What is an HOA?
It’s important to learn more about the neighborhood HOA, such as annual dues, community amenities, and restrictions when looking to buy a new home. The goal of the HOA is to help maintain home values and the overall aesthetics of a neighborhood.
When looking for a house, many buyers tend to take into account costs associated with owning a home such as insurance, utilities, and taxes. One thing buyers may not think to consider is whether the house is in a neighborhood with an HOA, what the dues are, and how the association is run. Many buyers may be aware of association dues and regulations in multi-family developments such as condos or townhomes. But, it’s becoming a new normal to find HOAs in developments with single-family homes
What is an HOA?
There are different definitions out there for a Homeowners’ Association and many operate differently from one another. A Homeowners’ Association, or HOA, is an association that works to maintain and oversee the common areas of a neighborhood or property complex. It’s fairly common to find them in neighborhoods that offer amenities such as a community pool, gated access, a playground, tennis courts, etc. The HOA is typically a volunteer-based board made up of homeowners living in the neighborhood. Many HOAs have committees that coordinate neighborhood events, review proposed changes homeowners wish to make to their property, enforce the covenants, and more.
Get to Know the Rules
The covenants, conditions, and restrictions are different for every HOA. Some rules commonly seen in HOAs are in regard to the overall appearance and aesthetics of the neighborhood, such as the appearances of houses and lawn maintenance. Some also have restrictions regarding street parking or where residents can park their boats and RVs. Others may deal more with coordinating neighborhood crime watches and events.
When considering a house, it’s a good idea to ask for a copy of the HOA covenants, conditions, and restrictions to get a better idea of what is allowed and not allowed in the neighborhood. It’s becoming more common for HOAs to have a website or social media page, which is a great place to learn more about the community. For example, some mandate there can be no cars parked in the yard of any house in the neighborhood. If a homeowner wants to paint the house a new color, change the landscaping, or add on to the property, the owner has to submit the proposed changes to the HOA for review and approval. The committee will review the proposed changes to ensure they fall in line with the covenants of the neighborhood. While these may seem rather burdensome or trivial, the HOA was designed to help maintain home values and the overall aesthetics of a neighborhood.
How are HOAs Funded?
Many HOAs require annual, quarterly or monthly dues. Those dues will vary based upon the size of the neighborhood and amenities. Dues are used for a number of things including maintenance of common spaces such as neighborhood entrances, playgrounds, pools, etc. In gated neighborhoods, many of the items that would normally be maintained by the city or parish must be maintained by the HOA. These items may include roads, sidewalks, and street lighting to name a few. Some HOAs will hire a property management company to oversee the collection of dues and coordinate maintenance issues.
Another thing to consider is whether the house is located in a new development. There may not be many amenities or common spaces to maintain as the neighborhood is being developed, so dues may be minimal. The developer may cover some of the associated costs while the neighborhood is still being developed. The true cost associated with running the HOA and maintaining the neighborhood may not fully come to light until the neighborhood is near completion and the developer turns the HOA over to the new residential board.
It’s important to pay the dues on time. Depending on the bylaws, late fees and interest could be tacked on to the bill and the HOA could place a lien on the property if the dues are not paid. The HOA could also foreclose on the property for nonpayment of dues.
After the Closing
Contacting the HOA should be a priority on the Post Move-in List as it is important to provide contact information to the HOA. It’s also a great time to get more information regarding upcoming neighborhood events or other ways to get involved. The HOA cannot operate without residents who are willing to give of their time.
It’s also a great idea to attend neighborhood events such as an ice cream social, an Independence Day parade, Halloween trick-or-treating, and a Christmas party. These events can serve as a great way to meet neighbors and build relationships.
It’s important to remember that the volunteers who serve on the HOA are your neighbors and friends. Like you, they want what’s best for the community. Every homeowner benefits from a well-cared for neighborhood.
5 Fantastic Kitchen Staging Ideas for Fall
Wow fall homebuyers with these easy staging ideas from HomeAdvisor
Selling your home in the fall means adding small seasonal elements to make your home feel warm and welcoming. And, what better place to do that than in the kitchen? Here are some ideas to help you make your kitchen — and your home — appeal to fall homebuyers:
Fall counter decor
You should always keep the countertops nearly clear when potential homebuyers are walking through. In fact, you should keep it down to about two to three essentials if you’re living there from day to day. For the fall season, you can add small elements like placemats, fruit and leaf decor (window drapings, vase, etc.).
The smell of leaves, apple pie, pumpkin and cinnamon evoke the cozy feelings of fall. Candles are nice and actually baking something “fall-like” before a showing is a sure way to make potential buyers feel more at home during a showing.
Colors of fall
Depending on the current condition of your home, you might consider a fresh coat of paint. What color you decide to use may or may not be influenced by the season. While you should always lean towards neutral colors, you might consider accent walls or cabinets in browns or dark tones of red or green if you think they would work. The cost to paint an interior room is about $380, though prices will vary depending on the size of the room.
Bringing nature in
If there are windows in the kitchen, make sure to keep them clean. Depending on the weather outside during a showing, you might open them and let the fresh air in. It helps to create a flow between nature outside and the atmosphere you’re trying to create in the kitchen. If your budget allows, you might also accent the windows with fall-like window treatments to create an even easier flow. If you don’t have these treatments, a professional home stager can sometimes find them for a reasonable price.
Natural lighting elements
Lighting is an essential element of home staging, no matter the season. In fall, in particular, it’s all about enhancing the twilight or sunset and complementing of all the fall colors. For lighting in your kitchen, consider accent and track lighting. Or, you could install recessed lighting on a dimmer switch, which will allow you to control the brightness of the kitchen to complement the mood outside.
Source: Andrea Davis
Why the Fall Selling Season Is Better Than You Think
There is a common misconception that spring is the only worthwhile time to list your home, and listing anytime outside the prime “selling season” will lose you thousands. In truth, the fall selling season is the next best time to sell your house.
There is a common misconception that spring is the only worthwhile time to list your home, and listing anytime outside the prime “selling season” will lose you thousands. In truth, the fall selling season is the next best time to sell your house. Here are the main reasons why selling in fall is a good idea — and how to present your home to its best advantage.
The National Association of Realtors reports that 34 percent of homes sell within 30 days on the market during the fall selling season. This is just a shade behind spring, which comes in at 39 percent. Many of these homes sell for above-asking price based on the study, which researched homes sold between 2010 and 2014.
The Reasons to Sell
Though there is a slight slowdown in the market during the fall, there is less competition. By being able to highlight your home — particularly if it’s only one of a few available in your area — chances are high you will end up with multiple offers or an offer over asking price, something that every buyer covets.
It is also important to remember that regardless of the season, serious buyers are still looking — and ready to purchase when the right home comes their way. This means you can focus your marketing on buyers who are serious about your home.
How to Show Your Home
Though it is still a good season to sell, fall does have some unique challenges, particularly if you live in an area where the seasons change drastically throughout the year. Regardless of where you reside, these five tips will help ensure your home stands out.
1. Warm It Up
Regardless of where you live, open shades and blinds and turn on all the lights to warm your home with an abundance of natural light. If you live in a colder climate, consider turning on a gas or electric fireplace or boosting the thermostat by a few degrees to ensure potential buyers feel the warmth.
2. Use Seasonal Decor
Seasonal decor can create an emotional impact on potential buyers. As one of the strongest senses, smell can play a large part in creating a visceral reaction on a buyer. Scented candles in a harvest scent, freshly baked goodies, or even a stew roasting in a slow cooker can help buyers picture themselves gathering in your home with friends and family. Throw pillows, gourds, and fall flowers will also add a bit of extra color to bring the feeling home.
3. Keep Up with Curb Appeal
Raking leaves, and cleaning gutters remain essential in ensuring your home looks good from the outside in. Line pathways or porch steps with pumpkins or brightly colored mums in harvest hues. Even dried corn stalks tied to a porch column can provide a seasonal pop that makes your home stand out
4. Play to the Crowd
Fall is a prime season for empty nesters or new buyers to the market, so make sure to speak with your agent about how to target your home to the most applicable buyer, and ensure your staging and marketing efforts keep them in mind.
5. Show the Seasons
In fall or winter, your yard may not show at its best, so keeping a photo album of your property in full bloom available for buyers to browse can help them visualize your home in its glory.
Regardless of the season, if a property is priced right, it will sell. Work with a real estate agent to determine local demand, buying patterns, and selling prices in your area to determine the best time for you to list.
Image Source: Flickr/Sharon Mollerus
Home prices are surging across the country. The national median price for an existing single-family home was $255,600 in the second quarter of 2017, up 6.2% from a year earlier. Home prices were up in 87% of cities the association tracks. In 23 cities, including Seattle, Salt Lake City, Reno, and Ann Arbor, prices increased by 10% or more.
Limited supply is behind the rise in prices. More people are interested in buying homes, noted Lawrence Yun, the association’s chief economist. But with relatively few homes available, prices are skyrocketing and properties are selling quickly, leaving some people out in the cold. “An increasing share of would-be buyers are being priced out of the market and are unable to experience the wealth building benefits of homeownership,” he said.
The cost of a home may be steadily ticking upward in most parts of the U.S., but there are a handful of places where the opposite is true. In these 16 cities, the median selling price of a home actually dropped from 2016 to 2017, according to National Association of Realtors data.
16. Dover, Delaware
- Price drop: -1.5%
- Price change: -$3,000
Home prices in Delaware’s capital fell 1.5% from the second quarter of 2016 to the second quarter of 2017. The median home price is now $201,000, down from $204,000 a year earlier.
Next: Cape Girardeau, Missouri
15. Cape Girardeau, Missouri
- Price drop: -1.5%
- Price change: -$2,300
In the second quarter of 2017, the median home price in Cape Girardeau was $146,500, down from $148,800 a year previously. Prices are up considerably from 2015, though, when the typical home sold for $136,100.
Next: Abilene, Texas
14. Abilene, Texas
- Price drop: -1.6%
- Price change: -$2,600
The median home price in the West Texas city of Abilene fell 1.6% over the past year, from $164,300 to $161,700. But buyers will still pay quite a bit more than they would have just a few years ago. In 2014, the typical home sold for $136,200.
Next: Cedar Rapids, Iowa
13. Cedar Rapids, Iowa
- Price drop: -1.6%
- Price change: -$2,500
Buyers in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who waited to choose a home got a slight bonus for their procrastination. Median prices fell from $157,000 in the second quarter of 2016 to $154,500 a year later.
Next: Wichita, Kansas
12. Wichita, Kansas
- Price drop: -1.8%
- Price change: -$2,500
With a median home price of $135,900, Wichita is already one of the cheaper cities in the U.S. to buy a home. (The national median price for a single-family home was $255,600.) A year ago, the median home price in this city was $138,400.
Next: Charleston, West Virginia
11. Charleston, West Virginia
- Price drop: -2.5%
- Price change: -$3,600
In the second quarter of 2016, the median home price in the West Virginia capital of Charleston was $141,800. A year later, it was $138,200, a fall of 2.5%.
Next: York, Pennsylvania
10. York-Hanover, Pennsylvania
- Price drop: -3.2%
- Price change: -$5,300
Median home prices in the York-Hanover metro area fell 3.2% from the second quarter of 2016 to the second quarter of 2017. The median home price dropped from $168,100 to $162,800.
Next: Naples, Florida
9. Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Florida
- Price drop: -3.2%
- Price change: -$14,500
Home prices are dropping on Florida’s Gulf Coast. In the Naples metro area, prices fell 3.2% from 2016 to 2017, from $449,500 to $435,000. But the typical home is still twice as expensive than it is in some parts of the U.S.
Next: Elmira, New York
8. Elmira, New York
- Price drop: -3.5%
- Price change: -$4,000
A 3.5% median price drop in Elmira, New York, meant home prices went $115,600 in the second quarter of 2016 to $111,600 in the second quarter of 2017. But the median home price is roughly $10,000 higher than it was in 2014.
Next: Bismarck, North Dakota
7. Bismarck, North Dakota
- Price drop: -3.8%
- Price change: -$9,600
Home prices in North Dakota’s capital city fell 3.8% from 2016 to 2017. In the second quarter of 2016, the median home price was $251,900. A year later, it was $242,300.
Next: Trenton, New Jersey
6. Trenton, New Jersey
- Price drop: -4.4%
- Price change: -$12,000
The median home price in Trenton dropped by $12,000 from the second quarter of 2016 to the second quarter of 2017. A year ago, a typical home in the New Jersey capital sold for $274,900. Today, the median price was $262,900.
Next: Kankakee, Illinois
5. Kankakee, Illinois
- Price drop: -5.3%
- Price change: -$7,200
The median home price in Kankakee fell 5.3% from the second quarter of 2016 to the second quarter of 2017. The typical home in this Illinois city now costs $128,400, down from $135,600. Prices are higher than they were a few years ago, though, when the median home price was $114,800.
Next: Decatur, Alabama
4. Decatur, Alabama
- Price drop: -5.6%
- Price change: -$7,200
In Decatur, Alabama, the median home price went from $129,600 in 2016 to $122,400 in 2017, a fall of 5.6%. In 2014, the median home price in this Southern metro was $118,700.
Next: Florence, South Carolina
3. Florence, South Carolina
- Price drop: -6%
- Price change: -$8,700
There’s been a 6% drop in median home prices in Florence, South Carolina, over the past year. The median home price in the second quarter of 2017 was $136,400, compared to $145,100 a year earlier.
Next: Glens Falls, New York
2. Glens Falls, New York
- Price drop: -6.2%
- Price change: -$10,700
Home prices in this city on New York’s Hudson River fell 6.2% from the second quarter of 2016 to the second quarter of 2017. The median home price in Glens Falls went from $173,500 to $162,800.
Next: Springfield, Illinois
1. Springfield, Illinois
- Price drop: -9.3%
- Price change: -$13,300
Illinois’ state capital had a bigger drop in home prices than anywhere else in the country. The median selling price for a home in the second quarter of 2017 was 9.3% lower than it was a year earlier, $129,800 versus $143,100.
Source: Cheet Sheet and NAR
10 Things in Your Bathroom You’re Probably Forgetting to Clean
You missed a spot!
By Lea Schneider
If you’ve showered yourself with good intentions about doing some spring cleaning, there are a few spots you don’t want to miss.
Routine bathroom cleaning means hitting the fixtures and the floor with a good once-over. That’s a terrific start, but for a deeper clean, consult this checklist for 10 things you don’t want to skip.
It would be great if only clean feet hit the clean bath mat. Since the whole family is in and out of the bathroom all day long, it’s pretty likely your bath mat needs attention. Start by giving it a safety check to see if it is losing its no-slip backing or if it no longer lies flat, as both are trip hazards. Most bath mats can go in the washing machine. Some can be air-dried and others put in the dryer. Check your rug’s tag and follow manufacturer directions.
Organizing Tip: When you buy a new bath mat for a frequently used bathroom, buy two. This way you can routinely throw one in the wash and reach for a clean one to put down in its place.
Shower curtains don’t need to be cleaned often, but spring cleaning is the perfect time to take care of this task. Most fabric curtains can be taken down and washed—again, check the tag and follow the directions. As for waterproof liners, inspect them to see if you find mold and mildew forming along seams or areas that often stay wet. Replace with a fresh liner or remove the soiled one and clean it.
It might be time to toss that toothbrush. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), you should switch to a new toothbrush every three to four months or when bristles become frayed. The ADA does not recommend any cleaning methods as a substitute for a new brush.
Organizing Tip: Buy a multi-pack of toothbrushes so you have extras available as soon as you need them.
The spot where you store your toothbrush typically has an accumulation of drippings and toothpaste. Use some hot soapy water to clean your holder. A small scrubbing brush is good for reaching into tight spaces.
Cleaning your hairbrush and combs should be a regular task. After all, dirty hair and a buildup of products is not something you want to brush back into your clean locks. Clean your brushes by first removing any hair from the bristles. (A comb and a pair of scissors are helpful with this task.) Then shampoo your hairbrush in warm water, rinse well and allow to dry.
You may not have given much thought to the pores in your loofah, but according to the Cleveland Clinic, they can be a breeding ground for bacteria that can even lead to skin infections. They recommend to weekly soak it in a diluted bleach solution for five minutes and then rinse thoroughly. The Clinic also recommends replacing your loofah every three to four weeks.
Grab the bathroom trashcan and banish the germs. Give it a good cleaning inside and out. Allow it to dry well. Add a liner for easy maintenance.
From floor vents to bathroom fans, these often-forgotten spots definitely need a spring cleaning. Those on the floor have dirt and hair fall into them, while ones on the ceiling can collect dust. To clean them, first remove the vent cover. Then use the brush attachment to your vacuum to clean the top and underside of the cover. Use your nozzle attachment to vacuum up debris, then replace the clean cover. For fan vents, a wet sponge is useful for collecting dust that has accumulated on the cover.
Why wait for a clog? Now is the perfect time to fish out any accumulation of hair and prevent buildup. Remove the drain stoppers from your sink and shower. Give them a scrub and return them to the drain.
Medicine Cabinet Clutter
Do a bit of spring organizing and reclaim storage space by purging your drawers and cabinets.
Jose Zuniga of MakeSpace recommends sorting through everything in your medicine cabinet and vanity drawers. “Throw out anything that’s expired, including old medication. Only keep the items that you use on a regular basis, such as your toiletries and grooming supplies, in your bathroom,” he says.
“Now that you’re left with only the items you use on a regular basis, look to your walls. They’re prime real estate for storing your bathroom supplies without hogging any floor or counter space. For the extra items that you don’t use often—like first aid supplies and spare rolls of toilet paper—put them in a labeled basket or clear storage container and store it on a closet shelf,” he recommends.
As you organize, give shelves and drawers a quick wipe to ensure you’re starting with a clean slate.
Armed with a fresh eye for attention to detail, your bathroom will not only look clean, but it will feel clean, too.
Professional organizing expert Lea Schneider writes for Home Depot about cleaning and organizing. She provides advice and tips on cleaning everything from shower curtains to different types of bath mats to loofahs.
How to Cut Down on Pool Maintenance Costs This Summer
Enjoy your pool without breaking the bank.
Pool maintenance doesn’t have to be an expensive annual chore. Rather than spending up to $700 on pool maintenance, you can cut costs by doing a lot of the work yourself. You don’t want the pool to fall into such poor shape that you have to spend thousands of dollars on repairs. Here are some steps to keep pool maintenance costs down to nearly nonexistent this summer:
#1 Use your pool cover.
Pool covers significantly reduce energy costs over time because they slow how much water evaporates. With a pool cover, your pool heater doesn’t have to work overtime to keep the water cool. And it prevents debris build-up on windy days too, so you don’t have to clean the pool as often.
#2 Run your filter at night.
Running the pool filter at night helps to cut down on energy costs while still keeping your pool clean. Some people opt to run their pool filter 24 hours a day, but this is a waste of energy and over-cleans the pool, which can cause more problems. See if there’s an optimum time to run the pool filter at night and save on your electricity bill.
#3 Clean the pool filter.
Sweet and simple: cleaning your pool filter keeps your swimming pool clear and prevents you from spending more money on other, more costly pool repairs. So just do it.
#4 Invest in an energy-efficient pool pump.
If you have a normal pool pump, it only pumps at one speed — and it wastes energy on filtration, among other tasks. If you invest in an energy-efficient, variable-speed pump, you could save more than a thousand dollars over the life of the pump. You may also qualify for an energy rebate.
#5 Keep the temperature low.
You pay more money for every degree you raise the temperature in the pool. Consider keeping the water as cool as possible while remaining comfortable. You should also turn the heater off in the off season, when you’re not using the pool.
#6 Maintain the pH balance.
You must pay attention to the chemical balance of the water — not only to keep the water safe, but to keep your costs down as well. If the alkalinity of the water is thrown off for any reason, you’re usually better off getting a swimming pool professional involved. Pool chemicals are expensive — and if you don’t get the measurements right, you’re throwing money away as you pour the chemicals into the water.
#7 Balance stabilizer levels.
While all pool owners are aware of how important it is to maintain chlorine levels, not all may realize how stabilizer (cyanuric acid) plays into the process. Stabilizer aids the chlorine in its effectiveness. Too much or too little stabilizer will result in chlorine losing its effectiveness. Pool owners need to check their stabilizer levels and decrease or increase the amount of chlorine needed in the water to keep the pool safe.
Additional Pool Maintenance Costs:
These are quick and efficient steps to keeping your pool in shape this summer. However, there are some costs you need to keep in mind for the future too:
- Closing the pool in the fall: $75 – $200
- Running an automatic pool cleaner: $700 – $2,000
- Vacuuming the pool: $50 – $100
- Using chemicals: $20 – $100/month
If this seems like too much work for you, you can hire a swimming pool maintenance service. It will cost more, but they can do a lot of the work as part of a package, which could cost less in the long-term. Packages generally include:
- Brushing the pool
- Skimming debris
- Adjusting chemical levels
- Cleaning the pool filter
Source: Andrea Davis, HomeAdvisor,
8 of the Best Places in America to Retire
Finding a place to retire doesn’t have to be stressful. There are many living options for you to look at that offer the things you love.
Finding a place to retire doesn’t have to be stressful. Just think about what you love to do and what kind of adventures you want to partake in. There are countless places that offer the things you love, but for now here are 8 places that you should consider.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Colorado Springs is a vibrant and attractive city for retirees. There are many opportunities for an active life in the great outdoors of Colorado. Colorado Springs is nestled at the base of Pikes Peak and is the home of the Garden of the Gods, one of the most breathtaking national wonders in America.
Indianapolis is the biggest city in the Hoosier state. Living in a big city may seem like a questionable financial move, but Indianapolis offers small-city pricing. There are numerous cultural activities that the city offers. Fan of the arts? The Indianapolis Museum of Art offers free general admission on the first Thursday of each month. If you enjoy world renowned art exhibits, beautiful gardens, or summer nights outdoor movie screenings, the IMA is the spot for you.
If you are looking to retire near the beach, Tampa is a great spot for you to check out. While Tampa is located right by the beach, the city still offers many urban attractions, such as malls, sporting events.
Aiken, South Carolina
Located in the center of South Carolina’s “Thoroughbred Country” Aiken is just a small town that is placed right outside of Augusta, Georgia. There are dozens of opportunities of take place in golfing tournaments, as well as to watch steeplechase horse racing. Aiken is also well-known for its parks, historic buildings, wooded areas, and art museums.
Rockport is one of the largest retirement communities in the United States; more than 25% of the popular is older than 65. Not only is it a thriving retirement community, but it also is conveniently placed between two big cities. The ocean is not very far away from Rockport, as well as all the amenities that come with living in or near a big city.
Astoria is a little beach town tucked into the Northwest corner of the beautiful state of Oregon. The mighty Colombia River runs through Astoria on the way to the Pacific Ocean. Lovers of nature need look no further than Astoria to find a peaceful small town with specialty shops and delicious, fresh seafood!
Mendocino is more than just a place—it’s a state of mind. Mendocino boasts gorgeous natural scenery combined with a tight-knit local community. With the perfect mix of social opportunity and natural wonder, Mendocino is a retirement dream.
Thinking about where you want to retire certainly can be stressful, especially if you have no idea where you want to purchase your new home. All eight of the cities that we talked about in this article are great places to retire; they’re all filled with fun adventures that you can partake in. Just think about what you love to do and you will be all set to pick the best location for you to retire in!
Source: CB Blue Matter/Sharon Le
What Millennial Home Buyers Are Looking For in Their First Home
If you’re considering putting your home on the market, there are several ways you can make your home more attractive to this next generation of home buyers.
While home is a universal concept, there is one generation making extra waves in today’s real estate market. Representing about a fourth of the population, this group of young group of consumers are setting trends from technology to fashion and even food and are now emerging as a dominant force in today’s real estate market.
This year, it’s anticipated that more than half of all home purchases will be made by first-time buyers, and most of these newbies will be millennials. So, if you’re considering putting your home on the market, there are several ways you can make your home more attractive to this next generation of home buyers.
From adding smart home tech to pulling up that dreaded carpet, Nick Gagis of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage shares what millennial home buyers are on the hunt for in this episode of NBC Open House.
Source: CB Blue Matter/VICTORIA KEICHINGER/ Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC Youtube