Second Mortgages: Make Your Dreams Happen – Carefully

RateHub defines a second mortgage as “an additional loan taken out on a property that is already mortgaged.” Sounds risky – and indeed it comes with plenty of risks. But it also comes with rewards.

There are two major kinds of second mortgages: The home equity line of credit (HELOC) has a variable interest rate and acts much like a credit card, allowing you to withdraw the cash you need, when you need it. And the fixed-rate home equity loan allows you to borrow a lump sum and make set monthly payments.

Second mortgages provide speedy access to money at a generally favorable interest rate – and the interest you pay on mortgages may also be tax deductible. Compared with money borrowed on a credit card or a standard consumer loan, a second mortgage may be easier to obtain, and you can use the money for whatever you want: home remodels, tuition – even a dream trip.

The most important disadvantage: because your home secures the loan, the second mortgage lender takes on less risk than with a personal loan, and may offer you more money than you need. Many borrowers are happy to comply, only to find themselves in trouble.

Ensure you can make your monthly mortgage payments easily, even when interest rates go up or personal circumstances change. And note that if interest rates increase, so will your monthly HELOC payments. Home equity loan payments aren’t affected by rate increases during the term of the loan.

So go ahead and make that bucket-list trip a reality – but plan carefully.

Is Lack of Space Cramping Your Green Thumb?

If your green thumb is out of joint thanks to limited (or nonexistent) outdoor space, try some out-of-the-yard thinking, and you’ll soon be digging in the dirt. You can garden anywhere if you’re resourceful.

Go vertical: If you’re in an urban setting, take inspiration from the high-rises that surround you. When there’s no room to spread out, go up. Use tiered planters and a trellis to create a living wall or a “room” divider on your balcony. Add wall pockets to grow small plants such as herbs. When you think of your outside walls as garden space, you suddenly have lots of room!

Think outside the window box: Who says plants only grow on prairies and in pots? Create a unique arrangement of washbasins, bowls, cookware, repurposed rain boots, previously loved furniture – nothing’s off limits for the innovative container gardener.

Automate it: If you have neither the space nor the green thumb, this solution may be for you. The recently invented Modgarden is a small indoor farm in a cabinet, and it’s fully automated. You simply fill the water reservoir, add seeds, and wait for your veggies and herbs to grow. Some restaurants in colder climes are trying it to grow off-season produce.

Redefine the fruit basket: Fit a large wicker basket with a plant-friendly container filled with potting soil, and add your favorite herb and edible flower seeds. Soon you’ll have a microgarden that’s useful, decorative, and different all in one.

Bring the outdoors in: If you love greenery but lack green space, why not bring the garden inside? Add small potted trees to sitting areas. Integrate potted plants into your décor. Fill your foyer with foliage. You may not have much square footage, but you can transform the space you do have into a garden that flows from room to room. Just remember to provide your plants with the right soil and lighting conditions, water regularly … and enjoy!

Our Future Homes: Easy Care and Open Plan

Thanks to an exhibition organized by Japanese retailer Muji, we can peek into the home of the future. And according to a recent article in Houzz, we can expect to live with new materials, adaptable spaces, and open-concept floor plans.

The exhibition, House Vision 2, introduced the ideas underlying tomorrow’s homes as seen by companies in the housing industry, architects, and designers. Ten life-sized prototypes offered insight into the way housing may go in the future. Here are a few examples:

  • “Open House with Condensed Core” was a collaboration between architect Shigeru Ban and Lixil, a Japanese building materials manufacturer. Their prototype addressed the limitations of traditional plumbing, which make layout changes difficult. In their vision, the plumbing is installed in the ceiling, making it easier to reconfigure. The house also features glass windows that can swing up and out of the way for a truly indoor-outdoor space.
  • Commissioned by Daito Trust Construction, Sou Fujimoto’s installation explored new types of multi-dwelling residences in his “Rental Space Tower.” It rearranges both private and shared spaces of a typical apartment to reduce the square footage of private zones and maximize public areas, creating new shared amenities like libraries and theater rooms.
  • Airbnb and architect Go Hasegawa teamed up on “Yoshino-sugi Cedar House,” a wooden dwelling that brings a new meaning to house-sharing. It’s part community space, part temporary residence, which is used, maintained, and operated by the community, not a private individual. On the first floor are a meeting space and communal kitchen; upstairs are bookable sleeping quarters for guests.

Finally, it seems we don’t have to bid goodbye to open-concept living just yet; open floor plans were featured in many installations. They’ll just look a little different down the road.

Address Your Credit Score before You Start Home-Hunting

Your credit – including ensuring credit reports are correct, knowing your credit score, and acting to improve it – is among the most confusing topics related to personal finance. Yet it’s extremely important – particularly if you’re planning to buy a house, and especially if you’re a first-time buyer. Your credit score is one of the first things a lender will look at when you apply for a mortgage.

To cut through all that confusion, here are five tips you can act on right now to identify and address any problems with your credit:

  • Check your credit reports for free once a year through the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Why all three? Because the information in each bureau’s report can differ. If one or all reports include mistakes, your credit score may be negatively affected, and you may need to address the errors before going house-shopping.
  • Be strategic with credit card use: the percentage of your credit limit that you use every month can affect your score. Make sure your balance doesn’t come too close to your limit.
  • The simplest and most important tip? Pay off your balance each month. To maintain a healthy score, pay it off before the due date. Anything after 30 days post due date can spell very bad news for your score.
  • Be consistent: good credit behavior over the long term will keep your score high.
  • Don’t take on more credit. If you apply for several different credit cards, you’re sending a message that you may have maxed out your other accounts.

Small Homes Are Trending with First-Time Buyers

According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), first-time homes are coming in smaller packages.

The Association recently released the NAHB Home Builder Preferences Survey indicating that smaller homes are selling well, primarily to first-time buyers, such as the latest cohort – the millennials. The home builders interviewed for the report suggest that many people now prefer to purchase small. And U.S. Census Bureau figures support that position: the average home built in 2016 was 2,634 sq. ft., down from 2,689 sq. ft. in 2015.

Says Rose Quint, NAHB’s assistant vice president of survey research: “2016 marked the end of an era that began in 2009, when homes got bigger and bigger with more amenities. I expect the size of homes to continue to decline as demand increases from first-time buyers.” Smaller homes are finding favor with other groups as well. Retirees who enjoy traveling find that smaller, lock-and-leave residences fit their on-the-go lifestyles, and economic realities mean that they now have to think small.

While both the downsizing and millennial buyers are comfortable with less space (and the resulting savings on utility bills), they still expect the luxurious finishes and modern amenities available in larger homes. Millennials, because that’s what’s trendy now, and retirees, because they don’t want to feel they’re settling for less.

As a result, home décor magazines and TV network programs are touting the benefits of small homes and showcasing elegant space-saving solutions designed for those who want to scale down their homes without changing their lifestyles. Because they won’t.

Improvements That Increase Your Home’s Value

This year, if you’re looking to increase the value of your home but are unsure what home improvements to make, think curb appeal.

According to a recent report from Remodeling magazine, curb appeal projects, such as changes to windows, siding, and doors, lead to a higher return on investment (ROI) than interior improvements.

Over the past 30 years, Remodeling has compared the average cost of improvement projects with their value at resale, based on the experience of real estate professionals. The magazine’s 2017 Cost vs. Value Report supports the generally held opinion that today’s home buyers, while still enthusiastic about the bells and whistles, want to ensure their homes are structurally sound with all systems functioning efficiently.

Remodeling’s projects include a basement remodel, an entry door that was replaced with 20 gauge steel, and the addition of stone veneer. All of the 29 projects tracked returned on average 64.3 cents per dollar spent.

Among the trends, the higher return of curb appeal projects and projects that required the replacing of windows, doors, etc. Replacement projects generally scored higher than remodeling projects; the ROI of replacement was 74% and of remodels was 63.7%.

As in the previous year, adding loose fill insulation to the attic returned 107.7% and was the only project on the list whose value exceeded its cost. Steel door replacement and addition of stone veneer also paid off, at 90.7% and 89.4% respectively. Interestingly, these are among the cheapest projects, although their costs were up over the previous year.

Those who want to tackle an interior project might do well to consider a basement remodel, providing it’s done well; a high-end basement remodel was perceived as high value, returning 7.4% more than the same project last year, while a mid-range basement remodeling project only increased in value by 3.3% over the previous year.

Something to consider when you’re planning your next home improvement project.

Shopping for a Home This Spring? Get a Credit Checkup

Spring may bring thoughts of your dream home – and what better time for a home search than now?

By the time summer comes you could be happily ensconced in your new home. Think outdoor living and a relaxed intro to a new neighborhood.

But before the dream turns into a full-fledged home search, there are several things to consider. One of the most important is your credit score and what that score may mean as far as your mortgage options.

To advance to the search phase, you’ll need to know what your credit score looks like now and where it ultimately needs to be for you to be in a position to purchase a home. So now is an ideal time to contact your mortgage professional to review your credit.

Indeed, you can pull your own credit, but what you need is a way to interpret what’s on the report and how it will impact you throughout the lending process. Many things that you may see as minor on your report may actually make a significant difference in accessing the programs and interest rates you want.

For example, if you carry a lot of credit card debt or if one card has a higher balance than most lenders feel is appropriate, that’s a negative. But if your mortgage advisor draws this to your attention, you’ll have time to pay off or reduce your balance before you start to search.

And the sooner you start, the sooner you can be in your dream home.

Try ‘Home Refreshing’ Rather Than Spring Cleaning

Too many people don’t have the time or energy to do a full spring cleaning. Thankfully, a quick and simple home refresh will go a long way toward making your home look new without breaking the bank or your back.

In a Houzz article, Laura Gaskill outlines several easy ways to refresh your home for spring. For example, freshen up your entry simply by sweeping and mopping the front porch and adding a new welcome mat.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a back entrance or mudroom, it’s time to clear out all the remnants of winter. Consider adding extra storage with baskets, racks, or closet organizers to keep your newly tidied mudroom or entrance clutter free. And while you’re decluttering, why not tackle clutter catchalls like junk drawers and countertops? You’ll be able to find things again, and your space will feel brand new.

Can’t remember when you last cleaned your light fixtures? You’re not alone; most of us miss this step during regular dusting.

By wiping down neglected lamps and sconces (and those ever-so-dusty light bulbs), you’ll lose the grime that’s accumulated over many months (years?). Your living space will suddenly feel so much brighter and lighter you may decide to tackle your mirrors and inside windows next.

It needn’t cost the earth (or take forever) to change up your décor. New paint is great, but you can achieve a similar result with less work by applying one of today’s trendy large-scale adhesive murals to a blank wall. The result: an instant accent space that’s easy to switch up when it’s time for a change. And don’t forget greenery-add plants and flowers to your living space for that instant spring feeling.

As you can see, spring cleaning no longer has to be intimidating. With these simple tweaks, your home will feel like spring before you know it.

Should You Sell Your Home Yourself?

Despite the prevalence of online tools that can facilitate DIY sales, fewer Americans are choosing to go the route of “for sale by owner” when it comes to selling their homes. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), for-sale-by-owner sales represented only 8 percent of 5.25 million real estate transactions in 2015. Why? An economy in recovery, a challenging real estate market, and strict laws and regulations could all have Americans looking for security and peace of mind when it comes to selling their homes.

The for-sale-by-owner approach does have perks. Private sellers can set their own price. They deal with the buyer directly. At the end, they keep the proceeds instead of paying a commission to a Realtor. However, those very same perks have significant drawbacks.

Setting your own price means missing out on the expertise that a real estate agent has when it comes to pricing a home to sell and encouraging multiple bids. You don’t have the know-how that comes with dozens of successful sales. It’s easier for buyers (and their agents) to undercut private sellers, and it’s difficult for sellers to remain neutral about their own property.

Private sellers also miss out on the strategies and industry knowledge provided by an experienced agent. A real estate agent knows how to market a home properly, how to work with other agents, and how to fulfill the obligations and respect the laws of the real estate industry. It’s very easy for private sellers to misstep, costing themselves time and money.

As a seller, you want every advantage available. That means having an agent by your side.

How to Set the Stage for Home Buyers

In a hot market, selling your home may be easy. Selling it for top dollar takes a little more work. To achieve this, staging is the way to go. This is the process of beautifying your home to appeal to as many potential buyers as possible.

Many people can’t visualize the possibilities within a room, so staging helps the buyers as they view your home. The goal of staging is to transform your home into an environment so inviting that buyers can imagine themselves living in your space.

Creating this buyer-ready environment takes talent, and it can be a critical step for a fast sale.

What does a stager do?

A good stager improves the interior and sharpens curb appeal as well. Today, most buyers see pictures online before choosing which homes to tour. Staging ensures that yours is seen in the best possible light. It makes your listing stand out from the competition.

While some people actually replace all the furniture, smart staging may mean anything from stripping your home of personal photographs and knick-knacks to cleaning the rugs or polishing floors. You may need to deep-clean bathrooms or clear kitchen counters. The stager may suggest painting everything a warm and inviting – but always neutral – color.

How much does staging cost?

The cost of staging ranges from a few hundred to many thousands of dollars, depending on the reputation of the stager, the size of the property, and the quality and quantity of fixes required. The final results can be well worth the investment. If you live in a neighborhood where several homes are listed, staging may mean a quicker sale at a better price.

Can I stage my home myself?

Of course, you can try to stage your home yourself, but it’s hard to be objective about your own things. A fresh pair of eyes can make all the difference – which translates into dollars.

Should You Consider Investing in Real Estate?

Real estate is becoming an investment of choice, and many investors are either abandoning the more traditional vehicles such as stocks and bonds or using real estate to diversify their portfolios.

A recent RISMedia article pointed to a survey recently undertaken by Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, which found that “(n)early all (96%) of U.S. investors surveyed who have invested in real estate believe their decision has helped them achieve some form of financial success.”

The interest in investing in real estate may be driven by our largest demographic-the millennials, who, according to the survey, show a greater interest in making a real estate investment than do boomers. Millennials in particular are more interested in personal real estate purchases (homes) than in buying commercial properties; the survey noted that “79% of investor respondents feel it is important to invest in a property that they could use for themselves or a family member at some point.”

There are various ways even a small investor can participate in real estate investments, such as a self-directed or real estate IRA. However, many fear they aren’t sufficiently knowledgeable about real estate investing. As the RISMedia article points out: “Unlike many other investments that can be made with the click of a button, real estate investments are often complex and require careful consideration.”

To ensure that your investment will be a good one, it’s important to consult with a financial professional who is familiar with real estate investing, as well as an investment-savvy real estate agent.

Location, Location … the Good, Bad and Ugly

We all know that living near a good school increases the value of your home. But who knew a neighboring cemetery can adversely affect your property value? Or that proximity to a hospital isn’t a good thing?

In fact, we now know – or should know – that nothing is more important when selling your home than your neighborhood. So if you’re buying, think ahead; purchase your dream home in the wrong location and you may be buying into a nightmare. Here are some location no-nos:

  • Realtor.com research has found that living near a cemetery will lower your property value by 12.3% and having a hospital nearby means when you sell you can expect an impact on your sale price of 3.2%. Also note: make sure you move near a “good” school; a “bad” school will reduce your home’s value by 22.2%.
  • An article in the Journal of Transport Economics and Policy indicates that having an airport nearby can discount the value of your home. The greater the noise level, the greater the negative impact.

Among the amenities to look for in your neighborhood-to-be:

  • Proximity to transit. According to a Transit-Oriented Development in America survey, 55% of Americans would pay more to live near good transit options. The study, conducted by consultant HNTB Corporation, found that 57% of respondents liked not having to depend on cars to “work, live, and play.”
  • A neighborhood on its way up-not down. In transitional neighborhoods, you get a lot of value for your home-buying buck. Your real estate agent is the best source of information and will also know if there are any planned roads or developments that may impact the neighborhood-positively or negatively.
  • Water, parks, and green spaces. A nearby waterfront can add up to 25% to the value of your home. A fabulous view is also a moneymaker when it comes time to sell.

Home Shopping? Look beyond the WOWs!

When shopping for a new home, it’s easy to fall in love. You can find yourself dazzled by the sprawling backyard, trendy kitchen, or sky-high ceilings, and want to make an offer right then and there.

But it’s important to take a step back and take the time to evaluate the perhaps less-exciting details. These often overlooked details may ultimately lead to significant, costly issues. Here’s what to look for and how to get beyond the WOWs:

  • Windows: Does every window open? For emergency reasons, every room needs a window that can be opened. Do they close and lock securely? Is the glass intact? Is there a tight thermal seal (which is important to regulate temperature)?
  • Flooring: Look for cracks, stains, holes, and warping. Ask if there’s another layer of flooring under carpet, tile, or laminate. Is the floor level? If not, it might be an indication of water, or worse, structural problems.
  • Basement: That beautifully finished basement could be hiding a plethora of problems, from leaks to mold to holes to critter infestations. Use a powerful flashlight to carefully examine corners and walls and look behind and under finishings.
  • Roof: Roof replacements are costly. Find out when the roof was last addressed, and whether it was a patch or a replacement. Look for signs of damage from the street.
  • Neighborhood: Look beyond the obvious into the details: Is local traffic a nightmare in rush hour? Is there reliable transit nearby? Is the home near green space, schools, and recreational facilities?
  • Parking: If the house doesn’t have a garage, will the driveway accommodate your vehicles? Is there good on-street visitors’ parking?

Even after you’ve checked the details, make your offer contingent on a home inspection. A reliable home inspector can dig deeper into the details. Isn’t your peace of mind worth it?

The Surprising Upsides to Holiday Home Shopping

With so much other shopping to do, should you add shopping for a new home to your list? It’s such a busy time of year. Maybe you should simply wait until spring. Or maybe not. Buying a home during the holidays offers several advantages over other times of the year.

Everyone else is at the mall. With other potential home buyers busy with holiday festivities, you’ll find you have less competition for your dream home. Plus, sellers have fewer buyers to choose from, meaning you might get a better deal.

Tax gifts from the treasurer. Buying a home at the end of the year may offer tax advantages, so it could be beneficial for you to close before January 1. There are additional factors at play here, such as potential conflicts with other deductions you hope to take, so if this is a key reason for buying now, be sure to talk to your tax professional first.

Holiday sales on interest rates. Often interest rates are lower during the holidays, thanks to a decline in demand during this time. Securing a loan now might save you a bundle in the long run.

Resolutions for a quick close. Finally, for buyers seeking a quick closing, this can be a prime time to shop. Typically, all parties involved in a year-end transaction are motivated to complete the sale before the start of 2017: sellers want to get resettled, and so do buyers, particularly if the kids will be switching schools and need adjustment time.

New Home, Old Home – What’s Best for You?

Prospective home buyers looking at areas where new neighborhoods are being developed have a decision to make that’s affected by price, availability, features, and style: Do I buy a new build or a resale property? Here are some thinking points when you’re considering which to buy:

New build

Purchasing a preconstruction house or condominium unit gives buyers a chance to personalize it to their needs and their style. The buyer can select layout, finishes, and fixtures. New homes also include the latest technology, which means lots of “smart” and “green” features.

The downsides? A new subdivision will likely still be a construction zone when owners move in, and there won’t be any mature trees or green space. Personality may be lacking, both outside and indoors; a resale home often has unique features that add warmth and style, whereas a new build may feel austere. And then there’s the waiting game. Particularly with new condos, buyers may have to wait for some time before the building is finally ready for occupation.

Resale home

A previously lived in home has two advantages that new builds find it hard to compete with: location and charm. The neighborhood is likely more developed; there will be mature greenery, a sense of community and culture, and an absence of the dirt, dust, and noise that accompany a new-build site. A resale home may also have unique features that make it feel special for the right buyer, such as an amazing backyard, a fireplace, crown moldings, or built-ins.

However, a resale home may also be dated and require costly repairs and renovations to make it suitable for a new owner. Because it wasn’t built with the latest materials and practices, it also may be less efficient.

New or old-both have their advantages. But make it all about you and your family, and your decision will be the right one.

Changes to FHA Rules Are Good News for Condo Buyers

One of the biggest changes in the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act, passed earlier this year by the US Senate, concerned condominium financing. It’s good news, not just to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), which had supported the changes for some time, but also to condominium owners and buyers.

Condominiums have always represented an affordable option for many buyers. But before the bill was passed, it was difficult for worthy borrowers to access the financing they need to purchase a condominium. Community and housing groups complained that FHA rules and requirements were both unfair and onerous – including the minimum owner-occupancy ratio of 50%, which made it impossible for buildings with lower ratios to qualify for FHA financing.

According to NAR, the bill will “make FHA’s recertification process substantially less burdensome, while lowering the FHA’s current owner-occupancy requirement from 50% to 35%.”

Also affected is the FHA policy around condo unit transfer fees. The bill requires the FHA to adopt the more flexible model used by the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

It is hoped the changes in legislation will open up FHA financing opportunities to more prospective condo buyers across the country, and there’s every chance it will.

In response to the bill, Tom Salomone, current president of NAR, noted: “Tight inventory and rising home prices are a reality of today’s market, and mortgage credit is hard to come by. We should take every opportunity to clear the path for well-qualified borrowers to purchase a home when they’re ready, and this legislation does just that.”

Thoughts on Homeyness and the Home in 2016

A home is so much more than just a shelter, according to the most recent Life at Home report.

The 2016 report, which is published annually by the IKEA global home furnishings company, says a home is defined by what inhabitants experience through their senses: sight, smell, taste, sound, and touch. Together, these five senses make a house feel, well, homey, and create happy memories.

After surveying thousands of people around the world, the Life at Home report found that a whopping 63% of respondents said they cook to feel at home, while 59% attributed their home’s comfortable vibe to music. Interestingly, when the sensation is not a pleasant one – too bright or too noisy – that homey feeling is challenged. And, thanks to a society that prizes outdoor kitchens and living rooms, some 42% of individuals say they now feel more comfortable outside their homes.

The home is now a place of relationships and connections, both personal and virtual; the report found that 48% of respondents described their home as the “place where they have their most important relationships.” However, 23% noted that having Wi-Fi is more important in their homes than having a gathering space to bring family together. It makes a strange sort of sense: Loved ones can move away, but, realistically, they’re as close as the nearest Internet connection. A wired home is a happy home.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the report found that people highly value their “tchotchkes”: 53% suggested the objects in their homes hold memories and/or reflect who they are, while 43% said they assigned importance to objects that facilitate meaningful activities – for example, the kitchen island is where the kids do their homework, creating daily memories.

The report concluded that, no matter who we are or where we live, our feelings of home are all remarkably similar (if clichéd): we love our homes because “home is where the heart is.”

A Home Buyer’s Guide to Making It in a Competitive Market

In hot real estate markets, buying a property may feel like a nearly impossible feat. Skyrocketing prices, low inventory, and bidding wars can make a prospective buyer feel dejected.

But becoming a homeowner in hot cities can happen, if you employ the right techniques. A recent article in RISMedia outlines tactics for buyers to use when shopping for a home. For example:

Don’t be naive. Understand the market realities. Instead of obsessing over prices, value, and comparables in the area you’re considering, focus directly on what it will take to get the home you want.

Work with someone you trust. It may pay to find an agent who is sufficiently skilled to develop a rapport with sellers and their listing agents. Or you may need a superior number-cruncher to get you the best deal. But whatever the agent’s strengths, ensure he or she is a person you feel comfortable working with; the journey to finding a home can be long and arduous. You’ll need a friend.

Be realistic. Be very realistic. If you’ve only seen one home in your desired market that fits your budget, then that market probably isn’t in your price range. Accept that and either pick another area or be prepared to boost your budget.

Finally, try to relax. Expect that all will not necessarily run smoothly, particularly in a highly competitive market. Don’t get worn down by the process. You can become a homeowner if you relax and go with the flow!

Decorating For Today: If it Works for You…it Works

From the shag carpets of the 70s to the neons of the 80s, each era brings its own styles and designs. But today’s trend is actually a non-trend: It’s a celebration of the beauty (and functionality) inherent in personal taste: if it works for you; it works.

Decorating today is about expressing your personality in your home. If you like those shag carpets from the 70s, get one. If Pantone’s pastel colors of the year leave you cold, warm up with lemon yellow or tangerine orange.

While coming to terms with your own decorating personality is liberating, it can also be scary. Here are some ideas; make them yours:

Remember “flower power?” – If you love flowers, you’ll find floral prints on pillows, rugs, drapes and furniture. You can be subtle – add a floral cushion or two – or create an all-out garden in your space.

Oversized art – Fill a focus wall with a big painting or print that you love to look at. Large, bold pieces look great and don’t have to cost the earth. Some people are opting for stick-on photo art murals instead of wallpaper to give your room that very personal feel.

Make it shine – Today’s metal accents are subtle (think brushed brass, copper or soft rose-gold) – but if it’s glitzy you want, there are still lots of shiny things around.

Go bohemian…in a modern way – The modern boho trend encourages you to break all the rules. Combine vintage finds, antiques, personal accessories and modern furniture to create a style that shouts – ME!

Fall Remodeling? Don’t Start Without Reading This

As temperatures cool down, and we prepare for a season of shorter, darker days, it’s time to think about the inside of your home – how to make it as glorious on gloomy days as it was during the brilliant sunshine of summer. Oh good: Projects!

But wait. Don’t let the excitement of improving your home get in the way of proper planning. Rushing your project list can lead to unnecessary spending and less-than-thrilling final results. Here’s what you need to consider before picking up a hammer or swiping a credit card:

  • Decide on your budget and schedule. You’ll need to know exactly how much money you have available for your remodeling projects and how much time you want to dedicate to it. You absolutely need to have these figures decided before starting anything!
  • Make a list of what needs to be done and what would be nice to have done. It may turn out that your budget and schedule can only accommodate half your needs, or maybe you’ll find you have the time and money to cover your needs and at least one “want.” Look at your list, prioritize and decide which projects to tackle now.
  • Don’t let Pinterest get the better of you; just like a celebrity hairstyle, what looks good in a photo might not work for your space (or your head.) Be realistic about what can be achieved in your home, based on its current “bones” and your budget.
  • For financial reasons, it can be tempting to try to Do It Yourself. But unless you’re extra handy, turn to the experts to make your project dreams come true. An experienced, reputable contractor will find any flaws in your plans, make suggestions and produce a final product that not only looks good, but is secure, safe and strong.