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Billness' Blog

By Bill Ness | Broker in Chicago, IL
  • 55Places.com Now Featuring Floor Plans for (Almost) Every 55+ Community

    Posted Under: Home Buying, Property Q&A  |  March 27, 2012 6:59 AM  |  1,604 views  |  No comments
    Floor Plans Active Adult CommunitiesJust when you thought 55Places.com couldn’t get any better, we did. A few weeks ago, we announced our new rating and review system which lets readers offer feedback for any of our community listings. This step was planned to help you more easily find the most comprehensive information on active adult communities across the country. We have now taken our community descriptions a step further by including floor plans wherever possible.

    When a community is still in development, builders make it easy to find sample floor plans for each of their available models. This lets you visualize the homes, see exactly how the rooms are laid out and imagine how your belongings will fit in them. If you’ve ever tried looking for floor plans in completed communities, however, you know just how hard it can be to find them after the builder is gone. Fortunately, 55Places.com has been stockpiling hundreds of floor plans and is now in the process of adding them to our community listings.

    To find floor plans on 55Places.com, navigate to your preferred community and click on the tab marked “Models.” This page will show you available information about the community’s homes including model names, square footage, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the size of the garage. To see an available floor plan, simply click on the model name.

    The floor plans for various communities can be different, especially when you compare them from one builder to the next. Some are marked with room measurements and others use sketches of sample furniture to make it easier to imagine what the home looks like in person. Upgrades like fireplaces, bay windows and covered patios are usually drawn with dotted lines and clearly marked as optional elements. If you are considering a resale home, keep in mind that the original owner may have made some changes during construction.

    We’ve already added floor plans for most of the communities in the Western half of the United States and are in the process of listing the floor plans for the rest of the country. While we hope to include the floor plans for every community, some plans are not readily available. It’s particularly difficult to track down the floor plans for older communities either because no one has the plans or we haven’t yet found someone willing to share them with us.

    Please take a look at the available floor plans when browsing through our communities. If our listing for your community does not include floor plans and you know where to find them, please let us know so we can help future buyers by posting them online.

    This article originally appeared on 55Places.com. For more articles like this or for information about hundreds of 55+ active adult retirement communities across the country, please visit 55Places.com.

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  • Can’t Sell Your Home? Try Staging It.

    Posted Under: Home Selling, Remodel & Renovate, Property Q&A  |  March 23, 2012 6:29 AM  |  3,887 views  |  1 comment
    Home StagingAnyone involved in real estate knows that we are currently in a buyers’ market. There are many homes for sale, and, while they are selling, they aren’t selling quickly. This makes it a great time for those looking to buy, but a frustrating experience if you have a home that just won’t sell. If you want to generate interest, it’s time to give staging a try.

    While you may have already cleaned, repaired and de-cluttered, staging your home takes your preparation to the next level. A staged home looks more like a magazine set-up than a home that’s been lived in. It has design appeal, yet is neutral enough to let potential buyers imagine themselves — and their belongings — in your home.

    When you are ready to try staging your home, your Realtor may be able to recommend a staging expert. Someone who is a professional home stager is trained in home design, but also understands what it takes to make a home more appealing to buyers. After assessing your home, a stager should be able to give you an upfront estimate for how much the job will cost. Often a stager can make a big improvement for less than $1,000.

    If you want to save some money, you can try staging your home yourself. Generally speaking, you can get started by following just three simple guidelines:

    1. Keep it neutral and impersonal — Tone down any wild wall colors by repainting with light, neutral shades. Lighter colors will reflect the light and make rooms feel more spacious. Removing personal items like family pictures will make it easier for buyers to imagine themselves owning the home.

    2. Clear out clutter and excess furniture — Keeping knickknacks, furniture and other decorative items to a minimum will make a home feel more open. It lets buyers see the potential space instead of focusing on your belongings. Rearrange your furniture to make sure that it’s easy to walk from one room to the next, and put excess items in storage.

    3. Add magazine-style touches — Once your home is more neutral and sparsely furnished, it’s time to bring in some thoughtful touches. Take a look at some home magazines and see how the rooms are pictured. Try setting a bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter, adding fresh flowers to the front hall, and setting the dining table with attractive dishes and cloth napkins.

    To get more ideas for staging your home, pick up some interior design magazines or watch some of the popular TV shows about selling real estate. Exterior curb appeal will bring buyers through your front door, but a staged home may be the final push to help them make an offer.

    This article originally appeared on 55Places.com. For more articles like this or for information about hundreds of 55+ active adult retirement communities across the country, please visit 55Places.com.

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  • 7 Questions to Ask the Builder About Their Warranty Before You Buy

    Posted Under: Home Buying, Property Q&A, Moving  |  March 20, 2012 5:41 AM  |  3,758 views  |  No comments
    Buying a Home AdviceOne of the benefits of choosing a new construction over a resale home is that the new home will come with a warranty to cover potential problems. But don’t assume that a new home warranty will cover everything in your new home. It’s important to find out just what is covered and for how long. You may also want to check the reputation of the builder with the Better Business Bureau to see how well they have handled disputes with homeowners in the past.

    When considering a new construction home, here are seven questions to ask the builder about its included new home warranty:

    1. What is covered, and what isn’t?

    While this may seem like a simple question, you will want to be clear about exactly which items are covered — and which items are not. Most new home warranties will cover structural elements and major home systems, but they may not cover other items such as household appliances.

    2. How long will the coverage last?

    The length of coverage often varies for different parts of the new home. Many warranties offer protection from major structural defects for up to 10 years, but only cover HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems for a much shorter period. Items like siding, doors, trim, drywall and paint may be covered for as little as one year.

    3. Do certain home systems or major appliances have their own warranties?

    While household appliances are often not covered under the builder’s warranty, they may have their own protection plans. If they do, you will want to find out the details from the builder so you will know who to contact if there are any problems during the coverage period.

    4. What is the process for filing a claim?

    Your new home warranty should include clear instructions for how to file a claim if something goes wrong. To avoid problems down the road, you should make sure you understand the process upfront and ask questions before you buy.

    5. Is there a deductible?

    With any warranty or insurance plan, it’s important to look for hidden costs. Be sure to ask if there will be a cost to file a claim or a deductible that will need to be paid before the repairs are covered.

    6. How are disputes handled?

    Though you hope that any future issues will be resolved easily, there could be disputes over coverage or the method of handling a repair. Builders often prefer arbitration over a potential lawsuit, so their warranties may include the cost of arbitration if disputes arise.

    7. Is the warranty issued through the builder or a third-party?

    The builder generally covers structural elements themselves, but they might also include a third-party home warranty for other elements such as HVAC, plumbing, electrical systems or even major appliances.

    Between the builder warranty, a possible third-party home warranty and any additional manufacturer’s warranties, a new construction home is likely to have ample coverage from defects. However, don’t make assumptions about what will be covered. Ask questions before you buy to avoid expensive, time-consuming disputes down the road.

    This article originally appeared on 55Places.com. For more articles like this or for information about hundreds of 55+ active adult retirement communities across the country, please visit 55Places.com.

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  • When it Comes to Home Sites, Does Size Matter?

    Posted Under: Home Buying, Curb Appeal, Property Q&A  |  March 16, 2012 7:53 PM  |  2,578 views  |  No comments
    Home Sites and Buying a HomeWhen it’s time to retire, many active adults want to downsize. A smaller home is easier to maintain and that means more time to enjoy life. But does downsizing the family home have to mean giving up a spacious yard? And does the size of your home site even matter?

    Like other aspects of choosing a home, the size of your yard is largely a matter of preference. Some people want plenty of outdoor space and others would rather not have to deal with the extra upkeep. Many active adult communities try to find a balance by having lots which offer some outdoor space while including landscaping and lawn maintenance as part of the monthly homeowners fees. Yet, there can certainly be drastic differences in lot size from one community to another.

    Trees, shrubs and flower beds all add to the beauty of the home, but they also create more work. Leaves will have to be raked, shrubs need trimming and flower beds require weeding, mulching and planting. Those who are sick of keeping up with yard work may be happy to find a home which sits on a small lot and comes with landscaping services. For them, the only downsize to this arrangement might be losing some of the privacy which comes with a larger yard.

    When home sites are small, neighbors may feel like they are not alone when using their patios or lanais. Many homebuilders try to create more privacy through home designs which place outdoor living areas on a more secluded part of the house, but there are communities where residents can easily wave to their neighbors — or even carry on a conversation — from their patios. Before buying or building a home, it’s important to think about the positioning of any outdoor areas and how important privacy is to you.

    There are also active adult communities which do offer large home sites with plenty of private outdoor living space. However, these large lots usually come with a premium price tag. Large home sites are more expensive to buy and to maintain. Landscaping services may not be part of the monthly homeowners fees, and, if they are, they can be quite pricey.

    There are ways that nature lovers can purchase a home that offers scenic views without the extra yard maintenance. Home sites which back up to golf courses, lakes or wooded common areas let homeowners feel like their home sits on a more spacious lot — without actually having responsibility for the land. Some developments also offer community garden plots for those who enjoy gardening but aren’t able to do so in their own yards.

    We’d love to hear from you. When it comes to your home site, is bigger always better? Or do you prefer a smaller yard with little to no maintenance? What works for you, and what would be your ideal home site? Let us know in the comments below.

    This article originally appeared on 55Places.com. For more articles like this or for information about hundreds of 55+ active adult retirement communities across the country, please visit 55Places.com.

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  • The Pros and Cons of Condo Living

    Posted Under: Quality of Life, Home Buying, Property Q&A  |  January 26, 2012 9:38 AM  |  1,758 views  |  1 comment
    Condo Living for Active AdultsWhile active adult communities commonly feature single-family homes or attached villas, some developers also include the option of apartment-style condominiums. Designed as mid-rise or high-rise buildings, with features like elevators and underground parking, these thoughtfully-designed condos provide benefits which appeal to many active adults. Yet, condos in age-restricted communities also come with some drawbacks. Here are a few points to keep in mind when considering apartment-style living.

    4 Reasons to live in a condo:

    1. No Maintenance — Choosing an apartment-style condominium lets homeowners enjoy their active lifestyles without worrying about yardwork or exterior home maintenance. Condos are often available in smaller layouts, making them the perfect size for singles or those who don’t want the upkeep of a larger home.

    2. Added Security — With secure entry doors, a staffed front desk or a building doorman, condos can provide an added layer of safety. This is often a comfort for singles living alone or for active adults who frequently travel. Buildings which also contain their own exercise, hobby or game rooms also let homeowners make use of the amenities without going out at night or in inclement weather.

    3. Affordability — Apartment-style condos are often a more affordable option than attached villas, townhomes or single-family homes. This is especially true in more luxurious resort-style communities that are located in popular retirement destinations.

    4. Location — Developers of active adult communities typically include apartment-style condos in more urban areas where land is more limited. They can be ideal homes for active adults who want to live near the cultural and recreational attractions found in cities.

    4 Reasons not to live in a condo:

    1. Higher Assessments — While condos may be more affordable to buy, they frequently have higher assessments for their monthly Homeowners Association (HOA) fees. These higher assessments are collected to pay for shared building features like elevators, underground parking or a doorman.

    2. Shared Walls — Depending on the building, living in an apartment-style condo may bring active adults a little too close to their neighbors. Footsteps, arguments, TV shows and other sounds can bleed through from the neighbors who live in condos beside, above or below.

    3. Distant Parking — Whether the building provides outdoor or underground parking, residents are likely to have a long walk from their cars to their homes. This can be even more of a problem when lugging in grocery or other shopping bags.

    4. Resale Value — Apartment-style condos may be popular with some active adults, but most homebuyers in this demographic prefer attached villas or single-family homes. Unfortunately, that can negatively influence the condo’s resale value when it comes time to sell.

    This article originally appeared on 55Places.com. For more articles like this or for information about hundreds of 55+ active adult retirement communities across the country, please visit 55Places.com.

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