How To Organize Your Outdoor Living Space

Whether your home has a lot of outdoor space or just a little, it’s possible to make good use of it. But in order to optimize your space, first you need to know how you want to use it. Not everyone wants to use their outdoor space for the same functions, and you want to have some idea of what function or functions it should serve for you.

If the space is large enough, divide it into zones. For example, you might have one area for relaxing with a book, one for a garden, and one for socializing with guests. Various types of lighting can help to transform each zone individually or your entire space. Perhaps you want soft ambient lighting, or maybe you want more functional lighting for reading or dining. Regardless of what you use your space for, a couple things are to be expected in any outdoor space, and those are seating areas and greenery. Choose weather-resistant materials such as wicker, teak, or metal and add cushions for improved comfort. Opt for plants that require minimal upkeep and grow well in your area.

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Understanding Prepayment Penalties

There’s a strong tendency to want to pay off your mortgage as quickly as possible. There’s also a strong reason for lenders to not want you to do that — they get less money because you aren’t paying as much in interest. Because of this, they frequently use prepayment penalties. This is an extra fee for paying off your mortgage too quickly or before the term of the loan ends. If you’re simply paying the minimum amount anyway, this won’t affect you, but if you think you may want to pay off your loan early, you’ll want to know your options.

Different states have different laws regarding prepayment penalties, and some don’t allow them at all. In states where they are allowed, they come in two types: hard prepayment penalties, which are fixed fees regardless of the reason for prepayment and that are usually a percentage of the loan amount, and soft prepayment penalties, which are only charged if the borrower pays a large amount in a short time period. Even in states that allow prepayment penalties, not all loans will have them, and you may be able to negotiate with your lender for their removal. When shopping for loans, make sure to read all the terms of the agreement, and talk to a legal professional if there’s anything you don’t understand or want to learn how to negotiate.

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How Generational Preferences Affect The Real Estate Market

If you’re planning to sell your home, or just want to be informed about current trends, you may want to know about present day homebuyers’ preferences. The problem is that looking at general trends only tells you about the largest cohorts of homebuyers, which are Millennials and Baby Boomers. Not only do these two groups have vastly different preferences between each other, it also ignores Gen X and the admittedly small group of Gen Z homebuyers.

Knowing the demographic makeup of your region can help you to understand what the people in your area are looking for. Alternatively, knowing what other cohorts desire can help tailor your choices to attract people to your home. There are certain things you cannot change, such as the walkability or access to public transportation in your neighborhood and presence of nearby parks or schools. However, if you know which types of people are looking for the sort of things that exist where you are, you can base your decisions about things you can change based on that group’s preferences.

Currently, Baby Boomers are not in the business of buying large, fancy homes. They’re looking to downsize, or remodel a home to suit their personal needs. They also generally want a healthcare facility nearby, since their age can lead to medical complications. Gen X is looking for a mix of business, family care, and leisure. Many Gen X people are working and also spend time caring for their aging parents, which leads them to want either nearby parks or recreational facilities to improve their work-life balance, or a suburban or rural lifestyle if they work from home. Millennials are the largest cohort of potential homebuyers, but they also can’t currently afford expensive homes. Rising housing costs mean Millennials are currently transitioning from renting to their starter homes, since many of them have had their initial homeownership plans delayed. As for what they’re looking for, they’re big on technology and sustainability, and prefer easy access to employment hubs via either walkability or public transportation. The group of Gen Z homebuyers that are actually able to afford a home have probably not been much affected by delays, so their digital native and eco-friendly identity is even more pronounced than in Millennials. They prioritize energy efficient homes, smart technology, and cultural diversity.

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Debunking Solar Energy Myths

Solar energy has been growing in popularity in recent years, and there are good reasons for that. Solar energy is highly sustainable, and isn’t subject to fluctuations in the market since the amount of available solar energy is not market-dependent. Some people aren’t convinced though, and that may be the result of some misconceptions.

A big reason people don’t even entertain the idea of solar energy is that they think it’s too expensive. While initial installation can be pricy, the savings over time allows the investment to pay off relatively quickly. This is especially true because utility prices are increasing, and solar panels don’t require utility payments, so your electricity bills may be cut out entirely. There are also government incentives in place that will allow you to offset the initial investment cost. Solar panels do have some maintenance costs, but they’re pretty minimal — just some regular cleaning is generally sufficient.

Others believe solar panels are only effective in warm, sunny weather. A more appropriate statement would be that direct sunlight enhances their efficiency. They still work perfectly fine in cloudy or rainy weather. Also, they actually work better in colder temperatures, not worse. This is because their efficiency is determined by a difference in energy between the photon particles in sunlight and electron particles in the panel — which have lower energy at colder temperatures — not the total amount of energy received. This means a hot, sunny day may result in the same efficiency as a cold, overcast day.

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Tips For A Stress-Free Housewarming Party

With all the stresses of of buying a new home and moving in, hosting a party may be the last thing on your mind, even if you really want to celebrate your move. You may instead want to simply book a reservation at a restaurant, especially if you don’t feel like cooking. But parties should be a way to de-stress, not a stressful experience, and the same goes for housewarming parties. Besides, you’ll want to send the invitations far enough in advance that you’ll probably have had some time to accommodate to your new home by the time the date comes around.

Remember not to make things harder on yourself or your guests. Instead of planning a full sit-down meal, provide snacks and beverages that people can pick and choose from at their own leisure. Decor can be relatively simple. You don’t need to have already finished unpacking your Christmas decorations — even if you did buy in December.

Even though there’s no need to be overly nervous, you should still put some thought into it. Pay attention to how you set up the space for your celebration. The areas where you want people to mingle or pick up snacks and drinks should be easily accessible. You can also make less work for yourself later by checking out local grocery stores when deciding what you want to serve. That way you get to know the area better, and your new neighbors might also appreciate something familiar to them.

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Real Estate Investment On A Budget

Many people believe they don’t have the capital to initiate a real estate investment. While it does require some capital, the requirement may be lower than you think. This is especially true if you can find a group of people that want to pool money with you for an investment. You don’t need to demonstrate that you could afford it on your own in order to convince investors to pool money. But even if you aren’t crowdfunding the investment, with enough good research you can find something that works on your budget.

The first thing you need to do is figure out what that budget actually is. While there is always some risk in investing money, real estate is not supposed to be a high-risk investment — don’t try to push the boundaries of your financial stability. Research the market and connect with real estate professionals, or more experienced investors, even if you don’t plan to pool with them. You should also research loan options, and don’t be afraid to take a loan out on investment property, since the rent should ideally pay for the loan over the course of its lifetime. You can also save on costs with some DIY work.

There are a couple different ways to start off. One option if to find cheaper, smaller investments — including off-market properties, which are often at discounted prices — and work your way up after you’ve build up some equity. Another is to purchase a multifamily residence and live in one of the units, termed “house hacking.” This allows you to simultaneously only have one property’s payments to deal with, earn rental income, and accrue equity, with the tradeoff that multifamily properties have a higher upfront cost.

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Don’t Cut Corners On Your DIY Projects

DIY projects can save a lot of money. You may also be tempted to save even more money, or time, by skipping over important steps. It’s not worth it — if you make a major mistake, you’ll be out a lot more than if you simply got a professional to do it. You will still save money even if you make sure you’ve done everything right. Also, these are things the professionals would do anyway, so it won’t take any longer, though it may take more of your own time.

“Measure twice, cut once” isn’t just a figure of speech. It’s something professionals actually do, and you should as well. In fact, it doesn’t hurt to measure more than twice, especially if it’s not something you do frequently. But even before you measure and cut anything, you’ll want to know the exact layout of your home. That doesn’t just mean which rooms connect to which. Figure out where your pipes, electrical wiring, and supports are. You don’t want to accidentally damage the structure of your home by cutting or nailing into the wrong thing. When it comes time to figure out what you’re replacing parts of your home with, don’t skimp on the materials, and use proper tools. For many DIY projects, labor is the most expensive part, not the materials. Even for those projects with expensive materials, the higher price of quality materials is worth it, particularly since you can use the money you’re saving on labor to pay those additional costs. Finally, if you do end up making a mistake, don’t fall prey to the sunk cost fallacy. Just call a professional before you make things worse.

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After Move-In Checklist

Moving can be very stressful, and after completing a successful move, you probably want to just take some time to relax. But don’t forget to do your due diligence with settling everything that needs to be settled after move-in. To save you the hassle of wondering whether you’ve missed anything or not, here’s a handy checklist. They’re in no particular order, but they should all be done.

Update your mailing address. This is particularly important for bills and other services, but don’t forget about things like magazine subscriptions. The local post office can help you sort things out.

Set up utilities. If they’re not in service, make sure they are. If they’re already in service, change the name on record to your own name. These utilities include gas, cable, electricity, internet, telephone, sewer, and water. You should also check your smoke and CO alarms to make sure they’re working.

Determine the layout of your breaker box. Breaker boxes can be notoriously difficult to puzzle out, so it could take some time. Outside assistance is helpful to notice changes in different rooms as you figure out the switches.

Change your locks. Sure, you probably got the keys from the old homeowners. But who else has the keys? Their neighbor? Best friend? Parents? You have no idea. Better to change the locks and get a new set of keys.

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Permanent Versus Temporary Mortgage Buydowns

A mortgage buydown is an option to pay an extra upfront fee to reduce your mortgage interest rate. They come in two types: permanent or temporary. Permanent mortgage buydowns last for the entire length of the loan, resulting in decreased interest expenses at the cost of an upfront fee. Temporary buydowns last for a specified length of time, and typically are gradually phased out over the course of the buydown period. However, it’s possible for the upfront fee of a temporary buydown to exceed the interest reduction.

The decision of whether to take a permanent buydown or no buydown is relatively simple and only depends on whether you think you can afford the upfront payment. The decision of whether to take a temporary buydown or not is more complex. At first glance, those with a higher upfront fee than interest reduction can seem like a scam — paying more now in order to pay more over the course of the loan? Seems like a terrible idea. And it would be, if it were you as the buyer paying the upfront payment. However, with temporary buydowns, unlike with permanent buydowns, it’s most often something that the buyer requests that the seller pay for as part of the negotiation process. This way, the buyer gets to pay less in mortgage interest for a short time, and the seller pays extra to guarantee that the sale goes through. And if the upfront fee is less than the interest reduction, the buyer also has the option to pay for a temporary buydown themselves if the seller doesn’t want to.

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Paying Off Your Mortgage Early Isn’t Always The Best Idea

It can be very attractive to pay off your mortgage early. The reason for this is both financial and psychological. Paying down the principle means you’ll be paying less total over the duration of the loan than if you simply made the minimum payments, since interest is based on the principle, not the original loan amount. It will also give you some peace of mind to know that you no longer have any mortgage payments. But those aren’t the only factors at play, and depending on your financial situation, it may actually be better to keep making steady minimum payments.

Of course, if you can barely afford the minimum payments in your budget as-is, the decision is made for you. However, there could be reasons for someone who can afford to put a bit more towards payments to instead hold onto it. One reason is that mortgage interest payments are tax deductible. You may be paying more in mortgage payments, but paying less in taxes. Whether or not this is in your favor in your specific situation is a question for a tax professional. Another is the effects of inflation: as prices and therefore the cost of living continue to increase over time, as long as you make only minimum payments, the total amount you will have owed by the end of your mortgage doesn’t change at all. That means the amounts for payments made towards the end of the loan’s life tend to have lower value in terms of purchasing power, and may be less of an economic burden than other payments you may need to make.

The latter reason doesn’t mean much if you aren’t spending the money on something else, but there’s a good chance you should be. Savings funds, such as retirement funds, and investments both require money to be put into them to gain a profit later. If you don’t have money to invest, you won’t get any in return. Even holding onto the money can be useful, in case it’s needed for emergencies, or a very good investment opportunity crops up.

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Common Mistakes In Kitchen Remodels

A kitchen remodel can be extremely effective at increasing both the value and the utility of your home. But it’s also costly, and if done improperly, can be a huge money sink. Too many homeowners neglect to plan their kitchen remodel adequately and end up regretting some of their choices.

Most plans to remodel the kitchen begin with the idea that something is missing or wrong with the current kitchen setup. This could be various things, such as insufficient counter space, odd direction of workflow, or not enough storage, or perhaps you just want an island and don’t have one. However, it’s important to recognize that space is finite. Whatever changes you make, you’re probably sacrificing something else to make it happen. Plan out where you are going to place appliances — both large and small — and how much storage you will need. Consider how you intend to navigate the kitchen while using it, and ensure that the path is both clear of obstacles and sensible. For example, if you fry up some eggs for breakfast every day, you’ll probably want the stove to be relatively close to the refrigerator, and if you make coffee at home, your coffee maker should be near where the coffee is stored.

Another common error is choosing the trendiest materials and colors for your kitchen. It may garner the most interest now, but if you aren’t selling immediately, it’s a mistake. Whatever’s in fashion now will probably be more expensive than other options and isn’t any more likely to stand the test of time than any past trend. Timeless designs and neutral or classic colors will always be at least serviceable.

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Inspections Alone Won’t Uncover All The Potential Problems

Certainly, one of the benefits of a home inspection is peace of mind that the property you’re buying or selling doesn’t have any major issues. However, some issues can be hidden even after an inspection. Home inspections are typically visual assessments by a single individual. Some things could be missed, particularly if the home is large, and problems that are difficult to see visually can easily escape notice.

If a mold, mildew, or pest problem is easily seen by a home inspector, it means the damage is already done. You’ll need specialists to detect these issues before they arise. The same is true of faults in the foundation or structure as well as environmental hazards such as lead and asbestos. There are also some things that records may show but that an inspector wouldn’t have any knowledge of without access to these records, such as outdated plumbing and wiring and unpermitted home renovations.

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How To Give Kids A Happy And Safe Halloween

Halloween is upon us. If you’re expecting trick-or-treaters, you’ve probably already done all your preparations. But just in case you’re doing things last minute, or just want to check to make sure everything is okay, here are some tips to ensure trick-or-treaters’ safety so that their Halloween scares don’t become an actual danger.

While low lighting can produce the type of ambiance you may want for Halloween, it’s not a good idea. Kids can easily trip and fall, especially if your decorations require cords. Don’t use candles, either, since they are potential fire hazards. Of course, you should also make sure to keep hazards away from where kids are likely to be walking — which does include your lawn, even if you have a walkway. The risk is greater if your decorations can potentially cause jump scares, so try to avoid that type of decoration.

Tripping isn’t the only danger to kids’ health. Strobe lights and fog machines can cause seizures or asthma attacks. Pets can be a threat if not properly secured, and can cause scares if they can see the kids even if they can’t reach them. Even if you love baking homemade treats, don’t give them to kids — you don’t know what allergies they may have.

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More: https://www.realtor.com/advice/home-improvement/are-homeowners-liable-injury-trick-or-treater/

Late Payments Can Be Worse Than You May Think

It’s very common to submit late payments, for any of various types of bills or loans, including mortgage loans. Sometimes people just forget to pay. Sometimes they’re waiting for their next paycheck. Maybe some bills are more lenient on late payments than others, so they’re prioritized lower in the budget.

Whatever the reason, most people assume the only downside to a late payment is an extra fee. That’s not the case. The occasional late payment won’t have any impact, but repeated late payments do show up on your credit report. This will reduce your credit score and make it more difficult to qualify for a loan. If possible, you should make sure to pay bills on time, even for small things like phone bills.

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Can’t Rent Out Your Whole House? Rent Out A Room

Have a bit of extra space in your house, and wish you could use it for something, but aren’t in a position to downsize? You can rent out single rooms, even if your home is a single family residence. It can even be a basement, if it’s large enough to serve as a bedroom. That way, the extra space doesn’t go to waste, and you even earn a bit of extra income. Of course, not everyone wants strangers living in their home, so this idea may not be for everyone. But if you don’t mind or even would prefer another occupant, it’s a win-win for you.

Keep in mind that renting out a room is still renting something out, and you must still follow regulations. Read up on the Fair Housing Rules if you don’t already know them, and talk to an expert, particularly if there’s something you’re unsure about. And of course, the same guidelines apply for finding a tenant. That means being very specific with what’s being offered and what sort of tenant you’re looking for, making sure to request background and credit checks as well as references, and meeting the prospective tenant in person before signing the deal. If you don’t want them in your home before you’re sure you want them as a tenant, your first meeting can be in a public space, like a coffee shop — though keep in mind your tenant will want to see the property before they sign.

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How To Tailor Your Home Staging For The Fall Season

Fall may not be the single most common season to buy or sell a home, but it’s certainly one of the most common. It’s a good idea to get your home staging right for the season, because it’s not a time that you want to miss out on opportunities.

Fall makes it more difficult to set the stage, but that makes it all the more important. You’ll want to rake leaves in front of your house, because leaving them makes the area look less cared for and therefore less appealing. Shorter days in autumn mean it will get dark earlier. Make sure to amp up the lighting so people can actually see the home they’re attempting to buy. Also note that prospective buyers are likely to spend more time inside the home, as autumn weather tends to be unpredictable. Maintain a comfortable temperature in your home and highlight appealing aspects of the home’s interior. If you really want to go all out, fresh baked cookies are sure to feel cozy to your buyers.

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Advantages Of Hardwood Flooring

Many people may consider hardwood floors to be the fancy, expensive option. But there’s a reason hardwood is more expensive than other types of flooring. It has several benefits that make it an excellent choice if you are planning to update your flooring.

Hardwood is one of the most durable flooring options. Vinyl and laminate floors scratch and dent easily, and the damage can be permanent. Carpet needs to be replaced frequently, and you may also need to remove it if it causes allergy issues. Even if your hardwood floor is damaged, in many cases, it can be solved with sanding or refinishing. Chances are, if the damage is severe enough to warrant replacing hardwood flooring, the same would be true if you had that sort of damage to any other type of flooring. Because of how long hardwood can last, it’s potentially a money saver despite the higher upfront cost — not to mention it also improves your home’s value when you eventually go to sell it.

With all the color and pattern options available for vinyl and carpet flooring, it may seem like hardwood is the boring option. It doesn’t have to be. Hardwood is also available in several colors, textures, and grain patterns. Granted, the available colors are mainly various shades of brown. But the neutral tone makes it easy to accent with rugs and decor that can be exchanged at low cost whenever you want a change.

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What Is A Contingency?

You may have been told that a listing is contingent or seen a list of contingencies. But what is a contingency, exactly? A contingency is a condition that, only if met, causes a transaction to proceed as normal. It’s a way to protect both the buyer and the seller in case something goes wrong. It both assures the seller that the transaction will go through as long as the condition is met, and may enable the buyer to renegotiate or back out if it isn’t met.

Not every contingency is something the seller can necessarily provide, though, so it’s never a guarantee of a successful transaction. There are several types of contingencies. There is one that the majority of sellers can meet without any effort, and that is a title contingency. This specifies that the seller must be able to demonstrate that they have clear title to the property. In most cases, this isn’t difficult, but things such as inheritance could complicate this. A couple types of contingencies relate more to the buyer. These are financing contingencies and sale contingencies. Transactions with financing contingencies are contingent on the buyer being able to acquire financing. Sales contingencies refer to the sale of the buyer’s current property. This is normally used when the buyer is reliant on funds from the sale of their home in order to afford the new home. The last two common contingencies rely on a third party, an inspection contingency and an appraisal contingency. As the name might imply, these make the transaction contingent on a successful inspection and an appraisal at or above the purchase price respectively.

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How Long Does The Home-Selling Process Take?

The average time it takes to sell a home from listing with an agent to closing the sale is about 90 days. Many factors affect how long it takes to sell a home. These elements can include market conditions, buyer financing, the time of year, and the prep time to get a home ready for marketing.

A home that is in good condition, has good curb appeal, and is in a good location will attract buyers more quickly. Competitively pricing a home is key to having a reasonable time on the market. A cash buyer and one who is willing to buy a home in as-is condition can expedite the closing time.

Once an offer is accepted, the average closing time will be 30 to 45 days. The buyer’s loan is processed during this time along with the lender obtaining an appraisal. Property inspections also occur during the closing process. The title and escrow companies will then coordinate the signing of all the final documents, collect the buyer’s closing funds and finalize the settlement statements so the transaction can close.

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How To Lower Utility Bills Without Overhauling Your Lifestyle

With many of us feeling the squeeze of a higher cost of living, you may be looking for a few ways to lower your utility bills that won’t involve a complete change of lifestyle. Here are just a few simple ideas to reduce your utility costs.

-Switch your switches to dimmers. We don’t always need our lights on full brightness, so using a dimmer switch instead can help save on electricity by only using as much light as you need.

-Fill your freezer. You may not expect this, but having a full freezer actually helps to insulate it, keeping your food cool while using less energy to do so.

-Let food cool before refrigerating. If you’re saving leftovers from your dinner, putting them in the refrigerator while they’re still warm actually causes the fridge to have to work harder to cool them down. Let them cool first.

-Unplug unused chargers. Did you know that many phone and laptop chargers continue to suck electricity even when your phone isn’t connected? Make sure to unplug any that you aren’t using.

-Use solar night lights outdoors. Solar night lights spend the day soaking up the sun’s energy then turn on in the evening when it’s dark. It saves the need for any electricity or batteries and is totally green, helping the environment and your wallet.

-Lower your hot water heater temperature. Do you really need the hot water to be totally boiling? You can turn the temperature down so that your water is only as warm as you need it to be.

-Cold wash your laundry. Most laundry washes are just as thorough when washed cold. Switch your machine settings to cold washes rather than hot to save unnecessary extra spending on heating the water.

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