Posted in Around The Home

Spice Up Your Home This Holiday Season

Spice Up Your Home This Holiday SeasonUpdating home decor used to be more than just a small task and a lot of work. Fear no more if you have a flair for home decoration projects you are in luck. Nowadays there are so many resources and outlets to use. There are no more excuses for not being to afford a home decor project.

DIY Is The New Black

There a billion home decor and DIY magazines and websites out there but the best way to receive fresh and unique ideas Pinterest has become the new Google in DIY projects. Not only does it provide inspiration and it’s easy to browse and search projects. 

If you are looking to get involved in re-puporsing or recycling existing furniture and other home goods, not only can your costs stay low, but it’s likely that you have the required project materials in your home already.

A Sampling Of Some Projects Include:

  • Making bathrooms more private using stenciled window patterns
  • Creating slip-covered, upholstered headboards
  • Disguising less-than-perfect cabinet/cupboard doors with prints
  • Transforming old mirrors and windows into functional message boards
  • Decoupaging retro posters to revitalize old furniture
  • Resuing old glass jars and creating light fixtures
  • Old potato sacks can be wrapped around canvas to create tack boards
  • Used tires can be repainted and used as flower pots 
  • Raggety old shirts can be cut up and used as new pillow cases
  • Painting an accent wall adds a new energy into any room

The projects range in difficulty from basic to advanced. Some require nothing more than scissors and glue; others require advanced skills in woodworking and sewing. One thing is for certain is that there is something for everyone. 

These are just a few ideas to add some spice in your home decor, the Holidays are around the corner and what a great way to get involved than doing a DIY project together. Which ones will you incorporate into the decor of your home? For more information about DIY projects and home ownership, feel free to contact your tursted real estate professional.

 

Posted in Home Building Tips

4 Ways A Real Estate Agent Can Help During The New Construction Process

4 Ways A Real Estate Agent Helps During Your New Construction ProcessYou’ve found the perfect new development and think your children would love swimming in the community pool and riding bikes on the wide streets. The new construction’s sales agent gave you a price and made a strong pitch urging you to buy immediately.

The question is, should you sign on the dotted line or bring in a real estate agent to handle the contract and negotiations?

The first thing you need to realize is that the new construction sales agent represents the developer and has their investment in mind. A real estate agent is someone who will be on your side. They’ll represent your interests and can help you.

Go Through The Process

If you’re looking at a specific development, the sales agent might offer you a discount if you sign without using a real estate agent. This is because the sales commission for the real estate agent usually comes out of the seller’s pocket.

However, most developers have this figure built into their price, so you might as well enlist a real estate agent’s help and advice — it’s free after all.

Decide If It’s A Smart Investment

Developers are invested in the property they’re trying to sell. They need to unload every lot in order to make a return on their investment, so it’s likely they don’t have your best interests in mind. A real estate agent will know what homes sell for in the area, what the school district is like and if it’s a good neighborhood. They’ll be able to recognize if it’s a good fit for your family.

Negotiate With Insider Knowledge

A real estate agent knows their market and usually the local gossip. If they’ve heard that a developer is willing to entertain low offers, then they might have clients that could buy in a neighborhood thought to be out of their price range. Also, they’ll know which upgrades a developer is likely to include in order to make the sale.

Decipher Confusing Paperwork

Buying property comes with a lot of paperwork. Contracts can be extremely confusing, so it’s always a good idea to have a seasoned veteran read over yours. A real estate agent has a great deal of experience with complicated contracts and knows what phrasing should be included and where sellers slip in sneaky wording.

From making sure the new construction is right for you to ensuring you get the upgrades you want and examining the contract with a fine-toothed comb, a real estate agent will represent your interests and get you the best deal.

Posted in Around The Home

How To Be Energy Efficient This Fall

How To Be Energy Efficient This FallSummer has been over and Fall is really here, temperatures are beginning to drop, and you’re dreading having to turn the heat on for the first time. Firing up the furnace can burn a hole in your pocket, but there’s something you can do about it. Consider these tips to help lower your heating bill.

Replace Your Air Filters

Get new air filters for your central heating and cooling. The filters get clogged and it takes more and more energy to keep your house warm. Be sure to clear out any dust bunnies or cobwebs from behind the filter. Use a vacuum if necessary.

Does Your Attic Need Insulation?

Heat rises, and if your attic is not adequately insulated, then your central heating system will be stuck sending all your hot air (and your heating bill) straight through the roof. There are three options for attic insulation: roll on insulation, spray on insulation, or polyurethane foam. Roll on insulation is the best option for the do-it-yourselfers out there, but you might consider using polyurethane foam if you plan to turn that attic space into a bedroom.

Caulk Up The Windows

Cold air is constantly sneaking into your house through the cracks in your window. Use a temporary silicone caulk to seal up your windows during the winter. When you’re ready to open them up again in the spring, the silicone caulk will crack right off without damaging the paint.

Wrap Your Pipes

Wrapping your pipes will insulate them from the cold to prevent freezing, as well as saving you money on energy bills. Use a special insulation sleeve from the hardware store or do it the old fashioned way with heat tape. This is especially important if you have pipes in an crawlspace or basement that isn’t insulated.

Let The Light In

You don’t have to buy special panels to take advantage of solar power. Open the curtains on south-facing windows, and heat up your house the natural way. With the sun’s help, you won’t need to bump your thermostat up as often.

Be Smart With The Thermostat

Don’t be afraid to turn your thermostat down a little bit. If you’re leaving the house for a while, bump it down a few degrees and give your system a rest. Try throwing an extra blanket on the bed and dropping a few degrees before bed. You’ll only see a difference on your bill. You might try a programmable thermostat as well!

Now that it’s getting cold, you can finally make some hot chocolate and put on your brand new coat, but you shouldn’t have to wear it inside. With these easy tips you can learn to keep your house warm without having to crank up the thermostat.

Posted in Personal Finance

When Should You Shred Your Financial Documents?

When Should You Shred Your Financial Documents?How do you know what happens to your documents when you put a piece of paper in the trash? It can be difficult to know who is seeing it and what they are doing with it. It isn’t very common to burn trash anymore; therefore you can be sure that your paper garbage or recycling is likely to pass through several hands on its way to a landfill or recycling center.

StepByStep, Your Documents Can Get Pilfered

Every step that occurs once the trash leaves your control has risk that someone will find personal information they can use to cause you harm. One way to safeguard personal information is to shred it before it goes into the trash.

Shredding devices are available at most office supply stores. Cross-cut shredders provide more security than strip-cut shredders. You may want to consider one depending on your level of concern. Shredding services or shredding events are often offered by financial institutions or community organizations.

Properly destroying sensitive personal information is a key step in helping to keep your identity secure. You really should shred any documents containing personal information, but be cautious not to shred financial documents that you may still need.

To Shred Or Not To Shred, That Is The Question…Or Maybe Its When To Shred

The Better Business Bureau offers these guidelines on when to shred:

  • Deposit, ATM, credit, and debit card receipts can be shredded once the transaction appears on your statement
  • Canceled checks, credit card statements, and bank statements with no long-term significance can go through the shredder after one year; if used to support tax returns, keep them for seven years 
  • Monthly bill statements can be shredded one year after receiving, to allow for year-to-year bill comparisons (another good way to monitor your budget!) 
  • Credit card contracts and loan agreements should be saved for as long as the account is active
  • Pay stubs can be shredded yearly after reconciling with your W-2 or other tax forms
  • Documentation of investment purchases or sales should be kept for as long as you own the investment and then seven years after that; shred monthly investment account statements annually after reconciling with a year-end statement
  • Always shred documents with Social Security numbers, birth dates, PIN numbers or passwords, financial information, contracts or letters with signatures, pre-approved credit card applications, medical and dental bills, travel itineraries, and used airline tickets.
Posted in Around The Home

4 Quick Tips To Clean Out That Closet This Fall

4 Quick Tips To Clean Out That Closet This FallYour living spaces are the most important rooms in your home. They’re where you read bedtime stories, have family dinners and make many memories.

However, most of these rooms wouldn’t be as inviting or function well without their valuable out-of-sight storage spaces — their closets.

Imagine clothes thrown across bedrooms and toys scattered all over the living room. Closets are essential to keeping your home organized, clean and livable.

So set aside one weekend this month to tackle your mini storerooms and turn them into orderly spaces with the tips below.

Designate A Theme For Each Closet

Every closet in your home should have a specific purpose, such as a space for only linens, cleaning supplies or coats. Don’t cheat and put the vacuum in the hall closet just because it’s the nearest.

Make sure you return items to their proper closet, so you always know exactly where tools or shoes can be found.

Create Specific Spaces

Whether this means adding shelving or dividers, you’ll want to designate a space for each item. To do this, take everything out of the closet and prioritize it by importance. Then place the most important things within easy reach.

This might require a trip to purchase a closet storage system or bins. If there’s anything at the bottom of your priority list left over, get rid of it.

Make It Look Good

If it’s a space you utilize daily, such as a walk-in closet, then make it a pleasure to be in it. Every closet should have good lighting; so install bright bulbs that allow you to see what you’re selecting. If you have a large walk-in closet, you could glam it up and add functionality with funky chandeliers, a built-in ironing board and a specified shoe cabinet.

Divide And Conquer

If you have children who need to share a closet, then get creative. Assign them different colored hangers and bins with labels. From bedroom and toy closets to craft and coat closets, you’ll reduce confusion and frustration when everyone has their own space.

Reduce your clutter confusion by giving everything in your house its own home. By following these tips you’ll soon have well-organized closets that serve specific purposes and make it easy for anyone in your family to find what they need.

Posted in Around The Home

Creative Ways To Recycle Everyday Household Items

Creative Ways To Recycle Everyday Household ItemsEvery week the trash truck comes to pick up our garbage and unwanted items, which are promptly taken to landfills. Instead of filling landfills and just buying new items to stuff our homes, we can help the earth and recycle everyday household items.

Below are a few fun and creative ideas for recycling things around your home that you might be ready to trash.

Coffee Table Into Bench

If you just purchased a new coffee table, don’t give away the old one — repurpose it. Find a space in your home where you could use some additional seating, like at the end of your bed or in the entryway.

Push it up against the wall so that any drawers and shelves are facing out. Then add some cushions and pillow. Tada; a bench!

Copper Piping Into Bathroom Hardware

Whether you’re going for a modern industrial look or a French country theme, old copper piping can add an attractive and interesting conversation piece to your restroom.

Utilize a U-shaped piece of piping as a toilet paper holder and long pieces of pipe as towel racks. Polish the copper and then seal it with spray lacquer so that it keeps its sheen.

Light Bulbs Into Decorations

Recycle filament light bulbs with a fun little craft project for your children. Grab paint, twine, glitter and glue. You can make flower pots and hang them in the yard as a simple green accent.  Use the twine to create loops for hanging.

Pillowcase Into Shopping Bag

Take an old or vintage pillowcase, lay it flat and cut the top corners off of the open end. You’ll want to cut the corners off in a half-C shape so that that there is only about a two-inch strip left in the middle at the top.

Sew that two-inch strip together and you’ve got your handle. This reusable shopping bag rolls up tight and is easy to wash.

Drawer Into Dog Bed

The size of your animal will dictate the size of drawer you should repurpose. A cat might like a kitchen drawer while a bigger dog would use a large dresser drawer. Strip the wood off the drawer and repaint. Remove the hardware.

Maybe stencil your pet’s name on the front of the drawer. Then create a mattress using foam, batting and a soft and durable material.

Before getting rid of that broken side table or trashing those carry-out chopsticks, take a second look and tap into your creative side to see if you might be able to recycle and give them a second life. 

Posted in Homeowner Tips

Be Proactive And Inspect Your Home Foundation

Be Proactive And Inspect Your Home FoundationYou probably had someone check your foundation when you bought the house, but have you looked twice at it since? These problems don’t happen overnight.

They start small and they grow. By the time an issue comes to your attention, it might be too late. Learn to recognize the problems while they’re still small and cheap. Your wallet will thank you later.

Floor Level

You might be able to tell if your floor is level just by walking on it. Some people have a knack for recognizing this problem. If you suspect your floor of being a bit off balance, grab a tennis ball and see if it stays put.

If a door has been scuffing the floor when it swings open, double check the floor. That could be your culprit. A slanted floor can be evidence of a serious structural issue. A shifting foundation can slowly pull apart your house’s frame.

Sight Your Walls

Look down your wall from corner to corner and make sure there are not bumps or bulges. Walls should be flat. Grab a level and see if they’re leaning at all as well. Problems with the walls can mean problems with the concrete.

Check Your Foundation 

Walk around your foundation with a sturdy screwdriver, and poke your foundation firmly. If you can dig a hole in the concrete, that’s a bad sign. It should be firm enough, and dense enough to keep you from causing any damage.

Just give it the screwdriver test though. If you start using the jackhammer test, you’ve gone too far.

Know Your Cracks

Concrete is always shrinking and expanding. It shrinks with the cold and then spreads back out in the heat. This can cause cracks, and most of these cracks are no big deal. Some of them, however, can be evidence of serious problems.

Small hairline cracks between concrete blocks are not a problem. Cracks on areas where the concrete stair-steps down to follow a slope are also not a big deal.

They are probably just caused by shrinkage. If you’re worried about one, paint it over with some waterproofing paint, and make sure the crack doesn’t come back.

Stair-step cracks on the walls are a bad sign, especially if the wall is bulging. Also look out for horizontal cracks, near the soil. This can mean the moisture in the soil is working into your foundation and putting pressure on the concrete. For problems like these, it’s best to bring in a structural engineer.

Posted in Home Seller Tips

4 Staging Tips For Your Vacant Land For Sale

4 Staging Tips For Your Vacant Land For SaleIn some ways, selling vacant land is no different from selling a home. You still have to prepare it for sale, and you still need to make it look as good as possible. This process of cleaning and beautifying is called staging. Here are a few tips for staging your land.

  1. De-Clutter. Your buyer wants to actually see your vacant land, and clutter only blocks their vision. Remove fallen tree branches, trash, and junk like car parts and damaged buildings. Cut back large brush. Clear paths so potential buyers can easily walk around the property.
  2. Highlight the positive features. Do you have a section where birds like to feed? Keep it stocked with bird feeders. Is there a section filled with colorful wildflowers? Don’t cut down this section when you mow. Does a group of trees form a canopy? Place a picnic table under their shade. Point out these positive features to your buyers.
  3. Make minor improvements. Repair any damaged section of fence around your property. Dig a pond and use the dirt to fill low areas so they are level with the rest of your land. Keep the grass mowed. These small efforts can make the difference between whether or not a buyer chooses your property.
  4. Mark property boundaries. When you’re looking at vacant land, it’s difficult to see the difference between 5, 10, or more acres. At the very least, you should place stakes (like those used by a surveyor) to show where the property begins and ends. Your buyers will want to know exactly what they are purchasing.

Make sure your vacant land is ready to sell. Let me help you sell your property fast and for top dollar. Call your trusted real estate professional today.

Posted in Housing Analysis

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – November 4, 2013

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week November 4, 2013Last week’s economic news came from a variety of sources. Most significant was the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee statement after its meeting ended Wednesday. The statement indicated that the Fed saw moderate economic growth. FOMC did not taper its purchase of MBS and Treasury securities.

The FOMC statement announced the committee’s intention to closely monitor economic and financial developments “in the coming months,” which suggested that the FOMC is taking a wait-and-see position on reducing its $85 billion monthly asset purchases.

Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims Fall

The Fed’s asset purchase program, also known as quantitative easing, was implanted in 2012 with a goal of stabilizing mortgage rates and other long-term interest rates.

The National Association of REALTORS® reported that pending home sales fell by 5.60 percent in September. Uncertainty over the FOMC’s decision concerning tapering its asset purchases during its September meeting and concerns over a then potential government shutdown.

These were noted as primary reasons for the drop in pending home sales, which are measured by signed real estate contracts. Pending Home Sales are used for estimating future closings and mortgage loan activity.

Tuesday’s economic reports included the Case-Shiller Home Price Indices for August. Home prices increased by 12.80 percent year-over-year in August as compared to 12.30 percent year-over-year for August 2012. August’s reading shows a dampened pace of rising home prices.

The Conference Board, a research organization, reported that consumer confidence fell from a reading of 80.2 in September to 71.2 in October. A reading of 75.00 was expected, but consumer confidence crashed as the government shutdown and its consequences diminished consumer and investor confidence.

According to ADP, a payroll administration firm, private-sector payrolls came in well shy of the expected 150,000 new jobs with a reading of 130,000 jobs. October’s reading was also lower than September’s reading of 145,000 new jobs.

Weekly jobless claims brought good news; new jobless claims came in at 340,000 and fell by 10,000 new claims from the previous week’s 350,000 new jobless claims. Expectations had been for 335,000 new jobless claims.

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates fell. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped by three basis points to 4.10 percent, with discount points down from 0.80 percent to 0.70 percent.

The average rate for a 15-year mortgage fell by four basis points to 3.20 percent, with an uptick in discount points from 0.60 percent to 0.70 percent. The rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by four basis points to 2.96 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.

Whats Coming Up

There is no housing or mortgage economic news scheduled this week other than Freddie Mac’s PMMS due on Thursday.

Reporting for this week includes Leading Economic Indicators, Weekly Jobless Claims, Non-farm Payrolls and the National Unemployment Rate will be posted. The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index will be released Friday.

This week’s economic reports are expected provide a general gauge of the economy and information about how consumers are responding to recent economic events and news. 

Posted in Around The Home

8 Tips On Making Candles Safe For Your Home

8 Tips On Making Candles Safe For Your HomeCandles and candle accessories are very popular. However, when not used properly, candles can be extremely dangerous, resulting in property destruction and even injury or death. Here are some candle safety tips to help keep you and your home safe.

  • Never leave a burning candle unattended. Walking away from an open flame inside your home is just not a good idea. You never know what may happen while you’re out.
  • Never burn a candle near something that can catch fire. This includes drapes, lampshades, furniture, bedding, books, and carpet. A flame in your home can quickly turn into a destructive fire.
  • Never burn a candle in a cracked container. A burning candle is filled with hot liquid wax that can burn you or damage your property. Only use sturdy, heat resistant candle holders.
  • Keep the flame in the center of the candle.  If the flame touches the candle holder, it can quickly crack or shatter the container.
  • Never let a candle burn over night. Candles are not nightlights. Make sure you extinguish all flames completely before going to bed each night. The flame is out when the wick stops glowing.
  • Never burn a candle within the reach of pets and children. The glowing flame of a candle is attractive to children and pets. They can easily knock over candles, which can lead to serious burns or a fire in a matter of minutes.
  • Never touch hot candle wax. Liquid candle wax is hot, and it can burn you. Teach your children to follow this rule.
  • Never burn a candle near a draft. The draft will shift the direction of the flame which will cause the candle to burn unevenly or start a fire in your home. If the candle flame is not burning in an upward direction, you need to move it.

If you follow common sense, you can enjoy the ambiance of candles in your home. For more information on candle safety in your home or have other questions about local real estate, please contact your trusted real estate professional.