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Stress-Relieving Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

Posted on Tuesday, January 12th, 2021 at 2:00am.

Stress-Relieving Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

Stress-Relieving Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

Planning to buy your first house?

Be prepared and avoid excess stress with these tips…

Get Help Hire a real estate pro to help you find the right property and close a deal.

Be Open to Concessions You might not be able to afford to check off every item on your wish list.

Define Your Finances Get a loan pre-approval, budget for closing costs and don’t spend beyond your means.

Take Your Time Weigh the pros and cons of each house you view, and fight the urge to rush your decision.

Buying your first home can be a challenge. But it should be exciting, not overwhelming.


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Figuring Out How Much Monthly Mortgage You Can Afford

Posted on Wednesday, January 13th, 2021 at 2:00am.

Figuring Out How Much Monthly Mortgage You Can Afford

When applying for a home loan, it’s important to keep in mind how much monthly mortgage you can afford. Through the approval process, lenders will factor in your credit score, income and other financial data to determine the maximum loan amount you’re eligible for, and you may qualify for more than you can afford. Consider how much you should borrow to keep your monthly expenses and family budget manageable.

To start that calculation, find an online mortgage calculator. It should show you the total costs of owning a home beyond the principal and interest of a mortgage. Other expenses can include private mortgage insurance, home insurance, property taxes and HOA fees.

Once you have that total number, you can determine if it fits within your monthly budget. If not, then you may have to find a lower-priced house to buy.

28 percent, a good start
The Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act requires mortgage lenders to determine that borrowers can reasonably repay a loan. The decision is based on an applicant’s credit, job stability and income. The law doesn’t allow mortgages to take up more than 35 percent of monthly income.

Many lenders use more stringent requirements, limiting a payment to 28 percent of monthly income.

How to do the math
Doing the math on how 28 percent of income equates to dollars is easy: Multiply your monthly income by 28, then divide that by 100. That number equals 28 percent of your monthly income.

Here’s an example: The median U.S. household income in September 2014 was $51,939, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That equals about $4,328 per month in income. Multiply that by 28 to get $121,191, then divide by 100 to get $1,211.

That $1,211 is 28 percent of the median household’s monthly income.

Beware of other debt
Other debt and expenses, however, may make it difficult to afford paying 28 percent of your monthly income toward a mortgage.

Credit card debt, a car loan and student loans will also be looked at by lenders, and if they add up to more than 7 percent of your income you may not qualify for a mortgage that costs 28 percent of your income. Your debt-to-income ratio would be at 35 percent or higher, and a lender may require you to pay off some debts before approving you for a home loan.

Contact me for more insights and info.


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How to Preserve Your Antique Rugs

Posted on Thursday, January 14th, 2021 at 2:00am.

How to Preserve Your Antique Rugs

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5 Ways to Maximize Your Tiny Kitchen

Posted on Friday, January 15th, 2021 at 2:00am.

5 Ways to Maximize Your Tiny Kitchen

Everyone wants a great kitchen. One of the most enjoyed spaces in the home, the kitchen is used for cooking, gathering and entertaining with family and friends. However, a great kitchen doesn’t necessarily have to be a large one. If you have a tiny kitchen, below are a handful of tips to help you get the most out of it and make it feel larger:

Make use of walls. Instead of hanging pictures on your kitchen walls, hang your pots and pans. You can even find great fixtures to hang your plates and wine glasses from the ceiling or walls.

Add a mirrored backsplash. While you may not want to take up precious wall space with mirrors, a mirrored backsplash can add depth and girth to your room, making use of an area that would otherwise have no purpose.

Build up. Need more cabinet space? Look up! If your existing cabinets don’t extend to the ceiling, you’re wasting precious footage. Consider having additional cabinets built where you can store things you rarely use, like that Crock-Pot that comes out once a year or your holiday china dishes.

Abolish clutter. Nothing cramps an already small space more than clutter, and a clean countertop can do wonders for a small space. Streamline your gadgets, sell or donate what you don’t need and store away what you don’t use every day.

Light it right. A well-lit space can really open up your kitchen and make it seem not only more inviting, but also much larger. For natural light, consider adding a bay window or skylight, if possible. To lighten up your kitchen during the nighttime or gloomy days, install energy-efficient lighting throughout your kitchen to maintain that airy, open feel.

These are just five ways you can maximize your tiny kitchen. There are many other tricks, as well as storage products, that can help you get the most out of your space. Do some research to get inspired, and be creative!


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Tricks to Save Money on Gas

Posted on Saturday, January 16th, 2021 at 2:00am.

Tricks to Save Money on Gas

Tricks to Save Money on Gas

Do you dread refilling your car’s tank?

These tricks can boost gas mileage and save cash…

Turn off your engine when parked for over 10 seconds, as idling wastes fuel.

Avoid aggressive driving–like rapid acceleration and braking–which can lower gas mileage by up to 33 percent.

Don’t keep heavy items in your car. An extra 100 pounds could increase gas costs by up to $0.03 per gallon.

Combine errands. Several short trips, each taken from a cold start, can use twice as much fuel as one long trip with a warm engine.

Keep tires properly inflated to avoid slashing your gas mileage.

With these tricks, avoid pain at the pump!


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Tips for Creatively 'Enlarging' Those Tiny Rooms

Posted on Sunday, January 17th, 2021 at 2:00am.

Tips for Creatively 'Enlarging' Those Tiny Rooms

More space is one of the must-haves of just about everyone looking for a home, but if you happen to have a home on the market that has tiny rooms, it doesn’t mean there won’t be any interest in the property. It just means you may have to do some things to jazz it up.

A small room doesn’t necessarily translate into an uninteresting room, and there are numerous design tricks you can take advantage of to make it more eye-catching, starting with clearing it out as best you can so clutter doesn’t get in the way.

It’s a good idea to create a singular focal point in the room, such as adding a colorful pattern to the bed in a bedroom, setting a dining room table as if you’re having a lavish dinner party or adding a comfortable chair in the living room. The idea is not to have too much furniture around these items so they appear larger than they are. Having one large painting as opposed to several on the walls is also better for aesthetics.

Light will enhance a room and can make it appear larger than it really is. This doesn’t mean, however, that you want to add a bulky lamp that takes up too much space. The less items clamoring for attention, the better.

Use light and bright colors throughout the house. Icy blues and cream colors are lauded as the best color combinations that can really make a tiny room seem bigger. Conversely, heavy, dark colors absorb light and can make a small space seem even smaller. It’s all about illusion. Light and brightly colored walls are more reflective, making a space feel open and airy.

Consider adding mirrors or glass to a room to also help with size, as they give an impression that a room is larger than it really is.

When it comes to a small kitchen, keep things organized in cabinets and not laying around on the counters. Smaller chairs or stools are also better, as is a round table instead of a square one.

A small space doesn’t have to mean less interest. With the right design, furniture and color usage, a small room can leave a big impression.


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5 Alternative Uses for an Empty Garage

Posted on Monday, January 18th, 2021 at 2:00am.

5 Alternative Uses for an Empty Garage

As hard as we try, it often seems like there’s never enough space for everything we want to do. However, if you’re a homeowner who finally won the war on clutter, you might be wondering what to do with a now-empty garage.

Here are five great ideas for what you can do to transform your garage:

Home Gym
If you want to work out but hate schlepping to the gym, turn your empty garage into a versatile home gym. Depending on which types of exercise you prefer, you can look online for inexpensive pieces of equipment. You can check out local yard sales or go online to find gently used equipment. You can also invest in mats, free weights and whatever else motivates you to work out.

Playroom
As your family continues to grow, you might find yourself with less wiggle room. If your garage is suitable, you can transform it into a kids’ sanctuary where they can play in the sand, have painting stations and even play on a few low-sitting swings. The key is to make the space as child-friendly as possible, so that means upgrading your garage door opener, if necessary. It’s important if you do use your garage as a playroom that your little ones aren’t able to open the garage door. In addition, don’t forget to pad the floor with high-quality padding and carpeting for your little ones to play on.

Spare Bedroom
If you love to entertain but simply don’t have the room for overnight guests, you can transform your garage into a spare room. But before you start decorating, you need to make sure the space is insulated to keep guests warm. You also want to make sure it remains pest-free. Depending on the space, you might need only a coat of paint and a comfy bed to make your guests feel at home, or you may also need to invest in carpeting.

Office Space
You can use your garage to create the home office of your dreams. Even if it’s only in a corner of the garage, you can liven things up with a fresh coat of paint and new office furniture. Since the floor is probably concrete, you can easily warm things up by using throw rugs around your workspace. The garage makes a great office space because it’s separate from the rest of the home, meaning you’ll have minimal distractions.

Mudroom
If you need a place to store coats, boots and book bags without cluttering up your entryway, use your garage as a mudroom. With a little creativity and elbow grease, you can install wall hooks for everyone’s coats, as well as backpacks. You can also create a space where your family can leave wet umbrellas and muddy shoes outside.

When it comes to making use of an empty garage, there are a lot of things you can do. The key is knowing how to make the most of the space without pushing your budget.

Source: Anita Ginsburg/RISMedia’s Housecall


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Make More From Small Spaces

Posted on Tuesday, January 19th, 2021 at 2:00am.

Make More From Small Spaces

Make More From Small Spaces

Living in a small space?

Try these tips to make more room in your tiny home or studio.

– Take advantage of vertical real estate by using wall space to install shelving for books, off-season clothes, and more.

– Hanging storage is king in small spaces, and again, can maximize height. Think hooks to hang your bike or a rack for hanging pots and pans.

– Choose functional furniture that double as storage, like ottomans that open and couches with stash space in the arm rests.

– Create stackable storage on any surface or shelf with a wire rack that lets you stack glasses above your plates, mugs above your glasses, and so on.

Use your space wisely, and you’ll be living large in your small home!


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Need to Break Your Apartment Lease?

Posted on Wednesday, January 20th, 2021 at 2:00am.

Need to Break Your Apartment Lease?

Are you relocating for a new job? Have you chosen to move in with a significant other? If you’re a renter who needs to break a lease to move out of an apartment, you’re not alone–but it could cost you.

A lease is a legally binding contract between you and your landlord, and if you decide to terminate that agreement early without legal grounds, your landlord can impose penalties. Although every lease is different, you might be subject to fees, have to pay for the remaining months of your lease, or forfeit your security deposit. Even worse, not paying a required penalty could destroy your credit and lead to a lawsuit.

Check Your Lease
If you’re considering breaking your lease, find and thoroughly read the rental agreement you signed. Look for an early termination or opt-out clause that specifies rules and penalties. If your lease doesn’t have an opt-out clause, you could be responsible for paying rent for the rest of your lease period.

Know Your Rights
There are legitimate reasons for breaking a lease that protect you from penalties. The laws vary by state, but legal reasons might include an uninhabitable property, military duty, a serious illness or domestic abuse. Research your local laws, and if you believe your landlord isn’t honoring your rights, consult a tenant union or seek legal advice. Unfortunately, getting married, finding a new job and buying a home aren’t legitimate reasons to break a lease.

​Talk to Your Landlord
One of the best ways to avoid penalties is to be upfront and appeal to your landlord’s softer side. If you explain your reason for breaking the lease, a landlord might be sympathetic and decide to waive or lessen penalties, especially if you’ve been a good tenant. Most importantly, make sure to give your landlord as much notice as possible–no one likes being caught off guard. Plus, the longer the notice period, the more time a landlord will have to find a new tenant before you move out.

Help Find a Replacement
In many states, the landlord is required to make reasonable efforts to find a new tenant if you break a lease. However, you could still be on the hook for rent for the remainder of your lease term until a replacement is found, or you might have to pay the entire balance if the landlord doesn’t re-rent the apartment in time. Offer to help your landlord find a replacement. In addition to saving you some money, the gesture could make the landlord feel better about the situation and more open to working out a solution with you.

One option is to sublet your apartment to someone who’s willing to take over the remainder of your lease. Keep in mind that you could still be held accountable for any damage caused by the subtenant or missed rent payments. Discuss the option with your landlord, and make sure to find a responsible subtenant you can trust, such as a friend or family member.

You could also take steps to find a new renter. Advertise a listing on websites like Craigslist, and ask people in your social media network whether they’re looking for a new place to live. The landlord will need to sign off on the potential tenant, though, and might require background and credit checks.

Get It in Writing
Regardless of what you and your landlord agree on, make sure to get the deal in writing. Include details such as payments, refunds, timelines and any other important terms of the agreement. This could help protect you later on if your landlord has a change of heart and the matter ends up in court.

Breaking a lease isn’t optimal, but if new circumstances make you decide to move out of an apartment early, be honest with your landlord and explore your options to avoid or lessen penalties. In the end, though, you might need to accept the fact that you need to pay up.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional or legal advice.


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5 Ways to Create the Perfect Outdoor Kitchen

Posted on Thursday, January 21st, 2021 at 2:00am.

5 Ways to Create the Perfect Outdoor Kitchen

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Surprising Things Covered by Your Home Insurance

Posted on Friday, January 22nd, 2021 at 2:00am.

Surprising Things Covered by Your Home Insurance

Homeowners insurance is supposed to cover catastrophes such as fires, hurricanes and a tree falling through the roof. But there are some much lesser problems that a typical insurance policy can cover.

Here are some of the surprising things covered by many home insurance policies. Check with your insurer first to see if you’re covered for them:

Riot: Called a “civil commotion” by insurers, riots can include vandalism, fire and explosions, which are normally covered by home insurance. Having a state of emergency declared in your area because of rioting could make it easier to file a claim, as could a police report on damage to your home.

Volcano: If your home is in the path of an erupting volcano, your home is covered. Earthquake damage, however, isn’t covered by most standard policies.

Dog bite: Up to $300,000 in medical care may be covered if your dog bites someone. Other claims, such as for pain and suffering in a civil lawsuit, may only be covered up to a certain amount or may require additional coverage.

Spoiled food: If a storm caused your power to go out and the food in your refrigerator is spoiled, your homeowners insurance should cover the cost of replacing the food. However, check if you’ll have to pay a deductible first and if it’s low enough to make filing a claim worthwhile.

Items stolen on vacation: Your belongings should be covered wherever you go by a homeowners policy, including on vacation under an “off-premises” provision. Had your laptop stolen in Lithuania? You should be covered. For more expensive items, such as a wedding ring, you may need to buy an additional rider to cover it.

Dorm theft: Just as your belongings are likely covered when you’re on vacation, so are your child’s things at college — up to a point. A dorm room on campus may be covered by your homeowners policy, but off-campus housing may not be. The liability limits on a student’s belongings may be lower, so an expensive computer or bike may need to also be covered by renter’s insurance.

Gazebo: Your home is covered, and so is your entire property. This can include structures such as gazebos, storage sheds and patios. Tell your insurance company that you have such structures, and provide photos and other documentation such as work orders to show they exist and how much they cost.

Feel free to contact me for more real estate tips.


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5 Elegant Styles to Elevate Your Outdoor Living Area

Posted on Saturday, January 23rd, 2021 at 2:00am.

5 Elegant Styles to Elevate Your Outdoor Living Area

5 Elegant Styles to Elevate Your Outdoor Living Area

Here are five fashionable looks that bring endless charm outside.

Cottage Garden

Cottage gardens are all about the hardscaping.
Meandering paths surrounded by flowers can be complemented with wrought iron furniture.

Tropical Paradise

Lush plantings and exotic patterns are the key to creating a backyard area that feels Caribbean cool. 

Moroccan-Inspired

Mosaic tiles, suzani textiles and low seating are common characteristics of Moroccan-Inspired style.

Tuscan-Style

Olive trees, oversized potted plants and tiered water fountains are just a few of the reasons to love a Tuscan-style outdoor space.

Minimalist

Minimalist outdoor spaces are all about simplicity, clean lines and soft colors.
Add modern or contemporary furniture to create a streamlined feel.


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Want Your Home to Reflect Your Style? Find the Right Designer

Posted on Sunday, January 24th, 2021 at 2:00am.

Want Your Home to Reflect Your Style? Find the Right Designer

Home is where you spend a great deal of time. You want it to be both smart and comfortable, and to reflect your personal style. But finding the right interior designer isn’t always easy, especially if you want someone who will work with you to bring your vision to life.

Spend some time flipping through magazines for design ideas that inspire you—then look for a designer in much the same way as you’d look for any other contractor; ask friends for referrals and review their portfolios, and/or call a design school for a list of talented graduates. A qualified interior designer will most likely have a graduate degree in interior design, certification by the Council for Interior Design Qualification, and/or membership in the American Society of Interior Design (ASID).

Then, interview your top three candidates:

  • Begin by setting your expectations. What do you want to accomplish? Do you want to be consulted with every choice, or will the designer have some latitude?
  • What visuals will he or she provide before the work begins—sketches and drawings, a sample board of colors, finishes, swatches?
  • What’s the best way for the two of you to communicate? How soon will calls or texts be returned?
  • How will bills, purchase orders and payments be handled? Is he or she comfortable working within a budget?

Most important, how do you feel you will get along with this person? Do you feel he is likely to listen and respect your ideas, or go off on his own tangent? If she isn’t asking questions now—if she doesn’t seem truly vested in your ideas—how likely is it that she will listen later?

Like a hair stylist or a personal trainer, a designer should be a good fit. If all goes right, you may have found one who will follow you not just through years of moves or redesigns, but with second or vacation homes and other projects, as well.


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Should You Switch From an Adjustable- to a Fixed-Rate Mortgage?

Posted on Monday, January 25th, 2021 at 2:00am.

Should You Switch From an Adjustable- to a Fixed-Rate Mortgage?

If you’re looking to lower the interest rate on your existing loan, you may be thinking of refinancing your mortgage. And if you currently have an adjustable-rate mortgage, you may be considering switching gears entirely and taking advantage of a fixed-rate mortgage.

While an adjustable-rate mortgage typically has a low interest rate for the first several years, the interest rate will periodically adjust based on market conditions after that time period has elapsed. This can cause mortgage payments to change dramatically, sometimes with little or no warning.

Further, the rate at the beginning of an adjustable-rate mortgage repayment period is often lower than the rate on a fixed-rate mortgage. This makes them a viable option for homebuyers who plan to move in a few years—or for people who have limited funds for a mortgage now, but expect to have more income or lower expenses in the future.

Pros and Cons of Switching to a Fixed-Rate Mortgage
Some homeowners choose an adjustable-rate mortgage because of the initial low interest rate, but they’re often worried that their payments could skyrocket down the road. If you currently have an adjustable-rate mortgage and your interest rate is scheduled to adjust in the near future, it might make sense to refinance to a fixed-rate loan.

Refinancing your mortgage means that you would be replacing your old loan with a new one subject to different terms. In order to refinance your mortgage and switch to a fixed rate, you would need to meet your lender’s equity and credit score requirements. The interest rate on a fixed-rate mortgage could be lower, but the repayment period might also be different, which could affect your monthly payments.

If you refinanced your mortgage, you would also have to pay closing costs. And it could take years for your lower monthly payments to offset the amount of the closing costs paid to obtain the new mortgage. Furthermore, some mortgage lenders charge prepayment penalties if borrowers refinance before the mortgage expires.

Depending on your lender’s terms, the terms of a new fixed-rate mortgage and how much longer you stay in your house, you might save a lot of money, or little or none, in the long run.

Is Changing Mortgages the Right Move for You?
Switching from an adjustable- to a fixed-rate mortgage could help you avoid the uncertainty and stress of not knowing whether your mortgage payments will fluctuate and by how much, but there are additional costs to consider. Talk to your current lender, research fixed-rate mortgages and get specific figures so that you can decide if changing to a fixed-rate loan or sticking with an adjustable rate makes sense for you.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional or legal advice.


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5 Tips for Designing an Eclectic Space

Posted on Monday, January 25th, 2021 at 2:00am.

5 Tips for Designing an Eclectic Space

If you love to mix and match different styles, the eclectic look probably speaks to you. While it’s a fun way to create a unique environment in your home that reflects your personality, it can also be a challenge to avoid designing a space that feels chaotic. In order to successfully pull it off, here are a few tips to achieve an eclectic setting that maintains a sense of balance.

Look to the Pros
Before you get started, the best way to find inspiration is to do some research. You can easily find past projects from interior designers who are known for mastering the eclectic look, such as Muriel Brandolini and Martyn Lawrence Bullard. This will help identify what really speaks to you and start to form a foundation of your aesthetic.

Pick a Color Scheme
Eclectic rooms tend to have dramatic color schemes, but make sure the scheme is one that you can live with. Try to find a vibrant color combination that harmonizes to serve as the base, and once that’s been decided, you can focus on adding more detail that plays off of the palette.

Dramatic Textures
Juxtaposing multiple textures is at the heart of this style and can often be a way of creating contrasts, like a plush, velvet sofa beside a shiny, metallic table. Being bold is a good thing, but it’s important to keep cohesion between the textures and colors in order to prevent the room from feeling overwhelming.

Introduce Layers
Throw pillows, area rugs and window treatments are the perfect way to accent the look with layers. Rather than creating more visual drama, these items should complement the room and allow the eye to fall on the focal points when someone enters.

Curate the Objects  
Filling the room with a careful selection of objects will help to bring it all together. This is where you can get creative with putting antiques on display, arranging paintings in a whimsical manner, or curating a collection of trinkets. Think of it as the final step to creating a unique space that truly reflects your personality and tastes.


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