3 Surprising Expenses to Prepare for When You Buy Your First House

Millennials are increasingly becoming homeowners, but in some cities more than others.

When you first buy a house you expect to pay for a lot of things. Increased utility and insurance bills, furniture to fill your rooms, and perhaps even an HOA fee are all par for the course when you buy a home. Take it from me, though: it’s the little purchases that really add up and will take you by surprise.

Learn from my mistakes. Here are three things to watch out for when you buy your first home.

1. Outdoor Accouterments

As a former city apartment dweller, it never occurred to me that it might cost money (and a lot of it, at that) to keep up with the outside of a house. From sprinkler upkeep and landscaping to a lawnmower, patio furniture, and the occasional garden gnome, putting together an al fresco experience that you enjoy can really cost a fortune—and that’s before you get into structural upkeep like painting, roofing repair, and window washing.

If you can stand it, I recommend waiting until the peak outdoor season is over to really cash in on deals for outdoor goodies. Sites like Nextdoor can also put you in touch with people in your own neighborhood who might be selling or giving away exactly what you’re looking for.

2. Incidentals

The occasional paint touch-up here or maintenance need there is pretty common when you buy a new house, but why we needed ours was the big surprise. As it turns out, even though our house was listed as having central air, it did not (a small oversight on everyone’s part when it came to the walkthrough). And once we moved in, we removed two huge bookshelves in the den and discovered that the walls had been freshly painted and the white shag carpet had been replaced with wood flooring—around the bookshelves.

In other words, make sure you go through everything with a fine-tooth comb before signing on the dotted line to minimize the amount you have to spend on things like paint or varnish. In the end, none of these things would have stopped us from buying the house, but we could have asked the previous owners to help cover some of the costs.

3. Tools

My husband and I had always lived in city apartments before moving into our first house, and our hammer and screwdriver were pretty much the extent of our toolbox. As it turns out, home repairs often require more than just those two particular items.

I can’t really estimate how much we’ve spent on additional tools at this point, but taking the time to research the best prices and do some bargain hunting will certainly help you save on these items. I recommend doing the research now, before you desperately need those tools. It’s much easier to find the best deals when you don’t need that item right that very minute.

At the end of the day, it comes down to expecting the unexpected when houses are involved. But hey, that’s what an emergency savings account is for, right? Don’t have one of those yet? Here are three simple steps to starting one.

If you’re still in the market for a new home, check out our Mortgage Learning Center for expert tips and tricks for getting the most out of your mortgage.

Image: Mlenny

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How Real Estate Agents Use Your Favorite Restaurants to Sell Homes

If you love to eat, you'll want to check out our top picks for some of the best foods the world has to offer.

That pizza place down the street could make or break your home sale. The best real estate agents know how to use your favorite restaurants as evidence of a great neighborhood when they market your home to buyers—helping you get a faster sale and a better price.

Top real estate agent George Graham stands behind using your favorite haunts to your advantage when selling your home. He told us that “having great food options is definitely a consideration a person makes when buying in an urban location.”

How does your real estate agent use the trendy diner down the street to sell your house? We interviewed three top real estate agents to show you their tricks of the trade.

1. Seller’s Agents Talk Up Restaurants as a Big Part of the Community

Restaurants help create the pulse of a neighborhood. When buyers decide on a location, the neighboring restaurants and shops are an essential component to the life—and the energy—of the area they’re investing in. That’s why real estate agents often use the best restaurants in the area to advertise how great the home is. As Minneapolis real estate agent Alexander Boylan pointed out, agents are “not only selling a house, but they’re also selling a community.”

Boylan went on to say that real estate agents will often “advertise restaurants as a selling point for the home because of the walkability of the neighborhood.”

That isn’t just the case in Boylan’s market. Graham told us that many buyers are concerned with the walkability of a listing. He said that pointing out “the close proximity to great shopping, food, and restaurants is helpful, especially if you are dealing with a downtown location.”

Elizabeth Weintraub, a top-performing seller’s agent in Sacramento, even tried out the top Mexican joint in the neighborhood of her latest listing and wrote about it on her blog.

She writes, “The location is perfect. Imagine living a half block away from William Land Park. It is also close to Starbucks and a terrific Mexican restaurant with outdoor dining, Dali’s Kitchen. . . . The point is, if I lived at this home with a view of William Land Park, I would be dining almost nightly at Dali’s Kitchen.” Weintraub specifically calls out the name of the restaurant to advertise how close that house is to delicious food.

Agents use your favorite neighborhood restaurants to market your house and its community in a few ways:

1. They call out five-star restaurants or hole-in-the-wall treasures in the listing description.
2. They tell buyer’s agents the top restaurants they can tell their clients about.
3. They talk up amazing eats at the open house.

In your next meeting with your real estate agent, tell them about your favorite restaurants in the area. They can use those trendy or quaint spots to advertise your house and your neighborhood’s charms.

2. Buyer’s Agents Meet Clients at Restaurants to Show Off the Location

Buyer’s agents will use restaurants to show off the location and help their clients settle on a house. Realtor® Alex Boylan told us, “Sometimes when I have a first-time client meeting and I know they want to be in a certain area, we’ll meet at the coffee shop or the local restaurant and I’ll tell them, ‘This is a part of the community!’ That is a selling point for the community they want to be in.”

This immersion in the neighborhood helps buyers get a solid grasp of its vibe and culture. It’s similar to exploring a city for the first time—you wouldn’t visit the tourist traps to get to know what it’s really like. You’d walk up and down the city’s streets, find a coffee shop, and sit there for a while. That’s what buyer’s agents do to give their clients a more complete picture of the area.

Boylan even goes the extra mile and “buys gift cards for the clients as welcome home gifts for moving into the neighborhood so they can visit their local restaurants.”

The best way you can get buyer’s agents to show their clients the great restaurants in your area is to communicate with your own real estate agent. They can talk to top buyer’s agents at their firm and in the area to make sure they know the hot spots and family-friendly joints perfect for a coffee meeting that shows off the neighborhood.

3. Seller’s Agents Use Restaurants to Attract Buyers with Active Social Lives

Restaurants are an important part of social life for millennials, and nearby eateries are also a big draw for couples and families who take their kids out to eat after school or after activities on the weekend. Without nearby spots, these clients are forced to travel farther to meet up with friends or for a great meal, which isn’t ideal.

According to Weintraub, showing off the great restaurants in the area can be a big draw for millennials who brunch and party at the local haunts with their friends. She told us that “properly marketed, a hot-spot restaurant or even a trendy hole-in-the-wall near a group of homes is a big selling benefit to many millennials today. That particular buying group likes to meet friends at restaurants and watering holes. That’s their social life. They generally do not entertain at home.”

Take note of which restaurants you think your agent should use to market to specific types of buyers. For example, the pasta place with delicious spaghetti and paper tablecloths the kids can draw on is a great place to show off to families. The trendy bar-restaurant combo with the best cocktail in town is perfect for nightlife-hungry millennials. It really depends on your area, and your agent will know the type of buyer you’ll need to woo.

Your Local Food Scene Is One of Your Property’s Greatest Assets

The best way you can take advantage of your favorite restaurants is to tell your real estate agent about them. Though they will be a local expert and probably have a good idea of which eats are the best, they won’t know exactly which ones are your favorite and why. So tell your agent about the hole-in-the-wall diner that you love because your kids love the apple pie. Specifics like that help agents market your house even better.

As Boylan told us, telling buyers about the best restaurants really says, “Hey welcome to the community—now go enjoy it!”

Once you’ve successfully sold your own home by leveraging the power of your local eateries, you may be in the market for a new home—and a new mortgage. Find out everything you need to know about mortgages in our Mortgage Learning Center.

Image: mactrunk

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