connie vallone

DIY Kitchen Remodeling on a Budget: 5 Money-Saving Steps

In Buying a Home, Home Upgrades, Home Values, Houston Energy Corridor, Houston Real Estate Agent, Real Estate Investment, Selling your home, West Houston on August 8, 2018 at 3:47 pm

Major kitchen remodels are among the most popular home improvements, but a revamped cooking and gathering space can set you back a pretty penny. According to the “Remodeling Impact Report” from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, a complete renovation of a 210-square-foot kitchen has a national median cost of $65,000, and you’ll recover 62% of that cost come selling time.

Despite the big price tag, you’ll be glad you upgraded. In fact, homeowners polled for the “Report” gave their kitchen redo a Joy Score of 10 — a rating based on those who said they were happy or satisfied with their remodeling, with 10 being the highest rating and 1 the lowest.

If you can’t afford the entire remodel all at once, complete the work in these five budget-saving stages.

Stage One: Start with a Complete Design Plan

Your plan should be comprehensive and detailed — everything from the location of the refrigerator to which direction the cabinet doors will open to whether you need a spice drawer.

To save time (and money) during tear-out and construction, plan on using your existing walls and kitchen configuration. That’ll keep plumbing and electrical systems mostly intact, and you won’t have the added expense — and mess — of tearing out walls.

Joseph Feinberg, vice president of Allied Kitchen and Bath in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., recommends hiring a professional designer, such as an architect or a certified kitchen designer, who can make sure the details of your plans are complete. You’ll pay about 10% of the total project for a pro designer, but you’ll save a whole bunch of headaches that would likely cost as much — or more — to fix. Plus, a pro is likely to offer smart solutions you hadn’t thought of.

For a nominal fee, you also can get design help from a major home improvement store. However, you’ll be expected to purchase some of your cabinets and appliances from that store.

  • Cost: professional designer: $5,800 (10% of total)
  • Key strategies: Once your plans are set, you can hold onto them until you’re ready to remodel.
  • Time frame: 3 to 6 months

Stage Two: Order the Cabinets, Appliances, and Lighting Fixtures

Cabinets and appliances are the biggest investments in your kitchen remodeling project. If you’re remodeling in stages, you can order them any time after the plans are complete and store them in a garage (away from moisture) or in a spare room until you’re ready to pull the trigger on the installation.

Remember that it may take four to six weeks from the day you order them for your cabinets to be delivered.

If you can’t afford all new appliances, keep your old ones for now — but plan to buy either the same sizes, or choose larger sizes and design your cabinets around those larger measurements. You can replace appliances as budget permits later on.

The same goes for your lighting fixtures: If you can live with your old ones for now, you’ll save money by reusing them.

You’ll have to decide about flooring, too — one of the trickier decisions to make because it also affects how and when you install cabinets.

You’ll need to know if your old flooring runs underneath your cabinets, or if the flooring butts up against the cabinet sides and toe kicks. If the flooring runs underneath, you’ll have some leeway for new cabinet configurations — just be sure the old flooring will cover any newly exposed floor areas. Here are points to remember:

  • Keep old flooring for cost savings. This works if your new cabinets match your old layout, so that the new cabinets fit exactly into the old flooring configuration. If the existing flooring runs underneath your cabinets and covers all flooring area, then any new cabinet configuration will be fine.
  • Keep your old flooring for now and cover it or replace it later. Again, this works if your cabinet configuration is identical to the old layout.

However, if you plan to cover your old flooring or tear it out and replace it at some point in the future, remember that your new flooring might raise the height of your floor, effectively lowering your cabinet height.

For thin new floor coverings, such as vinyl and linoleum, the change is imperceptible. For thicker floorings, such as wood and tile, you might want to take into account the change in floor height by installing your new cabinets on shims.

  • Cost: cabinets: $16,000 (27% of total); appliances and lighting fixtures: $8,500 (15% of total); vinyl flooring: $1,000 (2% of total)
  • Key strategy: Keep old appliances, lighting fixtures, and flooring and use them until you can afford new ones.
  • Time frame: 2 to 3 weeks

Stage Three: Gut the Kitchen and Do the Electrical and Plumbing Work

Here’s where the remodel gets messy. Old cabinetry and appliances are removed, and walls may have to be opened up for new electrical circuits. Keep in close contact with your contractor during this stage so you can answer questions and clear up any problems quickly. A major kitchen remodel can take six to 10 weeks, depending on how extensive the project is.

During this stage, haul your refrigerator, microwave, and toaster oven to another room — near the laundry or the garage, for example — so you’ve got the means to cook meals. Feinberg suggests tackling this stage in the summer, when you can easily grill and eat outside. That’ll reduce the temptation to eat at restaurants, and will help keep your day-to-day costs under control.

  • Cost: $14,500 for tear-out and installation of new plumbing and electrical (25% of total)
  • Key strategies: Encourage your contractor to expedite the tear-out and installation of new systems. Plan a makeshift kitchen while the work is progressing. Schedule this work for summer when you can grill and eat outside.
  • Time frame: 6 to 10 weeks

Stage Four: Install Cabinets, Countertops, Appliances, Flooring, and Fixtures

If you’ve done your homework and bought key components in advance, you should roll through this phase. You’ve now got a (mostly) finished kitchen.

A high-end countertop and backsplash can be a sizable sum of money. If you can’t quite swing it, put down a temporary top, such as painted marine plywood or inexpensive laminate. Later, you can upgrade to granite, tile, solid surface, or marble.

  • Cost: $12,000 (21% of total)
  • Key strategy: Install an inexpensive countertop; upgrade when you’re able.
  • Time frame: 1 to 2 weeks

Final Phases: Upgrade if Necessary

Replace the inexpensive countertop, pull up the laminate flooring, and put in tile or hardwood, or buy that new refrigerator you wanted but couldn’t afford during the remodel. (Just make sure it fits in the space!)

By: Gretchen Roberts

If you are interested in buying or selling real estate, please contact Connie Vallone with First Market Realty at 713 249 4177  or visit www.houstonenergycorridorhomes.com  or www.vallonehomes.com .

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NEW LISTING! 1950 Gentryside Drive, Houston, TX 77077 – MLS# 50495762

In Buying a Home, Home Values, Houston Energy Corridor, Houston Real Estate Agent, Real Estate Investment, Schools, Selling your home, Uncategorized on June 19, 2018 at 6:13 pm

NEW LISTING! 1950 Gentryside Drive, Houston, TX 77077 – MLS# 50495762

Beautiful town home in peaceful private gated community in the heart of the energy corridor. Open flowing floor plan with gorgeous new wood floors throughout first floor living areas. Enter your new home with nice big dining or a nice sized study just inside foyer. Generous kitchen with tons of cabinets opens to huge living area with high ceilings and a wall of windows for plenty of natural light opens to your own private backyard with patio and new fence. Master retreat with huge walk in closet plus guest bedroom with its own private bath. Relax or entertain in the private gated community pool area. Walking distance to highly rated Ray Daily Elementary and The Village School private school. High and dry, never flooded.

HAR Link: https://www.har.com/1950-gentryside-drive/sale_50495762

If you are interested in buying or selling real estate in or around Houston or the Energy Corridor, please contact Connie Vallone with First Market Realty at 713 249 4177  or visit www.houstonenergycorridorhomes.com  or www.vallonehomes.com

In Closing: How to Seal the Home-Buying Deal

In Buying a Home, Home Values, Houston Energy Corridor, Houston Real Estate Agent, Real Estate Investment, Selling your home on June 8, 2018 at 3:50 pm

The closing. It all comes down to this. The grand finale. Once you have the keys, the house is yours. (Cue: Air horn sound!)

Nice work getting this far. You’re almost a homeowner! Let’s run through some questions you may have as you cross the finish line.

What Does “Closing” Mean?

The close or settlement is when you sign the final ownership and insurance paperwork and get the home’s keys.

The closing process technically begins when you have signed a purchase and sale agreement. That agreement should specify a closing date. Typically — from the signing date to the closing date — closing takes four to six weeks. During this time, purchasing funds are held in escrow, where your money is safe until the deal is officially done.

What’s a Closing Disclosure?

Lenders must provide borrowers with a Closing Disclosure, or CD, at least three days before settlement. This form is a statement of your final loan terms and closing costs.

You have three days to {{ start_tip 89 }}review the CD.{{ end_tip }} Compare it to the Loan Estimate you received shortly after you applied for the loan. If you need a refresher on Loan Estimates, you can view a sample version here.)

The point of this formal review process is to ensure there are no surprises at the closing table. If there’s a significant discrepancy between the Loan Estimate and CD, notify your lender and title company immediately. Depending on what the underlying issue is, the closing has to stop and a new closing disclosure must be sent out with a new three-day review period.

There are a couple things on the LE that can’t change by the time you get the CD — namely interest rate and lender fees. Some items can change by only 10% (fees paid to local government to record the mortgage might be one); and others can change without limit, like prepaid interest, because it can’t be predicted at the start of the loan process.

When Will the Final Walk-Through Happen?

Most real estate sale contracts allow the buyer to walk through the home within 24 hours of settlement to check the property’s condition. During this final inspection, which usually takes about an hour, you and your agent will make sure any repair work that the seller agreed to make has been completed.

During the walk-through, you’ll also double-check that everything in the house is in good working order. Be sure to:

  • Run water in all the faucets and check for leaks under sinks.
  • Test appliances.
  • Check the garage door opener.
  • Flush toilets.
  • Open and close all doors.
  • Run the garbage disposal and exhaust fans.

If the home is in good shape — woo-hoo! Your next stop is the closing table.

If anything is amiss, your agent will contact the listing agent and, in most cases, negotiate to get the seller to compensate you at closing — typically in the form of a personal check — for the costs of fixing the problems yourself.

Worst-case scenario: You have to delay closing to resolve problems. In the unlikely event that happens, your agent will help you address the issue.

Who’s Invited to The Closing?

Certain people will be there. Who, exactly, depends on your state. Typically, you will be joined by:

  • Your agent
  • The seller
  • The seller’s agent
  • A title company representative
  • Your loan officer
  • Any real estate attorneys involved in the transaction

The closing usually takes place at the title company, attorney’s office, or the buyer’s or seller’s agent’s real estate office. FYI: Some states, like California, don’t require an in-person, sit-down closing because they’ve enacted legislation that allows for electronic closings with remote notaries.

Nonetheless, as the home buyer, you’ll have to sign what might seem like a mountain of paperwork — including the deed of trust, promissory note (promising the lender you’ll pay back the loan), and other documents. That cramp in your wrist will be worth it once everything is done.

How Much Will I Pay for Closing Costs?

If you’ve heard people vent frustration with the process of buying a home, then you’ve likely heard complaints about unexpected costs at closing. Let’s unpack what you should expect so you’re not surprised, too.

Closing costs can vary widely by location and your home’s purchase price. Costs are split between you and the seller, but as the buyer you’ll cover the lion’s share. You can generally expect your closing costs to be 3% to 4% of the home’s sales price. So, on a $300,000 home, you can pay anywhere from $9,000 to $12,000 in closing costs. (Meanwhile, the seller typically pays closing costs of 1% to 3% of the sales price.)

You can try to predict closing costs with calculators like Nerdwallet’s, which lets you plug in your mortgage details to get a rough estimate of what your costs will be.

Closing fees often include (but are not limited to):

  • Commission for the buyer’s agent and seller’s agent
  • A loan application fee
  • An origination fee, which lenders charge for processing your loan
  • The appraisal fee
  • A fee for pulling your credit report
  • An underwriting fee, which covers the lender’s costs of researching whether to approve you for the loan
  • A title search fee
  • Property taxes, which are due within 60 days of the purchase
  • A recording fee for filing a public land record with the courthouse

These fees are a bummer. The bright side: Almost all of them are one-time deals.

What Should I Bring? (Other than Champagne?)

At the closing you should have:

  • A government-issued photo ID
  • A copy of the ratified sales contract
  • A homeowner’s insurance certificate
  • Proof of flood insurance, if you’re buying a home in a flood zone
  • A cashier’s check, or proof of {{ start_tip 90 }}wire transfer,{{ end_tip }} to cover the remainder of the down payment and your closing costs

Also, talk to your attorney about anything else you might need to bring depending on your state or personal circumstances (such as a separation or divorce decree, should your relationship status affect the closing).

What Is Title Insurance and Why Do I Need It?

Every lender requires borrowers to purchase title insurance — a policy that protects you and the lender from outside claims of ownership of the property. Wait, you may be asking, some random person could show up and claim they own the house? Sounds crazy, but it happens.

Let’s say a previous owner didn’t pay all of their property taxes. Because those taxes remain against the property, the taxing entity could potentially take your home if you don’t have a “clean” title. Title insurance also protects you from ownership claims over liens, fraudulent claims from previous owners, clerical problems in courthouse documents, or forged signatures.

The title company will perform a comprehensive search of deeds, wills, trusts, and public records to trace the property’s history and verify that you’re becoming the rightful sole owner of the property.

Typically, lenders have a preferred title company they work with, but it’s ultimately the buyer’s decision as to which title company to use. Your agent could offer a few referrals.

Title insurance comes in two forms:

  1. Lender’s title insurance, which (no surprise) protects the lender. It’s required.
  2. Owner’s title insurance, which protects you. It’s optional but recommended because it covers your interest in the property. If the insurance company loses a battle over the title in the future but you purchased owner’s title insurance, you’re fully protected. Owner’s title insurance will also cover your legal fees if you have to defend your ownership rights in court.

Unlike most insurance policies, such as homeowner’s insurance, car insurance, and life insurance, title insurance is paid as a one-time fee at closing. The average cost of title insurance is about $544 for the lender’s policy and about $830 for the homeowner’s policy, according to ValuePenguin data. However, costs can vary significantly depending on the home you’re buying, where it’s located, and how much legwork the title company has to perform.

What If There are Last-Minute Issues? Should I Panic?

For your loan to be approved, it has to go through underwriting. The underwriter’s job is to {{ start_tip 91 }}validate all of your financials{{ end_tip }} — confirming that your income, credit, and debt haven’t changed since you were pre-approved for the loan —  as well as to review the property’s characteristics and appraisal. If everything checks out, your mortgage will be approved.

If something goes wrong during underwriting though, you’ll have to address the problem before you can close on the home. Let’s say your credit score dropped because you recently purchased a car with an auto loan, or maxed out your credit cards.This isn’t necessarily dire, but you may need to delay closing as you work with your lender to take steps to raise your score. (Also, for that reason, it’s a good idea to hold off on big purchases, avoid overusing a credit line, and doing really anything that could result in a credit inquiry until after the closing.)

OK — Can I Celebrate Now?

If you’ve made it through close … YES! Once you’ve climbed that mountain of paperwork and have those keys in your hands, you now officially, finally own a home.

Congratulations! You put in a lot of hard work — including to build relationships with your agent, your lender, and other experts along the way.

Now it’s time to start investing in other relationships. Like with your new neighbors 🙂

By: HouseLogic

If you are interested in buying or selling real estate in the Energy Corridor, please contact Connie Vallone with First Market Realty at 713 249 4177  or visit www.houstonenergycorridorhomes.com  or www.vallonehomes.com .