Photo of a happy married couple talking with financial advisor on a meeting in the office

How to Compete With a Cash Offer When Buying a House

Photo of a happy married couple talking with financial advisor on a meeting in the office

After pounding the pavement for what seems like forever, you’ve finally found the place you want to put an offer on. But alas, someone else has already got their fingers on it, and it’s a cash buyer, no less. Buyers with cash are known to swoop in and snatch up properties from under mortgaged buyers. But don’t fret – you’re not necessarily out of the game just yet.

Here are some ways you can be some stiff competition to an all-cash buyer.

Offer More Than The Competition

Throwing more money on the table that what the cash buyer is offering might sound nuts. But when sellers see dollar signs, they might just be willing to look in your favor, even if the cash offer looks like a shoo-in. If you want to increase your chances of landing the house, you might want to consider topping the cash offer with more money. If this is the house you plan on living in for a long time, the extra cash might be worth it.

Give the Sellers the Closing Date They Want

If the sellers still haven’t bough another house to move into, they might need some extra time to find the right place, especially if the supply is short. On the other hand, if the sellers are anxious to get the house off their hands in order to save on carrying costs, they might want the deal to close sooner rather than later.

If you want to stand up to the competition, give the sellers the closing date they want. Whether this means having to wait a little, or closing next week, so be it. It’s just one additional way to sweeten the deal.

Offer a Massive Down Payment

If you can afford to scrounge up as much liquid cash as possible to put towards a down payment, your offer will look more attractive. You may not be able to pay for the house in full with cash, but the more money you put towards a down payment, the less financing you’ll need, which always looks safer in the eyes of the seller.

Many times the reason why financing may fall through is because the appraisal comes in at a lower number than the purchase price. In this case, if you’ve only borrowed 50%, for instance, you shouldn’t have as much of an issue compared to borrowing 75% or 80% of the purchase price.

Get Pre-Approved For a Mortgage, and Skip the Financing Clause

Sellers ideally like to see a clean offer, which means little or no clauses. One condition in particular that can get the sellers’ guard up is a financing condition. While this is great to protect you against losing your deposit should the financing not go through, it’s not so great for the sellers. One of the most effective ways to compete against an all-cash buyer is to eliminate this condition altogether.

However, you don’t have to forego all protection whatsoever. To shave off some risk, make sure that you get pre-approved for a mortgage first. Just make sure that you’ll be able to bail yourself out in the event that you do lose your deposit if the seller accepts your offer, but your financing falls through for some reason.

Get a Pre-Appraisal Done

Getting the property appraised in advance can not only cut down on the time it takes to close the deal, but it can also help increase the assurance that the lender will cover you for a specific loan amount to pay for the property. However, this might be easier said than done when it comes to bigger lenders, so you might have to go through a smaller lender or mortgage broker to make this happen.

Of course, there’s only so much you can do before exhausting all your resources and efforts. But by getting your finances in order, working with a mortgage broker in advance, and dealing with a good local real estate agent, you can draft up an offer that’s as attractive to the seller as possible. You never know – you just might end up a winner.

Image of a bedroom interior with black stone wall, ceiling side lamps and wooden floor

Creating a Luxurious Bedroom Retreat on a Budget

Image of a bedroom interior with black stone wall, ceiling side lamps and wooden floor

Considering how many hours of the day are spent in your bedroom, it makes sense to pour a little focus and budget into this often-overlooked space. After a busy day, it would be nice to come home and retreat to a comfortable, soothing, esthetically-pleasing bedroom.

But you don’t necessarily have to break the bank to create this welcoming space. With a few simple changes, you can effectively turn your bedroom into a retreat where you can relax and unwind in style.

Paint the Walls

Surprise, surprise. Painting the walls is among the most common suggestions when it comes to redoing a room. And for good reason – it makes a room look fresh, and it’s pretty cheap.

But before you take a paint brush to your bedroom, make sure to choose a cool, neutral, pleasing color palette. Psychology really does come into play here. In case you haven’t heard, certain colors evoke specific feelings and moods in people. When it comes to the bedroom, you want the mood to be a soothing one.

In this case, a cool, neutral, serene color palette will do the job. Choose colors like pale blue, warm gray or soft yellow to create a calming sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of the outside world.

If you want to go for something a little more luxurious, consider wallpaper instead. This can help you not only change the color, but add a sophisticated and rich-looking pattern that will dramatically change the look of the space.

Change up the Lighting

Forget about a standard light fixture in the middle of the ceiling. This type of lighting does little to create a soothing, relaxing, and even romantic mood in your bedroom. Instead, layer your light fixtures to create the perfect ambient lighting. Change the standard fixture on the ceiling with a more luxurious chandelier, or install pot lights at various points across the ceiling.

Add table lamps on each end table beside the bed, and affix wall sconces on opposite walls. Make sure to use soft bulbs, and install dimmer switches to allow you the opportunity to adjust the amount of light to create the perfect ambiance within your bedroom.

Add a Fancy Headboard

If your bed’s headboard is tiny, awkward, or even non-existent, consider adding a more lavish headboard. But instead of buying one already made, consider channelling your inner artist and create one yourself! Compared to upwards of $400 or even $600 for store-bought headboards, you can make one yourself at a fraction of the cost.

Grab yourself some wood, a hammer, fabric, padding, and a staple gun, and you’d be surprised at the masterpiece that you can create, fully customized to your bedroom! If you’re not feeling so productive, even just draping the wall behind your bed in a lush fabric can make a difference.

Update Your Bed Linens

The bedding that you sprawl across your mattress will make a huge difference to the room. New bedding in gorgeous colors and luxurious fabrics can instantly refresh a bedroom.

Consider piling up your blankets to create a “plumper” look to the bed. Add a number of pillows in a variety of sizes, and make sure to incorporate punchy color accents to really add some pizazz to the look of your bedroom. Beds are typically the focal point of the bedroom, so it’s worth it to spend the time and budget where it really matters.

Layer Area Rugs

It’s amazing how expensive area rugs can be, but to keep costs down, consider buying a few different sized ones instead of one big one. Takes these rugs and layer them to create an eclectic look at a price you can afford.

Be sure to stagger the edges of the rugs too, which will help make your bedroom appear more expensive than it actually is. Obviously a high-quality wool rug will look the most deluxe, but a simple and affordable cotton rug can be just as comfortable, and will add instant style to any bedroom.

Accessorize

To top off the bedroom, make sure to add accessories to the space to add extra color, beauty and warmth to the space. Make sure to add throw pillows, extra fabrics, window treatments, fresh flowers, aromatic candles, and even soothing sounds to the room.

It’s the little details that really bring out the best in a bedroom. For the price, you simply can’t beat the big punch these little fine points can bring to a space.

Living in the lap of luxury doesn’t exactly have to rob you of your life savings. By following these tips, you can totally transform your bedroom into one that you’ve been dreaming about – literally.

Image of Scandinavian home decor with green couch, rattan pot and floor lamp

Improve Your Living Space With Color

Image of Scandinavian home decor with green couch, rattan pot and floor lamp

Without realizing it, we’re affected by the colors that surround us throughout the day. While the walls of your home may be plastered with the same neutral tone while it’s on the market, part of making it your new home is customizing it to your own preferences. A coat of paint on the walls around you can make a big difference.

Before you head out to the hardware store, however, you should carefully consider your color choices. The right color can create warmth or ignite your appetite. Using basic color psychology, you can realize how experiencing certain colors can change your mood. Here are a few color suggestions for your living space.

Stimulating Conversation

In certain areas of your home, you’ll likely want to encourage conversation. This can include a living room where you regularly welcome guests or the dining room where you enjoy family dinners. For rooms where conversations will often take place, consider bright colors like red and blue. You don’t have to bathe your entire kitchen in vibrant red. Instead consider using vibrant colors as accents throughout the room.

Relaxing

Shades of purple are ideal for rooms where you plan to relax and unwind, such as bedrooms and master baths. These colors can also ignite the imagination, making them ideal for daydreaming or brainstorming ideas for your next home-remodeling project. Consider a rich purple or lavender for these rooms for an instant calming effect after a long, hard day.

Hunger

Since the color red is thought to stimulate hunger, it’s probably best to avoid using it in rooms where you’ll be enjoying late-night TV. However, when used in the kitchen, it can be a great tool to make sure your kids eat dinner rather than playing with their food. It might not be the best color for your dining room walls, but it could be implemented into your placemats or your table’s centerpiece.

Productivity

If you have a home office, productivity is likely your main goal. The color blue has been connected with an increase in productivity. In addition to increasing productivity, blue also has a calming effect, which can help you set aside distractions and focus on the task at hand.

Colors to Avoid

While many people associate yellow with sunshine and long summer days, color psychologists have found it can increase anxiety. Some studies have even found that babies cry more in yellow rooms and some people even go so far as to say the color can exacerbate psychological problems. If you want to use yellow in your decorating scheme, consider using it sparingly and try to avoid it altogether in nurseries and bedrooms. For best results, utilize the relaxing shades mention above in nurseries and children’s rooms.

Whether you’re putting a fresh coat of paint on your walls or upgrading your furnishings, a little color psychology can make your home a more welcoming place. When you carefully choose the right color for each room, you make subtle changes that will have a subliminal impact on everyone who spends time in that room.

Photo of a lounge area interior with comfortable armchairs and houseplants

Houseplants: Why, What and How?

Photo of a lounge area interior with comfortable armchairs and houseplants

The “Why”

The “why” for indoor houseplants should be fairly obviously, right? They scrub the air in your home, they lend a tranquil vibe to any room, and as a design element they’re super versatile, adding color, texture, and shape for great interest and appeal. Their aliveness makes you feel alive.

The “What”

Now, how to choose among the many, many, many options?

The Classics

Ferns and bamboos add class and cleaner air without clutter. The tiny leaves allow the eye to flow right past and beyond, not distracting from your decor. They’re so zen, you can pile on these plants in a bedroom, office, kitchen, or foyer – anywhere you need that subtle calming vibe.

The Best Air Scrubber

If NASA really thinks you should have these in your home, who are we to disagree?

Your top 3 air scrubbers all have that leafy green look, as you would imagine. They are: English Ivy with its classic trailing greens, the Peace Lily, a Christmas favorite, and Red-Edged dracaena with its tall, lanky beauty. The first two do well in low-sun or indirect sun, so they’re great for corners and dim rooms. They’ll give you fresh, benzene-free oxygen to breathe year-round – yay! The dracaena prefers sunlight and likes to grow tall, so pick a big open, sunlit room – you’ll feel healthier just looking at it. The red edge (hence the name) adds a pop of color and a sweet tropical feel. All three are easy on your lungs and easy to work into your home designs.

The Air Plant

If leafy green is not your style, or if you need something ultra-sleek for that modern guest bathroom you just put in, air plants are certainly all the rage. They range in color from deep maroon to dusty blue to light airy sage. Sculptural and elegant, they satisfy the strictest minimalist design. But they’re equally at home in their glass pods sitting atop your rustic dining table.

The Statement Makers

A lush rubber tree towering next to your white leather sofa? Awesome. Tiny decorative succulents in delicate hues of blue and purple on your mantel? Just as gorgeous. Statement pieces come in all shapes and sizes. All of which, your common house plant can accommodate with grace and living energy.

The “How”

Over-watering is your enemy. Really, it’s your number one enemy. Don’t do it. Most plants need a good soaking once a week on average, but if it’s hot and dry in your house, you’ll clearly need to stay on top of dry soil more often. Otherwise, placement is hugely important. Put sun-loving plants directly in the sun, near windows, etc.. Put shade-loving plants far away from harsh direct rays. Some of the ivies and lilies are pretty fussy. Orchids, naturally, are very finicky about their needs. While succulents of course are your easiest to care for. Give them some loose, drainy soil, and water them at most every 1-2 weeks, depending on the dryness of your home and the type and size of the container.”

Finally, houseplants can perish even under the most cautious care. Don’t beat yourself up. Our policy is: buy more. Enjoy more.

Image of a woman using a calculator to figure out personal finances

4 Simple Practices to Improve Your Personal Finances

Image of a woman using a calculator to figure out personal finances

The downward spiral of debt is a dangerous one, especially when that debt is attached to extremely high interest rates, typical of credit card debt. With rates as high as 36%, it can be very challenging to climb back out for air. But all is not lost. You can still take action right now to not only get rid of your debt, but start padding your savings account too.

Give these 4 practices a go to get you back on the road to financial health for the long haul.

Commit to Using Cash Only for a While

If you’ve had a torrid affair with plastic (aka your credit card), you may have gotten yourself into trouble every now and then. Financial gurus often suggest that people with dangerously high levels of debt should cut up every credit card owned, and use cash only for expenditures until the debt has been successfully managed.

If you are having a tough time saving because every penny you make is going to towards paying off your ridiculously high credit card debt, perhaps it’s time to start adopting a cash-only lifestyle, at least for a little while until you get a hold of your finances. Just keep one old credit card account open, but don’t charge it. While this may sound like a crazy, impossible task, you’ll soon learn how to live within your means.

Put 1% of Every Paycheck Into Your Savings Account

One percent might not sound like a lot, but it’s something, and it’s a good starting point upon which you can build. Putting a certain percentage of your income away into a savings account will help get you into the habit of saving on a regular basis. No matter how small your bank account is, and regardless of how little you’re putting away every month, the point is you’re still saving.

As you begin to gradually pay off debt and slowly grow your savings, you can take the money you’ve accumulated and start putting more of it towards debt. You’d be surprised at what this forward momentum can do for your saving habits. Before you know it, you’ll be much closer towards paying off your debt.

Check Your Balances on a Daily Basis

Sound like too much? Well, just taking a couple of minutes each day to check your account balances can help keep you in-the-know about your finances and spending habits. While daily account checking might sound a tad obsessive, it can really help keep you honest with yourself about where exactly your money is going. It’ll also help lower the odds of spending impulsively. By having an accurate dollar amount floating around in your head, you’ll be better able to make sound spending decisions.

Reward Yourself on PayDay

Much like treating yourself to a donut every once in a while when on a diet, rewarding yourself with a spending treat is also helpful when you’ve stuck to your budget so diligently until payday. Just make sure that this reward is an affordable luxury, and not an exorbitant splurge that you’ll deeply regret. It could be a manicure, a half hour massage, or a new pair of shoes. Over time, you’ll start looking forward to these rewards, helping you stick to your budget without tapping into your savings.

Sticking to these practices, and others like them, on a consistent basis can help turn your finances around for good. After a few weeks or months, they’ll actually come naturally to you without having to force yourself into saving.

New Year’s Resolutions for Home Buyers and Sellers

The start of the new year is the time when many people make resolutions to themselves to improve their lives in some form or fashion. Losing weight, finding a better job, or traveling tend to be among the more popular New Year resolutions, but if buying or selling your home is on the agenda for 2023, there are other specific resolutions that should be on your list, and that you should stick to.

Here are some new year resolutions that you should be making to help you achieve your home buying or selling goals this year.

BUYERS

Start Saving

It sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless. There’s no time like the present to start saving for a new home, and the more money you can muster up, the smaller the loan you’ll need to take out. If you can gather at least a 20% down payment, you won’t have to worry about paying Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) that lenders charge to protect themselves in case you ever default on your mortgage.

If you can’t gather up that much money towards a down payment, don’t fret. You can still put down as little as 5% for a conventional mortgage, and even as little as 3.5% for an FHA-backed home loan.

Either way, you still need to save. If you have difficulty being self-disciplined with your spending and saving habits, consider automating your bank accounts so that you put aside a certain amount of your income into a separate savings account every month. If you don’t see the money while it’s being automatically deposited, you won’t be as tempted to spend it.

Budget

You should have an idea of how much house you can afford to buy, as well as all the extra expenses that come along with purchasing a home. Set up a budget that outlines in detail what your income is, and compare that amount with your current debts.

Make an effort to shrink your budget a little bit to help you make more room for saving up for your future home and reduce your debt amounts. Try to come up with a budget that takes into account the fact that your mortgage will take up a larger amount of your paycheck in order for you to start getting accustomed to spending less money on unnecessary things.

Improve Your Credit

A key factor that your lender will consider before approving you for a mortgage is the state of your credit. If your credit score is low, you stand a good chance of getting denied. Even if you are approved, you will likely be faced with a higher interest rate on your mortgage, which will cause your home loan to be more expensive over the long run.

Get a copy of your credit report to make sure there aren’t any errors on it that could be bringing your score down. If you find any, report them to the credit bureau so that the issue can be investigated.

If your credit score is very good (at least 700 or above), you’re in a good position. If it’s lower than that, you need to take steps to improve it. Start paying your bills on time and in full each month, and keep up on your credit card, student, and auto loans. Don’t use any more than 30% of your available credit, and make sure not to make any large purchases on credit, which can have a negative impact on your credit score.

All your lender wants to see is that you are responsible with your credit.

Get PreApproved For a Mortgage

Having a mortgage pre-approval will not only allow you to identify how much you can realistically afford before you start house hunting, it will also tell sellers that you are less of a risk compared to another buyer without a pre-approval.

Having said that, make sure you start gathering up all of your financial documents to provide to your lender so that the pre-approval process can get underway. This includes your tax returns, bank statements, and letter of employment, among others. You will also need to fill out and submit a mortgage application. It should be noted that a pre-approval is not necessarily a guarantee that you will be approved for an eventual mortgage, but it certainly gets you one step closer.

SELLERS

Get Your Home Ready For the Market

Have a good look around your home. Does it look cluttered? Could your walls use a paint job? Are your shelves covered in family photos? Now is the time to clean up, make any repairs, or even redecorate to properly stage your home for the market.

Generally speaking, your real estate agent and professional home stager will likely recommend decluttering, depersonalizing, and neutralizing the decor of your home in order for it to be more appealing to a larger pool of buyers. The earlier you start this potentially big project, the more time you’ll have to make sure your home is ready to be viewed by prospective buyers.

Work Out the Time Between Selling Your Home and Buying a New One

This can be tricky, but it’s important to be able to calculate the rough timeline between selling your current home and buying your new one. You don’t want to be stuck with two mortgages because the closing dates between the two transactions overlap. Likewise, you don’t want to be rushed out of your home with no place to go because the closing dates are spread too far apart.

Determine whether or not you can afford to close on a new home before your current one sells. It can be somewhat stressful to sell your home and buy another one at the same time. Look at what your potential housing options are, and go over your finances in detail in order to plan out the most ideal timeline for both selling and buying.

Hire an Experienced Real Estate Professional

Having an experienced and knowledgeable real estate professional in your corner really should be top priority. These experts can help guide you in the right direction and assist you in making the right moves and decisions in proper succession in order to ensure the buying and selling process is a streamlined one. Choosing the right real estate agent can also help make sure that you stick to your real estate New Year’s resolutions!

Easy Ways to Make Your Bathroom Feel Larger Than it Really is

Designing and decorating a tiny bathroom can be a daunting task. Combining both style and function is a lot more challenging when you’re working with a small space. If your budget is tight, you might be tempted to just pour your resources and efforts into larger rooms in the home. But the bathroom should never be ignored – it’s a highly used space that plays a key role in the value of your home.

If you don’t want to rip down a wall in the bathroom in an effort to physically enlarge it, there are simple cosmetic tricks that you can employ to make it seem as though you’ve expanded the room. Here are a few easy and affordable ways to make a small space grow, at least visually anyway.

Let the Light Shine in 

Brining in as much natural light as possible in a small space like a bathroom is a fabulous way to make the room appear more open and larger than it really is. Whether it’s from a window or skylight, natural light has the ability to make a space warm and inviting.

If you aren’t blessed with large windows, and instead are stuck with a tiny port hole, light fixtures can go a long way to adding that bright open feeling you so desire. Layering the lighting so that there is both direct and indirect light can add depth and space to a small room. Having a main ceiling light, wall sconces on opposites walls, pot lights in the shower stall and lighting over the vanity mirror can all work harmoniously to open up the space in your bathroom.

Mirrors and More Mirrors

Thanks to their reflective property, mirrors have a magical way of making a small room seem larger and grander, and the bigger they are, the better. Instead of hanging a small mirror above your sink, install an oversized mirror that runs the length of the wall from the vanity to the ceiling.

If you’ve got a double sink, make sure to opt for one large mirror that reaches both ends of the vanity rather than hanging two separate mirrors. If possible, place mirrors across from a window or a bright light fixture in the room to make it visually seem like there are two windows in the same space.

Blend the Tile and Wall Color Together

Double the space in your tiny bathroom by making the tiles the same color as the walls. Having two different colors will do nothing but chop up the space, effectively cutting it in half – the total opposite effect you’re trying to achieve. Instead, blend the two surfaces together in the same hue to make the room look bigger and more spacious.

Take things a step further with the tiles and extend them as far up as the ceiling. It’s amazing how many builders automatically stop the shower stall tile a couple of inches away from the ceiling and then trim the edges. It probably takes less work and requires less money to tile all the way up to the ceiling, not to mention how much better it looks. Avoiding this unnecessary transition from tile to drywall will create less contrast, and therefore a more spacious feel to the room.

Paint the Ceiling and Walls the Same Color

Too many unnecessary transitions in a space will do nothing but break it up. While this might work for extra-large rooms, it doesn’t really work that well in a tight loo. Painting your ceiling and walls in the same color will create a unifying effect that will eliminate any borders and visually expand the space. This is especially true if the ceiling is angled or has low areas. Expand the vertical element of your bathroom and splash the same coat of paint on the walls and the ceiling.

Trade Shower Curtains for Clear Glass

A shower curtain or textured glass around the shower stall will do nothing more than make it seem as though there’s an extra wall in your bathroom. While this does provide privacy in the shower, it will just create a visual barrier inside the room. Instead, clear glass will open up the space, and add square footage in a room that desperately needs it.

Without having to rip down walls, you can make your bathroom look a lot larger with a few tricks of the eye. You don’t have to physically add square footage to visually enlarge a small space!

Photo of a worker carefully placing ceramic floor tiles on adhesive surface

Bathroom Remodeling Do’s and Don’ts

Photo of a worker carefully placing ceramic floor tiles on adhesive surface

It’s a small, unassuming space, but it’s a crucial one nonetheless. Bathrooms are one of the more important rooms that can add a great deal of value to a home if they’re modernized and up-to-date, not to mention bring years of comfort and pleasure to those who use it.

If your bathroom is currently in need of a little TLC, a remodeling job is probably on the agenda. But before you start the demolition process, make sure you’ve done your homework on what you should – and shouldn’t – do to bring this space up to par.

Here are some do’s and don’ts to bathroom remodeling to consider to make sure the final product is exactly what you want without breaking the bank.

DO

Choose Appropriate Finishes

A bathroom remodeling job can be pretty involved and expensive. The last thing you want to do is have to go through the process all over again in a few years because the materials and finishes you chose were too trendy and quickly became outdated. Try to stick with more classic, neutral finishes that are stylish yet will stand the test of time.

Similarly, you want to make sure the materials and finishes you choose are right for a bathroom. For instance, porcelain tile is an ideal material for any bathroom floor, as it’s a lot harder than ceramic tile and comes in a variety of sizes, colors, patterns, and shapes.

For the walls, you’ll have your pick of the litter when it comes to materials, including ceramic, natural stone, and glass. As far as the countertop goes, popular materials include granite, quartz, and marble, which can easily ward off the effects of water and moisture, and are extremely durable.

Maximize Storage

Storage is often elected in a bathroom remodel. While your home might have a linen closet nearby that’s big enough to house all of your towels and face cloths, you might want to have ample storage right in the bathroom itself for toiletries such as toilet paper, soap bars, tissue boxes, cleaning solutions, makeup, shampoo, and so forth. Consider adding a full vanity or built-in shelving.

Update the Ventilation System

Built-up moisture can wreak havoc in a small space like a bathroom. Having an adequate ventilation system can easily and quickly expel any steam and foul odors, and is a critical component of this space.

During the remodeling process, consider updating your ventilation system at the same time by installing a ceiling-mounted vent fan or a combination fan/light fixture that does double duty. Just make sure not to allow the fan to exhaust into the attic or crawl space, as this will allow moisture to cause mold and mildew build up in these enclosed spaces.

Install Water-Efficient Products

Any effort you can make to cut back on water usage can save you money and can help ease the water shortage crisis that the state of California continues to be plagued with. During a bathroom remodel, consider swapping your old fixtures with water-saving models that cut back on the amount of water used. From toilets, to shower heads, to faucets, you can ensure your water usage is a minimum of 20% more efficient.

DON’T

Take on a Job Out of Your Scope

You might be handy, but there are likely certain jobs that you aren’t skilled enough for. Taking on a job in an effort to save money that would otherwise be spent paying a professional can wind up in disaster if you don’t know what you’re doing.

The skill and expertise needed to design and remodel a bathroom is typically beyond the scope of the majority of DIYers and should be left to the experts, especially when dealing with the plumbing and ventilation. Stick to simpler jobs like ripping out tiles, painting, and decorating.

Forget About the Design Plan

The layout of your new bathroom should be designed with the people who will be using it most in mind. For instance, a master en suite might include more high-end finishes and components, such as the addition of a heated floor, glass-enclosed walk-in shower, and lots of fancy light fixtures.

On the other hand, a shared kids bathroom might include a double sink, no-slip tile, and a bathtub. A guest bathroom might include extra shelving and storage to provide enough space to store their things.

Forget to Budget For Unexpected Surprises

Just like any other type of remodeling job, it’s always important to budget accordingly and allocate enough money to cover unexpected problems and costs. You might discover major water damage after ripping out the drywall and flooring, which will cost money to rectify.

You may even come across a vent stack or plumbing lines inside a wall that you assumed could be ripped down. While an experienced contractor will be able to pinpoint most issues beforehand, you just never know what you’re going to find when the demolition starts, which is why it’s helpful to add another 10% to 15% on top of your budget to accommodate for these issues.

The Bottom Line

You can add tremendous value and enjoyment to your home by remodeling your bathroom if the job is done right. Be sure to heed the above tips so you don’t wind up disappointed with the end result or stuck making major alterations after the job is done.

Photo of a bed maid-up with clean white pillows and bed sheets in beauty room

Prep Your Home for Holiday House Guests

Photo of a bed maid-up with clean white pillows and bed sheets in beauty room

Is your home is the hub of the holidays this season? If so, you’ve got some work to do before your guests knock on your door. Luckily, it doesn’t have to take weeks of hard labor to get your home ready – just a few smart and simple tasks will do the trick to get things prepped for holiday house guests.

Figure Out the Sleeping Arrangements

If you’re lucky enough to have a guest room, fantastic. If not, you’ve got a little coordinating you do. Figure out the sleeping arrangements for your house guests, and if that means shuffling family members around to accommodate, do these logistics beforehand.

Maybe Junior will have to sleep with Mommy and Daddy to free up a bed, or perhaps the living room couch will be need to act as a makeshift bed. Whatever the case may be, have this arrangement handled in advance so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.

Make Up the Guest Bed(s) With Fresh Sheets

If no one has slept in the guest bed for months, the sheets will start to get a bit stale. Rip those babies off and slap on a set of crisp, fresh-smelling bedsheets and pillowcases. Set out some extra blankets and pillows too, in case your guests are the type to get really cozy and bundled in bed. And while you’re in there, take a couple of minutes to tidy up and get rid of anything that doesn’t belong.

Clean and Stock Up the Bathroom

Tidying up and dusting is a no-brainer, not just when house guests are shacking up with you. But one room in particular that needs some extra attention is the bathroom (for obvious reasons). Most people won’t get too bent out of shape about a tad of dust underneath furniture, but certain marks and streaks (and smells) in the bathroom can be enough to turn anyone off.

Make sure you clean every corner of the bathroom, including the floor, sink, toilet, shower stall, bathtub and mirrors. Dump out the trash, take out a fresh stack of clean towels, refill the soap dispenser, and restock the toilet paper. Your guests will appreciate the fact that they don’t have to bust your chops asking for anything when everything has already been handed to them on a silver platter.

Have Your Morning Essentials in Order

Some people instinctively reach for their coffee first thing in the morning, while others look forward to a massive bowl of cereal when they wake. Everyone’s different, so make sure you get the 411 on what your house guests prefer to have at their disposal in the morning.

Find out what they like to drink and eat for breakfast, and make sure to hit the supermarket to pick these things up before they arrive. Set these things up in an easily-accessed area on the kitchen countertop, and be sure to point them out to your house guests when you’re giving them the tour so they don’t feel obligated to be served in the morning.

Give Them a Spot to Chill Out in Peace

As cool and fun-to-be-with as you are, most people don’t necessarily want to be in each other’s faces 24/7. So give your house guests some quiet space where they can catch up on their novel, watch their favorite show, or do whatever else floats their boat. They’ll appreciate the consideration of setting up a little area where they can retreat to in order to get a little ‘me’ time.

Plan Things to Do

Depending on how long your house guests plan to stay with you over the holidays, you might want to plan some fun things to do while they’re there. Sure, you could watch holiday movies until you’re blue in the face, but consider finding out what types of things your guests might be interested in doing besides being stuck in front of the tube.

Maybe they’d like to check out the local museum or infamous eateries in your city. Or maybe they’d like to check out some landmarks specific to your town, or even checkout a show. You don’t have to do all of these things, but even a day or two of activity can be enough to break up the monotony of an extended holiday guest stay.

The holidays are all about family and friends, and sharing in the joy of the season. But if you’re well-prepared for your house guests, the holidays can be that much sweeter.

Home buyers with a real estate agent signing a contract

Rookie Mistakes Home Buyers Should Avoid

Home buyers with a real estate agent signing a contract

Think about all those past purchases that you’ve later regretted. And while you may have wasted your money on these items that were seldom used, they pale in comparison to the amount of money you’d be spending on a home. That’s one major purchase you definitely don’t want to suffer ‘buyer’s remorse’ from.

Buying property is likely the biggest investment you’ll ever make in life. It’s is an exciting thing, but it can also send you up the creek if you’re not careful.

If you’re a home-buying newbie, steer clear of the following common mistakes that rookies tend to make throughout the buying process. Your wallet will thank you.

Not Finding Out What Your Credit Score is

Your credit score plays a key role in whether or not a lender will say “yes” to your mortgage application. And even if you do get a stamp of approval, your credit score could affect the interest rate you get stuck with. The higher your score, the better. Generally, if your score is 700 and up, you’re looking at getting the lowest interest rate that the lender can offer, which can shave off thousands of dollars from your mortgage.

You’ll want to find out what your credit score is before you even look into getting a mortgage pre-approval. And that means getting your hands on a copy of your credit report. Chew on this fact – over 40 million credit reports have mistakes in them! And these mistakes can have a grave effect on the credit scores that Americans are walking around with. Catching these errors and disputing them before you apply for a mortgage can ensure that the interest rate you’re given accurately reflects your actual score.

So if you find any errors that could affect your credit score, make sure they’re fixed right away. Check your credit report at least three months before house hunting, and if you spot an error, kindly ask the credit bureau to fix it.

Not Visiting With a Mortgage Specialist

How will you know what you’ll be able to afford if you don’t get your finances in order and get pre-approved for a loan? Even if you’ve got a decent handle on your money, that doesn’t necessarily mean the bank will say “yes” to financing a certain purchase. There are a lot of factors that affect your mortgage application aside from just the listing price of the home.

Before you start pounding the pavement in search of a new house, it’s wise to get pre-approved for a mortgage first. While this doesn’t exactly guarantee that final approval will be granted, it’ll at least give you a specific price range to look within, and it’ll show the seller that you’re serious about buying and that you’ve done your due diligence.

If you’ve been pre-approved for a mortgage that would cover no more than a $600,000 home, there’s no point in looking in neighborhoods where the average home goes for $900,000+.

Falling in Love With a Home That You Haven’t Bought Yet

This is a biggie. Newbie homebuyers have a tendency of falling head-over-heels in love with a home while on the market prowl, only to wind up losing the home for whatever reason. This ends up leaving homebuyers heartbroken and jaded about the market, which does nothing put put a wrench in the process.

You may come across a home that you absolutely adore, but getting emotionally attached before you’ve even signed on the dotted line is a bad idea. What if there’s a bidding war and you lose out? What if you can’t get financing for the place? There are several reasons that could prevent you from snagging that prized possession, so keeping your emotions in check can is important.

Remember – there’s always going to be another house out there. The more homes you visit, the better.

Waiving the Home Inspection Clause

Even the home you’re thinking of buying is new-ish, it still needs to be inspected by a professional after you’ve signed a purchase agreement. You just never know what might be lurking up in the attic or in the plumbing pipes that you might not have noticed during your own inspection of the home.

New homebuyers might skip this step because they get emotionally attached to the property (see #1) and want the place no matter what. Maybe they’re competing with another interested buyer and want a clean contract to get the deal done. Whatever the case may be, waiving the home inspection is a bad idea.

This clause will help protect you should the inspector find something that would otherwise be a deal-breaker. You’re then legally able to walk away from the deal if something is found that you just can’t live with, or you can even ask the seller to fix the issue or drop the price in compensation. Don’t be afraid to include this clause, and speak up to get things fixed before you seal the deal.

Not Using an Agent

Just about everyone who’s looking for a home will look to the internet to search listings and see what’s out there. That’s fine and all, but when your search starts to get serious, there’s no substitute for a real live agent.

A good real estate agent will find homes that you won’t necessarily see advertised on the net. They’ve got the inside scoop on properties that might not even have hit the market yet. And aside from what the home is priced at and what it looks like, you’ll be able to get a lot more nitty gritty details about properties that the average joe won’t be able to find, such as recently sold comps, neighborhood walk scores, and so on.

You’ll be better armed at the negotiating table if you’ve got a professional real estate agent in your corner.

This last one is probably the biggest mistake you’ll want to avoid, as an agent will help prevent you from making the other blunders in the first place.

Jumping into the real estate market for the first time is exhilarating, and so it should be. But taking precautions is totally necessary if you want to avoid getting stuck in a money pit.