Right at Home Daily

Real estate and home news

From House to Home Last Week of July

  • To give a room a taller feeling, place matching tall plants in the corners and add a torchiere light behind a sofa or chairs for extra illumination.
  • Buy a brass knocker for your front door. Consider having it monogrammed.
  • Bring out your good china, glassware, silver and placemats, place them somewhere where they accessible so that once a month you can use them for dinner when you cook a special meal with a theme
  • Turn an ugly old tub into a nicer combination tub-shower or just a glass-enclosed shower.

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From House to Home, First Week of February

Seven tips to start this winter month out right--it's all about being warm, cozy and prepared!

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Process and Paperwork


Getting your offer accepted is half the battle in completing your home purchase.

First and foremost, you want to make sure the property is worth what you're willing to pay for it. Your lender will send out an appraiser to check out the property and compare it to similar properties that have recently sold in the neighborhood.

While the home is being appraised, you'll need to hire a professional home inspector to check out the physical condition of the home. Even though you and your agent may have toured the property several times, looked in the closets, attic and basement and even turned on the appliances, savvy home buyers use an inspector to catch those harder to detect items, like loose roof shingles.

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Frustration of a Seller's Market

The problem with being a homebuyer these days is that you have the best and worst of home buying all rolled into the current market.

Interest rates are hovering around seven percent, with lower rates available on adjustable rate mortgages. Low interest rates boosts home buying power. At current interest rates, if you have no other debt and some cash to put down on your home, you'll be able to buy three to nearly four times your gross annual income. That's a lot of house, if you can find one.

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Pre-Renovation: Design Plans, Blueprints, and Estimates


Once you've decided on your renovation project, you're ready to draw up preliminary plans, turn them into finished blueprints, and get estimates for the work.

Everyone from your local building department to contractor to subcontractors to material suppliers will use the finished blueprints. Consequently, they must be comprehensive, precise, and most importantly, accurate.

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Making an Offer the Seller Can't Refuse

My friends have just made an offer for a home. At first, the negotiations went smoothly and they and the sellers agreed on a price. But suddenly, the discussions stalled, and my friend was confused.

"We've agreed to their price. Why don't they come back and accept our counter offer?" she asked.

Why indeed? It seems silly that sellers would balk on the final acceptance of a counter-offer when their property has been sitting vacant for the past six months. Wouldn't they want to go on with their lives?

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Let Your Retailer Manage Your Contractors

This year, homeowners will spend more than $150 billion on home improvement, maintenance and renovation projects. That number, say analysts, will continue to grow, which will only increase the odds that the contractor or subs you hire to complete your job won't be as talented or experienced as you might like. In fact, one of the most frustrating aspects of home improvement is finding qualified contractors to complete the job.

But someday soon you may be able to get around all that.

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From House to Home 10/10/07

  • Have a dinner party, invite friends who don't know one another and serve wine in new attractive stemware and buy some new colorful dessert dishes that don't match your regular china, but complement it.
  • If you never use a dining room, turn your new one into a quasi-library by placing a smaller table that can expand at one end, adding bookshelves, comfortable seating, stereo equipment, a soft patterned rug underfoot and good lighting.
  • Put in an underground sprinkler system that will water your grass and flowers better, save you time and labor and ease your back strain.

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Buying a Fixer-Upper


Why do people buy fixer-uppers?

They're looking for a real estate investment: Buy a home that needs work, throw some time and money into it, and then sell it for a profit.

Fixer-uppers are a way to buy a home in a preferred neighborhood that may otherwise out of reach financially.

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Choosing A Loan

What kind of loan should you choose? Consider the lower cost and higher risk of an adjustable rate mortgage over a 30-year fixed rate loan.

According to the mortgage industry, the average homeowner refinances his loan or sells his home within 5 years. If you're going to move or refinance your home within 5 years, choosing a 30-year mortgage doesn't make any sense. You're paying for stability you'll never need.

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From House to Home 10/3/07

  • Have your curtains cleaned, dust all blinds and baseboards before you place your furniture, and have your windows washed. Your house will sparkle.
  • Get ready for Halloween by planning a costume party for different generations of your family and friends. Pick a theme and include old-fashioned games such as bobbing for apples.
  • Assign a chore to each family member to make life run more smoothly in coming months. For exmaple, have one child set the table nightly, and another do the dishes. Rotate tasks so everyone gets to learn something new.
  • A mah-jongg set with creamy plastic tiles the size of dominoes with pretty symbols adds cachet to a family room. It can create the theme of the room with the proper mah-jongg table, tiles encased in an alligator-embossed box and the mah-jongg pad or cloth.

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Matching Your Wants and Needs to What's on the Market


Is there a perfect home? Unless you're building it yourself and have an unlimited budget, you're probably going to have to be flexible about what you buy and compromise on some features and amenities.

How can you match what you want and need with the homes available for sale in your area? It's a matter of trading-off those amenities you want with those you can't live without.

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Homes Need Constant Care

One of the hardest things for homebuyers and homeowners to come to terms with is that no house is perfect. As one home inspector liked to say, "An old house has older problems, but new houses have problems, too."

Moving into a brand new space is magical. And many homeowners want to keep it that way. But inevitably, the shiny new stainless steel sink gets scratched, as do the chrome bath fixtures. The grout in the floors gets stained and windows get dirty. Your kids leave handprints on the walls and here or there you might find the wood molding has cracked or the paint is peeling.

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A Change of Seasons Can Help Your Search

One of the best things about fall is so many more homes come on the market. Indeed, the change of seasons can help you in your search for a home -- if you know when to look.

Spring is the hottest home buying season, particularly March, April, and May, as families want to get settled before the start of the school year in September.

Fall is the second-hottest home buying season, with September, October and early November being the busiest times.

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Figuring Out How Much The Property Is Worth

You think you've found the right home. But is it really worth what the sellers are asking?

Before you give away your hard earned money, do some thorough research.

First, ask your agent to prepare a comparable market analysis (CMA). This is a compilation of sales prices of homes similar to yours in the neighborhood which have recently sold.

You'll also want to check out the school district, crime statistics, and whether property values have been generally rising or falling in the neighborhood. Visit city hall to learn about future development plans for your new neighborhood.

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Keeping Renovation Costs Down

Everyone says a renovation will cost more than you expect and take longer to complete. And that's completely true in most cases. But you can hold down the costs--by making tough choices ahead of time.

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From House to Home 9/12/07

  • Add elegance to a living room entrance by creating an archway adorned with ornamental plaster moldings. Add columns on either side of the arch to support it in a grand manner.
  • To have a place to sit in a child's tiny bedroom, consider stacking stools with vinyl cushions. Also, instead of a bedspread, buy a duvet cover that can double as a sheet.
  • When issuing invitations to this year's Thanksgiving feast, ask your guests to write down what they most love about their family and friends and what they have to be thankful for this year.

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Finding The Right Lender


You've found the house you want and, fortunately, you can afford it. Now it's time to shop for a loan, akin to car shopping.

How do you find the right lender? Play one lender against the other to get the best rate. The task can be daunting, however, with so many competing lenders and mortgage types from which to choose.

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Working With A Buyer's Agent

In most states, homebuyers have the option of working with a buyer's agent, who owes the buyer his or her fiduciary duty, as opposed to the seller. A conflict of interest could arise, however, if the buyer's agent also accepts the seller as a client. If the agent takes a homebuyer to see one of his or her listings, the buyer may soon be without any representation because the agent is then a dual agent.

To avoid such a conflict, hire an exclusive buyer's agent (EBA) because they never represent sellers. Occasionally, your EBA might represent two buyers who are interested in the same property. In that case, another EBA in the agent's office can help one of the buyers make an offer.

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Be Ready to Bid

When shopping for a home in a hot seller's market, it's important to move quickly when you spot a good deal. But if you don't know how much you can afford, where you want to live, and what your "must have" items are, you may see that home slip away to another, better prepared, buyer.

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From House to Home Third Week of August

  • If your kitchen is small, mirror the backsplashes to expand space rather than use a solid material such as tile, wood or laminate.
  • If space is at premium in your abode, consider covering a long wood table with glass to double as a desk, dining table, sideboard or bar.
  • To break up space in a child's room in a pragmatic way, use a three-paneled cork board. This serves as a screen and doubles as a bulletin board on which to post precious artwork.

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From House to Home Second Week of August

This week's tips:

  • Tired of hardwood floors? The new trend today is bamboo. It can be dyed a color or kept a natural hue which gives a beach-like feel to your home. But buyer beware: cheap bamboo flooring can buckle and delaminate.
  • If you love tea, start collecting tea items that will enhance your tea-drinking experience when the weather turns a bit cooler. There are tea strainers in various shapes, all sorts of teapots, cups, and trays to make the ritual of sipping tea more fun.

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Negotiating Strategies In A Buyer's and Seller's Market


The Buyer's Market

In a buyer's market, with more homes available for sale than qualified buyers to purchase them, buyers have the opportunity to get more for their money. Buyers will see that they'll be able to afford either a larger home in a better neighborhood or one with more amenities, such as a three-car garage or a gourmet kitchen.

Sellers are usually desperate for buyers in a buyer's market, so homebuyers can take the time to shop around and think about what they've seen before writing an offer.

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Title Insurance and Property Records

A home seller will typically provide title insurance, which involves finding out who really owns the property and if anyone has any liens, or claims, against it.

A property records search is multifaceted. First, the title company searches the history of the ownership of the property, called the "chain of title," using records at the County Clerk's or Recorder's office.

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From House to Home First Week of August

This week's tips:

  • Transform a room into a magical place that makes you feel like you're outside looking up at the sky: Paint the room a pretty sky blue and paste gold astrological signs on the ceiling
  • Consider building a tree house in the backyard for children or grandchildren. There are kits available, or you can design one yourself with a little help from experts at your favorite home shopping store.
  • During warm weather months, place a large empty basket in your fireplace and fill it with dried flowers. In winter, lay your fireplace with dry logs and newspaper, so that all you'll need to do is light it.

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A Multi-Family Building


On the surface, it sounds like an easy get-rich-quick plan: Buy a multi-unit building, sweat equity into it, rent out the units, then sit back and reap the profits.

While many people have created a large nest egg with a great cash flow, purchasing such a building is not as easy as it seems. And there are pitfalls to being a landlord.

In fact, most real estate experts say that buying and managing a multi-family unit building is akin to running a small business. That's why there are a number of things to consider when purchasing a multi-family building.

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What Goes Around, Comes Around

This old cliché is particularly true when it comes to credit. If you've always paid your bills on time, and if you don't charge up to the maximum limit on your credit cards, your credit history and corresponding credit score ought to be pretty high.

But if you pay even one or two bills 30 or 60 days late, or if you fail to make payments at all, or if you forget about filing your income taxes and you owe money to the IRS, your credit history and score will suffer.

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From House to Home Fourth Week of July

  • Be sure your property is sufficiently lit at night so you can use your outdoors for nighttime dining, chats, cocktails, etc. Place bulbs discreetly along the sides of the house, along walkways, and sometimes in trees to diffuse the light.
  • Buy enough Citronella candles, lanterns and other aids to discourage bugs from visiting when you dine outside.
  • Think about adding a front porch or verandah to your home. It adds an attractive look and can become a gathering spot for your neighborhood, like the old-fashioned stoops where city dwellers used to gather.

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From House to Home Third Week of July


  • Plan to finish your outdoor maintenance before the summer ends. With trades people so busy, it could take months to get on your carpenter's, bricklayer's or painter's schedule.
  • If you're looking for a different style of garden, consider an ecologically correct garden for your area. In the Midwest, you might try a "prairie-scape" if your house isn't too formal. If you live in the Southwest, you might want an arrangement of stones.
  • Try decorating your door, or the front of your property, with a custom-designed address plaque in sold brass, bronze, copper or aluminum.

Click through for more tips!

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