Finding The Right Mattress

You’ve got more options than ever when mattress shopping these days with no shortage of brick-and-mortar and online-only retailers to choose from. Here are the factors you should consider when you’re shopping for a perfect night’s sleep.

1. Mattress construction: The most popular mattress types are inner spring mattresses, memory foam mattresses, and adjustable air mattresses. Each has pros and cons when it comes to durability and comfort customization.

2. Firmness: Mattress firmness plays a huge role in the quality of your sleep. Mattresses that are too firm or too soft can cause aches and pains, so it‘s recommended that you test a mattress for 10- to 15 minutes in store before making a purchase.

3. Sleeping position: Your mattress should match your sleeping style (side, back, face-down, etc.). You want a mattress that keeps your spine in proper alignment. For example, some mattresses are better for side sleepers, while others are better for back sleepers.

4. Size: It’s not quite as simple as choosing between a king and a queen mattress. You should also consider your height, as some mattresses are a better fit for shorter people while tall people will want a longer mattress so their limbs aren’t hanging over the edge of the bed.

5. Stability: For couples, you should consider how the mattress reacts when one person moves, so the other person’s sleep isn’t disturbed in the middle of the night.

Dispelling Refinancing Myths

“Refinancing” is a scary word for many people, but that shouldn’t be the case for you. For many homeowners, refinancing can not only lower your monthly payments and help with your monthly budget, but it can save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

YOU’RE NOT TOO LATE

For years now, we’ve been hearing that interest rates will be on the rise, and although there have been some small increases, you’re still in a great position to drastically lower your interest rate. The general rule is if your mortgage interest rate is more than one percent above the current market rate, you should consider refinancing.

IT’S NOT TOO TIME CONSUMING

Don’t brush off refinancing just because it seems like a long and daunting process. An informational call with a lender to see how rates compare will only take a few minutes. There are also some programs for streamlining the application process. And besides, isn’t the amount of money you could save worth the time and effort?

ARMS CAN BE REFINANCED, TOO

Seeing your Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) increase after the introductory period can be incredibly stressful and place a squeeze on your budget. Many people assume they’re stuck, but ARMs can be refinanced, just like fixed-rate mortgages. You can even switch to a shorter term fixed-rate mortgage, such as 15 or 23 years. The longer you’re planning to stay in the home, the more sense it makes to look into refinancing.

5 Negotiating Tactics That Can Hurt A Sale

Negotiation is a subtle art in real estate, but skilled negotiators can usually find some common ground that satisfies all parties. On the other hand, using the wrong negotiation tactics can sink a deal pretty quickly. Here are some negotiation tactics buyers should avoid:

LOWBALL OFFERS

Going far below market value when you make an offer damages your credibility as a buyer and can be insulting to the seller. The seller has a range in mind that they’ll accept, and if you’re not even approaching the low end of that range, they won’t even consider the offer.

INCREMENTAL NEGOTIATIONS

Don’t continue to go back to the seller with small increases in your offer ($1,000 or less). The constant back-and-forth can grow tiresome and lead the seller to consider other opportunities.
“Take it or leave it”: Try not to draw a line in the sand with your initial offer. The seller can get defensive and consider other offers if you immediately show that you’re unwilling to budge. Even if it’s true, don’t make a show of it.

NITPICKING AFTER INSPECTION

Obviously if inspection reveals a major issue, it should be factored into the final sale price. But insisting on a lower price for every minor repair can put negotiations in a stalemate.

ASKING FOR MORE, MORE, MORE

Some buyers will request that the sellers throw in add-ons like furniture or appliances that weren’t included in the listing. Try to avoid giving the seller a reason to build up resentment and think that you’re being greedy.

THE BOTTOM LINE

While there are things you can do to help boost your odds of a successful deal, there are a number of others that can prevent the sale from happening. WHEN BUYING A HOME, ALWAYS FOLLOW THE ADVICE OF YOUR REAL ESTATE AGENT.

8 Must-Have Tools For Every Homeowner

From replacing cabinet doors, to burned-out light bulbs, to everything in between, all sorts of scenarios will sneak up on a regular basis in your home that will require your handiwork. Even things like hanging a picture on the wall or measuring rooms for furniture require some type of tool to get the job done.

Unless you plan on calling the local handyman every time you need something done, you’d be well-advised to get yourself a set of tools so you don’t have to break the bank paying someone else to do something you easily can accomplish with the right tool.

Hammer

Owning a good quality hammer is a necessity. Whether you’re hanging art, pulling nails out, or just tapping things into place can all be done a lot easier with a hammer than with a random object. The one you get should feel well-balanced and allow you to grip the handle firmly and securely. You might even be able to get away with a smaller and lighter claw hammer if your hands are petite, though these versions aren’t as efficient as full-sized hammers.

Cordless Drill

A cordless drill is another very common tool that will make your life easier. If you plan on assembling furniture, for instance, a cordless drill is a necessity. There are many types of screw heads these days so make sure you have a wide variety on-hand. A cordless drill will ensure that you get the job done a lot faster without tiring your hands out.

Tape Measure

You’d be amazed at how many times you’ll be whipping out this tool at home. Buying new furniture? Installing some floating shelves? Hanging artwork? Then you’ll need measuring tape to make sure your furniture fits in your space and your shelves aren’t on a 45-degree angle. A standard 30-foot metal tape measure that locks in place should suffice.

Level

Speaking of making sure your shelves and artwork aren’t crooked, a level is another necessary tool to have in your collection. Get yourself one that’s around 3 feet long, which you’ll get the most use of.

Pliers

This handy tool is essential for tightening or loosening up just about every type of hardware, such as plumbing pipes. You can choose from a variety of options, including grove-joint pliers that are adjustable to grasp large or small items, and needle-nose pliers are great when you’re dealing with any type of wire. Get yourself a pair or two that lock, which make them a lot easier to work with.

Utility Knife

Imagine trying to cut through cardboard boxes or old wallpaper with a regular kitchen knife. Without a high-caliber tool, jobs like these are a lot more tedious. With a standard-size utility knife, cutting through tough material is a breeze. Always remember to keep this one in a safe place.

Ladder

Unless you’re 8 feet tall, you’ll probably find it a lot easier to change light bulbs, paint higher areas, or access something from an upper shelf using a ladder. At the very least, a step stool can help.

Putty Knife

If you’ve got any holes in the walls from where the previous owners hung their photos, or you simply made a mistake when hammering in your own nails and hooks, these holes will need to be filled and painted over. The way to fix them is by filling them with spackle or putty, but you can’t apply this goopy stuff with just any tool.

A putty knife will let you evenly spread the material to ensure a smooth finish that you won’t even notice after you’ve painted over the area. Consider getting yourself a couple of different sizes – wider ones are good for spreading, and narrower ones are ideal for scraping.

Short Sale And Foreclosure: What Sets Them Apart?

As unfortunate as it can be when homeowners fall behind on mortgage payments and must face the possibility of losing their homes, short sales and foreclosures provide them options for moving on financially. The terms are often used interchangeably, but they’re actually quite different, with varying timelines and financial impact on the homeowner. Here’s a brief overview.

SHORT SALES

A short sale comes into play when a homeowner needs to sell their home but the home is worth less than the remaining balance that they owe. The lender can allow the homeowner to sell the home for less than the amount owed, freeing the homeowner from the financial predicament.

On the buyer side, short sales typically take three to four months to complete and many of the closing and repair costs are shifted from the seller to the lender.

FORECLOSURE

On the other hand, a foreclosure occurs when a homeowner can no longer make payments on their home so the bank begins the process of repossessing it. A foreclosure usually moves much faster than a short sale and is more financially damaging to the homeowner.

After foreclosure the bank can sell the home in a foreclosure auction. For buyers, foreclosures are riskier than short sales, because homes are often bought sight unseen, with no inspection or warranty.

4 Ways To Eat Organic Food On A Budget

Organic food usually tastes better, and is better for you, but it can also be very expensive compared to non-organic products. Organic food can cost nearly 50 percent more, thanks to the extra labor required to produce it and consumers’ demand exceeding supply.

So how do you get tasty organic food without spending a ton of extra money? Follow these tips to get more bang for your buck.

SHOP AT FARMERS’ MARKETS

You can get fresh organic produce for far less at a farmers’ market than you’d pay at the grocery store. It’ll taste just as good, and you’re getting your food straight from the source.

CHOOSE SEASONAL PRODUCE

Out-of-season produce usually has to be imported, and that can really drive up the price. Focus your meals on in-season fruits and vegetables so that you don’t end up paying $6.00 for a pound of organic asparagus.

SHOP MORE FREQUENTLY

The trick here is to only buy what’s needed for your meals, and to only plan for a week of meals at most. That way you’re less likely to throw food away, because you can use leftover produce for more meals before it goes bad.

GROW YOUR OWN

A home vegetable garden will provide some extremely cheap organic produce, and gardening can also be a fun and rewarding hobby.

Priority Tasks For Your Move In

Moving into a new home is an exciting time, and you’re probably daydreaming about decor and paint schemes and new furniture. But before you get into the fun stuff, there are some basics you should cover first.

Change the locks

Even if you’re promised that new locks have been installed in your home, you can never be too careful. It’s worth the money to have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that no one else has the keys to your home. Changing the locks can be a DIY project, or you can call in a locksmith for a little extra money.

Steam clean the carpets

It’s good to get a fresh start with your floors before you start decorating. The previous owners may have had pets, young children, or just some plain old clumsiness. Take the time to steam clean the carpets so that your floors are free of stains and allergens. It’s pretty easy and affordable to rent a steam cleaner—your local grocery store may have them available.

Call an exterminator

Prior to move-in, you probably haven’t spent enough time in the house to get a view of any pests that may be lurking. Call an exterminator to take care of any mice, insects, and other critters that may be hiding in your home.

Clean out the kitchen

If the previous occupants wanted to skip on some of their cleaning duties when they moved out, the kitchen is where they probably cut corners. Wipe down the inside of cabinets, clean out the refrigerator, clean the oven, and clean in the nooks and crannies underneath the appliances.

5 Criteria For Pricing A Home

When you put your home up for sale, one of the best ways to determine the asking price is to look at comparable sales. There’s rarely a perfect apples-to-apples comparison, so a pricing decision often relies on comparisons to several recent sales in the area. Here are five criteria to look for in a sales comparison.

1. Location

Homes in the same neighborhood typically follow the same market trends. Comparing your home to another in the same neighborhood is a good start, but comparing it to homes on the same street or block is even better.

2. Date of sale

It varies by location, but housing markets can see a ton of fluctuation in a short time period. It‘s best to use the most recent sales data available.

3. Home build

Look for homes with similar architectural styles, numbers of bathrooms and bedrooms, square footage, and other basics.

4. Features and upgrades

Remodeled bathrooms and kitchens can raise a home’s price, and so can less flashy upgrades like a new roof or HVAC system. Be sure to look for similar bells and whistles.

5. Sale types

Homes that are sold as short sales or foreclosures are often in distress or sold at a lower price than they’d receive from a more typical sale. These homes are not as useful for comparisons.

Consider This: When To Refinance

Refinancing your mortgage is something most homeowners consider at least once throughout the lifespan of their home loan. It allows you to pay off your previous loan by applying for a new one that has better financial advantages. While there are many good reasons to refinance, here are five common ones.

SCORING A LOWER INTEREST RATE

The number one reason homeowners decide to refinance is to secure a lower interest rate on their mortgage. Not only does this save you money in the long run and decrease your monthly payment, but you can start building equity in your home sooner.

USING AN IMPROVED CREDIT SCORE

Even if interest rates have not dropped in the market, if you’ve improved your credit score over the last few years, you may be able to reduce your mortgage rate.

SHORTENING THE LOAN’S TERM

If interest rates are decreasing, there is a chance you may be able to get a shorter loan term with little to no change in your monthly payment, allowing you to pay off your loan sooner.

SWITCHING FROM AN ADJUSTABLE RATE TO A FIXED RATE

If you chose an adjustable-rate mortgage with great introductory rates when you initially financed your home, that rate may increase significantly over the years. By switching to a fixed rate while interest rates are low, you can protect yourself from future increases.

CASHING OUT HOME EQUITY

If there is a big purchase or payment on the horizon, such as funding a wedding or going back to school, your best option may be to use the equity you’ve built in your home to borrow money at a lower cost.

These 6 Things Can Cause Water Damage in Your Home

Water might be a necessity in life, but it can also wreak havoc in your home when it’s not properly contained. Water can cause mold, mildew, and major damage to surfaces in your home. It can even compromise the integrity of your home’s structure. And once your home experiences water damage, it can be extremely costly and labor-intensive to rectify.

So, what causes water damage? Here are some of the more common sources of water damage in homes.

1. Leaky Pipes

The most obvious source of water damage in a home stems from leaky plumbing pipes. Whether there’s a slow leak somewhere or a major burst pipe, water that’s able to make its way outside of the pipes that run through your home can cause some major damage. 

A sudden burst pipe might be significant, but it will be easy to spot. Slow leaks, on the other hand, are usually impossible to detect until the damage has already been done. The best way to identify potential leaks is to pay attention to your water bill. If you notice the numbers start creeping up every month, there may be a leak somewhere that needs to be addressed. 

2. Air Conditioner 

If something is malfunctioning with your air conditioner system, this could cause issues. Your air conditioner is tasked with removing moisture from the air, and this moisture can often accumulate in the actual unit and turn into water through condensation. If this water doesn’t drain properly, it could eventually make its way into your home and cause damage. 

To avoid this situation, make sure to have your A/C serviced on a regular basis so you can spot issues early and have them fixed. 

3. Washing Machine

A ton of water is used with every load of laundry you do. But sometimes, washers can leak water and pool underneath, or ill-secured fittings could allow water to seep out. In either case, such leakage from your washing machine can cause mold buildup or water damage to surrounding surfaces. 

4. Clogged Drains

If the drains running underneath your floor get clogged, they’re more susceptible to water backup in the sink, shower stall, or even within the floor itself. If this is allowed to carry on, you could be left having to deal with mold issues or severe water damage.

5. Running Toilets

Sometimes toilets run because of issues with the flapper, which is supposed to be pulled up when you flush so new water can fill the bowl. If there are problems with the flapper, however, this can cause a running toilet, which in turn can cause water leakage and subsequent damage to the floor and wall around the toilet. 

6. Water Seeping Into the Foundation

Water can make its way into your home’s foundation if there are issues with grading or with the soil around the perimeter of your home. And if you experience heavy precipitation, all that water can easily make its way into your home, leaving you with major issues to have to deal with. 

The Bottom Line

Water damage in a home is nothing to sneeze at. It can cause serious issues, both structurally and health-wise. If you notice a hint of water problems, it’s important to have them rectified immediately. And if possible, try to keep a close eye on all aspects and systems of your home and have them serviced regularly so that if there are any issues, they can be nipped in the bud before real problems start.