Get The Home You Want, Millennials

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Hey, Millennials. Come on into the real estate market! We really need you to buy some homes so we can keep chugging along. Oh, wait. Prices are rising and so are interest rates, plus inventory is scary low. Hmmm. Well, come on in anyway, wontcha?

It's not easy to buy a home in a hot market where inventory remains at historic lows - and that covers a lot of areas across the country at a wide range of different price points. But it's especially hard right now for Millennials, who aren't exactly getting a warm welcome from the market that has been begging them to participate.

"I think it's fair to say this is the most competitive housing market we've seen in recorded history," Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com, told Curbed. "There's record low inventory and strong interest from buyers in getting into the housing market. Millennials are reaching prime homebuying age - in 2020, the greatest proportion of that generation will be turn 30 - just as baby boomers are looking to downsize. This has created especially fierce competition for smaller homes, the type of starter homes that most first-time buyers desire. This dynamic can be especially frustrating for young adults because they may be bidding for the same smaller home as someone from an older generation who can lean on the accumulated wealth of decades of homeownership."

But that doesn't make buying impossible - just a bit more challenging. Get a leg up by following a few smart strategies.

Work with the right REALTOR®

This is not the right time to give your brother-in-law's cousin's neighbor who just got his license a shot. Having a competitive edge is more important than ever, and you need a savvy, experienced, and well-connected real estate agent to help you buy a home.

Work on your down payment

You may be competing against buyers who are coming in with an all-cash offer, which you're going to have a hard time standing up to. But, there are ways you can make your offer look better. Remember that if it comes down to a multiple-offer situation for your home, sellers won't just compare the offer prices. They'll look at your down payment and the terms, and you need to have better terms than the next guy. You may only have 3.5% down, and that may be all you need to qualify for your FHA loan, but that doesn't mean the seller will embrace you.

"Your down payment is a key part of the offer you present to the seller," said Money Crashers. "The general rule of thumb is simple: the larger the down payment, the stronger the offer. More precisely: the greater the down payment's share of the total purchase price, the more likely the seller is to accept."

If you're ready to buy and there's no time to get a second job or go into hyper-savings mode, you can always take advantage of down payment assistance programs like the National Homebuyers Fund or hit up a relative. "If you're struggling to pool enough cash for your down payment, a generous relative or friend can help by giving you money," said NerdWallet. "But the money must be a true gift, not a disguised loan, and it must be documented properly through financial statements and a gift letter. If the gift is really a loan that you have to pay back, lenders won't accept it."

Be flexible on the closing

If another potential buyer is insistent on a 30-day close, but you could close earlier, later, and even rent back to the seller if need be, you just might end up with the house you want. Flexibility is key to submitting a winning offer, so make sure you have a Plan B - a place to stay for a few days or longer if you're going to be between houses, and a mover/storage option squared away.

Look in adjacent neighborhoods

Yeah, you have your heart set on a specific neighborhood. But if it's just not happening, consider the next neighborhood over. Experts say they have great potential upside.

Consider the worst house on the block

Buying the ugly duckling is a top strategy for investors, and one that can get buyers in the door (literally!) if they're having trouble purchasing move-in-ready homes. "When your budget as a first-time buyer doesn't stretch to a house in perfect condition in a neighborhood you adore, you might consider buying a home that needs work. Or maybe you've watched fixer-upper TV shows and think you could handle sweat equity. Either way, real estate experts say buying a house that needs renovating can make sense as long as you are realistic about the process," said the Washington Post. "A fixer-upper can be a smart investment, particularly if you can buy a property under market value and then increase its value with the right projects. While some home buyers prefer move-in-ready homes, they are stuck with the choices the previous homeowner or builder picked for their countertops, fixtures and floors. Not only do buyers of fixer-uppers get to select their finishes, they also can make sure the work is done the way they want."

If you're worried about how you're going to pay for all those renovations, ask your real estate agent or lender about a 203(k) loan, which rolls renovation funds into your mortgage. "An FHA 203k loan, (sometimes called a Rehab Loan or FHA Construction loan) allows you to finance not one, but two major items 1) the house itself, and; 2) needed/wanted repairs," said The Mortgage Reports. "Because the lender tracks and verifies repairs, it is willing to approve a loan on a home it wouldn't otherwise consider."

The loan addresses a common problem when buying a fixer home: lenders often don't approve loans for homes in need of major repairs."

Waive contingencies before you submit your offer?

Note the question mark. Your real estate professional may caution you against this strategy. But, lenders like Better Mortgage are making it work with a program that "allows buyers in select markets to not only underwrite their finances, but also get the appraised value of their home before they submit an offer. That means they have the option to waive both financing and appraisal contingencies to make their offer as competitive as cash."

Copyright © 2018 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

Spring Cleaning

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Let's face it. Spring cleaning is a drag. Regular cleaning is a drag, but the kind that requires a real commitment beyond your basic vacuuming and dusting on Saturday morning? Ugh.

But here's the thing: It's gotta get done. You don't want to look up one day and realize it's July and you still haven't tackled those tasks, however unpleasant they might be. These tips will make it easy.

Enlist help

And when we say, "Enlist help," we mean, "Get the kids involved."

And when we say, "Get the kids involved," we mean, "Break out the bribes and/or threats."

Spring cleaning should be a family affair, and kids of any age can help. There's a pretty good overview of age-appropriate chores here, but you know your children, so feel free to go off book.

Dance it out

Because everything is better with music. This mix is a pretty good sampling of current Top 40 hits, but POPSUGAR's Cleaning Playlist, filled with Rihanna, the Black Eyed Peas, and even Queen, is our current go-to.

"Some great music can help pass the time and even make cleaning fun," they said. "Blast these upbeat ditties in the background of your next tidying task, and it'll be over before you know it!"

Do the twist

Your dancing feet also come in handy when it comes to cleaning the floor. Two words: Mop. Slippers. How will anyone in the family be able to say no to cleaning the floors with these on their feet?

Set a timer

Ten minutes of whirlwind activity doesn't sound so bad, right? If you just can't fathom an entire day - or weekend - of cleaning, build short bursts into your day and GO HARD until the timer sounds. You'll be surprised how productive you can be in such a short time.

Make a Schedule

Staying focused is a challenge when you're not enjoying your activity. Whether you write it on a white board, print out calendar pages, or make shirts for everyone in the family with their specific tasks written on them (We're totally doing this!), making a plan and a schedule is a great first step. "Scope out your home: What areas need the most work? Where do you skip during routine cleaning? Those are the best places to start," said Sylvane. "Regardless of where you start, having a plan for when you're tackling each room will keep you focused on the task at hand."

Get rid of your stuff a little at a time

Getting everything in your house spic ‘n span is great, but the real challenge is going beyond the cleaning to achieve clean-out status. Of course, that's easier said than done, especially for those of us who have an attachment to our things.

Do a sweep of the house for things in plain sight that can be trashed, given away, or sold. If you love EVERY SINGLE THING IN YOUR HOME, think about it this way: Decluttering can actually lower your stress level. Science proves it!

Now get into those closets. If you can only get rid of a few items or one bag at a time, give yourself credit for whatever progress you've made and then make a plan to go at it again next week or even next month. Spring lasts an entire season, after all!

Protect your family

When is the last time you had your dryer vent checked? If the answer is, "Not sure," or "Never," it's probably a good time to make that call. You could also DIY this, BTW, but that's not very no fuss.

Copyright © 2018 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

Keep your home show ready

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Once your home goes on the market, real estate agents may call to show your home anytime, day or evening. Keeping your home "showtime" ready can be challenging, especially if you have children and pets.

What you need to stay organized is a handy checklist so you can be ready to show at any time. When you get the call that buyers are on their way, give everyone in the household a basket and assign them each to a room to pick up clutter quickly. Set a timer and tell everyone to grab up any toys on the floor, clear tabletops and countertops of junk, and quickly Swiffer-sweep the floors. Check for hazards like dog chews on the floor.

Turn on all the lights, and get ready to skedaddle. You have to let buyers have privacy so they can assess your home honestly. Take the kids for an outing. Put pets in daycare, sleep cages or take them with you:

Keep your home show-ready with these nine tips:

Eliminate clutter: Not only is clutter unattractive, it's time-consuming to sort through and expensive for you to move. If you have a lot of stuff, collections, and family mementoes, you would be better off renting a small storage unit for a few months.

Keep, donate, throw away: Go through your belongings and put them into one of these three baskets. You'll receive more in tax benefits for your donations than pennies on the dollar at a garage sale. It's faster, more efficient and you'll help more people.

Remove temptations: Take valuable jewelry and collectibles to a safety deposit box, a safe, or store them in a secure location.

Remove breakables: Figurines, china, crystal and other breakables should be packed and put away in the garage or storage.

Be hospitable: You want your home to look like a home. Stage it to show the possibilities, perhaps set the table, or put a throw on the chair by the fireplace with a bookmarked book on the table.

Have a family plan of action: Sometimes showings aren't convenient. You can always refuse a showing, but do you really want to? If you have a showing with little notice, get the family engaged. Everyone has a basket and picks up glasses, plates, newspapers, or anything left lying about.

Remove prescription medicines: Despite qualifying by the buyer's agent, some buyers have other intentions than buying your home. It's also a good idea to lock your personal papers such as checkbooks away. Do not leave mail out on your desk.

Get in the habit: Wash dishes immediately after meals. Clean off countertops. Make beds in the morning. Keep pet toys and beds washed and smelling fresh.

Clean out the garage and attic: Buyers want to see what kind of storage there is.

Copyright © 2018 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

Keep your move green

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Relocating from one place to another, whether around the corner or all the way to another side of the globe, has an impact on several things, including the cost of moving, disruption, and even an emotional impact. But did you ever stop to think about the impact of relocation on our Mother Nature? Perhaps not!

An impending house move can put enough stress on your mind. Amidst the chaos of packing and ensuring a smooth transition, who has the time to stop and think about where will the things that we are planning to throw out end up? We need a lot of bubble wraps and cardboard boxes to secure our valuables, right? But after unpacking, where will the waste end up, landfills?

Well, considering the impact of relocation might not be on top of your moving to-do list, but it's not that difficult or expensive to plan a greener move. In this post, we list out some simple and effective ways to make your move eco-friendly and hassle-free. Dig in!

Donate- Don't Ditch:

Home removal is a task, but it's also a chance to make a fresh start!

Although it's the perfect time to get rid of the things you don't want anymore, throwing them in a bin is not a good idea. So, before tossing out things to fill boxes, make a bag of the stuff you don't need. Shuffle smartly and put the donated goods in one bag and non-donated in another.

Recycle! Recycle!

Recycling is not just about donating plastic bottles and boxes; there are many other goods that you can recycle as well. Be it old electronics or batteries; you can use them in many ways.

For batteries: Take batteries to a local library or post office that already has a recycling center for batteries. Stuff like this contains lead, sulfuric acid, and cadmium which can leak. So instead of moving them with you, take them to recycling centers.

Electronics: Many local resource recovery centers take old electronics and cords. If you have one lying in the basement, give that to recovery stores or use give them to Goodwill. Many places accept the donation of such goods.

Paint cans: Many centers accept open bottles of varnish, paint, and stains.

Appliances: Old appliances also contain lead and other harmful substances that can hamper the environment. So instead of putting them in the trash, send them to recycle centers.

Eco-Friendly Packing:

People mostly use bubble wrap and other packing peanuts to safeguard their goods. Although these things are handy, they are not recyclable. So, where do you find recyclable materials?

At home!

Old newspapers and magazines make perfect packing materials. Before moving, gather old newspapers or magazines and make them useful for wrapping. You can also use clothes as packing material. But don't use fresh ones, use rags or ones that you can't donate.

You can also use corrugated boxes for packing as they are very easy to recycle. Or hire a returnable box service where you can return bins after use.

Use Eco-Friendly Products For Cleaning:

Use grandparent's tricks for a clean house! Don't use harmful chemicals; instead, use eco-friendly products. You can use vinegar, baking soda, and even ammonia for cleaning as well as laundering. These eco-friendly products make a perfect replacement for all-purpose cleaners and kitchen cleaners.

Mix baking soda with water and clean spots on cabinets and tables! Get them from your kitchen and give your home that eco-friendly finish!

After all, the new owners should see how beautifully you have kept you're your abode.

Sharing and Caring Mantra:

Transporting from one place to another is a tough and money consuming job. No matter how many loads you have, be it a full truck or not even half, you must have a truck for that. So if you have few cartons, share your truck with someone who is locating to the same place. Many companies provide sharing services.

Make Use of Containers You Already Have:

If you already have containers lying in your home, you would need only a few more things to tote your stuff. Haul-out your boxes, suitcases, and bins and fill them. Don't use paper to pack things that are delicate. Instead, use pillows to pack fragile stuff.

Rent Reusable Bins:

Many companies rent reusable containers which are made from plastic. Ask them and get a few for your stuff. Not only it is eco-friendly, but they are also more cost-effective than other cartons.

Look For an Eco-Friendly Company:

When looking for reputable home removal company to help you take your stuff, look for the environmental credentials as well. Ask questions like what the company uses for moving, a gas guzzling truck or biodiesel rigs? Do they sell recycled boxes? Will the movers pack your stuff? And, many more.

So, those were some of the most effective and used full tricks to make your moving green! 

Copyright © 2018 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

Small Kitchen Updates With Big Impact

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Does walking into your kitchen make you want to walk right back out? A kitchen that’s outdated or just plain drab can be depressing, but so can the realization of how much it will cost to renovate it. The good news is that you don't need to do a complete overhaul to get happy in your space again. Little changes can actually make a big impact, and many of them can be done inexpensively, easily, and without having to hire someone.

New faucet

It’s amazing how a little thing like a new faucet can change how you feel about doing dishes. Especially if your existing faucet doesn’t have a modern design or is lacking features like a sprayer, a new version will be much appreciated. Go crazy and get a touchless faucet for some cool technology the whole family will love.

Backsplash

A new backsplash can make your whole kitchen look fresh, and it’s generally an inexpensive update (unless you pick some kind of super-fancy, limited edition, hand-forged, imported tiles). With a little instruction - check out this step-by-step guide from Home Depot - you may be able to do it yourself in a few hours.

Paint

Anyone who’s even painted their own kitchen cabinets will tell you it’s not an easy or pleasant job. But, in the end, it’s worth it to have a kitchen that looks brand new - not to mention the savings. Opt for a professional paint job, and you can be looking at spending several thousand dollars!

If you’re going for it, make sure you do your research, and your prep work. You don’t want to spend all that time only to end up with a splotchy, streaky, or uneven finish. This DIY how-to will help.

Hardware

"Think of hardware as kitchen jewelry - add new metal or glass knobs for an easy kitchen cabinet update," said Better Homes and Gardens. If you're using metal hardware, choose one finish for the scheme. Be sure to count the number of doorknobs, handles, or drawer pulls before heading out to stores, garage sales, or flea markets. And if the new hardware doesn't fit the old holes, simply buy some backplates to cover the gaps and then drill new holes.

Get new lighting

If you have an island or breakfast bar, consider hanging pendant lighting. A series of three pendants gives you sufficient lighting and is also in line with today's trends.

Chalkboard paint

Modern kitchens are a place for family to gather, and designating a space for young kids to have some fun is an easy way to foster that togetherness. "Chalkboard paint inexpensively turns a ho-hum kitchen into a hip family-friendly hangout," said HGTV. "Simply paint a wall or section of smooth cabinet doors, then tell your family they can write on the walls." We love the fact that chalkboard paint comes in all sorts of colors now, and you can also get whiteboard paint and magnetized paint.

Glass panels

New cabinets are expensive! You can lighten up the look of your cabinets without changing them out completely by popping out the panels and replacing them with glass; this will give you a more updated look and also bring more light into the space. "Replacing existing doors with glass-paneled ones looks like a major upgrade," HGTV's Scott McGillivray told Good Housekeeping. "Opt for frosted glass, if you feel like your shelves aren't display-worthy."

Create your own unique open shelving

You’ve seen it all over TV. Open shelving is a kitchen trend, and it’s one you can easily create without much fuss by completely removing a cabinet or two from the walls. Or, you can create this unique look that’s even easier to accomplish. "Create the look of a built-in china cabinet by simply removing a set of cabinet doors and filling the space with shelves displaying your favorite dishes," said HGTV. "For added pop, line the back of the cabinet with wallpaper or paint it in a complementary color."

Copyright © 2018 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

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Refresh for Spring & Summer

By Jaymi Naciri

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Updating your home can seem like a huge undertaking, especially if it's been a while and it seems like everything needs an overhaul. But there are easy ways to freshen it up and make it look spring- and summer-ready that won't break the bank and won't create a long, drawn-out hassle. Each of these updates represents a classic or current trend and is something you can pull off yourself this weekend if you've got a little time and a little skill.

Take it to the floor

There was a time when the Persian rug dominated formal spaces. But take a look at this one from Wayfair. The somewhat worn look of the Aliyah rug brings in a vintage feel but the color palette is all new. This is an easy and affordable way to instantly update a living room with bold colors that will get your space noticed.

"If there's one piece to invest in this spring, it's a rug," said The Glitter Guide. "It's a surefire way to bring interest and style to any room. Try a colorful pattern or print."

Brighten up the bedroom

While you're thinking about patterns…"Swap in a patterned headboard," said Elle Décor. "You don't have to grab your paint rollers or ready the wallpaper to revamp a bedroom. Upgrade the centerpiece of your room—the headboard—to something bright and cheery."

Patterns, patterns, patterns

Mixed prints have been all over the runway, and you can create a similarly textured and stylish look at home. Mix it up, mash it up, and freshen it up with an assortment of prints—florals, houndstooth, stripes, graphic patterns. You can create a look that brings depth to your space by using one main color as your anchor and then creating a mix of patterns around it.

Coordinate your pet decor

Your basic scratching post or dog bed may fade into the background for you, but they can stand out like a sore thumb to visitors. Pet decor has come a long way, and no matter what style you've got going on at home, you can find something to match, blend in, or even stand out—for all the right reasons. Stores like HomeGoods and Target have tons of options that are affordable. But if you're looking to break the bank, perhaps consider this.

Spring for a new appliance

Lowe's and Home Depot have both been running spring specials with appliances that are 35–40% off. These discounted prices could easily lead you down a rabbit hole, and before you know it, you're wanting to redo your whole kitchen. But a new fridge all by itself sure would make your kitchen look pretty. If you really want to make the purchase painless, look into 0% financing that lets you spread the cost of the purchase over 24 or 36 months with no interest—it's an easy way to upgrade that appliance without the crunch of putting out a lot of money upfront.

Paint, paint, paint

There really are few places inside and out of your home where paint can't make a huge difference, and with such a low dollar commitment, you just have to pick and choose your projects. We love a good-ole fireplace makeover that can totally change the energy of your living space in one weekend for almost no money.

Bring in the flowers

When spring flowers start blooming, we have a natural desire to bring them into the home. After all, just the smell of fresh flowers can lift our mood. "Flowers always brighten up a space, no matter what kind you use," said The Spruce. "You also don't need a lot of them. A small floral arrangement on a table, mantle or windowsill makes a big difference. What's particularly great about flowers is that every color and combination works together, so it's a great way to experiment with colors you wouldn't normally put together."

Big, bold floral patterns are also a huge trend this season, so, while you're thinking about how to display your cut roses, consider where you can also make a splash on the walls, on an upholstered piece, or on the bed.

Frame your windows

Another easy way to bring an additional layer of interest to your home is with modern window coverings. Already have blinds or shutters? Framing the windows out with drapes that can be changed seasonally is a great way to create an interior that always looks updated while calling attention to the outdoors and to your architecture (or creating architecture where there isn't much).

Shop your home

You can give areas of your home a whole new look without spending a dime. "I love updating the look of our home by styling the coffee table, accent tables, shelves, countertops, and mantel," said Jane at Home. "One of the reasons I love styling is that I can use items I already have on hand. If I don't like how something looks, I can easily change it by moving things around or bringing in new items from another part of the house."

Some of her styling tips include: "Use stacks of books to raise objects off the surfaces; combine items in groups of threes–preferably with a tall item, a shorter, more sculptural item, and a horizontal item; balance hard and soft objects, as well as things with different textures, colors, tones, and styles; layer–placing some things in front of others and some off to the side–to create more depth and give the space a more natural look."

 

Summer is Calling!

We’re just a month away from the start of summer, which means school is out, vacations are in, and the weather is bound to get balmy. Summer is also primetime in the real estate world, and the market is already heating up.

This spring, new home sales rose 4% nationally, signaling an overall trend as building permits continue to climb and new inventory races to account for red-hot demand. On the whole, home sales were up 10.3% higher than this time last year, so buyers haven’t been deterred by an uptick in price or a competitive market. In fact, more and more folks are eager to stake their claim while mortgage rates remain at a relative low and the economy continues on the upswing.

If you’re interested in buying or selling property in 2018, it’s time to get your ducks in a row. Reach out to us today to review your options and get a picture of where you stand. By the end of summer, you could be the king or queen of your very own castle.

Hello Spring

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We’ll do you a favor and spare you the April Fool’s jokes. Instead, let’s dive in to what’s happening this season in the world of real estate!

You’ve probably heard the update. In March, the Fed raised mortgage interest rates by a quarter of a point. As the economy continues to stabilize post-Recession, it’s only natural that interest rates are recalibrated. The good news? It’s been a gradual process, and rates, on the whole, remain notably low compared to past rates. This is excellent news for buyers seeking competitive lending terms. For sellers, demand remains at a fever pitch. Get a head-start and use the spring season to kickstart curb appeal projects and home upgrades.

If you aren’t sure what steps to take to begin the buying or selling process, enlist (my/our) expertise.

I can see the "field" and can suggest how to get you in the best position possible come summer. Give us a call today and you’ll be ready when opportunity comes knocking.

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Media Room

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Most households have a room where the main activity is watching television. We're well beyond needing simply an electrical outlet and a pair of rabbit ears to entertain ourselves at home -- now, game consoles, cables, satellites, computer networks, streaming systems and stereo components can all communicate with your television. Be prepared for new devices incorporating cable management and methods of communication that will become "standard" in the future. Whether you're renovating your media space, building a new one or considering a quick upgrade, here are the elements to consider so you can make the most of your media room.

Screen Space

The more invisible the technology, the more able you are to immerse yourself in the media experience, but the beauty of a media room is that you don't have to hide the TV. So, splurge on the screen that suits your fancy and feel free to make it the centerpiece of the room in this case. On the other hand, if you would like to create a space that's a little more understated, yet visually dramatic when viewing media, consider a projector with a retractable screen. The screen hardware mounts to the ceiling, and the screen rolls up when you're not watching. Be sure to get a TV system that will handle all your media interests--Internet access, gaming, DVD or Blu-ray, and the components of your particular home theater set-up.

Sounding It Out

Most of our clients who build media rooms enjoy their screen time so much that we recommend they invest in audio equipment that's on par with their video equipment. Technology has thankfully advanced enough that you don't have to fill the room with tiny speakers for a surround sound effect. Install them flush to the ceiling or walls so you can keep your attention focused where you want it. If you want speakers to be truly invisible, you can go wireless or actually install completely invisible speakers. The working parts of the speaker are attached to a panel that looks like drywall, and is installed directly into the wall and painted over to match the rest of the space. The speaker elements simply vibrate against the panel to create sound.

Command Center

Finally, you need to create a space where you can house all of the electronic components of your new media center. Hard drives, DVR and cable equipment, gaming consoles and stereo equipment need a space to live that won't clutter up the room. The best solution for cable management is to have a small cabinet installed in the most convenient space to your equipment, yet is easily accessible. You'll need ventilation, but can easily install a media cabinet with a panel door that's ventilated.

Bringing It All Together

Now that you've got all your technology worked out, it's time to bring in your people! Consider the other functions the room will serve. If the room will function as more than a media room, break up the space to accommodate your other pastimes. Will you need a simple game table with seating for four, or a pool table that converts to a ping pong table and crafting station? Create those spaces behind the seating in your home theater so the whole family can spend time together without everyone having to watch "Rambo" again or rock out to some "Guitar Hero."

Seating

A sectional sofa is a versatile choice for a multipurpose space. They seat a lot of people comfortably, or just a few when folks want to sack out or snuggle up. If, however, your home theater is going to be dedicated solely to showing your favorite films, individual seating can really up the experience. Consider something that reclines -- recliners have come a long way in terms of attractive design. You can even get them with wireless speakers built into the headrest, which makes for an unforgettable cinematic or gaming experience.

Color and Texture

For designers, this really is a case of saving the best for last. This space is your retreat from the world, and an indulgence you've earned. Make sure you love the way it looks. In terms of color, go deep and bold for the best cinematic effect. If you can't handle deep navy on all four walls, consider adding it as an accent color on the wall behind the screen for maximum viewing effect. Add some texture and theatrical flair with draperies that block the light and add to that sense of indulgence. If soundproofing is an issue, make those draperies wall to wall, and have some fun with the fabric. Remember, more than any other room in the house, this is room where you should feel free to make it your own.

Now, hit the lights and pass that popcorn!

Copyright © 2018 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

12 Ways Buying New Construction Is Better, Worse, And Way Different From Other Homes

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Buying a new home isn't the same as buying an existing home. The more you know going in, the more prepared you'll be to roll with the process - or run from the process.

Everything all bright, shiny, and new

No one else's taste, no one else's floorplan, no one else's germs. When you buy a brand - new home, it's built for you and hasn't been lived in by anyone but you.

Decisions, decision, decisions

There are those who love the idea of selecting the flooring, the cabinets, the kitchen countertops, the finishes, and the myriad other choices that need to be made when building a new home - and then there are those who get the shakes just thinking about it. If you're the latter, perhaps an already - built home is a better option for you.

What you see is not what you get

Model homes are typically decked out with beautiful upgrades and multiple options, and those upgrades and options can cost big bucks. If you want your home to look like the model, be prepared to shell out far more money than what the base price of the house indicates.

You'll have a warranty

"Warranties for newly built homes generally offer limited coverage on workmanship and materials relating to various components of the home, such as windows, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), plumbing, and electrical systems for specific periods. Warranties also typically define how repairs will be made," according to the Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Protection site.

The duration of coverage varies depending on the component of the house. Coverage is provided for workmanship and materials on most components during the first year. For example, most warranties on new construction cover siding and stucco, doors and trim, and drywall and paint during the first year. Coverage for HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems is generally two years. Some builders provide coverage for up to 10 years for ‘major structural defects,' sometimes defined as problems that make a home unsafe and put the owner in danger. For example, a roof that could collapse is a ‘major structural defect.'

Home warranties are typically extendable after that first year, although you'll be responsible for the cost.

You may have to buy sight unseen

In some cases, model homes may not be built - or only a few of the floorplans will be featured as models - and you won't have an opportunity to walk through the homes to get a feel for how they live. You should have pictures and floorplans to view, and maybe even a virtual tour, but if you're the type that needs to be in it to get it, you may be disappointed.

The noise - and the dust

When considering which home to buy, the location of the lot is obviously important. But have you asked about how construction is going to roll out in the neighborhoods? It could be that your home is on a street that serves as a main artery for trucks and other construction traffic. Or perhaps you're in a location where construction is going to be going on all around you for months. Yes, the noise and dust will disappear - eventually. But how long are you willing to wait?

Don't expect a price reduction

You may be used to negotiating on the price of an existing home for sale, but new home prices aren't typically negotiable. The builder or developer may be willing to throw in some upgrades as part of the negotiation, but, the hotter the community, the less likely you are to get anything for free.

You can still work with your real estate agent

Working with an agent who is savvy in new construction will help get you the home you want and any available extras. Keep in mind that many new - home communities today offer real estate agents a commission for bringing in a buyer, but they insist that the real estate agent register their buyer on the first visit. So don't show up alone to tour the community for the first time! You could cost your agent money and then have to navigate the purchase on your own.

It might behoove you to work with their in - house lender

If you're already working with a lender, you obviously don't want to be disloyal. But, there may be financial benefits to working with the builder/developer's in - house lender. Many times, they offer a lower rate overall, will buy down your rate, or will offer you a "teaser" rate that keeps your payments lower for the first year or first few years.

Get familiar with this term: Standing inventory

If builders have pre - built homes that are waiting to be sold, this is the one place you may have wiggle room room on price. Another advantage of standing inventory is there is no construction wait, and these homes are often nicely amenitized with upgrades.

You might not be able to buy the lot you want

New homes are typically released in phases, and it might be that the lot you have your eye on gets snapped up by someone who was prequalified before you, or higher up on a waiting list if it's a really popular community. Or, perhaps you want a homesite that isn't set for release until later when you're ready to purchase now. Flexibility is the key to being able to get what you want.

Amenities might not be available or built right away

If a community's amenities are a draw for you, be sure to ask about when they will be built. It could be that the pool and community park you're so excited about are years out from being realized.

Copyright © 2018 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

Renovation Tips For A Classic, Not Trendy, Home

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Here's the dilemma. You're getting ready to redo your kitchen and you want it to be stylish and modern but not trendy. After all, this is the only kitchen renovation you ever plan to do and you don't want it to be outdated before you are even finished with the final touches.

If you're paralyzed because you're afraid of making the wrong decision, we get it. We're facing a similar dilemma here, FYI, with floors that need to be done and so many options from which to choose and no winner (yet) because it's not yet clear if what is currently hot is just a flash in the (floor) pan or will stick around for a while.

So how do you know how to choose? First, it depends on what your goals are. If you're just looking to update and then sell your house, choosing materials that are trending now may be a good call. If you're thinking, "I want to love this and have it still look good in 10 years," that's another story.

"You've probably taken on a renovation project because you want to update the style. While you'd like to give your home a modern look, choosing a short-lived style or personal design is a major fail," said HomeAdvisor. "While a trendy design is sure to make your home stand out, it's also going to quickly go out of style. This is a big problem if you want to resell your home in the future. Modernize the look of your kitchen or bathroom, but avoid bold styles that only appeal to those with specific tastes."

Go neutral

Yes, neutral can be boring. It's true. (It can also be super chic when done right.) Making a bold choice with your kitchen countertops might feel like the right way to go right now, but you may turn around in a couple years and regret that choice, especially if you're going to try to sell your home. You can always bring in pops of color with accessories or items that are easier to replace or redo.

For the last several years, grey has been the go-to color for homes. Prior to that, it was beige - a color that is currently seeing a resurgence even though grey is not gone - yet. Black and white is another currently hot option for color schemes, and, the bonus is, "black and white remains a classic combination," said HGTV. Certain colors will never go out of style - House Beautiful has 10 of them. But remember that no matter what color you choose, it's not permanent. Painting is one of the easiest ways to update your space and change the mood whenever you like.

Just keep in mind that high ceilings and other architectural features may make a DIY situation un-DIY-able and may make a redo more expensive because you have to hire someone. Key in on walls that don't soar to a pitched ceiling or that can act as a focal wall for high-impact that's easy to accomplish yourself.

Be smart about your kitchen

You may have a desired look cemented in your head for your kitchen, but are you making smart choices? Shaker cabinets, farmhouse sinks, and marble countertops are a few good options if you want something that looks modern but "will stand the test of time and still look as beautiful twenty years from now as it does today," said Apartment Therapy.

Go eclectic with your furniture

An entire house full of mid-century modern furniture can begin to look like a showroom, and when the trend is over, it can be painful to replace it all. Creating a more eclectic look with an eye toward classic pieces creates staying power. Adding in a vintage piece or two can add another important layer. "A design rule that's sure to remain true? Every room in your home needs a unique vintage piece," said HGTV. "Even in newly-decorated spaces, distressed or worn pieces create a collected, designer look."

Avoid hyper trends in larger items

Drapery, rugs, and bedding can be easily changed out to accommodate your fickle design taste. But when it comes to the larger pieces in the home - a couch or a set of chairs, perhaps, avoiding trends will give you longevity. "Timeless decor means fabrics that will stand up to years of changing trends! They transcend those changes," said Stone Gable. "Don't rush out and buy foundational furniture in the ‘color of the year'! It's only the ‘color of the year' for one year! Choose colors and patterns, especially when buying big ticket items, that will still look amazing when this year's trends have come and gone. Add layers of accent decor like lamps, art, tableware, pillows, bedding, etc. in more updated colors and styles. They can be changed out easily when they get tired or are out of style."

Copyright © 2018 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

Pros And Cons Of Today's Flooring Trends

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If you're thinking about doing your floors, you've probably done countless hours of research online, visited several stores, and pored over colors, textures, sizes, and styles. You may have some idea of what you like, but is it a good choice for your lifestyle or your budget - or both? We're breaking down the pros and cons of the most popular trends in flooring today.

Wide plank

Wide-planks are the most predominant trend in flooring today, regardless of color and finish.

Pro: The popularity of this type of flooring means there is a wide variety of options, from smooth engineered flooring to barn-like boards.

Con: DIY installation can be trickier because you're working with such a large area.

Distressed

"The distressed floor style has been around for quite a while but has become even more popular just recently," said Sebring Design Build. "Distressed flooring undergoes artificial aging and styling processes that give it a slightly worn finish. It works best for spaces where a beautiful rustic look is desired.  In preparing distressed wood flooring, various actions are taken depending on the degree and style of ‘distress' desired. The edges of each wood plank are hand scrapped, swirl and kerf markings are added to imitate historic wood and the planks are brushed to remove glossing and give them a soft worn texture."

Pro: Because it's already distressed, it's a good choice for households with kids and/or dogs.

Con: If/when smoother wood looks come back into style, those who have gone the distressed route may not be be able to have their floors refinished, depending on the depth of the distressing.

Luxury Vinyl

This is another fast-growing segment of the flooring industry because today's vinyl planks can fool the eye, and, sometimes the foot and fingers, too. Luxury vinyl planks look like the real thing, but often at a much lower cost.

Pro: Choose vinyl planks that "float" and you can go right over the top of existing flooring. That makes it an easy choice for those who don't want to do demo. Luxury vinyl is also extremely durable and easy to take care of—great for active households.

Con: The best vinyl plank product will get close to the price of real wood unless you are lucky enough to catch a sale. It's not wood.

Lighter floors

"For years, lighter floors were viewed as outdated or inexpensive. That is no longer the case," said Flooring Inc. "As more homeowners embrace the light, airy feel in their home, you will see a huge resurgence in light wood floors. Blonde wood, in particular, can give you that light feel, while still feeling timeless. With blonde wood, your decorating possibilities are endless. You can go for a chic, contemporary feel or a rustic, homey vibe all without changing your floors."

Pro: Depending on how light you go, you may be able to enjoy an added benefit of disguising dirt! Also, "blonde wood makes any room feel larger and more open, especially if you use large planks."

Con: If trend cycles hold, darker wood will come back at some point. Choose an excessively trendy look, like bleached-out floors, and you may further limit your "in-style" window.

Gray finish

"Gray wood floors are increasingly common and are a 2018 floor trend. They provide a unique, clean look that fits well in modern houses that need to brighten up," said Family Handyman.

Pro: They look fresh and can make any home feel a little more current.

Con: Will the pendulum swing back to brown? Eventually…probably. Flooring that works in both brown and gray tones might help with the staying power. Also, gray can "lack the warmth of traditional natural-color wood flooring," they said.

Bamboo Floors

Those who lean green have loved bamboo floors for years because of the material's eco-friendliness. "Bamboo is considered as the fastest growing woody plant, reaching full maturity in five to six years," said Green Design Build.

Pro: Bamboo is also known to be very strong and durable, and, whereas options used to be somewhat limited, a growing green trend means more looks for buyers interested in eco-friendly floors.

Con: Bamboo can be pricier than many other options.

Wood-look tile

There is a huge trend toward going with tile that looks like wood instead of using real wood. "These are porcelain planks that are designed to mimic natural wood grains," said Family Handyman. Porcelain planks (tiles) are an attractive and durable floor trend."

Pro: With 3D printing, the looks you can achieve are endless, and mimic the appearance of wood so closely that people may not even realize it's not wood. Wood-look tile is also a great choice for areas like "the bathroom or other space prone to dampness" and is easy to clean and care for.

Con: It's hard under foot. And it's not wood.

Copyright © 2018 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

5 Tips To Refresh Your Home For Spring Time

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It may still be snowing in some parts of the country, but spring is almost here. Before the flowers start budding outside, refresh the inside of your home to give your interior spaces that springtime glow.

Bring the outdoors inside

Adding fresh plants or flowers to an otherwise ho-hum space can spice things up in the blink of an eye. Even if you don't have a garden full of fresh flowers to choose from, greens make a lovely addition to your living room, or even an eye-catching centerpiece for your dining room table. Better Homes and Gardens suggests gathering a few fresh fern fronds for dramatic texture and rich color.

Don't be afraid to add color

One of the easiest ways to perk up your space is to invest in a gallon of paint, call in reinforcements to help you out, and go to town with brushes and rollers. If you're not incredibly adventurous when it comes to color choices but still want a pick-me-up, try going with a warmer, creamier version of the neutrals you already have; a creamy barely-yellow adds so much more warmth and interest than stark white.

You could even paint an accent wall a bold, fun color and use that space to showcase some of your favorite art or family portraits for your own personal art gallery. ForRent.com suggests incorporating bright colors in a breakfast nook or one of the smaller spaces of your home or apartment. It's less of a risk than painting your entire kitchen or living room, but still packs a punch.

Reorganize your bookshelves

If you've got a fantastic library, now is a great time to take everything off the shelves, blow the dust off the covers, and reorganize. You might even consider artfully stacking books in different directions, some horizontal and some upright. Apartment Therapy reports some pretty impressive results simply by arranging books by color for a uniquely eye-catching display.

Update window treatments

Spring is a great time to trade in your richly-textured drapes for lighter, breezier, more summery colors. If privacy isn't a huge issue in a space, try adding light, breezy sheer curtains on a thin, minimalist rod. You'll love how much the change automatically brightens your space. You might also consider substituting your ordinary blinds with Roman Shades. They're a classier way to control light and privacy, and to update your style.

Make your entryway welcoming

Upgrade (or thoroughly clean) your front-door mats and add a wreath to your front door. This could be a fun DIY project for the entire family. Make sure you have an efficient landing spot just inside your front door — a place to drop keys and hang up a coat or jacket before coming inside. This is also a great place for a fun mirror and a flower arrangement. Your home's entryway often gives guests their very first impression of your home, so make it shine with your family's personality and a touch of style.

Copyright © 2018 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

 

How To Handle The Stress Of Selling Your Home

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Three things are certain in life: death, taxes ... and undue stress caused by moving. Whether or not you use the services of a REALTOR® to help you wade through the uncertain waters of the buy-and-sell process, moving is stressful, period. And there's not much you can do to avoid it. And we're not just talking about packing and paperwork. Moving is an emotional process. If your'e not calming down your nervous children, you're trying to reassure yourself that you'll meet people in your new neighborhood, that you bought the best house within your means, and that your kids' new schools will measure up.

It's easy to forget while we're dealing with all of these jitters that moving actually can represent an exciting adventure, a growth opportunity and the prospect of new beginnings. Once the dust settles after your move, you're entering one of the most memorable times of your life. With any luck, you've recruited a REALTOR® who's familiar with the obvious stresses as well as the insidious (and subsequently more detrimental) ones. Depending upon your relationship with your Realtor, you should be able to rely on him or her for more than just closing the deal. Your Realtor also should be able to calm your trepidations by giving you the support you need -- giving you the facts about that new school district, reassuring you that your jitters are perfectly normal, and giving you as much information about your new hometown as possible, increasing your familiarity with the previously unknown.

It's important to remember throughout the entire selling and buying process, however, to reserve time for yourself and your family. It's not a waste of time, but rather an insurance policy for your sanity and continued happiness. Stress is sneaky, as we've all discovered. It can eat away at us during what are supposed to be the happiest of times, because after all, any major change in life is stressful. If it's supressed, it can wreak havoc both emotionally and physically and spread throughout the family. And there's nothing worse than moving a grumpy family across the country. For the sake of your continued family unity, keep in mind the following stress-relieving measures:

First, remember that it's perfect normal to feel unsure of your decision right now. You've just made a major commitment, and all of us experience those last-second "What on earth did I just do" worries after signing contracts and making life-changing decisions. Instead of becoming overwhelmed with "what ifs" and dread, reframe this decision as a prime opportunity to begin your lives in a new environment. The old saying "When one door closes, another one opens" definitely applies here. Trust that your Realtor is looking out for your best interests, ask as many questions as you need to throughout the entire process (that's part of what your Realtor is paid for), and look forward to the adventure that lies ahead of you.

If you can, keep an emergency fund in case you run into any unexpected costs. One example: If your buyer comes forward after a home inspection is completed and requests a series of repairs prior to move-in, you'll be prepared. Chances are good that you won't necessarily agree with the buyer's requests, but at least you won't face the additional stress of being short the money for repairs if you plan ahead and save some extra cash (no set amount -- just as much as you can handle. A goal you might try to shoot for would be in the range of $2,500). It's probably in your best interests not to try to guess what the buyer will want to repair, and then fix it ahead of time. That's because buyers have a habit of isolating areas of your home that you never considered having repaired, and not even noticing the ones you expected them to pinpoint. So save yourself any expenses until you've determined their requests.

And while we're on the subject of finances, try to anticipate and prepare for the initial expenses you'll face upon move-in. Resign yourself to the fact that during the moving process, you're going to feel as if you're holding your wallet upside down, and everyone -- movers, contractors, buyer, etc. -- is sitting underneath, catching the windfall and demanding a larger share. Keep in mind that this is an investment for the good of your family, and that these costs are a one-time inevitability.

Remind yourself of why you're moving in the first place. A job transfer, or is it a voluntary choice? Obviously, whether or not you had some degree of control over the decision will affect your outlook. Regardless of your answer to that question, round up as much information as you can about your new hometown. What kinds of cultural offerings does the town/city offer? What are its landmarks and natural attractions? Research some possible day trips you might take with the family once you're settled. Is your new hometown near state borders, giving you the opportunity to explore different regions of the country without much effort?

Envision your new home. Where will you place the furniture? Remind yourself of the home's primary selling points. Will you have more space? More closets? A large backyard and/or swimming pool? What does your new street look like? Do a lot of young families reside there? If so, your children are likely to be reassured by that knowledge. As often as possible, try to picture yourself and your family fully adapted to your new environment.

Remember to have a little fun occasionally. You're still allowed, even if you feel as if you don't have a penny left to your name. Take the family out to dinner, to a movie or a picnic -- anything that gets all of you out of the house and away from boxes, paperwork, emotions and all of those pre-move concerns. Keep a regular "date" to get out together -- for example, every Friday night leading up to the move. Take your mind off your stress for a few hours, and remind yourself that your family members are experiencing many of the same emotions. Like misery, stress often loves company, so enjoy your time together and remember that this stress won't last forever. Regardless of what you're feeling now, the move will happen and everything will eventually fall into place. Journeying into the unknown is what makes life rewarding, so trust in your Realtor's expertise and in your family's resilience, and look forward to the journey ahead.

Copyright © 2018 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.