October 2010 Archives

October 26, 2010

Where to Buy That Home for Retirement?

Money Magazine recently came out with its list of the 25 best places to retire (within the United States.) Spoiler alert: Durham, North Carolina came out on top.

For those of us who can't even think about retirement yet, it's fun to read the list and fantasize. Yes, I'd love to sign up for senior learning programs at the local university, even now . . . .

But I suspect that, just as many Americans are planning staycations, many will eventually try to stay put for retirement. That means that, if you're a homebuyer who thinks you'll stay in your house for a good long time, it's worth considering whether it will suit you even into retirement.

Does it have easy access via public transport to activities that are important to you (for when you can no longer safely drive)? Will the stairs be manageable with bad knees? It can feel weird to think about these things when you're young, but why not save yourself a move later? 
October 22, 2010

Location, Location, . . . and Luck

In case this news item passed you buy, take a moment to drop your jaws at Donnie and Kathy Fulbright's recent home-selling success. They sold a home in rural North Carolina that they'd originally bought for $6,000 for a cool $1.7 million.

Granted, they'd owned it for 34 years, and real estate values have risen since then, even with recent dips.

But the key ingredient here was the buyer -- Apple Inc., which was building a huge data center on the surrounding property, and were eager to buy at almost any price. This article in the British press describing the sale is a fun one, with lots of photos. And here's another informative report.
I wonder whether the Fulbrights paid the closing costs?

I also hope they've got a good accountant, who can figure out a way to reduce their capital gains tax hit, which is 15% for most people. The $500,000 exclusion for married couples will get them only so far here. I saw one online commentator saying that, as an "elderly couple," they'd be eligible for a special one-time exclusion, but that's no longer the law -- everyone gets the same exclusion. 

October 13, 2010

Selling a Home During the Slow Season

That slow season is now. Yes, it's October, and the homebuyers of the world are ready to settle in for the winter, keep their kids in the same school district, and avoid loading a moving van during a rainstorm. (I've done it, and it's not fun.) Now is traditionally a time when the real estate market goes into hibernation, and even more since it was already sluggish.

But, just as unusual circumstances may force you to sell right now, there are always a few buyers still circulating, and steps you can take to attract them. For starters, check out the interesting and timely advice from Inman columnist Mary Umberger, on "5 Tips for an Autumn Home Sale."

I'll add a few tips here, most of which assume you won't be living in your house while it's on the market.

The first is to keep an eye on those cobwebs. Spiders can spin up some impressive Halloween decor in just a few hours, and there's nothing that makes a house look more forlorn -- especially as the dust gathers.

Another is to keep the heat on. It kills me to say this, given the waste of energy involved, but if a house isn't at least at 63 degrees when people walk in, they'll be shivering, and in no hurry to stay for long.

The third is to make sure your open houses emphasize coziness, as appropriate to the season. The old stager's device of putting a pie into the oven at around 200 degrees, in order to make the place smell good, works really well now. And if the pie doesn't completely dehydrate, you may even get to eat it when the open house is over. 

October 7, 2010

Rahm Emmanuel's Travails as a Landlord

Renting out your home after you've moved for a new job can be a great strategy, both as an income-producer (though not always) and as a way to delay selling while the market is down. But, as the recent situation with Rahm Emmanuel illustrates, you'll have to get used to the idea that, while your tenant is protected by a lease, the house isn't yours to do with as you please.

Recent news reports describe how Emmanuel, having left his position as White House Chief of Staff and become interested in running for mayor of Chicago, is hoping to move back into his old house there. But there's an "oops:" He had recently signed a one-year lease with his tenant, who so far isn't willing to budge.

I asked Janet Portman, author of Every Landlord's Legal Guide, to comment on the situation:

"A deal is a deal, and there's no legal reason why Rahm's tenant should move," said Portman. "Emanuel is doing what any sophisticated owner would do -- offering to buy out the lease -- but he may find that he'll have to sweeten the deal a lot before his tenant agrees to move. He should consider looking for a replacement home for his tenant, making sure it's within the same school district -- and offering to pay for movers and all related moving costs."

Something to consider before you accept that White House position . . . .
October 4, 2010

Is the Right to Raise Chickens Part of Homeownership?

Raising backyard chickens is just one of the many home projects that would have given your landlord fits -- but may make for a satisfying use of your newly bought home. The catch is, raising chickens isn't legal everywhere.

Thanks to the good folks at BackyardChickens.com, however, (and to This Old House magazine for mentioning this), you can find out your local chicken rules and regs.

Let's see, around me, both chickens and roosters are okay in Berkeley, but Oaklanders had better find a new home for that rooster. I had friends, in fact, who faced this very scenario -- apparently, telling the hens-to-be from the roosters-to-be when they're still fluffy little yellow puffballs is no easy task. The good news is, the hens will keep laying without a rooster. The eggs just won't be fertilized.

And that ends today's law lecture and biology lesson. Maybe next time I'll find a site dealing with backyard goats.