Top 3 Bidding Strategies to Win Your Home

by c21commonweath_ldowling 5. July 2018 12:16

You may not think placing an offer for your new home will become a bidding war, but in an energetic market, you’ll be sure to go up against competitive bids on the home you want. After all, nearly a quarter of homes that closed in 2017 did so at a price higher than the asking price. In situations like these, you may be tempted to jump to the highest bid or else bow out. A high bid is certainly one way to attract the seller’s attention, but it’s not the only way. Utilizing data from Redfin, we’ve put together a list of the top three strategies you can use to try to ensure you’re the one that walks away with the keys to the property.

Submit an All-Cash Offer

All-cash offers promise a quick and definitive closing process that’s also almost completely frictionless. In part, that’s because no one must bother preparing or acquiring a loan or appraisal, which are not only time-consuming but can kill the deal altogether if the borrower is turned down. However, it’s mostly because an all-cash offer is incredibly attractive to sellers. An all-cash offer immediately speaks to the seriousness of your interest in the property, especially to motivated sellers in high-demand markets with tight inventory. This puts you in a stronger position when bargaining over the price.

Improved Chance of Success for Offers

Standard Market: 97%                   Luxury Market: 438%


Waive the Financing Contingency

The financing contingency included in many sales contracts makes closing on the home fully dependent on the buyer’s ability to obtain a mortgage. With the contingency in place, if the buyer doesn’t get the loan, the sale doesn’t close, and the seller must start over. Waiving this contingency guarantees the seller that you will be responsible for finding the funds to pay for the house whether you receive the loan or not. This is risky for some buyers because if they don’t go about the process in the right way, they can end up on the hook for debt they can’t pay for. However, you can reduce your risk by speaking to your mortgage lender about your options before bidding. They may be capable of providing a fully-underwritten, pre-approval letter, which ensures that you’ll get the loan if the sale moves forward. (Please note: Never assume what your lender is ready or able to do. Always contact them before waiving this contingency.)

Improved Chance of Success for Offers

Standard Market: 58%                   Luxury Market: 76%


Write a Personal Letter

Writing a letter may seem old-fashioned, but it’s one of the easiest ways to connect with a seller on an emotional level, especially if they’re motivated and have several offers to consider. By helping them relate to who you are, what you value, and your personal circumstances, you may also give them a reason beyond cold, hard cash to choose you. Perhaps it’s knowing that your children will adore playing in the halls and yard the way theirs did, or that its accessibility options make it easy to care for an ill or disabled family member. Maybe it’s knowing that the property will go to someone who loves and cares for it as much as they did. Whatever the point of connection is, it has a chance of resonating with them on a deep, emotional level, allowing you to win their hearts even if you weren’t the first choice for their wallet.

Improved Chance of Success for Offers

Standard Market: 52%                   Luxury Market: N/A*


When buying a home, it’s natural to hope you’re the only bidder or that you’ve offered the best bid. However, the more competitive the market is, the more you need to understand the tactics necessary for winning a de facto bidding war on your property of choice. The strategies we’ve outlined above will help give you the upper hand in negotiations. Be sure to discuss them with your real estate agent and leverage the best option for your unique circumstances.



5 Benefits of Selling Your Home this Fall

by c21commonweath_ldowling 2. July 2018 11:54

Every industry has its peak season, and as with anything to do with homes, summer is the most popular time of year for buying and selling a house. Of course, just because the leaves are falling doesn’t mean realtors don’t have properties they need to sell. You shouldn’t sit on selling your property just because it’s the offseason. Here are just a few of the benefits that selling a home in autumn can offer.

Avoid the Competition of Summer

Summer is the most popular season for selling homes, and that does mean there are a lot more buyers looking for property. However, it also means more competition between realtors. The marketing space is more crowded, and price negotiations are more heated because they may have other options on the line. In the fall, the competition thins out, giving you more room to stand out to potential buyers. What’s more, those buyers are more likely to be qualified, and you’re less likely to have to sift through people who are looking just to look.

Autumn Is a Safer Time of Year

We don’t always think of crime as having a peak season, but it does – summer. While some families are away on vacation, others are putting their property up for sale holding open houses, or have contractors going in and out as they make repairs and upgrades. In fall, families have returned to normal schedules, and it’s easier for neighbors to keep an eye out on behalf of their friends. Autumn presents less risk of theft for you and can also be a selling point. Potential buyers will have time to install security systems or smart home features before riskier seasons, like summer or the holidays, are in full swing.

Leverage Urgency in the Small Window before the Holidays

Speaking of the holidays, they present yet another tool for sellers. Most home buyers want to be settled into their new home before they must attend to responsibilities like decorating, hosting parties, and welcoming friends and family. This urgency can encourage a faster closing process, which is beneficial to sellers during negotiations.

Take Advantage of End-of-Year Bargains

Have you ever noticed that Christmas shopping seems to start earlier and earlier every year? Well, the deals do, too, and in fall, you’ll see discounts and other promotions on products and services you may want or need for renovations, upgrades, or staging. Fall and winter are also the off-season for home improvement companies so you may be able to get a better price on services you can’t do on your own. While Black Friday marks the latter half of autumn, it offers significant discounts on carpeting, furniture, and appliances to help take your curb appeal up a notch.

Remind Buyers about the Impacts of Property Taxes

As a seller, you already know about the benefits of property tax and mortgage interest payments – the deductions once tax season rolls around. You can help nudge buyers along by reminding them that even if the sale closes in December, they can apply those deductions against that year’s income. As a seller, there are additional deductions in it for you as well – the cost of home improvement, selling expenses, and closing costs can all be deducted. (Note: Tax regulations may change from one year to the next. Be sure to talk to your realtor, attorney, or financial advisor about which deductions are applicable to you.)

The summer is a peak season for real estate, and there are plenty of good reasons for that. However, when you consider the benefits we’ve named here, you can see why the fall provides its own prime opportunities. Be sure to take full advantage of each when selling your home during autumn.


Can Smart Devices Add Value to Your Home?

by c21commonweath_ldowling 27. June 2018 12:38

Digital devices are a standard in modern America, and it’s often thought that people no longer distinguish the virtual world from the physical in the way they used to. The more advanced technology becomes, the more seamlessly our devices and digital services integrate with our every day lives. Of course, we want all our devices to work together, and inevitably, this led to the types of innovations that gave birth to the smart home.

It’s a term you’ve probably heard bandied about quite often, but you may not have stopped to think about what it means. A “smart” device is one that can act both interactively and autonomously, and it connects with the internet and other devices via wireless options including Bluetooth, NFC, or even Wi-Fi or cellular connections (e.g., 3G, 4G, LTE). Thus, a “smart home” is one that leverages one or more of these devices for a variety of tasks.

Why Own Smart Home Devices?

The answer to this question will vary by owner. For instance, the disabled or elderly may want improved accessibility and communications, while families with children may be more interested in security. Similarly, single, young professionals may be looking more toward convenience.

However, the power of smart devices is in their interconnectivity and personalization. A homeowner isn’t limited to just one type of device. They can mix and match as desired to suit their lifestyle.

What Are They Really Capable Of?

Smart home devices have been developed to meet practically any need, and it would be a safe bet that if a need hasn’t been met yet, there’s an innovation on the horizon to match. Browsing the top electronics and news sites (e.g., PCMag, Fortune, CNET), you can find list after list of the top devices or the latest services to debut at major conventions. If there’s a popular device brand you love, chances are good that they offer some sort of device; Google, Apple, and Amazon all offer options for various purposes. Here’s a snapshot of what you can find on the market:


From surveillance cameras to video doorbells and even the very locks on your doors, smart devices can handle safety concerns wirelessly. Most will connect with your phone, laptop, or tablet to give you complete control and tune in from anywhere. These options can provide additional security – for instance, they can’t be interrupted by cutting your landline – along with piece of mind. Many times, they’re also simpler to set up, and may be less expensive than traditional security systems.


Smart bulbs can be programmed to turn on by request, or simply by coming home. In fact, depending on the brand, they can even be programmed to change color to indicate an alert on your phone (e.g., a text from work or a phone call from you kids). They’re made with LEDs, so even if you don’t have them programmed to turn off when you leave the house, they’ll save on your electric bill.

Temperature Control

You’ve probably heard of the Nest thermostat, but it’s hardly the only option on the market anymore. Program these thermostats to change settings throughout the day or control them directly from your phone. Depending on the brand, it may even feature computer learning that learns your habits and programs itself for you based on a variety of indicators, including time of day, outdoor and indoor temperature, or humidity. Furthermore, you can amplify both savings and comfort because if you’ve forgotten to turn off the air conditioning before you go, you can do it from your phone. If it’s really cold outside, you can also start the heater before heading home.

Personal Assistants

If you’re used to using Siri or a similar digital assistant, then this concept won’t be all that foreign to you. These hubs listen for voice commands and follow through with a variety of procedures. That may mean reordering paper towels from an online store, calling your mom, turning on the lights in individual rooms, or playing your favorite song. The more smart home devices that you connect to it, the more versatile they become.

And Much More

It might not be hyperbole to say the sky’s the limit with the potential for smart devices. There are smart cooking devices to manage perfect sous vide or smoked barbecue, cleaning devices that make the typical Roomba seem outdated, and even smart hubs to control both your sprinkler system and hands-free lawnmower bots. If you’re interested in smart home technology, it’s well worth your time to peruse developments from events like CES, where major brands unveil their latest offerings.

But Do These Devices Add Real Value to My Home?

If you’re worried about whether investing in smart home devices can hurt the value of your home, don’t. Consider the fact that conservative estimates peg the global smart home market to be worth $53.4 billion by 2022 alone (per Statista). Already, household penetration is at 32% here in the U.S., but that will grow to more than 53% by 2022, and North America is the leading market (Statista Forecast). By its very nature, this growth indicates that more and more homebuyers will be interested in having smart home devices.

However, if you’re preparing to sell your home, make this choice carefully. Choose trusted brands with great reviews, which will help improve how attractive the system is to buyers. You may also want to stick with core basics that are unquestioningly valuable. Smart lighting systems help save money while adding a significant level of convenience, for example. Security systems are also a good choice, especially if you utilize technology that doesn’t require a service contract, or which can be integrated with certain services (e.g., security firm ADT will integrate Nest devices).

Smart home technology is quickly becoming the new norm, whether it’s in small ways like leveraging a digital assistant such as Amazon’s Alexa or crucial ways like home monitoring systems that let parents watch if their kids open the front door. These tools add convenience to our every day moments, and more than that, they add value. Choosing the right devices will add real value to your property if you’re looking to sell.


7 Reasons You Should Attend Open Houses

by c21commonweath_ldowling 25. June 2018 12:32

Open houses present a world of opportunity, even if you aren’t prepared to buy just yet. There are several benefits and insights you can gain from attending one and paying a bit of attention. If you’re going with a purpose – and if you’re honest with the agent hosting the open house – then you aren’t an annoying looky-loo. You’re making strategic efforts to prepare yourself for what can be a stressful process.

Meet Potential Agents

While you should always remember that the hosting real estate agent is working for the seller, it gives you the chance to see agents operating in the market you’re interested in first hand. Attending multiple open houses from different agencies can give you a good idea of what kind of agent you want representing you during the buying process. Attending multiple open houses by the same agents lets you get to know them face-to-face without having to go through the process of formal appointments, especially if you’re not ready to buy. Agents should also be knowledgeable about the market overall, so it’s also a good opportunity to get expert information.

Size Up the Market

Markets change regularly, so this is especially important if you’re in the process for preparing to buy sooner rather than later. When you visit an open house, the number of people who sign in – that is, the number of people who the agent can follow up with – will likely indicate current demand. A high visitor count means you’ll need to be ready with an offer quickly, or someone else will scoop the property out from under you. What’s more, multiple open houses in the same area will help gauge the price range for that market.

Scope Out the Neighborhood

There are two elements to this tip. First, you can peruse the neighborhood as you drive to the open house. Second, looky-loos abound at open houses, and often, they’re curious neighbors. You can learn a lot about a community’s personality by chatting with these neighbors. For example, it will become easy to see whether the area is filled with retirees, young professionals, or established families. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – neighbors are more likely to be honest and won’t have a sales pitch attached. You should also remember to consider whether it seems like the sort of neighborhood that comes together for events like block parties, or if it’s mostly quiet; it’s the little things that build your true experience in a community.

Set Realistic Expectations

This is especially important for first-time buyers, but it never hurts for those who already own property to be reminded that the perfect property probably doesn’t exist. Real estate agents are all too familiar with first-time buyers that have a dream home in mind but which, in reality, is impossible to find, especially when it comes to price. Open houses will show you what kind of homes are on the market in the area along with the price tag. You can use this to plan how much you’d like to save, or even turn your attention toward a neighborhood that’s more aligned with your finances. You can find a beautiful home that appeals to you, and you can afford, but it might not what you expected before you started browsing.

Realize What You  Want

Hand in hand with realistic expectations, open houses let you experience potential homes in a fully sensory way. You may think you prefer a certain layout, but once you visit a home with that layout, you realize that it doesn’t suit your needs. Alternately, you may not have considered a certain type of house (e.g., modern versus older homes) before perusing it on a casual open house but realize you love it; had you waited until you were seriously hunting, you may have avoided that style of home in favor of focusing on what you thought you wanted. You may have certain amenities or maintenance ideas in mind, but seeing what different homes offer, you come away with new ideas about what you want. Visiting open houses gives you a framework for what you’ll request from your agent later.

Prepare for Serious Hunting

You may have noticed a trend through each of the benefits we’ve outlined above. Attending an open house is key for prospective buyers to find the homes they want to make an offer on. Yet it’s also important for those preparing for the buying process because it offers real-world experience of the market, the neighborhood, and different types of properties. It’s just as important as preparing your finances!

Get Creative Insight

Perhaps you’re ready to buy a home, and you’re not sure how you’d like to design your décor. Perhaps you’re selling your home, and you want inspiration for how to stage it. Either way, open houses have often been professionally staged or designed, showing off the latest aesthetic to appeal to customers. Often, these designs are wallet-friendly, since they’re implemented solely for selling the house. That makes it easier for you to use it as inspiration later without hurting your own budget.

Whether you’re ready to buy soon or you’re only planning and preparing to buy later, an open house presents an opportunity for you to best position yourself for such an important purchase. You’ll have the chance to understand the market, selling prices, and what you really value in a future home. Take full advantage of these benefits by attending open houses in the neighborhoods you’re interested in.


How to Sell Homes to Millennial First-Time Homebuyers

by c21commonweath_ldowling 20. June 2018 11:24

Whether you’re a new Realtor or you’ve been in the business for decades, there’s a recent group of homebuyers that have entered the market in a big way. Millennials are now the largest generational group in the United States, having surpassed Baby Boomers around 2016. In this study, the millennial generation encompassed individuals born from 1981 to 1997, who would be 21-37 years old in 2018.

Although millennials don’t yet have the buying power of older generations, they’re the largest group of first-time homebuyers and represent 34% of the market, according to the National Association of Realtors. It’s essential to realize that these buyers differ from other generations and what motivates them to purchase properties. With these important tips, you can sell more homes to millennial homebuyers and expand your business.

Market the Neighborhood

For many buyers in the millennial demographic, it’s not as much about the house as the community. They’re looking for a neighborhood that matches their interests and passions and can support their needs. This demographic’s needs likely differ from other buyers and are focused on urban centers with better public transportation.  

Millennials own cars in fewer numbers than Generation X or Baby Boomers, preferring public transportation. When targeting millennial buyers, focus on the amenities of the area, including local businesses, restaurants, breweries, music venues, whatever appeal to your buyer.

Do your research for your clients to discover which neighborhoods match their desires and find a community that they can participate in that has properties that fit their lifestyle. If you can enter showings armed with the knowledge of the surrounding area, you’ll be off to a good start for your new millennial clients.

Improve Your Social Media

Word of mouth and referrals have always been the bread and butter of real estate. Many Realtors have created social media profiles, but it’s more important than ever with millennial clients. 88% of adults aged 18-29 indicate they use social media, while 78% of those aged 30-49 do according to a recent Pew study. Facebook and Twitter are the most popular though Instagram and Snapchat are rising in popularity.

As a Realtor, you can use social media to engage with potential clients (both sellers and buyers) in a format where they’re already comfortable. Enhance your social media presence by posting and creating unique content for your clients.

Respond and Act Quickly

Often deemed the “instant gratification” generation, millennials expect things more quickly. While it’s not a universal truth, many homebuyers in this generation are impatient and want communication to happen more quickly than may normally occur. Accepting this faster-paced lifestyle and message style may be difficult but can help you secure additional clients.

If you’re ready to answer emails, text messages, and other forms of communication quickly (and at odd times), you can be a resource to your buyers and differentiate yourself from competitors.

Make Yourself a Resource

Many millennials are first-time homebuyers and may not know much about the real estate and purchase process. Instead of positioning yourself as an agent trying to sell a home, first be a resource to your client. Buying a home can seem complicated and overwhelming, so walk them through this daunting process. Build trust and establish good rapport by answering questions and guiding them through the steps toward buying their first home.

One of the easiest ways to be a resource is to have content ready for your millennial clients. Whether you write it yourself or hire someone in content marketing, your real estate articles can be invaluable in building trust with millennial buyers.

Targeting a new generation of homebuyers can be challenging, but with these tips, you can expand your business and sell homes to more millennials.


Negotiating in a Seller's Market

by c21commonweath_ldowling 18. June 2018 11:19

In many parts of the United States, the real estate market has become a seller’s one. This can be a challenge for buyers, as there are fewer homes than buyers. It's difficult to negotiate in such a tight market and even harder to find the perfect home for you. With help from an experienced Realtor, you can prepare yourself to be ready in a seller’s market.

As a buyer, it may be frustrating to feel you’re not in control of your home buying process. However, with the right techniques that address the seller’s market, you’ll more likely get the deal you’re looking for and the home you want.

Have a Prepared Preapproval or Pay in Cash

To properly negotiate, you need to be in a place of financial strength. A seller’s market often has investors and flippers with full cash offers, so you need to have your financing in place. A prequalification isn’t enough for an offer, so make sure you have an accurately written preapproval letter (related to your offer for the home) or offer cash. Your mortgage lender can customize the preapproval letter for you, which will make you look more serious to the seller and their agent.

Negotiate Respectfully

In a seller’s market, you probably don’t want to submit a lowball offer. While this may make sense for a home that’s been on the market for a while or in a buyer’s market, this can insult in a seller’s market. Your Realtor can walk you through the skilled negotiating tactics you need in a seller’s market. The seller’s agent may even bluff, suggesting they have better offers than yours. Be prepared to walk away or provide comparable properties you can purchase if you don’t want to or can’t increase your offer.

Show You’re Serious About the Listing

In a seller’s market, there may be multiple offers on a home. You need to set your offer apart from the others. If you know, you can close, offer a generous earnest money deposit and consider making it nonrefundable. This will show the seller you really love the house and want it more than a flipper or real estate investor. You can also submit a letter and photo of your family to show them why you’d be a good fit for the property. Though this doesn’t always work, it can elevate your offer.

Make a Clean Offer

While you might want to make demands of the seller in another buying scenario, in a seller’s market, this can harm you offer. If you want extensive décor removed or repainting, don’t include this in your offer. The only necessary demand should be a home inspection. If significant issues do come up, you can address them after the home inspection. Keep the rest of the offer clean and free of demands to help your offer stand out, move through the process quickly, and get you the keys.


Sellers’ markets can be difficult to negotiate, but with a little help and advice, you can still find your dream house. You may need to readjust your expectations slightly, but you can still find a good deal on a property you’ll love living in.


Landscaping Trends this Summer

by c21commonweath_ldowling 13. June 2018 13:03

As we march toward summer, it’s time to think about how you’re going to landscape your front and backyard. For many homeowners, summertime is when they show off their home most. You want a beautiful yard, wonderful greenery, and the latest in landscaping trends for 2018.

Here are just a few of the ideas that are making their way across backyards in America:

Amazing Outdoor Kitchens

Why put a kitchen outdoors when you already have a great one indoors? To enjoy the glorious summer weather of course. Whether you’re adding all brand-new appliances or just putting in a firepit or chimney starter, upgrading your outdoor kitchen will encourage you to go outside more—and most importantly, cook there. An outdoor kitchen with grill, seating, and other features will make your backyard the highlight of the neighborhood.

Sustainability in Gardening

As society becomes more environmentally conscious and aware of factors like climate change, many people are considered a sustainable landscape installation. You can incorporate native plants into your green space instead of purchasing something exotic. Landscapers are also enhancing the environmental benefits of urban spaces and restoring habitats to better the world around us. You can take this ethos when designing your backyard installation, choosing plants that belong and add oxygen to the air.

Edible Plants at the Front

Plants and flowers can exist for more than decorative purposes: your backyard can produce fruits, vegetables, and herbs to eat at home and share with your community. Whether you create this space in your yard or in a community garden, you can bring people together and create local, sustainable food. Planting some crops can be space efficient with the use of vertical, rooftop, and balcony gardens. Whether you can plant—do it.

Smart LED Lighting

On the green front, there’s always new and innovative ways to save electricity. Try replacing older bulbs with LEDs. They’ll last a lifetime and they’re often smart, so you can control them from your smartphone if you forget to turn them off and you’re lying in bed (or in another state).

Save on Water

In many areas of the United States, there have been water shortages. In the future, it may get even worse. As cities enact water restrictions, it’s time for landscaping trends to shift to use less or no water. Xeriscaping is a popular technique to create landscaping in a desert landscape, but you can also use native plants that require less water. If you want to invest in your plants, look at smart watering systems that conserve water and check the soil for additional moisture to conserve.

Check out these innovative new landscaping trends for summer 2018 and make your backyard the talk of the neighborhood.



Pros of a Summer Listing: Why You Should Sell Your Home

by c21commonweath_ldowling 11. June 2018 11:32

Summer is not only the hottest season of the year in terms of temperature but also for the real estate market. The weather is beautiful and sunny, children are off from school, and many people take a vacation. So, is summer a good season to put your home on the market?

The answer is a resounding yes. Many buyers search during this season, especially families, for whom this is the easiest time to move. With a smaller inventory countrywide than demand, listing your home this summer could be advantageous. You’ll see increased competition in this unsparing market, as quality homes are bid on quickly.

Here are just a few of the pros of listing your home for sale during the summer:

Additional Buyers on the Market

While it’s definitely warmer outside, summer is the #1 season to move. Adults with school-age children are looking for a home to settle into before the next school year starts (late August-early September). Many families also have more free time during the summer, with summer hours available at work and holiday weekends. This gives them additional chances to look at properties.

With more buyers on the market, your home can sell more quickly than it might sell in late fall or winter when there are fewer buyers actively shopping. In some cases, enough demand for a home can lead to a bidding war, getting you money over your listing price.

More Sunlight Hours

For those who don’t have extra time enough, one of the benefits of summer in the United States is longer days. Your Realtor can schedule viewings for potential buyers into the evening, giving you a better shot at receiving offers. It’s also great weather and time for an open house, which can take place during the day and run longer than normal to facilitate more people’s schedules.

You Can Showcase the Outdoors

Whether you have a great deck, beautiful backyard, or in-ground pool, summer is a wonderful time to display these features to potential buyers. You can highlight them with inexpensive fixes, like adding pillows to patio furniture, mowing the grass, and adding some additional flowers. A well-groomed outdoor space can increase the selling price of your home—and may be a deciding factor for some buyers.

You Can Get a Better Price

Perhaps the best reason to sell during summertime is you’ll often get a better price. Your Realtor will help you decide a listing price based on comparative properties in your neighborhood, and there will be more recent sales to base that number from in the summertime. With aggressive demand for homes and more data, summer is the best time to list your home and get a great price in the process.

When you list your home is ultimately your choice, but if you’ve been waiting to make it move, now is the time to talk to a Realtor and get it on the market.


4 Things You Should Know Before Buying a Second Home

by c21commonweath_ldowling 6. June 2018 11:29

When you start thinking about buying a second home, you might think you already know all you need to know. After all, you successfully bought your first home. You’re already familiar with the best practices for buying a home. However, buying a second home puts you in a unique position that requires new considerations.

Fools Rush In

It’s easy to fall in love with a dream home, even when it’s your second home. You’re familiar with the buying process, so why not just dive in? The fact is that buying a house on a whim means you’re not committing to the same careful research and financial planning that went into buying your first home. Also, you’re probably not able to buy it just to have it, so you need to ensure that there’s a real purpose for it that means you’ll actually take advantage of the property. Be sure it matches the requirements of that purpose as well: weekend getaways mean a reasonable drive, vacationing requires access to events and locales or enough space for extended family, investment properties need to benefit your portfolio, and retirement homes ought to have easy access to care or other family members.

Fractional Ownership Can Trim Costs but Shares Benefits

“Fractional ownership” simply refers to the fact that there are multiple shareholders – probably friends or other family members – buying the property cooperatively. That means those friends and family will be responsible for part of the purchase price, easing the financial burden on you. However, "shareholder" is the key term: each person involved in the purchased has a right to benefit from the property in terms of income, priority access, usage rights, and more. You’ll probably want to discuss this option with a real estate attorney to ensure the contracts and any other documentation are drawn up properly.

Renting Out Your Home Comes with Responsibilities

Owning a second home opens the option of renting out one of your homes for some or all of the year. However, it isn’t as simple as just advertising the space, choosing a renter, and collecting rent like a paycheck. Renting out the home makes you the landlord, which saddles you with various responsibilities. Be sure you review the Fair Housing Act or talk to a real estate attorney who can explain it to you. You also need to review landlord/tenant laws at the local and state level for where that home is. The ordinances covering your primary residence won’t apply if your second home is in a neighboring state. You need to know which expenses are your responsibility, as well as how you need to notify the tenant of their responsibilities. You will at least need to have the finances available for certain levels of maintenance.

How You Rent It Out Changes What You File in Taxes

If you do choose to rent out your home, it’s important to understand how that income is filed on your taxes and whether you’re eligible for any deductions. As of early 2018, the IRS defines a property as a residence if you’ve utilized it for personal use either for more than 14 days or for 10% or more of the total days rented to others per tax year, whichever is greater. For instance, if you rented the home out for 200 days and used the home for 30 days (more than 10%), it’s considered a residence and deductions are restricted. If you only used the home for 19 days (less than 10%), it’s considered a rental dwelling, and you can file for deductions. However, if you rented it out for 180 days and stayed there for only 17 days (less than 10% but more than 14 days), the property is considered a residence again, and deductions are restricted. Be sure you’re keeping reliable records of when the home is used and by whom.

Buying any home is an investment in your future and buying your second home can expand those opportunities. By addressing each of these four elements in turn and following the same best practices you used to buy your first home, you can ensure you’ll be happy with your purchase.


Small House? Here’s 5 Ideas for Creating a Small Garden

by c21commonweath_ldowling 4. June 2018 11:43

Living in small spaces can mean making all kinds of concessions. Maybe there’s not enough counter space in the kitchen, or not enough of a backyard to play in. A garden may seem out of the question, but it can be the perfect element to tie your design together.

Living Art

You love flora, and there’s no reason why art must be relegated to paintings and photographs. Wall-mounted planters are available at gardening and home improvement stores in various sizes and materials, including fabric. Planters add versatility to match the other décor and tone of the room, whether it’s scant patio space or the cozy reading room of a tiny house. They’ll make a gorgeous accent piece that brings a vivid pop of living colors right into the home. An alternate take on this is a free-standing wall garden. Framed grids of metal mesh or fence panels can add that little extra something to tie the room together.

Spice Up the Kitchen

Great recipes are elevated by using fresh herbs but living in a small space doesn’t always make an outdoor herb garden possible. Bring the garden into your kitchen with small pots for each of your favorite herbs. There’s a wide variety of options on the market, so it’s easy to find a design that lets you take the best advantage of the space you have. For instance, some wall planters are separated from each other, allowing you to space them out or place them on different walls as needed. Look for ones that suit your tastes – mason jars, mugs, and metal cans each provide a different aesthetic. Others hang from the ceiling either singly or in a cascading cluster of planters, which can be perfect for doubling as decoration near windows.

Flower Beds that Multitask

You may have a little bit of space for a garden but think there’s not much you can do with it. The truth is that you can utilize a single flower bed for multiple plants at once. If the plants you choose won’t monopolize the water and soil, you shouldn’t be afraid to pair ornamental flowers with edible plants to make the most efficient use of that space. Similarly, you may be able to pair plants that bloom at different times of year, ensuring that your garden is a beacon of design year-round.

Let Privacy Go Green

Small homes usually mean close neighbors, especially in urban environments. Rather giving up on any hope of privacy, let your garden act as a shield. For instance, on your patio, you can use planter walls as a privacy wall. The planters are positioned close together, and with lush greens and blossoms, they’ll be difficult to see through. They’re also a great conversation piece. You can also leverage your existing privacy wall as a piece of your garden. Similarly, you can partially block out a smaller window with rows of plants, either in individual planters or box planters, so you can really put all that natural light to use. Depending on the construction of the window and how strong your curtain rod mounts are, you can pair hanging plants with gauzy curtains that diffuse light. Be sure to vary the types of plants you use to bring a vibrant and interesting space.

Hedge Your Fences and Railings

Whether it’s railings or a fence that frame your balcony, patio, or deck, that’s vertical space you could use for a garden that still preserves your entertaining space. Head to your local garden or home improvement store to find planters made for attaching to the top of fences or railings. Even chain-link fences can be elevated to garden status with planters designed to attach to the body of the fence. Just remember that many times, fences and railings are in place for a reason. If people need to hold the railing, don’t block it, and if the fence is to keep your dog in the yard, keep plants out of reach.

Owning or renting a small home doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dream of a garden. It just means you need to think creatively. Our tips make the perfect starting place to launch your project but be sure to make each idea your own. It will make even small spaces lively, beautiful, and uniquely your home.