Analyze The Little Things Before You Fall In Love With A Home

It’s easy to be wowed by a house. You’re anxious to discover your dream home and accomplish a big goal. You can’t wait to cook in the brand new kitchen or relax in the spa-style tub. All that excitement can also make it easy to dismiss some minor issues that can become major annoyances down the road. Rather than letting your excitement get the best of you, take the time to analyze smaller details properly.

Don’t Dismiss The Location

Let’s say you find a perfect home that’s an extra 20 minutes each way from work. Those 40 total minutes don’t seem like a big deal at first glance, but consider that you’ll be dealing with that extra commute day after day, year after year for as long as you live in the house. Is that an inconvenience you’re willing to deal with? Make an educated decision—do a test run of the actual commute and see whether it’s tolerable, or would eventually drive you crazy.

Stressing location also means committing to a neighborhood. Does the potential neighborhood align with your priorities? Make sure you’re choosing a location that makes it easy to do the things you love most, whether that’s enjoying city nightlife or escaping to quiet home away from it all.

Working Order

Shiny new appliances and an open-concept living space may be on your list of must-haves, but don’t let the aesthetics distract from the basics.

Are the basement and attic in good shape? Problems like mold and water damage can turn an otherwise perfect home into a nightmare, and a poorly insulated attic can cause your bills to skyrocket.

None of these issues should necessarily remove a home from consideration—you just have to be aware of the total package.

Five Hidden Renovation Costs

Renovations never seem to go as planned. There’s always a cost you didn’t anticipate, or a problem that didn’t reveal itself until the project was underway. Here are five common costs to look out for.

Higher utility bills: If contractors and builders are working in your home all day, there’s a good chance they’re constantly walking in and out the exterior doors. That wreaks havoc on your heating/cooling efficiency, so watch out for higher utility bills.

Movers: It’s pretty hard to renovate a fully furnished home. You may be able to move and store most of your furniture yourself, but homeowners often have bigger pieces that require some hired help.

Food: If your kitchen is being torn apart, preparing meals becomes a lot more difficult. You may be able to keep your food budget steady by switching to meals that don’t require counter space, the stove, or the oven, but don’t be surprised if you end up dining out more often.

A few nights in a hotel: Depending on your renovation, there may be some nights where sleeping in your home isn’t practical, or you just need a mental break from the mess. Budget for a few nights at a hotel … or just schedule your family vacation for the worst part of the renovation.

Deep cleaning: It’s one thing to clean and maintain your home after a typical week or two of living. It’s entirely different to clean up after a construction project, as sawdust and other debris can get in every nook and cranny. It may be worth your sanity to just hire cleaners.

Tips For A Better Closing Day

Buying a home can be a long process. The last thing you want after all your time spent searching for homes and getting the best mortgage rate is to have everything go wrong on closing day. Here are five tips that’ll ensure it goes smoothly.

Schedule a date that works best for you: You have every right to request the closing take place at an ideal time for you, and the other parties in the transaction will usually work with you to make it happen. Whether it’s timing the closing around a pay date or the end of a lease, the first step is finding a date that minimizes stress or conflicts.

Clarify your payment: Many title companies do not accept personal checks, so give yourself a few days to get a cashier’s check or set up a wire transfer.

Double check insurance: You’ll need to arrange for a title insurance policy for your mortgage and purchase homeowner’s insurance (plus flood or earthquake insurance, depending on the area). Make sure your policy begins by your closing date.

Do a final walk-through: You’d be surprised to find that buyers skip this step! Schedule a final walkthrough to ensure that all requested repairs have been made and everything is in working order.

Take action based on walk-through: If any issues are identified, you may need to delay closing or negotiate a discount before the closing date to avoid delays.

A Little Extra Preparation Goes A Long Way Toward A Better Paint Job

Painting is one of the most inexpensive ways to give your home a makeover. Whether it’s updating an old bathroom paint scheme or adding a bold accent wall, painting can totally transform a room. But painting can be a big hassle and come with tons of prep work and clean up. Here are a few top tips to make your painting experience more enjoyable and lead to a more professional finish.

Prep beyond tape and drop cloths

A drop cloth will protect your floors, but a thick and durable drop cloth is also a little clumsy to maneuver. For smaller, awkward items that are in danger of paint splatter, use plastic wrap. It’ll make it much less frustrating to protect a toilet or bathroom sink.

Be ready for spills and splatters

At the very least, a few drops of paint are going to end up where you don’t want them. Have a rag and some Q-Tips ready for the inevitable paint splatter, so that you can quickly wipe them off before they dry and set on your frames, countertops, or hardwood floor.

Use heat to remove tape

Patience is key when removing painter’s tape, but it can still tear and leave splotchy edges no matter how careful you are. Hold a heat gun or hair dryer a few inches away from the tape as your remove it little by little. The heat will break down the adhesive and make removing the tape a much less frustrating task.

Tips For Maintaining Houseplants

Adding plants to your home will give it a fresher and brighter feel and will also improve your home’s air quality. Although it does take a little bit of work and consistency to maintain your plants, but it’s well worth the effort. Here are a few tips for keeping your plants looking great.

Use leftover water from cooking. Plants love the extra nutrients from your leftover cooking water that can’t be found straight from the tap. Instead of dumping the water right after boiling vegetables, let it cool and use it to water your plants.

Coffee makes great fertilizer. Rather than throwing your used coffee grounds in the trash, empty out your French press or coffee filter straight into a planter.

Dust your plants. This should be part of your regular dusting and cleaning routine. Keeping your plants’ leaves dust-free keeps them healthier.

Pay attention to soil types. Different plants require different soils. Do some research to discover each plant‘s preferred soil. For instance, succulents require sandy, dry soil.

Beware of root rot. Houseplants are prone to root rot because there’s often no where for excess water to drain from the planter. Prevent root rot by putting pebbles in the bottom of the planter, which elevates the roots. Use a water-hydrogen peroxide mixture for plants that are already showing signs of root rot.

Need-to-knows For Buying Your First Home

Buying your first home can be one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of your life, but it can also be a scary and stressful process. To ensure you have a smooth transaction from start to finish, familiarize yourself with the home buying process, note the tools and resources available to you, and get all your ducks in order. To get you started, we’ve made a list of our top three ways to set yourself up for success.

Outline Your Musts and Wants

Before starting your search, make a list of must-have and nice-to-have features for your home and neighborhood. This will help you narrow down your search early on and prevent the hunt from becoming overwhelming.

Solidify Your Financing

When starting the home buying process, ensure your finances are in order by reviewing your credit score and taking steps to boost it, saving for a down payment, and avoiding any major purchases. Then select a lender that is right for you, talk to him or her about your loan options, and get preapproved for a mortgage. Once you know your budget, you can more effectively find the right home for you.

Find a Real Estate Agent

Working with a great real estate agent can make a world of difference when it comes to navigating the ins and outs of the home buying process. With their vast background and experience and local knowledge of neighborhoods and cities, they will be your go-to resource every step of the way. By implementing these tips and remembering to enjoy the process, you can set yourself up for a great first home buying experience!

How Your Daily Drive Time Can Factor Into Your Mortgage

It’s easy to overlook some of the things that can affect your budget and purchasing power when you’re considering a home, and one of the biggest factors that buyers overlook is the cost of their daily commute.

We’ve all heard that real estate is all about “location, location, location,” and properties in more desirable locations typically come with a higher price tag than similar properties that aren’t in a hot neighborhood.

Yet the overall cost of living for choosing one location over another might be negligible when you factor in the commuting costs that are required—gas, vehicle maintenance, insurance—if you purchase a home that is significantly further from your workplace. If your mortgage is $200 less per month, but you’re spending an extra $200 in commuting costs, are you really saving money?

Commuting costs aren’t just about the disposable income left in your bank account, either. It can even affect how much money you can borrow. If you’re a long-distance commuter, a loan officer may factor your travel costs into your debt-to-income ratio.

Aside from how commuting affects your purchasing power or disposable income, there’s also the question of how it affects your quality of life—no one wants to spend hours a week just getting to and from work.

The real estate market varies greatly from location to location, so the best way to get a complete picture of your purchasing power—and all the factors that go into your home budget—is to speak to a trusted real estate professional.

Wallpaper: Don’t Call It A Comeback!

Guess who’s back, back again? Wallpaper has risen to the top of homeowners’ favorite ways to spice up a room again and its easy to see why.

Options

With a variety of colors, patterns, and styles on the market, it’s nearly impossible for you to not find one that matches exactly what you’re looking for. The texture and finish options are endless as well, ranging from silk to leather to suede to mother of pearl. Some of the wallpaper trends we are loving right now include watercolor-inspired designs that transform any room into an artistic haven and nature-forward designs that help bring the outdoors in.

Ease of Use

One of the biggest benefits of wallpaper is it is a fantastic DIY project for you and your spouse, family, or friend. Not only does it go on easily, but it is simple to remove and replace when you are ready to revamp the look of the room. Additionally, this is a great option if you’re a renting a home or apartment. Generally, landlords prefer you do not paint during your rental period, so this easy-to-remove option is a great alternative.

Value

Most wallpaper costs on average $3 to $8 per square foot, depending on the brand and the material. Although the upfront cost of wallpapering a room can be a little more than the cost to paint, the value it offers is substantial. Wallpaper can last anywhere from 15 to 25 years, making it an incredibly cost-effective décor solution in the long run, while a painted wall requires more upkeep and touch ups and generally you will need to repaint every 5 to 10 years or so.

Tips For Speeding Up Your Home Sale

Selling your home is a huge undertaking to begin with, but if the process drags on for months and interest trickles in much slower than expected, it can be frustrating and stressful. To avoid this, there are a few steps you can take to prep your home and sell quickly.

Declutter

Survey your home and store any items that are not essential to the décor of the room. This can include personal photos and mementos, excessive throw blankets or pillows, children’s artwork, vases, lamps, knick-knacks, and more. The cleaner you keep counters, shelves, and mantles, the easier it is for potential buyers to picture themselves in your house.

Paint

A fresh coat of paint on the exterior or interior of your home can go a long way and is one update you can likely do yourself for fairly cheap. Repaint your home with a neutral color, like taupe, cream, or gray, that will allow potential buyers to easily envision adding their own touches to each room.

Availability

Buyers are drawn to sellers who are flexible with showings and can accommodate their schedule on short notice. The more open you are to showing times, the more buyers will see your home and the less likely they are to choose another home before seeing yours.

Photos

First impressions are key, and the first one your home makes is generally through photos online or on flyers and brochures. Investing in a professional real estate photographer can boost interest in your home. They have an eye for design and know how to highlight your home’s strengths and move the spotlight off any flaws.

Mortgage Rate Math

Shopping around for the best possible mortgage terms is an important part of the home buying process. A few percentage points can make a difference of thousands of dollars over the life of the mortgage. Mortgage rates can be a bit of a mystery—especially for first-time homebuyers—so here’s an overview of the most important factors.

YOUR FICO SCORE

This is the part of the mortgage equation that should come as no surprise. From a lender’s perspective, your financial history is the best indicator of whether you’ll be a stable, responsible borrower. It’s the primary factor in determining your mortgage rate, so if you’re planning on purchasing a home in the near future, concentrate first and foremost on improving your FICO score.

LOCATION AND SIZE MATTERS

“Location, location, location” is an old cliché in real estate, but it also applies to mortgage rates. The city, county, and state that you live will factor into your mortgage rate. Mortgage rates can also vary among local lenders and the size of the loan will come into play. The more money you borrow, the higher your interest rate is likely to be, unless you’re also increasing your down payment.

LOAN LENGTH AND TYPE

Lenders incentivize shorter mortgage terms with lower mortgage rates, so you’ll get a more favorable rate for a 15- or 20-year mortgage versus a 30-year mortgage. If you can afford the higher monthly payment, you’ll pay much less in interest over the course of the loan term.