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    The Best Ways to Pay for Major Home Renovations

    As you outgrow your starter home, you’re thinking of renovations that will transform your home into something more suited for this phase of life. Before you start tearing down walls or picking out paint chips, consider how you’ll pay for your home renovations. While home improvements can be a smart investment, they’re also expensive. Here’s what to know before you begin.

    Is Renovating the Right Move?

    Compared to the hassle of selling a house and moving, renovating sounds easy. But don’t underestimate everything that’s involved in a major remodel. Not only do renovations disrupt everyday life, but a return on your investment isn’t guaranteed. While some home renovations add to the value of your home, others only add to your own enjoyment.

    Before undertaking a major home remodel, compare the costs and inconveniences of renovating with the price of a custom home. Custom-built homes let buyers skip the protracted house hunt and get exactly what they want. While you may assume a custom home is out of reach, hiring a pro to build it could be more cost-effective than overhauling your home, especially if your house needs work. Calculate the costs of remodeling along with ancillary costs like storage units and take-out meals, then meet with local builders to explore your options.

    Using Your Fix-It Fund for Renovations

    Every homeowner should have funds set aside for maintenance and repairs. A general rule of thumb is to put two months’ worth of mortgage payments into a “fix-it fund” every year.

    A home repair fund is a must for when the roof springs a leak or your furnace gives out, but think twice before tapping it to remodel. If your home needs major repairs and you don’t have the reserves to pay for it, you could find yourself in a tight spot.

    The Best Loans for Home Renovations

    Unless you have enough money to pay for home improvements and keep a cushion in your fix-it fund, look to loans to finance renovations instead.

    Home equity line of credit (HELOC)

    Home equity lines of credit are a flexible way to borrow against the equity in your home because they’re a source of revolving credit. Since HELOCs are secured loans, interest rates are low compared to personal loans. However, it’s important to avoid borrowing more than you can pay off to avoid foreclosure.

    Home equity loan

    Also known as a second mortgage, a home equity loan is another way to borrow against the equity in your home. Unlike HELOCs, home equity loans are paid as lump sums. While interest rates are fixed, they may be higher than you’d find with a HELOC or cash-out refinance.

    Cash-out refinancing

    Cash-out refinancing is another way to convert home equity into cash, but refinancing only leaves you with one loan to pay back, not two. That may be beneficial or not depending on how mortgage rates have changed since you purchased your home. VA IRRRL refinancing is ideal for armed services veterans as these loans have flexible requirements and often don’t have any extra costs and or additional paperwork.

    Subsidized home improvement loans

    Some county governments offer low- and no-interest home improvement loans under the Home Improvement Program. While these loans may only be used for rehabilitating aging properties, not luxury improvements, they’re an excellent resource for homeowners who qualify.

    How to Save Money on Home Renovations

    You don’t want to cut corners when it comes to your home. Instead of looking for ways to cut costs on home renovations, consider how you can get the most for your money. Cheap contractors rarely do the best work. By finding a company with fair prices and a great reputation, you can get more value for your investment. Before choosing a remodeling and renovation company, ask for recommendations, read online reviews, and review past work. And don’t forget to contact an experienced local Realtor to ask about which renovations make the most sense and which will do little more than drain your budget.

    Updating your home over the years is a smart way to protect your investment. However, it’s also important to know when to walk away. If you’re not sure if you should renovate your home or move on, talk to a local home builder to weigh your options. With expert guidance, you can make the best decision for your lifestyle and your wallet.

    Image via Unsplash

    Virtual Staging and the Future Of Real Estate

    Staging a home for sale has been a tool used by real estate agents and sellers for years. When a home is beautifully staged, it can be a real lure for potential buyers. The process of home staging involves a lot of heavy lifting, rearranging furniture, and intense attention to details and decorating. Most buyers prefer to purchase a home that looks well-kept and on-trend, which makes staging the property a smart marketing move. However, a lot of physical work, time, and effort comes with the staging process and it doesn’t mean that a quick sale is guaranteed. Virtual staging uses the same principles as regular staging, but with a technological twist. This process can save you a lot of headaches while still providing you with amazing results.

    What is Virtual Staging?

    When a buyer opts to use virtual staging, the stager takes digital photos of the home. The property could be empty, or it could even be full of mismatched furniture, knick-knacks, and clutter. Once the photos are taken, the virtual stager uses special photo-editing software to “tweak” the way the home looks. This software can remove unwanted clutter, remodeling being done, and furniture with a few commands. It also allows the stager to add anything they want including new matching furniture, décor, and more. Extreme care is taken to ensure that every room of the home appears as if it’s been physically staged. The final photos are then posted on the listing, giving sellers a chance to entice new buyers to make a purchase or schedule a showing. On certain occasions, AR and VR can be used for an even smoother and in-person experience.

    How Does Virtual Staging Work?

    Today’s modern home buyer tends to look for property online before they even set foot in the door. Most buyers want to get an idea of the home’s size, design, and aesthetics before they take their valuable time to physically go to a showing. With virtual staging, the software is used to create a beautiful home remotely. The seller doesn’t have to lift a finger (in most cases) and the virtual stager simply works their magic once the photos are obtained. This advanced software allows the stager to brighten up a room and add new furniture, rugs, and even artwork. The process requires skill and training in order to ensure that the final product looks polished and realistic. Through the use of shadowing and other techniques, the final photographs of the home offer buyers a beautiful perspective that entices them to learn more. With so much digital marketing being used for real estate sales today, it’s not surprising that this new method of home staging is becoming more popular than ever before.

    Virtual vs Traditional Staging

    Traditional staging involves a professional stager coming to the home and assessing how it looks in order to make changes that will get the home sold. The stager will measure each room and take photographs to help them determine what items are needed. Once the home is ready to be staged, they’ll bring in furniture, rugs, and accessories. If the home is currently furnished, the stager may ask the seller to remove the furniture and put it in storage. In some cases, they may be able to use a few existing pieces while in others, the stager may ask the seller to take everything out. This process requires a lot of extra work, time, and expense on the seller’s part and it can be especially difficult if they’re still living in the home while it’s staged. An empty home is much easier to stage, which is why most traditional stagers require the property to be emptied out before they bring new items in.

    With virtual staging, the seller doesn’t need to move furniture or empty out rooms. All the virtual staging company needs are clear photos of the home including the bedrooms, living room, bathrooms, and kitchen. Most virtual stagers will come to the home to take professional photographs, but as a seller, you may be allowed to submit them yourself. Discuss the options with your virtual stager to find out what they prefer. Clear photographs of the entire room must be taken in order for the virtual staging to be effective. However, this process is much more convenient for the seller since they won’t need to physically move anything or pay for a storage facility. They also won’t have to worry about making sure that everything is perfectly in place since all of the new furniture is virtual and not actually in the home.

    Pros and Cons

    As with any professional service, there are pros and cons to virtual staging. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits and some of the drawbacks:

    Pros

    • Virtual staging is much easier on the seller since they won’t need to remove or move any furniture or pay for separate storage while they wait for their home to sell.
    • Cost-wise, a virtual staging service is  usually a lot less expensive than traditional staging services.
    • If you’re planning to market your home online, virtual staging is a powerful way to entice buyers and give them a clear vision of what your home might look like if they chose to live there.
    • Virtual staging software offers countless options for colors, furniture designs, plants and more which means the stager can make selections tailored to your specific market and the hottest trends in interior décor.
    • As a seller, you can enjoy the benefits of staging without having to leave your home, move things around, or be extra careful with furniture that isn’t yours.
    • Most professional stagers are experienced in home design and interior design, which means your photos will look polished and beautiful when it’s time to upload them online.
    • In most cases, it only takes a few business days to complete a virtual home staging project from start to finish. That means sellers won’t have to wait to be scheduled or deal with the labor involved with traditional staging.

    Cons

    • Some real estate experts say that most buyers prefer to see an empty home. This gives them a better idea of how much space they’ll have or how the home will look when they add their own furniture. Virtual staging fills the room to make it look as if it’s lived in when it goes on the market.
    • If the virtual staging isn’t done correctly, the photographs can look “fake” or items may appear more like CGI than actual furniture.
    • Not all MLS markets allow for virtually staged homes. If you live in a specific market where it’s not allowed, you’ll have to choose traditional staging instead.
    • It’s important that virtual staging only changes the items in the home and not things like paint colors or finishes like crown molding. If those items are changed, it can be misleading to buyers and might result in some issues for the seller when the home is shown.

    Price Comparison

    Selling a home can be expensive. Between real estate agent commission, marketing, and time, it’s important to choose a service that fits within your budget. When it comes to the cost of virtual staging, prices will vary depending on the size of your home and the company you choose. However, this option is still much less expensive than a traditional home staging. The cost of virtual staging can range between $40 and $200 per room, on average. This cost may vary depending on your market, the current demand, and other factors. However, it’s usually a single fee that you only have to pay once, whereas traditional staging typically charges a flat rate for the first month and then can charge several hundred dollars per month thereafter. Think of traditional staging as a type of furniture rental. The longer your home sits on the market, the more you’ll need to pay your stager to keep their items in the home until it sells. Most traditional staging companies charge an upfront fee based on the size of the home or the number of rooms. With virtual staging, you’re usually charged per room, and only charged once for the service.

    The Future of Virtual Staging

    The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the real estate landscape at a rapid pace. With virtual staging, sellers have the option to showcase beautiful photos of their property without ever having to leave their home, and without anyone else entering it. In addition to concerns about the pandemic, virtual tours of homes and online marketing are becoming the norm. Real estate listing websites and smartphone apps are the first places most buyers look when they’re ready to find a new home. The days of driving around neighborhoods and calling phone numbers on a sign are quickly becoming a thing of the past. This means that virtual staging has a bright future and a great opportunity to outpace traditional staging. The process is easy for the seller, and it provides them with the tools they need to sell their home fast. The staging service will have less overhead and a much better chance to keep more money in their pockets, too. Whether you’re an agent, homeowner, or stager, it’s clear that virtual staging will be front and center moving into the future.