How to Avoid Mistakes Investing in Real Estate?

Real estate can be a great investment opportunity. Property and real estate tend to build value over time, which produces a return on your initial investment. Another option is renting or leasing a piece of real estate and enjoying the additional income. That said, there are dangers and common mistakes that can easily be made when investing in real estate. By educating yourself, you can avoid them and get the most out of your investments.

Mortgage Rates Drop, Home Construction Rises As Housing Market ‘Gains Momentum

American homes - Milwaukee, Lower East Side

Our 2020 real estate outlook forecasts a New Year filled with low mortgage rates, tight inventory, and rising home prices—and the latest data seems to support just that.

Freddie Mac’s chief economist Sam Khater sums it up best saying, “The housing market continues to steadily gain momentum with rising homebuyer demand and increased construction due to the strong job market, ebullient market sentiment and low mortgage rates … the improving real estate market will support economic growth heading into next year.”

Here’s a look at how real estate is faring as we head into the holidays:

Mortgage rates dropped.

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Mortgage rates dropped to 3.66% this week—down from 3.75% last week and 4.81% a year ago, according to Freddie Mac. On 15-year fixed-rate loans, rates hit 3.15%, down from 4.24% this time last year.

Despite the slide, mortgage activity actually declined for the week. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, purchase loan applications dipped 14% over the week, while refinancing activity slipped 8%.

Existing home sales increased.

The National Association of Realtors released its existing home sales numbers this week, and the news was good. Total sales—which include single-family homes, condos, townhomes and co-ops—rose 1.9% for the month and 4.6% over the year.

Those were only national numbers, though. Regionally, existing home sales only jumped in the South and Midwest. Sales fell in the Northeast and West. The number of first-time homebuyers also fell, according to the stats. First-timers accounted for just 31% of existing home sales in October.

Refinances accounted for more than half of all mortgages.

Though refinances actually dropped for the week, they were still 152% higher than a year ago, according to MBA. And in October? They accounted for a whopping 51% of all mortgage loans originated. That’s according to mortgage technology provider Ellie Mae, who reported the news on Wednesday. It’s the highest share of refinance activity since March 2015.

Ellie Mae’s CEO Jonathan Corr calls it “proof that homeowners are taking advantage of the opportunity to lock in lower rates.”

Overall housing inventory slipped.

According to the National Housing Report from real estate brokerage RE/MAX, housing inventory dropped to 3.1 months in October, marking a 9% year-over-year decline. A six-month supply of homes indicates a balanced market, so the news could indicate a seller’s market is on its way.

As RE/MAX CEO Adam Contos puts it, “Demand is strong, due in part to low interest rates, but buyers have limited options because inventory remains such a challenge. As a result, prices keep rising.”

Construction numbers saw a boost.

The Census Bureau released its monthly residential construction report on Tuesday, and it seems more inventory may be on the way for 2020. Single-family building permits were up 3.2% over the year, hitting their highest point since 2007. Permits saw the biggest jump in the South and Northeast.

Single-family housing starts were also up, with an increase of 2% over the year. According to Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, the numbers spell good news for homebuyers.

“The issuance of more housing permits is a very positive sign and a good step toward more inventory,” Yun said. “In order to better counter and even slow the increase in housing prices, home builders will have to bring additional homes on the market.”

Americans logged the lowest migration rate on record.

The number of Americans moving has dropped to its lowest point since 1947, according to data released from the Census this week. The Bureau’s Wednesday report shows that just 9.8% of the population moved in the last year, compared with about 15% in the early 2000s.

This comes on the back of a recent analysis from Redfin, which shows homeowners staying put for a whopping 13 years, on average. In places like Salt Lake City, Houston, and Fort Worth, Texas, they’re staying put 20 years-plus.

Single-family rents jumped.

Rent prices on single-family homes increased 3.2% over the year in October, with some cities logging jumps more than double that amount. According to property data firm CoreLogic, the most significant increases were seen on the lower end of the price spectrum.

Phoenix saw the biggest jump in single-family rent prices with a 6.7% uptick. It was the 10th straight month Phoenix took the honor. Other cities with big jumps in single-family rents included Las Vegas (+5.8%), Seattle (5.5%), and Tucson, Arizona (+4.6%).

 

“Original article written by Aly J Yale on November 22 2019 see full article at

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alyyale/2019/11/22/this-week-in-real-estate-what-happened-with-mortgage-rates-home-sales-construction–more/?fbclid=IwAR3z_7mmwq_nf4lO54clS3fY3tHAPE2LKXoqG1phV9EavHDzLkUsft4Fa3c#65790dab4981”

8 Ridiculous Items Marie Kondo Wants You to Clutter Your Home With

Love her or loathe her, organizing guru Marie Kondo knows a thing or two about decluttering. She’s single-handedly responsible for the extra space in the closets of millions of Americans thanks to the KonMari Method. This signature style of cleaning found a global audience thanks to her best-selling book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” and her Emmy-nominated Netflix show, “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.”

Now, it looks like the next phase of her KonMari empire is the new online shop on her website, konmari.com, where devotees can find “items that spark joy for Marie and enhance your everyday routine.”

Look, we understand her motivation for adding an e-commerce component to her site. Giving your fans a place to buy a carefully curated collection of products is all part of growing a lifestyle brand. Just ask Goop’s Gwyneth Paltrow, or Chip and Joanna Gaines, whose Magnolia empire has ballooned from home decor items to include a country market, a bed-and-breakfast, and an upcoming TV network. But considering that Kondo’s whole movement is founded on the idea of decluttering, we’re having trouble seeing how a retail site fits into the picture.

Mixed messages aside, the products on Kondo’s site are lovely and they may even spark joy. But be forewarned: Sparking joy clearly costs a pretty penny, because many of the items we saw on KonMari are not cheap. After checking out the entire selection, here are some of the craziest things we saw.

1. Desktop box

How much joy can a box spark?
How much joy can a box spark?konmari

This 5-centimeter box can hold your paper clips, coins, or other small items. It’s the same as any other box, except it’s made of leather and costs $75. Pass.

2. Flower bouquet tote

We say bag this!
We say bag this!konmari.com

In case you find it too difficult to simply hold a bouquet of flowers in your hands or put it in one of the countless canvas bags you likely already have, there’s this. We’re not sure why anyone would need a designated bag for carrying flowers ($42), as lovely as its raw denim design may be.

3. Balance gem water bottle

You might need to take out an insurance policy on this water bottle.
You might need to take out an insurance policy on this water bottle.konmari.com

Gem-infused water sounds lovely (we think?), but with a $98 price tag we’d live in fear of dropping this glass water bottle, negating all that serenity it’s supposed to provide.

4. Tuning fork and crystal set

While it may bring balance to your emotions, what it does to your checkbook is another thing.
While it may bring balance to your emotions, what it does to your checkbook is another thing.konmari.com

We’re not belittling the benefits of crystals, but we are, however, cringing at the cost of this tuning fork and rose quartz crystal—$75!

A word to the wise: You can find similar tuning forks made of the same material for a fraction of the price.

5. Shiatsu stick

Is someone sticking it to us with this price tag?
Is someone sticking it to us with this price tag?knomari.com

Apparently this pressure point stick was made in Japan and comes with a diagram of acupressure points, so that might explain the $12 price tag. But we can’t help but wonder if you could just go use a nice branch from your backyard instead.

6. Tea container

In case you don't have anything else to spend $200 on.
In case you don’t have anything else to spend $200 on.konmari.com

The ceremonial preparation of tea is a time-honored tradition in Japan, so we like seeing these types of products offered in the KonMari shop. And like many of the items in the shop, this tea container is handmade in Japan, which is likely the reason for the high price tag. But even if you really like tea, it’s hard to imagine you like it enough to spend $200 on a 5-inch-tall container. How much tea can it really hold, anyway?

7. Tea scoop

In case you haven't already spent enough money on tea paraphernalia.
In case you haven’t already spent enough money on tea paraphernalia.konmari.com

Want a special spoon for your dried tea leaves? This is a brass tea scoop, but it’s handmade in Japan, which is probably why it costs $52.

8. Stir spoon

Now, where to keep this special spoon?
Now, where to keep this special spoon?konmari.com

Here we present to you another spoon. For $44, you can clutter up your drawer with this (again, handmade) brass one.

“This blog was originally written by  Julie  Ryan Evans  on November 15th 2019 and you can find the entire original article at:  https://www.realtor.com/news/trends/marie-kondo-online-shop/”

What is Owner Financing?

Advertiser & Editorial Disclosure

Owner financing is a financial arrangement between the seller and buyer of a home. Instead of working with a lender to get a mortgage loan, the buyer makes monthly payments to the seller.

If you’re a real estate investor looking to buy your next property for your business, owner financing may be able to give you opportunities you can’t get with traditional mortgage lenders.

Before you start looking for sellers who are willing to provide such an arrangement, though, understand how the process of owner financing works and both the benefits and drawbacks to consider.

What is owner financing?

Owner financing allows homebuyers — mostly real estate investors, but anyone can use it — to purchase a home and pay the seller directly instead of getting a mortgage loan. This arrangement can provide the buyer with less strict eligibility requirements.

For example, if your credit score is relatively low, you’re self-employed or you’re having a hard time verifying your income, owner financing could be an alternative where traditional mortgage lenders won’t work with you.

For the owner, the primary benefit is getting a steady stream of income (with interest attached) until the property is paid for in full.

Depending on where you live, owner financing can go by many names, including:

  • Owner financing
  • Seller financing
  • Owner carried financing
  • Owner carryback
  • Owner will carry (OWC)

All of these terms essentially mean the same thing, but we’ll use “owner financing” and “seller financing” for the sake of simplicity.

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Seller financing terms

In general, the terms with a seller financing arrangement will look somewhat different than what you might find with a mortgage loan.

This is primarily because unlike a lender, which owns hundreds or even thousands of mortgage loans, a seller may only have one owner financing arrangement. This gives sellers a little more flexibility, but it can also pose a higher risk. Here’s a summary of what to expect with owner financing terms.

Down payment

A home seller doesn’t have any minimum down payment requirements set by a bank or government agency. Instead, they can choose their own requirements based on how much risk they want to take.

In some cases, you may be able to find an owner financing arrangement with a low down payment. But you’re more likely to see higher down payment requirements, some as high as 25% or more.

That’s because the down payment amount is what you stand to lose if you default on the loan. The higher your down payment, the more “skin in the game” you have, and you’re less likely to stop making payments.

Whatever the seller asks for, however, it may be negotiable. So if you don’t have the amount of cash the seller wants or you do but want to maintain an emergency fund, ask if there’s any wiggle room.

Interest rates

Because a seller doesn’t have a large portfolio of loans to help reduce the risk of one or two borrowers defaulting, you can generally expect to pay a higher interest rate to compensate them for that risk.

In some instances, you may see interest rates as high as 10%, depending on your creditworthiness, down payment and the overall structure of the deal. In others, interest rates may be lower.

Amortization schedule

A 30-year mortgage is pretty typical for a standard mortgage loan, though you may choose to go down to 15 years instead. With a seller financing agreement, you may be able to choose a 30-year repayment, but the term will most likely be much shorter than that.

For example, the loan may amortize over 15 or 20 years, because the owner doesn’t want to drag out the process over three decades. Alternatively, you may get a longer repayment term to keep the monthly payments low, but the seller may require a balloon payment after five or 10 years to pay off whatever remains of the principal balance at that point.

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Seller financing example

Every owner financing arrangement is different, but to give you an idea of how it might be structured, here’s an example of a loan with a 30-year repayment term and a balloon payment after 10 years.

Asking price $200,000
Down payment (15%) $30,000
Amount financed $170,000
Interest rate 8%
Repayment term 30 years
Balloon 10 years
Monthly payment $1,247.40
Balance at 10 years/balloon payment due $149,131.96
Total of all payments to the seller $328,819.96

Now, let’s say you can negotiate with the owner of the home and exchange a higher down payment for a lower interest rate and a balloon payment at 15 years. Here’s how that might look.

Asking price $200,000
Down payment (25%) $50,000
Amount financed $150,000
Interest rate 6.5%
Repayment term 30 years
Balloon 15 years
Monthly payment $948.10
Balance at 10 years/balloon payment due $108,839.24
Total of all payments to the seller $329,497.24

In the second scenario, you would save on the loan’s monthly payment. But because you’re drawing out the repayment for five more years, the interest catches up, and you’ll end up spending a little more than with the first option.

Advantages of owner financing

There are plenty of benefits of owner financing for both the seller and the buyer. Depending on which side of the deal you’re on, here’s what you need to know.

Pros for buyers

  • Faster closing time: Because it’s just you and the seller working out the deal, you don’t need to wait for the loan underwriter, officer and bank’s legal department to process and approve your loan. 
  • Less expensive to close: You don’t have to worry about traditional lender fees or a lot of other expenses associated with closing on a traditional loan. According to Zillow, those costs can amount to 2% to 5% of the purchase price. That’s not to say you won’t have any out-of-pocket costs, but they’ll likely be much cheaper.
  • Flexible credit requirements: If your credit is less than stellar, but your cash flow and reserves look good, you may have an easier time getting approved for a seller financing arrangement than a mortgage loan from a bank.
  • Flexible down payment: While some sellers may require higher down payments, some may offer to take less than what a bank might require for the same financing deal.
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Pros for sellers

  • Can sell “as is”: With a typical mortgage loan, the lender may have certain requirements of the collateral (the property) to protect its interests. In some situations, that may mean that you’ll need to make costly repairs to meet the bank’s standards. With a seller financing agreement, there is no bank to satisfy, and you may be able to sell the home as-is, saving you some time and money.
  • Potentially good investment: Depending on the interest rate you charge, you may be able to get a better return on an owner financing arrangement than if you were to sell the home for a lump-sum payment and investment the money somewhere else. And unlike the stock market, you don’t have to worry about the return changing based on market conditions — the interest rate is set for the life of the loan.
  • Faster sale: You can usually sell a home faster through owner financing than you can when you involve a traditional mortgage lender.
  • Keep the title: As the lender, you retain the title to the home until the buyer pays off the balance of the loan. What’s more, if the borrower defaults, you keep the down payment, whatever has been paid to you so far, and the home itself.
  • Payment flexibility: As the owner, you can choose to take monthly payments from the borrower plus the balloon payment, or you can sell the promissory note to an investor and get a lump-sum payment.

Disadvantages of owner financing

While there are some pros to using seller financing over a traditional mortgage, there are also some clear drawbacks that might make you think twice before entering such an agreement.

Cons for buyers

  • More expensive: Even if it may be easier to qualify for seller financing than a traditional mortgage loan, you’ll typically be charged a higher interest rate and pay more over the life of the loan. 
  • Balloon payment concerns: If you can’t afford to make the balloon payment with your own cash reserves, you may need to get financing to cover the cost. If you don’t do either, you risk losing the house and all the money you’ve paid up to that point.
  • No price-shopping: With a traditional mortgage, you can shop around and compare rates and other terms on a single home. With owner financing, however, the terms of the deal are set by the property’s current owner. While they’re not always set in stone — you can try negotiating on some points — you don’t have the option to price-shop.
  • An existing mortgage can be problematic: If the owner still has a mortgage on the property and the loan has a due-on-sale clause, the lender can demand immediate payment of the remainder of the principal balance once the sale goes through to you. If neither you nor the owner pay, the bank can foreclose on the home. To avoid this, make sure the seller owns the property free and clear. If not, consider one of the options below.

Cons for owners

  • More work: While you can close on the home with the buyer faster than you could with a traditional mortgage loan, seller financing may require more work in general. If you want to sell your home and be done with it, the regular process is the way to go. 
  • Potential for foreclosure: If the buyer defaults on the loan but doesn’t leave the property, you may need to start the foreclosure process, which can get complicated and expensive.
  • Potential repair costs: If you end up needing to take back the property, you may be on the hook for repair and maintenance costs if the buyer didn’t take good care of the home.

Different ways to structure owner financing deals

If the owner has an existing mortgage loan on the property, it likely has a due-on-sale clause attached to it. There are some situations, however, where the lender may agree to seller financing under certain conditions. And there may be other ways to make it happen without involving the original mortgage lender at all.

Here are a few ways you can structure an owner financing deal if there’s already a loan on the property, as well as a couple where the seller owns the property outright. As you think about which one is right for you, consider hiring an attorney to help you draft up the agreement to avoid potential problems down the road.

Buy “subject to” the existing loan

With this arrangement, you effectively take over the monthly payments on the seller’s mortgage loan, but they’re still legally responsible for making the payments under their contract with the lender — in fact, the lender may not even know that you’ve assumed the monthly payments.

This means that if you stop making payments, they’re still on the hook, and it could ruin their credit if they don’t take up payments again.

The setup may work if you already have a relationship of trust with the owner. But otherwise, don’t expect many sellers to get excited about this option because of the increased risk they’re required to take on.

Wraparound mortgage

With a wraparound mortgage, you’re creating a loan that’s big enough to cover the existing loan plus any equity the owner has in the property.

You make the payment on the larger wraparound mortgage, and the owner takes a portion of that amount to make the payment on the original mortgage loan. The difference between the payments is the owner financing on the equity portion of the home.

The primary drawback of a wraparound mortgage is that it’s junior to the original mortgage loan. So if the owner of the property stops making payments on the first loan, the lender may foreclose on the home, leaving the buyer high and dry.

Lease option or lease purchase

With this setup, you ultimately lease the property from the seller with an option to buy it. In some cases, you may even have a contract drawn up to buy the home at a set date in the future. This option allows the buyer to ensure control over the property, and it can give the owner some time to finish paying off the original mortgage loan.

As with a wraparound mortgage, however, the buyer is still at the mercy of the owner, and if the latter defaults on their loan, the lease agreement will no longer be in effect when the bank forecloses.

Contract for deed

A contract for deed is a common option for seller financing that we’ve covered in detail above. It works only when the seller owns the home free and clear because the owner holds onto the property title while the buyer makes monthly payments.

Once the buyer finishes the repayment term — which can be whatever the two parties agree to — they’ll receive the deed to the home. If they default, however, the owner retains the deed and can repossess the home.

Rent to own

With a rent-to-own financing arrangement, the buyer moves in and rents the home, with a portion of their monthly payment acting as a deposit or down payment, which they can use to purchase the home down the road.

For example, let’s say you pay $1,200 per month, with $1,000 covering the cost to rent the home and $200 — this is sometimes called the rent premium — going into an escrow account.

There are different ways to set up a rent-to-own agreement. For example, the tenant may have the option to buy the home at any point during the lease, or they may be required to buy at the end of the lease.

If the buyer doesn’t go through with purchasing the home, the seller may be able to keep the rent premiums. As a result, this may not be a good choice if you’re on the fence or want to avoid the risk of something changing.

Frequently asked questions

As we researched how owner financing works, we came across several questions about the process and how to know if it’s right for you. Here are some of the more common questions, along with their answers.

Are there closing costs with owner financing?

One of the benefits of using owner financing instead of a traditional mortgage loan is that you’ll save on closing costs. That’s because you won’t have to deal with any lender fees, such as application and origination fees, interest points, and more.

That said, you can still expect some closing costs with a seller financing arrangement. For example, your local government may charge a fee to record the sale of the home, and you might want to get an appraisal to ensure you have the right sales price. Also, there may be a fee associated with transferring ownership of the property to the buyer.

Finally, some counties may require that you have an attorney run a title search before completing the sale to make sure there aren’t any other claims or liens that could come up later.

While the cost of these fees won’t be anywhere near what you’d expect to pay on a mortgage loan, it’s still important to make sure you have enough cash to cover them.

Does owner financing go on your credit?

In most cases, a seller financing agreement won’t help your credit in any way because the owner likely won’t be reporting your monthly payments to the national credit reporting agencies. There are, of course, some exceptions to this rule, especially if the owner is a business that meets the credit bureau requirements for credit reporting.

While there’s not a lot of potential upside for your credit with owner financing, it could damage your credit if you default and the owner hires a debt collection agency, which will report the past-due debt.

There are plenty of reasons to consider owner financing, but if you’re hoping to use it to build your credit history, you may end up disappointed.

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How do you calculate owner financing?

The terms of an owner financing agreement will depend on what both the buyer and seller are willing to accept. Once you’ve nailed down the specific terms of the loan, you’ll want to run the numbers to make sure it’s affordable.

Start by using an online mortgage calculator to determine your monthly payment using the mortgage amount, amortization term and interest rate. If the agreement includes a balloon payment, use a mortgage balance calculator to see how much the principal balance will be after you’ve made the predetermined number of monthly payments.

To get the total amount you’ll pay to the seller, multiply the monthly payment amount by the number of payments before your balloon payment. Then add that figure to the balloon payment amount and the down payment amount.

Going through this process will help you not only determine whether you can afford the monthly payment and the balloon payment, but also how much financing you need if you can’t afford the balloon payment when it’s due.

Is owner financing safe?

In the right circumstances, owner financing is a safe way to finance an investment property or even a residential home. That said, not all buyers and sellers are experienced in the process. Also, there are always risks inherent to an owner financing arrangement, even if both the buyer and the seller are acting in good faith.

As you consider both the benefits and drawbacks of owner financing, it’s up to you to determine whether you’re comfortable with the process and how to proceed. Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, take time to vet the other party to establish trust, and be sure to hire an attorney to help draw up the arrangement, so it’s legally sound.

 

“This blog was originally written by  Ben Luthi on November 1st 2019 and you can find the entire original article at: https://www.nav.com/blog/what-is-owner-financing-307751/?utm_source=internal&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2019115newsletter&utm_content=https%3a%2f%2fwww.nav.com%2fblog%2fwhat-is-owner-financing-307751%2f “

How to Actually Afford to Buy a Home in America

Home buyers today face tough challenges — housing prices have soared, a dollar doesn’t go as far as it once did and rent is more expensive than the past.How are people today making such a large purchase despite these hurdles? With more flexibility and a bit of financing creativity, today’s buyers are finding ways to achieve homeownership.

Know your options (and credit score)

The first step to knowing if you can afford a home is figuring out what financing options are available to you, including what mortgages you’re eligible for and how much you need (and can afford) to put down upfront.

Learning the minimum FICO score required by lenders and understanding your own credit score are important starting points.

Many home shoppers aren’t sure how much they have to put down on a home, what the lender-required minimum down payment will be (it’s not always 20%), or what programs are available to help with down payments, like FHA loans.

Before buyers even start thinking about saving for a home, they should know what their financial resources are and if they’re eligible to buy.

Make enough money to save

With fewer resources to pull from than their older, wealthier counterparts, renters wanting to buy face tough financial headwinds.

According to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2019, renter households typically earn a median income of $37,500 annually, which is nearly $40,000 less than the median household income netted by households who recently bought a home (of whom the median household income is $75,000 annually).

While there are ways to enter into homeownership without making $75,000 in household income, it’s hard to afford to buy if you make significantly less. “If you’re making $37,500 per year, it’s probably not feasible for you to buy in almost any market,” says Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell.

While households purchasing homes are more likely to have two incomes than renter households (and thus a higher median household income combined), even two-income households struggle to afford to buy in competitive markets.

Save enough cash (but not as much as you think)

One of the most daunting parts of home buying? The down payment. In fact, two-thirds of renters cite saving for a down payment as the biggest hurdle to buying a home, according to the Zillow Housing Aspirations Report.

For people buying the national median home valued at $229,000, with the traditional 20% down payment, that’s $45,800 upfront — just to move in.

“The down payment remains a hurdle for a lot of people,” says Gudell. “But they should know they don’t have to put 20% down.”

Although putting down less than 20% means additional considerations, such as the cost for private mortgage insurance (PMI), some find it worth the hassle. In fact, according to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2019, only one-fifth of recent buyers (20%) put 20% down, and just over half of buyers (56%) put less than the traditional 20% down.

Buyers are also getting creative about piecing together a down payment from multiple sources. According to the report findings, 34% of buyers who get a mortgage also get help in the form of gifts or loans from friends and family to come up with a down payment.

Know your deal breakers, but be flexible

To get into a home — even if it’s not the home of their dreams — some of today’s buyers are considering homes and locations outside of their initial wish list and getting increasingly flexible when it comes to neighborhood, house condition and even home type.

“I do think people get discouraged when they look in their target neighborhood and they see homes around $170,000 when they’re looking for a $110,000 home,” Gudell says.

Affordably priced homes do, in fact, exist. But in popular areas, where people most often want to live, it’s going to be harder to find that cheaper home, Gudell says.

“If you’re willing to take a longer commute and make a couple trade-offs, you might be able to find a home that is farther out that might be cheaper,” Gudell explains. “You have to leave the paved path before you can find cheaper choices.”

“This blog was originally written by BRITTAN JENKINS ON October 23rd 2019 and you can find the entire original article at: https://www.zillow.com/blog/what-it-takes-buy-home-america-221191/?fbclid=IwAR1HYeOV3FauGQ55MXK1XsnRSCQ3pEQkpD2qfx_rTkM-eZu316mDtS2kZmU “

5 Tips for Starting Your Home Search

In today’s market, low inventory dominates the conversation in many areas of the country. It can often be frustrating to be a first-time homebuyer if you aren’t prepared. Here are five tips from realtor.com’s article“How to Find Your Dream Home—Without Losing Your Mind.”

1. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage Before You Start Your Search

One way to show you’re serious about buying your dream home is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage. Even if you’re in a market that is not as competitive, understanding your budget will give you the confidence of knowing whether or not your dream home is within your reach. This will help you avoid the disappointment of falling in love with a home well outside your price range.

2. Know the Difference Between Your ‘Must-Haves’ and ‘Would-Like-To-Haves’

Do you really need that farmhouse sink in the kitchen to be happy with your home choice? Would a two-car garage be a convenience or a necessity? Before you start your search, list all the features of a home you would like. Qualify them as ‘must-haves’‘should-haves’, or ‘absolute-wish list’ items. This will help you stay focused on what’s most important.

3. Research and Choose a Neighborhood Where You Want to Live

Every neighborhood has unique charm. Before you commit to a home based solely on the house itself, take a test-drive of the area. Make sure it meets your needs for “amenities, commute, school district, etc. and then spend a weekend exploring before you commit.”

4. Pick a House Style You Love and Stick to It

Evaluate your family’s needs and settle on a style of home that will best serve those needs. Just because you’ve narrowed your search to a zip code doesn’t mean you need to tour every listing in that vicinity. An example from the article says, “if you have several younger kids and don’t want your bedroom on a different level, steer clear of Cape Cod–style homes, which typically feature two or more bedrooms on the upper level and the master on the main.”

5. Document Your Home Visits

Once you start touring homes, the features of each individual home will start to blur together. The article suggests keeping your camera handy and making notes on the listing sheet to document what you love and don’t love about each property you visit.

Bottom Line

In a high-paced, competitive environment, any advantage you can give yourself will help you on your path to buying your dream home.

 

 

“This blog was originally written by for Keepingcurrentmatters.com and you can find the entire original article at: https://www.keepingcurrentmatters.com/2019/10/21/5-tips-for-starting-your-home-search-2/

Bye-Bye, Boca! Retiring Boomers Are Flocking to These 10 U.S. Cities

 | Sep 9, 2019

What’s your personal retirement plan, or maybe retirement fantasy?

A) A sandy beach community with a chill vibe and lots of frosty drinks

B) A senior-friendly burb with shops, pickleball courts, multitudes of doctors, and temperatures that rarely dip below 90

C) A sprawling one-stop-shop retirement community

D) A city with, well, everything a city has to offer

Spoiler: More and more baby boomers these days are flipping the script and opting for D. They’re ditching the stock notions of retirement from previous generations and seeking to spend their golden years in urban areas that have walkability, great restaurants, culture, good public transport, and decent prices—pretty much the same things that America’s other ginormous demo group, millennials, crave. The difference is, more boomers can foot the bill.

And as the largest generation ever to retire, at around 74 million strong—10,000 per day now hitting age 65—they’re already having ripple effects in the hottest neighborhoods of many U.S. cities. But where? Realtor.com® found the fastest-growing retirement cities where boomers are moving in. Get ready for the silver tsunami.

“Many boomers recognize that cities are a great place to age,” says Daniel Levine, founding director of the Avant-Guide Institute trends consultancy. “Everything is often within walking distance, from restaurants to hair salons. Add the plethora of cultural activities and aging in the city is sort of like one big retirement home.

“America’s cities are dynamic engines of change,” he adds, “and boomers are as much as part of that as younger generations.”

The top retirement cities have “higher than average access to exercise opportunities, healthy food options, and parks,” says Rodney Harrell, AARP’s director of Livability Thought Leadership. “They’re easier to walk in and have more transportation options.”

To zero in on the best urban retirement meccas, we started by calculating the counties with the greatest numbers of incoming folks aged 55 and up (calculated on a per capita basis), and those that have seen the biggest increases over the past two years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau data. We selected the primary cities from those counties.*

The Northeast didn’t make the cut because it’s expensive and cold (some things, like the desire for warmer weather, never change). And you’ll see that many of our entries are cheaper alternatives to bigger, way pricier cities nearby. Can’t afford San Fransisco? (Hey, join the club.) Give Sacramento a look!

So which cities are experiencing a boomer boom?

1. Tucson, AZ

Median home list price: $290,000**

Like golf? Tucson has a few courses...
Like golf? Tucson has a few courses…constantgardener/iStock

It’s not exactly a shocker that an Arizona city topped our list. The 286 days of sun a year and reasonable cost of living make the state a perennial favorite among retirees. But budget-conscious boomers craving the city life are bypassing costlier Phoenix, with a median $340,000 list price, for much more affordable Tucson.

The desert city offers a surplus of 65-plus retirement communities as well as a vibrant downtown, extensive bike paths, gorgeous hiking trails, and award-winning Sun Tran bus system. The city has access to more than—count ’em—40 golf courses. Tucson is also home to Banner-University Medical Center, one of U.S. News & World Report’s top 50 hospitals in the country.

The Sam Hughes neighborhood is particularly popular with retirees. The idyllic, tree-lined neighborhood offers plenty of restaurants, coffee shops, and parks within close walking distance—and it’s only a 10-minute trip from downtown. Single-family homes can range from $200,000 to $500,000, some boasting beautiful Southwestern architecture. This four-bed, three-bath home for $499,000 is in a particularly desirable location around the corner from Broadway Village, a shopping center with a natural grocer and a yoga studio.

2. St. Louis, MO

Median home list price: $209,000

Home in Boulevard Heights
Home in Boulevard Heightsrealtor.com

Wait, what? St. Louis doesn’t exactly spring to mind as the primary place folks would contemplate for their forever homes. But the ultralow prices, thriving restaurant scene (landing fifth on Food & Wine magazine’s list of best food cities to visit in 2019), and cultural cornerstones such as the newly redone Gateway Arch Museum make it worthy of a second look. And it has a four-season climate that’s still far milder than its northern counterparts.

The big caveat: St. Louis ranks higher overall in crime than most U.S. urban areas. But there are plenty of safer parts of the city. In the highly desirable Boulevard Heights neighborhood, buyers can pick from a wide selection of brick bungalows and cottages on small, easy-to-maintain lots for under $300,000. Boomers love that the area feels secure and quasi-suburban while being a short bike ride away from hip restaurant life in neighborhoods such as Soulard and Southampton (or as locals call it, SoHa).

3. Tampa, FL

Median home list price: $325,000

Tampa
TampaMichael Warren/iStock

Yes, Florida’s killer combo of sun, shoreline, and beneficial tax laws make it a home run for aging boomers. And for those who don’t dig the Boca scene, Tampa is particularly appealing—catnip for die-hard urbanites who want to save a few bucks. The cost of living in the Gulf Coast city is way cheaper than Miami (with median home prices of $455,000), and there are plenty of cultural and recreational activities.

The place has gotten significantly more worldly over the years, with eateries serving up nearly every type of cuisine from American small plates to high-priced Japanese tasting menus, as well as great museums and fine places to kayak, bike, and walk. And of course, Tampa’s crystal-clear waters and white sand beaches are some of the nicest in the country.

Active adult communities on the outskirts of town are popular, but walkable South Tampa has become one of the area’s go-to locales for those who don’t want to spend all day riding in golf carts. Boomers have been seeking out condos like this one-bedroom in Bayshore Gardenswith views for $200,000.

There’s an influx in sales of properties here with in-law units—like this newly restored home with a separate one-bedroom, one-bathroom suite in the backyard—so boomers can live with their adult children as they age.

“Several of the large, new-construction home builders are creating floor plans specifically for that purpose,” says Philippa Main, a real estate agent with Future Home Realty.

4. Denver, CO

Median home list price: $490,000

Fairway Villas at Green Valley Ranch
Fairway Villas at Green Valley Ranchrealtor.com

Contrary to popular imagination, it’s not just hipper-than-thou millennials flocking to the Mile High City for its thriving job market, outdoorsy culture, and thriving brewery scene. Retirees who can afford the steep price tag are also heading to this mountain city seeking an active lifestyle of their own.

The most expensive city on our list features 300 days of sunshine a year, easy access to fly fishing spots, skiing, rock climbing, hiking trails, golf courses, and a trio of world-class pro sports franchises (go Broncs!).

Basically, you can do just about anything here.

“I was talking to a friend’s 69-year-old dad the other day: On one day in April, he went skiing in the morning, played nine holes of golf in the afternoon, and then saw a concert at Red Rocks,” says Aspen Gold Realty broker and owner Mike Christensen. “That’s how I want to retire.”

Boomers looking to settle into an active retirement community should look at Fairway Villas at Green Valley Ranch, a community with 220 single-family homes ranging in price from the mid-$300,000s to low $400,000s, he says.

Many soon-to-be retirees are also buying low-maintenance condos and townhomes (like this two-bedroom for $299,900) near their children and grandkids. The Indian Creek area is home to quiet streets and offers easy access to the High Line Canal, a 71-mile humanmade waterway that offers tree-covered trails for walking, biking, and horseback riding.

5. Atlanta, GA

Median home list price: $390,000

Atlanta nightlife
Atlanta nightlifeLisa-Blue/iStock

Boomers who want to be in the thick of things in the South are moving to the center of Atlanta—a cluster of neighborhoods known as Intown. Drab nickname aside, the area is popular with young professionals and retirees alike, both seeking brand-new condos and townhomes in up-and-coming areas.

A cool one-bedroom loft with 20-foot ceilings and a Carrara marble backsplash in Reynoldstown, a gentrifying historic community, can set buyers back around $300,000. Two-bedroom condos in Inman Park, a hip, walkable, more affluent neighborhood, run around $495,000.

Both of these neighborhoods are adjacent to the Beltline, a former railway that encircles the core of the city and connects 45 neighborhoods. While still in development, its 33 miles of multiuse trails currently include a light rail, hiking trails, parks, and public art. Many of the new properties along the Beltline are within walking distance of new breweries, restaurants, and shops.

The burgeoning westside corridor—specifically the English AvenueKnight Park, and Howell Station neighborhoods—has also been attracting a wide array of folks on the verge of retirement.

“There are a lot of cool, two-story flats coming on the market, along with townhomes and smaller, single-family bungalows,” says Ryan Sconyers, a real estate agent with Graham Seeby Keller Williams.

6. Las Vegas, NV

Median home list price: $323,000

What is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and retires to Vegas in the evening?
What is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and retires to Vegas in the evening?Eloi_Omella/iStock

Sin City might be synonymous with bachelorette weekends, buffets, and boozy pool parties, but bronzed 20-somethings aren’t the only ones swarming the Nevada escape. Boomers have good reasons to be running toward Las Vegas and leaving higher-cost markets like Los Angeles. The low costs helped the city land on realtor.com’s ranking of housing markets poised to take off in 2019. The lure of the casinos are an additional perk—or downside, depending on your perspective.

But what sets the city apart in the eyes of boomers (aside from the perpetual dry heat) is the abundance of all-inclusive, 55-plus communities within the city limits. Sun City Summerlin, the largest active-adult community in Nevada, sits right at the base of the Spring Mountain Range and has nearly 7,800 properties spread across 2,400 acres.

Prices for these single-family, ranch-style homes vary widely from $200,000 to $1 million. On the more affordable side of the spectrum, this comfortable two-bedroom, two-bathroom home with a standalone tub and separate shower is listed for $325,000.

Seeking a neighborhood with a bit more age diversity? Check out Spring Valley on the southwest side of the city. It’s a safe, budget-friendly area with plenty of shopping centers and parks.

7. Albuquerque, NM

Median home list price: $260,000

Home in Albuquerque's Nob Hill neighborhood
Home in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill neighborhoodrealtor.com

Albuquerque is one of the nation’s more easygoing major cities—and that’s exactly why it appeals to retirees. The relaxed vibe, dry climate, and breathtaking landscape appeal to folks who are looking to slow down but still stay active. The low prices don’t hurt, either.

Boomers who move to the Land of Enchantment are often outdoorsy types who love all of the options the high desert offers. The Sandia Mountains, directly to the east of the city, are great for hiking and biking. The Rio Grande flows right through town, offering kayakers easy access to the water and providing walkers and cyclist miles of trails that wind through its wooded banks.

Boomer buyers can find cute Spanish Pueblo–revival bungalows in the vibrant and walkable Nob Hill neighborhood, on a stretch of Route 66, around $300,000. It’s just a short drive away from the major hospitals in the city, including the University of New Mexico Hospital and Lovelace Medical Center. Nob Hill also boasts hookah bars, taquerias, music venues, and an indie movie theater.

8. Portland, OR

Median home list price: $495,000

Hiking in Portland, OR
Hiking in Portland, ORandipantz/iStock

Eight seasons of the show “Portlandia” gave the world a satirical, but oh-so-accurate glimpse at the type of people who live in this crunchy city of bearded hipsters, quirky entrepreneurs, feminist bookstore owners, and, yes, older couples navigating retired life.

“Portland is a top destination for boomers because of its proximity to a range of outdoor splendors, many walkable neighborhoods, thriving food and drink scene, public transportation, and relative affordability,” says Lance Marrs, a local real estate broker at Living Room Realty.

In neighborhoods such as the Pearl District in northwest Portland, the abundance of lofts and condos attracts boomers who want access to hip breweries, artisanal coffee shops, and plenty of parks. This one-bedroom, one-bathroom condo next to Jamison Square park is going for $475,000.

If you envision settling down in a single-family home, two-bedroom, two-bathroom bungalows in Alameda and Irvington go for around $600,000. It’s not exactly cheap, but these neighborhoods are within walking distance to restaurants and art galleries. And getting around town on public transportation is a breeze thanks to the Portland Streetcar service and Biketown, the city’s bike-share program.

9. Sacramento, CA

Median home list price: $375,000

Waterfront Old Sacramento, CA
Waterfront Old Sacramento, CAAndrei Stanescu/iStock

California’s capital city has long been known as the state’s sleepier alternative to San Francisco. But young professionals—as well as aging boomers—are changing that. Drawn by the ultralow prices (nearly a quarter of the median $1.42 million list price in San Francisco), they’re transforming the city.

Many of the boomers are heading to trendy and historic East Sacramento, gravitating toward old Victorians and Craftsmen like this four-bedroom home with a newly renovated chef’s kitchen for $879,000. The neighborhood also offers new construction, including this Spanish-style three-bedroom.

“Young boomers tend to like older Victorians with ornate features and hardwood floors because they’ve been in a tract in the suburbs,” says Steph Baker, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.

The walkable, tree-lined Midtown neighborhood, which is a popular destination for both art and bar crawls, also has an abundance of multifamily homes, including this modernized duplex with two two-bedroom units. Many savvy boomers are buying homes with secondary units, so they can either rent one out or help their kids get into the pricey real estate market.

10. New Orleans, LA

Median home list price: $354,000

Five-bedroom home in Warehouse District listed for less than $500,000
Five-bedroom home in Warehouse District listed for less than $500,000realtor.com

Boomers in search of a city bursting with beautiful architecture, culture, Cajun grub, and Mardi Gras have been heading south to the Big Easy. While often thought of as a party town for millennials, the city’s world-class festivals (laissez les bons temps rouler!), warm weather, low cost of living, and dirt-cheap public transportation for seniors (40 cents one way, and free transfers) are particularly appealing for retirees.

“Most [boomers] are looking for low-maintenance properties, whether it’s a condo, townhouse, or house with a small amount of green space,” says Brett Richman, broker and owner of Nola Homes Co. “Many are looking for older homes that have been renovated with newer amenities.”

They can find those kinds of property in centrally located neighborhoods such as MarignyWarehouse District, and Central Business District. Many newly arrived, older residents have been picking up fully kitted-out 1,000-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom condos with details such as crown moulding as well as courtyards in the $400,000 to $500,000 range.



* Ranking was limited to one city per state to add geographic diversity.

** City list prices are as of Aug. 1 from realtor.com.

“This blog was originally written by  ON September 9th 2019 and you can find the entire original article at:https://www.realtor.com/news/trends/the-10-fastest-growing-retirement-cities-in-the-us/?identityID=5d4acfdfcb278db5350087be&MID=2019_0913_WeeklyNL&RID=5631581982&cid=eml_promo_Marketing_NonPRSL_WeeklyNL_cons.10932782_2019_0913_WeeklyNL-blog1retiringboomers-blogs_trends

 

How to Bleach Hardwood Floors

 

Whether you need to remove a stain or refresh the space, bleaching hardwood can get you results.

Bleaching hardwood floors is a chemical process to lighten the color of the wood. Sometimes your hardwood floors become discolored with age or accidental stains. Occasionally, homeowners choose to lighten their floors in preparation for special finishes, such as antiquing or pickling.

Learn how to bleach your hardwood floors, including what type of bleach to use, to get the job done correctly.

Types of wood bleach

There are three types of bleach you can use on wood: chlorine bleach, “two-part” (peroxide) bleaches and oxalic acid. Not all bleaches are interchangeable. The best bleach for your floor depends on the source of color you seek to remove. The challenge, then, is to know what made the stain and which bleach is appropriate.

  • Chlorine bleach: Just like in the laundry room, chlorine bleach will remove dyes and many organic stains such as tea, blood, berry-based juices and other foods. Using household bleach is the mildest form and may take several treatments to prove effective. For a stronger chlorine-based bleach treatment, choose swimming pool chlorine (calcium hypochlorite). Purchase swimming pool chlorine at a local superstore or swimming pool supply.
  • Two-part bleaches: While chlorine bleach combats many inks, dyes and organic stains, it doesn’t significantly alter the wood color. A two-part bleach is the only choice for altering wood color. Some stains that do not respond to either oxalic or chlorine bleaches will disappear when treated with two-part bleaches. Look for this type of bleach at your local hardware or home improvement store.
  • Oxalic acid: Nothing combats iron and rust stains like oxalic acid. It also removes water stains (which arise due to the iron content of water) and some black inks that are iron-based, although it’s not effective against carbon-based India ink. Even pet urine stains may respond to oxalic acid. You can purchase oxalic acid in a crystal form at pharmacies and hardware or home improvement stores, as well as other sources. Use pure oxalic acid for best results.

Occasionally, you may find reference to other bleaching solutions. Chlorinated lime bleaching, for instance, is often used for walnut in particular. Permanganate of potash, on the other hand, creates a bleach that leaves a residual purple tint. Both of these chemicals are readily available online and from local stores or pharmacies. Simply dissolve the chemicals in water, creating a strong solution. Paint on, wait for the solution to work, and neutralize as you would with any other bleach.

Bleach application and safety guidelines

Before applying any bleaching agent to your hardwood floors, consider the size of the area you wish to bleach and the condition of your floor, along with the nature of the bleach itself. Any bleach will deteriorate the wood slightly. The chemically weakened wood fibers are more susceptible to wear and tear from foot traffic. For this reason, many professionals discourage bleaching wood floors.

Bleaching stains isn’t as destructive as bleaching the entire floor to remove wood color, since it involves a limited area. It’s also much easier: You must remove the finish — either with a stripper or by sanding — before applying wood bleach.

When spot-bleaching your hardwood floor, you may be able to remove the finish only in the affected area, bleach and neutralize the treatment, then refinish the surface and blend it in with the surrounding floor — provided you have matching finish products.

For extensive stains, or if you’re unable to match the finish, you may choose to strip the entire floor before bleaching.

Here are some other application and safety tips to consider:

  • Some stains and marks lend character to the floor. Think before using bleach as a stain remover: Is the stain bad enough that you want to subject your floor to bleach?
  • Is there an out-of-the-way area where you can test the bleach’s effect on your hardwood floor? If you wish to bleach your entire floor, try it first on a spare board.
  • Consider sanding to remove the existing finish. Sanding the wood has one particular advantage: It allows you to possibly sand away the stain, if it isn’t very deep, instead of applying harsh bleaching agents.
  • Redwood, cedar, cherry and rosewood don’t bleach well. Some of the more exotic woods, such as mahogany, are prized for their color and aren’t considered suitable for bleaching. Avoid bleaching white oak as well. It has a tendency to discolor when bleached and may leave you dissatisfied with the appearance.
  • Use the least amount of bleach possible, whether bleaching the wood or treating a stain. Some woods react poorly to over-bleaching. Walnut, for instance, will attain a green haze.
  • When using a commercial bleaching product, follow the product manufacturer’s instructions carefully for safety and best results.
  • Always wear safety glasses and rubber gloves when working with bleaching products. Any bleach is extremely caustic and may burn your skin, blind your eyes or damage your lungs. Use with extreme caution.
  • Ventilate your workspace. Keep windows open, fans running, and pets and children away from the area.
  • Wear a dust mask or respirator when sanding bleached wood or working with dry bleach chemicals.
  • Pour a bit of the neutralizer (see information below) suited to your bleach in a small bowl or bucket. Place it near your work area and use immediately if you notice you have spilled or splattered bleach on yourself.
  • Don’t cross-contaminate brushes, rags and other applicators. Wash immediately or dispose of properly after use.
  • Wash your hands and arms after working with bleach and before doing anything else.

How to strip, bleach and neutralize your floor

If you’re lucky, you know exactly what made the stain and which bleach to use as a result. In some cases, finding the right bleach is more a process of elimination.

Start with chlorine bleach and progress to oxalic acid if necessary. If your wood is finished, you’ll have to strip your wood and then neutralize the bleach.

Here’s how to strip, bleach and neutralize your hardwood floor:

  • Remove the existing finish, using the appropriate product: Lacquer thinner dissolves lacquer finishes (commonly used on modern wood floors), while denatured alcohol removes shellac. A commercial paint-and-varnish remover will work on most other finishes. Either brush on the product or lay a thick layer of paper towels or rags across the area and pour on enough product to saturate the cloths. Wait for the finish to dissolve the wipe away as it softens. Use a plastic spatula or wood scraper as necessary, taking care to avoid gouging the wood.
  • Follow with sandpaper to lightly smooth the surface and remove any remaining finish. Start with 80-grit sandpaper and end with 120-grit.
  • Mix a solution of washing soda — sometimes called sal soda — with hot water in a small bucket. Follow the ratio recommended in the product instructions (purchase washing soda in the laundry aisle of your big box store). Wash over the stripped wood with the solution to remove stripping chemicals and other contaminants. Air-dry before bleaching.
  • Prepare the bleach of your choice. For chlorine bleach, use either a full-strength or half-and-half solution of laundry bleach mixed with hot water (or swimming pool bleach dissolved in hot water), until the solution is completely saturated. To mix oxalic acid, start with about 8 ounces of oxalic acid crystals dissolved in 2 quarts of hot water. Continue adding until the solution is saturated and won’t accept more crystals. For two-part bleaches, follow the product instructions, mixing parts A and B as necessary.
  • Use a synthetic-bristled brush to apply the bleach. Avoid natural bristles, which may dissolve, or metal materials, which will create a chemical reaction with the bleach. Spread a consistent layer of bleach across the wood. Place a paper towel over top to keep it from drying too fast in warm conditions. Wait 20 to 30 minutes, or as instructed by the two-part bleach product, before testing the wood color. When the color matches your expectations, blot up any remaining bleach.
  • Flush the area with distilled water to rinse away excess bleach. Using distilled water prevents water stains caused by the iron in regular water. Prevent the rinse water from invading the surrounding finished floor surface.
  • Neutralize the bleached area to stop the bleaching action. For chlorine or two-part bleaches, use a blend of half hot water and half white vinegar. Oxalic acid requires a mixture of 2 tablespoons of baking soda dissolved per quart of hot water.
  • Allow the wood to air-dry at least 24 hours. Follow with another sanding, using 120-grit sandpaper to smooth the wood fibers, which are rough after bleaching. Alternatively, coat the wood with a light coat of lacquer and sand through that instead. The lacquer stiffens the wood and helps the sanding.
  • Refinish the bleached spot — or the entire floor — as desired.

In some cases, the stain or color may not lift. Feel free to try successive bleach treatments, but at some point you may need to settle for what you achieve. Consider alternatives to bleaching when the results are less than what you prefer.

 

“This blog was originally written by BY KARIE FAY ON 6 JUL 2019 and you can find the entire original article at: https://www.zillow.com/blog/bleaching-hardwood-floors-230712/  “