Choose The Right Paint Finish

It can be intimidating to stand in front of the paint swatches at the paint or hardware store and try to make a decision. Picking a color can be difficult enough—and then you have to choose the finish. Choosing the color is up to you, but here’s a simple guide to choosing the correct finish for your project.

High Gloss
High gloss paint has the most sheen, and will be the most durable. That durability is best suited for the kitchen, on surfaces like cabinets, door frames, and window trim. It’s best to avoid using high gloss on walls, because it will be too reflective.

Semi-Gloss
It’s not as shiny as high gloss, but it’s still great for kitchens and bathrooms, because the sheen protects from drips, splatters, and other moisture.

Satin
Satin has a velvet-like look, but is still a durable finish, and works best in high-traffic areas. Be careful when applying, because satin paint will reveal sloppy brush strokes.

Eggshell and Flat
These finishes have the least amount of sheen, and are the least durable. They’re great for hiding imperfections in your walls, but the low durability means they should be avoided if the room is subject to wear and tear from kids or pets. Use these paints in dining rooms, bedrooms, and other low-traffic rooms.

Five Home Repairs To Budget For

You’re going to have to do some regular repairs and maintenance on your home—it’s just a fact of home ownership. So that you’re not caught unprepared, it’s a good idea to keep a budget and set aside some funds for when the following repairs inevitably come up.

Light switches: Beyond your typical light bulb replacements, the wiring can occasionally go bad in a light fixture, causing it to be unresponsive when you turn the light on. An electrician can fix it quickly for around $100.

Gutter maintenance: Over time, the weight and weather will be too much for your gutters, causing them break away from the home and require fixing. It’s possible to fix them yourself, but it will typically cost up to $400 to have them fixed professionally.

Drywall repairs: It’s easier than you’d think to put a hole in your walls, especially if you bump them when moving furniture. It can cost up to $300 for professional repairs.

Running toilet: The moving parts and valves in a toilet can wear out over the years, and you’ll want to get it fixed quickly to save on water bills and keep your bathrooms usable. It’s about a two-hour job to fix for professional plumbers, and they charge up to $150 an hour, depending on your market.

Tile repairs: Tile goes through a lot of abuse, and it’s not just impact from heavy objects that can damage individual tiles—years of foot traffic will also cause damage. Repair costs can vary greatly because of the cost of individual tiles, but it’s good to set aside around $200.

The Ins And Outs Of Home Inspection

Home inspection is a crucial step in the homebuying process. After finding the perfect house, you will want to ensure that there are no hidden faults that may require lengthy and expensive repairs or renovations down the line.

To prepare you for this process, here are the top four things you need to know.

The buyer is responsible for the inspection. Make sure you give yourself ample time to find a reputable, certified home inspector by asking for referrals from your real estate agent, friends, and family and do your research online. Plus, don’t forget to factor in the cost of the inspection into your budget.

Home inspectors are usually generalists. They will evaluate most areas of your home, such as the foundation, basement, plumbing, electrical systems, heating and cooling systems, walls, floors, ceilings, and attics. But, if your home is equipped with special features, like a pool or chimney, you may need to hire a specialist.

Buyers can attend the inspection. In fact, a lot of inspectors suggest it! This is an opportunity for you to get any outstanding questions regarding the condition of the house you are purchasing answered.

You have options if the inspection uncovers a problem. If the problems discovered are serious, like structural damage or safety issues, the seller is legally required to fix them. You also have the option to back out of the purchase without facing any consequences. If the problems are smaller, you can submit a formal request for repairs and negotiate for them to cover some or all of the cost.

How Do HOAs Work?

When you purchase a home, there’s a good chance you’ll have to pay a homeowners association fee, especially in gated communities, townhouses, condominiums, and other similar planned neighborhoods. The idea is to keep common areas clean and maintained, and there’s usually an HOA board that is responsible for setting the rules and regulations.

Each HOA is different, but most have the same core elements. You’ll typically pay your HOA fees either monthly or annually, and it’s an important factor to consider when you’re weighing your options for a new home. So what is typically included in your HOA fees?

First, the fun stuff
Amenities are typically the big perk of living in a community with an HOA. While you lose out on some of the freedom of living without an HOA, you instead get community amenities like a maintained pool, gym, clubhouse, tennis courts, and other amenities. The HOA fees pay for cleaning and maintenance, so—in theory—you’ll always have a clean pool whenever you want to use it.

Protecting the community
HOA fees often contribute to insurance for the community amenities, as well as a fund for unexpected repairs to damaged community property—think damage from weather or accidents.

General maintenance
Your HOA fees will go toward maintaining the general safety and upkeep of the community. This means things like elevator maintenance for condominiums, snow removal, and trash/recycling services.

Be active in the association
There may be a board of directors, but homeowners associations exist for the betterment of the entire community, and every voice matters. HOA meetings—and the amenities they support—provide great opportunities to meet your neighbors and make your community a better place.

Five Ways You Can Get Earnest Money Back

Earnest money is a deposit you pay when you make an offer on a home—it’s a way to show the seller that you mean business. Usually you can’t get it back, but there are several circumstances that allow you to recover your earnest money.

Appraisal contingency: With an appraisal contingency, you can recover your earnest money if the home is appraised for less than your offer. This gives you a better negotiating position—if the seller doesn’t agree to a lower price, you can get your earnest money back and walk away from the deal.

Major problems with the home: It may be your dream home at the surface level, but an inspection could reveal major, major problems—such as issues with the foundation, or flood damage. In that case, you can get your money back if the seller doesn’t agree to a lower price.

The seller backs out: Obviously, if the seller changes their mind about the transaction—maybe they decide not to sell, or accept a higher offer—you get your earnest money back.

Your house hasn’t sold: Many buyers can’t afford a new home if they’re still financially responsible for their old one. In this case, you can work a sale contingency into the contract, and get your earnest money back if the home doesn’t sell soon enough.

Financing issues: Though there are some limits on financing contingencies, you can get your money back if you’re unable to get a loan.

What You Need To Know About Refinancing Your Mortgage

Refinancing your mortgage can have many financial benefits when done at the right time in the right way. Here’s what you need to know about this type of transaction.

What is refinancing your mortgage?

When you refinance your loan, you essentially pay off your remaining mortgage with funds from a new one. The process is fairly simple and similar to when you applied for your initial mortgage. You’ll gather quotes from multiple lenders, file an application, gather and provide financial documentation, like paystubs, bank statements, etc., then close like you did when you first purchased.

Why should you refinance?

Refinancing your home loan is an option available to most homeowners. This decision can allow a homeowner to reduce their monthly mortgage payments, negotiate a shorter payment term, switch to a different type of loan, cash out on home equity, and consolidate debt.

When should you refinance?

Timing is key when it comes to refinancing your home. The best time to take this step is when interest rates drop lower than the rate you closed at. Another good time to consider refinancing is if your current credit score could allow you to qualify for better interest rates than your time of purchase.

What are the costs to refinance?

Unfortunately, refinancing isn’t free. Your refinanced mortgage will come with similar fees to your original, such as appraisal, title insurance, closing costs, and more. Because of this, when deciding to refinance, make sure the money saved outweighs the fees your will incur.

The Best Smart Home Features

Home technology has greatly improved over the last few years, helping to increase convenience and energy efficiency. But some smart home features carry more value than others. Here are some that will not only help you enjoy your home more, but will also help increase its appeal to buyers and potentially drive up the sales price when you are ready to sell.

Smart Thermostats. Smart thermostats can be controlled with your smartphone and allow you to schedule temperature adjustments based on your family’s schedule. Not only does this help you maintain ultimate comfort in your home, but helps you save on energy costs since heating and cooling will be reduced when appropriate. The Nest Thermostat has earned glowing reviews and almost universal praise, so it’s one of the surest bets for your home.

Automatic Lighting. Lighting is an overlooked part of home security—leaving the lights on in the evening can deter burglars because the lights suggest someone is home. With automatic and smart lighting systems, you can program your lights to come on in the evening or use your smartphone to turn on the lights before you arrive at home.

Smart Alarms. Gone are the days of controlling your security system from a panel inside the home. Now you can turn them on and off, view camera footage, and even speak through the system to your family members or visitors from anywhere using your phone.

Solar Panels. Although they are a bit of an investment up front, solar panels are a great way to create an energy-efficient home. Aside from saving you money on your energy bills, solar panels are great for the environment. Plus, they also look attractive as far as roofing goes.

Five Things That Factor Into Comps

You may think that sale price is the only factor when you’re looking at comps and trying to set a price for your listing. But it’s actually a bit more complicated. Here are five things that affect comps that you might not be aware of.

1. New construction nearby: Because of low prices for lots and varying prices in home building materials, new homes can actually be cheaper and cost less per square foot than existing homes. If there’s a lot of new construction nearby, that can affect the price for your own listing.

2. Renovations: Recently renovated homes typically sell for more than homes that haven’t been updated in a while. If you’ve recently upgraded your home—especially sought-after upgrades like the kitchen or master bath—your home should be priced appropriately.

3. Developable lots: Not all lots are created equal. Even if the square acreage is the same, a lot that’s easily developable will get a better price than a hilly or rocky lot that needs a lot of preparation.

4. Listing price vs. sale price: Whether sellers actually get their asking price depends greatly on the market. When you’re pricing your home, it’s important to look at sales prices, not just listing prices. The listing price doesn’t always accurately reflect what a home will sell for.

5. Location: Nearby amenities, safety, schools, and noise levels can vary greatly within a neighborhood. Homes in more desirable parts of the neighborhood will sell for a higher price, all else being equal.

How An Agent Can Help Alleviate Stress

Purchasing a home can be a stressful experience, whether you’re a first-time buyer or you’ve been through the process before. But that’s one of the reasons that working with a real estate professional is so worthwhile. With your agent’s guidance, buying a home should be enjoyable, rather than stressful. Here are some of the more unique circumstances where your agent can make your life much easier.

Out-of-town buyers: If you’re looking for vacation homes or moving to a job in a new city, there’s a good chance that viewing homes will be difficult—you could be a long drive or even a plane ride away. With today’s video messaging apps like Zoom or Facetime, your agent can walk you through a property virtually. It’s not the same as walking through in person, but it will at least give you an idea about whether a property is worth pursuing further.

When life is just too crazy: If you’re just getting too busy with everything else going on in your life, a good buyer’s agent should be able to recognize the situation and help you take a step back. They can suggest that you take a few weeks off from your home search to recharge, or only focus on properties that exactly fit your wants list.

Inspection issues: You’re dreaming about move-in day, and then some unforeseen issues turn up during inspection. A good agent can work out those issues by negotiating a lower offer—to cover costs of repairs—or by getting the seller to fix the problem.

Types Of Mortgages You Need To Know About

Before you purchase a home, it’s important to educate yourself of the various types of mortgages you can get so you can make the right decision when the time comes to choose yours.

Fixed Rate. The most popular on the market, a fixed-rate mortgage is ideal for homeowners who expect to stay in their home for many years. With a fixed interest rate and monthly payment, this loan makes it easier to plan your budget year over year.

Adjustable-Rate. This type of mortgage offers a lower interest rate and monthly payment at first, then slowly increases as time goes on. This type of loan can be beneficial for younger home buyers who expect to grow in their careers and make more money in the future.

Government-Insured. There are several types of government-backed mortgages including Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) loans, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) loans, and more. These programs can help you finance a home if you meet each one’s qualifications.

Conforming. A conforming loan is one that falls within the maximum limits set by government agencies that back most U.S. mortgages, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. With this type of mortgage, borrowing costs and required down payment are generally less, but interest rates can be a little higher.

Jumbo. This type of conventional loan applies if the home’s price exceeds federal loan limits. Your credit score generally must exceed 700 and you are required to make a larger down payment. However, it allows you to borrow more money to purchase a more expensive home.