Real Estate News & More

A Townhouse vs. a Detached House

townhouseWhen choosing between a townhouse or detached home, take your lifestyle, family size, where you work and your stage of life into consideration. Buy a home that fits your current and future needs. The type of home you decide on plays a significant role in your quality of life.

Definition

Townhouses are homes joined by a common wall, usually with access to the outside and a small yard area that may be share by the unit’s residents or by the entire townhome community. The homeowner may own the land on which a townhouse sits, but more than likely must share ownership of that land as part of a condominium or homeowner’s association. Detached houses are homes built on their own lots. Traditionally, a detached home offers more privacy than a townhouse and may have fewer restrictions, depending on its location. The home owner may also own the land the home sits on independent of others in the development.

Prices

Detached townhomes may have higher price tags than townhouses because they are not connected to another home. Townhouses can be located in communities that may or may not offer amenities, generally these homes have a more affordable price tag.  Townhouse owners may have less control over property usage. This also may be true of detached homes located in homeowners’ associations.

Maintenance

It goes without saying that a smaller yard requires less maintenance. If a townhouse is part of a condominium or homeowner’s association, the association provides maintenance services – so you can give up your lawn mower and shovels! However, townhouse owners pay a fee for maintenance that must be factored into monthly housing costs. Townhouse owners also may not have the flexibility to make major improvements that alter the home’s exterior. Detached homes, as a rule, require more time and money to maintain. With detached homes, owners have more flexibility make major improvements that can increase property values.

Accessibility

Because of the space required to build them, detached houses are usually located away from downtown areas. Townhouses, on the other hand, have the advantage of fitting onto smaller plots or vacant pieces of land, making such housing options more accessible to busy commercial areas. If your lifestyle or job centers around such areas, a townhouse may work for you. On the other hand, if sharing a common wall with your neighbor or having a small backyard do no suit your lifestyle, a detached house may better serve your needs.

Minnesota Residential Fire Sprinklers

1 fire headStarting in January 2015, a new law takes effect that mandates all new homes 4,500-square-feet (whether all the square footage is finished or not) and larger are required to have residential fire sprinklers. All new homes will also be affected by other new energy code changes such as air exchangers and insulation changes. It is estimated that these changes could drive up prices of new homes by more than $10,000 when you factor in the sprinklers. If you are able to purchase a new home before these changes come, it will save you some money.

Minnesota homeowners and their families will benefit from this new law: residential fire sprinklers save lives and can minimize the damage caused by a house fire. In addition, most insurance companies offer a discount from 5 to 15% for homes with fire sprinklers.

Reverse Mortgages

A reverse mortgage is a loan available to people over 62 years of age that enables a borrower to convert part of the equity in their home into cash.

reverse mtgReverse mortgages were conceived to help people in or near retirement and with limited income use the money they have put into their home to pay off debts (including traditional mortgages), cover basic monthly living expenses or pay for health care. There is no restriction on how a borrower may use their reverse mortgage proceeds.

The loan is called a reverse mortgage because the traditional mortgage payback is reversed. Instead of making monthly payments to a lender (as with a traditional mortgage), the lender makes payments to the borrower.

The borrower is not required to pay back the loan until the home is sold or otherwise vacated. As long as the owner lives in the home, they are not required to make any monthly payments towards the loan balance, but must remain current on tax and insurance payments.

With a reverse mortgage, the homeowner always retain title to or ownership of the home. The lender never, at any point, owns the home even after the last surviving spouse permanently vacates the property.

The homeowner is responsible for paying their property taxes, homeowners insurance, condo fees and other financial charges. Any lapse in these policies can trigger a default on the loan. To help reduce future defaults, HUD requires lenders to conduct a financial assessment of all prospective borrowers as of January 13, 2014.

Loan fees can be paid out of the loan proceeds. This means a borrower incurs very little out-of-pocket expense to get a reverse mortgage. The only out-of-pocket expense is the appraisal fee, usually a few hundred dollars.

The loan balance is composed of the amount borrowed plus fees and closing costs plus interest. The loan balance grows as the borrower continues to live in the home. In other words, when the borrower sells or leaves the house, he or she will owe more than originally borrowed. If the owner dies, the estate has approximately 6 months to repay the balance of the reverse mortgage or sell the home to pay off the balance. All remaining equity is inherited by the estate. The estate is not personally liable if the home sells for less than the balance of the reverse mortgage.

Still confused? Think of it this way: a traditional mortgage is a balloon full of air that loses some air and gets smaller each time a payment is made… A reverse mortgage is an empty balloon that grows larger as time passes.

When is the best time to buy or sell a house in Minnesota?

blog man (Small)I hear this question a lot: What is the best time to sell my home or to buy a different one? Let’s take a look at the retail world of clothing. Consumers get the best deal on summer clothes after July 4th or later, just as they get the best deal on winter clothes at the end of winter. So does this trend hold true for the purchase and sale of homes? Not really. There are some considerations a buyer or seller should think about that could have an impact on the transaction.

What time of the year is a better time for buyers to buy?

First off, you can’t ever time a home purchase. It is not like going out to buy a car or a cell phone. Buying a home is a journey done in your own time and after you have done the research, looked at homes and have your finances in order. At any time there are buyers coming into the market and there are other buyers who have done their research and are serious buyers. No one gets to control this ever-changing flow. What is important to remember is that the inventory of homes fluctuates by the season. In spring (March-May in Minnesota), there is an increase of homes on the market and more homes means more options for buyers. It also means more buyers are looking, which means more competition to get that perfect home. While there are fewer homes listed from October-December, buyers may find the best buys during those slower selling months of the year.

When should sellers sell then?

Conventional sellers most likely would not list their home before the holidays or in the dead of winter for obvious reasons (snow and cold….brrrr). But serious buyers really don’t care about the season or timing. They are motivated when they are ready to buy. After the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s festivities are done, buyers start to think about resuming their home search or entering the marketplace as a new buyer. So what are the pros and cons to listing then? Listing January-June/July, sellers will have more competition, however there will be more buyers in the marketplace looking for homes then. If you list in the “off season” (August-December), you may be ahead because there will still be serious buyers out there and they will have fewer homes to choose from.

So as buyers and sellers strategize about when is the “BEST” time, the reality is – it is never easy, and it truly depends on your situation, what you have to buy or sell, and the market in general. Major retailers like Target can control inventory and monitor competitive activity. In real estate, there is not one buyer or seller – they are all unrelated and disconnected and there are all types of homes at all price ranges making it nearly impossible to pick the “perfect” time to buy or sell. I would be happy to help you figure out what time of the year is best for you to start your home search or put your home on the market.

Contact me at 651-341-6020 or wendy@wendycarson.com to start your real estate adventure.