Entries in real estate (30)

Saturday
Dec052015

3 Brilliant Hacks to Make Snow Shoveling Less Miserable

Don’t break your back shoveling snow. Try these tips to make winter less of a burden.

Person shoveling snow in a yard

Winterize your home nav bar

If you’re a homeowner in a snowy climate, chances are good you rue the winter: All that snow has to go somewhere, and it’s not getting there itself. 

Cue the snow shovel.

Barring a move to a snow-free state or barricading your family inside all winter, there’s no way to avoid the endless task of shoveling snow. There are, however, ways to make the process much easier. Here are three simple hacks to make the morning after a snowfall much less stressful.

1.  Spray Your Shovel with Cooking Oil

Snow sticking to your shovel makes an already arduous task even more obnoxious. Avoid it with this hack: Lightly coat your shovel with non-stick cooking oil to make snow slide right off. No more time wasted removing snow from your snow remover. (You can substitute a spray lubricant like WD-40, but the downside is it’s toxic.)

2.  Lay Out a Tarp Before the Snow

If you like short cuts, this technique, billed as “the laziest way imaginable” to clear snow, according to a tutorial from “Instructables,” has got your name on it. The day before an expected snowfall, lay a tarp on your walkway. When the snow finishes falling, just pull out the tarp, and voilà: an instantly cleared walkway. (Word to the wise: Make sure pedestrians won’t trip on your tarp; include a sign or use this technique in your backyard walkway if you’re concerned.)

The technique requires a tarp, firewood, and twine as well as some prep work. Pre-storm, use firewood to weigh down your tarp — you don’t want it flying away in the wind! — and tie the twine to both the tarp and to a shovel standing upright in your yard. You’ll use the shovel to pull out the snow-laden tarp. 

Although this method might be faster than shoveling, it does require manpower. After all, a cubic foot of snow can weigh between 7 and 20 pounds. So don’t get too ambitious with the size of your tarp or you might not be able to pull it once it’s full of snow. 

3.  Make a Homemade De-icing Cocktail

De-icers make snow removal easier by cutting through the tough, icy layers that are a pain to remove with a shovel. But an easy solution should be easy on your property as well. Many commercial de-icers are pretty harsh.

Commercial ice-melting substances — magnesium chloride, calcium chloride, potassium chloride, and sodium chloride (salt) — all cause damage to the environment, according to the University of Maryland’s Home and Garden Information Center. They can also damage concrete sidewalks and driveways, which mean hefty repair costs later. 

A better solution: Make your own de-icer using rubbing alcohol or vinegar. You’ll save money, too. Commercial melters typically cost $8 or more. Plus, you’ll avoid the hassle of trekking to the hardware store to stock up.

Use vinegar before a storm to make ice and snow removal easier:

  • Combine 3 parts vinegar to 1 part water.
  • Spray or pour gently (you still want to avoid runoff into your landscape) before a storm.

To keep the sidewalks and steps from icing after a storm:

  • Combine 2 parts rubbing alcohol with 1 part water.
  • Apply to minimize runoff.

Read more:  http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/seasonal-maintenance/3-hacks-make-shoveling-snow-snap/#ixzz3tSoG8p00 
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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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Thursday
Aug062015

99-Cent Store Solution #3: Patch Drywall Hole

Fist through drywall- ouch

You're not "winning" if you have a hole in your drywall, but an easy fix can be done for about $10. Image: fstop123/iStockphoto

If Charlie Sheen is a friend of yours (no judgment), you’re probably ready for most anything, i.e., you keep a defibrillator in your living room. But do you have a drywall repair kit to patch the holes he’ll punch in your wall during your annual Labor Day party? Scrap the call to a handyman or the police, and stop by the dollar store for what you’ll need to set things right post-bacchanal.

Supplies:

  • Wire screen, 99 cents (actually an envelope sorter made out of screen — a big savings since a roll of screen at the big box store is about $20 or more)
  • String, 99 cents
  • Pencil, 99 cents
  • Joint knife, 99 cents
  • Masking tape, 99 cents
  • Sandpaper, 99 cents
  • Drywall compound, 3.58
  • Sizzle cologne, 99 cents (to get party-ready)

Total: $10.51 (if you can’t resist the Sizzle)

What you do:

  • Cut the wire screen 2 inches larger than the hole.
  • Tie one end of the string to the pencil and thread the other end through the middle of the screen—then bend the screen, and insert it and the pencil into the hole.
  • Pull the string until the screen is flat against the hole (the pencil helps push the screen flat against the drywall) and hold it taut while you apply the drywall compound.
  • Tape the string to the wall to hold the screen in place as the compound dries.
  • Cut the string when dry.
  • Sand and smooth compound with joint knife.



Read more: 
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Wednesday
Jul292015

How to Choose the Right Color for a Statement Front Door

Easy ways to freshen up your home with a colorful, statement front door.

home with bright blue front door

The sun will knock the intensity of any color down a notch, so don’t be afraid to experiment with a shade that’s a little bit outside your comfort zone.

What do you call it when your front door is so inviting, your welcome mat starts to feel a little left out?

Knob envy.

(We’ll see ourselves out.)

Really, though: When it comes to making a you-belong-here statement, few elements deliver the message quite like a home’s front door. After all, it single-handedly serves as your abode’s unofficial welcome committee, greeting guests well before your open arms have a chance to usher them across the threshold.

And it does it all with just a simple coat or two of paint — provided you choose the right color.

Whether you’re making payments on an 18th-century farmhouse or a contemporary ranch, the tips below will help you choose the just-right hue to declare your house your happy place with a statement front door.

Scope the overall exterior

Before you even peek at a paint swatch, you need to take a good, hard look at your home’s exterior. Head outside and make note of the existing paint scheme and roof color, as well as any architectural details such as shutters, siding, trim, flashing — even your landscaping.

Because let’s face it: That magenta hue would probably look out of place on your red brick Colonial, no matter how many times you favorite the color on Pinterest. Be sure to snap a few pics for reference later.

Evaluate similar styles

Overwhelmed by choices? Narrow down your selection by researching color schemes that are historically accurate — or just well-suited — to your home’s architectural style. Victorians can accommodate candy colors, for instance, while craftsman-style homes are traditionally painted in earthy, complementary hues.

And what are your neighbors doing? Decide if you’d rather blend in or stand out — or just ignore all of the above and go with whatever makes you happy.

Pick your palette

If the warm fuzzies are your endgame, then you can’t go wrong with yellow. Greens and blues are said to be calming, whereas oranges and reds are known to be energetic and vibrant. Of course, this all depends on the tint (amount of white) or shade (amount of black) of your chosen color. Jewel tones will emit more drama than muted pastels; a deep red sends a different message than cotton candy pink.

Learn how to use the color wheel

Remember learning about the color wheel in grade school? It’s time to take a refresher course, especially if you’ll be coordinating your door with your home’s existing paint colors.

Here’s a quick rundown of the color schemes most commonly applied in home decor:

Complementary colors are those directly across from each other on the color wheel (e.g., red and green); their contrast promises the most impact when paired together.

Analogous color schemes rely on sets of three or more colors that sit directly next to each other on the color wheel; think yellow, yellow-green, and green.

Triadic color schemes involve three colors that are evenly spaced on the wheel; picture an equilateral triangle pointing to three different colors, like purple, green, and orange.

Monochromatic color schemes make use of a single color and gain visual interest by using variations in its tint, shade, and tone.

Make a swatch board

What you see isn’t always what you get, so bring plenty of swatches home from the paint store.

Here’s a handy trick: Tape the swatches to a piece of white foam core, then place the board somewhere near your door. That way, you can get a true sense of how the color will appear as the light changes throughout the day.

Keep the weather and the changing seasons in mind too. Try to envision how the paint color would appear on a cloudy, snowy day, as well as those filled with sunshine and ample foliage.

Break out of your comfort zone

The sun will knock the intensity of any color down a notch, so don’t be afraid to experiment with a shade that’s a little bit outside your comfort zone. It is just paint, after all!

Still not convinced? Go with a front door in red or black, the two colors said to jibe with the broadest range of architectural styles. Reds with blue undertones, such as cranberry, are a tried-and-true favorite.

Accessorize

Commanding attention from the curb should be a team effort. Consider accessorizing your freshly painted door with shiny new hardware. Copper or brass handlesets and kickplates, for example, would pop against a door painted a deep shade of violet or indigo. Complete the look by flanking your door with planters, rolling out a cheeky welcome mat, installing new house numbers, or any combo of the above.

Bring the outside in

Fall in love with your front door’s new hue? Invite it inside by painting the other side of your door the same color. Just remember: Each side may require a different paint finish, particularly if they show differentiating signs of wear. For instance, while a high-gloss finish makes a color appear more vivid, it’s also known to highlight imperfections.

What are your favorite colors for a statement front door? Share your suggestions in the comments below.

- See more at: http://www.trulia.com/blog/how-to-choose-the-right-color-for-a-statement-front-door/#sthash.WgAuFb3l.dpuf

By  | July 22, 2015

Friday
Jun192015

It's 2015. Where's My Hoverboard?

The "Back to the Future" franchise offers prophetic insights about the real estate industry, predicting the scope of change over three decades.

A time span of 30 years—more substantial than mere decades, but more manageable than a century—provides useful perspective on technological innovation. Now that three decades have passed since time travelers Marty McFly and Dr. Emmett Brown traveled to 2015 in "Back to the Future Part II," let's look back at the future they saw and examine how their predictions have played out in real life, particularly at the notable implications for the real estate industry.

Set in fictional Hill Valley, Calif., in 1985, both the first and second "Back to the Future" films use the 30-year conceit to explore how life has changed since 1955 and how it might transform by 2015. The first movie was a smoother, more critically acclaimed film, perhaps because 1955 was relatively easy to recreate. In "Back to the Future Part II," director Robert Zemeckis had to dream up what life would be like in 2015. Back when the sequel was released in 1989, the late film critic Gene Siskel called it "very gadget-filled and really noisy." Sound familiar?

Indeed, real life in 2015 shares many similarities to the future envisioned by Zemeckis and cowriter Bob Gale. Hill Valley's retro "Cafe 80's" diner offers a colorful background, but it's doubtful the set builders knew the real 2015 would see leg warmers back on store shelves or record companies releasing new albums on cassette tapes. When the film poked fun at executive producer Steven Spielberg with a "holoplex" movie theater ad for "Jaws 19," was it simply looking for an easy cultural reference or did it somehow predict the 3-D sequel-mania that would grip Hollywood in the first decades of the 21st century?

Setting aside the prognostication prowess of the filmmakers, let's put on a real estate lens to see the marketing marvels and property-related technologies that jumped from Hill Valley to real life.

That tongue-in-cheek ad for "Jaws 19" contains clues about the future of advertising. In the movie, McFly fears he'll be swallowed up by a holographic shark that dives down from a billboard above him. After setting aside the creature’s eerie resemblance to Katy Perry’s "left shark" (the costumed character who grabbed the nation’s attention during the 2015 Super Bowl halftime show), we know that individually targeting one customer in the crowd is already possible in the real 2015. Real estate pros are learning how beacon technology can help them zero in on potential clients passing by For Sale signs (see "Real Estate and the Internet of Things"). So the idea that McFly could be targeted by the makers of “Jaws 19” isn’t too far off from today’s hyperfocused marketing approaches.

Using technology less menacing than a giant shark leaping from a sign, real estate pros may soon be able to develop marketing that features 3-D moving images—perhaps two satisfied clients shaking hands, a new development coming to life, or a key turning in a front-door lock—on a billboard-sized scale. Austrian startup TriLite Technologies recently partnered with the Vienna University of Technology to demonstrate how the human brain can be convinced it’s seeing mobile 3-D vignettes without the use of special eyewear. Instead of flat pixels, they’ve developed the "trixel" with lasers and a movable mirror that deflects light to both the left and right eyes, which results in an image that appears to move in three dimensions. The researchers' published paper noted that such a device far outshines current glasses-free 3-D technology in terms of both image quality and visibility in sunlit conditions. They say the trixels could deliver to a large crowd with "theoretically up to several thousand 3-D viewing zones, and maximum 3-D viewing distances of up to 70 meters." Such technology could offer forward-thinking agents and brokerages the opportunity to stand out from competitors who simply paste their head shots on a billboard.

The house of the future also makes a debut in the movie, as the McFlys’ fictional domicile features many smart-home gadgets with counterparts in the real 2015. For example, the house’s security system uses fingerprint technology to open doors. While many real estate pros have yet to see biometric locks on their own listings, this form of keyless home entry is offered by a number of companies (though the real 2015 hasn’t gotten rid of doorknobs as they have in Hill Valley).

The home also has programmable lights that respond to each resident’s presence, an increasingly common offering in today’s smart-home packages. We may laugh when Grandma McFly pops a tiny pizza in the "rehydrator" and removes a bubbling, full-sized dinner a few seconds later. But the real kitchens of 2015 are seeing water emerge as the star of a new, faster cooking appliance known as the combi-steam oven.

The McFlys' televisions are the flat-screened version we’re used to, and they easily accommodate videoconferencing and multiple programs on one display. Even some of the content is similar; after the termination of a videoconferencing call, one television reverts to an image of a famous Van Gogh self-portrait as a kind of high-tech screen saver. Real estate pros can use the ArtKick app to class up open houses with similar technology that displays fine art on their listings' TVs.

While many other inventions we commonly see today are featured in "Back to the Future Part II"—Marty's kids take phone calls and watch videos on goggles that could be mistaken for a 1980s version of Google Glass—there are implausible moments. The McFly house laughably has fax machines in every room that spew dot-matrix-style documents. As the chattering classes have noted, we never got the hoverboards we were promised (when released last year, the Hendo hoverboard—which works only on copper-plated surfaces—was panned as a poor substitute for the movie gadget that allowed Marty McFly to skateboard on air), to say nothing of flying cars. Perhaps the most far-fetched claim of all: the Chicago Cubs heading to the 2015 World Series. But no one ever claimed baseball fans of the future would be immune from that especially cruel joke.