9 Must-Haves for Low-Maintenance Kitchen Cabinets

9 Must-Haves for Low-Maintenance Kitchen Cabinets

Save valuable elbow grease and time with these ideas for easy-to-maintain cabinets.

The heart of the home may also be the toughest room to keep clean. Every surface in your kitchen is susceptible to crumbs, dirt, stains and splatters. This is especially true of cabinets. Fortunately, there are practical ways to keep your cabinet maintenance on the lighter side. With ideas like choosing fewer decorative details and picking the right color, these nine tips will make your cabinets easier to maintain.

1. Choose a door style with minimal detail. Raised-panel door styles have nooks and crannies that are magnets for dust and dirt. Shaker-style and slab door fronts don’t, so you won’t have to spend time scrubbing every recess of your door fronts.

If you’re designing a traditional kitchen and want a more decorative door style, select a stain or paint that has a glaze. The glaze will fill the doors’ cracks and corners and better hide the dust and dirt that your cabinet doors will collect.

2. Opt for flush cabinet ends. You normally have two options for finishing the ends of your cabinets: flush ends or matching ends. Flush ends (above) are plywood ends that match the color of your cabinets. They are smooth and sleek, which means you can run a cloth over it with a few swipes. They can certainly speed up cleaning.

Matching ends feature a panel with the same style as the door fronts, and while they can bring elegance and character to your kitchen, you face the same maintenance issues with matching ends as you do with raised-panel doors. There’s simply more to scrub.

3. Cut the trimmings. Designer details like crown molding, corbels, decorative legs and light rail molding add more to love but also more to clean, especially ornate styles.

There are other designer touches you can use that require less maintenance. Try a colorful cabinet paint, eccentric lighting or colored bar stools, like in this modern kitchen.

4. Pick a stain instead of a paint. Stains and paints have pros and cons. They can both show crumbs and fingerprints, and paint definitely shows food stains and splatters.

That said, a stain is easier to touch up than paint. You can give a scratched cabinet stain a quick spruce-up with a matching permanent marker. It’s often harder with paint for two reasons. First, it’s hard to find a marker that closely matches a specific paint. Often a touch-up kit from the cabinet manufacturer is needed. Second, paint doesn’t take touch-ups the same way that stains do. You’re more likely to notice a touch-up on paint.

5. Go for a grain with a dark stain. If you’re set on a dark cabinet stain, select a wood species that features the grain, such as oak or hickory. Grains don’t show scratches, stains and crumbs as much as a clean wood species like maple does. It’s also harder to tell that a cabinet stain has been touched up when the surface has grains.

6. Invest in hardware. If you want fewer fingerprints and less wear and tear on your door fronts, purchase door pulls and knobs for all of your cabinets. They help preserve the integrity of your cabinets’ surfaces.

Steer clear of stainless steel and chrome hardware. They show fingerprints and water spots and are harder to clean. Oil-rubbed bronze, satin bronze, polished nickel, brushed nickel and white hardware are the cream of the crop as far as easy maintenance goes. Choose the look that best suits the style of your kitchen.

7. Avoid glass door fronts. They may be windows to your kitchen’s soul, but they’re also extra surfaces to clean. They manage to attract their fair share of dust, dirt and smudges. Dirt can build up easily on glass door fronts that feature mullions. You also have to keep whatever is behind those glass doors tidy.

One benefit to glass door fronts is how inviting they can make your kitchen space feel. Luckily, there’s more than one way to design a warm and welcoming kitchen. If you want a low-maintenance alternative to glass door fronts, stick with lighter cabinet stains like golden browns. They can make your guests feel just as cozy as glass door fronts do.

8. Reduce open shelving. Open shelving is a great canvas for displaying your favorite decor and cookware, whether it’s on a wall, on an island or at the end of cabinets. But it takes more time and effort to ensure that these spaces are dusted and organized. The upkeep can become overwhelming along with your daily tasks.

To shorten your to-do list, place your decor on necessary surfaces like dining tables and countertops instead of unnecessary cabinet shelves. You can also use pillows, chairs, bar stools and lighting as decorative touches.

9. Protect your sink cabinet from moisture. This is more of a preventative measure — it will help you avoid issues down the road. There are a couple of ways to help protect your sink cabinet from moisture. You can order the cabinet with an all-plywood construction (most semicustom and prefabricated cabinets are constructed of a mixture of pressed wood and plywood). An all-plywood construction makes the cabinet less penetrable. You can also purchase a cabinet mat, which looks like a tray and is placed at the base of the sink cabinet. It will serve as a moisture barrier and catch any liquid leaks or spills.

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5 Things That Might Make Your Home Insurance Null and Void

5 Things That Might Make Your Home Insurance Null and Void

Home insurance is essential, regardless of your house’s size or location. However, even if you have homeowners coverage in place, there are many reasons why your home insurance policy may become null and void. Here are a few to watch out for.

Guest post by Ryan Hanley

Home insurance is essential, regardless of your house’s size or location. However, even if you have homeowners coverage in place, there are many reasons why your home insurance policy may become null and void. Here are a few to watch out for.

1. Keep Receipts of Your Belongings

 What good is home insurance if you can’t get the coverage you need for all of your possessions? Ultimately, you’ll need receipts to verify property ownership—along with when you purchased property and how much you paid for it—to your home insurance provider. If you file a home insurance claim for a lost, stolen or damaged item and cannot verify property ownership, your policy could be voided.

Typically, a home insurance policy offers coverage for a wide range of property. But it is important to note that coverage limitations may be in place. This means you probably won’t get the full value for an original Van Gogh painting, 5-carat round cut ring or other expensive or rare property stored in your house based on the coverage limitations in a “standard” homeowners policy.

If you keep artwork, jewelry or other high-priced items in your house, you should get these belongings appraised. By doing so, you’ll have receipts that verify that you own these items and can get full compensation for them if they are stolen, damaged or destroyed.

It often pays to keep an inventory of your belongings, too. This inventory can be updated periodically based on property that you buy or sell.

Furthermore, if you’re ever uncertain about whether to add or subtract items from your home insurance policy, you can reach out to an independent insurance agent for assistance. This home insurance expert can provide insights into what it takes to fully insure all of your belongings, at all times.

2. Avoid Submitting an Excess Number of Claims

Most homeowners are unlikely to submit a home insurance claim in a given year, which is reflected in recent data from the Insurance Information Institute (III). In fact, about 5 percent of all homeowners submitted a home insurance claim in 2014, according to the III. Among these claims, property damage accounted for 97 percent.

On the other hand, a hurricane, tornado or other natural disasters can strike without notice. If one of these natural disasters occurs, a homeowner probably will need to submit a home insurance claim as quickly as possible.

When it comes to home insurance, you should only submit a claim when it is absolutely necessary to do so. A home insurance company reserves the right to void a homeowner’s coverage if a policyholder submits an excess number of claims over the life of his or her policy. If you submit an unusually high number of claims within a given time frame, your home insurance provider may view you as a “risky” homeowner and void your coverage.

 

3. Report Major Home Renovations

Do you want to add a new bedroom to your house? Or maybe you plan to install a swimming pool in your backyard? If you complete home renovations and fail to notify your home insurance provider, you may put your homeowners coverage in danger.

Property changes may impact the home insurance coverage that you need, as well as your home insurance premiums. Also, in some situations, property changes may cause your insurer to void your policy.

There are many “major” home renovations that you should tell your insurer about, and these include:

  • Alarm System: An alarm system may require an upfront investment. But over time, this system may help you lower your home insurance premiums as well as increase your home security.
  • Roof: A home insurance company is unlikely to cover the costs of upgrading your current roof or installing a new one. On the other hand, an improved roof helps lower the risk of weather-related and structural damage to your house, thereby reducing the risk of a potential home insurance claim down the line.
  • Swimming Pool: Swimming pools create liability risks, and in some cases, an insurance company may require you to purchase additional coverage for your swimming pool; alternatively, your insurance company may drop your policy.

When in doubt about whether a home renovation project is a “major” endeavor, it always is better to err on the side of caution. If you plan to embark on a major home renovation project, you should reach out to your insurance company in advance. That way, you can guarantee your home and personal belongings are fully covered before, during and after the renovation project is completed.

4. Be Proactive When Traveling

Leaving a home vacant for more than a few days can be risky. For example, consider what might happen if you embark on a two-week winter vacation. You may leave your home empty for the duration of your vacation. Meanwhile, if a pipe freezes and bursts while you’re away, the associated property damage could be significant.

In the aforementioned scenario, you probably won’t know about the property damage associated with the burst pipe until you return home. As a result, your home insurance company may view you as a “negligent” homeowner and is unlikely to cover the full costs of your property damage.

If you plan to take an extended vacation, you should contact your home insurance provider ahead of time. A home insurance policy usually has limits about how long you can leave your residence unoccupied and still be protected by homeowners coverage. Additionally, most insurance companies have policies in place about the steps that you need to follow if your house is going to be vacant for 30 days or more.

Lastly, don’t forget to contact a friend or family member to keep an eye on your house during your trip. With extra help from a friend or family member, you can further reduce the risk of burglaries and other potential home issues while your house is vacant.

5. Avoid Deliberate Property Damage

Let’s face it – no one wants to pay the steep costs associated with home improvement or maintenance projects. In some instances, homeowners might consider causing property damage in the hopes that their home insurer will cover their property replacement or repair costs. Yet deliberate property damage is not covered under a homeowners policy.

Deliberate property damage is a form of insurance fraud—a serious problem for home insurance providers and homeowners alike. Consider the following statistics from the Insurance Information Institute (III):

  • Most insurance companies use antifraud technology, and 76 percent of insurers said detecting claims fraud is the primary use of their antifraud technology.
  • 90 percent of insurance companies that leverage antifraud technology use automated red flags or business rules to detect fraud, and more than half employ predictive modeling.

New antifraud technology makes it increasingly likely that a homeowner who tries to beat the system will get caught. Plus, the penalties associated with deliberate property damage and other forms of home insurance fraud are substantial. Many states classify home insurance fraud as a felony, and those who are convicted of fraud may face financial and legal consequences as well.

 

Home insurance is a tricky subject, particularly for those who are uncertain about what types of coverage they need. Fortunately, independent insurance agents are available to teach you about home insurance.

An independent insurance agent possesses comprehensive home insurance expertise and is happy to explain different home insurance coverage. And if you ever have home insurance questions, an independent insurance agent is ready to respond to your queries at any time.

Connect with an independent insurance agent today, and you can purchase and maintain the right homeowners coverage.

 

Ryan Hanley is the Vice President of Marketing at TrustedChoice.com and the Managing Editor of Agency Nation. He is also a speaker, podcaster and author of the Amazon best-seller, Content Warfare. Ryan has over 10 years of insurance expertise and blogs frequently to help consumers understand complicated insurance topics.

What You Need to Know About Solar Panels

What You Need to Know About Solar Panels

Once you have decided to install solar panels, it’s important to research which solar panels are best for you, your home and your budget.

Guest post by Lauren White 

The solar panel industry has developed exponentially, in the past decade. Much of that is owed to increased demand. According to the Department of Energy, Americans use 23 times more solar energy now than we did around ten years ago.

Homeowners have more solar energy options than ever before. In order to meet demand and outshine the competition, companies are putting their resources toward research and development. They are constantly working toward creating more efficient and innovative solar energy technology.

Once you have decided to install solar panels, it’s important to research which solar panels are best for you, your home and your budget. There are generally three solar panel choices for residential homes: Thin-Film, Polycrystalline and Monocrystalline. These three panels are part of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, which means they convert the sun’s photons into electricity.

Thin-Film

Perfect for: The homeowner with a small budget, a low-to-average rate of energy consumption, and lots of area for installation.

The cells of thin-film panels are constructed by layering photovoltaic material on glass, metal or plastic. These layers can be measured in nanometers, significantly thinner than in traditional panels. Their thin construction makes them lightweight and flexible, and they have a low cost of production. As such, they come at a lower cost to consumers.

One drawback of this technology is its rate of degradation. These solar panels have an average life expectancy of 10-15 years, depending on the photovoltaic material used. Comparatively, monocrystalline solar panels have a life expectancy of 25-35 years.

Another drawback is their low efficiency rating of 7-15%. This rate doesn’t work well for homes consuming more than the national average of 11,000 kWh per year. Also, these panels must be installed over a significant amount of space, which can be a deterrent for homeowners with limited area for installation.

In recent years, technology has improved and certain thin-film technologies are pushing past 20% efficiency. With a higher efficiency rating, this technology can meet higher energy demands and become a greater competitor in the market.

Polycrystalline

Perfect for: The eco-conscious homeowner with wiggle room in their budget, an average rate of energy consumption, and perhaps a penchant for the color blue.

Polycrystalline panels are constructed by melting silicon into molds to create perfect square “wafers.’ These wafers of silicon are then installed on a grid to form the panel. The cost of making these panels is relatively low and the process produces minimal waste. This makes polycrystalline a more affordable option than the original solar panel, monocrystalline.

The efficiency rating for polycrystalline panels is typically 13-16%. They would perform best in homes with typical rates of consumption. You will still need a significant amount of installation space, for these panels, in order to achieve optimal benefits. You must also take into consideration whether or not your taste will agree with their blue tint.

Monocrystalline

Perfect for: The homeowner with less roof space for installation and/or a higher rate of energy consumption, who wants a longer-lasting product and can make a sizeable investment.

Monocrystalline panels were the first solar panels to be made available. Currently, they are some of the most expensive. Each panel is created using high-purity silicon cut into “wafers.” These silicon wafers are extremely efficient at converting photons into energy, with monocrystalline panels hovering around a 22% efficiency rating.

Since these panels can convert more energy per square foot, you won’t need as much space for installation. Greater energy conversion also means you’ll be able to power more appliances, like hot tubs, heated pools and electric cars.

Get What You Pay for—and Then Some

In most cases, homeowners surveyed by HomeAdvisor say the cost of installing solar panels is much less than their projected energy savings over a twenty year period. In fact, it’s been estimated that, in 2017, homeowners in Massachusetts and California will save double their investment in solar energy.

Calculate Your Estimated Savings

If you’re not sure of your ROI, Google has a convenient tool called Project Sunroof, which will calculate your estimated savings based on your specific home address. As for your installation cost, you can request local estimates through HomeAdvisor to get a realistic figure for budgeting.

While you’re doing your research, or when you are speaking with a professional, see what’s new and on the horizon in the industry. These technologies are developing so rapidly, there are breakthroughs on a yearly basis. In July of 2017, for example, scientists developed a solar cell with 44.5% efficiency. There is hope that this technology, and others like it, can be streamlined and integrated into the residential and commercial solar market.

How Much Is Mortgage Insurance and How Long Do I Have to Pay It?

How Much Is Mortgage Insurance and How Long Do I Have to Pay It?

Learn how mortgage insurance works and the options you have.

If you bought a home with a down payment that is less than 20% of the purchase price, or if you refinanced with less than 20% equity, your lender will require you to purchase mortgage insurance.

It’s important to note that not all loan programs will offer the same terms. That’s why it’s smart to contact your agent when looking to find the right loan for you. A savvy agent can help you navigate the often confusing world of finance as they work with a wide range of professionals who can help.

Is There Only One Kind of Mortgage Insurance?

All mortgage insurance serves the same purpose-to protect your lender should you default on your mortgage. However, different loan types use different terminology for mortgage insurance.

– FHA – MIP (mortgage insurance premium)
– VA – no mortgage insurance required
– Conventional – PMI (private mortgage insurance)
– USDA – MI (mortgage insurance)

How Much Is It?

Your premium is determined by the lender and will depend on two things: your loan to value ratio and your credit score. So for example, someone with a credit score below 700 who puts down only 5%, will pay a higher premium than someone with a credit score of 760 who puts down 15%.

Conventional loans: 0.20% to 1.50%

FHA loans : Upfront premium often added to loan amount has two payments. 1.75% of loan amount + annual premium (paid monthly) 0.7% to 1.3%

USDA loans : Upfront premium of 2.75%, based on loan size, added to loan balance + .50% annual fee based on remaining principal balance

How Do I Pay It?

There are several options you have to pay mortgage insurance.

Monthly. This is the most common type of mortgage insurance payment. The premium will be calculated into your monthly payment. The lender will then pay the premium annually on your behalf. So for example, let’s say you’re purchasing a $200,000 home and have put down 10%. The PMI at a 1% rate would be $1,800 per year, $150 monthly.

One-time payment. If you prefer to keep your monthly payments as low as you can a single payment might be the way to go. Typically, this kind of premium will range from 1% to 2% of the loan amount, so taking the same example above, you would be paying anywhere from $1,800 to $3,600 at the time of closing to cover your mortgage insurance premiums. The lender might also let you roll the premium into your loan so that it will be financed over the life of the loan rather than annually.

Lender paid premium. Some lenders will pay the mortgage insurance if you agree to pay a higher interest rate. This keeps your monthly payments lower than if you had to pay a monthly PMI premium, however keep in mind that you will be paying this higher interest rate until you either refinance or pay off the loan.

How Do I Get Rid of PMI?

For conventional loans you must have at least 20% equity in the home. When you have paid the mortgage balance down to 80% of the home’s original appraised value, you can ask your lender to drop the mortgage insurance.

When your loan balance drops to 78% the mortgage servicer is required to eliminate the mortgage insurance.

FHA loans, however are dealt with differently.

For FHA loans with MIP (mortgage insurance premium) that originated before June, 2013, mortgage insurance cancels when the loan to value gets to 78% and 5 years have passed since the loan was created. FHA loans taken out after this date will pay mortgage insurance for as long as the loan is in place.

So as you can see, in some cases the best way to get out of paying mortgage insurance on an FHA loan is to simply refinance. USDA loans also have mortgage insurance for the life of the loan, so to get rid of mortgage insurance you would need to refinance.

Can I Get Out of PMI Early?

Get a new appraisal. Some lenders will consider a new appraisal instead of the one acquired at the time of purchase. If they agree with the appraisal – which typically costs from $300 to $500 – they might agree that you meet the 20% equity threshold and drop the PMI.

Make loan prepayments. Paying something as small as an extra $50 per month can drop your loan balance dramatically. There are a number of repayment calculators available online to help you find the best way to pay your loan down faster.

Remodel. Increase your home’s value by making improvements to your home. Not every change to your home will increase its value. Consult an agent about those changes you can make to your home before you get started.

How Do I Calculate My Equity?

Simply divide your current loan balance (how much you still owe) by the original appraised value (typically the same as the purchase price).

For example, let’s say you purchased a home for $250,000 dollars and have paid the mortgage down until it has a balance of $190,000. Your PMI should have been canceled by now, because you’re at less than 78% of original value.

Are There Any Other Requirements to Cancel?

Yes. You should request PMI cancellation in writing. You must be current on your payments and have a good payment history. You may be required to prove there are no other liens against the property. You might be required to get an appraisal to prove that the loan isn’t more than 80% of the home’s current value.

What if my Lender Doesn’t Agree to Drop It?

If your home has increased enough in value, you can refinance without paying mortgage insurance. Calculate the costs of refinancing to be sure it doesn’t cost more than if you were to simply keep paying the mortgage insurance.

Get more information on the home buying process by visiting coldwellbanker.com.

Is Summer or Winter the Best Season to Buy a Home?

Is Summer or Winter the Best Season to Buy a Home?

Each season has something different to offer to a potential home buyer. Read the pros and cons of buying a home during the summer versus the winter.

You hear it a lot – there are best and worst times to make any sort of purchase. Whether it’s a television, a car, or a home, statistics are available that may influence your decision on when would be the best time to make a purchase.

Numerical data isn’t the only thing you should be taking into consideration, though. Each season has something different to offer in terms of making the home buying process easier or more challenging. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of buying during the summer or winter.

What to Think About When Buying a Home During the Summer


Did you know there are more homes on the market during summer? According to the National Association of Realtors, inventory in the U.S. is actually 15% greater in the warmer months than in the colder months.

If you have a lot of items on your home wish list, you might be better off searching during summer as you’ll have more homes from which to choose. The only disadvantage (depending on the climate where you live) is that summer results in more competition, as a greater amount of people are likely to visit open houses in nicer weather.

It probably goes without saying, but moving during summer is a bit more pleasant than moving during winter. For many, sweating beats freezing while trying to pack and unpack a moving truck. You can always cool yourself down, but it’s usually harder to warm up. It also tends to be safer if you reside in or are moving to an area that gets snow or ice.

If you have school-aged children, moving during their summer vacation offers more flexibility than trying to move during the winter holidays or spring break.

Lastly, one nice thing about summer is the lack of snow. That can be a huge obstacle when trying to look at the exterior of a home. You might miss the fact that a few shingles (or the entire roof) need to be replaced when there’s a pile of snow on top of it. The same goes for cracks in the driveway, and curb appeal in general.

What to Think About When Buying a Home During the Winter

There’s less competition in the winter as most people are busy with the holidays, their new year’s resolutions, or getting back into the swing of things at work. At this time of the year, buying a home isn’t typically at the forefront of most people’s minds.

What does that mean for you? No bidding wars, and more room to negotiate if a seller is feeling a bit desperate.

They might be if the reason why they’re moving is a pressing one. Combined with having to work around their real estate agent’s holiday schedule, having less showings, and subsequently, less interested buyers, sellers might be willing to give you a better deal or include more bonuses in the offer.

Again, depending on where you live, the weather during winter can be brutal. You’ll be able to easily identify drafts from windows in a house, and you’ll notice how effective the heating system is.

While snow can work against you, it can also work for you as you’ll be able to see how well the roof and driveway handle several inches of accumulation. Are there noticeable dips in the driveway? Have ice puddles formed on the property? These fairly major repairs can give you an advantage during negotiations.

Considerations for Both Seasons
There are a few factors to be concerned with during both seasons – namely, your real estate agent’s availability, and your neighbors.

Obviously, real estate agents may take time off during the holidays in the winter, but if they have children, they may also be likely to take off during the summer as well. Before you work with an agent, ask them about their availability over the next few months. You want to ensure that their planned absence won’t negatively affect your intentions to buy.

On the other hand, an agent looking to work through the winter holidays may be more motivated to help you, given the number of prospective buyers is lower.

Additionally, when you buy a new home, you’ll want to be surrounded by good neighbors, right? Summertime is great for seeing which neighbors excel at lawn maintenance and which ones let their grass grow for weeks on end. If you’re someone that cares a lot about a home’s upkeep, this might concern you.

At the same time, you’ll be able to see if neighbors work together to get rid of snow during the winter, or if houses on the block are nicely (or obnoxiously) lit up with holiday decorations.

Which Season is Better for Buying a Home?
As you may conclude, there’s no right or wrong answer. There are benefits and impediments to searching for a home in any season. You shouldn’t let weather or the trending numerical data hold you back. When you’re ready to buy, you’ll know it.

How to Tell the Difference Between a Buyer’s Market and a Seller’s Market

One important thing to remember about the property market is that it’s always in a state of change. Sometimes the market is favorable to buyers and sometimes it’s favorable to sellers. But don’t worry, a knowledgeable agent can guide you in the sale or purchase of your next home, no matter what type of market you’re facing.

What is a Seller’s Market?
A seller’s market is simply a property market that benefits you as a seller. In a seller’s market, there’s a scarcity of properties, which can drive up the price of homes, especially in desirable locations.

Sellers can depend on real estate experts to know what the market is doing, but here are some signs of a seller’s market:
– Low inventory when compared to previous months and/or years
– Homes are selling faster
– Less than six months of inventory on the market
– More homes are selling
– Median sales prices are growing
– Less information in real estate ads; just the bare details
– “For Sale” signs don’t stay up long before being replaced with “pending” or “sold”

What is a Buyer’s Market?
A buyer’s market is the opposite of the seller’s market. If you’re buying at this time you’ll be spoiled for choice as the supply of homes on the market exceeds the number of buyers, giving you the chance to score a fantastic deal.

A sharp agent will quickly be able to tell you where the market lies, but here are some signs of a buyer’s market:
– Inventory that is high when compared to previous months and/or years
– Homes are selling more slowly
– More than six months in inventory on the market
– Sales prices are shrinking
– Fewer sales are taking place
– Real estate ads are growing in size, giving more details and/or images
– “For Sale” signs are staying longer, meaning the days on the market are longer too

How Do I Figure out the Months of Inventory in a Market?
1. Look for the total number of active listings for the month prior to the current one
2. Look for the total number of sold or closed transactions for the same time frame
3. Divide the total number of listings by the number of sales. This figure represents the number of months of inventory there are.

For example, let’s say there were 6,500 listings in one month’s time. During that same time, there were 1,500 properties that were sold. Divide 1,500 into 6,500 and you arrive at 4.3 months of inventory, meaning that this is a seller’s market.

While a savvy real estate agent is the best resource for this information, other resources include real estate listing websites and/or your local real estate association.

Do All Markets Follow the Same Cycles?
Markets are always in a state of flux. At its core, people are the driving force behind the real estate market.

For example, as more people move into a location, the more need there is for housing. If the number of properties in the area cannot support the number of people moving in, prices of existing homes will likely rise until more homes can be built.

This constant change to the supply and demand in a market is how markets shift back and forth from being more favorable for either buyers or sellers.

Can I Buy in a Seller’s Market?
Absolutely, but it’s not going to be a walk in the park. You’ll need determination, knowledge, and most importantly, someone on your side who knows the market inside and out.

Something to consider – you don’t know the seller’s true reasons for wanting to sell. Maybe there’s a divorce pending or another baby on the way and they need more space fast. Whatever is going on with the seller, a savvy agent will spot opportunities to help you and the seller arrive at a mutually agreeable solution.

One key reason it’s vital to engage an agent in a seller’s market is for their negotiating skills. While it’s important to always negotiate, a seller’s market calls for serious help to ensure that you don’t pay more than you need to.

Should I Wait to Sell?
It depends. Is it mandatory that you sell right now or could you wait until it’s a seller’s market again?

Consult with an agent to get his opinion about your chances of getting what you need or want for the sale of your home. He just might have some options you may not have considered that will help you get out from under your home and get on with your life.

Don’t be afraid to sell or buy if you think the market isn’t in your favor. The real estate market can be highly varied, so trust your agent to help you get the best possible results, no matter what the market looks like.

What is the Difference Between a Short Sale and a Foreclosure?

What is the Difference Between a Short Sale and a Foreclosure?

Here is how to get a great deal on foreclosures and short sales while heeding all the risks when buying a home.

Not sure about the world of foreclosures and short sales? Don’t worry. Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know to grasp the basics of foreclosures and short sales.

What Are Foreclosures and Short Sales?

A foreclosure is a process by which a lender is able to repossess a property when the borrower defaults on loan payments.

A pre-closure is the period between when the lender files the Notice of Default and when the foreclosure process is complete. If the home is sold during this period, the transaction is called a short-sale foreclosure (or “short sale” for short).

While both a short sale and a foreclosure result in the unfortunate event of the borrower not being able to stay in their home, a short sale allows a borrower to avoid the harmful effects that a foreclosure would have on their credit score.

How Can You Buy a Foreclosure/Short Sale Property?

There are fewer foreclosures and short sales on the market today than there were a few years ago. “Default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions…are down more than 7 percent from a year ago,” according to RealtyTrac’sNovember 2015 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report.

But if you’re a buyer, you can still find a great deal on a foreclosure or short sale, particularly if you work with an agent who focuses on finding these deals.

If you are interested in purchasing either a foreclosure/short sale property, talk to an agent who specializes in foreclosures and short sales.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Buying a Foreclosure/Short Sale Property?

Let’s start with the advantages.

Foreclosures and short sales are often priced below retail, which means that you can buy these properties for less than the cost of other comparable homes. Subsequently, your monthly mortgage payments will be smaller and you’ll spend less interest over the life of the loan.

Furthermore, you may build equity quickly, particularly if you improve or renovate the home. This equity increases your net worth, and you have the option of borrowing against this equity in the future if you choose.

Additionally, if you purchase a short sale, you’ll also enjoy the emotional satisfaction of knowing that you helped someone avoid foreclosure.

Although foreclosures and short sales can offer the buyer exceptional deals on real estate prices, there are some drawbacks.

Foreclosures and short sales often need renovations or repairs. It’s likely that the owner wasn’t able to maintain the property, which means that you might have to deal with deferred maintenance issues. It’s important to get a full report of the maintenance issues you might face. Ask your real estate professional if he or she can recommend a qualified licensed home inspector who can produce a full report for you.

It is possible that some foreclosed properties are vandalized while they’re vacant, which can add to these repair bills. However, this damage will generally be reflected in the pricing of the home.

Foreclosures and short sales are in shorter supply, which means there’s a lower likelihood that the property has all your wants and needs. You may need to compromise on certain features, amenities or desired location. You may also need to act quickly, as these opportunities can get snapped up fast.

For a short sale, the seller may be motivated to sell, but he or she may not be able to budge on the negotiation price due to the outstanding balance on the mortgage.

Short sales are notorious for their lengthy closing times – typically between 45-90 days. This is because the original lender needs to approve the sale. If you’re in the market for a quick closing, a foreclosure or short sale property may not be for you.

That said, however, the financial benefits of buying a foreclosure or short sale can be fantastic for homebuyers who are flexible and patient.

How to Bring Summery Goodness to Your Bedroom

How to Bring Summery Goodness to Your Bedroom

Create a vacation vibe in your at-home sanctuary and you’ll be better able to recharge.

Houzz Contributor, Laura Gaskill

With warmer evenings and sunlit mornings, summer begs us to take a more relaxed approach to life. That might mean a slower-paced schedule, a breezy wardrobe or a goal of keeping the house tidy. These eight rules can help you savor the season each day from the moment you rise and pull open the shades until you tuck into bed at night.

1. I will preserve time at the beginning and end of the day for quiet reflection.Even if it’s only five minutes spent sipping your first cup of coffee in the morning or herbal tea before bed, having a smidgen of dedicated me-time in the peace and privacy of your bedroom can bookend a frantic day, or bring satisfying closure to a pleasant one. Write in your journal, read an inspiring book, meditate or simply look out the window as you set intentions for the day ahead.

2. I will treat myself to extended weekend mornings in bed. If you’re a parent, finding a way to make this happen may be impossible at times, but the bliss of a morning in bed (read: at least 20 uninterrupted minutes with a fresh pot of coffee and your favorite publications) is worth whatever scheduling acrobatics it takes to arrange.

3. I will keep my wardrobe simple. Living out of a suitcase on vacation can seem carefree because you have fewer choices. Re-create that feeling at home by editing your wardrobe down to your most-loved and worn pieces, and stash away (or consign) the rest. While editing, keep in mind that the smaller the wardrobe, the more important it is that everything goes together. Stick with pieces that mix and match (such as colorful, patterned tops and solid, neutral bottoms) to maximize outfit-making potential.

4. I will decorate with reminders of summer. Surrounding yourself with visual reminders of what you love most about summer will make your bedroom feel more like a getaway. Try nautical maps, postcards from far-flung locales, snapshots taken on your last vacation, a bedspread bought in a seaside town, or shells and sea glass collected on the beach.

Set the Mood: 5 Colors for a Calming Bedroom

5. I will keep things clean and uncluttered. Putting away clothes and shoes each day isn’t a glamorous task, but the five minutes (or less!) of effort is well worth the calm atmosphere you will enjoy coming home to when everything is neatly put away. Need inspiration? Give your bedroom a makeover at the start of summer to motivate yourself to keep the space looking sharp.

How to Get a Half-Painted Wall Right

6. I will help overnight guests feel at home. When friends and family come to stay, a few special details are all it takes to make guests feel welcome and comfortable. Snip flowers from the garden for the bedside table, set out a selection of beach reads and make up the bed with light layers. Don’t have a spare quilt or even a guest bed? A tapestry (the sort pinned to dorm room walls) or even a large sarong can make a summery and budget-friendly bedspread, whether you’re covering a bed or an air mattress.

See the rest of this eclectic home

7. I will say yes to mermaids. Mermaids are equal parts kitschy and mysterious, making them the perfect motif for a summery bedroom. Plus, having something to collect makes shopping at your favorite flea markets and art fairs even more fun. Not into mermaids? Pick your own icon of summer, and start collecting.

8. I will let the stars guide me to bed. Can’t get away to that rustic lakeside cabin? Pretend you’re camping at home, and turn down the electric lights in favor of candles and lanterns a few hours before bedtime. You may be surprised at how this one simple change can make your home feel completely transformed, at least for the evening. Indulge in screen-free entertainment like playing cards or board games, and be sure to peek outside at the stars before retiring to your room.

2017’s Most Important Summer Home Maintenance Projects

2017’s Most Important Summer Home Maintenance Projects

Being proactive when it comes to your home’s maintenance can save you time and money! Focus on maintaining these 5 areas.

With the bright sunlight and warm temperatures that accompany summer, you may be spending more time outside — and you may be noticing areas of your home’s exterior that need repair. But there’s more reason to tackle your home maintenance projects this summer than simply cosmetic appearance. Maintaining your home will prevent major leaks and damage that may eventually require professional help, usually when its most expensive and inconvenient for you.

Being proactive when it comes to your home’s maintenance can save you time and money, and it makes sense to do it when you’re more likely to be outdoors in the comfortable summer months. Here are five areas of your house that are most important to keep updated.

  1. Windows

Start by cleaning the exterior of your windows with hot soapy water and a sponge or squeegee. If you’ll need a ladder, make sure to review safety guidelines.

While you’re washing, inspect each window pane for cracks. Double or triple glazed windows with damaged seals or cracks may need to be replaced. Think back: Have your windows had excessive condensation inside through the winter and spring? That’s another sign that the seal might have been compromised and that your window might need to be replaced.

You’ll also want to inspect caulking and weatherstripping around your windows. Recaulk any spots where the caulk is loose or chipping away, or consider applying new caulk for a tight seal. Summer is a perfect time to do this because the warm temperatures and low humidity will help the caulk set perfectly.

Finally, wash window screens and replace any screens that have rips or holes.

  1. Roof

Visually inspect your roof every summer for missing or broken shingles, shakes and panels. Again, if you’ll be using a ladder and climbing up to your roof, make sure you follow safety guidelines. If you have any concerns about using a ladder or moving around on your roof, or if you’re unsteady on your feet, call your roofing company. Most roofers will make inspections and do basic maintenance for you.

While you’re up on your roof, you’ll also want to check flashing and seals around vents, chimneys and skylights. Apply caulk around any areas that haven’t been re-sealed in the past year.

Algae and moss can plague even new and well-maintained roofs. Apply a moss killer designed for roofs or install zinc strips that can help keep algae and moss from taking hold.

Your gutters should be cleaned and checked for holes or other damage. Look for water stains around your gutters and downspouts that indicate a problem.

  1. Exterior

Check high and low over your exterior and look for holes, gaps and cracks in your siding. It’s less expensive to replace siding that is just starting to deteriorate than to wait until it’s broken down completely and impacted your home’s structure, insulation and inside walls.

While you’re walking around your home, look for any signs of pests. Termites and carpenter ants can be devastating to your home’s structure, while ants and wasps can be a nuisance and cause minor damage to your home’s exterior. Check vents and crawl-space access doors to make sure rodents and other wildlife can’t get in.

  1. Foundation

Check your foundation for any cracks and signs that there has been a leak, such as water stains. Any small cracks can be repaired, but larger cracks should be inspected by a pro. Once you repair small cracks, re-seal the foundation with a good waterproof masonry sealer.

Pull out any larger plants growing close to your home that might impact the foundation. Besides the risks of roots growing into your foundation, watering plants close to your home can cause water to pool around the foundation and lead to damage.

  1. Heating and Cooling

You’re going to want to make sure your air conditioning is ready for the heat ahead, so replace filters and remove and clean your unit’s fan and condenser. Make sure you turn off power to the unit before you tackle any work.

At the same time, your furnace should be checked and readied for use again at summer’s end. Vacuum out the burner and blower cavities, and vacuum and brush the blower blades. Change the filter so the furnace is all ready to go when it’s time to turn it on again.

Your home is a big investment, and it’s important to keep it in good “health.” Spend some of your summer days inspecting and making minor repairs and you’ll reduce your chances of needing a big repair later.

How to Re-Do a Half Bath on a Budget

How to Re-Do a Half Bath on a Budget

With some paint and a carefully chosen storage solution, you can beautify a half bath on a tight budget!

The half bath is often the most forgotten part of the home. A room the homeowner themselves rarely ventures into, the half bath is often overlooked when other, more central rooms, are redecorated. In some circumstances, however, the half bath gets too much use, normally when it becomes the children’s bathroom. This designation usually results in a cluttered mess that features Barbie dolls and shampoo bottles covered in cartoon characters—not exactly a room to showcase to visitors!

How can you control this chaos and make it a more attractive space should guests stumble upon it? Storage! Even if you have a cupboard or shelf in your half bathroom, putting more storage in is never a bad idea, especially something that can become a focal point of this small room and help you dress it up in a few minutes before guests come to visit. Here we look at how with some paint and a carefully chosen storage solution, you can beautify a half bath on a tight budget.

When we moved into our 1960s home, we had a half bath that boasted a retro brownish-greenish-yellowish laminate countertop, white floor and wall tile, some under sink storage and a bathtub.Without a complete refurb, there wasn’t a lot we could do to the space to update it, and as it was situated between two upstairs bedrooms, it made the perfect children’s bathroom.

This designation meant it quickly descended into unorganized chaos. The tipping point for me was the multiple bottles teetering on the back of the toilet seat. I realized we needed storage that was open, easy to access and attractive. We also needed a new countertop—that retro mish-mash of colors didn’t look like it was coming back into style anytime soon.

After considering a complete vanity overhaul, we decided to try simply repainting the laminate. Using two coats of Rustoleum Countertop Coating ($20), we gave the room an instant facelift. The light grey color we choose complements the variety of different toned metal fixtures in the room and is a lot cleaner and brighter than the original color.

Next, we installed a simple chrome and glass wall shelf ($45) above the toilet. This fixture works perfectly for corralling the multiple bottles required to keep our children clean during everyday life but is also simple to dress up when guests come to stay.

So, don’t just shut the door on your chaotic half bath until you can afford to gut it. Consider some quick, inexpensive upgrades, such as paint and new storage, that will make it a more pleasant space to live with—or an easy update if you’re getting ready to sell.