I’m Priced Out of Single-Family Homes. Should I Buy a Condo Instead?

Feel like you’re priced out of the housing market? You’re in good company.

Rising mortgage rates mean that millions of homebuyers have been shut out of the market. That, coupled with home prices that are currently up 17% compared with last year, means many buyers are simply giving up on their dream of owning a home right now. But what if you don’t want to?

Many buyers are now considering another option for homeownership: condominiums.

These privately owned units within a larger complex actually proved more affordable than single-family homes in 72.5% of U.S. counties in 2021, according to Realtor.com®.

So if the thought of owning a condo has piqued your interest, read on for a look at the realities of buying and living in this type of home.

Buying a condo vs. a single-family home

The process of buying a condo differs from that of a single-family home in a few key ways.

One meaningful difference is that many condominium homes cannot be purchased using government-backed loans such as Federal Housing Administration loans or Veterans Affairs loans. In order for a condo to be purchased with an FHA loan, it must be on the FHA’s list of approved condominium projects. And the same goes for condos purchased with VA loans; the condo must be approved by the VA in order for the borrower to purchase the unit.

A condo purchase also typically entails getting a higher mortgage rate than a single-family home purchase. Why? Mortgage lenders see condo purchases as riskier than single-family home purchases. On average, expect to pay an additional 0.75% on a condo loan.

Mortgages for condos “can be more complicated due to the nature of the shared building,” says Lauren McKinney, a real estate agent with Beverly-Hanks & Associates in Asheville, NC. “There are implications for lenders, so not all condos will qualify for loans. Plus, there will be a homeowners association and monthly HOA fee to work into your budget.”

Buy a condo if you like the idea of community living

The biggest difference between a condo and a detached single-family home is the inherent group setting. There are implications for everything from your lifestyle to your yearly home maintenance chores.

“The advantages of buying a condo instead of a single-family home include lower maintenance costs, since the condo association is responsible for things like landscaping and snow removal,” says Tom Kelly, chief technology officer for retirement planning website LifePart2.

“You also won’t need to worry about things like painting the exterior or repairing the roof,” adds Kelly. “Plus, condos often come with more amenities than single-family homes, like swimming pools, fitness centers, and clubhouses.”

To get a sense of whether you’ll connect with other members of the community, Deb Tomaro, the broker-owner of Deb Tomaro Real Estate in Bloomington, IN, suggests hopping online.

“See if the association has any social media pages,” Tomaro says. “Often, you’ll find community discussions or board meeting minutes that will give you a real sense of what’s going on.”

Buy a condo if you’re young or retired

Condos are especially attractive for people at certain stages of their lives. If you’re young or retired, you might not like the idea of having to deal with yard maintenance or exterior upkeep.

“Single-family homes require more maintenance,” says Shaun Martin, a real estate and land developer at We Buy Houses based in Denver. He says that condo owners can enjoy the comforts of having their own home, without the hassles that come along with a detached house.

A condo is also a great option for young people or retired folks who live on their own.

“Apart from feeling safer, living in a condo also reduces the feeling of being so alone in a huge space,” Martin says.

Don’t buy a condo if you haven’t fully vetted the HOA

When you’re investing in a condo, you’re also investing in the homeowners association behind it.

“You really need to do due diligence on the HOA and the financial well-being of the neighborhood you’re buying into,” says Bill Gassett, the founder of Maximum Real Estate Exposure, and a real estate agent at Re/Max in Hopkinton, MA. “You need to understand the rules and regulations. Are there deal breakers on pets or gardens? The financial strength of the community should also be a key consideration.”

Contact the community’s property management company and ask to see financial statements like the balance sheet, the income and expense statement, and the cash flow statement. Make sure there is enough money in the reserve fund to take care of capital improvements.

Plus, inquire about any potential projects the HOA has in the works and consider how they may affect your life. The board might ask all HOA members for a financial contribution to the project.

Don’t buy a condo if you want to leverage your investment

Historically, single-family homes appreciate faster than condos.

“A single-family will always be worth more because you own the land,” says Zev Freidus, a real estate agent with ZFC Real Estate in Boca Raton, FL. “You should consider the ratio of land cost to structure cost. Structure depreciates, while the land appreciates. Real estate is considered a safe and good investment, but the more your purchase price is attributed to land value, the better.”

1,100-Acre Historic Horse Farm in Virginia Wants $27.5M

With almost as much room for horses as for people, Llangollen holds a lot of history on its almost 1,100 acres off a gravel road in Upperville, VA.

Dating to 1795, what is now a 12,500-square-foot manor house was once a patent house for the land grant of Leven Powell, a founder of nearby Middleburg, VA. The original abode that was quickly constructed in the late 1700s is still there.

“It’s been all restored, and it’s part of the house today,” says listing agent Peter Leonard-Morgan, with Hunt Country Sotheby’s International Realty. “Gradually, the stewards who have had the home have just kept doing bits and pieces to it to bring it up to modern standards.”

The original patent house is now a breakfast room with a large fireplace, one of 17 in the house.

The Federal-style manor house and all of the other structures on the property are available for $27.5 million. The landmark site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Aerial view

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Horseshoe barn

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Original patent house

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Dining room

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Stairs

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Interior

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Living room

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Office

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Wood-paneled library

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Entry

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Storied estate

The estate has had many owners. Notably, the people who owned the property in the 1930s turned it into a steeplechase and horse breeding facility.

“It became really a place where the rich and famous would go. Clark Gable was there. So were Elizabeth Taylor and Bing Crosby. I found all these photographs of them at Llangollen,” Leonard-Morgan says.

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The history of the estate at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains goes back even further. The Marquis de Lafayette visited, as did the country’s first president, George Washington. And it might even have a place in cinematic circles.

“It’s got a staircase in it that is rumored to have been the inspiration for the movie ‘Gone With the Wind,’ because [manor house owner] John Hay was one of the main financiers of that film in 1939,” Leonard-Morgan says.

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Hallway

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Bathroom

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Homes for humans and horses

The current owners bought the place in 2007 and finished the restoration project the previous owners began.

“It’s just amazing, almost like a museum inside,” Leonard-Morgan says. “It started off as a log cabin with a massive fireplace, and that’s been extended over the centuries.”

There are nine bedrooms, eight bathrooms, multiple staircases, a paneled library, and a parlor, among the home’s highlights.

“Some of the paint colors and the wallpaper are really extravagant, amazing,” Leonard-Morgan explains. “What struck me is how incredibly narrow the house is. Modern houses are built much deeper, and I think a lot of that has to do with the modern heating and ventilation we have. They didn’t have that, so things were much more compartmentalized back in the day.”

Barn

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Additional buildings

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Field

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Close to the house is a unique barn, shaped like a horseshoe.

“Unfortunately, there was a fire many years ago, and it all looks beautiful on the outside, but they haven’t put the stalls back in, and that’s something that someone could do,” Leonard-Morgan says. “It has amazing bones for re-creating the barn like it was back in its heyday.”

Including the potential 24 stalls in the horseshoe barn, there are a total of 113 horse stalls and other facilities for a horse enthusiast.

“The current owners made it into a really important polo facility, because one of the family members is a really high-ranking polo player,” Leonard-Morgan says. “There are three full-sized polo fields, which is not just like cutting the grass. The footing has to be very special to be able to play polo at a high level.”

There’s even a polo arena to make twilight polo possible, he adds.

Kitchen

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Barn

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The grounds also include a jockey guesthouse with five bedrooms and eight tenant houses.

The perfect buyer “is probably someone who loves horses and, in an ideal world, someone who plays polo or is interested in polo,” Leonard-Morgan says.

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Dining space

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The Season Finale of ‘Unsellable Houses’ Shows a Shockingly Dark Design Decision

The twin sisters from “Unsellable Houses,” Lyndsay Lamb and Leslie Davis, are always trying out new design styles. But their latest home renovation will have you wanting to copy their “smart” look.

In the Season 3 finale, “Sunken Seventies to High Class,” Lamb and Davis meet Joe, a client who’s ready to sell his 1970s Snohomish, WA, home. However, he wasn’t able to find a buyer for $815,000, even after three months on the market. The sisters step in, giving this home a $135,000 makeover with a “dark academia” design, which is a style influenced by the Gothic architecture of Cambridge and Oxford universities. Lamb describes it as “moody smartness.”

With deep colors and a sophisticated feel, the finished home is downright stunning and it’s no surprise that it sells after only three days on the market. Read on to find out how you can give your house a dark academia vibe—plus, get tips for updating an old house in a unique way.

New trim color can give an entire home a moody look

1970s home
Before: The sisters didn’t want to paint the whole 1970s home.

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This home is dated inside and out, so Lamb wants to paint the exterior for $6,000. To her disappointment, Davis doesn’t go for the plan.

“The house is already painted; it’s in good condition,” Davis says. “The purpose of paint is to protect the product of the wood.”

Instead, she agrees to have the blue trim painted brown for just $2,000. When the painting is done, both sisters are thrilled with the look.

“It looks like we got a whole-house paint job and we didn’t,” Lamb says. “All we had to do is paint the trim for $2,000 and bam!”

newly painted trim
After: The newly painted trim gives this house a whole new look.

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The change proves that homeowners don’t need to shell out the cash to paint their whole house—sometimes just updating the trim will offer a brand-new look.

Plus, the brown trim mirrors the moody look inside. It’s a great way to keep the home looking consistent without making the exterior too dark.

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Watch: The Hosts of ‘Unsellable Houses’ Reveal the Design Trends Still Going Strong Today

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Wood floors bring a warm, scholarly aesthetic

entryway
Before: This home’s floors were dated.

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While many homeowners replace their dark wood floors with something bright and light, the sisters know that a deeper tone on the flooring will work better in this space.

“We’re putting in an LVP (laminate vinyl plank) flooring in a medium gray that really complements the dark academia cabinets,” Davis points out.

Bonus: Laminate vinyl plank flooring doesn’t cost a fortune.

new kitchen
After: The new floors look great all through the home.

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Don’t be afraid of dark cabinets

old kitchen cabinets
Before: These old kitchen cabinets were dark and dated.

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Lamb and Davis point out that older homes can be very valuable to buyers because they often come with character that newer builds don’t typically have. The sisters want to preserve some of that personality, but when it comes to the kitchen, they replace everything. They expand the tight space and add new cabinets, quartz countertops, and an elegant backsplash.

“We opened it up, made it bigger, and brought in all-new everything,” Davis says. “Now instead of being a kitchen for one, it can easily fit an entire family.”

updated kitchen
After: This moody cabinet color looks modern.

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They also show how to do a dark academic kitchen, replacing the medium-dark cabinets with rich espresso-colored ones. While many buyers want light and bright kitchen finishes, these HGTV hosts show that moody tones can work, too.

Add unique tiles for a modern look

dated bathroom
Before: The main bathroom needed an update.

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Upstairs, the sisters find a small main bathroom. Davis insists there’s no room to open up the walls, and Lamb will need to work around the limited footprint. Luckily, she makes the most of the space with new flooring, a new vanity, and a standing shower with a unique tile in black, white, and beige.

“The pattern of this tile is to have no pattern,” Davis says when they arrange the tile.

updated bathroom
After: Now, the bathroom is small but it’s beautiful.

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Once the tiles are up, it looks beautiful. The light and dark tones match the design of the rest of the house without making this small bathroom look smaller.

“This might be the best shower we’ve done,” Davis says.

shower tile
This pattern makes this shower feel unique.

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Adding plants brings life to a dark design

empty room
Before: This room was unexciting.

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To finish this home’s design, Lamb wants to add some greenery.

“The house is going to be moody, it’s going to be dark, it’s going to be smart. But I want some depth to it,” she says. “So by setting plants around throughout the home, it’s going to give us that contrast against all of the other statement pieces we have.”

hanging plants
After: Now, this room seems lively.

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They put plants all around the home. Plus, they add a fun hanging plant feature to one awkward room with a slanted ceiling.

“My thought is that it’ll be a really quick, fast, fun project to draw attention to that room,” Lamb says. “So when you walk through this house it’s not like, ‘Oh bummer, one of the rooms is slanted ceilings and unusable.’ Now it’s going to be like, ‘Cool room!'”

“This is going to be the coolest room in the house,” Davis adds.

They hang two wooden boxes in front of the window and fill them with plants. It’s an easy and cost-effective way to add some life to an unexciting room.

Does this house finally sell?

Lamb and Davis invest $135,000 in this home, and when they’re done, they list it for $975,000. After just three days on the market, Joe gets a full-price offer. After the sisters get their investment back, they split the profit of $25,000, each taking $12,500. It’s a win for Joe, the twins, and surely the new homeowners!

Marvelous Mediterranean Revival Mansion Lands on the Market in the Midwest for $859K

With a clay tile roof, gargoyles, and leaded-glass windows, this historic mansion looks like it belongs on the Italian Riviera. But it has landed on the market in Wausau, WI.

Listed for $859,000, the Northern Wisconsin estate spans 7,000 square feet and features six bedrooms and six baths.

The home was built in 1928 by architect Alexander Eschweiler, who maintained a practice in Milwaukee, where many of his homes can be found on that city’s lakeshore. Because of its pedigree, the property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Locals might know it as the D.C. Everest House, named after David Clark Everest, the Marathon Paper Mills Co. general manager who commissioned it.

Exterior

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Historic highlights

The Mediterranean Revival is abundant in historical details displaying high levels of craftsmanship.

The roof tiles were imported from Spain. In the primary en suite bath, modern-day Ann Sacks wall tiles mingle with 200-year-old floor tiles reclaimed from cathedrals in France. Plus, two of the other baths sport their original wall tile, in baby blue and mint green.

The artfully updated primary suite comes with a coffee and tea bar and dressing and sitting rooms.

With three stories and 17 rooms, there’s no shortage of space for the next owners to spread out. You could stretch out in the sunny solarium, unwind in the music room and library, and start the day in the breakfast room.

Perfect for entertaining, the family room features a curved wet bar, which boasts a lighted beverage display, with a billiard room just beyond.

Courtyard

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Entry

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Music room

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Dining room

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Kitchen with designer updates

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Bath with soaking tub

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Mint-green-tiled bath

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Wet bar

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Billiard room

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Teahouse

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A 2003 kitchen renovation by Chicago-area designer Mick De Giulio included a La Cornue custom range, wine chiller, Sub-Zero fridge, pot-filler faucet, and natural stone countertops. Radiant floor heating in the kitchen is a cozy welcome on winter mornings.

On the 1.1-acre grounds, a teahouse featuring the home’s exterior design could host overnight guests or be used as an art studio. And a two-car garage completes the property.

Brenda Schumacher of Re/Max Excel is handling the listing.

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Watch: Love It or Hate It? A-Frame Home in Akron, OH, Isn’t for Everyone

 

Now With the Dolphins, Tyreek Hill Picks Up Miami-Area Mansion for $6.9M

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill has caught a new home.

The Cheetah paid the full price of $6.9 million for the mansion in South Florida, which came on the market in February. He can certainly afford it.

The new member of the Miami team signed a four-year, $120 million contract extension. The deal gives him plenty of dollars to spend on his living quarters.

Miami mansion

“This house is definitely one of the best houses I’ve ever stayed in in my life,” he says on his YouTube video.

Built in 2007, the European-style, 9,326-square-foot abode features seven beds and 7.5 baths. It features a grand motor court and a front entry with columns.

The main level includes a home gym, a wood-paneled office, and an open kitchen, which is adjacent to a family room. There’s also a formal living room, which, according to Hill’s YouTube video, will soon be tricked out with a shark tank.

Motor court

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Living room

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Kitchen

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The main-floor primary suite features a luxe bathroom with a soaking tub, glass shower, and dual vanities. The suite comes with access to the pool and grounds.

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Hill has apparently added his own touches to the home, including a podcast recording room, a pool room, and arcade games.

Home theater

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Upstairs, five bedrooms, a den, and a home theater occupy the space.

The 2.28-acre grounds feature plenty of recreational fun with a putting green, a full basketball court, and a heated pool and spa.

Pool

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The summer kitchen boasts a fridge, sinks, dishwasher, smokers, and grills. There’s also a bar and an outdoor dining area.

The gated property also comes with a four-car garage and two guesthouses.

Posh property

While Hill was with the Kansas City Chiefs, he picked up a mansion in Inverness, FL, in April 2021 for $1,330,000.

The 2004 build on 7.74 acres measures almost 10,000 square feet. It has five beds and 6.5 baths, along with a billiard room and wet bar. Outside, there’s a pool, lanai, and kitchen, as well as a basketball court and a tennis court.

The home was listed in April 2022 for $2,750,000. The price eventually dropped to $1,360,000, and the home is now pending sale.

Inverness, FL

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Hill was selected by the Chiefs in the fifth round of the NFL draft in 2016. The six-time Pro-Bowler won the Super Bowl with the team. In March 2022, the 28-year-old joined Miami.

Forget Airbnb: Rent Out Your Picturesque Home for $175 an Hour

Move over, Airbnb and VRBO—there’s a new big-money home rental platform in town. Actually, there are several of them.

And rather than listing your space for a measly $100 to $200 per night, these new rental sites allow you to list your home by the hour with the possibility of earning up to $800 per session. And don’t get thrown off by the short rental time—the rentals are all on the up and up.

But what exactly are these hourly rental opportunities, and how can you get your home ready for its most lucrative side hustle yet? We spoke to several experts to bring you all the details you need to start renting out your home by the hour. Here’s the scoop.

Renting out your home by the hour: The basics

The only real difference between renting out your home by the day and by the hour (besides the money) is whom you’ll be renting to. Rather than vacationers and out-of-town visitors, you’ll likely find yourself renting to local photographers and companies.

“Every rental is a chance to be connected with new people, noteworthy brands, and awesome photographers,” says Home Studio List founder and CEO Hannah Pobar. “Our platform is used and well-loved by major brands like Starbucks, L’Oreal, Hallmark, Parachute Home, Artifact Uprising, and more.”

Besides brands, a host of companies might also want to rent your space for off-site or team-building events.

Take stock of what your home has to offer

The best way to determine who would want to rent your home is to take a look around and identify your home’s core offerings. Maybe you have a great eye for decor, a funky, colorful garden, or a large outdoor area for entertaining.

“Then identify the top amenities for the types of bookings you want to host,” says Molly Burke of Peerspace, a leading hourly rental marketplace. “For example, if you’re looking to host off-sites, your potential guests will be looking for access to amenities like tables, chairs, whiteboard, Wi-Fi, and projector.”

More interested in hosting photo or video shoots? “Then guests will be looking for information on what kind of light your space has and what backdrops or props are available,” says Burke.

How much you can make renting by the hour

So how much should you charge for a model to laze on your perfect chaise lounge or for a corporation to host drinks on your patio?

“We recommend a rental price between $125 to $175 per hour and find that price point does best with our photographers and community,” says Pobar. “But some of our homes range up to $700 per hour.”

And remember, how much you can charge will depend greatly on your location.

“Our hottest markets right now are Tampa, Minneapolis, Denver, and New Jersey,” says Pobar. “Our average rental is slightly over $800, and our top hosts make about $60,000 per year.”

To find which price is right for you, take the time to explore each platform and get an idea of what people are charging in your area for a similar home. In addition to Home Studio List and Peerspace, you can also explore renting your home by the hour on sites such as Splacer, Giggster, and Avvay.

Tips for getting started

If all those dollar signs have you ready to list your home as an hourly rental, here are a few tips to help you get started.

First and foremost, you’ll want to do everything you can to make your listing stand out.

“Photos are a key component of a strong listing, and the first thing guests see when searching for a space,” says Burke. “Taking well-lit, high-resolution photos of your space is a great place to start, and don’t forget to place them in order with the most relevant shots first.”

You’ll also want to write a descriptive title of your space and highlight any details in the listing that could be helpful to prospective guests. For example, including the number of chairs you have (for meetings) or any props guests can use (for filming). Need more help? Refer to Peerspace’s Perfect Listing page.

The final word

Before you make your listing live on any site, be sure to review the site’s insurance policy. Peerspace provides coverage for general liability claims up to $1 million. But homeowners on other sites (like Home Studio List) often carry their own business liability insurance.

Overall, any major issues seem to be a nonissue for most homeowners—especially in light of the high-end clientele using the space.

“While damages to the home are unlikely, sometimes there can be minor wear and tear,” says Pobar. “Our clientele is very respectful of spaces and understands our properties are real homes, so we seldom have issues.”

Exclusive: Should You Buy or Build a House? HGTV Stars Chris and Calvin LaMont on the Pros and Cons

If you’ve ever wondered whether you should buy a home or build your own, a new HGTV show will help you weigh the pros and cons.

On “Buy It or Build It,” Dallas-based twin brothers Chris and Calvin LaMont help homebuyers decide whether to renovate an existing home or start anew with a custom build.

Chris finds properties with potential and shows homebuyers how he’ll use their budget to give the home a new look. Meanwhile, Calvin wows clients with renderings of a newly built home for the same price. Once their clients decide which way to go, these contractor siblings get to work creating the perfect dream home.

Here’s more about their new series, as well as their top tips to help you decide whether buying or building is for you.

How did your show get started?

Chris LaMont: It all started with us just doing our jobs, just basically building and remodeling houses, and flipping homes. And everybody around us would say, “You guys are like the property brothers! You guys should be on TV.” But we’re just two guys living in Dallas. We didn’t know how to be on TV.

But then one person said, “I know someone that you should tell your story to.” So we met with the production companies; they all liked us. We’ve been talking with HGTV a few years ago. Nothing came of it.

Chris and Calvin
The Campbell home after renovations, as seen on “Buy It or Build It”

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But three years ago, they were like, “OK, guys. We want to try one more time, but let’s change the concept.” And that’s where “Buy It or Build It” came from, where the concept is just so cool, where we get to either build or remodel a house.

What’s your best advice for people who are trying to decide if they want to buy an existing house or build one instead?

Chris: We all know about buying existing houses: What location do you want to live and what’s your price point? How much work would you want to do on a remodel compared to how much the price is in your neighborhood?

But in terms of a new build, you also want to think about: How much time will I have? And where will I be and where can I live in the meantime? You want to make sure that when people do a build or a remodel, you don’t have a situation where your life is too upside-down, where it makes the whole thing unenjoyable if the builders need more time.

Calvin LaMont: Also, before you even start looking, get your lending in line and understand the terms of how you’re going to have to buy. That will determine how much cash you’re going to put down, how much you can buy, what type of lot you can get. All those things that you’re going to need to know to actually prepare yourself are going to come from the lender and the loan on a new-construction build. So talk to mortgage lenders and brokers and start to see the process.

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What are the potential downsides of buying an existing home?

Chris: Older homes can have galvanized piping, lead pipes, and electrical and knob-and-tube wiring. We have to change those things to make sure that your home is not only beautiful on the outside and inside, but also making sure that it’s safe and it’s going to last another 50 years. If you’re buying an old home, we need to truly invest in it: the roof, the electrical, the plumbing, the foundation. Try to invest in those things first.

Calvin: Just understand what the house needs so that, mentally, you’re better prepared. Make a plan and have an idea and expectations. Maybe you’re going to redo the house in phases: You’re going to do the kitchen first, the bathroom next. So when you buy, you know what you’re doing. Of course, it might not go as planned, but at least you have goals to work toward.

Given all the potential problems with buying an existing home, is there anything buyers can look out for during a home tour?

Calvin: Look for cracks along the driveway and the sidewalks, and look for separation of the front porch from the house. Look for the roof, the shingles, the windows. Look for drainage issues. Make sure those doors are opening and shutting properly; it could be foundation issues. Look for any water damage issues because that can lead to mold.

Don’t worry about all the cosmetic stuff. For the most part, when buying a house, you’re going to need to update and paint anyways.

Chris: The new thing is to open the house up to have a nice open concept. But we want to make sure that we can actually do that. But when you are doing this as a remodel on an existing house, you need to make sure you’re safe. Get an engineer in there before you do work, because you don’t want to open up a wall and then find out that you had to do a whole load change or add a beam, which might cost you way more than you have budgeted.

Just make sure before you start doing stuff, you get the professionals in there to make sure that it’s good to go.

Chris and Calvin
Chris and Calvin LaMont at one of their new builds in Dallas

HGTV

What kinds of features are people opting for these days in new builds?

Calvin: Right now it’s all about automation. It’s all about technology. So I’m seeing so many cool things people are hooking up in their house for their shower, like steam rooms. We’re putting low-volt wiring all through the house so we can automate the comfort and style. It’s heating up your floors. It’s controlling the AC and your lighting.

All those things are so cool because, in a new house, you’re working with everything from the studs. It’s the best time to run all those wires so you don’t have to open any walls. It’s already open. Outside of creating the floor plan that you want, it’s what you can do within your walls to really make your house customized to the next level.

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Chris and Calvin at one of their new builds

HGTV

What sort of mistakes do you see homeowners make when renovating or building a house?

Chris: The one thing we always harp on is: This is connected to investment. When you’re buying a house, sometimes we’re only looking at the things that we can see. Like, OK, I want to change the floor and I want to change how the cabinets look, I want to paint the outside.

But then we forget about all those things that make the house more comfortable, like hot water, no leaks, that the light comes on when you flip the switch. Those are the things that we just think that it’s going to be there.

Try to pay more attention to those critical things when you’re buying a house, harp on making sure they are right, and don’t worry so much about the small things like the dirty carpet. Worry more about a messed-up roof or HVAC unit that’s too old.

Calvin: The devil is in the details. There are always small fees and projects that are associated with building a house and things that come up. Make sure that you have a contingency in there for those things, so you’re not stressing yourself out and spreading yourself too thin.

Are there any design styles or materials that you guys are especially loving these days?

Chris: We love being able to take spaces that are in the house and make them a different space. Like, if we don’t have closet space, we’ll take this here and make it a closet, and we’re going to make it feel like it’s been there forever. We love being able to restructure a room, rethinking what you can do with certain spaces. Just because something was a room before, it doesn’t have to be a room now, later on, right?

You can do anything, you know. If you’re creative enough, we can do things to make your life easier, make the space more functional, and make you want to stay in this home, even though it doesn’t seem like that in the beginning.

What Is a Realtor? A Real Estate Agent With Extra Credentials

Realtor®, real estate agent, broker—it’s hard to keep up with all the lingo involved in a real estate transaction. A good place to start is by learning what a Realtor really means.

What is a Realtor?

Realtors are licensed real estate agents that belong to the National Association of Realtors®, the largest trade group in the country. Every real estate agent is not a Realtor, but most are. If you’re unsure, you can ask your agent if he or she is a licensed Realtor.

Realtors are also held to a higher ethical standard than real estate agents and must adhere to a Code of Ethics.

In this sense, when homebuyers hire a real estate agent who is also a Realtor, they have added assurance that they will receive fair and exceptional service from beginning to end.

What to expect from your Realtor: Expertise and ethics

There are several reasons why you should buy or sell with a Realtor, including the professional’s high ethical standards, wide network, and searching and negotiating expertise. Because Realtors are part of their local professional network as well as the national network, they are provided with additional classes to fine-tune their skills, tools to negotiate and develop contracts, and deeper connections to other members in the industry.

Membership as a Realtor in the NAR also comes with access to market data and transaction management services, as well as other benefits, which can simplify the buying and selling process.

Plus, buying or selling a home requires dozens of forms, reports, and disclosures—delays or costly mistakes can ruin a deal and cost serious money. Working with a trained Realtor mitigates many of those risks.

“We consistently leverage the tools provided by being a Realtor to perform a market analysis for our clients. We want to ensure they are selling or buying properties for the fairest and best price,” says Michael Sadov, a Realtor and broker with the Real Estate Club in Miami.

“We also take advantage of the webinars, meetings, and networking events for Realtors, so we can stay up to date with training and the market to give our clients the best experience possible,” adds Jesse Zilberman, a Realtor of the same firm.

Realtor vs. broker: What’s the difference?

Some Realtors are brokers, while others are real estate agents. (You may also see titles like sales associate or Realtor associate instead of real estate agent.) Unfortunately, people use the term interchangeably, but there are some differences between real estate agents and brokers.

Brokers are usually managers. They run an agency and have agents working under them as salespeople. They might own a real estate brokerage or manage a franchise operation. They must take additional courses and pay additional fees to maintain their state-issued broker license.

An agent, on the other hand, is a salesperson selling on behalf of the broker. It is also worth mentioning that some Realtors have a broker license, but choose to work as a salesperson. These real estate professionals are sometimes referred to as broker associates.

Real estate agent qualifications

Real estate agents are also state-licensed and must take a course and pass a written test before legally acting as a real estate agent. Each state has its own licensing laws and standards.

Some states—like Illinois—have eliminated the real estate salesperson license and mandate all agents take additional coursework and pass another test to become brokers. They are broker associates still selling under a managing broker. This would also be applicable to broker associates still selling under a managing broker.

How much money do Realtors make?

There is a stereotype of the typical Realtor that must be dispelled: The stereotypical agent works a few hours a day and makes millions of dollars a year. Reality TV shows perpetuate this myth.

On TV, buyers find the perfect house after visiting just three homes—and write an offer that is accepted immediately. The next thing you know, they’re moving in!

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The typical buyer searches with a Realtor for about 12 weeks and looks at about 10 properties before selecting a home. Agents then wait about 30 days—on average—for the deal to close and receive their commission.

If an agent is representing a buyer, and the buyer decides to sign another lease—or not to buy—that agent is not compensated. The same is true for agents representing a seller. If the listing does not sell, the agent is not paid.

Selling real estate is a commission-only business. That means an agent can work with a buyer or seller for months without ever making a commission—because deals fall through and not every listing sells. It’s a business run on trust and faith.

Also, many people see the commission check at the closing table and have no idea how that money is split. They think their agent walks away with all of it—that’s just not true.

Remember, agents work for brokers. The commission check is made payable to the brokerage, which then cuts a check to the listing agent and the selling agent. Both agents also must pay a percentage of their earnings to their broker.

Generally, agents also are responsible for paying their own federal and state income taxes, Social Security tax, and health insurance.

How to find the right Realtor for you

Whether you find your Realtor online or through word of mouth, choosing the right representative is one of the most important decisions you’ll make during the homebuying or selling process.

Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions—and don’t worry about upsetting your prospective agent either. Remember: It’s a smart move to talk to at least three people, and ask the Realtors some key questions to find out if they’re a good fit for you and the transaction you’re looking for.

Consider asking the following questions:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • How many houses did you sell last year?
  • What percentage of your listings do you sell?
  • What is the average list price to actual sales price ratio for your listings?
  • What neighborhoods do you specialize in?
  • What’s your schedule and availability?

Here’s more on how to find a Realtor near you, including details such as the professional’s sales performance, specialties, and client reviews.

Privacy Fence Costs—and Other Fencing Facts Homeowners Should Know

A privacy fence might not be at the top of the to-do list for most homeowners, but perhaps it should be.

Privacy fences can frame your yard, keep kids and pets in, give your home more security, and block the peering eyes of your nosy neighbors.

“We’ve all heard the saying that good fences make good neighbors, and there’s plenty of truth to that,” says Erin Schanen, a gardening partner with Troy-Bilt, a master gardener volunteer, and creator of The Impatient Gardener blog and YouTube channel.

In addition to the protection a privacy fence brings, it can also help to define your outdoor living space. Many homeowners opt for a privacy fence made of sleek wood that surrounds their yard, and some might even choose to build a pergola on top to delineate a seating area.

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, so before you build a privacy barrier, consider the following facts.

Types of privacy fences

Photo by Fifth Season Landscape Design & Construction

Privacy fences come in many forms, from solid barriers made of wood, vinyl, or composite materials to more decorative and creative designs.

“In general, you can find arched, concave, lattice-top, and traditional looks from most manufacturers,” says Kevin Busch, vice president of Mr. Handyman.

“Living barriers, such as those created by trees or shrubs, can be equally as effective but offer a softer look,” says Schanen. “They can also be a good workaround to local ordinances with height or location restrictions for traditional fences.”

According to Schanen, one of the most popular living barriers is the American arborvitae. It’s relatively inexpensive, fast-growing, and easy to find at garden centers. This type of plant has dense, sturdy foliage that stays dark green year-round—including in the winter. It’s also tolerant of many different types of soil and flourishes in most growing regions around the country.

How much does it cost to build a privacy fence?

Photo by VIKING FENCE CO

Before installing a privacy fence, you’ll want to keep in mind costs for materials and labor.

“Materials and labor can vary greatly depending on the size and style of the fence you’re building,” says Busch. The higher and longer your fence is, the more materials and labor cost you’ll have. More intricate designs or custom installs will also impact cost.”

Building a privacy fence can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $8,000, according to Angi.

But if you opt for a solid material like concrete, you’ll likely have to pay more.

Christy Walker, broker and owner at Re/Max Signature in Phoenix, says the most common fencing used in the Phoenix metro area is concrete block. She says a 150-foot cinder block wall can cost $15,000 to $25,000 depending on materials and height.

Richard Fortenberry, who owns Handyman Connection of Woodstock in the Atlanta area, recommends getting at least three estimates from contractors before moving forward with a design.

Fortenberry also recommends checking with your homeowners association regarding whether it has covenants in place for fences, as you might need to get approval on your fence plan prior to installation.

Whichever privacy fence you choose, just know that the fence and the area around it will come with maintenance costs. Your wooden fence will require regular staining or painting, and you might even have to repair panels if anything damages your fence. Living barriers like hedges will require watering and pruning.

Sprawling Big Sur Beach Compound Asking for $28.5M

Take three parcels of coastal land, two existing homes, and one buildable lot, and you have a legacy estate with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.

Listed for $28.5 million, the 6.27-acre property on Highway One has a Monterey, CA, address, but listing agent Mike Gilson says everyone considers the coastal compound as part of Big Sur.

“It’s three separate, contiguous parcels. They’re all buildable or have been built on,” he says.

“On the point is this extraordinary little beach house, which probably sits closer to the ocean than any other home I’ve seen along the coast,” he says. “It’s almost like you’re on a boat at times just because you’re so close to the ocean.”

Aerial view

Kodiak Greenwood

Beach house

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Over 6 acres

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Beach house round design

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The beach house dates to the 1960s and features a round design with a kitchen, two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a fireplace.

“It’s right at the southern end of Garrapata Beach, which is a beautiful, giant white-sand beach that is open to the public, and the owners can access that beach very easily,” Gilson says.

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Watch: Inside a Rare $2.7M Frank Lloyd Wright Home Near the Beach in Virginia

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The interior is dark wood and stone with a raised platform leading to huge windows and a deck near the rocks.

The garage

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Garage entry

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Garage dining

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Garage bedroom

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Wine cellar

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Near the beach house is what Gilson calls “the garage,” a flexible, open space clad with stone. The creative spot comes with a bedroom, bathroom, and nearby wine cellar.

“It’s one of the nicest garages you could imagine. It’s a beautiful space for meetings or whatever you like,” he says. “It has roll-down glass windows and all kinds of storage,” Gilson says

Main house

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Main house living room

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Main house kitchen

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Main house fireplace

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Bedroom

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The estate’s main living quarters is a two-bedroom, two-bathroom house that was completed in 2009.

“It’s a more modern style compared to the beach house. It’s real clean with simple lines with a great view out toward the ocean and the rocks of Garrapata Creek,” Gilson explains.

Plus, there’s room to build even more.

“The beach house and the garage are on one parcel, and the new house and detached garage are on the first parcel. Between that, you have an open parcel, which could be developed,” Gilson explains.

View

Kodiak Greenwood

Aerial view

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Sunset

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Big Sur is a unique community that welcomes new residents and their contributions, Gilson says.

“It’s a really special place and would make a great family compound,” he says. “I think it’s so unique that [the perfect buyer] would be someone who would either be full time or near full time, at least that’s what we would hope. It’s not the kind of place that should sit empty.”

Deck with beach views

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