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Guest Post by Bill Gassett Do you want to buy a home but have awful credit? Buying a home with bad credit can be seemingly impossible. You've probably heard before that you need a good credit score to buy a home, which is part of the truth. While having a top-shelf credit score can certainly help you get the best loan terms and conditions, it isn’t a necessity. In fact, there are mortgages such as bad credit home loans that are available to anyone with a bad credit score. So all is not lost! In this article, we’re going to go over just how you can buy a home with bad credit and how your overall credit score might not be as big of an issue as you think it is when you’re trying to fly the nest. What is considered to be a bad credit score? Before we get into the loans available to you, let’s first talk about what is considered a bad credit score. Unfortunately, there is nothing set in stone when it comes to knowing whether or not you have the minimum credit score required by a lender to buy a house. Mortgage lenders set their own requirements when it comes to lending money to those with bad credit, but there are some general rules you can apply to find out whether or not you would be eligible for a loan. Perhaps most important, it is essential to have a firm grasp on specific credit score ranges and where you fall into the mix. You’re going to find that if you have a credit score lower than 500, it will be difficult to get yourself a home mortgage. A score between 580–669 is considered to be a fair score, while one that is from 300–579 is considered to be very poor. But remember, even if you have a bad credit score, it doesn’t put you in the same scenario as someone else with a similarly bad credit score. There are other factors that mortgage lenders consider before declining or accepting your mortgage request. Can you buy a house with bad credit? As mentioned above, even with a low credit score, a mortgage lender will consider additional factors to your credit report when you apply for a mortgage. Lenders will also consider the following: How much debt you currently have The amount of money you have available for a down payment How much money you’re bringing in each month Essentially, even with a lower-end credit score, as long as you have a sizable down payment, you’re more likely going to be considered for approval for a home loan. Since your credit score will only qualify you for a certain loan amount, if you have a sizable and consistent monthly income, then you can make up the difference with that instead. Though, as mentioned before, the lender you choose to go with also matters because the requirements you’re going to need to meet will vary. If you are serious about buying a home, you should also get your mortgage pre-approval squared away before you start looking at homes. What are the bad credit loan options? FHA loans An FHA loan is a great choice if you’re a first-time buyer. One of the significant benefits of an FHA mortgage is that you will only need to come up with 3.5 percent for a down payment. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) backs these loans. The minimum credit score requirement for a loan is usually around 580. If you can make a sizable down payment of at least 10 percent or have a high income, then you could be approved for a loan even if you have a score as low as 500. However, many lenders may shy away from granting financing when you're under 580. Conventional loans There are no real specifics tied to getting a conventional mortgage loan, though you will need a minimum credit score of 620+ if you’re looking to qualify for a loan like this. Typically, if you have a high down payment ready or high monthly income, it will be much easier to qualify for this type of loan even if your credit score is below 620. It is advised to speak to multiple lenders or find a reputable mortgage broker who has access to numerous lenders. The benefit of using a mortgage broker is that you are not locked into one lender's standards. Mortgage brokers can seek out and find the best loan for your specific financial circumstances. USDA loans Another loan backed by the government, a USDA, allows you to buy a home in a qualifying rural area with a zero percent down payment. You will need a credit score around 640 to be qualified for this loan, along with other specifics. A USDA loan can only be used to buy a home in what's considered a rural area. By definition, that is an area whose population is no more than 10,000 or a population that is no higher than 20,000 while also not in a metropolitan statistical area and lacks mortgages available for low to moderate-income families. Lastly, an area that used to be classified as a rural area but was changed due to census figures might still qualify if the area's population doesn’t exceed 35,000 and still has rural characteristics. A lender will be able to tell you if the area qualifies for a USDA mortgage. VA loans If you’re a veteran or you’re currently an active-duty member of the armed forces, then choosing a VA loan could be best for you. A VA loan allows you and your spouse to buy a home with zero down payments, although just like the other loan options on this list, you’re going to need a credit score around 620 to be eligible for a VA loan in the first place. Other than USDA loans, a VA mortgage is the only other no down payment option. Bad Credit Home Loans Find the best FHA, Conventional, USDA, and VA loan options from trusted mortgage lenders. Explore Options What about a hard money loan? A hard money loan should be your last resort if other lenders turn you down due to your bad credit score. Hard money loans are not based on the borrower's creditworthiness but on the value of the property used for collateral. Traditional lenders do not grant hard money loans. They are typically given by private investors, or hard money lenders, who see an opportunity to make money by charging a borrower a much higher interest rate, which can be a big downside for the borrower. But on the positive side, it is usually a short-term loan that allows someone to purchase a home. The borrower has to feel confident that their current lack of good credit standing is short-term, and they expect a rapid improvement. The goal would be to refinance out of a hard money loan as quickly as possible. How can I improve my credit? For obvious reasons, anyone looking to buy a home should strive to increase their credit score. A good credit score comes in handy for so many things in life, whether buying a home, car, or credit cards; having a good credit score can also save you an incredible amount of money by lowering your mortgage loan interest rate. Besides spending money going to a credit improvement company, you can do another highly recommended thing to improve your credit. Sign up for a free service like Credit Karma or Experian to find advice on how to improve your credit scores. Many people often make poor credit choices because they don't know what negatively impacts it and what doesn't. For example, many people might think canceling a credit card is a good move when, in fact, it will drop your credit score. Being aware of credit myths such as this can make the biggest difference in improving your credit score. Final thoughts Whether you are buying a traditional house, modular home, townhouse, or condo, your credit score will play a significant role in what you "really" pay for a home. While most people look at the purchase price as what they have paid, it really is the interest on the loan you end up paying over the term of the loan. When you have a bad credit score, you have a higher interest rate, which in turn makes for higher monthly payments, which is very important to consider. Striving to obtain the best score possible is worth the effort, but if it isn’t where you’d like it to be right now, take heart in knowing that there are some other options available to you, allowing you to fulfill your dream of buying a home. Bill Gassett has been a real estate agent for the past 34 years working for RE/MAX Executive Realty in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. He is also an avid writer for numerous real estate publications including The National Association of Realtors, RIS Media, Inman, as well as his own blog "Maximum Real Estate Exposure."
Guest Post by Bill Gassett What is a modular house? If you've always wanted to build your own home, many things can put you off the idea. You would need to hire architects and a team of contractors, as well as manage the build. This could lead to a lot of stress and certainly a lot of expense. However, a modular home offers you the chance to build your own property without many of the problems associated with a traditional build. Lots of folks wonder exactly what is a modular home. Let's take a look at what you need to know about modular homes to help you decide if this type of home is right for you. How are modular homes different? With traditional home building, the construction process can take many months, with delays due to the weather being a common problem. A modular home can be constructed in a matter of weeks, with most of the work being carried out off-site in a factory. These can sometimes be referred to as factory-built or prefab homes. They are then transported to the construction site, where a crane lifts them onto the foundations. The prefab sections fit together, allowing the home to be assembled very quickly. There then needs to be work carried out to finish the home. This means connecting the utilities and adding the finishing touches to the home. They are permanent homes that appraise the same way as traditional home construction. You can expect to pay the same taxes and insurance as you would for a regular house. Are modular homes more expensive? Thanks to how these buildings are put together, there are many cost savings for the owner. Since the homes are built in a factory, this saves a great deal as they can be inspected on the production line. Typical costs for a modular property are around $100 per sq ft. However, this can increase if you opt for a more complex or unusual layout and design. The cost to build a traditional home starts from around $150 per square ft, so the savings are quite clear. Are modular and prefab homes the same thing? Generally speaking, they are the same thing. Prefab, short for prefabricated, refers to homes constructed off-site in sections, which is essentially the same thing as modular buildings. Are modular homes the same as manufactured homes? Manufactured homes, often referred to as mobile homes, aren't the same as modular homes. Manufactured homes aren't permanently located in one place, as modular constructions have to be. You can choose to move your manufactured home to a new location, but this isn't possible with a prefab or modular home. The term mobile home officially refers to manufactured homes constructed before 1976. Though the term is still commonly used, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development officially calls this type of housing manufactured. Do modular homes all look the same? While manufactured homes look very similar, this isn't the case with modular properties. There are many styles of modular homes available, and you can customize as you wish. There aren't any design limits. You can make changes to a manufacturer’s design to create the home of your dreams. What are the pros and cons of choosing a prefab home? There are many reasons this type of housing might be right for you, but they're also negatives you need to consider. Let's take a look at the upsides and downsides of modular construction. The advantages of choosing a modular building If you like the idea of a shorter build time and lower costs to complete the home, a modular build could be more attractive. You also won't have to worry about inspections during the build; this is all done during construction in the factory. You can have the home customized to your specifications without the need to hire an architect. There won't be so many worries about the weather delaying the build process, and the construction will be completed much faster. Since the home sections will be constructed in a factory, they can be built using environmentally friendly materials and methods. They can also be manufactured to a higher energy efficiency standard and higher tolerances. Typically, modular homes are constructed to green building standards. The downsides of modular constructed homes You need to own the land you build the modular home on, but it can't just be any building plot. This type of property is usually harder to be constructed in a stick-built neighborhood. In fact, on many occasions, there will be restrictive covenants prohibiting modular homes. You'll need to check on this situation before moving forward with your plans. There is still some work that needs to be done before the prefabricated home sections arrive at the construction site. There also has to be foundations and connections to utilities, such as plumbing and electrical wiring. Usually, you can't finance a modular build through normal mortgage loans. It is possible to get a construction loan to cover the costs, but this is usually only good for a year. Once the home has been constructed, you can then turn the construction loan into a normal mortgage for a longer period. Before you order your prefab building, you need to do your research on the manufacturer. Though these types of homes have to be built following building code, not all manufacturers produce the same product standard. Like any other builder, there are what would be considered great and not so great modular companies. It will be just as essential to do your due diligence when buying a modular home as you would with a stick-built property. Remember, there are pros and cons to consider when buying new construction. At times, folks regret their decision to build a home versus buying an existing property. Does the modular home stigma still exist? Years ago, when you heard modular home, you would immediately think of a cheap, inferior product. Not surprisingly, it was understandable and, in fact, true. More often than not, a modular was constructed with shallow-pitched roofs that made the home look like an army barracks. The interior had limited quality features like crown moldings, and popcorn ceilings were standard. Today, when people do a little research, they quickly discover these downsides no longer exist. Modular homes are now considered to be an excellent product. Does that mean some people don't incorrectly assume there is still inferior quality? No, they do. Real Estate agents and those in the modular industry often have to educate consumers on how things have changed. How do I buy a modular home? There are many options available if you've decided modular is the right type of property for you. You can order homes that have already been fully designed and only need a few things done to them once they've been assembled. If you have a larger budget or looking for certain features in your home, you can customize the design before manufacture. Like most things these days, you can even buy modular homes on Amazon. Despite this, you will probably be better off going directly to a manufacturer in your area. This will allow you to customize the home as you need it. Final thoughts Choosing the modular option when building a home has a lot of advantages. You are likely to save money and be able to move into the home faster. You can go to a manufacturer and buy a design off-the-shelf or create something that exactly fits your requirements. Whichever approach you take, you will end up with a home that is a permanent structure that should be equal to any site-built home. It might have cost you a lot less than a traditional home would have cost to build, meaning you can make your money go further. Bill Gassett has been a real estate agent for the past 34 years working for RE/MAX Executive Realty in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. He is also an avid writer for numerous real estate publications including The National Association of Realtors, RIS Media, Inman, as well as his own blog "Maximum Real Estate Exposure."
If you find yourself twiddling your thumbs with extra time spent at home, perhaps you need a small push to help make your days at home more meaningful and productive. Cleaning, organizing, and DIYing offer endless at-home activities to help keep your mental and physical spirits high. Below are 17 ideas to help you fill your spare time with some meaningful activities. Master organizing tips In-home projects DIY cleaning hacks Outdoor projects 18 bonus self-care tips Master organizing tips 1. Organize messy areas Jenna Haefelin, professional organizer and owner of SPIFF: "Now is the time to purge! Trust me, you’ll want to after sitting home for a while! Try tidying up sink cabinets, closets, and your pantry: Under the sink — Clear out what you don’t need — move excess items, if you have any, in the basement or a cleaning closet. Organize the remaining ítems with stacking drawer options and turntables. Keep it simple and label! Closet — Matching hangers are a must! Place a quick online order for some hangers, 100+ are usually sufficient. Fold items that lay nicely (ex: chunky sweaters and jeans, not flimsy shirts) and hang up the rest. If you only have shelving, invest in some lined baskets with labels — file fold your clothes, color coordinated, so you can easily see what you have. Pantry — Stackable canister options mixed with baskets is my go to for the pantry. Consider what is functional for you and your home. For example, kids snacks would be more accessible in baskets vs a canister." 2. Declutter cramped spaces Vinay Amin, health expert and CEO of Eu Natural: "Now is the perfect time to get to all those little annoying projects done that you only remember when you are in the middle of something else. That cluttered space in: The kitchen junk drawer Under the bathroom sink The top shelf of the hall closet The spice containers — are all the perfect fodder for your new found extra time at home. Bonus: If you have already tackled those cluttered areas, I would suggest trying out new and different furniture/room/decor arrangements. You may not be able to obtain supplies for other DIY projects, but you already have everything you need to simply try out a new look in your living room or home office." Better yet, don’t let those areas keep piling up as commonly cluttered areas. Make it a daily, weekly, or monthly habit to regular keep these areas clean and neat. 3. Working from home? Take a second look at your desk Sofia Wilson, CEO of Daily Detox Hacks: "Ask yourself, 'What will have the most impact?' For me, my answer was my living environment. I had been busy and my house had become neglected with excess clutter. I started a project to declutter my desk and I felt great after, increasing my productivity with my newly organized desk space. The great thing about this type of action is that you feel great afterward and it really does not cost much to reorganize and find a home for you excess things. I recommend using containers that you already own before you give into the urge to buy more containers." 4. Good, better, best: Closet edition Abe Navas, general manager of house cleaning service Emily's Maids: "Do you feel like your closet is never quite tidy enough? Shoes tend to make closets feel especially messy. If you are the kind that has many shoes, then let’s start there — I have the perfect DIY solution for decluttering your closet, a DIY shoe shelf. Stop putting your shoes one on top of the other. A shelf is easy to create, very customizable, and a fun project that you could extend to a couple of weeks. Take the opportunity to rearrange your closet to be more space-efficient with your new, custom shoe rack.” 5. Know when it’s time to let go Amanda Clark, owner of full-service home organizing company Ever So Organized: "When deciding what items to let go during your closet purge, ask yourself these questions: When was the last time this was worn? If it's been over a year, it's time to let it go. Would I purchase this again if given the choice? Would I want to run into an ex while wearing this? Not willing to leave the house for a Goodwill run right now? Also, take some time to really go through your clothes and shoes to see what you don’t need. Most people wear 20% of their clothes and shoes 80% of the time. Find those 80% of items you don’t often use and either sell or donate them. Instead, order a free bag from ThredUp. You fill it up and leave it out for your USPS carrier to pick it up. ThredUp will pay you for items they sell and donate the rest for you. Win, win!" In-home projects 6. Bring the outdoors in Matt Daigle, CEO and founder of home improvement company Rise: "Ever wonder why windows and plants make you so happy? Apparently it's only natural that humans look to nature, hence the love of biophilic design in the home. Here are some easy ways to boost your mood by bringing the outdoors in: Add plants, plants, and more plants in your home! Succulents are easy in-home plants. Plants help filter the air in your house and can make your home smell better too. Improve your view of the outside by granting more access to your windows — remove obstructions like furniture and unnecessary wall coverings. Build your next shelf, table, or accent wall with natural materials like wood or stone. The sound of water makes us happy. Making a small indoor water fountain is a very quick one-day project." 7. Write a meaningful note Heidi Bender, owner and blogger for company Tons of Thanks: "To help past the time, I suggest writing thank-you notes. Focusing on gratitude and sharing those feelings with others can be a very positive distraction. Start by making lists of what you are grateful for as a way to help you identify who exactly you want to thank. Who keeps showing up in your list and needs to hear words of gratitude and appreciation from you?" Buy a box of 50 standard thank you cards and envelopes every month. Make it a goal to write and mail two thank you cards every business day of the month. Write a card to whomever you are thankful for: friends, family, coworkers, clients, or a random connection. People will absolutely open (and most likely keep!) a handwritten, mailed thank you card. 8. Reuse wicker baskets Channa Alvarez, interior designer at Living Spaces: "There’s just something about wicker storage baskets that infuses a space with so much character. If you have a set of old baskets you want to recycle and give new life to, try painting them with a color that matches your room. With wicker baskets you can create a stylish and practical storage solution that can add a layer of color and texture to a room while helping you stay tidy." 9. Sleep a little sounder Matt Clayton, founder of Pet Hair Patrol: "Being stuck at home is a great opportunity to make sure your bed is clean and hygienic — especially for the 68 percent of U.S. households that own a pet! Soley washing the bed linens is not enough. All the sweat, dirt, and dander penetrates all the fabrics on your bed and ends up in your pillow, mattress, and comforter as well. To ensure maximize bed cleaning, I recommend the following: Vacuum your mattress Toss your pillow and comforter into the washing machine, if possible Use the dryer to remove more dust and dander Having a clean bed will help you sleep like a baby and promote your well-being!" There’s nothing better than the feeling of falling asleep in bed on clean sheets day. 10. Easy bathroom renovation project Lisa Torelli-Sauer, editor of home investment website Sensible Digs: "Replacing old and discolored grout can upgrade the appearance of your bathroom or shower within a week's time. Replacing stained/damaged grout can not only make a dingy bathroom shine, it can also prevent water damage in your home. When water seeps through run-down grout, it can cause serious damage to the floor beneath your tiles. Grout replacement only requires a few tools and supplies, plus it is not a very difficult task to complete. You will need the following supplies: Grout (either ready-made or powdered) Grout saw Grout float or spreader Grout finisher A few soft cloths or rags A large sponge A bucket Be sure to let the grout dry for at least 24 hours before you use the wet spaces again to ensure the maximum hold on the grout. DIY cleaning hacks 11. Make your own cleaning products Jennifer Willy, Editor of travel company Etia: "DIY cleaning products consist of on-hand ingredients that can most likely be found in your pantry. For a natural, all-purpose cleaner all you need to do is mix the ingredients below: One part of white vinegar One part water Lemon rind and rosemary sprigs (simply for smell) Then pour the mixture into a spray bottle and let the concoction sit for a week before using. After a week, you can use this to remove hard water stains, clean trash cans, wall smudges, and much more. Bonus: If you want to make a homemade glass cleaner, the process is very similar. This mixture requires: 2 cups of water 1/2 cup of white/cider vinegar 1/4 cup of rubbing alcohol with 70% concentration Like the above-mentioned DIY cleaner, mix the ingredients together and pour it into a spray bottle." 12. Give your couch a deep clean Joshua Miller, Director of Technical Training at Rainbow International Restoration: "Furniture is often the culprit behind persistent unpleasant smells in the home, as upholstery often retains odors from past stains. If the upholstery can be cleaned with water, use a water-based solution for the simplest and fastest option. 1. Clean the spots with an easy, homemade mixture of: 1 oz. dishwashing detergent 12 oz. water 2. Blot to dry. 3. Add to spray bottle: 5–10 drops of essential oil (lavender can be a great choice here) in the spray bottle 1 cup of water 4. Spray and saturate the stained area with the solution. The oils will help eliminate the odor and leave a pleasant scent behind. Pretest solution in an inconspicuous location and allow to dry to test for colorfastness before using on the rest of the upholstery." 13. Scrub-a-dub-dub your tub Erin Ford, writer for travel website Hotels4Teams: “I’ve tried every cleaning supply that I could get my hands on in an attempt to get the tub white and shiny again. No matter what I used, nothing seemed to work. That's until I discovered this immensely simple, two-ingredient bathtub cleaner: Mix equal parts warmed-up white vinegar to dish soap Pour evenly on the bottom of your tub. Let the mixture sit for at least an hour When you wipe it up, it easily eradicates all soap scum! When I first found this cleaning hack on Pinterest, I thought it was too good to be true. But ever since I started using it, I haven't looked back. With this mixture around, you can bet I have a clean tub to relax in.” Outdoor Projects 14. Try out your green thumb Shawn Breyer, owner of Atlanta House Buyers: Head to your local nursery to try out your green thumb.Going to the local nursery not only lets you support small businesses in your community, they also provide better service and lower prices than the big box stores. "When you are buying plants for your home, make sure that it suits your lifestyle: If you have bad allergies, don't buy flowering plants, but do buy air purifying plants. If your home is dark because you keep your blinds shut then don't buy plants that need full sun. Buy plants that thrive in the shade. No matter what your lifestyle is, you can find plants that can enhance your life and wellbeing. If you have old plants that have not received new soil in one to three years, then consider buying larger pots for them and re-soil the plants. As old soil runs out of nutrients, the plants will stop growing. Plants can outgrow their containers as well. Giving a plant a larger container and new soil can allow it to be more healthy and grow larger." Don’t have a green thumb at all? Not to worry! Try something quick and easy like adding fresh mulch to an existing flower or garden bed. 15. Give the earth some love Brent Campton, director of partnerships at recycling company Hillside: “In the same way that people are thinking about how to have more resilient practices at home like water filters and bidets, starting a composting pile is a great family activity that will also support the planet. As long as you have space in your backyard, there’s a way to do it without spending a dime, without any smells or bugs (apart from your curious dog), and with things you have already laying around the home. Check out this great video for a step-by-step process on how to start composting in your backyard.” A great tip to make composting even easier is to have a dedicated box or container in your kitchen - preferably somewhere that’s out the way - that allows you to collect your kitchen composting materials. That way, you can collect your leftovers and scraps over a period of a few days and make one trip to the compositing piling, without having to go outside every time you have leftovers. 16. Spring-clean the exterior of your home Sara Bendrick, landscape contractor, author, and TV personality for STIHL: “Homeowners and renters should head outside for a few minutes a day to exert some control over their outdoor spaces. Working outside has proven therapeutic benefits, and it’s the perfect time to do some of those outdoor tasks. Below are five garden tasks that you can start tackling today: Clean your gutters Pressure wash Clear weeds and debris Get planting Start composting" 17. At-Home pest prevention Arrow Exterminators team, pest control company: “Pest-proofing the home does not always have to be a professional endeavour. Below I've provided a list of activities people can do from the comfort of their own home in order to prevent pests as the weather changes: Kitchen: Do a quick inventory of food and make sure everything is stored in airtight containers Bedrooms and bathrooms: Run fans and dehumidifiers to eliminate damp conditions Living spaces: Wipe down and clean the furniture Give the family pet a bath and ensure their flea and tick prevention is current Garage: Reorganize seasonal items in airtight plastic storage bins, storing them off the floor if possible Sweep or blow dirt and debris out of the garage as much as possible. Dust, dirt, grass, and all sorts of things accumulate on your garage floor. Outdoors: Seal all cracks and small openings around the foundation of the home, including entry points for wires and pipes Eliminate sources of standing water and moisture Clean (and keep clean) garbage collection areas and ensure all receptacles are tightly closed Trim back branches and shrubbery away from the house" Bonus: 18 self-care tips In addition, here are 18 quick bonus tips provided by Liana Pavane, digital wellness coach and founder of TTYL. Here she gives an array of ideas on how to spend your time at home. This list will inspire you take care of yourself — mentally, physically, and emotionally: Get fresh air as much as possible, even if it's just for a walk around the block or sitting on your balcony/backyard if you have one. Keep your body active by going outside for a walk, run, or even following a YouTube workout video. Have an indoor cycling bike? Even better. Keep a schedule for yourself and keep up with your normal routines. Don't allow yourself to sleep in too much or binge too much as a means of distraction. Put upbeat music on and have your own dance party! Break out a sheet of blank paper (or coloring book if you have one) and doodle your heart out. Download a meditation app (like Insight Timer or Headspace) and hold space for yourself. Create a vision board with old magazines. Declutter/organize your space! Giveaway clothes and throw out unnecessary items. Practice a foreign language for 10 minutes a day. Read a new book (or a few!) Start a giant puzzle. Go around your house and order anything that needs replacing/fixing. Write out your fears to get them off your chest, read them, and rip them up. Light a candle and take a hot bath (bubbles optional!) Have a FaceTime sesh with all your family or friends (maybe try Zoom!) If you have roommates, have a game night! Make a decadent meal for yourself that you never had time to do before. Sleep! Catch up on those zzzz's
Guest Post by Ben Mizes Whether you're selling your home, or just looking to freshen up your living space, paint is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to do it. And while you may be tempted to set yourself apart by choosing a zany color for an accent wall, you might want to think twice. Neutral colors can help the aesthetic of your home transform into a timeless, spacious, and attractive space. Before you consider painting your bathroom candy-apple red, consider these four paint-like-a-pro tips below to help steer you in the right direction. Instead of going wild with paint, amp up your space by using pops of your favorite colors in other features — like a bold lamp, bright shower curtain, or fun wall art. This way, when you’re two months in and aren’t as in love with the shade, it’s easy to swap out. Not to mention that if you decide to sell later down the road, that’s one less item to add to your to-do list. If you’re painting multiple rooms and areas, consider how the colors may work in tandem. By using the same paint color in adjoining rooms — like a dining room that leads into a living room — you can create the illusion of a roomier space. You can also use paint color to play up accent features or hide flaws. If you have gorgeous crown molding or sparkling wood floors, choose a contrasting color that makes these features stand out with a darker (but not too dark!) color. On the other hand, if your baseboards are in need of some TLC, it's best to stick with a light neutral that keeps them playing second fiddle. Keep in mind that if you’re painting to sell, buyers generally prefer some variety (in neutral shades, of course) from room to room. Also carefully consider the lighting in each room when choosing how light or dark to go. Light shades are generally best for small bathrooms, while you may get away with a dark navy as an accent wall in a bedroom if the space is well-lit. There are different types of paint finishings: flat, eggshell, semigloss, and gloss. Each finish has different pros and cons, and each finish may make the color of the paint appear different Still not convinced that neutrals are the best accessories to your walls? Here is a quick list of some of the best neutrals to paint the interior of your home. White — bright and clean It doesn’t get more neutral than white! Painting your interior walls white gives everything a fresh, clean feel and can work wonders for brightening up your space. Not to mention that if you’re looking to sell your home in the near future, white gives potential buyers the feeling of a blank slate and a fresh start. They may keep the white or can easily paint over with another color with not too much effort. While you may think white is just white, there are endless shades — pure white, off white, simply white, and white with cool or warm tones. Especially if you have other features in your home you’re not looking to replace, but would like to neutralize (a wood banister or eccentric tile) white is the way to go. A word of caution: While you may be tempted to give your kitchen a fresh feeling by painting it white, it can be hard to keep this high-traffic area of your home clean. You may be better served choosing a gray-blue for your kitchen. You’ll still have the brightness, without having the headache of trying to keep the walls pristine. Same goes for bathrooms. Consider using an eggshell finish on your paint in these places that are often used and in need of constant cleaning. Gray — sophisticated Gray brings an air of elegance and sophistication to any space. Since gray matches any accent color, it can be a great complement to louder pops of color in decorations or furniture fabrics. Interior designers rely on gray because of its versatility and timelessness, especially in well-used and often-seen areas like living or dining rooms. For a subtle warmth, consider a “greige” tone — a mixture of gray and beige. This pairs nicely with any accent color since it can be warm or cool depending on the colors presented around it. Greiges look especially nice with white trim. Got a wall with a lot of bumps and imperfections? Try using a flat paint finish. That will hide a lot of those imperfections. Brown — warm and inviting Brown can be warm, cozy, and inviting. But, we’re not necessarily talking about crayon-color brown — more like a medium tan or beige, unless you’re using a darker shade for an accent wall. Browns also pair well with white trim and accents, but if your trim is already a wood color, the two shades of brown may not play well together. No matter what shade, generally it’s best to keep browns to large areas like living rooms or basements. Steer clear of them for dining rooms or bathrooms. Gray-Blue — refreshing Gray-blue is a great neutral, particularly for bathrooms. This soft, refreshing color is light enough to keep the room bright (especially important in a small bathroom), but dark enough to hide scuffs and stains from lots of use. According to a Zillow study, homes with a gray-blue tint on bathroom walls sold for an average of $2,786 more than a white bathroom. You, or whoever buys your home in the future, can be inspired by enjoying soft, ocean-inspired walls each morning as you get ready in your serene, peaceful oasis. Gray-blues are also great for kitchens — increasing a home’s price by an average of $1,800 according to another Zillow study. Blue — calm and organized If all other features of your living room are white or neutral, a nice, strong blue or even a navy may be the way to go. While often overlooked as a neutral, blues can bring a calm, organized feel to a room. Blues are great for dining rooms, especially if you have white trim and are a fan of the clean, formal look. The same two Zillow studies mentioned above also found that dining rooms painted blue generate almost $2,000 more when the home is sold and homes that featured light blue bathrooms sold for $5,440 more than anticipated. Ben Mizes is the Cofounder and CEO of Clever Real Estate, the free online service that connects you with top Real Estate Agents who can help you save thousands on commission. Ben is also an active real estate investor with 22 units in St. Louis, and a licensed Real Estate Agent in the State of Missouri.
Guest Post by Robyn Flint For many homeowners, there will come a time when they consider purging their belongings and buying a smaller home. Often times this is true for those who are retired or who are about to retire. But is that the only good time to downsize? Should you consider buying something like a mobile home or even a tiny house while you’re still in the prime of your life? There are many reasons for wanting to downsize and many benefits to living smaller. One of the greatest benefits is the potential for positive financial gains. Another is the process of finally decluttering. Regardless of your reasons, here are some considerations that make the case for why downsizing could be your best move. Accept the empty nest You may be able to relate: You’re sitting at home staring at the mess and dreading the task of cleaning up. You start second-guessing the decision to purchase a larger home. Maybe you are experiencing an empty nest. You no longer need four bedrooms and three bathrooms. You may have brilliant ideas for turning the empty rooms into a gym or home office, but in reality, the rooms will probably become catch-all rooms for the clutter. You may be at the point of retirement. The thought of caring for a large home seems daunting. Maybe new health concerns are knocking at the door and decisions need to be made to prepare. Downsizing may be the first step in preparing for a healthy and peaceful retirement. → Pro tip: Regardless of your current situation, the constant clutter and collection of dust bunnies taking over the unused space in your home may signal the time to downsize. Let go of the junk There is more to downsizing than just decreasing the square footage of a home. Purging the junk is also a satisfying feeling. Nothing can close the walls in more than piles of unused junk. You don’t have to be a hoarder to know that feeling. → Pro tip: A good rule of thumb is if you haven’t used it in the last year, you don’t need it. If an item in your home is so worn out that it no longer functions, it no longer has a purpose in your home. Trash it or donate it. If you have more than enough of an item to meet your needs realistically, then get rid of the rest. Consider what your family uses every day and what you can really live without. Decluttering is a great feeling and can also relieve the stress caused by messy homes. The real reason for purging junk is to see just how much of your house is empty once the clutter is gone. The empty unused rooms are now wasted space and could be costing you wasted income. Plus you won’t have to waste money on storage units. 6 Quick tips to help you downsize: 1. Hire a pro: To many, the process of downsizing their homes is easier said than done. If you find yourself in this group, the benefits of hiring a professional can never be overemphasized. A professional in this field can help get moving very quickly. 2. Get your furniture right: Downsizing could bring up a lot of emotions because it’s the time you have to let go of some of the things you hold dear. Visualize your future space, then see how you can replace the larger furniture with smaller, more compact pieces. 3. Repurpose and give: There is joy in giving. Plus, what’s more fulfilling than knowing that the stuff you gave away is used and loved? While it’s okay to hang on to some things with sentimental value, you can let go of other pieces to be loved by others. 4. Digitalize where possible: It’s normal to find stacks of papers kept in cabinets around your house. These could be old documents, books, files, etc. You can choose to scan vital documents for future reference and then discard the less needed items. 5. Tidy up: After you identify the things you want to move, make sure that these items are grouped in an orderly way. Similar items should be grouped together with labels to identify them. If you want a hassle-free transition to your new home, don’t procrastinate this step until moving time.(Tips brought to you by Alex Romanov, co-founder of a real estate investment company in Seattle, Washington.) Enjoy the savings There are many benefits to downsizing. There’s peace of mind, less to take care of, and less clutter to take care of. But the most beneficial perk of going smaller is the savings you will see in your bank account and the ability to have financial freedom without something like a reverse mortgage. A smaller home also usually means a smaller mortgage or even none at all. Your monthly mortgage payments will decrease, leaving you more money in your bank account. → Pro tip: With a smaller mortgage payment, you may also see a decrease in your property tax and home maintenance expenses. Who doesn’t want that? Larger homes are harder to heat and cool. It doesn’t matter what type of systems you have in your home, the size of the home will determine the cost. In addition to heating and cooling, electric bills and water bills are generally more expensive for larger homes. In a smaller home, the costs will generally decrease for utility bills. Smaller properties also bring savings. Smaller properties cost less to maintain. Large parcels of land require costly maintenance such as mowing, landscaping, and tree trimming. We won’t even cover the cost of maintaining farmland. But if you no longer use your land or acreage the way it was intended, it may be time to downsize. Expect financial gains If you are looking for positive financial reasons that justify buying a larger home, there doesn’t seem to be many. Financially speaking, smaller is better. The savings come from many areas including mortgage savings, tax savings, and an overall decrease in maintenance and utility costs. You may also find that selling your larger home means you won’t have to forsake the equity you’ve built over time. With extra money in the bank, there is more financial security, especially for retirees with limited income. More money means more investment potential. Those extra savings each month can go to work for you. → Pro tip: Talk with your financial advisor to help you maximize your investment potential based on your needs and goals. Robyn Flint writes for MobileHomeInsuranceQuotes.org. She is also an entrepreneur, owning three small businesses including a real estate rehab company. She is a licensed realtor, freelance writer, and published author.
Guest Post by Brodie Gay, VP of Research at Unison Homeownership gives us a permanent place to call home, a roof under which we raise our families, and the potential for financial gain over time. But Americans are woefully over-indexing on their homes, and it's more than just "house rich and cash poor". Homes aren't nearly as stable a financial asset as many assume. Housing market volatility American homes are in fact as volatile in value as the stock market, as shown in the benchmark Unison Home Volatility Index. The index, which explored data pertaining to single-family, owner-occupied homes, found that homeowners entering very low down payment, high-leverage mortgages has led to increased risk when it comes to home price volatility. So, for the many Americans whose homes are the key anchor of their financial portfolios and retirement plans, there needs to be a new understanding of the reality of housing risk. The index shows that the average annualized volatility of home price appreciation has been around 15 percent per year since 2000 — only a single percentage point higher than U.S. equities index (14 percent), followed by U.S. high yield index (8 percent), and U.S. treasuries index (4 percent). Home volatility spiked to more than 35 percent per year in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis, suggesting that, similarly to equities and fixed-income securities, the financial risk of residential real estate is amplified during financial crises. The impact of housing volatility is important to understand, especially when it comes to matters of liquidity.; For example, a typical homeowner (net worth: $156,400) with most of their wealth ($95,800) tied up in home equity can’t access that capital for household expenses. A downturn in the housing market could cause a $200,000 home to drop in value to $100,000, meaning not only does the homeowner not see the increase in value generally assumed for homes, but they could be left upside down on a home they can no longer afford with only $60,600 in liquid assets — assuming those assets aren’t tied up in stocks, bonds or annuities. Perception vs. reality What’s especially troubling is the contrast between homeowners’ perceptions of home volatility and the reality of risk. Typical homeowners believe their household portfolio volatility to be around 9 percent, but due to a large amount of leverage that’s typically taken, in reality, it’s more than double (21 percent). Homeowners are betting big on their homes, but they don’t realize the actual risk. New homeowners are particularly vulnerable to housing market risk, the index found. This cohort traditionally has to take out a larger mortgage to purchase, and they haven’t had as much time to build equity in their home, and they’re also contending with mountains of student loans. They also often cash out their entire liquid portfolios for a downpayment, leaving little wiggle room for unexpected expenses like booking a last-minute flight or having an emergency medical procedure. To address this misalignment, it’s important for homeowners to understand how to fit their homes into overall financial planning. While diversifying your financial portfolio (between commodities, bonds, stocks, 401k, etc) is tried and true advice, homeowners need to factor their homes into their financial plans keeping the actual levels of volatility in mind. It is also important to note that a homeowner should never extend themselves too much when it comes to leveraging their home. While a homeowner might be able to afford a $400,000 house, a much safer bet would be to purchase a $350,000 using a larger down payment. Larger down payments mean more equity into the house. More equity into the house means less volatility risk. With new models like home co-investing, homeowners have the opportunity to re-allocate some of their investment into large, diversified institutional portfolios. With the average household holding 60 percent of their total financial portfolio in their home equity, the index shows that diversifying equity in this way can eliminate trillions of dollars in risk. The bottom line As our CEO Thomas Sponholtz has said: The home should be the place where you are most financially secure and conservative, so if you’re challenged with a life event or income shock, you can weather the storm and still have a place to call home. Today, your home is more of a roof over your head than an investment strategy. Yes, there are certainly significant financial benefits to owning a home. But these benefits are only available over the long term and to those who invest wisely in the home to begin with. If you’re the risk-seeking type, you are better off taking risk in your non-home investments. Brodie Gay is the Vice President of Research at Unison, a San Francisco-based company that is pioneering a smarter, better way to buy and own your home. We are a team of financial and real estate professionals who are committed to helping home buyers get the home they want, and homeowners finance their life needs without adding debt. For additional information, visit www.unison.com or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.