Courtesy Visit St. Pete/Clearwater
We are African-Americans and want to retire to a diverse area with moderate population, warm, beach, culture. We can afford a better-than-average lifestyle and want to feel accepted in our new community â hopefully somewhere with high walkability and homes with character. And maybe near a major airport…. for lots of traveling.
Let me know what you come up with.Â Thanks.
We all know there are plenty of beach towns in the U.S., but finding one with personality is a bigger challenge.
Iâm going to leave out some obvious places, like Miami Beach and, though less diverse, Hilton Head. On the West Coast, no Southern California. Too obvious. Plus, while you can afford a better-than average lifestyle, home prices there are so high that they could hamper your travel budget. The same goes for Sag Harbor and the Hamptons more broadly (plus youâd still have winter on Long Island).
Instead, Iâll look for some off-the-beaten path possibilities. Iâm sure readers will have their own suggestions.
As always, explore the area in all seasons, and be realistic about the retirement budget. When you find your dream place, ask which areas are susceptible to flooding during hurricanes and other storms.
The Atlantic: Wilmington, North Carolina
Check out the Cape Fear region, which includes Wilmington as well as beach towns like Carolina Beach and the more upscale Wrightsville Beach.
WilmingtonÂ is growing quickly and at 123,000 people has more than half of New Hanover Countyâs population. The share of those 65 and older are roughly in line with the U.S. average. Look for a place where youâll catch a breeze off the Intracoastal Waterway or the ocean to counter the summer humidity â so not too far inland.
Youâll have no shortage of cultural offerings, starting withÂ Thalian Hall, theÂ Cameron Art MuseumÂ and theÂ Wilson Center. The University of North Carolina Wilmington, which has 17,000 students, lets those 65 and olderÂ audit classes for free, while itsÂ Osher Lifelong Learning InstituteÂ offers shorter courses to those 50 and older.
Be sure to explore theÂ Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, which stretches from Wilmington to Jacksonville, Fla., and is home to cultural groups descended from enslaved peoples from West and Central Africa.Â Poplar Grove PlantationÂ is one local site.
Winter days get into the 50s, with average lows in the 40s. Average highs in July are in the 80s.
Hereâs whatâs on the housing market now inÂ WilmingtonÂ and inÂ New Hanover CountyÂ using Realtor.com (which, like MarketWatch, is owned by News Corp.).
As for travel, whileÂ Wilmington has an airport, youâll have more choicesÂ flying from RaleighÂ two hours away.
The Gulf of Mexico: Gulfport, Florida
Floridaâs popularity with retirees is no secret, in part because itâs affordable and has no state income tax. But all too often, home means living in a high rise or a gated community.
Gulfport, though, is described asÂ how Key West was before it became overrun with tourists.
This town of 12,000, just west of St. Petersburg, is your artsy, funky, walkable spot in the middle of the Tampa Bay metro area and its 3 million people. Youâll also find plenty of retirees; 30% of Gulfportâs residents are 65 or older.
Gulfport comes with sunset views from its own (man-made) strip of sand over Boca Ciega Bay so, yes, itâs on the Gulf side of Florida but technically not on the Gulf of Mexico. But opposite the bay is St. Pete Beach, whichÂ gets raves from TripAdvisorÂ (a local says head to the Pass-A-Grille section at the southern tip). When you tire of that, there are more white-sand beaches to sink your toes in, including Siesta Beach in Sarasota an hour south (andÂ Dr. Beachâs pick in 2017 for best beach in the U.S.) as well as Caladesi Island State Park (No. 6 on Dr. Beachâs list this year) an hour north.
And if you just want to walk, donât overlook theÂ 45-mile Pinellas TrailÂ that stretches from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs and goes through the northern edge of Gulfport.
For bigger getaways, thereâsÂ Tampa International Airport.
To get a sense of the local housing market,Â hereâs whatâs for sale now, again using Realtor.com.
As you explore the Tampa area, also check out Safety Harbor, a town of 18,000 on the western side of Tampa Bay with its own walkable downtown, and Dunedin (pronounced Duh-nee-din) north of Clearwater thatâs also popular with retirees. You know thereâs plenty of cultural offerings in a metro this size. One that might be easy to overlook: theÂ Dr. Carter G. Woodson African-American MuseumÂ in St. Petersburg.
The Pacific: Oahu, Hawaii
If year-round pleasant weather is the priority, Hawaii canât be beat. Average highs are in the 80s year-round, and average lows bottom out in the mid-60s. Of course thereâs no shortage ofÂ beautiful beaches.
When you tire of water, take advantage of wonderfulÂ hiking opportunities. And while the focus of your international travels might shift toward Asia, you may want to spend more time just staying, discovering Hawaiian culture andÂ exploring some of the national parks.
You admittedly wonât find a big population of African-Americans here, butÂ Hawaiians have a much more open and fluid view of race and diversityÂ than many of us on the mainland.
Start your search for your retirement life on Oahu Island. About a third of the islandâs million residents live in Honolulu itself,Â one of the countryâs most diverse and affluent citiesÂ and the birthplace of President Barack Obama. Curious aboutÂ sites associated with himÂ in some way?Â Here are even more.
Youâll find plenty of cultural offerings in Honolulu (including some ofÂ Hawaiiâs best festivals, as voted by readers of Hawaiâi Magazine), plus the state university (those 60 and older can audit classes for free).
Thereâs even Costco, if thatâs your thing. Oh, andÂ that Elvis statue…
Yes, thereâs the cost of getting everything to Hawaii â some things will be even more expensive than parts of California. HereâsÂ what the local housing market looks like.
If Honolulu is too pricey, consider some of the smaller towns on the island. Or check out the less-populated (and cheaper) Big Island, also known as Hawaii Island. Start with theÂ Kalaoa area.
The post We Want a Diverse Area With Moderate Population, Warm, Beach and CultureâSo Where Should We Retire? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.comÂ®.
Being a victim of tax related identity theft can leave you scrambling to take the proper steps to set things right. Here’s are the things you need to do.
The post A Guide For Victims Of Tax Related Identity Theft appeared first on Bible Money Matters and was written by Peter Anderson. Copyright Â© Bible Money Matters – please visit biblemoneymatters.com for more great content.
First-time home buyers today face a tough road, shopping for homes during a pandemic, high housing prices, and deep economic uncertainty. For military families deployed overseas, it’s all even trickier to figure out.
In this second story in our new series “First-Time Home Buyer Confessions,” we talked with husband and wife Kyle LaVallee and Natalie Johnson. They were renting an apartment in Fayetteville, NC, when they decided to start shopping for their own home in the area in April.
At the time, LaVallee was stationed in the Middle East as a sergeant in the U.S. Army. Yet even though he was thousands of miles away, he managed to attend every home tour with Johnson via FaceTime. In July, they closed on a brick, ranch-style three-bedroom that LaVallee would not see in person until a long-awaited trip home in October.
Here’s the couple’s home-buying story, the hardest challenges they faced, and what LaVallee thought of his new house once he home managed to lay eyes on it for the first time.
Location: Fayetteville, NC
House specs: 1,166 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms
List price: $111,900
Price paid: $115,000
A pandemic plus deployment seems like a tough time to buy your first house. What convinced you to forge ahead?
Johnson: Kyle was deployed in October 2019 while we were renting a one-bedroom apartment in Fayetteville. Kyle wasnât fond of renewing the apartment leaseâwe had been there for two years and were running out of space. We wanted to get a dog; we wanted a yard, and our own property where we can do anything we wanted.
We started educating ourselves on the process. We knew a mortgage was going to be significantly less than what we were paying in rent. Kyle thought it would be smart to buy because [nearby] Fort Bragg is one of the biggest military bases in the world. If we ever leave or get stationed somewhere else, weâre not going to have a problem finding anyone to rent it. And we could always come back.
LaVallee:Â I was interested in gaining equity and ownership, rather than just paying to rent something I’d never own in the end.
Johnson:Â We started looking at houses back in January. In April, we kept seeing information about lowering interest rates. Thatâs why we got serious about the process in the middle of the pandemic, and when we connected with our real estate agent, Justin Kirk with Century 21.
How much did you put down on the houseâand how’d you save for it?
Johnson: We put 20% down.
LaVallee: I was making a lot of money while I was deployed, and I had no expenses really. I was just saving everything I had, knowing I wanted to invest it in a house.
Johnson: I cut spending. I didnât buy things I wanted, just what I needed. The pandemic helped a lot, honestly because we obviously couldnât go out.
LaVallee:Â We qualified for a VA loan, but we just wound up using a conventional loan. Most people in the military will use a VA loan where you donât put any money down, but [since we had enough saved] we wanted the lowest monthly mortgage payments.
What were you looking for in a house?
LaVallee:Â We knew we might [eventually] be moving, so it wasnât like it had to be a house we would stay in forever, more of an investment property.
Johnson: We were looking for things that would be attractive to future renters. We had a military family in mind because Fayetteville’s got more than 50,000 active-duty. We looked for a location close to a Fort Bragg entrance. We thought three bedrooms was perfect for us because our families are close with each other, so theyâll all come down at the same time so weâll have two extra bedrooms for them. Kyle really wanted a garage, so that was a huge thing.
LaVallee: Garages arenât very common down here, so that limited a lot of options for us. A lot of houses have carports, or they finish the garage and turn it into a bonus room.
Johnson: We wanted something that needed a bit of fixing up, because we like to be handy and put our personal touch on everything, and we ultimately knew that would be a lower-cost house.
How many homes did you see in person, and how did Kyle participate from overseas?
Johnson:Â It was 10 or 12 homes. We were out three to four times a week looking at places with our real estate agent. We wore our masks for the tours, and I used hand sanitizer since I was opening and closing drawers and closets. Most were vacant, but we did tour one house that still had people living in it, although they were gone during the tour, so we avoided touching a lot of things.
During tours we FaceTimed Kyle in. We figured that was probably the most convenient way to do it since he could see every single house and room in detail.
LaVallee:Â Well, I couldnât really see all the details.
Johnson: He got to know our real estate agent really well via FaceTime. Our agent would say, “Let me know if you need me to hold Kyle while you go look in this room.” I felt so bad, though, because I work full time, so I’d tour homes around 5:30 in the evening, which for Kyle was 2:30 in the morning. But he stayed up for every single tour.
LaVallee:Â I was sometimes frustrated not being able to be there. I left it all up to her. I had to trust the feelings and vibes she got from each house.
How many offers did you make before you had one accepted?
Johnson:Â We put three earlier offers in.
LaVallee:Â They would be listed and the next day would be sold. The first three offers we put in were asking price, and Iâm pretty sure everybody else offered more, and ours were never even considered.
Johnson:Â It was ridiculous. It was definitely a sellerâs market, so you had to act really fast and you had to be really competitive. On our fourth offer, we ended up at $3,100 over asking. I felt like we had to fight for this house.
Were you competing with other offers for the house you bought?
LaVallee:Â There were multiple offers.
Johnson: Our real estate agent told us, “You should definitely write a letter and talk about how Kyleâs gone right now and youâre first-time home buyers and this one really clicked with you,â which it did. The second I walked in, itâs this adorable brick house, itâs super homey, it has a great yard. In the letter, we just talked about how all of that was so attractive to us as first-time home buyers, and we were really excited and could see ourselves in this home.
Our real estate agent suggested going in higher than asking, so we just rounded up to $115,000. He also suggested doing a higher due diligence paymentâwe usually did $200, but this time around we did $500. And the earnest fee we put in was $500 or $600.
After our offer was accepted, we knew it was going to be kind of difficult with the home inspection. They were already redoing the roof, which was a huge cost on their part, so asking for more was definitely going to be a challenge. So we didnât ask for much.
What surprised you about the home-buying process?
Johnson:Â How fast it went, for me at least. Our first home tour was in April and then by June, we had found our house and the contracts were written up. I guess I was expecting it maybe to be double the time that it actually was, but houses were just turning over so fast, we had to act fast.
LaVallee:Â From my side, I thought it happened very slowly! I felt like so much was happening in between each step in the process. I had to be patient because I had so little control of the situation, other than just trying to stay involved and be a part of it.
Johnson:Â You never really think that when youâre married, youâre going to buy your first house while your husband is on the other side of the world. But we got through it.
So Natalie, you were living in the house for a few months before Kyle returned from deployment in October to see it. What was that homecoming like?
Johnson:Â He came home a few days shy of the 365-day mark. We were anxious and excited. Several other families and I waited outside of a hangar on base, and soon after hearing their plane landing, we saw the group walking toward us and everyone start cheering and crying.
Because it was dark when we got home, Kyle couldnât see the outside of the house much, or the “Welcome Home” decorations I hung up! But the moment he set foot in the front door, he just stood there and looked around with the biggest smile on his face.
I gave him the grand tour the next morning. He said it looked much bigger than what he saw on FaceTime. We celebrated with a home-cooked meal and the wine our agent gave us when we closed. It was really special.
LaVallee:Â I came home to a nice house. Natalie was worried I would come back to culture shock. But Iâve felt at home ever since Iâve been here.
What’s your advice for aspiring first-time home buyers?
Johnson:Â I would say to go with your gut. Some of the houses youâll tour are really logical to buy, but if they have a bad vibe or theyâre just not really welcoming, then look at others. A healthy balance between logic and feeling is important.
LaVallee:Â We didn’t even know what we wanted until we saw five or six houses, so itâs definitely important to shop around and see what’s out there.
Johnson: We really didnât know much. I told our real estate agent, “Hey, listen, weâre really going to need some guidance. We donât know what things mean, we need you to break it down for us. You have to be patient with us.” I reached out to three different real estate agents, and Justin was the one who not only answered all my questions but was giving a ton of positive feedback. It was nice to have that encouragement, and it definitely made us more confident. You learn a lot by looking at houses, you learn a ton about yourself.
The post What This Military Family Facedâand FoughtâTo Buy Its First House appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.comÂ®.
Video tours have quickly become the norm in the COVID-19 era as a safe way to get a closer look at the house you want to see in person. And while no doubt the kitchenÂ andÂ living room are high on your list to check out, the bedroom deserves more than a passing glance.
After all, a bedroom isn’t just a place to catch some zzz’s; it’s also a place that can function as a retreat or a quiet workspace. For your kids, it’s a room to play, do homework, and host sleepovers. And sure, a bedroom’s size and closet space are importantâbut they’re not the only things you should ask to see during a video tour. In fact, glossing over the bedroom could mean huge peeves after you buyâor worse, real problems that cost you money.
Here are some potential issues you might find hiding in the boudoir.
1. It might not actually be a bedroom
“Many listings will call a bonus room a bedroom even if it does not have a closet and a window, which is technically not correct, ” says John Gluch, founder of the Gluch Group in Scottsdale, AZ.
The legal requirements for classifying a room as a bedroom vary by state. Still, while taking the video tour, you should verify that bedrooms have a door and a window as two means of escape in an emergency.
The ceiling should be tall enough for a person to comfortably stand, and the square footage sufficient to accommodate a bed.
Be sure to ask your agent if the room is legally considered a bedroom.
2. There’s no privacy
Have your agent scan the windows and sills to check their condition. Take note of features such as triple-pane or tilt-and-turn windows.
Finally, check the view.
“You’ll want to know if a large, beautiful window in the master bedroom lacks privacy and looks right into a neighbor’s yard,” says Jennifer Smith, a RealtorÂ® with Southern Dream Homes in Wake Forest, NC.
3. The fixtures and outlets are dated or in bad shape
“Buyers’ eyes tend to naturally go toward the beautifully made bed with lots of accent pillows and the art hanging on the walls,” Smith says. “But it’s important to remember to look at the more permanent features of the room that you’ll have to live with day to day.”
Ask your agent to zoom in on things like the flooring, ceiling fan, light fixtures, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and heating and cooling vents. Is there a radiator hiding behind the headboard or an air conditioner in the window?
Be sure to find out how many outlets are in the room. Older houses often have fewer outlets, and they may be the outdated, two-prong variety, which isn’t grounded.
4. The early morning sun will wake you up
Oodles ofÂ natural light is a coveted featureâunless the morning sunlight wakes you up hours before your alarm goes off.
“Many Realtors and home buyers who visit a property at varying times throughout the day unintentionally fail to consider what the exposure is like at 5:30 a.m. with the sunrise,” says Gluch.
Curtains and blinds are obvious solutions, but you may not want to cover windows that showcase a beautiful view or are placed high in a vaulted ceiling.
5. Your furniture won’t fit
Whether it’s a large master suite or a children’s bedroom, pay attention to how much furniture is in the room and how it’s arranged, Smith says.
“Staging declutters and depersonalizes a space as much as possible, so buyers should think about how their current belongings will fit or if they’d have to buy all-new furniture,” says Smith.
Ask the listing agent for the dimensions of the bed and/or dresser for comparison. But if the dresser is missing, it could mean the bedroom has a large closet with organizational options.
Ask to see inside all the closets, and make note of the size, shelves, and other organizational components.
6. The bedrooms are in an inconvenient location
It’s easy to get disoriented when you’re taking a live video tour, so “buyers shouldn’t forget to pay attention to where bedrooms are located in the house,” Smith advises.
Ask yourself how the locations of the bedroom will suit your lifestyle. Will you be more comfortable with the kids’ bedrooms on the same floor? Is the master suite adjacent to a busy living room or kitchen? Where are the bathrooms in reference to the bedrooms?
7. The master bathroom doesn’t offer separation
A spacious master suite isn’t just a place to rest your weary head at night. It’s your future dream retreat, where you can sink into a soothing bath or luxuriate in a rainfall shower. But if you want a bit of privacy, be mindful of how the master suite is laid out.
“Many people overlook the fact that there is not a door between the bedroom and the bathroom,” says Gluch. “Likewise, many floor plans now have a water closetâa small toilet room with a doorâbut do not have a door separating the bedroom from the rest of the bath.”
8. There might be potential safety hazards
If you’re looking at a multilevel home or a house with a bedroom in the basement, verify fire escape routes.
“Consider potential safety hazards such as how difficult it might be to drop a fire escape ladder out of an upstairs bedroom window or a ladder up from a basement bedroom,” says Gluch.
Basement bedrooms should have an egress window, and upper-floor windows should be clear of obstructions like trees or sections of the house that would make an emergency exit difficult.
The post 8 Hidden Problems in the Bedroom You Might Not Spot in a Home Video Tour appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.comÂ®.
Viorel Kurnosov/Getty Images
Buying a home sight unseen might seem like a massive gamble: plunking down hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of dollars on a property you’ve never set foot in, your fingers crossed it looks just like the photos and doesn’t have major issues! So how lucky do you feel, anyway?
But during the pandemicâwhen stay-at-home restrictions made touring a property difficult and folks were eager to get out of densely populated citiesâgreater numbers of buyers than ever before were more game to buy sight unseen.
One of those buyers was Jenny Haiar of Sioux Falls, SD, who recently went through the virtual process of purchasing a new condominium in Scottsdale, AZ. She purchased a one-bedroom, one-bathroom with a view of the mountains.
How have Haiar and other buyers like her successfully bought a home sight unseen? Sure, the process comes with risks and challenges, but, if done right, it’s possible to land a property that checks all your boxes. Just be sure to avoid the following mistakes.
1. Not asking the right questions
Zach Combs at Northrop Realty in Maryland says asking questions is the No. 1 tool in purchasing a home. The simple equation: the more you ask, the more comfortable you will be when it comes time to sign the paperworkâso let the queries fly.
âI ultimately compiled a list of everything I thought of regarding my day-to-day and work-life needs, goals, and expectations,” says Haiar. âThis was about eight months of questions and answers to gain a full understanding of the homeowners association, rules, policies, buying process, and more.â
Combs says you can never ask your real estate agent or potential new HOA too many questions, so jot down each and every one.
2. Not hiring the best local agent for the job
A local real estate agent can serve as your eyes and ears when buying a home sight unseen.
Haiar knew exactly what she was looking for, but she didn’t live in Arizona.
âI felt a local agent based in Scottsdale could give me the best overall birdâs-eye view of properties. I never felt pressured to look at anything that didn’t fit my criteria,â says Haiar.
Vet agents by looking at personal testimonies, and don’t be afraid to ask them for a list of references. You canÂ use a real estate site (such asÂ this one!) to uncover more info about how long the agents have been at the job, their sales volume, the areas they specialize in, andÂ client reviews.
3. Not fully using all technology
FaceTime tours, Google Street View, and online property listings are all useful tools you need to take advantage of when buying a house sight unseen.
âUse every bit of technology available for the listings you are interested in,” says Combs. “Not all listing agents or sellers pay for a 3D tour, but if they have one, use it to understand the flow of the house.”
He says at the very least, buyers should always video-chat with their agent to see the house and get a feel of the space.
4. Not demanding a floor plan
While a floor plan may not always be available, it is an important detail buyers should not overlook.
âIf you have an open space in your current dwelling, either outside or inside, where you can tape off the actual room sizes, then you can make a mock layout with your furniture. This will help you truly understand if the space really can work for you and your family,â says Combs.Â
If a floor plan is unavailable, ask if your agent can measure the rooms and give a crude layout of the space. If an agent can get the measurements, Combs recommends buyers use Floorplanner.com, a free tool that can help you visualize your potential new home.
Understanding the floor plan was crucial for Haiar. When coordinating furniture delivery, she says, it was important to know the items fit in her space.
5. Not getting an appraisal and a home inspection
Giving a home a good walk-through is important with any home purchase, but buying sight unseen means calling in the experts.
âIf you are purchasing the home with a loan, your lender will require an appraisal for them to be able to close the loan,â says Combs. âIf you’re buying with cash, then it would be up to you.”
But regardless of how you’re financing the purchase, Combs says buyers should get a home inspection when buying sight unseen, âso you know exactly how much work the house needs and if you are comfortable handling those repairs.â
Haiar says itâs also important to have an insurance broker review insurance requirements and your HOA policy and coverage (if applicable).
The post Avoid These 5 Mistakes When Buying a Home Sight Unseen appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.comÂ®.
Utahâs real estate market has been hot nearly the whole year. How did it perform in November? Homie has your update!
Data from Utah MLS from November 1, 2020 to November 30, 2020.
According to data from the Utah MLS, Utah had 4,335 sales from November 1, 2020 to November 30, 2020. Of those sales, 75.6% were single-family homes, while 24.4% were multi-family residences.
The sales this month are slightly lower than the 5,602 sales in October of this year, but itâs a +18% increase from November 2019, which is an even larger percentage increase than the year-over-year comparison we saw in October. This means the market is following the usual end-of-year slowdown, but the market is still quite strong compared to a year ago.
Even though monthly sales saw the usual end-of-year slow-down, sale prices continued to rise. At $379K, Utahâs median sale price rose +2.4% from October of this year and 16.8% from November 2019.
List Price (Per Square Foot)
List prices in Utah rose during November along with sales prices. Novemberâs median list price per square foot was $175.92, which is up from the previous monthsâ median of $170.25 per square foot.
Days on Market (DOM)
Homes in Utah continue to sell quickly. The Average Cumulative Days on Market (DOM) during November was 9. This is a 72% decrease from November of last year. Prospective Utah homeowners will need to act quickly to get the homes theyâre interested in.
Number of Homes Listed With Homie
A total of 182 homies listed their homes with Homie during the month of November. This number is up from 154 during the same time period last year.
Turn to a Homie
Homieâs local real estate agents can help you navigate Utahâs hot housing market and find your ideal home. Work with a Homie to get an amazing deal whether youâre buying or selling. Click the links to get in touch with your dedicated agent.
The post Homieâs Utah Housing Market Update November 2020 appeared first on Homie Blog.