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Spring It On: 7 Must-Do Home Maintenance Tasks to Tackle This Season

Categories: Helpful Tips, Home Builder, Seasonal | Posted: March 30, 2018

By Holly Amaya | March 2018

 

Spring has officially sprung, and we are psyched. Seriously, we couldn’t be more stoked to put away our floor-length parkas and our stupid hats, break out the shorts and sandals, and start planning a big backyard barbecue.

But before you get too carried away, remember this: In the great game of homeownership, a pound of prevention could save you thousands of dollars in repair costs.

Don’t know where to start? We’ve done the heavy lifting for you, focusing on the most crucial spring chores to tackle—and how to take ’em on, whether you’re up for some DIY action or need to call in the pros. So go ahead and set aside a Saturday (soon!) for these essential maintenance tasks, and prep your home for all those spring soirees.

1. Take a walk

A lot can happen between winter and spring, and experts agree a visual inspection is crucial to stopping small problems before they turn into big ones. So grab a camera, notebook, and even binoculars, and take a few laps around the perimeter of your place.

“The first circuit should be from about 60 feet out, so you can get the big picture,” says home inspector Lisa Turner, author of “House Keys: The Essential Homeowner’s Guide.”

On the first pass, look for siding damage, missing paint, holes, large cracks, damaged downspouts, and areas where water is accumulating near the foundation. Check your decks for levelness, and use binoculars to examine the roof.

Next, bring it in closer: Examine soffits, doors, windows, screens, and vents, and make a note of any damage.

DIY: If you feel comfortable, shimmy up a ladder to get a view of your gutters. Check for debris, and run water through your downspouts to make sure they aren’t clogged.

Call in the pros: Roofing, siding, and soffit damage should all be tackled by a pro. The average cost per hour will vary by region, but Turner says to figure $65 to $95 per hour for a licensed professional plus materials.

2. Peek in your crawl space

We know, we know—you’re probably not stoked for this one. But here’s the cold, hard fact: A lot can happen down there during the frigid months. Critters can set up house, pipes can freeze or break loose from their brackets, and too much moisture can lead to (shudder) mold.

DIY: “Unless your crawl space is full of rooms, you can do a very thorough inspection from the entry door,” Turner says. Open the door, kneel down, and train a high-powered flashlight on the ground. Most homes have a vapor barrier or plastic sheet covering the entire dirt floor, which prevents humidity from seeping into your insulation (and your home). Make sure this sheet is intact and hasn’t shifted or been ripped by animals during the winter months.

Next, run your light on the underfloor structure and check for moisture, dripping, falling insulation, mold, or sagging. If you do decide to fully enter your crawl space, be sure to wear a Tyvek (polyethylene) suit, a mask over your mouth, and safety goggles.

Call in the pros: If your floor is sagging—or if you spy serious mold, water leaks, or a pest infestation—call in a professional. The average cost will vary by region, but figure $65 to $95 per hour for a licensed professional, according to Turner.

3. Survey (and repair) winter’s damage in the yard

Apply fresh mulch in the garden.
Apply fresh mulch in the garden.

 

Kick off the growing and mowing season with a spring-cleaning of your yard. Grab a rake to clear out dead grass, weeds, and sticks, and use a mulching mower to recycle it all. Then, if the soil has warmed in your neck of the woods, apply mulch.

DIY: Apply a 2- to 3-inch layer around plants, recommends Phil Dwyer, a turf grass scientist for Scotts Miracle-Grow. And keep a bare ring between mulch and tree trunks. (“Volcano mulching,” or piling mulch up against the trunk of a tree, can attract fungus and pests.)

If your yard has seen better days (and thanks to the epic storms of this past winter, chances are it has), patch and thicken your grass with an overseeding product.

“Timing is crucial for success,” Dwyer says. “Aim for an early spring seeding for cool-season grass and a late spring sowing for warm-season grass.”

Call in the pros: Landscapers typically charge between $150 and $270 for professional mulching, plus materials.

4. Give your flowers a fresh start

Prepare the soil before planting new flowers.
Prepare the soil before planting new flowers.

 

We all know that April showers bring May flowers—but only if you’ve done the requisite prep work.

“Pick up a handful of soil and squeeze it,” recommends Ashleigh Lemon, research specialist at Scotts Miracle-Gro. “If it crumbles easily, you can start preparing your beds. If it sticks together in a clump, it’s still too wet to work in.”

DIY: Begin preparing flower and vegetable beds by removing any dead plants. Then work in compost, which will provide your soil with rich ingredients as well as continuous-release plant food.

Next, pull out weeds and use a pre-emergent weed preventer.

“The more weeds you eliminate now, the less competition your garden plants will face for sunlight, nutrients, and moisture,” Lemon says.

Call in the pros: If you don’t have anything even remotely resembling a green thumb, consider hiring a professional gardener or landscaper. But know that the price you’ll pay will largely depend on how big an area you want planted.

5. Tune up your mower

Check the oil in your lawn mower.
Check the oil in your lawn mower.

 

After months of hibernation, your lawn mower will need a quick tuneup; clean the exterior, change your oil and spark plugs, and fill the tank with fresh fuel.

DIY: Use compressed air or a leaf blower to clear grass, dirt, and debris that have accumulated in your mower. Let your machine run for a bit before changing the oil and filter. Clean foam air filters with soap and water, and make sure your machine’s deck height is at the highest possible setting for your grass type. (Cutting too short can put stress on your lawn.)

Call in the pros: On average, a professional tuneup for a push mower will cost $50 to $100.

6. Check your AC

“The last thing you want is for your appliances or HVAC to stop working just as the weather warms up,” says Chip Smith, chief marketing officer at Sears Home Services.

DIY: Change the unit’s filter, and spray the outside of the condenser with a garden hose to remove dust. (Don’t use a pressure washer, which can damage fins.)

Call in the pros: Professional HVAC services run between $100 to $250, and include cleaning the condenser and lubricating the fan motor.

7. Prep your dishwasher

Make sure your dishwasher's drain is free of debris.
Make sure your dishwasher’s drain is free of debris.

 

With gatherings for Easter, Passover, Mother’s Day, and even graduations right around the corner, you’ll want to make sure your dishwasher can handle all those dirty dishes.

DIY: Make sure your dishwasher’s drain is free of debris to prevent clogging. If your unit has a removable filter, clean it regularly with a mild detergent.

Call in the pros: If removing the filter doesn’t solve your dishwasher woes, a professional appliance repair service will likely set you back $150.

 ——————-
Based in San Diego, Holly Amaya is a writer, lawyer, and communications strategist. She writes about real estate, legal, lifestyle, motherhood, and career issues. Follow @hollyamaya

Out With the Old: The 10 Tired Interior Design Trends You Need to Ditch in 2018

Categories: Helpful Tips, Home Builder, Home Decorating | Posted: December 20, 2017

 | Dec 14, 2017

Figuring out what makes for good design is an admittedly subjective exercise: Ask a dozen experts their thoughts on, say, why faux Mid-Century Modern is still popular in American interior design long after “Mad Men” has left us, and you’ll likely get a dozen different opinions.

Nevertheless, some home design trends manage to rise to mass acceptance. Thanks to unstoppable forces like HGTV and Pinterest—which might be single-handedly responsible for the misguided installation of thousands of sliding barn doors over the past few years—these trends tend to take on a life of their own.

And sometimes they just won’t die, even when they absolutely should.

Which are the worst offenders that need to go in 2018?

We’ve chatted with experts from coast to coast to get their consensus on the top interior design trends we won’t miss in the new year.

1. Cement tiles


Photo by Buckminster Green LLC

From backsplashes to mudroom floors to laundry room doldrums, the almighty cement tile reigned supreme this year. It was the darling of many a Pinterest board and crowed about in virtually every major design magazine.

But in 2018, you should wave goodbye, says Karen Wolf, principal designer at Karen B. Wolf Interiors in New Jersey.

“They look great, [but] the first issue is longevity,” she says. “Cement cracks. The second is the craziness of many of the patterns. Too bold, too graphic, too bright, 3-D, and, more often than not, they’re crammed into tiny spaces for impact.”

In other words, if you live in an 1800s farmhouse, a geometric pattern might seem wildly out of place. And, Wolf warns, “unlike wallpaper, this material is much harder to rip out.”

If you can’t say no to this trend, at least choose a well-crafted design in an appropriate pattern and color that you think you’ll like for years to come.

2. Tropical prints


Photo by Michelle Workman Interiors

Ah, 2017—the year of the pineapple, the flamingo, and the philodendron leaf. We’ll be the first to admit that we loved this whimsical and exotic trend that made us feel like we were permanently on vacation. But it burned out fast.

“Although they add a fun aesthetic to bohemian-styled interiors, their loud patterns are great only for a season,” says Emilie Baltorinic, an interior designer at Living Spaces. “Unless you’re in a tropical climate, they tend to feel really out of place after summer has passed.”

3. Cacti everywhere

Photo by Ryan Wallcoverings
Cactus decor had a moment this year. The spiky succulents were growing like weeds in the corners of our living rooms, in our artwork, and on our wallpaper.

But now these prints “have become absolutely overdone,” Baltorinic says.

“What does it even mean? ‘I’m edgy’? ‘I went to Coachella’? I don’t get it,” says designer Christina Harmon, founder of luxury home goods site Epitome Home. “Living in California, I have a great appreciation for desert beauty, but kitschy cactus print doesn’t read that way to me anymore. It’s done.”

So leave the prickly plants where they belong: in your yard.

4. The chevron pattern

Transitional bedroom design
Transitional bedroom design – Lovejoy Designs

The basic chevron—a simple zigzag pattern that incorporates two colors—has been inescapable for the past few seasons, much to designers’ chagrin.

It seemed we couldn’t turn around in 2017 without bumping into some version of the pattern in everything from lampshades to backsplashes. But while it can be cute in kids’ rooms, “it looks cheap in adult living spaces,” Harmon says.

If you’re unwilling to let go of your chevron prints just yet, try incorporating more ornate versions of the pattern (herringbone is a nice alternative). Just don’t overdo it.

5. The overstated hood fan


Photo by Linda L. Floyd, Inc.

Once the prominent design feature in open-concept kitchens, the overstated hood fan is now officially so yesterday, with designers predicting it’ll soon be seamlessly integrated into cabinetry.

“Hood fans were never aesthetically pleasing in the first place, just utilitarian,” says designer Ana Cummings.

But thanks to HGTV, buyers went crazy for them as a design concept and they became visual centerpieces of the modern kitchen. No more! In 2018, Cummings predicts a return to sleek, streamlined kitchen design.

6. Farmhouse style


Photo by Inplace Studio
Let’s bring this one behind the barn and shoot it, shall we?

Call it the Chip and Joanna Gaines effect: Over the past four years, everyone this side of Waco, TX, wanted a farmhouse sink and shiplap walls. But in the new year—and with “Fixer Upper” coming to an end—the farmhouse chic style is starting to finally feel “a little too contrived,” says Oregon-based designer Arlene Lord.

Lord has a particular animus toward “those very, very overdone words or phrases you see on walls, plaques and pieces of wood. I mean, when you are at the beach do you really need a sign telling you that you are at the beach?”

The idea of farmhouse decor was OK in concept, designers say, but the execution went awry.

“While [the Gaines duo] brought farmhouse decor to the mainstream, unfortunately viewers took it to a whole new level,” says New York–based designer Tracy Stern. “Home decor lovers everywhere have been covering their entire house with items that look straight out of a barn.”

7. White-on-white everything


Photo by Milton Architects
Look, guys, we know that crisp white bedding seems like a beautiful idea. But we live in the real world—one where kids, pets, and the errant wine glass pose quite the threat to your nice new stuff.

So although the all-white look has dominated design trends for the past few years, times are changing.

“People are now embracing rich shades of brown, black, and green,” Stern says. “For a seductive yet sophisticated space, incorporate a signature black wall into your home. And if you’re drawn to more earthy tones, forest green and rust brown pops are a must.”

8. Tuscan-themed anything


Photo by JMA INTERIOR DESIGN
The love for Tuscan style goes deep: This trend started surfacing en masse in 2005 or 2006, designers say, and has hung on longer than expected.

With this decor theme, you get a lot of deep reds and golds, oil-rubbed bronze, travertine tile, and oversized furniture, giving an overall heavy, ornate look that pro designers say is dated.

“You see these a lot in California,” Harmon says. “But homes in Tuscany don’t actually look like this. Can I get some Milan in 2018?”

9. Rose gold


Photo by DS Interior Design
Designers agree that the ubiquitous rose gold has saturated the market.

It’s everywhere, from your iPhone to your living room, and as a result, “it no longer feels special,” Harmon says.

10. The open floor plan


Photo by P2 Design
This is a tough one to call. The pros are highly conflicted on whether the open floor plan will persist in 2018. Some designers say consumers will continue to crave open space to facilitate family and social gathering and entertaining.

But for New Jersey interior designer Mark Polo, it’s a thing of the past.

“We are starting to entertain more traditionally, with sit-down dinners,” he says. “And there is nothing worse than seeing the dirty dishes and pots while you are serving the beef Wellington.”

Based in San Diego, Holly Amaya is a writer, lawyer, and communications strategist. She writes about real estate, legal, lifestyle, motherhood, and career issues. Follow @hollyamaya

How to Decorate Your Room, Mattress and Furniture

Categories: Helpful Tips, Home Builder, Home Decorating | Posted: November 13, 2017

How to Decorate Your Room, Mattress and Furniture

I use my bedroom for multiple functions. It can serve as a library, office or lounge, but, I mostly make sure that it provides a suitable sanctuary for rest throughout the night. So, as I decorate my room, I ensure that it remains a luxurious space to give me the comfort I need.

There are many design options today, and you may find it hard to choose the most attractive ones. Fortunately, I’ve come up with a simple guide to help you out once you finally decide to change the appearance of your bedroom.

Choosing the Perfect Mattress to Add Glamour to Your Room

You’ll only need to get a good mattress for you to enjoy a stress-free evening. Some interesting trymattress.com reviews show that a hard, soft or too lumpy mattress will deny you the sleep you deserve. Replacing my mattress was one of the first things I did to improve the style and color of my room. Here, I found that there are different designs such as:

  • Pillow
  • Innerspring
  • Adjustable
  • Airbeds
  • Waterbeds

All these types come with manufacturers who guarantee better sleep and additional comfort. So, once you go mattress shopping, remember first to do thorough research. I discovered that this gives you a good head start before you even visit a physical or online store. Most importantly, decide on the size that you need. Most of us do not get enough sleep because the mattresses that we sleep on are either too thin or too small.

Choosing Colorful Beddings

Decorate your room by using calm and soothing colours to cover your mattress. These colors are both attractive and restful to make sure that you sleep immediately you enter into bed. You can also use bright colors to add glamour to your bedroom. However, I would advise you to use them in bedroom artwork.

If you have a child, it’s better to use beddings of cartoon or superhero characters. The ‘Avengers’ bedcovers might be a good place for you to start. But it’s better to allow your kid to pick out his or her favorite cartoon designs. In the end, he or she will always go to sleep feeling happy, relaxed and even safe.

Fill Your Room with Excellent Furniture

I love my bedroom because it’s somewhere where I can go to rest and wake up feeling rejuvenated in the morning. First, I’ve chosen the best bedroom furniture to suit my budget and style. Now, it’s an oasis that offers relaxation, and at times, it’s even hard to leave the room!

You can quickly change your bedroom into such a haven too. Some of the exciting furniture decorative options are:

  • Choosing a bed with a colorful headboard
  • Colouring your bedside table
  • Having some exotic wardrobes
  • Filling your dressing table with flowers and amazing stickers!

Furniture for Your Kids

It’s essential to look for the best furniture options for your toddler or teenager. I found that most kids love sleeping in fun and colorful beds, especially those that match their preferred styles. Here, you could choose to use a bedside table shaped like a love heart or star-ship looking bed!

Do not struggle when it comes to decorating your room. As you can see, the process is pretty straightforward. Of course, in many cases, we try to use fancy accessories to boost the room’s appearance, but a bedroom is really not a place to showcase your sophistication or exquisite taste. This can be costly and may not even give you what you need. Keep it simple and just make the room somewhere pleasant to be in, where you can rest with ease and sleep soundly!

NAHB, HBAG MEMBERS FAN OUT ON CAPITOL HILL

Categories: Awards & Achievements, Home Builder | Posted: November 3, 2017

HBAG Members join NAHB for the 2017 NAHB Legislative Conference

More than 800 builders, remodelers, and their trade partners from across the nation, including HBAG members and staff, headed to Capitol Hill in mid-June for the annual NAHB Legislative Conference.  In a day full of meetings with elected officials and their staff, our members called on Congress to make housing and homeownership a national priority and to support policies that will keep the housing recovery moving forward. “Today, builders from coast-to-coast are sending a loud and clear message to members of Congress that a strong housing market is critical to spur job growth and create a vibrant, dynamic economy,” said NAHB Chairman Granger MacDonald.

In more than 250 individual meetings with their representatives and senators, our members asked for progress on several key housing issues, including: REGULATORY REFORM. “We need a common-sense approach to regulations that kill small businesses. We need to be at the table. We need to keep pressing,” said Tom Ashley, co-owner of the remodeling company Expand Inc. in Baton Rouge, La.  A PREDICTABLE, AFFORDABLE NATIONAL FLOOD INSURANCE PROGRAM. “Losing the national flood insurance program would make it hard to even build—let alone sell,” said Darrick Guthmiller, chief business officer of Kochmann Brothers Homes Inc. in Fargo, North Dakota.

HOUSING FINANCE REFORM. “We need to talk about the future of housing finance. That is the key, critical issue here in Tulsa,” said HBA of Greater Tulsa director of association issues Stacey Bayles. Members also discussed tax reform, including protecting incentives for home ownership, cost-effective energy codes, securing a supply of softwood lumber, and the future of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, key to meeting the nation’s acute need for affordable rentals. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), who sits on the House Ways and Means Committee, spoke to builders before they met with their lawmakers and said that this year there is “a real opportunity to do something about tax reform.” House Republicans are working on a tax reform blueprint that would generate economic growth, simplify the tax code, stop erosion of the U.S. tax base so that it is no longer more attractive for U.S. corporations to go overseas, and provide permanency to the tax code to deliver certainty to the business community, Roskam said. It was the first year since 2013 that NAHB has held its annual Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. During the past three years, as part of a nationwide effort to “bring housing home,” builders across the country met with their federal lawmakers in their home districts. The conference was held in conjunction with the NAHB Midyear Meeting which is a great time for builders to connect with and learn from fellow builders. Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to address members of NAHB at the conference on June 14th, but he had to abruptly cancel when breaking news sent him in a different direction. He was expected to discuss how the administration has scaled back overregulation in order to stimulate economic growth and help expedite the housing recovery. The cancellation came after the shooting at a congressional baseball practice early on the morning of June 14th, just 20 minutes from the US Capitol, where Congressman Steve Scalise (R-LA) and 5 others were shot or injured.

HBAG members and staff send our deepest condolences to the victims, their families, friends, and other attendees that were affected by this act of lunacy. Army veteran and Ohio Representative Brad Wenstrup described the attack “like being back in a combat zone in Iraq.” He was one of the first to reach Scalise after he was shot and his military training took over. Wenstrup’s “medical expertise and quick action” are said to have helped stabilize Scalise. Scalise’s security detail, Capitol Hill police (David Bailey and Crystal Griner), and Alexandria police immediately returned fire on the perpetrator, shot him, and saved lives. HBAG would also like to recognize and thank Capitol police, emergency responders, Wenstrup, and other attendees who were able to react quickly and fearlessly.

Members of the HBA of Savannah & HBAG EVP Kelly Lass with Congressman Rick Allen (L-R): Lamar Smith, Mark Konter, Rick Allen, Jerry Konter, Kelly Lass

Savannah delegation with Rep. Buddy Carter (L-R): Mark Konter, Lamar Smith, Buddy Carter, Jerry Konter, Kelly Lass


  

View Entire Georgia Builder Magazine Issue: http://bit.ly/2h0R1O7

A Millennial’s Guide to Buying Your First Home

Categories: Helpful Tips, Home Builder | Posted: September 29, 2017

A Millennial’s Guide to Buying Your 1st Home by Wendy Weir 

Why call it “A Millennial’s Guide To Buying Your First Home” ? Simply due to the fact, people between 25-40 are waiting longer and longer to ‘buy’ their first home. They are paying off their student debt, saving for a wedding, starting a family, or trying out new jobs and don’t want to be tied down. When do you really think about buying your first home? That moment when you just can’t stand writing one more check to your landlord so that he can pay his mortgage payment, with your money! Why continue to ‘build’ his equity and his real estate portfolio and not your own? That is the moment you are emotionally ready to buy your own home, at least according to investment experts. Let’s see how easy it really is to get that 1st house, build equity then keep moving up over the years while building a real estate portfolio.

What about the down payment?

Down payments are expressed as a percentage of the purchase price of the home. Down payment percentages depend upon the loan you’ll be obtaining. Conventional loans generally require 20 percent down and the best choice if you hope to avoid paying a monthly private insurance premium. Other loans, such as those through FHA or Fannie Mae, require significantly less for the down payment, while the VA and USDA require no money down.

Fast forward to 2017 and a new Fannie Mae study finds that borrowers with a 50 percent (Debt-to-income-ratio) DTI are much better credit risks than previously assumed. The study looked at 15 years of statistics from borrowers with back-end DTI ratios up to 50 percent. Many of them had decent credit scores and the default rate was quite acceptable.

It turns out, a majority of these borrowers have hefty cash reserves (at least 12 months or more) or are willing to come in with a higher down payment. And many of these borrowers are millennials, just like you.

What is the earnest money deposit

When you find a home you want to buy, you will submit a purchase agreement with your earnest money deposit (EMD). Your agent will list the amount you are paying and where it will be held. And EMD shows the seller that you are serious about pursuing the purchase. The seller takes a gamble by removing the home from the market and you put your cash on the line with the possibility of losing it, under certain circumstances.

While on the subject. Do you know how to protect your earnest money deposit. Yes indeed, you can loose it if you don’t know what you are doing. I have seen way too many couples loose the 1st deposit they make on a home, usually because they are trying to buy FSBO.

A look at closing costs

This is the part of the process that catches far too many home buyers by surprise. Closing costs are all the fees required of everyone who helps you purchase the home. From your real estate agent’s commission and appraiser’s fee to the title company’s research and issuance of a policy and, of course, the lender’s fees. These fees add up – fast – so it’s important to compare closing cost estimates from several lenders. It’s also important to understand which costs are negotiable. Closing costs can amount to 2 to 5 percent of the loan amount.

3 Ways to reduce closing costs

  • Close as late in the month as possible. Lenders charge interest in arrears, meaning that when you make a house payment, you are actually paying for last month’s interest (and the coming month’s principal). When you close escrow, the lender will have calculated how much interest you owe from the date your loan was funded to the end of the current month.
  • You can eliminate the need to pay all or part of your closing costs by requesting that the seller contribute. The seller gets to write that amount off as a tax deduction and you get to skip the closing costs, so it’s beneficial to all parties.
  • Ask your lender if you can include the closing costs in your loan. Yes, there will be a charge for this but it won’t be nearly as large as the immediate outlay of cash necessary to pay closing costs.

How do you get started?

Figure out your budget. Truth is, you most likely will be able to afford a mortgage payment every month. But it will be tight and you have some tough decisions to make. Maybe trade in your expensive car lease, check if you can ‘Bundle’ your bills (phone, internet, TV) to reduce monthly expenses… cook more meals at home, carpool whenever possible – all these add up to bigger and bigger savings fairly quickly.

Build sweat equity

For those on a limited budget with sparse savings, buying a fixer home may be the answer. A fixer-upper is priced an average of 8 – 10 percent less than market value. The drawback is that, since you have a tight budget, renovation work will be on an as-you-can-afford-to-make-repairs basis. Fixers are an ideal way to get into home ownership for a lot less money than you’d pay for a turn key home. And eventually, you will have a home that’s customized to your lifestyle and tastes.

Taking into consideration, this is your 1st home, buy the least expensive one you can find. Try and find a house that can be ‘updated’; new windows, door, appliances, landscaping. Over the next few years, look at remodeling the kitchen and baths. If you have saved enough, maybe add an addition like another bedroom or family room. These are the best ways to build equity and make a nice profit too when you go to sell.

Here are some ways to take the money you have right now, and stretch it to make the purchase a bit more comfortable.

Pay more now – to save for later

PMI (private mortgage insurance) or MIP (the FHA Mortgage Insurance Premium) is a monthly payment that you want to avoid. It is required on all mortgages with a down payment of less than 20 percent. PMI adds a big chunk to your house payment.

For example, a 30-year, FHA-backed loan at 3.750 percent interest on a $250,000 loan: with a down payment of $8,750, your MIP will be about $170.00.

If you save enough money to put 20 percent down, and you’ll skip the MIP or PMI fee every month saving you about $2,040 per year. Plus, your loan amount will be smaller and your monthly payment will be less as well.

Get Creative

Don’t won’t to wait a long time to save that much? Maybe there is someone who will gift you the funds for a down payment?

FHA mandates that a borrower put at least 3.5 percent down, conventional loan guidelines permit gift funds for all or part of the down payment, as long as the loan-to-value is 80 percent. The donor has to be related to you, a parent, significant other, fiancee. Basically, here are the 5 things you should know about using gift money for down payments.

Taxes Add up the nickles and dimes

Your monthly mortgage payment can include an escrow fund to pay for insurance, taxes and sometimes homeowner association dues that can add nearly $600 to your house payment each month. HOA fees are on the rise, nationwide. If you don’t mind doing your own exterior home maintenance, mowing, gardening, snow removal, you can save a lot of money.

Insurance

The national average annual premium is $964. You can save on insurance buy asking for a higher deductible, installing security features and take advantage of discounts, such as those for seniors. Shop carefully and compare policies among several insurers. Here is the best guide I have found on what home owners insurance is.

Property Taxes

Wallet Hub’s John S. Kiernan claims that “The average American household spends $2,149 on property taxes or about $179 per month”. Make sure you research a home’s property taxes before deciding to purchase, remember, they will go up when you purchase – too many people think they remain at where they are presently, which can be answered by a simple phone call to your lender. You can also figure it out yourself, it’s easy to do – many assessor’s offices have tax information online. Buyers should find out whether a home may be subject to multiple property tax authorities. Not only states, but also counties, cities and districts (local water, sewers or schools, and possibly even special assessments if new roads have been put in). This is obviously very important. Having an experienced buyers agent representing you will make all the difference in the world – believe me!

Your debt

The word “millennial” is too often followed by the words. “student loan debt”. in the media one would think it’s the generation’s middle name.  While some millennials may be on the hook to repay up to $50,000 or more, it’s not the impediment to home ownership that some make it out to be.

Graduates Lifting Mortarboards — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

And, there is relief for many with two recent announcements by Fannie Mae.

Currently, lenders look at a borrower’s debt-to-income ratio (how much you owe vs. how much you earn, known as DTI) and require that it be no higher than 36 percent. After July 29 of this year, however, that ratio can be as high as 50 percent, under certain conditions.

Then, in April, Fannie Mae announced a new policy specifically aimed at millennial home buyers who have student loan debt. Basically, it excludes any debt that isn’t mortgage-related (auto loans, credit cards and, yes, student loans) from the borrower’s DTI, as long as these debts are paid by someone else (such as a parent).

Curious about your debt-to-income ratio? Use the online calculator at nerdwallet.com.

Credit History

The “Big Three” credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion recently announced that most tax liens and civil judgments will no longer end up on credit reports, provided the information in the creditors’ report isn’t complete.

“Specifically, the data [submitted to the credit reporting agency] must include the person’s name, address, and either date of birth or Social Security number,” according to Diana Olick at cnbc.com.

Apparently, errors like this are common, impacting a large number of loan applicants. “With these hits to their credit removed, their scores could go up by as much as 20 points,” Olick claims. Ridding your report of errors is one of the easiest ways to increase your credit score.

The FTC also offers advice on not only how to get free copies of your credit report, but how to dispute incorrect information as well.

While a tight budget doesn’t preclude one from buying a home, finding ways to stretch what little money you have may just allow you to purchase more home than you thought possible. At the very least, taking cost-saving measures will help lower your monthly payment. It also helps to understand all the upfront and closing fees that go along with purchasing a house. Best advice? Do your research, take your time and allow yourself to get into a situation that you are comfortable with. Then enjoy your new home wherever it may be!

9 REASONS TO CHOOSE A NEW BUILD HOME VS. RESALE

Categories: Helpful Tips, Home Builder | Posted: September 7, 2017

New build Home vs. resale

Purchasing a new home can be a very stressful and difficult decision. Do you buy an existing home, or go with a new build? There are many factors to consider in this decision, such as finances, location and timing. Here are 9 reasons that make a new build your best decision. SAVVY BUYER

1. TURNKEY EXPERIENCE

Keys and lock the door on the background of solar garden

Keys and lock the door on the background of solar garden

Imagine walking up to your new home, turning the key, and entering a space that is designed just for you. Older homes often need renovations; it might be a 1970’s kitchen, rusty bathroom fixtures or not enough bedrooms. After the hassle of a move, it is hard to get excited about the extra money and time a renovation project can bring. A new build will move your DIY days well into the future.

2. CUSTOM FINISHING

New build Home vs. resale

In real estate circles, when they describe a property as having character, that usually means wood paneling and green shag carpets. A new build offers extensive choices in the colour and style of your home. You can hand pick the colour of your bedroom walls, the type of countertop and decide whether you want stainless steel appliances. Not sure of your artistic abilities? They often have an interior design team to help you create your dream home.

3. EVERYTHING IS NEW

New build Home vs. resale

With an existing home, everything is in different stages of repair. They advertise a new kitchen, but did they mention the roof is 20 years old? One bad storm, and your insurance will not cover that aged roof. With a new build, you can be confident nothing is old or in need of repair. Everything from your shingles to your basement is brand new. As well, the design, all the appliances and countertops are in contemporary styles that will hold their value for years to come.

4. WARRANTY

New build Home vs. resale

With an existing home, it’s buyer beware. Sometimes, home sellers will put a fresh coat of paint on the ceiling to cover a roof leak. As the new owner, you have little recourse.With new construction, not only will all your appliances come with warranties, but builders also offer a warranty on the entire construction. If you have any new house hiccups, you are covered. With the same budget you would spend on an older home, you could have a home that is fully covered and will maintain its value for years to come.

 5. NEW TECHNOLOGY

New build Home vs. resale

Older homes carry unseen dangers like mold, lead paint and asbestos. Technology is rapidly advancing in the home building trades and efficiency and safety are paramount. You can be confident your builder is using the newest, tried and tested materials and systems. Your new home will be more energy efficient and environmentally friendly than an older home.

6. LOCATION

New build Home vs. resale

One of the most important factors when purchasing your home is location. With an existing home, you might need to compromise on your location to get the size you need. Do you need to be near schools and shopping? New builders are working closely with land developers to create communities rather than just a row of houses. Green spaces, schooling, shopping, transportation and walking trails are all becoming expected. As such, new home buyers have greater choice than ever before. You can decide your view, side of the street (morning or afternoon sun) and proximity to schools and parks.

7. MONEY

New build Home vs. resale

Funding a new build is different from traditional mortgages. Most builders offer financing options within their packages. This offers you one-stop shopping. You will know in advance what you can borrow, before you get your heart set on the walk-in shower. They are experts in the field of financing new builds and will counsel you in all of your options.

8. EXPERTISE

New build Home vs. resale

In an existing home, you have no confidence that the wiring was not Bob’s DIY project. New home builders hire only the best journeymen to construct your house from start to finish.

Another benefit is that you can choose from multiple floor plans, each of which has been crafted by professionals. These floor plans are well designed, unlike existing homes with interesting quirks. There are no hallways that lead nowhere or impossible kitchens where the dishwasher door hits the opposite wall.

9. YOU DECIDE

New build Home vs. resale

Choice, Choice, Choice – Possibly the best reason to choose a new build over an existing home is choice. You decide the number of rooms and bathrooms that your family needs. Do you need an office, garage, extra family room? That is all up to you. No need to be “satisfied” with what is available on the market at the time. You are in the driver’s seat. The choice is yours.

Get out there and meet some builders and see how possible it is for you to have your dream home!

Homeownership: Opportunity is Knocking!

Categories: Helpful Tips, Home Builder | Posted: September 1, 2017

Homeownership is an important part of the American way of life. Today there are many opportunities in the housing market – including low mortgage rates and new homes that are built to fit your lifestyle – to find a home that is right for you. But market conditions can change, and these opportunities may not be around for long, so home buyers shouldn’t wait.

Low Interest Rates

Today’s low interest rates are helping home buyers find affordable housing options. But, it’s important to keep in mind that interest rates are sensitive to market forces and can change quickly. Even a slight rate increase can push monthly payments to the point that a buyer might miss out on their first choice for a new home.

Interest Rates

Large Downpayments Not Necessary

While lenders are looking more closely at borrowers today than in recent years, there are options for purchasing your home without a 20% downpayment. For example, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) offers loans to first-time home buyers with downpayments as low as 3.5%. However, these loans require mortgage insurance.

To ensure that the process goes smoothly, buyers should consider pre-qualifying for a mortgage and having financing in place before shopping for a new home. Buyers also may find that some home builders have arranged favorable financing for their customers or offer financial incentives.

Built to Fit Your Lifestyle

Designed to accommodate today’s busy lifestyles, new homes – including urban condos and single-family homes – feature open floor plans, flexible spaces, low-maintenance materials and other amenities that make them more appealing than ever before.

Family

With energy costs near the top of consumer concerns, it’s good to know that new homes can be more energy efficient than ever. Innovative materials and construction techniques mean that today’s new homes are built to be much more energy efficient than homes constructed a generation ago. Not only can they be more affordable to operate, new homes also are significantly more resource efficient and environmentally friendly.

And in many areas, prospective home buyers who wish to live in age-qualified communities for those 55 and older will find a large selection of homes tailored to the evolving lifestyles of the baby boom generation.

Benefits for Home Owners

Homeownership also provides important benefits to owners.

Tax Benefits: For Home Owners Only

Unique tax benefits that apply only to housing help lower the cost of homeownership. Both mortgage interest and property taxes are deductible. Moreover, for married couples, profits of up to $500,000 on the sale of a principal residence ($250,000 for single taxpayers) are excluded from tax on capital gains.

Baby

The Advantage of Leveraging

Leveraging is another advantage of homeownership. A buyer can purchase a home and receive the full benefit of homeownership with a cash downpayment that is only a fraction of the total purchase price. This is called leveraging, and it makes the rate of return on a home purchase greater than on other purchases with the same value, such as stocks, where the buyer must put up the entire price.

Building Personal Resources

For most Americans, homeownership is a primary source of net worth and an important step in accumulating personal financial assets over the long term. For most families, home equity represents the largest share of net worth.

There Really is No Place Like Home

Although there are many positive financial aspects to homeownership, a home cannot be valued in monetary terms alone. Not only can homeownership be a stepping stone to greater financial well-being, it provides a permanent place to call home and great personal satisfaction.

Academic research also shows that homeownership provides a wide range of social benefits and strengthens the nation’s people and its communities.

Homeownership is truly a cornerstone of the American way of life.

The Right Paint Color for Every Room by HomeAdvisor

Categories: Helpful Tips, Home Builder, Home Decorating | Posted: August 25, 2017

There are some big decisions to be made when it comes to decorating the house.

The color scheme you use in each room will have a big impact on how it feels. How can you know what color will go best in each room?

Luckily, the psychological effects of color have long been the subject of study by the finest minds. From Aristotle to Leonardo da Vinci, it seems everyone has an opinion! Today, we have contemporary science to show us the way. For example, we know that green is an excellent choice for the study or office, because it stimulates creative thinking. For example, the ‘Fresh Sage’ shade promotes a feeling of tranquility and intellectual engagement.

On the other hand, a carefully selected shade of red will lend a lively, sociable atmosphere to your dining room. It’s the perfect color if you want your dinner parties to go off with a bang.

For expert advice on which colors work best for each room, have a look at our new infographic. It identifies the effects you can get color by color, room by room.

Decorating is a great opportunity to create an environment where you’ll love to work, rest and play. Pick your hues carefully, and you’ll soon create your dream home.

The Right Paint Color for Every Room
The Right Paint Color for Every Room, courtesy of HomeAdvisor

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Sources

Questions to Ask Your Home Builder

Categories: Helpful Tips, Home Builder | Posted: August 24, 2017

When you’re thinking about buying a new home, selecting the right home builder is a key step in creating the home of your dreams. You should feel comfortable asking a potential home builder every question that you think is important. And, a professional builder or sales representative will want to make you a happy and satisfied home owner.

Besides the questions of “How much does it cost?,” and “When can we move in?,” here are some other questions you should ask:

  • Will the builder give you references of recent buyers/occupants?
  • Does the builder have a financing plan established?
  • Are there options in the floor plan — for example, can a basement or deck be added?
  • Can a room such as the basement be left unfinished?
  • How much “customizing” can be done versus standard features?
  • Can appliances be up- or down-graded?
  • Are there any additional fees relating to the home or development?
  • Will there be a home owners’ association? If so, what will the dues cost and what do they cover?
  • Does the builder offer a warranty program?
  • Does the price include landscaping? What if the plants die within a year?
  • Are there any restrictive covenants?
  • What are the estimated taxes on the property?
  • How is the school system rated?
  • Are day care and grocery stores convenient and satisfactory?
  • What about emergency facilities — police, fire department and hospitals?
  • Are there any major development plans for the area in the next five years?

Advice on Financing Your First Home

Categories: Helpful Tips, Home Builder | Posted: August 18, 2017

Buying your first house is very exciting. But financing your home purchase can be a daunting experience. In both cases, do your research and shop carefully to ensure you find exactly what you want and need.

Deciding how much to spend on your home and which type of mortgage will work best for you — as well as understanding the settlement process — can be confusing. However, there are many sources that can help you get prepared well before you step foot into a sales office, model home or open house.

  • Get familiar with the lingo. NAHB’s Home Buyer’s Dictionary can help you.
  • Figure out what you can actually afford to pay on a monthly basis. Remember that, in addition to the monthly principal and interest, you will also pay into escrows for property taxes, hazard insurance and possibly a home owners’ or condominium association assessment. You have more knowledge about your living expenses than a lender. Hold firm with that number and don’t be tempted to agree to an amount higher than what you are comfortable spending. Mortgage calculators are a great way to figure out what your monthly payments would be based on interest rates and down payment amounts. Calculators can be found on most real-estate-focused websites.
  • Pay down your debts. Credit card debt limits what you qualify for from a lender. Lenders want to see a total debt service ratio that is less than 40% of your monthly income.
  • Attend a first-time home buying seminar or talk to a credit counselor who does not work for a lender. You can research your options without being influenced by someone who has a financial interest in the home or loan you choose. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers free housing counseling and seminars.
  • Check out government resources. HUD also has a helpful web page, Common Questions from First-time Homebuyers, which provides additional resources for first-time buyers, including special financing options and HUD programs.
  • Select your lender and get pre-approved. When you have done your research and are ready to move on to the next step, visit a lender, understand the loan choices that would be available to you, and, once you’ve determined the most suitable loan, get pre-approved for that loan. Since you will already know how much money you can borrow, you will know what price range you should look at and can move quickly if you are bidding on a house that has several interested buyers. A lender’s pre-approval would still be subject to a final verification of your credit and a satisfactory appraisal, but it’s a big step toward becoming a home owner.
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