My Next Move
How much house would you give up to make sure your children are going to a good school? "I lived in a house with a large modern kitchen and four bathrooms," says AnnaMarie Ronning of Minneapolis, "But if I can find a house in the area I want, I will deal with an older style kitchen and survive with one bathroom with the possibility of adding another one later." Ronning is looking to move from a two-bedroom apartment in the upscale Linden Hills neighborhood and move into a single-family home nearby with her three school-aged children, but she's facing some hard and limited choices, and she's far from alone. It's the kind of choice that 60 percent of homebuyers in a recent survey by Realtor.com said has a big impact on their decision to buy a home. "Homebuyers are willing to pay more... Continue Reading »

By Amelia Acosta and Anmargaret Warner Violent crime rose in the U.S. last year for the first time since 2006, according to FBI statistics. However, the recent 1.2 percent increase belies a long-term trend: America is becoming a much safer country. To find out which parts of America are the safest, we looked at the FBI's latest report on crime and found cities with violent crime rates substantially below the national average. We only included cities with populations of more than 200,000 to exclude suburban areas. Many of the cities are repeat winners from our 2011 report on America's safest cities. Irvine, Calif., was the safest city in the country for the ninth consecutive year. The city of just more than 200,000 has one of the country's top-ranked school systems, a median household... Continue Reading »

A Minnesota couple who signed rental agreements on Twin Cities-area homes reportedly managed to live rent-free for months after moving in and allegedly refusing to pay rent. By the time their eviction made it through the court process, though, their landlords were out thousands of dollars, says a local TV station. When the bubble burst on the housing market about five years ago an explosion of first-time "accidental landlords" were created -- when owners decided to rent out homes that they couldn't sell or chose not to sell at decreased value. Lower housing prices, meanwhile, led others to buy homes at bargain prices and turn them into rentals. Some of these inexperienced landlords fell prey to the kind of renters who cost much more than they pay in rent -- if they pay at all.... Continue Reading »

After years of renting, Jonathan and Beth Hankins were excited to purchase their own home in Klamath Falls, Ore. They found their dream home in a neighborhood of young families. The house had previously been foreclosed on and needed some renovations, so they added a fresh coat of paint, re-tiled the bathrooms and mended the windows before moving in. But within weeks they'd abandoned it. Soon after moving in, Jonathan Hankins started having nosebleeds and Beth had difficulty breathing. Their 2-year-old son developed sores in his mouth so painful that he refused to even drink water. It was while complaining to a neighbor about their ailments that Jonathan Hankins learned that the house had a sordid past -- it had previously been used as a meth lab. They were far from alone in their... Continue Reading »

After 17 years of marriage, Mandy Walker was getting a divorce and debated whether or not she wanted to keep the house she had raised her family in. Financially, it was too expensive, and, realistically, it was too big for her to manage. So she put it up for sale, but had no luck in the real estate market. But she couldn't keep her teenage children displaced for long, so she was forced to buy a new home even though her old one remained unsold. She also chose to remain in the same town, which wasn't easy since there were very few new housing developments there. So how did she make this transition as easy as possible for her children, while sticking within her budget? Watch the video to find out. More about homebuying: Homes Selling as Fast as They Did During Housing Boom Spring... Continue Reading »

After a long and arduous apartment search in Brooklyn, Megan Isenstadt and Benjamin Sirota finally found the place of their dreams. The apartment in a cute brownstone building came with its own issues -- but so do most places in New York City. Sometimes their windows wouldn't shut all the way and wood slats in the floor would have to be nailed back down. But they loved their new home and the other tenants in the building. But their dream apartment soon became a nightmare -- and so did the building management. When the boiler broke in the basement of the building, Isenstadt and Sirota's living situation quickly deteriorated. They soon realized that one thing to watch out for when searching for a new apartment is how responsive the landlord will be to tenants' issues. When their landlord... Continue Reading »

One thing about renting is for sure: You get what you pay for. Marc Haynes found that out the hard way. When he was ready to leave behind the Philadelphia party pad that he shared with roommates, he though that he'd found a perfect apartment for his return to living solo. Even more perfect was the low rent: $235 a month. But Haynes quickly found out why it was so cheap. One thing went wrong, then another, then another. The quaint little place in one of Philadelphia's hippest neighbors turned into a nightmare -- and became known by Haynes as the "Mole Hole." Haynes looks back on the time that he thought he was making the best move of his life and now says, "It was the worst decision I've ever made." So what could've gone so wrong? Just about everything. Watch the video above to learn... Continue Reading »

It's no secret that more and more homeowners are denouncing traditional housing structures for "small home living." Tiny homes, microstudios, independent "accessory dwelling units": Whatever you want to call them, these diminutive residences appear to be growing larger in popularity across the country. In fact, dramatically downsizing one's home (to as tiny as 150 square feet, in some cases) is becoming so popular that entire communities and showcase communities of miniature dwellings are beginning to sprout across the United States. From tiny home villages in Northern California, to the showcase communities of 150- and 200-square-foot homes in Washington, D.C., to the jewel box-size microstudios in Louisville, Ky., to neighborhoods in Portland, Ore., stuffed with teensy... Continue Reading »

If you're shopping around for homeowners insurance, you'll probably want to make sure that it covers things like flooding, wintertime slip-and-fall injuries on your property, even sinkhole damage. You probably aren't thinking about whether it will cover the family dog. And you certainly wouldn't guess that the kind of dog you have could cause your policy to be rescinded. But that's exactly what Susie Salazar's pit bull, Gauge, ended up costing her. Salazar, who lives in Greeley, Colo., had an employee from American Family Insurance come by her home to check out a plumbing claim that she had. The employee met Gauge and asked Salazar what breed he was. A couple of weeks later, an AFI rep called Salazar to tell her that the company was dropping her policy, KUSA-TV in Denver reported. "We... Continue Reading »

In 2004, Scott was living in Charleston, S.C., and getting tired of the renter's grind. So after looking into his homebuying options, he decided to apply for a mortgage through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. For a roving Coast Guardsman like Scott Dow, renting was a way of life. But after 21 years of service, Scott knew it was time for a change. And thanks to the unique perks afforded to veterans through the VA loan program, he was able to not only buy his first home, but also trade up for an even better property. VA loans are guaranteed by the Veterans Affairs office and provide qualified servicemembers with several perks that civilian buyers don't have. For instance, buyers who qualify for VA loans are not required to pay a down payment at closing, nor do they have to pay... Continue Reading »

Every year, the post-college exodus sends young revelers in search of the hippest cities in America but perhaps none more coveted than New York. So when Georgia native Meredith Garcia landed an apartment in the Big Apple, she thought she'd found a peach of a deal. "Back then, I was just looking to have fun with my friends, and space didn't really mean a lot to me," she says of her New York apartment. But as rent began to soar and her priorities started to shift, Meredith found herself in a less-than-glamorous arrangement -- as one of three roommates living in a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment struggling to make ends meet. On top of her housing woes, Meredith was becoming more serious with her longtime boyfriend, Zach, and the couple was looking to take the next step in their... Continue Reading »

"Recession" was a seldom-heard word when Jonathan Orpin began his home search three years ago. Home prices seemed to be on a never-ending climb and sellers had all the leverage in the world. But rather than moving lockstep with the rest of the market, Jonathan blazed a different trail. He decided to build his own home. "It was a hard decision for us to move at all," says Jonathan, who prior to making his decision, had lived with his family in a scenic enclave of Rochester, N.Y., for several years. "But it seemed like it was time, as I like to say, to get a view from a different mountain." So with his wife, son, and family pets in tow, Jonathan set out to travel the country in search of a new place to call home – and they did it without driving on any major highways. "We could... Continue Reading »

With retirement around the corner, homeowners Marilou Cook and her husband Al knew they needed to consider downsizing. What they didn't know, however, was just how drastically their next move would change their lives for the better. Marilou and her husband were living on a sprawling 23-acre property in Colchester, Conn., and loving it. Their four-bedroom, 5,000-square-foot, Colonial-style home was the picture of pastoral bliss. "It was very country, very relaxed, very pretty, and there was lots of wildlife," Marilou Cook says. Best of all, the home provided plenty of space for her passion of breeding golden retrievers. But there was also a downside to owning such a wide-open estate. "We were very happy living in that house," she says. "However, it did require an awful lot... Continue Reading »

In today's housing market, buying a foreclosure can mean big savings at closing -- or a massive headache waiting to happen. But for avid DIYers Valerie Stow and her husband, Jason, meeting the challenge was half the fun. They proved that, with a little elbow grease and creativity, even the tightest housing jams can be fixed. The Stows bought their first home in 2001, a three-bedroom, one-bath ranch-style house in Grand Junction, Colo. It was exactly what the couple needed at the time, but at just over 1,000 square feet, they knew they'd eventually have to make room for their growing family. So in late 2010, with both home prices and mortgage rates sinking to record lows, the couple decided to try their luck in the foreclosure market. Generally speaking, foreclosures are... Continue Reading »

Some families take months, even years, to find the perfect home. But with the homebuyer tax credit deadline looming, Robin Taney had to make the biggest financial decision of her life in just a matter of days. In 2003, Robin and her soon-to-be husband, David, bought their first home together -- a two-bedroom, one-bath Colonial in Rochester, N.Y. It was everything that the young couple could have wanted. Or at least they thought it was. In 2008, they took custody of their 18-month-old foster son, and everything changed. "Bringing him home was the greatest thing we'd ever done," Robin says. "But it also made us realize how much we needed a bigger house." The prospect of buying a new home was anything but certain. The couple was paying down a significant amount of debt at the time, and... Continue Reading »

When motivational speaker Barry Maher moved with his wife from Santa Barbara to a golfing community in Victorville, Calif., he thought he was set for life. After years of motivating clients to go the distance, it seemed that he had finally found his own finish line. The Victorville development had everything -- 27 holes of golf, two lakes, horse stables, a recreation center and giant pools. "It was great for me. When I came home, it was like going on vacation and playing golf," Barry recalls. But his wife didn't feel quite the same way. She soon learned that paradise isn't always what it's cracked up to be. "My wife really needed a whole lot more to do. She was used to restaurants in Santa Barbara, going to plays and movies," he says. "Victorville didn't have the kind of stimulation... Continue Reading »

The term "short sale" is enough to make many homebuyers bolt out the door in a panic. But when Jennifer Craft and her husband discovered that the house of their dreams was listed with the often-misunderstood sales tag, they didn't balk. With a little luck and a lot of perseverance, the Crafts successfully navigated the short sale process and came out the other end with a fabulous new home. In 2003, Jennifer and her husband purchased a starter home in Knoxville, Tenn. At the time, it was the perfect size for a new family. But after a few years in the house, the couple was ready for something larger with a bit more character. So on the advice of a friend, they spoke to a Realtor about a spacious listing in a great neighborhood. "From the quality of the granite countertops to the... Continue Reading »

When Lorena Larez and her family needed to move out of their home in San Luis Obispo, Calif., to be closer to her husband's new job, selling was the least of their worries. It's what the move might mean to their children that worried her most. "We have two young daughters, so we were leery about what that would entail," she says. But as Lorena quickly learned, even in today's bewildering market, a little kindness goes a long way in buying the perfect house. "After the process started, our home sold within the first week on the market. In a depressed market, that was great," she says. The real challenge, however, was finding a new home--and fast. The family started looking at foreclosures for sale in the city of Clovis, Calif. The neighborhood had everything they wanted: great... Continue Reading »

It takes a lot of vision--and more than a little chutzpah--to do what New Jersey homeowners Jeremy and Christina Gulish did. Where other house hunters saw only drab décor and outdated plumbing in their four-bedroom fixer-upper, this recently married couple saw opportunity. "The house was pretty bland," says Jeremy about the Morristown, N.J., home. "It needed some upgrades, but we saw a lot of potential in it." Thanks to their keen instincts, that underwhelming house today is a bright and loving home for the couple and their newborn daughter. When it comes to savvy real estate decisions, this wasn't the first time the Gulishes went against the grain. After marrying in 2007, they were in the market for their first home when they found a charming two-bedroom "workman's cottage."... Continue Reading »

When Mark and his wife married in 2007, their one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment was just what the newlyweds needed. But when home prices took a dip in their hip Brooklyn enclave, they knew it was time to make a move. "It was great at the time," Mark says, "but we knew that it was small and we definitely wanted more space." The couple knew exactly what they wanted – two bedrooms, two baths, and that ever-coveted New York dream, a private parking spot. Finding all three in Brooklyn's competitive market was going to be a challenge, but a break in home prices gave the couple renewed hope. "Some of the things that were just outside of our range were now in our ballpark," Mark recalls. "So we started looking in areas that had all the amenities we wanted." After several fruitless... Continue Reading »

After her divorce in 2002, Carol had to sell the only house her three children had ever called home. She would soon join the 3.6 million unmarried women--two-thirds of whom were previously married--who've recently become homeowners. As of the latest American Housing Survey, divorced women account for 20 percent of the total home buying population. But even after buying and renovating the two-bedroom house on Long Island that she would move into with her daughters, Carol couldn't help but feel a sense of loss for the family home she had to sell. "The day we moved out was a very painful process," she says. Until a chance encounter with her old neighbors offered her a once-in-a-life-time opportunity to rewrite history-–to buy back the house her children had grown up in. "I always... Continue Reading »

After months of hunting, touring and haggling, you've finally found your perfect house. Like most buyers, you'll have it inspected. The home inspection is your chance to find out what's really going on under the hood before you commit to the purchase. Over the course of a few hours, the home inspector will probe every nook and cranny of the property's exterior and interior, as well as review critical home systems. "The intention during that inspection is to educate the buyer on the condition of the home that they're about to purchase," says Charles Furlough, vice president of Pillar to Post, a professional home inspection company serving the U.S. and Canada. "The bottom line is that you need to know what you're buying." Most home purchase contracts include an inspection contingency,... Continue Reading »

You may recall the story of Captain Michael Clauer and his wife, May. The couple, who live in Frisco, Texas, owned their $300,000 home free and clear. But when Michael, an Army reservist, was deployed to Iraq, his wife got into a funk and failed to pay their $800 homeowner association dues. Next thing you know, the Heritage Lakes Homeowners Association foreclosed on the house, then sold it for just $3,500. The Clauers' case demonstrates the power that homeowner associations (HOAs) can wield. In Texas, for example, HOAs can foreclose on a home without a court order. "That's more power than our local government has," May Clauer told HousingWatch. "We did not know HOAs could do that." Continue Reading »

Video Transcript for Hearing Impaired These days, homebuyers have the upper hand in real estate transactions. But don't expect sellers to accept just any offer. When negotiating a home purchase, you still need to do your homework and determine a fair market value for a property. And if you're savvy, you may be able to get some extras--such as a home warranty or cash for closing costs--included in the deal. Here's some expert advice on how you can haggle like a pro. Continue Reading »

Deborah Rehyer of Vienna, Va. had just one requirement for buying a vacation home: It had to be waterfront. Her search began in a region 90 minutes from her home, in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. And her search ended on the opposite side of the state with a six-acre parcel on a tidal pond just off the Chesapeake Bay. "Waking up in the morning is the best. I take my coffee out to the floating dock and watch the world wake up," Rehyer says of her vacation property. Many of us visit vacation spots and wonder what life would be like to live there. Often, we pick up the real estate brochures searching for a cheap vacation home or the luxury house of our dreams. Even as the national real estate market remains stagnant, professionals and experts say that the market for vacation homes may be... Continue Reading »

When Chris M. decided to list his home in upstate New York and move closer to Manhattan to ease his wife's commute to her new job, he ran into a major hurdle: "There was no consensus among the agents we spoke with about what our house was worth," he said. The solution? Hire a local appraiser to handle the job of evaluating the home's worth to help arrive at a listing price. While appraisals are associated with the buyer's side of a home-buying transaction, they offer a useful and potentially headache-saving tool for sellers. However, there are important things you need to know when considering an appraisal before you list your property. Here are a few pointers when it comes to home appraisals for sellers. Continue Reading »

When Lake Grove, N.Y. residents Jim and Rose Maguire decided to sell their vacation home in Vero Beach, Fla. they decided to try the home sale themselves. With limited knowledge of home sales (they'd purchased three homes but never sold any), Jim went online, searched "for sale by owner" and came across www.ForSaleByOwner.com. Following the site's instructions, the couple took pictures of their home, listed it and waited for buyers to come. They spent their winter holiday hosting open houses and corresponding with potential buyers to no avail. So when it came time to return home to Long Island, they handed the listing to a Realtor with a caveat -- that it exclude a couple they'd met through ForSaleByOwner.com who needed to sell their own home first. Weeks after the Maguires returned... Continue Reading »

To put it bluntly, Carrie and Ryan Fitzgerald of Washington, D.C. were "clueless" about home buying when they decided to purchase a condominium. "We weren't sure where to start. A friend in Boston suggested getting a buyer's agent instead of a real estate agent, so we thought we'd give it a try," says Carrie. She went online, and using the search words "buyer's agent" for the Washington area, came up with Steve Israel, a broker for Buyer's Edge of Bethesda, Md. Two months later, the Fitzgeralds signed a contract for a two-story loft condo. "Steve totally exceeded our expectations," Carrie says. An exclusive buyer's agent differs from other real estate agents or brokers in that they don't represent sellers. Some, like Israel, never list properties for sale and only work with... Continue Reading »

Realtor Deb Staley has seen it a million times. She pulls up to an open house at a fabulous property, in a great neighborhood, at the right price, only to find an overgrown lawn, a leaf-strewn front porch and a front door covered in spiderwebs. In fact, it's not uncommon for potential buyers to be so turned off by an initial view that they refuse to even exit the car. "I have been a real estate broker for 22 years, and I am still amazed every time I show a house that is not ready for the market," says Staley, who's based in Searcy, Ark. We never get a second chance to make a first impression, and for motivated sellers a first impression of their home can often make or break a deal. Realtors know that a potential sale starts in the moment that a buyer pulls into the driveway. That's... Continue Reading »

Selling your home is stressful even during the best of times, but when the market is slow it sometimes seems like "Mission: Impossible." In order to sell your home for top dollar in a down market, you need to be proactive in making your home stand out from the huge inventory of listings that buyers have to choose from. Thankfully, there are many small improvements that you can make to get a big return on your investment and help your home sell faster: Continue Reading »

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