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Author: Jeff Owens

Finding a property that takes into account your lifestyle, location preferences and budget can be no small undertaking. Buyers must know what to prioritize, what to budget for and what to compromise on when it comes to finding the right home. Here are some tips to help you find the best one for you:

Attend Open Houses
The key to finding out what best fits your lifestyle is seeing as much inventory as possible. The advantage of working with a real estate agent is that they will show you different properties and neighborhoods you might not have considered. That’s where open houses offer a lot of value. Typically, every weekend there are dozens of open houses. The only thing you have to lose is time. The more you see, the more you realize what you do or don’t like, and it might open up some other avenues that you might not have thought of.

Location Matters – A Lot
What are you willing to tolerate when it comes to commute to work, shopping or entertainment? If you’re living in an area where the walk score is high, you’re going to spend less time in a car. Having to get in your car for a long period of time twice a day is an added stress some would prefer to do without. Some aspire to live close to their workplace, while for others, it’s less of a priority. What’s more, some younger buyers without kids really get into the vibe that comes from downtown living, while others aspire to a quieter existence in the suburbs or exurbs. Regardless of personal preference, it’s a good idea to test out the commute before making an offer. What’s traffic like at rush hour? You really have to go through that experience firsthand to see what it’s going to be like and make an informed decision.

Think Beyond Square Footage
The size of the house is one variable, while the size of the lot is another. Do you want a property with acres of land ideal for gardening, kids and pets? Or do you prefer a smaller lot and less maintenance? Remember, that larger lots come with more responsibility in terms of upkeep. However, a modest backyard might not be ideal for cultivating a garden and having backyard gatherings.

Find Your Aesthetic
Older homes have different features and benefits than more modern ones. The age of the homes can vary by neighborhood. So, if you are looking for a 100-year old craftsman, the suburbs might not be the right place for you. If you pine for a spacious home with shiny new appliances and a huge backyard, the urban core might not deliver. Keep in mind that older homes tend to come with more expenses in terms of remodeling and/or maintenance. The barrier to entry can be less if you are handy or have friends and family willing to help. Some buyers prefer to move into a move-in ready home and are willing to pay up. Be realistic about your limitations, in terms of finances and abilities.

Is It Move-In Ready?
This term doesn’t just apply to historic or rehabbed homes. Sometimes even newer homes need some work in the form of freshened up paint colors or stripping of old wallpaper. Be sure to look at the features behind the walls, too. Upgrades to plumbing, HVAC, roofing, and other infrastructure projects can be costly investments. It is also very important to get an inspection before you buy!

Consider All of the Expenses
Look beyond the face value of the purchase price and take into account property taxes, insurance and home owner’s association (HOA) fees, principal interest, utilities, commuting, maintenance and upgrades.

You aren’t alone in sorting through the clutter of the home-buying process. Working together with a mortgage company and real estate agent is a recipe for success.

Information Courtesy of Ruoff Home Mortgage

Buying a second home is a great way to lock in a great vacation spot and earn some extra rental income. However, there are also some financial realities that many homeowners aren’t aware of before they purchase their second home.
IRS Limitations

If you rent your second home more than fourteen days a year, the IRS qualifies that home as a rental/investment property. As such, the income you gain from your home is taxable. Your second home also won’t qualify for the same deductions as your primary home.Risk &


It’s easy to overlook problems like leaks and water damage in a home that goes unoccupied for long periods of time. Empty homes are also more likely targets for vandalism. Hiring a property management company to keep an eye on the home can help ensure you catch potential problems before they get out of hand.

Other Expense

Expenses such as home insurance, security monitoring fees, and running utilities can add up in your second home. On top of these costs, you have annual maintenance costs and repairs that will inevitably pop up over the years.Understanding the expenses involved with owning a second home is an important part of purchasing your next home! That way, you can make a plan. Vacation rental services like Airbnb make it easy to cover the costs of owning a second home or even profiting from it. You can also use remote monitoring technology, such as video doorbells, access control systems, and environmental monitoring to minimize the risk of missing important developments while away from your home.Buying a second home is a great investment, but one that you need to be well informed about before you commit yourself. For more information about buying a second home or an investment property, give me a call!

Are you planning to add or replace a deck this year? Before you stock up on lumber, here are some details you should address to ensure your deck will improve your home’s value and curb appeal.

What you plan to use your deck for will have a big impact on other considerations you’ll need to make. Will your deck include a grilling station? A hot tub? Built in benches?SizeChoosing the right size deck to fit your needs and visually balance the home can be tricky. As a general rule, the deck shouldn’t be more than ¼ the size of your home. There are of course exceptions to the rule, especially if you’re planning on having a large number of people on your deck at the same time.


A lot of time and resources go into making a deck, so you want it to last a good, long time. Be sure to use materials that are durable, safe, and easy to maintain. Consider the different pros and cons of various kinds of wood, pavers, stone, vinyl, PVC, and composite materials. 


Finding a qualified deck builder or backyard contractor can make a big difference in the quality of your deck. Do your research beforehand to ensure your contractor is licensed and insured. You’ll also want to check their testimonials to be sure the people they have worked with in the past were happy with their results and experience.


Be upfront with your deck builder about your initial budget and how flexible it is. Your final cost could change based on the design, size, and materials you choose. Be ready to discuss and revise your budget before the building process begins so that there are no surprises during the construction phase.

After years of careful planning, searching, and saving to buy a home, it’s normal to take pride in your home. However, that doesn’t mean you plan to stay in the same place forever, and you can’t control who your neighbors are and whether or not they maintain their home. If you’re getting ready to list your home and the condition of your neighbor’s home is negatively impacting your own home value, here are some steps you can take.

Talk to your neighbors.Your neighbor may want to improve their home’s exterior but may not have the time, tools, or know-how necessary to accomplish their tasks. Consider offering your neighbor your lawn mower, ladder, or some of your time to help them.

Consult your HOA.If your neighborhood has a homeowners association, there are most likely covenants and restrictions which dictate acceptable standards for the exterior of your neighbor’s home. If you suspect your neighbor is in violation of these standards and don’t want to be the person to alert them, notify your HOA.

Speak to housing code enforcement. Even if your neighborhood doesn’t have a HOA, if your neighbor has an overgrown lawn or abundant yard debris, they may be violating local housing codes. Contact housing code enforcement to see what guidelines are being abused and what steps can be taken to address problems with your neighbor’s house/yard.Selling your home when you live next to difficult neighbors can add to an already stressful process. However, the final results will be worth it. Once you’re ready to start looking for your next home, I can help you identify bad-neighbor warning signs to help you avoid a similar situation in the future.

One of the easiest ways to give your house an updated look is a fresh coat of paint in a vibrant color. For bedrooms, living rooms and family rooms, go with a flat, matte, or eggshell finish. For the kitchen, bathroom, and other high traffic areas, select a semi-gloss for easy cleaning.

Big box hardware stores will offer the best price on paint and supplies. For instance, if you are looking to transform a living space, you can likely do so for less than $100 for an average size room.

You can also paint furniture and other home accessories to change the look of a room. If you have lamps that don’t match your new décor, consider spray painting them with a high quality (yet still inexpensive) glossy spray paint. It can save you from having to purchase new lamps!

Curtains and window treatments can be expensive, but they do add that cozy factor to any room. Mini blinds and vertical blinds, while functional, aren’t in style at the moment and can quickly date your décor.

There are several retailers that offer ridiculously affordable curtains and window furnishings. With a little bargain hunting, you can update up to 4 rooms in your house for under $200 by shopping at Tuesday Morning, TJ Maxx and online at Amazon.com. Tuesday Morning is your best bet for hardware too—it offers a wide selection of curtain rods at very affordable prices.

Perhaps new carpet or flooring isn’t in your budget, but you can easily update the look of any room with a stylish area rug. By adding a little pop of color in an area rug, you can change the feel of the entire room. For stylish and colorful rugs, again, check out Tuesday Morning and TJ Maxx. Surprisingly, Lowe’s offers a wide selection of rugs from doormat on up to full-room rugs. You may also consider visiting a flooring store. They often have carpet remnants available that you can get bound for a fraction of the cost of an area rug.

Look at your current accessories and spend some time decluttering. Then, pick a few signature pieces that match your décor. Target’s clearance aisle is a good place to start when looking for trendy accessories. Gordman’s, Berlington and TJ Maxx also offer a nice selection of affordable home accent items.

A lot of discount stores have a wide selection of throw pillows, as well, which can easily update the décor in your living room, family room, or bedroom.

You should consider removing personal items so potential buyers can cast a vision for the house to make it their own. Potential Buyers have a hard time viewing themselves in your house when it is filled with personal items.

Updating your living spaces doesn’t have to cost you thousands of dollars. The simple things mentioned above can go a long way to increase the appeal of your home to potential buyers.

Before you start taking pictures of your home to send to a realtor, spruce the place up with these helpful tips. If you are trying to sell your home and are looking for a new home, give us a call at Ruoff Home Mortgage. We would love to answer any questions and get you into the home of your dreams!

Help you sell

The value of your home fluctuates constantly and is dependent on factors such as location, local growth, your neighbors’ homes, and current market conditions. Those factors are out of your control; however, you can add value to your home yourself through the upgrades you make to your home. Here are some easy, budget-friendly ways to add value to your home.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to add value to your home. Start with small upgrades like a new or refreshed backsplash. Applying a fresh coat of paint can cover up old stains and scratches. Retiling the backsplash is a task most beginner DIYers can achieve and will make your backsplash look brand new. Many home improvement stores also offer peel and stick backsplashes for an even easier application.

Upgrading the hardware, such as your door knobs, cabinet handles, and even light fixtures in your home can give it a more modern feel and help you make a statement. If you aren’t sure what kind of hardware you’d like to use, consider looking into stainless steel. It’s easy to care for, very durable, and attractive.

A fresh coat of paint can do wonders for your walls and cabinets. Make any room feel cleaner and more welcoming. Just remember to keep the colors neutral if you’re planning to sell your home.

5 DIY Projects

After a long, hot summer, it’s finally fall. Make sure you’re ready for the cooler weather and immerse yourself in the spirit of fall with these fun DIY projects!

Rearrange the furniture.
If your home has a fireplace, take some time to shift the room’s focus around that feature. This will help make your home a cozy conversation hub as family and friends gather around.

Make gourd bowls.
Gourds have a long history as a fall decor staple, and starting in September, many grocery stores, farms, and craft stores start stocking up on dry gourds. Pick up a few for your house and enjoy carving, painting, and filling them up with fall-inspired items or use them as a convenient place to store your loose change.

Create leaf art.
Next time you rake your yard, keep an eye out for especially nice leaves. Put these aside to frame or use in art projects.

Decorate your table.
The dining room table is a great place to make a seasonal statement and bring the outdoors in. Create a centerpiece with plenty of acorns and pine cones or use an old quilt as a tablecloth. There are limitless opportunities to show your love for the season with your place settings.

DIY pumpkin potpourri.
Bask in the sweet scent of pumpkin pie any time by creating your own pumpkin pie potpourri. All you need is a small pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and a small, lit tea light to diffuse an all-natural pumpkin pie fragrance throughout your home.