It's that time again, when the real estate market is as hot as the summer sun. Low inventory, multiple-offers, and offers that soar over asking price are great for sellers, not so much for buyers. If you're looking for an edge to ensure you get the home you want, here are a few tips.
Up your budget
If you're a first-time buyer looking in a lower price range, you're in the most competitive market. Getting pre-approved for a little more could move you into a higher price bracket and eliminate some competition. Adding even a few thousand dollars could make the difference, and the change to your monthly mortgage payment will be negligible.
Cut associated expenses
If you're worried about upping your budget, think of ways to save on associated expenses, and put that money into your mortgage instead. Look for homes without a homeowner's association. That could save you several hundred dollars per month. Look at areas where you don't have to pay a toll for your daily commute (or, better yet, where you don't have to drive at all). Those savings add up.
Watch the contingencies
"Sellers have the upper hand in a multiple-bid situation, and they want offers that are clean and concise," says NerdWallet. Asking the seller to pay closing costs, purchase a home warranty, or requesting that they make small repairs like fixing a leaky faucet can get your offer thrown in the trash.
In a multiple-offer situation, the seller is looking for the easiest path to closing. The trick is finding out what they really want—beyond the right price, of course. It could be that a shorter closing would do the trick. Or maybe you can offer them the opportunity to rent back until they're ready to make their move.
Write a letter
Yes, writing a sappy letter to the seller telling them all about you and why you love their home is shameless pandering, but sometimes shameless pandering works. Include a picture and don't hesitate to include your cute kids or four-legged friends.
4 DIY Things You Can Do to Lower Your Energy Bill This Summer
If you live in a place where summer heat is an issue, this time of year can mean substantially higher energy costs. Here are four low-cost, high-impact changes you can make on your own to save money and keep your home more comfortable this summer.
Clean your window sills
A few seasons worth of dirt and soot can prevent your windows from closing all the way. Even a little air getting in can make your AC less efficient and raise your electric bill. Drafty windows are the top energy leak in a typical home, accounting for up to 25% of a home's energy loss. Cost: $0-5 (cleaning spray and paper towels) DIY level: Easy. You can even make this a chore for the kids!
Install a door sweep
"A common place where air leaks occur is under the door leading from the house to the garage because they are often not as well sealed as doors leading directly to the outside," says Energy Star. Install a door sweep to seal the gap between the bottom of your door and the threshold to prevent cold air from escaping your home. Cost: $10-15 (per door) DIY level: Easy. Use a drill to make holes in the door and screws to attach the sweep.
Caulk your windows
Window air leakage can be reduced by applying a continuous bead of caulk around the window trim where it meets the wall, at the mitered joints of the trim, and between the trim and the frame. Make sure the caulk is intended for indoor use and can be painted. Using Charlotte, NC as an example, the Department of Energy estimated that the average homeowner could save 14% on heating and cooling costs each year with proper air sealing and insulation. Cost: $3-5 (caulk) DIY level: Medium. Caulk can get messy, so go slow.
Check your ducts
Ducts are used to distribute AC and heat throughout houses with forced-air systems "In typical houses, about 20% of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, holes and poorly connected ducts." says Energy Star. "The result is an inefficient HVAC system, high utility bills, and difficulty keeping the house comfortable, no matter how the thermostat is set." You can check all the ducts you can access, such as those in the attic, crawlspace, or garage. Look for holes and tears, and seal them using mastic or metal tape. Cost: $5-10 (roll of tape) DIY level: Medium. It's just taping, but you'll likely be dealing with tight spaces and a few creepy-crawlies.
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