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The Best Remodel for Return on Investment

Are you thinking about investing in a home improvement project?  Are you not sure which project to go with?   Sometimes understanding how remodeling affects your home's value can help you choose what and how you do a project.  Whether you’re looking for a DIY project or professional one, these are the best home improvements that can add value to your property. The 4 DIY remodeling projects that have proven to have the best return on investment are : 1) Replacing your siding 2) New modern and up to date kitchen appliances 3) Replacing the kitchen flooring to laminate or hardwood 4)Trim an exterior wall with manufactured stone   The 4 professional-hire remodeling projects that have proven to have the best return on investment are : 1) Updating doors with efficient and modern looks 2) Bathroom remodel 3) Adding more space or converting an attic to more livable space 4) Building or expanding a deck or patio Finding the right project takes time and calculations but with this list, you can pick not only a satisfying remodel but also the most effective one.   

Outdoor Showers Aren't Just for the Rich and Famous

Outdoor showers may seem like a luxury that only those with beach houses would be lucky enough to have. But if you have kids and pets that love to play in the yard, or even if really enjoy the outdoors, you may consider the luxury of an outdoor shower for your own home. A simple outdoor shower with cold water actually costs approximately $1,000 or less. An outdoor shower with an enclosure and hot and cold water will run about $4,000-$8,000. Here are four things to consider before you build your own little piece of outdoor bathing heaven. 1) Location :  In most cases, anywhere near the back entrance to your home is a good choice but you'll also want to consider plumbing access (Unless you’re installing the type of shower that attaches to a garden hose).  You'll also want to consider a sunny spot to keep the mildew and mold at bay.  2) Privacy : You want the shower to feel private and far from prying eyes, but you also want to keep the natural feeling.  You can achieve this by building a screen with either plants or building materials, place it in a corner spot, or have a freestanding folding screen.  3)Plumbing:  The simplest and most inexpensive plumbing option is a shower connected to a garden hose, which is then hooked up to an outside faucet.  If you want the luxury of hot water too you’ll need a plumber to install an outdoor hot-water faucet next to the cold one.  4) Drainage : The simplest and most common drainage system is letting the used water drain into your yard but if you don’t have very porous ground in your yard consider attaching the plumbing to your home’s drainage pipes or installing a French drain  With just a little planning and effort, you can install your own outdoor shower and stay cool during the sweltering summer months.

Some Tips for DIY Interior Painting

Most everyone knows the basic to DIY painting the house.  They know that it’s important to use drop cloths, painters tape and stir paint thoroughly. But did you know that a golf ball can help maintain paint quality, or that microwaving paint tape can make it more manageable? Here are 9 tips to help you reach even better results when you give your home a facelift this Spring!  1) When you're down to half a can of paint, don't let it dry out by dropping golf balls into the paint can to fill the air space, or place plastic wrap under the lid, seal it tightly and store the paint upside down. 2)If you’re painting new drywall, pick a  water-based primer to hide imperfections and provide an even base before applying color. If you’re painting paneling, water-damaged or smoke-saturated walls, opt for an oil-based primer.  3) To avoid stripes caused by rolling over paint that’s already starting to dry, keep a wet edge by painting the full height of the wall and then moving over slightly so you can overlap the last stroke with the next. 4)Before you start if you drill holes in the stirrer it will help mix the paint more thoroughly by allowing paint flow through the stirrer and aerating it like a whisk.  This will give you more even paint.  5)If you want to add texture to your walls choose a roller with a longer, ¾” nap, which holds more paint. The nap is the fabric material covering the roller, and longer naps create more stippling on your wall because of the way their fibers distribute the paint. Use a shorter-nap roller – between ¼” and ½” nap – for the smoothest finish. 6)If you’re using latex paint, you don't even need to wash your rollers and brushes if you don’t finish your project in one day. Cold temperatures actually keep latex paint from drying quickly so you can simply wrap your rollers or brushes in plastic bags or tin foil and put them in the refrigerator.   Just make sure to let them fully warm back up before using them. 7)  Sometimes a roll of old tape can be difficult to peel without tearing or sticking. If your painter’s tape is doing this, just pop the whole roll in the microwave for 10 seconds. 8)You'll want to know what you're working with before you buy your primer. Soak a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and rub it in a small area across the wall. If the cotton ball has paint residue, the paint is latex. No paint on the cotton ball? You’ll be painting over an oil-based paint and will want to use an oil-based primer before painting. 9) Invest in a paint pen.  These nifty little pens let you soak up some paint color for small touch ups later.  The pen can actually keep the pain inside it fresh for about a year after it is fill.  Just remember to shake before use!  A new coat of paint is a great way to revitalize and improve a room without too much cost.  These DIY tips should get you a high quality result on your next project. Good luck!

How to Construct a Letter of Intent

A letter of intent is a common way to express your intentions to purchase a property without having to write a formal, legal binding contract. The letter of intent is presented to a seller in the very preliminary stages of a project. The intentions of a buyer are spelled out clearly and simply so the seller knows exactly how the buyer wants to purchase the property, and under what terms. In my experience, a casual, personal letter to the seller is often the best received way to present your intentions to purchase a property. Some people insist on drafting a formal, multi-page, non-binding contract filled with legal jargon that can often intimidate the seller. A seller wants to easily see how the buyer wants to purchase the property, and determine if he or she can accept the presented terms.  Read on to learn how to construct a letter of intent and what to include. Let's investigate the contents of a letter of intent so you, too, can construct one before putting a property under contract. A letter of intent (LOI) must have five basic elements in its content: 1.    The buyerís name
2.    The property address and description
3.    Your offer which includes:
a.    Purchase price
b.    Down payment
c.    Terms
d.    Conditions
e.    Due diligence time
f.    Closing time
g.    Any other clauses or provisions
h.    When a formal contract will be written up if the LOI is approved
4.    A clause that makes the LOI non-binding
5.    Your signature and a place for the sellerís signature That is about it for the content, believe it or not; it is direct and straightforward without any fluff or nonsense. You are simply covering each detail so the seller knows exactly what the buyer intends to do. Having an informal letter of intent also allows for easy negotiations. There is no filtering through legally written clauses and other such unnecessary information at this stage in the project. When the letter of intent spells out each detail clearly, the seller can come back with alternate terms of which he or she would be more accepting. This negotiation can go back and forth without the rewriting of lengthy pages that either party may misconstrue. If the letter of intent is accepted, then the due diligence period will begin. It will continue until the time agreed upon by both parties in which, at the end of the term, a binding contract is constructed. Terms may change during this time if certain aspects of a property, previously not disclosed, are discovered. For example, there may be soil contamination in which the buyer will not want to purchase the property and will safely option out of the non-binding contract. Or, perhaps the property is in a lot worse condition than originally thought, causing the buyer to negotiate a decreased purchase price. The letter of intent allows for all facts and figures to be verified so that the buyer understands exactly what he or she is getting in the property. If the buyer finds something that he or she can not accept, or something not originally expected, he or she can back out without any recourse or punishment.  Always use a letter of intent to present your preliminary offer to a seller. This will save you writing time, legal fees, and will be easily read and understood by the seller and any other interested parties who must be made aware of your intention to purchase the subject property. Always construct the letter of intent with honest and detailed facts. Nothing must be overlooked as it can cause problems in the future. Be prepared to negotiate terms, and always know what you are willing to accept if you should get a counter offer.  Use this tool as an easy and direct way to purchase a property every time.

Painting Your Fireplace

Is your fireplace looking a little drab and needs an uplift? Painting over bricks can give a whole new look for your home's living room.  In addition,  shiplap paneling above this fireplace blends beautifully with the painted white brick below. A small wood mantel breaks up the all-white look too!

4 Must Haves for the Easiest Cleaned Bathroom

No one I know likes to clean their bathroom.  Do you?  Who does?  Bathrooms are the worst for collecting the yuckiest of grime and germs. Check out these upgrades that’ll give you a fighting chance against germs, dirt, and bacteria while doing a whole-lot-less cleaning.  1. Since dirt and grime love to cling to the gritty grout between tiles, getting rid of it in your bathroom can cancel out a lot of cleaning hassle.  For a material that doesn't need grout try glass or waterproofed real-stone veneer. They come in large sheets — hardly any grout needed.  2. Sensor-operated faucets aren’t just for crowded airport and mall restrooms. They’re growing in popularity in homes, too. If germs are your No. 1 enemy, a sensor faucet is a good choice because without touch, it’s tough for germs to find a foothold. 3.  Traditional toilets feel like they are impossible to get totally clean with every last yucky crevice. Because traditional two-piece toilets have a separate bowl and tank, they have lots of tiny crevices that are hard to really get clean.  Now there is the single one piece toilet model that cuts out the nasty crevices that you can't reach.  4.  Even though this is probably the least "cool" upgrade,  a good exhaust fan is extremely effective at fighting bad micro-organisms.  Not only does it fight mold, mildew, and other nasty micro-organisms, it protects your walls, paint, and trim. 

Knowing When Your Ready To Buy

All across the United States, there are millions of people looking to a buy home - either now or in the future.  Over the last few years, lower interest rates have come along, making it more affordable than ever to buy a home.  When most people stop and give it some thought - buying a home makes a lot more sense than renting a home or an apartment. In order to buy a house, you'll need to start saving your money and have enough for the closing costs and a down payment.  Your down payment will normally need to be around 15% of the price or the value of the property - whichever is lower.  To be on the safe side, you should always try to have 20% to put down.  If you aren't able to put 20% down, you'll need to buy some private mortgage insurance, which will cost you more in terms of your monthly payment. In most cases, the closing costs will run you around 5% of the property price.  Before you purchase the home, you should always get an estimate.  An estimate won't be the exact price, although it will be really close.  You should always plan to save up a bit more money than you need, just to be on the safe side.  Itís always best to have more than enough than not enough. You'll know your ready to buy a home when you know exactly how much you can afford, and you're willing to stick with your plan.  When you buy a home and get your monthly mortgage payment, it shouldn't be any more than 25% of your total monthly income.  Although there are lenders out there who will say that you can afford to pay more, you should never let them talk you into doing so - but stick to your budget instead. Keep in mind that there is always more money involved with a home other than the mortgage payment.  You also have to pay for utilities, homeowners insurance, property taxes, and maintenance.  Owning and caring for a home requires a lot of responsibility.  If you've never owned a home before, it can take a bit of time to get used to. Before you fill out any applications, you should always look over your credit report and check for any errors.  Although you may think you don't, you can easily get an error on your credit report and not even realize it.  If you have an error on your credit report, it can cost you a lot of money in interest rates.  An error will decrease your credit score, which will put you in a higher interest bracket and ultimately cost you a lot more money in the end.  Therefore, you should always know your credit before you approach a lender. If you check your credit report early enough, you may leave yourself enough time to fix any problems and get your credit back on track.  Rebuilding credit can take time though, sometimes even years.  You should always plan ahead - and give yourself plenty of time to fix your credit. Buying a home will require a bit of commitment on your behalf.  You should always strive to get the best possible deals, which means knowing your credit and where you stand.  This way, you can get the best interest rates.  You donít want to buy a home with bad credit, simply because you'll pay a lot more money for the home.  If you take the time to fix any credit problems and save up some money - you'll be able to get a much better home for your money.

Knowing When You Have the Deal

Knowing exactly what to invest in when dealing with real estate transactions will determine a good or bad deal. When a good deal is made, it means that the seller, buyer and agent all walk away feeling as though they have won or made a bargain.  Having what you want in line is the beginning to making a good deal with all that are involved in the process.     The major component that will make a deal and transaction good is the finances that are involved in it.  This means that the right loan with the specific terms and needs should be applied.  The right interest rate should be a part of this transaction.  You should also have the buyer feeling like they got the home or property for a lower price than other places.  The seller should feel like they made some profit for their next property for this as well.   The finances that affect the deal should also be a good deal in offering upfront fees and better rates.  For example, some lenders or investors will offer prices but have other fees attached that will add onto the loan.  Knowing to look out for these will help you avoid the extra costs that may not be attached to the initial loan.  You can make sure that this part of the deal is good by investigating different lenders and seeing who has the best offer.   Another part of ensuring a good deal comes from the state that the property is in.  The property maintenance performances should be done on the house.  This means cleaning the floors and other places that have gotten dirty over time.  It also means making sure that the property has everything running smoothly in it.  A property manager or inspector will need to move around the property to make sure everything has been maintained.  If it hasn't, the investments need to be made before the final deal to fix these certain areas.   Finding the best deal for your needs will allow for everyone to get a good deal.  Buying and investing in the property that you want without having the wrong types of costs and problems with the maintenance of the home will help you feel content with your decision for a long period of time.  Investigating and knowing what you want is important in determining what types of things to walk into as well as what to avoid.  

Keeping Your Home Competitive

In an ideal world, your home would sell the same week that it is listed on the local real estate market, but this is not an ideal world. The question arises, "how do I ensure that my home is competitive?" There are a few basic things that one needs to do to make sure their home gets noticed first, gets viewed first, and logically, sells first. These things are a combination of enhancing the homes's curb appeal and interior detail, plus a few thoughtful touches that make the viewing experience more enjoyable for prospective buyers.  First of all, take a look a your homes's exterior. Now compare that to photos of other listed homes from the same area. Which home would you want to look at first strictly on a visual basis? If it is not your home, you have some work to do. It's hard to look at your home with a detached eye, but it is necessary. Set aside the years of good memories and try to "be the buyer," note any small details that need fixing or a cosmetic touch up and get those done.  Then turn your attention to the inside. Most homes are a bit to cluttered to show off the details of a home's interior. This is not to say that a home is messy, it's just "lived in." Try to minimalize the amount of furniture and "stuff" in your home. If necessary, remove some things and put them in storage. You are going to be moving soon anyway, why not get a head start on it? The more "open" your home feels, the better for showing. Remember to clean off all counters and clean the closets. Buyers are nosey and will open all the closets, cabinets and cupboards to ensure there is enough room for their things. Wouldn't you? Lastly, make sure that your home is welcoming when people come to view it. Keep the temperature warm if it is cold outside, and cool if it is hot. It will probably be necessary to clean the home daily to maintain its pristine condition. Also, little things like pleasant aromas can help people to feel more at home, cinnamon or chocolate chip cookies are very comforting smells. But if you utilize these, make sure there are some snacks available as viewers might get nibbly!

Our Beloved Furry Friends

Our furry friends are parts of our family.  Were you aware of all of the potential dangerous plants in a garden for you dog?  Roughly 5 percent of calls made to the organization’s Animal Poison Control Center involved landscaping plants, houseplants and bouquets.   Here is an introductory list of some common toxic plants to avoid, followed by safe alternatives. Don't forget that you'll want to check out the ASPCA website for more extensive details on what is poisonous to our furry four legged friends. 

Decorating Your 5th Wall

Now a days the ceiling is the 5th wall that everyone is looking to add some interest to.  When we look up  why shouldn’t we give the 5th wall the same amount of attention as the other wall?. Wallpaper today offer unlimited possibilities, with digital printing for an array decorations. We are seeing amazing faux grass cloth and materials such as; woods, bricks and metals. Patterns range in any color you can dream of and some of my favorites, grass cloth and shells.

Organize Your Closet

Many of us stash brooms, batteries, and tools separately. Here is a way to converted a coat closet that was a catchall for useless stuff into a central location for home maintenance items. Go vertical by adding a rolling drawer unit, a pegboard, and storage baskets. Keep sweepers and mops off the floor using adhesive wall hooks. To make it a cinch to find stuff, every item in the closet has its place: Heavily used items hang on the pegboard. Cleaning products live together in a basket. Hardware, adhesives, and batteries are stowed and labeled in the rolling drawer unit. Bulky, less-frequently needed items are kept in labeled baskets on the shelf. Tip: When deciding what to store in your closets, ask yourself what has more value, a particular item or the space you will gain.

Is it Time to Buy Your Own House?

At some point as you're writing out your rent check, you get to the point where you look at the amount and think to yourself - at this rate, I could BUY a house. If you're fed up with paying rent every month that's high enough to finance a mortgage, it may be time to take a serious look at what it would take for you to get a mortgage loan and buy a home of your own. How do you know if it's time to stop renting and time to start investing your monthly payment in a house of your own? 1. Are you planning to stay put in the area? The first question to ask yourself is how long you are planning to stay in your new home. If the answer is 'less than two years', then it may be to your advantage to continue renting for a while longer - and use the time to build up your credit more strongly. If, on the other hand, you're planning to stay in one residence for more than a few years, buying makes more sense. Owning a home puts down roots, and makes you a more stable member of the community. It also makes more financial sense to buy if you're going to hold onto the property for more than two years. Unless you 'flip' properties - buy cheap, make repairs and sell high - it's nearly impossible to recover your investment if you own a house for less than two years. 2. How's your credit? If you've never checked your credit score or read your credit report, this is the time to do it. The higher your credit score, the easier it will be for you to qualify for a mortgage, and the better the terms of the mortgage for which you'll qualify. If you find problems in your credit score, you can take steps to fix them before you apply for a mortgage. This includes erroneous information on your credit report or extenuating circumstances that may have led to a missed payment or two. In many cases, minor credit problems can be repaired with no more than a few months of on-time payments. 3. How much house can you afford? Figuring out how much of a mortgage you can take on can seem almost like some sort of voodoo. You know how much you can afford to pay per month for a mortgage payment - but how does that translate into how much you can afford to pay for a house? The easiest way to work it out is to use an online mortgage calculator. Many web sites that offer credit and loan information have mortgage calculators available that will work in either direction - plug in the asking price of a house and your expected interest rate and the amount of your down payment, and the calculator will tell you an estimated monthly payment. Or plug in your income and expenses, the amount of the monthly payment you can make and the length of time you want to repay it - and the calculator will tell you the most expensive house you can comfortably buy.

10 Things to Contemplate When Buying a Home

A home is the financial investment many people make in their lifetime. In fact the typical American homeowner has approximately 40 % of their wealth tied up in their home. With such a important decision here is some additional advice as you contemplate while you make such a big purchase.  1. Buy your home for the long run.  Look for features in your home that you'll need 5 year from now with the plan that you'll still be there then.  2. Buy a home to improve your life, not with the hopes to make some money off of the purchase.  3. Make sure you focus on the important features to you and your family.  Don't get distracted by the features you don't need.  4. Make your budget and stick to it! 5. A 20 percent down payment is ideal. If you can’t afford that, consider a smaller down payment, or lower your budget. 6. Keep a 6 month strategic reserve in case you get sick, face an unexpected expense or lose your job 7. Get pre-approved, and if you want to avoid uncertainty down the road, stick with a boring 30- or 15-year fixed-rate mortgage. 8. Shop around for the best mortgage. 9. Don't spend more than your "take home income" on housing. (unless you live in a pricey market) 10. When you're ready to buy, don't be afraid to walk away - don't get too invested to each home you think will work for you until it's really yours.   

How to Paint Your House

Painting your house is one of the most satisfying projects.  You look at it everyday when you come home from a long day and man does it look good.  But when the price tag to re-paint your home averages $2,500 it can be a little too expensive of a project to afford. But with time and some elbow grease you can cut the price tag of this house project by a ton.  What if you could DIY paint your house? Well this is how you can.  1-day project: Wash your house Technically you should be pressure washing your siding once a year.  But you'll want to pressure wash to clean the mold and mildew and prep your surface for work and painting. Don't forget you'll need protective eyewear, a couple of five-gallon buckets, a pressure-washing cleaning solution and a stiff brush for an effective clean.  Soak the surface first to loosen up debris, and then start cleaning with a wide, sweeping motion, from the bottom to the top of each wall. To prevent damage, start spraying at a distance of 10 feet and work your way in. Wash windows, garage doors and cracked seals at the lowest setting or by hand. If the idea of pressure washing is a little daunting  you can get the same results with a scrub brush, bleach solution and garden hose. Weekend project: Make repairs Once the outside of the home is all clean, you're ready for prep.  On Saturday, sand, fill and weatherproof the surfaces. On Sunday, cover any stains with primer. With sanding block and razor blade (or a power sander), remove any protruding burrs or paint drips. Patch and fill holes with the filler that’s appropriate for your siding. Sand it down when it's dry Replace old caulk by applying the caulk slowly for a smooth bead, using a damp rag to wipe up the excess. Replace any rotted trim or siding immediately.  Spend Sunday applying primer.  Even if you buy the 2 in 1 primer paint, you'll get much better and longer lasting results if you don't skip the primer step.  Month-long project: Paint! Once everything is ready for the paint....it's officially time! Week 1: Paint the siding  Tackle the job in sections. Shake and stir the paint before you begin for even coverage. Cover any light fixtures, doorbells, and windows where you intend to paint, and use an angled brush to paint along edges without making a mess. Use a roller to fill in the broad areas, working from top to bottom. Paint the trim last, wiping up any stray spatters with a damp rag. Week 2: Apply a second coat Sand out any paint drips or debris. Paint the siding and trim another coat. Week 3: Tackle the details by paint your front door the color of your dreams. If you've come this far you might as well add shutters, if you like. IF you want you can spend the last week and upgrade and add extras: new crown molding for the porch, a doorbell, a new house number, door handles, and light fixtures.  

Is an Old Home for You?

If you prefer a home that is unique and has character, you probably are giving some thought to buying an older home. Before buying, it's a good idea to carefully evaluate the pros and cons of owning the home. In this article, we cover the positive benefits I have realized by owning a home built in 1825. The Pros of An Old Home In 1972, my husband and I bought a house built in 1825. While maintenance has certainly been an issue, there are more than a few positives to the home. Everything is real. There's no fake anything. Bricks are brick. Wood is wood. Slate is slate. Fireplace mantles, chair rail, crown molding, and baseboards are not dinky little things; they're beautifully proportioned. The floors are rich, wide, heart of pine planks. There's a rich feeling of history and being connected to our country's past that permeates through our neighborhood. George Washington grew up just across the river and trudged up the lane across the street from us daily to attend school. James Monroe and Mathew Fontain Maury (the 'pathfinder of the seas') lived within a block of us. Our house was used as a boys' military academy (Philips' Military Academy) prior to the War Between the States. Put together, one gets a feeling of wonder when walking around the community. Old houses can also be a very good investment. First, there is a limited supply of them. With the popularity of historic societies and the preservation movement, people have become more appreciative of them. Precisely because of the center city locations of many of them (which provided drawbacks for us when we first moved here), they are often in what have become highly desirable locations. Our house is within two blocks of commuter rail that runs into downtown Washington, D.C. and many old cities have old house neighborhoods in terrific locations. Boston, Richmond, Savannah, and Charleston come to mind. We paid $35,000 for our house in 1972. Within the last year, two houses within a block of us have sold for more than a million dollars. I have a feeling that our home may be the best investment we've ever made. That about sums it up. Beauty. A sense of it being ìreal.î Feeling connected to the past. And a darned good investment to boot. Yup. Weíve spent some blood, sweat, and tears. Real money, too. But I'd do it over again in a heart beat.

The Cons of An Old Home In 1972, my husband and I bought a house built in about 1825. We moved in on August 15th. My husband had an out of town business meeting and left about 5 AM the next day. (What makes him so smart?) About an hour later, I started downstairs and flipped the switch to turn on the chandelier in the downstairs hall. Boy did I get light. There was a flash, and then what looked like lightening ran up the cord. I turned the switch off, but the fireworks continued. I ran and yelled for our sons (10 and 11 years old at the time). We got out a door off another hall and ran to our next door neighborís house to call the fire department. (This is a very exciting way to meet oneís new neighbors.) The fire department was really fast and got to our home before we got back ourselves. By the time my husband returned late that evening, we had been visited by not just the fire department, but also an electrician (old wiring needed to be reworked and a fuse box replaced with circuit breakers), a painter (to get a price on fixing water and fire damage), and a floor refinisher (same reason as the painter), and both our sons had been offered marijuana. (Did I mention that beautiful old houses are often located in intercity areas and sometimes the whole neighborhood has not yet been completely restored to its original state of gentility?) We were asking ourselves, ìWhat have we done?î Well, we had the wiring fixed, put off having the floors worked on and did the painting ourselves. We also paid tuition and fees to keep the boys in their old school district. You have to be flexible to happily live in an old house. Nothing is a standard size. Right angles are purely coincidental. (The water damage mentioned above had showed us that the floor on the outside edge of the front hall is about six inches higher than floor on the far side of the living room.) Go to Lowes or Home Depot to buy a standard replacement this or that? Forget it. You're probably going to have to fabricate it yourself or have it done. You need to either have a large home maintenance budget, be prepared to invest a lot of 'sweat equity' or both. Weíve lived in this same old house for over thirty years now. Items we've had adventures with include: 1. Plumbing, 2. Bringing in more electricity, 3. Replacing the heating system, 4. Repointing the chimneys, 5. Having dampers made for the chimneys so heat doesnít escape from them when theyíre not in use (did I mention we have four working fireplaces?), 6. Increasing the insulation, and 7. Painting many, many times. Our house is real wood, not vinyl, and the roof the original roof. That, of course, means there is a lot of surface to paint, and, since the house is two stories and has high ceilings, some of the surfaces are pretty high. (Did I mention that my husband has fallen off the roof twice?) We're in the process of having our home painted (not a do it yourself project this time) yet again. The bids we got ranged from $15,000 to $20,000. (Did I mention you need a larger maintenance budget with an old house?) Whew! I think the cons are clear, donít you? Owning an old home is wonderful. Just make sure you understand what you are getting into.

Buying New Construction or Preowned?

Some people hate hand-me-downs; others like things with a history. When we are talking about a home, there's something about a house that has never been touched that attracts many people.  For every advantage of buying newly built and existing homes, there’s a flip side. For example, much like a new car off the dealer's lot, a newly constructed home tends to cost more than similar pre-owned homes.  This comparison is sometimes as much as 20 percent more.  Howevere, initially they prove to be less expensive in terms of maintenance and utilities. So which one do you want to buy? Shiny new construction or a charming pre-owned home, here are some other factors to consider. Benefits of new construction Floor plan: You can opt for a more customized floor plan that fits your family's lifestyle.   If you’re buying pre-built new construction, chances are good the layout will lean to modern, with wide-open floor plans. Kitchens flow into family rooms so you can cook and oversee homework or watch the game. New construction usually boasts more natural light and have brighter, lighter and more spacious rooms.  Personalization: Custom homes are obviously amazing but if you're looking into a prebuilt new construction you may be able to personalize your home with upgraded finishes.  Efficiency: New appliances and home systems are more energy efficient. This also cuts costs with lower utility bills. Smart and healthy: “Smart” technology options allow you to automate internet, cable, speakers and even an alarm system. And new homes often use low- and zero-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints and building materials, improving indoor air quality. Maintenance: A newly built home requires less maintenance since everything from appliances to the HVAC system and roof are brand new. This means you can better predict monthly homeownership costs, since you’ll likely spend less to maintain your home.  Warranties will help protect your home for the first couple years making it pretty easy to manage.  Amenities:  Master or planned communities with new construction often include amenities like parks and community spaces that are close to schools and transit.  Timing: The median time to complete new construction lets you feel less rushed than scrambling with other buyers for an existing home. The flip side Location: New construction typically pops up in suburbia which is typically slightly further from conveniences.  Landscaping: Existing construction is often surrounded by mature trees that shade the home in summer, protect against wind in winter, and block out traffic noises at bedtime. Mature trees may be salvaged at new building sites but often the landscaping takes years to grow into itself. Floor plan: Builders tend to stick with exterior design styles and finishes that appeal to the general consensus. You’ll have to count on post-purchase painting and decorating to stand out from your neighbors. Waiting: Custom home can take five to six months to be ready.  There are positives and negatives about pre-owned and new construction.  Hopefully this article is helpful for you to make that decision. 

How Long Does it Take to Buy a House?

Thinking about starting the process of buying a home but not sure what to expect? Here's a question a lot of people are curious about: How long does it really take to buy a home? A general answer is: on average it takes about 4 1/2 months to buy a house.  So lets review... 6 (or more) months.....  Request your credit reports.   Start the process of paying off any credit card bills and continue saving for your down payment.  This is a good time to figure out how much you'll be able to realistically afford.  4-5 months.....Do a generalized browse at homes for sale online and visit some open houses to get a feel for your market. Start interviewing real estate agents and lenders to begin assembling your team.  2-3 months.....Get pre-approved by the lender you choose so you can be taken seriously when you find a home you want to put an offer on.  (Most pre-approval letters are good for 60- 90 days.) Start touring homes with your chosen real estate agent. 1-2 months.....When you find a home you like, make an offer ( be prepared: on average less than half of buyers have their first offer accepted.)  After an offer is accepted, schedule a professional inspection. At this time if you're renting you'll want to give your landlord notice of your impending move.  Now it is time to starting planning the actual move!
  The last leg.....Pick a company where you'll have your home owners insurance and tell the lender who it is. You won't be able to finalize a loan without it.  As the loan is finalizing you'll want to make sure your down payment funs are easily accessible.  
At this time you can start packing up your non-essentials to make your move easier.  You'll want to fill out change of address forms and establish utilities in your name at your new address. Closing day....Make sure to set aside a chunk of time to sign paperwork. Once that’s over (or within a few days, depending on your sales contract), you’ll get your keys! Congrats on the new home!

Moving to Your New Home

This is the season for new homes! However with a new home does come packing your stuff and moving in.  And after all these decisions, there's one last one: Hire movers or do it yourself?  As you weigh your options, you’ll want to consider both budget and logistics such as distance and time. Doing your homework on moving costs and details will really help avoid headaches later.  Estimate your costs Professional moving prices vary greatly, so getting at least 2 - 3 estimates from different companies either recommended by friends or trustworthy consumer sites. You’ll want to make sure the company is licensed and insured. If you’re thinking of DIY, factor in these costs:
• Rental truck (with fees typically based on hours used and miles traveled)
• Boxes and tape
• Packing paper and bubble wrap
• Moving blankets
• Dolly, hand truck, moving straps Don't forget the implied cost of having "free help" from friends which includes repaying with dinner, beer or another favor.  If you choose to tackle this on your own....... Packing pointers Pack one room at a time, making it easier to unpack in your new home. Some tips:
• Don't skimp and wrap each thing carefully and make sure everything is cushioned. 
• Mark all boxes according to the room they’ll be moving to.
• Don't pack the boxes more than 50 pounds. 
• Keep some boxes labelled as "essentials".  These boxes should be full of the stuff you'll want to unpack first at your new house.  For example, toiletries or kids items that you might need right away.   Packing supplies Tip: Through online neighborhood groups, try to stock pile moving supplies such as packing paper and boxes from other neighbors moving in to save costs.  • Boxes (variety of sizes and styles)
• Packing paper
• Bubble wrap and/or cushioning foam
• Packing tape
• Moving blankets
• Plastic wrap
• Paper towels
• Scissors
• Screwdriver set
• Markers for marking boxes Share your info Once the move is certain you'll need to let the people in your life (friends, employers, creditors) know of your address change.   A good place to start is the United States Post Office.,  Either in person or on the official website you can have your mail forwarded to your new address through the USPS.   Even with mail forwarding, you should still update your address with individual organizations and companies. To prevent service lapses and past-due bills, you need to inform your utilities and service providers about your relocation plans. Contact telephone, cable, internet, electricity, gas, water and other municipal services. Arrange for the utilities at your old home to be disconnected on moving day and have them reconnected at your new residence by the time you move in. Other must-updates include your bank, credit card companies, stockbrokers and other relevant financial institutions.  Good luck with your impending move!

Take Care of Your Home This Spring

As Spring is in full swing here are a few things you'll want to "Spring Clean" this season! Inside
• Wash windows inside and out on a cloudy day to avoid streaking
• Power wash deck and vinyl exterior siding
• Steam clean carpets and floors
• Dry clean or machine wash drapes
• Dust baseboards and cabinet toe kicks
• Do a deep clean on bathroom surfaces and renew tile grout
• Give your oven and stove top a good scrub
• Change batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors The yard
• Prune trees and shrubs to shape and let in sun
• Gather fallen branches and other yard debris, and compost if possible
• Prune shrubs and plants to 2 feet away from air conditioning compressors
• Plant summer-flowering bulbs like dahlias after last date of frost
• After the lawn wakes up, fertilize and over-seed if necessary
• Scrub and fix patio furniture
• Power wash sidewalks, patios and paths Home exterior
• Clean and repair gutters and downspouts
• Repair or replace window screens to keep out bugs
• Scrape and touch up peeled paint
• Remove, replace and paint rotting wood trim
• Remove and replace crumbling bricks and stone
• Inspect foundation and seal cracks
• Check and replace cracked roof shingles and vent collars

Getting a Low Down Payment Mortgage

Back before the housing market crash in the early 2000's it was easy to buy a house with no money down as “zero down mortgages” and “100 percent financing home loans” were the primary driver of the mortgage market. However because of the lack of proper documentation and analyzation of a borrower's true ability to borrow a loan, these types of loans were the main cause of the global financial crisis.  Now that the market is more stable, there are strict law that require lenders to prove that their borrower can actually repay the loan and many low down payment mortgage options are back in the game.  According to federal law, lenders must prove to regulators that they followed eight loan approval factors to ensure they properly verified the borrowers ability to repay the loan. Here are some of the low down payment mortgage loans 1) Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac : 3 percent down  This loan that allows first time buyers (or buyers who haven’t owned a home in the past three years)  to put just 3 percent down on loans up to $417,000, which means a home that costs up to $430,000. 2) FHA 3.5 percent down With this loan you can get a loan with 3.5 percent down but it will require more expensive mortgage insurance. 3) VA 100 percent financing With Veterans Affairs loans  you can get financing for up to 100 percent of a home’s value with no mortgage insurance. The national loan limit is $417,000, but can go up to $1,000,000 in high-cost areas. You'll want to check what your limit is depending on the area your hoping to purchase in.   VA loans also let you finance most of your closing costs, including appraisal, credit report, title insurance, lender origination fee, recording fees, and survey fees.  However, the VA loan isn't for just anyone, you or someone in your immediate family has to have served or is currently serving in the U.S. Military.  4) New one-percent down programs To qualify for this program, you must have a credit score of at least 680 and earn less than the median income for your area.    All low-down programs have a lot of fine print, so the only way to determine if you qualify is to complete a full profile with a lender.  Talk to your real estate agent about the steps to getting a good local lender that you work well with and get pre-approved.

Violet is the New "It" Color

The color of 2018 is Violet!  Purple is the color that occurs the least in nature but it has forever been a symbol of royalty.  Bringing some of this hue into your home can be as simple as  a painted piece of furniture, a natural looking or raw element, or a high shine of a metal chair/doorknob.  What do you think about adding this new "IT" color to your home?

Tips for Organizing Under Your Sink

Under the sink often turns into a dumping ground for toiletries, hair products, and bathroom cleaning supplies.  This cluttered space can make mornings a bit chaotic when you can’t find any of the right supplies.  Here are some tips for organizing your things under the bathroom sink. the supplies you'll need for this little DIY project include:  - Tension rod - Paper towels - Bathroom cleaner - Baskets - Washi tape - Permanent marker - Pullout baskets Step 1: Remove everything from the space, and purge as you go. Throw away expired and rarely used items.  Keep only the essentials. When you're done, group like items and organize them together. Step 2:  Store things vertically in the cabinet by using the pullout baskets and stack them using stacking shelves. This increases space by a ton! Step 3:  Label your baskets according to the groups you originally organized them in.  Step 4:  Create a "daily basket" that stores all the things you use on a daily basis.  This makes your daily routine much more convenient and organized. Step 5:  Use a tension rod to hold cleaning supplies and clear more space on the bottom of the cabinet for baskets.    Good luck! A little time and effort today will make tomorrow’s daily routine that much easier.
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