What to Know About Homeowner Associations

Are you considering buying a home in a neighborhood with an HOA? About a quarter of homeowners in the United States live in communities with a homeowner’s association (HOA), and most of those people believe that this enhances their property value. Critics, on the other hand, see community associations as meddling nanny states. Who is correct? There are compelling arguments on both sides, so let’s take a look at some HOA pros and cons.

First, what is an HOA? It’s an organized group of homeowners within a particular community. An HOA usually has an elected board of directors in charge of maintaining predetermined rules and regulations. HOA regulations and fees vary, but they’re designed to add to the value of a neighborhood.

What’s the difference between an HOA and a COA? If you live in a condominium, you may have heard the term COA, or condominium owners’ association. When you buy a condominium, you’ll share ownership of common areas as well as maintenance of the communal walls and roof. COA fees, like HOA fees, pay for maintenance and repairs, and condo owners also pay into a reserve fund. The primary difference between an HOA and COA is that in a COA, there’s less emphasis on architecture and curb appeal, since everyone shares the same building.

An HOA can dramatically improve a neighborhood. The homeowner’s association’s responsibilities include things like maintaining common areas and recreational facilities, and managing the neighborhood budget. The fees can be used for amenities and services that boost property value as well as aesthetic appeal. Further, the HOA helps keep the neighborhood orderly, with set quiet hours and rules that keep the neighborhood safer.

Despite all these benefits, living with the homeowner’s association rules and regulations can sometimes be challenging. The HOA fees can be burdensome, and homeowners may feel stifled by some of the regulations. While property owner associations can help a neighborhood maintain its value, some have highly restrictive rules about what homeowners can do on their own property.

What are some typical homeowners’ association rules? It’s important to make sure your HOA’s regulations are something you can live with before you buy. You may be restricted as to what color you can paint your house, how you can landscape your yard, which vehicles can be parked on the street or in your driveway, how high your fences can be, and which types of window coverings you can use. Homeowners’ associations sometimes have rules specific enough to dictate types of lawn chemicals or limit the size of gardens. Your HOA is likely to have noise level restrictions and regulations regarding pet ownership.  Read up on the rules, how strictly they’re enforced, and what penalties are imposed on rule-breakers.

Is an HOA right for you? The answer is entirely subjective. If you’re a fairly compliant person who doesn’t mind giving up some autonomy in exchange for amenities and an orderly neighborhood, go for it! If you’re someone who’ll be crushed if you can’t paint your house pink, an HOA might not be for you.

Whether or not you want to live in a neighborhood with an HOA, Vutech & Ruff can help you find the right home for you. We provide outstanding service to both buyers and sellers, assisting with just about every aspect of real estate while maintaining the highest level of professionalism. Our award-winning agents have years of experience, and our featured properties are located in some of the best neighborhoods in the Columbus, Ohio area. Call 614-706-0122 or contact us through our website so we can get to work for you!

How to Get Involved in Your Community

When you move somewhere new, it can be hard to feel connected. One of the best ways to plug in, though, is to get involved in the new community as quickly as you can. Community involvement is good for you, benefiting your body and mind, while helping you form bonds and a sense of solidarity with those around you. Here, we look at some great ways to plug in and get involved in your community.

  • Check out some local events. Most local communities an online calendar; you’re sure to find something there that piques your interest, whether it’s live music, theatre, sports, or festivals. Even in COVID-19, there are safe, socially distanced events being planned, and some organizations are getting very creative about how they operate. You may find something new to enjoy, and might even make some new friends.
  • Connect with local government. If civic responsibility is your passion, get involved! Attend community meetings, or volunteer at the polls.
  • Get involved in community service. There are tons of ways to plug into your community as a volunteer- all you have to do is decide what appeals to you. You might consider:
    • Helping the elderly: Contact local nursing homes, long-term care facilities, or veterans’ organizations to ask about volunteer opportunities and needs you can meet. You might also look into volunteering for a meal delivery organization or senior transportation service. COVID-19 has left many seniors isolated and vulnerable, so it’s even more important to find some ways to help out. It may be as simple as picking up extra groceries and delivering them to an elderly neighbor.
    • Helping children: There are so many opportunities to make a difference in the life of a child! Tutor a kid after school, join a mentor program, or get involved with the local school.
    • Helping animals: Volunteer as a dog walker for your local animal shelter or gather needed supplies and donate them. If you’re able to take on a larger commitment, consider fostering; the pandemic has left many pets in need of homes. Bonus: walking a foster dog around your neighborhood provides an opportunity to meet your neighbors!
    • Helping the less fortunate: Call the local food bank or charity thrift store to find out about opportunities to volunteer. Many people are struggling right now, and your participation in charitable outreach can make a big difference.
    • Helping a worthy cause: Is there a cause that’s especially important to you? Support it by participating in local 5k runs, food, clothing, or book drives, or other community events. Don’t have time to volunteer? Donate your resources.
  • Support local businesses. Skip the big box stores and shop locally. Local businesses, especially restaurants, have been severely impacted by the pandemic, so they really need your support. Even if you’re not comfortable dining out yet, make a point of supporting your local restaurants by ordering takeout.
  • Join a group. Find a club, take a class, or sign up for your neighborhood message board. One bright spot in the COVID-19 crisis is the way that people have come together virtually, finding new ways to connect. Your neighborhood message board is likely a great place to find information about neighborhood happenings, discuss issues facing your community, or get information about local resources. Jump on and introduce yourself!
  • Start something yourself! Can’t find a group where you’d fit in? Start one! Or organize a volunteer event, like a cleanup day at a local part. Or start a carpool or neighborhood watch. You’ll be surprised how many like-minded people you engage when you get something started.

When you’re ready to find the perfect community to call home, Vutech & Ruff can help you find the right home for you. We provide outstanding service to both buyers and sellers, assisting with just about every aspect of real estate while maintaining the highest level of professionalism. Our award-winning agents have years of experience, and our featured properties are located in some of the best neighborhoods in the Columbus, Ohio area. Call 614-706-0122 or contact us through our website so we can get to work for you!

Home Renovation

Are you thinking about renovating your home before you list it on the market? If you execute the plan correctly, you might be able to raise your asking price, not to mention attract more buyers with updated materials and finishes. Here are some home remodeling tips to help the process go smoothly.

  • Set a realistic budget and secure financing: You won’t have an accurate idea of how much things cost until you hire a contractor. However, it’s still helpful to arrange financing to see what you can afford. You might pay with savings, take out a personal loan, open a home equity line of credit, or refinance your mortgage. Whatever you plan to spend, set aside a 10 percent contingency budget to cover unexpected costs.
  • Define wants vs. needs: To help you stay on budget, categorize the updates you plan to make as “needs”—including fixing structural issues or safety concerns—and “wants”—such as adding customizations or luxury items. Remember, when renovating a home to prepare it for sale, you should anticipate the average buyer’s wishes, not your own.
  • Get a home inspection: Before any work begins, hire a home inspector to assess the roof, foundation, siding, windows, plumbing, electrical, and HVAC system to ensure they’re in good condition. The last thing you want is to discover an underlying problem halfway through your project.
  • Determine your living situation during the remodel: It may be possible to continue living in your home while it’s being remodeled, but large-scale renovations may require you to relocate temporarily. Either way, figure out where your family will live until the project is complete.
  • Focus on value per square foot: Bigger isn’t always better. If your home is small, you don’t necessarily have to blow out the walls and gain square footage to compete on the market. Many buyers look for high quality in a relatively small footprint for luxury living with less upkeep.
  • Consider doing some of the work yourself: For home renovations on a budget, you may want to complete the demolition, install floors, tile the bathroom, and paint the walls yourself. Just remember, no matter how appealing DIY home renovation seems, you should leave certain tasks to the professionals, including plumbing, electric, and HVAC work.
  • Renovate in the off-season, if possible: Summer and fall are the most popular seasons for home renovations. This means suppliers are busier, deliveries take longer, and contractors charge more. If it works with your schedule, remodeling in the winter can potentially save you thousands.

Once your renovated house is ready to sell, team up with Vutech-Ruff. We have over 60 years of combined real estate experience to help us deliver a smooth, low-stress process. We’re here for you every step of the way, from maximizing your listing’s exposure to helping you attract qualified buyers to accepting the right offer. For more helpful resources as you prepare to sell your home in Columbus, OH, please call 614-897-0618 or contact us online.

Relocating to a New Neighborhood

Moving is a life-changing event, even if you stay in the same city. No matter the distance of your move, you have new neighbors to meet, new utilities to set up, and a new home layout to adjust to. Follow these tips to help make relocating to a new neighborhood easier for your family.

  • Research the neighborhood before moving: When buying a house across town, it’s easy to visit the area during the day and at night to become acquainted with your new surroundings. Before you settle on one neighborhood or another, research crime rates, learn about the school district, and consider nearby recreation and amenities. Ask the locals what community life is like and find out about any major concerns in the area.
  • Change your address: Once you buy a house, complete a change of address form with the post office to get free mail forwarding for a year. Then, update your address with credit card companies, banks, newspaper and magazine subscriptions, and any other organization that regularly sends you mail.
  • Set up the utilities: To avoid any lapse in service, schedule the water, gas, and electricity to turn on the day before you move in. Depending on the wiring situation, you may need to be present for a technician to set up internet in your new home, so schedule this service for moving day or the day after.
  • Move your belongings gradually: Take advantage of the short-distance move by transporting a few loads in your car as soon as the house is ready. This makes moving day less stressful and exhausting.
  • Weigh the pros and cons of DIY vs. professional moving services: A self-move is often the most feasible if you’re staying in town. Friends can lend a hand, both with loading and unloading. You’ll save money compared to hiring movers, but injuries and property damage are more likely with DIY moves.
  • Meet the neighbors: Observant neighbors may approach you on moving day and introduce themselves. Otherwise, you’ll need to make the new neighbor introductions yourself. To break the ice, you might host a barbecue or housewarming party and invite all your neighbors to attend.
  • Set up new home security: Ask your neighbors what they do to protect their homes. They might offer useful advice about security systems, surveillance cameras, or other measures.
  • Get involved: The fastest way to make friends is to spend time outside and greet anyone who passes by. Visit community areas, attend nearby events, and join local groups to help you settle into your new neighborhood.

Interested in buying a house in Columbus, OH? Vutech-Ruff can help the process go smoothly. Our experienced real estate agents work with a wide array of interests, price ranges, and geographic areas. Many of our featured properties are located in some of the most premier and well-established neighborhoods in the Columbus area! For more helpful resources as you prepare to buy a home, please call 614-897-0618 or contact us online.

Important Things to Ask Your Real Estate Agent

Are you preparing to buy or sell a home? Working with a real estate agent is highly recommended. To ensure a smooth, low-stress experience, choose your agent wisely. Here are seven questions for your real estate agent to help you during the vetting process.

How long have you been a real estate agent?

Realtors must complete training and pass a licensing exam. Still, on-the-job experience is vital for mastering the trade. Ask the agent how many years of industry experience they have under their belt. It’s particularly beneficial if the agent has worked in the specific neighborhood where you’re looking to buy or sell.

How many of your clients are buyers? How many are sellers?

Many agents specialize in one side of the transaction or the other. This is perfectly fine—just make sure that if the roster is unbalanced, it leans toward the services you’re looking for.

What is your average list-to-sale ratio?

This is one of those questions to ask a real estate agent when selling a home. The list-to-sale ratio reveals whether the agent regularly sells homes at, below, or above the asking price. Knowing this number can be useful for your marketing and price negotiation processes.

What marketing tools do you use?

Your agent should be able to tell you without hesitation the strategies they’ll use to sell your property quickly and at the right price. If you’re a buyer, you may not think you need marketing tools, but catching the seller’s attention is vital in a competitive market. Find out how the agent plans to help your offer stand out.

How many clients do you have right now?

Carefully consider the answer you receive. Too few clients could mean the agent is inexperienced or only working part-time. But too many clients could mean the agent doesn’t have time to devote to you. The goal is to strike the perfect balance.

Can you provide references?

To help you know what to expect from a realtor when buying, consider calling their references. If the agent can’t provide you with a list of satisfied clients you can contact, proceed with caution.

How do your fees and commissions work?

Typically, buyers don’t pay agent commission fees, so this is a listing agreement question that sellers should ask. The percentage varies by agent and market, but commissions are typically between 5 and 6 percent of the home’s sale price. After the transaction takes place, the seller pays the fees to their broker, and then the buyer’s and seller’s agents split the commission.

With these tips for choosing a real estate agent, you’re well on your way to finding the right realtor! At Vutech-Ruff we boast a team of highly qualified, licensed agents, along with a large referral network to help your home buying or selling experience go as smoothly as possible. Feel free to view our current listings and open house schedule. You can also contact us online or call 614-897-0618 to speak directly with one of our agents.


Renting vs. Buying

Owning a home is the quintessential American dream. Yet just over one-third of Millennials (people between 25 and 34 years old) own a home. Is this age bracket missing out, or are there some hidden benefits to renting? Consider the advantages of buying vs. renting a home to help you figure out what’s best for your situation.

Renting vs. Buying Pros and Cons

Buying Pros

  • Good investment opportunity
  • No landlord
  • Greater stability
  • Possible tax benefits (if you claim itemized deductions)
  • Freedom to update the home as you please

Buying Cons

  • Down payment may be needed
  • Potential to lose money if home values decline
  • Extra maintenance and repair expenses

Renting Pros

  • Low upfront costs
  • Freedom to move at your leisure
  • No maintenance or repair responsibilities
  • No property taxes

Renting Cons

  • The landlord can raise your rent or sell the property out from under you
  • Rent money doesn’t build equity
  • Extra pet rent may apply

The Cost of Renting vs. the Cost of Buying a Home

Different costs are associated with renting vs. buying a home. If you rent, you can expect to pay:

  • Security deposit (often equal to one month’s rent)
  • Rent (varies by market)
  • Renter’s insurance (lower cost than homeowner’s insurance)
  • Pet rent (if you have an animal in your home)

If you buy, the cost of ownership includes:

  • Down payments can vary between 5-20+ especially in urban “redevelopment” areas
  • Closing costs (about 3 percent of the purchase price)
  • Mortgage (includes principal and interest)
  • Property taxes (vary by location)
  • Homeowner’s Association fees (not always applicable)
  • Homeowner’s insurance (higher cost than renter’s insurance)
  • Private mortgage insurance (if you put down less than 20 percent on a conventional mortgage)
  • Home repairs, maintenance, and renovations (budget 1 percent of the home’s value per year)

Using a rent calculator helps you determine when the higher upfront cost of buying a home breaks even with the cost of renting. Depending on the market, the average break-even point is five years. This means if you buy a house and live there for at least five years, you can expect to save money compared to renting.

The Final Verdict

Clearly, renting vs. buying a home doesn’t have a clear-cut answer. It is a personal decision based on your current financial situation. However, if you plan to live in one place for a long time, it could be a wise investment. Plus, you’ll enjoy the chance to make the house your own as you invest in it personally, not just financially.

Are you ready to take the plunge? Vutech-Ruff is here to help. We are a top-producing team of real estate agents serving home buyers and sellers throughout the Columbus, Ohio area. We have over 60 years of combined experience in the real estate profession, enabling us to navigate the sometimes tedious, daunting, and complex process of buying or selling a home. To learn more about becoming a homeowner, please call 614-897-0618 or contact us online.