What to Expect from 2021's Housing Market

The Michigan real estate market is no exception, especially after such an unpredictable year that 2020 was. Of course, no one can predict with 100% accuracy what is to come this year. However, we can make some guesses based off the information that realtors all over provide. Remember, housing market predictions can only give you an idea of what to expect if you buy or sell a house this year. Don’t let them dictate your housing decisions – only your personal situation and finances should do that.

Housing Market Forecast

Experts are predicting that after 2020 there will be a post-pandemic rebound in 2021. This would involve steady mortgage rates, job recoveries, and the law of supply and demand working together to get home sales rolling. In 2020, there were so many unknowns of the pandemic that caused many home buyers and sellers to feel uneasy about making the big move. However, this time has allowed real estate agents to adapt to the ways they can respect social distancing guidelines when needed.

Due to the low inventory on the market and the excessive number of buyers trying to enter it, experts believe that low mortgage rates and the rise of remote workers with flexible schedules will keep home sales booming in 2021. Home sales and the prices for which they are sold are likely to be higher in 2021 as opposed to last year.

Several Buyers will Enter the Market

Buyer traffic in the market has been consistently stable over the past few months. Often time there are more buyers than sellers which has created a very competitive market to be in. This is a great sign for sellers. Millennials are also reaching the point in their life where they are having to make the decision of continuing to rent or becoming a homeowner. Due to rent prices rising it is becoming increasingly affordable for them to choose taking on a mortgage payment.

Not Enough Homes will be Listed for Sale

Experts predict that low inventory will continue into the new year, which will make it a great time for sellers. This trend will result in homes selling quicker at a higher price. Therefore, it is more important than ever for buyers to have a real estate agent they can trust to get them the quickest access to homes one they’re on the market. Buyers will have to work a little harder to find their dream home.

What Does This Mean for Home Buyers?

If the experts are right it is going to be a very competitive market this year, so buyers are going to have to bring their A game when they are ready to start looking for a home. In order to make sure that you are prepared for the heavy competition as a buyer make sure that you have a pre-approval ready when you start looking at homes and a real estate agent that you can trust!

What Does This Mean for Home Sellers?

With many motivated buyers on the market and the existing low inventory this will create the perfect opportunity for sellers to get multiple high-priced offers on their homes. Due to this low inventory, there will also be a low number of sellers for you to compete with. We have no doubt that a trusted real estate agent will be able to provide you with the knowledge and experience in your market and will be able to guide you to reach top dollar for your home. As a seller in 2021 you should have no problem selling your home!

May 6, 2021

Fixing up your garage this spring

In most households, the garage serves many important purposes. It keeps your car safe from weather, theft, and other damage. It provides a storage space for your outdoor equipment and other things. In some homes it even provides a crawl space or attic access. Despite this, however, the garage is often one of the last places many homeowners think of when trying to come up with spring home improvement projects. If you think that your garage might need a little extra love this spring, here are a few things that you could do to give it a refresh.

Enhance Your Storage

One way that you can reinvigorate your garage and make it a much more useful space is to add additional storage options within it. Depending on how your garage is currently set up, this could be as simple as installing a few shelves or adding a couple of cabinets to give you somewhere to put items that might otherwise just be sitting around or cluttered together. You could even add a cabinet with a lock to give you a secure space to store chemicals or other items that you don’t want children or pets to have easy access to.

There are a few ways that you could take this a bit further if you really want some nice storage solutions, though. A pegboard can be a great addition to your garage, especially if you need a place to store tools for easy access; you can even trace around the various tools with a permanent marker or paint pen to make it obvious what goes in which space. Other storage options include a rack to hold a bicycle to keep it out of the way, corner shelves with a lazy Susan for storing small components out of the way, or under-shelf bins to hold small items like screws, nails, and other fasteners.

Fix Up That Floor

Your garage floor takes a lot of abuse, and over time it can really start to show. Stains, discolorations, and cracks are all common in garage floors, and over time the floor can really start to degrade. While it will probably take a while before the damage gets so bad that you have to start making major repairs, having a messed up garage floor can make you less likely to use the garage, and beyond a certain point can even affect the resale value of your home. Luckily, this is usually pretty easy to fix.

Concrete crack fillers can smooth out the surface of your garage floor, preventing further damage and giving you a uniform surface again. In many cases, these fillers can even roughly match the color of your existing garage floor so that the filled cracks aren’t overly obvious. A variety of concrete cleaners are also available to help remove stains and discoloration from the floor as well. If you want to really enhance the look of your floor while protecting it from further damage, epoxy-based sealants and floor paints provide you with a hard coat on top of the cleaned and filled concrete that will resist leaks, stains, and everyday traffic to keep your garage floor looking good for years to come.

Revive Those Garage Doors

Have your garage doors seen better days, or do you not have doors on your garage at all? Either way, installing new garage doors, or even just replacing the door opening mechanism, can give new life to your garage. Modern garage doors help to protect everything in your garage and provide a decorative enhancement to the look of your home. In many cases the openers can even be connected to smartphone apps or other smart home components to give you more control even when you’re away from the house.

Posted in Home Maintenance
May 3, 2021

How often do you clean these spots around your home?

Cleaning up around the house is obviously an important task, and some areas require cleaning more often than others. There are some spots that might need a bit more attention than they’re getting, though. This is especially true for those areas that are out of sight or otherwise not as easily noticed as higher-profile and more visible areas that get cleaned on the regular. While the specifics of your cleaning and maintenance schedule will depend on your home and what you have in it, here are a few common areas for you to consider in case they’re not getting enough attention in your home.

Interior Cleaning

Most of the time when you think of cleaning in the house, you’re likely thinking of tasks like dusting, vacuuming, and other common indoor cleaning tasks. Here are a few other places to clean that might not be getting nearly as much attention as they need:

  • Washer and dryer: You should clean your washing machine every week or two, or at least once a month if it isn’t used very often. The dryer should also be cleaned at least once a month, and make sure you take a vacuum and suck out some of the lint that might build up around your lint trap.
  • Blinds: While dust on the blinds is the most obvious sign that they need to be cleaned, they also build up with grease and other dirt over time which can stick and even stain. Even if they don’t look like they need it, clean your blinds at least once a month.
  • Refrigerator: The coils on the back of your fridge need periodic cleaning, but you should also clean the grill, shelves, and other internal locations as well. This not only keeps buildup from stopping airflow, but also helps to prevent food contamination.
  • Furniture: If your furniture is upholstered, try to vacuum its surface at least once a month. This will get rid of crumbs and dirt while also cutting back on dust, dander, and other allergens that can plague you throughout the year.

These obviously aren’t the only locations that you need to hit when cleaning up around the house, but they’re some of the more easily overlooked. Other appliances and features of rooms that are frequently used might need to go on the list as well when thinking of what to clean.

Exterior Cleaning

There are a lot of areas outside that could probably use more attention than they’re getting. This can vary significantly depending on where you live and the features of your home and yard, but here are a few of the most common:

  • External HVAC components: If you have central heat and air, you’ve likely got a large exterior unit that at best only gets cleaned once or maybe twice a year. If you rely on window-mounted air conditioners, those may get even less love. Check these components at least 3 or 4 times a year if not more often and remove built-up leaves, dirt, dust, and other potential hazards that could hurt their efficiency.
  • Patios and walkways: Leaves, cut grass, and a variety of types of dirt can have a negative effect on walkways, stonework, and even wooden features like patios if left alone. They can cause unsightly stains, chips, and other decay. Clean these outdoor features at least once a month, and more often during the summer and fall when there’s a lot of mowing and falling leaves around.
  • Garage doors: There’s a good chance that you clean your garage at least a few times per year, but what about the garage doors? Not only do the tracks need to be cleaned periodically to prevent dirt or debris from clogging them up, but you also might want to add some appropriate lubricant to the rollers at least once or twice per year.
  • Gutters: If your home has gutters, you likely clean them at least once a year when the leaves are falling. What about other times, though? Falling seed pods, pollen, and even dirt and dust that washes down from your shingles can all have a negative effect on your gutters. Try to clean them at least once per season if not more often.

There are other areas that may be overlooked as well, such as bricks or siding and the outside of windows (which should be cleaned at least as often as the inside window glass is cleaned.) Stay mindful of this as you make a list of things to clean and maintain around the outside of your home.

Posted in Home Maintenance
April 29, 2021

Using Epoxy Cabinet Refinishing Kits

What do you do when your kitchen needs a facelift? Those cabinets are solid, they’re functional, but man, are they dated! One option many homeowners are turning to is cabinet refinishing kits. Many of these pre-built kits use a water-based epoxy coating to ensure that the cabinets get the most rock-solid finish possible without investing in a lot of professional grade equipment. But there’s a lot more to refinishing cabinets with these materials than opening the can and getting to work.

Prepping for an Epoxy Finish

If you’ve never heard it before, take this away with you: The biggest predictor of success for your DIY project is how well you prep your surfaces and work area. It’s really that simple, even though prep work can be pretty involved. Creating a clean, smooth, ready to coat cabinet door takes a lot of effort, but yields magnificent results. This is the number one secret of the pros, besides having all that fancy painting equipment.

So how do you prep for an epoxy cabinet refinish? There are steps.

  1. Remove all the cabinet doors, drawer fronts, and hardware. Label each and store them where they won’t get lost or damaged. Using sticky notes to track cabinet doors can be a really good trick, since doors may look alike but not actually fit the same.
  2. Fill any cracked surfaces with a compatible filler and sand it smooth. You can’t simply paint away problems in your cabinetry.
  3. Clean your cabinet fronts, cabinet doors, and exposed finish on cabinet bases thoroughly to remove oils, spills, and other messes that will interfere with paint adherence.
  4. Cover any surface that you don’t want paint on. This includes your backsplash and your countertops, and even your work area. This is not a material that you can necessarily just peel off should you have a drip.
  5. Set up areas for your doors and drawer fronts to cure. Curing can take several days per painted side, so ensure the area is super clean and free of any drafts that could deposit dust and other debris.

Only once you’ve fully prepped your area should you begin the task at hand. Taping your cabinet bases can help keep the paint lines sharp, but remember to remove the tape while the paint is wet for the best results. It’s not always necessary to paint the insides of your cabinets, but should you choose to, remember that the pre-built kits are only designed to cover outer surfaces, so you’ll need extra coating material.

The Right Equipment Matters

Another important thing to know about using an epoxy cabinet refinishing kit is that the right equipment really does matter. Buy the right tools, and don’t just settle for a single brush or a single roller; they come in a variety of options for different jobs. Because rollers and brushes both create different textures depending on their design, it’s going to be really important to make the right choices here. Ask experts if you’re not sure. Rollers are not all the same, and there are lots of differences in naps and roller density. And brushes made of natural material are very different from synthetics.

The size and shape of your rollers or brushes also matter big time. Brushes in particular come in tons of different shapes, each meant to do specific jobs. For example, an angle brush will help you get into corners better, though they can also be used on the flat, open areas too, if you’re careful. Rollers vary dramatically in width, and bigger isn’t always better.

Whatever you do, though, don’t mix brushes with foam applicators of any sort. The resulting texture won’t be consistent and will likely drive you to refinish your cabinets yet again long before the epoxy coating is in need of refreshing.

For a Faster, Harder Coating…

 

If you’re not sure you want to live with the excitement that is refinishing your cabinets, you’ve got another option: you can call in a painter. Professional painters often use harder coatings like lacquers and oil-based epoxies, as well as paint sprayers to ensure a smooth and even finish. Because they can take your cabinet doors away to their shop, it’ll also minimize the mess you have to live with.

Posted in Home Maintenance
April 20, 2021

Great checklist for your spring home maintenance

Spring is here, so that means it’s time to start getting ready for the months ahead. Chances are you’re looking forward to being outdoors, maybe firing up the grill, planting a garden, or spending some quality time in the pool. Before you get down to the business of enjoying the nice weather, though, there are a few things that need to be taken care of first. That’s right: It’s time to knock out some home maintenance tasks to make sure everything is ready for the changing weather.

Home maintenance is important throughout the year, but spring and fall are two of the top times to really hit some of the big points. In the fall you’re prepping for winter and making sure that your home is ready for icy weather, while in the spring you’re checking to make sure everything came through the winter ok and prepping for the heat and rain that comes with spring and summer. If you aren’t sure where to start, here are some of the top items to check off on your spring home maintenance checklist.

Outdoor Maintenance

Cold winter months can really take their toll on the outside of your home. This is one of the reasons that spring maintenance is so important. By performing external maintenance early in the spring, you can identify damage caused by ice and snow and repair it before it turns into leaks and other problems when the spring and summer rains start up. Here are a few key areas that you need to make sure that you check:

  • Inspect your roof, looking for cracked or missing shingles or other signs of damage or leaks
  • Check around the foundation for cracks or other wear
  • Look at the bricks and siding on your home to see if you need repairs or new paint
  • Clean the outdoor unit of your HVAC system and inspect it for obvious signs of damage

This is also a good time to check any external fixtures, outdoor electrical outlets, hose faucets, and other objects on or around the outside of your home for signs of damage.

Indoor Maintenance

A lot of people think that the main thing to do indoors is a bit of spring cleaning. While a good deep clean a few times a year is important for keeping your home livable, there are a few specific maintenance areas that you need to be sure to cover. Here are some of the key points to hit:

  • Clean the condenser coils on the back of the refrigerator and check the temperature in both the fridge and freezer
  • Inspect the ceilings and walls for discolorations or cracks that could indicate water damage
  • Test your HVAC system to ensure that it functions properly when switched from heating to cooling
  • Lubricate the hinges and tracks on doors, windows, and other areas that will see a lot of motion or traffic in coming months

While you’re already in maintenance mode, this could also be a good time to replace light bulbs (possibly with more energy-efficient bulbs or bulbs with smart connect features), test outlets, and perform other basic maintenance tasks around the house.

Other Maintenance Tasks

There are a number of other maintenance tasks that don’t really fall into these two categories. Little things like lubricating the moving parts in your garage doors, changing the oil in mowers and other outdoor equipment, sharpening tools, prepping garden spaces, and similar tasks will go a long way toward getting you ready for spring and summer. It may also be a good time to do some deep sanitizing or moving around some outdoor fixtures to make it easy to have some friends over while giving everyone their space as well.

Posted in Home Maintenance
April 13, 2021

Should you get your A/C ready for summer?

It may still be just barely spring, but summer is right around the corner. For a lot of homeowners, that means flipping the heat to air conditioning, and, potentially, discovering that their air conditioner isn’t working properly. This is why it’s so important to check your air conditioning system now, before you really need it. Not only will you be able to beat the rush for repairs, you’ll also get extra time to clean and prep your unit so it can perform at its very best all summer long. So, when – and how – should you get that A/C ready for summer?

Now Is the Time for A/C Prepping

You can run a simple check on your air conditioner any time the weather is above about 50 degrees or so. You don’t need to leave it on all day, just long enough to make sure it’s blowing cold and there aren’t any weird noises or smells coming out of the outdoor unit. If you try this when it’s too cold outside, some units will freeze up, others may simply refuse to kick on at all, and both of these situations may lead to your calling out a repairman for absolutely no reason. But it’s also important to not wait too long to check your unit for problems, since HVAC experts get booked pretty solid as soon as it starts to heat up. Unless you really love waiting for service, check your unit when the days start to warm, but aren’t unbearably hot. You should be able to find someone to make a repair in a reasonable time if you beat the rush.

How to Prepare Your Air Conditioner for Summer

Although much of what it takes to repair an air conditioner unit requires a licensed expert, there are plenty of things a homeowner can do on their own to get their system ready. Don’t ever take covers off of HVAC equipment without specific training, but here are some things you can do right now:

  • Trim the weeds. Weeds growing into and close to your outside air conditioner unit can interrupt the air flow that makes it possible for your unit to work efficiently. With the breaker turned off, remove any vines that have climbed inside, trim any weeds growing around the unit, and take advantage of this time to spray the weeds within a foot of the unit with a hearty weedkiller.
  • Rinse the condenser unit. The condenser is that unit that sits outside and hums along during the summer. If you look closely, you can see that the main part of the equipment is a huge bank of tiny metal fins set inside a metal cage. These fins are how the condenser removes heat from inside your home, so it’s really important to keep them clean and exposed to the open air. It’s an easy process to clean them, though it can be time consuming. Simply hose the entire unit down, both inside and out, until the water running out of the unit no longer has dirt or grit in it.
  • Check your condensation line. Another pain point for air conditioners can be the condensation line. Even though you may use this when your heater is running, a great deal more humidity is removed from room air during the warmer seasons, so a problem may not be glaringly obvious through the winter. You’ll find an access at or near your furnace that will allow you to run a little bit of vinegar or bleach through the line to destroy algae and mildew that can block up the works.
  • Clean your filters. You should be cleaning or replacing your filters at least once every three months, but sometimes those things slip a bit during the winter. Now is the time to get back into better habits. Check your filter and if there’s any discoloration or visible dirt, clean or discard it, depending on the type you have. Repeat this monthly through the end of the summer for optimal air flow to your unit.
Posted in Home Maintenance
April 2, 2021

Starting your garden seeds

Planting a garden in the spring is a great way to have fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the year. Even homeowners who don’t have space for a large garden plot often plant a few things in containers or small raised gardens on their property. While it’s not quite time to start planting in a lot of places, that doesn’t mean you can’t get the jump on gardening season by starting your seeds. Depending on where you live and what you’re planting in your garden, there are a few different ways to get seeds started for your garden this year.

Starting Seeds Indoors

Before starting your seeds, be sure to read the seed packet to get an idea of how long before planting you should get your seeds started. In many cases this will be six to eight weeks, but it could be longer or shorter depending on exactly what you’re growing. In addition, the packet should give you an idea of when is best to plant based on where you live; you can then time you seed starting based on that guideline.

Prepare a growing medium by using a seed-starting mix or other potting soil. Break it apart to loosen it, then dampen it slightly with some water. Avoid using outdoor garden soil or soil with added fertilizers, as seeds won’t need the extra fertilizer or organic materials from the soil and having too much of these can actually cause problems.

Once you’ve prepped your growing medium, fill some seed-starting trays or other containers until they’re around 2/3 full. Place a few seeds in each cell or container, covering them with more of the dampened mix. Add just a little bit of water, then place the containers in a warm, sunny place. Cover them with a thin sheet of plastic wrap or plastic seed-starting domes to help control the humidity until the seeds sprout.

Starting Seeds Outdoors

Some plants, including a lot of flowers and certain vegetables such as squash and beans, do better when started outdoors. In many cases these are referred to as “direct sow” seeds because they are typically planted directly into the ground instead of being started in pots. This is often the case with plants that germinate and grow quickly, since they can rapidly outgrow indoor growing spaces. If you want to get a jump on these seeds, you’ll need to start them outdoors.

If you have a greenhouse set up, you can start a variety of seeds in it, including seeds that you might otherwise start indoors. Even if you don’t have a dedicated greenhouse set up, cutting the bottoms off of gallon water or milk jugs can still give you the benefits of a greenhouse without the dedicated structure. Failing that, you can also use plastic sheeting to construct a greenhouse tent to achieve the same end.

If you don’t wish to plant directly into the soil, use small individual flowerpots filled with the same seed starter material you would use for indoor starting. This provides more room for root development while still fitting inside of a greenhouse (either static or makeshift) for warmth and weather protection. Once the plants start to outgrow their greenhouses or fill out their pots, they are ready to transfer to the soil.

Planting Time

When it comes time to plant seeds that were started indoors or in pots, the process is pretty simple. Indoor plants should be placed in a partially shaded area that’s protected from the wind for a few hours each day, gradually exposing them to more sunlight and wind for around seven to ten days before planting. Once you’re ready to actually plant, dig a hole slightly larger than the container you started your seed in and add more starting soil to the bottom of it. Remove any excess sprouts from each starter, leaving the strongest plant as you transfer the plant and its surrounding soil to the hole. Fill in around it with soil, then water.

Posted in Home Maintenance
March 8, 2021

What are smart locks?

Home security is important. As smart technologies continue to grow in popularity, an increasing number of homeowners are turning to higher-tech solutions to meet their home security needs. While options like smart cameras and connected doorbells are becoming much more common, not as many homeowners realize that it’s possible to upgrade their doors with smart locks as well. These locks come in a variety of designs, offering some pretty interesting options to those who want to take their home security to the next level.

What Are Smart Locks?

As the name implies, smart locks are door locks that have “smart” connected functions. This means that you can lock and unlock the locks remotely without the need to physically unlock it with a key. They often offer status monitoring as well, allowing you to see whether your doors are locked or unlocked (and in some cases, even whether the door is open or closed.) While there are fully electronic smart locks available that can only be opened remotely, the majority of consumer smart locks feature a physical keyhole and/or a numeric keypad for access as well.

For most smart locks, you can lock, unlock, and monitor them using a smartphone app or a connected hub device such as Google Home or Amazon Alexa. Remote key fobs (similar to those you see with most cars) may also be used to control the lock remotely. Some locks also incorporate biometric features, allowing you to lock or unlock the device by touching a fingerprint reader.

Smart Lock Advantages

There are a number of benefits to installing smart locks on your doors. By allowing you to unlock the door remotely instead of having to use a key, you can get into or out of the house faster when your hands are full or in emergency situations. This remote feature also comes in handy if you realize that you forgot to lock the door when leaving the house or if you need to have someone stop by and pick something up for you while you’re away.

Smart locks also give you a greater degree of control over who can and can’t access your home and when that access is granted. Many models connect with other devices such as smart doorbells or connected camera systems, letting you see who’s at the door before making the decision whether to lock or unlock. In many cases you can even include the smart locks in smart home routines that you’ve programmed on other devices, having them lock or unlock at certain times or when certain routines are run. This can improve the overall security of your home, allowing the doors to lock automatically when potential threats are detected or at times when no one should be visiting.

Installing Smart Locks

Most smart locks aren’t much more difficult to install than standard lock units, though they are likely to have more post-installation setup required. Many smart locks function as a deadbolt, though they may incorporate the doorknob and standard door lock as well. Depending on the model of smart lock being installed, additional components such as a solar panel and battery unit may be included in the installation as well. These components may be integrated into the lock mechanism, or they may be separate.

Once a smart lock is installed, it still needs to be configured to work with your app or other devices. This is usually a pretty straightforward process, similar to pairing a device with your phone via Bluetooth, though some users may experience problems during installation or integration into an existing smart home setup. After setup is complete, the locks should function without issue, using encrypted digital keys over a wireless or Bluetooth connection.

Posted in Home Maintenance
March 5, 2021

Sliding Barn Doors for Your Home

The cottage look has become a huge trend for homeowners, especially those with older homes that have lost a lot of their original charm to generic remodels over generations. One of the big elements of this new wave in design is the sliding barn door, a simple door mounted on a track that slides to cover a doorway. It’s not a fancy invention, nor is it a new one, so why are they getting so much attention all of a sudden?

The Sliding Barn Door Aesthetic

Sliding barn doors add a ton of cottage chic to a home, especially one that’s already boasting pre-modern features like custom hand-built kitchen cabinetry, built-in storage, and unusual spaces. The sliding barn door is a simple but elegant touch. It’s literally just a door built from wooden slats, just like you’d see on an old-fashioned barn on a farm. That rugged, simple look complements a lot of different styles, especially considering the many different kinds of materials that can be used to achieve the final result.

Considerations Before Installing Sliding Barn Doors

There are many things to consider before you choose sliding barn doors for your home. The first, and most important, is whether or not a barn door actually makes sense with the rest of your design. If you’re literally choosing a barn door because they’re trending right now, that’s about the worst possible reason to make the call. Instead, ask yourself if you really like the cottage chic look, and if you do, if it makes sense with the other design choices you’re making in your home. Although some purists may argue that there’s absolutely no place for a cottage look in a modern home, most designers would agree that the most important thing is consistency. After all, a lot of homes built in the last 40 or so years don’t really have a strong aesthetic of their own, which leaves a lot of room for creative minds to wander.

If you do decide you want to go with a barn door, and it’s consistent with the styling of your home, keep these additional things in mind while choosing the door and where it will be installed:

  • Barn doors don’t insulate well. Because barn doors hang on a sliding track, rather than sealing shut, there’s more air, light, and sound infiltration around them. This is fine for a lot of uses, but may make them a poor choice for spaces like bedrooms or bathrooms where you’d like more privacy. If you have pets, for safety’s sake, choose a door and hardware that are heavy enough to keep the bottom of the door from being shoved forward to allow a smart dog or cat to open these doors from the bottom.
  • They do save a ton of space. Even though they’re not the greatest doors for insulation, barn doors can save a ton of space that a regular door will require to swing. Instead of losing a whole wall to opening a door, you can instead move the furniture a few inches off the wall to allow the barn door to slide behind. Unlike pocket doors, you don’t need to tear out a wall to install a barn door; you simply run along the outer wall. This can also help minimize the impact of doors that cover water closets and pantries.
  • Planning is important. Before you decide that you absolutely must have a barn door, look very carefully at the space where you think it should go. Remember, the door will need room to move along a track, so there must be room on both sides of the door opening (at least enough to allow for the hardware), and no elements that stick out of the wall. If you’ve got a flat light switch or outlet that will end up under the door, consider how that will affect your ability to use the electricity in the room.
Posted in Home Maintenance
Feb. 16, 2021

Pre-Qualified VS. Pre-Approved

There’s a lot to learn when you’re starting out on your home buying journey. From concepts like earnest money to closing costs, it’s a lot to take in during a very short period. But of all the things to know, understanding the difference between being pre-qualified and pre-approved for your mortgage is one of the most important.

Why Your Mortgage Application Status Matters

It’s always been a good idea to bring a strong offer to the negotiating table when it comes to real estate, but it’s even more vital when the market is short on inventory and long on buyers. If you’re in a multiple offer situation (and sometimes, even if you’re not), the sellers are going to weigh the various offers they receive to decide if they think your offer is enough to bring in what they need to sell their home, as well as considering how strong an offer it is.

A strong offer is one that has a lot of the obstacles already removed. For example, if you need to sell your house before you can close on the one you’re making an offer on, this might be considered a weak offer for some sellers. A weak offer doesn’t mean a bad offer, necessarily; it’s simply an offer that looks like it could be tricky to actually get to the closing table. The risk versus reward is too high. This is why having the right kind of mortgage application status plays in your favor when it comes to negotiation.

Mortgage Pre-Qualification Versus Mortgage Pre-Approval

When you meet with a lender for the first time, they generally ask some probing questions about your income and assets, as well as your expenses and credit file. They’re not just being nosy; that lender is trying to help figure out just how much home you can qualify for and what programs might be best for your financial picture. Sometimes, these lenders will send you elsewhere because their banks or partner lending institutions simply can’t help you, but in a lot of cases they’ll produce something called a pre-qualification letter.

Pre-qualification goes largely by your word about your income and expenses, and is not a promise to lend. It’s simply a hypothetical among a list of hypotheticals. If you do in fact make this much money, your credit is as assumed, the house you choose lines up with these guidelines, and rates don’t change dramatically, you should be able to buy this much house. You can see how that would be a bit dodgy for a seller to hang all their hopes on.

A pre-approval, on the other hand, shows that you’ve gone through the additional steps to reach the highest level of mortgage approval you can get without actually having a house secured (the house you choose also figures into the final approval, but just how it figures depends on the loan program). For a pre-approval, you’ll need to provide income documents, permission for the lender to pull a full credit report, and details on any assets or liabilities you hold that aren’t included in your credit file.

A pre-approval isn’t instant; it requires more review, and you’ll need to choose a lending program to be approved for. However, doing all this extra work shows potential sellers that you’re already putting in a lot of effort to ensure you can actually close when the day comes, and that you’re eager to move the process along as quickly as possible. That’s the kind of buyer a seller wants to see!

Posted in Buying a Home
Feb. 11, 2021

Countertop Materials for Your Kitchen

 

The countertops in your kitchen can make a big difference in how your kitchen looks overall. If you’re tired of your kitchen looking old and dated, updating your countertops is a great way to completely revitalize its look. There are a number of materials used in modern countertops that will help your kitchen stand out. Here are just a few options to consider if you really want to give things a modern look.

Countertop Materials

Soapstone
Stone surfaces have long been a favorite material for kitchen countertops, but soapstone has come into its own in recent years. It’s heat and stain resistant like granite, non-porous (and thus liquid resistant), and has a softer texture than you’ll find with many stone surfaces. Just be careful, as there are two actually different materials that are sometimes called soapstone; one of these is talc, which isn’t going to give you the surface that you’re looking for. The soapstone that you want to get is steatite, which fortunately is much more common when shopping for countertop materials.

Leathered Granite
Granite has been popular as a counter surface for years, but has always had the drawback of being a porous material, meaning you have to be careful with spills. Leathered granite solves this problem while giving the classic stone a modern update as well. The surface of the granite is slightly roughed by diamond-tipped brushes, enhancing the stone’s natural color while cutting back on some of the shine and closing those infamous pores. The end result is a durable stone countertop with a unique look and a slight texture that really does feel similar to leather.

Engineered Quartz
Like granite, quartz has been used as a countertop material for years. So what’s the deal with engineered quartz? Unlike traditional quartz countertops, these are made with ground quartz mixed with resins to create a very hard and natural-looking surface. Colors can be added to create tints to match a wide range of decorating styles. Engineered quartz resists staining, corrosion, and damage from most cleaners. Just keep in mind that, like natural quartz, these countertops can still be damaged by heat.

Solid-Surface Acrylics
There are a few different brands of solid-surface acrylic countertops available, notably including Corian and Swanstone. These countertops mix acrylics with resin to create a stain-resistant surface that’s available in a wide range of colors, and that can be sanded to repair scratches or other small bits of damage. Perhaps more importantly, the man-made nature of these countertops means that they can be easily customized to meet the specific needs of your home. Their main drawback is that they tend to be vulnerable to heat damage, given that they are still made of plastic.

Concrete
Over the last several years, concrete countertops have become very popular in modern kitchens. They can be made on-site to ensure that they match your unique kitchen perfectly, and their dense nature means your countertops can take a beating without suffering much damage. Textures, acid-stained colors, and more can be added to the countertops during the creation process, and additives or sealants can significantly reduce the porosity of the concrete itself. These countertops do occasionally have issues with cracking, though modern methods have reduced this significantly. Even when they do crack, however, most concrete countertops can be repaired on-site.

Posted in Home Maintenance