Why No Staircase is Complete Without a Banister

When modern architecture came in fashion, a lot of decorative elements of homes fell by the wayside. One of these was banisters, which at their base-level are handrails for your stairs. They’re finally experiencing a comeback, which we we are so excited about because while they may seem simple, this diverse little bit of built-in furniture can really add style and flair to almost any home-type.

From curved to blocky, wood to wires, a banister can change your staircase from a utilitarian element to a thing of beauty. Updating your banister can be costly, however, depending on the materials you want to use. If you’re going for a classic wood look, it should only run you between $700-$2,500. While wood banisters look beautiful and even regal, you can instantly make a staircase a more modern piece by using metal, wires, or even hanging your banister from the ceiling!

However, if you do decide to update or install a banister, make sure that it’s done to code. The requirements vary depending on where you live, but they typically have to be between 30-38 inches, the hand grips have to be consistent so people who need to grasp them can do so continuously up the stairs, and they’ll also have to support a certain amount of weight (usually around 200lbs). There’s also certain requirements for how far apart the bulstrodes have to placed. That being said, if you can navigate all the red tape, banisters have the potential to completely transform the look of your home and the impression it gives to visitors.

Is Buying Land a Good Investment?

Most people have hopes of owning a house one day, but only a smaller group want to own land, undeveloped, untreated land. There’s something mystical about owning your own land – it makes us feel like pioneers using string and pegs to mark out our domain. But is it a worthwhile investment in modern times? True, it’s a finite resource, so theoretically it can only increase in value. But can you, in your lifetime, make a profit off of buying a piece of undeveloped land?

The answer is that worst of all possibilities: maybe. More specifically, the answer depends on what you plan for your land, and how proactive you want to be with regards to it. If you plan on selling it to a big developer down the road for lots of money, check out how it’s zoned before you buy, because that can kill commercial dreams right there. Sure, you can try to get your land re-zoned, but that puts you at the mercy of city politicians, and that of course could go several ways.

If you want to keep your land open (i.e. not building something yourself, like a home), keep in mind that you’ll continually have to pay taxes on it, meaning that land that doesn’t actively make you money will slowly drain you of it. And if you do want to build your dream home on it, make sure you consult a developer first. What may look like a beautiful plot of land to you can be an architectural nightmare to the well trained eye, and you don’t want to end up with a useless plot of land that you can’t build on. Land can be a wonderful investment, if you’re smart about it. However, if you’re a novice, make sure you consult experts before you sign on the dotted line.

First Time Home Buyer? What You Need to Know About Mortgages

Most new home buyers have little to no concrete knowledge about what it takes to buy a home. And with all of the conflicting information on the internet, it’s no wonder. We’ve always been told the standard amount of money to put down on a new house is 30%, which puts buying a starter home almost impossible for a lot of potential buyers. However, that amount has changed, and now a lot of young people (we’re often called millennials) are confused about exactly what is expected of them with regards to down payments and mortgages.

Recently, the National Association of Realtors surveyed non-owners and found that 39% thought they had to put down more than 20%, 26% thought 15-20% was acceptable, and 22% thought they could get away with 10-14%. Shockingly, the average amount of money put down on a house last year was only 11%, and among the under-35 crowd, it was more like 8%! So why the disparity?

It probably has something to do with how the market is changing, and what we’ve been told by our parents, who grew up in different times. These days, if you can get a VA or USDA loan, you may not be required to put anything down on a new home. The average amount put down on a home in 2016 for that age bracket was $3,500. That’s would barely get you a running car, and yet it’s working for younger people purchasing houses. They’re taking out the loads mentioned above (or a FHA loan, which is targeted towards first-time buyers), and they only need about a 639 credit score to do it. If you’re despairing about not being able to afford a first-time home, you don’t need to. It’s not as hard as it seems, and there’s help out there if you look for it!

How Hiring People to Live in Your Home Can Help You Sell it Faster

If you have the luxury of buying a new house and moving out of your current home before it’s sold, you may have heard of a weird phenomenon where empty houses don’t sell as quickly. This is how staged companies make their money – they rent out furniture and decorate a house as if someone is living there. Well now there’s a new trend out that takes that to the next level – hiring someone to actually move into your empty home to get it to sell!

It may sound weird – and as of right now it’s a pretty unusual occurrence – but there are now a handful of companies that match people who have empty homes and want to sell with families willing to relocate to that home, for a matter of months. Michael Kelton, the COO of ShareHouses, says that buyers are better able to imagine living in a home that is actually being lived in. “Something about having food in the pantry … it’s hard to put my finger on it, but there’s some kind of emotional connection that happens,” he recently told NPR. It also gives homeowners peace of mind, knowing that someone is looking after their property before it sells.

However, being the person who actually lives in the house can be hard. Not only do you have to move a lot – one couple noted moving 11 times in 6 years – but you can never leave your home a wreck because it could be shown to potential buyers at any moment. And if it IS about to be shown, you have to make yourself scarce. It’s a hard way to live, and reduced rent may not be worth it for some people, especially since there’s rules about how nice your furniture has to be and where it can be placed. But for people who like to change their homes often and don’t mind the added effort, this can be a cool and unique lifestyle choice!

Rent or Buy: What Makes the Most Financial Sense?

If you think renting is the easy and cheap way to go, you might want to think again because according to ATTOM Data Solutions’ 2017 Rental Affordability Report, buying a home is actually more cost effective than renting in 66% of U.S. markets.

“While buying continues to be more affordable than renting in the majority of U.S. markets, that equation could change quickly if mortgage rates keep rising in 2017,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president with ATTOM Data Solutions, the new parent company of RealtyTrac. “In that scenario, renters who have not yet made the leap to homeownership will find it even more difficult to make that leap this year. Additionally, renting may end up being the lesser of two housing affordability evils in a growing number of high-priced markets.”

What are the odds these markets are actually places you want to live? Among the nation’s most populous counties, those where it is more affordable to buy than to rent are: Cook County (Chicago), Illinois, Maricopa County (Phoenix), Arizona, Miami-Dade County, Florida; San Bernardino County, California in inland Southern California; Clark County (Las Vegas), Nevada; Tarrant County, Texas in the Dallas metro area; Wayne County (Detroit), Michigan; Broward County, Florida in the Miami metro area; Bexar County (San Antonio), Texas; and Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.

Of course, if you live in any of these markets, it is actually cheaper to rent a home than to buy in Los Angeles County, California; Harris County (Houston), Texas; San Diego County, California; Orange County, California; Kings County (Brooklyn), New York; Dallas County, Texas; Queens County, New York; Riverside County, California in the inland area of Southern California; King County (Seattle), Washington; and Santa Clara County (San Jose), California.

Don’t live in either? It might be a good time to make sure you don’t live in the least affordable rental market: Marin County, California in the San Francisco metro area (77.3 percent); Spotsylvania County, Virginia in the Washington, D.C. metro area (73.7 percent); Monroe County (Key West), Florida (72.2 percent); Honolulu County, Hawaii (70.7 percent); and Maui County, Hawaii (70.6 percent).

Be warned, if you are thinking about continuing to rent in any of these areas, you should know rental costs are steadily and significantly increasing:
Los Angeles County, California; Cook County (Chicago), Illinois; Harris County (Houston), Texas; Maricopa County (Phoenix), Arizona; and Miami-Dade County, Florida.

Is it time to rent, buy or just move all together?