DIY - Washi Tape

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/20/19 10:48 AM

DIY: Washi Tape

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Organizing with Baskets

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/13/19 9:34 AM

Organizing with Baskets

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Super Bowl Snack Ideas

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/30/19 10:00 AM

Super Bowl Snacks Ideas

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DIY- Embroidery Hoops

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/23/19 9:53 AM

Adding a punch of personality to your home doesn’t have to mean spending big bucks, especially if you’re willing to do some of the work yourself! Each month, we’ll feature easy DIYs that make a big impact. This month, we’re focusing on using an inexpensive embroidery hoop as inspiration to spice up your living space!

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Pantone's 2019 Color Of The Year

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/9/19 8:46 AM

For 20 years, the Pantone Color Institute, a trend-setting leader in color development and psychology, has examined global trends in fashion, art, film, food, and more to name a color of the year. The color they name captures worldwide attention and broadly influences design across a variety of fields.

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12 Mix-and-Match Paint Colors

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/2/19 9:25 AM

Painting your home is one of the quickest, and least expensive ways to add loads of personality and style. Whether you’re moving into a new build with generic beige on every wall, or an older home with a current color palate that’s just not your taste, it’s exciting to put your own stamp on your living space.

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What You Can Expect to Spend on 10 Common Home Repairs & Replacements (Infographic)

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/10/17 9:05 AM

Homeowners spent more on home improvement between February 2016 and February 2017 than they did between February 2015 and February 2016, according to HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Report. Why does this matter? Because it not only reflects that homeowners are feeling confident in the economy but are also feeling confident in their financial ability to make investments in their homes.

 

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7 Signs It’s the Right Time to Sell Your Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/2/17 8:30 AM

Your neighbors listed and sold their home near asking price within a week has you wondering – am I ready to sell my own home? The decision to upsize, downsize or simply relocate is one that requires a lot of thought based a variety of factors. Here are some signs that selling your home might be a good option for you this summer.

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Home Design Inspiration: 7 Tips for Choosing Your Home’s Interior Color Palette

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/26/17 8:55 AM

Choosing the right color combo for your home’s interior is no small feat. You want to covey a certain mood and style and have your palette flow seamlessly throughout your home all while avoiding adding too much color. It’s a task! Here are some tips to help you achieve a cohesive look.

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How to Set Up (and Stick To) a Home Repair Budget as a First-Time Homeowner

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/19/17 7:00 AM

You ran the numbers on buying versus renting, the mortgage payments on different home prices and the costs of utilities, but have you budgeted for big-ticket and seasonal home maintenance costs? Give yourself peace of mind by preparing for the costs of homeownership upfront.

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The Biggest Outdoor Living Trends for 2017

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/12/17 8:00 AM

In the market for new patio furniture and/or accessories? We’ve compiled some of the biggest trends on the market so you can get your deck decked out for summer entertaining.

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7 Tips for Your First Year of Homeownership

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/5/17 8:00 AM

As a first-time homebuyer, you had a lot on your plate. From saving for a down payment and closing costs to keeping your credit score mortgage-ready and finding a home that suited your needs, you accomplished a lot even before purchasing your first home.

Now that you’ve closed on your home, there are still some things to consider to keep your first year of homeownership a positive experience.

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From Builder-Grade to Upgraded: 7 DIY Projects to Update Your Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/28/17 11:11 AM

Builder-grade is a bit of a misleading term. When you think of home builders, you likely think of custom grade products, but on the contrary, builder-grade materials are on the bottom of the pyramid, as far as quality goes. Nevertheless, builder-grade homes are common and give you tons of opportunities to revamp and update them to your own style. See our list of builder-grade updates that will give you a big return without draining your bank account.

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Choosing the Right Flooring Option for Each Room in Your Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/23/17 12:11 PM

Choosing flooring can seem like a daunting task. You have to consider wear and tear, cost, lifespan, installation, etc. To make this renovation decision a little bit easier, we’ve rounded up some of the best flooring types for each room in your home.

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Home Décor Inspiration: What's Your Interior Design Style?

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/22/17 9:05 AM

When it comes to interior design, there are dozens of styles to gain inspiration from. From classic furnishings to retro eclecticism, sometimes it can be hard to figure out where you fall in line. Here’s our list of some of the many top décor and interior design styles to figure out where you land.

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6 Features Empty-Nesters Should Look For in Their Next Home Purchase

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/16/17 10:00 AM

The kids have flown the nest and you’re faced with the proverbial decision on your lifelong home – do you stay or do you go? While it’s never an easy decision to sell and buy again, “downsizing” paves the way for a new style of homeownership. If you’re thinking of purchasing a new home as an empty-nester here are a few things to consider in your search.

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It's Almost Tax Day - Did You Catch All of Your Homeowner Tax Perks?

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/15/17 9:00 AM

From personalizing your living space to creating a stable family living environment, there are several personal benefits of owning your own home. On the financial side, tax benefits are one of the biggest perks of homeownership. In honor of the upcoming tax day, we’ve compiled the list of the biggest tax breaks homeowners receive.

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Selling Your Home: 4 Ways to Appeal to Millennial Buyers

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/9/17 12:24 PM

If you’re selling your home and want it to sell quickly and for top-dollar (doesn’t everyone?), you need to prepare your home to appeal to the widest group of homebuyers. Today, that demographic is the Millennials, who were behind 60 percent of home purchases in 2016. This generation has been shaping the market the last few years, and while you don’t need to turn your house into the Millennial dream home, a few things are suggested to appeal to this type of homebuyer.

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7 Telltale Signs It’s Time to Upsize Your Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/8/17 9:00 AM

You’ve probably been told that the longer you stay in a home, the more financially beneficial homeownership is. But when you’ve been living in your 2-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom home for six years and added two kids and a dog into your household, how long is too long. After all, starter homes are called starter homes for a reason. Here are a few ways to tell it’s time to upsize your home.

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…to List Your Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/2/17 8:00 AM

Though every real estate market is different, the spring and summer months are a very popular time for sellers to list their homes. In fact, a new Zillow analysis found that in all but five of the U.S.’s biggest markets, the best month to list your home is April or May.

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Speed Spring Cleaning: 6 Important Areas of Your Home That You Should Clean First

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/1/17 8:00 AM

In a perfect world, we’d all have the time for a whole-home cleaning session. As the weather warms up and you’re shuffling kids back and forth to activities or simply trying to spend some time outdoors, you may find your spring cleaning checklist on the back burner. To help you condense your spring cleaning routine, we’ve compiled a list of the most important tasks to tackle inside your home.

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Spring Housing Market Update: 5 Facts for Homebuyers and Sellers

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/26/17 12:35 PM

As one of the most popular times of the year to buy or sell a home, the 2017 spring housing market is off to an early start. See what mortgage rates, home prices, homebuyer traffic and home inventory are doing to shape this year’s spring market.

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The Best Home Improvements to Complete in the Springtime

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/25/17 8:00 AM

Spring is officially here! If you’re anxious to head outdoors and tackle your spring cleaning and home maintenance to-do list, here are a few home improvement projects that can give you the best of both worlds (and are best completed in the spring).

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8 Ways to Rejuvenate Your Home for Spring

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/19/17 8:30 AM

Transitioning seasons incite many homeowners to take on change with home improvements and décor. As the weather slowly grows warmer, you’ll likely be looking for ways to transform your cozy winter home into a light and breezy respite for spring. Here are a few quick ways to do that.

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Homeowner Tips: 10 Efficient Ways to Create a Greener Household

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/17/17 9:05 AM

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Today we’re seeing in shades of green; green homes, that is. Though green living seems expensive and time-consuming, you don’t have to install solar panels or starting growing your own produce to become an energy-conscious household. You can easily reduce your carbon footprint, while minimizing your utility bills with these ten cost-efficient and painless steps.

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8 Quick & Simple Home Improvements That Do Wonders for Your Curb Appeal

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/13/17 11:14 AM

When you think of home renovations, you’re likely dreaming of a kitchen remodel or new flooring. You’re not alone; interior home improvements and renovations are highly coveted but oftentimes, a home’s exterior is put on the backburner. Here are some relatively cheap DIY projects that can transform your curb appeal.

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Homeowners Have Missed Out on Billions in Refinance Savings – Is It Too Late for You?

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/8/17 9:45 AM

American homeowners could have saved a combined $5.5 billion by refinancing their mortgages in 2010 and 2012, according to a new study published in the Journal of Financial Economics. Despite historically low mortgage rates, homeowners didn’t make refinancing a top priority, which prompts the question: with mortgage rates rising in 2017, is it too late for you?


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Downsizing Your Home: 5 Tips for Making the Move Into a Smaller House

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/5/17 10:00 AM

The reasons to upsize or downsize a home are as diverse as each individual family circumstance, but one qualm of moving into a smaller home is – what are you going to do with all of your belongings? Whether you’re an empty nester, are downsizing homes for a lower maintenance lifestyle, or evoking a new sense of minimalism, here are a few tips for an easier transition into your smaller home.

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Building the Millennial Dream Home: What Home Features This Generation Wants in 2017

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/4/17 9:27 AM

Millennials made waves in the 2016 housing market as the largest generational percentage of homebuyers. They were more likely to skip over traditional starter homes and more likely to consider purchasing a new build. See what home features this young generation of homebuyers would choose when given an array of options.

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11 Ways to Love Your Home Even More in 2017

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/26/17 9:04 AM

Owning a home is a symbol of the American Dream - something we all can be appreciative of. Nevertheless, homeownership is an ever-changing and sometimes challenging journey. Whether you fell in love with your home the moment you stepped inside or are still finding ways to make it your own, here are a few ways to love and appreciate your home a little more this year.

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The First-Time Homeowner's Guide to Spring Home Maintenance

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/25/17 10:00 AM

The official first day of spring is nearing! Is your home ready? As the days grow longer and the weather becomes milder, it’s essential for homeowners to address any damage caused by the winter elements, as well as get their home ready for a brand new season. If you're a first-time homeowner still learning the basics of home maintenance, here’s a quick list of preventative tasks to complete over the next few weeks.

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7 Little-To-No-Cost Ways to Prepare Your Home to Sell

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/18/17 10:03 AM

When it comes time to sell a home, most homeowners have a common goal: sell above list price and sell quickly. Getting there depends on your area’s real estate market, as well as the degree to which you prepare your home for the market. We’ve compiled a list of things that have a zero-to-little price tag that will help get your home ready to hit the market.

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Smart Ways to Put Your Tax Refund Into Your Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/15/17 10:00 AM

Getting a check back this year? According to the IRS, the average refund is just over $3,000. Before you start planning your refund-funded shopping spree, think of the many ways you could invest that return into one of your biggest tax deductions – your home. We’ve compiled some smart, value-adding and lower-cost ways to use that refund check toward your house.

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Buying or Refinancing? Receive Up to $20,000 in Down Payment and Closing Cost Assistance

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/13/17 10:18 AM

Closing costs and down payments are common homebuying hurdles. Though low down payment mortgage options are readily available to homebuyers, adding that with 2 to 5 percent of a home’s purchase price in closing costs can tally up quickly. The Compass Grant Program is here to help borrowers cut down on those costs.

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Don’t Miss Your Chance to Refinance: Take Advantage of the FHA Streamline

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/12/17 10:00 AM

If you’ve been keeping an eye on mortgage rates, you know that while they’re still low, they’re climbing. As refinance activity in the mortgage world has dropped to less than 50 percent, studies are showing that rising rates are removing millions of eligible borrowers from the refinance pool. Don’t miss your chance to lower your rate!

 

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19 Low-Budget Ways to Upgrade Every Room in Your Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/11/17 4:11 PM

New year, new home! Whether you’re preparing to sell your home this spring or the “blah” of winter has you itching to transform the interior of your home, we’ve compiled a few tips to help you accomplish a whole home makeover on a tight budget.

 

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How to Finance Home Renovations with the FHA 203k Mortgage

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/5/17 11:00 AM

Fixer-upper listings have recently been on the rise, according to a recent Zillow analysis. The number of homes listed with descriptive terms like “needs work” and “TLC” is up 12 percent from five years ago. But how does a homebuyer finance those home renovation projects? Today, we’re highlighting one of the most popular financing options borrowers, the FHA 203k loan.

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Home Organization: 10 Ways to Tackle a Cluttered Kitchen

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/4/17 10:00 AM

It makes sense that the most used part of the home – the kitchen – often becomes the most cluttered. Kitchen gadgets, small appliances, recipe books and so forth go from being necessities to utter annoyances. Here’s how to tackle a kitchen that is bursting at the seams.

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Buying a Vacation Home: How to Find the Best Place to Purchase

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/29/17 10:34 AM

It’s that time of year again. Dreary skies and cool temps coupled with spring break planning has you thinking of what it’s actually like to own a home in your favorite vacation spot. In 2015, vacation homebuyers accounted for 16 percent of all homebuyers, which is historically high, according to the National Association of REALTORS® 2016 Investment & Vacation Home Buyers Survey. If a vacation home has been on your mind, here’s what you need to know about financing and choosing a good second home investment.

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The Top 10 Home Renovations & Improvements for 2017

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/28/17 9:00 AM

Thinking of making some changes – major or minor – to your home this year? According to the 2017 Cost vs. Value Report by Remodeling Magazine, your homeowner dollars are best spent on some of these renovation and home improvement projects. What they are might surprise you.

 

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7 Ways You Benefit as a Homeowner During Tax Season

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/25/17 9:55 AM

From personalizing your living space to creating a stable family living environment, there are several personal benefits of owning your own home. On the financial side, tax benefits are one of the biggest perks of homeownership. See how homeowners come out ahead during tax season.

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9 Tasks You Should Start Doing If You Want to Sell Your Home This Spring

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/16/17 10:15 AM

Spring is one of the best times of year to sell your home, according to a 2016 Zillow study. Homes that were listed between May 1st and May 15th sold around 18.5 days faster and for 1 percent more than the average listing. Though May might seem ages away, preparing to sell your home takes as much preparation as purchasing a home. Here’s our list of items you should start to take care of now.

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8 Ways to Enhance Your Home's Winter Curb Appeal

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/14/17 10:00 AM

Short days, dreary skies and mucky streets; it’s no wonder keeping your home’s exterior appearance is such a task come wintertime. Whether you’re looking to list your home this winter or just want a more pleasant exterior to come to, here are several ways to up your winter curb appeal.

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7 Ways to Tell It Might Be Time to Sell Your Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/8/17 10:00 AM

You’ve been hunting local real estate listings and dreaming of a larger backyard, kitchen, master bedroom, etc., but you’re not sure if it’s the right time to make that leap and sell your house. Here are several good reasons why you might want to take advantage of the market and upsize or downsize.

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4 Ways to Grow Your Home Equity

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/2/17 9:33 AM

Think of your home as a large piggy bank. With every monthly mortgage payment, you’re putting money into that piggy bank. If or when the time comes that you need it, that equity is there to use to your liking. So how can you increase your home equity at a faster pace? See here.

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10 Ways to Cut Costs on Common Household Expenses in 2017

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/31/16 9:00 AM

With 2016 in the rearview, it’s a good time to sit down and determine your financial goals for the new year. Whether you want to save for a large purchase, invest more aggressively in your retirement portfolio or just want to have a bigger safety net, you’ll need to cut costs to pave the way. Here are a few ways you can start budgeting and cut spending on everyday items around your home.

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8 Ways to Tackle Post-Holiday Clutter and Home Organization

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/28/16 9:39 AM

Whether you dismantle your holiday décor on December 26th or January 26th, you may already feel the reality of post-holiday disarray sinking in. There is no better time of year to tackle a cluttered home than right after a season of giving and receiving. Use these tips for an organized home heading into the new year.

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Mortgage-Ready Credit: 9 Tips for Paying Off Holiday Debt

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/26/16 10:00 AM

December spending turns into January bill-paying. If you’re suffering from the post-holiday debt blues, you’re not alone. Americans add an average of $986 in debt throughout the holiday season with less than half planning to pay off that debt in less than 5 months, according to a survey by MagnifyMoney. Whether improving your credit score or decreasing your debt is one of your resolutions in 2017, here’s how to tackle those outstanding holiday balances.

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First-Time Homeowners: 8 Essential Things to Buy After You Buy Your House

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/24/16 10:00 AM

You’ve closed on your mortgage and the moving truck has come and gone. Though you’re anxious to turn what looks like a bare house into a suitably decorated home, you need to assess what you need to buy first. Here’s our list of what every first-time homeowner should put at the top of their list.

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Want to Sell Your Home? See Why Listing Your Home in Winter May Pay Off

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/14/16 10:00 AM

People buy homes year-round, but when it comes to putting your home up for sale, is winter a good season to list your home? According to a recent Redfin study, spring was the best time to list a home but winter was not far behind.

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7 of the Coolest Smart Home Devices to Add to Your 2016 Holiday Wish List

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/12/16 10:00 AM

Staying connected to your home has never been so easy. Whether you want to increase your home security, keep utility bills lows or cater your home systems to your lifestyle, here are some of the top smart home devices of 2016.

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9 Energy Efficient Home Improvements That Pay for Themselves

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/11/16 10:00 AM

The average U.S. household spends upwards of $1,600 on electricity and gas alone. While you’re planning home renovations and remodeling projects in the new year, it’s worthwhile to consider some home improvements that will save you money in the long run. We’ve compiled some of the most energy efficient home improvements that will eventually pay for their investment.

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6 Ways Home Sellers Can Make Their Winter Listing Stand Out

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/10/16 10:00 AM

There are many pros and cons of winter homebuying, but what if you’re on the selling side? A recent Redfin report found that winter is the second-best time of the year to list your home, after spring, of course. Nearly eighteen percent of winter listings sell above asking price and 46.2 percent of winter listed homes are off the market within 30 days. From lighting techniques and home staging to energy efficiency, here’s how to make your winter listing draw in prospective buyers.

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Winter Housing Market Update: 6 Facts for Winter Homebuyers & Sellers

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/5/16 12:47 PM

Often pegged as the “slow season” in real estate, winter may be an optimal time for you to enter the housing market or sell your home and buy again. See what mortgage rates, home prices, homebuyer traffic and home inventory are doing to shape the winter housing market.

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10 Home Decor & Design Trends to Watch for in 2017

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/3/16 10:55 AM

Last year interior designs were predicting large florals, bold color combos, statement pendants and soft lines. This year home design trends include eclectic mixtures, luxe fabrics and an overall cozier décor. If you’re thinking of revamping your home décor, use this list for some of the biggest trends in 2017.

 

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Adding Value to Your Home: Should You Do a Master Suite Addition?

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/30/16 10:50 AM

The desire for a master suite has been trending upwards in the housing market, topping lists alongside updated kitchens and bathrooms and open floor plans. While the benefits of a master suite, such as a private bathroom and separation from the home’s other bedrooms, may seem priceless to some homeowners, the budget of a master suite addition can become one of the priciest home renovations.

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10 of the Best & Worst Renovation Projects for DIY Homeowners

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/28/16 12:41 PM

We're in the age of do-it-yourself homeownership. Through online tutorials and big box improvement stores, homeowners have the means and education to complete their own renovation projects, but are they happy with the overall project? According to a Zillow analysis, three-quarters of homeowners completed a DIY home improvement project in the last three years, but nearly 40 percent of those homeowners wish they hadn't.

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9 Credit Mistakes to Avoid Over the Holidays

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/25/16 8:00 AM

'Tis the season for consumers to go overboard with credit cards. If you have or plan to use credit cards during your holiday shopping trips, there are several ways to effectively manage and control your debt while keeping your credit score healthy. Here are 8 credit mistakes to avoid this holiday season.

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9 of the Biggest Holiday Home Hazards & How to Avoid Them

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/23/16 10:00 AM

The cooking and baking traditions, family get-togethers, and decorating for the holidays are fast approaching. Before you cozy up to the fireplace, put up your Christmas tree, or start on your holiday baking list, make sure you house is clear of these common holiday hazards.

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10 Ways to Cozy Up Your Home for Winter

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/20/16 10:11 AM

With the winter chill setting in, it’s time to make some simple home décor additions to make your home warm, welcoming and cozy. Use these tricks to up the coziness of your home for your family and holiday guests.

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11 Tasks Everyone Should Complete Before Moving Into a New Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/13/16 11:19 AM

Your belongings are boxed up, the moving truck is scheduled and you've recruited family and friends to help unload on moving day. Moving to a new home is an exciting, albeit exhausting, task. Before you start unloading the moving truck, here's a list of to-do items you should take care of before you fill your new home with boxes.

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13 Storage Solutions for Every Space in Your Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/9/16 1:57 PM

What’s the one thing it seems all homeowners want more of in their home? Space for all of their belongings. Whether you’re trying to optimize storage in a small home or looking for simple ways to cut down on clutter and get organized, here are several ways to add extra storage spaces to your house.

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11 Winter Home Maintenance Tasks You Should Complete ASAP

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/6/16 2:43 PM

As the temperatures are beginning to dip, now is the time to make sure your home will be ready for winter. Winterizing your home can help lower your utility bills, protect your biggest investment and most importantly, keep you and your family warm throughout the freezing months.  Here are some tips on how you can maximize your winter home maintenance.

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11 Home Improvements & Upgrades You Should Complete Before the Holidays

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/5/16 1:26 PM

Let the holiday countdown begin! With Thanksgiving just weeks away, so are holiday guests. If you're expecting company over the next month, these upgrades are quick, efficient and relatively budget-friendly.

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Renovating Your Fixer-Upper: 7 Facts About the HomeStyle® Renovation Loan

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/2/16 10:35 AM

Renovation TV shows like Fixer Upper and Rehab Addict can inspire homebuyers to purchase a home in need of some TLC, but they leave out a very technical part of the process: financing the renovations. Fannie Mae's HomeStyle® Renovation Mortgage is one of a few renovation loans we offer. This loan type allows purchase and refinance borrowers to include financing for home improvements into the transaction of an existing home. Here's what you need to know about this renovation loan.

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Home Maintenance: 10 Eerie House Noises & Smells You Should Never Ignore

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/31/16 10:52 AM

Happy Halloween! Due to age, maintenance, and the efficiency of various major home systems, your house is bound to creak and clank every once in awhile. While spooky, these noises and smells are most likely typical home maintenance issues that may need some attention sooner than later. Here are some of the most common eerie home noise complaints and their causes.

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Homeowner Tips: 9 Ways to Amp Up Your Home Security

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/30/16 12:58 PM

A home burglary takes place approximately every 18 seconds in the United States, according to SafeWise. With holiday travel and winter vacations fast approaching, now is a good time to make sure you’re taking preventative measures for your home’s security.

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Should You Stay or Should You Go? 6 Things to Consider When Deciding to Renovate or Relocate

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/26/16 10:00 AM

At some point as a homeowner you’re going to come to an inevitable, emotional and mathematical fork in the road. Whether your starter home isn’t enough for your growing family, you’ve recently become an empty nester or you just really want an updated kitchen or floor plan, you’ll likely ask yourself whether it’s in your best interests to remodel or renovate or list and trade up.

 

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6 Characteristics of Home Sellers Who Sold Above Listing Price in 2016

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/23/16 9:49 AM

What’s the ultimate goal for home sellers? To sell for top dollar, at top-notch speed. In Zillow’s newest report on consumer housing trends, they found several distinct characteristics of sellers who received bids above listing price.

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Remodeling Your Kitchen: 9 Kitchen Trends to Look for in 2017

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/22/16 10:00 AM

Looking into remodeling or renovating your kitchen in the near future? According to Remodeling magazine's 2016 Cost vs. Value Report, minor kitchen remodels boast a cost recoup of 83 percent. If you're looking for some renovation inspiration, check out our list of kitchen trends for the new year.

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10 Simple Home Maintenance Tasks You Need to Complete This Month

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/15/16 11:25 AM

As the days are getting shorter and the weather is getting cooler, there are a few home maintenance tasks you need to put on your to-do list. Follow our checklist to get your home, both interior and exterior, in the best shape this month for the fall elements.

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9 Ways to Slash Your Home Utility Bills This Fall & Winter

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/12/16 1:49 PM

Energy efficient home maintenance tasks probably aren’t on your list of favorite fall activities. Nevertheless, these home improvements and home maintenance fixes will keep your cool-weather utility costs a little bit lower this fall and winter.

 

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17 Budget-Friendly DIY Home Improvement & Renovation Projects for First-Time Homeowners

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/5/16 12:24 PM

So you just bought a house; congratulations! Making your home yours is where the real fun begins, but it's also a good idea to adjust to the costs of homeownership before making large scale home improvements and renovations. Here are some cost-effective but aesthetically-pleasing home improvements you can mostly do yourself and complete on a budget.

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Selling Your Home: 10 Smart Tips for Attracting Fall Homebuyers

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/2/16 3:02 PM

Fall is the second best time of year to sell your home. The kids are back in school. Families aren't hustling and bustling back and forth from family vacations. The holidays aren't a stressor...yet. If you're placing your home for sale now, here are several things you need to consider doing first.

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7 Ways to Instantly Transform Your Fall Curb Appeal

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/1/16 10:00 AM

Curb appeal doesn't go out the window as soon as the leaves begin to drop. If you're planning to list your home this fall or your home exterior needs a little sprucing up, here are some tips for getting the attention of anyone who passes by your home this autumn.

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10 Simple Ways to Transition Your Home Décor for Autumn

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/24/16 10:06 AM

It’s officially fall! If you’ve been patiently waiting to break out your autumn-inspired décor, here are 10 simple ways to incorporate the feel of fall into your home.

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6 Steps to Planning & Designing a Perfectly Organized Bedroom Closet

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/21/16 1:21 PM

When you bought your first home, was closet design a determining factor? Probably not. But over time as your wardrobe and organization needs have grown, it’s probably a lot more evident that a single closet rod and shelf just don’t cut it. Here are the steps you need to take to get a handle on your closet organization.

 

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8 Home Improvements & Renovations That Usually Don’t Pay Off

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/19/16 12:30 PM

Whether you're looking to improve the quality of your home while living in it or trying to spruce up your home before selling, there are several home renovations that will recoup the majority of your investment. Then again, there are several home improvements you'd think would add value but actually hurt it.

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8 Home Organization Tips for a Low-Stress School Year

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/18/16 10:04 AM

Does back-to-school mean back-to-disarray in your home? If the school year means endless piles of stray papers and stressful mornings, check out these home organization tricks, tips and inspirations for getting your house and school morning routine in order.

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11 Trees & Plants to Add to Your Landscape for Brilliant Fall Color

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/17/16 11:29 AM

The colors of autumn are approaching quickly. If your yard falls short each year when it comes to the crimsons, purples, oranges and yellows of the season, there's still time to plant so you can enjoy them next year. Add these trees and plants to your fall landscaping checklist for colorful foliage.

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11 Ways to Prepare Your Landscape & Lawn for Autumn

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/4/16 9:14 AM

As the leaves begin to turn, you may not have the same excitement for autumn gardening and landscaping tasks as you do for the spring growing season. Regardless, taking care of your garden and landscaping now will contribute to a better looking lawn and garden come springtime. Here are several ways to get your landscaping and garden ready for the cooler weather.

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The 6 Best Homeowner Deals to Take Advantage of This Labor Day Weekend

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/3/16 10:00 AM

Is a shopping spree on the agenda of your three-day holiday weekend? Here are some of the best home and homeowner items to purchase for your money this Labor Day.

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Making Home Improvements: 6 Ways to Add Privacy to Your Outdoor Living Space

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/24/16 1:17 PM

Living in an urban or suburban area sometimes means compromising on a few of your home’s factors. Privacy is one of them. Even if your immaculately landscaped yard is something worth showing off, feeling like you’re on display can be a damper on outdoor living. Here are several ways to make your backyard more secluded.

 

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7 End-Of-Summer Home Maintenance Tasks to Tackle Over the Next Month

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/17/16 3:19 PM

Though summer hasn’t quite come to its end yet, back-to-school is in full swing. Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the changing seasons get in the way of taking care of your home after one of the most weather-extreme seasons. Here are seven end-of-summer home maintenance tasks to take care of over the next month.

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Back to School! Home Values 77 Percent Higher in Zip Codes With Good Schools Than Those Without

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/10/16 10:13 AM

A home within a great school district has always been a good selling point, but now a new study performed by ATTOM Data Solutions shows just how big the impact of high-performing education is on home values.

 

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Out and About with Compass: Wheaton French Market

Posted by Emma Johnson on 8/9/16 9:37 AM

The Wheaton French Market is one of the best things to do in quaint downtown Wheaton from spring all the way into fall. Every Saturday morning, from 8am-2pm, April –November, you can enjoy perusing all that’s offered here. This market is more extensive than traditional farmers' markets, although they have plenty of fresh produce too! Here, you’ll find vendors selling everything from handmade soaps to jewelry and fresh donuts to locally roasted coffee.

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How to Finance a Fixer-Upper: 3 Loan Options for Home Renovations & Home Improvements

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/7/16 10:52 AM

According to a report from Harvard's Joint Center for Housing, home improvement and repair spending will increase 8 percent by the beginning of 2017. As existing home inventory has dwindled, homebuyers have purchased homes that need repairs, renovations and improvements.

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8 Ways to Boost Curb Appeal on a Budget

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/6/16 12:34 PM

Did you think home staging was just for home interiors? Whether you’re preparing to sell your home or just want a better view when you pull into your driveway, use these tips to stage your home’s exterior and instantly boost curb appeal.

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7 Non-DIY Home Improvements You Should Leave to the Pros

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/3/16 12:40 PM

Don't turn a do-it-yourself project into a "what did I do?" project. Many homeowners have encompassed the do-it-yourself agenda to save time and money on home improvement projects. While many repairs, upgrades, and renovations can be completed by homeowners with amateur experience, there are some that require training and expertise. Here are some of the top home improvements best left to the professionals, even if you are an avid DIY homeowner.

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12 Landscaping & Gardening Hacks Every Homeowner Should Know About

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/23/16 9:30 AM

Sometimes life gets in the way of tending to and caring for your garden. Luckily you don't need to have a green thumb to keep your garden lush. Use these tips and tricks to help minimize maintenance of your landscape and garden beds.

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9 Home Improvement Projects to Tackle Over Your Summer Staycation

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/20/16 11:33 AM

 Staying home over your summer vacation? Why not utilize that PTO with some value-adding home improvements. We've compiled a list of projects you can complete within a few days time and still get in some much-deserved rest and relaxation.

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4 Essential Tips for Landscaping a New Construction Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/17/16 1:56 PM

You’ve considered and decided every miniscule detail of your new home build from windows and doors down to the number of electrical outlets in each room, but now you have a whole new blank canvas to tackle, your landscaping. Here are some tips for starting out the process.

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Millions of Homeowners Have the Opportunity to Refinance Their Mortgage

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/15/16 10:18 AM

Thanks to Brexit, mortgage rates have been holding near historic lows this month, which has sent many homeowners swarming to refinance into a lower rate. But according to a report from Black Knight Financial Services, more than seven million homeowners in the U.S. still have the opportunity to refinance.

In the first quarter of 2015, only 31,000 homeowners with FHA loans took advantage of the FHA Streamline Refinance Program. In the first quarter of 2016, that number skyrocketed to over 63,000 homeowners. So if you have an FHA loan and haven’t refinanced into a lower rate, what are you missing out on? 

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Homeowners Name the 9 Best Interior Home Renovations & Improvements

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/3/16 10:10 AM

Whether you’re planning to sell your home in the near future, want to update your home’s appeal or improve your home’s livability and efficiency, not all remodeling projects are created equal. According to the National Association of REALTORS ® 2015 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, Americans spent over $300 billion on remodeling projects in 2015.

 

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9 Mosquito-Repelling Plants & Herbs to Place Around Your Outdoor Living Space

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/1/16 10:30 AM

Feel like an insect magnet the moment you step outside your home? While eliminating standing water in your yard will help keep mosquito breeding grounds at bay, studies have shown these plants and herbs can serve as natural insect repellants.

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6 Tips for Keeping Your Home Safe & Secure While It's on the Market

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/29/16 1:10 PM

You've de-cluttered, cleaned every inch of your home, staged furniture and home decor - all of the things any home seller should do when listing their home. But as the calls for showings come in, open houses are scheduled, and strangers begin to do walk-throughs of your home, you need to take preventative measures as a seller to protect your home from theft and liability lawsuits.

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9 Do's & Don'ts of Landscaping & Lawn Care for the First-Time Homeowner

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/26/16 10:00 AM

Owning your first home can be overwhelming as you adjust to the new responsibilities and tasks of homeownership. While you’re busy turning the interior of your house into your own home, don’t neglect the view of from the curb. Here are some beginner’s tips for making wise and budget-friendly choices when it comes to your landscape.

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Fix It or Leave It? What Home Improvements Are Worth Doing Before Selling Your Home?

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/25/16 10:00 AM

When preparing to sell your home, you may notice there are some repairs, upgrades, or cosmetic flaws you didn't get to cross off your homeowner to-do list. Certain areas of a home can turn away potential buyers or downgrade their price offer, but what upgrades are worth your investment as a seller? Here's what to fix and what to leave as-is for the new homeowners.

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National Homeownership Month: 4 Financial Benefits of Owning Your Own Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/22/16 10:00 AM

A greater sense of community, more living space, more stability for your children; the benefits of homeownership are endless. In honor of National Homeownership Month, we’ve compiled some of the biggest financial perks of accomplishing a significant part of the American Dream.

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Getting a Competitive Edge as a Homebuyer: 3 Reasons You Need a Loan Commitment This Summer

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/20/16 12:38 PM

With mortgage rates still near historic lows and rent still on the up and up, we’re likely to see an influx of homebuyers this summer. Home inventory, on the other hand, has been lagging and continually brewing conditions for a competitive homebuying market

Acting quickly on making an offer and hiring a great real estate agent are essential in a competitive housing market, but you also need to have all your ducks in a row with your home financing. Here’s how to obtain financing with the power of a cash offer.

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6 Mistakes to Avoid in Your First Year of Homeownership

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/18/16 6:06 PM

As a first-time homebuyer, you have a lot on your plate. From saving for a down payment and closing costs to keeping your credit score mortgage-ready and finding a home that suits your needs, you’ve accomplished a lot even before purchasing your first home.

Now that you’ve closed on your home, there are still some mistakes you should avoid to keep your first year of homeownership a positive experience.

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Homebuyers, Homeowners, Real Estate Investors, Vacation Homebuyers: We Want to Hear From You!

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/15/16 10:12 AM

Buying, financing and maintaining a home is a multi-step journey, whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or an experienced homeowner. This is why we strive to educate potential homebuyers and homeowners prior to and after closing on their mortgage. But we need a little feedback on topic areas we may have missed.

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8 Tips for Cooling Down Your Home Cooling Costs This Summer

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/12/16 10:18 AM

Heating and cooling your home uses more energy and costs more money than any other system in your home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Those costs typically account for about 48% of your utility bill. While an upgraded, energy-efficient system will help shave a nice chunk off of your bills, a whole-house approach is best when trying to cool down your A/C costs this spring and summer.

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Listing Your Home This Summer? Take Care of These 6 Home Selling Tasks Now

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/11/16 10:16 AM

So you're planning to list your home. As soon as you begin entertaining the idea of selling, you'll want to get your home in the best condition. To get a great offer in the shortest amount of time, here are some of the most important things to take care of before the “for sale” sign goes up in your front yard.

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New Home Construction: 6 Things to Consider When Choosing a Home Builder

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/6/16 1:16 PM

Buying a home comes with its own distinct set of choices and options, but when you choose to build a new home, the amount of choices increase immensely. Your home builder is one of the most important. Here’s how to determine which one is right for you. 

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9 Ideas for Low-Maintenance and Foolproof Landscaping

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/4/16 10:00 AM

Landscaping. Your curb appeal depends on it, but some homeowners dread the thought of spending countless weeknights and weekends digging, watering and planting. Although there’s really no such thing as zero-maintenance landscaping, we’ve narrowed down some ideas to keep your yard and garden maintenance to a minimum this summer.

 

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18 Summer Home Maintenance Tasks You Need to Complete This Month

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/1/16 8:00 AM

While you’re daydreaming of barbeques, lounging by the pool and summer vacation destinations, there are a few summer home maintenance tasks to tackle around your homestead to get your house in prime shape for heat, humidity and outdoor living. Here are 18 tasks you should complete prior to and during the summer months to keep your home safe, cool and energy-efficient.

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DIY Lawn Care: 7 Ways to Get a Healthy, Green & Enviable Lawn This Summer

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/29/16 9:09 AM

Spring is a time that many homeowners focus on annuals, perennials and landscaping, but don't forget about a major part of your home's curb appeal - your grass! Having a lush, green lawn is a pride for many homeowners - but it does require some work and regular maintenance. Here are a few DIY lawn care tips for achieving a greener, healthier lawn.


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Creating an Outdoor Living Space: The Biggest Patio Trends of 2016

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/21/16 10:00 AM

Planning to revamp your patio, porch or deck this summer? What was once a place to enjoy a meal or entertain guests on a pleasant summer night is now meant to serve as an extension of your home. Here are some of the year's biggest trends to inspire the look of your outdoor living space.

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Happy Mother's Day! Here Are 8 Perennials You Should Plant in Your Mom's Garden

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/8/16 10:17 AM

Happy Mother's Day! Stuck on what to give mom this year? Give her a long-lasting, low-maintenance gift by planting some of these Midwest-native perennials in her garden.

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Weekend DIY Project: How to Build Raised Garden Beds

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/7/16 1:20 PM

Raised garden beds, also known as garden boxes, have been gaining popularity due to their beneficial environment for flower and vegetable gardens to thrive and accessibility and adaptability. The contained boxes provide:

  • Protection from weeds and pests
  • Prevention of soil compaction and erosion
  • Proper water drainage
  • Ease of access to plants for gardeners who want to avoid the pain of constant bending and kneeling
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11 Weekend Projects to Boost Your Home's Curb Appeal

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/30/16 8:00 AM

Homeowners often focus on improving interior living spaces, but come spring, it’s time to refocus on what you (and your neighbors) see from the curb. Here are some weekend projects to tackle to get your home looking its best.

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Want to Sell Your Home? Sell at a Higher Price & Faster Pace by Listing in May

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/29/16 8:00 AM

People buy homes year-round, but when it comes to putting your home up for sale, is there an optimal time to list? Last year, the “magic window” to list your home was between mid-March and mid-April, according to Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate

That timing has shifted now, mostly due to low inventory holding down sales nationwide. The previous study showed that homes sold in the U.S. from mid-March to mid-April sold approximately 15% faster and for 2% more than the average listing.

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Remodeling Your Home? See Which Rooms Carry the Most Value

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/24/16 4:13 PM

When entertaining the idea of a remodel, most homeowners want to know what the return on their investment will be when the time comes to sell. Though you might enjoy an upscale master suite, a pool or home officewill it increase your home value? Not all rooms or areas of your home are created equal. Here are your best bets to focus on if your goal is to create a great living space with the best resale value.

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8 Home Renovations That Can Decrease Your Home Value

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/23/16 10:00 AM

The ability to personalize your home to meet your personal style and needs is a huge perk of homeownership, but when it comes to home renovations, not all boost home value. Certain home renovations, additions and amenities can devalue your abode.

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The Top 8 Value-Adding Projects for Home Sellers

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/16/16 2:48 PM

Getting your home in the best shape to sell doesn’t have to mean pouring a huge investment into it. Simple fixes can up the overall appearance of your home, lessen its time on the market, and potentially increase a buyer's offered purchase price.

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What's Your Home Style?

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/11/16 5:51 PM

Buying a home means making a lot of choices. How many bedrooms and bathrooms do I need? Who should I hire as my real estate agent? When should I buy a home? What style of home fits my needs?

Before you start your home search, make a list of characteristics you desire in your home, both functional or aesthetic. To give you some inspiration, we’ve compiled a list of the top U.S. home styles and their distinguishing characteristics.

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Budget DIY - 15 Home Improvements Under $20

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/10/16 1:54 PM

Home improvements can sometimes turn into daunting and expensive tasks. This is why we’ve compiled a handful of projects you can complete in a weekend’s time and will improve the functionality or look of your home without breaking the bank!

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10 Home Features the Millennial Homebuyer Wants in 2016

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/8/16 11:03 AM

Ever wonder why Millennials receive so much attention, especially in the housing market? Millennials are the largest generation in American history, and in 2015, they made up the largest generational share of homebuyers (35%).

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Preparing Your Home for Spring: The Ultimate Spring Cleaning Checklist

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/3/16 1:14 PM

Spring has sprung, and there is no time like the present to get your home in tip-top shape! Use our checklist to get your home’s interior clean from top to bottom.

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Spring DIY Project: How to Start Your Vegetable Garden Indoors

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/30/16 2:44 PM

Thinking it’s a little early to start your vegetable, herb or flower garden? Beginning your garden inside your home is a great way to speed up the growth process come summertime, avoid the expensive purchase of starter plants, and ensure a plentiful harvest or bloom.

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Spring Home Maintenance: How to Revive an Old Deck

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/27/16 6:18 PM

As you gravitate outside to tend to flower beds and your growing lawn, don't forget to do a lookover of likely your favorite spot for spring and summer get-togethers: your deck. Just liek any part of your home, your deck requires annual repair, cleaning and protection to keep it's livelihood over time. Use these tips to spruce up a deck that's looking a little on the worn side.

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Mortgage Goals: Should You Pay Down Your Mortgage or Invest More?

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/23/16 1:42 PM

While ridding yourself of debt is a common mortgage goal for many, becoming “financially free” isn’t as black and white when it comes to paying off your mortgage. There are several variable s to consider when determining if mortgage freedom is the right stepping stone to financial freedom. Could your money be of better use (and opportunity) elsewhere?

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When’s the Best Time to Sell Your Home in 2016?

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/22/16 4:57 PM

People buy homes year-round, but when it comes to putting your home up for sale, is there an optimal time to list? Last year, the “magic window” to list your home was between mid-March and mid-April, according to Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate.

That timing has shifted now, mostly due to low inventory holding down sales nationwide. The previous study showed that homes sold in the U.S. from mid-March to mid-April sold approximately 15% faster and for 2% more than the average listing.

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9 Lawn Care, Landscaping & Gardening Do's and Don'ts for the First-Time Homeowner

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/20/16 5:31 PM

Owning your first home can be overwhelming as you adjust to the new responsibilities and tasks of homeownership. While you’re busy turning the interior of your house into your own home, don’t neglect the view of from the curb. Here are some beginner’s tips for making wise and budget-friendly choices when it comes to your landscape.

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9 Ways to Make Your Home a Green, Healthy & Efficient Place to Live

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/17/16 10:00 AM

In honor or St. Patrick’s Day, we’re seeing green! Green homes, that is. You don’t have to install solar panels or starting growing your own produce to become a green and efficient household. You can easily reduce your carbon footprint, while minimizing your utility bills with these nine cost-efficient steps.

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Construction 101: How to Choose the Right Home Builder

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/16/16 1:44 PM

Buying a home comes with its own distinct set of choices and options, but when you choose to build a new home, the amount of choices increase immensely. Your home builder is one of the most important. Here’s how to determine which one is right for you.

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Homeowner DIY: How to Create the Perfect Outdoor Living Area

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/13/16 3:54 PM

Many homeowners spend countless hours rearranging and remodeling the interior of their home, but come springtime, transition from indoor to outdoor living. Spending time outdoors doesn't mean having to forfeit the comforts of the indoors. Add value to your yard, patio, porch or another outdoor area of your home by transforming it into a relaxing but functional, open-air living space.

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DIY Home Projects: How to Make a Rain Barrel

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/5/16 6:51 PM

Using a rain barrel is a great way to cut the cost of watering your lawn, flowers, houseplants and garden. For every inch of rain that falls on 500 square feet of roof, you can collect 300 gallons of water, according to Better Homes and Gardens. Not only will a rain barrel cut your water costs but the investment is relatively cheap and simple for the new DIY homeowner.

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Refinanced Yet? Millions of Mortgaged Homeowners Missing Out on Low Rates

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/2/16 1:36 PM

Even as mortgage rates remained near 3-year lows last week, refinance applications fell back 7 percent for the second week in a row, according to the Mortgage Bankers’ Association. As mortgage rates have remained low and home values have increased, many U.S homeowners have been put in the prime position to refinance their mortgage but many are also missing out on the opportunity.

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Preparing Your Home for Spring: The Ultimate Guide for an Organized Garage

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/27/16 9:50 AM

If you’re like most homeowners, your garage is probably a little neglected during the winter months. It’s a dumping ground for boots, sleds, snow removal items, ice melt, etc., so keeping it organized is a task.

Organizing pros estimate that only 30 percent of homeowners store their cars in the garage, according to This Old House. If your car has been forced to take the backseat (no pun intended) to other household items, here are some DIY tips for getting your garage back to its original purpose for spring.

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15 Home Maintenance Tasks to Complete for Spring

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/23/16 3:31 PM

The official first day of spring is less than a month away! Is your home ready? Rediscover the outside world and complete these home maintenance tasks to make sure your home & its major systems run smoothly and efficiently throughout the season.

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Selling Your Home This Spring? Here's What You Should Start Doing Now

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/22/16 2:38 PM

Data shows home sold in the U.S. from mid-march to mid-April sell approximately 15 percent faster and for 2 percent more than the average listing, a national premium worth more than $4,000. The first official day of spring, March 20, is only 27 days away, and if you’re planning on selling your home, there’s a list of things you should start doing now!

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6 Pitfalls to Avoid in Your First Year of Homeownership

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/20/16 11:32 AM

As a first-time homebuyer, you have a lot on your plate. From saving for a down payment and closing costs to keeping your credit score mortgage-ready and finding a home that suits your needs, you’ve accomplished a lot even before purchasing your first home.

Now that you’ve closed on your home, there are still some mistakes you should avoid to keep your first year of homeownership a positive experience.

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What’s Your Home Worth? 7 Factors That Impact Your Home Value

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/17/16 3:04 PM

When it comes to selling, every homeowner is trying to get top dollar for their house. But what determines their home’s value? Here are several variables that could increase or decrease your resale value.  

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Lighten Up! 7 Tips for Choosing Interior Lighting Like a Pro

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/16/16 6:09 PM

Proper interior lighting is an art. Even the most expensively decorated room can feel drab without sufficient lighting. From chandeliers and table lamps to recessed ceiling fixtures and natural sunlight, here’s a list of the best tips for lighting your home like you hired an interior designer.

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Mortgage 101: How to Build Home Equity

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/15/16 5:27 PM

Home equity is arguably one of the biggest perks of being a homeowner. It is an asset and part of your total net worth. You can use it to pay off other debts, fund your retirement, pay for a child’s education or wedding, or use it to purchase your next home. However you plan to use your equity, there are several ways you can build it. 

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8 Ways to Love Your Home in 2016

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/14/16 1:44 PM

Owning a home is a symbol of the American Dream, but homeownership is a constantly changing and challenging journey. Whether you fell in love with your home the moment you stepped inside or are still finding ways to make it your own, here are a few ways to love and appreciate your home this year.

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10 Ways to Update Your Kitchen on a Budget

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/13/16 11:39 AM

Kitchens (and bathrooms) sell homes, so it makes sense that they are also one of the most expensive parts of a home to fully remodel. Whether your kitchen hasn’t been upgraded for a couple decades or you’re trying to update builder-grade materials, here are 10 ways to update your kitchen on a budget and without a full remodel.

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Saving Money: Top 9 Energy-Efficient Upgrades for Your Home Improvement Dollar

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/3/16 2:06 PM

Considering some home improvements this winter or spring? Why not invest in some projects that will save you money in the long run. Energy-efficiency is a top priority for many homeowners whether they’re trying to whittle down high utility bills or trying to minimize their environmental footprint. Here are some of the best home improvements for the energy-conscious homeowner.

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11 Budget Ways to Make Your Home Décor & Design Look More Expensive

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/30/16 2:23 PM

Keeping up with the expenses of regular home maintenance doesn’t always leave much budget to focus on aesthetics. On the other hand, achieving a sleek, high-class interior doesn’t have to break the bank either. Here’s how to achieve a luxe look for less.

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Refinancing 101: Benefits of Refinancing With an FHA Streamline

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/26/16 3:09 PM

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is the largest insurer of residential mortgages in the world, having helped 4.8 million families achieve homeownership through affordable and accessible home financing. If you’ve been thinking of taking advantage of historically low mortgage rates and making your FHA mortgage even more affordable, here’s what you should know about the FHA Streamline Refinance.

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Top Home Design Trends for 2016 According to Pinterest

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/23/16 3:12 PM

What’s the top go-to spot for anyone looking for interior design inspiration? Pinterest. The idea powerhouse pros analyzed the pins of over 100 million users to create their predictions for the top home design trends for 2016.

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Boosting Home Value: Expert Tips for Renovating Your Laundry Room

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/16/16 2:03 PM

Often a neglected room when it comes to home makeovers, the laundry room has come into its own as a hub for organization, clean-up, storage, and doing the laundry, of course. Whether your laundry room is located in your basement, next to the kitchen or squeezed into an upstairs closet, here are some thrifty and efficient tips to consider when updating your laundry area.

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3 Reasons You Should Refinance in 2016

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/13/16 2:00 PM

Have you taken advantage of the historically low mortgage rates over the last few years? No? Well you aren’t alone, according to a new report. As mortgage rates stand, more than 5 million borrowers could qualify and benefit from a mortgage refinance.

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Adding Value to Your Home: How to Choose the Right Front Door

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/12/16 2:57 PM

The front door. The focal point of your home’s exterior. Entry doors have a lot to live up to. They have to be tough enough to withstand temperature extremes, precipitation and intruders, as well as boost curb appeal. Entry door replacements are one of the top home improvements for value, recouping anywhere from 82-91% of their cost. Here’s how to determine what kind of front door fits your needs.

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The 10 Best Remodeling Projects to Boost Home Value in 2016

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/11/16 5:44 PM

Curb appeal, energy efficiency and higher-cost remodeling and renovation projects topped the list of Remodeling magazine’s 2016 Cost vs. Value Report. For the 30 projects reviewed, the average cost and average resale return was 64.4%, the second-highest return in the past eight years. If you’re thinking of making home improvements to improve resale value, here’s what the report found to be the greatest remodeling, renovation and home improvement projects for cost recoupment.

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6 Ways to Liven Up Your Home's Curb Appeal This Winter

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/10/16 2:52 PM

As you’re braving the cold, tearing down holiday décor and dreading snow removal, it’s all too common to forget about the appearance of your home’s exterior once the cold front hits. Whether you’re listing your home or simply wanting to add some updates, here’s how to boost your curb appeal once winter sets in.

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16 DIY Hacks for Getting Your Home Organized in 2016

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/9/16 2:16 PM

No matter how big your house is, you likely find yourself without enough room for all of your belongings. Junk drawers turn into junk closets. Overflow is shoved into closets before company arrives. Take control of every area of your home with these simple, cheap DIY organization hacks.

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Selling Your Home: 6 Ways to Make Your Winter Listing Stand Out

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/7/16 2:06 PM

There are many pros and cons of winter homebuying, but what if you’re on the selling side? A recent Redfin report found that winter-listed homes are 9 percent more likely to sell and sell one week faster than homes listed in the fall, spring or summer. From lighting techniques and home staging to energy efficiency, here’s how to make your winter listing draw in prospective buyers.

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Should You Pay Off Your Mortgage Early? 5 Questions You Should Ask Yourself

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/6/16 3:07 PM

To many, becoming debt-free is one of the most rewarding financial accomplishments. As homeowners build their savings and investments, many ask if paying of their mortgage early is the best option on their path to financial freedom and stability. The answer, though, isn’t black and white. It varies based on savings, investments, retirement, debt, and overall financial goals.

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Top 4 Reasons You Should Sell Your Home in 2016

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/4/16 2:24 PM

If you’ve been going back and forth on listing your home, here are four reasons why 2016 is the year you should make it happen.

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12 Home Design & Decor Trends: What's In and What's Out in 2016

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/3/16 3:18 PM

As 2015 ended, interior design experts were making their predictions for the newest home design and decor trends, as well as the 2015 trends they are pleased to see leaving the picture. From color, appliances, furniture material and more, here's what you can expect to be a big hit in 2016.

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8 Ways to Cool Down Your Home Heating Bill

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/29/15 3:05 PM

U.S. households heating their homes primarily will natural gas can expect to spend $578 on average this winter, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Households using propane or heating oil will spend, on average, anywhere from 2 to 3 times that amount. Though heating costs vary greatly due to differing climates, home sizes, insulation, and home age, there are several things you can do this winter to cut down your heating expenses.

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Homeowner Tax Benefits Extended for 2015 & 2016

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/28/15 5:14 PM

There is no doubt homeownership boasts several advantages, especially during tax season. If you put less than 20% down on your home purchase and pay private mortgage insurance (PMI), this recently extended tax break may save you some money.

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The 20 Most Popular Home Features of 2015

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/26/15 1:22 PM

Think of the biggest home décor and design trends from last year, five years ago, three decades ago, etc. Home features are constantly evolving to meet the demands of homebuyers. Yes, at one point pastel bathtubs and shag carpeting were in high demand.

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Exterior Home Renovations: Homeowners & REALTORS Weigh In on the Best Projects

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/21/15 6:34 PM

Want to update your curb appeal, add energy efficiency or thinking of selling your home soon? Not all exterior home renovations will recoup your investment. According to the National Association of REALTORS ® 2015 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, Americans spent over $300 billion on remodeling projects in 2015.

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9 Tips for Designing a Great Home Office

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/19/15 2:16 PM

More than 20 million Americans work from home at least part of the time, according to government labor statistics. Whether you're working full-time from home, running your own business, or simply desiring a place to finish up a few work or personal tasks after the work day, a home office can be of significant value to certain homeowners. Here are some guiding points on creating an efficient, valuable workspace.

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9 Interior Home Renovations: Homeowners & REALTORS® Weigh In on the Best Projects

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/17/15 5:24 PM

Whether you’re planning to sell your home in the near future, want to update your home’s appeal or improve your home’s livability and efficiency, not all remodeling projects are created equal. According to the National Association of REALTORS ® 2015 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, Americans spent over $300 billion on remodeling projects in 2015.

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Increasing Home Value: What Will Your Home Improvements Cost?

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/12/15 1:20 PM

If home improvements, a remodel or renovation are on your 2016 homeowner to-do list, budgeting for those items is essential. Afterall, an estimate is just an estimate. Every remodeling project is unique and costs vary depending on your budget, materials, contractor, timing and even your geographical location.

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8 Smart Home Gadgets to Add to Your Holiday Wish List

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/9/15 2:38 PM

Home automation and smart home devices are continuing to gain popularity this holiday season. Whether you’re looking to increase energy efficiency, home security, or simply make you home a cooler place to reside, these are some of the best smart home gadgets to add to your holiday wish list.

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Top 6 Holiday Home Décor Trends for 2015

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/8/15 4:36 PM

Looking for some holiday home décor inspiration? Here are six ideas that might make you put the traditional shades of red and green on the back burner.

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10 Best & Worst Home Improvements for the DIY Homeowner

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/7/15 4:01 PM

We're in the age of do-it-yourself homeownership. Whether trying to save time, money, etc. a large number of homeowners have taken on home improvement projects themselves. According to a new Zillow analysis, three-quarters of homeowners completed a DIY home improvement project in the last three years, but nearly 40 percent of those homeowners wish they hadn't.

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9 Tips for Home Security During the Holidays

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/3/15 3:42 PM

It's supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but prolonged homeowner absences and holiday gift-giving causes burglaries to spike during the holidays. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, nearly 400,000 burglaries occur in the United States between November and December each year. Use these tips to be extra vigilant this holiday season.

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11 Things to Do This Weekend to Prepare Your Home for Winter

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/28/15 2:00 PM

As the temperatures are already dipping below freezing, now is the time to make sure your home will be ready for this winter!  Winterizing your home can help lower your utility bills, protect your investment and most importantly, keep you and your family warm throughout the freezing months.  Here are some tips on how you can maximize your winterizing efforts.

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Selling Your Home in 2016: 7 Things You Should Start Doing Now

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/24/15 6:30 PM

A large majority of home sellers wait to list their homes in the spring or summer, but that doesn't mean you should wait to start preparing you home. Cooler temperatures and inclement weather creates a great opportunity to focus on making the right updates, upgrades and repairs to list your home in it's best possible condition.

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8 Simple Home Improvements & Upgrades to Do Before the Holidays

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/22/15 1:13 PM

The holidays are just around the corner, as are holiday guests. If you're expecting company over the next month, these upgrades are quick, efficient and relatively budget-friendly.

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9 Home Holiday Hazards and How to Avoid Them

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/21/15 2:20 PM

The cooking and baking traditions, family get-togethers, and decorating for the holidays are fast approaching. Before you cozy up to the fireplace, put up your Christmas tree, or start on your holiday baking list, make sure you house is clear of these common holiday hazards.

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9 Home Decor Trends to Use This Thanksgiving

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/19/15 1:35 PM

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Whether your style is modern, rustic or traditional, dress up your holiday table setting for your guests this year with these 2015 Thanksgiving decor trends.

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First-Time Homeowner Checklist: What You Need to Do Before Moving In

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/16/15 12:28 PM

Congratulations on your new home purchase! Before diving in to the fun parts of being a first-time homeowner, there are several maintenance items you should take care of after closing on your home and before moving in. Here's a checklist of what items you should tackle before you make your new house your home.

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Selling Your Home in the Fall: 10 Tips to Attract Fall Homebuyers

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/15/15 2:05 PM

Fall is the second best time of year to sell your home. The kids are back in school. Families aren't hustling and bustling back and forth from family vacations. The holidays aren't a stressor...yet. If you're placing your home for sale now, here are several things you need to consider doing first.

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9 Bathroom Trends to Look for in 2016

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/14/15 9:20 AM

Is a bathroom renovation on your wish list in 2016? Check out some of the upcoming trends for the new year from flooring and tubs to accent colors and fixtures.

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10 Budget-Friendly Home Improvements for the First-Time Homeowner

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/12/15 4:02 PM

So you just bought a house; congratulations! Making your home yours is where the real fun begins, but when you've just purchased a home you may find yourself on a tight budget when it comes to home improvements. Here are some cost-effective but aesthetically-pleasing home improvements you can do on a budget.

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9 Kitchen Trends to Look for in 2016

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/9/15 5:38 PM

Ready to upgrade your kitchen in 2016? Minor kitchen remodels are one of the best home improvement investments. Here are some of the biggest trends for 2016 kitchen design trends to use as inspiration.

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8 Eerie Home Maintenance Sounds & Smells You Shouldn't Ignore

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/31/15 12:50 PM

Happy Halloween! Due to age, maintenance, and the efficiency of various major home systems, your house is bound to creak and clank every once in awhile. Here’s how to determine if that noise or smell is something you need to address.

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6 Essentials Every First-Time Homeowner Needs

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/29/15 4:14 PM

Congratulations, you're a homeowner! Before you start looking at paint swatches and  new furniture, you'll need to prepare for the responsibilities that come with owning all of that square footage, including home maintenance. Here are several things every new homeowner should have.

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9 Home Maintenance Tasks Every New Homeowner Should Know How to Do

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/27/15 4:18 PM

New homeownership is exciting but also full of responsibility. As a first-time homeowner, you'll need to educate yourself on several DIY home maintenance tasks to avoid making various calls to maintenance professionals...and paying their service charges. Here are some of the most common home maintenance tasks every new homeowner should know how to do.

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7 DIY 1-Day Home Improvements for Under $100

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/25/15 12:43 PM

Needing some weekend home improvement inspiration? Here are 7 projects that are easy, budget-friendly and will add value and/or efficiency to your home.

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8 Simple Ways to Cut Home Heating Costs

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/11/15 11:13 AM

The average homeowner using natural gas for heating will spend nearly $650 on heating costs this winter, according to the United States Department of Energy. Though utility costs vary greatly depending on home size, climate, energy choice and insulation, there are several easy, minimal-cost ways to keep your heating expenses down this winter.

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9 Home Decor Color Trends to Look for in 2016

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/10/15 12:13 PM

Pantone, the world-renowned color authority, recently released their forecast of home and interior color trends for 2016. Here's how to incorporate each trendy color palette into your home design and home decor.

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Fire Prevention Month: 5 Facts About Home Fires & How to Prevent Them

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/8/15 12:20 PM

According to the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 369,500 home structure fires in 2013. Those 369,500 fires caused 2,755 deaths, 12,200 injuries, and $7 billion in property damage. There is no time like the present to make sure your home isn't susceptible to fire and what you and your family can do in the event of one.

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Preparing to Sell Your Home: 13 Do's & Don'ts of DIY Home Staging

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/5/15 12:47 PM

The best selling experience means selling your home quickly and for the price you want. "Staging" is the process of making your home appealing to the broadest group of potential homebuyers.

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6 Common Home Problems & How to Solve Them

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/23/15 1:47 PM

Homes are subject to normal wear and tear, but certain problems should be addressed to make sure your home is as safe, comfortable and energy-efficient as possible. Here are the likely causes of some common home issues and what you can do to fix them.

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9 Plants & Trees for Vibrant Fall Color

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/19/15 10:07 AM

The colors of autumn are approaching quickly. If your yard falls short each year when it comes to the reds, purples, oranges and yellows of the season, there's still time to plant so you can enjoy them next year. Add these Midwest native plants to your fall landscaping checklist for colorful foliage.

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7 Tips to Prep Your Fireplace for Winter

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/16/15 11:02 AM

As the cooler months approach, you'll likely be looking to use your fireplace as a source to cut heating costs or increase the ambiance of fall and winter. Before you fire up the logs, you'll want to take precautions to make sure your fireplace and chimney are operating properly. After all, fireplaces and chimneys are the causes of 42 percent of all home-heating fires.

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7 Coolest Smart Home Gadgets of 2015

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/3/15 1:00 PM

Making your home more secure, more efficient, and greener has never been easier. These are some of the coolest gadgets to turn your house into a smart home.

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DIY: 6 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Fall

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/31/15 8:09 AM

With each changing season, your home endures temperature changes, weather elements and aging, on top of typical day-to-day use. To keep your home’s components running in tip-top shape, not to mention avoid costly repairs down the road, it’s important to perform seasonal maintenance. Get a jump start on fall with these helpful DIY home and yard maintenance tips. 

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Top 11 Bathroom Trends for 2015

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/20/15 2:05 PM

Though trends in kitchen and bathroom remodeling and construction don't change nearly as quickly as home decor and furnishings, the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) has identified several evolving designs in bathrooms as many homeowners transition their homes to "classic-updated with a contemporary twist".

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DIY: 9 Clever Gardening & Landscaping Hacks

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/15/15 11:06 AM

Make tending to your gardening and landscaping a little easier with these simple tips and hacks.

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Top 10 Kitchen Trends

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/13/15 3:12 PM

Kitchens are known as the heart of the home, so keeping up with the latest design trends is usually a good investment. If you’re looking to upgrade, here are some of the current trends in kitchen design, according to HGTV.

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The Cost of a Mortgage Over Time (Infographic)

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/3/15 4:27 PM

Interest rates are still near historic lows, and if you've been on the fence about buying a home, there may not be a better time than now. See how interest rates have affected mortgage affordability on a $200,000 loan over the last four decades.

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9 Easy Ways to Instantly Boost Curb Appeal

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/1/15 2:16 PM

Investing in your home’s curb appeal is always a good idea, but these quick and budget-friendly ideas will keep your investment at a minimum and your curb appeal at a maximum.

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7 Home Improvements That Don't Pay Off

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/31/15 11:27 AM

Whether you're looking to improve the quality of your home while living in it or trying to spruce up your home before selling, there are several home renovations that will recoup the majority of your investment. Then again, there are several home improvements you'd think would add value but actually hurt it.

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DIY: 4 Essential Tips for Downsizing Your Living Space

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/29/15 11:20 AM

Whether you're preparing to move to a smaller home, having a significant other move in, preparing to sell, or simply wanting to get your belongings in order, downsizing is a must. While downsizing should be as easy as "getting rid of stuff you don't need", many homeowners find it hard to part ways with belongings that are actually just taking up space.

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DIY: 3 Tips for Creating Accent Walls

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/12/15 2:02 PM

Bold wall colors can be a scary concept for some homeowners, but accent walls are a great way to add color to a space without going overboard. Successful accent walls are all about strategy, so  read through these tips before grabbing your paint brush.

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6 Ways to Protect Your Home While It's on the Market

Posted by Laine Smith on 7/11/15 9:00 AM

You've de-cluttered, cleaned every inch of your home, staged furniture and home decor - all of the things any home seller should do when listing their home. But as the calls for showings come in, open houses are scheduled, and strangers begin to do walk throughs of your home, you need to take preventative measures as a seller to protect your home from theft and liability lawsuits.

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DIY: How to Make a One-Step Compost Bin

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/27/15 11:14 AM

If you have a green thumb, you're likely aware of the endless benefits of compost. Mulching with compost stabilizes pH levels in the soil, slowly releases nutrients over time, makes soil easier to work with, and make soil less likely to erode. If you don't have much space or are wanting to start composting on a small scale, this DIY compost bin is about as simple as you can get.

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9 Simple Ways to Boost Home Value

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/25/15 1:35 PM

Whether you're looking to improve your own quality of living or hoping to increase your home value in time to sell, these DIY improvement projects pay off in the long run, according to real estate professionals.

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24 Ways to Save Water & Energy at Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/22/15 2:48 PM

Reducing your carbon footprint, saving on utility costs and improving the overall efficiency of your home doesn't require as much work or money as you may think. U.S. homeowners and renters spend $163 on average on just gas and electricity per month, according to a Intuit Mint survey. Use these tips to decrease your home energy and water usage, cutting utility costs along the way.

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Adding Value to Your Home with a Home Office

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/14/15 9:27 AM

More than 20 million Americans work from home at least part of the time, according to government labor statistics. Whether you're working full-time from home, running your own business, or simply desiring a place to finish up a few work or personal tasks after the work day, a home office can be of significant value to certain homeowners. Here are some guiding points on creating an efficient, valuable workspace.

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Top 10 Home Improvements for Value

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/12/15 2:33 PM

Whether you are looking to increase your quality of living or hoping to attract buyers and a higher price point when you put your home on the market, not all home improvements are created equal. When you begin to consider home improvements, start with the following areas of your home that will recoup the most out of your investment.

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DIY: How to Revive an Old Deck

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/9/15 8:49 AM

Likely your favorite summer hang-out spot for family get-togethers and grill-outs, your deck can get worn down from foot traffic and weather elements over the years. Just like any part of your home, your deck requires annual repair, cleaning, and protection to keep its livelihood. Use these DIY tips to spruce up a lived-on deck.

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Summer Home Maintenance Checklist

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/7/15 12:48 PM

Summer is in full swing, which means heat, humidity, air conditioning bills and the need for some home maintenance to keep your home functioning at its best. Before you check into summer mode, put these maintenance tasks on your to-do list.

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DIY: 10 Common Painting Mistakes to Avoid

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/6/15 8:00 AM

The foundation of many homeowner's DIY home improvement projects involves some form of paint. While it's definitely the fastest way to transform a room or even a whole home's appearance, painting is also a task filled with common pitfalls. Steer clear of these common painting mishaps for a polished, professional outcome the next time you pick up a paintbrush.

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8 Tips for Burglar-Proofing Your Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/5/15 9:00 AM

Your home is meant to be a place of security and safety. The United States leads the world in occurrence of burglaries, with one occurring approximately every 15 seconds. While a break-in can be financially devastating, it is also emotionally taxing. Regardless of the safety of your neighborhood, a false sense of security can leave homeowners vulnerable to a burglary. Here are several steps to help deter the possibility of becoming a burglar’s target.

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DIY: Selecting the Right Mulch for Your Landscape

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/21/15 10:51 AM

Mulch not only gives your landscaping an attractive boost, it also has several benefits to improve the health of your plants, including moisture retention, soil temperature control, weed suppression, erosion control, and soil nutrients. Here's how to pick the right mulch for your plants and site conditions.

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Adding Value to Your Home: Tips for Renovating Your Laundry Room

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/17/15 9:14 AM

Often a neglected room when it comes to home makeovers, the laundry room has come into its own as a hub for organization, clean-up, storage, and doing the laundry, of course. Whether your laundry room is located in your basement, next to the kitchen or squeezed into an upstairs closet, here are some thrifty and efficient tips to consider when updating your laundry area.

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DIY: 13 Cheap Home Organization Hacks

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/14/15 10:38 AM

No matter how big your house is, homeowners constantly find themselves in a state of not having enough space for their belongings. Spring is a great time to get your home organized and begin the de-cluttering process, hence "spring cleaning". So when it's time to get your home in order, consider using some of these simple and cheap DIY organizational hacks.

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DIY on a Budget: 10 Home Improvements Under $100

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/6/15 12:00 PM

Making your home more valuable, efficient, and visually-appealing doesn't require breaking the bank. Small investments here and there can significantly boost the look and feel of your home. Here are several DIY home improvements you can do on a budget.

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Mortgage Goals: Adding Value to Your Home with Curb Appeal

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/5/15 10:00 AM

People judge the exterior of a home like a book's cover - if they're not impressed by the outside, they may not walk in. With the vast majority of homebuyers beginning their home search online, curb appeal is a critical component when attempting to add value and attracting possible buyers.

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DIY: How to Lay a Stone Garden Path

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/26/15 9:07 AM

Proper landscaping is one of the few home improvements that not only adds value to your home but appreciates over time and will help a listed home sell faster. What do most landscaping yards and gardens have in common? Pathways leading to, from and/or around the home. A stone path can add tons of character to your home's curb appeal and landscape. An added bonus: it's a practically foolproof project for novice do-it-yourselfers.

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Arbor Day 2015 - Planting and Caring for New Trees

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/24/15 12:54 PM

Arbor Day first took place over 140 years ago on April 10, 1872 in Nebraska. The holiday was created by Nebraska journalist J. Sterling Morton who believed the rolling plains of Nebraska would benefit greatly from the wide-scale planting of trees. On that first Arbor Day in 1872, more than one million trees were planted in accordance with Morton's vision. 

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DIY: How to Make Raised Garden Beds

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/18/15 8:00 AM

Raised garden beds, also known as garden boxes, have been gaining popularity due to their beneficial environment for flower and vegetable gardens to thrive and accessibility and adaptability. The contained boxes provide:

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Millennials: The Homebuying vs. Renting Comparison

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/16/15 8:00 AM

The Millennial generation is doing a lot of things differently than their predecessors. They're waiting longer to get married and start families and are slow to embark on a large part of the American Dream: homeownership.

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Mortgage 101: How Late Payments Affect Your Credit Score

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/12/15 12:00 PM

Are you making your credit card and loan payments on time? It's important to stay on top of all of your bills, because your payment history is the most influential component of your credit score, accounting for 35% of your FICO® score determination. Here's how a late payment downgrades your number.

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DIY: Creating an Outdoor Living Space

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/11/15 7:00 AM

Many homeowners spend countless hours rearranging and remodeling the interior of their home, but come springtime, transition from indoor to outdoor living. Spending time outdoors doesn't mean having to forfeit the comforts of the indoors. Add value to your yard, patio, porch or other outdoor area of your home by transforming it into a relaxing but functional, open-air living space.

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Mortgage Goals: Adding Value to Your Home with a Finished Basement

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/10/15 9:19 AM

Even if the lowest level is unfinished concrete floors home to boxes of seasonal items and your laundry room, chances are your basement has a lot of potential. According to the latest annual "Cost vs. Value" Report from Remodeling magazine, the average basement remodel at $61,303 with a 70.3 percent return of investment was among the smartest places in your home to remodel or renovate.

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DIY: 7 Easy Vegetables to Grow in Your Garden

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/9/15 7:00 AM

Vegetable gardening doesn't have to be stressful or labor intensive to be fruitful. These seven vegetables are low-maintenance and yield high amounts of product. Cut down on food costs this summer with these vegetables in your garden.

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Mortgage 101: When is the Best Time to List Your Home?

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/5/15 8:00 AM

People buy homes year-round, but when it comes to putting your home up for sale, is there an optimal time to list? According to an analysis of supply, demand and seller’s outcomes in “Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate”, the “magic window” to list your home is between mid-March and mid-April.

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Mortgage Goals: What an Extra Yearly Payment Could Do for Your Loan

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/4/15 8:00 AM

When you receive your monthly mortgage statement, you may have noticed the option of paying more than your required monthly payment. While paying extra principal on your mortgage won't decrease your required monthly payment like a credit card payment, there are several perks of making an extra annual mortgage payment.

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DIY: How to Make a Rain Barrel

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/2/15 10:05 AM

Using a rain barrel is a great way to cut the cost of watering your lawn, flowers, houseplants and garden. For every inch of rain that falls on 500 square feet of roof, you can collect 300 gallons of water, according to Better Homes and Gardens. Not only will a DIY rain barrel cut your water costs but the start-up investment is relatively cheap and it's probably easier than you think to make.

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7 Things Not to Do After Applying for a Mortgage

Posted by Laine Smith on 4/1/15 8:00 AM

When applying for home financing your actions regarding credit score, finances and employment not only apply to pre-approval but the time between loan processing and closing. Avoid making these common mistakes while waiting for closing day.

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How to Find Parks, Playground and Outdoor Recreation Near Your Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/31/15 9:10 AM

With the weather warming up, you may be looking for new activities for you and your family to take part in. Whether you are adventurists or outdoor lovers or simply in need of a new playground for the kids to enjoy, here are a few ways to find fresh-air recreation near your home.

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8 Perennials to Grow in Your Garden in the Midwest

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/25/15 2:30 PM

If you are from the Midwest, you are well aware that you are likely to experience multiple seasons of weather in one day. When considering items to plant in your garden, it's a good idea to pick plants and flowers that can easily adapt to a variety of climate conditions and are native to the area. These tough, Midwest-native plants are great options for a beautiful garden with low maintenance.

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Mortgage Goals: Adding Value to Your Home with a Master Suite

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/21/15 8:00 AM

The desire for a master suite has been trending upwards in the housing market, topping lists alongside updated kitchens and bathrooms and open floor plans. While the benefits of a master suite, such as a private bathroom and separation from the home’s other bedrooms, may seem priceless to some homeowners, the budget of a master suite addition can become one of the most costly home improvements.

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Mortgage 101: Which Rooms in Your Home are Best for Home Value?

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/19/15 8:30 AM

When entertaining the idea of a remodel, most homeowners want to know what the return on their investment will be when the time comes to sell. Though you might enjoy an upscale master suite, a pool or home office – will it increase your home value? Not all rooms or areas of your home are created equal. Here are your best bets to focus on if your goal is to create a great living space with resale value.

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DIY: How to Make a Backyard Fire Pit

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/18/15 8:00 AM

Looking to increase the ambiance of your backyard? A fire pit will create the perfect space for your family and friends to gather around on cool nights. The added bonus: you can complete the project of a fire pit in as little as a few hours with minimal costs.

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6 Easy Ways to Go Green in Your Home This Spring

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/17/15 8:00 AM

Making big changes to your home, such as installing solar panels or investing in a tankless water heater, will obviously save yourself some cash and help the planet, but reducing your carbon footprint doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are a few low-cost and low-stress steps to make your home a greener place to live.

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Top TV Shows for Remodeling Your Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/14/15 8:00 AM

The desire to buy a fixer-upper, transform your current space, or start a new part of your home from scratch all have one thing in common: inspiration. If you’re thinking of making upgrades in your home, you can find motivation and creative design with the click of your remote. Here are some of the top TV program picks for home remodeling and renovation.

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How to Find the Best Schools in Your Area

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/13/15 8:00 AM

A Realtor.com® survey found that 91 percent of homebuyers said school boundaries were an important element of their housing search. As if finding a new home doesn’t require enough decision-making, families with children must factor in finding quality schools to their home search, which can be tricky if moving to a new city or state.

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Mortgage Goals: Paying down Your Mortgage vs. Investing More

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/12/15 8:00 AM

While ridding yourself of debt is a common mortgage goal for many, becoming “financially free” isn’t as black and white when it comes to paying off your mortgage. When it comes to paying additional principal on your home loan, there are several variable s to consider when determining if it’s a good path to your financial freedom. Could your money be better used elsewhere, such as investments?

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2015 Paint Color Trends

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/11/15 9:00 AM

Spring is a time of cleaning, renewal, growth – and possibly a new paint color. According to paint powerhouse Benjamin Moore, monochromatic colors are the way to go if you are considering revamping colors in multiple spaces. By picking varying warm, cool, dark and light shades of the same hue will create a chromatic concept that flows throughout your home.

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How Homeownership Helps You during Tax Season

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/8/15 9:47 AM

The perks of homeownership are evident year-round, but when it comes to tax season, benefits really increase for homeowners. Here’s how owning your own home helps reduce your tax bill.

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Mortgage Goals: Setting Goals for Your Investment Property

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/5/15 10:08 AM

Real estate investment is just like any other business; it requires a plan to measure success.  Whether you are an amateur real estate investor beginning with your first rental home or in the works of developing multiple properties to flip, setting goals is an essential part of becoming a successful real estate investor. Determine the who, what, when, where, why and how for each property.

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9 Tips to Prepare Your Home for Spring

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/4/15 3:00 PM

Regular home maintenance includes preparing your home for each four seasons. With the spring months ahead, you will want to make sure certain areas of your home are prepared for the change in weather to keep your home performing efficiently and utility costs at a minimum.

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What Refinancing Did for Homeowners in 2014

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/27/15 4:00 PM

Borrowers who took advantage of near record-low mortgage rates in 2014 will save approximately $5 billion in interest over the next 12 months, according to Freddie Mac’s quarterly refinance analysis.

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Mortgage Goals: How Much Equity Will You Gain from Owning a Home?

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/26/15 4:02 PM

Equity, which can be defined as the difference between your loan balance and the fair market value of your home, is a huge perk of being a homebuyer. You can gain it simply by making your monthly payments; and you can also borrow from it via a cash-out refinance to help pay for major life expenses. How much equity you gain (and how quickly you gain it) from homeownership, however, is dependent on several factors.

 

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Mortgage Goals: Understanding the Costs of Rehab

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/29/15 2:54 PM

It is always difficult to estimate home renovation costs since it is a flexible number, depending on various different factors. Every remodeling project is unique, and costs vary depending on your budget, tastes, and priorities. According to Better Homes and Gardens, in general, materials will account for 80 percent of your budget, while labor costs represent the last 20 percent.

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Best Practices for Remodeling Your Kitchen

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/28/15 3:31 PM

Renovating your kitchen can add ease to your lifestyle and add value to your home, but it can also be a big undertaking. If you are thinking about remodeling your kitchen, remember that there are hundreds of options for every aspect of your renovation so it is easy to get overwhelmed, but the end result will likely be worth the stress. According to Style at Home and Better Homes and Garden, there are some very important things you must consider when you're preparing to update your kitchen, such as:

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Mortgage 101: Rooms That Have the Greatest Home Value

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/27/15 12:41 PM

Not all rooms are created equal. When you are looking for worth and wondering where to start on home renovations, there are certain places that hold more worth than others. Taking advice from RealEstate.com and Bankrate, we have come up with a list to help you know which rooms in your home provide the most value and where renovations will have the greatest benefit.

Kitchen-Renovation

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How to Make Your Home Inviting in the Cold Months

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/21/15 11:04 AM

Whether you are protecting your house from the cold or trying to make a more inviting home environment after the excitement of the holidays is over, winter can be a taxing time on everyone’s spirit.  Thanks to some ideas from Style at Home, here is a list of ways to keep your home cozy throughout the rest of the chilly months:

Plaid Throws & Quilts

To create more of a log cabin look, opt for lots of plaids in your space.  Some plaid throws or quilts are great to have on hand when the temperatures drop during the colder months.  Not only do they provide a charming décor element, but these can also help keep your utility costs down.  Add additional blankets to couches and beds to keep toasty without having to raise the thermostat at night.  Extra blankets are really one of the greatest winter bedroom essentials. 


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Best Practices for Remodeling Your Bathroom

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/16/15 1:28 PM

A bath remodel is not a small task. So before you start ripping up tiles and throwing away the tub, you may want to do your due diligence and know what you’re getting yourself into. According to This Old House, they polled contractors, designers, and other pros for their top tips and tricks for getting remodels done right. Here are some important things they said that you should consider when remodeling your bathroom.

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2015 Home Décor Trends

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/7/15 3:44 PM

 

 

As we ring in the New Year there are many new resolutions and styles people make for the upcoming year.  For some, that resolution may be redecorating their home, or even buying a new house to make their own.  While 2014 had some notable décor trends such as chevron and the ombré look, the New Year has some new fashions in store.  According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, here are some things to watch for in 2015 for decorating trends. What’s in:

Mixed Metals

Mixing warm metals, like copper and rose gold, with cool ones like silver has been a no-no in the past, but has become popular recently.  No longer do you have to be meticulous in matching every metal finish in a specific room, it can even come off as “too staged.”  By incorporating different metals of silvery, gold and black hues you can give a more modern and edgy look to a room. 

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Mortgage Goals: Adding Rental Properties to Your Retirement Portfolio

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/18/14 4:30 PM

\When it comes to building your investment portfolio, it’s a good idea to have a diversified amount of income-generators. According to a 2014 Gallup survey, 30 percent of Americans said real estate is the best type of long-term investment over gold, stocks, and mutual funds.

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Tips for Decorating Your Christmas Tree

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/17/14 9:00 AM

Using a little help from Better Homes and Gardens, if you haven’t finished putting up your Christmas tree and decorations, here are some great tips for making your tree shine this year!

Step 1: Hang Christmas Tree Lights

The first step in decorating a tree is adding the lights.  Choose the strand color that matches your tree, like green or white, so that the wires will look hidden.  Start at the bottom of the tree trunk and work your way up, wrapping lights around every major branch, moving from the inside tree trunk to the edge of the branches and back.  Don't skimp on lights! The say that for every vertical foot of tree, you should use a strand of 100 lights.

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Mortgage Goals: 5 Home Maintenance Tips to Decrease Your Heating Bills

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/11/14 4:30 PM

The United States Department of Energy predicts that the average family using natural gas for heating will spend $649 keeping their homes warm this winter. Though utility costs vary greatly depending on a home’s size, climate, energy choice, insulation, etc., there are several easy, minimal-cost home maintenance projects you can do to keep your expenses down this winter.

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How to Fix-up & Adorn Your Fireplace

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/10/14 8:06 AM

Fireplaces can be a major focal point in a room whether it is a den, bedroom or family room.  Many older homes, especially, have outdated or underutilized fireplace spaces that could use some revamping.  Here are a few ideas on how you can freshen up your fireplace and make your room stand out.


Paint Over Old Brick
Brick fireplaces are classically what you will find in any older homes, but they may not fit your specific style.  One way to change the look of the entire room, without having to spend a lot of money and time, is to just paint over your brick. Neutrals like whites, beiges, and light grays tend to be the easiest to coordinate with other colors for the rest or the room decor.

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Top 5 Holiday Decor Trends of 2014

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/3/14 3:48 PM

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or simply the cheer of the season, there is no better time to express your creativity through home décor. Here are a few trends, tips, and ideas to set the holiday scene in your home. 

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Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/26/14 9:52 AM

Thanksgiving dinner is one of the largest, if not the largest meal of the year.  Using some tips from our friends over at Food Network, we have some great ideas on making the perfect turkey dinner with the fixings for you and your family!

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Preparing Your Home for Winter

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/19/14 9:00 AM

As the temperatures are already dipping below freezing, now is the time to make sure your home will be ready for this winter!  Winterizing your home can help lower your utility bills, protect your investment and most importantly, keep you and your family warm throughout the freezing months.  Here are some tips on how you can maximize your winterizing efforts:

 

Block Drafts

 

One of the best ways to winterize your home is to block areas where cold air seeps in. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts can waste 5% to 30% of your energy costs. The average American home has leaks that amount to a nine-square-foot hole in the wall, according to EarthWorks Group.

 

Pay attention to places where two different building materials meet, such as corners, around chimneys and along the foundation. Buy door sweeps to close spaces under exterior doors. Caulk, or apply, weatherstripping to drafty spots around windows. For brick areas on the exterior of the home, use masonry sealer.

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Thanksgiving Holiday Event Ideas

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/12/14 9:00 AM

I myself am not much of a “Martha Stewart type,” so I took a little help from HGTV to compile this list of how to make sure your Thanksgiving Day events go off without a hitch. 

  1. Stir it Up: The party starts as soon as people start to arrive. Greet friends and family with a tray of spiked cider punch or hot apple cider, for the kiddies, garnished with a fresh cinnamon stir stick.
  2. Set the Scene: Create a warm and enticing centerpiece in shades of ivory, pumpkin and sage placed atop a salvaged wooden board or use pine cones to surround pillar candles in large, clear vases.
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Fall 2014 Decor Trends

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/5/14 4:25 PM

The hottest trends for Fall 2014 are here and we wanted to share with you some great decorating tips for your home:

Warm Colors

Orange has always been a popular fall color. Whether it is changing leaves, pumpkins or Thanksgiving sweet potatoes, it’s hard to get away from the abundance of orange.  Not only orange, but red, yellow, rust, and brick are also good shades for fall.  Using accent pieces is a great way to incorporate the fall colors into your existing décor.  Adding throw pillows, blanket, candles, and foliage to the existing set up of a room can being that extra fall flair to your home.

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Mortgage Goals: Becoming a Landlord

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/23/14 10:00 AM

Looking for a long-term, stable income generator with a large return on your investment? With home affordability at record highs, a booming rental market, and appreciating home values, investing in residential real estate could be a great opportunity for you to earn extra revenue and expand your mortgage goals.

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Mortgage Goals: Homeowner Tax Deductions & Write-Offs

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/16/14 12:00 PM

Homeownership has long been a part of the American Dream. Why wouldn’t it be? Not only do homeowners reap in lifestyle perks with their owned homes but financial benefits as well – particularly around tax time.

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Reinventing the American Dream: Condo & Townhome Living

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/15/14 10:00 AM

The days of white picket fences, yards for the dog and huge living spaces in the suburbs are not gone, but they may be less desirable to the new millennial generation.  These individuals are waiting longer than ever before to get married, have kids and buy houses, sometimes even doing it as single entity.  For a group that is constantly on the go, wants many conveniences at their fingertips and desires less responsibility, condo or townhome living might be the new housing of choice.

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Mortgage Goals: How to Build Home Equity

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/9/14 4:30 PM

Home equity is arguably one of the biggest perks of being a homeowner. It is an asset and part of your total net worth. You can use it to pay off other debts, fund your retirement, pay for a child’s education or wedding, or use it to purchase your next home. However you plan to use your equity, there are several ways you can build it. 

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Reinventing the American Dream: Buy Your 2nd Home First

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/8/14 10:00 AM

According to TIME Magazine, “In a new pole, 38% of Millennials say travel is part of the American Dream.”  They also say that millennials consider owning a home much less part of the American Dream than the generations before them, i.e. Baby Boomers and Gen X.  So it brings up an interesting concept, what if maybe you should buy your 2nd home, or vacation home, before buying your first primary residence?

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Preparing Your Home For Fall

Posted by Laine Smith on 9/26/14 10:00 AM

With each changing season, your home endures temperature changes, weather elements and aging, on top of typical day-to-day use. To keep your home’s components running in tip-top shape, not to mention avoid costly repairs down the road, it’s important to perform seasonal maintenance. Get a jump start on fall with these helpful DIY home and yard maintenance tips. 

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Mortgage Glossary

Posted by Laine Smith on 6/20/14 2:41 PM

Applying for a mortgage is a big financial decision. The financing process and terminology can be confusing at times for both first-time and repeat homebuyers. Get definitions on mortgage terms that are likely to come up throughout your loan process from our mortgage glossary.

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What are Homeowners’ Association (HOA) Fees?

Posted by Laine Smith on 5/2/14 10:58 AM

If you are looking to purchase a condominium, townhouse or other type of property in a planned union development, such as a gate community or subdivision, you will likely have to account for an extra monthly/yearly fee.

The fees paid to a homeowners association cover the cost of upkeep of common areas and buildings, i.e. landscaping, elevators, swimming pools, clubhouses, parking areas, fitness rooms, security gates, roofing and other structural areas of the shared building(s). A homeowners association is an organization that manages and upholds the rules, known as covenants, of a housing development, subdivision or condominium building, as well as distributes homeowners’ association fees to appropriate upkeep projects.

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How to Improve Your Curb Appeal

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/28/14 10:17 AM

If your home makes a great first impression from the curb, everyone, including potential homebuyers, will want to see what your home has in store on the inside. According to the National Association of Realtors, 63 percent of homebuyers will actually drive by a home after viewing it online.

The exterior of your home should serve as a preview of what’s to come when someone enters. If you’re looking to draw buyers’ eyes or simply spruce up your home’s outward appearance, tackle these simple steps to increase your curb appeal.

 

Exterior Spring Cleaning

Your home and yard, for that matter, have taken a beating over this harsh winter. Conquer the following tasks over the weekend to get your exterior in tip-top shape:

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Why You Should "Go Green"

Posted by Laine Smith on 3/21/14 9:32 AM

Having an eco-friendly household these days requires more than separating paper from plastic in your recycling bin and purchasing reusable grocery bags. Soaring energy costs and other environmental concerns necessitate the need to conserve natural resources whenever and however possible.

“Going green” doesn’t necessarily mean installing solar panels and sustainable wood flooring. Simple changes to your home and your everyday life can make your home more efficient and environmentally friendly.

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Preparing to Sell Your Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/28/14 8:37 AM

A first impression is key to selling your home. Most buyers make their purchase based on first-sight emotions and then justify their decision with information based on the home’s condition.

Aside from the emotional element that comes with parting from your home comes the sometimes-daunting physical stamina required to prepare for showings, inspections and appraisals. Here are a few tips to create a winning first impression, boost your bottom line and sell your home quickly.

 Select a Successful Real Estate Agent

Choosing to buy or sell a home is one of the most important financial decisions you will make in your lifetime. A realtor can help simplify the process and provide you with advice throughout. Look for an agent who has plenty of good referrals, experience in your area and price range and a plan on how they will market your home to potential buyers.

 

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Ways to Love Your Home

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/14/14 3:49 PM

Owning a home is a symbol of hard work and the American Dream. Over the years your home will provide comfort, happiness and security for you and your family. Whether you fell in love with your home the moment you stepped inside or are still in the midst of making changes to make it your own retreat, here are a few more ways to love and appreciate your home this year.

  1. Make a connection. It’s rare that your first home will be your “forever home”. The need to downsize, upsize, relocate to a new city, etc. is sometimes inevitable. Make connections to milestones that happen while you are living there, i.e. bringing a baby home, hosting holiday parties, accomplishing your first DIY project, etc.
  2. Contrast what makes your house home. What makes you look forward to walking in your front door at the end of the day? Reflect on the reasons your home is a retreat from the rest of the world.
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How Local Schools Affect Your Home Value

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/31/14 10:34 AM

When potential home buyers are seeking a new residence, several factors influence their purchase decision and willingness to pay a higher price for a home. Aesthetic features such as updated kitchens and bathrooms, open layouts and curb appeal can boost home value, but studies are showing that a certain non-visual aspect of a home’s location influence its price significantly: the local school district.

The United States home-buying population highly values quality education. According to a Realtor.com® survey of approximately 1,000 potential home buyers, 91 percent said school boundaries were important factors in their housing search.

The Price of Higher-Ranked Education

In 2013, Redfin, an online real estate brokerage, conducted a study of over 10,000 elementary schools and 400,000 home sales across 57 metro areas to analyze the relationship between school performance and home prices.

The study concluded that, on average, buyers pay $50 more per square foot for homes in high-rated school districts than homes in average-rated school districts. The study found that homes served by different school districts with similar square footage, the same number of bedrooms and baths and location near each other can range in price from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands.

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Tax Benefits of Homeownership

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/17/14 2:01 PM

There is no doubt homeownership boasts several advantages. Owning your own home allows you to create a stable living environment for your family, personalize your living space and build equity. With tax season around the corner, homeowners can argue that the tax benefits are one of the biggest perks of owning their own property.

Interest & Points

When looking at an amortization schedule of your mortgage, the majority of your first years’ payments are towards interest, not principal. The benefit is that you can deduct that interest the year that it is paid, within certain limits. Homeowners can deduct up to $1 million in interest payments for a first or second home.

According to Realtor.com®, Americans save around $100 million every year by deducting mortgage interest on their tax returns.

Homeowners who pay points, or origination fees, on their home purchase or refinance can also deduct those points on their tax returns. A one percent fee on a $100,000 loan equals one point, or $1,000. Taxpayers can deduct the entirety of points in the year they were paid on a purchase. For refinance loans, points must be deducted as an amortization over the period of the loan.

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The New Qualified Mortgage/Ability-to-Repay Rule

Posted by Laine Smith on 1/10/14 3:20 PM

When applying for a mortgage, determining how big of a monthly payment you can afford can sometimes be a complicated situation. In the past, this has led to the problems the big banks are now facing with faulty mortgages and pay backs. In order to rectify some of these problems, new laws are going into effect that will better protect the consumer, as well as the lenders, to make sure that the buyers receiving a mortgage are actually qualified for their loan.

Starting today, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act requires lenders to take more consumer financial information into account when making mortgage loans. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Ability-to-Repay rule protects buyers by making sure they can afford to repay the loan.

Under the Ability-to-Repay rule, a lender must verify your ability to repay using proper documentation. The proof of the following types of information will be required from buyers for all loans:

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How to Avoid Holiday Home Hazards

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/22/13 9:38 AM

Preparing your home for the holidays often includes stringing lights, hanging greenery, lots of cooking and turning up your furnace. Though holiday décor and festivities bring joy to the holiday season, they also bring fire hazards and personal safety issues.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, house fires are most prominent in the month of December. The occurrence of cooking fires triple on Thanksgiving Day and approximately 12,500 people end up in emergency rooms each year with decorating-related injuries, says the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Here are some tips to keep your family and home from holiday fire and injury.

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How to Prepare Your Home for Winter

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/8/13 10:03 AM

Now that fall is officially in full swing, it’s time to prepare your home for the oncoming cold weather. Winterizing your home can help lower your utility bills, protect your investment and most importantly, keep you and your family warm throughout the freezing months.

Block Drafts

One of the best ways to winterize your home is to block areas where cold air seeps in. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts can waste 5% to 30% of your energy costs. The average American home has leaks that amount to a nine-square-foot hole in the wall, according to EarthWorks Group.

Pay attention to places where two different building materials meet, such as corners, around chimneys and along the foundation. Buy door sweeps to close spaces under exterior doors. Caulk, or apply, weatherstripping to drafty spots around windows. For brick areas on the exterior of the home, use masonry sealer.

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How to Improve Your Home Value

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/25/13 9:58 AM

Getting top dollar for your home doesn’t always require expensive remodeling or landscaping. The goal in increasing your home’s value is to eliminate buyers’ biggest objections and boost your overall home appeal. The best way to position your home for a top-dollar offer is to present it in turn-key condition.

Curb Appeal

When it comes to real estate, a book is always judged by its cover. To entice more buyers to inquire about your home, spruce up what they see from the curb. If your lawn is looking bare or neglected, put your green thumb to use. At the very least, plant a few shrubs, pull weeds, trim overgrown trees and rake and dispose of leaves. You may also try a few of these budget-friendly landscape projects:

  • Line your walkway with solar-powered lights.
  • Keep the lawn mowed and edged. Reseed any bare spots.
  • Add color to your flower beds.
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How Location Affects Property Value

Posted by Laine Smith on 8/9/13 11:24 AM

When it comes to determining property value, what are the three most important factors? Location, location, location.

A “good” location can be determined by dynamics as broad as the economic stability of the community or as specific as to where the home is situated within a certain neighborhood.

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