deck view white wine table beach

Island Escape 101: Passport Requirements

With thoughts of the sand between your toes and the intoxicating smells of suntan lotion mixing with the spray of the ocean, it’s easy to imagine spending your days living your best Caribbean life. Before you find a long-term rental or property to own and kiss your mainland life goodbye, you’ve gotta make sure you can even get to paradise.

Sure, Caribbean countries are known for their easy-going attitudes, but even the most “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” countries have immigration rules that need to be followed before you can set sail with Captain Morgan (even if you never plan to leave dry land!) While many Caribbean countries are very accommodating to US tourists, a certain amount of passport validity, blank stamp passport pages, or other requirements may be enforced either at boarding of the plane (while still in the US) or after you disembark in your destination. Here’s what you need to keep in mind to ensure smooth sailing!
 
Note: This list is only a guide as immigration rules are often in flux. Please check the US State Department’s website here to get the most up-to-date information before you leave. Also, please note that this guide is designed with United States Passport holders in mind. If you hold a passport from another country, please check with the State Department in the country from which your passport was issued.

beach loungers in jamaica

 
Anguilla
Passport Validity: Must be valid at time of entry
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required for entry stamp
Not required if you have an onward or return ticket, confirmation of accomodation, and can produce evidence of your ability to maintain yourself.
 
Antigua and Barbuda
Passport Validity: Must be valid for 180 following your departure date
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required for entry stamp
Not required if you have an onward or return ticket, confirmation of accomodation, and can produce evidence of your ability to maintain yourself.
 
Aruba
Passport Validity: Must be valid at time of entry and for duration of stay
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required for entry stamp
Not Required for US travelers
 
Barbados
Passport Validity: Must be valid at time of entry
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required for entry stamp
Not Required for stays under 6 months
 
beach in belize

Belize
Passport Validity: Must be valid for length of stay
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required for entry stamp
Not Required for stays 30 days or less
 
Bermuda
Passport Validity: Must be valid at time of entry
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required for entry stamp
Not Required
 
Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba
Passport Validity: Must be valid for period of stay
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required for entry stamp
Not Required for visits up to 180 days
 
beautiful beach in bvi

 
British Virgin Islands
Passport Validity: Must be valid at time of entry
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required for entry stamp
Not Required for visits up to one month
 
French West Indies- Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Martin, Saint Barthélemy
Passport Validity: Must have six months validity at entry
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required for entry stamp
Not Required for visits up to 90 days
 
The Bahamas
Passport Validity: Must be valid at time of entry
Blank Passport Pages: 2 pages required for entry stamp
Not Required
 
Cayman Islands
Passport Validity: Must be valid at time of entry and exit
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required for entry stamp
Not Required
 
costa rica beach view

 
Costa Rica
Passport Validity: Must be valid for length of stay
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required for entry stamp
Not Required for stays less than 90 days, but return ticket required
 
Cuba
Passport Validity: Must be valid at time of entry
Blank Passport Pages: 2 page required for entry/exit stamps
Tourist travel to Cuba remains prohibited. You must obtain a license from the Department of Treasury or your travel must fall into one of 12 categories of authorized travel. See here for details.
 
Curacao
Passport Validity: Must be valid for length of stay
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required for entry stamp
Not Required, however return/onward ticket, sufficient funds, and any needed documents for return travel are needed.
 
Dominica
Passport Validity: Must be valid at time of entry
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required for entry stamp
Not Required for stays under 6 months
 
Dominican Republic
Passport Validity: Must be valid at time of entry
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required for entry stamp
Not Required for stays less than 30 days
 
El Salvador
Passport Validity: Must be valid at time of entry
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required for entry stamp
No visa required, but a $10 USD tourist card must be purchased upon arrival and is valid for 90 days.
 
grenada beach

 
Grenada
Passport Validity: Must for 6 months beyond the date of entry
Blank Passport Pages: Sufficient space is necessary for ¼ page entry stamp
No visa required, evidence of return/onward travel is required
 
Guatemala
Passport Validity: Must be valid for at least 6 months beyond date of entry
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required for entry/exit stamp
No visa required for stays of 90 days or less
 
Haiti
Passport Validity: Must be valid for 6 months from time of entry
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required per stamp
No visa required for stays of 90 days or less
 
tropical view with chairs

 
Honduras
Passport Validity: Must be valid for 6 months from time of entry
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required for entry stamp
No visa required for stays of 90 days or less
 
Jamaica
Passport Validity: Must be valid at the time of entry and exit
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required for entry stamp
No visa required for stays of 90 days or less
 
Mexico
Passport Validity: Must be valid at time of entry
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required per stamp
No visa required for stays of 180 days or less
 
Montserrat
Passport Validity: Must be valid at time of entry
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required for entry stamp
No visa required
 
Nicaragua
Passport Validity: Must be valid for length of stay
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required per stamp
No visa required for stays less than 90 days, but must purchase a $10 USD tourist card upon entry and pay a $42 USD departure tax. Other requirements may apply. See here for details.
 
beach near bocas del toro panama

 
Panama
Passport Validity: Must be valid 3 months beyond date of arrival
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required per stamp
No visa required
 
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Passport Validity: Must be valid for 6 months from time of entry
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required for entry stamp
No visa required for stays of 90 days or less
 
Saint Lucia
Passport Validity: Must be valid for 6 months from time of entry
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required for entry stamp
No visa required if you have an onward/return ticket, confirmation of accomodation, and can produce evidence of your ability to maintain yourself.
 
view in st vincent and the grenadines

 
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Passport Validity: Must be valid at time of entry
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required for entry stamp
No visa required
 
Sint Maarten
Passport Validity: Must be valid for duration of stay
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required for entry stamp
No visa required
 
Trinidad and Tobago
Passport Validity: Must be valid for 6 months from time of entry
Blank Passport Pages: 1 page required per stamp
No visa required for stays of 90 days or less
 
Turks and Caicos
Passport Validity: Must be valid duration of stay
Blank Passport Pages: none
No visa required for stays of 90 days or less
 
turks and caicos beach

business handshake

Top 5 reasons you NEED an Agent when buying a home

Thanks to the internet, you can learn almost anything, however, there’s a huge difference between knowing how something works and knowing how to do it well. Looking for proof? Check Youtube for haircut fail videos–you’ll quickly see the difference between knowing how to do something versus having the expertise to do it well. Now while this might seem like a silly analogy, buying a home is a much bigger commitment and investment than getting your bangs trimmed, the consequences are similar. In either case doing it yourself can work out well or can cost you significantly more time, money, and heartache than you intended. Here are the top reasons to hire an agent when buying a home.
 
hands holding pens above a contract
 
They Have Your Best Interest In Mind
There’s no need to bury the lede on this one. The best reason to have an agent assist you in buying a home is that they are licensed professionals who have a contractual obligation to put your best interests first. While an agent who is listing the property you’re interested in can draft up all the documents you’d need to complete the purchase, they are in fact, working for the seller. Having an agent working for you will mean that they are negotiating on your behalf and trying to do what is best for you, even if it results in a lower commission for themselves.
 
hand signing a contract
 
There’s a lot at stake
In most cases, buying real estate is going to be the largest, most expensive purchase you’ll ever make. How to can you be sure you’re making the right choice and not getting suckered into buying a Money Pit home? What happens if you accidentally transpose the address and on paper, you just “bought” a home that the owner wasn’t selling? Having a Buyer’s Agent representing you means that you’ll get sound recommendations on things like what kind of inspections you should have and who should do them and the Errors and Omissions insurance carried by real estate brokerages covers you in the event of a typo.
 
women talking and drinking coffee
 
They Do This Every Day
For many people, buying a house is a few-in-a-lifetime experience. The day you sign the closing papers will be a day you clearly remember, but for your agent, it may just be another day. While your agent will be excited for you, for them it’s business as usual, which is great news for you! This experience means they know how to handle unusual circumstances and they know what to look out for to make sure you’re getting a fair deal. In a straightforward transaction this experience might not seem that important, but this knowledge will be invaluable for situations that pop-up without warning.
 
laptop with graphs
 
They Have Tools You Don’t
How do you know if a property is fairly priced? While the internet has some good tools for consumers to use, real estate agents have access to a lot of information that isn’t publicly available. They can tell you when the home you’re looking at was last sold and for what price, what comparable homes are going for in the area, and how this property stacks up. This can help raise red flags and let you know what to dig into more. For example, if the same home has been sold three times in the last five years or if a home sold for less than it previously had, you’re going to want to find out why.
 
man's hands counting money
 
They Don’t Cost You Anything
As the buyer of the property, you generally don’t pay anything for the using the services of a Buyer’s Agent. This is generally paid for by the Seller because the Buyer’s Agent in effect brings a buyer to the Seller which leds to them selling their home. Some sellers will price their home higher to account for these costs, but negotiating the final sale price is part of what the agent can do for you.

Whether you’re buying or selling a home, commercial building, or piece of land it is a good idea to enlist the help of a local licensed real estate agent to help you navigate the sometimes complicated process. Looking for someone to help you buy or sell your property? Click Here.

woman's arms while working on computer

Agent Advice: Why You Should Get Licensed in Multiple States

For some agents, getting licensed in two states makes perfect sense. Agents who work in Kansas City or St. Louis, Missouri may often find themselves crossing state lines into Kansas or Illinois on a daily basis, for example. But if you’re miles from the state line, does it still make sense to hold a Real Estate Salesperson license in more than one state? Here are some things to consider.

Important note: You should consult legal counsel before becoming involved in a transaction in another state. Failure to observe the law may result in loss of commission or even jeopardize your license. The following guide is for informational purposes only and is not meant to be taken as legal advice.
 
You Might Get More Than Expected
While many states license their real estate agents on an individual state basis, many states allow for licensing reciprocity, meaning that while you have to apply for that state’s license (and usually take the state test), you won’t have to retake the coursework.

Other states have what is called portability, meaning that you can work as an agent in their state to some extent, but this can vary from requiring you to have a co-brokerage agreement with a broker licensed in that state (Cooperative States) to only allowing you to remotely help your client while you’re located in the state you’re licensed in (Physical Location States). Having more state licenses opens you up to more state you may be able to work in.

It Frees You Up to Move
Being licensed in multiple states gives you more freedom to move. Sure, if you decide to make a planned move you can always choose a state with reciprocity or pay to go through the licensing process in your new state, but that can cost both time and money. This is especially true for those who have seasonal homes where they live in one area for 4-6 months and another for the rest of the year. Rather than taking a hiatus from real estate (and the income it provides), being licensed in both states allows you to continue working while living the lifestyle you want in the location of your choice.

You Can Work in Turf States
There are four US states that do not allow out of state agents or brokers to conduct any business in their state either in person or remotely. These include Nebraska, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Utah. The only way to work with a client in these states is to refer them to an agent/broker who is licensed in that state or to be licensed there yourself.

Things to consider
Nothing about being licensed to practice real estate in another state prepares you for paying income tax in another state. As an independent business owner, you already know how important a good tax professional is, so you’ll want to consult a knowledgeable professional before you get started to save yourself future headaches.
Some states have more reciprocity than others. California does not allow licensed agents from any other state to apply for a California real estate license without completing California coursework, but Colorado is the opposite by allowing reciprocity for an agent from any US state to apply. Some states allow just neighbors, while others have scattered reciprocity states through the country.

neon rock totems in desert southwest

Beyond the Grand Canyon: Awesome Places to Visit in the Southwest

In Europe, it’s not uncommon for someone to leave their home on a Friday for a weekend trip that includes crossing international borders. For much of the EU, a few hours drive or train ride will land you in another country—or perhaps a few countries over. In the United States, that same scenario is pretty rare due to the sheer size of the country. Residents of many states can drive for hours without ever leaving the boundaries of their home state, much less the country.

It is perhaps for this reason that the most common destination spots for US travelers are within the borders of the United States. While many people visit Disney World in Florida or The Statue of Liberty in New York City every day, it’s less common that these US travelers know about or visit places such as Antelope Canyon, Seven Magic Mountains, or White Sands National Monument. Check out some of the craziest, coolest, and most intriguing destinations for your next vacation right here in the Southwest United States.
inside Mat Bevel's Kinetic museum in US southwest

Mat Bevel’s Museum of Kinetic Art, Tucson, Arizona
Lose yourself in the intoxicating space where science meets arts meet technology and magic! Located in Tucson, Arizona and billed as “High Art for the Whole Family” this museum is definitely worth the stop. This museum features nearly 100 found-object moving sculptures, a surrealistic pop science theater, hands-on learning experiences and digital media arts.
light beam falling inside Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon, Page, Arizona
Thanks to social media, and especially Instagram, this spot has become the most-photographed and most-visited slot canyon in all of the American southwest. Millions of years of wind and water erosion have formed the smooth and flowing shapes found in this spectacular canyon. This area is extremely dangerous as it is prone to flash flooding but can be visited through professional guided tours. You can find this stunning natural wonder in Page, Arizona.
Remnants of famous signs at the "Neon Boneyard" in Las Vegas, Nevada LCCN2011636073

Neon Boneyard and Mob Museum, Las Vegas, Nevada
While most people visit Las Vegas, Nevada for the gambling or shows on the Strip, this funky collection of decommissioned neon signs is an impressive stop not far from the action of Fremont Street. To get the most out of your experience, purchase the combo ticket that allows you entry to both the Neon Boneyard and Mob Museum, visit the Museum during the day and schedule your guided tour of the Neon Boneyard just before dusk to experience the signs in natural light as well as lit up.
neon rock totems in desert southwest

Seven Magic Mountains, Sloan,Nevada
Located just 10 miles outside of the heart of Las Vegas, Nevada this art installation features seven 30 foot tall fluorescent “totems”. Visitors can walk up to the stacked works of art, take stunning photos, and even listen to a guided audio tour via their personal cell phones. If you want to see this attraction, you’ve gotta act fast–this installation is only on display until May 2018!
White Sands National Monument.jpg

White Sands National Monument, Alamogordo, New Mexico
When you think of miles of white sands, you probably think of the beach. Not the case in this southern New Mexico attraction! This area is covered in undulating pure gypsum dunes, the most active of which move in a northeasterly direction at a speed of up to 30 feet per year! A reserve can be found at this park which features specially adapted plants and animals, but for a truly unique experience, purchase a sled and try out some dune sledding!

Bonus: If you’re going to be in the Alamogordo area anyway, make sure to stop by the World’s Largest Pistachio! While it’s (probably) not worth the trip to the area just to see this record-holder, it’s another way to spice up your trip to this area!

inside of meow wolf in Santa Fe new mexico

Meow Wolf, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Diving head first into a toilet might not sound like your idea of a good time, but wait until you see the adventure that lies within. Nothing is what it appears at Meow Wolf, an interactive choose-your-own-adventure art and experience gallery which houses the House of Eternal Return, the first permanent installation in Meow Wolf’s collection (and supported by Game of Thrones’ George R.R. Martin).

highway 66 symbol painted on highway

Musical Highway, Tijeras, New Mexico
Located just outside Albuquerque, New Mexico is the famous Route 66. While many people have heard of this famous southern highway, this particular stretch has a novelty of it’s own: It sings. Driving on this stretch of highway at exactly 45 mph treats vehicle passengers to a rumblestrip rendition of “America the Beautiful” over a quarter-mile stretch.
The United States is filled with so many great attractions, tourist destinations, and things to do and see. Have you fallen in love with the weird, wacky, and wonderful Southwest? From Arizona and Nevada to New Mexico and beyond, you’re sure to find the perfect place to call home on RealtyHive.

pregnant wife moving boxes

Big Changes Ahead: Why to Consider Moving before Baby

When you’re living in a house without children, you take certain things for granted. No food in the fridge? Chinese takeout or pizza it is! Have a sharp corner on a table or counter? Just avoid it (or swear at yourself when you stub a toe, your choice)! When you find out you’re going to have a baby, everything changes. You have to start planning for things like nutritious meals and safety precautions. Your perspective starts changing as well. Instead of loving your downtown apartment where you could walk to all the great bars and clubs, you might be thinking that a home in the suburbs is more your style. Maybe you want a backyard for your kids to grow up in or sidewalks where they can ride their bikes.

It might seem strange, if not completely insane, to make the choice to buy a home when you have a baby on the way, but it can actually be the perfect time. While you should not buy a home before you are ready (if you’re not sure, check out this article ) if you are ready financially, pregnancy could be the perfect time to buy a house!

 
man looking at pregnancy test
 
The Push You Need
It can be hard to find a house that is right for you. It can be very easy to decide to wait until the holidays are over, then wait until winter is over, then wait until you’re done with this-or-that, then wait until…whatever comes next. Knowing that you have big life changes (and new real estate needs!) could be exactly the push you’ve needed to spring into action.

 
crying baby
 
No Use Crying Over Spilled Milk (or lost houses)
Assuming you’re looking to buy a home from someone you don’t know, you’ve got to be ready to act in this hot market. Inventory of available homes is low and homes within certain price ranges are flying off the market at incredible speeds. If you’ve got a high budget for your area, you’ll probably have a bit more time to scoop up a property you like, but if you’re in a hyper-competitive market you may need to be ready to see a property on a whim. This can be difficult to impossible when dealing with the napping, feeding, and changing schedule of a baby so being able to do this before baby comes could be your best option.

 
baby decorations
 
Use Nesting to Your Advantage
Imagine having to clean your home to a spotless finish, deep clean a new home to make it “yours” and decorate a room for baby. Now imagine doing this with an almost-superhuman sense of smell and attention to detail. Welcome to nesting. Nesting can show itself in a variety of forms, from decorating a nursery to cleaning the kitchen with a toothbrush, and if you choose to move during this time it can be a godsend. Where you normally wouldn’t think twice about what’s behind the oven, how much dust is on the inside of the light fixtures or if a color “soothes” you, the nesting urge will help boost your desire to clean and decorate.

 
dad sleeping with baby
 
[Physical and Emotional] Labor of Love
While it might seem like it makes more sense to wait until you’re physically recovered from childbirth to move so you’re able to help in ways you can’t while pregnant, that might take longer than you think. Having a baby takes a huge physical toll on a female body and a huge mental toll on both partners. It could take weeks, if not longer to heal from the physical act of giving birth and then you’ll be working with the challenges of new sleep schedules and routines as well as all the needs of a newborn. This could push back your plans even more, so it might be a good choice to home shop while it’s still just the two of you.

 
pregnant wife moving boxes
 
[Physical] Labor of Love Part 2
No one likes to move. Few people like to pay for services they can do themselves, but baby bumps and heavy lifting do not mix. If you were on the fence about calling in friends or a moving company to help, this can be your deciding factor. You’ll get to move without having to move.

 
man and woman holding hands with baby shoes
 
Saving Your Bottomline
Depending where you live and what your financial situation looks like, you could save money by purchasing a home. While this isn’t possible for every person in every real estate market, oftentimes mortgages are comparable, if not less expensive, than paying rent. Homeownership comes with the added bonus of building equity which helps you to get more money for your house when you sell than you paid for it. Babies are expensive. Saving money by reducing your cost for housing might be exactly the right thing for you.

 
trendy loft with open stairs
 
New Priorities = New Home
Even if you already own a home, being a parent will change your preferences, priorities, and requirements. While in your childless days you might have enjoyed living in an interesting, multi-level home with a narrow spiral staircase, as a parent that same design will make you a nervous wreck. Can you block the stairs so a newly crawling baby won’t fall? Is the master suite on the same level as the nursery or will you have to navigate the stairs (while half asleep) to comfort a crying infant? What about school district? Daycare? Your new priorities will shape your preferences on what kind of house you need and where it should be located.

Whether you’re expecting or not, you can find your next home on the RealtyHive marketplace. Find your new home by searching here

for sale sign in front

Take It or Leave It: What You Need to Know about Real Estate Fixtures

Close your eyes and pretend you’ve sold your home and are getting ready to move out. Imagine your living room. You see the empty space where your couch was, the blank space where the television was mounted, and the bare windows once covered by full curtains. Wait a minute, make that a nearly blank space where the tv was and the almost bare windows because unless you included it in your selling agreement, the wall mount for your television needs to stay as do any blinds and curtain rods. You can take the curtains, though! Seem strange? Welcome to the wild world of real estate fixtures!
 

empty house

 

What is a Fixture?

When you hear the word fixture, what do you think of? Most people associate things chandeliers or track lights or plumbing fixtures like faucets, sinks, toilets, but in the real estate contract world a “fixture” is typically considered an item of property which is physically attached to or so closely associated with land or buildings so as to be treated as part of the real estate.

While this varies on a state-by-state basis, this can include, without limitation, physically attached items not easily removable without damage to the premises, items specifically adapted to the premises, and items customarily treated as fixtures. This is where working with an experienced real estate agent can be really beneficial because they can help navigate what is considered a fixture and write a contract that will allow you to keep or sell what you want.
 

faucet

 

What are some examples of Fixtures?

Fixtures can be found inside and outside your home. Outdoor fixtures include, but are not limited to:

  • Garden bulbs
  • Plants
  • Shrubs and Trees
  • In-ground sprinkler system and component parts
  • Fences
  • In-ground pet containment system (but not the collars)
  • Storage buildings on permanent foundations
  • Docks/piers on permanent foundations
  • Attached antennas and satellite dishes
  • Awnings

 
Indoor Fixtures can be items such as:

  • screen and storm doors and windows
  • electric lighting fixtures
  • window shades
  • curtain and traverse rods
  • blinds and shutters
  • central heating and cooling units and attached equipment
  • water heaters, water softeners and treatment systems
  • sump pumps
  • attached or fitted floor coverings
  • audio/visual wall mounting brackets (but not the audio/visual equipment)
  • garage door openers and remote controls
  • installed security systems
  • central vacuum systems and accessories
  • built-in appliances (like a dishwasher)
  • ceiling fans

 

empty home ready for moving

 

Do I really have to leave all this behind?
The beauty of real estate transactions is that nearly everything is negotiable. If there’s something that holds special meaning for you or you want to bring into your new home (or inversely, something that you want to include in the sale or leave behind) all you need to do is write it into the contract and it’s as good as done.
 

satellite on top of house

 

What about things I rent, not own?
You MUST remember to write into the contract that you will be keeping any rented items. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it can be very easy to forget about something like an L.P. tank or water treatment system. If this is omitted from the purchase contract, you could be held liable to purchase this item from the rental company and give it to the buyer of your property since without an exception written in the contract it should be theirs. This small oversight can be one costly mistake!

One of the best ways to avoid the headaches that can come with selling a home is to enlist the help of a professional real estate agent. In addition to helping you get top dollar for the sale of your home, they can help you navigate the sometimes complex world of real estate law and make sure you’re staying on the right side of the law!

Home for sale in need of listing descriptions

How to Write Listing Descriptions That Don’t Suck

While most real estate agents love working with people and looking at homes, writing listing descriptions tends to be a necessary evil of the job. Some agents can put pen to paper and make it sing, while others can barely strings together a coherent sentence. It can also depend on the home. Some homes have so many great features it’s easy to describe them, but for simple or not-so-nice homes, it can be a real challenge. Here’s how to write a winning listing description.

Make a list of the cool things about the property. What exactly this means will change as you can call out certain features that make this property stand out from others nearby. For this you don’t want to worry about characters or sell-able features this is just to get you up and running. Make sure to pay attention to features both inside and outside the house and think about utility throughout the year (ie don’t forget about a beautiful backyard just because it’s currently covered in snow!)

front of home

Exterior Features
-Association Lake (stocked with fish and good for lite recreation)
-Tiered backyard
-Private balcony from suites (2)
-Garage door leading to the backyard
-Sunroom/3 seasons leading to backyard with bar area
-Paver patio
-Right in front of beach area (shared)
-Right in front of the shared dock
-Near tennis courts
-Near firepit

-2 car attached garage

Interior Features
-Skylights
-First-floor laundry
-Tons of windows/light

-Pocket doors for privacy
-Hardwood floors
-Fireplace
-Built ins
-Kitchen with island, lots of storage and counter space
-Bricked/built-in stove area
-Breakfast nook adjacent to kitchen
-Office

-Window seats
-Crown molding
-Ceiling fans
-Some vaulted ceilings
-Closets with built-in shelving
-Finished basement
-5 bedrooms ( 2 are suites)
-5.5 bathrooms

After you’ve got your list together, go through and highlight some of the best, brightest, and most unique. This will be your starting point. To start writing, focus on the interior or exterior (whichever you have more to talk about) and work your way to the other.

  • staircase
  • sunroom
  • built-ins in office
  • kitchen
  • fireplace and livingroom
  • living room
  • loft area
  • blue bedroom
  • window seat

This property has a lot of great features inside so we’ll start that.

The beautiful 5 bedroom, 5.5 bath home is full of light and has the perfect balance of private space and room to entertain! Enter through the double front doors and you’ll find a living room, den/office, formal dining room, kitchen with breakfast area, and a heated three seasons room overlooking the spectacular backyard. Each room has special features and upgrades from the brick fireplace in the living room to the dry bar in the three seasons room to the built-ins throughout. The chef in your life will love the kitchen with ample storage and counter space as well as the brick alcove which houses the gas stove, separate oven, and more storage.

Then move to the other areas of the home. If it’s a single story or very basic home, you may not even need this part.

Near the kitchen, you’ll find the first-floor laundry/mud room with access to backyard as well as a secondary staircase leading to the second-floor bedrooms. The second story features two suites, a Master suite and Mother-in-Law on opposite ends of the home, each with a private balcony. Master also includes a fireplace and jetted tub with separate stand-alone shower. Also located on the second floor are additional bedrooms, bathroom, and common area with skylights which overlooks the backyard.

Follow up with a little about exterior (or interior, whichever you haven’t already covered).

You’ll enjoy the paver patio with covered awning in the back of the home and convenient location just steps from the association-maintained beach, dock, fire pit with seating, and tennis courts. The two car attached garage includes an overhead door leading to the backyard–ideal for easy access!

Now drive it home with any updates or features that sell, but don’t photograph well, like a boring, but finished basement.

This home has been meticulously cared for and updated throughout the years and includes updates to the forced air, radiant heating and central air systems. Also includes hardwood floors with in-floor heat and a finished basement with daylight windows and bar/rec area with wine room.

There is no reason to finish with a “This is a must-see!” or “Won’t last long!” or any other jargon or overused call to action terms. While these used to stand out, now they just sound dated and get skipped right over.

Perfect! You now have a unique and creative listing description, but it’s a bit long. If you’re dealing with a listing site that has a character limit, you’re going to have to tighten it up. First, copy your full listing description.

The beautiful 5 bedroom, 5.5 bath home is full of light and has the perfect balance of private space and room to entertain! Enter through the double front doors and you’ll find a living room, den/office, formal dining room, kitchen with breakfast area, and a heated three seasons room overlooking the spectacular backyard. Each room has special features and upgrades from the brick fireplace in the living room to the dry bar in the three seasons room to the built-ins throughout. The chef in your life will love the kitchen with ample storage and counter space as well as the brick alcove which houses the gas stove, separate oven, and more storage.

Near the kitchen, you’ll find the first-floor laundry/mud room with access to the backyard as well as a secondary staircase leading to the second-floor bedrooms. The second story features two suites, a Master suite and Mother-in-Law on opposite ends of the home, each with a private balcony. Master also includes a fireplace and jetted tub with separate stand-alone shower. Also located on the second floor are additional bedrooms, bathroom, and common area with skylights which overlooks the backyard.

You’ll enjoy the paver patio with covered awning in the back of the home and convenient location just steps from the association-maintained beach, dock, fire pit with seating, and tennis courts. The two car attached garage includes an overhead door leading to the backyard–ideal for easy access!

This home has been meticulously cared for and updated throughout the years and includes updates to the forced air, radiant heating and central air systems. Also includes hardwood floors with in-floor heat and a finished basement with daylight windows and bar/rec area with wine room.

Then go through and highlight the items that can’t be found elsewhere. If characters are limited, there’s no reason to describe things you can obviously see in the pictures or that’s included elsewhere in the listing like the number of bedrooms or square footage. Once you have your best parts highlighted, copy them below, take out all descriptive words (great, beautiful, spacious, etc) and edit to make sense. If you’re still taking space, you can follow these tips for more ruthless editing: 1) Limit number items in a list 2) take out transition words (also, as well as, etc)

full of light and has the perfect balance of private space and room to entertain Each room has special features and upgrades from the brick fireplace in the living room to the dry bar in the three seasons room to the built-ins throughout the first floor laundry/mud room with access to backyard as well as a secondary staircase leading to the second floor bedrooms. The second story features two suites, a Master suite and Mother-in-Law suite on opposite ends of the home, each with a private balcony. Master also includes a fireplace and jetted tub with separate stand-alone shower. Also located on the second floor are additional bedrooms, bathroom, and common area with skylights which overlooks the backyard. enjoy the paver patio with covered awning in the back of the home and convenient location just steps from the association-maintained beach, dock, fire pit with seating, and tennis courts.updates to the forced air, radiant heating and central air systems. Also includes hardwood floors with in-floor heat and a finished basement with daylight windows and bar/rec area with wine room.

Now look what you’re left with and trim as needed.

Full of light with a balance of private space and room to entertain! Each room has upgrades from the dry bar in the three seasons room to the built-ins throughout. First floor laundry/mud room has access to backyard and second story features Master suite and Mother-in-Law suite on opposite ends of the home, each with a private balcony. Paver patio with covered awning in the back of the home is just steps from the association-maintained lake and tennis courts. Updates to forced air, radiant heating and central air systems and has hardwood floors with in-floor heat, finished basement and bar/rec area with wine room.

Congratulations! You have created a listing description that is sure to attract attention! Remember that many sites are keyword-optimized so using terms that people in your area will be searching as well as not abbreviating (when not needed) will be to your advantage. Pair your new and improved listing descriptions with some high-quality photos and you’re sure to see a boost in activity on your property.

#Adulting: Landscaping for People Who Kill Everything

There’s usually no defining moment that stands out as “The Day I Learned to Landscape” so it’s typically long and arduous process filled with errors, aha! moments, and usually a handful of dead plants. When you first buy your home it’s easy to envision how it will look with window boxes filled with flowers and a vegetable garden in the back, but if your thumb is more brown than green, you may want to slow down.

Like the ability to drink black coffee or appreciate contemporary classical music, landscaping seems to be one of those things you magically get better at with age. One day it’s a sea of sugary frappuccinos and dead houseplants, and the next, it clicks. Your once bitter coffee is now mind fuel and your once wilted potted plants become a bed of flowers.

Or something.

Either way, your new home is lacking landscaping and you don’t really want to spend all your money on plants you’re probably hopefully not going to kill. So what’s a new homeowner to do? It’s time for some outside #adulting.

 

woman smelling flowers

 

Be Realistic
Sure, you might dream of an insta-worthy backyard filled with the lush orchids you saw on your honeymoon in the islands, but you’re not getting hibiscus in Minnesota. Not outdoors and not easily. Likewise you might dream of a big ol’ sugar maple you can tap in the spring and watch grow over the years, but that’s simply not going to happen if you live in Arizona.

The goal is to find something that works well for your climate. If you find things that can grow wild where you live and you’ll know you’re on the right track. Local horticulture and gardening groups will be your best resource to find plants that are hearty and well-suited for your particular area.

 

people's feet while looking at garden

 

Enlist Assistance
The do-it-yourself trend makes it easy to believe that after reading some articles and watching some videos, you can figure out pretty much anything. While that might lead to some success when it comes to fixing a washing machine or opening a wine bottle without a corkscrew, if you use that same mentality for gardening you’re apt to fail. Don’t get us wrong, do-it-yourself gardening is a great way to really get your hands dirty (literally) and learn about what you’re doing, but do-it-yourself shouldn’t mean do-it-by-yourself. If you’ve got a habit of killing your plants or you don’t know where to get started, enlist some help. If there’s a local gardening or horticulture group you can join, great! If not, look for Facebook or other online social groups in your area. These groups tend to be filled with gardeners of all skill levels and they can be more than happy to help you figure out where to start or what comes next.

 
woman in shrubs
 

Don’t Pick Things That Will Die
If keeping your house looking fresh and landscaped throughout the year is important to you, you’ll want to pick things that look good for most of the year. While blooming flowers are pretty, they only last for a few months max and then you’re left with barren space. Expert gardeners and landscapers are able to plan so that each spot has the appropriate flowers for each season, but if you’re starting out you may want to consider shrubs instead. Shrubs are designed to be hearty, add color, and last year round making them a much better value as well as easier to care for.

 
woman walking in garden nursery
 

Read the Directions
So you know what to plant according to where you live, but you’ll need to do a little more research before you can just put the plant in the ground and call it a garden. Does your plant need more sun or shade? Does it like a lot of water or would drier be better? Plants bought as nurseries or big box store gardening sections tend to have this information available–sometimes right in or on the pot you take home. Read and heed these directions, that’s the best way to ensure your plant will thrive.

If you try these tips, and still have trouble cultivating the garden you desire, remember the words of Janet Kilburn Phillips,

“The are no gardening mistakes, only experiments.”

homes in a row

5 Things to Ask About Homeowners Associations BEFORE You Buy

According to the Community Associations Institute, approximately 63 million Americans are a part of a Homeowners Association (HOA), a number that is expected to rise in the coming years. While these HOAs govern nearly 25 million families, many first time homebuyers have never lived in an area controlled by the rules of a homeowners association, often called Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs). While there are some things that won’t take most residents by surprise or drastically affect your daily life, like a no-glass-by-the-pool rule, there are other things that you don’t want to find out about after you’ve signed the papers for your new home, like a $500/month HOA fee. If you find out that the home you’re looking at is governed by an HOA, here are some things to dig a little deeper into.
 
us dollars and calculator on phone
 
Money Matters

Before you even began looking for homes, you probably met with a mortgage loan officer. These professionals help you figure out what you can afford based on your current income and debts and can even help you factor in what your total monthly costs will be when considering tax and insurance payments. If you live in an area where HOAs are common, they will also help you factor that into the calculations, but if these are not common in your area, they can easily be forgotten. These dues average $200-$400 per month, which can put the squeeze on your budget if not planned for. Make sure you find out right away if the home you’re looking at will have this extra expense and adjust your search accordingly.

Ask to see the financials of the HOA before deciding on a property. You should take a look at the last few years (to see what’s been done and how the fund has been managed) as well as the current and any upcoming approved budgets as well as reserves, if possible. This information is important to know because anything that the association is in charge of maintaining/repairing that isn’t in the budget, but is in noticeable disrepair, will either a) not be fixed/maintained/replaced or b) will only be fixed/maintained/replaced through a special assessment.

On this same note, ask if there have been any special assessments in the past (and what for) as well as if there are any planned for the future. A special assessment is essentially a charge for an upgrade that is split by everyone in the HOA be it a community workout facility, sidewalks, or something else. Rather than spread these payments over a period of time by working them into the HOA budget, these are lump sum payments due by every homeowner and can add thousands of dollars (unexpectedly!) to your total cost. Additionally, you’ll want to ask what the history of dues increases are and if the association is planning an increase in the foreseeable future.
 
analytic charts on tablet
 
You (Sometimes) Get What You Give

While the prospect of paying a fee per month on top of your house payment might sound like an awful arrangement, it can actually still be a financially beneficial situation for you. HOA dues are designed to care for amenities like sidewalks, pools, and other shared spaces, but sometimes they cover services like electricity, internet, or even certain types of insurance as well. Each HOA is different and is ruled by a different set of CC&Rs so it’s important to clearly understand what your dues will go towards and how that can shape your budget.
 
booted legs standing near keep off the grass sign
 
Know the Rules

One of the best parts of owning your home can be the freedom to decorate, renovate, and personalize as you wish, but if you’re part of an HOA, you might be giving some of that up. Many Homeowner Associations have rules dictating the physical appearance of your home from what style of windows you have to what kind of landscaping you need to where you can store your garbage bins. If you’re not willing or wanting to abide by these rules, then you are better off looking at another property. These restrictions can cover anything from the color scheme of your home to the length of your grass to whether you can keep pets, so it’s very important you know, understand, and agree with their rules.
 
hands shaking in front of multiple individual portraits
 
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

You’ll want to also ask about the number of units/homes in your HOA that are owner-occupied, renter-occupied, and unoccupied. Unoccupied properties mean that the HOA budget will most likely underfunded and therefore planned renovations and improvements can be pushed back or will need a special assessment to be funded. Renter-occupied properties are not inherently bad, but may lack the upkeep that an owner-occupant would and some lenders may have require that fewer than 25% of units are renter-occupied. In short, if you’re going to be a part of a Homeowners Association, you should know who you’ll be living and working with.

These are just a few of the considerations when looking at a home located within HOA-governed area. Working with a real estate agent who you trust and who knows the area well will be your best way to avoid any costly and disappointing surprises.