Choose a certified installer to create curb appeal with confidence

 

Once you've made the decision to re-side your home with vinyl siding, however, you need a qualified contractor to install it properly to ensure long-lasting curb appeal.

"Vinyl siding is not something anyone with a hammer can install," says Matt Russo, production manager with Hollingsworth Home Improvement. "There are techniques that need to be followed."

Look for installers certified through a program sponsored by the Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI). A  VSI Certified Installer knows how to:

* Correctly fasten siding to allow for vinyl's normal expansion and contraction properties and keep it straight and secure on the wall.
* Properly prepare the area around doors, windows and other openings to prevent water infiltration.
* Pay attention to details that will give your home a beautiful appearance that will last.

When Margaret Seibert needed to have her 30-year-old siding replaced after a particularly heavy Minnesota storm, she looked to a firm that used only VSI Certified Installers to ensure a quality job. "They did a really good job, and I'm very satisfied with how it looks," Seibert says.

"The main thing is not nailing the siding too tightly, but letting it move," says Matt Ocel, owner of Ocel Buildings in Farmington, Minn., which completed Seibert's re-siding job. "Especially with a climate where you go from 100-degree days to 40-below, you have to leave room for vinyl siding to expand and contract."

With nearly 3,500 VSI Certified Installers across the U.S. and Canada, VSI offers a locator tool to help homeowners find professionals in their area. Log on to www.vinylsiding.org to learn more. Ask if your builder or home improvement contractor is using VSI Certified Installers; these qualified professionals carry a photo ID with their current certification number and expiration date.

VSI Certified Installers have demonstrated their installation skills and knowledge of the industry standard ASTM 4756, verified by an independent quality control agency. ASTM standards are used around the world to improve product quality, enhance safety, facilitate market access and trade and build consumer confidence. VSI Certified Installers must have a minimum of one year of experience installing vinyl siding and accessories, attend a hands-on course taught by a VSI Certified Trainer, pass a written test about proper installation practices, and be re-certified every three years.

Vinyl siding installation companies can also become certified. The company must have an approved quality control program, as well as a certified installer or trainer present on every job crew where vinyl siding is being installed.

For more information about VSI's program, visit www.vinylsiding.org/certifiedinstaller.

Four hot, new-home trends that can work for your remodel

 

If you're planning to renovate your home, you can tap some of the hottest trends showing up in new-home designs. Here are four new-home trends that offer strong returns on your time and money:

1. Creating a view – Americans continue to embrace all things green and that trend is showing up in new home construction in a number of ways, including an emphasis on energy-efficient windows that bring the outdoors inside with a great view.

If your home has older windows, they're likely not as energy efficient as newer options, so replacing them can improve your heating and cooling efficiency. Window replacements typically provide a high return on investment at the time or resale, too – more than 73 percent for wood windows and 71 percent-plus for vinyl, according to Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value Report.

While you're replacing your windows, you also have the opportunity to open up your home more to outdoor views. Work with your architect or designer and contractor to determine where the best views are, and how much additional glass you can incorporate into your renovation to capitalize on those views.

2. Adding a bathroom – When it comes to renovations that improve resale value and enhance a home's usability, adding a bathroom is at the top of the list for many homeowners. While today's new smaller homes often have less square footage, demand for multiple bathrooms has not changed.

In existing homes, adding a bathroom can sometimes pose plumbing challenges. Up-flush plumbing can solve a lot of them. Up-flush systems pump waste and water from a toilet, sink or bathtub up and out, instead of into a below-floor sewage pit.

Up-flush toilets enable homeowners to easily and cost-effectively install a bathroom virtually anywhere without breaking through the floors – a special advantage when those floors are made of concrete. That means adding a basement bathroom doesn't require cutting into a home's concrete foundation, and you can easily add an attic bathroom without tearing up the first-floor ceiling. According to Saniflo, makers of up-flush plumbing products, adding a bathroom using this type of plumbing can cost about $5,000 less than one that uses conventional plumbing.

3. Defining the kitchen – Kitchens are another popular renovation that pays off in a number of ways. Architects are fine-tuning the popular wide-open floor plan concept, and the change is showing up in the kitchen. Favored designs now open the kitchen on one side to an adjoining room, such as the family room, but enclose the other three walls to create a more defined space, as well as more storage and cabinet options.

This trend works particularly well in older homes where you frequently find a completely separate kitchen. Now, rather than ripping out three walls to create an entirely open flow, you can tap the latest kitchen design trend by opening up just a single wall in the kitchen. This leaves the space well-defined, but also adds the open, social feeling that is so appealing in many new home designs.

4. Maximizing every inch of space – With smaller floor plans gaining popularity, making the most of every inch of space is vital. New-home design employs entertaining nooks, breakfast alcoves, built-ins, pocket doors and other tricks to use every inch of space wisely.

It's a trend that also works well in older homes that may have smaller rooms and less square footage than the McMansions popular a few years ago. For example, it's easier to add a built-in desk to a spare corner and create an office alcove than it is to add an entire office to your floor plan.

If you crave a fresh environment and the latest home design trends, you don't have to give up your old home and tackle the hassles of moving into something new. With some planning and creativity, it's possible to translate some of the hottest new-home design trends into your renovation project.

Design a stunning backsplash without the whiplash

 

(BPT) – The kitchen is the heart of the home and a top-selling feature with home-buyers. Does yours convey style and functionality? Whether you've just completed a remodel or you're looking for ways to upgrade your existing kitchen, a tile backsplash will instantly transform the space into an eye-catching masterpiece.

"Tile backsplashes are timeless, providing the ideal transition between the cabinetry and the countertop," says Kirsty Froelich, design director for The Tile Shop. "It's one of the number one ways homeowners can add value to their kitchen while adhering to their personal design preferences. Best yet, the process can be simple and enjoyable."

Froelich offers her top tips for designing a stylish backsplash for your kitchen without headaches or stress:

1. Determine your style profile and take action
 Start by looking at Houzz, Pinterest and home magazines to see what styles you're drawn to. Are you more contemporary, vintage or transitional? It can help to see backsplashes in person to get a true idea of how different materials look, feel and reflect light. For up close and personal inspiration, attend your local Parade of Homes, or visit a showroom environment like The Tile Shop to view multiple styled vignettes.

2. Follow your vision
 When exploring tile or stone, think about whether you want the backsplash to be a focal point or more subdued. Subway tiles in neutral tones are timeless for those who prefer a muted backsplash. If you're looking to make a statement, clean and tumbled white marble is trending right now. Slate is comforting and earthy where metallic offers a more eye-catching and contemporary look. For added personality, consider designs with color, patchwork or patterns. "Pop art" is also really hot right now (e.g., incorporating Andy Warhol visuals into the backsplash design).

3. Consider product type and maintenance requirements
 A backsplash isn't necessarily maintenance-free, so know how much time you're willing to spend before making a final design decision. If you prefer low maintenance, the best route is ceramic tile. If you are drawn to the beauty of natural stone, keep in mind that there's minimal annual maintenance, including resealing the surface to ensure the product's integrity and beauty last.

"One of my current favorite backsplash looks is a new globally influenced Decor Mayflower pattern featured in The Tile Shop's 2015 Spring Design catalog," says Froelich. "It coordinates with the Treviso solid ceramic tiles that are available in three beautiful colors. Each piece has a handmade look and feel inspired by classic looks from long ago. This collection will definitely add a wow factor to your backsplash."

"Another collection I love is the Devonshire Cararra marble. It's crisp, clean and particularly elegant when set in herringbone pattern by itself or when paired with a picture frame design incorporating polished mosaic and marble profiles."

4. Know your budget 
 Before digging into any home improvement project, it's important to know your budget. Convey your visions and cost parameters to any experts you work with, such as a contractor or interior designer. Bring a sample of your cabinetry and countertop, or a picture of your kitchen, to the designer or showroom you're working with. It will help them maximize your budget while achieving your vision.

5. Add personal touches
 When finalizing your design, consider adding unique characteristics. Above the sink or cooktop are good places to do something more decorative. If appropriate, you might decide to add a niche with a cutout that has tile on the interior that matches the exterior tile or create a picture frame design using a completely different style of tile and stone that complements the backsplash to make a statement. Additionally, if you are doing a backsplash in a bar area, it's a great place to have fun with materials and shapes.

"Adding a backsplash does so much to dress up a room and complete the space," says Froelich. "The most common mistake I see homeowners make is letting indecisiveness cause the project to be delayed. Alas, the above tips will help create a clear path toward a backsplash design they can feel confident in and admire for years to come."

 

Three questions to answer before you buy a home

 

Preparing to buy a home requires more than just a down payment. Before you purchase property, take time to understand your available mortgage options and balance your debt load. Thorough planning and smart budgeting now can help you avoid running into high debt or repayment problems down the road.
 

Farhaneh Haque, director of mortgage advice at TD Canada Trust, says that first time home buyers should answer three important questions before they start hitting any open houses this season.
 

• Do I understand the process? It never hurts to meet with a mortgage specialist to learn more about the home buying process and the different mortgage options available, such as fixed versus variable rate mortgages, flexible repayment schedules, and even mortgages that offer cash back. Before falling in love with a home, consider getting pre-approved so you know what you may be able to afford and avoid getting disappointed by falling in love with a home that is outside your price range.
 

• What is my personal debt load? If you have other obligations like a car payment or student loan, ensure you are taking on a mortgage that you can manage within your total budget. Try using an online debt management calculator to help determine how much debt you can reasonably take on based on your income, current debt payments and expenses.
 

• Can I afford my mortgage and save for the future? Sometimes home buyers take on more debt than they can manage and quickly find themselves "house poor" – with no money left for future savings or a rainy day. Before you take the leap into homeownership, crunch the numbers to ensure your budget reflects the lifestyle you want after you move into your new home, and you are clear on what sacrifices you may need to make to continue to live comfortably and save for your future.

How to get your offers accepted to buy properties

 

The biggest challenge facing most real estate investors is making acceptable offers, especially when buying properties is the basic foundation of real estate investing.

Unless you buy properties, you cannot make any money.

Here is how to make offers that get accepted.

The offer you make depends on the type of property you are buying.

1) Buying from motivated sellers

If you buy houses from motivated sellers, it is necessary to have the following pieces of information:

a) Market Value

Do your due diligence to find out conservatively how much the house would be worth in perfect condition. You must have this information before you can make any offer.

b) Mortgage balance

You must get this information before you can make an offer. A seller who is not willing to disclose this information is not motivated enough. Move on to a motivated seller.

The mortgage balance must allow you to buy the house and still leave you with a profit. It must allow you to make a profit and own it free and clear.

c) Repairs needed

It is possible to estimate repair costs with the information provided by the seller.

You must know how much you need to fix up the house before you can make an offer. Of course, I like to see the house and do my own repair estimates.

d) Asking price

If the owner is asking for too much money given the above 3 pieces of information, the deal might never happen.

A good asking price must take into account the market value, mortgage balance and repairs. You can then make an offer based on the asking price. Make an offer if the mortgage balance allows you to make a profit.

Even though it is necessary to consider the seller's needs, no offer can be too low. If they are facing foreclosure, then they probably need some money to move, or their asking price might be just enough to get away from the property.

If the mortgage balance is too high compared to the value of the house, it does not make sense to make an offer. Move on to the next deal.

There is no bad offer, except the one you have not made. Always make the offers that make sense to you. You'll be surprised how many get accepted.

2) Buying foreclosed properties

The asking price and repairs are the only important considerations to make in this case. Banks selling these properties are willing to negotiate.

Most REOs are listed below market value. Depending on your exit strategy, if the numbers are close to making sense, by all means make an offer.

Lastly, remember to make your offer lower than the asking price.

by: Simon Macharia 
http://www.articlecity.com/articles/home_improvement/article_6984.shtml 

Buying a fixer-upper? How to make the most of your remodel

 

With current home prices and interest rates, it's a great time to be in the market for a fixer-upper.  By buying a house that needs some work, you can achieve your dream home for less than you would probably pay for a move-in-ready abode.

To ensure you're making the most of your investment, however, it pays to take a look at your credit before you buy and begin your remodel. You'll not only need credit to cover the purchase price of the house, but you'll need it for renovation expenses as well.

The first step you should take in your bid to buy a fixer-upper is to check your credit report and score. Websites like www.creditreport.com can help you understand your credit. Understanding your credit will help you know whether or not you can afford to buy a house that needs work and if you'll be able to pay for the needed renovations.

You should also carefully research what your options are for financing your remodel. Learn what your options are, from traditional fixed mortgages to home equity lines of credit, and decide before you buy which type of financing will be best for you. Getting a handle on your financing before you buy can help ensure you stay on budget when you're in the middle of renovations.

When you've got a clear picture of your credit status and financing options, you can start looking at fixer-uppers. When you find a good prospect, have your remodeling contractor walk through the house with you so he can give you a rough estimate of what needs to be done and how much the work will cost.

If you're buying a house that's in basically good condition but just looks dated, you'll have to make some decisions about where to invest your money. Focus on improvements that will not only look good, but will also enhance the value of your home. Resources like Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value report can give you a good idea of how much of your original investment you'll recoup on different remodeling projects at the time of resale.

Once you've signed all the paperwork and the house is yours, it's time to get to work. If you're handy, you may be able to save money by doing some of the renovation work yourself. Projects like painting, adding crown molding and even putting down new flooring are well within the skills of most do-it-yourselfers. More complex projects like drywall, plumbing or electrical work may be best left to professionals.

Whether you do the work yourself, or hire contractors, you'll need to carefully manage all aspects of the renovation to ensure your remodel stays on budget. The excitement of remodeling a house into your dream home can make it easy to get carried away on spending. Keep in mind that remodeling estimates are just that – an estimate. The final tab is rarely exactly what your contractor predicted it would be. Build in at least 10 percent extra to cover emergency overruns, and avoid making any unnecessary changes to the plans while the project is underway.

Five reasons why buying a home is still a good idea

 

* Homeownership can help make good credit even better. If your credit is in poor shape, you'll want to monitor it before seeking a mortgage. But if you have good credit, live within your means, and consistently make good financial decisions, a mortgage can be the kind of "good debt" that helps your overall financial health. Making regular payments on a mortgage shows potential lenders that you're a less risky candidate for a home loan. Before you begin home shopping, it's a good idea to check your credit. Enrolling in a product like freecreditscore.com can help you better understand and leverage your credit.
* A mortgage can function like an automatic savings plan. By now, you've read the news reports about how little we Americans save these days. Well, every year you pay on your fixed-rate mortgage, is a year of building equity, and equity is like money in the bank. When it's time to sell – whether you've stayed in your home seven years or the full 30 year term – you'll have created equity and should be able to sell your house for more than you owe.
* Homeownership comes with plenty of financial perks, including an income tax credit for property taxes you pay on your home. For detailed information on tax breaks check out IRS.gov. Buying a home also affords you the opportunity to halt your housing costs. Rent will always go up from year to year, but if you have a fixed-rate mortgage (avoid adjustable rates) your biggest annual expense – housing costs – will be locked-in.
* Mortgage interest is a good deal when stacked up against other types of interest that don't do much for you – such as high credit card interest rates or low rates on savings accounts and CDs. Mortgage rates are low right now, meaning you can pay less over the life of a loan than at practically any other time in recent history. Plus, it's the only kind of interest that you can deduct from your taxes.
* Prices are still relatively low and inventory is high. It's been a buyer's market for a long time, but that's going to change. The question is: when will the market start to improve in your area, taking home prices with it? You'll have to do some legwork and astute research to determine when is the best time for you to buy.
If you monitor your credit and are on a sound financial footing, buying a home can still be a good idea. And now is as good a time as any to make your purchase.

​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.