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Financial Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a House

A home is one of the largest purchases you’ll ever make, so be sure to make the most knowledgeable financial decisions you can.

  • Don’t change your job before you submit a home loan inquiry (if you can help it). Lenders want to see stability. And your paystubs.
  • Don’t change banks. This falls under the “stability” category.
  • Don’t buy a car, boat, or anything you’ll have to finance; your debt-to-income ratio is something you don’t want to worsen before you buy a house.
  • Don’t buy furniture on credit before buying. That pesky debt-to-income ratio again.
  • Don’t charge too much on your credit card, or increase your debts too much.
  • Don’t skip out on or be late on payments. This is one of the most important elements of your credit score. You need to show you can responsibly manage money.
  • Don’t make abnormally large (cash) deposits into your bank account. Two months is the amount of time lenders prefer your down payment to have already been sitting in your account.
  • Don’t lie on your loan inquiry. Be honest about all of your income, debts, and liabilities.
  • Don’t co-sign a loan for anyone. even if you’re not the one making those payments, it increases your debt-to-income ratio.
  • Don’t have inquiries made into your credit. Searching for new credit makes you look risky to lenders.
  • Don’t apply for new credit. Applying for credit can lower your credit score, which is something you don’t need right before a lender will be looking at it.
  • Don’t close an credit accounts. It may seem like the right time to get a better balance of your finances, but it can lower your credit since you’ll have a higher usage of debt compared to your limit on one card and to your overall credit availability.
  • Don’t transfer money around without having proper paper documentation. Your lender requires the most recent bank statements, and if you have any unusual deposits, they’ll need to see the origin of funds. If you can, put all of the necessary funds for your home purchase into one account before applying for a mortgage. If you can’t, make sure the funds are available somehow.
  •  Don’t give an earnest money deposit directly to the seller. A neutral party will hold that money until closing in case anything happens to deter the sale of the home.
  • Don’t forget to line up home-owner’s insurance. Your lender will want to see that you’re covered.
  • Don’t forget to have money for closing costs set aside.
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Your Spring Home Checklist

It’s that time of the year again- a time to start fresh, and to leave the dullness and drear of winter behind. Spring forward with these tips for your home.

  • Plan your garden and landscaping out, and move forward with it
  • Inspect your home’s exterior for any winter damage that could have occurred
  • Clean your windows on both the insides and the outsides
  • Clean your home’s entryways. Brighten up your front doorway by replacing or cleaning your welcome mat/s and your door and porch decorations. On the interior, de-clutter, put away any winter coats or apparel hanging up, sweep, dust, etc. Also, remember the hall closet!
  • Clean your kitchen extra well. Be sure to wipe down those places you might normally neglect, like appliances, the backsplash, and on both the insides and the outsides of cabinets. Also, vacuum under the refrigerator, and in every inch of closets and the pantry
  • Go through your pantry and cabinets and check the expiration dates. Toss the food that’s expired, and donate what you know you won’t eat. Also, get rid of those appliances you never make use of
  • Go through your whole wardrobe and divide the things you actually wear from those that you don’t. Sort out your things into what you want to donate or sell, and what you want to save. A good rule of thumb is that if you haven’t used or worn it in a year or more, you probably won’t miss it. An easy way to divide up what you use from what you don’t is to have a container in your closet you can drop clothes into to donate; you can also start the year out by turning your clothes hangers to face one direction, and each time you wear an item, turn the hanger around. What’s left unworn and un-turned at the end of the year is what you should donate.
  • Sort out your paperwork. This includes magazines, mail, coupons, documents, etc. Use a shredder to get rid of what you don’t need. Organize the rest with a filing cabinet, filing boxes, or something of the like.
  • Swap out your heavy drapes and curtains for something more airy and light. Spring is a great time to let light and a breeze into your home. This will also give you a chance to clean your heavier curtains while they’re down.
  • Clean pillows, slipcovers, rugs, and curtains. Just check the directions first!
  • Swap out bedding for something lighter-weight, if necessary.
  • If you have any dark features in your room like artwork or pillows, consider replacing them with something lighter (at least for a few months!)
  •  Add some mirrors and other sparkly décor to add light to a room.
  • Have some houseplants in various rooms. Greenery and new life is one of the main indicators of spring, so why not add some “spring” indoors?
  • Get your HVAC checked. Specifically before you turn on your air for the first time, if you can help it. Or at least replace the filter.
  • Clean patio furniture. Hose them off, scrub them down, and launder washable pillows/pillowcovers
  • Tune up your landscaping tools. This includes the lawnmower, weed-whacker, etc.
  • If you’ve moved for business in the past year, be sure to check out all the possible tax deductions you can make.
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Design Tips for a Small Patio

It’s that time of the year again- time to bask in the sun and enjoy conversation on a warm, sunny patio. Luckily, you can still enjoy these things even if you have a small patio.

  • Add bright colors, or at least a pop of color. this will add distinction, liven it up, and make it feel more expansive.
  • If you have a chance to, make the floors of your patio patterned or something else that’s visually appealing. Another alternative is to make the floor the same type as the room your patio leads into (even if the size of tiles, etc. is slightly different) as to create visual continuity.
  • Benefit from multi-functional furniture. Make your patio end-table or footrest work double; use a type that has a drawer on the inside.
  • Use space-saving (and smaller in general) furniture, like folding tables and chairs. Look into sawhorse tables; they’re easy to set up and take back down.
  • Add plants surrounding the patio to give the space depth and dimension. It will feel like you’re in a semi-private room.
  • Use a mirror. If there’s a wall, hang it or prop it there. Mirrors open up any space you can think of.
  • Use a well-placed rug on your patio to brighten it up, and make it look even better and bigger.
  • Hang outdoor curtains for an easy privacy or ambient fix.
  • Use a few varying textures, materials, and colors, but don’t make it look too busy.
  • Go vertical by planting plants that will grow in an upward fashion as opposed to out, which will emphasize height rather than width.

Now go outside and make use of your small patio!

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A Timeline of Things to Do Before Buying Your First Home

The home-buying process may be a bit overwhelming for those who are shopping for their first home; they don’t know what to expect yet. However, there are plenty of resources to help you out, including your Realtor.

12 Months Before

  • Check your credit score. The three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) are required to give you one free credit score per year. Sometimes there are mistakes, (and that’s why you want to request your credit score so far ahead of time) so be sure to check for these.
  • Figure out what you can, and want to, afford. Lenders usually want to ensure your debt-to-income ratio, which includes your mortgage and all other debts, is not higher than 43%.
  • Ensure what you can pay for the down payment. There are various plans and loan types available, so don’t feel too scared to figure it all out.

9 Months Before

  • Make a checklist of priorities you want met in your new house. If you can keep these at the front of your mind when you start searching for a home, you’ll be able to weed out what you don’t want, and communicate what you do want with your Realtor better. If you’re making these decisions with a partner or spouse, be sure to establish the things that each of you won’t bend on, and also the things that you can compromise on. It could become a point of contention later on, if it’s not established early in the game.
  • Research areas, neighborhoods, school districts, etc. (But don’t forget that your Realtor will know all of this info too as well!)
  • Start saving for extra home-buying expenses. Buying your first home might present more miscellaneous costs than you previously thought, so be aware early on. Also, It’s always beneficial to have extra money set aside for emergencies or unexpected needs that may arise. Create a home maintenance funds account for that.

6 Months Before

  • Gather your paperwork for the loan. This will include your W-2’s and personal tax returns from the past 2-3 years, bank statements, your most recent pay stubs, credit card and loan statements, addresses from the past 5-7 years, and most recent retirement account statements (like a 401K.)

3 Months Before

  • Get pre-approved. Meet with your lender, and he/she can inform you of how much you can afford, after looking at your credit score.
  • Meet with your chosen Realtor. Once you discuss the amount you were pre-approved for and what you want in a house, you can start shopping for your first home together.

2 Months Before

  • Make an offer on a house. It usually takes around 4-6 weeks to close, so this will give enough wiggle-room just in case.
  • Get a home inspection. Anything that is discovered unexpectedly can delay closing, or at least make things a bit more complicated in terms of costs.

One Month Before

  • Ensure all your financial documents and lending paperwork are correct, and in perfect order.
  • Get home insurance, and bring proof of it to the closing.
  • A couple days before closing, do a final walk-through to make sure everything looks the same as agreed upon.
  • Make sure you have the required funds to bring to the closing, such as wired money, cash, or a cashier’s check.

 

Congratulations on your new home!

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How to Maximize Your Home’s Curb Appeal

According to the National Association of Realtors, sixty-three percent of home buyers will visit a house that they first saw online. Make their first impression of your house great by maximizing your curb appeal.

  • Clean your windows and the outside of your house
  • Freshen the paint on your house
  • Get rid of any rotted wood
  • Make sure your front door looks great. Paint it, clean it, put a doorknocker or wreath on it; whatever will make it look even better.
  • Spray-paint or change out your hardware on your front door and garage doors, such as doorknobs and locks
  • Frame your front door with molding
  • Add big, bold house numbers
  • Add or change porch lighting
  • Refinish the porch floor
  • Buy a new front door mat
  • If you have a porch, add furniture
  • Paint or stain the garage door
  • Repair or replace the roof. That’s one of the first things buyers notice about a house.
  • Fix the driveway, patios, and pathways. Power-wash, repair cracks, bricks or stones, etc.
  • Plant flowers and plants, both in your yard and in hanging planters or planter boxes by your front door, if there’s room.
  • Weed your yard and flowerbeds
  • Feed your grass so that it looks healthy and attractive, and mow it regularly
  • Replace mulch, if you have any
  • Add a picket fence
  • Install a new mailbox
  • Straighten shutters
  • Re-fasten and clean out gutters   curb Appeal  Curb Appeal  Curb Appeal  
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A Timeline of Things You Need to Do Before You Move

When you’re about to move out of your house, there are many things to think about and take care of, and on a deadline.

Two Months Before

  • Create a folder or binder for your move: This will house your receipts, estimates, checklists, and your moving inventory.
  • Sort your belongings: Go through every room of your house and figure out what should come with you, and what needs to stay or get donated. Figure out if any items will need special packing or care whilst moving them.
  • Figure out the moving situation: Research moving companies, or ask your Realtor if they have a trusted mover as one of their vendors. Get an estimate, and set up an appointment once you’ve found a mover that fits the bill. Then, make the moving appointment.
  • Organize your kids’ school records: Have them sent over to their future school.

Six Weeks to A Month Before

  • Cancel recurring charges and shipment: Check out our list here of Who to Notify When You’re Moving
  • Start acquire packing materials: You won’t have to scramble to buy and pop open all those boxes super close to time. Don’t forget tape, bubble-wrap and/or packing peanuts, permanent markers, wardrobe boxes, scissors, etc.
  • Take measurements at your new home: Especially so you’ll know if your furniture can make it through the door, and to know where you can put it.
  • Defrost the freezer: If it’s coming with you, be sure to defrost and empty it out about a day ahead of time.
  • Start eating: All of your perishable food needs to get eaten up before you move (especially if you’re moving far away.) So plan your meals around this, and even have some friends and family over for a going-away dinner.
  • Start packing: Those things that you sporadically use can be boxed up first. Think seasonal decorations, niche appliances you rarely use, off-season clothing, and more. Be sure to label what’s in each box, and which room it needs to be placed in. Next, separate valuables from the rest of the things, and take these with you on moving day.
  • Change your address: Do this about a couple weeks before your moving date so it will have a chance to go into effect.
  • If you’ll move on a workday, notify your job ahead of time.

A Few Days Before

  • Withdraw any cash you’ll need for moving day: To tip movers, order food, etc.
  • Verify the moving company is still coming at the scheduled date and time.
  • Take pictures of your electronics: It will be much easier to remember where all those cords go later on.
  • Fill a cleaning box: Once you move everything out, you’ll likely have to clean before you vacate.
  • Get utilities switched over: Confirm the day they’ll be changed over to your new house.
  • Pack a suitcase the day before: Once you move, you won’t want to dig through boxes to find your toothbrush the first night there. Pack some essential things you use daily.
  • Pack everything else up, and take inventory as you go.
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Things You Might Forget About in Your Kitchen

You see it every day, but does that mean it’s something you’ll critically think about? There are probably a few elements in your kitchen you’re forgetting about.

  • The distance between the stove, sink, and the refrigerator should be the smallest possible, especially if you cook a lot.
  • Spend more money in one spot. Splurge on a thing or an element that will complement the surrounding area while also beautifully standing out.
  • Details matter. Changing something as simple as your hardware can  make a big difference in the overall look and feel of your kitchen.
  • Lighting: The lighting itself is important, and so is how the light fixture looks. Hanging light fixtures above kitchen islands and sinks can make a big (positive) impact on the room as a whole. Luckily, pendant lights are trendy lately.
  • Different floor options: Don’t be scared to venture away from simple hardwoods towards tile, etc.
  • Long-term: Think about important, big-ticket items in terms of how long they’ll last and how they’ll show wear. Sinks, faucets, etc. are included in this decision.
  • The ceiling: There’s more you can do with it than you may realize at first. Paint it a different color, add some texture, etc.
  • A place for everything: You can put your appliances in cabinets that have outlets on the inside, so that you won’t have to take the appliances out every time you want to use them.
  • Organize: Don’t forget you can hang cooking utensils right where you need them, and same goes for pots and pans. You can strap cutting boards to the insides of cabinet doors. There are also plenty of options for storing cereal and snacks in pull-out cabinets.
  • Shelves: You can put them on the side of cabinets. You can also choose an island with built-in shelving.
  • Dish racks: Put them over the sink to save room and to better allow a full dry.