  • Meet with your agent to review recent local and hyper-local market trends.
  • The competition will improve due to the seasonal decline of buyers in the fall and perceptions that conditions for buyers are not improving.
  • Shop carefully and pay attention to how long properties have been listed. Research aged listings to look for suitable properties that sellers might be motivated to sell.
  • Look for price reductions.
  • Have your financing in order so that you can move quickly before the holidays arrive, which is not a good time to find a settlement agent, appraiser or home inspector.
  • If you plan to deduct the mortgage interest on your 2018 taxes, you must close on a new home before the new year, Remember, the new tax law will be in effect, and you will need more than $24,000 in deductions on a joint return to make it worth your while to itemize.
  • Move-up buyers will have to plan carefully. While this fall may be a better time to get a good deal on a larger home. Be sure you can sell your existing one this year or be prepared to wait for the spring sales season. Smaller, starter homes will still be in demand.

Fall Season Tips for Sellers

  • Review conditions in your local market conditions for buyers. If prices are still rising and inventories still near record lows, buyers may not be motivated.
  • If your home has been listed for two months or more, review your sales strategy with your agent. Review the latest comps in your neighborhood. If you need to sell this year, consider a price reduction to attract buyers.
  • Refresh your listing with new photos or video. Show off your curb appeal after the leaves have fallen and show off your fireplace with a cozy fire.
  • Should prospects for sale be dim by December, consider de-listing your home and focusing on the spring sales season. You will need to take it off your MLS for at least one month before the “clock” that tracks your home’s time on the MLS resets to zero. Take advantage of the time to review what you have learned and work with your agent to address issues that made it hard to sell your home in 2018.

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

Source: homes.com