Martocchia Realtors®'s Blog
Flooring can add to the function of your newly finished basement, or it can take it away. Installing the wrong type of flooring material in a below-grade space could leave you open to costly water damage or even the growth of mold and bacteria. Even the best-built basements are sometimes prone to invasion by moisture seeping through concrete walls or up through subfloor materials. This is why it's vital to choose flooring that's specifically designed for below-grade use. If you want a finished basement that's attractive and functional, as well as one that won't require constant maintenance, opt for easy-care materials like those listed below.
Epoxy flooring is a mixture of resin with hardeners added. And if you've ever shopped the local food warehouse or super home store, you've likely seen epoxy flooring. Sleek and exceptionally glossy, epoxy can be applied with rollers over the course of a single weekend, giving you an attractive basement floor that's nearly impervious to damage. It's available in a full range of colors, as well.
Stamped, Stained or Painted Concrete
Another easy flooring option for your new basement involves concrete that's been poured and smoothed with a rake and a squeegee. Afterward, the concrete can be stained or painted any color you desire. It can even be stamped to resemble other materials such as natural stone, brick or tile.
Laminate is a type of flooring that's installed as planks or tiles. It's a manufactured type of flooring that's extremely durable and can mimic the look and feel of hardwood at a fraction of the cost and without the worry of warping should it happen to get wet. Because it's installed in pieces as a floating floor, laminate is easy to repair if a section becomes damaged. Simply pop out the bad plank and replace it with a new one. This may mean removing part of the floor to get to the piece that's damaged, but there's no adhesive involved with laminate, so putting everything back is an easy fix.
Rubber flooring comes in multiple variations, including tiles and rolls. Either is good for basement flooring, but tiles are easy to replace should the need arise. Rubber is super easy to install, and it adds soft comfort to your below-grade space. It's also a great insulator. This translates into a lower utility bill each month. Residential-grade rubber flooring may be comparable in price, however, to other high-end flooring options such as natural stone.
These flooring options are all easy to install yourself, but if you doubt your DIY skills, your local contractor will be happy to help. Your newly finished basement can be a reality this year if you make savvy choices from the floor up.
If you are handy with home repair, you could buy a more expensive house if you are willing to put some work into it. Many foreclosures are often sold “as is,” and require some work. The seller may also be more open to negotiating a lower price based on the number of repairs that need to be done. You could save quite a bit of money if you can do a lot of the work yourself.
The Down Payment
If you budgeted $300,000 for a home, you probably have the 20 percent down payment saved up already. Instead of putting all of that down payment on a $300,000 house, you could purchase a home that would be worth $400,000 if it didn’t need work. Instead, the sellers have listed the home for $200,000. Instead of putting $60,000 down on a home that is ready to move into, you could get a larger home and put down with a $40,000 down payment. That gives you $20,000 that you already saved to put into repairs.
Some lenders have loan programs that are specifically for fixer-uppers. They lend you the amount needed to purchase the home and extra money to make repairs to the house. However, you will have to follow the lender’s rules. The rules vary from lender to lender, but could include:
- Doing a percentage of the work yourself;
- Living on the property; and
- Completing a portion of the work within a specific amount of time.
If you already plan on doing most or all of the work yourself, you’ve met that condition. If you are required to live on the property, you could set up an RV or live in a section of the house that doesn’t need extensive repairs. You could even convert an outbuilding to an in-law apartment.
The hardest part is committing to completing a percentage of the work within a specific amount of time. If you work all day, you only have nights and weekends to work on the house.
Know What Has to Be Done
Before you commit to a loan with terms for extra money to fix up a home, go through the house to make a list of everything that absolutely must be done. You might make a second list of things that you would like to do, but do not stop you from living in the house. Determine the costs of the “must-do” repairs to make sure you have enough money to make those repairs. Then, estimate the amount of time it will take you to make those repairs. You might want to pad the time since Murphy’s Law loves to interfere with your best intentions.
Once you determine that you have enough money to at least get the house habitable and can do it within the lender’s terms, you are ready to make a bid!
The VA home loan program allows qualified veterans and active-duty members of the military to get an affordable home loan with a minimal down payment. If you're planning to use this loan program, you can take specific measures to improve your chances of approval. These tips will take you from house hunting to homeownership quickly with an affordable VA home loan.
1. Get Your Certificate of Eligibility
The Certificate of Eligibility (COE) shows your lender that you are approved for the program. If you get this document before you apply for the loan, you'll know whether or not you qualify. You can request the COE from the VA through the eBenefits portal or in person at the VA Regional Loan Center.
2. Check Your Credit
One of the benefits of the VA home loan program is the fact that it has less stringent credit requirements than other loan types, but that doesn't mean your credit has no role to play. Your credit rating directly impacts the interest rate on your VA loan, and if your credit is too low, you may not get approved. Check your credit, and if needed, make changes to raise your score.
3. Establish Reliable Income
Even with the VA home loan program behind you, a lender is not going to loan you money if you don't have a reliable, stable income. Most lenders want to see that you have held a job with enough income to cover your payments for at least two years. If you have recently changed jobs, ask your lender what you need to show to prove your reliability as an employee.
4. Choose the Right Agent
Not all agents are well-versed in the VA home loan program. There are some quirks to VA loan approval that can put roadblocks in place as you look for a home. For instance, the VA has specific property requirements that the home must meet for the loan to be approved, and the appraisal process is a bit more stringent than traditional loans. Working with an agent that is VA-savvy will help speed up the process and make loan approval on the house you love easier to get.
5. Choose the Right Lender
A VA home loan doesn't come from the VA, but rather from a lender that partners with the VA. You can take some time to shop for the most affordable option, as long as you shop with lenders who participate in the VA home loan program. Remember, closing costs and fees may vary from one lender to the next, so find the one that offers the best terms for your situation.
The VA home loan benefit never expires, and you can use it again and again. As long as the mortgage money goes toward a home you're going to live in, not an investment property, you can buy a home with zero down and a fair interest rate using this benefit. With these tips, you can get the best possible loan funded quickly.
There are few things for a home seller that are more stressful than the home inspection. You hope and pray that everything will come out a-OK in your house so that your buyers will want to continue with the sale without asking for too many contingencies. There’s a few simple things that you can do to make sure your home inspection goes smoothly. The good news is that these tasks won’t cost you a lot of time or money. A few simple actions can save you a lot of grief in unnecessary service calls. Check out these tips to help you get through the home inspection with flying colors:
Check Your Light Bulbs
If you have a light bulb that’s simply burnt out, that could prompt the need for a check of the entire electrical system in your home. Avoid a costly visit from an electrician just by checking your light bulbs and replacing them where necessary.
Check Your Air Filters
The air filters in your home can be easily neglected and be a big problem in the home inspection process. Even if a filter looks a little gray, take the time to replace it. You should check your air filters and furnace filters for any potential problems like tears or excess dirt. For bonus points, you may want to just replace the filters before the inspection no matter how little dirt they have on them. Otherwise, a clogged filter can be a sign that your furnace or heating and cooling system isn’t working properly.
Check Your Sinks
A few dollars spent on some drain unclogging chemicals is a few hundred dollars potentially saved on a plumber. Fill up your sinks with water and see how they drain. If they’re a bit slow, get the chemicals that you need to work on unclogging the drains (such as Drain-o). If there’s a funny smell coming from the drain, be sure to address it. Lemons also work wonders on everything from drains to garbage disposals. Even some baking soda and vinegar can help to clean a drain wonderfully.
Fix Major Repairs Before Your Home Goes On The Market
If you know something pressing needs to be fixed or replaced in your home, be sure to fix it before the home even goes on the market. It’s much easier to take care of things before a buyer’s contingency and a time limit is involved. Although you may be hesitant to spend the money, you should replace certain appliances, fix the roof, or address that creaky floor before the “For Sale” sign even goes out front.
Virtual meetings and video conferencing have become the norm as we adapt to social distancing guidelines and staying well. And while these times will eventually pass and we will return to our previous times of normalcy, we're all going to need to continue to adapt and get creative in the meantime. In the real estate industry, this has resulted in virtual - rather than in-person - home showings. With in-person home showings limited and many home buyers or sellers uncomfortable either physically touring or showing a property, respectively, these virtual tours present a way to move properties without putting people at risk. Here's a look at some best practices for your virtual tours:
Acquire the Right Equipment
Minimally, you'll need at least your smartphone or tablet to perform a good virtual home showing. However, there are a few additional accessories that are worth investing in:
- A phone mount or tripod with rotating head: This allows you to place your device in certain rooms to give interested buyers a steady, more professional 360-degree perspective of the area and space. If you're connecting live, make sure you have an adequate data plan so you don't lack cell service or connectivity during the tour.
- Software: The likes of FaceTime, Zoom, Facebook Messenger and Microsoft Teams can make for ideal virtual tour platforms - and you can record said tours so that buyers are able to reference them when weighing their options later. Certain software packages can also enhance still images into 3D tours or help create interactive floor plans. It can make for a nice leave-behind with interested buyers following a live virtual home tour.
Staging the Home
Many people prefer the more "raw" look that a virtual tour over the video conferencing applications provide, but that doesn't mean that you still shouldn't be staging the home appropriately. Here's a look at some tips:
- Let there be light: Open shades, curtains and blinds, and turn on light bulbs so that it shows well. Be sure to test the light prior to giving the live tour to make sure there's not too much light, however. Too much or too little light can show poorly via video.
- Stick to the basics for a good home showing: Make sure the property is decluttered so that it looks bigger. Also make sure the property is clean (i.e, vacuum, clean windows, dust, etc.)
- Don't wing it: Plan the route you'll take when you connect for the live virtual showing so that it goes as smoothly as possible. You'll also want to be prepared to explain certain features as you conduct the tour. Make sure to leave time for questions before moving on to the next room.
- Have a conversation: After you're done giving the tour, pop your phone or tablet into a tripod so you can chat face-to-face. Then, have a conversation, ask for questions or there is interest in returning to any specific areas of the home for a second look.
- Do a trial run: Technology can be tricky, especially if you're new to using it. Perform a trial so you have time to get the hang of things before it's show time.