Entries in Houses (17)

Tuesday
Jan052016

3 Options for Stashing Your Cash Automatically

Want to grow healthy savings? Establishing a habit is often the hardest part of this intention, but today's technology gives savers a few smart options that make saving easier than ever.

Acorns
Invest your spare change with the help of Acorns. This app links to your credit or debit card and rounds up the cost of everyday purchases to the nearest dollar. The difference is then removed from your checking account and invested into a recommended stock portfolio. (Nobel Prize-winning economist Dr. Harry Markowitz, the father of modern portfolio theory, helped develop Acorns' method of making portfolio recommendations.)

There are no commission fees for trades made by Acorns, but there is a $1 monthly fee on accounts under $5,000, as well as a 0.25 percent fee each year for accounts over $5,000.

Digit
Having trouble developing the habit of saving? This startup, which launched in February 2015, links to your checking account and evaluates your income and spending habits to predict your cash flow. Every few days, the app decides based on your lifestyle how much it can safely transfer from your checking account to your Digit account (typically between $5 and $50). You can make withdrawals from your Digit account at any time with just a text.

This free app features FDIC-insured accounts (up to $250,000) with unlimited transfers and no minimum balance requirements. The downside? Your Digit account doesn't bear interest.

Your Bank or Credit Union
If the idea of trusting your finances to an app or not bearing interest on your savings leaves you wary, you've always got more conventional options. One of the most popular is the practice of setting up recurring bank transfers, where pay is direct deposited into a checking account and a portion of each check is then funneled into savings. Your bank may also feature an app option for savings, helping you ease into the world of financial technology.

Tuesday
Dec222015

16 Fabulous Outdoor Christmas Decorations

16 Fabulous Outdoor Christmas Decorations

Saturday
Dec192015

How to do more with less during a redesign

Less is sometimes more...3 Tips for designing a small space.

 


Small rooms can present a real challenge for any would-be interior designer, whether it's a studio apartment or a tiny attic bedroom. Here are a few tricks of the trade for creating the feeling of space - without adding square footage.

Try a fresh coat of paint

One of the simplest yet most effective measures one can take is changing up the color scheme. When choosing a new hue for the walls and/or floor, opt for a lighter shade. Light colors (especially white) create a sense of airiness that contrasts sharply with the cozier feel of darkly-colored rooms, which have a tendency to absorb light.

Giving a ceiling a new coat of paint can be helpful, too. Anything that draws the eye upwards will make a room seem bigger. Wallpaper or a painted design on the ceiling will accomplish that task.

Change up the furniture

 

Although it may seem counterintuitive, decorators actually should not push furniture up against the walls to maximize space. Pulling furniture a little bit away from the walls will make the room appear larger and more open. Similarly, it is a good idea to choose chairs and couches with exposed legs, which also lend the area a sense of openness. The same goes for ottomans, cabinets, dressers and end tables—the leggier the better.

If a standing bookshelf is taking up too much room, ditch it and instead hang shelves near the ceiling, which will both free up space and draw the eye upwards. If the room has hardwood floors, a rug with vertical stripes can elongate the space, in the same way that striped clothing can have a slimming effect on the body. Alternately, using several small rugs to divide the room into sections can also make the space appear larger.

Expansion through decoration

 

Finally, there are many little (or sometimes big) decorations that can be added to a small room to really help to transform it. For example, using an oversized mirror to make a room feel larger is a well-known trick, but sometimes a large piece of wall art can manage the same feat. Using one large, attention-grabbing art piece is preferable to cluttering up a wall with lots of different pieces.

As for other decorations, they should be well-proportioned and used sparingly. In a small room, anything larger than a bread box is likely to stand out, so smaller plants and knickknacks are preferred—unless there is one big “statement piece” to tie the room together. In general, though, clutter is the enemy of spaciousness, and one should exercise appropriate restraint when picking out decorations for a small room.

Just because you have a small room does not mean anyone else has to know. Follow these tips and tricks for making a tiny space feel bigger, and you can effectively hide a cramped room in plain sight.

Article from Edgewood Properties.

 

Thursday
Nov192015

Getting Ready for Winter

Fall Maintenance Checklist

By: John Riha

You’ll be ready for winter’s worst and head off expensive repairs when you complete this checklist of 10 essential fall maintenance tasks.

 

Fall maintenance checklist

1. Stow the mower.


If you’re not familiar with fuel stabilizer, you should be. If your mower sits for months with gas in its tank, the gas will slowly deteriorate, which can damage internal engine parts. Fuel stabilizer ($10 for a 10-ounce bottle) prevents gas from degrading.

Add stabilizer to your gasoline can to keep spare gas in good condition over the winter, and top off your mower tank with stabilized gas before you put it away for the winter. Run the mower for five minutes to make sure the stabilizer reaches the carburetor.

Another lawn mower care method is to run your mower dry before stowing it. 

1. When the mower is cool, remove the spark plug and pour a capful of engine oil into the spark plug hole. 

2. Pull the starter cord a couple of times to distribute the oil, which keeps pistons lubricated and ensures an easy start come spring.

3. Turn the mower on its side and clean out accumulated grass and gunk from the mower deck.

2. Don’t be a drip.

Remove garden hoses from outdoor faucets. Leaving hoses attached can cause water to back up in the faucets and in the plumbing pipes just inside your exterior walls. If freezing temps hit, that water could freeze, expand, and crack the faucet or pipes. Make this an early fall priority so a sudden cold snap doesn’t sneak up and cause damage.

Turn off any shutoff valves on water supply lines that lead to exterior faucets. That way, you’ll guard against minor leaks that may let water enter the faucet. 

While you’re at it, drain garden hoses and store them in a shed or garage.

3. Put your sprinkler system to sleep.

Time to drain your irrigation system. Even buried irrigation lines can freeze, leading to busted pipes and broken sprinkler heads.

1. Turn off the water to the system at the main valve. 

2. Shut off the automatic controller.

3. Open drain valves to remove water from the system.

4. Remove any above-ground sprinkler heads and shake the water out of them, then replace.

If you don’t have drain valves, then hire an irrigation pro to blow out the systems pipes with compressed air. A pro is worth the $75 to $150 charge to make sure the job is done right, and to ensure you don’t have busted pipes and sprinkler head repairs to make in the spring.

4. Seal the deal.

Grab a couple of tubes of color-matched exterior caulk ($5 for a 12-ounce tube) and make a journey around  your home’s exterior, sealing up cracks between trim and siding, around window and door frames, and where pipes and wires enter your house. Preventing moisture from getting inside your walls is one of the least expensive — and most important — of your fall maintenance jobs. You’ll also seal air leaks that waste energy.

Pick a nice day when temps are above 50 degrees so caulk flows easily.

5. De-gunk your gutters.

Clogged rain gutters can cause ice dams, which can lead to expensive repairs. After the leaves have fallen, clean your gutters to remove leaves, twigs, and gunk. Make sure gutters aren’t sagging and trapping water; tighten gutter hangers and downspout brackets. Replace any worn or damaged gutters and downspouts.

If you find colored grit from asphalt roof shingles in your gutters, beware. That sand-like grit helps protect shingles from the damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun. Look closely for other signs of roof damage (#5, below); it may be time for a roofing replacement. 

Your downspouts should extend at least 5 feet away from your house to prevent foundation problems. If they don’t, add downspout extensions; $10 to $20 each.

6. Eyeball your roof.


If you have a steep roof or a multistory house, stay safe and use binoculars to inspect your roof from the ground.

Look for warning signs: Shingles that are buckled, cracked, or missing; rust spots on flashing. Any loose, damaged, or missing shingles should be replaced immediately. 

Black algae stains are just cosmetic, but masses of moss and lichen could signal roofing that’s decayed underneath. Call in a pro roofer for a $50 to $100 eval.

A plumbing vent stack usually is flashed with a rubber collar -- called a boot -- that may crack or loosen over time. They’ll wear out before your roof does, so make sure they’re in good shape. A pro roofer will charge $75 to $150 to replace a boot, depending on how steep your roof is.

7. Direct your drainage.

Take a close look at the soil around your foundation and make sure it slopes away from your house at least 6 vertical inches over 10 feet. That way, you’ll keep water from soaking the soils around your foundation, which could lead to cracks and leaks.

Be sure soil doesn’t touch your siding.

8. Get your furnace in tune.

Schedule an appointment with a heating and cooling pro to get your heating system checked and tuned up for the coming heating season. You’ll pay $50 to $100 for a checkup.

An annual maintenance contract ensures you’re at the top of the list for checks and shaves 20% off the cost of a single visit.

Change your furnace filters, too. This is a job you should do every two months anyway, but if you haven’t, now’s the time. If your HVAC includes a built-in humidifier, make sure the contractor replaces that filter. 

9. Prune plants.

Late fall is the best time to prune plants and trees -- when the summer growth cycle is over. Your goal is to keep limbs and branches at least 3 feet from your house so moisture won’t drip onto roofing and siding, and to prevent damage to your house exterior during high winds.

For advice on pruning specific plants in your region, check with your state extension service.

10. Give your fireplace a once-over.


To make sure your fireplace is safe, grab a flashlight and look up inside your fireplace flue to make sure the damper opens and closes properly. Open the damper and look up into the flue to make sure it’s free of birds’ nests, branches and leaves, or other obstructions. You should see daylight at the top of the chimney.

Check the firebox for cracked or missing bricks and mortar. If you spot any damage, order a professional fireplace and chimney inspection. An inspection costs $79 to $500.

You fireplace flue should be cleaned of creosote buildup every other year. A professional chimney sweep will charge $150 to $250 for the service.



Read more:  http://members.houselogic.com/articles/fall-checklist/preview/#ixzz3rx9E9H00 
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Thursday
Oct222015

Avoid First-Time Homebuyer Mistakes with This Checklist

A Checklist For First Time Homebuyers

A real yard. Closets bigger than your average microwave. The freedom to decorate however you darn well please! Making the switch from renting to owning is exhilarating, but many rookie homebuyers find the process trickier to navigate than they expected. This is why we created our First-Time Homebuyer Checklist. The 12-month timeline will help you sidestep common mistakes, like paying too much interest or getting stuck with the wrong house. (Yep, it happens!)

12 Months Out

Check your credit score. 
Get a copy of your credit report at annualcreditreport.com. The three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) are each required to give you a free credit report once a year. A Federal Trade Commission study found one in four Americans identified errors on their credit report, and 5% had errors that could lead to higher rates on loans. Avoid last-minute bombshells by checking your score long before you’re ready to make an offer. And work diligently to correct any mistakes

Determine how much you can afford. Figure out much house you can afford and want to afford. Lenders look for a total debt load of no more than 43% of your gross monthly income (called the debt-to-income ratio). This figure includes your future mortgage and any other debts, such as a car loan, student loan, or revolving credit cards. 

There are plenty of calculators on the web to help you determine what you can afford. If you’re pushing the limits, start reducing your debt-to-income ratio now. To get a reality check on what you may actually be spending every month, use this worksheet.

Make a downpayment plan. Most conventional mortgages require a 20% downpayment. If you can swing it, do it. Your loan costs will be much less, and you’ll get a better interest rate. If, however, you’re not quite able to save the full amount, there are many programs that can help. FHA offers loans with only a 3.5% downpayment. But they require mortgage insurance premiums, which will drive up your monthly payments. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides a list of nonprofit homebuying programs by state. Also check with credit unions; and your employer might even have an assistance program.

As you’re planning your savings strategy, keep in mind that banks like you to “season” your money. That is, they like to see that you’ve had stable funds in your account for 60 to 90 days before applying for a loan. Don’t worry: You can still use a financial gift from a family member or bonus received near the time you buy.

9 Months Out

Child exploring a closet at an open houseImage: Emily Dunham

Prioritize what you most want in your new home. 
What’s most important in your new home? Proximity to work? A big backyard? An open floor plan? Being on a quiet street? You’ll make a much better decision on what home to buy if you focus on your priorities. If it’s a joint decision, now is the time to work out any differences to avoid frustration and wasted time. Perhaps most important: Know what trade-offs you’re willing to make.

Research neighborhoods and start visiting open houses. But now’s when the fun begins, too. Use property listing sites, such as realtor.com, to find out about neighborhoods, public transport, and cost of living.

Start visiting open houses to get an idea of what kind of homes are in your price range and what neighborhoods appeal the most. Seeing potential homes will also keep you motivated to continue reducing your debts and saving for your downpayment. 

Budget for miscellaneous homebuying expenses. Buying a home has some miscellaneous upfront costs. A home inspection, title search, propery survey, and home insurance are examples. Costs vary by locale, but expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars. If you don’t have the cash, start saving now.

Start a home maintenance account. Speaking of saving, start the good habit now of putting a little aside each month to fund maintenance, repairs, and home emergencies. It’s bad enough to have to call a plumber. It’s worse if you’re paying credit card interest on that plumbing bill. 

6 Months Out

Collect your loan paperwork. 
Banks are very particular when it comes to mortgage loans. They demand a lot of paperwork. What they’ll want from you includes:

  • W-2 forms — or business tax return forms if you’re self-employed — for the last two to three years
  • Personal tax returns for the past two to three years
  • Your most recent pay stubs
  • Credit card and all loan statements
  • Your bank statements
  • Addresses for the past five to seven years
  • Brokerage account statements for the most recent two to four months
  • Most recent retirement account statements, such as 401(k)

If you start collecting these documents now, it’ll lessen the stress when it’s time to get your loan. Bonus: Looking closely at your loan documents each month will also help you stay focused on saving for your downpayment and keeping your debt-to-income ratio low.

Research lenders and REALTORS
®Start interviewing REALTORS®, specifically buyers’ agents. A buyer’s agent will work in your best interest to find you the right property, negotiate with the seller’s agent, and shepherd you through the closing process. Your agent also can be instrumental in finding a lender who’s familiar with first-time homebuyer programs. 

Even better, look for a mortgage broker, who will shop for a competitive loan rate for you among multiple lenders, unlike a bank, which can only offer its own products.

3 Months Out

People touring an open houseImage: Jesse Keen

Get pre-approved for your loan. 
At this point, if you’ve been following this timeline, your credit score, paperwork, and downpayment should be on track. You’ve done your research on lenders and buyers’ agents. Now it’s time to start working with them. First you’ll need to get pre-approved for a mortgage. 

Make an appointment with your lender or mortgage broker and bring all your paperwork. He’ll run a credit check on you and tell you how much of a loan you’re approved for. It often makes sense to borrow less than the maximum the lender allows so you can live comfortably. Draft a budget that accounts for mortgage payments, insurance, maintenance, and everything else you have going on in your life. 

Start shopping for your new home. One you’re pre-approved, the buyer’s agent you’ve chosen will be able to target homes that meet your priorities in your price range. This way you won’t be wasting time looking at homes you can’t afford.

2 Months Out

Make an offer on a home. 
It usually takes at least four to six weeks to close on a home. So if you have a firm move-out date, allow enough time to deal with any hiccups that can delay closing. 

Get a home inspection. One of the first things you’ll want to do after an offer is accepted is have a home inspector look at the property. If the home inspector finds something that needs repair, that’s a common example of something that can delay closing. 

In the Last Month

Triple-check that all your financial documents are in order and review all lending documents before closing. 
You’re in the home stretch! If you’ve been keeping your documents up to date, and your downpayment is in reserve, these final steps are the easiest. Reviewing the mortgage documents is probably the most difficult. Your agent can help guide you through them. 

Get insurance for your new home. Don’t forget to secure insurance before closing. You’ll need to bring proof of insurance to closing. 

Do a final walk-through. Do a final walk-through of your new home, usually a day or two before closing, to make sure the home is in the shape you and the seller have agreed upon. 

Get a cashier’s check or bank wire for cash needed at closing. Make sure you get an exact amount of cash needed for closing. You’ll get that number a few days before closing so you can secure a cashier’s check or arrange to have the money wired. Regular checks aren’t accepted. 

That’s it. Congratulations!



Read more:  http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/home-loans-mortgages/first-time-home-buyer-guide/#ixzz3pLGchb5i 
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