​5 easy fall home updates

 

(BPT) – There are so many reasons to love fall. From the brisk breeze and color-changing leaves outdoors, to prepping for the holidays and watching football inside, there couldn't be a better time to make a few updates around your house. Consider these simple fall home updates to stylishly welcome the season.

Paint to please

Throughout the year, our walls can undergo stress from energetic kids, furniture moving and everyday traffic. If your home will be busy during the holidays, welcome guests with a newly painted entryway, or, freshen up your family room with a colorful accent wall. Painting is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to transform a room, so embrace the season and try a fall-inspired hue that harmonizes with your existing space like deep emerald green, royal purple or burgundy. To achieve the best results, use painter's tape to attain sharp paint lines. To help incorporate the color of the accent wall into the room, add décor and accessories in similar shades throughout the area, such as new pillows in your family room or a coordinating rug in your entryway.

Clever copper accents

Group together the season's leaves and branches to create a unique centerpiece, or place them throughout the house to bring life to your living areas. Crafting with fall foliage is a cinch – simply gather an assortment of thick leaves, either real or faux – and after they're rinsed and dried, spray each side of the leaf with copper paint and leave to dry for a few hours. Line these leaves up along a table runner, string them from your mantle or use them to dress up place settings. To extend the life of your metallic leaves, consider using them as place cards for holiday dinners. Easily allow guests to find their seats in shimmery style by placing printed nametags atop the leaves at each setting.

Freshen up the front door

Increase your home's curb appeal with a front door refresh just in time for the fall. For starters, give your door a new identity with a distinctive paint color – consider hunter green, colonial red or cognac. The color of your door introduces the world to those who live inside, so choose one that speaks to your family's style. After you've added personality to your door with paint, add a final touch with your family's monogram to the center of the door. If your door is metal, glue magnets to the back of the letters and it will easily adhere to it.

Proper party prep 

During the fall, more time will be spent in the home's entertaining spaces to accommodate holiday soirees and family gatherings. Increase the functionality of this room – whether it's the den, family room, dining room or finished basement – and encourage guests to congregate comfortably by adding casual seating. Spice things up with a mixture of options; choose decorative stools and poufs, or upcycle vintage chairs with new, reupholstered seats. The style of your chairs can vary, but be sure to coordinate the colors and patterns. When you're not in party mode, stow away the extra seats.

Wow with a refreshed washroom

When decorating for fall, don't overlook the bathroom! A few simple changes can take this space to new heights. Start by swapping out your soap dishes and lotion pumps with new, coordinating options fitting for the season. If budget allows, replace your everyday towels with new, plush ones in fun fall colors that add a pop of color to the room. Next, add candles with autumn-inspired scents for an aromatic effect that brings the outdoor aura indoors. For subtle changes that go a long way, replace your bathroom hardware including the toilet handle, cabinet pulls or hinges and towel racks.

The fall season is a great time to revitalize elements of your home as you prepare for indoor holiday entertaining. As you choose updates, make sure they maximize your personal style.

 

5 home-improvement projects to help sell your home

  

(BPT) – The real estate market has improved across much of the country, but homeowners thinking about listing their homes this summer need to stay competitive to attract buyers. Buyers are looking for long-term homes, ones they want to stay in for years while raising their children, or settling down and retiring.

To prepare your home for listing – or simply to enjoy it a few years longer – check out these top five home improvement projects you can do yourself to make your home more attractive to buyers:

1. Give the front door a new look – The front door sets the tone for your home’s curb appeal and security, and it signals how well you maintain everything else. Buyers will be walking into your home via the front door, so be sure to give them a good first impression. If your door is in good shape, you might just need to give it a refreshing new coat of paint or new hardware. But if it’s seen some wear and tear over the years, consider replacing it with a steel door – one that will show buyers your home is safe.

2. Update the most-used entryway – While the front door needs curb appeal, the garage door is traditionally the most-used door in the home. Old wooden garage doors will start to sag and the paint will peel, giving your home a run-down look. Replacing this door with an insulated steel door will not only improve the exterior look of your home, but also keep the garage space warmer. Finishing off the garage can also be a big draw for buyers, but you probably won’t be able to recoup as much of the expense as you would by replacing only the garage door.

3. Add additional living space – You might not think about adding a deck as the same thing as adding an extra room to the house, but if you’re selling your home during the warmer months, that’s how buyers will see it. They’ll be able to picture themselves enjoying breakfast and picnic dinners outside, or curling up on a lounge chair with a good book on a summer afternoon. To make your deck a good selling feature, consider using ProWood Dura Color, a color-treated wood that retains its color for years. This means your buyers can easily move into your house and can enjoy the space without the annual chore of staining. Realtor.com estimates that homeowners can recoup 87 percent of the investment of adding a deck when they sell.

4. Create a bathroom retreat – As the smallest room in the house, the bathroom tends to cost the least to remodel. If you have a guest or master bath that can use a little help to transform into a relaxing oasis, take the opportunity to replace the flooring, add cushy rugs, paint the walls and replace the accessories with more modern styles. Faucets, showerheads, the mirror and even the toilet can all be upgraded with water-saving and stylish designs. Buyers will take note of a maintenance-free bath, making your home one they’ll remember as move-in ready.

5. Turn the backyard into a private paradise – Buyers will be visualizing themselves in your backyard when touring your home. They’re looking to see how quiet and secure the space is. Consider adding a beautiful wooden fence to enhance the privacy. It will make the home attractive to families with children and pets, and for couples who aren’t interested in having a conversation with the neighbors every time they go outside. To make your fence an attractive selling feature of the home, consider using ProWood Dura Color fence pickets or pre-built panels. The cedar-tone or redwood-tone colorant driven deep into the wood fibers will stand up to the sun’s harsh rays and won’t gray out over time, unlike cedar fencing. You can match it to the deck coloring for a beautiful accent look that connects the colors in your backyard.

8 ways first-time homebuyers can make themselves mortgage-ready

 

(BPT) – It’s rare to get something right the very first time you try it, but when it comes to buying your first home, a lack of knowledge and experience can lead to costly mistakes. One in four first time homebuyers say they are completely unfamiliar with the mortgage financing process, according to a report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Even among those with an understanding of the overall process, the report found that many first time homebuyers still had significant knowledge gaps in important areas such as available mortgage rates, closing costs, down-payment requirements and income required to qualify for a loan.

“Not having all the information available could lead to consumers paying a higher interest rate or failing to secure an affordable mortgage for the home they want,” says Eric Hamilton, President of Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance. “While most first-time homebuyers understand the importance of their credit report score in securing a mortgage, it’s important they arm themselves with comprehensive knowledge. Fortunately, there’s plenty of useful information out there for borrowers who want to do their homework before diving into the loan process.”

Here are eight tips for first-time homebuyers:

 1. Adjust your budget. A mortgage payment can increase your monthly housing expenses, so prepare by calculating what that amount will be and begin saving that same amount every month so you can get used to the budget change in advance. Use a free online payment calculator to help you predict your payment and understand your current debt-to-income ratio.

 2. Plan for a down payment. Nearly all home loans will require you to put some money down as a down payment. Some home loans may require as much as 20 percent of the purchase cost as a down payment, although some Federal Housing Administration loans may require less. Decide on the amount you think you’ll need and create a savings plan to help you reach that goal.

 3. Consider the location and type of home you want to buy. Many factors influence the cost of a home, including its location, size, style and more. A larger home in a high-income area will generally cost more, and property taxes will be higher on a bigger, newer, well-located home. Many first-time homebuyers find manufactured or mobile homes are a good option. Knowing the estimated cost of the type of home you want to purchase can help you better manage your budget.

 4. Stay on top of your credit. Lenders will consider your credit score and report history when determining your mortgage eligibility and the interest rate they may offer you. Make sure to review your credit report in advance. If you’re planning to apply for a mortgage, it’s a good idea to review your report more frequently and to consider paying to obtain your credit score from at least one major bureau. If your report contains errors, work with the credit bureaus to have them corrected before you apply for a mortgage.

 5. Keep current on monthly bills. While it’s important to save toward a down payment, don’t let monthly bills slide. Paying your bills on time every month can help increase your credit score, and a good payment history is something lenders look for when reviewing your credit report. Use online tools like email reminders and automatic payment options to help ensure you never miss or make a late payment.

 6. Work on your debt. If you have delinquent balances, bring them up to date as quickly as possible. If you carry a lot of revolving credit card debt, you may want to work to reduce it by paying more than the monthly minimum payment. While it helps to have a report that shows no late payments, the most important thing is to not have any delinquent balances before you apply for a mortgage.

 7. Plan for escrow. In addition to the amount you will need each month toward repaying your mortgage, you’ll need escrow – an amount added to and collected with each monthly mortgage payment that is applied toward annual homeowners’ insurance premiums and/or taxes. Estimating taxes and total insurance costs can help you better understand how much your escrow will be each month, and you’ll be able to budget more accurately as you prepare for home ownership. Don’t forget that this amount may adjust every twelve months if your insurance premium or taxes change for the next year.

 8. Take advantage of educational resources. From lenders’ websites to government agencies, it’s easy to find plenty of information online. Check out resources like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Housing Administration.

How to Fix Condensation in Double-Pane Windows


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Most experts agree that condensation or fogging inside of a double-pane window technically is not a fixable problem—at least not in the sense that your window can be restored to its original level of performance. Presently, there are two different ways to deal with condensation: either replace the window (you can usually replace only the glass unit and not the whole window) or hire a local company to drill holes in the outer pane, clean the windows from the inside and install one-way air vents to help prevent future condensation. 

If your condensation problems are in a sliding glass door or a window that is likely to have tempered glass (for example, if the window has more than 9 sq. ft. of glass area and is less than 18 inches above the floor), your only option is replacement. This is because it’s essentially impossible to drill tempered glass without breaking it. You should assume that all doors with double-pane glass areas large enough to fit a 3-inch sphere through them are made with tempered glass (or in some cases, laminated safety glass). 

Replacing Double-pane Windows

Double-pane windows, also called “insulated” or “thermal” windows, are made with two panels of glass sandwiched over a spacer and sealant, creating a space between the panes that is filled with air or with a gas, usually argon or krypton. It is this sealed space that gives the window most of it’s thermal performance. The spacer may also contain a desiccant material to help absorb and moisture in the air within the sealed space. Condensation in a thermal window typically indicates a failure of the seal between the glass panels and/or saturation of the desiccant.

Because a breached seal allows fresh air and water vapor to enter the window space, a condensation problem simply becomes a function of nature. Condensation is also a sure sign that gas-filled windows are no longer so. And since there’s no way to re-seal an insulated window, replacement of the glass is the only option for restoring maximum thermal performance, in addition to solving the condensation problem. As mentioned, most glazing on insulated windows can be replaced as a unit, which saves you the expense and remodeling work of replacing the entire window, frame and all.

If your windows are still under warrantee, the first step is to contact the supplier or manufacturer, since replacement may be free. If the warrantee has expired, it’s still a good idea to consult with the manufacturer to discuss the recommended replacement options. Many local glass companies can also fabricate new window units in any size.

While insulated window restoration companies may claim that their processes can restore most of your window’s thermal performance (in addition to eliminating condensation), these claims remain hotly disputed.

Restoring Insulated Windows

The only way to rid a thermal window of condensation is by removing the moist air in between the panes and replacing it with dry air. And there’s a professional service based on this very technique. Thermal window restoration or repair companies come to your house and drill a small hole (3/8-inch or so) at one top and bottom corner of the affected window. They spray various liquid solutions onto the inside faces of the panes through the top hole and suck them out through the bottom hole. Once the window is clean and dry, the holes are sealed with little vent plugs that allow air and water vapor to escape the window cavity but don’t let them back in.

Will this process work for your windows? It might. Or it might not. There are numerous consumer accounts in both directions. In any case, restoration companies commonly claim that their process costs 1/3 to ½ as much as glass replacement. And don’t even consider a service that doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee.

Deciding Which Way to Go

This can be a tough call, and you should examine your options carefully. If you decide to try restoration and it doesn’t work, you won’t really devalue the window further, since it has already failed. On the other hand, if the restoration isn’t satisfactory and the company doesn’t make good, you’ll be out the cost of restoration and will still be faced with paying for new glass. Of course, if thermal performance is a high priority, replacement is clearly the best option. 

Easy season: Fall gardening spells success

Favorable fall conditions mean growing cool weather crops is comparatively easy, with less watering and care needed for a successful garden. Cool crops will start out strong, growing quickly and then slow their growth as days become shorter and cooler. You’ll also need to work less to protect your garden from pests, as both insects and animal populations will taper off in fall. And since weeds will germinate less frequently and grow slower, weeding won’t be a time-consuming task. Finally, more rain and less sun and heat mean you’ll need to water less.

If you’re ready for gardening success, now is the time to grab that hoe, break some ground and get growing. Tips to get you started:

Pick your plants

Start with transplants, rather than seed. A shorter, gentler growing season means you need to get started right away. Many local garden centers will have a selection of transplants from producers like Bonnie Plants that will grow well in your geographic region. Transplants will be six weeks old and give you a jump start. You’ll be able to harvest sooner than if you start from seed and skip the volatile, sometimes unsuccessful, seed-starting process. Bonnie’s transplants come in earth-friendly biodegradable pots, making planting easy, preventing transplant shock and sparing the use of much plastic. As the pot biodegrades, it’ll add nutrients to your soil, too.

Choose cool crops that your family likes to eat. Popular fall favorites include:

* Lacinato kale -A cold-hardy vegetable, kale leaves sweeten after frost. Kale is a super food, and Lacinato leaves extend excellent health benefits, lowering cholesterol, fighting cancer and decreasing inflammation.

* Early dividend broccoli – Many greens love the fall, and broccoli is no exception. Plant stalks 18 inches apart and get ready for an easy, hearty harvest. Broccoli is high in fiber and calcium.

* Cabbage – The quintessential fall vegetable, Bonnie’s hybrid cabbage grows large, round blue-green heads. From salads to stews, cabbage adds a punch of flavor and nutrients like beta-carotene, vitamins C and K, and plenty of fiber.

* Romaine lettuce – Romaine packs a big punch with more vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients than other popular types of lettuce. Rich in fiber, vitamin C and beta-carotene, romaine is especially good for heart health. Space transplants 18 inches apart.

Once you know what you’ll be planting, it’s time to get the ground ready. Remove any garden debris from the past season’s garden and remove weeds before they go to seed.

Size up your soil. Loosen compacted soil, fluffing it up with a garden fork. Soil test and amend if necessary. Adding a 2-inch layer of bagged compost is always good practice. You can also spread a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, according to labeled instructions, for added nutrients.

Plants will need an inch of moisture per week, either through rain or supplemental watering. You might want to consider raised bed planting; beds are easy to build or buy and allow you to start out with good quality soil. Plus, you’ll bend less come harvest time.

Position your plot and let the sunshine in. Most vegetables need full sun – at least six hours per day. Finally, don’t fear frost. When frost threatens, cover plants with floating row cover, cold frame or a cloche. Or, you can grow fall veggies in a container and move pots to a protected location on frosty nights.

Whether you’re working in the backyard, a raised bed or in containers on a deck, you’ll see how easy and successful fall planting can be. Start now to ensure you enjoy a healthy, plentiful and fulfilling fall harvest. For more tips on fall gardening visit www.bonnieplants.com.

Autumn edibles: Tips for fall gardening and second plantings

(BPT) – People choose to garden for many reasons: Food is fresher and tastes better. It’s a healthy hobby that exercises the body. It saves money. Numerous reports show an increasing number of homeowners are growing their own fruits, vegetables and herbs.

As summer’s end nears, you may think gardening season is over. The good news is with a few strategic tips, you can keep your green thumb going and enjoy a plethora of autumn edibles for months to come.

Step 1: Select second plantings

Second plantings are the plants you use for the latter part of the gardening season. Late summer is typically the best time to plant these varieties. Call your local extension offices or access information online to find regionalized planting schedules and recommended plant varieties.

The length of the fall season and when the first frost will likely hit are important considerations when selecting second plantings. Keep in mind that fast-maturing vegetables are ideal for fall gardening and they should be planted early enough to reach maturity before the first frost arrives.

Popular second plantings that yield a delicious late fall/early winter harvest include broccoli, lettuce, turnips, collards, carrots, peas, radish, spinach, leeks and beets. Some people even claim root vegetables and cole crops like kale and turnips taste better after the first frost.

Step 2: Prepare your garden space

If you plan to use your current garden space for second plantings, remove the early-season plants that are done producing. Add those plants to your current compost bin or create a new compost pile with easy-to-use, stylish options from Outdoor Essentials. Wood-slate bins blend well with the outdoor aesthetic and the design allows oxygen to circulate and facilitate the composting process.

Next, prepare your garden space. Elevated garden beds are growing in popularity because they look great anywhere in your yard or on your patio, and are easy to move if necessary. Raised garden beds from Outdoor Essentials elevate the plants so gardeners don’t have to bend over and risk injury. They are ideal for fall because gardeners can regulate the temperature of raised beds with ease. On hot days, move or add a shade netting to protect plants from the heat; when frost is a threat, cover the entire bed for protection.

While you’re getting your hands dirty, fall is the perfect time to plant spring flowering bulbs. A little outdoor work now and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful flowers when spring arrives next year.

Step 3: Enjoy the harvest

Tend your garden daily for the best results – it may just need a quick check for pests and proper soil moisture. Typical benefits of late-season gardening include fewer bothersome bugs and the soil has better water retention.

As plants grow, pick the fruits and vegetables and enjoy Mother Nature’s bounty. If your plants become crowded, pluck a few out to help remaining plants grow roots and increase the harvest yield. You may be surprised just how many cool months your plants provide you with fresh, delicious produce.

Fall is a great opportunity to keep gardening momentum alive. So get started and decide what second plantings are best for your space. In as little as 30 days you could be eating the freshest, most flavorful vegetables you’ve ever had, all while under the gorgeous autumn sun.

Financing: Advice for Homebuyers

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Financing: Advice for Homebuyers

This YouTube channel, provided courtesy of Chase, offers the ins and outs of mortgages, how the loan process works and how to select a lender. Worthy of viewing regardless of whom you select as your lender.

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