To Fence or Not to Fence

By Megan Glenn

The question of whether to add a fence to your home is not an easy one to answer.  Certainly there are situations in which a fence is not only desirable, but necessary.  If you own, for example, a large dog, it is almost a necessity to have an enclosure in which it can roam without posing a threat to passersby.  Families with small children often opt for a fence as well, as a means of keeping little ones safe from busy streets or other hazards. 

Whether or not a fence adds value to a property is debatable, and reliable information on actual increase in value is hard to find.  It is, however, arguable that a well-built fence adds resale value if for no other reason than that families and dog-owners do buy homes.  A tasteful fence that matches the aesthetic of a home also creates a sense of privacy and charm that may not boost actual value, but certainly inspires buyers to take a second look at your home.

Even if you’re not considering selling, there’s something about a fence that makes you feel like you have a little piece of the world that is yours alone.  A fence can create a private space where outsiders can’t intrude and where you can enjoy the outdoors playing games, cooking out, or just reading in a hammock.  But if you’re considering adding a fence to your property, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Whether Tis Nobler to Build a Fence

High-end homes with ample property often don’t require fencing, and real estate agents recommend not adding one unless there is a clear reason, such as blocking out traffic noise or obstructing an unsightly view.  For expensive homes, fences don’t necessarily add value in relation to the costs of construction and materials.

There are, however, fencing materials that do speak elegance, should you need one for a high-end property.  Wrought iron fencing lends beauty to any home and works well both with traditional home designs and with a more modern aesthetic.  And technology has come a long way in creating iron fencing that isn’t prone to rust and that doesn’t scratch, dent, or pit easily.  Most manufacturers use a powder-based coating that seals and protects metal, so that fencing lasts a long time with very little maintenance.

Another option is to create a “live fence” made of trees, shrubs, and other landscaping.  This style of fence requires very little upkeep and adds landscaping value to your home.  Furthermore, with the right choice of tree, such as the Leland Cypress or White pine that grows fast, you can quickly create a private space to enjoy.

A Huge Expense?

For the mid-range home, fences often do add resale value as homes are closer together and families are often buying in this range.  But you don’t have to spend a fortune to create a beautiful fence.

The “good neighbor” style, which is a wooden picket fence just over waist height, allows that sense of enclosure for animals, children, and a little privacy, while not having a big impact on your wallet.  And even a 6-foot privacy fence made of wood isn’t astronomical.  Although wood fences don’t have the durability of some other styles, with the proper upkeep, they can last a long time.

If you’re looking for something more substantial and have the money to invest, certainly wrought iron and steel fences add a touch of elegance to the mid-range home.  But another option is vinyl fencing, which adds the charm of a wood appearance while lasting for a long time with virtually no maintenance.

Don’t Suffer the Slings and Arrows

There are a few things that can actually hurt property values when it comes to fencing.  Upkeep is one of the primary concerns, particularly with wood fencing.  Should you choose to go with wood, be sure to routinely reseal your fencing with a quality exterior coating.  Pay attention to joins in the fence where screws, nails, and other fixtures can rust through and leave you with sagging or leaning fence sections.  You should also pay attention to wooden posts where they meet the ground.  Prolonged exposure to moisture can cause them to sheer off at ground level.

Another concern in choosing fencing comes with chain-link fencing.  While chain-link may be the less expensive choice, be aware that it comes with certain ingrained attitudes towards it.  Because of its associations with industrial properties and protected public spaces, such as athletic fields and schools, chain-link tends to decrease property values.  According to some real estate agents, potential buyers often see chain-link, particularly when it encloses a front yard, as saying “dangerous dog on the property” or “this home needs protecting because of the neighborhood.”  Not that this is the reality of the property, but, unfortunately, some attitudes are hard to change.  Should you choose to go with chain-link consider fencing only your backyard.

Small Spaces Sell with the Right Touches

by Megan Glenn

Are you thinking of selling your house or condo, but you’re worried space seems too tight?  Stop fretting!  The rise of the tiny house movement means even the smallest of dwellings have become not only marketable, but fashionable.  And armed with the knowledge of some basic techniques for creating the illusion of space, there’s no reason you can’t provide open, airy designs that will have potential buyers wowed.

Furniture that Fits

You may think that the best thing to do to make a small space look big is to empty it, but designer Kristie Barnett says an empty room gives buyers no sense of scale, and that she’s seen sales fall through simply because the client assumed furniture would not fit.

The trick, instead, is to get rid of overstuffed furniture and to choose one large piece that will be the central focus of the room. Judge every other item against this piece and ask if it serves a functional or design purpose.  If the answer doesn’t come easy, get rid of it.

Opt for smaller, streamlined pieces, such as switching out that sectional sofa for a loveseat.  Furniture that sits lower to the floor creates an illusion of space — think midcentury modern — and it is often more effective to group furniture on one side of a room or to create space between wall and furniture.  When items are pushed against walls around the room it creates a cramped feel. 

Experts also suggest placing taller items away from doorways so as not to visually close off the space upon entering.  We tend to track a room from left to right just as we read, and incorporating horizontal elements that encourage us to track that way smoothly makes the room feel larger.  Items that make our eyes bounce around the room tend to make the space feel smaller.

Keep It Light and Open

The first rule to increasing a sense of space is to de-clutter rooms.  Clear surface tops and take down family pictures, store away extra pillows, and get rid of freestanding pieces that clutter the floor.  You may need to consider gathering possessions and unnecessary furniture to keep in storage until your house is sold.

A second vital aspect of space is accenting natural light.  Windows should be as open as possible to allow maximum light in.  Instead of curtains, you might use blinds.  If you must use curtains, hang the rod high and wide so that they can be opened to reveal the entire window. 

A third trick to maximizing light is to incorporate mirrors into your design.  A mirror placed across from a window not only reflects light back into the room, but enhances the illusion of larger, airier space.  The effect can be increased by choosing furnishings that have chrome, polished metal, or mirrored trim.  And when it comes to furnishings, show some leg.  Air and light beneath your pieces only increases the sense of openness.

Finally, when it comes to actual lighting, get rid of the single overhead fixture which tends to dim the perimeter of the room and make it feel even smaller.  Opt instead for strategically placed lamps that cast light into all areas of the room.

Decorate with Space in Mind

If you want to create an illusion of openness, paint walls in lighter, brighter colors.  Most designers suggest shades of white, but you can choose a bolder color for one wall as accent.  If you choose to do so, adding a few matching decorative touches such as pillows or artwork enhance the sense of unity and space.

Fabrics and materials can also contribute to our visual assessment of a room.  Avoid heavy fabrics and dark bulky wood pieces.  Linens, voiles, and tulles are better choices for keeping your space feeling open and light 

Another suggestion is to carefully consider artwork and other decorative pieces.  Minimize art, opting for one larger focal piece that is more neutral in theme.  Remember that you’re showcasing the space, not your belongings.  And for decorative pieces, a good rule of thumb is that anything smaller than a cantaloupe makes surfaces seem cluttered.   

One last consideration is what to do with floors.  Some designers recommend that you don’t include rugs at all.  If you do decide to incorporate them, choose smaller rugs and orient them to define functional spaces within the room.

Make It Multifunctional

One way to make your rooms feel larger is to suggest their multi-functionality as you decorate.  Stage a small den as a space that can double both as home office and as dining area.  Choosing stackable furnishings and foldaway leaves can keep the space open while still suggesting multiple uses.  A small bedroom with a murphy bed can act both as sleeping space and as an office, reading space, or work area.

Outdoor Space as Another Room

Don’t forget to take advantage of any outdoor areas on your property.  A balcony or patio can be decorated to suggest a reading area, an eating space, or even a relaxing place to get work done.  Even if the space is small, you can choose streamlined, folding furniture to suggest a dual space for grilling and entertaining or for settling down to serious business.

Upgrading an Older Home Is Money Well Spent

Written by: Ray Flynn

When you buy a house that is more than just a few decades old, you’re investing in a piece of history. And you’ll inherit all the home’s character, its mature landscaping, and most likely its quality building materials. But you also take on the added cost of bringing it up to modern times. With a little planning, you can bring out the best in your new older home.

The Functional Stuff

An older house, unfortunately, often means dated plumbing, electrical, and heating and cooling. Tackle these areas first.

For the electrical, take a look at the breaker panel. Chances are, if it’s more than 25 years old, it’s time for a replacement. ABC Home & Commercial Services explains that this is not a job for even an experienced DIYer. For one, changing out the electrical components of your home is considered a major remodel, and you will likely need to obtain a permit and will most definitely have to pass an electrical inspection.

If you think it’s time to replace the plumbing, take a quick peek under the sink. Many older homes are outfitted with galvanized steel, cast iron, or lead pipes. To bring things up to modern standards, you’ll need to replace these with PVC, copper, or brass. Like with electrical, changing out the plumbing likely requires a permit.

When your home’s HVAC is more than a decade old and not operating efficiently, it’s time to replace this, too. If you have yet to buy the home, you might be able to negotiate a decrease in price to compensate. Don’t forget to replace the ductwork, otherwise you may wind up blowing decades’ worth of dust throughout your home.

The Fun Stuff

The fun remodeling jobs are those that make your house more enjoyable. These are largely esthetic and can wait until after all your systems are in working order.

The kitchen and the bathroom are likely two areas where you want to get to work. Something as simple as a coat of paint and new hardware can go a long way here. But, when you want to have a real impact, new floors and countertops are the way to go. For the countertops, you have many choices; Corian, butcher block, concrete, and granite are all popular. However, many homeowners decide to stick with the timeless look of quartz, which costs around $125 per square foot to install, according to estimates from HomeAdvisor. Quartz has the advantages of being easy to clean and stain resistant, and it won’t crack or chip.

When looking for a countertop installer, make sure they have years of experience in your material of choice. Keep in mind that it may take a few days to get the job done because they will have to level out your existing cabinets, add necessary supports, line your countertops up precisely, and seamlessly join each piece together.

The Foundational Stuff

No talk about an older home would be complete without at least mentioning the foundation. With an older home, it is not unusual to see some stair-stepping in the bricks. This is typically nothing to worry about, but true foundation problems can’t be ignored.

Make sure that you pay for a home inspection (typically costs $300 – $500), which will likely point out any major defects, like shearing in the foundation walls or cracks on the concrete pad beneath your home. Depending on the price of the property, you may be able to get an exceptional deal on a home if its foundation needs repair. You’ll just have to weigh the repair costs and inconvenience against price.

Buying an older home has its pros and cons. On one hand, it is probably in a well-established area and more than likely won’t get crowded out by cookie-cutter homes. On the other, it may take a bit of elbow grease to shine it up. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide on your living situation. When you choose an older home, the function, fun, and foundation are the three areas that can make or break your decision.


Image via Pexels

A Guide to Buying a California Vacation Rental

By Henry Moore

California is the third largest of the United States and offers a diversity of attractions, from the glitz and glamor of Hollywood to the serene redwood forests. Given the variety of sightseeing options, it’s no wonder that the state is a hot spot for tourists: Tourism brought in $140 billion in 2018 alone. Thanks to its popularity, California is an ideal choice if you want to buy a property that you can rent out as a vacation home. To make a profit, however, you need to choose your real estate wisely. Find out how to set up a profitable property with these tips:


Target a popular tourist area


California is vast. Before you buy, narrow down your search area based on popular tourist sites. There’s no point buying a bargain piece of property if it’s located in the middle of nowhere and won’t attract traffic. Possibilities include Los Angeles, where you can go shopping on Rodeo Drive or visit the homes of Hollywood stars. Or you could look in San Francisco for access to all the Bay Area has to offer. Another area to explore is San Diego.  La Jolla has stunning cliff views and is ideal for seal and sea lion watching, and a home in the Gaslamp Quarter will put you near the world-famous San Diego Zoo.


Compare location prices


With your geographic area narrowed down, you can start to compare real estate prices to ensure you find something within your budget. Some neighborhoods will be more affordable than others. Using a real estate search tool allows you to get an overview of the average costs of different districts. For instance, Redfin notes that homes in San Diego sold for an average of $632,000 over the last month. Compare this to San Francisco, notorious for its expensive homes, where the average price is a whopping $1.2 million.


Calculate potential profits


Figure out your operating costs. There isn’t just electricity and water to consider, but also cleaning fees, property taxes, your mortgage, and insurance. Then there are advertising prices—you have to find your guests, after all. Next, calculate your expected monthly income based on how much you are charging per night and how many nights you expect to rent out the property. Compare the two figures to make sure you will turn a profit. If not, see if you can reasonably increase the price on the property. Otherwise, you might want to keep looking for a more cost-effective option.


Set up your vacation home for business


You can’t just put a vacation home up for rent as is. People want to feel like they are getting a “home away from home,” and it’s your job to deliver this experience. Stock the place with everyday amenities like kitchen tools, toilet paper, WiFi, and linens and towels. Homeaway’s checklist includes lots of small but important items you might not otherwise think of, from garbage bags to a hairdryer (which Amazon sells for under $10). If you really want to make the rental attractive and justify a higher price, install “luxury” perks like barbecue, jacuzzi, or fireplace.


Start advertising


There are many online vacation rental platforms available to choose from when listing your rental. Business Insider provides several options, from Airbnb to OneFineStay. Airbnb alone has over one million properties listed worldwide, so with this wealth of resources at your fingertips, you should have no problems finding guests.


Use the above list to ensure your vacation home is marketable in terms of location, area, and amenities, and you’re sure to get business. While it will initially require an extra investment of money, time, and effort, once your California property rental is up and running, you will enjoy a wonderful source of primarily passive income. Plus, for those times when it isn’t in use, you can use it for your own enjoyment!


Photo Credit:

Home-Buying: How To Find The Right Seller

The best seller is one who is highly motivated. A highly motivated seller is more likely to sell at a price that is less than his or her house is actually worth. And it matters that you find out why. Learning the reason why can help you get the price you want and help the seller get what they want: a timely sale.

When given the opportunity to meet with sellers, ask them why they are selling. The reason could be anything, such as a job change that causes them to move to a new location or financial problems. If you can solve their problem, whether it is cash related or time related, do so. For example, if the sellers are highly motivated because they need to move quickly, give them a fast sale – and a lower price. If you can make an offer, even a low one, that gives them cash in a short time, they are more likely to accept.

Image result for home seller

There are also some sellers that you should avoid. Not every seller is as genuinely motivated as they make themselves to be. Some possible hints:

  • they stall on having the home appraised or inspected
  • they are unable to clear up liens against their property
  • they do not own 100% of their property
  • they push back the move-out date
  • they do not have a replacement property or back up plan
  • etc.

It is impossible to find the perfect seller. But it is possible to find out which sellers are legit and which ones aren’t.

Home Selling: Build Your Plan of Action

1. Analyze why you are selling – If you understand your motives, you will be able to better negotiate and to get what it is that you want, whether it be a quick sale, high price, or somewhere in the middle.

2. Prepare your home for the buyer – Maximize the strengths of your property and fix up its weaknesses. You want the buyer to walk away from your home with a lasting good impression.

3. Find a good real estate agent that understands your needs – Make sure that your agent is loyal to you, and can negotiate to help you achieve your goals. In addition, they should be assertive and honest with both you and the buyer.

4. BRelated imagee prepared for negotiation – Learn and understand your buyer’s situation; what are their motives? Can you demand a big deposit from them? Try to lock in the buyer so that the deal goes through.

5. Negotiate for the best price and the best terms – Learn how to counter offer to get maximum value from every offer.

6. Make sure the contract is accurate and complete – Be honest with your disclosures; you do not want to lose the deal because you were lying or diminishing your home’s defects. Insist the buyers get a professional inspection. This will protect both you and the buyer.

Getting a Legitimate Lender and Getting Pre-Approved


It used to be that buyers could go house shopping and when they have found their dream home, then they go to get pre-approved. However, in today’s market, that has proven to be one of the least effective methods in landing a dream home.

Most lenders can pre-qualify you for a mortgage over the phone. Based on general questions about your income, debt, assets, and credit history, lenders can estimate how much mortgage you qualify for. However, being pre-qualified and pre-approved are different things. Pre-approval means that you have applied for a mortgage; you have filled out the mortgage application, received your credit report, and verified your employment, assets, etc. When you are pre-approved, you know exactly what the maximum loan amount will be.

A pre-qualified letter is not verified and in essence, does not count for much if you are competing with other buyers who are pre-approved. When you are pre-approved, you and the seller know exactly how much house you can afford. It gives you credibility as an interested buyer and lets the seller know immediately that you will qualify for a loan to buy their property. Image result for pre approved

In addition to being pre-approved, it’s important to be pre-approved with a legitimate lender. Legitimate lenders include: banks, mortgage bankers, credit unions, savings and loan associations, mortgage brokers, and online lenders.

Some lenders to avoid: those who lose a form or misplace a file, those who gather information from you in an unorganized manner, those who are not informed about interest rates, points or costs, and those who cannot provide you with the right information.