Tips For Buying a Rural Home

City dwelling definitely has its perks. There are plenty of employment opportunities around, amenities are within close proximity, and entertainment is usually pretty vibrant.

But there’s something alluring about living far outside the city limits that might have you contemplating a change of pace. Perhaps you’re looking for more space, a little less noise, and definitely a lot less traffic. Whatever your reason is for going rural, there are some things you should contemplate first before making the move.

Here are some tips for buying a home in the rural outskirts.

Look Into Specialized Mortgage Products

There are different mortgage products available for different types of buyers and properties. Since you’re considering buying a rural property, there may be mortgage products out there specifically for this type of real estate.

More specifically, look into USDA financing options. The USDA – or the United States Department of Agriculture – offers loan products for those looking to buy in rural areas.

These types of mortgages have specific criteria that both the borrower and the property must meet. USDA mortgages are actually pretty popular among buyers who purchase rural properties. Be sure to work with a lender who is familiar with these products and is able to explain them in great detail before you decide to go with this product.

Decide on an Exact Location

There are different options in terms of exact locations when searching for a home in a rural area. For instance, do you want to have vast open land, or would you prefer a wooded lot? Do you like the idea of backing onto a creek, or do you like the idea of completely dry land better?

Before you start looking around for a rural property, think about the type of setting you’d like to have with your land.

Determine the Size of Land You Want

Not only is the lot’s setting important, but so is the amount of land that you want. Just because you’re buying in the rural outskirts doesn’t mean that you’ll be sitting on acres and acres of land.

While that might be exactly what you want, there are other options. In addition to acreage, you can look at homes that sit on smaller parcels of land, depending on your needs and desires. Lot size is certainly an important factor to decide on before you start house hunting.

Consider the Utilities

Unlike the city where homes are serviced by sewer systems and trash is collected by the city, rural properties don’t get this type of attention. Instead, you’ll be looking at septic systems, well water, or oil/propane heating. Make sure that whatever type of system services the home, it’s adequate enough.

For instance, is the septic system able to accommodate the size of the home and all the occupants who will be living in it? Septic systems are only able to handle a certain number of people living there. Similarly, make sure the well water system is appropriate and the water quality is adequate.

Find Out if the Road is Private

Determine whether or not the road that the property abuts is private or not. If it’s owned by the city, then you won’t have to worry about maintenance. But if it’s a private road, then the responsibility lies on you. Consider the time and effort this will require, as well as the expense.

Hire an Agent With Experience Buying and Selling in Rural Areas

Buying a rural property is somewhat different than buying a home in the city. There are clearly additional factors to consider that you wouldn’t have to worry about when buying in an urban center.

Considering all the nuances involved in buying a rural property, it would be in your best interests to make sure that you hire an agent who is well-versed in the purchase and sale of these types of properties. Without a seasoned agent in your corner, you won’t know about any documents or legal issues that may need to be a part of the real estate contract.

The Bottom Line

Buying a home in the rural parts of town can afford you with plenty of space, a lot less pollution, and more peace and tranquility. But there are a few extra details that come with the purchase of a rural real estate that you should be familiar with before you begin your search. Make sure you understand what these are so you make the right move.

Open House Etiquette For Sellers

Open houses provide sellers with a great opportunity to showcase their home to the general public in hopes of finding a willing buyer to put in an offer. While not mandatory, open houses can be a great way to generate interest among buyers and give them a chance to check out your home without having to commit to a private showing.

But how the open house is conducted and what you do as a seller can heavily influence the success of your open house. To help you make the most of your open house, there are a few rules of etiquette that you should follow as a seller.

Don’t Stay

Buyers want to have the freedom to walk through the home freely without thinking that the seller is watching them like a hawk. They want to be able to open all doors and drawers without feeling like they’re invading the owner’s privacy. They also want to have the liberty of making comments about the place – both positive and negative – which they probably wouldn’t do if the seller was present.

You’re holding an open house for a reason: to find a buyer. But if you’re there, you’re limiting potential buyers’ ability to check out your home in great detail.

It’s common for sellers to leave the premises while their homes are being opened up to the general public. So when it’s time for your open house, make plans to be anywhere but at home.

Take Your Pets With You

Your home is just as much your furry friend’s as it is yours. But during your open house, your pets should vacate the premises just like you should. This is a good idea not just for buyers, but for your pet’s safety as well.

Some buyers might have an affinity for animals, but others might not. Your pet could be a major distraction during your open house. Plus, animals don’t exactly do much for the decor and smell in a home. Your pet may have a distinct odor that many buyers might not appreciate. Animals could also leave behind a mess that buyers might be turned off by.

Your pet can also be put in harm’s way if you leave them there without you to supervise. The front door will be opened and closed a number of times as prospective buyers enter and exit the home. Your pet could easily escape whenever the door is opened. Do yourself, your pet, and buyers a favor and take your pet with you while your home is open to the public.

Clean Up the Place

While your home is on the market, it should be in pristine condition at all times. This is true both for showings and for your open house.

Before you leave your home for a few hours during your open house, make sure that you’ve cleaned up the place, put away everything in their proper places, and polished all surfaces. Leave out a bouquet of flowers or two to sweeten the smell in your home while you’re at it to make a better impression.

Offer Some Direction

If your home is a bit difficult to find – especially for buyers who aren’t familiar with your area – make sure there are plenty of signs that are clearly positioned at both major and minor roads and intersections to help buyers find your home. To make the signs even more noticeable, attach some helium-filled balloons to them. Proper signage can attract a lot more buyers to your open house.

Keep Cars Out of the Driveway

Don’t leave any of your cars on the driveway during your open house. Instead, leave these spaces open for buyers who come to visit.

Further, make sure to ask your neighbors to move any cars they may have parked in front of your home to give buyers even more space to park in case your open house is a busy one.

Put Out All Important Documents

To help prospective buyers get all the information they need to make an informed decision before putting in an offer on your home, leave out pertinent documentation that they’ll have easy access to. This includes any paperwork related to home inspections, appraisals, permits for renovations, utility bills, surveys, and so forth.

The Bottom Line

It takes a lot of effort on your part and on the part of your agent to put an open house together. You just never know if one of the visitors who shows up will be the one to put in a solid offer. Be sure to follow these seller etiquette rules to boost the odds of a successful open house.

7 Things That Are Left Behind When You Sell

When it’s time for you to move out of your old home and into your new one, there’s a lot of packing and hauling to do. But while you’ll obviously want to take all your clothes and furniture with you, there are certain items that you should leave behind.

Certain things are just assumed to remain with the property when sellers move. And if buyers find that these things have been taken on move-in day, there could be trouble.

As a general rule of thumb, the following items should be left behind when you move out.

1. Light Fixtures

When buyers scope out a new house to buy, they usually assume that the light fixtures they see in the home will stay when they move in. Unless you specifically state in the contract that you want to take the light fixtures with you, they should stay with the home.

If you do take them, it’s customary to replace them with something else so the buyers aren’t left with dangling wires and gaping holes in the ceilings and walls.

2. Anything Secured to the Ground

If it’s stuck to the ground, odds are it should stay with the property when you move. This can include any of the following:

  • Mailboxes
  • Fences
  • Lights
  • Fountains
  • Water features
  • Fire Pits
  • Gazebos

Hot tubs should also stay even though they might not necessarily be affixed to the ground. There are still plumbing pipes and electrical wiring that are typically installed in hot tubs and run in-ground, so technically these structures should probably stay with the home too.

Items like these that are secured to the ground are technically classified as real estate as opposed to personal property, so they should remain on the premises when you vacate. If you have your heart set on taking a certain item with you, clearly detail its exclusion in the contract and make sure both you and the buyer initial it (if the buyer agrees).

3. Outdoor Plants

Along the same lines as the items listed above are outdoor plants, shrubs, flowers, and trees. Basically, any greenery that you have planted outside is considered to be part of the property and should remain there when the buyers move in. Buyers would be unpleasantly surprised to show up on moving day only to find large holes where plants once were.

Any greenery that has established deep roots would likely die after being ripped out of the ground and planted elsewhere anyway, so you would be better off leaving them where they are.

4. Anything Affixed to the House

Any items that are affixed to your home are also considered part of the property. This includes things such as:

  • Hot water heaters
  • Radiators
  • Bathtubs
  • Plugs
  • Built-in shelves
  • Cupboards

While it might sound silly to even try to rip any one of these items out and take them with you, it can and does happen. In these cases, buyers are left annoyed at the situation and sellers often wind up in legal trouble. As a general rule of thumb for sellers to follow, anything that is affixed to the home usually stays.

5. Fittings

Certain items might not necessarily be affixed to the property, but they should probably stay with the home anyway. This includes things such as the following:

  • Carpets
  • Curtains
  • Curtain rods
  • Free-standing appliances, such as refrigerators, ovens, and washing machines
  • Satellite dishes

6. Manuals

Certain items in the home usually come with manuals when you first buy them. These manuals contain details needed for proper set-up when you first buy or install them as well as troubleshooting tips in case there’s ever a problem.

Having these manuals handy is important not just for you, but for buyers who may be taking over your home. Things such as refrigerators, ovens, hot water heaters, dishwashers, or any other item that is remaining on the premises will likely have manuals. Make sure to leave these behind for the buyer, and keep them in plain sight so they don’t have to go searching for them when they need them.

7. Extra Paint

When buyers first move into a new home, they may want to do some touch-ups on the walls here and there if there are any scuff marks that need to be covered. They may even need to do that from time to time long after having moved in. When that happens, having the exact paint handy can really help.

It can be nearly impossible to match the exact paint color on your walls with paint purchased in-store without knowing the precise one that was used. While you could always leave the exact brand name and paint color model number behind for the buyers, it would be much easier for them if you just left any leftover paint cans that you might still have.

The Bottom Line

If there are any items that you really want to take with you that would otherwise be left behind, make sure you take care of these details during the actual negotiation process so there are no surprises. Make sure everything is in writing. But in general, anything that is bolted, mounted, nailed, or planted into the home or ground should probably stay.

How to Use Your Home Equity to Consolidate Debt

There are plenty of benefits to owning a home. For starters, you have full control over your property as an owner compared renting. Owning a home also provides you with a way to invest your money and take advantage of appreciation in value over time.

But as it turns out, owning a home might even provide you with a way to effectively deal with your mounting debt. If you’ve got a certain amount of equity built up in your home, you might be able to access it to consolidate your debt.

Why Consolidate Debt?

If you’ve got a lot of different loan payments to make every month, you know how much of a challenge it can be to manage them all and make sure they’re paid on time. It can be a real nuisance to constantly find a new bill in the mail every few days after you thought you tackled the last one for the month.

Not only that, but some of those bills can come with sky-high interest rates. The higher the rate, the more expensive your debt will be. Credit cards, in particular, are notorious for charging super high rates. If you only make minimum payments every month, that outstanding balance will just grow, making it increasingly difficult to pay that debt down.

If you’re finding yourself drowning in mounting debt, consolidating it might be a great option. By consolidating your debt, you can essentially combine it all into one larger, easier-to-manage debt. And with a lower interest rate, that debt can be more affordable, which will allow you to pay it down faster.

As a homeowner, you have the unique ability to borrow against the equity in your home to be used for all sorts of things, including consolidating your debt. So, how exactly is this done?

Home Equity Loans For Debt Consolidation

Through a home equity loan, you can use the equity you’ve built up on your home to be used to consolidate your high-interest debt. With timely mortgage payments, appreciation in value, or a combination of the two, you might have more equity in your home than you think.

A home equity loan is basically a loan that’s secured against the equity in your home. You’ll receive a lump-sum amount that you can use to consolidate your debts.

Home equity is defined as the difference between the value of your home and the amount that you still owe on your mortgage. So, let’s say your home is currently valued at $600,000. If you still owe $400,000 on your mortgage, that means you have $200,000 in equity. While this is a simplified calculation, it gives you an idea of what home equity is.

Lenders usually require that borrowers have at least 80% equity in their homes before approving a home equity loan. So, in the example above, you would have more than enough equity to qualify for this requirement. That said, there are other criteria that you’ll need to meet, including having a decent credit score (at least 680) and a sufficient income to support additional loan payments.

If you are approved, you can use the money from your home equity loan to pay off all your creditors and lenders. Then, you’ll be left with just your home equity loan payments.

If you can secure a home equity loan with an interest rate that is significantly lower than some of the rates you were being charged on your other debts that you paid off, you can save money and make it easier to pay down your debt sooner.

The Bottom Line

A home equity loan can be a great way to get your hands on the money needed to pay off all your current lenders and creditors and end up with only one, lower-interest debt payment. If you own a home and have some equity accumulated, this financial arrangement might be suitable for you.

Just make sure that you are financially comfortable with making these payments. If you default on your home equity loan payments, you risk losing your most valuable asset – your home – since this loan is collateralized by your house. As such, be sure to take the time to verify whether or not your current finances can support these monthly payments.

How to Prepare Your Home For an Appraisal

When you find a buyer for your home and strike a deal, there are plenty of events that will follow, and an appraisal is one of them. Lenders order appraisals in order to make sure that whatever price the buyer agreed to pay is in line with the current housing market.

But sellers can have their own appraisals ordered (at their own cost) before they even put their home on the market. Having a home appraised will help sellers determine how much their home is worth according to current market conditions and come up with a sound listing price.

Either way, an appraisal plays a crucial role in any real estate transaction. And for obvious reasons, you’ll want to make sure the appraised price comes back as high as possible. To help make that happen, there are a few things you can do to make sure the appraisal goes your way.

Make Any Necessary Repairs

While you might be aware of certain minor issues with your home that you just never got around to fixing (or never intended to fix), there might be a number of other little problems that you might not have been aware of. Now’s the time to walk around your home with a watchful eye and look for any issues that might need attention.

Make a list of anything that catches your eye. And before you list, take the time to make the needed repairs so your home is appraised at a high value. Chipped tiles, cracked windows, leaky faucets, ill-functioning appliances, or nail pops should all be rectified before the appraiser steps foot through the front door.

Not only will this help you fetch a higher price, but it can also impress buyers. Not only that but the home inspection that the buyer orders after offer acceptance will likely come back with far fewer issues if you’ve taken a proactive approach and tackled any known issues yourself.

Make Any Helpful Upgrades

Certain upgrades can bring in a high ROI. Ideally, you’ll recoup all the money spent on home improvement projects – and then some. That’s why it’s important to pick your projects wisely.

Appraisers will take note of any upgrades that they notice and will typically add to the value of your home accordingly. Whether such upgrades are just cosmetic in nature or are more structural, any upgrades will be included in the appraiser’s report and will impact the final appraised value.

Even just quick and simple cosmetic upgrades – like refacing kitchen cabinets, replacing countertops, or replacing old flooring material – can make a big difference not only in how your home looks but in its perceived value, too. Just make sure that you verify whether or not any building permits are required for any projects you undertake, as the appraiser will want to see them if they find out any work was done.

Keep a List of Upgrades Handy to Provide the Appraiser

Whether you just made a few upgrades recently in anticipation of the sale of your home or have already made some improvements in the past, you might want to provide the appraiser with a list of all these updates. While they will likely notice them, it might be helpful if you make the appraiser aware of the work done.

Appraisers will be looking for upgrades, but they’re not always going to notice every single one. They’re also not going to know exactly how much you spent on them. Make this easier for them by providing them with a list that highlights all the upgrades made and the expense of such improvements. Your list should also include the date that each improvement was made, any permits that were obtained to get the work done, and any home warranties that accompanied such work.

Clean and De-Clutter

While a messy home shouldn’t really affect property value, it can skew the appraiser’s opinion of your home. The final appraised value that your appraiser establishes for your home matters a great deal to the sale of your home, so anything you can do to make your home stand out in a positive way should be done. And that includes cleaning and de-cluttering.

Make sure that everything is put away in its proper spot. Things that you don’t use anymore should be tossed or donated. You might even want to start packing a few things in boxes in anticipation of your upcoming move to make de-cluttering easier. A couple of days before the appraisal, have the home deep cleaned and be sure to stay on top of dishes, laundry, kids’ toys, and so forth to make sure your home is spic and span. 


Giving your home a fresh coat of paint is a great way to perk up your interior and make your home seem newer (and cleaner). In fact, painting is typically considered to be the best upgrade to make because of the high ROI it tends to bring. The cost of a couple of cans of paint pales in comparison to how much more value you can add to your home, and your appraiser will take notice.

Boost Your Curb Appeal

Your appraiser will assess not just the inside of your home, but the outside, too. Ensuring that your home has great curb appeal is crucial and will play a key role in the appraised value of your home. Cut the grass, trim the hedges, water the flowers, rake the leaves, spruce up the front door, and tidy up your front porch in order to appeal not only to the appraiser but to potential buyers as well.

While you can always call a professional landscaper to tackle this for you, you can get the job done yourself in as little as a weekend to save some money while potentially adding some extra value to your home.

The Bottom Line

The appraisal report plays an important role in the sale of your home, so you want to make sure it goes well. Whatever the appraiser values your home at will have a direct impact on the deal. Before your appraiser visits, be sure to take the time and put in some effort to prep your home to ensure all goes well with the appraisal.

What Exactly Do Your Condo Fees Cover?

Condo living is pretty popular among buyers who are looking for something more affordable than traditional freehold homes. Plus, there are a bunch of other perks to living in a condo beside their more affordable purchase prices, including their amenities, low maintenance, and 24-hour security.

But your mortgage isn’t the only monthly payment you’ll have to make when you own a condo. Unlike a traditional freehold house, condos also come with monthly condo fees that every owner in a complex must pay.

The amount that each owner is responsible for paying is based on a specific rate multiplied by the square footage of their respective unit. You could pay as little as $200 to as much as $1,000+ in condo fees every month, depending on where your condo is located, the type of building it is (ie. luxury condos usually charge higher fees), and the type and number of amenities offered.

The question is, what exactly do monthly condo fees cover?


Most condo buildings staff a 24-hour concierge who will serve as security, as well as a point of contact for things like visitors, mail, minor issues, and so forth. The concierge or security guard’s paycheck is typically covered by funds collected from monthly condo fees.

Maintenance of Common Areas

Every owner is responsible for maintaining their own individual units. But the maintenance, cleanliness, and repair of all other common areas of the building are paid for via condo fees. This includes the maintenance of things such as:

  • Landscaping
  • Parking garage and lot
  • Elevators
  • Hallways
  • Fences
  • Walls
  • Gates
  • Windows
  • Rain gutters
  • Heating and cooling systems
  • Gas pipes
  • Electrical systems

Maintenance of Amenities

In addition to the common areas and systems just mentioned, condo fees also cover the maintenance of the building’ amenities, which differ from one condo complex to another. That said, common amenities in condominiums may include:

  • Game rooms
  • Fitness rooms
  • Saunas
  • Swimming pools
  • Party rooms
  • Rooftop gardens
  • Guest suites


Not every condo complex includes insurance as part of what their condo fees cover but must do. The insurance policies that condos take out cover building exteriors and shared common areas. Sometimes they might extend to cover things like damage done by floods, fires, and earthquakes. Given this, unit owners are only responsible for taking out an insurance policy to cover the interior of their own units and their personal belongings.

Reserve Fund

A reserve fund is an emergency fund, so to speak, that is saved up to cover the cost of occasional and unexpected repairs. For instance, a new roof or a newly paved parking lot are not things that must be done every year. Instead, they occur on occasion, and the money in a reserve fund can then be applied to cover these costs.

Ideally, there will be enough money in the reserve fund to adequately cover these costs. If not, each unit owner will be forced to fork over a lot of money in order to make up the difference between what’s in the reserve fund and how much needs to be spent.

A condo board that is well-run will charge each owner a small amount every month to be put towards keeping the reserve fund well-padded. That way, when the money is needed, there will be no need for owners to have to pay much more than they’re already responsible for paying every month.


The majority of condo fees cover the cost of certain utilities of the building, including (cold) water, garbage collection, and sewers. Some may go so far as to cover heat, electricity, and hot water, and some may cover everything. Every building is different, so you’d need to check with your specific condo to find out exactly what your fees cover.

The Bottom Line

There are plenty of things that you have at your disposal when you live in a condo. But such things aren’t free; instead, you’re paying for them through monthly condo fees. If you’re in the market to buy a condo, make sure to find out exactly how much the condo fees are and what they cover before you sign on the dotted line.