The Negotiation Process Made Simple

by c21commonweath_ldowling 12. November 2019 10:08

Selling a home is exciting, but it can also be a bit intimidating. Every seller hopes to receive multiple offers, spark a bidding war, and settle on a price far above asking, but this doesn’t represent reality for many of us.

In the real world, most houses go for less than the asking price—about 80% of them, according to Zillow.

Negotiation Is Key

When you're selling a home, you go in understanding that you may not receive your asking price. However, that doesn't mean you have to accept whatever offer you receive. Negotiation is the key to unlocking the potential profit in your property.

It may seem like the buyer has all the power in real estate deals, but this isn't actually the case. As a seller, you have a product the buyer wants. Negotiation is all about using your power wisely. Here are five tips that can help:

Know the Market

Every good salesperson understands their product and the market. The first step in successful negotiation is putting yourself at a good starting point. If you set your starting price too high, you can put off potential buyers. Set the price too low, and you might settle for less than you want.

Home Inspections Let You Hold the Cards

Smart buyers ask for home inspections before making an offer. If the inspection turns up any problems, the buyer gains leverage in the negotiation. If you have the home inspection done ahead of time, you will know of potential problems before the buyer does. You can address the issues or adjust your price accordingly.

Create Competition

Some buyers want to come in and make an offer as soon as a house is on the market. As a seller, you can refuse any offer until after you have an open house. Even if you receive only one offer, you can put pressure on the buyer by making them think there were multiple offers on the table.

Your Offers Have Expiration Dates

Some buyers try to turn negotiation into a series of multiple offers and counteroffers. When you make a counteroffer, consider putting an expiration date on it. This puts pressure on the buyer to wrap up the deal quickly, and if they don’t accept, you’ll be free to take any better offers that may come along later.

Don't Be Afraid to Walk Away

As either a buyer or a seller, your willingness to walk away from a deal is your most powerful weapon. Turning down an offer sends the message that you’re confident in your position. However, don’t close the door completely. Tell potential buyers they are free to make a new offer if they’re interested.

Conventional wisdom says the buyer has all the power in a negotiation, but sellers have more power than they think. Use it to your advantage with shrewd negotiation.


Create the Perfect Fall Kitchen

by c21commonweath_ldowling 6. November 2019 14:40

On Thanksgiving itself and the days leading up to it, many homeowners spend more time in the kitchen cooking for friends and family. If you’re hosting any dinners or get-togethers this November, why not decorate your kitchen to help set the mood? Here’s how to create a cozy, autumnal kitchen you and your guests will love.  

Squash, Gourds, and Pumpkins

Fall is harvesting season for pumpkins, squash, and gourds, all of which you can use in your fall décor. They all come from the same genetic family, but some are better for eating while others are better for carving and decorating. We recommend using pumpkins and gourds as centerpieces instead of squashes, which have meatier interiors and rot more quickly—eat the squash instead! 

To create the perfect centerpieces, arrange your pumpkins and gourds in large bowls with seasonal foliage and fruit, or place them on top of your kitchen counters and bars or next to candle displays. If you want to get even more creative, put your pumpkins and gourds inside of cabinets with glass paneling or on top of the fireplace mantle for more subtle fall flavor.

If you don’t want to overwhelm the space with bright colors, decorate your kitchen with white pumpkins. They’re a sophisticated choice, and they’ll complement other decorative items in the home. If you’re going for a more colorful display, combine orange, yellow, and green pumpkins with fall foliage to make your arrangements pop.

Add Autumn Colors

Weave dark textiles into your design for a cozy effect. Dark, natural linens and window coverings will complement softer textures, like pumpkins, fall flowers, and fruit. To add pops of color, use a couple of colorful hand towels or a table runner with bright colors to liven up the space.

If you’re feeling really ambitious with your decorating, you can always paint a wall or two in fall colors. Deep red, warm orange, or olive brown paints will make your space feel cozy and welcoming. If you don’t want to paint an entire wall, purchase a few colorful decorative items to hang up around your dining room table.

Get Crafty

Another fun (and affordable) option is making your own fall decorations. Paint mason jars in fall-friendly colors and fill them with utensils or flowers to organize and prettify the space. One of our favorite tricks is painting pumpkins with glue and sprinkling glitter on top to create flashy pumpkin centerpieces. Click here for a list of craft ideas that will inspire your next decorating project.

Get the Most Out of Your Space

Now that you’ve put the time into decorating your kitchen for fall, we hope you get to enjoy it! Whether you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner or a neighborhood potluck, make sure you allow yourself some quality time to enjoy your cozy fall kitchen.


Determining an Offer Price

by c21commonweath_ldowling 4. November 2019 12:44

You need to submit a competitive offer to successfully purchase a home, striking the right balance between impressing the seller and protecting your assets. While you want to get the most bang for your buck, you also want to put yourself in a position to seal the deal before another buyer offers something more lucrative. Here are several important things to consider before submitting your final offer to the seller.

The Market

First, determine if you are in a buyer’s or seller’s market. If you’re house hunting in a buyer’s market, in which a larger inventory of available homes drives down the competition, you have more negotiating power. When offers are few and far between, the seller is more likely to settle on a lower amount, and you probably won’t have to submit an offer above the asking price.

A seller’s market is different. Sellers are less willing to negotiate when they have several offers from other interested buyers. Extra competition prompts some buyers to waive the home inspection fee or submit an all-cash offer. If you’re buying in a seller’s market, expect to meet or exceed the seller’s asking price.

Pay attention to the general local market value to see what similar homes are going for in the area. A real estate agent can provide you with a comparative market report, helping you decide on a fair and appropriate offer. 


The longer the house has been on the market, the better your chances of successfully negotiating with the seller. If they’ve already moved into their new home and they’re paying two mortgages at once, they’re probably eager to sell—even below the asking price. Be prepared to offer more than that asking price if the home has just been listed in a seller’s market, however.


How badly you want this home compared to others in the neighborhood? If you’re set on this property, communicate your enthusiasm to the seller by offering more than the asking price. This lets them know you’re serious about the sale and possibly gives you an advantage over other buyers. Just don’t forget the additional expenses associated with home inspections, closing costs, and realtor fees.

Let an Agent Help

A local real estate agent can help you decide on an offer price that’s both reasonable and in line with your budget. If you’re unsure of how high an offer to submit, turn to an agent to provide you with important market information and a report of property prices in the area. You’ll gain a clear idea of how much money you need to compete against other buyers, forcing you to consider how much you love this particular home and how much you’re willing to spend.


5 Common Types of Mortgages

by c21commonweath_ldowling 28. October 2019 14:39

When you're getting ready to buy a home, you have a lot of decisions to make. What neighborhood should you move into? How much should you offer? What if you get into a bidding war? One easy question to answer is: Should you have a mortgage? For most Americans, the answer to this question is yes.

Interest rates are low right now, and many Americans are taking out mortgages to buy new homes. At $9.4 trillion, Americans have more mortgage debt than ever before. However, this still leaves the question of what kind of mortgage you should use. When you take out a mortgage, it will be part of your life for the next 15 or 30 years. It's important to pick the right one.

Fortunately, choosing a mortgage isn't too difficult. When you have your budget figured out, and you know how big of a down payment you can afford, it’ll be easy to choose the right mortgage once you know which options are available.

The Five Most Common Types of Mortgages

Finances can be complicated in general, but mortgages are pretty simple. Here are the five most common types of mortgages on the market:

The Conventional Mortgage

A mortgage that isn't insured by the federal government is called a conventional mortgage. If the amount you borrow falls within industry guidelines for your income level, a conventional loan will probably work for you. Because conventional mortgages aren't backed by the federal government, lenders typically require that you carry private mortgage insurance if your down payment is less than 20% of your home’s value.

Fixed-Rate Mortgages

When you have a fixed-rate mortgage, you'll pay the same interest rate for the entire life of your loan. Fixed-rate loans are more popular when interest rates are low. Today, interest rates are less than 4%, so many buyers are currently opting for a fixed rate. 

Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

When you have an adjustable-rate mortgage, your interest rate can change. If interest rates go down, you save money, but if interest rates go up, you could end up paying more. Many lenders offer adjustable-rate mortgages with a cap on the maximum interest rate. This can save you if interest rates rise sharply.

Government-Insured Mortgages

The U.S. government doesn't loan money directly to home buyers, but there are three government agencies that back loans: the Department of Agriculture, the Federal Housing Administration, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. These agencies help buyers who may not qualify for many loans.

Jumbo Mortgages

If you want to purchase a home that exceeds industry loan guidelines for your income or area, you'll need a jumbo loan. These loans typically require more paperwork so lenders can be confident you won't default on the loan.

A home will probably be the biggest asset you’ll own, while your mortgage will usually be your biggest debt. A mortgage will be part of your life for a long time, so it's important to choose the right one for you.


What Is Title Insurance?

by c21commonweath_ldowling 25. October 2019 12:53

Buying a home is a complicated process. There are pages and pages of paperwork to fill out, and seemingly endless fees to pay. The costs associated with buying a home add up. Are you tempted to cut some corners and avoid some costs? Maybe you think you should forgo title insurance to save some money. This could be a mistake.

When someone sells a piece of property, the public records office in their city or county records the title change. Sometimes problems arise. When things go wrong, the sale could even be delayed until the buyers or sellers rectify the problems. Title insurance protects the buyer, lender, and seller from any extra costs resulting from the delay.

How Does Title Insurance Work?

Before a real estate transaction can go through, any claim or liens against the property owner must be settled. Title insurance covers the cost of these claims. Normal insurance protects you from what could happen in the future, but title insurance protects you from what has happened in the past.

How Do I Get Title Insurance?

In most cases, lenders require title insurance for anyone taking out a mortgage. Your real estate agent or lender will typically purchase coverage from one of the five major title insurance underwriters in the United States.

What If I Don't Get Title Insurance?

Going without the protection offered by title insurance exposes you to serious financial risk. Imagine purchasing a home without title insurance only to find that the previous owner owes back taxes. As the new owner, these taxes are now your responsibility. If you don't pay the taxes, you could lose your new home, but if you have title insurance, the fees will be taken care of.

Title insurance is not just for individuals. Banks and other lenders use it to protect themselves from borrowers who might default on a loan.

Many real estate investors specialize in foreclosures, which often have issues with titles. Title insurance protects everyone from the risks associated with these properties. If you want to be as successful as a real estate investor, or if you just want to protect yourself as a homeowner, title insurance is essential. Don't risk losing your money or your property—make sure you have title insurance.


Real Estate Basics: Rent or Buy?

by c21commonweath_ldowling 23. October 2019 16:24

Not everyone pays attention to real estate, but there are a few topics that seem to rile people up all the time. One topic that’s virtually guaranteed to get people talking is the seemingly innocent question, should I rent or buy?

Why does this topic get people so excited? It's one that everyone can relate to. For years, purchasing a home was something that all successful people did. After so many people lost their homes during the housing crisis, however, the experts started telling us it's better to rent. One problem is that there are good points to be made on both sides of the debate. Here are some usual arguments for buying:

  • Once you pay off your home, it belongs to you. You'll never have to pay rent again.
  • Real estate appreciates in value. If the increase in value is more than what you pay in interest, taxes, and maintenance, you come out ahead.
  • Buying is better for your taxes.

These arguments sound compelling, but there are also solid arguments on the side of renting:

  • When you rent, you don't have to pay for maintenance.
  • Buying a house can tie up so much of your money that you can't save for the future.
  • If the market goes south, renters won't lose their investment.

With so many reasonable-sounding arguments, it’s sometimes difficult to make an intelligent decision.

What's the Bottom Line?

So which is better, renting or buying? It depends on your situation. Here are some questions to help you decide:

How Long Will You Be in Your Home?

Buying usually makes more sense for people who are planning to be in their home for a long time. While homes often increase in value, it can take years for the increase to offset the costs of maintenance and taxes.

What Else Could You Do with Your Money?

Buying a home will tie up a significant portion of your assets, so it's important to know what else you could do with that money. If you are disciplined saver and plan to invest the money in securities, you could come out ahead. If you are more likely to keep the money in your checking account or blow it on an extravagant vacation, you're probably better off buying a home.

What Is the Cost of Buying Versus Renting in Your Area?

Depending on where you live, the amount you pay in rent could be higher than a mortgage. Determine the cost of both renting and buying in your city before making a decision.

If you still aren’t sure whether you should rent or buy a home, the answer depends on your situation. No matter what you choose, make sure you are basing your decision on the best information available.


The Rise of Co-Living in Boston

by c21commonweath_ldowling 16. October 2019 14:09

Living alone is expensive, especially in a major city. Take Boston, for example. The diverse research facilities, financial investment firms, healthcare providers, and Ivy League colleges are central to the economy of the entire United States, and yet, even amid all this prosperity, many people are struggling to keep a roof over their heads.

Nearly 82,000 low-income households in Boston spend over 30% of their income on rent or a mortgage. Around 52,000 of those households are severely cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than 50% of their income on housing.

Why Is Co-Living So Popular?

Co-living is popular and growing more so. There are many factors that drive city dwellers, particularly young city dwellers, to embrace co-living.  Here are three of the biggest:

Prices Are Out of Control

Even as wages have risen, the price of housing has risen even more quickly. People are spending a larger portion of their income on housing. In urban centers, where people congregate, the problem is even worse. As more people are competing for limited housing resources, prices have risen sharply 

Young People Are in Debt

Many young people are graduating from college with tens of thousands of dollars of student loans hanging over their heads. This is just one reason that young people are staying single longer. Without the pressure of caring for a family, there’s less reason to buy a house even for those who can afford to do so.

Societal Factors

Many young people are lonely. Starting a new job in a new city, far away from family and friends, is a frightening prospect. Many experts believe that relying heavily on technology for communication leaves people feeling isolated. Co-living is one way to be a part of a community and establish personal connections. Many co-living developments regularly host community events where residents are encouraged to socialize.

Investors and developers are taking notice of the situation. The 7INK development under construction in Boston’s South End will have 180 units, split among shared units and small studio apartments. National Development is funding the project with the hope of profiting from the trend of millennials and others looking for fully furnished co-living spaces.  

Co-living is here to stay. The benefits of reduced living costs and a greater sense of community make co-living attractive to many, especially young people. The co-living trend has led many real estate firms to invest in development meant for single people to live with roommates.


Why You Should Flip a House in Your Own Market

by c21commonweath_ldowling 14. October 2019 12:58

Do you want to get into flipping houses? You aren't the only one. You can hardly turn on the TV without seeing a show about house flipping. These shows are compelling to watch, and they’re inspiring many people—in 2016, more than 6% of all home sales were house flips.

House flipping shows have made a real impact, but that doesn’t mean everything about them is realistic. Many of the difficulties in flipping are glossed over for the sake of fitting the story into a 30-minute episode, and of course, the flippers always win in the end. Things aren’t so simple off screen, but there are steps potential flippers can take to increase their chances of success.

Easy Mistakes to Make

Flipping houses can be a profitable business. Unfortunately, there are many ways for it to go wrong. Here are a few common mistakes first-time flippers make:

Ambitious Budget

One can quickly get carried away by the dream of making simple profits. It's easy to underestimate the cost of repairs and overestimate your eventual selling price. Unrealistic expectations may lead you down the pathway to disaster.

Overestimating Your Skills

Many house flippers go in thinking they will do much of the work themselves, forgetting that the houses with the most potential are selling cheap for a reason. They often need significant repairs that are beyond the reach of most DIYers.

Lack of Experience

If making money were easy, everyone would be rich—the most successful among us build their knowledge and skills over time. Consulting more experienced flippers is a good idea when you’re getting started, but get comfortable with the idea that you won’t know everything you need to know right off the bat.

The Right Way to Do It

It’s easy to get excited about house flipping and jump into a project you aren't ready for. The most important thing to remember about house flipping, at least when you're starting out, is to stick to your own market.

When you try to work outside your market, you’re more likely to have a limited understanding of the potential value of your property, the potential cost of repairs, and what homes are most likely to sell quickly.

How do you gain the insights you need about your market? Many rookie home flippers start by working with a local agent. An experienced agent can help you target the properties that work with your budget, your experience, and your plans.

Flipping houses is an exciting, possibly lucrative investment. The potential for profit has attracted many would-be investors and driven an entire segment of entertainment. Unfortunately, just like many things on TV, house flipping is oversimplified. It's easy to get started on a project only to find out later that the profits you were dreaming of never materialize. The best way to avoid this fate is working in the market you know best: your own.


Selling Your Home With Homeowner's Insurance

by c21commonweath_ldowling 9. October 2019 17:06

Homeowner’s insurance is an expense you may wish to pass off to a buyer as soon as possible, but getting rid of your insurance too soon can have detrimental effects. Let’s review the reasons why having homeowner’s insurance is so important and why you may want to hold onto it until your title has been transferred to the new owner. After all, a tree could fall on your house a day before closing, only to have all parties cancel their contracts—stranger things have been known to happen!

What Is Homeowner’s Insurance?

Homeowner’s insurance is a type of property insurance that protects your home and the things inside your home from damage. It can also cover accidents and bodily harm inflicted inside the house or on the property. Homeowner’s insurance is required in order to obtain a mortgage from most banks or lenders. Individuals can purchase homeowner’s insurance from the lending bank, in which case payments can be included in the monthly mortgage payments, or from an insurance provider of their choice. 

The amount of coverage a homeowner has depends on the plan’s liability limit, which is usually set around $100,000. Acts of war or acts of God (earthquakes or floods, for example) aren’t usually covered in basic homeowner’s insurance plans, so people living in areas prone to these events are wise to purchase special coverage. Most homeowner’s insurance policies cover damage done by hurricanes and tornadoes. 

Selling Your Home with Homeowner’s Insurance

While it’s not necessary to have homeowner’s insurance while selling your home, it’s smart to hold onto it until the new buyers take financial ownership of the property. Here’s why.

Financial Responsibility and Home Offers 

You never know when an unexpected accident will occur, due to extreme weather or other circumstances. If something happens to your home before you close the deal, you may be left with a huge financial burden, and a buyer may retract their offer if they see the property has suffered major damage.

Protect People from Accidents on the Premises

Homeowner’s insurance includes personal liability coverage, which includes personal injuries to others. In the unlikely event an individual is injured on your property during a showing, your homeowner’s insurance will help cover any medical bills. According to the Insurance Services Office (ISO), wind and hail, freezing water damage, and fire and lightning damage are much more likely to cause property damage—personal and bodily injury are rare, comprising only about 3% of total home insurance losses.

When Should You Transfer Your Policy?

All things considered, it’s best to transfer your homeowner’s insurance policy to your new home only after the closing is complete and your title company sends the funds to close the loan on your old home. You may end up paying for two homeowner’s insurance policies at once while purchasing your new home and selling your old one simultaneously. 

Contact your mortgage company one to three days after closing to notify them of your move. If you’ve prepaid your homeowner’s insurance and property taxes, and your insurance has been escrowed, you won’t need to cancel your current plan. Instead, your lender will send you a refund check.

Better Safe Than Sorry

While it might seem like a hassle to sort through homeowner’s insurance during a sale or move, it’s a good idea to safeguard yourself from potential liabilities that could cost you most of your savings. You’ll be thankful to have a policy that covers expensive damages when you need your home to be in tip-top shape.


Renovations That Make Money in the Long Run

by c21commonweath_ldowling 7. October 2019 12:30

Does your house work perfectly for you? Are the kitchen, bathroom, and yard designed and decorated just the way you want them? Unless you had your house custom-built from the ground up, your answer to these questions is probably “no.”  If you want your home to be just the way you want it, you’ll probably have to make at least a few renovations.

Remodeling your home can make it a more comfortable, more functional place to live, but it can also impact the property’s value. Even if you aren’t planning on selling your house right now, it’s wise to consider the potential impact of renovations on the value of your home. While a pink bathroom with a bright orange bathtub might look good to you, it could put off buyers when you try to sell your house.

Increasing your house’s value is a good thing even if you aren’t ready to sell—it can improve your credit rating and be a successful stockpile for your wealth. The best part is, unlike many concrete investments, the price of your home is likely to increase.

What Renovations Pay Off?

Here’s our list of the potentially profitable home renovations you should consider, including some you may not have expected:

Upgrade to High-Efficiency Windows

Replacement windows look great, and depending on the age of your home, they can make a big difference in your utility bill. Upgrading your windows makes sense for your comfort and your pocketbook.

Add a Deck

If you have a good-looking, functional backyard, adding a deck is almost like adding a whole new room to your house. A deck is one of the most attractive and useful things you can add to your home.

Replace Your Garage Door

Replacing your garage door may not be the most obvious way to upgrade your house, but if you think about it, you use your garage door every single day, and it’s one of the property’s most visible features. A new garage door can do more than just look better—it can also be more energy efficient and make your garage more usable.

Update Your Kitchen

No discussion on home renovation would be complete without covering the kitchen. Most experts agree that updating your kitchen will significantly increase the value of your home, as long as you don’t go overboard with restaurant-style appliances or high-end finishes.

Home renovations can make your life better by improving the place you spend most of your time—however, not all renovations are created equal. When you plan a home renovation, keep your future buyer in mind. Your house’s extra value can benefit you in unexpected ways even before you sell.