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Quarantine Spring Cleaning

There’s a good chance you’re spending more time at home than you are used to. Whether you had travel plans change, or you are now working remotely from home, or you are on a ‘shelter-in-place’ order from your local government, you probably have some extra time on your hands. Now is the best time to get ahead on spring cleaning so when things are looking up, you won’t have to worry about clutter or chaos at home! 

Take advantage of this extra time. While a large project can seem daunting, added stress is unnecessary. Taking on a project like spring cleaning step by step can help it feel doable. Make a list of what you want to take care of, section by section. For example:

-Backyard – sweep patio, clean furniture, update light fixtures
-Kitchen – deep clean floors, clean out fridge and pantry, organize freezer items

Once you’ve made a step by step list for each part of your home, you can create a to-do list for the members of your house and spread the items out over the next week or two. 

This is also a great time to get rid of clutter. If you are spending more time in your house than usual, it may become more obvious what is clutter and what is necessary. Take time on one of your first days home to deem items as “clutter” and store them away. If you didn’t miss them over that week, you know it is time to toss or donate them when you can leave your house again.

As you continue to clean, you may be concerned about a shortage of cleaning products. Even if the shelves are running low on Lysol, you can create your own DIY disinfectant. A popular combination includes rubbing alcohol, essential oils, and water. You can also use vinegar and dish soap to clean glass!

Lastly, make it fun. Open the windows if the sun is shining and play your favorite music. Being stuck inside doesn’t have to feel so terrible.

What Is The Goal Of Staging Your Home?

What Is The Goal Of Staging Your Home?

When the real estate market turns sluggish, you may have to take steps to set your home apart from others. It won’t be enough to just put out a for-sale sign and wait for potential buyers. One way that homeowners can sell their homes more speedily is by home staging, which can have the added benefit of pushing up the selling price of your home. Basically, staging consists of arranging your home’s décor and furniture in such a way as to make the home have more of an appeal to prospective buyers.

In some cases, home staging can be a relatively simple and inexpensive undertaking. You may be comfortable with just cleaning up your home and removing all day-to-day items. On the other hand, you may want to consider investing a more substantial amount of time and money into your home staging project. The main benefit of investing in landscaping, painting and new furniture is that a potential buyer will come away from a visit to your home with a better idea of how his or her new home will look.

Home staging has been around since the 1970s. Although it began on the West Coast of the United States, the concept eventually spread to the rest of the country. There’s more to home staging than just decorating. The general idea behind home staging is to depersonalize your home so that a prospective buyer will be able to imagine him or herself living in it. By removing piles of newspapers and family photos, you’ll be able to increase your home’s appeal. Another tip is to choose neutral colors for your home’s carpet and paint. If it’s within your budget, you’ll also want to think about buying new appliances. Although many people do a good job of staging their own homes, you can also hire a professional to do the job for you.

What Might Your Homeowners Insurance NOT Cover?

There are things that can happen to their homes that their homeowners insurance policies don’t cover. Fire is the basic coverage provided by an insurance policy, while other common perils are water damage, theft, wind and liability. Earthquake and flood usually require a separate policy. In some states you can add earthquake coverage as an endorsement. It is important to discuss the risk you face and purchase the proper coverage. Just so you’ll be forewarned, here are eight other perils, besides damage from an invading squirrel, for which you probably aren’t insured.

1. Floods

Damage caused by flooding is excluded under standard homeowners insurance policies, according to the institute’s primer on what disasters are covered by insurance. That’s why it’s prudent to obtain flood insurance, either from a private insurer or through the U.S. government’s National Flood Insurance Program.

2. Earthquakes

When a 5.8 magnitude earthquake in Virginia shook the U.S. east coast in 2011, it caused as much as $300 million in losses and varying degrees of damage to 600 residences. Many of the owners may have been chagrined to discover that their homeowners insurance didn’t cover the cost of repairing the harm to their houses. Coverage for earthquakes, which can damage foundations and collapse walls, requires a separate policy, though a standard homeowners policy generally will cover damage from fires caused by quakes, according to the institute.

3. Sewer Backups

Sewer backups can be pretty messy, and they’re not covered either by homeowners insurance policies or flood coverage, according to the institute. Instead, you’ll need to purchase additional sewer coverage.

4. Maintenance Damage

Maintenance damage. Homeowners policies don’t cover damage caused to your home by your neglect of basic maintenance, according to the institute. Similarly, you’re not covered if your house becomes infested by termites and other pests, or develops mold.

5. Backyard Trampolines and Pools

Sure, they’re fun. But according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, both trampolines and pools are dangerous enough that some companies may not insure your property if you have them, or else may exclude liability for any injuries related to them. They also may even cancel your policy if you don’t inform them when you get a trampoline or a pool, or don’t follow the policy’s safety guidelines.

6. Dog Attacks

If your family pet bites a visitor, you’re typically covered for legal liability up to your policy’s liability limit — usually $100,000 — according to the institute. The average dog bite claim is around $39,000, so you should be OK. But it’s a bigger problem if you own a breed with a reputation for being aggressive, because some insurance companies won’t cover you at all.

7. Really Expensive Jewelry

Typically, homeowners’ policies set a limit on how much bling they’ll cover — usually around $1,500, according to the institute’s article on jewelry and other valuables. If you’ve got a lot of costly rings or necklaces, you’ll want to consider getting a floater policy, which covers any sort of loss, including dropping your ring down a drain. That’ll require you to get the items appraised professionally.

8. Your Stuff in Someone Else’s Basement

If you’ve got a friend or neighbor who allows you to store some of your possessions in his or her basement, you could lose out in the event of a disaster, according to Amy Bach, executive director of United Policyholders, a California-based consumer advocacy group. That person’s insurer isn’t going to cover your losses, since you’re not the homeowner. “You’d have to try to collect money from your friend,” Bach says.

What is APR and how Does It Impact My Mortgage?

If you’ve ever gone shopping for a home mortgage or refinance you’ve probably seen an interest rate advertised as, for instance, “Rate: 2.65%; APR: 2.7%.” The annual percentage rate (APR) represents the average annual finance charge you’ll be paying on the loan when including all the fees and costs associated with getting that loan. This can include things like closing costs, broker fees and discount points (a lower interest rate charged in exchange for an additional upfront fee). The APR is usually higher than the interest rate. The APR is a valuable number to know so you can compare directly the total costs of loans that might have widely varying terms. Here is an example of how this works.

Let’s say you want to borrow $200,000 to finance your home purchase. The closing costs, broker fees, etc. come to another $5,000. So, you are actually borrowing $205,000. The original interest rate was 5 percent, meaning an annual interest payment of $10,000. But including the additional $5,000 will yield an annual interest payment of $10,250 (5 percent of $205,000). Dividing the $10,250 by $200,000 will show an APR of 5.125%. If you’re comparing two mortgage loans, generally the one with the lower APR is the better deal as it means that the lender has lower upfront fees than the other lender.

You also encounter APR on credit cards. This is the cost associated with the credit card company financing your financial activities. Lenders may charge one APR for purchases, another for cash advances and a third for balance transfers. How you plan to use your credit card will determine which APR you should pay the most attention to. If you pay off your balance each month, you won’t incur any APR charges for purchases, though you still may for balance transfers and cash advances. Sometimes credit cards will offer introductory specials with 0 percent APR, so you’ll want to investigate those as well.

Do I Need Neutral Painted Walls To Sell My Home?

“If you want to sell your home, paint your rooms beige.” That could be the rallying cry of real estate agents across the country, and for good reason. Presentation and first impressions mean everything when selling a home, and the men and women who make their living selling homes know that neutral colors will generally spark more interest from buyers than bold colors.

Human beings are sensitive to color on a deep, emotional level. This makes sense: Our earliest ancestors relied on colors to tell them if a plant was ripe or safe to eat, for example. Those deeply ingrained senses of what colors mean in nature stay with us in our cities and suburbs; we may not need to make life-and-death decisions based on the color of a strange fruit, but we still carry the emotional cues that kept our ancestors safe.

This trait can complicate things when painting a house, however. A certain hue that you think looks perfect in your living room might trigger a deep sense of discomfort in a visitor. The deeper the color you choose for your walls, the stronger effect it might have on others. Conversely, the closer your home’s colors are to pure, neutral white, the less they will emotionally affect visitors — or potential buyers.

But an all-white home can be dull, not to mention extremely hard to keep clean. With a little awareness of color theory and some creative restraint, you can have the best of both worlds: a home in which color brings out each room’s best features, and a house that’s likely to sell without requiring major repainting.

Color psychology is the study of the emotional cues prompted in humans by various colors. These can be quite strong: Bold yellow, for example, can upset small children, while light yellow is commonly used as a gender-neutral color for babies’ rooms. Blue is often associated with calmness, serenity and cold temperatures. Red, on the other hand, may symbolize excitement, love, anger, warfare or energy. These are useful traits to understand as you plan how to show off your home’s best features to potential buyers.

But how do you turn an understanding of color psychology into an attractive, sellable interior design? The process is easier than you might think.

The Power of Color

The first step in applying color theory to your home is to understand what you want each room to say. Is a bedroom used for rest and relaxation for the adults in the home, or is it a bright, happy playroom for the children? Is the kitchen a family gathering place, or is it an area where high-tech styling makes meal preparation fast and efficient? Asking questions like these will help you define moods for your rooms. Compare these moods to the emotions evoked by different colors, and you’ll quickly create a list of general hues that are most appropriate for each room of your house. Narrow your color search further by looking at the paint colors in the middle or lighter ends of these ranges, since this will help you avoid painting too much wall space with a too-bold color.

Now comes the fun part: designing your rooms with color and furnishings to capture the moods you’ve identified. There are countless factors that play into making each room right, including the furniture and decorative items, the flooring, the quality of light through the windows and your desire (and budget) to change these. In general, you can often create stunning effects by choosing one or two items to showcase with bold color, offset by neutral complementary colors in the rest of the walls and furnishings.

It helps to keep a sense of restraint when choosing color and design layouts; a bold color can quickly become overwhelming if used too much, and too many complementary colors in one room can make even sparse furnishings look busy and cluttered. Try to limit each room’s color palette to no more than three colors: a bold accent, a middle-tone that can be used to frame the accent and a more neutral color for the background, like the walls. This will ensure that, while you will be able to break free of the all-beige, neutral-color blahs, you will still have a home that has a good chance of selling without major changes.

How Long Should I Save For A Down Payment?

One of the biggest hurdles homebuyers face is saving for a down payment. As you’re budgeting and planning for your home purchase, you’ll want to understand how much you’ll need to put down and how long it will take you to get there. The process may actually move faster than you think.

Using data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Apartment List, we can estimate how long it might take someone earning the median income and paying the median rent to save up for a down payment on a median-priced home. Since saving for a down payment can be a great time to practice budgeting for housing costs, this estimate also uses the concept that a household should not pay more than 28% of their total income on monthly housing expenses.

According to the data, the national average for the time it would take to save for a 10% down payment is right around two and a half years (2.53). Residents in Iowa can save for a down payment the fastest, doing so in just over one year (1.31).

What if you’re able to take advantage of one of the 3% down payment programs available? It’s a common misconception that you need a 20% down payment to buy a home, but there are actually more affordable options and down payment assistance programs available, especially for first-time buyers. The reality is, saving for a 3% down payment may not take several years. In fact, it could take less than a year in most states, as shown in the map below:

Styling A Bar Cart

Here are her five top ideas for outfitting a cart that looks as good as the cocktails you’ll serve up taste.

1. Keep It Simple

You don’t need to fill every inch of the cart with bottles—just focus on the essentials. You just need are a few quality spirits to make the classics, whatever else you love, a good set of cocktail tools, and some glassware. Buying less random pieces means you can spend that money on higher-quality spirits. If you extra bottles, choose the best-looking ones to display on your cart.

2. Look Local

3. Use Accessories

Try to purchasing spirits from a small or local distillery that offers pretty packaging, as long as the liquors taste good! You may find that your new favorite whiskey is from right across town.

Now is the time to play with color, pattern, and texture. Decor items like colorful straws or custom coasters can add a touch of your own taste while also being functional. Vintage bar accessories such as cocktail stirs or picks are also a charming addition.

4. Add Some Life

If there is a space that needs filled, fresh flowers or greenery are always a good idea. Add a small bouquet that complements your current decor or make room for a permanent plant. You can even consider growing an herb, such as rosemary, mint, or basil – those can be added to make fresh cocktails!

5. Use Your Books

Cocktail recipe books are a great way to decorate and can add a little color, or neutral pop, depending on your needs. You can use them as a base to elevate a particularly pretty bottle.


Pros & Cons of Adding A Fence To Your Property

Have you been considering adding a fence to your property? Maybe you are wanting to increase your home value, or you just want a little more privacy. If you’re wondering about some of the advantages and disadvantages of adding a fence to your home, we’ve got the top contenders on both sides for you below!

Pros of Fences

1. Value + Appeal

If you’re looking to define your property line and keep your little ones enclosed a little better, waist-high picket fencing could be perfect for you. If you are looking to enclose your back yard, ask an appraiser or a local real estate agent how much value a new fence will add to your home.

2. Security

A fence can keep both your family and others from danger. Adding a fence can ward off people who may consider entering your property for the wrong reasons, because any additional obstacle is more work for them. A fence can also prevent trespassers from putting themselves in danger if you have a pool or playground equipment.

3. Privacy

It can be hard to enjoy family time on your patio or in your pool if everyone on the street has a clear view of your yard.  A privacy fence can help create a private sanctuary in any neighborhood!

4. Containment

Concerned about letting your children and/or pets outside without having to keep an eye on their every move? A fence can help provide a safe play environment for your loved ones, keeping them inside and preventing others keeping from entering.

Cons of Fences

1. Maintenance

Fences can only add value to your home if they are well-maintained. Wood fences especially require cleaning, staining, sealing or painting – and they can warp and rot over time. Consider if you would be willing to take on those tasks or the cost to hire someone to do so!

2. Boundary Issues

If you want one and your neighbor doesn’t, you may run into some boundary issues. You may both have legitimate reasons for your views but you should not make the investment until an agreement is made. When considering costs, you may need to add the cost of an attorney to help negotiate a compromise.

3. Costs

The cost of installing a fence can vary greatly depending on the materials you want to use, the height and length of the fence, the number of gates, and the market in which you live. Labor and materials can vary greatly from area to area. Start your research now to get an idea of what type of fence you would want and if you could fit it in your budget.

4. Hassle

Mowing or trimming along a fence can be time consuming and can do damage to the fence if you aren’t careful – especially a wooden fence. While this may not seem like a major con, it can become one if you are expecting only the pros of adding a fence!

DIY Gallery Wall

Thinking about adding a gallery wall? Here’s a step by step process to make it easy!

Start With Art

If you’re going for a modern look, choose a color palette and find art that fits within that. You can also try pieces that are from one collection, or ones that have a similar theme. If you want to make it appear like more of a long-time collection, use new and vintage prints and paintings.

Keep It Cohesive

If your images are going to vary, try to keep your frame choices cohesive – at the least, get them all in the same color. You will want any mat-boards to be the same color as well.

Make A Plan

Before adding any nails, lay your pieces out on the floor. Take a photo of your final arrangement so that you will know what you want it to look like up on the wall. You can also use painter’s tape to create outlines on your wall so you can imagine what the pieces will look like once they are up.

Use A Level

Making sure that first piece is hung correctly is one of the most important steps. If your reference point is crooked or slanted, the whole gallery can be thrown off.

Maintain Uniform Spacing

While the idea of a gallery wall isn’t necessarily to be perfectly organized, you don’t want it to appear messy. Leave the same amount of spacing between your pieces so the wall doesn’t appear haphazardly thrown together.

Use Measuring Tricks

Painter’s tape can be used in this step to mark off the amount of space you want between the frames. The tape will double as spacers between items as you hang the collection. Trying to use a measuring tape while hanging items can become frustrating, especially in small spaces.

The Dos and Don’ts of Accent Walls

Accent walls are in style and aren’t going away anytime soon. You have unlimited options for your accent wall color, and can even add texture! Accent walls should be just as special as you, and can add that perfect customization to any room. They can be used in any room if you know the essential dos and don’ts.

DO:

Think outside of the box when you are considering the options for your new accent wall. Your accent wall may be perfect for stripes, solid tones, or even a specialty paint finish. Metallics can add the perfect pop to any room.

Consider an accent wall even if you enjoy neutrality. Accent walls can work just as well in a neutral color and can add dimension without being bright deep hues!

Take into account the color of the other walls in the room you’re painting. Accent walls in an all-white room are stunning, but can be tricky. You will want to balance your accent wall color with neutral wall colors like gray, or greige, or beige, whatever works best with your accent color.

Think about other ways to use the idea of an accent wall. Have you thought about painting the ceiling? Accent ceilings can be created with the help of white crown molding to help separate the wall color from the ceiling, and can add that dimension you have been looking for.

Make sure you choose the right wall. If a room is quite plain without an architectural feature, an accent wall can be beneficial to the space. If you are wanting to use a wall of windows as your accent wall, keep in mind that a dark accent color around windows can create a bright light effect and overwhelm your room.

DON’T:

Shy away from using a bold color! If you have the right accents around the room to pull out the new color, you can choose whatever color will bring you joy.

Forget that there is more to do with accent walls than just paint them. You can always consider stone or tile, extensive shelving, or even a fabric-draped wall. Accent walls are so great because they are the most flexible decorating tool you can have.

Forget that wallpaper is another incredible choice for accent walls. As wallpapers come back into style, your options are growing! These new wallpapers can give you a designer look without a long-term commitment. If you are renting, temporary wallpaper is a great way to personalize your home without worrying about re-painting when it is time to move.

What Is Escrow?

When it comes mortgages are concerned, “escrow” and “escrow accounts” refer to two slightly different concepts. Escrow is the process by which a neutral third party mediates a real estate deal, holding money and property “in escrow” until the two sides agree that all the conditions are met for a sale to close. By contrast, an escrow account is usually an account that helps to manage a mortgage borrower’s annual tax and insurance costs.

What Does Escrow Mean?

Escrow refers to a third-party service that’s usually mandatory in a home purchase. When a buyer and seller initially arrive at a purchase agreement, they select a neutral third party to act as the escrow agent. The escrow agent collects what is known as “earnest money” from the buyer: a deposit that is equal to a small percentage of the sale price. In exchange, the seller takes the property off the market. Until the final exchange is completed, both the buyer’s deposit and the seller’s property are said to be in escrow.

Escrow “accounts” have more to do with your monthly mortgage payment than the initial home purchase. When you borrow money from a bank or a direct mortgage lender, you’ll usually be given an escrow account. This account is where the lender will deposit the part of your monthly mortgage payment that covers taxes and insurance premiums. By collecting a fraction of those annual costs each month, the escrow account reduces the risk that you’ll fall behind on your obligations to the government or your insurance provider.

How Do Escrow Accounts Work?

When you obtain a mortgage loan from a bank or direct lender, you also receive an escrow account that helps you pay your property taxes and homeowner’s insurance premiums on time. Even though these costs are paid on an annual basis, your lender will require you to pay a monthly fraction towards each cost and accumulate the balance in your escrow account. This ensures that these expenses get paid on time every year.

Mortgage lenders require borrower escrow accounts in order to minimize the risk that you fall short of your financial obligations as a homeowner. In a foreclosure, unpaid taxes or insurance can result in liens that make it harder for the mortgage lender to recover the original loan. This creates a strong incentive for lenders to keep their borrowers on track with escrow accounts that smooth out the non-mortgage costs of owning a home.

Although escrow accounts conveniently allow lenders to pay the relevant taxes and insurance premiums on your behalf, they do have some drawbacks for the borrower. Lenders often require you to a keep a minimum balance in your escrow account to protect against any unexpected cost increases. The usual rule requires a minimum of two months’ expenses on your mortgage escrow account, though the limit can be higher on riskier mortgages. Lenders usually review your escrow account once a year to make sure that the calculated payments are keeping up with costs.

How Much Do Escrow Fees Cost?

Just like any other service provider involved in a real estate deal, the escrow agent will need to be paid a fee. Escrow services for a home purchase typically cost 1% to 2% of the final price. Based on national median home values, this translates to a fee of $2,000 to $4,000, which is added into your other closing costs. However, escrow fees are one of the many expenses that are negotiable between the buyer and seller. This means that you can try asking the other party to foot part or even all of the escrow fee, depending on local rules or the current market conditions.

If you’re buying, you’ll also need to deposit between 1% to 3% of the final sale price in a joint escrow account with the intended seller. This earnest money serves as proof that you’re serious about following through with the sale, and it obligates the seller to take the property off the market while the transaction gets finalized. When you complete the transaction, the earnest money you put into escrow will be applied towards your down payment on the house. Earnest money in escrow isn’t a fee, but you should be wary of the fact that it’s possible to forfeit that money if you can’t come to a final agreement with the seller.

When is Escrow Needed in a Mortgage?

Escrow plays a role in both your initial home purchase and the ongoing monthly mortgage payments that follow. In a purchase, the escrow process provides certain guarantees to both the buyer and the seller. Once the two parties agree on a sale, a neutral third party—a bank, title company or attorney—will receive the signed purchase agreement so that it act as the escrow agent. Escrow agents exist to monitor and help fulfill the conditions of the sale, such as the buyer’s “earnest money” deposit for a percentage of the sale price.

TYPICAL COMPONENTS OF ESCROW IN REAL ESTATE

Buyer Must Provide…

  • earnest money towards down payment
  • proof of mortgage loan approval

Seller Must Provide…

  • access to property for inspections
  • required repairs or renovations
  • inspection of title

Once a property is “in escrow”, neither the buyer nor the seller will receive anything from the escrow company until all the conditions of the purchase agreement are met. For example, you might agree to purchase an older home on the condition that the building pass a safety inspection. Other common escrow conditions include repairs and property tax audits. Meanwhile, the buyer’s earnest money proves to the seller that the buyer has both the intent and the ability to complete the purchase. Earnest money can be forfeited to the seller if the buyer backs out or fails to hold up the terms of the contract.

Escrow agents are also responsible for distributing money to parties other than the buyer and seller. These can include commissions to the real estate agent, prepaid mortgage interest to the lender, recording fees to the county office of records and the escrow agent’s own fee. In this sense, escrow greatly simplifies the homebuying experience: without it, you’d be held responsible for sending timely and accurate payments to each and every party involved in the transaction.