2,000 Square Feet Under $200,000

Finding the perfect home on a budget can feel impossible. Choosing between a spacious fixer-upper and a tiny furnished apartment may seem hard. But you don’t always have to choose between quality and quantity. For less than $100 per square foot, these homes offer the best of both worlds. Take a closer look at the unbeatable value of these homes.

Gilbert, AZ

3634 E Leslie Dr, Gilbert, AZ
For sale: $199,000

Gilbert, AZ
Located 25 miles from Phoenix, this 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom townhouse boasts 2,035 square feet of luxury. Top-notch amenities include a kitchen complete with granite countertops, upgraded cabinets, island and breakfast bar. Relax in the soaking tub or venture to one of the three community pools and spas. Just when it could not get any better, the assigned schools are rated 7-out-of-10 and above by GreatSchools.

Cedar Hills, UT

3814 W Sage Vista Ln, Cedar Hills, UT
For sale: $190,000

Cedar Hills, UT
Close to running and biking trails, this 2,004-square-foot home overlooks a golf course and offers stunning mountain views. New granite countertops, vaulted ceilings and a finished basement add to the already stellar 4-bedroom 4-bathroom home. Sixteen miles from Provo, the highway is reachable in just minutes. Elementary and junior high schools are ranked an astounding 9-out-of-10 by GreatSchools.

Woodstock, GA

405 Towne Valley Dr, Woodstock, GA
For sale: $179,865

Woodstock, GA
This 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom home has 2,017 square feet of style, from its hardwood and tile flooring to its updated kitchen with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. Located 30 miles from Atlanta, this home with private backyard and patio offers seclusion and proximity. All assigned schools are rated an impressive 8-out-of-10 and above by GreatSchools.

Sachse, TX

1811 Blackburn Rd, Sachse, TX
For sale: $159,913

Sachse, TX
Nestled on one-third of an acre, this 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom home boasts 2,059 square feet of sunny, country living. The open family room leads to an expansive kitchen and a breakfast nook facing large windows. Dallas is approximately 30 miles away, and elementary and junior high schools are ranked a solid 8-out-of-10 by GreatSchools.

Williams Bay, WI

82 Cherry St, Williams Bay, WI
For sale: $144,900

Williams Bay, WI
This 2,100-square-foot turn of the century home combines Victorian charm with the comfort of modern upgrades, while being only blocks from downtown and the beach. The all-new kitchen sports stainless steel appliances and sleek counters. Located by the beautiful Lake Geneva, the 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom home also has incredible schools, all scoring 8-out-of-10 and above by GreatSchools.

Spokane, WA

6011 N Driscoll Blvd, Spokane, WA
For sale: $139,900

Spokane, WA
This quaint 4-bedroom, 1-bathroom ranch home has been updated extensively, including new appliances. Perfect for kids, an indoor play castle is included with the 2,050-square-foot home. Gardening fans will enjoy the large backyard and garden beds. Close proximity to the Dwight Merkel Sports Complex and schools makes this home perfect for the whole family.

Oneonta, NY

104 River St, Oneonta, NY
For sale: $132,000

Oneonta, NY
Built in 1900, this 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom home located in upstate New York boasts gorgeous interior updates. The spacious wood-furnished kitchen includes a range hood and island. The backyard features a deck, decorative pond and gazebo. Walk Score rates the home as 62-out-of-100, with the elementary school and small businesses in walking distance.

Related:

Source: http://www.zillow.com/blog/2000-square-feet-under-200000-145632/

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How to Sell Your Home in Winter

While spring is traditionally thought to be the prime season for home buying, people buy and sell homes throughout the year. The need to relocate for a new career, health reasons or the urge for new life experiences can happen at any time. Selling a home can be stressful. Add in harsh weather conditions and you’re likely to experience even more stress.

For sale in winterThe lawns will have lost their vibrant green and the weather can sometimes be unbearable. And unlike those warm, inviting summer days, you have fewer daylight hours during which to show off your home. Even so, there is hope.

If you were selling your house in the summer or spring, there is likelihood you would address any cosmetic concerns as part of the staging process. The same attention to detail can apply in the winter. Simple upgrades, like tidying up the exterior, driveways and walkways from ice and snow can have a huge cosmetic impact. Carpet in your home should be clean and in good condition. If possible, your home should have a fresh outside coat of paint. Embark on a mission to make your home clutter-free by keeping personal items and photographs out of view.

Your home should exude a feeling of warmth and charm. Allow light to cascade to help subdue the winter chill. When showing your home during daylight hours, open your draperies or blinds. Showing your home during evening hours gives you an opportunity to choose a pleasant combination of floor or table lamps, which can help impart a warm and comforting glow throughout the home.

Emphasize any features that can make your home more attractive to winter buyers, like an attached garage, new water heaters, skylights or efficient energy upgrades. And take advantage of the opportunity to display your home’s charm by providing a photo portfolio. This can include pictures of your home during spring, summer and fall. Images can be an excellent way to share the beauty of your home during any time of year.

No matter how you choose to make your home more salable, stay within your budget and use your credit wisely. Keep warm in the months ahead — and happy selling.

Related:

Written by Becky Frost, Senior Manager of Consumer Education for Experian Consumer Services. Experian Consumer Services offers credit monitoring products like freecreditscore.com™, which has resources and calculators that help you understand how credit can impact your life. Credit is an important component when buying, renting or refinancing your home.

This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

 Source: http://www.zillow.com/blog/how-to-sell-your-home-in-the-winter-143989/

Moving? 9 Tips to Make Packing Easier

You’d really have a hard time finding many folks who enjoy packing for a household move. Still, if you are moving, the packing part must be tackled — whether you do it yourself or hire a crew to do it.

“Packing is expensive, time-consuming and stressful,” said Denise Baron, a home and lifestyle expert in Philadelphia.

If you’re going the DIY route, here are nine tips to make the task simpler:

1. Clear out the junk

Get rid of items you don’t plan to move to your new place, said Lori Matzke, a home-staging expert and former home organizer in Minneapolis.

“If you
 intend to give something away to a friend or family member, either deliver 
it to them promptly, or set a deadline for them to come and pick it up,” Matzke said.

For those items that aren’t being handed off to friends or relatives, consider selling them at a garage sale or donating them to charity, or simply toss them.

2. Collect free boxes

Rather than forking over money for boxes, check with local grocery, liquor and hardware stores to see whether they can give you leftover ones.

“Liquor store boxes are ideal for books and heavier items, as they are 
usually more compact, easier to handle and sturdy,” Matzke said.

3. Label the boxes

Based on the rooms where they’ll go, label boxes on every side.

“You never know how things are going to end up being stocked in the 
moving truck, and nothing is more frustrating than having to flip a box 
around to find out what room it belongs in,” said Kevin Smits, a residential real estate agent in Frisco, CO.

Matzke recommended picking a labeling color for each room, such as red for the kitchen, blue for the bathrooms and green for the master bedroom.

4. Don’t skimp on tape

Smits said he’s seen far too many people buy cheap packing tape, and then apply just a single piece to the bottom of a box containing Grandma’s cherished china.

“Buy good tape, and buy a lot of it,” Smits said. “It is easy to open 
those boxes later with a knife or even a set of keys.”

Don’t forget to pick up a heavy-duty tape 
dispenser made for shipping, Matzke advised. You can buy one for $20 or less at office supply stores and other retailers.

5. Consider the weight

“Remember, the bigger the box, the lighter the content,” said Chantale Bordonaro, a professional organizer and relocation specialist in California.

For instance, books should go in small boxes, shoes and clothes in midsize boxes and bedding in large boxes. “It is easier for the movers and won’t break their backs,” Bordonaro said.

6. Stay focused

Finish packing each room before switching to the next, Smits said.

“We tend to get distracted and 
fail to finish,” he said. “All this does is leave you with a whole lot of last-minute 
packing by throwing unrelated things into a box.”

7. Don’t waste space

To conserve on boxes, you should pack belongings into coolers, totes, laundry hampers, baskets, empty 
suitcases and empty drawers, Matzke said.

8. Throw in the towel

Save money on bubble wrap by using towels and clothes as cushioning for glasses and other breakables, Matzke said.

9. Pack the kitchen last

Chances are, all that packing will make you hungry, and you don’t want to be scrounging around for plates, utensils and cups.

“That last farewell dinner in your old home 
just isn’t as memorable if you are drinking out of a red Solo cup and
 eating on a flimsy paper plate,” Smits said.

Related:

John Egan is the editor in chief at SpareFoot, the country’s largest online marketplace for self-storage.

Source: http://www.zillow.com/blog/tips-for-packing-for-a-move-144121/

Radiant Floor System Adds Heat Under Your Feet

It’s bad enough that you have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, but that tile – it’s so cold!

The notion of warming floors for comfort is hardly new. Archeological digs reveal that, as early as 5,000 B.C., cave dwellers were drafting smoke through stone trenches in an effort to warm their subterranean floors.

underfloor heating and cooling

Hydronic heating system being installed

These days, the two most common types of radiant floor heating systems are electric and hydronic, both of which are installed under your flooring. Hydronic systems heat floors by using loops of plastic tubing to run hot water from a boiler or water heater under flooring.

Hydronic systems have lower operating costs than electric systems but, because they generally require a boiler, pump and gas lines, they’re also far more complex. Hydronic heat might be a good option if you’re looking to add heat to your entire home or, at least, a large portion of it. Even if you have plumbing and electrical expertise, you’ll likely want to consult with a heating pro to ensure your system is well designed.

Electric systems transfer heat via electricity. The most popular of these systems rely on a continuous, pre-spaced heating element that’s woven into a plastic mat and installed beneath your flooring. Electric radiant floor heating systems are easier and more affordable to install than hydronic systems, but they’re more expensive to operate, making them best suited for use in small spaces, such as kitchens or bathrooms. A do-it-yourselfer with basic skills can install electric radiant heat, even if you need to hire an electrician to do the final hard-wire connection.

If installing an electric floor heating system is on your to-do list, you’ll want to keep these things in mind:

  • Be aware that, in addition to mesh mat, electric heat can be applied using a loose cable which you must position in a serpentine pattern, fasten with hot glue or staples and then “embed” with thin set or a self-leveling compound. Solid mats are the third and most expensive type of electric heat system. The cable is completely enclosed in synthetic fabric, plastic sheeting or foil. The real advantage to solid mats is that you don’t need to embed them. Do your research before deciding which type of electric in-floor heat is right for you.
  • When installing heat over a wood-framed floor, fiberglass insulation between the joists can make the system more efficient by driving heat upward. If you’re installing an electric system over a concrete floor, double-check the manufacturer’s recommendations; you may need to place a layer of foam insulation over the concrete before the heat cable is installed.
  • When calculating the square footage of a room, figure in only the areas where you can walk. There’s no need to spend money on heat that runs under the refrigerator or behind the toilet.
  • Because most electric heating must be installed under your tile, hardwood, stone, laminate or concrete floor, this is a project you’ll want to hold off on until you’re building or are ready to change the floors in an existing room. If you’re intent on adding heat without replacing your floor, you may be able to use solid mats that are sized to fit between joists, allowing you to heat the floor from below.
  • Many electric heating systems can be used under carpet but they’re often not as effective. If the carpet pad is thick, it will act as an insulator and won’t allow much heat through.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Energy, radiant heat is more efficient than baseboard or forced air systems. Rather than just blowing hot air around the room, radiant systems slowly and steadily charge the floor with heat, keeping it where you want it, longer. Additionally, the California Energy Commission reports the lack of moving air can be advantageous to those with severe allergies.
  • When you purchase your electric radiant system, pay special attention to the thermostat. Most models are programmable, allowing you to run the heat only during the hours when you’re home and awake. Others come with “smart” features that learn your routine and automatically adjust the temperature.

Related:

Mary Boone is a freelance writer for Zillow Blog. Read more from her here.

Source: http://www.zillow.com/blog/radiant-floor-heating-systems-144643/

How to Remove and Replace Grout

Source: shutterstock.com

Source: shutterstock.com

Several years after you complete a bathroom or kitchen renovation, your home inevitably starts to show some wear. One culprit is grout: Over time, it stains, cracks and becomes loose, even if it was professionally installed. And if the grouting was done poorly to begin with, then the job really isn’t likely to last very long. Fortunately, it’s well within the range of the average do-it-yourselfer to remove and replace grout. Indeed, regrouting tile can restore lost luster and is well worth the time and effort.

Removing grout

It’s certainly possible to remove grout by hand, the old-fashioned way, but it’s recommended that you opt for a power tool. Doing so makes much quicker work of what can be a labor-intensive, time-consuming and potentially frustration-inducing home project.

If you’re up for taking the power-tool-free route, you need a manual grout removal tool. These typically come in one of two flavors. One looks like a screwdriver with a triangular carbide blade mounted on its end. How does it work? You pull the tool through a grout joint until at least one-eighth of an inch has been removed. The second type of manual grout removal tool features a carbide grit-edged blade — that’s why it’s sometimes known as a grout saw. To use one, you simply saw into the the old grout in the same way that you would saw into wood.

If power tools are more your style, there are at least a couple of effective options. One is to outfit your reciprocating saw with an accessory that is specially designed to remove grout. Alternatively, you can opt for an oscillating tool. These excel at smaller jobs because they afford a high degree of control. No matter what power tool you end up choosing to help you remove grout, remember to keep a chisel or a flat-blade screwdriver on hand. The stubborn bits often need a little coaxing to come out.

Replacing grout

The first step in regrouting tile is to mix a certain amount of grout powder with a specific quantity of water. Stick closely to the manufacturer’s directions. Whether you pick sanded or unsandedgrout depends on the desired width of the joints between tiles. Unsanded grout is typically used to achieve relatively thin grout lines; the sanded variety is recommend for joints any wider than one-eighth of an inch.

Once you have properly mixed the grout in a bucket, apply it with a plastic towel and then use a grout float to press the mortar deeply into the joints. As you do this, hold the float at a 45-degree angle to the wall or floor surface. Once you are satisfied with the distribution of grout, the next step is to clean off the excess before it has the chance to harden. To do this, use the grout float again, this time holding the tool at an 80-degree angle to skim the excess grout from the face of the tiles. In concert with the grout float, a large, damp sponge can be handy for wiping off any lingering grout haze. (Rinse the sponge often and change the rinse water as it becomes cloudy.) Finally, allow the grout to harden for a period of 24 to 48 hours. Walk on the tile surface only after that amount of time has elapsed

Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila’s Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at BobVila.com. His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content – practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.

Source: http://www.zillow.com/blog/how-to-remove-replace-grout-145495/

Buyers Expected to Gain More Leverage This Year as Inventory Across US Rises

Home values saw their smallest monthly increase since May 2012, up just 0.2 percent in January from December according to the latest Zillow Real Estate Market Reports. Year-over-year, U.S. home values rose 6.3 percent in January, down from peak gains of 7.1 percent in August 2013. This slowdown is in part due to the rise in inventory of for-sale homes across the country. The number of homes listed for sale on Zillow was up 11.1 percent annually in January, the fifth straight month of rising year-over-year inventory.

Home for saleAccording to Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries, home shoppers should expect to have more buying power this spring as more inventory comes onto the market and home prices start to level off.  This slightly more balanced market is another step on the road back to normal, and will help offset the impact of rising mortgage rates and more expensive homes for buyers.

Inventory rose year-over-year in 82 percent of metro areas covered by Zillow, with the largest inventory gains coming in some of the areas that were hit hardest by the housing recession, including Las Vegas (up 42.8 percent), Phoenix (up 30.5 percent) and Sacramento (up 26 percent). These metros also experienced significant cooling in the pace of home value appreciation in January, as buyers had more homes to choose from and were less apt to engage in the kinds of bidding wars that helped drive prices up so quickly last year.

Want to know what the current state of the housing market is where you live?  Dive into Zillow’s data, available all the way down to ZIP code and neighborhood levels,here.

For a deeper analysis from Dr. Stan Humphries visit Zillow Research.

Home Value and Inventory Trends in the 35 Largest Markets

U.S. Metro

Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI), Jan. 2014

Y-o-Y % change in ZHVI

Median # of Homes for Sale on Zillow, Jan. 2014

Y-o-Y % Change in Inventory

United States

$169,600

6.3%

1,512,949

11.1%

New York, NY

$369,900

6.7%

73,794

9.0%

Los Angeles, CA

$501,300

17.3%

19,935

0.3%

Chicago, IL

$178,100

9.1%

38,868

-4.5%

Dallas-Fort Worth, TX

$144,400

4.6%

21,379

-12.3%

Philadelphia, PA

$193,700

3.0%

31,024

5.2%

Houston, TX

$143,700

3.8%

22,630

-13.2%

Washington, DC

$345,500

9.0%

13,847

14.6%

Miami-Fort Lauderdale, FL

$187,100

18.9%

36,627

7.7%

Atlanta, GA

$137,600

16.2%

22,925

10.7%

Boston, MA

$351,600

8.0%

13,915

-11.2%

San Francisco, CA

$642,400

18.4%

4,188

-1.8%

Detroit, MI

$106,600

20.0%

15,520

-1.8%

Riverside, CA

$259,600

27.3%

13,607

18.0%

Phoenix, AZ

$187,000

10.2%

20,607

30.5%

Seattle, WA

$310,000

9.6%

8,984

12.7%

Minneapolis-St Paul, MN

$197,300

7.8%

10,243

15.0%

San Diego, CA

$442,500

16.3%

6,820

-12.3%

St. Louis, MO

$131,500

-3.3%

17,509

6.9%

Tampa, FL

$135,700

16.4%

19,735

15.4%

Baltimore, MD

$237,300

5.5%

10,493

9.4%

Denver, CO

$243,900

8.0%

7,827

-3.8%

Pittsburgh, PA

$121,000

7.2%

11,678

9.0%

Portland, OR

$260,500

10.9%

7,067

9.1%

Sacramento, CA

$306,200

21.8%

3,929

26.0%

San Antonio, TX

$146,600

2.3%

8,023

-13.6%

Orlando, FL

$155,200

19.8%

9,168

22.0%

Cincinnati, OH

$131,900

4.1%

9,925

1.3%

Cleveland, OH

$115,700

1.4%

11,527

-3.5%

Kansas City, MO

$139,100

2.8%

9,551

-1.4%

Las Vegas, NV

$168,800

26.9%

8,412

42.8%

San Jose, CA

$744,800

14.5%

1,764

-5.9%

Columbus, OH

$137,300

7.7%

8,965

1.8%

Charlotte, NC

$147,600

6.0%

10,406

8.4%

Austin, TX

$201,500

7.0%

4,330

-12.8%

Virginia Beach, VA

$206,200

3.6%

11,184

15.3%

 Source: http://www.zillow.com/blog/january-real-estate-market-reports-145287/

How to Sell a House with Tennants

After 2008, many would-be home sellers couldn’t get the price they needed to sell. Or worse, their homes were underwater. And so, some homeowners were forced to become “accidental landlords.”

This year, as the real estate market continues to rebound in many parts of the country, millions of homeowners will consider getting back in the market. But this time, they’re trying to sell a tenant-occupied home.

A tenant can make or break your sale. You have to plan well in advance and communicate openly with your tenant to have a successful sale. In some cases, you may even have to postpone it. If you’re the owner of a tenant-occupied property that you want to sell, you’ve essentially got two options. Here’s what you need to know about each.

Option 1: Wait for the lease to expire

Most real estate agents would argue that a seller should wait for the rental agreement to expire. Tenants can sometimes be a bit of a wild card in the high-stakes real estate game, so some agents feel it’s best to proceed after the tenant leaves. After that, make some cosmetic fixes to clean up the home and sell it vacant.

This may be especially important if you have a difficult tenant or one who is unhappy that their home is “being sold out from under them.” The last thing you want, is to make showing the home more difficult — and a disgruntled tenant could easily do that by mucking up paint or leaving his place a mess. The result is that your property looks less appealing to potential buyers, which can have a dramatic effect on your bottom line.

On the other hand, selling a vacant rental unit isn’t always ideal for the seller’s finances. It can take months from the time the home goes on the market until it’s sold; that’s time during which the landlord receives no rent. This can be especially trying for sellers whose homes have been a long-term financial burden.

Option 2: Sell while the tenant is still there

It can be beneficial to keep your tenants in your home during the marketing and sales process, provided you have a good relationship with them. Homes show better with furniture, giving buyers a better feeling for what it would be like to live there.

Ready to sell but have a tenant in place? Do your best to work with them. Most tenants, upon hearing that the landlord would like to sell, immediately start looking for a new place to live. They’d rather just move on and not have to deal with keeping their home clean all the time, showings and phone calls from agents.

If your home is in a desirable neighborhood, you plan to price it right, and you believe it could sell quickly, use your tenant to your advantage. Lower their rent for a month or two leading up to the showing and/or selling. If you can get them to stay and cooperate through open houses and showings, tell them that you’ll guarantee them enough time to find another place and move. Also, if they’re helping you to get the home sold quickly, offer to help pay their moving costs.

Give thought to the message, delivery

Most tenants really don’t want to hold up your sale. Others will protest, and those are the ones who make the headlines or get talked about in real estate war stories.

If you have difficult tenants and suspect they won’t be cooperative, simply let the lease run out. Or find a way to legally take the home back and sell it vacant. But if you have a good relationship with your tenant, try to work with them. No tenant wants to be surprised with little (or no) notice that they must vacate.

Ultimately, the success of dealing with a tenant during a sale is less about the message itself, but in how the message is delivered.

Source: http://www.zillow.com/blog/sell-a-house-with-tenants-145436/