Buyers and Sellers Beware: Signs of Real Estate Scams to Be Aware of

Savvy scammers are always on the lookout for a way to swindle money from unsuspecting victims, and the real estate industry is by no means off limits. Of course, the overwhelming majority of buyers, sellers, agents, landlords, and others involved in real estate transactions are honest, but there are a few bad apples out there who spoil the bushel.

Considering how much money is being played with in a real estate transaction, it’s critical to get educated on the normal steps in the process in order to be able to spot a scam in the works.

Luckily, there are plenty of warning signs that will present themselves that will give you the opportunity to take yourself out of harm’s way before you get scammed. Here are some red flags to watch out for so you don’t get scammed, which typically come about when you’re not being represented by a real estate agent.

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Investors Using Questionable Marketing

You’ve probably seen them before: signs plastered to anything stable, like a light post or mailbox, that say something along the lines of, “We Buy Houses.” Legitimate, professional real estate agents or investors are not in the business of advertising their listings illegally or in poor taste. If the type of marketing that you see when it comes to real estate is free, it’s highly possible that it isn’t legitimate.

Foreign Buyers Promising to Pay All Cash Without Seeing the Property

While it’s common for foreign investors to buy into the US real estate market, they usually do so with the help of an agent representing them on home soil. Details about the property will most likely be provided, including photos of the interior and exterior, and all the financials will be handling legitimately through a financial institution or an accredited attorney.

You should already have your back up when it comes to dealing with foreign buyers, especially with money laundering being a real issue. But a buyer from out of the country offering to buy your home in cash on the spot without asking much about the property is a red flag. Most people who are spending big bucks to buy a property will want to see it, or at least have their local agent pay a visit. Scammers won’t, and likely won’t even ask any questions about the property.   

Buyers Giving Too Much Information

Most people would be hesitant and careful about providing sensitive information about themselves, especially financial information. For this reason, you should be very skeptical of a supposed buyer who is offering up detailed information even when they’re not being asked for it. This is especially true if all this info is being shared via email.

Many times scammers will take a snapshot of various types of financial records, such as a bank statement, and email to potential victims. They’ll also list a host of contact information, including phone numbers, email addresses, mailing addresses, and so forth. Providing all this information makes them look like they’re the real deal. And they’ve got nothing to lose, because all that info isn’t even real, anyway.

Overly Eager Buyers

Many times legitimate buyers will fall in love with a home and decide to pounce on it before anyone else can. Such scenarios are common, and totally legit. But scammers who either call or email you expressing their interest in buying your home, and are overly zealous about snagging it should be handled with extreme caution. If they seem way too excited about sending a down payment or deposit to their lawyer without even haggling the purchase price, you’d be well advised to quash the transaction before it even starts.

Scammers Claiming to be Agents Who Are Owed Commissions

Some scammers try to haggle commission money out of sellers, even when no real estate agent has even entered the picture yet. Many con artists will attend an open house and gather up the seller’s contact information. Once they’ve got it, they’ll contact the seller pretending to be a real estate agent for a supposed interested party, and will try negotiating a price on behalf of their ‘clients’, including the commission.

You don’t have a business relationship with this individual, nor do you have a signed contract outlining the fact that this person is representing you as your agent in the transaction. Nor is there any contract being presented to you detailing the fact that this person is representing the buyer, as well as the commission structure. The moment you are told that you need to pay commission fees before a sale has even been made, you should hang up the phone.

The scammer may even go so far as to threaten to sue you for a “finder’s fee” for bringing a supposed interested buyer your way. No evidence has been provided that there actually is a real bonafide buyer, nor has any transaction even been made. This is where all communication with this individual must cease.

Requests to Wire Money

Anytime you hear the words “wire money” come up in a conversation with someone you don’t know, run. The majority of scams involve funds that have been wired. Scammers will come up with a host of compelling reasons why money would need to be sent tough a wire transfer rather than through a bank or lawyer.

Scams like these can happen whether you’re on the buying or selling end. If you’re selling, scammers will wire you their deposit, then request some of it back because they “accidentally” overpaid. In this case, you’ll send the money, and never hear from them again. If you’re buying, the supposed “seller” may ask you to wire the deposit money to them because they either don’t live in the country or are currently unavailable to receive the money any other way. Regardless, wire transfers have no place in a real estate transaction.

Scammers are everywhere, and they typically present themselves as legitimate professionals who know how to put on a good act. When it comes to money matters, always err on the side of caution, especially if your gut tells you something isn’t quite right. 

Buyers: 6 Things to Know About the New "Know Before You Owe" Rule

If you’ve ever bought a home in the past, you’ve likely experienced some level of confusion over the cumbersome mortgage documents that came along with the transaction. Going through this paperwork can be like reading a foreign language. Many buyers have complained about confusing terminology, inconsistencies in information, and inadequate time to go through and understand the mortgage documents before signing on the dotted line.

What often resulted was buyers being stuck with fees that they weren’t even aware of, simply because of the complex paperwork that they were forced to navigate in a short period of time.

The good news is, the relatively new “Know Before You Owe” lending initiative, which includes the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure rule (TRID), was created to arm borrowers with the information needed to make an informed decision regarding mortgages. By more clearly understanding your loan options, you can avoid being unpleasantly surprised at the costs of your mortgage when it comes time to close.

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Here are 6 things you should know about new changes to mortgage disclosures.

1. Documents are much shorter in length.

The mortgage documents that you get will essentially be cut in half. What used to be four forms has now been reduced to two. Before the TRID rules took effect in October 2015, borrowers would typically receive both the Good Faith Estimate and Truth-in-Lending Act statements when applying for a mortgage. Final TILA-RESPA statements and an HUD-1 settlement would then be given just before closing.

Today, only the Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure will be given to borrowers. The first document is supplied to the borrower within three days of the mortgage application being submitted, and the latter is sent out three days prior to closing. These new forms are a lot easier to understand, and don’t take as long to sift through given their shorter length.

2. Mortgages can be more easily compared.

Shopping around for a mortgage and comparing them to each other is much more feasible thanks to the simplified Loan Estimate document. Finding a mortgage package with terms and conditions that best suits your financial situation is essential, which is why it’s a good idea to weigh one mortgage against another.

The Loan Estimate makes this job a lot easier because it itemizes each cost associated with a mortgage, such as the interest rate, the monthly payments, and how much the mortgage will cost over a five-year term. Having these numbers listed in detail makes side-by-side comparison easy.

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3. Lender fees are outlined in detail.

Any loan origination fees that your lender may charge will be spelled out on the Loan Estimate. Costs incurred for their services include underwriting fees, points, and application fees. By knowing what these fees are, you’ll be able to compare them among various lenders before you settle on one. 

4. You’ll have a better idea of how much money you’ll need to close.

There’s no secret when it comes to how much money you’ll need to close on your mortgage these days. The “Estimated Cash to Close” section of the Loan Estimate will outline details about approximately how much money will be needed to complete the transaction. This amount will include the down payment, less your deposit or any adjustments or credits from the seller. Any closing costs that are added to the mortgage amount will also be listed on the Loan Estimate.

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5. You’ll have three days to go over your mortgage documents.

Your lender must supply you with the Closing Disclosure no later than three business days before closing. This three-day time period gives you a chance to take your time going over the terms of the mortgage, and compare the final expenses to those outlined on the Loan Estimate. Having a few days to review these details gives you the opportunity to raise questions you might have before sealing the deal.

6. The new disclosures shouldn’t delay your closing.

For the most part, the new disclosures won’t cause a delay in the transaction’s closing, as long as there aren’t any changes to pertinent items in the mortgage. However, your lender will have to give you another three-day review period if there is an increase in the APR by over 1/8% for a fixed-rate mortgage or 1/4% for an adjustable-rate mortgage. In addition, three extra days will also need to be provided if a prepayment penalty is added, and if there is a change to the loan product itself.

The new “Know Before You Owe” mortgage rules make it easier than ever before to understand the stipulations in your mortgage documents, and give you plenty of time to review them before you decide to go ahead with the mortgage. If there is anything you find confusing, it’s always best to consult with a lawyer or housing advisor to have any questions answered before closing on your mortgage.

6 Trends Fueling the Current Real Estate Market

Spring has notoriously been prime time for the real estate market, and in certain centers, it’s been a particularly heated one for a while now. With an improvement in the labor market over recent months already playing its part in driving the housing market, experts believe many other trends will add fuel to the fire.

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1. Mortgages Are Easier to Obtain

Right after the housing crisis over eight years ago, lenders seriously tightened the noose when it came to lending criteria. As a result, it became extremely difficult for borrowers without stellar credit to even be considered for a mortgage. While lenders implemented stringent underwriting standards in an effort to protect themselves from potentially delinquent borrowers, they also made it tough for the average homebuyer to obtain financing to secure a home purchase.

But these days, mortgage approvals are much more common. According to Ellie Mae, over three-quarters of mortgage applications were approved in March, up from two-thirds from the same time last year. With more relaxed lending requirements, borrowers will find obtaining a mortgage a lot easier today than they did years ago. And with interest rates still being as low as they are, mortgages are still relatively affordable.

2. Inventory Continues to Be Tight

Despite increasing property values across the US enticing homeowners to make a pretty penny off the sale of their homes, inventory continues to be tight. This is especially true for starter homes and new construction.

With a reduction in the number of distressed homes popping up on the market for sale, combined with fewer new homes being built, inventory will likely continue to experience a squeeze. Despite home builders erecting approximately 650,000 new single-family homes in 2015 – a high since the housing market crash – it’s still way below the average. Demand for new homes is simply not being met just yet.

3. The Hottest Housing Markets in the Country May Soon Hit a Plateau

The exponential rise in home prices, especially in centers like San Francisco and Seattle, can’t be sustained forever. At some point, something’s got to give. After an extended period of time of double-digit price growth in many markets, things appear to be nearing a plateau.

The worries of a housing bubble are not as prominent as they were months prior, as buyers of homes in these markets either purchased with solid financing or even fronted all-cash to complete their transactions. As such, a repeat of bulk foreclosures is not expected.

4. The ‘Burbs Are Becoming More Attractive

As home prices and rent rates in urban hubs skyrocketed over the recent past, an increasing number of buyers have been looking to the outskirts of the suburbs to plant their roots. According to the Bank of America Homebuyer Insights Report, over half of buyer’s in today’s market are considering buying single-family dwellings outside city centers. But these buyers are also looking at suburbs that still offer urban-type amenities, including public transit and employment opportunities.

5. Affordability Continues to be an Issue

While wages have been slightly increasing recently, they aren’t keeping up with the increase in average home prices across most parts of the US. For this reason, many Americans are continuing to find it a real challenge to be able to afford a home purchase. So far this year, average Americans spend over 30% of their income on home loan payments; that number has been steadily increasing from 26% in 2015, and 22% in 2012.

6. Rent Prices Continue to Soar

Those who are looking to get into the real estate market today might find it tough to choose between renting and buying, considering the high prices of both. While housing affordability continues to be an issue for many Americans, rent prices are following suit. Median rent prices across the country are up 2.8% from April 2016, and now sit at $1,300 for a two-bedroom apartment.

San Francisco is the most expensive city for two-bedroom rental units, with a current median price of $4,690, with New York City coming in second with a median price of $3,400 for two-bedroom units. If rental inflation doesn’t slow down soon, or if wage increases don’t pick up the pace, we could be seeing more Americans looking to buy in the near future. Despite the higher price to buy, purchasing may seem like the more affordable option compared to how much it costs to rent today.

The spike in median home prices has certainly been a strong driver of housing markets across the US lately. Despite an increase in wages over recent months, median home price increases are still winning the race. It will be interesting to see if and when prices finally reach their peak and level off, helping to make housing more affordable for the average wage earner.

8 Tips For Baby Proofing Your Home

One minute your little one is depending on you to flip her on her belly, and the next minute she’s crawling out of her crib. Babies can quickly become mobile in the blink of an eye, so it’s best to be prepared before they let their curiosity compromise their safety.

While keeping your cleaning products in an unlocked cabinet and your kitchen knives out in the open on the kitchen counter may have been nothing to think twice about when it was just you and your partner in the house, things like these can pose major hazards when a baby enters the picture.

Here are 8 tips to baby proof your home to keep your little one safe from unsuspecting hazards.

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1. Cover Electrical Outlets

Let’s face it: kids will stick their little fingers just about anywhere including in electrical sockets. We all know what kind of outcome can result if they poke around these areas, so you’re best bet is to cover these electrical sockets up with plastic plug protectors.

And don’t forget about any power strips, which you can also find covers for. While you’re at it, make sure to place job covers on the stove and oven knobs to make sure they don’t unknowingly turn them on. 

2. Tuck Away Electrical Cords

Little children can easily find themselves wrapped up in electrical cords if they are left out within reach. Make sure all electrical cords are tucked out of sight to minimize the dangers associated with them. This goes for anything else that could cause strangulation, such as curtain and blind cords. Make sure these are tied up and well out of reach so your child is unable to get caught up on them.

3. Lock Your Toilet Bowl Lid

If you’ve got a heavy ceramic toilet bowl lid, it can do some serious damage to your child’s hands, head, or any other body part that may find its way between the lid and the bowl if it comes crashing down. Not only that, but toilet bowls can be possible drowning hazards if the child accidentally falls head first into the toilet. To cut down on the risks, get yourself a lock for the lid to keep your little one out.

4. Install Gates at Stairways 

While not exactly an innovative suggestion, it’s worth mentioning anyway. Babies and toddlers can easily find their way to the top of the stairs, putting themselves in the position to take a nasty tumble and really hurt themselves.

Install gates at the tops and bottoms of staircases, as well as in doorways leading to spaces that you don’t want your child to access, such as bathrooms or kitchens. Look for pressure-mounted models which allow you to outsized the width of the gate to fit the are precisely, without having to drill any holes to secure the gate.

5. Fasten Bookcases and Dresser Drawers to the Walls

Imagine your toddler climbing up a bookcase in the living room, or the dresser drawer in your bedroom. Once they reach a certain height, they can easily bring the structure down, all while getting caught underneath and potentially suffering serious injuries. To prevent this from happening, make sure you securely fasten your shelving units and dressers to the wall so your baby is unable to pull them down.

6. Install a Latch on All Exterior Doors

Kids grow fast, and before you know it, they’ll be able to reach the door handles and figure out how to open the door, providing them with access to the outdoors. To prevent your little ones from escaping, install latches at the very top of the door (just make sure you can reach them yourself!) for all doors that lead to the outside.

7. Turn Down the Water Heater’s Temperature

If your child can reach the bathroom sink faucet, there’s a real potential for her to scald herself if the water temperature is extremely hot. To prevent this type of danger, adjust the temperature of your water heater.

8. Cover Sharp Corners With Pads

If you have any furniture with sharp corners – such as a coffee table – you might want to think about attaching foam pads on these sharp edges, especially if they are at your child’s eye level. It’s easy for small kids to walk or fall into anything, including sharp corners from furniture. To minimize the damage, installing foam pads can really help. You can easily find these at your local baby shop, along with many other nifty safety gadgets that you would never have even thought of!

Keeping your baby safe in the home is just as important as making sure she is fed and clothed. But you’ll have to start looking at your home and all of its components with a different set of eyes now that a baby is present. Talk a walk around your house, and identify anything that could be a potential hazard. Odds are, there is a gadget or device out there to help neutralize these potential dangers.

Understand Your Easement Rights on Your Property

Just because your name is on title of the new home you’ve purchased doesn’t necessarily mean that no one else has any legal right to a portion of your lot. It’s called an easement, and it can give your neighbors and other entities a right to access a certain part of your land in some circumstances.

Imagine making one last visit to a home you’ve just agreed to purchase, only to see the neighbor in the back cutting through your driveway to get access to the road. While you may initially assume the person is trespassing, he may actually have the right to cut through if an easement exists.

Before you agree to buy a home, it’s in your best interests to find out if there are easements on the property (which there most likely are), and understand all there is to know about them.

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What Exactly is an Easement, Anyway?

Simply put, an easement is a legal right given to cross or use another person’s land for a specific purpose. The key here is the “specific purpose,” which needs to be defined in detail. That means that your neighbor can’t arbitrarily put his patio furniture or start a vegetable garden on your land. The easement doesn’t give a person the right to possession; instead, it only gives the right to use it for specified intentions.

Stated otherwise, when a person or entity is granted an easement, only the legal right to use the property is granted, but title to the land is still retained by the owner. Easements are more commonly granted to utility companies, such as telephone or electrical companies to run cable and power lines. But sometimes easements can be granted to neightbors who need to cross through your land in order to access the street.

Three Main Types of Easements

Just about every property has an easement. As a property owner, you have the right to know what type of easement your land is attached to, and how it will affect the enjoyment of your property.

Easement in gross. The rights of utility companies to step foot on your property, as described above, are common, and are referred to as easements in gross. This is the most common form of easements, which grant utility companies the right to enter a property at no charge to provide their services. The majority of these easements are known about and easy to detect, such as easements for telephone and cable lines, and are typically discovered through a title search. But sewer and water lines aren’t always known about and are often discovered after digging starts to put in a swimming pool, for example.

If easements are discovered this way, and were not disclosed to you when you purchased the property, any reduction in the value of your home (should that occur) may be compensated through your owner’s title insurance policy. If the easement was known to the city and properly recorded, but you weren’t informed of it when you bought the place, the title insurance provider is obligated to pay you for any loss of property value as a result of the easement.

Easement Appurtenant. This type of easement can’t be transferred when the property sells, and as such, these easements are said to “run with the land.” That means that they’re part of the land’s ownership, and can’t be transferred with the seller upon the sale of the property. Easements for driveways, sidewalks and roads and sidewalks over a neighbor’s land, for example, fall under this type of easement.

Let’s say your neighbor is granted an easement appurtenant in order for him to access the roadway from his driveway. When he sells his property, the new owner will have the same limited right to cross your land to get to the street. The current and future owners can’t use your property for any other purposes other than to access the road. This type of easement should have been communicated to you when you bought your home, so you know that your land will be used in this manner, and you won’t be unpleasantly surprised.

The majority of easements appurtenant are created by an agreement between property owners or when a subdivision is created. Sometimes landlocked parcels of land that have no access to roadways are subject to an easement appurtenant by necessity over an adjacent piece of land. In this case, it needs to be proven that at some point in the past both properties were privately owned by the same person or entity.

Prescriptive Easements. These types of easements are the ones that cause the most animosity between neighbors, since they are created without the permission of the owner who’s property is being used. The use of prescriptive easements can be shared and don’t have to be exclusive, which means property owners are often not aware when a neighbor is granted the easement.

To illustrate, let’s say your neighbor builds a fence along what is assumed to be the boundary of the property. A few years pass, and one day your neighbor serves you with a quiet title lawsuit in an effort to establish a prescriptive easement to that portion of the land. After obtaining a survey, it’s discovered that your neighbor actually constructed the fence 3 feet into your side of the property’s boundary, and is now entitled to a prescriptive easement.

After the required number of years of hostile use have passed (depending on the state), the neighbor can legally acquire a prescriptive easement. The key here is that a hostile environment has to exist; a prescriptive easement can’t arise if you give permission for your neighbor to use and take that portion of the land.

What Are Your Rights?

If the house you buy comes with an easement, you’ll have to comply. If your new property is the only access that your neighbors have to the street, you can’t legally block them from getting there. If you did, you’d be considered to be trespassing on an easement by necessity, and you can even be slapped with a lawsuit.

Do Easements Limit Your Ability to Make Improvements on Your Home?

You’ll definitely want to be in-the-know if you plan on putting an addition to your home or building deck. If you erect a patio over top of a portion of the land that a neighbor is legally allowed to cross through to gain access to the street, not only could you be forced to take it down, you could also wind up in court. That’s why it’s crucial to find out if there are any easements on a property before you decide to buy it.

Can You Fight an Easement?

You might be able to successfully challenge an easement, but only if the circumstances are right. And be prepared to take the battle to court. It could be a simple matter if the holder of the easement – such as your neighbor – agrees to terminate the easement agreement. Sometimes easements might also have an expiration date, after which it no longer exists.

But many other times it can be tough to challenge an easement, particularly when it comes to prescriptive easements. These types of easements may be able to be challenged by claims that the part of the land was abandoned. If that’s the case, you’ll probably want to speak with a real estate lawyer for advice.

When you agree to buy a home, it’s in your best interests to find out everything there is to know about it. Just as important as it is to have a home inspector on the job to uncover any physical defects, it’s just as important to find out if any current easements will compromise your enjoyment of your new home.

How to Make Your Garden More Eco Friendly

A garden is inherently “green” in nature, so how is it possible to make it any more eco-friendly than it already is?

The truth is, there are plenty of ways that a garden can be both wasteful and even harmful. From the pesticides that can be used to all the water spent keeping plants hydrated, some gardens can use a total revamp when it comes to being more friendly to the environment.

Follow these tips to make sure your garden is as green as it can be.

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Recycle Your Rainwater

Particularly in drought-sensitive areas like California, conserving as much water as possible is essential. Luckily, there are easy ways to harvest rainwater to minimize excess use.

All that rainwater that winds up in your landscaping can be captured to water your lawn and garden. You can even use this recycled rainwater to wash your cars and polish your windows. Consider adding a barrel to collect rainwater that can be later used to hydrate your landscaping.

When you’re actually designing your garden, consider incorporating elements such as permeable paving and dry creek beds to minimize runoff that wreaks havoc on storm drains and pollutes bodies of water. 

Create Shade With Trees and Shrubs

All those trees and shrubs that you plant to beautify your exterior can serve more than one purpose. While they certainly are esthetically appealing, they can also be strategically positioned to provide shade just where you need it the most.

Large trees that spread out and drape over can be placed on the south and west sides of your home where the most intense sun tends to beam down. Planting shrubs adjacent to these exterior walls can also help to keep the temperature comfortable. Trees and shrubs can effectively cut down on the energy needed to cool your home, and inevitably slash the cost of your utility bills.

Generate Your Own Organic Compost

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Good quality soil costs a pretty penny, but creating your own compost can minimize the expenses of nourishing your plants. Not only is composting exactly what your landscaping craves, it’s also incredibly easy. In fact, a lot of the items you’d otherwise toss in the trash can be diverted to your compost instead.

Food scraps like egg shells, coffee grounds and leftover vegetables are perfect additions for homemade compost. And all that landscaping debris that you need to get rid of – including dead leaves and bush trimmings – can be added to your compost instead of discarded with the trash.

Organic compost brings healthy microorganisms that break down to fuel plant growth, prevent plant disease, aerate and moisten the soil, and provide a safer solution to chemical fertilizers. Once you’ve built up your compost, place it in a warm, partly sunny area of your garden, which will help stimulate decomposition of all the items you’ve included.

Attract the Right Type of Bugs

While you obviously don’t want to be pestered with mosquitos and other bothersome insects while you’re outdoors enjoying your garden, that doesn’t mean you should scare off all bugs altogether. Certain bugs like beetles, ladybirds and lacewings are helpful in warding off all the potentially harmful bugs that can destroy your plants and flowers.

For instance, ladybirds and lacewings eat blackflies. If these particular bugs are a major problem in your garden, add some marigolds and sunflowers to draw the attention of these good bugs to protect your garden.

Attract Birds For Plant Protection

Much like certain bugs can add a layer protection to your landscaping, so can many types of birds. Not only can many bugs destroy your garden, so can grubs, snails and slugs. Birds love to prey on these pests, so attracting them to your garden can help add natural protection to your greenery.

Incorporate nesting boxes and bird feeders will help create a more inviting environment for birds, which will get rid of the need to use toxic insecticides that are dangerous both for the environment and for anyone who frolics in your garden.

Choose Native Plants

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Whatever plants happen to be native in your area, consider adding these breeds to your garden. Whether it’s Mountain Lilacs in California or Coneflowers in Florida, adding native greens to your garden can help cut down on the care and maintenance needed to keep them healthy, since they’re already adapted to the climate and conditions in your area. Not only will this cut down on time and effort on your part, it’ll also reduce the amount of water and fertilizer needed, as well as minimize pest infestation.

Your garden is meant to be a natural space, so make sure it’s as eco-friendly as it can be by incorporating these tips to cut down on waste and chemicals, and even create an inviting habitat for friendly wildlife.

5 Things Your Neighbor’s Home Sale Can Tell You

Short of being nosey, you might want to find out a little (or a lot) about your neighbors’ properties, particularly when it comes time for you to sell yours.

The truth is, there’s a lot that you can learn from the sale of homes on the block. Regardless of where you live and the market in your area, similar homes that have recently sold in your neighborhood can provide you with a wealth of information that can come in really handy when you list your home for sale.

Here are 5 things that you can learn from the recent sale of a neighbor’s home.

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1. How Long It’ll Take to Sell

Pay attention to the number of days that listings of similar properties took before selling. In sizzling hot markets, that number could be really low, while in slower markets, you could be looking at weeks and even months in some cases. It’s really helpful to know how long you can expect it to take for your home to sell in your given market.

This kind of info can help you make the decision about whether or not it’s a good idea to buy your next home or sell your current home first. For instance, if you can expect your home to sell in a matter of a few short days, then it’s probably a good idea to secure your next home first.

Knowing how long you can expect your home to sit on the market before it sells will also give you an idea of the type of buyer interest in the area. If your neighbor’s home sold quickly, it likely means buyer interest in the neighborhood is high, which means now is the time to sell.

2. What Buyers in the Area Are Looking For

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Certain neighborhoods tend to attract certain types of buyers, be they young families, baby boomers, young single professionals, and so forth. Have a look at the demographics of recent buyers in your neighborhood to get a feel of what they’re like, and inevitably what they’re looking for in a home. For instance, the features that young families with kids might want will likely be different than what retirees are looking for.

Once you’ve got an idea of what buyers in your specific community want in a home, you can stage it in such a way to appeal to that particular type of buyer. Understanding how previous homeowners presented and positioned their homes is very important when it comes to targeting a certain type of buyer. One you get this information, you should have an idea about what should and shouldn’t be done when it comes time to list your home for sale.

3. The Current Climate of the Market

Finding out what the spread is between the original listing price and the actual final sale price of similar homes in the area will tell you what the temperature of the market is in your neighborhood. If homes on the block recently sold for at least 90% of the listing price or experienced multiple offers and bidding wars, the market is likely a hot one. This type of information is invaluable at indicating which direction the current market is moving in.

4. How Much You Should List For

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One of the most important things that real estate agents will look at before suggesting a listing price for their clients is the “comps,” or comparables, in the area. These are essentially similar homes that have recently sold, and can provide an excellent benchmark of what price point to list your home at.

For instance, if the 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom bungalow down the street sold two weeks ago for $250,000, it makes little sense to price your near-exact home at $300,000.

The real value of your home is what buyers are willing to pay for it, which is reflected in the sales price of similar listings in the area. That’s why it’s more important to use the final sales price as the yardstick for establishing your listing price, rather than what sellers were originally asking for.

What they may want and what they actually get can often be two very different things. You’ will have a much better idea of how to price your home by looking at what recently sold instead of what is currently for sale.

5. Mistakes to Avoid

Look at homes in the area that either took forever to sell, or didn’t sell at all. These are the homes that have had their For Sale signs up for months, or still have snow in their listing photos from last winter. If you’re hoping to sell a lot faster than that, you’d be well advised to find out what the problems are with those listings, and avoid them.

You can learn a lot from homes that can’t find buyers. Whether the issue is that it’s priced too high, or there are repairs that need to be made that are turning buyers off, find out what these sellers have done wrong, and don’t make those same mistakes.

A little digging can uncover all sorts of little gems of information that can help you when it comes time to sell your own home. Gathering this valuable data is easy when you work with a real estate agent, as they’ve typically got the tools and resources needed to find out all the pertinent information from previous sales in the neighborhood. Previous sales on the block can really teach you a thing or two about how to make sure your home sells quickly without any hiccups.