Are You Ready to Own a
By Jennifer Christine
Thinking of owning a rental property? Being a landlord can be well worth it financially, but how do you know if you’re ready to take the plunge?
Who's The Boss? - Managing
Your Rental Property
Are you going to manage your rental property yourself or will you hire a property management company to manage it for you? If you manage it yourself you'll have to screen tenants, handle repairs and maintenance, and collect the rent. If you hire a property management company, they should handle all this for you—for a fee, of course... Read More
Attention Real Estate Investors:
Anti-Flipping Rule Suspended
By Evelyn Fielding
Real estate investors and house flippers all over the United States are celebrating: HUD has suspended its anti-flipping 90-day seasoning rule for a year. This means you can buy a HUD-owned home and flip it immediately to an FHA insured buyer—no need to hang on to the property (and a mortgage) for three full months, or turn FHA-insured... Read More
5 Home Safety Tips to Prepare for Emergencies
Courtesy of ARAcontent
Over the years, Americans have endured many different types of tragedies and crises—from Hurricane Katrina and September 11 to countless other natural disasters. During these hardships, we have learned to expect the unexpected and to be ready for anything.
With this in mind, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has declared September National Preparedness Month in an effort to educate people about natural and national disaster preparedness and to motivate families to plan ahead. In support of this year's "Ready Campaign," First Alert and The Lehigh Group, makers of home safety and security products, offer some simple tips for preparing your home and family to face unexpected emergencies.
"You never know when disaster may strike, so having a safety plan in place is the best way to prepare your family to face crises with... Read More
A Simple Faux Finishing Technique: Color Washing
By T. Hillukka
Of all the faux finishing techniques, color washing is among the easiest to do. A color wash consists of simply covering a wall in paint, mixing a glazing liquid with another paint color, and brushing it on over the base coat. Sounds easy enough, doesn't it?
It is. If you would like to spruce up your home a little, but do not consider yourself the creative type, color washing may be the way to go. You do not... Read More
Small Design Changes, Big Impact
Courtesy of ARAcontent
We're all living more cost-consciously these days—we're dining out less, forgoing luxuries like vacations and new wardrobes, and we're spending less on furniture, too. The good news is that it doesn't take much to turn your current decor into something completely fresh and different. There are plenty of easy, cost-effective ways to change your surroundings for the better.
"Sometimes the smallest changes can make a big difference in the look of your home. One of the first things I recommend is visiting a nearby professional custom framer and updating an existing piece of art with new matboards," says Barbara Schmidt, a nationally recognized interior style consultant whose work has appeared in O at Home, This Old House and Renovation Style, and numerous television shows.
"Look for a new color to add focus to your art pieces," says Schmidt. "And when choosing matboard for your artwork, make sure it's made from high quality materials, like Crescent's cotton RagMat matboards. RagMat is guaranteed safe next to any artwork for a lifetime."
Schmidt offers four additional tips for freshening up any room in your home using inexpensive items, as well as preexisting pieces.
- "Choose one new color for your room and pull it into slipcovers, rugs and tablecloths to create newness and cohesiveness," Schmidt suggests. "Try spray-painting a lampshade as an inexpensive way to tie it all together."
Beyond making unnecessarily large purchases, our shift in financial priorities is having a more lasting impression on the way homes are decorated. Consumers are moving away from the "ready to wear" mentality that became popular with the recent rash of design-centered reality shows in favor of more permanent pieces.
- Dress up a wall by adding a tight grouping of your favorite pictures. "Pull your chosen color into the matting and frames, but vary the width and style of the frames to add variety," she says. "This is definitely a growing design trend—and it's a great way to make use of family photos and other images you've always wanted to display." Your local professional custom framer can help you create this look.
- "You'd be surprised at how easy it is to make pillow covers on your own," says Schmidt. "Or you can opt to buy them pre-made at fabric stores for a lot less than you'll find at a big-box retailer. It's possible to find beautiful colors and patterns at bargain prices. You just need to do your research."
- "Choose one wall in a room, and repaint it to change the color scheme," says Schmidt. "Painting is one of the most inexpensive things you can do, and I guarantee the entire room will look brand new."
"More than ever before, my clients want pieces and themes that are going to last," says Schmidt. "When it comes to big ticket items like tables and sofas, I advise them to choose timeless looks with clean, sleek shapes. That way, when they do want a change in the look and feel of a particular room, they can just make small tweaks to turn it all around."
|4 Reasons to Update a Bathroom|
By E. E. Kane
Photo: © Eduardo Bernardino - iStockphoto
Bathrooms may not hold the most glamorous spot in your home, but they must remain functional or everyone suffers. Remodeling can be very expensive, so how do you know when it's time to invest money in your bathroom? The following four reasons explain why remodeling may be worth the expense.
1. Signs of Water Damage.
Leaks in the plumbing can easily lead to problems like mold, loose tiles, and structural damage to the floor underneath. Water damage can wreak havoc on a bathroom, and in some cases will require tearing everything out. If you simply have a mold issue, you may be able to resolve it with ventilation. Install an exhaust fan or a new window, and then kill the mold with a bleach-and-water solution. Finally, use primer and paint that specifically hinder mold growth.
2. Electrical Safety.
Do the lights flicker? Does the outlet sizzle
|when you plug in the hair dryer? Has the exhaust fan stopped working? Whether you need to overhaul the electrical circuits or simply change a few receptacles, don't ignore electrical problems in the bathroom. Every bathroom should have a GFCI outlet, which prevents electrocution should a shaver or hair dryer drop into water. |
3. Just Plain Gunky Issues.
Stained carpeting, cracked vinyl flooring, broken or missing tiles, a bathtub or sink that never looks clean no matter how much you scrub, Pepto-Bismol pink tiles—these are all reasons to feel ambivalent about your bathroom. If "gross" is the first word you think of to describe your bathroom, it's time to remodel.
4. Planning to Sell in a Few Years.
If you know you'll be moving within the next five years, remodeling an outdated bathroom can increase the value of your property. Although you may not recoup everything you spend, bathroom remodels have shown a greater return on investment than most other areas of the house. Focus on functionality, storage, and neutral palettes.
Resolving the issues and making repairs should always come before cosmetics like paint or wallpaper. Remodeling a bathroom can be very disruptive to family life, so if you can't make the repairs yourself, find a reputable contractor who will work with your budget and your time frame.
|Decorate Your Table with Nature|
By Kristie Leong
Photo: © Andrejs Nikiforovs - Dreamstime
Whether you're planning a summertime outdoor party or a simple lunch, the experience can be enhanced by adding natural accents when decorating your table. Your guests will feel special when they see how you've added a gentle touch of nature to their dining experience. Need some ideas? Here's how to decorate your tablescape with the beauty and tranquility of nature:
A Flower Theme - Start with an oversized floral centerpiece made of freshly picked flowers that are bursting with color. Pick up the color of the flowers with the tablecloth and napkins. Press a small, natural flower onto each guest's place card. Tie each napkin with a brightly colored ribbon and a colorful, fresh flower. To add contrast, place glass or silver bowls and salt and pepper shakers on the table. Play up the floral theme by serving a cake with edible flowers as a garnish or use
|edible flowers to garnish ice cream, pudding, or gelato. You can even freeze small edible flowers in an ice tray and use them to add color to drinks. Be sure the flowers you use are truly edible and are completely free of pesticides. |
The Sea Theme - Who doesn't love the power and beauty of the ocean? You can play up the sea theme on your table by creating a stunning centerpiece using sand and shells. Intersperse natural looking candles or tea lights between the shells to add more atmosphere. Further enhance the theme by drilling holes in the center of seashells and stringing them on elastic cord to create napkin rings. You can even scatter shells or polished sea glass randomly along the length of your serving table or buffet line. If you'll be having place cards, attach a small shell or starfish to each card for a natural twist. Have beach music playing softly in the background while your guests enjoy the food.
Natural Wood - Start with natural linen tablecloths and napkins held in place by wooden napkin rings. Lay some pieces of natural driftwood in the center of the table along with tea lights or birch bark candles. Serve the food on wood veneer placemats, wooden plates, and unadorned wooden bowls. Contrast the wood with glass containers for added texture and interest. The effect will be woodsy and uncluttered.
|What is Loan Modification?|
By Zabrina Way
Photo: © iStockphoto
The Obama administration recently announced that 500,000 homeowners should get loan modifications by the end of 2009. Now, many homeowners have questions about the process.
What is loan modification? Loan modifications are changes lenders make to existing loans when the borrowers have a long-term inability to keep up with loan payments. Modifications can include a reduced interest rate, a different loan type, an extension of the length of the loan term, or all the above. It typically costs the lender less than defaulting on the loan would, so they are sometimes open to the possibility of modifying your loan.
|Are you eligible for mortgage modifications? If your home is your primary residence, your mortgage was taken out before January 1, 2009, or your mortgage payment is 31 percent or more of your gross income, you might be eligible for a loan modification through the Home Affordable initiative. Your loan servicer will be able to tell you if you're eligible for modification.|
When is loan modification suitable for you? If you can no longer afford to make your mortgage payments, but you could make payments on a modified loan, then loan modification may be right for you.
How do I know if I will qualify for loan modification? Prepare a detailed spreadsheet with your financial obligations to provide to lenders, then calculate the average cost of each category of item, utility or service you spent money on over the past three months. Write a hardship letter and include the necessary documents, then call or send the paperwork to your lender. If you qualify, work with them to fill out the necessary paperwork and go through the stop gap repayment plan.
Get the Most for Your Money
These simple strategies will help you minimize the hassles of remodeling and maximize the payoff.
While the remodelers are at your home, you can save money by hiring them to do other jobs at the same time.
Accomplish work when it costs the least. Let's say you're replumbing a downstairs bath and intend to create a new master bath in the attic during the next five years. It makes sense to rough-in the new wiring and plumbing lines for the attic bath now. At the very least, you'll minimize disruption and debris. The same principle applies if you'll be running new ductwork in the future. Tearing out plaster and refinishing the same wall twice will cost you far more in the long run than springing for extra installation costs now.
Likewise, if you're hiring a carpenter or any other trade professional, think about what else in your house might need to be repaired or changed while the person is on-site. You'll pay a bit more than you would have for just the one project, but it may cost considerably less than if you call back for a separate job.
Shop around, shop ahead. Old-house rehabbers often scavenge salvage yards for future improvements, seizing opportunities as they come. Factory outlets and sales on fixtures and appliances can save you a bundle. Caveats to keep in mind: Have a clear picture of your new room in mind so that you only buy the things you need, watch out for expiring warranties, and be sure you have room to store your bargains.
Pay as you go. By working in stages, you often can afford a higher-quality job, because you're spreading out expenditures over time. You'll also build equity as you renovate, provided your overall remodeling plan is sound. As equity grows over time, prior improvements can help finance the work yet to come. Talk to your financial and tax advisers about your remodeling plans up front, and be realistic about how much each step of the project will cost.
Minimize disruption. It only makes sense to isolate areas of construction as much as possible and to plan for minimal inconvenience. If you're adding a second bath, for example, do it before you gut the first one. Before you make your kitchen unusable, consider building a snack bar in your basement; even a makeshift arrangement will make the project go smoother. Otherwise, the cost of restaurant or take-out meals night after night can really eat into your budget.
Upgrading your kitchen can pay off in more ways than one.
Making back your investment
The best reason to make improvements to your home is to make it a better space for you. But it's wise to keep an eye on how the money you spend is improving the value of your home. For example, if you spend $20,000 redoing your kitchen, the value of your home will increase by around $17,400, according to a survey compiled by the National Association of Realtors. By comparison, $6,000 spent on a deck adds just $4,200 to what prospective buyers are willing to spend.
Listed below are the most popular remodeling projects and the average percentage of costs recouped for each type. This survey compiled statistics from homeowners throughout the United States who completed a project between 1990 and 1995, then sold their homes within a few years.
- Minor kitchen remodeling: 94 percent
- Bathroom addition: 89 percent
- Major kitchen remodeling: 87 percent
- Family room addition: 84 percent
- Two-story addition: 84 percent
- Attic bedroom conversion: 83 percent
- Master suite addition: 82 percent
- Bathroom remodeling: 73 percent
- Siding replacement: 71 percent
- Deck addition: 70 percent
- Whole-house window replacement: 68 percent
- Home office addition: 64 percent
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What is Home Equity?
By Susan M. Keenan
The equity of a home is calculated by taking the current market value of a home and subtracting the debt owed on the property. For example, the current market value of the home is $250,000 and the current amount of money the homeowner still owes to his lender is $115,000. If you subtract the debt of $115,000 from the market value of $250,000, the home's equity is $135,000.
Since the initial down payment builds up equity in the property, the larger the down payment on the home, the larger the amount of equity in the home. In many cases, a larger down payment will equate to a better positioning stance for acquiring a loan as well.
Most often, the home and its accompanying land and structures are used as collateral to secure the mortgage. The value of the property is used to ensure the lender that he will not lose his investment.
Once a homeowner has lived on the property for several years and paid into the home loan or mortgage, the equity of the property increases according to the amount of each monthly payment that went toward the principal portion of the loan. If more than one loan has been taken out using the home as security for the loan, the balance of each loan must be subtracted from the current market value of the property to obtain the current equity.
From Cabinets to Countertops – Creating a Kitchen on a Budget
Making just a few changes to your kitchen can go a long way in giving it a brand new look and feel.
It is the busiest room in the house and often needs the most improvement: the kitchen. A remodeled kitchen increases the value of the home and makes it more enjoyable to cook, live and dine in. However, many homeowners are left wondering how to create the culinary oasis of their dreams on a budget.
“Just about everyone has cost concerns when it comes to remodeling. Very few people have unlimited budgets, so doing research on various options will go a long way to stretching your dollars,” says Connie Edwards, certified kitchen and bathroom designer and director of design for Shenandoah Cabinetry. Edwards offers some valuable tips for controlling costs when remodeling the kitchen.
• Do as much of the work yourself as you can. Wallpaper removal, light demolition, and cleaning up after subcontractors require hard work as opposed to skill; there is no point in paying skilled contractors to clean up.
• Buy stock cabinets. Instead of having cabinets custom-made, find a line of stock cabinets that you like. Shenandoah Cabinetry, sold exclusively at Lowe’s, is a stock cabinet manufacturer that offers a wide range of premium construction features and accessories at a value price.
• Use alternative materials instead of costly marble or stone. Laminate countertops and vinyl flooring create rich-looking surfaces on a modest budget. When choosing faucets, brushed and polished chrome is vastly less expensive than more exotic finishes, and basic white fixtures are budget friendly and won’t look dated in a decade.
• “Wow” the island. The island is the first thing that people notice when they walk into the kitchen, so keep the main cabinets simple and put the emphasis on the island. Make the island pop by increasing the thickness of the countertop, using a premium finish or glaze on just the island cabinetry, or illuminating the island with inexpensive but attractive pendant lights.
• Work within your existing space. Annexing space from an adjacent room or removing a wall can be costly, so add storage and organization features to new cabinets to utilize space you already have. Many of these accessories are now factory installed, such as those offered in Shenandoah’s OrganizationOptions program, making things simpler for the consumer and easier on their wallet.
• Use moderately priced items in an interesting way. Small splurges in small spaces like a glass tile backsplash behind the oven range will spruce up the kitchen and is the best use of your dollars.
• Consult a design professional. A design professional can help you avoid costly mistakes and ensure the job is done efficiently.
Get the Look of New Cabinets
New cabinets not within the budget? Here are some tips to make them look like new.
The easiest, least expensive way to update your cabinetry is to replace the hardware. Look for hardware that really adds to the overall look and feel of your kitchen. For a retro kitchen, consider glass knobs in a green hue that will add to the charm. If you have a kitchen filled with traditional white cabinetry, wrought iron pulls will add instant drama. For a country kitchen, take a whimsical approach and combine several different knobs and pulls.
Give the cabinetry a completely new look by giving the doors new fronts. Do this by cutting and removing the inner portion of your doors. Then, replace it with plexiglass, frosted glass, or even wire- change all of your doors or just a few. This project will take some knowledge of tools and materials; do some research or take a class to become more familiar with the process.
Painting your cabinetry will give you perhaps the most dramatic change to your kitchen. Do be careful when selecting your paint color- I recommend painting some samples and placing them in the kitchen before paint touches the cabinets. You will need to prepare and paint the surface properly in order to achieve the best results - do your research and do the job right.
: Make a diagram of your kitchen and number the cabinet doors. Then, using painter's tape and a permanent marker, physically number the cabinet doors. This will ensure that when you are ready to re-hang the doors, that you will know where each one goes making reinstallation a cinch.
When it comes to countertop surfaces, never before have there been so many choices. Whether your tastes lean toward country charm or city sleek, there is something for everyone.
by HSM Staff
In the past, natural stone was more or less reserved for high priced homes, but today it is becoming a staple for homes at nearly every price point. When selecting natural stone, there are many different types, finishes, appearances, thickness, and textures from which to choose. Generally you may expect to pay $70-$100 per square foot for your natural stone, but high-end slabs may cost as much as $300 per square foot.
Granite is the most durable of the natural stone countertops. It is scratch, chip, and heat resistant, but it does require special sealants and regular maintenance. Granite is available is a wide range of colors ranging from light to black with the flecking within varying from slab to slab.
Marble is a warm, soft stone with a smooth feel and rich look. Marble is available in a many colors and will have variations of veining within each individual slab. Because marble is prone to scratching and staining, many people choose to use it in select areas of the kitchen instead of the whole. Marble is waterproof and heatproof, but does require constant maintenance and should be sealed to prevent staining.
Jerusalem stone looks like limestone, but is as hard as granite. It is available in shades of gray, honey, and salmon. Jerusalem stone is porous and will require annual sealing to keep it stain resistant.
Soapstone has a smooth feel and is usually dark gray in color. It is much softer than granite, but is rather resistant to stains. It can be used for both a countertop and sink material. Soapstone does require regular maintenance and it may scratch and chip, especially on the edges. Note: scratches in soapstone may be buffed out using a fine grit sandpaper.
Slate is available in dark, natural colors and is durable, hard, and fireproof. Because slate is not porous like other natural stone surfaces, it is not susceptible to staining (though it should be sealed regularly). Slate will scratch, however, but the scratches may be removed.
Travertine has a smooth warm feel and although it comes in several different hues, cream is the most popular choice. Travertine is softer than some other natural stone choices and is suseptible to staining. Spills must be quickly wiped up and the surface must be resealed annually.
Cleaning stone is a fairly simple procedure if you follow the instructions given to you with your stone. Generally, this means using a mild dish detergent and water to clean the surface. The most important thing to remember is that you should always avoid products containing abrasives, lemon, vinegar or other acids. In addition, stay away from scouring pads which may scratch the surface or dull the finish.
Alternatives to Natural Stone
Engineered stone is composed of quartz particles and is easy to care for and is both stain and acid resistant. It comes in a larger range of colors and has a nonporous surface that resists scratches. Engineered stone is priced at about the same as natural stone, anywhere from $40 to $125 per square foot.
Solid surface counters solid all the way through making it possible to sand out any scratches. Solid surface counters come in an array of colors and patterns, are seamless, and stain resistant. They can be expensive (from $40 to $100 per square foot) and the surface can be damaged by hot pans and stains.
Wood / Butcher Block
Wood countertops can bring warmth into a room. Wood is available in a wide range of colors and finishes, is easy to clean, and can be sanded and resealed as needed. Standing water and liquids can damage wood and cause dark areas to form on the surface. Wood will also stain over time and absorb food odors. It is also rather pricey at $50 to $200 per square foot.
Stainless steel is durable, heat resistant, and impervious to acids and oils. It is also very easy to clean. Stainless steel can scratch easily and care must be taken to avoid an institutional feel. It will cost anywhere from $75 to $150 per square foot.
Concrete is extremely strong, heat and scratch resistant and porous. In order to prevent staining, proper sealing and waxing is needed. Concrete can be color-tinted with creative colors and inlays. Concrete may crack and can sometimes look industrial. It will cost from $75 to $200 per square foot
Laminate countertops are still a popular choice in homes today. They come with the most reasonable price tag and are available in hundred of colors and finishes. Although laminate is not heat or scratch resistant like many other countertop surfaces, it requires only general cleaning and no maintenance.
The Top Ten Choices
in Countertop Surfaces
Wood or Butcher Block
Did You Know?
Elberton, Georgia claims the title "Granite Capital of the World". Annually, the town produces more granite products than any other city in the world.
Ceramic tile offers the flexibility to create a custom countertop surface. The ceramic surface is impervious to heat, but grout lines can become stained. Because ceramic tile is available at every price point, most everyone can find a choice that fits within his or her budget.
Save Money on Your Kitchen Countertops
If you like the look of natural stone consider the following lower-cost alternatives.
Use natural stone tiles in place of large slabs. The purchase price of tiles is substantially less than that of a slab. In addition, you can often install tiles yourself (slabs must be professionally installed) saving you even more money.
Laminate countertops have come a long way from their humble beginnings and laminate that mimics the look and texture of nature stone surfaces is now available. Backsplashes can be molded in order to make a seamless product, adding to its appeal. Laminate is virtually maintenance free unlike natural stone and is inexpensive when compared to the cost of natural stone.
Use concrete countertops stained in a natural hue. Concrete will not mimic the appearance of natural stone, but it can create a similar feel when stained the proper color. Concrete does require some maintenance and can be more expensive than other countertop surfaces, but compared with natural stone, concrete is still less expensive in general.