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What made you fall in love with your home?

It’s Valentine’s Day, and it isn’t just for lovebirds. At realtor.com, we believe there’s no place like home and that when you find the one, that’s worth celebrating. But how do you know when you’ve found the one? Maybe it’s an open-concept floor plan that conjures up images of gatherings with loved ones. Or, perhaps it’s a walk-in closet and extensive storage space that you know will be by your side for the long haul. We set out to find the regional must-have features that make home shoppers’ hearts skip a beat. Topping the list of most-loved features are the makings for man-caves, she-sheds, workshops, and granny pods. Also high on the list are features such as acreage and fenced yards, indicating that people in many states love their privacy. And as it turns out, America has fallen out of love with having to climb stairs. Buyers in several states don’t want anything to do with multi-level homes, instead opting for a single-level home, rambler, or first-floor master.   When we shared these insights with our employees, exchanges about what made them fall in love with their own homes began. Unsurprisingly, what many of our employees love about their own dwellings is not too different than other Americans.  Isabel Samano, for instance, our Workplace Services Supervisor, shared that it’s all about location. She grew up with seven brothers and sisters and as she raises her own family, it’s critical to be in close proximity to extended family. Her mom and a younger sister live just down the street from Samano, enabling their tight-knit unit to get together at a moment’s notice.  For Tracey Lewis, Sr. Director of Corporate Communications, it was all about matters of the heart. She explained that when she and her husband walked into a listing 15 years ago, her husband immediately said, “Uh oh!” Lewis, unsure what he was referencing, asked, “What?” Her husband went on to say, “I grew up in this house.” As luck would have it, the listing was designed and built by the same person as her husband’s parents’ home. When they stood that day in what would become their oldest daughter’s room, her husband said, “I threw spitballs at my brother from my bunk bed over here!” At that moment, they decided they’d found the one and bought the house. It already felt like home.  And for Rebecca Faries, Sr. Customer Care Representative, the view is what drew her in. Similar to must-have features in Arkansas, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Tennessee, and West Virginia, sweeping views and a heavenly location were just the right X-factor to make the home hers. She says, “I didn’t even see anything that might need to be fixed on my house because I instantly fell in love with the view!” I must say, I know that feeling well. When my husband and I bought our first home, we fell in real estate love at first sight. Before we even entered the home, we noticed a super unique fixture on the front porch. Our agent let us know that the house was built in the 1890s, and what we were looking at was an original gas light — one of the few still remaining in the neighborhood. We were so excited to be buying a little piece of history!  We all have our own story, and like the old adage: when you know — you know. It’s kismet. Happy Valentine’s Day from our home to yours! 
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

What You Need to Know About Debt Consolidation

If you’re carrying around a lot of debt, the number of payments and the various interest rates you have can make managing it quite difficult. Some people choose to get this under control through debt consolidation. By consolidating your debts, you can reduce multiple items to a single payment with a single interest rate, making your finances easier to manage. Before rushing into debt consolidation, though, it’s important that you take the time to understand exactly how it works and what its benefits are. Consolidating Your Debt As its name implies, debt consolidation is the process of combining multiple debts into one that is (theoretically) easier to make payments on. Debt consolidation can even combine different types of debt such as loans and credit cards into a single debt. At its most basic, debt consolidation establishes a new loan or line of credit and then uses that to make payments against the other debts to pay them off. This leaves you with a single remaining debt. Depending on how you manage your consolidation, though, there may be a few differences in your experience.   Consolidation Loans Taking out a loan to consolidate debt is one of the most common forms of debt consolidation. These loans are typically pretty straightforward, since the borrowed money is used to pay off existing debts and you simply need to pay off the loan after that point. In some cases, you may even be able to piggyback debt consolidation on top of a loan taken out for a purchase, borrowing extra to pay off existing debt. Just be sure to check with your lender to make sure this sort of use is okay before borrowing the money for it.   Credit Card Consolidation Credit card consolidations typically occur when taking out a new card, using balance transfers to consolidate your existing balances to a single card. This is especially useful if the card has an introductory interest rate such as a 0 percent APR for six months or some other promotion. The theory remains the same, however; instead of having balances across multiple cards, you have only one balance to focus on and pay down.   Debt Management Programs Though not necessarily a true “consolidation”, debt management programs are another way to get debt under control. These programs can negotiate with debtors, allowing you to make payments on a negotiated schedule without worrying about late fees and other costs piling up. You may have restrictions placed on you such as not being able to take out additional loans, but you will have the advantage of not having to work through getting your debt under control by yourself.   The Effects of Consolidation Debt consolidation can have a major impact on your financial health, both improving your credit score and helping you to pay down your existing debts faster. It can also save you time and money, since you’ll only have one set of interest charges instead of multiple to keep track of. Best of all, most forms of debt consolidation won’t have a negative impact on things like buying a house since there isn’t a special classification to the loans or transfers in most cases. Even debt management won’t necessarily interfere, since its restrictions are usually focused on unsecured loans instead of secured ones like a mortgage.   What to Watch Out For There are a few things that you should be careful of when looking into debt consolidation. Perhaps the most important is to avoid getting yourself even deeper in debt once you pay off the balance of your credit cards or other lines of credit. The goal is to pay off what you owe, so hold off on using your cards again until you’re more financially stable. You should also watch out for predatory lenders and fraudulent debt consolidation companies that will charge you a significant amount for things that you could manage on your own for free.   Is Consolidation Right for You? If you aren’t sure whether debt consolidation is right for you, HomeKeepr may be able to help. Sign up today for free and get in touch with loan experts who can advise you on getting your finances in order without having to sacrifice your big dreams like owning your own home.
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Staging Your Home for the 2020 Housing Market

If you’re planning to sell your house, proper staging can make a huge difference. It’s important to keep in mind that tastes change over time, though, and the staging techniques that were popular when you bought the home might not impress buyers today. If you really want to get the most value out of your home when you sell, it helps to employ staging that will appeal to buyers in the current housing market. Fortunately, there are many ways you can stage your home so that it draws in modern buyers. The goal is to help them see your home as a place they could inhabit and fill with their own style, and these suggestions will help you to achieve this even if tastes have changed since you last decorated your home. Maximize Your Lighting A lot of modern buyers are looking for function as well as form when they’re looking at houses. One example of this comes in the form of good lighting. Make sure that the windows are clean and that your window dressings allow natural light to come through. Check that you have sufficiently bright bulbs in your fixtures, and double check that none are burned out. You might also consider adding spotlights or other accent lights in places like the kitchen and bathroom where the potential buyers might want additional light. If you really want to wow people, you could even install smart bulbs that can be controlled from a smartphone or smart speaker.   Keep It Earthy Color trends change over time. At the moment, warm colors are hot. When staging your home, work with accent colors such as chocolate, olive green, beige and wine to tie your various decorations together. This will add splashes of warm, earthy color that’s neither too bright nor too dark. As an added benefit, these shades go well with a wide range of wall and floor options, so you can add some nice earthy accents without having to completely redesign your home beforehand.   Touch Up the Walls If your walls are too mild or too wild, consider adding a fresh coat of paint before you get ready to sell your home. There are several colors that are popular right now, including a number of shades of blue, gray and green. You can usually get away with some light pink and gold shades too, as well as the occasional off-white. You don’t want anything too bold in most rooms, just something that will give a bit of color to the room. But feel free to skew a little darker if you’re painting a bathroom or bedroom.   De-Personalize the Place You may have heard that it’s a good idea to make your home look lived in, since that can help potential buyers see it as an actual living space instead of just a showcase. This isn’t bad advice; having some unique decorative items and other accents can really help buyers to picture their own stuff in the house. Just make sure that you take out anything that’s overly personal, like family photos, items with your family name and other keepsakes. Leave your decorations a little sparse, too. The goal is to inspire potential buyers and help them picture where they would put their belongings and their own pictures, and it’s hard to do that if there are pictures of your family everywhere or decorations filling every available space.   Finding the Right Look If you’re not exactly sure how to stage your home, don’t be afraid to bring in a bit of professional help. HomeKeepr is here to help you with that, too. Sign up for a free account now and you’ll be on your way to finding the decorator or professional stager to assist you in getting just the look you need to really make your buyers want to sign.
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Add Some Bling to Your Decor

Add Some Bling to Your Decor Rich metal accents are helping home design shine February 10, 2020 By:  Melissa Dittmann Tracey Design Trends, Kitchen & Bath
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Standing Under an Umbrella Policy

Insurance is important, especially for homeowners. There are a lot of things that can go wrong around the house, and having a good insurance policy helps to guard against unexpected problems or accidents that can occur. What happens when your homeowner’s policy isn’t enough, though? There are some instances where you may find yourself in need of a bit more coverage than your current policies offer. This is where an umbrella policy comes in. Umbrella insurance policies provide you with additional liability protection on top of your existing insurance coverage. If you’re like a lot of homeowners, though, you might not be sure whether you need an umbrella policy and may not even know exactly what coverage it provides. If that’s the case, here is some information to help you decide whether you need an umbrella over your head. What Is an Umbrella Policy? Umbrella coverage is known by a few different names: personal umbrella policies, umbrella insurance and even umbrella liability insurance. Regardless of what it’s called, though, the coverage is designed to protect individuals from large liability claims and judgments. These policies cover some of the biggest causes of liability claims including bodily injury, property damage, landlord liability and similar situations. As the name implies, they are intended for personal claims and won’t cover liability due to contracts (beyond property rental agreements in the case of landlords) or business losses.   How Umbrella Policies Work An umbrella policy acts as additional insurance coverage once the primary insurance liability limit is reached. For homeowners, this means that if someone is injured on your property or you face some other significant liability, the liability coverage in your homeowner’s insurance or other policy will be used to cover the cost first. If the liability is substantial and requires a larger payout than what your policy limit covers, the umbrella policy will take over to cover the additional amount.   It’s worth noting that umbrella policies aren’t just for homeowners. They can provide coverage over other types of insurance as well. Many homeowners also use umbrella coverage to protect against automobile accident liability as well, since a car accident could easily cause property damage or injury that exceeds the liability coverage offered by a lot of car insurance policies.   Why Get an Umbrella Policy? Having the extra liability coverage provided by an umbrella policy is a good way to put your mind at ease. Not only does it ensure that medical and other costs that can result from accidents will be taken care of, but it also provides additional protection against lawsuits that might arise from those same accidents. This becomes particularly important if you own a fixer-upper or are in the process of slowly remodeling your home, since the little imperfections and other problems that you hope to eventually fix can increase the likelihood of accidents or other damage. While it’s possible that your existing insurance will cover your liabilities, the umbrella coverage gives you an extra layer of protection.   Is an Umbrella Policy Right for You? Whether you need an umbrella policy depends on your current lifestyle, the home you live in, its state of repair and even the coverage limits of your existing insurance. In most cases you won’t be required to have umbrella coverage, unlike a homeowner’s policy or mortgage insurance often required by lenders. You should take the time to consider your situation, shop around for umbrella policy quotes and think about whether an umbrella policy will give you a little more security.   Finding Your Perfect Policy If you decide that you need umbrella coverage, the next thing you need to do is make sure that you aren’t paying too much for the coverage that you get. HomeKeepr can help. Sign up for a free account today so you can find an insurance agent who has the perfect umbrella policy for your needs without you getting left out in the rain.
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

6 Home Design Fads That Are Fading

6 Home Design Fads That Are Fading These trends were all the rage in the 2010s, but now designers say they want to leave them in the past. February 3, 2020 By:  Melissa Dittmann Tracey
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Maintain Your Home’s Style in Style

Home remodels offer an opportunity to change the look and feel of your home. This can be great if you live in an older home with outdated fixtures and other hardware. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t take the time to match their remodel to their house and end up with a look that’s a bit less than optimal. The remodel won’t necessarily look bad, but it may be unsatisfactory because it doesn’t quite match the architecture and style of the house itself.   Of course, this doesn’t mean that you have to redo everything in its original style when remodeling your home. That would all be rather boring, wouldn’t it? You simply need to make sure that you fully take your home into account when designing your remodel. This is easier than you might think, once you know what to plan for.   What Style Is Your Home? Before you can plan out a remodel based on the style of your home, you need to figure out exactly what that style is. There are a lot of possibilities out there, ranging from Victorian and Colonial designs to Craftsman homes, Ranch homes and other more modern styles. You may already know which architecture style your house was built in, either from existing architecture knowledge or discussions with your Realtor before buying the property. If you aren’t sure, though, there are a number of resources that can help you find out. You can research home styles online, talk to fans of different architectural styles or even look at the original listing for your home if you have a copy. Regardless of how you find out, learning about your home’s architectural style is the first step to accenting it with your remodel.   Learning Your Style Once you know your home’s style, take the time to learn a bit about it. Learn the key points of the architecture, distinguishing features and everything else that makes it stand out from similar home designs. If there are fixtures, doors, windows or other home features that are commonly associated with your home style, you should learn what those are as well. This may seem like a lot of work, but the details about your home style that you learn now will go a long way toward helping you design a remodel plan that really accentuates the best things about your home.   Adapting Your Style Once you have a good idea of what works with your home’s architectural style, it’s time to start planning your remodel to work with that idea. You can look for fixtures that are similar to more traditional offerings but that better match your personal taste, or for example select a traditional door but opt to paint it in a color that will go better with your new siding choices. Your goal should be to find a balance between more traditional offerings for your home style and your personal decorating preferences. That way, the choices you make will fit in beautifully with the overall design of your home and its existing accents.   Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean everything has to match perfectly, either. There is a lot of room for you to express yourself through choices that might otherwise clash with your home style, using that disparity to draw attention either to your choice or to the design of the home itself. There are many options available to you, and because you know what’s expected for homes like yours you are free to go with the traditional or to shake things up as you see fit.   Perfecting Your Style If you want to find a style that’s a perfect match for your home but aren’t quite sure what works best, it may be time to call in a pro. Whether you need a contractor to bring it all together or a designer or decorator to make sure everything works with your architecture, HomeKeepr can connect you with the right pro for the job. Sign up for a free account today and see just how much of a difference HomeKeepr can make with your remodel dreams.        
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

How Do You Choose a Home Pro?

There are a number of reasons that you might need to hire a professional to do work around your home. Maybe you want to make repairs, add a porch, redo your landscaping or change up the design of your interiors. Of course, when you hire a pro, you want to make sure that you’ve found someone who’s going to do a great job without breaking your budget. How do you strike that balance?   Fortunately, there are a few things that you can consider when trying to pick the perfect home pro for your project. This will not only help you find a skilled professional who can get the job done right but will also ensure that you don’t overpay for the work that you get done.   What Is Your Timeframe? When do you need your work done by? If you’re considering a professional and they can’t finish the job in time, you might be better off going with someone who can. While some deadlines are flexible, others don’t have much give and you need to make sure that your pro is available when you need them. After all, even a skilled pro at a great price won’t do you much good if they can’t get around to your job until well after it absolutely must be finished.   Consider the Pro’s Reputation If a pro you’re considering has a reputation in your area, there’s likely a good reason for it. It might be a good reputation, such as being known for always finishing ahead of time and under budget. Or it could be a bad reputation, such as never getting to work on time and leaving you waiting for meetings. Whether it’s good or bad, be sure to take it into consideration while you weigh your options for a home pro.   Taking Cost Into Account As great as it would be if it weren’t an issue, cost is a very real factor for any project you undertake involving your house. While at least some of the cost of any home project is tied up in materials and other factors that pros don’t have much control over, you’ll notice stark contrasts between the pricing of some professionals and others even when they’re bidding the same job. This is why it’s good to always shop around a bit and actively look for the best pro for your money; if you go with the first solution you pick then you might end up paying way too much for the work that gets done.   Reviewing Past Work If possible, ask potential contractors, designers and other home pros for portfolios and other examples of their work. This will give you a better idea of the sort of work you can expect from the pros that you hire. If possible, ask if they have any candid shots taken during the job process; these provide a behind-the-scenes look that isn’t as polished as professional pieces and gives you an idea of what effort the pro is really putting into the job.   Asking for Recommendations When looking for a pro, be sure to ask family, friends, your Realtor, and other home pros you trust who they would recommend. Because this usually comes in the form of one or two options that they would recommend most, it helps you to create a short list based on your friends’ past experiences. You may notice certain names popping up in multiple recommendations, which is a good thing; if this happens, those pros definitely deserve a spot on your list of people to consider.   The Home Pro Experts While you’re putting in the work of finding a home pro, don’t forget to check HomeKeepr. You can search for personally recommended pros right from the sidebar on this page.
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Homeownership Among Singles: A Growing Trend

When a lot of people think of buying a home, they picture it as a part of settling down and building a family. There’s a pretty good reason for this; couples and families do make up a significant portion of the home-buying population. But there is a growing trend among buyers that bucks this tradition: Single people have become increasingly likely to shop for a home in recent years. The Importance of Singles Buying Homes There are multiple reasons why the increase in singles buying homes is noteworthy. The uptick may be due in part to overall changes in society, with individuals marrying or starting families later in life, after trying to achieve stability. It also speaks to the increased economic power of the Millennial generation, with those in their 20s and 30s able to buy a home of their own even as they’re working on building a career. Of course, there is one other important thing about more singles buying homes that is easy to overlook. Those looking to sell their home may focus on making their property as appealing as possible to older buyers or those with families, missing out on this growing segment of homebuyers. Realizing that more singles are buying homes allows sellers to market their property to a wider range of buyers, increasing the likelihood of selling a home quickly and without having to compromise substantially on asking price.   Women as Homebuyers One specific aspect of the increase in single homebuyers that is worth noting is the fact that single women are significantly more likely to buy homes than single men. In fact, as many as 1 in 5 potential buyers is likely to be a single woman according to recent trends. This is around twice as likely as a buyer being a single male. This difference is especially noteworthy when you consider that, on average, women typically earn only around 80 percent as much as men working in similar roles. This is another point that sellers should consider when putting their homes on the market. Not only is it increasingly likely that singles will be interested in the property, but when they are, they will probably be women shopping for a home. This really shakes up old mindsets that focus on married couples buying with the husband as a negotiator trying to get the best price on the home purchase.   Attracting Single Buyers Single homebuyers may have different criteria when shopping for a house than couples or families. They may look for smaller properties, homes with large yards for gardening or other characteristics that might not be as important to couples or families. Location can be viewed differently by single buyers as well; they are less likely to be concerned with school districts and proximity to parks or other family destinations, and more likely to consider proximity to work or attractions that appeal to singles. Realizing how the priorities differ when it comes to buyers who are single versus couples and families can affect how you advertise the home you have for sale. Listings in areas that aren’t ideal for families can be targeted toward single buyers instead, focusing on those aspects that a single woman or man might find appealing. Even if you don’t target your sales specifically toward singles, being mindful of the differences can help you to create home listings that have a wider appeal across a range of potential buyers.   Prepping Your Home If you’re putting your home on the market, it’s important to keep single buyers in mind. If you aren’t sure how to do this, you might consider bringing in a decorator or interior design expert that can help you to make your home as appealing as possible to a wider range of potential buyers. Sign up for a free HomeKeepr account today to find the pro that can help you find the buyer that’s right for you.
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Be Snow Storm Ready!

Winter weather has a way of catching people by surprise. Even if you know a snow storm is coming, the amount of snow or speed of accumulation can sometimes take you by surprise. Unexpected snow can create a number of dangerous situations, so it’s important to be as prepared as possible in case a snow storm hits.  To that end, here are a few ways that you can be ready to face snow storms or other hazards that winter might throw your way. Some of these tips may be useful for facing down other types of bad weather as well. Regardless of what the weather’s doing, though, make sure that you stay safe first and foremost. Get Travel Done Early If you need to go to the store, help relatives get ready for the snow or otherwise get out on the roads, try to get everything done as early as possible. If you can, try to be back home before the snow falls. If that’s not an option, head out at your earliest opportunity and avoid the temptation to break the speed limit. You shouldn’t waste time, but trying to rush increases your likelihood of an accident, so avoid going too fast while you’re behind the wheel.   Stay Inside Ice and low temperatures typically accompany snow storms, so it’s best to stay inside where it’s warm. This will also eliminate the risk that you might slip on ice and injure yourself in a fall. Also remember that this rule applies for pets, too; either bring them inside or provide a safe and warm place for them while the weather outside is frightful.   Stock Up Dry goods and canned foods are important staples to have when the snow is coming down outside. They might not be as tasty of an option as fresh-cooked meats and other meals, but the tastier options are sometimes harder to cook if your power is flickering due to the snow storm. Be sure that you include pet food, bottled water and similar items that you might not always get on a shopping trip! (And no, you most likely won’t need bread and milk unless you’re running low on those items anyway).   Stay Warm Power outages can be a real hazard during snow storms. Make sure that you have multiple blankets available to cover up with in case the power should go out for a while. Home generators or even portable generators can be very useful if the power goes out, but remember to keep them outside as they often produce dangerous exhaust. The same goes for gas-powered heaters; you shouldn’t place them in the house since it can be hard to ventilate the gases that can build up when using those heaters indoors.   Have a Plan Before a snow storm hits, take the time to develop a plan for your family in case of snow emergency. This should include making sure that everyone in the house knows where emergency supplies are located, how any generators you have work and other details like whose responsibility it is to go on a grocery run or evaluate potential damage after the snow stops falling. Make sure that you include something in your plan about checking in on your neighbors as well, since it’s important to make sure that nobody gets stuck in the cold once the snow starts to fall.   Is Your Roof Snow Storm Ready? One part of your home that takes a real beating during snowy weather is your roof. To help prevent leaks or other roof failure during the winter, have your roof checked out by a professional each year. HomeKeepr can help you find a roofer to check the integrity of your roof and make any repairs that might be necessary. Sign up for your free account today to get your roof checked before the big snow hits.  
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Insulation 101

Insulation is an essential part of your home. Not only does it help keep the home warm during the winter, but it also plays an important part in keeping you cool during the summer. Once you start looking at the different insulation options that are available, though, the whole thing can get a bit confusing. To help you make sense of it all, here are some of the basics you need to know about home insulation. How Insulation Works Insulation works by providing a physical barrier to the transfer of heat through parts of the home such as the walls, ceiling and roof. Depending on the type of insulating material used, it may simply provide a barrier to heat transfer, or it could actually reflect some of the heat back in the direction it came from. In the summer, this means that heat is prevented from entering from outside; in the winter, the insulation stops heat from moving out of the house.   Understanding R-Values Insulation effectiveness is measured by R-Value. The higher a material’s R-Value is, the more resistant it is to heat penetration. Insulations that have a higher R-Value tend to be thicker or made of denser materials able to resist greater amounts of heat transfer than thinner insulations. Some forms of insulation may have a lower R-Value but are still effective; an example is aerosol can spray foam, which can’t be placed very thick, but seals out air. So keep in mind that R-Value isn’t the only measure of how effective insulation is.   Types of Insulation Insulation isn’t exactly a one-size-fits-all product. There are different types of insulation available to meet different needs. Though the specifics of different insulation types may vary, these are the most common types of insulation you’ll see:   Batt Insulation – This is what most people think of when they picture insulation. Batt insulation comes in rolls of material such as fiberglass or cotton that is applied in walls, floors, ceilings or other areas where large amounts of insulation is needed. Spray Foam – As the name implies, this insulation comes in the form of a liquid foam that is sprayed onto the surface where insulation is needed. The foam expands and hardens, providing a layer of insulation that can fill gaps, cracks and other areas that other insulation types often miss. Blown-In Insulation – Similar to spray foam insulation, blown-in insulation is applied by a blower instead of coming in rolls. Instead of originating as a liquid, however, this insulation is made of small bits of fiberglass or cellulose and fills in the area where it is blown. It provides excellent heat retention and creates a sound barrier where applied as well. Radiant Barriers – A specialty insulation generally made of layers of perforated aluminum, this insulation is applied in the attic walls and rafters in areas with warm climates. The insulation reflects radiant energy from the sun, reducing attic temperatures and making heating and air conditioning more efficient. Window Insulation – This can come in the form of films applied to the window surface, plastic sheeting applied over the windows or even insulation built into the windows themselves. You may encounter other types of insulation as well, though they are typically intended for more specialty uses than those listed here.   Air Sealing Even high-quality insulation can’t do much if there are cracks and gaps in your walls or foundation that let air flow in and out freely. Finding and filling cracks with a sealant is an important part of insulating your home. There are different sealants available for this purpose, though spray foam insulation works as both an insulator and an air sealant.   Insulation Installation Making sense of different types of insulation and figuring out which is best for your needs isn’t always easy. Fortunately, HomeKeepr can help you find a professional installer who will match you to the best insulation for your home and seal up any air leaks as well. Sign up today for a free account so you can get to work on insulating your home.
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Is Peel and Stick Wallpaper Right for You?

When you think of wallpaper, you likely picture rolls of material that are plastered or glued in place. Once the wallpaper is up on the walls, that’s pretty much it; while wallpaper can be removed, the process usually isn’t very quick or easy. If you want the look of wallpaper without the hassle, however, there is another option: peel and stick wallpaper. If you weren’t aware that this was available, it might be worth looking into. What Is Peel and Stick Wallpaper? Similar to some other wall decorations, peel and stick wallpaper is a vinyl applicant that has its own adhesive on one side. A protective paper backing covers the adhesive and is peeled off before application, allowing it to be placed without the need for glue or other messy adhesives. The adhesive on the back of peel and stick wallpaper is strong enough to hold the wallpaper in place, but not so strong that it can’t be removed with ease; when you’re ready to take it down you can simply peel it off without having to worry about the wallpaper tearing or causing any sort of damage to the wall surface beneath it.   Peel, Stick and Adjust As with more traditional wallpaper options, peel and stick wallpapers typically feature repeating designs that are essentially seamless once everything has been installed. The self-adhesive nature of the wallpaper makes it easy to start a wallpaper installation since you can position the first piece more easily than you might with wallpapers that have separate adhesives. There is another advantage to using this self-stick adhesive as well. Because it’s designed to release easily, you can adjust the positioning of the wallpaper with ease during the installation process. This helps to ensure that none of the wallpaper is crooked or out of alignment, since you can correct any problems as they occur without having to reapply adhesive or worry about damaging the paper.   Residue-Free Removal One big advantage that peel and stick wallpaper has over more traditional wall coverings is that you can remove it and replace it whenever you need to. The vinyl material that peel and stick wallpaper is made from is harder than paper, so not only is it less likely to be damaged in day-to-day life but it’s also much less likely to tear during removal. The adhesive on the wallpaper leaves no residue behind and isn’t going to peel off paint or other surface details. While peel and stick wallpaper typically isn’t designed for reuse after removal, you can remove one peel and stick design and replace it with a different design, or even more traditional wallpaper, without any issue.   Multiple Surface Options Peel and stick wallpaper goes well on walls, but it can also be applied to other surfaces as well. The main requirement for application is a clean, dry surface without texture. Your walls should be painted with at least a base coat, but the paint shouldn’t have any texturing agents added. Surfaces with non-stick elements added (such as non-stick paint) or residues need to be cleaned or painted before application as well. Peel and stick wallpaper can be added to drywall, wood or any other surface that either meets its requirements or can be painted to provide the clean, smooth surface that the wallpaper needs for adhesion.   The Perfect Install Even peel and stick wallpaper can be stressful if you’ve never installed your own wallpaper before. Whether you’re looking for someone to install it completely or you think your walls could use a touch up before the wallpaper goes up, it’s not a bad idea to find a painter in your area to get the job done right. HomeKeepr can help; sign up for a free account today and get matched with the perfect painter to make your peel and stick plans succeed.
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

10 Trending Design Fads for 2020

10 Trending Design Fads for 2020 Dining rooms with personality? Tiled bathtub aprons? Houzz offers its picks for the hottest trends to watch throughout the year. January 16, 2020 By:  Melissa Dittmann Tracey
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

When Should My Child Get a Credit Card?

You typically have to be 18 years old to get a credit card on your own. But credit card issuers make it easy to get a credit card for a child under 18 as an authorized user on your account. In fact, T. Rowe Price found in its 2017 Parents, Kids and Money survey that 18% of kids ages eight to 14 have credit cards.   Did You Know?   18% Children Between 8-14 Who Have Credit Cards*   $2,047 Average Credit Card Debt Gen Z Carries** Sources: * T. Rowe Price: 9th Annual Parents, Kids & Money Survey **Experian, 2017 State of Credit Report     The right age to get your child a credit card depends on the reasons for getting it and whether your child is ready to manage it. It's also important to know which credit card to get so that you can benefit most from the arrangement.   Why It's Smart to Get a Credit Card for a Child Under 18 Here are three key reasons why you might want to get a credit card for your son or daughter: 1. It Can Help Them Establish a Credit History Any credit account that lenders report to the three credit bureaus can affect your credit. And if your child is heading to college in the next few years, establishing a credit history sooner than later can help them immensely. For example, private student loan companies typically require a credit check and having some credit history can also help your child get their first student credit card. They may even be able to finance their first car without needing you as a cosigner. Keep in mind, though, that not all credit card issuers report authorized user account information to the credit bureaus. To find out if yours does, call the number on the back of your card and ask a customer service representative. Also, depending on which credit scoring model is used, your child's authorized user status may not impact their credit as much as if they were to be the primary owner of the account. 2. You Can Teach Kids About Smart Credit Card Use Credit cards can be dangerous if you're not careful. The average credit card balance was $6354 at the end of 2017, based on Experian data. If you can teach your children about responsible credit card use, they'll be less likely to make mistakes out of ignorance. Talk to them about the card's annual percentage rate (APR) and how credit cards typically charge higher APRs than other typical debts. Explain how it's important to avoid charging more to the credit card than you can afford to pay off each month. Also, show how you can avoid interest altogether by paying off your credit card balance on time and in full. Teaching your children these lessons in a training-wheel environment can help them develop good financial habits that will serve them well when they enter the adult world. 3. They Can Use It in an Emergency If you gave your child a cell phone so they can call you in case of an emergency, why not do the same thing with a credit card? It's unlikely that your son or daughter will need to use the credit card often for emergencies. But it could provide you with some peace of mind knowing that they won't get stranded without gas money. It's a good idea to put rules on using the card, though, so you both agree on what qualifies as an emergency expense. Also, you can teach your child the value of saving up an emergency fund so you can immediately pay off any surprise credit card expenses that arise. Is Your Child Ready for a Credit Card? Using a credit card requires a great deal of responsibility, and it's not for everyone—even some adults. It's important to have a conversation with your child to determine if they're ready for a credit card. Keep in mind their age isn't as important a factor as their maturity level and willingness to learn. For example, does your son or daughter typically have problems following rules you set? Do they have a healthy attitude toward money? You know your kids better than anyone else, so use your judgment and make the call based on that knowledge. Whether or not your child is ready for a credit card, it's wise to create some ground rules for their new spending power. For starters, decide who's going to pay the bill. According to the same T. Rowe Price survey, 41% of parents have their kids pay their own credit card bills. Doing this may encourage your child to use the card more responsibly than if you were to foot the bill each month. If you aren't going to have your child to pay off their own credit card purchases, discuss and agree when it's appropriate to use the card and when it isn't. If you find that they're breaching these boundaries, follow up and remind them of your agreement. Which Issuers Allow You to Get a Credit Card for a Child under 18? Adding your child as an authorized user can be a good thing, but you may run into issues if your credit card issuer doesn't allow it or has an age requirement. To help, we've done some research to determine how the top credit card issuers handle it. Credit Card Issuer Age Requirement American Express 13 or 15 years old, depending on the card Barclays 13 years old Bank of America No minimum age requirement Capital One No minimum age requirement Chase No minimum age requirement Citi No minimum age requirement Discover 15 years old U.S. Bank 16 years old Wells Fargo No minimum age requirement If your credit card issuer isn't included in this list, call the number on the back of your card and ask about their age requirement. If you find that your credit card issuer doesn't allow you to get a credit card for a child under 18 as an authorized user, or has a minimum age requirement that's too high, consider applying for a new credit card. There are plenty of great rewards credit cards from top issuers that have no age minimum. Also, keep in mind that your child's purchases as an authorized user generate rewards just like yours. So, getting a card with better rewards can make the arrangement more valuable for you. Proceed With Caution Adding your son or daughter as an authorized user on your credit card can help them build credit and develop good credit habits. But if you're not careful, you could be on the hook for purchases they've made, whether you approve of them or not. But if you follow the tips we've outlined, you'll be able to turn this into a positive experience for both you and your child.          
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Are You Sure You Own Your Fence?

As Robert Frost (somewhat facetiously) said, “Good fences make good neighbors.” While many people have much better relationships with their neighbors than the saying implies, there is something to be said for a good fence on your property. Not only can fences add some visual appeal to the property, but they can also be functional. Fences are often a godsend if you own animals and don’t want to keep them chained up outside, and a fence around your backyard can afford you some privacy with your family or friends as well. Sometimes, though, fences need to be updated, removed or replaced. At these times, homeowners have found themselves in conflict with their good neighbors over the question of who actually owns the fence between their properties. While this might seem like an odd question, if the fence was already there when you moved in, are you completely sure that it belongs to you? Just whose side of the property line does it really fall on? Figuring Out Ownership Before you start tearing down an existing fence, it’s important to figure out if you actually have legal ownership of the fence itself. Friendly neighbors can become bitter enemies pretty quickly if you start tearing down a fence that belongs to the people living next door. You can also cause some hurt feelings if you start taking the fence down and accidentally tear up gardens or other plants that grow next to or on the fence. This is why it’s essential to determine ownership before you make any move on the fence. Not clearing things beforehand can not only cause hurt feelings and ruin a neighborly relationship, but in some cases a neighbor might even get the police or lawyers involved.   A Neighborly Conversation One of the first things that you should do if there’s any question about the ownership of the fence is go over and have a chat with your neighbor. Explain that you want to replace the fence, provide your reasoning on why the fence has to go, and ask if they know whose property the fence falls on. If the fence is on your property, the neighbor should tell you; if it’s on theirs, then you can open up a larger conversation about replacing it. This also gives you an opportunity to talk about any plants or other features that might be disturbed during the process and make accommodations for pets or other animals that gaps in the fence might put at risk. Be sure to approach the topic casually and with a friendly tone; if you come across as too aggressive or seem defensive about the question then it can cause the conversation to head south pretty quickly.   Checking That Property Line Unless your conversation with your neighbor sorts things out neatly, it’s a good idea to get a survey done to settle the matter of where the fence lies. A surveyor will ensure that the property line is clearly marked so you can see exactly where the fence lies on the property line. In some cases, it will clear the matter up readily, since the fence will obviously fall on one property or the other. In other cases, you might find that the fence actually straddles the line or moves from one property to the other. In this case you may need to discuss the issue more with your neighbor or consult the property deed or other official description of the property to see whether the fence is mentioned. Regardless, knowing where the property line falls gives you a lot of leverage in solving the issue.   Solving Your Fencing Woes Whether you’re in need of a surveyor to help you figure out ownership or a contractor to replace the fence, HomeKeepr is here to help. With a free HomeKeepr account you can connect with professionals in your area that will assist you in getting your fencing issues cleared up in no time. Sign up for a free account today so you can get started on your fencing project tomorrow.
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Financing Outside of Single-Family Homes

Most of the time, if you think about taking out a loan to purchase real estate, you’re likely picturing a single-family home. Depending on your needs and the properties available in the area you’re searching, though, you may find that other property types are actually a closer fit for you. Multi-family properties such as duplexes and similar units might end up being a better choice, or you could wind up shopping for a condo. You might even be in the market for a property that contains both commercial and residential aspects. Regardless of what you’re looking for, though, you should have options for financing your purchase. Borrowing Differences None of these property types are exactly rare, but they are outnumbered in the market by single-family dwellings. As such, the loans that you’re likely most familiar with are geared more toward those properties than properties for multiple families or dual-zoned use. Because of this, you need to be prepared for potential hurdles when you start looking for a loan. Lenders may have different requirements for these loans than they would for mortgages on a single-family unit, and some lenders may not offer loans for multi-family units or similar properties. This doesn’t mean that there are no loan options available, but you should be prepared for the possibility of a different borrowing experience.   Loan Options When it comes down to it, many of the same options are available for purchasing multi-family units, condos and other properties as you would find when shopping for a loan for a single-family dwelling. Organizations such as the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and others that are commonly used for single-family purchases also offer loan programs or insurance to cover these types of dwellings. Most local and national banks offer these loans as well, as do other mortgage lenders. With that said, you may have to meet different qualifications to get these loans than you would if borrowing to purchase a single-family home.   Qualifying for a Loan Though specific qualifications may vary from one lender or program to the next, some of the most common items that are considered during qualification may include:   Larger down payments than what would typically be used for a single-family purchase Reserve requirements of at least 2 percent and as high as 6 percent of the unpaid principal balance For multi-family properties, a cap on the loan amount calculated on a per-unit basis Minimum or maximum numbers of units within a property Restrictions on any repairs that may be needed for the property   There are other qualifications that may be required by specific lenders before authorizing a loan for a condominium, multi-family dwelling or other less-common property. Depending on the property and the amount of the loan, higher credit scores, co-signers or other additional requirements may also be necessary.   Finding a Lender As with any loan, it’s important to spend time looking for the best loan option to meet your needs. This is especially important with these types of loans, as in many cases you’ll be borrowing more than you would with a single-family mortgage and may be subject to more restrictions as well. Taking the time to explore different options and check with different lenders will help ensure that you get the best terms for your loan and will keep you from having to settle when it comes to buying the property you want.   Getting Your Loan When you’re ready to start your loan search, HomeKeepr can help make sure that you get just the loan you need to finance the property of your dreams. By signing up for a free account you can connect with lenders and other pros who can point you in the right direction for your loan whether you’re buying a condo or an entire apartment building. Create your free account today so you can get started.
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Renovation Investors and You

Depending on the condition of the house, renovation can be a major expense. However, this can also present real estate investors with significant opportunities. For those with the right know-how and a good eye for investment properties, homes in need of renovation can be reworked and then flipped for a profit. Some investors actually make a very good living doing just that. So how can these investors help you? Part of that depends on exactly what it is you’re looking for, and whether you’re a potential buyer or you’re looking to sell a property that’s in need of repairs. Let’s take a closer look at how renovation investors work and how that benefits both buyers and sellers to see how this matches your needs. Renovation Investors Investors who specialize in renovations seek to buy properties at a discount because of issues the property has or repairs that it may need, in order to be habitable. Depending on the state of the property, the renovations may be extensive before it’s time to sell. The end goal is to get the property in good enough condition that the investor can sell it for more than was spent buying the property and performing the renovations.   In some cases, the investors themselves are the ones doing the renovations. Some investors work with contractors and have them perform the renovations instead. Regardless of who does the work and how involved the investor is in the process, any labor costs are included in the amount that the investor seeks to recoup when the property is finally sold.   Renovation Sellers If you have a property that you want to sell that’s in need of repairs, a renovation investor might be able to cut you a good deal on the property. While you won’t make as much from the sale as you would if the property had already been repaired, this can be a viable option if you aren’t sure of how much repairs will cost or if you’re afraid of a “money pit” situation where the cost of repairs might balloon out of control.   While most renovation investors want to purchase properties at as low a price point as they can to maximize their eventual profits, there should be room for negotiation to help ensure that you get a fair deal on the property when its current state of repair is taken into account. If you speak with a renovator who simply refuses to work with you to find a fair price for the property, you always have the option of looking for different buyers or undertaking some repairs yourself to bring up the overall value of the property before it goes to market.   Renovation Buyers If you’re in the market to buy a home, renovation investors can help you get into a nice house at a good price. In most cases, the homes are slightly older – but the repairs that were done by the investor should have the property in much better shape than similar homes of the same age. You may even find renovated homes that are as nice or possibly even better than houses that are newer than the one that was renovated.   Of course, when buying a renovated home, it’s important to find out what repairs were done and whether there are any repairs that still need to be made. Local ordinances may require the renovator to have made at least a minimum level of repairs before the property can be sold. When you have an inspection performed, the home inspector should be able to point out any potential issues that might cause a conflict with these legal requirements.   Finding a Renovator Investors interested in renovating and selling properties come from several different sectors of the real estate and finance industry. Fortunately, HomeKeepr can help you find renovators from just about any of them. Sign up for a free account today and make the connections you need to take advantage of the next big renovation opportunity.
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Should You Rent Your Home Decor?

It might seem like kind of an odd concept, but there are a number of companies that let you rent your home décor these days. Companies like Feather and CasaOne allow you to lease your furniture and other décor for a limited period or until you decide to buy it outright. Even some older rent-to-own companies have options to change furnishings after completing a portion of your lease. The big question is, how viable is this as a way to decorate your home? Renting vs. Buying With just about any situation where you have the option to rent or buy something, there will be proponents on both sides extolling why that option is the better deal. People will discuss markets when talking about renting or buying a home, or depreciation rates when discussing automotive lease options versus outright purchase. With furniture, however, the discussions have long been fairly one-sided due to the excessive cost associated with many rent-to-own furniture options. Unless you had another other choice, buying your furniture was the only way to avoid paying nearly twice as much in some cases.   The difference here is that these new options are intended as a way to provide flexibility in your décor instead of simply providing a path to purchase. While you do have an option to purchase, you also have the option to change your furniture options as your needs and tastes change. Because services like Feather are focused more on providing an actual service than simply selling furniture with installment plans, they have a larger focus on benefits than what you would get from a standard rent-to-own purchase.   Is It a Viable Option? There are two questions to ask when trying to decide if renting home décor in this fashion is a viable option for you. The first concern is the cost: is it really worth it to you to have the sort of flexibility these services provide, versus owning your furniture outright? Feather, for example, has a $19/month service charge in addition to the monthly furniture payments for members on annual contracts. If you don’t plan on taking advantage of all the services that Feather offers, it might not be worth paying this extra cost in your case. On the other hand, if you’re the sort that would like to be able to reinvent your living space on a regular basis, then the discounts and annual free change that membership provides might be more than worth that added monthly fee.   The second thing to consider is how viable these companies are in the long term. If there’s no market for this sort of a service, then you might find yourself without a service to use a few years down the road. This may not be a concern, however; the market has supported multiple more traditional rent-to-own services over the years, but companies like Feather aren’t really competing with those. Instead, they’re taking an updated version of their model and targeting a slightly higher income bracket. With reasonable pricing, some great style and a solid service model in place, these early movers into this new bracket could have significant staying power.   Nailing Your Décor Regardless of whether you plan to rent or buy, it’s a good idea to plan out your décor before you start decorating. This is especially important if you’re using an online service like Feather where you’ll be doing your planning and shopping online. This is where it can help to have a professional interior decorator or designer there to assist you in choosing the pieces that will work best together. Fortunately, HomeKeepr can help you with that. Sign up for free today to find a decorator who will really help you pick the perfect accents for your home and tie everything together. Signing up is free, so you’ve got nothing to lose.      
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I Love a Parade! High Traffic Flooring Options

A nice deep pile carpet can look great in your home, but if you have a lot of foot traffic then it’s just asking for trouble. Not only will you have to work harder to keep it clean, but you’ll also have to replace it sooner than you’d like because all those feet and shoes will leave their mark over time. If you want nice-looking floors without worrying about your own personal parade wearing them down before their time, you need to find a flooring option that’s better suited for high-traffic areas.   Laminate Flooring An increasingly popular option in homes, laminate flooring uses laminated wood slats with images applied to them to create the look of a premium flooring option without the premium price. Laminate is available in a wide range of sizes and types; choose thicker 12mm or 15mm laminates to help ensure that they won’t wear down due to excessive foot traffic. If you want something a bit different than standard laminates, some companies are also now making vinyl flooring that functions similarly to laminate floors but with the water resistance and other benefits of using vinyl.   Natural Stone If you really want something that can stand up against some foot traffic, consider going with natural stone. These stone tiles add a touch of beauty and class while giving you the wear protection that only stone can provide. Depending on the option you choose, this may run a bit more expensive than other options, but there is very little out there that can match the look of stone in the end.   Concrete Flooring Though this may sound unappealing when you first think of it, there’s a lot that can be done with concrete flooring. You can add color, stains, etchings, stamps and even embedded features such as stones or tiles to really bring the floor to life. Best of all, you already know that concrete can stand up to a lot of traffic and use without showing any wear, so you won’t have to worry about your floors showing their age for quite some time.   Hardwood Another option, which can be a bit pricey depending on the wood you go with, is hardwood. There is very little that can beat a hardwood floor when it comes to beauty and wear resistance. You have several woods to choose from, each giving the floor its own touch of color and personality. The maintenance of hardwood is a little higher than some other options if you want to keep it looking its best, but the little bit of extra time you spend keeping up your floor is more than worth it.   Ceramic Tile Flooring There are a lot of benefits to using ceramic tile in your high-traffic areas. Tile is versatile, comes in a wide range of colors and styles, creates a classic look, and is relatively easy to repair and replace if individual tiles get broken. Don’t worry that the look of ceramic tile is dated, either; while you might think that tile will give you the generic “tile floor” look of decades past, modern ceramic tile is truly a sight to behold.   Traffic-Resistant Carpet Yes, carpet isn’t always the best flooring option for high-traffic areas. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t carpeting options available for rooms that see a lot of use, however. Not only are there low-pile carpets and other options designed with higher-traffic use in mind, but you can also get carpet tiles and other carpet options that are both easy to maintain and easy to repair if parts of them start showing a bit too much wear.   Finding the Right Flooring Option Obviously, there are a few options available to keep your floors looking nice despite the amount of traffic they see. If you aren’t sure which is the best option for your specific situation, check out HomeKeepr to match up with a professional installer who can help. Not only will you find out which flooring options are best for different situations, but you’ll also get a great deal on having your new floor installed. Sign up for free today to get started.
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Still sizzling: Wilmington property market stays hot entering 2020

Tight inventory has homes selling quickly; high-end market sets record Homes sales remained brisk across the Cape Fear region as 2019 drew to a close, showing the region’s resilience from recent hurricanes and continuing attraction to both retirees and those in search of a little fun in the sun. This November was the best on record as sales for the month increased by 11.7 percent from November 2018. The year to date sales jumped 3.2 percent, with the Wilmington-area seeing over 10,896 home sales. The average price also was up 10.2 percent from November 2018, rising to $322,857. Pending sales rose as well, meaning the strength of the market is likely to continue heading into 2020. Reflecting the high demand from buyers, homes spent an average of 25 days on the market this November compared to 47 days last year -- albeit last November many areas, especially along the coast, were still recovering from Florence.  High-end luxury homes also did well in 2019, with a record-breaking five $4 million-plus homes sold in New Hanover County. The record for the number of $3 million homes sold previously set in 2006 at the height of the market was also broken this year at 13. Pender and Brunswick counties also saw an increase in the number of luxury homes sold, a result of increased prices of high-end homes closer to the coast. In 2020, as more and more builders take advantage of the land opportunities in New Hanover’s neighboring counties, it is likely that there will be an increase in buyers looking to buy in Pender and Brunswick counties. The strength of the market is likely to continue into the new year.
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Still sizzling: Wilmington property market stays hot entering 2020

Tight inventory has homes selling quickly; high-end market sets record Homes sales remained brisk across the Cape Fear region as 2019 drew to a close, showing the region’s resilience from recent hurricanes and continuing attraction to both retirees and those in search of a little fun in the sun. This November was the best on record as sales for the month increased by 11.7 percent from November 2018. The year to date sales jumped 3.2 percent, with the Wilmington-area seeing over 10,896 home sales. The average price also was up 10.2 percent from November 2018, rising to $322,857. Pending sales rose as well, meaning the strength of the market is likely to continue heading into 2020. Reflecting the high demand from buyers, homes spent an average of 25 days on the market this November compared to 47 days last year -- albeit last November many areas, especially along the coast, were still recovering from Florence.  High-end luxury homes also did well in 2019, with a record-breaking five $4 million-plus homes sold in New Hanover County. The record for the number of $3 million homes sold previously set in 2006 at the height of the market was also broken this year at 13. Pender and Brunswick counties also saw an increase in the number of luxury homes sold, a result of increased prices of high-end homes closer to the coast. In 2020, as more and more builders take advantage of the land opportunities in New Hanover’s neighboring counties, it is likely that there will be an increase in buyers looking to buy in Pender and Brunswick counties. The strength of the market is likely to continue into the new year.
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