3 Things All First Time Homebuyers Should Know

Home buying is a tricky process, though it can yield wonderful results. Getting from the searching to the buying phase isn’t easy, as unless you build a house yourself, you’re unlikely to find everything you ever wanted in an already constructed home. But many first time home buyers are under the impression that once the decision to buy has been made, the tough part is over. Not by a long shot. Suba Iyer, writer for Deseret News and a recent first time home buyer herself, realized there’s more to home searching than finding a pretty facade with a comfortable floor plan, and there’s a lot more to home buying than swiping a credit card and signing on the bottom line.

Look Into The Future
First, home buyers should think long term. Purchasing a home is not like signing a rental lease, knowing if it doesn’t work out you can just move at the end of the lease. Home buying is fairly permanent, with the common advice being to only buy if you plan on being in the area at least five years. A few points for home buyers to consider:
• When will you have kids (or more of them)?
• Do you anticipate needing to resell in the future?
• Will you need to take care of elderly or ailing relatives?
• What are schools in the area like?
• Are there busy streets or other dangers for children nearby?

Some of these questions might affect your decision of where to buy a house, and some of them might affect its future resell value. Sure, you don’t plan on having kids right away, but a lot of people do have kids, and will it be difficult to resell the home if it’s in an area not conducive to child rearing?

Have A “Make It Or Break It” List
You will find in your home searching process that there are some things you absolutely cannot live without, some things you really want but don’t need, and some things that would be nice but not necessary to have. Iyer suggested making a checklist of those things you must have or must avoid, printing it off, and taking a copy with you to each house you visit. Some ideas might be number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, storage space in the kitchen, backyard size, location of the master bedroom, size of garage, and placement of the washer and dryer.

Research All Possible Options For Funding
Did you know that cash on hand or loans are not the only way for paying for a house? During her home buying process, Iyer found that there are many more funding sources, including grants and discounts. She said, “I always thought the income limit for qualifying for these types of funding would be very low, but I was pleasantly surprised by the generous income limit on many of the options.” For instance, she found there are grants available for teachers, farmers, and law enforcement officials. There are also grants based on “the area of the potential house, whether it’s in a rural area, high poverty area, etc.” So don’t limit yourself to one option for your mortgage payment.

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Source: deseretnews.com/article/865605781/10-tips-most-first-time-homebuyers-don7t-consider.html


Australia, United States Share Similar Housing Markets

In Australia as in the United States, the housing market has been in a definite slump for the past few years. Also similar to the U.S. is Australia’s housing recovery, based largely on home renovations. There Housing Industry Association found, “Home renovation is bouncing back to be a $30 billion-plus contributor to the national economy.” With this similarity come other parallels between the U.S. and Australian housing markets with implications for citizens of both countries.

Home Maintenance On The Rise

For instance, simple home maintenance projects postponed during troubled financial times are finally being attended to and make up a large portion of home renovation spending. Kitchens and bathrooms tend to need updating every 15 years, and some that have been long overdue are now adding their weight to the stack of commissions pouring in to home construction contractors. People are now also choosing to sacrifice their big yards for the sake of larger floor space for entertaining, storage, and well-stocked chef’s kitchens.

Aging In Place

Another trend found on both continents is the decision baby boomers are making to “age in place.” The Housing Industry Association explained, “Baby boomers, those classified . . . as aged in their mid to late 60’s, are using their superannuation payouts to renovate.” When they renovate, they do so in lieu of moving out.

The HIA said, “Much of their renovating is major, and many of them will live in their own, freshly made-over homes longer than earlier generations.” Which may mean more maintenance issues, but fewer moving expenses. It also means fewer people moving to senior living facilities and possibly more care being done by other family members.

First-Time Home Buyers

Opposite these baby boomers on the housing spectrum are first-time home buyers whose paychecks have been impacted by unemployment rates and inflation. They have little to spend on their first homes and tend to “buy on the cheap,” intending on fixing up their homes as the money becomes available.

The DIYers

Between these two stages of life, the HIA identified another category: the DIYers, “where handymen and handywomen buying homes to renovate and sell, has proliferated.” Some DIYers choose to live in the homes they renovate, thus avoiding extra taxes and fees, while others employ the quick buy, quick sell approach. Lower interest rates facilitate these purchases and expenditures on renovations.

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Source: theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/renovations-on-the-rise/story-fn3dxity-1226967799007?nk=c7dce53ce9f90ea37a264c8ae1cabb01

A Buyer’s Guide For Purchasing The Best Sofa For Your Buck

Sofas purchases may not be on the same scale as home or car purchases, but they can be comparable with high-priced electronics and appliances. It’s not a small purchase and so shouldn’t be taken lightly. You don’t want to pay too much for a sofa available cheaper elsewhere, or too little for a sofa that then needs replaced in a year or two. It’s also a fairly permanent fixture, so you’ve got to be willing to commit to what you pick, and avoid impulse buys.

Recognize Sofa Quality

How can you measure the quality of a sofa? Going by price isn’t necessarily going to work. Houzz.com writer and editor Fred Albert had a few guidelines for determining what kind of quality a couch is. “Quality sofas should feel solid and heavy,” Albert said. “Flop around on one to test its sturdiness, then lift it up by the corner and shake it a bit. If it feel light or wobbly, take a pass.” He also said you should look at its frame. Kiln-dried hardwoods, like birch, maple, and oak, are the best, but high-quality hardwood plywood or marine plywood will work too.

Examine The Cushions

The cushion also has quality markers. Albert explained, “The denser the foam, the heavier it is and the longer it will last. In cheapest furniture, the cushion is filled with just the polyurethane foam core. . . . Higher-quality options include poly-down cushions . . . spring down cushions . . . and all down,” though all down cushions tend to be a lot of work to keep clean.

Take Measurements Before Heading To The Store

Sofas should suit the size of the room they’re used in, as well. Before heading out to the store, take measurements of your room’s height, length, and width. Decide what the maximum length is you’d feel comfortable living with. Think about what you’ll be using the sofa for: Reading? Watching TV? Visiting? How far into the room are you willing to allow the couch to project? If you’re thinking about getting one with reclining seats, take into account the space you’ll need in front of and behind the couch.

Albert said, “If you’re short on space, think about buying a sofa with low arms or no arms—it’ll make your room look larger.” He also said to plan on seating one person per cushion, unless you choose a couch with a long cushion or “bench” cushion. The back of the sofa will take up seating space, so consider whether you like the tight back (which is tailored and sewn to the back of the couch) or the pillow back (which is more comfortable but also bulkier and harder to keep looking neat).

Go With Neutral Colors And Patterns
Considering the massive investment you’ll be making, it’s best to choose a fabric that won’t go out of style quickly. Neutral patterns and colors are a safe bet, with the added bonus that you can switch out accent pillows at will to create a new look.

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Source: houzz.com/ideabooks/11734542/list/Things-You-Need-to-Know-About-Buying-a-Sofa

Branching Out In Home Interior Design

Not everyone has the eye of an interior designer and even fewer people have the discretionary budget to hire one to redo their entire house. And yet, some people who claim not to be creative or rich are able to organize their homes with elegance and style. Of course, their claim that they lack creativity my just be modesty, but they might be telling the truth. You actually don’t have to have training or a knack for picking out stylish things in order to make your home warm, inviting, and pleasant to be in. All you need is the motivation to make a change.

If you’re tired of living with the same old boring decor, throw out your excuses and be willing to make a difference. That’s precisely what Trish and Bonnie, the masterminds behind blog sensation Uncommon Designs, did. Despite having no formal training in interior design (one has a Bachelor’s degree in Management, the other has one in Nursing) they have been able to beautify their lives and their homes simply by taking
the time and energy to infuse their decor with their own personality and flair. And they came up with some tips for other homeowners who would like to do the same.

1. Find what inspires you.

If you aren’t sure what your style is, sit down and make a list of objects, patterns, textures, motifs, colors, etc. that inspire you. Do you love butterflies? The outdoors? Books? Fine dining? Keep a notepad nearby as you go about your daily routine and jot down those topics that most interest you. Or take a walk through a home furnishing store, a friend’s home, or even a greenhouse to get a feel for what appeals to you.

2. Choose a new accessory.

You don’t have to completely refurnish your living room to give it a different feel. Instead, pick out that one item that has been tempting you every time you visit Pottery Barn or Pier 1 Imports and either buy it (if you’re really throwing caution to the winds) or see if you can find an item like it that’s off brand. Perhaps you’ve fallen in love with a gold-framed mirror. Could you make it yourself for less than it costs to buy it new? Once you have your item, start looking around for matching accessories that might help tie it more concretely into your room.

3. Keep furnishings neutral.

When it comes time to replace your threadbare couch or squeaky recliner, resist the tempting floral patterns and plaids that you see at the furniture store. Stick with neutral colors. Trish explained, “I love to change out my rooms for seasons and holidays. A neutral background allows me to throw in whatever colors I am currently loving without disrupting the flow of my room.” Neutral goes with virtually any accent color you could pick, unlike those pretty, but non-neutral furnishings you might be tempted to buy.

4. Don’t be afraid of change.

Sometimes we resist changing color schemes or furniture layouts because we’ve become attached to how things are. Will it feel like “your” home when it doesn’t look the same? Trish encouraged homeowners not to resist change to stubbornly, saying, “Embrace change. You may decide your current style does not match your family’s lifestyle. . . . It is ok to let go, and change things up a bit at times.”

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Source: uncommondesignsonline.com/7-simple-tips-tricks-style-home/

Design Ideas For Residential Staircases

Home is where the heart is, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring to be familiar. Your home can be as unique as your personality, from the window panes to the floor plan to the type and style of staircase you choose to install. Most people think of staircases as a means of transportation. Like a hallway, they choose to do nothing aesthetically interesting with the way in which they move from floor to floor.

If you’re looking for ways to brighten and freshen your home or come up with ways to make built-to-own house you unique, think about how you can make your stairs interesting. Nick Burborough of Zigzag Design studio, said that as people are choosing more often to fix up rather than move out, stair facelifts have become more common.

Staircase Redesign Becoming Popular

“It’s a big rising trend. More and more clients want to lift their stairs without the headache and financial hit of a complete replacement,” he said. Why stairs, though? “The staircase is the biggest single structure in a house and it’s often the first thing you see when you come in,” Burborough explained. “If the kitchen is the heart of the home then the staircase is the main artery through which everything flows.”

Updating The Balustrade

One change people choose to make is adding or updating the balustrade (stair railing). If your home didn’t originally have one or the original is now dilapidated, this is a great way to put a new face on yoru staircase. In London, Burborough said the current trend is towards sculpted metal balustrades, especially ones with carved spindles.

“We are doing many more spindles in copper and bronze,” Burborough recounted. “You can use the staircase to create a real splash of ornate decor in an otherwise minimal space.” Other ways homeowners are getting more creative with theirs staircases is by introducing different colors and materials. Some are cladding the riser (which is the vertical part of the step) with metal or mirrors to add light and dimension to the space.

Staircase Lighting

Another idea for adding light to staircases is by hanging pendant lighting above it, which Burborough said is a great way for highlighting the doors and creating a theatrical mood. He also suggested, “Think about using a low wattage washer light on every other tread to create light and shade and lead the eye up to the landing.”

No More Carpet

And if you can only do one thing to your stairs, designers Ab Rogers and Jonas Lencer say you should do away with carpet. “You must have fun with your decor,” Rogers explained. “If you are really brave you could just pour several different colors of resin down from the top to create a pattern. Otherwise, use one color and don’t worry if it doesn’t work—you can always paint over it.”

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Source: ft.com/cms/s/2/fdc75a4e-f219-11e3-ac7a-00144feabdc0.html#axzz35IuyzeUE

4 Tips For Quick Clean Up When You Have Unexpected Guests

When it’s 4 in the afternoon and your husband calls to say he forgot to tell you last week he’s invited a co-worker and his wife over for drinks tonight, you want to throw the phone and his invitation out the window, but you’ve already started a whirlwind of cleaning before even hanging up on him. There’s nothing like an unexpected visitor to help get a messy house clean.

However, there are a few strategies for making that quick clean even quicker, and making your home look more classy and organized at the same time. Susan Baldrige, an interior design writer for Lancaster Online, suggested 4 ways to get your house ready without feeling like a hurricane in a handbag.

1. The 2 minute clutter snatch.
Don’t even bother trying to sort through the clutter. When time is of the essence, you can’t sit around sorting stray socks or packing toys neatly into their respective cubbies. Get a laundry basket, bucket, or other large container and toss all those odds and ends into it to sort later.

2. The pet hair scrub up.
If you haven’t had the chance to vacuum your furniture in a while and your cat or dog loves to lay out on it and scratch themselves luxuriously, don’t bother trying to untangle that vacuum cord now. Instead, don your rubber gloves, dampen them with water, and wipe them over any affected furniture. According to the Real Simple website, the pet hair will stick to the gloves to be easily rinsed off later in the sink.

3. The secret decor stash.
When kids are in the house (and husbands) it’s hard to keep things nice. Pillows get stained and worn, vases get used as bug houses, decorative ornaments get dropped and cracked, flower petals get plucked or shredded. That’s why Baldrige suggests putting all those accessories that match your accent color (and are relatively unbroken) out of reach until you know a visitor is on their way.

Baldrige said, “Get a couple accessories like pillows, pillow covers, small picture frames, a vase—anything that will unify the room with that color. Keep these in a box or cabinet . . . and whisk them out before you entertain.” These items will make the room feel organized and stylish, even if it only looks that way a couple hours each week.

4. The civilized smell.
It’s amazing what a difference the scent of a room can make. Even a clean room that smells of dust or dander can seem dirty. Light your candles or plug in your wax warmer as soon as you know people will be coming over so they have time to melt and spread their scent around.

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Source: lancasteronline.com/news/local/tips-primp-your-room/article_646123d2-f3f2-11e3-b23b-0017a43b2370.html

Kitchen Activities Becoming More Diverse In 2014

Kitchens of the past were considered messy areas entered only by the working class. They were kept far secluded from entertaining areas in fancy homes, and even middle class homes tended to have them separated from dining areas with walls and doors. This concept of the kitchen as a mere meal preparation area have changed, however, in recent years, and it has become more and more an entertaining area for friends and family. Open concept floor plans have removed barrier walls so the kitchen, dining, and often living areas all flow directly into one another seamlessly.

More Than Just Meal Prep
Consumer Reports looked into this trend and in its July 2014 issue came up with a guide for creating the a social kitchen no matter what the family budget may be. To determine how best to do this, they surveyed over 1,000 Americans to find out what activities they used the kitchen for. They found, “Nearly half [of Americans] entertain regularly in the kitchen, 58 percent go online there, and 61 percent use the space to do homework/paperwork.” For an area to accommodate all these tasks, the following are some guidelines homeowners should follow.

Open Up The Area
If your home isn’t already open concept, think about what you can do to improve the flow from the kitchen to the rest of the house. Are there non-load bearing walls that could be removed or replaced with a single column? If so, decide whether all the walls really need to come down. Consumer Reports suggested, “Be judicious when eliminating barriers. Using half-walls or arched openings can create a sense of openness while maintaining traffic flow.”

Another way to promote open concept is by connecting the kitchen with the other rooms through a common color palette or motif. What decorations are you using in your living room and how can you incorporate those in the kitchen? Rather than stopping one color and starting another at the edge of the kitchen, repaint so it’s the same shade as the living and dining area. The same goes for floor covering materials.

Create An Eat-In Option
Rather than having one area for dining and one for food preparation, determine whether you have space to add a bar or other seating area for casual dining, homework, socializing, and bill pay. Consumer Reports found that built-in banquettes also up the home’s resale value. Sometimes islands can be constructed with an extra counter connected for a bar area. Just be careful you don’t block traffic flow, which means having 42 to 48 inches of open space on all sides.

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