Curb Appeal Choices w/ Staying Power

Improving your home’s curb appeal brings immediate satisfaction. Plus, the financial benefits can be fabulous, too. Good curb appeal increases your home’s value, making your property easier to sell — and easier to love.

The challenge? Spending too much limits your ROI (return on investment), yet going cheap could cost you more in re-dos. The key is to choose durable materials that’ll save you money over time while making your house look fab.

Here’s how to make that happen:

#1 Non-Porous Rocks

A gorgeous rock bed “is a great way to introduce low-maintenance beauty to your home,” says Minnesota landscaper Joe Palumbo. But don’t throw just any rocks on the ground.

Palumbo recommends avoiding limestone, which “breaks down quickly and will soon become rubble.” Instead, choose a non-porous stone, like decomposed granite, which costs $100-$300 for a 400 square-foot area, or trap rock, which gives you that classic “rock” look and costs about the same.

When you’re choosing larger individual stones, look for smooth, round ones, which last longer and don’t produce rock dust — the irritating, gritty rock-garden debris beloved by weeds.

And BTW, if the gravel look is what you’re going for, pea gravel is a great, permeable option — but only in areas without a ton of runoff because its small size makes it easy to wash away.

#2 Fiberglass Front Door

A fiberglass front door doesn’t just look good — it also recoups some of its cost when it’s time to sell. Homeowners spent an average of $2,700 on a fiberglass door and earned back 74% of the cost during the sale, according to the Remodeling Impact Report form the National Association of REALTORS®.

Fiberglass doors offer other benefits, too. Like steel doors, they’re more energy-efficient than standard wooden front doors. But unlike steel doors, they’ll look good for a long time. Fiberglass resists weathering and damage and won’t suffer from ugly dents and rusting.

#3 Insulated Steel Garage Door

Wood and steel are the two most common garage door materials. While wood does have an undeniable classic appeal, insulated steel doors, which start at $750, offer the most bang for your buck — and fill up less time with irritating maintenance tasks like repainting or staining.

Plus, a new garage door snags a fantastic 87% return on investment.

Choose steel garage doors with 24- or 25-gauge panels. But don’t go higher — the higher the gauge, the thinner the metal, and you don’t want to go too thin or you’ll compromise durability.

Don’t skip the insulation, either, especially if your garage is attached to your house. Garage door insulation is sandwiched between two layers of steel, helping with durability, as well as saving on energy costs.

#4 Concrete or Brick Edging

Edging transforms your garden from a blah blob of mulch to an intentional, purposeful, and beautiful space. And edging does more than look great: When you have a line to follow, mowing and trimming become much simpler.

Edging “does a phenomenal job of containing the mulch and keeping it from spilling onto your lawn,” says Palumbo.

He recommends using concrete or brick edging, which survive the elements better than plastic and offers a more permanent, planned look than cheap weaving around your landscaping.

#5 Concrete Pavers

In a perfect world, you’ll choose your paver material based on your landscaping and home.

“The architecture should, ideally, drive the selection of hardscape materials,” says Cassy Aoyagi, a landscaper and board member in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Los Angeles chapter. “Flagstone with foliage joints looks so compelling at a French Provincial home but would feel out of place as an approach to a seaside cubist design.”

There is a one-size-fits-most solution for pavers, though: concrete. Not only can you find enough sizes, colors, and designs to mimic almost any style, but the material is also more durable than brick.

Concrete’s permeability is a big selling point, too, especially if you live in a drought-ridden region. Sprinkler and rainwater pass slowly through the concrete, keeping grass and plants damp for longer.

Aoyagi lives in Los Angeles, where landscapers “prize materials that allow water to permeate the soil and reduce runoff,” she says.

#6 Acrylic Latex Exterior Paint

When painting your home, latex paint is the savvy choice.

Why? Your home’s exterior will settle over time — and latex is designed to accommodate that shift without cracking.

Oil-based paints are a common alternative to latex, but they tend to turn yellow after a few years. It also takes significantly longer to dry, requiring nearly a day. However, if the previous homeowners used oil-based paint on your home’s exterior, you’ll want to stick with oil because latex may peel.

Unlike oil-based paints, latex covers vinyl, aluminum, fiber cement, stucco, brick, and metal equally well.

Expect to pay between $35 and $55 per gallon for a quality paint, depending on whether you choose low- or no-VOC paints.

#7 Composite Decking

Wood decks look lovely, but keeping them weatherproof requires hard work and regular sealing. Instead, consider composite decking with a good warranty.

Composite decking starts at around $9,000, which is a large investment upfront. A wood deck will start at about $5,000. But with composite decking, the most maintenance you’ll have to do is sweeping — no sealing, staining, replacing of rotten boards, or risk of termites, giving the deck a longer lifespan and saving you thousands over the years.

The three types of composite decking:

  • Polyethylene-based — it’s the least durable.
  • Polypropylene-based — a good mid-grade choice.
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)-based — the most durable, but also about 20% pricier.

Bonus: Composite decking means no feet splinters, ever.

#8 Native Plants

The quickest, landscaper-approved route to long-lasting curb appeal: native plants. Because they’re uniquely suited to your location’s natural rainfall and temperature range, you’ll spend less money running the sprinkler and less time nurturing finicky out-of-their-element trees and bushes.

They not only keep maintenance costs low, “They need no toxic pesticides or fertilizers to thrive,” says Aoyagi.

“Visit for more articles like this.  Reprinted from with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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4 To-Dos for Hot Summer Days

When it’s hot outside, smart homeowners focus their energies inside on these four tasks.

You know: Like taking advantage of your nice, cool basement.

#1 Organize the Basement

The two most common types of clutter? Old clothes and seasonal items. Just the kind of stuff that winds up in the basement. So this month, face your messy basement head on. Not only will you regain space, but you’ll also save time and could even knock back clutter-related depression. (Yeah, that’s a thing.)
Now that you’ve got it organized, maybe it’s a good time to consider this next project:

#2 Finish the Basement

The solution to a cramped house could be right under your feet. Transforming an unfinished basement into a media room, home office — or even a rentable space — builds equity, upping your home’s resale value. Start this project now, and you can kick back and enjoy your new space all winter long.

#3 Buy Paint on Sale

July. Not really the time of year you think of painting, right? It’s usually too hot and humid. Probably why so many places put paint on sale this month. Stock up now, and you’ll be ready for that painting project on your fall to-do list. (P.S. Latex and acrylic paint can last up to 10 years; oil-based, up to 15.)

#4 Hit Up Recycling Centers

Summer is home improvement season. That also makes it the savvy buyer’s time to seek out deals at recycling centers and home improvement resale stores. Since this is project time — not to mention moving season — lots of folks are ditching their old stuff. Take advantage, and grab it up at super-low prices.

“Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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What is the Fair Housing Act?

We’ve all heard about the Fair Housing Act or the Fair Housing Administration, but not everyone knows what exactly they are for or when they came about.

In 1948, the Supreme Court heard the case Shelley v. Kramer and ruled in favor of the Shelley family, who had purchased a home in a neighborhood with a ‘covenant’ which provided that “no part of said property or any portion thereof shall be, for said term of Fifty-years, occupied by any person not of the Caucasian race. . .” They purchased this home without knowledge of this rule, and the neighbors tried to prevent them from taking possession of the home by taking them to the Missouri Supreme Court, which ruled against the Shelley’s.

Fortunately, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case once again, and determined that even a private ‘law’ such as the aforementioned neighborhood covenant which violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is unconstitutional, as the state aids in enforcing covenants. (source: Cornell Law School)

Although this case and others like it were decided in favor of equal housing opportunity for people of all races, discrimination continued to run rampant in the real estate market. From “Meanwhile, while a growing number of African American and Hispanic members of the armed forces fought and died in the Vietnam War, on the home front their families had trouble renting or purchasing homes in certain residential areas because of their race or national origin.”

Finally, after the efforts of Clarence Mitchell Jr., Senator Edward Brooke, and many others aided the Fair Housing Act in passing the Senate, the House of Representatives met to vote on the legislation on April 4th, 1968. This was the day that Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated, and President Lyndon B. Johnson increased pressure on Congress to pass the new civil rights legislation. It passed on April 10th and was signed into law by Johnson on April 11th.

The amendment to Title VIII of the Civil Rights act included several things, most notably prohibiting “discrimination concerning the sale, rental and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin and sex.” In 1988 this was expanded to prohibit discrimination based on disability or family status.

This legislation has not ended housing discrimination entirely, although that would be a lovely bow to tie the story up in. While discrimination still happens in housing, the National Association of Realtors has made it a top priority to ensure that reporting discrimination is easy and effective, that enforcement happens at a local level, and most importantly that all people have equal opportunity to purchase and live in a home they love. At Distinctive Properties, we daily strive to act with integrity while serving every family or individual who entrusts their real estate needs to us.

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First-Time Home Buyer Tips

Buying your first home is a really big deal. How do you know which loan is right for you? How do you swing the down payment? How do you ensure your offer isn’t too low or too high? What don’t you know that you don’t know? Ack!

Breathe, friend. The process doesn’t have to painful.

To prep you for the journey, HouseLogic hosted a Q&A series on Facebook. Here are the top-10 Q&As from the first event, which was hosted by Meg White, the former managing editor of REALTOR® Magazine — and a homeowner, herself.

#1 Getting Started

Q: Where should a prospective home buyer (and their significant other, if applicable) start their buying journey? What do you do first?

A: The first step should be to look inward and have some super-honest conversations. This worksheet is a great way for you and your buying partner to get on the same page.

Talk openly about your priorities: Where do you see yourself in five to 10 years? Create a checklist of must-haves in your new home and neighborhood. Hash out a budget, and talk about the kind of lifestyle changes you might be willing to take on (and the ones you won’t be willing to do).

Finally, check your credit, correct any errors in your report, and start taking steps to build a positive financial profile.

#2 The Down Payment

Q: Is there any wiggle room on the 20% down payment, or should I just plan on making that?

A: It’s actually quite common to put less than 20% down. My family only put down 10%, and many other buyers put down even less. (For example, FHA borrowers might put down as little as 3.5% on the purchase price.)

Keep in mind that when you put down less than 20%, you’ll probably have to pay PMI, or private mortgage insurance; it’s a monthly fee the bank charges to secure their investment in you, since you have less skin in the deal.

So while it’s true that buyers who don’t put 20% down generally have to pay mortgage insurance until they reach 20% equity, that fee usually gets bundled into your monthly payment, so it’s not a huge deal. Also, when that mortgage insurance requirement is lifted, your payments should go down. When’s the last time that happened to your rent?

#3 Agents and Listing Sites

Q: How should a first-time home buyer work with an agent? What do agents do that property sites don’t?

A: Your real estate agent is your rock in what can be a really confusing, stressful, and involved experience. They’ve been through a lot of deals, so they know what can go wrong and have seen many of the mistakes buyers make most often.

But more than that, they’re your sounding board. Sometimes it’s hard to know which direction to go during the home buying process, and just being able to talk it out with a third party who has your back is huge.

Listing sites are great; they have tons of useful information. But agents are on the ground in your community every day, and because of that, they know a lot more than what you see online. Sometimes they’ve seen the same listing in person many times, or they know about geographic considerations you’d never think of.

Every time our agent warned us about a listing (“That one has been on the market forever because . . ” or “Yeah, it’s nice to be that close to the train, but don’t forget that you’ll also hear the station announcements going on all day,” etc.), he was totally right.

#4 Finding a Lender

Q: Getting a mortgage is a big deal for most buyers. How should they get started on securing a loan? And what about online lenders like RocketLoans? Is there a disadvantage or concern with using this type of lender rather than a local or traditional bank?

A: The very first thing is just getting all your financial documents in a place where they’re easily accessible — or figuring out how to access them, i.e., what’s your username and password for this or that account? You also need to know where your credit history stands in general. The most common stuff banks will ask you for is W2s, your last couple years of tax returns, bank statements, and pay stubs.

But even before you start looking at houses, you should try and get pre-approved. That might seem premature, but you need to know what kind of loan you’re going to be able to get in order to determine your price range, which is obviously a big part of the home search for those of us who don’t have unlimited cash.

Now, pre-approval doesn’t mean you’re applying for a mortgage — just getting an idea of what you’re approved for.

Basically, you give a lot of info about your financial situation to a lender and see what they think. You’ll get a document back that’s like a preliminary idea of what they might lend you. These documents vary from bank to bank and are generally free of charge, and you can usually apply for them online these days.

Having that pre-approval letter will help sellers see you’re a serious buyer backed by a real financial institution — and that’ll help make your offer stronger.

When it comes to lenders, whether online or otherwise, your choice will depend on your personal situation. We recommend starting out with HouseLogic’s mortgage lender guide.

#5 The Loan

Q: Do you suggest a government loan over a private bank?

A: It depends on your situation. If you have time and a lower credit score, consider a government loan. If you have a higher credit score and are in a really competitive market, consider private.

Most first-timers are going to be looking at the fixed-rate, 30-year mortgage. But even if you go with this super-common type of mortgage, there are different rules depending on whether you go with a loan from the government or from a private bank.

But there are tons of loan options out there for different situations. For example, if you need to do significant repairs on a place before you can move in, you can get help specifically for that with a 203(k) from FHA. And there might be special savings, down payment assistance, or grant opportunities that apply to your situation.

The best plan: Talk to a number of financial institutions and mortgage brokers to see what they recommend specifically for you.

#6 Open Houses

Q: How can I make the most of open houses?

A: Open houses are a great opportunity to learn about the sellers, their home, and the neighborhood. But they can also be stressful, especially when they’re packed with a bunch of other people looking to buy.

If you’re really serious about a place, it’s good to try to schedule a showing so you can see it at your own pace with your agent beside you. Obviously when the market is hot, that’s not always possible.

But there’s actually a fair amount you can do to maximize your experience. If you’re hitting the circuit, check out our best advice on what to do at an open house.

#7 Finding the Right One

Q: How many houses should I look at before I make an offer?

A: Agents who have been around the block a few times say it used to be that buyers would look at, at least 20 to 30 homes even in the best of circumstances. Now with online listings, it’s easier to narrow down what won’t work and save some time.

That said, it took my husband and I many months to find the right fit, and I can’t even remember how many places we looked at!

Ultimately, you should trust your gut about whether you want to keep looking, reassess your wish list, or make an offer.

#8 Making an Offer

Q: When making an offer on a home, what are the top things a buyer should keep in mind?

A: The three most important factors are:

1. The market. What are other people willing to pay for this house, and how does that fit with your offer? If you can’t offer top dollar, what other things can you do to be more competitive (e.g. being flexible with the closing date)?

2. Your budget. In this crazy market, it’s easy for first-timers to get caught in a bidding war and push themselves to their financial limits. But you’re going to have to live with your decision for a long time, so make sure you’re OK with any and all sacrifices you might need to make.

3. This might not work out, and that’s OK. Your offer might not be accepted. Or maybe your offer is accepted, but structural damage is uncovered in the inspection, or the seller has contingencies that don’t work with your timeline, or you have to walk away from the deal for some other serious reason. That’s OK! It’s not uncommon, and there will be other fish in the sea.

#9 The Inspection

Q: What happens at the inspection? If the inspector finds issues, what does that mean for the buyer?

A: An inspection is a stressful time. Think about it: You’ve kind of fallen in love with a house, right? And then you have to pay some person to come in there and tell you all the reasons you don’t want to buy it. It sounds slightly insane when you put it that way.

But this information is super important to have, and it’s in your best interest to have the most comprehensive assessment possible of the place you’re thinking about buying.

Follow the inspector around and take your own notes. Ask questions about what it takes to fix this or that.

And if there are serious problems, it’s not the end of the world. It might strengthen your negotiating position, or it might mean you choose not to buy the house. But either way, you’re more informed!

#10 Mistakes to Avoid

Q: What are some of the biggest mistakes first-time home buyers typically make?

A: Because I work at REALTOR® Magazine, I was surprised by how challenging it can be to keep one’s emotions in check. Buying your first home can be a real roller coaster. It’s the excitement of seeing a great listing online and then the crash of being disappointed in person; the challenge of the offer and negotiation process; or the ups and downs of the inspection and appraisal.

One big mistake to avoid is not being on the same page as your partner, if you’re buying with someone else. Talk everything through; it can cause real heartache later on if you don’t.

Finally, it’s important to step back and keep things in perspective. No matter how sideways things go, remember how lucky you are to be in a situation where you can own your own little kingdom. Not everyone has that opportunity — especially when you look internationally — and it’s an amazing feeling.


“Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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How to Keep Bugs Out of Your Home & Yard

A lush spot for outdoor entertaining? Great. Perfect. A constant swarm of insects that invade your patio and home? No, thank you. Here’s 7 ways to keep bugs away from your patio and yard, and from getting inside your house.

#1 Install Patio Fans

Mosquitos may have a tough sting, but they’re wimps when it comes to standing up to a breeze. Patio fans can keep your outdoor entertaining space free from mosquitoes (and other little flyers) with the flip of a switch.

And- you’ll get the benefit of a cool breeze!

(Image: Designed by Emily Klapkowski of You-Neek Designs)

#2 Don’t Mulch Too Much (or Too Little)

While mulching is generally a good thing for curb appeal, overdoing it can cause problems.

It could give cockroaches and ants the ideal environment to nest and find their way into your home, says Brittany Campbell, an entomologist with the National Pest Management Association. As mulch decomposes, it generates heat while providing cover for brooding pests. It can even help mice tunnel into your home.

So keep mulch at least 12 inches away from the foundation — or use inorganic mulch, such as rock or gravel.

But don’t go in the opposite direction and forgo mulching altogether, leaving the ground essentially bare. Yellow jackets make their nests by tunneling into bare dirt.

#3 Get Rid of Standing Water
You probably know this one already. But did you know your gutters and downspouts may harbor multiple mosquito maternity wards?

Clean out gutters and downspouts regularly to prevent clogs that can trap water and give those nasty stingers a place to breed.

Also make sure to keep kiddie pools, buckets, and watering cans empty when not in use.

Even your beloved birdbath can be an issue. “Make sure you get one with running water, so you don’t inadvertently create a mosquito breeding ground,” says Kevin Esperitu, home landscaping expert and author.

#4 Keep Your Yard Trimmed, Mowed, and Tidy

Pull out that lawnmower regularly, and keep your garden shears sharpened.

“Ticks like to hide in tall grass and wait for a passing human or animal, while bushes or tree limbs touching the home can provide easy access for pests to get indoors,” says Campbell.

Plus having a tidy yard makes for good curb appeal.

#5 Add Landscaping Plants That Bugs Hate
Bugs hate strong scents of mint or citrus. Mix plants with those scents into your landscaping, especially near the porch, patio, or deck for added beauty and functionality.

Here are some pest-repelling plants and the bugs that hate them:

Basil: flies, mosquitoes
Catnip: mosquitoes, ticks, flies, cockroaches
Chrysanthemums: roaches, ants, ticks, fleas, bedbugs
Lavender: moths, fleas, flies, mosquitoes
Citronella: mosquitoes
Geranium, lemon scented: mosquitoes
Lemon thyme: mosquitoes
Marigold: mosquitoes
Rosemary: mosquitoes

#6 Paint Your Home Lighter Colors

Studies show that bugs see dark and bright colors more easily, which is why people are often advised to wear light-colored clothing to repel them. The same principle may work for your home.

Choose lighter shades of paint color for your home’s siding, doors, trim, and other features such as fencing, patio, and decking to make it less attractive to mosquitoes.

And if pesky birds are a problem, avoid paint that is the same color as their favorite foods.

Just be sure the paint job fits into the neighborhood and enhances your home’s beauty. Bugs are a pain, but hurting your home’s value is more painful.

#7 Build a Bat House

If you live in an area where bats are local, lucky you. Really. Harness their appetite for insects to control pests in your yard. You can invite them to be your permanent guests by building a bat house. According to Bat Conservation International, one small bat can consume up to 1,000 mosquitoes per hour! (Image: Axel Bueckert/Getty)

“Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS.”

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A Pandemic Makeover

Interior designer Esther Dormer(link is external) sought to give an old space a new life. She bought a dilapidated unit in an abandoned, 80-year-old building in Pittsburgh in March 2020, recognizing the potential in its stunning cityscape views and desirable location near restaurants and shops. Dormer spent last summer rehabbing the place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Every room in the house needed work. The home originally had a bathroom with a tub sitting on a pile of rocks, a kitchen in the basement that was no longer operable, and a second floor with a bedroom and a closet that desperately needed some TLC. Take a look at what Dormer was facing before her design overhaul:

Dormer designed a new floor plan for the 600-square-foot home, including moving the kitchen out of the basement and adding an extra bathroom. She also wanted to put more emphasis on the home’s views, creating a focal point around a large back window that looked out onto the deck. To create luxury and warmth, she honed in on accessories and attention to detail by adding sconces and whimsical rugs for a modern pop.

Dormer completely renovated and redesigned the home from the ground up.

Dormer Exterior Before

Dormer Exterior After
(Photos courtesy Esther Dormer Design)

Here are some of Dormer’s favorite elements from this home renovation:

Mirrored Tile
Dormer added mirrored tile to give the space a more open and luxurious feel. To balance the high-gloss impact, Dormer incorporated pallet wood. She originally had three lights over the kitchen table, but she thought it looked too cluttered. So, she swapped them out for one large wooden light.

(Photo courtesy Esther Dormer Design)

Glass Railing
The exterior deck overlooks views of the city. Dormer used a glass railing so the views would remain unobstructed. The wooden table is decorated with greenery to tie in more of nature.

(Photo courtesy Esther Dormer Design)

Layered Lighting
Dormer layered in the lighting to add texture, style, and illumination. There are five different lights in the bathroom. She kept the walls white—except for a smaller accent wall—and added in gold accents. The black flying pig on the shelf was “just a fun, whimsical element to complete the look,” she says.(Photo courtesy Esther Dormer Design)

Fringed Lights and Wall Mural
Wanting the bedroom to feel luxurious, she used fringed chandeliers and added a wall mural behind the bed to make them pop. The polka dot wallpaper adds an element of trendiness and makes the room look like an abstract painting, she notes.

(Photo courtesy Esther Dormer Design)

“Copyright National Association of REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.”

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8 Simple Rules for Negotiating Your Offer

Here’s the dream: Your offer is perfect, you don’t need to negotiate, and you can spend the next few weeks addressing more pressing home-ownership questions, like “Why is it called wainscoting?” and “Do I want a new couch in blush or emerald green?”

And it could happen. Many sellers accept the best offer they receive, and for a variety of reasons.

But sellers are also known to reject offers for a variety of reasons. Or make counteroffers. This is especially likely if you bid low, or when you’re up against multiple competing offers.

If you do receive a counteroffer, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to accept the new contract, negotiate the terms, or walk away.

In cases such as these, look to your agent. He or she is your spirit guide. If you decide you want to negotiate — that is, make a counteroffer to the seller’s counteroffer — your agent will use their negotiating skills to help get you the best deal. This is what agents do every day.

But you’re not just going to sit there. If you understand what negotiating tactics your agent may deploy — they depend on the local market and your position — you can back them up. And cheer them on.

Here are eight rules every buyer should know before they — and their agent — start negotiating:

#1: Act Fast — Like, Now
When you receive a counteroffer, you should respond quickly — ideally within 24 hours. The longer you wait, the more space you leave for another buyer to swoop in and nab the property. Also? If a seller senses hesitation, they may decide to withdraw their counteroffer before you even have a chance to respond.

#2: Raise Your Price (Within Reason)
Got an Offer Strategy?
Before you make an offer, talk with your agent about how high you’re willing to go if the seller doesn’t accept your bid.

While you obviously don’t want to overpay for a house, you may have to up the ante — especially if you initially made a lowball offer. Lean on your agent’s expertise to determine how much money you should add to the sales price to make it more enticing to the seller.

Then, through their powers of persuasion, your agent can make the counteroffer look even more attractive by pointing out similarly priced “comps” — recently sold homes in your area that are comparable in terms of square footage and features.

As your agent negotiates, it can feel like things are escalating quickly. It’s stressful. You may feel a sudden urge to do whatever it takes to win.

Before you go overboard, there are two things you must keep in mind:

You can’t exceed the monetary confines of the pre-approved mortgage you received from your lender.
You shouldn’t overextend your budget, because your counteroffer has to be an amount you’re comfortable spending on a home. You want that new house and to keep living your life. Plus: You’re not out of options yet.

#3: Increase Your Earnest Money Deposit
Increasing your earnest money deposit (EMD) — the sum of money you put down to prove to the seller you’re serious (i.e., “earnest”) about buying the house — is another way to show the seller you have more skin in the game. A standard EMD is typically 1% to 3% of the sales price of the home. Making a counteroffer with a 3% to 4% deposit could be what you need to persuade the seller to side with you.

#4: Demonstrate Patience About Taking Possession
Depending on the seller’s timetable, changing your proposed possession date — the date you take over the property — could butter them up, too. If the seller wants to stay in the home for a few days after closing, try offering a later possession date. You could also draw up a “rent-back” agreement, meaning the seller pays you rent for staying in the home for a set period of time after the closing date.

#5: Let Go of a Few Contingencies — With Care
Want to give your counteroffer an even bigger boost?

Reduce the number of contingencies you’re asking for. It’s your way of saying, “Hey, look, I have fewer ways to back out,” which gives the seller more reassurance that the deal will close.

But be selective: Some contingencies are too important to give up. A home-inspection contingency — the right to have a home inspection and request repairs — gives you an out if you spot major problems with the home (and protects you from buying a total money pit).

You might waive a termite inspection if you’re in a state where the risk is lower.

But ultimately, waiving contingencies depends on your market, your loan program requirements, your risk tolerance, and the circumstances of the house in question. And if you waive contingencies and then you find a problem, the seller isn’t responsible for fixing it.

#6: Ask for Fewer Concessions
At a mortgage settlement, home buyers have to pay closing costs for taxes, lender’s fees, and title company fees. Closing costs vary by location, but you can expect to shell out between 3% and 4% of the home’s sales price. The seller pays an additional 1% to 3%. (Smart Asset and Nerdwallet have simple calculators you can use to get a rough idea of what your closing costs might be.)

When making an initial offer, you have the option to ask the seller for concessions — a settlement paid in cash to help you offset your share of the closing costs. (This move is less feasible if you’re going up against multiple offers.)

Concessions effectively lower the seller’s net proceeds from the sale. Making a counteroffer that removes the concessions you would have otherwise received at settlement puts cash back in the seller’s pocket — and can improve your bid.

#7: Pick Up the Cost of the Home Warranty
Sometimes sellers offer prospective buyers a home warranty. This is a plan that covers the cost of repairing major home appliances and systems, like the air conditioner or hot water heater, if they break down within a certain period (typically a year after closing).

A basic home warranty costs about $300 to $600 a year, according to Angie’s List. If it seems like waiving the home warranty can sweeten negotiations, but you still want the peace of mind of having one, tell the seller they don’t need to cover it — then buy it yourself.

Just keep in mind, whether you or the seller buy the warranty, you’ll need to pay the service fee (typically between $50 and $100) if something does, indeed, need to be repaired while under warranty.

Also, FYI: A home warranty is entirely separate from homeowners insurance. Homeowners insurance — the security blanket that covers your home’s structure and possessions in the event of a fire, storm, flood, or other accident — is required if you take out a mortgage. It can cost anywhere from $300 to $1,000 per year.

#8: Know When to Walk
When negotiating with a seller, trust your gut — and your agent. If he or she says a deal is bad for you: Listen.

And if you don’t want to make any more trade-offs — and the seller won’t budge — it’s smart to walk. That can be a tough decision to make, and rightfully so! Negotiating is tough. It’s draining.

And losing something you’ve worked hard to get can be disappointing. But don’t worry. There’s a better deal for you out there. And after those strong feelings of frustration pass, you’ll realize: Now I know how to do this.

“Visit for more articles like this.  Reprinted from with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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July Fourth Hosting Tips


July Fourth Hosting Tips for New Homebuyers Who Now Have Space to Entertain

By Ana Durrani
Jul 1, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic saw many homebuyers prioritizing square footage and outdoor space like never before. Some folks left the tight confines of the city for wide-open floor plans, while others refused to even look at a house that didn’t have an expansive backyard.

More space means more room to entertain, and if you’re a new homebuyer who’s spent months (or a year) dreaming about hosting a July Fourth shindig, now’s your time to shine. With the number of vaccinated people steadily rising and the number of reported cases decreasing, you can finally put that outdoor space to use and celebrate the red, white, and blue with family and friends. Cheers to that!

“Fourth of July is a great opportunity to celebrate a new home with new neighbors and old friends,” says Jenny Reimold, HomeGoods style expert. “Make it a block party where you can utilize outdoor spaces, create summer memories, and maybe even start a new annual tradition.”

Worried you’re not prepared to throw a Fourth of July bash at your new place? We’ve got you covered. Here are a few tips for Fourth of July entertaining.

Invest in outdoor dinnerware

Plastic outdoor dinnerware(Williams Sonoma)

If you’ve never had an outdoor area for serving food and drinks, you likely don’t have essential, shatter-proof dinnerware. But you should!

“This is the time to invest in some really nice melamine plates and restaurant-quality plastic glassware,” says Joanna Buchanan, a home accessories designer and expert on entertaining. “I promise you will use them over and over again.”

Consider a handwoven placemat ($48,, a patriotic outdoor tablecloth ($19.59, Target), and this rustic melamine dinnerware collection ($5.99-plus, Williams Sonoma)

“I love melamine dishware for entertaining, because there are so many unique, durable, and easy-to-clean options available,” says Reimold. “If you’re in a crunch for time, check out the party aisle at HomeGoods. It’s a gold mine for adorable and affordable patriotic supplies like festive summer napkins, paper plates, reusable plastic or bamboo utensils, and straws.”

Set up different stations

An outdoor bar is essential, but this Fourth of July, go all out with other serving stations.

“Now that you have some more space to entertain in, create different stations and really have fun with them,” says Buchanan.

For example, you can create a charcuterie area with an impressive meat and cheese spread or a dessert station featuring red, white, and blue sweets. Serve it up on this acacia wood outdoor serving cart (, $129.99).

“I use a teak wood and metal bar cart as a station for food, utensils, and party supplies. Impress your guests by creating a s’mores bar that you can easily serve up outside by a bonfire,” says Reimold.

Reusable cocktail picks ($88,—whether they’re being used for martini olives or chocolate-dipped fruit—will also come in handy.

“Having different stations helps people move around and mingle,” says Buchanan.

Patriotic decorations

Hang paper garlands, twinkle lights, or an American flag bow on that huge oak tree you now have in your beautiful new backyard.

“Copyright National Association of REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.”

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How to Stay Cool in the Tri-Cities Heat Wave

Right in the middle of a historic heat wave across the Pacific Northwest, many of us are scrambling to find creative ways to stay cool. We’ve gathered a few tips specific to Tri-Cities to help you stay cool, whether you have a functioning air conditioner or not.

1. Hang blankets or towels on your windows to block out sunlight.

2. Drink more water than you think you need to- if you’re thirsty, you’ve already begun to get dehydrated.

3. If your AC is not functioning or if you are experiencing rolling blackouts, the Richland businesses listed in this NBC article are allowing Tri-Cities residents to come cool down.

4. Eat fruits and vegetables with high water contents- such as celery, pineapple, peaches, and oranges. Pick up some locally grown fruit at one of our farmer’s markets- check out this list of major markets in Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland with links to each one’s website. Check the website or social media of your selected market to ensure they are operating this week. OR, pick up a fresh smoothie from Fresh Picks in Kennewick, Fresh Juice Me or Fresh Leaf Co in Richland, or Helados La Michoacana in Pasco.

5. Spend some time in the Columbia river- try out a paddle board or kayak rental from Greenies in Richland, or just take a dip. Be sure to wear a lifejacket and water-resistant sunscreen, and continue to hydrate.6. Walk dogs in the early morning rather than later at night to utilize the day’s coolest temperatures- you may even get the sunrise all to yourself!

We will get through this! Leave us a comment if you have any other ideas, and stay safe out there!

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