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July 18, 2022

Oops! My 4 Biggest Regrets Building Our Dream House From the Ground Up

 

The idea of building your own home is a bucket-list dream for many of us. Imagine: You get to customize it to your needs and tastes—whether that means a classic rocking-chair porch out front or a hot tub in back—and watch your personal palace take shape, right in front of your eyes.

But it’s also a really, really daunting experience. It’s one of the hugest undertakings you can slide onto your plate, and is it ever complicated! So many details, and plenty that can go wrong. I know this from personal experience.

When my husband and I built our house in 2014, we made a bunch of mistakes. Some big ones. And I’m going to put them all out there for public inspection.

1. Not working with a licensed architect

One of the best parts of building your own home is considering all the possibilities.

My husband and I went through tons of house-plan catalogs. We looked online. We did some simple sketches ourselves, trying to capture the flow of rooms and the details that would create our forever home.

Finally, we realized that we needed an architect to translate our ideas into a house plan that made sense. Then reality set in: This kind of service could be very expensive! So when a friend referred us to an “aspiring” architect, we thought it would be a great way to save money.

We met with the architect wannabe and shared all our ideas. He then input all this information into a computer program, which we assumed was a reliable, professional tool, and (drum-roll, please!) printed out floor plans for our review, which we tweaked for a few weeks.

We thought this joint venture had gone well and that we now had a solid plan.

That belief lasted until construction started. Then, the floor plans proved to be lacking some major must-haves for building a house, like electrical and plumbing diagrams.

Also (and it pains me to remember this), some of the spaces literally didn’t line up when the different floor plans were put together.

For instance, the floor plan for the main level of the house showed a single staircase, going straight down to the basement. When you looked at the plan for the basement, however, the staircase took a U-turn!

Fixing these kinds of errors cost us time and money, and triggered all kinds of stress.

Lesson learned: Go pro. If you want to design your own floor plans, collaborate with a reputable, licensed architect with a great track record of residential projects.

2. Doing business with friends

My husband grew up in the small town where we live, which means that he seems to know everyone. We thought we’d save money by having his friends in the local home-building industry do the work for us. My husband had seen some of his pals’ work firsthand. He was impressed, and he trusted these people.

However, when it came to constructing our home, the situation shifted, and fast. If his friends in construction didn’t do something the way we asked them to, my husband was reluctant to ask them to correct it.

Given their long-standing connection, he didn’t want to sound as if he was criticizing their work. So we hung back, which meant we didn’t get some dream-house details we wanted and which created ongoing issues with our home that continue to cost money to this day.

Lesson learned: If you plan to work with friends or family members on building your own home, set expectations way upfront. Make it clear that you don’t want there to be any hard feelings if you butt heads. Or simply heed the old saying, “Never do business with friends.”

3. Adding upgrades you don’t really need

During the build, my husband’s friend aired a slew of ideas that he said would “add value” to the home, such as digging out an extra 400 square feet in the basement. He felt we would be grateful to have this room to grow into.

You know where this is going, right? We didn’t need the bonus space then, and we still don’t need it—after 17 years. There’s no indication we’ll ever recover the costs we paid for this “added value.”

Another suggestion came from our building supplier: Instead of standard doors leading from the back porch and basement to the yard, he sold us on French doors.

They sounded pretty, and they are pretty, but what we didn’t know is that they require a lot more effort to unlock and open. As we approach 20 years in our house, we still struggle with the locking mechanism on the doors, and to be honest, most of our friends and family can barely get the doors to open.

Lesson learned: Trust your gut. Just because a friend or professional suggests something that sounds cool, it doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Do your homework before you make a decision, and stand your ground if it doesn’t appeal to you.

4. Not understanding construction insurance

It’s a no-brainer that you’ll get homeowner insurance to protect your home and personal belongings once you’ve moved in. But who knew you actually need insurance on your home build while it’s under construction? Commonly called builder’s risk insurance, these policies provide coverage in the event of theft, vandalism, or natural disaster.

Yes, it is a given that contractors carry insurance to protect against theft or damage to their own tools, as well as liability in the event that a worker gets injured. The problem is, their policies don’t always cover damage or theft of things that you own, which can be a huge loophole.

In our case, we had new appliances delivered to our home site, awaiting installation. Then, one night, they were stolen, along with the bathroom and lighting fixtures. The thieves drove off with anything they could return to a big-box store for a refund. Ouch!

We were gutted. No one had told us that this could happen. Thankfully, we did have a builder’s risk insurance policy, and were able to recoup the funds needed to replace the stolen items. Phew.

Lesson learned: It’s essential to discuss insurance coverage with all your contractors, to know what they have in place.

Don’t be afraid to ask for copies of their insurance declarations page to confirm that they have coverage. Then speak with your insurance agent to find out what builder’s risk insurance coverage you may need to cover any gaps. Your construction-loan lender may well require you to take out a policy.

Materials that are left inside and out during home construction can catch the eyes of thieves.

Despite these issues, building our home from the ground up was a dream come true for my husband and me. Sure, we made mistakes, but we love this house. It’s a reflection of who we are, down to the very last, hand-selected doorknob.

By Karon Warren Source: Realtor.com https://www.realtor.com/advice/buy/my-biggest-regrets-building-our-dream-house-from-ground-up/

 

July 4, 2022

Happy 4th of July!

From all of us here at Full Circle Real Estate Group, we wish you a safe and joyous 4th of July! 

Posted in Community News
June 20, 2022

A Homeowner’s Guide to HOAs: Homeowners Associations, Explained

Many homes across the United States are part of an HOA, or homeowners association. So what does that mean?

In a nutshell, an HOA helps ensure that your community looks its best and functions smoothly. If you’re buying a condo, townhouse, or free-standing home in a neighborhood with shared common areas and amenities (such as swimming pools, parking garages, and security gates), odds are high these areas are maintained by a homeowners association.

The number of Americans living in homes with HOAs is on the rise, growing from a mere 1% in 1970 to 25% today, according to the Foundation for Community Association Research.

Is buying a home with an HOA right for you? We’ll help you decide by laying out the pros, cons, and costs of an HOA.

What is a homeowners association?

Let’s say, for instance, that the pump in the community swimming pool stops working. Someone has to take care of it before the water turns green and toxic, right? Rather than expect any one homeowner in the neighborhood to volunteer his time and money to fix the problem, homeowners associations are responsible for getting the job done.

You can think of the purpose of an HOA as similar to real estate property taxes that a homeowner pays for city and state services—except that in this case, these fees go to pay for amenities and maintenance in your own community or condo building.

How much are HOA fees?

To cover these property maintenance expenses and repairs, homeowners associations collect fees or dues (monthly or yearly) from all community members. For a typical single-family home, HOA fees will cost homeowners around $200 to $300 per month.

HOA fees can be lower or much higher depending on the size of your house or condominium and the services provided. The larger the homeowner area, the higher the HOA fee—which makes sense, because the family of four homeowners in a three-bedroom condominium is probably going to be using the common facilities more than a single resident living in a studio condo.

Many HOAs pay property managers to oversee maintenance and deal with other real estate–related property issues. HOA fees might also include insurance payments to cover common areas.

HOA fees are usually divided into two parts: One portion goes toward monthly expenses, and the remaining money goes into a reserve fund. This reserve fund serves as a safety net, to be tapped for emergency expenses that arise when natural disasters or vandals strike—or just the unavoidable wear and tear. They’re also used to cover long-term repairs and replacements such as roofs, plumbing, and exterior paint.

What is an assessment?

Be aware that when your community is hit with extreme maintenance expenses—like a flood in the underground parking lot due to a broken water heater or a pipe bursting—homeowner insurance will cover some of it, but whatever’s left will have to be paid by your HOA.

Typically in these cases, the HOA will tap the reserve fund, which may become depleted as a result. Or the association may not have enough in reserve to cover necessary expenses. In either case, your HOA board may require you and your fellow homeowners in the community to pay a special assessment bill above and beyond your monthly HOA fee.

For example, if the elevator in your condo building goes out and it’s going to cost $15,000 to replace it—but the HOA reserve account holds only $12,000—you and the rest of the residents are going to have to pony up at least an additional $3,000 in dues, divided among you, to make up the difference. And yes, you as a resident still have to contribute your share of dues, even if your property is on the first floor.

Luckily, though, these assessments are typically temporary until the reserve is back up to a comfortable level.

HOA rules: What to expect

All HOAs have boards made up of homeowners in the complex who are typically elected by all homeowners. These board members will set up regular meetings where owners can gather and discuss major decisions and issues with their community. For major expenditures, all members of the HOA usually vote, not just members of the board.

In addition to management of the common areas, homeowners associations are also responsible for seeing that its community members follow certain rules and restrictions. These rules will be spelled out in the covenants, conditions, and restrictions, or CC&Rs.

What are CC&Rs? Common restrictive covenants

Simply put, CC&Rs are just the rules you’ll have to follow if you live in that community. Unlike zoning regulations, which are government-imposed requirements on how land can be used, restrictive covenants are established by HOAs to maintain the attractiveness and value of the property.

Restrictive covenants differ from community to community, but there are some you can expect to see:

  • Permissible colors for exterior house paint

  • Minimum property and landscaping standards

  • Types of fencing allowed

  • Types of window treatments allowed

  • Limitations on the type of security lights you can attach to the house

  • Controls on installing sporting equipment such as a basketball hoop in the driveway

  • Restrictions that limit vehicle storage or recreational vehicle parking

  • Curbs on property uses that generate noise or smells (e.g., raising livestock)

  • Rules on commercial or business uses of land reserved for residences

 

When to review your CC&Rs

After your offer to buy a home is accepted, you are legally entitled to receive and review the community’s CC&Rs over a certain number of days (typically between three and 10). Warning: Some CC&Rs can be hundreds of pages, but given these are the laws you’ll have to abide by, this is required reading that you skip at your own peril.

If you spot anything in the restrictive covenants you absolutely can’t live with, you can bring it up with the HOA board or just back out of your contract completely (and keep your deposit). It may seem extreme, but if this is the place you hope to call home, living with rules that seriously cramp your style may just not be worth the trouble.

Can you change restrictive covenants?

Restrictive covenants, however, aren’t set in stone. They can be contested and changed with a majority vote of the shareholders, aka neighbors in your development. This can work for or against you depending on where you stand.

Bruce Ailion, a real estate agent and attorney for Re/Max Town and Country in Atlanta, says he has seen neighborhoods tighten regulations by issuing fines for cars parked in the streets, bicycles left outside the garage, nonstandard mailboxes, and other potentially petty problems.

“Yes, restrictive covenants keep the appearance of the property up and can prevent eyesores such as wrecked cars, unkempt lawns, and oddball home colors,” Ailion says. But he admits there are times when CC&Rs can be so restrictive that they start infringing on the rights of their residents.

But even in that case, there are things you can do. In January 2016, for instance, when an HOA in Keizer, OR, wouldn’t allow a family to park their RV in their driveway—a necessity for their disabled child—the family fought back with a lawsuit, arguing that the Fair Housing Act requires HOAs to make “reasonable accommodations” for people with disabilities.

The bottom line: Restrictive covenants are meant to protect residents, but they can be changed if they’re out of line.

What happens if you violate HOA rules or can’t pay your HOA fees?

First off, rest assured that most lending institutions take the HOA fee into consideration when they write up your mortgage. In other words, they evaluate your monthly income compared with your monthly expenses, and they won’t make a loan on the desired property unless they feel you can safely cover everything: your mortgage payment, taxes, and HOA fees.

But life happens. If you lose your job or are unable to pay your HOA fees, you might be able to work something out with the HOA board. Be sure to talk to the board before you miss even one payment.

If you break your HOA’s rules, the consequences could be severe, and potentially, HOA management could evict you from your property. Fall too far behind on paying HOA fees, and the penalty could be the same as if you fail to make your mortgage payments.

Bob Tankel, a Florida attorney specializing in HOA law, says the board may have the right to foreclose on your property.

Pros and cons of an HOA

Home shoppers weigh a laundry list of factors before purchasing a home. Location, price, size, and style are all taken into consideration. But for some, a home in a community with a homeowners association could either sweeten the pot or be a major deal breaker.

“I have had clients who specifically want this type of situation, and others who refuse to buy in a community that has one,” says Bill Golden, an independent real estate agent with Re/Max Metro Atlanta Cityside.

Want to know what makes buyers swing one way or the other? The following insights will illustrate the best and worst qualities of HOAs and help you decide if living in this type of community is right for you.

Pro: HOAs maintain common areas

Your community’s HOA will be responsible for handling all maintenance of common areas and repairs for the amenities outside your home. It’s perhaps the biggest perk of living in an HOA community.

“Based on maintenance fees collected, an organized HOA maintains a comfortable balance in their fund to offset maintenance costs or unexpected issues that need to be fixed,” says Drew Scott of HGTV’s “Property Brothers” and co-founder of Scott Brothers Global.

An HOA’s level of involvement varies and might depend on the type and size of the community.

“The HOA will take care of the common areas like the pool, clubhouse, walking paths, or other amenities that provide value to the residents,” says Mark Ferguson, a Greeley, CO–based real estate agent and investor.

Sure, homeowners already taking on a mortgage may hate coughing up more money for HOA dues. But they actually let you off the hook for a ton of home maintenance work. So before you start kvetching, consider all that HOA fees can do for you.

Pro: HOAs help keep uniformity

Each HOA has its own declaration of covenants, conditions, and restrictions, or CC&Rs, which explain what homeowners can and cannot do—this includes streamlining the appearance of each property.

“Your neighbors can’t paint their house bright purple or put an unsightly addition on the front of their house,” Golden says. The CC&Rs make sure “the community retains the look and feel of the way it was built.”

Other common no-nos are parking vehicles on the lawn or keeping inoperable vehicles in the driveway.

“You won’t have to worry about that one neighbor that has decided to let his front yard grow into a wild jungle,” says Golden.

Pro: HOAs help homes retain their value

“Ultimately, the HOA helps the homes within the neighborhood retain their value,” explains Patrick Garrett, real estate broker at H&H Realty in Trussville, AL. “When there are rules and guidelines governing how homeowners should keep their property’s appearance, it helps keep the neighborhood looking desirable for the consumers perusing the neighborhood in search of a new home.”

Pro: HOAs mediate problems on your behalf

An HOA can also reduce conflicts and unpleasant exchanges. If your neighbors haven’t cut their lawn in several weeks, or decide to turn their driveway into an auto repair shop, you don’t have to confront them, because the HOA will. When anyone is engaged in activity that violates the CC&Rs, the HOA sends a friendly notice and follows up with a stern warning.

“A reasonable HOA is like heaven,” says Ailion. Several years ago, he represented a builder of family homes that were sold to investors; with no restrictive covenants in place, the community looked terrible two years later. By contrast, a nearby community that had instituted an HOA to oversee lawn care and home exteriors was thriving.

“Those properties looked like new, and year after year, the gap in price between the two communities has grown,” he says.

But HOAs come with some distinct downsides, too:

Con: Those pesky HOA fees

If you move into an area with an HOA, membership is mandatory, and so are the monthly or annual fees. Plus, “the fees can change, based on decisions that you don’t have total control over,” Golden says. “Fees can also be a detriment to resale, if potential buyers don’t want that extra cost in addition to their house payment.”

Con: There’s a lot of red tape

Building that new second-floor addition will be especially difficult in an HOA community.

Any exterior modification—even a minor one like a play area for your kids—has to be approved by the HOA.

You must submit plans describing the height, colors, location, shape, and materials to the HOA board for approval.

“This can really slow down the process or limit the type of work you can do,” Scott says.

Ferguson says the approval process can be downright unreasonable.

“It once took my HOA nine months to approve a basketball hoop that had already been approved by them for the previous owners,” he says.

Con: HOAs can be overbearing

Remember those CC&Rs? While they come in handy for preventing rowdy college students from moving in, they also might be off-putting for homeowners who like their autonomy.

“Many folks believe that buying your own home should give you the freedom to make the changes you want to make and express your own individuality,” Golden explains. “They don’t want decisions about their own home made by a committee.”

HOA-mandated restrictions can be set on swimming pools (e.g., in-ground swimming pools can be built in the back of the house, but above-ground pools are prohibited), pets (e.g., they are allowed, but they can’t be bred or kept for commercial reasons; livestock or poultry are not allowed without permission), and rentals (e.g., you might be prohibited from renting out rooms or the entire home).

In extreme situations, some HOAs can evict the tenant and hold the homeowner responsible for any eviction costs or any damage caused by the tenant.

 

Just keep in mind that an HOA’s goal is not to meddle; it’s merely to maintain a neighborhood aesthetic. However, if you don’t like being told what to do with your home, living under the bylaws and rules of an association may not be for you. Make sure to read your CC&Rs carefully and weigh the pros and cons of any particular HOA before you buy.

By Terri Williams Source: Realtor.com

https://www.realtor.com/advice/buy/homeowners-guide-to-hoas-homeowners-associations/

 

Posted in Buying a Home
June 6, 2022

The House Is Not for Sale—Can You Still Offer to Buy It?

There’s no “For Sale” sign on the front lawn and no listing online, so it’s safe to say that the adorable home that caught your eye is not for sale. Still, you can’t help but fantasize about owning it one day. It’s not technically on the market, but that doesn’t mean you can’t at least try to buy it. The worst the owners can say is no, right?

You can offer to buy a house that’s not for sale, but prepare yourself for rejection—or perhaps the owner asking for more than the estimated value of the home. But nothing’s stopping you from trying.

“If the seller has not been thinking about selling, they may want more than the market will bear just because … or they may not want to sell at all,” says Lana Lavenbarg, a Realtor® with Re/Max Ideal Brokers in Grants Pass, OR. “The best approach is to ask.”

How to put an offer on a house that’s not for sale

First, you should try to figure out why a property isn’t on the market; this will help you tailor your offer to the situation.

For example, if a property was previously listed, but the listing has expired or was withdrawn, it might mean that the owner was unhappy with the listing agent or the market’s response, or that the owner’s plans had changed. In this case, the owner might be more open to offers. You can either approach the owner directly or hire a real estate agent to approach the owner for you.

If a property is vacant, however, you or your real estate agent might need to do more legwork to track down the owner and determine if the property can even be sold. The home might be foreclosed on, condemned, or awaiting litigation—all situations that would affect whether or not the house could even be sold.

But if you have determined that a blind offer could sway the homeowners, think twice before directly approaching them with a cold letter.

“Most letters that are mailed are ignored,” says Kathryn Bishop, a Realtor with Keller Williams Realty in Studio City, CA. “You are competing with all of the ‘we’ll buy your ugly house’ letter campaigns that sellers throw away.”

Instead, she recommends you ask your real estate agent to present a specialized offer in writing with a letter explaining why you want to buy their house.

Of course, making an offer on a house you’ve seen only from the street means you could be missing crucial repairs that must be made. Perhaps the home needs a new roof or the downstairs bathroom has a nasty case of black mold that needs to be eradicated. The biggest risk is offering too much money for a house that has serious issues.

“When making an offer on an unlisted house, I always recommend that the buyer include an appraisal contingency,” says Bishop.

Be ready for rejection

Everything has its price, but when it comes to homes and people’s sentimental ties to them, sometimes money can’t compete. For some, no amount of money will be enough to hand over the keys to their property.

Bruce Ailion, a real estate agent and attorney with Re/Max Town and Country in Atlanta, was representing a buyer who had his eye on a piece of land and gave Ailion all the ammunition to go get the land, but the owner couldn’t be swayed.

“He had me deliver a contract without a price and blank check, subject to due diligence,” Ailion says. “That was rejected.”

So when you make an offer on a house that’s not for sale, do so with confidence but prepare yourself for the homeowner to say no.

If there’s a property you want that’s not on the market, it doesn’t hurt to go after it. After all, you’ll never know if you never try.

By Julie Ryan Evans Source: Realtor.com 

https://www.realtor.com/advice/buy/can-we-offer-to-buy-a-house-that-is-not-listed/

 

 

Posted in Buying a Home
May 23, 2022

The Proper Rules and Etiquette for Flying the American Flag

Here's how to properly adhere to U.S. flag code when flying Old Glory at home.

Displaying an American flag is a great way to show off your love for our country. However, your act of patriotism can quickly become (unintentionally) disrespectful if you're unaware of an important set of rules. The U.S. Flag Code, established by Congress in 1942, offers guidelines for treating this national symbol with dignity.

You can fly the American flag on all days, but the Flag Code especially recommends displaying it on Independence Day, as well as other major holidays like Flag Day, Labor Day and Veterans Day.

Take note: Memorial Day has its own flag etiquette. The American flag should be flown at half-mast from sunrise until noon, then raised to full mast for the rest of the holiday.

Brush up on the rest of your flag etiquette ahead of Memorial Day weekend by learning how to fly the Stars and Stripes the right way.

There's a right and a wrong way to hang the flag vertically.

Don't hang your flag backwards, upside down, or in another inappropriate fashion. If you're hanging your flag vertically (like from a window or against a wall), the Union portion with the stars should go on the observer's left. Never dip the flag to any person or anything.

Avoid letting the flag touch the ground.

Prevent your flag from touching the ground, floor, or water. It's not necessary to dispose of your flag if it accidentally hits the pavement, but you should make sure that it's in good condition before displaying it again.

Know the difference between half-staff and half-mast.

There is a difference between half-staff and half-mast, even though they're commonly used interchangeably. "Half-mast" technically refers to a flag flown on a ship's mast, while "half-staff" describes flags flown on land.

Fly your flag on half-staff at the right times.

The flag is flown at half-staff when the nation is in mourning, such as for the death of government official or for remembrance, as well as from sunrise to noon on Memorial Day. When flying the flag at half-staff, first hoist it to the peak for an instant and then lower to the half-staff position.

Half-staff is defined as one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the flagpole. The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day.

Only fly a flag at night if it is illuminated.

Custom dictates that you should display flags only from sunrise to sunset, but you can keep the stars and stripes flying 24 hours a day if it is properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.

Don't fly the flag when it rains.

If the forecast calls for inclement weather, you're not supposed to display the flag — except if it's an all-weather flag. However, most flags these day are made of all-weather, non-absorbent materials like nylon, the American Legion states.

Always fly the American flag above other flags.

That includes state and city flags. If they have to be at the same level (i.e., you're hanging them vertically from a house or porch), put the American flag on the left. Always hoist the American flag first and lower it last.

Only fly a flag in good condition.

No matter how well you take care of Old Glory, sometimes age just wears down a flag. Newer flags made with synthetic materials can be machine washed in cold water with a mild detergent, and hung to dry.

Older, more fragile flags should be hand washed using Woolite or a similar product. Small tears can be repaired by hand, so long as the mends aren't overtly visible when the flag is displayed. Flags that are overly worn, torn, or faded should be properly disposed of.

Dispose of an old flag in a respectful manner.

The Federal Flag Code says that unserviceable flags should be burned in a respectful, ceremonial manner, but do so discreetly so people don't misinterpret your intentions. If it is illegal to burn synthetic materials in your state or you feel uncomfortable doing so, contact your local American Legion post to find out if they have flag disposal ceremonies, which commonly occur on Flag Day, June 14. Local Scout troops are another resource for disposing your retired flag in a dignified and respectful way.

Fold your flag before storing it.

The American flag is traditionally folded in a specific arrangement, but we guarantee it's easier than folding a fitted sheet. When you have to store your flag, grab another person to help you. Begin by holding it parallel to the ground with another person, and fold the lower stripes lengthwise over the Union, keeping the edges of the flag crisp and straight. Fold it lengthwise again, keeping the blue Union on the outside.

Now make a triangular fold by bringing the striped corner of the folded edge to the open edge of the flag, and then turn the outer point parallel to the open edge to make a second triangle. Continue making triangular folds until the whole flag is folded into one triangle of blue and white stars.

Skip clothing and objects with flags on them.

While this section of the Flag Code is rarely observed, the guidelines advise against using the flag on clothing, costumes, athletic uniforms, bedding, cushions, handkerchiefs, other décor, and temporary-use items like paper napkins and boxes. It does permit flag pins worn over the left lapel and flags on military and first responder uniforms.

However, the Supreme Court ruled in 1984 in the case Texas v. Johnson that the government can't enforce flag-protection laws, so you won't get arrested for wearing an American flag T-shirt. Do whatever feels most respectful and appropriate to you.

Avoid these common flag mistakes, too.

Besides wearing flag-covered clothing, there are a couple other Flag Code violations that you can easily avoid. Most of these concern flag placement — a flag should never touch anything beneath it while it's flying, it should never been used as covering for a ceiling, and you should never place anything on the flag (like a "mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature").

 

 Source: Goodhousekeeping.com by Rebecca Deczynski and Caroline Picard https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/gardening/tips/a25180/american-flag-rules/

May 9, 2022

5 Signs You Are Ready To Be a Homeowner (That Have Nothing To Do With Money)

There comes a time in renters’ lives when they ask the age-old question: Should I become a homeowner? Obviously, finances have a lot to do with the decision whether to rent vs. buy.

But there’s more to it than just credit ratings and cash reserves—homeownership is a lifestyle change that you have to be willing to take on.

“People mostly talk about buying and selling a home from a financial perspective,” says Andy Piperfounder and CEO of the Piper Partners Real Estate Team at Keller Williams Realty in Ann Arbor, MI.

“But when you dig deeper, you find out the real reasons people want to buy a home relate to the pride of ownership, self-expression, connecting in a community, and providing for their family.”

Are you mentally ready to take on homeownership and all the obligations that come with it? Here are a few pointers that will help you assess whether you’re ready to become the master of your own domain.

1. You’re ready for home maintenance and upkeep

As a renter, you’re used to putting in a service request to your property manager or calling the maintenance supervisor to come fix the dishwasher when it breaks down. But owning a home means you’re now responsible for making repairs—or hiring and paying someone to take care of them.

“So many renters tell me they want to plant a garden, or rake leaves,” says Piper. “The natural pull of wanting to plant your feet on your own piece of ground and get your hands in the dirt is huge.”

Just being willing to shoulder home maintenance could indicate you’re ready to take the home-buying plunge.

2. You’re ready to settle down and stay put 

Many of us test-drive a few different cities before landing on a place where we’d like to put down roots. If you’ve found an area where you’d like to live for a significant period of time, homeownership is a worthy consideration.

Experts say a home is an investment that is likely to increase in value as long as you hold onto it for a few years.

 

“Buyers should plan to stay in their home for at least three years. If possible, seven to 10 years is a better time horizon, because it is roughly one full cycle of the housing market,” says Piper.

3. You’re itching to make home upgrades

Do you fantasize about putting in wood floors or tearing out that laminate countertop and replacing it with elegant, durable quartz? If your lack of control over the interior design of your home is too much to bear, you’re probably motivated to buy property you can customize to your heart’s content.

Nancy Beck, an agent with Century 21 in San Diego, also points out that homeowners can “make homes more functional for their needs.”

For example, if you work from home, you may need to build out a workspace in a nook or closet.

Alternatively, if you or a family member is disabled, you may need to make specific modifications that’ll make life easier, like lowering the countertops or building an accessible shower.

4. You want more privacy and control over your living space

Sick of your landlord coming into your apartment, or hearing your neighbors arguing, loud music blasting, or footsteps tramping up and down the stairs? Homeownership can give you the privacy and peace that you crave.

Animal lovers will be happy to have a place of their own where they don’t need to pay an extra fee, or ask a landlord for permission to house their four-legged friends.

5. You want your home sweet home

You can make any rented space a home. But as sweet as that space may be, it’s still not yours. And putting hundreds—or thousands—of dollars a month toward housing that you don’t actually own can weigh heavy on your mind.

 

“The personal satisfaction and sense of accomplishment achieved through homeownership can enhance psychological health, happiness. and well-being for homeowners and those around them,” says Piper.

Ultimately, buying a home is an investment in your own future, and, if you’re financially and mentally prepared, homeownership can give you a feeling of security and stability.

Anayat Durrani is a freelance education reporter for U.S. News and World Report. Her work has been featured in Military Officer, California Lawyer, the American Scholar, and PracticeLink magazines.

Source: Realtor.com

April 25, 2022

12 Small Updates With Big Impact in a Bathroom

12 Small Updates With Big Impact in a Bathroom

These mini makeovers are the easiest, breeziest ways to refresh your space.

Leveling up your bathroom might sound like a huge undertaking, but the truth is, giving this space a new look you love doesn't have to mean a major reno — or maybe even any reno work at all. (And how nice would it be to get ready every morning with better lighting or an uncluttered countertop?)

The key is to focus on little switch-ups that make a surprisingly big difference and to rely on a solid all-in-one source, like The Home Depot, where you can find all the elements you need to pull it off: vanities, cabinets, lighting, hardware, accessories, and more. Still not sure you’re ready for a revamp? These 12 easy ideas will inspire you to spruce up your space.

Go for the Bold

Your vanity is the visual focal point of any bathroom (and key to your grooming and storage needs), so it deserves to be a truly standout piece. Consider a sleek floating version for a modern, boutique-hotel look, or choose one with a brightly colored finish as an unexpected statement piece in the room.

Get Reflective

Here’s a no-fail way to add instant sparkle to your space: Trade out your tired medicine cabinet for a pair of clean-lined mirrors above your vanity. (The supplies you stored there can find a new home in the cabinet below, in stackable organizers to max out that space.) Keep the room’s look cohesive by opting for mirrors with frames in the same finish as your lighting fixtures and hardware.

Brighten Things Up

Sconces on either side of your medicine cabinet or mirror will illuminate your vanity and mirror area evenly — no unflattering overhead shadows! — and give the bathroom an updated look too. If you want to avoid electrical wiring, go with plug-in versions.

Refresh Your Walls

Want the chic look of tile but not the tricky DIY work that goes with it? Bring in peel-and-stick wallpaper that looks just like tile but takes a lot less time and effort to install. Bonus: It’s a simple element to switch out later if you decide you want to change things up.

Amp Up an Alcove

Retiling an entire bath is a chore — and potentially a hefty expense — but spotlighting a smaller area with a special tile treatment? Way more doable — and a great way to get a custom look. Find step-by-step advice right here.

Try a Little Rustic Charm

Few things warm up a space the way wood elements can. That’s why a vanity, mirror, or storage piece in a wood finish can be the ideal cozy counterpoint to a bathroom’s smooth, cool surfaces (like tile, porcelain, metal, and glass). Just be sure the pieces you pick are finished with a treatment that withstands water exposure.

Freshen Up Your Fixtures

A hardware update is low-hanging fruit — swapping out your old or mismatched towel bars, toilet paper holders, robe hooks, and other fixtures for sleeker styles in the same finish is one of the simplest moves you can make to streamline your space. Tip: Measure your old hardware first so you find replacements that won’t require you to drill new holes.

Elevate the Essentials

Because a bathroom is typically a small space, every element within it is important — and each one contributes to the room's overall aesthetic. That means that upgrading even your most basic accessories, like a trash can or tissue box, can give your space a higher-end vibe. Your best bet? Look for clean-lined pieces that play up your personal style.

Change Up Your Wall Color

White may be the most popular pick for a bathroom, but painting the walls a fun or dramatic color can be a beautiful option too. You’ll want to find a shade that makes both the room and you look good, of course. (Keep in mind: peachy shades are considered universally flattering, while a fresh blue-green can feel invigorating.) The Home Depot’s Project Color App can help you find, and virtually try out, your just-right hue.

Swap Out Your Towels

Even the most striking bathroom comes off as lackluster when the towels are tattered. When in doubt, spring for a fluffy new set in bright white, a soft neutral, or a richly saturated shade – or go with a mix of patterned hand towels and solid bath towels.

Think About the Big Picture(s)

Without framed photographs or prints, a bathroom can feel cold and impersonal. Choose images that make you feel soothed and happy – it’s your sanctuary, after all — and if you’re looking to give a big mix of artwork a cohesive look, hang them in matching frames.

Sprinkle in Some Finishing Touches

A carefully curated grouping of countertop accessories gives your bathroom a polished, pulled-together look. And there’s no need to be a pro at styling a vanity surface — you can't go wrong with a matching set in rich bamboo or sleek ceramic.

 

Source: Goodhousekeeping.com by Diane Conrad https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/renovation/a38518099/12-small-updates-with-big-impact-in-a-bathroom/

April 11, 2022

10 Gardening Hacks That Save Money, Time, Messes, and More

 

Think you’ve got a black thumb, and no amount of gardening advice can help keep your plants from meeting untimely demises?  We’re here to say that growing flowers and veggies is definitely an art, but it’s one you can learn fast with a few shortcuts—aka gardening hacks.  Here are some of the best gardening tricks of the trade approved by experts who say they really work. And the best part? Many of these ideas use home goods that you’ve got lying around the house already.

1. Fill your planters with bottles and cans to save dirt

Ever wonder how those ginormous planters get filled? Sure, you could use a 50-pound bag of pricey potting soil to get the job done, or you can try an easier, less expensive, and more environmentally friendly approach.  The trick here: Fill the pot about two-thirds of the way with cans or plastic bottles from your recycling bin, then pile the dirt on top. This way, you use far less costly soil from the garden center, plus you improve the aeration and drainage at the bottom of the planter. Oh, and you can move it around your patio more easily, too.

2. Divide your bulbs in half for more flowers

This one’s a two-fer: You can double your garden’s beauty and save money simply by dividing annual bulbs. (Tulips, irises, and daffodils are ideal for this.)  “When you see your flowers aren’t producing the way they used to, yank them up and then carefully pull the small, offset bulbs away from the base of the plant,” says Susan Brandt, master gardener at Blooming Secrets.  Plant these new bulbs, plus the original one if it seems in good shape (it’s worth planting again if the base is firm to the touch), and you may double your blooms without spending more money.

3. Take your soil’s temperature with a kitchen thermometer

That oven and grill thermometer isn’t just for your barbecues and Thanksgiving turkey. Yup, you can actually stick it in the dirt to determine whether your soil is warm enough (meaning above freezing) for planting. A standard meat or digital thermometer will work as long as it tests colder temperatures in the 40-degree range, says Brandt.

4. Line pots with coffee filters for easy repotting

Transferring plants to new pots or into the ground is a tricky project. The reason? Dirt can drop all over when you try to lift them out, and disturb their delicate root system. The fix here is run-of-the-mill coffee filters.  Place one at the base of your pot, fill with dirt and plant your seeds or plants right in this paper nest.  “And when you go to repot it, lift up the filter gently and evenly so it keeps loose soil from spilling on your workspace,” says Brandt.

5. Use zip or twist ties to keep climbing vines in place

A gorgeous grid of climbing clematis or other vines is easily achieved by grabbing a few twist ties (the ones that come with loaves of bread). Secure the vine stems to a wire backing, fence, or post, and you’ll be able to arrange the growth in any way you like.

6. Crush egg shells and mix with your soil

This gardening hack has some science behind it.  “Eggshells are an excellent source of calcium, and you can use them as fertilizer in areas with clay soil,” says Brandt.  When planting, add a little pulverized shell to each hole, suggests Oscar Ortega, maintenance care manager at FormLA Landscaping. These delicate wonders also contain potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus, which can help perk up house plants, too. (Sprinkle some in the dirt every couple of weeks.)

7. Fill an over-the-door shoe holder with plants

An old shoe holder is easily made into a pocket planter for succulents, ivy, or any perennial you want to showcase. Poke a few small holes in each section for drainage, add dirt and plant seedlings or small plants, and then hang it on a fence, shed wall, or any exterior door that gets good light.

8. Insert plastic utensils to scare off critters

Brandt isn’t sure why this one works, but theorizes that this small army of plastic forks standing sentry in the soil scares off rabbits and birds since it looks so unfamiliar to them. Save a few from your next picnic and try it!

9. Pour vinegar on weeds

Who doesn’t have a cabinet full of random vinegar bottles? The acid in this pantry staple kills weeds like dandelions, so douse a bit on each garden offender. You’ll have to put up with the sharp scent for a little while, but it’s a fair trade for weed-free flower beds.

10. Trap slugs and pill bugs in beer

While you might hate to share your suds this way, by putting a small dish of PBR near your plants you can catch and kill slugs and other slimy bugs. The reason: They’re attracted to the sweet odor of beer—and when they get close to it, they end up drowning. RIP!

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Jennifer Kelly Geddes creates content for WhatToExpect.com, the National Sleep Foundation, American Airlines Vacations, Oxo, and Mastercard.  Source: Realtor.com

 

March 21, 2022

Here’s Your Pre-Spring Outdoor Cleanup Checklist

Make these easy fixes to your exterior areas now so you're ready to enjoy leisurely dinners on the deck later.

Even if you didn't get any snow, winter can do a number on your home. Once the cold weather tapers off and the ground starts to soften, it’s time to get out there and set things up for spring. Oh, and we’re not talking about superficial tidying up, btw. Keeping a list of yearly maintenance check-ins not only makes your house and outdoor spaces look good: It helps prevent larger (and more expensive) home repairs down the line—a win-win.

Check out our list of pre-spring must-dos below, jump on these tasks now, and cruise into spring and summer without a sweat.

Update Your Gutters

When leaves and debris build up in your gutters over the cold months, it can cause trouble. It creates a breeding ground for rodents and pests, but that's honestly the least of it. Overflows and water buildup caused by overstuffed drainage can lead to interior and exterior damage that could cost thousands in repairs. Instead, replace old-school gutters with a seamless, LeafGuard Gutter one-piece system designed to help prevent all of the above. The brand is so confident in their Good Housekeeping Seal-vetted gutters that if they somehow clog, they guarantee they’ll come and clean them for free.

Scrub the Siding

Dirt, grime, mold, and mildew build up on your siding over time, particularly when the weather is wet. Yes, it’s a bad look but more than that, it can eat away at the very stuff meant to protect your house. To prevent that problem, clean siding at least once a year. For both wood or vinyl, use a non-bleach cleaner with a bristle brush. Start from the top and work down to keep dirt from running into already cleaned sections.

Shore Up the Roof

Losing a shingle here and there might not seem like a big deal, but even one gap could allow water to make its way into your home. If left exposed for too long, it seeps under the remaining shingles and rots them away or, worse, works through your ceiling and straight through to the interior. For this, it’s best to keep spare shingles that match on hand to give to your handyman for quick repairs so everything looks uniform while they open potentially harmful gaps.

Give the Furniture a Once-Over

Outdoor furniture can be tough, but it isn’t indestructible. Start the season by making sure your all-weather pieces—whether they're wood or metal—survived storage. From there, scrub away any dirt and dust. Thankfully they are all relatively easy to clean with a bristle brush and a combo of warm water and dish soap. Let them dry completely to prevent rusting or rot—then take a seat.

Make Your (Flower) Bed

Before it’s warm enough to plant, remove dead leaves, plants, and sticks from your flower beds. First gently rake them out, then use a shovel to work organic compost into the top layer and any holes that opened up during the wet months. Do the same with your flower plots and wooden planters. It’s also an ideal time to take stock of where you have room to add new varietals, since plants are dormant or at their puniest now. Mark where perennial bulbs are planted to avoid accidentally digging them up.

Check the Decks

And inspect the patios too for that matter. Catching and replacing loose boards, pavers, or rotting wood or metal railings is easier than leaving them be and then having to have a contractor come out in a few years and replace the whole thing (and preventing tripping hazards.) Nailing in a new piece of wood stained to match or securing a loose patio stone with polymeric sand are little fixes that can go a long way to keeping it all level and safe.

Screen the Screens

Did you leave the removable screens for windows and doors in all winter? Forget to clean them before you put them away? It’s fine. Just use a vacuum with a soft bristle attachment to get off any loose dirt or pollen. For more stubborn gunk, gently rinse with a hose and scrub with a soft bristle brush and a combination of warm water and an all-purpose cleaner. Prop the screens up vertically to help them dry faster.

Tool Time!

Take inventory of all of your essentials. Is your hose in proper working order, are your shovels and metal tools clear of rust, do you have all of the gardening supplies you need? Buying replacement items you might need early can save you money. But before you spend on new metal tools to replace rusty ones, try cleaning with a remover like oxalic acid (use according to instructions) to get them back in shape and safe to use.

Lighten Up

Remove cobwebs and clean glass covers surrounding any outdoor light fixtures. Also, be sure to check that your bulbs are in proper working order. When possible, replace outdated bulbs with longer-lasting LEDs—it may save you money in the long run and means you may not have to replace them for years.

 

Source: Goodhousekeeping.com by Caylin Harris. Caylin Harris is an Emmy-nominated producer, writer, crafter, stylist, and branded content creator.

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/gardening/g38225202/heres-your-pre-spring-outdoor-cleanup-checklist/

March 7, 2022

How Long Does It Take to Build a House?

How long does it take to build a house? It’s a question often posed by people looking to buy an idyllic piece of land so they can construct their dream home from the ground up. If this describes your current housing situation, you’ve come to the right place!

So before you invest in that spacious lot with stunning views and mature trees, it’s wise to consider the time it’ll actually take to build the place you’ll be living in—especially considering supply chain issues and overall construction delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which are expected to last through 2022.

How long does it take to build a house?

In a perfect world, depending on the site and zoning classification, it typically takes from three to six months to build a house. However, given the current state of supply chain slow-downs, labor shortages, and increased building demand, it’s more realistic to factor in a few months of delay.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent 2020 data from the Survey of Construction estimates approximately 6.8 months as the average length of time from start to completion of new privately owned residential buildings. That number rises to nearly 12 months for owner-built houses, and falls to just under 6 months for build-for-sale homes.

Depending on U.S. location, the average build times increase and decrease. For instance, houses in the northeast are averaging 10.7 months, while construction in the south is at about 5.9 months.

No matter your location, the key to any successful new home building project is having approved house building permits, a process that can take a long time in some areas. So plan ahead. The biggest obstacles to obtaining a new home permit are poor due diligence, neighbors who oppose construction, and a backlog at the building department.

Main factors that affect how long to build a house

“Location and what I call environmental conditions can slow down or speed up a build greatly,” says Bill Green, president of W.R. Green Construction, a custom builder in Connecticut and Colorado.

What kind of environmental conditions? Factors such as soil type and site topography. For example, to construct a house with a slab on a level site with stable draining soil conditions is likely to take half the time it would take to construct the same house on a hilly lot. Building in a coastal earthquake or mudslide zone, or in a fire hazard zone, will also prolong the construction process.

Another major factor to consider in estimating the length of the process is how skilled the contractor is. An experienced new home builder will typically take less time to complete your new home.

Choose a contractor with a good reputation among the local municipality and real estate community. When issues arise, they’ll get taken care of quickly, says John Kuroda, manager at Sleight Farm, a subdivision of new-construction houses in LaGrange, NY.

What can increase the average time to build a house?

The overall time of a build usually depends on labor, supply chain issues, and weather conditions. Construction can easily be delayed by labor shortages, construction supply and building material hold-ups, and shifts in temperature or too much precipitation.

Other factors that can cause a delay? “The owners,” says Todd Whalen, owner and CEO of Eclipse Building Corp. Yes, that’s you!

If you delay in selecting finishes or decide to add change orders to your new home during construction, you can significantly prolong your construction time. As much as possible, stick with your home design—don’t tell your builder after the drywall is installed that you want the kitchen on the other side of the house, or a different floor plan altogether.

Real estate markets experiencing a building boom may also face a shortage of laborers and subcontractors—another thing that can lengthen the overall building time.

How to shorten the average time to build a house

Planning is far and away the most important way to shorten the building time frame, according to Green.

All the components of building a new house are interrelated, so if you plan the build, you can reduce the chance of delays and mistakes.

For instance, the thickness of the tile you select for a bathroom will determine the exact location of pipes that your builder must have in place before building your foundation.

Make sure you understand the lead time on products such as windows and doors in order to have them on the building site when they are needed.

During construction, an extra few weeks waiting for something can delay your timeline. Having all the different work crews—electricians, plumbers, HVAC specialists, etc.—working as promptly as possible in the building process helps speed everything up, too.

You should hold the builder accountable, by including a penalty in your contract if the builder misses the agreed-upon completion date, says Jesse Fowler, president of Tellus Build.

Being active and staying on top of things throughout the building process—such as scheduling weekly site walks to check on progress—can help keep everything on track.