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The Hilton Head Homes Blog

5 Financial Tips for First-Time Parents

So a babe is on the way? Congrats! Along with the chaos of, well, everything that is to come, your finances are about to experience an upheaval, as well. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it will cost upwards of $245,000 to raise a child born in 2013 to the age of 18"and this does not include college. Feeling that bank account burn already? Below are five tips for rocking your budget as a new mom or dad.

1. Tweak the budget. Your new little one is going to cost a pretty penny. From hospital costs to diapers and child care, budgetary stress is an added strain on you as a new mom or dad. Look for any unnecessaries you can slash to make room for more baby dollars. The more prepared you are, the better.

2. Track your spending. Don’t just make that budget and set it aside. Set a monthly meeting with your spouse to look over your spending, make sure you’re on track, and identify any problem areas or potential saving pockets.

3. Learn your tax credits. I bet you didn’t see this one coming. Being a parent has some advantages at tax time, so talk to your tax professional about what you may be eligible for.

4. Automate, automate, automate. Not only can automation help you avoid bouncing bills, but by having money withdrawn from your account, you can pad up your savings, too. Figure out how much you can part with every month and automatically squirrel it away into an emergency savings account, a college savings account, or both.

5. Set financial goals. While creating a budget and savings plan is great, setting goals for your family can help you stay on track. Looking to have a set amount in a college account by the time your kid hits 18? Do the math and decide how much you need to save monthly to hit it. Is an annual family vacation a must? Figure out how to stash some cash for that, and then make it happen. Also, stay well informed on real estate market trends if you’re looking to buy a home or move up to a larger one.

Above all, don’t forget to be realistic, and forgive yourself if it takes some time to get on track. Parenting is a lifelong adventure!

A Guide to Mastering Mediterranean Style

These details are essential to any Mediterranean-style abode…

Stucco Faade

A stucco faade along with a low-pitched roof outfitted with terracotta tiles is a popular exterior theme.

Natural Materials

Natural materials are the norm, such as hand-carved wood doors, limestone floors and warm earth tones.

Arched Windows & Doorways

Gentle curves and soft angles are a prevalent part of the aesthetic, particularly in doorways and windows.

Exposed Beams

This architectural detail makes any room feel more spacious and distinguished.

Tiles Galore

Mosaic tile backsplashes, terracotta tile floors and even tile countertops help capture authentic Mediterranean style.

Iron Accents

Wrought-iron light fixtures, railings and gates further the Old World aesthetic.

5 Tips to Keep Your Home Ant-Free

Ants are among the most common pests found in homes across the U.S., climbing up walls or marching across kitchen counters. During the spring and summer, ants might try to invade your home, and fighting an infestation can be an uphill battle.

However, according to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), there are five simple steps homeowners can take to prevent unwelcome ants from moving in.

1. Know the Popular Hangouts

Its probably not surprising to hear that ants most frequently infest kitchens. After all, kitchens are full of food and water"everything ants need to survive. Other common ant hangouts include bathrooms, bedrooms, living rooms, basements, inside walls, and in or around air conditioning and heating units.

2. Eliminate Water Sources

Reducing moisture and standing water around your home can significantly help prevent the appearance of ants. Repair leaky pipes, and routinely check under sinks for areas of moisture. Consider using a dehumidifier in damp basements, crawl spaces or attics. Outside, ensure that downspouts and gutters are functioning properly so that water flows away from the homes foundation.

3. Eliminate Food Sources

Keeping your kitchen tidy will help discourage ants from coming indoors. Wipe down counters and sweep floors regularly to eliminate crumbs and residue from spills. Store food in sealed containers, and keep ripe fruit in the refrigerator. Wipe down sticky jars, especially any containing honey, syrup or other sweets. Finally, use a lid on trashcans and dispose of garbage regularly.

4. Dont Discount Your Pets

Cats, dogs and other pets can inadvertently invite ants into your home. Their food and water bowls are an attractant for pests, so be sure to keep pet bowls clean and clean up any spilled food or water promptly. Store dry pet food in a sealed plastic container rather than the paper bag it often comes in, which can be easily accessed by ants. Inspect dog or cat doors to ensure pests cant get through. Remember that ants can fit through even the tiniest openings.

5. Block Off Access Points

Take time to inspect the outside of your home for easy access points. Trees and bushes should be trimmed away from the home, as branches can provide highways for ants to travel indoors. Seal any cracks and crevices on the outside of the home with silicone caulk, paying special attention to areas where utility pipes enter.

If you do find ants in your home, there are several consumer products and DIY treatments that might help you get rid of them. But the NPMA suggests contacting a licensed pest control company, which will be able to identify the ant species, spot likely entry points and determine an effective course of treatment.

Should You Paint or Stain Your Kitchen Cabinets?

So you’ve got new kitchen cabinets. Congratulations! But now what? For those wondering how to finish their brand-spanking-new cabinets, we run down the pros and cons of painting vs. staining"the two most popular finishing avenues. The kitchen is one of the most important factors in your homes value, so consider how the following information impacts your real estate investment.

Pros for paint
– It’s flawless. Regardless of the color you choose, painting your cabinets covers up any quirks or blemishes in the natural wood, which can often be magnified by staining.

– Your color choices are endless. When it comes to picking a paint, the world is your multi-colored oyster. Get crazy and really customize the look and feel of your cabinets.

– Paint sticks to lower quality materials. If your cabinets are not made of wood (think particle board), paint is your BFF. It sticks to these materials just as well as higher grade wood options, and no one but you will know the difference.

Cons for paint
– It looks more uniform.
Remember those natural quirks we mentioned? Well you may not want to cover them up. If you’re looking for a more natural, country vibe that highlights those stunning features like grain and knots, opt for a stain over paint.

– It’s pricey. While not too expensive in the grand scheme, paint is more expensive than a stain, so if budget is a concern, take heed.

– Harder to touch up. Even if you can’t find an exact match for your cabinet color, when you’re working with stain, odds are you’ll have better luck blending touch-ups in stain than with picky paint.

Source: Houzz

Should You Ask Someone to Co-Sign Your Mortgage?

If you’ve found the house of your dreams but are having trouble qualifying for a mortgage, you could ask another person to co-sign your mortgage. Here are some things to consider.

Reasons to Have a Co-Signer

Buying your first house, high credit card balances or a poor credit history are all valid reasons for having a co-signer.

Co-Signer Considerations

If you ask someone to co-sign a mortgage, expect them to have legitimate reservations.

Doing so will increase their debt-to-income ratio.

Should You Ask Someone to Co-Sign?

Before you ask someone to co-sign, make sure you can afford the monthly mortgage payments.

If you have any doubts, put off home buying until you save more money and improve your credit score.

How to Save Up for a Down Payment

Saving up for a down payment is one of the biggest challenges for aspiring first-time homebuyers. A typical down payment can range from 5 to 20 percent of a homes purchase price"thats no small chunk of change. Although it might seem overwhelming to rack up thousands of dollars, practicing some discipline and using the right tactics can help you pull it off, making it possible for you to go from renter to proud homeowner.

To help you save for a down payment, consider these tips from the American Bankers Association:

Develop a Budget and Timeline. Start by determining how much youll need for a down payment. Create a budget and calculate how much you can realistically save each month"thatll help you gauge when youll be ready to transition from renter to homeowner.

Establish a Separate Savings Account. Set up a separate savings account exclusively for your down payment, and make your monthly contributions automatic. By keeping this money separate, youll be less likely to tap into it when youre tight on cash.

Shop Around to Reduce Major Monthly Expenses. Its a good idea to check rates for your car insurance, renters insurance, health insurance, cable, internet and cellphone plan. There may be deals or promotions available that allow you to save hundreds of dollars by adjusting your contracts.

Monitor Your Spending. With online banking, keeping an eye on your spending is easier than ever. Track where most of your discretionary income is going. Identify areas where you could cut back (nice meals out, vacations, etc.) and instead put that money into savings.

Look Into State and Local Home-Buying Programs. Many states, counties and local governments operate programs for first-time homebuyers. Some programs offer housing discounts, while others provide down payment loans or grants.

Celebrate Savings Milestones. Saving enough for a down payment can be daunting. To avoid getting discouraged, break it up into smaller goals and reward yourself when you reach each one. If you need to save $30,000 total, consider treating yourself to a nice meal every $5,000 saved. Thisll help you stay motivated throughout the process.

4 Simple DIY Projects for a Healthier Home

All the green smoothies and exercise in the world wont keep your body healthy if youre living in a contaminated environment. In order to help keep your body happy and thriving, try these four quick and easy DIY projects to improve your homes health.

Inspect for Mold
Mold spores are everywhere, but when living in your house, they can give you pesky allergies or endanger your life.

To ensure your home doesnt have any dangerous mold growth, do a walk-through and know where to look. Mold loves humid, damp areas. This means your bathroom, washing machine, kitchen, attic and basement are prime real estate for all types of mold.

If you spot a suspicious area, use an at-home mold testing kit to determine if its harmful. Certain types of mold (like black mold) require professional remediation, so dont try to remove it yourself. However, you can treat most molds with a bleach solution, proper drainage and a dehumidifier. Just make sure youre on the lookout to keep your home safe.

Install a Smart Thermostat
Smart thermostats do so much for your home. Not only do they help you save money on energy, but they can also monitor your air quality. Smart thermostats like Nests send an alert to your smartphone if it notices air problems. That way, you can make the necessary changes to breathe better. Installation of most smart thermostat models is relatively simple. Just make sure the product is compatible with your home, and follow the instructions carefully.

Change Air Filters
If you have an HVAC unit, you have air filters. These hardworking filters sift out impurities in the air so that they dont wind up in your lungs. If youre super sensitive and live with furry friends, replace your air filters every month or two. If you dont use the heating and cooling system often, you can stretch that to twice per year. You could also purchase air purifiers for your home to keep pollutants down.

Dust and Vacuum
Sorry to add to your chore list, but keeping a clean home is essential to your health. Dust doesnt just look dingy; its made of pet dander, human skin cells, dirt, grime, pollen and a lot more icky stuff that causes all sorts of health issues.

Do your lungs, eyes, sinuses, ears and immune system a favor by getting yourself a wool duster or disposable duster product. Then, run your duster along the backside of appliances, the tops of ceiling fans, under furniture and other places large collections of dust might be hiding. Once you see how dirty your duster gets, youll be glad everything you picked up isnt floating around in the air anymore. Finish by vacuuming all the carpets in your house to remove more dust and other particles.

Staying healthy is a 360-degree endeavor requiring you to mind what you put in, on and around your body. Follow these tips to tackle an essential part of home health and add to your overall well-being.

Source: Fatima Puri/RISMedia’s Housecall

How to Fill the Bonus Room in Your Home

Not sure what to do with that extra room? Here are a few ideas for putting it to good use…

Game Room

An ideal way to get the whole family together. Add comfortable seating and your favorite games.

Library

Create the perfect spot to disappear into a good book and put your literary collection on display.

Childrens Playroom

Sometimes the kids need a little more space to hang out with friends and be active.

Home Theater

Home theaters are one of the most sought-after amenities among luxury homebuyers.

Meditation Room

Feel like you need to find your zen? A private space for meditation could be in order.

The First Big Step to Getting a VA Home Loan

A VA home loan comes with many benefits, the biggest being no requirement for a down payment. Veterans and service members also dont have to pay monthly mortgage insurance premiums, and interest rates on VA loans are usually lower than other loan types.

The first step in getting a home loan from a lender approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs is the most important one because without it, your VA home loan cant close. Borrowers must get a VA Certificate of Eligibility, or COE, to prove to a lender that they meet the military service or surviving spouse requirements.

Once you have that document, you can start shopping for VA loans.

A COE is fairly easy to get. You can ask a VA-approved lender to obtain it for you. This is probably the quickest method because most VA lenders have access to an internet-based application that can issue the certificate on the spot if theres enough information in the systems database.

You can also request the certificate through the VAs eBenefits portal. You can even complete a request for Certificate of Eligibility form and mail it to a regional loan center.

Surviving spouses can download a request for determination of loan guarantee eligibility form and give it to a lender for processing. If you cant print the form, you can call 1-877-827-2702 to request one.

A certificate of eligibility can usually be obtained by a lender entering the borrowers personal information through the VA database. Sometimes a veterans discharge or separation papers are needed for verification, and the lender could send the required documents to the VA to process the request.

Here are the forms the VA website says borrowers will need, depending on their military status:

  • Veteran: DD Form 214 (discharge or separation papers).
  • Service member: Statement of service signed by your commander, adjutant or personnel officer.
  • Current or former activated National Guard or Reserve member: DD Form 214.
  • Current National Guard or Reserve member who has never been activated: Statement of service signed by commander, adjutant or personnel officer.

VA loans have lenient credit requirements, though youll still need decent credit and sufficient income to get approved.

The VA doesnt set a minimum credit score to qualify for a loan, but it must review the entire loan profile to make a lending decision, according to the VA. That could allow each lender to have its own FICO credit score requirement.

Lenders can also add requirements to the VA qualifications. These can include a range of the number of credit accounts you can have to the number of reported late payments in a specified timeframe. Some lenders may require higher credit scores than others. As with any type of home loan, it can be worthwhile to shop around.