Daily News And Advice
How to Deal with a Neighbor Dispute
Disputes with neighbors are prevalent. Some of the most frequent reasons people report having conflicts with the people who live around them include:
• Noise: Maybe your neighbors have a different sleep schedule than your own or enjoy late-night parties, but overall most people surveyed say that this is their top complaint with their neighbors.
• Pets: Problems with pets can include not cleaning up after them on other people’s property, barking at all hours, or maybe a pet that’s aggressive or not well-trained.
• Appearance of a home: If there’s a visual nuisance in a neighbor’s front or back yard, it can lead to disputes. Offensive items on a property, lawns that aren’t well-kept, holiday decorations that overstay their welcome, and trash are all specific situations that impact the appearance of a home and can create a dispute.
• Property boundaries: Dealing with where one property ends and another begins can contribute to problems between neighbors. For example, you may argue about how much of the lawn you should mow or where a fence can go.
• Parking: If you live in the suburbs this might not be as big of an issue, but if you live in an urban area, then parking can become a bigger problem. Even in the suburbs, it can be an issue if for example someone is parking on the street when they shouldn’t be or if they are blocking your driveway.
Regardless of the specifics, what should you do if you’re having an issue with a neighbor?
Evaluate the Situation
Before you take any action, consider whether or not the issue you’re having with a neighbor impacts you in any major way. It may not be worth raising the issue if it’s not something that’s truly affecting your quality of life.
We all get annoyed sometimes, but what your neighbor is doing might not be that unreasonable.
Also, if something is a one-time thing and it doesn’t happen again, you might not need to say anything.
Keep a Log of the Events
If you’ve taken the time to cool off and evaluate the situation and you still feel like it’s a real issue that you’re going to have to address at some point, keep a log of the offending events. For example, if your neighbor is having a loud party every Friday night, make notes.
Know if Any Rules or Guidelines are Being Broken
If you live in an apartment community or you have a homeowners’ association, there may be rules against what your neighbor is doing. If that’s the case, you might be able to talk to the governing organization and see if they can handle the situation.
While you’re at it, if you want to resolve an issue, you may have more power in numbers. Talk to other neighbors and see if they’re bothered by the same things as you. If so, you might approach the offending neighbor as a group.
Try to Avoid a Face-to-Face Conversation
If possible, try to approach your neighbor in writing with a letter or email, as opposed to going to them in person. It can escalate a situation if you go to your neighbor in person. When you’re writing them, be direct and polite.
You might also mention any compromises you have considered. For example, if their dog is continuously barking, maybe you suggest that someone take the dog out during the day while they’re at work.
Finally, if you can’t solve your neighborly dispute, you might need the help of a third party. It can be a professional mediator, someone from your housing association or a landlord.
Don’t immediately go to a lawyer or the police unless something dangerous or illegal is happening.
Regardless of the outcome, remember this is someone you’re going to continue to live near, so try your best to keep things calm and relaxed, no matter how frustrated you are.
When Do You Need a Permit for a Renovation or Remodel?
You’ve made the decision that you’re going to do a home improvement project of some type. So a big question becomes whether or not you need a permit. The short answer is that it depends, but below we’ll go into more details about what you should know in these situations.
What Are Building Permits?
Building permits are an authorization put in writing by your city or county that gives you permission to do some type of construction. The objective of building permits is to ensure compliance with zoning and building codes in your local municipality.
When Do You Need a Permit?
When you’re considering a home renovation or remodel, these are some projects where a permit is often required:
• Taking out a load-bearing wall
• Changing the roofline of your house
• Expanding your house or changing the layout in any major way
• Installing circuits or new electrical wiring
• Adding a fence that’s over a certain height—usually over six feet
• Demolition such as using a dumpster that’s going to be parked on a public street
• Building decks that are over a certain height
• Anything involving a sewer line
• Building an addition
• Building a garage
• Work that requires a new opening like adding exterior windows or doors
• Adding a fireplace
• Garage conversions
• Installing a new water heater, furnace, or air conditioner
• Installing a pool, including in-ground and above-ground
Situations where you might need a permit, but you don’t always need one include:
• Plumbing work such as moving a sink or changing drain lines
• Demolishing a non-load-bearing wall
• Replacing windows or doors
• Removing a tree on your property
• Adding a retaining wall
When Do You Not Need a Permit?
Situations where you usually don’t need a permit include:
• Adding new roof materials
• Parking a dumpster on your own property for demolition
• Changing your flooring
• Replacing a sink
• Painting—interior or exterior
• Replacing countertops
• New siding
• Minor electrical work
• Adding decks below 30 inches
• Adding detached buildings like a storage shed that’s one-story and doesn’t require electrical or plumbing work
• Replacing decking surface materials
• Replacing fixtures in kitchens and bathrooms
What is the Process to Get a Permit?
If you think your project will need permits, they are issued by local municipalities based on city ordinances where you live. Building codes aren’t based on federal or state standards. Instead, they vary from city to city. If you’re working with a contractor, they should know whether you need permits with your project and how to get them.
If you’re doing the work yourself, you need to determine this. Also, don’t assume that your contractor is handling the permits—verify.
If you don’t get the permits it may stop your renovations or complicate trying to sell your home later on. You have to show that you have the proper permits if you’re going through a home inspection or appraisal process.
You can apply for a permit through your local municipal government office. If the project is relatively simple, you may be able to get the permit right away, but if it’s more complex, there may need to be an inspection of your plans.
Also, during the process of the renovation, inspections of the work may be done. If you’re doing a large project, usually there will be multiple required inspections. After the work is complete, there can be a final inspection, and the permit can be issued.
The big takeaway from all of this is that many projects where you’re going to change your home will require a permit, especially when changing the structure. It’s better to be on the safe side when determining if you need a permit, and no matter who is actually doing the work, it’s your responsibility as a homeowner to make sure you get the correct permits.
Inspection vs. Appraisal: How Do They Compare?
When you’re buying a home, you’ll need two types of inspections—one is the actual inspection, and the other is the appraisal. They seem similar at first glance because both, as you might guess, involve a walkthrough of the property. They have different purposes, however. The information obtained is also reported to different parties.
What is a Home Inspection?
An inspection is thorough and is done by a professional, qualified home inspector. The inspector will look at the safety elements of a home and the integrity of the structure.
The systems and structural elements an inspector looks at include the plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems, roofing, and siding.
A home inspection takes a few hours. Then, when it’s done, the inspector reports to the buyer.
If you’re the buyer, you can use the inspection information to decide whether or not buying the home is a suitable investment for you.
When you sign a contract with a seller, one of the first things you’ll do is schedule an inspection. If you’re in a competitive market, you might hire an inspector before you make an offer.
It’s up to you to choose a good, reputable inspector.
A buyer and their agent can attend an inspection, and it’s worth the time and money to make sure the property you want to buy doesn’t have any major, potentially expensive issues you should know about.
Sometimes, you might waive the inspection contingency, so you have a stronger offer, but you’re taking a risk in doing so.
Most states require sellers to disclose issues in a home when they’re selling it, but there’s no guarantee there isn’t a lurking issue that the seller simply isn’t aware of.
What is an Appraisal?
An appraisal is something almost all lenders are going to require you to have to get a mortgage. The appraisal’s purpose is to determine the estimated market value of a home. A third-party appraiser makes this determination based on factors like the home's location, the value of properties that are similar and recently sold in the area, and the condition of the house.
The appraisal process will include a walkthrough, but it’s not as in-depth as an inspection. Then, the appraiser will research the comparables in the area and create a report.
The report will highlight the appraiser’s determination of the market value of the home. The lender will then use the appraisal report when they decide to approve a loan amount.
A lender can’t finance more than 97% of the home's appraised value in most cases. If there’s an appraisal that comes back lower than the price you offer, then you have to pay the difference out of pocket, renegotiate, or leave the deal.
If the appraisal comes back and it’s higher than your offer price, you already have more equity in your home.
How Do the Two Compare?
The following are some specific differences between an inspection and appraisal:
• A home appraisal is something required by your lender if you’re buying a home, but a home inspection isn’t needed.
• Your lender orders an appraisal. If you want an inspection, you arrange this yourself.
• An inspection doesn’t affect your ability to get the loan amount you need, but an appraisal can.
• Appraisers only look at the surface features of a home, but an inspector looks for deeper issues.
• During an inspection, you’re encouraged to walk with the inspector, but an appraiser usually goes through the process without anyone present.
• During an inspection, if you’re there, the inspector will explain things to you as you go along. With an appraisal, you don’t know anything until the report is complete.
• Inspections only consider the property's condition during the assessment, but an appraisal looks at local factors like crime rates in the area, lot size, and comparable home prices.
Overall, while there are differences, both an inspection and an appraisal are beneficial to a homeowner because they help you get the peace of mind of knowing that your home is worth what you’re going to pay for it and that it’s a safe place for you to live.
Also, both are completed by a third party, so you can feel more secure in your overall decision to buy a home.
Tips for Choosing a Home Builder
If you’ve decided you’re going to build a custom home rather than buying an existing one, the process of getting started can be intimidating. When you buy an existing home, you know what you’re getting. When you’re going to do a custom build, there is a lot of uncertainty.
One of the first things you have to do is choose a home builder.
The following are some of the things you should generally know about choosing a builder and tips to help you along the way.
What Is a Home Builder?
The term home builder is a broad one. It can refer to any contractor who builds residential housing, but there are subcategories within the larger category of a home builder.
There are home builders for hire. This means that you hire a company, and they have a team of professionals who work in-house. The team manages every aspect of the project, and you get a turnkey final result.
Another option is to hire a general contractor. A general contractor will hire people and manage them. They will ultimately build your home. A general contractor is also responsible for getting materials and permits.
You might have your own architect design your home, and then you would hire a general contractor to build it.
When you hire a general contractor, you would typically sign an agreement that would include a fee of up to 20% of the cost of the project, which would cover your contractor’s services.
Then, there’s the option to hire project managers or a construction management company. They may hire subcontractors and get materials, and they’ll charge a fee for overseeing the process.
Choosing The Right Builder
Now that you have a general idea of the types of homebuilders, how do you start choosing the best one for your project?
• Know your niche. When you’re building a home, think about your budget, the size, and the style. You want to look for a company that specializes in the niche that your home will fall into. For example, if you’re building a custom starter home, you’re not going to hire a company specializing in luxury properties.
• Before you start talking to any builders, have a list of the most important things to you and a clear idea of what you want.
• As you’re comparing contractors, you want to ask to see examples of their work. You’ll also want to know how long they’ve been in business.
• Online reviews can give you some valuable information about contractors.
• Check the credentials of builders. This includes state licensing, and you want to make sure they have updated insurance.
• Does the builder offer a warranty?
• You should visit a builder’s recently built homes in person, and if possible, take a tour, although this might not always be an option.
What to Ask Builders
You should interview at least several builders. Before you do this, as was touched on above, you do need to have an idea of what your expectations and anticipated timeline are.
Some specific questions you should ask include whether or not they’re happy to provide references and if they guarantee their work. You’ll need to talk about how allowances are determined, the type of materials they use, such as copper or plastic plumbing, and once you decide on a builder, every detail of what you agree upon needs to be in writing.
When potential builders give you references, you should actually call them. Along with clients, references should include vendors and subcontractors.
If you have no idea where to start as far as finding someone, begin with your local home builder’s association. That organization can give you a list of builders who work in your area.
You might also be able to get help from local real estate agents, friends, or relatives who have worked with a builder.
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