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Which Home Renovations Should You Splurge on?

Posted on Sunday, March 28th, 2021 at 12:00am.

Which Home Renovations Should You Splurge on?

Home renovations can be expensive, especially if you want to make changes to several rooms or alter the floorplan. You probably want to keep the costs down as much as possible, but sometimes it’s better to spend more money to install items that’ll last a long time, have a major impact on the overall appearance of a room, and help you attract a buyer and sell your home for a good price in the future.

Wood Flooring
Nothing beats the warm appeal of wood floors. While it’ll cost a lot more to install than other flooring materials, wood flooring can last decades. If the floor gets scratched or scuffed, you’ll be able to sand and refinish it to restore it to its original beauty. Wood floors can often be refinished several times, if necessary. If you decide to sell your house in the future, you’ll have no trouble attracting plenty of buyers who also recognize the advantages of wood flooring.

You probably use appliances such as the stove, oven, refrigerator and dishwasher nearly every day, and the washer and dryer at least once or twice a week. Spending money for quality appliances is a good investment. You don’t have to purchase the most expensive models, but you should read reviews to find out which brands tend to last the longest and compare prices and warranties.

If your family uses the kitchen to prepare meals each day, you most likely open and close the cabinets a lot, which can cause wear and tear that can detract from the appearance of the entire room. If you’re going to replace the cabinets, it makes sense to pay more for quality. You don’t need to go all out for top-of-the-line cabinets, but you can get ones made from strong wood at a reasonable price.

Kitchen countertops can look beat up after years of daily use. If you cook a lot, it’s worth investing in durable countertops that won’t scratch, chip or stain easily. You have many options when it comes to materials and colors. Visit a local home improvement store, and talk to an employee about how you use your kitchen so you can get advice on the best material.

Statement Lighting
A bold lighting fixture can be the focal point of a room. If you’ve cut corners in other areas to save money, allow yourself to splurge on a lighting fixture that’ll add style and sophistication to the room.

Spend More for Quality
The cost to renovate a house, or even a single room, often gives homeowners sticker shock. It’s understandable to want to save wherever you can, but sometimes splurging now on quality products that’ll last, beautify your home and add to its value is the best move in the long run.

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Why Your Home Should Have Triple-Glazed Windows

Posted on Monday, March 29th, 2021 at 12:00am.

Why Your Home Should Have Triple-Glazed Windows

When it’s time to upgrade the windows in your home, it’s important to know that not all windows are created equally. Considering that they last for up to 20 years and significantly impact the efficiency of your home, this isn’t a feature to skimp on. For discerning homebuyers who are willing to spend a little extra for top quality, triple-glazed windows are well worth the investment. If you’re getting ready to do (actual) window shopping, here are a few ways in which they outperform traditional windows.

What are triple-glazed windows?
First, you might be wondering what exactly the term “triple-glazed” means. These windows are constructed using three separate panes with an inert gas, such as argon, inserted between the layers of glass. This can deliver myriad benefits and be used for a wide variety of applications, from casement windows to skylights to sliding glass doors.

Energy Efficient
The biggest advantage is that they will almost certainly reduce your energy bill. When it comes to heating and cooling, windows are typically the least insulated part of a home and triple-glazing was specifically designed to address this. With a significantly improved ability to retain heat or air conditioning, they are widely regarded as the best choice for an environmentally friendly home.

Extra Secure
Additionally, their sturdy structure gives triple-glazed windows the added benefit of being more secure than traditional options. The increased durability can deliver peace of mind to any homeowner, particularly in locations that are prone to hurricanes, highwinds or any other harsh weather conditions.

Noise Insulation
If you live in a noisy neighborhood, you’ll be pleased to know that they can be an effective way to reduce outside sounds, especially compared to single-pane windows. If this is particularly important to you, then take note of the Sound Transmission Class rating when picking out new windows.

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5 State-of-the-Art Features for a Secure Home

Posted on Tuesday, March 30th, 2021 at 12:00am.

5 State-of-the-Art Features for a Secure Home

5 State-of-the-Art Features for a Secure Home

These cutting-edge security features will ensure your property is prepared for anything!

Biometric Keypad

With biometric keypads, all of your doors can be set to automatically lock and simply require your fingerprint to open.

Home Firewall

Installing a firewall provides an extra layer of protection to any online vulnerabilities.

Safe Room

A fortified safe room can serve as shelter from a natural disaster or extra defense in the event of a home intrusion.

Perimeter Surveillance Radars

Perimeter surveillance is worth considering for large estates in more remote settings.

Art Collection Protection

Installing sensors that monitor any activity within close proximity is a great way to keep your art safe.

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Create a Quiet, Tech-Free Family Room in 5 Simple Steps

Posted on Wednesday, March 31st, 2021 at 12:00am.

Create a Quiet, Tech-Free Family Room in 5 Simple Steps

Kids today have a lot to distract them from doing their homework, like video games, Netflix, YouTube, texting and social media. And let’s face it, a lot of adults are just as addicted to their phone as any teenager.

So, as you move into a new home, consider designating a device-free room, a place where kids can study, adults can work and read, and the family can gather to relax, talk or enjoy a hobby.

Here’s how you can create a quiet and productive room for your family.

  1. Start With a Desk:
    Bring in a simple desk where kids can study and write papers. Although you want to keep this room free of devices, students will most likely need to bring a laptop into the room for research and writing.


  1. Bring in the Books:
    Set up a bookshelf and fill it up. Start with a dictionary, thesaurus and reference books. Then add some favorite novels and non-fiction titles about a variety of topics such as sports, history and entertainment. If you have young kids, be sure to include picture books to get them in the habit of reading.


  1. Figure This Out:
    This room is also a great place to set up a table with a puzzle. You can even buy tables that are designed for puzzles. Don’t feel any pressure, make it something family members do, as a group and individually, on an ongoing basis.


  1. Get a Comfy Chair:
    This room needs a place where people can sit, and a nice welcoming chair is perfect for reading and practicing a hobby, such as Add a blanket to the room to make it an ideal spot for a nap.


  1. Let There Be Music:
    You can make an exception to the gadget rule by streaming music via a phone or tablet. You can even put your old CDs to use in this room or even just listen to a radio. Whatever you choose, the right music can set the mood for all sorts of activities.

Before you know it, your family will be spending a lot more time together—and a lot less time on their phones.

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Budget-Friendly Updates to Refresh Your For-Sale Home

Posted on Thursday, April 1st, 2021 at 12:00am.

Budget-Friendly Updates to Refresh Your For-Sale Home

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Some Tips for DIY Tree Removal

Posted on Friday, April 2nd, 2021 at 12:00am.

Some Tips for DIY Tree Removal

Getting rid of dead trees is more complex than many people realize, and you could run into an array of issues if you aren’t careful. Luckily, with the right equipment and a solid plan, you should be able to get that dead foliage off your property before you know it. Here are three things to keep in mind when removing dead trees from your property:

Don’t Start During Inclement Weather
Removing dead trees is extremely hazardous during certain times of the year. If there are high winds or the tree is covered in snow, for example, then you should probably put the project off for at least a few weeks. That said, a little bit of rain could actually help you out. The rainwater is going to saturate all of the soil around the tree, which will make it much easier to pull out the roots. You can also soak the ground with a garden hose if you’re carrying out this project during the dry season.

Always Use the Proper Safety Gear
Well before you start removing any trees from your property, make sure you have the proper safety gear. Without safety equipment, you could end up dealing with serious injuries, including lacerations, sprains, broken bones and head trauma. At the very least, you need to wear eye protection, ear protection and a hard hat when you’re removing the trees. You should also consider wearing high-quality gloves, thick pants, a heavy jacket and reinforced boots—clothes that’ll greatly reduce your risk of minor cuts and scratches.

Invest in the Right Equipment
You might want to search for some used construction equipment that you can purchase if the trees are relatively large. Cutting the trees into smaller segments with a chainsaw will get the job done, but that’s going to be very time-consuming. With some heavy equipment, you’ll be able to rip the trees up without cutting them into smaller pieces. Heavy equipment will also allow you to dig up the roots, which will prevent saplings from popping up in the future.

Removing one or two dead trees shouldn’t be too exhausting, but it’s always a good idea to hire professional contractors if you have more than a couple trees to get rid or have issues performing the task on your own. An experienced crew will be able to bring in construction equipment that you might not have access to, and many companies offer free disposal services on larger projects.

Source: Brooke Chaplan/RISMedia’s Housecall

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A Guide to Butcher Block Countertops

Posted on Saturday, April 3rd, 2021 at 12:00am.

A Guide to Butcher Block Countertops

A Guide to Butcher Block Countertops

Here’s everything you need to know about butcher block countertops… 

The Basics

There are three different types of butcher block counters to consider: 

  1. Edge grain is made by stacking planks together so the side of each piece is seen
  2. End grain is built using square-shaped pieces that give it a grid-like appearance.
  3. Face grain is made by laying slabs of wood flat together so the width of each plank is visible.

Types of Wood

Maple, cherry and walnut are all popular options, while bamboo can be a great eco-friendly alternative.

Care and Maintenance

A food-safe oil finish will provide a protective coating that is resistant to heat, moisture and stains, while still retaining a rich appearance.

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A Home Equity Loan Could Affect Private Mortgage Insurance Requirements

Posted on Sunday, April 4th, 2021 at 12:00am.

A Home Equity Loan Could Affect Private Mortgage Insurance Requirements

Homeowners often use their equity as a resource when they need to finance home improvements, a child’s college education or another major expense. Before you tap into your home equity, consider the possible effect on your private mortgage insurance (PMI) requirements.

What Is Private Mortgage Insurance?
If a homebuyer puts down less than 20 percent of the purchase price, a lender considers the loan risky. Most conventional lenders therefore require a borrower who puts down less than 20 percent to obtain PMI so the lender will be compensated if the borrower defaults on the loan. A borrower must continue to pay the premiums until reaching 20 percent equity.

How Can Borrowing Against Home Equity Affect PMI?
Premiums for PMI are based on your loan-to-value (LTV) ratio. If you currently have less than 20 percent equity and pay for PMI, you may be able to obtain a home equity loan, but that’ll increase your LTV ratio and, thus, your PMI premiums.

If you take out a home equity loan before you reach 20 percent equity, you may reach that goal much later than you would’ve without the home equity loan, and you’ll have to continue to pay for PMI in the meantime. Depending on the amount you’re currently paying for PMI, the amount you’d pay for PMI after taking out a home equity loan, and the interest rates on your mortgage and home equity loan, the additional cost might not make a home equity loan a good idea.

If you have more than 20 percent equity now, you aren’t paying for PMI. If you take out a home equity loan that causes your LTV ratio to rise above 80 percent, however, your home equity lender and your primary mortgage lender may both require you to purchase PMI.

Should You Take out a Home Equity Loan?
A home equity loan can be a useful tool to pay for large expenses, but you should think things over carefully. If you’re currently paying for PMI, a home equity loan could raise your PMI premiums substantially, and you could be on the hook for PMI payments for a much longer period of time than you would if you didn’t tap into your home equity. If you’ve been working for years to pay down your mortgage and the combination of your existing mortgage and a new home equity loan would cause your equity to fall below 20 percent, you could have to deal with the additional expense of PMI, on top of mortgage and home equity loan payments.

Talk to your lender about your current LTV ratio and how a home equity loan would affect your PMI obligations. If your monthly costs would rise significantly, you might be better off postponing a large purchase or exploring other financing options.

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 Prevent Wildlife From Invading Your Home

Posted on Monday, April 5th, 2021 at 12:00am.

5 Ways to Prevent Wildlife From Invading Your Home

Squirrels, raccoons, opossums, bats–these types of so-called “nuisance wildlife” often try to find shelter in and around homes, especially through attics and basements. In addition to being unwelcome guests, wild animals can damage property and pose serious health risks.

To help you critter-proof your property, the National Pest Management Association (NMPA) offers the following five tips:

Screen Vents
Raccoons and squirrels often find their way into homes via uncapped chimneys, broken vents and other openings along rooflines. Ensure that these items are fully screened to prevent wild animals from making your home their own.

Cover the Trash
Many types of nuisance wildlife, especially raccoons, are attracted to piles of trash left outside. You should store all garbage bags in plastic containers with sealed lids to make it difficult for animals to dine on your leftovers.

Cut Back Vegetation

Squirrels and other small wildlife are known to use tree branches to gain access to rooflines, where they can then find a number of ways to move indoors. Be sure to cut back any tree limbs or branches that hang too close to the foundation. A good rule of thumb is to keep vegetation at least 6 to 8 feet from the roofline.

Clean up the Yard
Don’t let brush, leaf piles or other debris accumulate in the yard, as these materials make the ideal harborage site for small animals. Also, make sure firewood is stored at least 20 feet away from the house during the cooler months.

Keep Bird Feeders Out of Reach
Ensure bird feeders are only accessible to birds. Squirrels, raccoons, opossums and even bears are drawn to birdseed. Homeowners should also place birdbaths where small animals can’t reach them. Birdbaths and fountains may attract wildlife to the property, especially in areas where water is scarce.

If you encounter nuisance wildlife on your property, the NMPA says it’s extremely important to contact a local wildlife control specialist or pest control professional instead of attempting to trap and remove the animal on your own.

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4 Tips for Choosing Window Treatments

Posted on Tuesday, April 6th, 2021 at 12:00am.

4 Tips for Choosing Window Treatments

4 Tips for Choosing Window Treatments

Here’s how to find the right window treatments for any room.

Identify Your Goals

What do you want from your window treatments? Should they provide privacy, block out the sun or create a stylish look?

Consider your options

Depending on what functionality you need, the next step is to choose between curtains, shades, blinds or plantation shutters. 

Find the Right Material

An exciting pattern can make a room pop, while light linen curtains offer a breezy feel that allows the sun in.

Look for Inspiration

Look at today’s most popular styles for inspiration, from Roman shades that elegantly fold to floor-to-ceiling curtains that make a room feel bigger. 


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Could Buying a New Car Prevent You From Purchasing a House?

Posted on Wednesday, April 7th, 2021 at 12:00am.

Could Buying a New Car Prevent You From Purchasing a House?

Most Americans need a car to travel to and from work, run errands and take their kids to after-school activities. People also need a place to live. If you want to purchase a house in the near future, splurging on a brand-new vehicle could make it difficult or impossible to qualify for a large enough mortgage to buy the home you want.

How a New Car Loan Could Affect Your Ability to Get a Mortgage
When you apply for a mortgage, a lender will consider your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, which is the total cost of car, student and other loans, as well as credit card bills and other debts. Most lenders don’t want a borrower to have a DTI ratio above 35 percent of gross income. If you buy a new car with a high monthly payment and have other debt, your DTI ratio might be too high to qualify for a mortgage, or a lender might approve you for an amount that’s too low to buy a house in your area, unless you come up with a huge down payment.

To qualify for a mortgage at a low interest rate, you’ll need your credit to be in the best shape it can be. A new car loan would lower your credit score temporarily because of a hard inquiry when the lender checked your credit report, as well as the increased debt load. Making auto loan payments on time each month could raise your score, but that could be a long process.

Consider a Used Car
If your car is on its last legs and you need to replace it, consider purchasing a used vehicle. Since cars depreciate quickly, a car that’s one or two years old would cost significantly less than a new one, but it would likely have low miles, be in excellent condition and still be covered by a warranty. You could get a reliable vehicle with a much lower payment than you would with a new one, and you would pay less for car insurance. Your debt-to-income ratio would be lower than it would be if you bought a new car, and you’d be able to qualify for a bigger mortgage and buy the house you wanted.

Prioritize Large Purchases
If you want to replace your car and buy a home, you’d be better off focusing on a house first. Since a home is probably the largest purchase you’ll ever make, you want to be sure that your credit score is as high as possible and that a lender will be confident in your ability to pay a mortgage. If you can’t put off replacing your vehicle, buy one used to keep your debt obligations down so you can qualify for a mortgage to purchase your dream home.

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

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5 Features You Need to Include in Your Master Suite

Posted on Thursday, April 8th, 2021 at 12:00am.

5 Features You Need to Include in Your Master Suite

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6 Ways to Save Money on a House

Posted on Friday, April 9th, 2021 at 12:00am.

6 Ways to Save Money on a House

A new home is no small purchase, and finding ways to save money both before and after buying can be a huge help. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or in the market for a new place, try these money-saving tips:

Always Use a Real Estate Agent
One of the biggest mistakes people make is trying to buy a home without a licensed real estate agent. A professional can be of immense help during the purchase process. Not only can an agent help with paperwork, but they’ll also know how to negotiate the price using fair market value, the actual condition of the home and other various factors.

Shop Around for Lenders
Like with any purchase, shopping around is a smart way to save. When seeking a mortgage, contact multiple lenders. You’ll be able to better understand your loan options, as well as compare estimated monthly payments and interest rates, to get the best deal for you. Do some research to find reputable lenders, and ask your real estate agent for recommendations.

Try Not to Pay PMI
Private mortgage insurance (PMI) is tacked on to your monthly mortgage payment if you buy a home with less than a 20 percent down payment. This extra expense can add thousands of dollars to the cost of homeownership. Save money in the long run by trying to save at least 20 percent for your home, or purchase a home that fits into a slightly smaller budget.

Find Better Insurance Rates
Similar to auto insurance and health insurance, monthly property insurance premiums vary depending on the company that underwrites the policy. Spend time shopping around at different insurance companies until you find the one that offers an affordable rate and sufficiently covers your property. After buying your home, check periodically to see if you can find a better deal.

Reduce Your Property Taxes
This is a very popular and often effective way to save money on a new home. If you think the assessed value of your home is too high, ask for a review. A different assessor will come out, perform an inspection and make any adjustments, if necessary. While this doesn’t always work, it’s worth a shot if you want to save as much money as possible.

Make Additional Monthly Payments
If your mortgage payment is low enough where you can consistently pay more each month, doing so could save you tens of thousands of dollars over the course of the mortgage and reduce the number of months you’ll need to pay. However, be aware that some lenders may penalize borrowers for paying off loans early. Check with your lender to see if your mortgage includes pre-payment penalties.

There are a variety of methods consumers can use to save money, both upfront and during the course of their mortgage. To avoid financial issues in the future, always purchase a home that’s within your set price range and never buy a home with zero money down; doing so will make it much harder for you to borrow against the property in the future.

Source: Kara Masterson/RISMedia’s Housecall

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How to Give Your Living Room a Makeover

Posted on Saturday, April 10th, 2021 at 12:00am.

How to Give Your Living Room a Makeover

How to Give Your Living Room a Makeover

Follow these steps to give your living room a redefining makeover…

Identify Focal Points

Find the feature that immediately draws your eye and build around it.

Mind the Windows

Windows seriously impact the energy of a room. Use lighter curtains that allow natural light in while still providing privacy.

Add Plants

An indoor tree can be a stylish fill to an unused space and bring the outdoors in while purifying the air.


Recessed lighting and wall sconces can transform an area to a bright and uplifting space.


Get rid of all the extra stuff. Keeping tables and shelves clear will feel more inviting.

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How to Prevent Driveway Cracks

Posted on Saturday, April 10th, 2021 at 12:00am.

How to Prevent Driveway Cracks

If your home has a driveway, you may have encountered a common problem: cracks. Driveway cracks often start out small and go unnoticed, but they can eventually become so serious that the entire driveway needs to be repaved. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of problems.

How Water Can Damage Your Driveway
Concrete is a porous material. Water from rain or melted snow can make its way into a concrete driveway, freeze and expand when the temperature drops, then contract when the weather turns warmer. This process, if repeated several times over the course of the fall and winter, can cause concrete to crack.

An asphalt driveway can be damaged by frost heave. If the soil under the asphalt gets moist, it can freeze, swell and cause the driveway to crack.

How to Prevent Cracks Caused by Water
Clogged gutters or downspouts can overflow, which can cause water to wind up in places where it doesn’t belong. If water flows toward your driveway and the temperature drops, the water can freeze and cause the driveway to expand and crack. Cleaning your gutters twice a year is a simple way to prevent this scenario.

If your driveway doesn’t have enough of a slope, water may not drain properly. Puddles can form, and water can be absorbed by the driveway material and eventually cause cracks. If your driveway doesn’t drain well, you may need to have it repaired.

Applying a sealant to your driveway can repel water and help you prevent cracks. A sealant can be rolled or sprayed on your driveway every few years. Use a sealant appropriate for your driveway’s paving material.

How to Keep Plants From Cracking Your Driveway
Roots of bushes and trees near the driveway can grow underground, put pressure on the driveway, and eventually cause it to crack. Homeowners often don’t realize how far roots extend since they’re hidden from view.

If any trees or bushes are growing near your driveway, remove them. This may be expensive if you have one or more large trees or several bushes, but it’ll be a lot cheaper and much less of a hassle than repaving your entire driveway later.

Edging your driveway is another way to prevent cracks. Keep a few inches along the edge of the driveway free of sod and weeds to allow water to run away from the driveway and prevent it from freezing and causing cracks.

Do What You Can to Prevent Driveway Cracks
A cracked driveway can detract from your home’s curb appeal and be a safety hazard. In many cases, cracks may be prevented if you understand what causes them and take steps to avoid problems. If you notice any cracks in your driveway, deal with them right away, before they have an opportunity to get worse. If you have questions or need help, consult a professional.

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