TOWNHOUSE VS. CONDO: WHICH SHOULD YOU BUY?

Whether it’s your first time buying or you just want to purchase something smaller, townhouses and condos are both great options. Check out the differences between the two to help aid you in your search!

Condominiums

Condominiums are similar to apartments in that you purchase an individual unit inside of a larger building, but not the property it sits on. This generally includes access to the building’s amenities, such as the clubhouse, pool, and gym. However, condo owners are not responsible for the upkeep and repair of these common areas. Because of the number of shared spaces, living in a condo often allows for meeting new people and building a strong sense of community. There is a fairly similar vetting process for loan approval as for a full-sized home; however, the lender will also look at the health of the condo association.

Townhouses

Those who purchase a townhome are generally purchasing the complete unit, both inside and out, including the land it sits on. This might also include the driveway, yard, or roof. Traditionally, these units are two- or three-stories tall and may also include common areas like pools and parks. Townhome owners pay a fee to a homeowners association every month and the loan process is the same as buying a full-sized home.

Which is the best choice?

Both townhomes and condos offer less maintenance than a traditional home and generally offer great shared areas. Your decision ultimately comes down to you and your family’s needs and wants. Things you’ll want to take into consideration include location, lifestyle, family growth, and price.

How You Can Finance Your Home Renovation

How You Can Finance Your Home Renovation

Outdated kitchen. Overrun backyard. Unusable basement space. If you have a home renovation project on the mind, the first thing you have to consider is how you are going to finance it. Here are the most common options to make your dreams become a reality.

Cash. Paying in cash is the most straightforward financing option, just save until you have enough money to cover the expenses. This will help eliminate spending outside your budget; however, it can also extend your timeline.

Mortgage Refinance. If you’ve been making payments on your home for a few years and your interest rate is higher than current market rates, you may be eligible for a mortgage refinance, reducing your payments and freeing up some money.

Cash-Out Refinance. You can tap into your home equity and borrow up to 80 percent of your home’s value to pay off your current mortgage plus take out more cash to cover the renovations. This option is encouraged only when you’re making improvements that will increase the value of your home, as it can add a lot of interest and fees.

Home Equity. Getting a home equity line of credit allows you to borrow money against the value of your home. You receive usually up to 80 percent of your home’s value, minus the amount of your loan.

Retirement Funds. Homeowners can consider pulling money from a 401K or IRA account, even though they aren’t specifically meant to cover a home renovation. This option might incur additional penalties or tax payments, but may be worth it when making improvements that will benefit them financially in the long run.

Which down payment strategy is right for you?


You’ve most likely heard the rule: Save for a 20-percent down payment before you buy a home. The logic behind saving 20 percent is solid, as it shows that you have the financial discipline and stability to save for a long-term goal. It also helps you get favorable rates from lenders.

But there can actually be financial benefits to putting down a small down payment—as low as three percent—rather than parting with so much cash up front, even if you have the money available.

THE DOWNSIDE

The downsides of a small down payment are pretty well known. You’ll have to pay Private Mortgage Insurance for years, and the lower your down payment, the more you’ll pay. You’ll also be offered a lesser loan amount than borrowers who have a 20-percent down payment, which will eliminate some homes from your search.

THE UPSIDE

The national average for home appreciation is about five percent. The appreciation is independent from your home payment, so whether you put down 20 percent or three percent, the increase in equity is the same. If you’re looking at your home as an investment, putting down a smaller amount can lead to a higher return on investment, while also leaving more of your savings free for home repairs, upgrades, or other investment opportunities.



THE HAPPY MEDIUM

Of course, your home payment options aren’t binary. Most borrowers can find some common ground between the security of a traditional 20 percent and an investment-focused, small down payment. Your trusted real estate ofessional can provide some answers as you explore your financing options.


5 Criteria for Pricing a Home

When you put your home up for sale, one of the best ways to determine the asking price is to look at comparable sales. There’s rarely a perfect apples-to-apples comparison, so a pricing decision often relies on comparisons to several recent sales in the area. Here are five criteria to look for in a sales comparison.

  1. Location: Homes in the same neighborhood typically follow the same market trends. Comparing your home to another in the same neighborhood is a good start, but comparing it to homes on the same street or block is even better.
  2. Date of sale: It varies by location, but housing markets can see a ton of fluctuation in a short time period. It‘s best to use the most recent sales data available.
  3. Home build: Look for homes with similar architectural styles, numbers of bathrooms and bedrooms, square footage, and other basics.
  4. Features and upgrades: Remodeled bathrooms and kitchens can raise a home’s price, and so can less flashy upgrades like a new roof or HVAC system. Be sure to look for similar bells and whistles.
  5. Sale types: Homes that are sold as short sales or foreclosures are often in distress or sold at a lower price than they’d receive from a more typical sale. These homes are not as useful for comparisons.

10 Steps to Declutter Your Kitchen

We are all thankful for the many drawers and cabinets in kitchens today, but they make it easy for us to hide our clutter instead of getting rid of it. If you have reached the point where you can no longer open a door in your kitchen without having something fall out, it is time to declutter your kitchen. Follow these steps and you can begin a clutter-free life, starting with your kitchen!

1. Sort through your utensil drawer. Toss out any broken or unused utensils.

2. Open your pantry and get rid of anything that is expired. Take the time to organize your shelves by food type. Have a shelf for canned items, a shelf for boxed items, and so on.

3.  Throw away any old or expired spices in your spice cabinet/rack.

4. Organize your Tupperware cabinet. If you’re like most people, this is probably the most disorganized area of your kitchen. Toss out any broken containers and any lone containers or lids. If the majority of your Tupperware fits those categories, toss it all and start fresh. Many containers on the market today have stackable/attached lids to help you stay organized.

5. Work your way from the outside to the inside of your refrigerator. Remove any old papers, coupons, or notes from the outside of your fridge. If it is something you don’t want to part with, like a card or invitation, place those in a box for safekeeping. Now that the outside is cleaned, declutter the inside as you did your pantry. Pull everything out and get rid of any expired food or drinks. Wipe down your shelves and replace the items you’re keeping, organizing them by type as well.

6. Clean off your sink and counter area. It is so easy to use the counter as a place to collect clutter, so take the time to go through each item and decide if it stays or goes. Consider buying an organizational tray for your cleaners and soaps, but find a home for everything else. Counters are much more beautiful without clutter.

7. If you have a medicine drawer or cabinet in your kitchen, clean it out. Throw away empty boxes and expired meds.

8. Find your dish towels and designate a drawer or shelf to keep them in. Sort out the ones you no longer use and toss them or keep them as cleaning rags.

9. Get rid of the cups you no longer use. We are all guilty of hanging on to collectible cups that remain untouched for years after we bring them home. If you don’t use them, donate them to a local shelter in need or toss them. 

10. Whether we like to admit it or not, most of us have a junk drawer in our home – very often in the kitchen. Empty it and only replace the items you need and use. The sauce packets that have been there since you moved in are not going to be used now if they haven’t been used yet.  Try to only keep items that you use often, like batteries or small tools. 

Achieve Morning Person Status

Ever wish you could become one of those rare morning people? The ones that wake with a start, feeling refreshed and energized. The ones that get in that morning workout or wrap up some work before many of us even hit the snooze button for the first time. Here are five tips to help you achieve that early bird status!

  1. Create a morning schedule. Physically write down the things you’d like to complete in the morning and set a time for each. Then stick with it. Once you force yourself out of bed early one or two weeks consistently, you’ll find it gets easier and easier to do.
  2. Let the light in. Whether natural or artificial, light tells your brain its time to get up and get going. If your room lacks large windows where you can open the blinds up, consider investing in a timed lamp or alarm clock with a light.
  3. Prep and eat breakfast. Although there are many of us who chose the skip breakfast, it is key to perking up your energy in the morning. Try prepping protein-focused meals the night before or grab a yogurt or fruit and try to consume it right after you wake.
  4. Get your body moving. Whether it’s a short walk around your neighborhood or a rigorous 5:30 am spin class, getting your blood pumping will help wake up your body and has a ton of other benefits, like stress and anxiety reduction.
  5. Feed your mind. Stimulate your brain and do something you enjoy first thing in the morning. Try reading a favorite book, catching up on the news, doing daily meditation, or setting intentions.

Easy Landscaping DIY Projects

Ever get the itch to do a DIY project? Whenever we do, our favorites involve getting outdoors and mixing up our landscaping features.

Whether it’s as simple as installing some lighting or a little more time-consuming like re-plotting plants, a fresh look for the lawn always gives your home a fresh look as well. Here are our top five easy landscaping projects!

Create a pathway.

To guide you and visitors throughout your yard and link different areas together, install a pathway. You can use materials from a variety of materials, including reclaimed pallet wood, flagstones, gravel, and more to add texture and color.

Add a wall or border.

Installing a flagstone, rock, or brick wall around flower beds or trees adds a sleek, clean look to your landscaping and helps separate different sections of your yard.

Install a water feature.

Nothing says zen quite like the sound of trickling water as you relax in your backyard. You can start simple with by purchasing and installing a small feature powered by a solar panel or create a larger focal point in your yard by installing a waterfall wall or small pond.

Light your way.

An easy way to transform your yard is to strategically use lighting. Place cool-colored lights high in trees to recreate a moonlight feel, use pathway lights to naturally guide the eye, or highlight objects or plants.

Plant upwards.

Expand your yard space by drawing the eye to the sky with a trellis fence or screen made of wood or metal. Once you install your trellis, select your climbing plants and vines and get to planting!

Create an Evacuation Plan for Your Pets

An evacuation plan is a necessity for every home, especially if you live in an area where fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding, and other disasters are a possibility. Many homeowners create evacuation plans for their homes and practice them with their kids, but far fewer have considered one for their pets. Take these steps to add your pets to your evacuation plan.

Assign pet evacuation to an adult. Everyone should know how to act during an evacuation, and that includes assigning one parent or adult to the pets. This allows the other parent and the children to focus on their part of the evacuation plan, so there’s no confusion during a high-stress moment when time is of the essence.

Keep evacuation maps and pet carriers readily accessible. If you need to evacuate, you should know exactly where every important item is. If you pets require carriers, keep them in a place that you can access easily.

Practice your plan. Include your pets in your home evacuation drills. It’ll help you see how they will respond and make changes to your plan if necessary. Getting your dog out of a window may not be as simple as you think!

Be prepared in case you get separated from your pets. No matter how much you drill your evacuation plan, it’s possible that a dog or cat will run off while you’re focusing on keeping your family safe. A microchip or a GPS-compatible tag can help you find your pets once it’s safe to return to the area.

You’re Making Your Landlord Rich!

While you’re fussing over your bills, did you realize you’re making your landlord rich? Rentals are the most lucrative business to get into. It turns ordinary people into multi-millionaires. The next time you’re afraid of committing to a mortgage, keep in mind that you’ve already committed to paying off the mortgage of someone else – every single month you rent. The only time home buying doesn’t make sense is if you’re still living with your parents rent-free. Or, you prefer to live out of an R.V. or tent. But if you prefer to live in a home or a condo, it always makes the most sense to buy.

Stop making your landlord rich and start building your own net worth. You can still enjoy owning a home – even if you don’t intend to stay in an area for long. You can always resell your home, most often for more money than you put in, or turn it into a lucrative side business by hiring a property management company to rent it out on your behalf. Whatever you decide, don’t be afraid of a mortgage commitment – you’re paying one regardless. Now ask yourself, do you want to make yourself money or make your landlord money?

What to Repair Before You List

When you’re getting ready to list your home, it’s of the upmost importance to ensure you are showing it in the best light. Taking time to highlight its strengths and fix up some of its possible weaknesses can make a big difference in how fast it sells. Here are our top five recommended repairs to make before selling your home.
Repaint walls.
Giving your home a fresh coat of paint is one of the most cost-effective ways to spruce it up, and generally, it can be a do-it-yourself project. Make sure cover any walls with scratches and chips and consider updating any accent walls with a more neutral coat.
Repair floors.
Hardwood floors are a very desirable feature in a home, so you want to ensure they look their best by fixing scratches or dull areas. If your carpet is worn or stained, consider replacing them. And don’t forget the tile in your kitchen or bathrooms. Re-grouting can go a long way in making dingy tile work look brand new!
Refresh the landscaping.
Show buyers your home is the full package by dressing up the outside as well as the in. Clean walkways and driveways, plant seasonal flowers and plants, trim hedges and trees, install outdoor décor pieces and fill in mulch and gravel.
Fix your fixtures.
Leaky faucet? Rusted drains? Loose drawer handle? Making these small fixes can make a big difference to potential buyers with detailed-orientated minds. Improve your kitchen. An outdated kitchen can be a real eyesore in a home. Updating cabinetry, repairing or replacing countertops, and installing new faucets and sinks may be worth the investment