Category Archives: Tips

Update Your White Kitchen

Is that white kitchen too white?

All-white kitchens complement any decor, but they’re hard to keep pristine and can come across as dated. An older white kitchen shows signs of discoloration and wear. What can you do to make your white kitchen more 2021 than 2010?

Make it artsy

Art galleries have white walls because they’re a blank canvas where artwork can be attractively displayed. Add a colorful abstract painting in a key location. Have fun with artistic-themed dishtowels, placemats, and dishes. Try a washable rug or runner with a colorful modern pattern.

Fold in some color

Cookware, serving pieces, utensils and small appliances in analogous colors (those next to each other on the color wheel such as yellow, green and blue) can give you a pleasing new color palette. 

Add texture

Add interest with textures in complementary tones of white, grey or mushroom to walls, backsplashes, curtains or blinds. Natural wood accents like bowls can also warm up a white kitchen. If you have a place for barstools at the island, woven fabric, cane or hemp seats work well to add texture.   

Repaint

White reflects light, making your kitchen brighter, but one reason why people tire of white kitchens is that there’s no focal point. For a soft contrast, introduce watery colors like sea glass. For more drama and sophistication, go for high contrast with deep blue, black or grey. Paint the island a different color from the rest of the kitchen, or paint lower cabinets a different color from the top cabinets. 

The Best Breeds for First-Time Homeowners

You finally have your own home and the “no pets” policy is out the door! But what kind of dog is best?

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, which one is right for you?
Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, which one is right for you?

If you’re a first-time homeowner, the odds are good you will soon be ready for the fun and responsibility of owning your first dog.

If you’re looking for a pet that suits you and your lifestyle, the pooch experts at Petbreeds.com suggest breeds that are low maintenance, shed minimally, are easily trainable, and get along well with kids and other dogs:

  • Labrador retriever. There’s a reason these dogs are among the most popular breeds in the country. Known to be loyal, intelligent, obedient, and easy to train, they are deservedly a top choice, especially if you have, or plan to have children. Their energy make them an excellent choice for larger homes with big yards.
  • German short-haired pointer. These favorites are also low maintenance dogs that are easy to train. However, they’re also very active and require a lot of exercise to stay healthy, so they’re a good choice for active owners. Intelligent and playful companions who like their exercise and don’t require a lot of grooming.
  • Brittany spaniel. These loyal, intelligent pups are popular favorites among first-time pet owners because they’re loving, obedient, and great around children.
  • Vizla. Originally a Hungarian sporting dog, Vizslas are great exercise companions who are affectionate, friendly, and easy to train—and they don’t shed much. They are loyal, low-maintenance, easy-to-train breed, but they tend to be shy around children and other dogs.
  • Boston terrier. If you’re a couch potato, a Boston terrier may suit you well. These pups are friendly and loyal. They don’t require a lot of exercise, and they won’t shed much on your couch.
  • Australian cattle dog. If you’re into cuddling, this breed will greet you with open arms at the end of a long day. They’re a wonderful first dog, easy to train, although they do enjoy regular exercise and require regular grooming.
  • German Pinscher. These dogs are active but very obedient, and are especially adorable as puppies. They rarely shed and training them is usually easy and fun.
  • Papillion. These fluffy, adorable little dogs are super smart and are one of the most loving and sociable breeds. Their ability to learn makes them a favorite in for service dog trainers. Their cheerful demeanor will turn first-time pet owners into dog owners for life.

Are you interested in learning more about real estate? Feel free to contact me directly.

10 Easy Ways to Refresh a Tired Living Space

Has being cooped up made your home just feel tired? Try a few of these tips to refresh your space…

A new rug or even cleaning an old one can make a big difference in an otherwise stale space.

If you’re like many Americans who’ve been working from home for many months, you may be tired of the living space you once enjoyed and find it is now totally uninspiring. Decorators suggest 10 simple refresher solutions to perk up your living and work space.

  • Repaint one wall. Add a new splash of color by repainting one wall of your kitchen, bedroom or living room. Choose a color you find relaxing or pleasing and add new interest to your day.
  • Bring in a few plants. A little greenery can do wonders to brighten up a space and lift your spirits as well. Try an easy-care philodendron, a low-light friendly Devil’s Ivy or Chinese evergreen, or mini-sago palm or weeping fig.
  • Hang a mirror. It will get a little more light bouncing around, which can make a room look more spacious.
  • Try some new wall art. Add interest and create something fun to look at while you work by hanging one larger piece surrounded in an interesting way by several smaller pieces. You can even use framed photos or a variety of smaller watercolors to make a pleasing gallery wall. 
  • Change up the lighting. Overhead light can be pretty boring. Bring in a table or floor lamp or two to get light coming from different heights and angles around the room.  
  • Bring in a rug. In addition to adding warmth and texture to the floor, an area rug helps ground a room and the furniture in it. Even a small rug in the kitchen or in your entryway can make a big difference. 
  • Do some rearranging. Speaking of furniture, you can completely change the look of a room just by moving it around. 
  • Toss some pillows around. Make a tired room more inviting by tossing some comfy, bright-colored pillows on the sofa,  a chair or a bed.
  • Change out the knick-knacks. Accessorize a bookcase, shelving or a mantelpiece with some new decorative pieces, such as a couple of framed pictures, a small vase or sculpture, a pretty clock or whatever pleases you. 
  • Try adding scent. If you find the scent of pine or hyacinths relaxing, bring in some scented candles. Bringing scent into a room can liven it without breaking the bank.

Have questions about real estate? Please reach out!

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Easy Kitchen Hacks to Help Save on Groceries

Tired of wasting on groceries? Try some of these simple hacks…

Store leftovers in clear, airtight containers

There is little that home cooks can do about rising prices at the local market, but there are plenty of ways to make your grocery fund go further. Check out a few of these simple kitchen hacks to save pennies that add up to dollars.

Grate your own cheese. You pay big time for the convenience of pre-grated cheese. Buy an economical chunk of cheddar, or whatever type of cheese you like, and grate it yourself. Freeze what you don’t need right away so you’ll always have some on hand.

Chop and freeze herbs. Most recipes call for just a tablespoon or two of fresh herbs, but they come in bunches and unused portions often go to waste. Chop what you don’t use and pack it in ice cube trays with a little water. Throw the cubes into your soups or stews, or mix them with butter in your veggies.

Stop tossing brick-hard brown sugar. Store it with a marshmallow to keep it from hardening. If it’s too late for that, put the box or jar of hardened sugar into the microwave for 20 seconds to soften.

Roll your lemons. Don’t use two when one will do. You’ll get a lot more juice out of a lemon when you roll it on the counter before you cut it. 

Keep homemade cookies fresh. Lay a slice of fresh bread over them in your storage container. If they’re still around after a few days, change the bread to keep them fresh a little longer.

Skip the cooking spray. It’s more expensive and less nutritious than the tablespoon of olive oil, butter or coconut oil you need in your skillet.

Make leftovers more appealing. People turn up their noses at microwaved leftovers because they often wind up dry and tasteless. You can save on lunch by adding a bit of moisture to make them taste like they’re fresh-cooked. Wrap bread in a damp paper towel before nuking. Put a glass of water in the microwave when heating pastas, meats or stews.  

HOW AN APPRAISAL COULD AFFECT YOUR MORTGAGE REFINANCE RATE AND COSTS

Refinancing your mortgage may help you lower your interest rate and monthly payments, or cash out some of your home equity. Your lender may require an appraisal as part of the refinancing process. The result can affect the new interest rate you will qualify for, along with other costs.

What is an Appraisal?

An appraisal is an inspection conducted by an independent professional to assess the current market value of a house based on its size, amenities and condition. An appraiser compares the home in question to similar properties in the same area that have been sold recently.

Each lender decides whether to require an appraisal to refinance. Some government mortgage programs offer streamlined programs without an appraisal. If your lender requires an appraisal, you will have to pay for it. The fee is typically several hundred dollars.cc

How Can Your Home’s Appraised Value Affect Your Refinancing Options?

The current market value of your home can affect your loan-to-value ratio, which is a percentage calculated by dividing your mortgage balance by your home’s appraised value. A lender will consider the LTV ratio, in addition to your credit score and debt-to-income ratio, to set your interest rate.

If your home’s value has increased since you bought it, you may qualify for a lower interest rate. If your home’s value has fallen, however, you may not be able to qualify for a competitive interest rate because lenders consider borrowers with low amounts of equity riskier than borrowers with more equity. If the appraised value of your house is less than your mortgage balance, you may not be able to refinance the loan at all.

How Can the Appraisal Affect Private Mortgage Insurance?

If the LTV ratio is 80 percent or higher, you may need to pay for private mortgage insurance, which can cost hundreds of dollars per month. If you have been paying for PMI, your home’s value has increased since you bought it and you have more than 20 percent equity, you may be able to eliminate PMI and save money each month.

If you have less than 20 percent equity and don’t want to pay for PMI, you might be able to avoid it by choosing a cash-in refinance. You could pay down your mortgage balance to reduce your loan-to-value ratio, eliminate PMI and get a lower interest rate.

How to Prepare for an Appraisal

Given the importance of your home’s appraised value, you want to present your house in a positive light. You should make sure your home is clean and free of clutter so the appraiser can easily see all the important features. You don’t need to make major improvements before an appraisal, but you might want to apply a fresh coat of paint and make some inexpensive repairs.

Source: RIS Media

Helpful Tips for Moving with Pets

People move for all sorts of reasons, and while some moves can boast exciting opportunities, even a move under the best circumstances can be unbearably stressful. Transitioning to a new home can be hard on the furry members of your household, as well. Thankfully, there are measures you can put in place to make your next move as smooth as possible for your pets.

Board Your Pet on Moving Day

Ideally, you will not keep your pet around on moving day. The chaos can be stressful for your pet and you likely won’t give your pet the attention it will want or need. Movers can also let out your pet unintentionally. Avoid this by boarding your pet or asking a trusted friend or family member to pet sit.

Keep an Essentials Box

Just as you should keep essentials with you during a move so that you have vital items, if your moving truck is lost or delayed, it can be helpful to create the same essentials box for your pet. Include any prescriptions, favorite toys, familiar items and their bed.

Make it Familiar

You may not be able to explain to Fido why you left your old house, but you can make their new home feel familiar right away. Set up a small area with your pet’s toys, food and bed. Keep daily rituals as similar as possible. Particularly for outdoor cats, allow them to get acclimated to a bedroom or smaller space before letting them rule the roost.

Fill Out the Paperwork

Moving comes with a lot of paperwork, but don’t forget to add your pet’s files to the mix. Update their tags or microchip information to the new address and phone number and request that your previous vet transfer records to a local clinic.

Source: RIS Media

Alternatives to Granite in Your Kitchen

Thinking of doing an update in your kitchen?

The granite question is one I am frequently asked from clients, friends, and family. The questions range from “Is granite out of date yet or is it still in fashion?” to “Is it worth the money?”

Long story short, yes to both. Luckily there are some great new options on the market that will update your space and in some cases are less expensive than granite. Check out this article from our newsletter below.

countertop optionsGranite has long been the top choice for kitchen counters. But it can be expensive, and as a result, many people are looking at a variety of alternatives. Perhaps you just want a completely different look in your kitchen. Before you make your decision, the following are some of the most popular countertop options at a variety of price points to help you evaluate all of your options.

Butcher Block

Wood looks great in many kitchen designs, especially if you want to look rustic or homey. Most woods aren’t durable enough for countertops, but butcherblock is an excellent choice. Butcher block is assembled wood that is heavy duty and made specifically for chopping or food prep, and it makes a great countertop in your kitchen.

Engineered Surfaces

Engineered surfaces cover a lot of ground, but some common types are Silestone or Correll. These are manufactured countertops designed to give you the look and feel of real stone. They aren’t necessarily the most inexpensive option, depending on which option you select, but they can be more affordable than granite.

Marble

Some people prefer the look of marble to granite. It’s considered luxurious and can give your kitchen a really rich look. Marble is a more porous stone, however, and can become problematic in certain areas of your kitchen, such as when used as a backsplash. Marble is best used in moderation, so you might want to include it as a feature rather than as the entire surface.

Concrete

For an industrial-looking applications, concrete is a fantastic option. It can be created in any size or shape and is relatively inexpensive. But even when finished, concrete can be susceptible to scratches and stains. On the plus side, though, these counters can be fixed with relative ease. Concrete may be one of the things that is fairly easy to install yourself.

Tile

Some people shy away from tile on countertops, but if done properly, it can be a good fit. Tile countertops do need to be properly grouted to prevent dirt from building up and they should never have food prepared directly on the surface; otherwise, tile of various sorts can make for amazing counters.

Stainless Steel

Metal is also a go-to option for many people and stainless steel counters are a great fit. Stainless steel is durable and elegant. It is easy to clean without any fear of damage or staining. They can scratch and even dent depending on your care and use of them.

Contact us today to learn more about other kitchen counter alternatives.

Three Easy Upgrades to Increase Home Value

Contact Maxine for more home improvement tips.

Whether you’re planning to sell or rent, a little renovation goes a long way in helping to increase your home’s market value. For most homeowners, the biggest concern is usually the budget required for upgrades, renovations, and home maintenance. The great news is that there’s no need to spend thousands of dollars on home improvements. Here are three tips for some of the best home upgrades that add value:

  1. Knock down a wall, and go for an open concept. Not only will it create the illusion of a bigger space, but it’s also a home design trend that’s very much in demand today. Just make sure to have the wall assessed for possible electrical wires housed behind it before hitting it with a sledgehammer.
  2. Brighten up the bathroom. Bathrooms are among the most important considerations for many tenants and prospective homebuyers, so it’s pertinent to get this area of the house right. Buff up the tiles and replace the faucets, showerheads and toilet seats. There’s no need to replace all the tiles, just those that are cracked and chipped. The trick is to find the right cleaning agent that can help make the tiles look good as new.
  3. Apply a fresh coat of paint. Choose modern color palettes to give the house a fresh new look.

Source: Reprinted with permission from RISMedia ©2020. All rights reserved.

How to get the best mortgage rate

A house is a major purchase. In fact, it’s typically one of the biggest purchases people make in their whole lives. If you’re like one of the millions of buyers who get a mortgage for their dream home, securing the lowest interest rate possible could go a long way toward saving you money over the lifetime of the loan.

According to national nonprofit American Consumer Credit Counseling, here are five factors homebuyers need to consider to get the best mortgage rate:

Questions? Call Maxine for answers! 703-836-1464

Good credit score. The higher the credit score, the better the mortgage rate. People with lower scores are considered more at risk of defaulting on the loan. To improve your score, make sure you pay all your bills on time and try to eliminate or significantly lessen credit card balances.

Down payment. Building savings and being able to put forward a larger down payment will help you receive a lower mortgage rate. Ideally, you should try to save up enough to make a 20 percent down payment.

Steady employment. Working for the same employer for at least two years shows mortgage lenders you have steady earnings, which makes you a more attractive borrower.

Fixed rate vs. adjustable rate. Fixed-rate mortgages keep the same interest rate the entire life of the loan. Adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) rates change over time, beginning with an introductory period that lasts three, five, seven or 10 years of a steady rate. Following this introductory period, the ARM rate may change periodically

15 year vs. 30 year. If you have a consistent income and feel you’ll live in your home for an extended period, it may be worth considering a 15-year loan rather than the average 30-year loan. Although a 15-year loan means higher monthly payments, it’ll save you thousands of dollars in interest.

Make sure you shop around for lenders and do research, even when refinancing, to make sure you’re getting the best rate for your situation.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice.

Source: Reprinted with permission from RISMedia ©2020. All rights reserved.

Identity Theft 101: Tips from PenFed on How to Protect Your Identity

Our parent company, PenFed Credit Union, put out a great post a while back on identity theft and, with the recent hacking attempts, it seemed relevant to re-blog it now.

Did you know that an estimated 17.6 million Americans—that’s 7% of U.S. residents age 16 and older—were victims of identity theft in 2014. That’s 17 million people whose credit cards were used fraudulently or had their personal information used to open new accounts. Having your credit card or identity stolen can make for a big financial headache—and make a mess of your credit until you fix it.

To sort things out, you must contact your financial institution to notify them about the fraud so they can review your account for possible fraudulent transactions and close the account. Also, they will initiate sending you a new card or debit card with a new account. This can be done usually by telephone. However, if your identity has been used to open new fraudulent accounts, the process can be more involved, requiring you to file a police report and dispute inaccurate data on your credit report. While you are not typically on the hook for fraudulent transactions, it can take time to sort out. You should keep a record (date, time, name of financial representative, summary of conversation) of each call to the financial institution.

Avoid stranger danger

But taking some common sense precautions can help you avoid identity theft in the first place. Here’s what you need to know to keep yourself safe from fraud:

  1. Never give passwords or personal information to strangers. Scammers calling your home or even emailing you can be very convincing. They may tell you they’re from the government or your financial institution, and warn of dire consequences if you don’t hand over your social security number, account numbers, or passwords. But no valid institution will ask for this information over the phone or by email—if someone contacts you asking for it, they’re trying to scam you. If you’re contacted by someone and are not sure if it’s legitimate, contact the institution directly to confirm.
  2. Keep your passwords secure. You want to use a strong password—at least 12 characters, including numbers, capital letters, and special characters—to make it hard for thieves to crack. On top of that, you should change your password regularly and never use the same password on multiple websites, which can mean that all of your accounts are compromised if a thief gets just one password. A password manager app on your computer or smartphone can help you keep track of your passwords without resorting to writing them down (which is certainly not secure). If it’s available, you should also use two factor authentication. Two factor authentication requires you to log on with both a password and a code that’s usually texted or emailed to you when you try to log on—and it will stop thieves in their tracks.
  3. Make sure your computer is secure. You should apply security updates to your computer and web browser when they’re available. Most apps can be set up to do this automatically, making it a no-hassle process. If you’re using a shared computer, be sure to log out of any accounts before you walk away, and never use a public computer to access banking or other sensitive information.
  4. Watch your wallet. It doesn’t matter how careful you are with your information if a thief steals your wallet. Always keep an eye on your wallet or purse. In case your wallet does go missing, don’t carry more personal information than you need to. Your social security card, rarely used credit cards, and written down passwords or Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) should never be kept in your wallet. Not carrying unnecessary personal information will help protect you even in case of theft.
  5. Keep your financial documents safe. If other people are in your home, like workmen or even roommates, keep your financial paperwork safely stored and locked up. And when you’re getting rid of bank statements—or even credit card offers you’ve received in the mail—shred them to be sure no one can use them to get your information.
  6. Monitor your financial statements. Even if you’re following all of these steps to stay safe, you may still find yourself the victim of fraud. The best way to catch it early is to check your financial accounts regularly: monitor statements from your financial institution and keep an eye on your credit report. If you see any transactions you didn’t make, report them immediately.
  7. Review your credit report, annually. Your credit report is essentially your financial report card. It’s important to know how to review it and make corrections, if needed—and know what you need to do if you should ever detect fraudulent activity. Federal law requires each credit reporting company to give you a free copy of your credit report once a year. You can request free copies of each of your credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com.