Posts Tagged ‘McMansion’

How to Analyze a Neighborhood Before You Buy

Money Crashers, U.S.News
Jan 31, 2011

Five years ago, it was easy to tell a good neighborhood from a bad one. All you had to do was conduct a quick check on nearby schools and keep an eye out for hopelessly abandoned properties. If the schools were good and the homes well-kept, the neighborhood, and your future home, were keepers.

Today, though, determining whether a neighborhood is good and will hold its value isn’t so easy. The suburbs, once the Mecca of homebuyers with kids, now outrank urban city centers in terms of poverty. And that sparkly McMansion on the corner might actually be in foreclosure.

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So how can you tell if you’re buying into a neighborhood you’ll like and, just as importantly, will likely hold its value until you’re ready to sell? Below are some tips you can use to find the perfect neighborhood and new home for you and your family. Neighborhood is a big factor that should be considered when buying and investing in real estate.

1. Create Your Dream Neighborhood: Most people know what they’d like their dream home to be like, but they give little thought to the neighborhood. Start by defining what your dream neighborhood is like. Can you walk to the downtown area? Do you want to live in a historic neighborhood? Do you want to be in an exciting college town or in a more sedate, family-oriented environment? Write out your list of wants so you know what to look for.

2. Look at Public Services: With property taxes falling, many towns and cities are having to cut back on the public services they offer. Parks, libraries and police often get the ax first. Drive through a potential neighborhood, and then through the town, and look carefully for clues that the city is having financial trouble. Are the streets clean? Are the parks in good condition? Is the grass cut? Check the library as well. Have they had to cut their hours? You could also ask the librarians about the neighborhood and town as well. They’re often a gold mine of information.

3. Look at Schools: If you have kids, then the quality of local schools is a huge issue. Even if you don’t have children or plan on teaching a homeschool curriculum, schools still matter simply because when it comes time to sell, your buyers will likely have kids. Research the local schools using sites like It can also be helpful to attend a PTA meeting to talk with local parents. They’ll tell you candidly how well (or badly) the schools are doing, and if they’re having budget troubles as well.

4. Examine Clues: Do you see a lot of For Sale signs? Does your potential neighborhood have a lot of cheap apartments for rent? Are the businesses downtown shutting down? These are signs that things might be on the decline. Also, picture yourself in the neighborhood. Go through your daily routine to make sure you’ll still have the same quality of life. For instance, if you run every morning, are the roads safe enough for your morning jog? If you bike to work, are there bike lanes for you to use? If you love grabbing a cup of coffee, is there a neighborhood barrista for you to enjoy? Don’t forget to listen. Can you hear noise from the highway or airport? Is there a club or bar nearby that might get annoying at 2 a.m.? These are all important things to consider.

5. Talk to People: Talk to your potential neighbors. You’ll be living next to these people, perhaps for years. Having great neighbors can make or break a neighborhood, so find out how they like living there and what they’re like. Remember, you can always make home improvements to your house if there’s something you don’t like. But changing your neighborhood? It’s not so easy. It’s worth the time and effort to do some research and legwork early on – you’ll be glad you did. What are some things you consider when moving into a new neighborhood? Did you ever find anything unexpected after moving in?

Heather Levin is a personal finance contributor for and also promotes green living on the blog, The Greenest Dollar.

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They did What to That House? Remodel Horror Stories

by Les Christie, Staff Writer
Monday, January 24, 2011

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  • You’ve heard of McMansions, but what about Frankenhouses?


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    These are homes that have been “renovated” to feature things like pipes running through living rooms, bedrooms strung together like garlic cloves, and fluorescent floors.

    It’s scary what people do to their homes.

    HomeVestors — famous for its “We Buy Ugly Homes” billboards — specializes in buying these homes that no one else would want. In fact, they’re often so bad that they have to label listings as “for investors only” because they’re not suited to ordinary buyers.

    For example, those pipes running through the living room? They would have to be completely redone before the house could even get inspected.

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    “We get a lot of the houses after real estate agents have given up on them,” said David Hicks, CEO of HomeVestors.

    He calls them horror houses and marvels at some of things that former owners must have thought were brilliant ideas at the time. Here are some of the worst creations he’s found:

    Dysfunctional Floor Plans

    Someone needed more bedroom space so they added on, but it messed up the traffic flow. It was much worse than just having to walk through one bedroom to get to another. “You had to walk from the living room through a bedroom to get to the kitchen,” said Hicks.

    Imagine stumbling through Grandma’s boudoir whenever you hungered for a late-night snack.

    5 Bedrooms – 1 Bath

    It’s a hard sale when the house has many more bedrooms than baths. Five full bedrooms with a single bath, for instance, makes the morning traffic jam very tough.

    It’s even harder if the bath is completely misplaced. HomeVestors bought a house where there were three bedrooms on the second floor and two on the third, a total of five. Yet there was a single bath located in the basement.

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    “If you had to go, you had to go down three flights in the middle of the night,” said Hicks.

    Poorly Converted Garages

    Needing more space, homeowners often make new bedrooms out of old garages. But thoughtless conversions ruin the curb appeal, with the new residential wing still looking like the old garage.

    “It ends up looking really bad,” said Hicks, “and you don’t even have a garage anymore.”

    Big Kitchen – No Living Room

    Some homeowners have hobbies or interests that they devote major floor space to — at the expense of everything else.

    “One owner converted the living room into a huge kitchen,” said Hicks. “They had a great kitchen, complete with a huge island, but no living room.”

    Bedrooms With No Closets

    This can evolve in a couple of ways: The previous owner could have removed closets to increase the bedroom’s floor space or added bedrooms to a house where there was too little room for closets.

    Whatever the cause the effect on buyers is negative. Read my lips: People want closet space. Look at the homes-for-sale ads. What do they say: “Great closet space.”

    Really Bad Colors

    An awful color scheme may turn off homebuyers so much that they are blind to the home’s other virtues. “We got one house that had multi-colored, neon-bright floor tiles in the entryway,” said Hicks.

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    Buyers entered in, they exited out.

    Jungle Fever

    Everybody loves trees and shrubs, but let it get too lush and it turns into a problem.

    “When the vegetation starts to block the light and make the interior real dark, that’s bad,” Hicks said.

    Missing Parts

    Neglected houses can look hideous, true, but they can be dangerous as well.

    HomeVestors purchased what was basically a nice old place in Hampton Roads, Va., but it had several issues, the worst of which was an outside basement entrance to nowhere — except basement. It was essentially just a big open pit.

    “We lose more real estate agents that way,” Hicks said.

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