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in-law suite

6 Upgrades That’ll Help Sell Your Home During the Pandemic—and Beyond

September 24, 2020

home improvements to make before you sell

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If you imagined 2020 was the year you would finally list your house for sale, you may have hit the brakes on those plans when the coronavirus pandemic arrived.

But now, we’re more than six months into the COVID-19 era with no clear end in sight. As many people continue working and logging in to school from home, the real estate market is again heating up with buyers eager to upgrade to a new home.

So stop putting it off: Now is the time to step on the gas in preparing your home to sell. We talked with experts to learn which home improvements will hit the right note with buyers during the pandemic (and beyond).

1. Upgrade your outdoor space

Most of us are suffering from an acute case of cabin fever these days. It’s little wonder that outdoor space has become more important than ever to prospective buyers.

“Even pools are becoming more popular in areas where they weren’t before,” says Bill Walker, chief operating officer of Kukun, a web resource for home improvements.

That doesn’t mean you need to splurge on a new in-ground pool; even a minor landscaping refresh can make a big difference and increase curb appeal. Depending on your budget and your neighborhood, you might also consider adding an in-ground fire pit or outdoor kitchen to maximize your outdoor space.

If you live in a cooler climate, extending the usability of your outdoor space will be a big draw for buyers.

“Get a low-cost outdoor heater and area rug to stage the space as an outdoor living room,” says Francie Malina, a real estate agent in New York’s Westchester County.

2. Create a functional home office or classroom

Many workers aren’t heading back to the office until 2021 or even later, which means home office space is at a premium, along with space for kids to log in to their virtual classrooms.

“People need a dedicated space for multiple people to be able to be on calls at the same time,” says Walker, who currently works at home alongside his wife, and his kids attending school virtually. “It definitely creates challenges when we all need to be on calls and need space to work.

Even if you don’t need two home offices or a remote learning station for your own family, consider staging your home to show the possibilities for buyers.

“Staging a guest bedroom as a home office or classroom is a good idea,” Walker says. “The potential buyer can see the room being used in a versatile way and visualize it for themselves.”

Plus, most of us host guests in our guest rooms for less than a month per year, Walker says—and probably even less during the pandemic.

3. Add separation of space

Open floor plans are so 2019.

“Open floor plans are losing a bit of luster,” Malina says. “Homeowners are looking for distinct spaces for family members to work or study.”

If your space isn’t well-segmented, you may want to create separate spaces by adding barn doors or pocket doors—or even room dividers for a quick and easy solution.

Having distinct rooms helps to minimize volume from other people’s activities, and can also create a different feeling in each part of the house.

“As people are spending more time at home, they want room and different environments to not feel stuck inside,” Walker says.

4. Add space for a home gym

Many people are forgoing the gym during the pandemic, preferring to work up a sweat from home to minimize risks of coronavirus transmission. That means people are looking for space to house gym equipment, from yoga mats to treadmills and stationary bikes.

Your home may not have the space for a fully equipped home gym, but you can still carve out a corner where home buyers will be able to picture their future at-home HIIT workouts or yoga flows.

5. Give your in-law suite a makeover

If you have a guest house, this can be an attractive feature for buyers right now—especially those with multigenerational households, or people looking for a potential source of rental income.

“With people bringing elderly family members home, [additional dwelling units] are a good option, especially if there is a kitchen and bathroom,” Walker says. “Even if this space isn’t used for personal reasons, it can be an investment property.”

6. Spruce up the laundry room

Concerns about cleanliness and hygiene have been at an all-time high during the pandemic, which means “laundry rooms are more important than pre-COVID,” Malina says.

People are doing laundry more often after running errands, and many of us have become more diligent about washing our bed linens. Plus, who couldn’t use more room for ironing, folding, and hang-drying clothes?

“Having a dedicated space to do laundry is a wonderful luxury, and buyers often want the space to be beautiful like the rest of their homes,” Malina says.

The post 6 Upgrades That’ll Help Sell Your Home During the Pandemic—and Beyond appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

What Are Granny Pods? A Way to Keep Aging Parents Close to Home

October 31, 2018

After children grow up and leave the nest, their parents may enjoy their newfound freedom for a while. But as those parents grow older, they and their adult kids may think about living close together again—but in a way that preserves everyone’s independence. Enter the granny pod, an affordable living solution for retirees wanting to downsize.

What is a granny pod?

Basically, a granny pod is a small modular home, typically between 300 and 500 square feet, that sits in the backyard of a main house. Think of it as an in-law unit that’s designed to be easier to navigate for elderly folks who may have difficulties with mobility or vision.

While the tiny space is ideal for one person, couples can certainly live in the space, too. Like a tiny house, each granny pod typically has a bedroom, living room, kitchenette, and bathroom. Also, the unit is mobile, so that if the whole family relocates, Grandma’s pod can come, too.

Benefits of a granny pod

What makes a granny pod particularly suitable for seniors are the universal design features such as wide doorways (to allow wheelchair access), an open floor plan, and a walk-in shower.

“For those needing more advanced medical care, some granny pods feature a virtual system that can track one’s blood pressure, glucose levels, heart rate, and blood gases, and share that information with the occupant’s family and physician,” says Sophie Kaemmerle, a neighborhood and home improvement expert with NeighborWho, a property information website. “Some systems are also equipped to verbally remind the occupant to take their medications.”

Some granny pods are also designed with voice-controlled smart home features such as door locks, lighting, heating, and window shades. Others are built with more advanced medical amenities like pressurized ventilation systems to keep outdoor air from leaking inside if the resident has a compromised immune system.

How much does a granny pod cost?

The price of a granny pod can range from $40,000 to $125,000, depending on the size and the amenities included, says Kaemmerle. And since you can’t take out a mortgage for one, that will need to be paid upfront. On the other hand, the amount is comparable to a down payment on a regular home.

Also, since the pod will share water, sewer, and power with the main house, the property owners will likely see an increase in their utility bills.

Disadvantages of owning a granny pod

If you are considering a granny pod, it’s important to be aware that your property may not be zoned for the addition of an alternative living unit like a guesthouse or granny pod.

“Although some communities have zoning laws which are pod-friendly, in most cases there are several restrictions to follow,” says Kaemmerle. “Also, not all states will allow one to have a granny pod in their backyard.”

Therefore, be sure to inquire with your city planning office about the process of building on your property and the type of permits you’ll need.

Granny pods and multigenerational living

Cindi Hagley, a Realtor® in California, says over the past several years more and more homeowners have expressed interest in them when looking for a home to buy.

“I work with more and more buyers who are looking for a multigenerational solution for their families,” Hagley says. “Granny pods can keep the family together, eliminate high nursing home costs, and allow the elderly to keep their privacy and their dignity.”

The post What Are Granny Pods? A Way to Keep Aging Parents Close to Home appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

What Is an In-Law Suite? A Smart Feature—Even If Mom Isn’t Moving In

October 12, 2018

What is an in-law suite? It’s the most common name for a small dwelling on the same property as (and perhaps attached to) a single-family home, where an aging family member (or others) can live with some modicum of privacy and independence.

In-law suites are also referred to as accessory dwelling units, multigenerational units, secondary suites, or granny flats. In Hawaii, they’re known as ohana units. In the Southwest, they’re frequently called casitas. No matter the name, they’re a desirable feature in a home that come in handy in many ways well beyond providing a place for mom alone. Here’s everything you need to know.

What is an in-law suite?

mother-in-law suite
Photo by Historic Shed

The traditional in-law suite can be either connected to the main dwelling of the home, or an external structure like a small cottage on the property or a converted garage. Minimally, an in-law suite has a bedroom and full bath. It can also have additional rooms such as a sitting room or a small kitchen.

Photo by Washa Remodeling & Design

Alternate uses for in-law suites

When not in use by an aging parent, an in-law suite has many uses, making it a wise investment. Here are some uses to consider:

  • Home office: “More and more buyers are looking for a place to work from home,” says Mike Dinella, broker salesperson with Lenny, Vermont & Leonard Realtors in Haddonfield, NJ. “So an in-law suite could be the perfect spot for your small business.”
  • Guest quarters: When out-of-town guests come to visit, an in-law suite is the perfect place for them to have a little privacy with their own bedroom and bathroom.
  • Older child residence: Adult children who may need to live at home while establishing themselves financially can use the space as an apartment, perhaps even paying a little rent.
  • Short- or long-term rental apartment: Since many in-law suites are fully equipped apartments, they make ideal rental apartments that can bring in added income from long-term renters or short-term rentals on Airbnb.


What’s the cost of an in-law suite?

The cost to add an in-law suite will vary greatly depending on the size, amenities, and whether it will be an addition to an existing home or a stand-alone structure. When adding an in-law suite to the existing home, look to spend an average of $32,700 to $63,000. If you’re building a new structure, it can cost as much as $125,000.

In-law suites as a sales feature

Due to their usefulness, in-law suites are attractive features to look for when buying a home—or play up in your home if you’re selling.

“A mother-in-law suite or even the potential of one can make your home more desirable to buyers,” says Dinella. “With multigenerational living on the rise, buyers are frustrated that they can’t find a home that meets their needs. There are limited choices, so they start looking at homes that can be easily modified into a residence with a mother-in-law suite. If I have a listing with a first-floor bedroom and full bath, I’ve been advertising it as a ‘potential in-law suite.’ It generates a lot more buyer traffic.”

The best advice Dinella has for those who are considering building an in-law suite onto their existing home out of necessity is to make it an open floor plan.

“An open floor plan has versatile uses after the fact. It’s easier for buyers to envision the suite as something else if they don’t need to use it for its original intention,” he says.

Photo by Historic Shed 

Are in-law suites legal?

Local ordinances vary when it comes to the amenities in an in-law suite and its use. To find the laws specific to your property, go to the zoning office with your lot and block number to find out if having such a suite on your property is permitted.

If zoning laws do not allow an in-law suite, it may be possible to get a variance.

“You may have to send out certified letters to the neighbors and get their signatures,” says Dinella. “The cost of a variance could run up to $500.”

You will also need to obtain building permits—and even then, there may still be limitations on what the suite can include or how it may be used.  Some zoning laws do not allow full kitchens because of the risk of stove fires. Some laws do not allow the suites to be rented out once it’s no longer being used for an older relative.

Bottom line: Before investing in a home with an in-law suite with the intention of it being a money maker, know the local laws.

Despite a few negatives, homeowners find the pros outweigh the cons and that in-law suites are a smart investment while they are living in the home and when they go to sell.

The post What Is an In-Law Suite? A Smart Feature—Even If Mom Isn’t Moving In appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.