1. Stop the Moisture
2. Add Some Area Rugs
3. Throw Down Some Pillows
4. Add Tasteful Lighting
5. Hide Unsightly Spots
6. Paint the Ceiling
When choosing projects to tackle first, Brian Bolger, Lead Contractor with Bolger Design & Remodeling in Mechanicsburg suggests focusing on ones that will increase your property value, save money on your utility bills, and, of course, add a smile to your face. Here are five ideas to get you started.
1. Create walls that wow
Since you're stuck inside staring at the walls, why not give them a new look. Adding modern trim work, crown molding and a bold coat of paint can completely change the look of a room without the expense of doing a complete renovation, Bolger said.
“Contrary to what many homeowners might believe, you can use paint in your home without opening up every window as long it’s an environmentally friendly and waterborne paint, which has virtually no fumes,” he said. “Plus, the dryness of the colder months can actually produce faster results.”
To really add visual interest to your walls, homeowners could go with a new or dramatic paint color or use painter’s tape to create stripes or patterns. A winter project Bolger and his wife are actually getting ready to do is hang wallpaper in their bedroom.
“Wallpaper is making a bit of a comeback thanks to home improvement shows,” Bolger said. “It can definitely be a do-it-yourself project or you can get professionals to do it. My wife and I have hung it before in other rooms, so we have some experience on our side.”
Bolger also works on a lot of custom trim and crown molding projects which he said for an investment of between $500 and $800 dollars, can make all the difference in the world in bringing some life back into a room. A popular trend right now he said is replacing typical baseboard with ones that are at least five inches wide.
2. Add a “splash” of personality to your kitchen
For homeowners looking to spice up their kitchen without spending a pretty penny, adding a backsplash is a great solution, not to mention the perfect project for a cold winter weekend.
“For several hundred dollars you can completely change the look of your kitchen, as well as customize it to fit your personality,” said Clark Shindel, an at-home service specialist at The Home Depot in Mechanicsburg. “Our free do-it-yourself backsplash and tile workshops are our most popular classes.”
Just a few years ago The Home Depot had only about 40 tiles to choose from. Today, the store has more than 400 different styles and sizes, ranging from classic subway tile to natural stone to metal. While adding more functionality to a kitchen, a backsplash can also help accessorize and emphasize countertops, cabinets and appliances.
“Installation is a relatively simple process, but it is very tedious and time intensive,” said Shindel, who recommends making it a weekend project. “We offer products like theSimple Mat and peel and stick tiles that save time and eliminate a lot of the mess.”
Two pitfalls he warns do-it-yourselfers about are not taking the time to prep and lay out a template which can result in irregular lines or spaces. And not cleaning off the grout completely, which once dry can result in a nasty haze that is almost impossible to get off.
In addition to free tile classes, The Home Depot does offer backsplash installation services for those homeowners not quite daring enough to tackle it themselves.
3. Lighten up your rooms
What better way to brighten and warm your spirits this winter than with new lights, lamps or ceiling fans. Not to mention it’s an easy and affordable way to update the style of any room.
“We get a lot of customers during the winter who are shopping for new lights to get ready for the holidays or to accent kitchen and bathroom renovations,” said Charlotte Couch, showroom manager at Yale Lighting Concepts & Design in Swatara Township. “They are also looking to save on their energy bill with ceiling fans which push heat back down.”
LED-style lights, which come in contemporary and bold styles, also provide a money-saving option. Installing dimmers in areas like the family room or dining room saves money, while allowing homeowners to customize the ambiance.
In addition to pendant lighting, another style that is growing in popularity, said Couch, is Steampunk, which is a cross between vintage and industrial designs. But for a softer more romantic feel, a crystal chandelier is still a timeless choice.
“When it comes to installation and dealing with electrical issues my advice is to hire a professional so you know it’s done right,” Couch said. “Especially with ceiling fans, you want to be sure they aren’t loose or wobbly.”
4. Turn dull doors into classy decor
With home improvement projects, sometimes it’s the things that are used the most that are noticed the least. Like all the doors in your home — in and out of rooms, to closets and utility rooms. But after a closer look, the scratches, cracks, old hinges and outdated style can be hard to miss.
“Replacing interior doors is an affordable way to give your home an updated look versus an expensive remodel,” said Ken Shuman, salesman and estimator B&B’s Custom Trim Inc. in Rapho Township. “Most of the homeowners that come to us are looking for doors that have a unique or more modern look than what they have.”
According to Shuman, there are a lot of options that many people might not even think about. For example, double doors are a much more functional and attractive alternative to sliding doors and bi-fold doors, while French-style doors can add natural light and architectural detail to a space.
“A big thing with customers right now is not so much the door, but the hardware,” Shuman said. “Homeowners are choosing update hinges and doorknobs with more modern colors like brushed nickel or aged bronze.”
While installing interior doors can be a job for do-it-yourselfers, Shuman pointed out that it can quickly turn into a bigger job than expected, especially when replacing doors in older homes.
“Most doors are not going to just fall into place,” Shuman said. “The jobs we do involve cutting, trimming and shaping the door to size, and sometimes replacing the molding.”
Shuman’s advice to homeowners looking to replace interior doors is for them to do their homework, know their budget, and have an idea of what they like.
5. Take your bathroom from drab to fab
There’s no better time than the winter to turn your boring bathroom into a spa retreat. While replacing a faucet, re-grouting tile, or repainting are relatively easy for the do-it-yourselfer, more ambitious jobs like replacing the tub or adding tile floor might be better left to a professional.
While a complete remodel might be a bigger investment, it’s worth considering, said Charles Cornelius, owner of Chazz’ Home Improvement in Mifflin Township
“Many older homes were not built using mold-resistant drywall, so if you’re going to make an investment in upgrading your bathroom, that’s one of the best places to start,” he said. “Knowing what’s going on behind the walls is important before making expensive updates.”
According to Cornelius, there is also a lot of plumbing involved with replacing bathtubs, sinks and toilets, which requires an expert to ensure it’s done right. Once the walls are closed up, a small leak can go unnoticed for a long time, resulting in serious damage and possibly a complete remodel.
“My philosophy is that if you’re going to invest in a project, do it right the first time,” he said.
on November 21, 2013 at 10:30 AM, updated November 21, 2013 at 10:33 AM
By Credit.com | Posted Dec 12th 2013 3:56PM
Selecting the right home to fit your current and future needs can be challenging. One of the first decisions you'll make is how you define "home." There are many options including a single family residence, duplex, multiplex, condominium, modular or mobile homes.
Two of the most common choices are single family homes and condominiums. While this choice isbased on personal preference, you should weigh the pros and cons of each first.
A single family residence is what you may expect — a home suited for one family (not a duplex or multiplex) and all land within the lot.
A condominium is structured differently. Condominiums are multi-unit properties and often resemble an apartment complex. Each unit owner owns their unit and an interest in common areas that are shared with other unit owners. Common areas include swimming pools, roofs, elevators, walkways and any other areas shared by two or more people.
Proximity to Others
Condominiums are structured so that there are multiple units within one building. Oftentimes the only thing separating you from your neighbors is a single wall. Single family homes provide additional space between separating you and your neighbors with a yard.
Pros: If you are a social butterfly, enjoy meeting new people and want to build strong relationships with your neighbors, a condominium can provide you close proximity to multiple neighbors.
Cons: Depending on whom your neighbors are and what do they do, close proximity could cause problems. Does the guy next door play his drums at 2 a.m.? You'll want quiet neighbors when the only space between the two of you is a wall.
Single family homes provide additional distance between you and your neighbors. The space between can vary greatly from several feet to several acres.
Pros: Worry less about your neighbor's daily habits interrupting your quiet time. You can also feel more confident that your neighbors can't hear your every move.
Cons: It may be more difficult to develop relationships with neighbors when they are miles away. These relationships can come in handy when you need to borrow an egg, lawnmower or you need someone to watch the kids for a few minutes.
Association Rules and Fees
Condominiums and some single family homes participate in homeowner associations. Most commonly single family homes don't belong to a homeowners association (although this can vary depending on the area). The power to manage an association is placed with the board of directors, elected by unit owners. All owners within the association are members and pay the yearly association fees. The fees collected are used to maintain, repair and replace common areas.
The Pros of Belonging to an Association
• Common areas are maintained by the association. In condominiums, all property outside of the individual unit is maintained by the association. In single family homes all property shared by the members of the association is maintained.
• There is a governing body to assist in resolving neighborly conflicts and to remind members of the rules and regulations.
The Cons of Belonging to an Association
• Some associations have long lists of rules and guidelines that cover everything from what color you can paint your home to what type of fence you can purchase and install.
• You have to pay association fees on a monthly or yearly basis. These fees can vary greatly by location so be sure to ask about them.
• Associations can levy additional fees for unexpected repairs or maintenance issues.
There are several things you should consider regarding the value of the property and many will be dependent on your specific area and the home itself.
The first question you should ask is whether the home will go up — or down — in appraised value over time. Purchasing a home in a sought-after location may help ensure your home will gain value over time. But you should be cautious here. If you are one of the first buyers you could run the risk of the area fading out before it fills up.
The condominium market has been doing very well the past few years. Condominiums are increasing in value over time at a faster rate than single-family homes, according to a recent Case-Shiller Index. But when looking at the longer term, it's uncertain if this gap will continue as it's a fairly recent development. Talk with your agent and discuss their predictions for your market.
In the end, only you will know best which type of property is suited to meet your needs. Know what you are dealing with before taking the homebuying plunge, and you can move forward with confidence.
After a surge in home values in most cities in the past year, prices will increase more slowly in 2014.
The housing recovery has pushed up home prices nearly everywhere. In the past year, home prices rose in 225 of the 276 cities tracked by Clear Capital, a provider of real estate data and analysis. Prices nationwide increased by 10.9 percent, pushing the median price for existing homes up by $30,000, to $215,000. For people who have waited to sell their home or refinance their mortgage, that's good news.
Rising home prices in Seattle enabled Mike and Kristin Litke to refinance their first mortgage last summer and pay off a second mortgage that had an 8.2 percent interest rate. The Litkes, who bought their three-bedroom, 1.5-bath home for $512,500 in 2007 at the peak of Seattle's housing market, had used the second mortgage to avoid paying private mortgage insurance. In 2010, just as home prices in the area hit a trough, they refinanced their first mortgage to a 30-year fixed rate of 4.375 percent but were stuck with the second mortgage because they didn't have enough equity to do a "cash-out" refi.
This time, however, their home appraised for $521,000, allowing them to refinance into one 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage of $416,800 at 4.25 percent. They have reduced their monthly payment by $360, giving them some wiggle room in their budget and providing an infusion of college-savings funds for their kids: Stephen, 3½, and Stella, 10 months.
In 2013, a sense of urgency drove traditional buyers hoping to take advantage of still-affordable home prices and historically low mortgage rates. Buyers found selection limited and were often forced into bidding wars with investors and other buyers who paid cash. Sellers reaped the rewards in terms of quick sales, often above the asking price.
Almost half of the cities tracked by Clear Capital experienced double-digit increases in home prices, led by Las Vegas, with a gain of 32 percent. Such spikes reflected a continuing "correction to the overcorrection," says Alex Villacorta, vice-president of research and analytics for Clear Capital. Buyers and investors rushed in to snap up homes with prices that had fallen too far. Homes continue to be affordable, despite recent run-ups — on average, prices are still 31.5 percent below their 2006 peak. The percentage of monthly family income consumed by a mortgage payment (assuming a mortgage rate of 4.1 percent) is just 15.6 percent, on average, compared with 23.5 percent in mid 2006.
"Houses are very cheap," says David Stiff, principal economist at CoreLogic, a property and mortgage-data analytics company.
Market observers agree that home prices will rise in 2014, but at a slower, more steady pace compared with historical trends. Clear Capital forecasts that home prices nationally will rise by 3 percent to 5 percent in 2014, about the historical average. Kiplinger expects an increase of 4 percent.
"The most notable thing about 2014 will be how un-notable 2014 is," Villacorta says.
Meanwhile, the Conference Board, a nonprofit association of businesses, found that the percentage of consumers who intend to buy a home in the next six months was the highest since 2000. Adding to the push: pent-up demand among young people who, hampered by lack of jobs or insufficient income, have been living in their parents' basements or sharing apartments with roommates. Celia Chen, a housing analyst with Moody's Analytics, says Moody's expects the economy to expand enough in the coming year to enable young people to begin moving out. They'll probably rent first, but low vacancy rates and higher rents will prompt some renters to move on to homeownership.
As home prices continue to rise, more owners who had been underwater — meaning that they owed more on their mortgage than their home was worth — will emerge from the sidelines and start selling and buying homes. CoreLogic reports that almost 3.5 million homeowners were lifted out of negative equity between the end of 2012 and mid 2013. Nevada, Florida, Arizona, Michigan and Georgia have the highest shares of underwater homeowners.
A sellers market
In the past year, sales of existing homes and condos rose by 11 percent, to 5.29 million — almost the highest level in four years. The National Association of Realtors expects sales to remain about the same in 2014. Sales nationally have increased across all regions and in all but one price category, signaling a broad-based recovery.
Although sales of entry-level homes (priced at $100,000 or less) have fallen by almost half in the past year in the West, they're still rising in the Northeast, where the job recovery has lagged behind other regions. Sales of homes priced between $750,000 and $1 million have risen the most.
"A consistent stock market recovery for a prolonged period has opened up the wallets of upper-income homeowners," says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors.
Nationally, the supply of homes for sale stands at five months' worth. (Months' supply is a measurement of how long it would take to sell everything at the current pace of sales. A market balanced between buyers and sellers has about six months' supply of homes.) The current level slightly favors sellers, but in many cities inventory is much tighter. For example, the Washington, D.C., suburbs of Montgomery County, Md., and Northern Virginia had about two months' supply in September. Yun says the housing market has moved toward a shortage that will persist through 2014.
Why is inventory low?
In some cities, institutional investors have been scooping up properties to rent out. Plus, builders cut way back on new-home construction during the bust, and homeowners who bought at the top of the market are still reluctant to sell until they can recoup more of their investment. Some are still underwater, unable to pay off their mortgage with what they'd get for their home.
In Oakland County, Mich., in suburban Detroit, agent Melanie Bishop says home prices fell so far during the economic downturn that even longtime homeowners reaped little or no profit when they sold. But with the housing market's rebound, sellers' prospects have improved. She recently helped Corey and Suzy MacDonald sell the four-bedroom, 2.5-bath home in West Bloomfield that they bought in late 2006 for $272,000.
In the spring of 2012, Corey MacDonald became self-employed, and the couple decided to relocate to Florida. They listed their home for sale at $265,000, just enough to pay off their mortgage and expenses. The best offer they received was $245,000, so they decided to postpone their move and try again later. Last summer, they listed the home for sale at $289,900. On the first day, they received an offer of $310,000. "It was a perfect deal," MacDonald says. He ultimately took a job in Atlanta, and the couple used the proceeds from their Michigan sale to put down 20 percent on their next home.
The influence of investors will wane as the low-hanging fruit (including foreclosures) disappears in 2014. Once, whole cities were ripe for the picking — such as Cape Coral, Fla., and Phoenix in 2012, as well as Las Vegas and Atlanta in 2013 — but investors must now dig deeper at the neighborhood level, says Villacorta. That's a job probably best suited to smaller numbers of local investors who know their markets best.
Where will new supply come from?
Most people who list their homes for sale expect to buy another one, so it's a wash in terms of net inventory. According to the National Association of Home Builders, whose members retrenched during the bust, just less than half as many homes were started this year as in a normal market. NAHB forecasts that a normal pace of housing starts won't resume until late 2015. Tight credit, land and labor, as well as rising costs for materials, are constraining builders.
Distressed properties are still adding to the supply of homes nationally, but foreclosure filings are falling. Fewer homeowners are losing their homes as the economy improves, home prices (and home equity) rise, and lenders agree to more short sales (homes sold for less than their owners owe on their mortgages).
"We're in the home stretch of getting through the foreclosure crisis," says Daren Blomquist, vice-president at RealtyTrac, which monitors the foreclosure market. "But we won't cross the finish line, with filings back to pre-crisis level, until early 2015."
Supply Is Shrinking
Price Increases Are on the Horizon
Owning a Home Helps Create Family Wealth
Interest Rates Are Projected to Rise
Buy Low, Sell High
Monday, November 25 – Market 1
Rates as of November 25, 2013
I hope you all have a very happy Thanksgiving Day, filled with family, friends and all good things!