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$100 Well Spent: 5 Useful Home Upgrades That Cost Less Than $100

$100 Well Spent: 5 Useful Home Upgrades That Cost Less Than $100Whether you’re trying to improve the look of your home or are getting ready to put it on the market, the idea of renovations might seem like a significant financial burden to take on. Fortunately, there are a variety of easy solutions for improving the look of your home without spending a lot of money. If you’re wondering how you can spend $100 wisely, look no further than the following upgrading tips.

A Funky Light Fixture

It might seem like a cool light will cost an arm and a leg, but there are plenty of options available on the market that will instantly add a unique touch to your place. Whether you decide to go mod or classic, a fixture can draw the eye and instantly add interest to a room.

A Makeshift Curio Cabinet

In these days of smaller living, many people have to pile their stuff into closets and cabinets in order to make it all fit. Fortunately, a bookcase-cum-cabinet can be an inexpensive purchase and can house a variety of items like books, dishes and appliances for an easy, eclectic look.

Covering The Cabinets

Kitchen cabinets are often one of the first things to show age in a home, but getting out the can of paint can be a great way to instantly modernize their look. While you’ll want to go with a neutral tone that will compliment the space, the right color can add instant oomph.

Re-Upholstering A Chair

There are pieces of furniture in your home that you may be tired of looking at, but there’s an easy way to improve them without buying new: re-upholster! By trying out a new fabric on one of your favorite chairs, you might be surprised by how much it improves the room.

Paint Does The Trick

Painting may be one of the least popular renovation tasks, but few things are as successful at improving the look of your home as a fresh coat of paint. Instead of going all out with a bright color, choose a neutral shade that complements the furniture for an instant brightening effect.

Home renovations may seem like an expensive endeavor, but you can easily improve the look of your home with a new light fixture or by giving your furniture some love. If you’re currently doing some upgrades in preparation for selling your home, contact your trusted real estate professional for more information.

Going Green(er): 3 Common Waste Items You Had No Idea You Can Recycle

Going Green(er): 3 Common Waste Items You Had No Idea You Can RecycleIt has never been more popular to live a “green” lifestyle and develop sustainable living practices that will help out the planet. While you may be used to recycling cardboard boxes and giving away your old hand-me-down clothes, there are probably a few household items you didn’t even know you could recycle! If you’re wondering what to do with some of your old, used items, here are a few things that may be ready for re-use.

Re-constituting Your Lenses

It’s common to think your eyeglass prescription only works for you, but an easy way to re-use old eyeglasses is to take them to your local optician or optometrist’s office so that they can make use of them. Not only will someone in need be able to use the frames that you’ve provided, your lenses may be donated to another person with a similar prescription who will truly appreciate the gesture.

Old Phones & Electronics

It can be tempting to throw out an old phone with a shattered screen or an aging laptop that no longer turns on properly. However, with technology being obsolete almost as soon as it hits the market, it’s more important than ever to recycle these items. Old technology like iPods, iPhones, cell phones, chargers and digital cameras can be taken to your local electronics or “big box” store and recycled as part of their e-waste program. Before discarding any electronics that still work, you may want to look into other local places that refurbish these goods to donate them to less-fortunate families.

Improving Your Oil Change

While there are many renewable solutions on the market, oil is still one of the most common resources used in cars, trucks, motorcycles and other forms of transportation. Fortunately, while an oil change may be necessary maintenance on your car now and then, you can be more environmentally friendly by going to an auto repair shop that recycles and re-refines your oil. Before you make a trip to your old auto body, take a look at motor oil recycling locations on Earth911 for some options in your area.

It’s easy enough to compost food and throw your cardboard boxes in the bin, but there are many common waste items that can actually be re-used in your local community. If you’re looking for ways to go greener as you plan a move to a new home, contact your trusted real estate professional for more information.

Forget About the Bank of Mom and Dad — Here’s How You Can Save Your Own Down Payment

Forget About the Bank of Mom and Dad -- Here's How You Can Save Your Own Down PaymentAre you considering buying a home for the first time? For some, it can seem nearly impossible to come up with the funds for the down payment. Fortunately, there are a few ways that you can save a little over time and not have to borrow from the “Bank of Mom and Dad”. If you’re looking to invest in a home in the short-term and are looking for solutions to save up, here are some tips on how to get to your down payment amount more quickly.

Create A Budget

Most people don’t like the idea of a budget, but few things are going to help you reach your financial goals like having one. Instead of sticking your head in the sand, add the numbers up and see approximately how much you’re spending each month. It may not seem like it, but getting a sense of what your monthly costs are can help you get a good idea of your overall financial picture and how much you really should be spending.

Get An Extra Job

Whether you want to do a freelance job on the side or get some part-time work, there are few things that are going to help you achieve your goal of home ownership like a little extra money. It may seem like a drag to go to a part-time gig from your full-time job, but it can be well worth it when you begin to see your bank account fill up. It’s just important that your part-time gig pays enough that it’s going to make up for the extra time you’ll be giving up.

Trim The Excess Costs

Now that you’ve got some extra money coming in and you’ve crafted a budget, you’re certainly on the right track. However, indulging in life’s little luxuries can eat away at your savings. While you’ll want to keep a little aside for meals out or entertainment, if you have other sizeable costs you’ll want to eliminate these in order to save for your greater goal.

It can take some time to save up for a down payment, but you may be able to avoid borrowing money if you bring in more each month and get rid of excess costs. For more information, contact your local real estate professional and we’ll be happy to help.

Investing in a New Home? 3 Reasons You Can’t Skip the Pest Inspection

Investing in a New Home? 3 Reasons You Can't Skip the Pest InspectionThere are so many small details involved in the final purchase of a home that it can be easy to lose track of the things that need to be done. While you won’t be able to forget about a home inspection, a pest inspection can be every bit as important before you sign on the dotted line. If you’re wondering why you shouldn’t forego this important step, consider the following information.

The Final Offer

Few people want to deal with problems, especially when it comes to their dream home. But the entire purpose of a pest inspection is to ensure you know about these problems before you sign on the dotted line. If pest issues are discovered, you’ll still have some decisions to make as to how you want to proceed. You can push the problem back to the homeowner to deal with, or buy the home knowing about the pest issue and use it to negotiate a lower price.

Insurance May Not Help

Homeowner’s insurance will cover your home and belongings in the event of a natural disaster, fire or flood. And in some cases, your policy will cover damage due to pests. However, much of the rot and other damage that pests cause occurs over a long period of time. In these cases, your insurer may not cover the damage, or you may be on the hook for a significant deductible. In any case, your policy may require that you get an inspection when you purchase the home so be sure to check with your insurer.

Feeling Home At Home

Much like experiencing a burglary, discovering a pest problem in your home can be an unsettling experience. Unfortunately, if you’ve just moved into your new home, it can be even more difficult to get comfortable if you think pests are crawling around. It’s important to schedule a pest inspection so you can be sure there are no impediments to enjoying your new home. Yes, it’s one more cost involved before the deal is sealed, but the money spent will be well worth your comfort.

These are just three of the many reasons to invest in a professional pest inspection when buying a new home. It’s a small price to pay to ensure that your home is free of damage-causing pests. If you’re currently getting ready to invest in a new home, contact your local real estate professional for the inside scoop.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – July 24, 2017

Last week’s economic news included releases from the National Association of Home Builders and releases from the Commerce Department on housing starts and building permits issued. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims were also released.

NAHB Housing Market Index Dips; Builder Sentiment Remains Strong

Higher lumber costs were cited by the National Association of Home Builders as contributing to lower readings for the group’s monthly Housing Market Index. July’s reading was two points lower than May’s index reading. The original May reading of 67 was adjusted to 66.

Builders said that a steep tariff on Canadian lumber has raised building costs, but sentiment remains high as high demand for homes coupled with short supplies of homes for sale set the stage for new home construction. Builder confidence in market conditions for newly-built homes remained strong as any NAHB Index reading over 50 indicates that more builders than fewer have a positive outlook on market conditions.

Commerce Department: Housing Starts and Building Permits Increase in June

Housing starts increased in June to 1.215 starts on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. Analysts expected 1.163 million housing starts based on 1.122 million housing starts reported in May. Building permits were issued at a higher rate in June, with the annual rate of 1.254 million permits issued as compared to May’s rate of 1.168 million permits issued on a seasonally adjusted annual basis.

Single-family housing starts rose 6.30 percent as compared to May’s reading, which suggested that builders are focusing on building new homes for sale rather than concentrating on multi-family rental projects. If this trend continues, new construction of single-family homes would help ease severe shortages of homes for sale.

Mortgage Rates, New Jobless Claims Lower

Freddie Mac reported lower mortgage rates last week with the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage falling seven basis points to 3.96 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was six basis points lower to 3.23 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was seven basis points lower at 3.21 percent. Discount points averaged 0.60 percent 30-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New jobless claims reached their second-lowest post-recession level last week with a reading of 233,000 first-time claims filed. Analysts expected a reading of 245,000 new claims based on the prior week’s reading of 248,000 new claims filed.

Whats Ahead

Economic releases set for this week include readings on new and previously-owned home sales, Case-Shiller’s Home Price Index reports, and the post-meeting statement of the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will be released along with data on consumer sentiment from the University of Michigan.

Living Under Water Restrictions? Transform Your Garden With These Succulent Plants

Living Under Water Restrictions? Transform Your Garden With These Succulent PlantsIt can be difficult to deal with water restrictions if you’re a bit of a green thumb and don’t want your beautiful plants to go to waste. Fortunately, there are plenty of succulents out there that can be quite striking and will still be able to store the water they need to survive. If you’re looking for some low-maintenance plants that thrive in the dry season, here are a few succulents that will do the trick.

The Christmas Cactus

Known as the Christmas Cactus, this plant can be a great way to get the beautiful flowers of summer without all of the water consumption that’s usually required. While the flowers will come out in the fall, you’ll want to ensure that you fertilize this plant during the summer months and leave it in a low-light spot where it won’t dry out too quickly.

A South African Succulent

Crassula ovate, commonly known as a jade plant, hails from South Africa and has the vibrant, glossy look of a plant that gets watered all the time. Fortunately, you can allow the soil to dry completely before you water it again since overwatering this type of plant will kill it. It’s easy to tell if your jade plant needs water. Once the leaves start to lose their shine, it’s time to get out the watering can.

The Snake Plant

If you’ve seen this type of succulent before, you’ll likely recognize it from its name, which accurately characterizes the long, thin and pointy leaves that jut out from its roots. While this plant will want to indulge in a little bit of light, you can leave it for a long time without having to water it. Just ensure the soil is dry before you pour!

Plant A Pincushion

When people think of cacti, it’s the pincushion variety of cactus that most often comes to mind with its short, pointed frame and multiple clusters. In addition to being easy to take care of and loving the sun, you should let this pint-sized plant dry out completely before giving it another drink. Much like the Christmas Cactus, it will also need to be fertilized in the summer.

It may seem impossible to maintain a garden under water restrictions, but there are plenty of unique succulents out there that can add a lot of variety to your home. If you’re currently in the market for a new home for all your plants, contact your local real estate professional for more information.

Squad Goals: 4 Steps to Throwing a Patio Party Your Friends Never Forget

Squad Goals: 4 Steps to Throwing a Patio Party Your Friends Never ForgetSummer may be the season for swimsuits and beachside barbecues, but it’s also a great time to get your friends together for a party in your own backyard. Whether you’re ready to show off your new home or are just looking for a good reason to celebrate the season, here are some ways to ensure your party is one that will make the summertime memorable.

Choose Dollar Store Decorations

When it comes to throwing the best party, nothing will work to create an atmosphere like the decorations! Instead of heading to the party store, though, take a trip to the dollar store where you’ll be able to find a variety of fun stuff for an inexpensive price. Any fun theme is likely to work but ensure that you stick with a color pattern that won’t overwhelm your guests.

Prep The Food Options

Planning the food for a big patio party can sometimes be difficult, but by determining a theme and getting prepared ahead of time, you should have a good handle on the offerings. Whether you opt for a Mexican theme with tacos and nacho chips or a barbecue with beer and brisket, preparing what you want to serve ahead of time will make the party itself more manageable. It’s even better if you can prepare a few items in advance to make the day run a little smoother.

Pick The Right Tunes

Putting the music on full blast might seem like the right move, but this can irritate your guests and impact conversation. In addition to making sure that the music is at an appropriate volume, it’s also good to offer up a playlist of classics your guests will know. If chit-chat is at a standstill, a few great songs will get them into the partying mood.

Mix It Up

Many people have a variety of different friends they share interests with, but it can sometimes be hard to get them all in the same place together. Fortunately, a fun party is the ideal time to get people talking and make your crowd mix! There’s no assurance that everyone will become friends, but there’s bound to be some fun conversation.

Throwing a great summer party might seem like a lot of work, but by picking the right tunes and sticking to a theme, you’ll have a party your friends will remember. And if you’re in need of a great new home to celebrate in, contact your local real estate professional for more information.

NAHB: Builder Confidence in Market Conditions Dips in July

According to the National Association of Home Builders, July builder sentiment dipped to an index reading of 64 as compared to June’s revised reading of 66, the original reading was 67. Analysts expected the reading for July to increase to 68. Builders cited increasing lumber prices as a concern affecting builders’ outlook on housing market conditions for new single-family homes. Any reading over 50 for the NAHB Housing Market Index indicates that more builders than fewer are positive about housing market conditions, but July’s reading was the lowest in eight months. NAHB said that home builder confidence in market condition “remains strong.”

Three month rolling averages were mixed. The Northwestern region gained one point for an index reading of 47, the Midwest gained one point to a reading of 66 and the Southern region dropped three points to a reading of 66. The Western region had the highest level of builder confidence but lost one point for a reading of 75.

Shortages of homes for sale and buildable lots have impacted builder confidence for several months. As the number of available homes dwindles, demand and home prices have risen. Real estate pros view building more home as the only solution for easing the shortage of homes for sale Lower readings on builder confidence in market conditions could indicate slowing in the construction of new homes.

Lumber Tariff Raises  New Home Prices, Could Cost Jobs

While home builder confidence jumped in the aftermath of the election, builders said that a tariff on Canadian lumber is affecting home prices and construction jobs. In a statement released with July’s Housing Market Index readings, NAHB said that the lumber tariff tacked on an average of  $1236 to the average home price. NAHB leaders also said that as materials costs continue to rise, affordability will become an issue and that construction layoffs could potentially exceed 8000 jobs.

NAHB Chairman Granger MacDonald said about the lumber tariff, this is hurting housing affordability even as consumer interest in the new-home market remains strong” While current interest in new homes is healthy, home builders will have to manage costs to keep home prices affordable and competitive.

Buying a Home in a Fire Risk Area: Here’s What You Need to Know

Buying a Home in a Fire Risk Area: Here's What You Need to KnowOutside of the significant financial responsibility of delving into home ownership, there can also be a lot of other risks involved that you may not have thought about before investing in a home. You’ll need to protect your home against theft or burglary, and homeowner’s insurance to protect your home and belongings. But there are other less common occurrences you may not have thought about. If you happen to be living in an area that’s at high risk of fire, here are some things to consider beforehand.

Defining “High Risk”

It’s easy to be swept away by a beautiful home and forget about what the natural landscape around it consists of. Many homes across the United States are built in areas close to trees and shrubs, which can be dangerous in times of high temperatures, so it’s important to do your research. While hot spots can occur in many different areas, California and the southwest region are particularly vulnerable in times of drought.

What It Means For Your Mortgage

Nearly all homes can be adversely affected by a fire so it’s important to realize that buying in a high-risk area will not impact your ability to get a mortgage. It can, however, impact some of the costs associated with investing in your home. While homeowner’s insurance is a requirement of buying a home and it will generally cover you in the incidence of a fire, it can be a bit pricier. Fortunately, you may be able to guard against some of the additional costs by purchasing a home with materials that are more fire resistant.

In The Event Of Fire

If the worst happens and your home incurs damage from a fire, you’ll want to assess the extent of the damage before making a decision on how to proceed. For a home that is minimally impacted, you may want to use insurance to repair the property. However, if the property is significantly or completely destroyed, a payout may be required in order to pay off the mortgage. Before purchasing a home in a fire-prone area it’s best to be aware of all aspects of your insurance policy so you can be prepared.

It’s a more significant risk to buy a home in a fire-prone area, but you can be prepared for the worst by knowing your options. If you’re currently considering purchasing a new home, contact your local real estate professional for more information.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – July 17, 2017

Inflation Rate Stays Flat in June

Inflation was flat in June, but achieved a 0.00 percent reading as compared to May’s – 0.10 percent reading. Analysts expected a June reading of +0.10 percent reading month-to-month. The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve has established a benchmark reading of 2.00 percent inflation year-over-year as an indication of economic recovery. In recent months, the Fed has increased its target federal funds rate at each meeting of the FOMC. A slowdown in inflation and other economic indicators may cause the Fed to halt rate increases until conditions improve.

Fed Chair Testifies before House Financial Services Panel

During testimony last week, Fed Chair Janet Yellen addressed questions about Federal Reserve board members’ interaction with Wall Street. Ms. Yellen explained that the Fed values clear communications with Wall Street as a productive relationship. Chair Yellen also noted that the Fed may taper off on interest rate increases soon; she said that further rate increases may not be warranted at present.

Stating that “monetary policy is not a preset course,” Chair Yellen said that the Fed is aware of problems associated with forecasting higher than actual inflation gains, but also said that the Fed believes that inflation will achieve the 2.00 percent annual goal established by the Fed.

Ms. Yellen hinted that her tenure as Fed Chair may be reaching its conclusion; she did not answer media inquiries about whether she would stay on if asked. She said she was concentrating on current issues instead of focusing on potential developments.

Mortgage Rates Rise, New Jobless Claims Lower

Mortgage rates rose again last week; the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage exceeded four percent for the first time since May with an average rate of 4.03 percent. Fifteen-year fixed rate mortgages had an average rate of 3.29 percent. Average mortgage rates for 15 and 30-year fixed rate mortgages rose seven basis points over last week’s average rates. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate also rose seven basis points to 3.28 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for all three mortgage types.

247,000 new jobless claims were filed last week as compared to expectations of 245,000 new claims filed and last week’s reading of 250,000 new claims. First-time jobless claims stayed below 300,000for 123 consecutive weeks. This run is the longest since the 1970s.  Analysts said that low jobless claims indicate a very low rate of layoffs.

Consumer sentiment dropped by two index points from 95.10 to 93.10 percent. Rising mortgage rates and concerns about current events likely contributed to wavering consumer sentiment.

Whats Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic readings include NAHB Housing Market Indices, Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits issued and weekly releases on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.