Whether you're a happy homeowner, looking to sell your current home, or searching for the home of your dreams, the Synergy Properties team has curated some helpful blog posts to help provide inspiration for your next DIY project, catch up on your real estate knowledge, or answer your hard-hitting questions about the home selling/buying process. Sift through our blog categories and feel free to let us know if you'd like us to cover something in particular. Happy reading!
New roofs are often advertised in house flyers and online, but what should you do if you have an old roof? Is it worth the investment to replace it before you sell?
First, consider the cost. That varies widely depending on size and condition of the roof, where the house is, what materials you're using, and who would do the work. Angie's List pegs the price at $4,900 to $14,100 for a typical replacement. Fancy jobs, like a slate roof on a large home with a lot of pitch, can easily hit $100,000 or more.
Then, consider your market. If you're in a hot spot, buyers are going to be more likely to look the other way to get their hands on your property. Buyers in cooler markets might have more of an upper hand in that deal, as long as the property passes muster -- that is, the roof doesn't leak.
And the answer may well vary depending on whether you're selling the home as an investment or a primary residence.
To get some expert opinions, Millionacres asked three veteran real estate agents and investors -- from New York, St. Louis, and Los Angeles -- what they recommend to their clients. Here, from east to west, is what they had to say.
Gerard Splendore is a broker with Warburg Realty Partnership in New York City with about 20 years of experience in Brooklyn and the Bronx as an agent, landlord, co-op shareholder, and townhouse owner. He says:
"While a roof is one of the most important aspects of a house -- along with mechanical systems, flooding and floodplain issues, vermin, asbestos, and radon gas -- replacing your roof prior to selling only removes one obstacle to a signed contract. It's not a requirement to replace a roof prior to listing or selling any more than it is a requirement to replace windows or appliances.
"When we purchased our limestone bow-front house in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, the seller tactfully told us the roof needed replacing. Please note, he did not mention the antiquated wiring, the flooding basement, nor the backyard drainage issues, but at least we felt he was honest about the roof.
"We had the local roofer supply us an estimate, which the seller was only too happy to deduct from the price of the sale. After we moved in, we had the roof replaced by the roofer who it turns out had put on the original roof and we felt we had been treated fairly in that aspect of the purchase.
“In our first winter in the house, the heating system went kaput, despite our inspector assuring us it would last at least five more years. Moral of the story: always expect that there will be a hidden cost of some kind when purchasing."
Chris Gold of Chris Buys Homes in St. Louis is a real estate investor and homebuyer. He says:
"No, you don't need to replace your roof to sell your house -- but it will be a negative for potential buyers and could decrease the overall value of your home by more than the price it would cost to replace the roof.
"On the other hand, promoting a 'brand-new roof' in the listing of your house can be a major positive for potential buyers. Realtors love leaning on something important like that when talking about a property they're selling and, when they need to explain the higher listing price, having something like this can be huge.
"My advice to someone selling their home that needs a new roof: Replace it (unless you absolutely cannot) and you will see the benefits all throughout the selling process."
Yawar Charlie is a regular on CNBC's "Listing Impossible" and director of the Estates Division at Aaron Kirman Group, Compass in Los Angeles. He says:
"My opinion for most sellers is that instead of a roof replacement, they should hire an inspector and check to see if there are areas of the roof that they can simply repair to ensure there are no active leaks or missing shingles, and then fix minor areas of deterioration.
“When the buyer comes through with their home inspector and the roof inspector, they will see that the roof has been maintained but potentially may need to be replaced soon. That gives you a little better leverage when negotiating any request for repair that comes your way.
"I would never recommend that a seller fully replace the roof simply to put it up for sale, because I don't think there is a significant return in doing that. More often than not to replace a roof costs about $20,000, give or take, depending on the area you live in.
"Better to offer that as a credit during the request for repair and be able to negotiate that amount rather than spend that money up front and not see a return on it."
Every situation is different, for both the seller and the buyer, and the advice they get may vary from agent to agent. Opinions from inspectors could well vary, too. So as a seller, the best advice about whether to replace the roof probably is to weigh how much it will cost against how much you'll make in the sale with or without it. The choice, ultimately, is up to you.
Few gadgets in your home can make you quite as frustrated or bewildered as a router with a crummy WiFi signal. Without a fast and reliable internet connection, you find yourself huffing as you wait for websites to load on your laptop, fidgeting as YouTube videos freeze on your tablet, and staring in despair at email inboxes and social media feeds as they struggle to refresh on your smartphone. As for streaming the latest edition of “WrestleMania” on your smart TV? Forget about it. To add to your angst, you may not know how to troubleshoot those problems—beyond calling a tech-savvy relative and pleading for help.
“Think of a router as an electronic traffic cop,” says Richard Fisco, who oversees electronics testing for Consumer Reports. Once it’s hooked up to the modem provided by your internet service provider (ISP), a router directs the internet connection throughout your home, making it wirelessly available to devices like your laptop, smart speaker, and smart TV.
Your router serves as a link between the outside world and all of your personal and financial data. The tax return you filed electronically? It travels through your router. Those credit card numbers you share online with Amazon? They exit through the router, too.
That’s why a router has to be a security guard in addition to being efficient and convenient. A good one receives routine firmware updates from the manufacturer to combat potential threats from hackers and other ne’er-do-wells.
If your WiFi connection is noticeably sluggish, you may be tempted to write off your current router as a dud. But don’t be too hasty—there may be other factors at play.
First, take a look at a bill from your ISP to see what level of broadband you’re paying for. You’ll need a connection of at least 25 megabits per second to stream Netflix video for 4K TV, for example. If you’re not paying for that, or if you don’t have access to that kind of speed where you live, a brand-new router won’t help you.
You can easily run a speed test using a service like fast.com to see what you’re really getting. You may want to run this test a few times. First, run it with your laptop plugged into your router to check your speed in the best-case scenario. You can then move around with your laptop to different areas of your home to see how fast WiFi is at different locations.
Next, you’ll want to assess the placement of your router. They tend to do best when set up in the center of a home, allowing the signal to reach out in every direction. A router tucked away in a corner may not have the range to travel to the other side of the house, or from the second floor to the basement, because the signal degrades the farther it gets from the source.
If your router is in a suboptimal spot (the basement, for example), try moving it. One way is to buy a long Ethernet cable (keep it under 300 feet), plug it into the modem and the router, and move the router yourself. Or you can ask your ISP to help you relocate the modem, though the company may charge you depending on the labor involved. If you’re planning to change providers, Fisco says, you may be able to get the job done free, so ask while you’re negotiating the switch.
If your router is already in a central location, the slow connection might be due to obstacles in the house that can impede a WiFi signal. (See “5 Common WiFi Roadblocks & How to Fix Them,” below.) You can try moving the router around a room to address such problems.
If those tweaks don’t help, it may be time to find a model better suited to your needs, especially if you’ve been using a single-unit router in a multi-story home.
These days, you’ll find two types of wireless routers: traditional models and mesh network models. You’re probably familiar with the former. They’re single-unit devices that plug into a modem. They can be plenty fast, supporting even the data-hungry activities of families with dozens of internet-connected devices. But they don’t always have the range to effectively blanket a whole home in WiFi, especially if you have a large or obstacle-laden layout.
Mesh routers are typically packaged in a set with multiple units—a hub and one or more satellites—that work together to spread WiFi into the far-flung corners of a home. If you place the hub, which plugs into your modem, near the center of your dwelling, you can shift around the satellites, which help relay the WiFi signal, until you find a configuration that helps you eliminate any dead spots.
So why doesn’t everyone simply choose a mesh router? They’re pricey, for one thing. The top-rated models in our ratings cost $400 to $500. By contrast, our top-rated single-unit model sells for $200, followed by one that goes for about $160. There’s also an argument to be made for simplicity. With a mesh system, you have several devices strewn about your home vs. just one with a traditional router. If you don’t actually need mesh routers, there’s no reason to invest in them.
Once you start shopping for a router, you’re likely to hear a lot of buzz about WiFi 6, a new technology standard that promises faster speeds, a longer range, and better support for the ever-expanding fleet of connected devices in modern homes.
Also known as 802.11ax, WiFi 6 replaces the WiFi 5 standard formerly known as 802.11ac, which debuted in 2013, and WiFi 4 (802.11n), which dates back to 2009. The consortium that sets these standards announced a WiFi 6 certification program in September 2019, and a number of routers that support the standard are now available, including three models in our ratings.
But only a few internet-connected devices are currently WiFi 6- compatible. (The latest Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy Note smartphones are examples.) WiFi 4 and 5 devices can connect to a WiFi 6-compatible router, but they get none of the technology’s speed benefits. So our experts say it’s fine to hold off on making the leap if you can save money on a slightly older model. “If you still have a WiFi 4 router but your smartphone, TV, and laptop all support WiFi 5, get a WiFi 5 router instead,” Fisco says. That will set you up for a good five years.
Many consumers simply accept the model provided by their ISP. But internet companies usually charge a $10 to $12 monthly rental fee for the privilege, which can eclipse the price of a new router within two years.
In addition to providing potential savings, buying your own router gives you far more say in the operation and security of your home WiFi network. Using a simple mobile app, you can set up your router to receive automatic firmware updates. If you have a large family or frequent houseguests, our experts suggest a model that offers robust settings that let you establish parental controls and a guest network to wall folks off from certain websites and private information.
If your router doesn't come with a companion app, however, instructions on how to update routers vary by brand. For most models, you need to log in through a browser on your computer, using the router’s IP address. Here are links on how to update widely used routers: Apple, Asus, D-Link, Linksys, and Netgear.
You may also be able to get security notices via email from your router’s manufacturer. To learn how, go to the company website—you’ll probably have to register the device.
“WiFi is electromagnetic radiation, just like light,” says Bhaskar Krishnamachari, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and computer science at the University of Southern California. “There are objects that block it and others that let it through.” Here are some common obstacles to think about as you place routers and use connected devices. In this diagram, we’ve arranged a three-piece mesh router network to help eliminate potential dead spots in a multilevel home.
For the best results, place the hub in the center of your home (1) and between the satellites (2 and 3), says CR's Fisco. Note that satellite 3 sits on the kitchen counter away from the refrigerator (4). The WiFi signal from both the hub and satellites can also reach up and down to other floor levels, eliminating potential dead zones.
Thicker walls tend to absorb more of a WiFi signal than thinner walls, Krishnamachari says. While you can’t easily change how thick your walls are, simply repositioning a mesh satellite closer to a room’s entrance may help boost the signal.
A refrigerator and other appliances that contain a lot of metal can cause trouble, too. WiFi signals may bounce off them instead of passing through to the other side. Metal plumbing and rebar in your walls create similar problems.
If you live in an apartment building or a heavily populated neighborhood, you might be susceptible to wireless congestion created by nearby devices running on the 2.4GHz frequency band. Try changing your router and devices to the 5GHz frequency band, which has many more channels. If your router doesn’t support 5GHz, select another channel in the device’s settings.
Microwave ovens also operate in the 2.4GHz frequency band, Krishnamachari points out. That can cause interference, he says, if, for example, you decide to make a second bag of popcorn while streaming a Netflix movie. To avoid the interruption on movie night, try switching your laptop or smart TV to the 5GHz band.
Water absorbs radiation, Krishnamachari says. So your WiFi signal is likely to get hung up near pools, tubs, and, yes, that 100-gallon fish tank you installed.
In spite of the pandemic, with its lockdown restrictions and sheltering in place measures, many of us are still planning on prospecting the market and buying a home. Luckily, virtual tours are becoming more common, and they can help you view a property before buying. But can they replace actual home viewings? Here are the 7 things a virtual tour won’t show you.
The only way to get a real feel for how big a house or an apartment is to physically visit it. Even with floor plans and a 360° video tour of the house, you might fall short of determining the actual size of the property. Wide angle lenses, for instance, can easily create the illusion of space, making it look bigger than it really is. Also, you won’t be able to determine the height of the ceiling, the way the furniture impacts the size of the room, or the scale of some amenities.
Even if you come across virtual tours that include a glimpse into the driveway, that’s not enough to tell you what the neighborhood you’re moving into will be like. Are the neighboring houses in good condition? Does the neighborhood have a friendly vibe? Will you be paired with some noisy next door neighbors? A bad neighborhood can ruin your experience of living in your new home, and can be a real deal breaker. And while a virtual tour will show you what the inside of your future home is like, visiting it in person is a must.
Whether you’re buying a house or an apartment, it’s important to assess the building condition from the outside. You might be put off by a dark hallway, a dodgy elevator, or a backyard and driveway that are in serious need of repairs. You might also be missing out on potential structural damage to the house, such as broken support beams or roof, water damage, and even pest infestations. Even if you find a home that ticks all the boxes, it’s important to arrange an inspection before signing the contract, or you might have unpleasant surprises further down the line.
Although not necessarily a make-or-break detail, small flaws in your future home could mount up to become unwanted expenses in the future. Virtual tours won’t pick up on cracks in the wall, chipped tiles and mirrors, scratched surfaces, discolored walls and flooring, or even old appliances that look good on the screen. Home inspectors will often discard them as well, so it’s up to the homebuyer to make sure that the house is up to scratch — or rather, scratch-free. Don’t forget that you can also use such defects to your advantage when negotiating the price. If you can’t see the house in person, you’re being stripped of this essential leverage when dealing with the seller.
A virtual tour might aim to give you a sanitized and stylized view of your future home. And while the layout, design and amenities might be appealing, the way a house smells also determines the closing of a sale. After all, a real estate trick is to bake something before a viewing, to create a homely feel that will entice buyers. A video, however, will fail to convey whether the building has plumbing issues that result in bad odors, whether pet damage has resulted in lasting smells, whether the walls smell of cooking, cigarette smoke, or even just that ‘old house smell’.
Just like smells, the way a house is lit can be the kind of small detail that will come back to haunt you after you’ve moved in. Artificial lighting can easily set the mood and make a house look brighter than in reality, but let’s face it, you’re not going to keep it on all the time. It’s also important to visit the property in person to see if there is anything nearby that could obstruct natural light, such as a tall building, or even a tree. The way a house is positioned also counts. North-facing houses are naturally darker and cooler, while those facing south or west are brighter, but also hotter in summer.
Often overlooked, one key detail virtual tours fail to convey is a proper feel for the person selling the property. It’s not uncommon for homebuyers to decide against buying an otherwise stunning home, simply because they get a bad feeling about the seller, or even their agent. Being able to interact in person with the seller not only helps build a relationship of trust, but can help negotiate the price. So even if you’re sold on your future dream home after a virtual tour, make sure that you and the owner close the deal face to face.
The U.S. economy has been hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis, but one sector that has held up well is residential real estate. According to the National Association of Realtors, 56% of homes sold in April were on the market for less than a month.
The strength has been fueled by pent-up buyer demand, low mortgage rates and tight housing inventories. With large numbers of prospective homebuyers coming off the sidelines, it is an extremely competitive environment. As a result, buyers have to be prepared to move quickly once they find the right home. Otherwise, they can be left out in the cold.
1. Speed matters. Well-maintained homes that have been priced appropriately can sell in the first week on the market. If you really like a property, make sure you have an offer ready. The listing agent/homeowner likely won’t wait long, especially if there are other interested buyers.
2. Pick an experienced agent. Hire someone you trust who has a proven track record. When buying a home, you want an agent who is proactive and available 24/7. Find someone who will actively search for off-market listings. A top-flight agent usually has an extensive network of broker contacts who will share information about homes that are “coming soon” to the market. This enables you to get a jump on other prospective buyers.
3. Be prepared. Decide how much you are willing to spend. Find a good home inspector before you start looking at homes — someone who will be available to conduct an inspection on short notice. This can help facilitate a fast closing. Consider conducting a pre-offer inspection so that you can write a cleaner offer without an inspection contingency.
4. Get preapproved. Make sure you have a lender go over your finances so that you know whether you are eligible for the appropriate loan. It’s an easy process — you can usually submit an application online or over the phone. Once you are preapproved, you can move quickly when you want to make an offer on a home that you really like.
5. Expect competition. The market is very competitive, and the supply of homes for sale is limited. A Realtor.com report released in March showed that new listings were down 29% year over year. Multiple offers are becoming more common as the uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 starts to ease. More and more buyers have decided that it is safe to leave their homes to begin or resume their searches. Ask your agent how an escalation clause works, and be prepared to employ it in competition.
6. Prepare your down payment. The more money you can put down, the better. This signifies to a seller that you are a serious buyer, and not just kicking the tires. It puts you in a stronger bargaining position. That being said, you don’t want to overextend yourself by liquidating all of your savings to make an attractive offer. You want to have money set aside to furnish the home and pay for needed improvements or unanticipated repair costs after you move in.
7. Patience can pay off. Homes that have been languishing on the market can present excellent buying opportunities. Sellers are more likely to negotiate on price, especially if they’ve already bought another house and are paying two mortgages. Additionally, you will potentially have more options if you don’t rush into a purchase. Many sellers pulled their homes off the market in March and April when the pandemic precipitated strict stay-at-home orders. Over the next few months, a number of sellers will likely relist their properties.
While concerns about the economy are likely to last for the foreseeable future, real estate remains a great investment. Historically, home values have increased significantly every decade and usually aren’t subject to the same short-term volatility as the stock market. Homeownership provides tax benefits and is a fantastic way to grow your personal wealth. Most importantly, it’s nice to have a place that you can call home.