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Creative Lighting Options That Will Brighten Any Room

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

Your mood is greatly affected by light, whether you realize it or not. It's why some people get the winter blues. Is your home like the dark side of the moon? If so, try these five creative lighting options to help brighten any room and your mood.

1. Recessed lighting 

Recessed lights are a perfect way to brighten up a dark hallway or den. Usually found in the ceilings of modern-day kitchens, recessed lights, when spaced correctly and evenly, emanate what feels like natural light. They come in a variety of colors, but white lights are best for brightening up a room.

2. Spotlights

Spotlights are small lights fitted into the ceiling and are similar to recessed lights except that they are meant to highlight or "spotlight" a particular part of a room. Say you are happy with your overhead lights in your living room or kitchen but you want to spotlight the area over the sink or above a nice painting in your den. Using spotlights is a great way to highlight a focal point.

3. Table lamps

It sounds simple, but table lamps not only brighten a room but allow you to control how much light you get. Different colored lamp shades will enable you to create an ambiance depending on whether you want soft lights to relax under or a bright room in which to host company. Use three-way bulbs at different wattages so you can adjust the mood. Turn on just a few lamps—or turn them all on to give the room energy and vibrancy.

4. Faux windows

It's not very expensive to cut out a hole in the wall and install a new window in a windowless room. However, if you don't want to go that route, try faux windows. Faux windows use LED backlighting to create the sense of natural light in a home. You have likely seen these windows in a bar or restaurant, and they usually come tinted or colored.

5. Solar tubing

Finally, solar tubing takes natural light from outside and funnels it into your house through your walls. These are perfect for rooms that don't get any light—like basements. You can get the same effect on a top floor by installing a skylight. The best thing about these lighting options is that they are energy-efficient, and many new models can actually store energy from the sun for reuse.

In tandem with your new lighting options, consider painting your walls light colors and adding neutral-colored furniture. This will boost the impact of your new lighting fixtures. Start brightening your room today!

First Time Home Buyer: Buying What you Want But You Dont Need

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

 

You may not be able to afford the house of your dreams first time at bat, but you will want a few of the amenities you've been yearning for. While you're making a wish list of features to share with your real estate agent, check it twice, literally, to make sure that the options you have in mind make monetary and practical sense, too.

A Big Yard

It’s natural to want your first home to be a sprawling property with plenty of yard space. Kids love big yards and pets do, too. Yards have curb appeal and are a nifty spot where you can enjoy an occasional barbecue with friends and neighbors. When scoping out potential homes, do yourself a favor and look for a rectangular, level lot. It'll be easier to maintain your lawn and easier to resell the property later. If you do invest the time and disposable income maintaining a large lot and well-developed landscape, don't expect to recoup all that money when you sell 

A Fireplace

Everyone loves a roaring fire for the holidays, but what do you do with dead space the rest of the year? If you're thinking a fireplace will keep you toasty warm and safe when the power goes out on a cold day, consider the fact that most of the heat from burning fireplace logs, more than 80 percent, goes up the chimney and not into your room

Stainless Steel Appliances

No matter when you shop for a home, there'll be items that are considered "in" that'll push your buttons. Often, these deceptively enticing elements are in the kitchen. From stainless steel appliances to all wood cover-ups that completely conceal your refrigerator, dishwasher and other conveniences from view, there's always a new trend to tempt you. As popular as these refinements are today, in a very few years, they'll be replaced by other latest, must-have styles. Worse, last year's "in" thing looks dated and drab once it goes out of fashion. Plain white is the most common refrigerator color sold every year in the United States, and there's a lot to be said for staying with classics that weather wacky fads and still look fresh. Seriously, have you tried keeping fingerprints off stainless steel?

Outdoor Kitchens

Who knew that dragging your stove and sofa outside would one day be a design trend? Employ your patio or deck as a kitchen cum family room combo when the weather's good, and you can keep the mess, cooking smells and heat outside. If you live in an area that experiences great weather for at least three seasons of the year, some indulgence may be warranted. Otherwise, keep your major assets indoors where you can give them the protection they deserve.

Formal Dining Room

Formal dining rooms have style and undisputed grace, but unfortunately, most folks use them infrequently If your family is into eating in front of the television, and Sunday dinners at your house are courtesy of the nearest drive-through restaurant, a formal dining room may be relegated to monthly bill paying duties and little else. When you're shopping for your first home, put your money into square footage that will serve your needs and add some convenience, like an extra bathroom, a large laundry room or plenty of walk-in closets.

Every New Homebuyer Needs to Know

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

 

Home buying can be a confusing and somewhat daunting task. These tips will help you better understand the home buying process. We’ll help you understand the home buying process and find the home that's the perfect fit.

 

Cost of Ownership

There's more to consider than just a monthly mortgage payment. Will you be able to afford the expenses that come with owning a home? It’s important to consider the cost of living for that area. Transportation, school tuition and everyday living expenses can also make homeownership more expensive than it initially appears.

Location

Examine your lifestyle. Energized by urban cityscapes? Or a family-friendly suburban lifestyle?

Suburban lifestyles are flexible, offering children the opportunity to play outdoors and enjoy a neighborhood environment. Urban areas offer greater social, culture, educational and career opportunities. 

Consider a buyer's broker.

A Buyer's Broker (also called a Buyer’s Agent) represents your needs and desires and helps you locate the property that's best for you. Finding a professional advocate who is required by law to get you the best price and terms can alleviate home shopping stress.

Loans

Be sure to read all the clauses and fine print before getting a mortgage. And don't be afraid to shop around for the best rate.

Disclosure and a professional home inspection

Most states require that a home seller disclose potential problems with the property, but the homeowner may not always know or reveal existing structural problems. It’s best to secure the services of a reputable home inspector

Completing the purchase.

Make sure your title is "free and clear" that there are no problems with ownership of the property. Then, purchase homeowners insurance. Finally, decide if the purchase of a home warranty is in your best interest. These should all be taken care of before "closing."

Have everything in Writing

Best ways to protect yourself is to have every part of the sale in writing, and make sure you understand every aspect before making a commitment. 

 

What are the types of Buyer Broker Agreements?

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

Before writing a purchase agreement, Home buyers typically sign buyer broker agreements with their real estate brokers. The buyer broker agreements spell out precisely who represents the buyer. It's also known as buyer representation. There are a huge variety of buyer broker agreements used throughout the United States.

To avoid problems, the buyer and broker enter into a contract defining the legal relationship. This contract explains the duties and responsibilities of the parties and sets out exactly what services the broker will provide. There are several types of buyer’s broker real estate agreements representing the nature of the relationship between the buyer and the broker. These contracts can generally be provided by the broker in forms adapted to the laws of the particular state.

Buyer Broker Agreement (Non-Exclusive / Not for Compensation)

This agreement outlines the brokers / agent's duties and obligations to the buyer, agency relationships, broker scope of duty and buyer obligations; it does not provide for compensation. This contract specifies there is no compensation to be paid to the broker. Other common components include that the buyer can retain more than one brokerage and either party can revoke the contract at any time.

Buyer Broker Agreement - Non-Exclusive, Right to Represent

The non-exclusive agreement outlines the broker's / agent's duties and obligations to the buyer, It provides for compensation to be paid to the broker if the broker proposes the house the buyer decides to buy or otherwise represents the buyer. If another party pays a commission to the broker, this obligation is removed. Additionally, the buyer is typically able to buy a home through another broker as long as that home was not proposed by the previous broker. Usually these agreements may not be revoked except for specified reasons.

Exclusive right-to-represent contracts

This is the most common contract between home buyers and brokers. What distinguishes this contract is the buyer may not retain more than one broker to assist him or her. It sets forth the commission amount to be paid to the broker, which is owed even if the buyer finds the house herself or another broker does so. But if another party pays the broker the commission, the buyer doesn’t have to. Exclusive agreements might run from several months to a year and generally cannot be revoked except for specified reasons.

What is a Disclosure?

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

Federal Disclosures

Every state has its own laws regarding disclosures, so the forms will vary depending on where you live. A federal disclosure such as Lead-Based Paint is required for all transactions if the home was built before 1978. The disclosure also gives the buyer 10-days to conduct inspections for lead-based paint, unless that time period contingency is waived in writing. It's considered good practice, however, to give every buyer, regardless of where she lives and regardless of the type of property she is under contract to purchase, the disclosure regarding lead-based paint. The potential for a lawsuit is too great to do otherwise. Besides, even though it's prohibited, there are still places where lead paint is sold.

Material Facts

Are commonly referred to as anything that would affect the buyer's decision to purchase or the price and terms the buyer offers. In other words, if you have knowledge about a defect, it should be disclosed. if a death has occurred on the property within the last 3 years. Some buyers are creeped out by knowledge that a seller died in the house. Some are fine with news of a death occurring in the house as long as it wasn't violent or gruesome. There are also buyers who believe homes are haunted by former occupants who died in the house. If you have specific details, you might want to consider sharing it with the buyer

External Disclosures

Some states require disclosures about items that affect or could affect the property such as:

Earthquakes

Natural Hazards

Zoning Changes

Flood Zones

Fire Hazards

Noise Pollution

Ground Pollution

Air Pollution, among others.

 

Do You Need to Disclose Every Home Repair?

In lots of cases, home buyers feel a sense of relief if they know certain things have been repaired. It brings a security to buyers if they know a seller has:

Replaced a roof

Upgraded electrical & plumbing

Bolted the foundation

 

If you have knowledge of a defect or material fact, then disclose it. Follow the Golden Rule. If you would like to know, your buyer probably does as well. Typically, buyers aren't upset by receipt of negative information. They get upset and call a lawyer when they feel they have been duped, deceived or lied to.

 

Protect Your Home While You're on a Holiday

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

 It is certainly always best to be prepared when you’re leaving for the Holidays. The basic idea or theme, no matter what tips or advice you take on how to best protect your home while it is unattended, is that you should do everything you can in order to make it look like there are still people and signs of activity in the home. After you have packed your bags and planned your itinerary, you still need to consider how to best protect your home while on vacation. The holiday season is prime time for thieves looking for an easy opportunity to break into your home. While you're enjoying the hustle and bustle of this festive period, a thief could be taking a leisurely stroll through your home in search of valuables. Keep your home safe and secure over the holidays with these five thoughtful tips.

If it looks like there are still people at home, you are much less likely to be robbed. 

You could also consider having some lights or motion sensors put in. A battery operated push light in the window can be a great idea. Better yet, connect some outside and inside lights to motion sensors. This way, if anyone gets too close, the lights will come on automatically.

An easy, low tech way to make sure that your place is covered is by asking a trusted friend, neighbor or family member. Have them go over to your home several times a week just to check on everything. You could also have them collect mail and take the trash cans out and/or bring them back in.

Having the mail stopped and held by the local post office is also an option. Temporarily suspend mail and newspaper delivery services while you're away. (Or ask a neighbor to collect them for you.) Nothing signals that a home is unoccupied like a week's worth of newspapers at the doorstep.

 

Speaking of security, you also have the option of installing a security system. There is no better way to secure your home while you are away on vacation than a home alarm system. With the technology available, at minimum you will be able to have a system with a control panel, door and window sensors, motion sensors, glass break sensors and often times these features can be monitored using your cell phone. A professional security system gives you peace of mind while you're away. Modern systems often include remote video monitoring that allows you to check in on your home from wherever you are.

 

Let the neighbors you're friendly with know about your travel plans and ask them to watch for any suspicious activity. Arrange for someone you trust to enter your home every couple of days to ensure everything's running smoothly.

Hosting Guests during the Holidays

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

Holiday time is filled with joy and love and laughter. But if you're the one who hosts the festivities, it may also be filled with stress and pressure and endless trips to the market for things If you're looking for ways to be a great host read on for a few tips.

Make the bed

Even if you have an older mattress, you can still set a nice bed with an inexpensive mattress pad or topper, Warm blankets and new pillows transforming couches into comfy sleeping zones If you need to bring in extra sleeping surfaces.

Clear some space

Make sure you clear some space to make your guests feel welcome and allow them to unpack If the closet in your guest room is crammed full of stuff.

Set up a kid space

Designating a room with interactive toys and games, an Xbox, a TV with Netflix and comfortable seating is a great way to make sure the kids are having as much fun as you are. If your guests include babies or small children, be sure to store away any potentially harmful objects or decor in your home, and do any necessary childproofing of furniture.

Freshen up the bathroom

Take a good look at your guest bath and freshen it up before anyone arrives. Place a package of toothbrushes and a tube of toothpaste, along with mouthwash and dental floss, in the bathroom drawer. Lay out fresh towels and add a new air freshener

Stock basic essentials

A guest who runs out of toilet paper in the middle of the night and doesn't know where to look for more may feel a tad awkward. Stuff your bathrooms cabinets full of TP, plus Q-tips, cotton balls, basic first aid supplies like Neosporin, Band-Aids, and pain reliever. A night light in the bath or hallway can help them navigate at night without disturbing anyone.

Create an Information Station

Information like Wi-Fi passwords, home alarm codes, and any other essential household information can be found. It's also a good idea to have phone chargers available here for anyone who forgot one.

We all know it's easy to go overboard during the holiday. But the last thing you want to do is overextend yourself and start the New Year with credit card debt. To avoid overspending, always head to the store with a budget and a list of everything you need for the holiday 

Protect Your Privacy When your Selling your Home

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

 

Before a home goes on the market and home buyers start to traipse through, relocate confidential information.

 

Private Documents

Buyers can innocently tug on a drawer to inspect its construction or depth and find important documents that you might not intend for anyone to see. It is best to pull all of these items in a locked file cabinet. It’s not unusual for a buyer to open drawers and closet doors, built in desk, drawers included. In the wrong hands your private account numbers, social security numbers and financial data can lead to identity theft or at the very least, it could give a buyer the knowledge they need to make a lower offer

Don't leave mail where anybody can find it.

Lots of sellers leave piles of opened mail neatly stacked on the kitchen counter. You must believe that buyers will not read someone else's personal mail, even when that mail is taped to the refrigerator door, begging to be read. If a buyer was armed with that information, guess what price the buyer would be thinking about. It wouldn't be list price.

Remove Diplomas and Photos from Walls

Sometimes sellers overlook the obvious and leave diplomas on the wall. People form biases and can carry a bias too far. For example, the seller might be a lawyer, and there are buyers who might not feel comfortable buying a home from a lawyer. For whatever reason. Diplomas also give away a seller's age or a close estimate. If a buyer sees a recent medical diploma, for example, the buyer might assume the seller is saddled with student loans and needs to sell to pay them off. Don't give buyers a way to form any opinion about you at all.

Before you put your home in the market, please, prep it; empty out drawers, stage closets and pack up anything remotely personal. If your house speaks to a buyer about you, it's probably saying the wrong thing.

No Entry

If you don’t have a lock box on your property for Agents to show a home, you probably need to require appointments. You might encounter aggressive buyers or agents who will show up unannounced and ask to see your home without appointment, Never ever let them in. A prospective buyer should always be accompanied by an agent and an agent who doesn’t make an appointment will likely be unprofessional during transaction as well. Politely tell them to call your agent and set an appointment regardless of how much they beg do not open the door.

 

As a home seller you want people to see your home, but you have to be smart too. 

Pass Along Your Low FHA Mortgage Rate

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

FHA allows home buyers to take over the home sellers’ mortgage payments – it’s called  “assuming” a loan.

Having a nice low interest rate on your mortgage can make owning a home more affordable and if your mortgage happens to be an FHA-insured loan, you can pass along that benefit to the people who buy your home.


The pros of assuming a mortgage:

  • The buyers get to take over the mortgage at whatever interest rate you’re now paying. That can be a deal when interest rates have risen.
  • The buyers may not have to pay for an appraisal.

The cons of assuming a mortgage:

There’s likely a difference between the sales price and the mortgage amount. Your buyers have to have a way to pay that difference. If you sell your home for $100,000 and the buyers assume your $75,000 FHA mortgage, the buyers have to come up with the remaining $25,000 they owe you. 

With a really old mortgage (think 1980s and older), you may still be on the hook if the buyers don’t make their payments. Make sure you get a release of liability in any assumption you agree to.

Mortgage assumptions are complicated. If you're thinking of selling your home and allowing the buyers to assume your mortgage, give me a call and we can talk more about your options.

What You Need to Know about Landlord Insurance

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

If you think a homeowner’s insurance policy will cover you when you turn your current home into a rental property or buy an investment property, think again. Rental properties require their own type of coverage—landlord insurance, Landlord insurance protects you against losses from fire, lighting, falling trees, wind and hail, water damage, and injury to your tenants and their guests. But it doesn’t cover the renters’ household goods. So encourage tenants to buy a renters policy to cover their stuff. You can even include a clause in your lease saying they have to buy renters insurance, so everyone is clear about what’s insured and what’s not.
 

Landlord insurance is expensive

You’ll pay 15% to 20% more for a landlord insurance policy than you will for a homeowner’s policy on the same house—and even more if you offer short-term rentals. Start your policy shopping by calling the company that sold you your homeowners insurance, then check with an independent insurance agent selling commercial and business policies.

What a landlord insurance policy probably will cover:

  • Things that belong to you that stay at the property, like appliances, furniture, or lawn care equipment. Keep an inventory of what’s on site.
  • Outbuildings, like sheds or garages, although this coverage will have its own limit
  • Lost rental income if the property is damaged and you can’t rent it.
  • Costs to defend yourself against lawsuits filed by tenants or guests, as well as the costs awarded if you lose the case. Some policies cover medical bills for injuries; some don’t.
  • Lightning, windstorm, hail, explosion, riot and civil commotion, smoke, falling objects, snow, ice, sleet, vandalism, sonic boom, sprinkler leakage, frozen pipes, water damage, burglary, volcanoes, and sinkholes.

Optional coverage you might want to buy:

  • Flood
  • Earthquake
  • Vandalism (if the policy you buy excludes it)
  • Pool and tennis court insurance
  • Liability for personal injury, wrongful eviction, wrongful entry, libel, and slander

Don’t forget liability coverage

To cover yourself in case you lose a big court case filed by an injured tenant, buy an umbrella insurance policy that gives you liability protection for $1 million to $5 million or more if you have a lot of assets to protect.

Don’t file a claim unless you absolutely have to There’s a limit to how many claims you can file before insurance companies start charging you more or canceling your policies. Claims can quickly add up as you buy more rental properties.

 

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