First-Time Homebuyers: Don’t Make These Mistakes!

Have you heard? January is the new April! The spring market is kicking off unusually early this year, so if you’re a first-time home buyer you may be starting the home buying process earlier than expected. If you’re ready to start your house HUNT, here are a few common first-time homebuyer mistakes to avoid:

Looking outside of your price range.

man signing paperwork on a table

When you view homes online, it can be tempting to look at all the homes available without a price range in mind. But if you look at homes that are unattainable, you could fall in love with a home that you can’t afford. Think you can afford to stretch your budget to the max? Consider that while you may think you’re just spending an extra $10K, “…you’re paying an extra $10,000 plus interest (” Carefully consider how much you can stretch your budget before you start looking so you don’t end up in a home you can’t afford.

Skipping your neighborhood research

blue front porch with seating

You’ll want to do some research on the neighborhoods you are looking at. Look into the neighborhood, and ask yourself important questions like:

  • What can of development plans are in the works? 
  • What are the zoning laws? If there is a lot of open land, what could be built on it?
  • Have home values in the area been on the rise or decline?
  • Is this a safe neighborhood during the day and night? (drive around at different times of the day)
  • Is this home on a main street? Will it get a lot of traffic? 

Getting caught in a bidding war

Couple with smart phone smiling

You find a house you love. The problem? So do 5 other people. While it can be easy to get into a bidding war, you may end up offering significantly more than a home is worth. This can become a major problem for anyone financing their home purchase. If you’re relying on a mortgage and the bank doesn’t appraise the house at or above the amount you offered, you may be coughing up a lot more money. And the worst-case scenario: your deal may fall through.

Make sure you know what the home is worth and how much you can afford before entering a bidding war. Your agent can be a great asset to inform you about the home’s value so you know when you should stay and when you should walk away.

Skipping out on an agent

Using a real estate agent to assist you in your home buying process is a great idea. In fact, 89% of homebuyers in 2019 said they used a real estate agent for their home buying transaction.

We always suggest that you do your research to find an agent or team to assist you. You want to be deliberate with your agent choice because your success or failure could depend on them. They handle a large portion of your home buying process. Don’t ever work with an agent that does not fit your needs. Make a list of recommended agents and look them up online. See what previous customers have said, what areas they specialize in, and what they can offer you. 

With the right agent to guide you, you can attack this “early” spring market with ease! Contact a HUNT Real Estate Sales Professional today if you’re ready to start your House HUNT.

Take Your Basement From Fright to Functional on a Budget

A finished basement increases your home’s usable space, but taking it from concrete and cobwebs to a comfy hangout spot may be pricier than you think.

The cost to finish a basement and turn it into a livable space ranges from $6,500 to $18,500 on average, according to an analysis by Home Advisor. Basement remodeling projects — to improve or replace existing features — tend to cost between $10,000 and $30,000.

Your basement finishing costs could fall anywhere on the spectrum, depending on room size, where you live and how extensive the improvements are.

Find out what factors affect the cost to improve a basement and how to keep expenses under control.

» MORE: Ways to finance your dream home-improvement project

Breaking down the cost to finish a basement

Finishing, remodeling or renovating: While contractors might see subtle differences, all three terms describe a basement improvement project.

No matter what you call it, finishing typically involves adding walls, a floor, electricity and lighting so the basement is ready for habitation, says Bryan Sebring, a certified graduate remodeler and owner of Sebring Design Build in Naperville, Illinois.

Flooring and wall coverings like paneling are the biggest expenses, making up approximately 15% of the total cost to finish a 1,200 square-foot basement, Sebring says. Plumbing and electricity are next, at around 14% and 11% of the cost, respectively, while interior carpentry needs — like trim and railings — account for about 10%. Remaining costs may include things like drywall and insulation, cabinets and countertops, painting and even cleanup.

Exact costs will vary depending on basement size, whether extra features like a bathroom or wet bar are included, and how fast you want the job completed, Sebring says. And that’s assuming your unfinished basement is in good condition.

It’s important to have your basement inspected for foundation and drainage issues before finishing. If an inspection reveals water damage or the risk of water seepage, basement waterproofing and possibly foundation repair will likely add to the cost.

» MORE: How to pay for emergency home repairs

How to plan your basement finishing project

Consider needs and neighborhood

Do you want a place for the kids to hang out after school, or are you dreaming of a state-of-the-art man cave? The way you’ll use the space will dictate how extensive the improvements need to be.

Look at other houses in the neighborhood as well, says Nick Yahoodain, president of Advanced Builders & Contractors in Los Angeles. If unfinished basements are common in your market, improving other areas of the house might be a smarter investment.

Set a budget

Make a list of the features you absolutely need, then add a few things you’d like. Once you’ve decided what you’re willing to spend, talk to a contractor. That discussion should help you separate realistic improvements from the upgrades that will bust your budget.

It’s not uncommon to spend 15% to 20% of the home’s value on a basement improvement project, Sebring says. He cautions against spending more unless you’re sure you’ll live in the house for more than five years.

Think about ROI

Yahoodain considers the effect on value to be the “golden rule” when it comes to home improvements. Will a finished basement help you rent or sell your home in the future? If the answer is no, your money might be better spent in another part of the house, he says.

Though basements — even finished ones — don’t usually add square footage to your home for appraisal purposes, they can have a positive impact on marketability. A basement finished to include a bathroom, bar area and living space recoups around 70% of its cost in improved resale value, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2017 Cost vs. Value Report.

Hire the right pro

In many cases, basement finishing is best left to professionals, but choosing a contractor requires some research. Take the time to:

  • Request estimates from more than one contractor to avoid overspending
  • Read verified reviews of each pro and the materials they suggest
  • Ask for past customer referrals and find out if their projects were finished on time and within the original budget
  • Check with your local building department or state consumer protection agency to be sure potential contractors are properly bonded, licensed and insured

Make your finished basement more affordable

1. Keep it simple

Opt for standard materials and fixtures instead of custom features to avoid premium prices. And resist the urge to add features that require expensive plumbing or electrical work like a wet bar or home theater system.

2. Opt for open space

Unless you have a genuine need for an enclosed workshop, office or exercise room, leave the space open. Carving your basement into separate rooms means paying for additional studs, electrical wiring, drywall and doors, and limits the ways you can use the space.

3. Choose carpet

Hardwood, laminate and tile flooring significantly increase the cost to finish a basement. Sebring, who calls carpet “the king of basement flooring,” says many people are scared about the consequences if a carpeted basement floods. But even top-of-the-line vinyl and tile has to be pulled up if there’s serious water damage, he says, and you can replace carpet multiple times for the same cost of installing hard flooring once.

4. DIY (with caution)

All but the most skilled and motivated homeowners should leave basement finishing to the experts. “You run the risk of not understanding the building codes and having to tear it out and redo it,” Sebring says. Hiring subcontractors and managing the job on your own, rather than hiring a general contractor, could save some cash, but be prepared to treat it like a full-time job, he says.

Beth Buczynski is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: Twitter: @bethbuczynski.

The article Take Your Basement From Fright to Functional on a Budget originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Look Who’s Moved to HUNT Real Estate ERA

We are pleased to welcome the following sales professionals to the HUNT Real Estate ERA family. Their association further affirms our commitment to offering the highest level of service to our clients.

Buffalo/Niagara Region

Rochester Region

Capital Region

Central & Northern NY Region

Arizona Region


The Most Productive Agents 

The HUNT® Reputation
Rankings & Accolades

  • #1 Family-Owned and Operated Real Estate Firm in New York State
  • Top-Ranked Broker in the ERA Real Estate network 
  • Ranked #35 on REAL Trends Top 500 Brokerages Survey* 
  • Gene Francis Memorial Award Winner Honoring ERA’s Top All-Around Company 
  • Member of Who’s Who in Luxury Real Estate 
  • Ranked one of Western New York’s Fastest-Growing Companies

The Most Productive Agents 

  • 1600 Licensed Real Estate Professionals in 50+ Branches
    • 13,000+ Transactions
    • $2.756 Billion in Closed Sales
    • Per Person Productivity of Nearly 9 Transactions

If you’re ready to take advantage of everything we have to offer AND make more money, join HUNT Real Estate ERA today!

*Source: 2019 REAL Trends 500 | Ranked by Closed Transaction Sides

Upstate NY Holiday Events Guide 2019

Ready for the holiday season? Here are a few great and affordable events happening across Upstate NY to help you get in the holiday spirit! What’s your favorite holiday event? Let us know in the comments!

Western New York

15th Annual Fairgrounds Festival of Lights

Source: Fairgrounds Festival of Lights
  • Where: Hamburg, NY
  • When: November 29-30, December 1, 6-8, 13-15, 8-23 | 5-9PM
  • Cost: $25/car
  • About: Drive through a huge display of lights and then check out all the food, vendors, rides and more on the festival grounds.

Downtown Christmas Tree Lighting

  • Where: Buffalo, NY
  • When: Saturday, December 7th | 5-8PM
  • Cost: free
  • About: Free ice skating, tree lighting, and fireworks display over Fountain Plaza

Zoo lights-Buffalo Zoo

Source: Buffalo Zoo
  • Where: Buffalo Zoo
  • When: Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday until December 29th from 5:30-8:30
  • Cost: Children 23 months and under: free | $5.00 child | $10.00/adult
  • About: Zoo after hours. Light displays, holiday music, live performances, winter treats, and a visit with Santa. Note: Zoo Lights does not feature the animals at the zoo


Rochester Holiday Village

Source: Roc Holiday Village
  • Where: Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Manhattan Sq.
  • When: Friday-Sunday every weekend from Dec 7-Dec 29 (NYE celebration on Dec 31) 4PM-11PM
  • Cost: Free
  • About: Ice skating, tree lighting, liberty pole lighting, crafts, a petting zoo, shops, food & drink vendors, and more!

Holiday Laser show

Source: Rochester Museum & Science Center
  • Where: Rochester Museum & Science Center
  • When: November-January 2020
  • Cost: $10/adult | Student (3-19) $9.00 | Senior (62+)/College Studen: $9.00
  • About: Family holiday spectacular. Holiday songs choreographed with dancing laser lights among the starts of the planetarium sky

Central NY

Lights on the Lake

  • Where: Onondaga Lake Park
  • When: November-January 5th 5-10PM open nightly
  • Cost: $10/car Mon-Thur | $25/car Fri-Sat
  • About: Massive holiday light displays at Onondaga Lake Park

Holidays in the City

  • Where: Downtown Syracuse
  • When: Dec 7th 12-5PM
  • Cost: Free to attend, events cost extra
  • About: Find Reindeer, Santa, Central Library activities, ice skating in Clinton Square, Gingerbread Exhibit at the Erie canal museum, an Art Mart, and more!

Capital Region

Capital Holiday Lights in the Park

  • Where: Washington Park
  • When: November 29-January 3rd | 6-9PM
  • Cost: $20 per passenger vehicle
  • About: Over 125 light displays and scenes, crafts, costumed characters, refreshments, and Santa

Christmas Land LLC

  • Where: Alamont, NY
  • When: Saturday & Sunday until Dec 22 | 11AM-6PM
  • Cost: Free
  • About: Pictures with Santa and his elves, ornament decorating, horse-drawn sleigh rides, freshly cut Christmas trees, food and beverage vendors, local artists, and more!

11/30 Radio Show: JP Miller

Your host, Pet Hunt, welcomes JP Miller to the show.

JP Miller is  owner and operator of New York’s fastest growing news website, NYEMPIREREPORT.COM.

Together, Peter leads the discussion on the success of NYEMPIREREPORT.COM by sharing new/stories from all across New York State.

To find out more, listen to this week’s show.