Home Rich : How to Buy, Manage, Improve, and Sell the Most Valuable Investment of Your Life
Your home is the single most valuable thing you can own, yet making it pay can intimidate and confuse even the savviest investor. Now, in an indispensable new book, finance expert Gerri Willis leads you step-by-step through the entire experience of buying, maintaining, and selling a home, and shows you how to come out ahead-maybe even way ahead.
Americans used to raise their families in one place, knowing that their homes would someday make them wealthy. These days, on average, people spend just nine years in a house; it's become a medium-term investment in a volatile real estate market. Home Rich is the first book that offers simple rules specifically designed for this brave new world of home buying and selling. Here are the ways to maximize your profit, from the time you get the keys to the time you hand them over.
* before you buy: Learn about the best and safest loans available, how to finance and refinance them, and how to pick the right real estate agent (watch out for the "dual agency," when one agent represents both buyer and seller).
* buy right: Understand what size home you need and can afford (it's the features and the fit, not the square footage), and check out location, location, location (a school system is a tip-off to a growing neighborhood).
* keep up your investment: Make a checklist by season to determine maintenance expenses and find out how to protect against monster storms, mold, and vermin.
* upgrade in ways that count: Be practical (an updated kitchen beats a Jacuzzi), discover the new green improvements, and plant the best trees and shrubs for your zone (landscaping can add 6 to 7 percent to the value of a home).
* sell right: Inspect and repair, clear and clean, then set the correct price, advertise, and field the offers.
Home Rich addresses the needs of homeowners in all regions and at all income levels, featuring helpful case histories, practical charts, and clear instructions. Gerri Willis has written a comprehensive, reader-friendly guide for creating a special personal space that you will love living in-and that others will also value and happily pay for when the time comes for you to sell.
Written by the anchor of Open House, CNN's weekly half-hour real estate show, this book is like having a good friend on call to answer all of a first-time home buyer's questions about the process. Willis covers questions you might be embarrassed to ask: How much house can I afford? or What kinds of maintenance do I need to do to my home each season? Divided into four sections--Buying, Maintaining, Upgrading, and Selling--this book walks the reader through the whole process, from providing formulas to calculate an affordable mortgage to landscaping. (Willis provides tables that list names of shrubs and their growing regions.) Bold headers allow the reader to dip in to each section as needed. With a straightforward style and concrete advice--Willis doesn't just tell you that you should interview your real estate agent or general contractor; she lists the questions you should ask--this book will help those who are completely new to the housing market approach the field with confidence. (Feb. 26)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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February 25, 2008
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Excerpt from Home Rich by Gerri Willis
When greg was transferred to Washington, D.C., his wife, Stacey, knew immediately she wanted to move to Fairfax County, Virginia. Her family had lived in the area for years and the commute into Washington was a breeze. Unfortunately, the couple had to start their search right in the middle of the spring buyers' frenzy and were competing with other families eager to get into a new home before the school year started. Soon after their search began, they discovered a neighborhood that boasted a pool and tennis club that residents automatically belonged to. And, days later, the couple walked into an open house for a cozy ranch with skylights and new carpeting in every room. The only downside was a strange mildewy odor--but the sellers assured them they had taken care of the problem. The pressure to move quickly was high. Seven other couples at the open house were eager to buy. Greg and Stacey decided they would have to put together a strong offer quickly to compete. They bid the asking price of $669,000. Stacey even wrote a thank-you note to the owners to improve the chances of their bid being accepted. The price tag was a little more than they had anticipated spending, but the two agreed they could afford their prize if they kept their spending on extras to a minimum. They won the bidding war, but just a month after they moved in, they discovered that the mildewy odor was a symptom of a much bigger water problem: water soaked the basement carpet. They gutted the room down to its studs and installed a new drainage system, as well as a new carpet, wainscoting, and furniture. But that was only a prelude to the problems created a year later by a massive rainstorm.
"At five o'clock on a Sunday morning I heard water running," Stacey recalls. "I went downstairs, and it was like a levee had broken--there was water coming through the wall, up from under the floorboards, everything." Greg and Stacey worked like a bucket brigade emptying the house of water. More renovations ensued.
In the first two years of owning the house, they had to replace several skylights, fix leaky soffits, and excavate the backyard to install French drains. The price tag--a total of nearly $36,000--was sizeable and unexpected. Because the two were stretching to buy the house in the first place, they had little room in their budget to finance the repairs. Greg tapped his retirement fund to pay for the biggest repairs, but the problems left the family strapped. Had the two been in less of a rush and hired an inspector, they would have been spared the setback.
Compare their situation with that of Ted and Barbara. At the time the two decided they had outgrown their Queens, New York, condo, the market couldn't have been more hostile to buyers. Prices were on the rise in Westchester County, where they had decided to move. Attractive homes were drawing multiple bids and bidding wars. If ever there were a time for buyers to hold up and wait, this was it. But the couple came up with a strategy that allowed them to find a home that fit their needs yet didn't break their budget.
They started by investigating neighborhoods. They quickly ruled out the most expensive ones, such as Scarsdale and Bronxville, where competition was the most heated and the potential for overbidding high. And they knew they didn't want to move too far away from their jobs--Ted worked in Queens, while Barbara worked in Manhattan. When Ted's boss suggested they check out his commuter town, Sleepy Hollow, they liked what they saw. Prices in the town were high but not stratospheric. When they found a quaint bungalow with some maintenance issues, they pounced. Exterior paint was peeling and interior hardwood floors had been badly damaged by renters. The kitchen hadn't been updated in years. Rhododendrons had been allowed to grow nearly to the eaves, and the overall appearance from the outside caused many potential buyers to drive past without even seeing the interior. After confirming the house had no structural issues, the two decided to buy--driven mostly by the idea that the house was well priced for the neighborhood at $475,000. Because the two were able to purchase the house at such an attractive price, they could spend money on upgrades. They had the cramped kitchen stripped out and updated with roomy oak cabinets and stainless-steel appliances. They repainted the house, warming up rooms with rich colors to replace the faded creams and whites. The floors were refinished. The exterior was painted a sophisticated gray-green and the shrubs trimmed or removed altogether. Within a few short months of buying, the house was transformed. "We were enthusiastically welcomed by our neighbors," said Ted.