Counter tops can really define your kitchen.
The surface can make an elegant statement. It can be simple. It can be warm. It can be casual.
The surfaces to choose from include wood, stone, concrete, laminate and much more. Many kitchen designers even mix counter surface types within one room.
Wood surfaces are not your regular butcher block from the 1980s. I had a eucalyptus counter in a house I rented several years ago. It was lovely and warm. The wood needed annual upkeep with a specific oil treatment but it was one of my favorite counter tops. Just be sure not to use that space as a cutting board.
Many local homes I’ve viewed had a single counter space in wood and the rest in another surface type. Other wood choices include bamboo, walnut, cherry, mesquite.
Stone surfaces vary widely and include popular choices like granite, quartz, soapstone, travertine, Jerusalem stone and slate. Most require particular cleaners as some may damage easily from improper care. Stone surfaces also come in a variety of color choices to add personality to your kitchen. The downside to stone is that the busier the design of the stone the easier crumbs and dirt can hide on the surface. However, solid surface colors can only accent the fact you need to clean it. My favorite counters were black quartz in another house I lived in. I loved the look when they were clean but I was constantly wiping them down (there were children in the house which accounted for the dirt and crumbs).
New trends in counter tops are concrete, copper-wrapped and recycled-glass counters. Copper-wrapping seems to be popular on counters that are separate from the main countertop in the kitchen but not necessarily on the island. Recycled-glass counters are higher-end because of the process to make them. A mix of colorful glass chips from various broken glass items are blended with concrete and sealed for a smooth finish. Terazzo is making a comeback in both flooring and countertops for homeowners making that mid-century modern statement.
Other trends include eco-friendly counters like composite countertops. These can be made of recycled paper or fly ash and are sealed to resist bacteria. They are heat resistant, too. Engineered stone, stainless steel, solid surface and “upscale” laminate are also popular choices.
Tile counters are still popular although most people I had shown houses to do not like them. Tile can be a less expensive way to have an expensive looking counter. And while it is pretty, there is the grout to consider when cleaning. Scrubbing stains out of an unsealed grout can be tedious, so be sure to seal it. Grout can also crack, leaving the homeowner to maintain it more often than they would need to with solid surfaces. With these factors in mind solid stone is an unoffical winner of my countertop experience.
But you decide. When choosing your counters go to a store that specializes in stone for their expertise, and visit some other kitchen design centers for their expertise. Be sure to investigate wood as well.
Although I suggested mixing surfaces in your kitchen, do consider matching your other counters throughout the house to the dominant kitchen counter surface. These would include bathrooms and laundry. If you ever have to sell your house, this is a design issue that comes up often with buyers. Buyers like to see continuity of design and most of my buyers, who have passed on a house, stated that it was because of the expense to match counters.
And my last piece of advice is this: a desk built into the kitchen is a great space to have but consider not using stone on the desk surface; it gets cold. I speak from experience on this matter.
For more info on picking your countertops read this great article on countertops and your personality.
All photos courtesy of Creative Commons.
Eileen Saunders, SRES REALTOR with Tommy Morgan Realtors 2092 Old Taylor Road, Oxford, MS 38655 email@example.com 662-404-0816 or 662-234-5344 Equal Housing
Renters often are able to purchase a home but do not for several reasons.
Many feel that they can’t afford to purchase a home.
But, as a renter, what are you doing each month? You pay for your housing. And who benefits? Well, you do have a roof over your head, but the homeowner is really benefiting. The homeowner is building wealth.
A smart homeowner would charge at least their monthly mortgage for the renter to pay. So, renter, you’re paying someone’s mortgage, at least. Why not pay your own?
With each rent payment, the homeowner’s mortgage balance goes down and soon he will own the house out-right. He can sell it and make money. If he was a wise investor, he will sell his house for more than he paid for it. But regardless, the homeowner didn’t make a mortgage payment with his own money because he had renters pay it and when he sells the house, he will make all of the money back (unless he still has a balance that he needs to pay the bank, but he’ll get the rest.) When you, renter, move out, you’ll be lucky to get your deposit back and so you’ll basically have nothing for all of the money you paid for housing.
If you own your house, you are paying your monthly payment and paying down your mortgage balance. When you sell your house for the same or more than what you purchased it for, you pay the bank what you owe them and you get the rest. You’ve been paying into it, you should get something out of it.
Many don’t have enough for a down payment.
There are many mortgage programs that your mortgage banker can tell you about and she can figure out which works best for you. Some can get you into a house with 3% down. Others can get you into a house for even less. Of course, consider you might be paying an extra percentage in interest or paying a PMI cost. PMI is Private Mortgage Insurance and you can learn about it here.
There are many apps you can use to check your credit score. There are others that tell you what your estimated payments would be for a particular property or price.
Talk to your banker about receiving gift money from a relative for your down payment.
Mississippi and a few other states offer a First-time Home Buyer’s Savings Account. Check with your bank to get your account started and set a goal.
Many would rather have someone make repairs or pay to replace faulty appliances for them.
I hear this a lot. An old apartment or an old house will most likely have old appliances which will go out. Who knows how the previous renter took care of the appliances also. So many renters often call their landlords for repairs.
If you purchase a new home, you have new appliances. Your home has warranties including a 1-year builder warranty in Mississippi.
Should you purchase a pre-owned home, you’ll see on the seller’s disclosure the age and condition of appliances. If they are all old or approaching that magic year things start breaking down, you can negotiate a seller-paid home warranty for the first year you own the home. Most service calls are under $100 for repair or replacement. If you cannot negotiate it into the purchase, warranties run around $500 per year so you can set that aside to purchase yourself. I have one and it has paid for itself many times.
Many do not think their credit score is good enough.
You never know what you can afford or what you can qualify for until you investigate. Go see your banker or check in with a local mortgage company. A “ding” to your credit report for mortgage purposes is not the same as a “ding” to your credit report for a new credit card or car loan. Find out now so you can plan. Or, find out now, so you can be pleasantly surprised and can start shopping for a new home.
Do Not, I repeat, Do Not make any large purchases until after you close on your new house. An washer, a new car, a sofa charged on a credit card will change your debt-income ratio and may cause you to lose the house if you don’t still qualify for that mortgage on closing day.
The whole process of purchasing a house and all of those steps to take along the way are scary.
It is a lot of fun looking online at houses for sale in your town. It would be a lot more fun to actually look at them in person, on a mission to purchase one. That’s why you need to get a real estate agent to help you from the start. Once you find out your financial status, start interviewing real estate agents. Don’t settle for the first one you talk to. You are hiring someone to help you make one of the most important, emotional and stressful purchases of your life. Make sure you feel comfortable with the agent you have helping you. The agent with a ton of sales, and therefore experience, under their belt may not have the personality you need to work with. Find one with a lot of training. Find one you can trust.
So, you pay for housing whether you buy or rent. Which would you rather do?
Eileen Saunders, SRES REALTOR with Tommy Morgan Realtors 2092 Old Taylor Road, Oxford, MS 38655 firstname.lastname@example.org 662-404-0816 or 662-234-5344 Equal Housing
Many people live in small towns where the job market just doesn’t quite fit their needs but they enjoy living there. Others have a specialty job which may require moving to a new city in order to stay in the career field of choice, especially when tele-commuting is not an option.
These people might be homeowners in the town where they went to college or grew up. The kids are in a good school system and the whole family is connected someway to the community: church, soccer, scouts, volunteer work.
But the job! A new one comes along, an hour away. What to do? Should you continue living in your current home and commute or should you move? In a large metropolitan area, commuting might be the norm but where your small town is separated from others by miles and miles of highway, moving might be necessary.
Consider a few things:
- the commute time and cost,
- the housing market,
- the school system,
- amenities of each town,
- career advancement and financial security,
- personal fulfillment.
Commute time and cost
Since the job is just an hour away it might be a great thing to consider the commute, at least temporarily. Make sure you like the job and the opportunity it provides. Sure, you’ll be away from the family 2 extra hours a day but once you get a feel for the job and the new area you can make the determination to move or stay. Be sure you have a fuel efficient car to help ease the pain of the additional gasoline cost during this time. You might find that commuting works for you and your family.
The housing market
Although the new job and your current home are just an hour apart, the housing markets could be very different. One could be robust; the other stagnant. You could find both doing well at the same time. Review the cost of living in both towns using websites that can give you accurate cost of living comparisons. Then ask for the help of a real estate professional in each town to give you a market analysis which can also help you decide if moving or staying is the best financial choice. You need to know if you stand to lose money on your current house or would benefit by selling and moving on.
With the kids in school, comparing the school systems is another important consideration. Also, do you have a high school student nearing graduation? Do you want to pull your children from their current school at this time or can you wait to move after graduation? Consider, too, that if you decide to move just over the state line and the graduating child wants to attend a college in the state you are leaving, you will lose resident status for tuition. On their own, at least in Mississippi, they need to be 22 or married (if younger) to obtain their own resident status. Otherwise they are under the parent’s resident status until a year after they become 21 as long as they are living in Mississippi. Grandparents who live in the same state as the college must take legal guardianship of the student in order to use their residency status and save tuition. There are some loopholes and other states may have different rules but be prepared in case you do choose to move across state lines.
Look into the cultural, entertainment and shopping aspects of each town. Consider dining options and grocery stores. Will the children be able to continue their sport of choice? Investigate church options. And, is the new town easy to get around?
Career Advancement, Financial Security, Personal Fulfillment
Talk about this new adventure with your spouse and children. If senior parents are living with you or provide a hand in raising the kids, they’ll need to be in the loop as well. What are the benefits of moving or staying? How will your decision to stay and commute affect career advancement and personal fulfillment. Getting your spouse and the kids on board and having them ask questions about your decision or even help you make the decision is an important family exercise. It’s important to find out how your decisions affect the family. It’s important to get their questions and feedback. Lack of communication within the family structure can cause tension which, in turn, can affect your personal fulfillment and job performance.
Sometimes, the situation is an easy no-brainer…move on. Many times, there are so many “what-ifs” that it is a hard choice to make. Should I go or should I stay? Only you and your family can make that decision, but once made, stick with it. No regrets.
Eileen Saunders, SRES REALTOR with Tommy Morgan Realtors 2092 Old Taylor Road, Oxford MS 38655 | 662-404-0816 | 662-234-5344 | equal housing
A current trend in housing is multi-generational living. Home buyers are seeking properties or remodeling their current homes to accommodate themselves and their parents. Multi-generational living can also accommodate the Millennial who is living at home after college.
There are great advantages to this. With Seniors living longer, many want to be near their families and help with the kids but do not want the mortgage of a new home involved when they relocate. Others, single-Seniors who want independent living, are not interested in being alone or living in a Seniors-only facility.
Parents who want to help their grown children, who are paying off college tuition bills or just getting themselves back on their feet after a difficult time, are also living the multi-generational life.
The single-family home with the additional bedroom, or a cottage on the property are interesting to these families.
How to find the best multi-generational home.
You don’t have to have a large property with two homes on it for multi-generational living. What you do need, though, is to look for a home with features that serve both adult generations. These features include:
- two areas that can provide a master suite. Your Senior parent(s) should have their own bathroom that isn’t shared by the rest of the family. Why? Privacy. Older adults have different health issues and should be honored with privacy.
- space on the main floor for the older generation. That upstairs bonus room/bedroom works great for the Millennial who moved back home but the stairs could be a challenge to an older resident. Perhaps the upstairs bonus room could be the second master suite. Be sure there is a bathroom and ample closet space. Make the downstairs master suite home to the older generation.
- a separate cottage would give Senior parents their own space, privacy and the feeling of independence not gained through living in the main household. And a noisy house for a Senior could be a stress builder and lead to confusion. Seniors, like all of us, need down-time and quiet. But for a older person who has already raised a full house of children, why not give them a quiet space? Be careful about the apartment above the garage. Remember what I just mentioned about stairs? However the above-garage apartment would be perfect for the adult child who just moved back home.
Sharing your home with a Senior parent.
Once you’ve found that home to share with a Senior family member be careful with the interior decor.
- throw or scatter rugs can be a hazard to the elderly who may not be steady on their feet. These rugs are generally used in bathrooms, kitchens, and near entry doors. If you have to use them, secure the rugs with a double-sided rug tape so it stays in place.
- hand railings are crucial for safety, inside and out. Any where there are steps, install a hand rail for older residents and visitors to use.
- bathroom fixtures should also include hand railings in the tub and near the toilet.
- universal design guidelines can assist you with remodeling or finding the perfect home to share with multiple generations.
Here are some great resources that can help you with multi-generational living, remodeling, aging in place and more.
For more information about finding the right type of home for your multi-generational family here in Oxford, MS, call me. I love to talk about this topic.
Eileen Saunders, Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES), REALTOR | Tommy Morgan Realtors 2092 Old Taylor Road, Oxford, MS 38655 | 662-404-0816 or 662-234-5344
Dual Agency is having the same real estate agent represent the buyer that represents the seller.
There are only 8 states that BAN dual agency. Mississippi is NOT one of them. Mississippi allows for it. So, when you are looking for a house with an agent, this might be an issue only if the agent shows you a house that his or her broker has listed AND you like it enough to purchase. Then that agent is working for both you and the seller.
Before you start looking at houses with an agent you should be handed a disclosure of agency form. This will explain to you the fiduciary duties in both a single agency and dual agency situation. Know your rights. Know what that agent can and cannot do for you.
If you are a buyer and really do not like this dual agency situation, talk to your agent about it. There are solutions for everything. For example, I have an agreement with an agent outside of my broker’s office who will help any of my buyers in this situation. If she shows the house and the buyer doesn’t like it, I continue to help the buyer. If they do like it, than that agent can work to get the house sold. So, please don’t assume that you have to deal with dual agency if it is against your convictions. Talk to your agent. You may also find that it works o.k.
Likewise, in a situation where you go to a neighborhood to look at the new construction and sit down with an agent representative, you have just entered into a dual agency situation. You want to buy into the neighborhood and the agent is now helping both you and the builder/contractor.
I want you to be aware of this before searching for a new home in a new development.
Your own agent will have your best interest in mind. Your agent will:
- help you negotiate
- know the law and will work it in your favor
- make sure custom orders and upgrades are delivered as ordered
- inform you of warranties
- handle documentation of everything
- identify issues you might not be aware of
- keep confidential information
- advise you on what personal information not to disclose to the listing agent
- encourage inspections
These are just a few things your own agent can do for you. Shop around for an agent; there is plenty of information on the internet these days so that you don’t have to sit for hours interviewing each agent until you find one you like. Trust your instincts and enjoy the company of an agent you has your best interest in mind. If you do find a personality conflict or find that the agent you hired is not helping you as you wish, providing you haven’t signed a Buyers Agency Contract, simply fire your agent in writing and move on. This rarely happens but can.
The best thing you can do as a buyer is know your rights, have an agent working for YOU and communicate fully with him or her.
Eileen Saunders, SRES, REALTOR with Tommy Morgan Realtors 2092 Old Taylor Road, Oxford MS 38655 662-404-0816 / 662-234-5344 email@example.com Equal Housing
Now is a great time for both Buyers and Sellers and here’s why:
Interest rates are still relatively low. The rates are projected to go up and are higher than they were this time last year so now is the time to lock in a rate you can be happy with. Still, rates are a lot lower than they have been in the past and have been the lowest since 1971. Before you start looking, meet with your banker or mortgage company to get pre-qualified for a loan. Then you will know exactly how much you can afford and you won’t be wasting your time or spinning your wheels in the wrong price range. You may be surprised at how much you can afford. Then, call your REALTOR and start looking. I would love to be your REALTOR so check out my profile online and on Facebook.
Why Wait???? Typically, inventory builds in March and if you wait until then you’ll have a lot more competition. Right now we have both an inventory shortage and a sudden uptick of buyers in Oxford and surrounding areas. The political season is over, the Dow is at a record high and there is market confidence. Wouldn’t it be great to get it sold quicker? Make sure your house and yard are in great condition because curb appeal sells and so does a house that is move-in-ready. It is proven that sellers who utilize real estate professionals get their houses sold faster and for more money.. If this is something you want, schedule an appointment with me for more information.
I hope these guides can help you. Enjoy! And, best wishes.
Eileen Saunders, SRES, REALTOR Tommy Morgan Realtors 2092 Old Taylor Road Oxford MS 38655 662-404-0816 | 662-234-5344 Equal Housing
When purchasing a house one of the main questions a buyer will ask is “how much are the taxes?”
Good question and the answer is usually included in the information provided on the listing. A seller will gather this information from their past tax bills or can call the tax office. A seller’s real estate agent can also look up the information to verify it.
But, buyer beware: the taxes listed may not be what you will pay. Here’s why: there are several different kinds of exemptions that can be filed for by the homeowner. In certain cases, there may not have been an exemption filed or the homeowner doesn’t qualify.
For no homestead exemption, the taxes are generally higher. If this is the case for the house or condo you are purchasing, once you are able to file for homestead exemption, you’ll notice a reduction in your payments and your tax bill.
A regular homestead exemption is the usual amount. If that is how the current owner filed and you are purchasing the home to be your main residence, you too will get the regular homestead exemption.
If you are 65 or older you will qualify for a discount on your taxes. This discount will show on your tax bill the year that you file for the discount. But let’s say you are not 65 and you buy a house with a 65 homestead exemption. When you file for your exemption, your tax bill will correct itself to apply to your current situation.
If your purchase is not your main residence (if it is a rental investment, a football home, vacation home) then you will not qualify for homestead exemptions. That will be something you can file (if not already filed) in your home town for your full-time residence property.
Eileen Saunders, REALTOR with Tommy Morgan Realtors, 2092 Old Taylor Road, Oxford, MS 38655, 662-404-0816 or 662-234-5344 Equal Housing
You found your dream home, or so you think. The offer you made to the homeowner was accepted and now you have to hire an inspector to make sure it checks out A-OK.
Hopefully there won’t be any major flaws to make you think twice about your offer. A satisfactory inspection is a contingency to the contract and if there is something major, you can ask for it to be fixed, decided to fix it yourself or walk away from the house completely.
Here are 8 possible deal breakers you should be aware of:
- Water Damage. With every water mark and rusty pipe, ask for an explanation. A water ring on the ceiling the size of the toilet pipe on the floor above it could mean a constant dripping problem. OR, it could simply mean there was an overflow a few years ago and the water mark is just now showing up as a stain. Rusty pipes, dampness by the A/C unit in the attic or hallway closet could be a bigger issue.
- Asbestos. This hazardous material was used in many homes that were built before July 1989. Removal must be done by a professional and could be costly.
- Lead paint. Lead paint was used in older homes and could be a hazard. Removal may be expensive so have a professional give you a quote on removal.
- Pests. Termites, roaches, rats, mice and more can cause extensive and expensive damage to a home. Sometimes the repair can be expensive but not all of the time. Have a termite or pest control professional quote you a price to take care of the problem.
- Mold. Some molds can be easily remedied, but long-term invasive damage from a pipe, roof leak or irrigation can cause a bigger problem.
- Electrical or plumbing problems. Always have these taken care of by a professional.
- Foundation issues. Foundations tend to crack from settling. Some cracks are minor, some can be a major problem. Why are the cracks there? What caused them? If you really don’t feel good about the cracks, seek the advice of a foundation specialist. It will cost more than the initial inspection but the peace of mind will be worth it
- Old roof. A homes inspector can assess roofing issues from missing shingles, wood or structural issues. An old roof will need to be replaced and can be expensive. In addition to the inspector’s report, a roofer can assess the remaining life of the roof.
While there are a few other issues that can make you walk away, these eight are the most common, so be prepared to consider any of them.
Each of these things can be worked out if you really want the house and not all houses have more than one or two of these issues to consider. Meet with your real estate agent. Together, construct a list of things you have to have repaired and what you can live with or fix on your own. If the cost of items to fix yourself is high, renegotiate a credit at closing. Until you sign off stating the inspection contingency is clear of issues so you can move toward closing, you, the buyer, are still in the decision-making seat.
Know that the seller may think your request is too extensive. The listing and the property condition disclosure may state the issues that need repair but the owner will not be responsible for. If that is the case, you and your agent should have known this from the time you started considering the house. The seller could also state that he will only pay a particular amount on repairs. Be prepared for negotiating, but also be prepared that the seller could walk away, too, if you ask for too much.
So, do you want the house or not?
Thanks to Kaye Ladd, Broker at Tommy Morgan Realtors branch office for contributing to this article.
Eileen Saunders, REALTOR with Tommy Morgan Realtors, 2092 Old Taylor Road, Oxford, MS 38655 662-404-0816/662-234-5344 Equal Housing