How To Buy A House Without Going House Poor

How much house can you really afford? Is it the amount the bank tells you when pre-approving your loan? That’s what most people go by, oftentimes spending up to their max approval amount to get as much house as possible – or to be able to afford something at all in tight markets.

The debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, along with your credit score, is what is used by lenders to determine your loan approval and amount. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) efforts to keep this number low notwithstanding, it has been rising to levels that are concerning to industry insiders who fear a widespread wave of home buyers overextending themselves and becoming unable to support their mortgage payment and other obligations.

The CFPB’s Qualified Mortgage (QM) Rule went into effect in 2014, intended to curb over leveraging by capping a borrower’s debt-to-income (DTI) ratio at 43 percent. “This means that a borrower’s total debt expense (including total mortgage payment) does not exceed 43% of their gross income (before taxes are withheld),” said the National Association of REALTORS (NAR). The rub: Many loans Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), are exempt from the 43 percent DTI limit.

The impact higher DTIs are having on the market is clear; a new WalletHub report “analyzed data from 2,533 U.S. cities and ranked all of them on the basis of a ‘WalletHub Home Overleverage Score,'” said 24/7 Wall St, finding that, in many cities, over leveraging is becoming the norm. “The score was derived from a city’s median mortgage debt, median house value, median income, mortgage debt-to-income ratio and mortgage debt-to-house value ratio.” The top 10 are all well over the 43 percent threshold, with the top three – San Luis Obispo, California at 59.62; Williamsburg, Virginia at 58.76; and Brooksville, Florida at 57.44) pushing 60 percent.

Getting in over your head with a house, either from the get-go when first purchasing, or later on with a home equity line that increases your monthly payments, is a dangerous scenario for homeowners (and for the market in general). So how do you keep yourself in check to make sure the house you’re buying is one you can actually afford and that you’re not in danger of becoming house poor?

Do your own calculations

The bank may be telling you that a $350,000 house is within your means, but are you OK with the monthly payment attached to that price? No one is more familiar with your spending habits than you. Are you really going to be able to cut $500 a month in discretionary spending (eating out, movies, clothes shopping, morning lattes) to comfortably make your new house payment?

Don’t forget about the extra expenses

If you’re buying your first home, you may not be estimating your new monthly expenses accurately. Did you include the HOA fee, if the community in which you’re looking to buy has one? What about any special assessments, if there are any? And private mortgage insurance (PMI) if you have an FHA loan and are putting less than 20 percent down on your home. That couple hundred dollars could put you over the top.

Have you also considered your utilities? You may not be accustomed to paying gas and electricity and water and trash if you’ve been living in an apartment. There could also be an increase in the cost of electricity if you have more square footage to heat and cool.

Watch out for HELOCS

A home equity line of credit (HELOC) can seem harmless. I mean, it’s your money, right? And you’re using it improve your home, which will only raise its value, right? But what seems like a great idea can also get you in trouble when you tap your home equity. You may be calculating the additional payment for now, but what happens later?

That’s the conundrum thousands are facing right now, as “HELOCs are resetting higher rates and over leveraging homeowners,” said Inman. “An analysis by Black Knight Financial shows that 1.5 million home equity lines of credit will see interest-only draw periods end this year with outstanding unpaid principal balances that average $62,500 per HELOC. The data reveals that average borrowers whose lines of credit reset will face an additional cost of $250 per month, more than double the current average payment.”

Keep an open mind

Finding a house you can afford may be challenging – especially for first-time buyers and those in competitive markets that push the affordability index. If you have tight parameters for your house hunt that are making it hard to find something within your budget, consider:

  • Extending your area search. You may not be aware of (but your Realtor probably is!) adjacent cities or communities that offer a similar lifestyle at a lower price or up-and-coming areas that provide a great value because they’re still slightly under the radar.
  • Buying a condo or townhome instead of a single-family home. Some buyers have an automatic aversion to condos and townhomes because they don’t like the idea of living attached. But your real estate agent may know of properties that are end units, that have private yards, and that are two-story units with no one above or below you. It may be that this is your best bet for homeownership you can really afford at this point, and you may find you like it far more than you expected – especially because so many of these communities come with great amenities like a pool and gym, plus front-yard landscaping that is taken care of, saving you time and money.
  • Looking at fixer-uppers. A little-known loan called an FHA 203(k) mortgage may be your “in” to a home you can afford and make your own. The bonus is that it’s also great for borrowers who may not have the credit and/or down payment to qualify for conventional loans. “The FHA requires a credit score of at least 580 if you want to make the minimum down payment; if you have 10% down, your score can be as low as 500,” said Interest.com. “You can borrow more than the home is worth, as long as the repairs will increase its appraised value. The most you can borrow is 110% of what an appraiser estimates it will be worth after renovations, or the cost of the home plus the estimated renovation cost, whichever is less, minus your down payment. The minimum down payment on an FHA loan is 3.5%.”

Written by Jaymi Naciri

 

What You Need To Know Before You Buy In A Planned Community

A particularly active spring storm season left pockmarked roofs and tumbled fences throughout North Texas this year, including many in my master-planned community, thanks to an EF0 tornado that blew its way through the neighborhood (thankfully missing my house – this time). The process of repairs and replacements was as fickle as the tornado itself. Some homeowners received immediate or at least prompt approval from the community Homeowners’ Association (HOA) and its Architectural Review Committee (ARC), while others were forced to wait and wait and wait – which would be frustrating, even if this weren’t the wettest June in 13 years. In one case, a homeowner’s approval was inexplicably delayed so long, even though she was only looking to replace her damaged roof with the exact same roof, that she suffered leaks and damage to the interior of her home.

That’s one of the rubs of living in a community that is governed by an HOA: You need approval to do stuff to your house, even if that stuff is going to be an improvement over what it currently looks like. It’s not the only potential downside, but there are also plenty of advantages associated with an HOA. And with more than 40 million U.S. households “or 53% of the owner-occupied households in the America” living with an HOA, according to HOA-USA – a number that’s on the rise with new construction, of which more than 60% have an HOA – it’s something you might have to deal with. Get to know the pros and cons so there won’t be any surprises.

Pro: An HOA protects your investment. “HOA rules and regulations help ensure homeowners keep their homes well maintained and in compliance with overall appearance standards,” said Signature Homes. “Combined with proper care of amenities and common areas, the value of your home is more protected than one that does not have HOA oversight.”

Con: Limits your creativity and individuality. HOAs may offer limited options when it comes to updates. Older neighborhoods may have a small color palette available to owners and may be reluctant to expand it to current trends.

Pro: You won’t have to deal with neighbors painting their house pink or letting their grass grow to armpit height. “Homes within an HOA must meet the standards set by the association or face a fine, so you’re less likely to see unkempt lawns, peeling paint or a garishly painted house,” said Realtor.com. “Some HOAs have a design review board with the power to approve any changes to your home’s exterior.”

Con: Those restrictions can be Confining. An HOA demands that you ask permission before making any changes to your home – even if you’re just talking about staining your fence the very same color. Depending on how finicky your HOA is, you might also get fined because your landscaper took the week off or because the basketball net in your driveway is torn (true story).

Pro: File this under the umbrella of “protecting your investment.” Many HOAs have stipulations about how many cars, or what type, can be parked on your property, or even where they can be parked. That can help ensure that the neighbor down the street doesn’t turn his lawn into an auto body shop with multiple non-functioning cars up on blocks.

Con: Looking to park your RV or boat in your driveway? An HOA may nix that idea. Be sure you check ahead of time to make sure this is allowed.

Pro: An HOA decision may not be final. Get a rejection from the HOA on your submitted request to make changes to your landscaping? You can always appeal and state your case.

Con: Deciding to “ask for forgiveness instead of permission” rarely goes well, so, if you decide to go ahead with changes despite not receiving an approval from the HOA, beware: You might be fined.

Pro: Some HOAs take care of things like your front-yard landscaping and trash removal, which means you don’t have to pay for it or worry about it.

Con: That also may mean strict restrictions about what you can and can’t plant in your front yard. You may have to reconsider those rose bushes.

Pro: You might not have to put in a pool because there’s one in the community that you’re helping to pay for through your HOA dues, but don’t have to maintain.

Con: When the pool needs to be redone, it’ll be you and all your neighbors that are on the hook to pay for it – even if you never use it.

Pro: A pool is just the beginning. Planned communities with an HOA can have golf courses, tennis courts, clubhouses, playgrounds, and even private lakes for fishing and recreation.

Con: The more amenities you have, the more you’re likely to pay in HOA dues. In a large masterplan with a couple of pools, a playground, and a tennis court, you can pay as little as $50 per month. The more homes that are added, the more the overall cost is spread out. A more “typical range” is $200–400 per month, said Investopedia, adding that, “The more upscale the building and the more amenities it has, the higher the homeowners’ association fees are likely to be.” In some condos, the fees may be higher if parking and security are considerations, and, especially, in a luxury building with amenities including a fitness center and concierge. “Hollywood’s fancy Sierra Towers condo building, which is filled to the brim with amenities like 24-hour concierge service and valet parking. They charge residents of a 3,400-square-foot condo about $4,000 per month in HOA fees,” said Realtor.com.

Pro: You’ve got a built-in mediator. “Involved in a tiff with your neighbor over that big oak tree that’s losing limbs? You can settle some confrontations with your neighbors by taking your grievances to the HOA’s board or management company,” said RISMedia.

Con: Maybe you’re the type that wants to “handle” grievances in your own way?

Pro: Some HOAs allow you to pay monthly, quarterly, or annually.

Con: Falling behind on HOA dues can lead to foreclosure. “This is another reason you’ll want to make sure those HOA fees are in your budget,” said Credit.com. “An HOA can move to foreclose on your property if you fail to pay its dues and/or associated late fees. Laws can vary by state. A few, for instance, place limits on when an HOA can move to foreclose. So if you’ve fallen behind on payments, you may want to consult a local attorney about your best recourse.”

Pro: Part of what you’ll pay to the HOA every month goes to a reserve fund, which can be used for neighborhood repairs and emergency needs.

Con: The reserves may not be enough to cover large expenses. “In addition to monthly fees, if a major expense such as a new roof or a new elevator comes up and there aren’t enough funds in the HOA’s reserves to pay for it, the association may charge an extra assessment that can run into thousands of dollars,” said Investopedia.

Written by Jaymi Naciri

The Third Rule of Home Staging: Add a Splash Of Color

When it comes to staging a home for sale, the classic advice to keep color schemes neutral is still spot-on. White or pale hues make a space feel simple, serene and more expansive. These unobtrusive colors act as a blank canvas; they allow potential buyers to imagine themselves living in the home.

But many homeowners who already have colorful walls or furniture may wonder if it’s possible to keep some color in their staged home. The answer is absolutely yes. You can maintain – or even add – just a pop of color to create the right amount of personality and style in your staging. In fact, a splash of color can make a space feel designed, perhaps allowing it to linger in the memories of prospective buyers. As a bonus, color can also brighten your listing photos. Remember, you’ll want to add the color only after you’ve done the first two steps of home staging, paring down and freshening up. Here’s a game plan for strategically adding color to each staged room of your home.

Brighten the Living RoomThrow pillows

Throw pillows are easily found and often cost-efficient. On a sofa, they’re a terrific way to add a burst of color. Select throw pillows that complement the sofa and room. You might go for a bright contrast, like royal blue against white, or bright yellow on a beige sofa. It’s all right to choose patterned, floral, solid or metallic versions. The key is to look for a color or combination of colors that will add visual interest without taking over the room.

 

Color-coordinating your display shelves is another smart and budget-friendly way to infuse your living room with a little color. When editing your bookcase or shelves, try keeping books of the same color or combinations of colors together. You might be surprised how a simple stack of brightly colored red or blue books can transform a shelf or an accent table.Orange chairs

If the thought of parting with that pair of brightly colored armchairs gives you trouble, rest assured that you might not have to let them go. Once you’ve given the room a neutral and soothing palette overall, try reinstating that colorful furniture piece or accessory. Perhaps balance it out with a paler counterpart, as with a light-colored throw on a chair, or white books on a colorful table.

Teal Ottoman

 

The rule of thumb is that if it’s a visual distraction, you should remove it. But if your punchy piece complements the space and adds just the right amount of personality, it can stay. A buyer might remember the cool house with the interesting blue velvet ottoman, especially among a sea of all-white homes with nothing memorable about them.

 

 

 

Bring a Splash of Color to Your Kitchen

Look to surfaces such as a countertop, an open shelf or a stovetop as opportunities to add a pop of color here and there in the kitchen. You don’t want to introduce clutter, but you could replace necessary items — teakettle, dish towel, cookie jar — that are neutral with colorful equivalents that tastefully brighten the space.Red bar stools

A terrific option for adding color to a kitchen is to highlight colorful seating options. Bright bar stools or dining chairs can really make a kitchen come to life.  Another great idea for adding temporary color that many stagers use for both photos and open houses is a simple bowl of fruit on the counter. Try using a single color, such as all green or all red apples. For a warm personal touch at your open house, you might leave a note offering the fruit to your visitors.

A Bedroom That Oozes Calm

A well-staged bedroom should feel like a relaxing hotel room, with nothing too personal showing. Pale or white bedding and minimal accessories will contribute nicely to a soothing scheme.

Adhering to a hotel-like feel for your bedroom, however, doesn’t mean that you can’t add a color or two. Your bed wall is the perfect place to feature a different hue. Stick to peaceful or classicCozy bedroom colors that will work nicely with your neutral bedding. White or ivory bedding looks sophisticated against a navy wall. Similarly, a soothing aqua or pale blue painted wall would freshen up a drab or dark space, making it more inviting and relaxing. Add a mirror to your painted bed wall to help create an elegant and calming retreat.

 

 

 

Bathrooms Are for Color

Fresh and clean is how you want your bathroom to read to any prospective buyer. Crisp white towels and a sparkling shower or tub do wonders to brighten an outdated or worn bathroom. Surprisingly, so does a little color on the walls. Aqua bathroomSo if your bathroom still feels a bit drab after cleaning and updating the space with new hardware and a fresh glaze on the tub, try painting one or more walls in a classic or fresh color. This can add a bit more style to the room, with the added perk of helping to conceal aging walls and distract the eye from other outdated features.

Look to classic colors like navy or charcoal gray to pop against your fluffy white towels or help make white tiles look brighter. Alternatively, a refreshing color such as pale aqua can evoke the palette of clean water, resulting in a soothing feeling.

Colors you might steer clear of for a painted bathroom wall are nonsoothing brights such as orange or emerald green. While these primary colors can make a fun statement, they don’t evoke a serene or clean feeling for the purposes of a bathroom.

 

 

 

Dress Up Your Exterior

Last but not least, it’s time to address accenting the exterior of your home with a burst of color. Painting your front door and shutters in a color that coordinates with the rest of your house will add curb appeal.  Blue front door

Bright and classic colors such as red, green and blue are great options, especially to coordinate with planters and brightly colored flowers.

 

Written by Neila Deen

 

 

 

Lifetime Achievement

In 2016 it was the 100th Anniversary of the National Association of Realtors.  This coming year will make my 40th year anniversary living in Sterling and 35 years as a Realtor.  And somehow it all just seems like yesterday.

My biggest joy about this time of the year is the Christmas cards from special people and the family pictures.  I have saved all the cards and watched so many children grow up, and sometimes I even get pictures of the grandchildren.  I continue to be happy that I have found perfect homes for so many people and they also spend many years enjoying their homes and communities.

Last spring my Board of Realtors requested that I fill out the application for the Lifetime Achievement Award.  As I reviewed the many things I accomplished with my volunteer efforts for not only my professional Realtor Association, but my community and my dog world, I felt a wonderful sense of satisfaction and gratitude for the chance to serve.  The Landmark decided to do an article about this award, and I received letters of congratulations from so many people and my state representatives.

Lifetime Achievement

My parents instilled in my brother and I a sense of  responsibility and service from the time we were quite young.  I have never just belonged to an organization, because I learned early on that you always get back more than you put in.

A few years ago our beloved leaders at the State House decided it would be a good idea to raise revenue by putting a sales tax on “services”.  This would mean you would be paying a “sales tax” to have your hair done, seeing your doctor, having your car serviced, selling your home….and all those businesses would have huge additional expenses in bookkeeping and compliance.  As the largest trade organization in the state, the Mass Association of Realtors put out a call to action to all Realtors to contact our representatives to stop this damaging piece of legislation.  The response was overwhelming and the proposal was stopped.

Our Realtor advocacy will continue to look out for private property rights and serve our communities in many ways behind the scenes.  And I look forward to sharing my knowledge with friends and clients in the coming years.

6 Materials to Never Use in Your Kitchen Remodel

Here’s what to avoid, what to choose for your kitchen remodel.

Ready for a kitchen remodel? Unless you’re cool with treating the hardest working room in your house like a museum exhibit, resist the temptation to buy the cheapest or shiniest materials available and go for durable options that can stand up to regular abuse. Trust us: Although it may be tough to leave that raised, tempered glass bar top (ooo!) in the showroom, repairing its first (and second, and third) chip will get old. Very fast.

Picking the right materials is easy if you do your homework. “There are amazing products out there,” says Jeffrey Holloway, a certified kitchen designer and owner of Holloway Home Improvement Center in Marmora, N.J. “You’re looking at price point, sanitation, how easy it is to clean the product, its durability and maintenance.”

Keeping those all-important features in mind, here are some materials to avoid during your next kitchen remodel.

  1. Plastic Laminate Counters

 

Great KitchensFirst off, there’s plenty of great laminate out there. It’s the entry-level, plastic laminate to stay away from, Holloway says. These are the ones that look thin and dull, as opposed to richly textured. They scratch easily, and if the product underneath the laminate gets wet (say, from steam rising from your dishwasher), it can delaminate the countertop, which means the edges will chip pretty easily. Also, one misplaced hot pan on the plastic will result in a melted disaster zone you’ll remember forever.

But if you’re watching your budget, plastic laminate at the next level up is a good choice. “It’s got good color consistency, and there are a lot of retro and trendy patterns available,” says Dani Polidor, an interior designer and owner of Suite Artistry, and a REALTOR® in Pittsford, N.Y.

New laminate counter technology offers scratch resistance, textured surfaces, and patterns that mimic real wood and stone. “There are even self-repairing nano-technologies embedded in some laminates,” says Polidor, “and others have antimicrobial properties.”

For an average 10-by-20-foot kitchen, the next-level-up laminate will cost about $3,000, Polidor estimates, and those super cool technology options add another $200 to $300. For durability and longer life, the investment is well worth it.

 

  1. Inexpensive Sheet Vinyl Flooring

     

You spend all day stepping on your floor, so quality really matters. At the lower price point, about $2.50 per square foot, the cheapest sheet vinyl floorings tend to be thin. “If your vinyl floor is Tigerwood By Jcwalker3rd (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commonsglued down and the underlayment gets delaminated, say, by water seeping from your dishwasher or refrigerator, you’ll get bubbles in your floor,” Holloway warns.

Compare that with luxury vinyl tile (LVT) that costs about $5 per square foot. It’s still usually glued down, but it’s a little more forgiving than its less classy cousin — and it can come in tiles, which you can grout so they mimic the look of higher-end stone, Polidor says.

  1. Some Laminated Cabinet Fronts

Holloway suggests staying away from lower-end thermofoil cabinet fronts. What is thermofoil? Contrary to its name, there’s no foil or any metal-type material in it. It’s actually vinyl, which is heated and molded around fiberboard. If the cabinet is white and the price is waaaaay affordable compared with other cabinets, think twice. Cheaper thermofoil has three critical issues:

  1. It’s not heat resistant. If near a dishwasher or oven, it could delaminate.
  2. It can warp and yellow with age, revealing its cheapness.
  3. The “wood” underneath the thermofoil is also poor quality and won’t hold up over time.

But just like with plastic laminate, science has made great strides, and now there are a host of new cabinets that are remaking thermofoil’s reputation. “New European laminates have become all the rage for the clean-lined, flat-panel look,” Polidor says. “It’s budget-friendly and can look like wood or high gloss. It’s not your grandmother’s thermofoil.”

And it doesn’t come at grandma’s prices, either. But still, the new thermofoil is much more affordable than custom cabinets, and still satisfies with its rich look and durability.

  1. High-Gloss Lacquered Cabinets

Lacquer Cabinets

A nice shine can be eye-catching. And spendy. About 20 layers of lacquer go on a cabinet for the high-gloss look. Ding it or scratch it, and it’s costly to repair.

“It’s a multi-step process for repairing them,” Polidor says. A better option for the same look is high-end thermofoil (see? We said there were good thermofoil options!). Thermofoil has a finish that’s fused to the cabinet and baked on for a more durable exterior. And it’s way more budget-friendly, too. High-gloss can be in the thousands of dollars, whereas thermofoil can be in the hundreds of dollars.

 

 

  1. Flat Paint

Flat paint has that sophisticated, velvety, rich look we all love. But keep it in the bedroom. It’s not KF (kitchen-friendly). Flat paint, also known as matte paint, has durability issues. It’s unstable. Try to wipe off one splatter of chili sauce, and you’ve ruined the paint job. About the only place to use flat paint in your kitchen is on the ceiling (unless, of course, you have a reputation for blender or pressure-cooker accidents that reach to the ceiling, then we suggest takeout).

Instead, you want to use high-gloss or semi-gloss paint on your walls. They can stand up to multiple scrubbings before breaking down.

  1. Trendy Backsplash MaterialsTrendy Backsplash

Tastes change. So avoid super trendy colors and materials when it comes to permanently adhering something to your kitchen walls. Backsplashes come in glass, metal, iridescent, and high-relief decor tiles, which are undoubtedly fun and tempting. They can also be expensive, ranging from $5 to $220 a square foot, and difficult to install. And after all that work and expense, if (er … when) your tastes change in a few years, it’ll be mighty tough to justify a re-do.

Stick with a classic subway tile at $2 to $3 square foot. Or, even more budget friendly, choose an integrated backsplash that matches your countertop material. “If you want pops of color, do it with accessories,” Polidor suggests.

Written by: Stacey Freed

 

You Are Invited To A Puppy Match

Puppies at a puppy match

Puppies

WORCESTER COUNTRY KENNEL CLUB INC.

All Breed B Match With

  Beginner CGC & CGC Advanced

May 1st, 2016

Match

      Judge: Mr. Raymond Johnson

   4 – 6 Month

    6 – 9 Month

     9 – 12 Month

Open

   Start Time 1:00 PM

Entries Taken 12:00 Noon until time of class

$10.00 per entry

Great Pyrenees puppies

Beginner CGC & CGC Advanced

    Evaluator: Ms. Lynne Pano

     LIMITED ENTRIES

   Start time 8:30 AM

     Total of 16 entries Combined

     Beginner CGC Pre-Entry $20.00                Day of show $25.00

     Advanced CGC Pre-Entry $25.00               Day of show $30.00

                       Additional Entries accepted if time permits

                         Pre-entries will ensure your slot

German Shepard mother and puppy

German Shepard

Remit with payment to: Jeffery Snyder 123 Riverlin Street Millbury, MA 01527

Phone: 508-865-5824          E-Mail: riverlinlabs@verizon.net

Directions to Champion Kennels Sterling, MA

149 Clinton Road, Sterling, MA

Take Rt. 190 South to Exit 6. At end of ramp, go left onto Rt. 12. (Land mark: Mulligan Miniature Golf Course will be on your right – Be sure you are in the left lane when you see it). Take your LEFT onto Chocksett Road.  Travel to the end of Chocksett Rd. and at STOP Sign, cross the road and you will be in the Champion Kennels parking lot.

A Moving Experience

Moving is often a stressful experience, even when it goes well.  While you may never have a great time boxing up your possessions and moving them to a new place, there are certainly steps you can take to make the experience as easy as possible.  Here are a few tips from styleathome.com that can help you save time and reduce your stress when moving.

 

CHOOSE WISELY:  You will want to make sure whatever transportation you choose has enough room for all of your things, especially if the move is far enough that you only want to make one trip.  Generally, the contents of a 0ne-bedroom apartment will fit in a 16-foot cube truck, while two or three bedrooms usually fit in a 24 or 26 foot truck.  If you’re moving a full house, you can also use a 24 or 26 foot truck but if you have a lot of possessions it might require two trips.Moving truck

MAKE A PLAN: Before you put anything in a box or contact movers, create an itemized list of everything that should be done and follow it as you go.  This will make the move easier for yourself and others who are helping you.  If you’re using movers, you should also make an inventory as you pack, and check it when you unpack to make sure none of your items were lost.

Cargo elevatorCOMMUNICATE: Once you have a plan, make sure your movers are aware of your requirements.  The more information they have about the situation, the less time they will require and the more prepared they will be.  If you’re moving into a condo or apartment, ask your landlord or building supervisor if there is anything you should know about moving into the building.  For example, condos often have service elevators you can reserve for the move.

Root Cause

Landscaping Expertise

Trees and shrubs add visual appeal to any homeowner’s lawn or backyard – but only when they’re in tip-top shape.  Better Homes & Gardens and HGTV offer some key maintenance tips.

PruningPRUNING TREES

To keep plants lush and healthy, prune dead branches or leaves regularly.  If a plant is already infected with a disease or pests, pruning can help prevent spreading and extend the plant’s life.  Experts suggest dipping your pruning shears in bleach or rubbing alcohol in between cuts to further kill disease or pests.  When you prune depends on what kind of tree or shrub you have.  The basic rule of thumb is to prune plants when they are not in bloom or are on the verge of blooming.  For example, shade trees are best pruned in late fall, winter or early spring, when they’re typically leafless.  And deep in mind that while light pruning is OK to do on your own, it’s best to hire a professional if larger branches need to be cut.

 

Watering

Just planted a tree?  If the tree is in its first two years, water it more frequently, since the tree is expending energy to grow.  Experts suggest 30 seconds with a steady stream of water from an ordinary garden hose.  You can also add mulching to your regular routine to try to retain moisture.  One note of caution: Be careful not to water trees as frequently as the grass.  Too much watering can cause the tree roots to grow too close to the surface which means that the water is actually suffocating the roots.garden-club-flower-200x300

Pest Control

The most important thing you can do to maintain a pest-free environment is to check your plants thoroughly for insects and oddities – such as black spots on the leaves or holes in the wood – on a regular basis.  Anything amiss could mean the plant has been infested with pests.  Experts suggest periodically blasting leaves with a hose to shake off any clinging pests.

Tomato Plants

CRS

Room for Improvement When You Sell Your Home

hccor-raney-richardson-neutral-living_lg

Sell Your Home

If you’re getting ready to sell your house, you may not have extra cash to spend on home improvements.  But some basic improvements can be inexpensive, and the results are worth it.  Minor upgrades, such as painting the living room or changing the hardware on kitchen cabinets, can make a house much more attractive.  Consider these simple ideas from Frontdoor.com and HGTV.

 

Flowers for LandscapingYard Sale: When buyers pull up to your home, the first thing they’ll notice is the front yard.  Improve your homes’ curb appeal by brightening it with flowers.  Place ceramic pots with colorful blooms on either side of the front door for a warm welcome.  If the front door looks worn from the elements, spruce it up with a fresh coat of paint.

 

 

Under Counter Lights

Joanne Jakab Interior Design

See the Light:  Proper lighting can help make your home more inviting and comfortable to buyers visiting your home.  Assess the ambiance to determine where there could be more, less, softer, or stronger light.  For instance, kitchens often have useless dark spaces under cabinets.  Consider installing under-cabinet lighting, which will brighten up cooking space while adding a dramatic effect to the kitchen.

Brush Up: A new coat of paint can change the entire look and feel of a room.  Choose neutral colors that appeal to a wide range of tastes and easily blend with many styles of home decor.  Neutral color schemes also allow buyers to envision their own personal style in a new home.  Consider beige, light gray or bone white to create a warm and comfortable living space.

CRS (Council of Residential Specialists)

Chooseing Window Treatments: Pros And Cons

Window Treatments

Deciding on the right size, color, fabric and pillow configuration for your couch took three weeks. You still haven’t decided on the paint color for the bedroom, despite having seven different shades of blue in swatches up on the wall. It seems like every design decision you’ve made in your home was critical, but the one that will help pull it all together hasn’t garnered a moment of thought.

“Of all the design decisions homeowners make when decorating a home – paint color, furniture, fabrics, rugs, lighting, accessories – window treatments often get overlooked or receive inadequate attention,” said Karen Egly-Thompson on Houzz.

Perhaps it’s because choosing the right window treatment is just too overwhelming. These pros and cons will help.

Wood BlindsWhite blinds

These natural wood slats are either painted or stained and are a popular choice for today’s homeowners.

Pros:

They come in a variety of stains and paint grades “from light pine to bamboo to richly stained ebony,” so they complement “many decorative styles,” said Blinds Galore. Also, “their simple construction makes them easy to operate” and different slat sizes mean you can control how much light you want coming through.

Cons:

Wood blinds can be pricy depending on the material, and can sometimes feel a little uninspired without being layered with another window treatment like drapes.

Faux wood blinds

Faux wood blinds are generally made of vinyl or a composite of vinyl and wood.

Pros:

These blinds offer a similar look and function to real wood, often at a lower cost. They’re also super low maintenance, making them a favorite of designers and homeowners, and are great in rooms like kitchens and bathrooms where a high moisture content might warp real wood.

Cons:

They can look cheap depending on the material, and bargain-basement options have been known to have function issues with the cording, so be sure to check the quality before purchasing.

Slider shades

 

Panel Track Blinds

Panel track blinds are a modern, attractive alternative to vertical blinds and a great choice for sliding glass doors.

 

Pros:

Panel track blinds allow for light control and privacy without having to resort to vertical blinds.

Cons:

Not as sturdy as some other window treatments.

 

Plantation Shutters

Shutters are a homeowner favorite, offering an upscale look that can elevate the elegance of a space. They are also among the most Plantation shuttersexpensive window treatments – but well worth it to fans of this classic option.

“Shutters are dynamic as an architectural statement and are not only functional and beautiful window treatments, but they can also add value to your home,” said Blinds Galore. “Shutters help to control incoming light, offer privacy when closed and help to insulate against heat, cold, and sound. Shutters add timeless, traditional sophistication to any room.”

Pros:

Shutters offer great light control and insulation and are among a handful of items that can increase the value of a home – a homebuyer might not remember the color of your walls but she will remember if you have shutters.

Cons:

The expense is often beyond that of other window treatments.

Drapes

Hanging drapes can frame windows and bring life to a space – coordinating with furnishings or providing contrast. But color and pattern are just two of the important factors when choosing drapes. Consideration should be given to climate – are you in a warm climate where you need protection from the sun or a cold climate which calls for insulated drapes? Do you have a lot of morning or late afternoon sun, and how much do you want filtering into the room? Do you want a quality fabric that will last for years, or are you the type who wants to update on a regular basis?

Drapes

“Set aside style considerations for a moment; function comes first and will limit your curtain choices, in a good way,” said Real Simple. “If you want treatments that provide privacy or total darkness, you need lined curtains. If you’re OK with light filtering through or if your curtains are simply decorative, unlined will work.”

Pros:

Drapes are one of the few window coverings that almost anyone can DIY depending on how and where they’re being hung. They’re also easy to change out seasonally or on a whim and are among the most affordable options for those on a budget.

Cons:

The sheer variety of drapes (pun intended) can also make it challenging to choose the right one, and drapes can sometimes feel not as finished as other options depending on the product chosen and the installation. Layering window coverings and using the drapes for framing instead of function can help.

 

Shades

A variety of shades provide coverage for windows in styles ranging from contemporary to classic to traditional. Options include:

Shades

  • Cellular or honeycomb shades
  • Roller shades
  • Roman shades
  • Motorized shades

When installing shades, you’ll also want to consider corded or cordless versions, whether to mount them inside the window or out, and have them open from the top or bottom.

Pros:

Offered in a variety of styles, fabrics, and price points, shades can provide everything from temporary, inexpensive coverage for those who have not yet found a permanent window covering solution to custom solutions that bring a sense of grandeur to a space. Motorized shades also provide smart solutions for windows that are out of reach.

Cons:

Shades on the low end of the pricing spectrum can feel cheap with flimsy materials. Some shades can also have an institutional feel.

Written by Jaymi Naciri