I left my previous job, and began flipping houses in Portland, Oregon in 2010. Having a love for architecture, renovation, and real estate in general, was necessary. It can never just be about the money, or it won’t last. That being said, it wasn’t until my first house sold, on the first day on the market, for the full asking price, that I was convinced I made the best decision. Here are the four things you’ll want to get right.

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First, work with a Realtor who really knows the local market that you’re looking in. Hire a savvy agent who demonstrates they’re in the know of what’s happening in the neighborhood, what houses are selling for in terrible condition, but also the ones in great shape. Your Realtor should also know what houses people are flocking to right now. When I first began, I got my real estate license at the same time and I searched the MLS database for local houses that sold within the first seven days on the market. I wanted to discover some common characteristics. One of those was that in 2010 in Portland, Oregon, about two thirds of houses had white kitchen cabinets. Interesting. When it came time for my first flip, guess what color cabinets I chose? J Find a Realtor who gets it.

Second, come up with a great investment and profit plan, or just use mine. When figuring out how much money I should pay for a fixer house, I use this formula: 0.75(ARV) – Cost of Repairs. What that means is take 75% of the “after repair value” or how much the house will sell for fixed up, then subtract the estimated cost of repairs. That is the most I should be paying for the house. For example, if my savvy Realtor shows me comparable houses that have sold for $300,000 fully fixed up, and the fixer house I’m looking at needs about $30,000 worth of work, then the most I should be paying for it is: 0.75($300,000) – $30,000 = $195,000. After all of the agent, interest, and listing fees, this would leave about a 15% profit on the sales price, or about $45,000 in this example.

Third, hire a great crew. On that first house I flipped, my husband, father in-law, step-dad, and even friends had a hand or two in helping make it profitable. Let’s be honest, when you flip your first house, it can be a bit unnerving. For that first one, I am all about having a little sweat-equity in there to ensure you don’t spend too much money. But I always recommend hiring licensed professionals for the big stuff. And after you gain some confidence from successfully flipping your first house, for the next ones, hire it all out. When I’m looking for new people to work with, I first ask for personal referrals from friends and family. If your best friend has a great heating and cooling person they have been working with for 20 years, start there. If no referrals are coming your way, go to a trusted source online where consumers rate their experience with contractors. Either way, I recommend having at least three people come out to the house to talk with you about the scope of the project, and give you an estimate. It’s also a great time to set up expectations with these potential contractors to make sure you and your project are a good fit for them. Ask them for references, and call those references! One of the things I always ask is: What was the best part about working with this contractor, and if you had to pick something, what could they have done better? Don’t let them off the hook. Have them tell you something.

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And lastly, create a project calendar and tight timeline. The calendar should include all the work happening at the house, and how many days each project will take. I let the contractors know they will be working with others each day they’re there. There is no reason you can’t have a water heater replaced in the basement, at the same time kitchen cabinets are being installed, and the exterior of the house painted. Most of the projects I take on, ranging from $25,000-$150,000 remodels take about 4-6 weeks. The three main reasons for tight timelines are: 1. Buy and sell the house in virtually the same market. The housing market can change quickly. I want to make sure that ARV I calculated before buying the house hasn’t changed by the time I sell it. 2. There’s a great energy generated when there’s so much work happening at once, especially with a great crew. Momentum builds, and with each week that passes, the house transforms. That’s great for morale. 3. The less time you own that house, the lower your expenses are. Most of us don’t have $200,000 in the bank to buy a house for cash, so we pay a lot of interest, fees, taxes, and bills the longer we own the house. Lower those by being efficient and having a tight timeline.

I have been flipping houses since 2010, and have done well on each one. Does luck play a role? Maybe, but having tested guidelines certainly helps. For me, there really aren’t any secrets. If there are flipping secrets out there, I don’t know them. I’ve learned these four things will get you moving in a successful direction.

Bobby Curtis is a serial renovator and principal broker with Living Room Realty in Portland, Oregon.

 

 

When it comes to choosing personal photographs to display in the home, no two people think exactly alike. Some like to adorn their walls with family photos, creating a living reminder of the important people in their lives. Others prefer to have fewer personal photographs on display. At the end of the day there’s no right or wrong answer, there’s only what’s right for you.

Here are some helpful guidelines to keep in mind when hanging personal photos in your home:

Images

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Regardless of where you stand on the topic of more personal photos versus less, it’s important to display the images that are most meaningful to you. This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people shy away from their favorite photos out of worry for how they’ll be perceived.

This isn’t to suggest that you should put an embarrassing or compromising photo on display for all to see. It simply means that you shouldn’t let fear drive your decision. The whole point is to bring important memories into your daily life, so be sure to display the photographs that do that best.

Materials

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To ensure your photographs not only look great but also age well, it’s important to make sure they are properly printed and framed. This is an area where cutting corners can end up costing you in the long run. There’s a huge variety of printing techniques and papers available, so it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Simply going with inkjet printing on a premium luster paper is your best bet. It’s the most common printing method, and the prints themselves are durable and look terrific. Also be sure to use archival mats that are custom cut for your print. It will not only help to enhance the overall look and feel of your photo, it will help to keep it looking great for a long time to come. And finally, go with a quality moulding for your frame. It’s an important accent piece in your home, and the difference between a ready-made frame and a custom, high quality frame is significant. Feel free to go with either glass or Plexi for the front. Plexi is more durable, but it’s also more costly.

Size

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Today’s digital cameras, even those found on smartphones, are amazingly powerful. In fact, a photo from the current iPhone can be used to make large format prints with no pixelation or blur to speak of. So without this constraint, the focus on size should be on your photographs relationship to its environment. If a framed photo is too large, it will overwhelm the space it’s in. Too small and it will look unnatural.

While the rules aren’t necessarily etched in stone, there are guidelines that will help to ensure your framed photos are in harmony with the rest of your room. The first thing to be aware of is the three-eighths rule. What this means is that the empty space on the wall should be equal to three-eighths the width of the frame. Put another way, simply measure your wall and multiply it by 0.57, and this will be the ideal width for your framed photography. As an example, if your wall is 120 inches wide, the width of your frame should be roughly 68 inches (120 x 0.57). It’s important to note that if, for example, your wall has two windows, and you’re hanging your work in between the two windows, then that’s the distance that you measure (as opposed to the width of the entire wall).

If you’re hanging a frame above a piece of furniture, the three-eighths rule applies, but it’s less rigid. Again, the three-eighths rule would be in relation to the piece of furniture, not the wall itself. And if you’re placing a frame above a fireplace, the width should be roughly equal to the opening of the fireplace (regardless of the width of the mantle).

If you wish to hang multiple pieces as a group, treat all of the framed photographs together as though they were one large piece. Do remember to include the space in between the frames when making your calculation, however. And the space in between the frames should be anywhere from 1-3 inches, with larger pieces spaced slightly further apart.

Height

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The height at which you place your framed photograph is critical. There is a tendency for people to hang their work too high, which creates a disconnect from other furnishings in your room. The frame should be centered at eye level. So, as a rule, the center of the frame should be 58 inches off the ground. (Keep in mind that if the center of the frame is at 58 inches, the hook will be higher.)

When hanging work above furniture, the bottom of the frame should be 6-8 inches above the top of the furniture. This can come into conflict with the 58-inch rule, but it’s important that your art be a natural part of its surroundings. This can be an issue with low, modern furniture. If you run into this, you may want to consider going with a larger frame or a grouping of smaller ones.

While the rules on hanging framed photos in your home aren’t fixed, by following a basic set of guidelines you can go about displaying your framed photography with confidence. This is important because few things contribute to making a house a home like personal photos. They’re a living reminder of the people and experiences that are most important to you.

 Mike Malone is founder of Livestock Framing, an online platform for custom printing and framing digital photos. Follow Livestock Framing on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Spring is a great time to get a head start on preparing your home for warmer temps. Below we’ve provided a simple checklist to help you stay on top of home maintenance.

Interior

  • Replace batteries in smoke and Carbon Monoxide detectors (use the equinox or “spring forward” time change date as your annual reminder).
  • Dust ceiling fan blades.
  • Replace (or remove and clean) furnace air filter on the following schedule:
    • High-efficiency and electrostatic filters need to be replaced once per quarter.
    • Simple fiberglass or paper filters should be replaced quarterly.
    • Reusable mesh filters should be cleaned monthly (do not reuse filters unless they are specifically intended for it).

Exterior

  • Spring is a great time for a thorough exterior review… Walk around your house and inspect the following:
    • All vents (dryer vents, exhaust fans, furnace intakes, attic and crawl-space vents, etc) – remove any debris or obstructions, repair any tears or damage.
    • Siding and trim – check for loose boards and peeling paint, repair as needed.
    • Foundation – inspect for cracks. If any are found, take photos for future comparison. if cracks are over 3/16” wide or have increased in size since your last inspection, consult a professional.
    • Roof – check for leaks, missing or damaged shingles, rusted flashing, or other visible deterioration, repair as needed. We recommend using a professional here for safety, consider using someone from our Marketplace.
    • Gutters and downspouts – make sure there are no areas where water pools, and that all draining water flows away from your house.
    • Check exposed wood for deterioration. Poke with an awl or screwdriver to determine if wood is softening and may need to be repaired or replaced.
  • If you remove your storm windows and doors, clean and repair them before putting them away for the summer.
  • Clean windows and reinstall window screens if stored in the fall.
  • Clean gutters of any accumulated debris.
  • Remove weatherproof covering from outdoor air-conditioning units and clear away debris.
  • Have air conditioner serviced and coolant levels checked.

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There is something truly charming about attics. If you happen to possess one, you should consider yourself lucky! Even though they are usually small, attic rooms are cosy and easy to clean. In addition, they can be transformed in all sorts of creative ways. Here are five great ideas you could use to turn the attic space into a lovely sanctuary at home.

  1. Office Room

One of the best advantages of attics is that they are separated from the rest of the rooms at home. Thus, they can provide you with privacy and independence. The attic space would be sufficient for your computer, folders and office materials. One good trick is to pick white color for the ceiling, walls and furniture, so that the room looks brighter and bigger. In addition, pay good attention to the windows during the office cleaning. You need a good source of natural light in order to have a healthy work environment.

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  1. Relaxation room

Have you ever dreamt to have your own meditation or yoga room? You can easily transform your attic into one. Just think about all the objects that have a relaxing effect on you: candles, crystals, pyramids, plants, incense sticks – just use your imagination. Remember that it is important to keep this room clean and well aired for your breathing exercises.

  1. Home library

If you are a true book lover, you are probably suffering from lack of space for your books. The attic could turn into a lovely home library for all your books and magazines. You can buy extra shelves and even arrange books by type or author. Get yourself a comfortable sofa and a coffee table. And be careful! Once you have that cozy library ready, you might end up moving in the attic.

  1. Home movie theater

Just like book worms, cinema lovers dream of some space of their own. The attic room could be the best place for the purpose. There they can gather with friends, eat popcorn and watch movies for hours. Keep in mind that this room is likely to be quite messy! It would need regular cleaning…or at least spring cleaning.

  1. Games and crafts room

One great option is to turn the attic into a room for leisure activities. Think about your favorite games. Playing cards, chess, monopoly and all sorts of board games would be ideal for the purpose. In addition, you can bring and practice there your favorite crafts, such as pottery, knitting, jewelry making and painting (a lot of carpet cleaning here!). The attic could be your personal sanctuary for creativity and relaxation, or a place for noisy entertainment with your family and friends.

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Protect Yourself and Your Investment

Bad things happen. That’s just the way of the world sometimes. But when bad things happen to your home, will you be protected? If you’re a homeowner, you likely already have a homeowner’s insurance policy in place, especially if you’re paying a mortgage. Homeowners insurance covers damage to your home’s structure from certain events such as fire, wind, and water. It also covers theft of personal property from inside the home, and for additional fees you can add protection for more exotic items like art or jewelry collections. If you’re robbed or your home suffers damage from a fire or a windstorm, your homeowner’s insurance policy provider will help make you whole again.

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But what happens when your refrigerator breaks unexpectedly or your heat pump goes on the fritz? Will a homeowner’s policy help you then? Unfortunately, repair to household appliances and systems aren’t covered by most policies, and those costs can easily run into the thousands. If you do face those major repairs, and you’re uncovered, your savings could take a big hit. This is where a Home Warranty comes in handy.

Home Warranties Explained

A Home Warranty is a service contract separate from your homeowners insurance that covers your home’s major appliances and systems. Providers often have a standard list of covered items, and some, like American Home Shield, allow you to personalize your policy by picking your own set of covered appliances and systems. When one of your appliances or systems breaks, your warranty provider will send a qualified repair contractor to fix your problem in exchange for a low, one-time repair fee.

A Home Warranty offers several benefits above and beyond a typical homeowner’s insurance policy:

  • Added Peace-of-Mind: You can never predict when you’ll face unexpected repair bills. A home warranty will protect your budget and your savings from the unexpected costs associated with repairing or replacing expensive household items.
  • Protection for New Buyers: If you’re in the market for a new home, or have recently purchased one, the reliability of its appliances and home systems can be a mystery that’s not always revealed through traditional home inspections. A home warranty offers new buyers a guarantee that unexpected costs from these new-to-you items won’t catch you unprepared.
  • Seller Benefits: When you’re selling your home, you want to differentiate yourself from the competition in every way possible. Telling potential buyers that your home has a current home warranty in place will show your home has been well maintained and instill greater confidence in their buying decision.
  • Greater Flexibility – Unlike a homeowner’s policy, home warranties can be canceled at any time, so you can choose the level of protection that best fits your needs.

For most Americans, a house is the single largest investment they’ll ever make and the source of the majority of their personal wealth. To best protect that investment, it makes sense to have an array of coverage that will keep every corner of your home in its best possible condition. Adding a home warranty to your insurance portfolio is a great way to maximize that protection.

Are you shopping mortgages and struggling to understand what products best fit your needs? To help clear up your confusion, we’ve listed the most common mortgage types along with their advantages and disadvantages. We’ve also provided information on who should consider each type of loan.

ITA18FXIBLOnce you’ve narrowed down the type of financing you’re after, contact a mortgage pro. They will walk you through the entire process and get you the best available deal.

Fixed Rate Conventional

  • Description: A fixed rate loan offers a stable interest rate amortized over the life of loan, which are most often set in 15, 20, or 30 years terms.
  • Advantages: Your monthly payment stays the same over the entire life of your loan.
  • Disadvantages: If interest rates drop after you’ve locked in your loan rate, you may be stuck with a higher monthly payment.
  • Consider If: You plan on staying in your home long-term and desire the security of a predictable monthly payment.

Adjustable Rate (ARM) or Variable Rate

  • Description: A variable rate mortgage or ARM usually offers a low introductory interest rate over a 3, 5, or 7 year term. After the initial-rate period ends, the interest rate fluctuates based on market trends.
  • Advantages: Introductory rates are often lower than rates for conventional mortgages, offering short-term savings. 
  • Disadvantages: If interest rates rise after your initial-rate period your monthly payments could go up.
  • Consider If: You’re confident you’ll be out of your home before the end of the initial-rate period or you plan to refinance.

Interest Only

  • Description: A borrower pays only the mortgage interest, in monthly payments, over a fixed term.
  • Advantages: Without paying principle, monthly payments are often less than fixed rate or adjustable rate loans.
  • Disadvantages: With Interest Only loans, the balance is often due in a lump sum after the initial period ends. This could mean significantly higher monthly payments or facing a large lump sum payment.
  • Consider If: You plan to live in the home for only a short amount of time or have confidence you can handle the larger payment down the road.

FHA Loans

  • Description: Allows buyers who may not qualify for a conventional mortgage to obtain financing with a lower down payment.
  • Advantages: First-time homebuyers or individuals who may not qualify for traditional funding have better access to home financing.
  • Disadvantages: Not everyone will qualify for FHA funding and even if you do, there may be restrictions on how much you can borrow or what types of property you can buy.
  • Consider If: You’re a first-time homebuyer or have low income and/or challenged credit.

VA Loans

  • Description: These loans are offered through the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs to eligible Veterans, active duty personal, or surviving spouses.
  • Advantages: VA Loans offer competitive rates, often with low or no down payments.
  • Disadvantages: As with FHA loans, the size of your loan may be limited.
  • Consider If: You’re a veteran, active duty personal, or surviving spouse.

Jumbo Loans

  • Description: Jumbo loans are for amounts exceeding $417,000 (or $625,000 in Alaska and Hawaii), which is the maximum Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are willing to purchase.
  • Advantages: Jumbo Loans make it possible to purchase large homes and help finance home purchases in states with high home costs.
  • Disadvantages: Jumbo loans often require 20% down payments and interest rates can be .25-.50 higher than comparable conventional loans.
  • Consider If: You want to purchase a large home or live in a high-cost area.

Reverse Mortgage

  • Description: Reverse Mortgages are for seniors aged 62 and older with substantial equity in their property. With this loan, the lender pays the borrower a fixed monthly payment for as long as they live in their home.
  • Advantages: Allows seniors to convert their home equity into cash, which is often used for living expenses. The loans and interest don’t have to be paid back as long as the borrower lives in the home.
  • Disadvantages: Often an area of fraud by unethical lenders who prey on the elderly. If you’re considering a Reverse Mortgage, make sure your lender is reputable and the loan is federally insured.
  • Consider If: You’re retired and need extra monthly income.
  1. Find a listing agent
    1. Check out our Preferred Agents for trusted experts in your area.
    2. Meet a few different agents before deciding on one.
    3. Ask them questions about the services they will be providing and experience.

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  1. Assess the market
    1. Check out comparable properties for sale in your area. See how much they are listed for and how long they have been on the market. Create a property alert by signing up with My Househappy to show you when comparable properties are listed in your area. Make sure selling now is financially smart and fits with your timeline.
    2. Evaluate the state of your own neighborhood.
    3. Consider the time of year it is. The hot seasons are spring and summer, but sometimes off seasons can work in your favor.
  2. Cleanup your house
    1. Purge any items you are not going to take with you to your next home.
    2. Freshen up the exterior of your home.
    3. Fix any known major damages.
  3. Price your house
    1. Your agent should provide you with a comparative market analysis.
    2. Try not to let your emotions get involved when you price your home. Be wary of agents who might suggest listing your house at a high price; they could be doing this just to get you to sign with them.
  4. Stage and show your house
    1. Remove all clutter and organize the rest.
    2. Hire a stager to reorganize your furniture or bring in rented items to showcase the room.
    3. Lighten it up. Remove busy wallpaper. Paint the walls with light neutral colors. Make sure all the light fixtures are working properly and provide ample light to every room. Remove heavy or outdated window coverings.
    4. Remove any traces of your pets.
    5. Deep clean the house.
    6. Take professional photos. According to PR Newswire, professional photography sells homes 32% faster.

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  1. Prepare for the open house
    1. Lock up or store valuables.
    2. Take down family photos or personal items.
    3. Make plans to be outside of the home while the house is being shown.
  2. Stay informed and close the deal.
    1. Keep regular contact with your agent on the status of the sale of your home.
    2. Go over any offers presented with your agent and work with them to negotiate the terms or counter offer.
    3. Once you have accepted an offer, you will enter into mutual acceptance with the buyer.
    4. Depending on the terms of your deal, you may have to complete repairs on the house. Check out our Marketplace to find services in your area.
    5. Work with the escrow company, the real estate agents and lenders to ensure the transfer of ownership goes well for both you and the buyer.
    6. Celebrate once it is all over and congrats on selling your home!