6 Reasons to Reduce the Price of Your Home

No seller ever wants to have to reduce the price of their home,  but sometimes it might be a necessary step to sell in a reasonable amount of time. Of course, all sellers want to make the most money on the sale of their property, but they can only realistically demand an amount that’s in line with the current market.

If your home hasn’t sold yet, there may be a number of reasons why. In many cases, a price reduction might need to be considered.

Here are a few reasons why you may want to think about lowering the price of your home.

1. Showings Are Scarce

If your home isn’t attracting much attention and isn’t getting many showings booked, there may be something wrong. While it could be any number of things, one of them could be the price. If hardly anybody is visiting your home, the odds of selling are pretty slim.

The first week is when activity should be at its highest. That’s because buyers want to be able to snag a potential property before anyone else does. If your listing isn’t getting much action even during this busy time, there’s a problem. At this point, you may want to revisit your listing price to see if it’s still in line with the current market.

2. There Have Been Lots of Showings, But No Offers

You want to have an attractive listing that will draw in as many potential buyers as possible. But even if your home has had several showings booked, that doesn’t always mean that the offers will quickly follow. If you’ve had a number of showings on your home with no offer, there’s an issue.

Sure, it could be that buyers have discovered something wrong with the home or were not keen on the layout or decor. But it could also be the price that has them turned off. While your home may have been attractive enough to view it in person, the price may be a hurdle that buyers may not be willing to climb over if it’s too high. Listing agents will typically speak with buyer agents to find out what turned buyers off, and quite often it’s the price.

The last thing you want is to allow your listing to become stale. If your home has been viewed by many buyers but you haven’t gotten an offer yet, you may want to think about lowering the listing price if appropriate. 

3. You Need to Sell By a Certain Date

If you’re highly motivated to sell but aren’t getting any offers as soon as you expected, reducing the price might be an option. There may be several different reasons why you have to sell quickly. Maybe you’ve had a job offer that’s relocating you to another city and you need to move right away. Or perhaps you’ve already bought another home and it closes soon. Whatever your motivation, selling your present home in a short time period may be difficult at your current listing price.

Speak with your real estate agent about the possibility of lowering the price in order to garner more attention and sell sooner rather than later. It may be worth it to reduce the price in order to keep things more streamlined and stress-free, especially if you’re on a deadline to sell.

4. Other Similar Homes Are Selling a Lot Faster

If you notice that your home has been sitting on the market for a lot longer than other similar homes in the neighborhood before selling, it could be your price that’s stalling the process. You should find out the average number of days on the market (DOM) for homes like yours in your area.

If, for instance, that number is 20 and your DOM has already hit 40, it may very well be the price that’s preventing you from selling within a shorter time frame.

5. Your Home Needs Updating and Repairs

If your home is in need of a little TLC and your price doesn’t really take into account the money needed to bring it up to par, a price reduction may be warranted. Buyers are going to account for any expenditures needed to make repairs or updates to your home and will likely factor that into their offer price. Any issues with your home will be noticed by buyers and will influence what they believe your home is actually worth.

If you’re not able to make these updates yourself, your price should be set accordingly to make up for what buyers would have to spend themselves. Maybe you initially thought that your price reflected the required updates, by perhaps not accurately enough. Don’t forget that many buyers are looking for move-in ready homes and will likely reduce their offer prices when looking at properties that require some improvements.

6. The Market Has Changed

The real estate market is always changing, and some markets move faster than others. Perhaps the price you initially listed at accurately reflected the market at that time, but maybe things have changed since then. It might be worth it to take another look at the current market and see how your home’s value has potentially changed.

If there’s been a slight decline in real estate in your area, you made need to tweak your listing price to reflect that.

The Bottom Line

The listing price is one of the most important factors in selling a home. An accurate price will help bring the most attention to a property and generate interest in it. That being said, there may be times when a change in listing price is necessary, especially if a home is not selling in a reasonable amount of time.

Consult with your real estate agent about the possibility of lowering your price. Your agent will help you decide whether or not to reduce it, and by how much in order to realize a successful real estate transaction.

5 Ways to Finance Your Home Remodel

Home improvements are super expensive and often require a huge chunk of money in order to bring them to fruition. Depending on the size and scope of your particular project, you could be looking at a small fortune to make the needed and desired improvements on your home. Many homeowners simply don’t have that kind of liquid cash in their bank accounts.

Luckily, there are different ways that you can fund your home improvement project without having to sell everything you own or beg your family and friends for money to cover this expense. Here are a few options you may want to consider to help you finance your next renovation.

1. Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)

If you have any equity built up in your home, you may be able to use it to fund your next home improvement project. With a HELOC, your home is essentially used as collateral and allows you to borrow a specific amount of money based on how much home equity you have.

Somewhat similar to the way a credit card works, a HELOC allows you to withdraw money from your credit line against your home equity, which is charged a set interest rate. You would then be responsible for repaying the amount borrowed every month.

The draw period for a HELOC is typically 10 years, but that can fluctuate based on your lender and your particular situation. During this draw period, you’re allowed to borrow against your home equity up to an agreed-upon limit and make monthly payments that incorporate the interest and a portion of the principal on the outstanding balance.

The repayment period is when you would pay off the entire debt in full, and typically lasts approximately 15 years. The payments made during this time frame will likely be higher because you’d be paying more towards the principal portion of your debt.

The great thing about HELOCs is that you can deduct your expenses come tax time if the money was used for significant improvements to your home. You can deduct the interest on a limit of $750,000 of home equity debt.

It should be noted that borrowers need to make sure they are financially capable of repaying their HELOC. If you fail to make their payments, you could lose your collateral – in this case, your home.

2. Home Equity Loan (HEL)

A home equity loan is similar to a HELOC in that you borrow money against the equity in your home and use your property as collateral for the loan. However, it differs in that a HEL does not involve a revolving line of credit like a HELOC. Instead, you take out a certain amount of money – as you would with a conventional loan – and pay it back in fixed installments with interest over time. Home equity loans can range in length from anywhere between five to 30 years. 

Home equity loan amounts depend on the value of your home – which an appraiser will determine – and the amount of equity that currently sits in it. Like a traditional mortgage, you’ll have to pay a certain amount in closing costs, though these amounts are typically a lot less compared to a traditional home loan.

3. Construction Loans

You may be able to qualify for a construction loan in order to finance your home improvement project. These types of loans are typically used on a short-term basis – typically around one year – which allows you enough time to complete your project and provide the funds needed to pay for it. Construction loans are designed for projects that are significant in nature and are not suitable for smaller renovations.

The funds are not given in one lump sum; rather, they’re released at stages. Typically, money is given when specific phases of the job have been completed. Once the job is done, a new loan will usually have to be taken out in order to pay off the construction loan.

4. Mortgage Refinance

If the current mortgage rate is lower than the rate you’re currently locked into with your mortgage, a refinance might be a great way to save some money at a lower rate. You can kill two birds with one stone by taking advantage of less in interest payments and freeing up some money that can be used to be put towards a renovation.

Essentially, refinancing means paying off the first loan and creating a second loan with a lower rate. By doing so, you can effectively cut down on your monthly mortgage payments that will allow you to use those extra funds to finance a home improvement project.

You may even want to consider a cash-out refinance, whereby your existing mortgage would be refinanced and the new home loan would be for a larger amount than your current loan. In turn, you would get the difference in cash. That said, a cash-out refinance should only be considered if you are certain that the improvements you make on your home will increase its value.

5. FHA Title 1 Loan

Homeowners can use FHA Title 1 loans to get access to necessary funds to make improvements on their homes. Buyers can even use these types of loans on top of their original mortgage to fix up a home they’re purchasing.

An FHA Title 1 loan is specifically used for home improvements. Loans under $7,500 typically are unsecured; all you would need is your signature. However, larger loan amounts will require collateral; namely, your home. These loans are usually made for no more than $25,000.

Only lenders who are FHA-approved are able to offer Title 1 loans. You don’t need any equity in your home to qualify, and the money you borrow can be used to pay for any home improvements that are not considered excessive. 

The Bottom Line

If you don’t have a large lump sum of money lying around to pay for a home improvement project, you still have options. The above financial products can help make your renovations a reality. Not only are they relatively easy to obtain, they can also help you add some extra value to your home once your project is done. Speak with a mortgage specialist to find out which option is right for you.

INFOGRAPHIC: California Sales Report For January 2018

6 Types of Fencing to Give Your Home Some Privacy

Your home’s fence plays a key role in two critical factors in your home’s exterior: esthetics and privacy. The type of fence you choose will be integral in how visually appealing your fence is and how much privacy you’ll be able to enjoy.

Luckily, there are several fencing options available, each of which offers its own set of benefits and drawbacks.

The following fencing types are often used for residential purposes to both contribute to the esthetics of a home and add a level of privacy and security.

1. Wood Fencing

The traditional type of fencing material – and the most popular – is classic wood. The most common wood species used to build fences include cedar, pine, spruce, cypress, and redwood. Wood fencing can not only be erected in such a way so as to provide different levels of privacy, it’s also one of the more attractive materials for this particular residential feature.

Depending on the type of wood and the way in which the fence is erected, there’s no reason for a wood fence not to last as long as your home itself. Of course, how well it is maintained also plays a role in the lifespan of the wood fence.

The type of wood and the amount of lumber required to achieve the desired effect greatly influences the final price tag. Cedar is typically the more expensive wood type for fencing, while pine tends to be on the lower end of the pricing scale.

There are a variety of ways a wood fence can be constructed, the most common of which include:

  • Picket fences – Upright panels are spaced apart.
  • Privacy fences – Two layers of upright panels are erected, with each set blocking the spaces between the other.
  • Stockade fences – Wood panels with pointed edges are placed tightly against each another to create a solid panel.
  • Lattice fences – Strips of wood are crossed and attached together with diamond-shaped spaces in between.

2. PVC Fencing

PVC – which stands for “polyvinyl chloride” – is a type of vinyl and is often used in place of wood. It’s relatively inexpensive, especially compared to certain wood materials. It weather-tolerant, strong, and durable, though not necessarily as strong as wood. When painted, it’s difficult to tell that it’s actually PVC rather than wood.

Unlike wood, however, PVC only has to be stained or painted once, making it much easier to maintain. They never splinter either, making them more kid-friendly.

Typically, PVC fences incorporate wooden posts that are then outfitted with PVC sleeves. Stakes are either attached using an adhesive to cross bars or secured with screws. These types of fences come in all sorts of different colors, heights, and widths to suit a specific style.

3. Composite Fencing

Composite is typically created out of recycled wood pieces and plastics and mimics the look of real wood. While composite is generally more expensive than wood, it is a sustainable material that never requires trees to be cut down in order to obtain the lumber. Composite is also a popular choice among homeowners because it’s easy to maintain since it never has to be stained or painted after the initial coat.

Composite fencing is also very strong and able to withstand weather elements and is therefore able to last for decades. However, it may expand and contract during significant fluctuations in temperature because of the presence of wood factors in composite, which means it could be vulnerable to warping.

4. Bamboo Fencing

An interesting fence material that has been gaining in popularity over the recent past is bamboo. This natural material is actually used for several different residential components in addition to fencing, including furniture, accessories, and even dinnerware. It’s typically found in tropical and subtropical parts of the world.

Bamboo is considered to be a more eco-friendly choice for fencing material compared to wood because it can grow to its full height within one growing season, compared to trees which can take decades to reach their full height.

To create a fence, the bamboo poles are fastened together into panels and secured at posts installed at intervals along the perimeter of the yard. Rails are horizontally attached to the installed posts, upon which rolled panels of bamboo are installed.

Bamboo can tolerate extreme weather conditions compared to most plants and is able to maintain its integrity despite the elements. It’s therefore durable enough to last for the long haul. Out of the more than 1,500 bamboo species out there, about 100 of them are used for commercial purposes, including for fencing.

5. Wrought Iron Fencing

Wrought iron is a classic and opulent-looking fence material and style. This material can instantly boost the luxury factor in a home’s curb appeal, which is why it is a popular choice for fencing.

Wrought iron is both visually appealing and incredibly strong, making it an ideal fencing material. However, it can be expensive, especially when more ornate designs are chosen. But wrought iron provides homeowners with so much flexibility in terms of style to create truly unique components for a home’s exterior.

Despite wrought iron’s durability, it does require some level of regular maintenance. Every few years, this material will likely need to be repainted, and sometimes even sanded down before painting if enough damage has been done to the coating.

6. Aluminum Fencing

Since wrought iron is rather expensive and out of budget for many homeowners, aluminum fencing is often sought after as an alternative. Aluminum can mimic the appearance of wrought iron without the costly expense. However, aluminum is not nearly as strong or durable as its wrought iron counterpart.

That said, aluminum fencing is very attractive and does not require the amount of maintenance that wrought iron does. The finish of aluminum fencing material is powder coated and is resistant to chipping, peeling, or cracking. There’s no need to sand and repaint the aluminum posts every few years as would be required with wrought iron.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to fencing for your home, you’ve got options. The one you select will depend on your budget, how much privacy and security you want, and your taste in style. Fortunately, there are several different options for you to choose from to check off everything on your wish list.

What is a Kick-Out Clause in a Real Estate Contract?

Many buyers are not able to afford the purchase of a new house until their current home sells first. Once their home sells, they can use the proceeds of their sale to be put towards to the purchase price of a new home. Even those who may be able to afford a new home without first selling their current property might not necessarily want to carry two mortgages until their current home finds a buyer.

In order to solve this issue, many buyers choose to make their offers contingent on the sale of their home. If their current property does not sell within a certain time period, they would then be free to walk away from the deal and not have to commit to buying a new home.

While this might sound ideal to buyers, it’s not exactly an attractive proposition for sellers. After all, sellers could wind up waiting for weeks until the buyer sells their home until closing. If the buyers are not able to sell their house during the specified time period, then the purchase agreement will become null and void and the buyers can walk away from the deal.

During this contingency period, the sellers would have lost out on other potential offers. That’s why many sellers tend to look unfavorably on real estate contracts that are contingent on the buyer’s ability to sell their current home.

However, sellers might have some recourse if they agree to entertain this type of contingent offer: with the inclusion of a “kick-out clause.”

What exactly is a kick-out clause, and how can it benefit sellers?

Kick-Out Clause: Defined

A kick-out clause is included in a real estate contract to allow sellers to nullify their agreement if they receive another offer from another buyer prior to closing. This clause allows sellers to continue to market their homes for sale in case another prospective buyer expresses interest in purchasing the home and submits a more attractive offer.

Basically, the seller is allowed to “kick out” the original buyer if another offer comes in. With such a clause in place, the seller can then cancel the contract and enter another one with a different buyer.

Sellers should include a time frame within which they are obligated to inform the original buyer, who will then have the opportunity to waive the contingency to sell their home and agree to purchase the new home. Otherwise, they can back out of the deal and allow the seller to continue entertaining another offer. While this time period can vary, 72 hours is typical for this type of contingency.

Can the Buyers Afford Your Home Without Selling Theirs First?

A kick-out clause is great for sellers in that it allows them to avoid wasting any time that could have been spent marketing to others and finding a better offer. Under this agreement, the potential buyer can have the contingency removed and carry on with the deal if the seller finds someone else who is interested in the property.

But sellers need to be satisfied with any evidence that the buyers have shown regarding their ability to afford a home purchase without having sold their present property. Buyers will need to show sellers that they are still capable of securing a mortgage for a new home purchase, regardless of whether or not they’ve been able to successfully sell their home.

Many times buyers won’t be able to get approved for a mortgage because they don’t have the financial means of carrying two mortgages at the same time. Sellers need to be aware that if they choose to work with the original buyers after waiving their contingency to sell their home, the buyers must strong proof that a mortgage approval is imminent.

Kick-Out Clauses Offer a Meeting Ground Between Buyers and Sellers

A kick-out clause allows buyers and sellers to compromise with each other if there is another property in the picture that must be sold. That being said, sellers should require that buyers start marketing their home right away. The sooner the home is listed and marketed, the sooner it will be able to find its own buyer and sell in time to put the proceeds of the sale towards the new purchase.

It’s recommended that sellers carefully word their kick-out clause to ensure it clearly stipulates that if the buyer fails to list and start marketing their home within a specified time frame, the seller can then exercise the right to nullify the purchase agreement and look for a different buyer.

The Bottom Line

It’s not uncommon for some buyers to want to ensure their current home is sold before they agree to buy another house. Nobody wants to have a mortgage on two different properties if it can be avoided. That’s why some buyers choose to insert a clause in their real estate contracts that give them the chance to sell first before buying another home.

But from a seller’s point of view, that’s a gamble. They could very well be sitting around waiting for the buyer to sell their own home, when this may never happen. In the meantime, they could have lost out on countless other potential offers, which may have been even better than the one they’re currently entertaining.

That’s why kick-out clauses exist. they offer a compromise for both parties to help ensure a deal is successfully completed. But sellers need to make sure that their kick-out clause is carefully written and detailed with the help of a seasoned real estate professional in order to avoid any loopholes.

5 Things Sellers Should Do Before Relisting

No seller ever wants to have to take down their listing after little activity and zero offers. But it does happen, and these sellers are then left with the task of relisting their homes at some point in the future.

If you’re one of these sellers who is in the position to relist, you’ll want to make sure your new listing is successful this time. To do that, you’ll obviously need to make some adjustments to your new listing. Something clearly wasn’t working the first time around, so some changes will need to be made in order to ensure your next attempt works in your favor.

Here are some things you should take into consideration before you put your home back on the market.

1. Consider Comments From Buyers and Agents

You can gather a lot of vital and useful information from buyers and agents who visited your home when it was previously listed. Their thoughts and opinions of your home can come in really handy when it comes time to relist.

Obviously, there was an issue with your listing before, which is why it never sold and was taken down. But what exactly was the issue? The price? The condition of the home? The curb appeal?

Whatever the problem was perceived to be, you can find out the nitty gritty by simply getting some feedback from buyers and their agents to help tweak your new listing accordingly. Any negative comments made about your home can be used to your advantage to create a much stronger listing the second time around.

2. Make Some Improvements

Little issues with a home’s condition and decor and really add up and turn prospective buyers off. The chipped tiles, loose cabinet handles, burned-out light bulb, or scuff marks on the walls might all seem minor, but they can all combine to make a home look less than perfect.

Before you relist, take the time to carefully inspect your home and look for little things that require improvement and updating. Certain updates might cost a little bit of money upfront, but they can make a huge difference in the overall appearance of your home and bring you the price you want. With a home in better condition, there’s less reason for buyers to lowball you on price or consider other properties.

Just make sure not to go overboard with your upgrades. Spending too much on certain types of improvements will not bring you the return you would like come sale time. Keep things simple and affordable, and stick to relatively simple cosmetic updates. Costly repairs rarely allow sellers to recoup the expense.

3. Hire a Professional Home Stager

In addition to making some much-needed improvements, you should also consider having your home professionally staged. You stand a much better chance of selling within a reasonable amount of time and for a lot more money if you stage your home.

Taking this step is especially important if your previous listing failed and you’re attempting to relist. This time around, you need to put your best foot forward, and having your home staged for the buyers in your market is a great way to do just that.

A home that’s presented appropriately for the market can make a huge difference in the response and attention it gets. Appealing to the target pool of buyers in your area can help you get an offer in a reasonable amount of time after listing and can give you more negotiating power.

4. Take New/Better Photos

Assess the photos you used in your previous listing and determine whether or not they were up to par. Photos play a critical role in a listing and in enticing prospective buyers to schedule a showing. If your online photos are less-than-perfect, buyers will easily gloss over your listing in favor of one with much more attractive images.

Even if your previous photos were great, you probably shouldn’t use the same ones. You want your new listing to be given a fresh start, and using the same images from your last listing is not the way to do that. Buyers might figure out that the photos used on your new listing were taken months earlier and will know that your home has been sitting on the market for a while.

Not only do you want your photos to be better, you also want them to showcase any updates you made. Once your home has been updated and staged, that’s when new photos should be taken. Be sure to hire a professional photographer who will know exactly what angles and lighting to use to showcase your home in the best way possible.

Buyers are predominantly shopping online, and the photos you present make a world of difference. Today’s buyers are looking at several properties every day when searching online, so it’s crucial that your photos are perfect and help your home stand out from the crowd.

5. Consider a Different Asking Price

Your asking price is one of the most important aspects of your listing. A home that’s priced too high will scare buyers off who would have otherwise been willing and able to afford your home. If your listing price was part of the problem the first time around, you may want to consider relisting at a different price point.

An appropriate listing price that’s in line with the current market will help garner the most attention in your home. Today’s buyers are well-informed about what homes are worth and likely won’t spend any more than they have to, even for a home they’ve fallen in love with.

Your real estate agent will pull a new report of comps in the area to see where your home stands as far as value is concerned. By assessing similar homes in your neighborhood that have recently sold, you’ll be able to determine an appropriate listing price.

A price reduction is one of the more common criteria that buyers consider when relisting their homes after their first shot at the market was unsuccessful. But dropping the price isn’t always necessary. There are other factors that come into play that should be assessed, such as the condition of the market and the current inventory level. Your agent will have this important information in order to help you come up with a sound listing price that will draw the most attention on your new listing.

The Bottom Line

If relisting your home is on the agenda, you need to take a careful approach before you put your property back on the market. Take some time to closely analyze what went wrong the first time around so you don’t duplicate those mistakes. Many times it’s the price that causes a listing to become stale, but there are other factors that may have been at play. Armed with a seasoned real estate agent, you should be able to pinpoint what these issues were and take measures to improve your new listing.

INFOGRAPHIC: 14 Real Estate Terms All Buyers Should Know

6 Alternatives to Traditional Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood flooring has long been a mainstay in homes, and for good reason. It’s durable, and it’s appealing to the eye. These days, hardwood is being used in more unexpected places, including kitchens and even bathrooms. But as gorgeous as hardwood flooring is, it can also be susceptible to water damage and is downright expensive.

The good news is that homeowners have plenty of options for flooring materials that provide a similar look to their interiors as hardwood. Such materials not only rival the look of hardwood, they’re also often more affordable.

Here are some alternatives to hardwood flooring that warrant some consideration.

1. Bamboo

If you’re the eco-friendly type but still loves the aspect of natural materials, then you’ll love bamboo. You won’t be sacrificing in durability because bamboo is as tough as nails. It’s incredibly sturdy and is actually stronger than many types of wood.

Bamboo features a grain that closely mimics that of hardwood, making it a wonderful alternative to the more traditional type of flooring. Many homeowners prefer bamboo to traditional hardwood because it is typically much more water resistant. That’s because bamboo is technically not a wood at all, but rather a type of grass. That said, it’s not entirely immune to water, so the same types of precautions should be taken to protect bamboo flooring from excess water and moisture.

Bamboo flooring is easy to maintain with nothing more than a damp cloth for cleaning. It is also more resistant to scratches and scuff marks compared to hardwood flooring.

To create flooring with bamboo, poles are sliced into strips of varying widths and skin is removed. The strips are then compressed under high heat to create the final flooring product. It can then be stained in any number of colors to create a fully customized look.

2. Cork

Another type of sustainable flooring material that an increasing number of homeowners are choosing over hardwood is cork. While this material is a little soft, it is still incredibly durable, making it a safe flooring option. It also tends to be a more comfortable type of flooring for children to play on given it’s slightly softer feel.

Cork doesn’t exactly look like hardwood, but it’s a natural material that is increasingly finding its way into homes across the country. Available in both planks and tiles, cork is rather simple to install. It’s resistant to mildew, absorbs sound, and wards off insects to prevent any damage done by pests.

While cork is easy to maintain, any spills should be mopped up immediately or else the material could be subject to swelling and staining. The material should be sealed with wax every year in order to avoid any permanent damage as a result. Since cork cannot be sanded down and refinished, it’s important to ensure no damage is done to this material.

3. Engineered Hardwood

Unlike hardwood flooring – which is made from planks taken from actual trees – engineered hardwood is made of wood particles that are fused together and enclosed by a veneer wood. It is this type of construction that makes engineered hardwood so durable and resistant to wear and tear from heavy traffic.

Engineered hardwood also much better able to handle exposure to water and moisture, as well as extreme fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Traditional hardwood is notorious for experiencing severe damage as a result of water and heat.

This is a more cost-effective option compared to hardwood, while still providing the same beautiful esthetics. And since there is less waste involved with the construction of engineered hardwood, it’s also more eco-friendly too.

4. Vinyl Planks

The thought of “vinyl” on flooring might not sound very classy, but vinyl planks can be just as visually appealing as the real thing. And since these planks are applied individually just like hardwood, they do a very good job of imitating actual wood for a much more affordable price.

Of course, you can also find vinyl that comes in tiles and sheets, but the planks are more authentic looking. Vinyl planks even come textured with beveled edges to further increase the legitimacy of this hardwood alternative.

This flooring material is not only affordable, it’s also easy to maintain and very durable. In fact, it can last just as long as – if not longer than – other traditional types of flooring materials. It’s also more sound absorbent, which means all that clanking from foot traffic won’t be as loud.

That said, vinyl planks are more susceptible to scratches, which means a little more care is needed to keep them in good condition.

5. Laminate Wood Flooring

Another affordable alternative to hardwood flooring is laminate, which may have been around for a long time but has recently gained more attention. You can easily get the look you’re after thanks to all the options you have in terms of colors and patterns.

Laminate wood flooring material is very durable and is highly resistant to water and moisture, unlike its hardwood counterpart. For this reason, this type of flooring is a great option for those who love the look of hardwood in the kitchen but don’t want something that’s going to ruin so easily in these types of environments.

If you do decide to go with laminate, be sure to do some research into the different products and manufacturers out there, as there is a wide variation in the level of quality of this type of material.

6. Wood-Look Porcelain Tile

Porcelain tile that looks like hardwood? Yes, it really exists, and it’s actually quite attractive. In fact, porcelain tile that simulates hardwood is becoming an increasingly popular trend in flooring among homeowners who appreciate an incredibly durable material under their feet.

Manufacturers have become pretty savvy in their creations and have managed to come up with porcelain tile that looks as close to hardwood as possible. The textures, colors, and grain patterns in various porcelain tile materials help homeowners achieve the look of hardwood while providing them with something that’s as durable and easy to keep clean as possible.

Of course, it’s still porcelain, so you’re not going to get the feel of actual wood with this type of material.

The Bottom Line

You might love hardwood, but aren’t too keen on its price tag. Or, you might be looking for something that looks like hardwood but is easier to maintain and is able to withstand a little more wear and tear. You’re in luck, because there are several alternatives available for you to consider when it comes time to revamp the floors in your home. Consider any one of the above materials to achieve the esthetic appeal of hardwood and create an attractive interior without blowing the budget.

7 Types of Ceiling Styles to Consider

When it comes to remodeling or decorating a room, the ceiling is one of those often-overlooked components. Yet ceilings play a key role in the overall look of a space and should be given its deserved attention.

Sure, you can always leave your ceiling plain and lacking any decor, but you’d be missing out on a great way to add some flair to a space. With all the different types of ceiling styles out there, you might want to consider doing something a little different to your ceiling surface. Here are just a few ideas.

1. Tray Ceilings

This decorative type of ceiling – also known as a “recessed” ceiling – features a center portion that is slightly higher (between a few inches to a foot) than the surrounding area of the ceiling space. From the intersection of the wall, the ceiling is somewhat “cut out” to resemble a tray, with layers extending upwards. Each cut can be vertical or angled, depending on the exact look desired. Any number of layers can be incorporated – the more layers, the more dramatic the effect.

Each layer of a tray ceiling can be painted in a different color to achieve a more striking effect. A similar effect can also be achieved by painting the interior of the tray in a different color compared to the wall.

The textural look of a tray ceiling is more popular in rooms such as dining rooms, foyers, and master suites. That said, it’s an architectural element that boasts a modern, sophisticated flair that can add great detail to any space in the home.

2. Coffered Ceilings

Coffered ceilings are characterized by square- or rectangular-shaped panels repeated in a pattern, creating a system of boxes across the surface area. Such an arrangement gives the ceiling a textured look, adding to its visual appeal and interest.

Each “box” is somewhat like a tray as described above, surrounded by dropped coffers that define each space. To create a more dramatic look, the indentations of each box may be painted in a contrasting color to the coffers. The inner panels of each box provide a natural place to install light fixtures, particularly pot lights.

While these types of ceilings have become increasingly popular over the recent past, they have actually been around for a very long time. They’re a great feature for main living areas of the home, such as the living and dining rooms.

3. Beam Ceilings

Exposed ceiling beams have long been associated with rural settings and rustic design, but they’re incredibly popular these days in the most modern interior spaces. Beams can be made of real wood or light-weight faux wood outfitted in a variety of designs.

The effect can be subtle or distinguished, depending on the size of the beams, their arrangement, and their color. This ceiling type is especially majestic when outfitted in a vaulted ceiling. Beamed ceilings may be finished with several different molding options as well to create a unique look.

4. Dome Ceilings

This type of ceiling style requires more space given the added height required to accommodate the shape. Dome ceilings are more often seen in larger homes and can provide a space with grandeur and opulence. Basically, dome ceilings incorporate an arch of varying depths to create a hollow sphere.

The inner part of the dome can be painted in the same color as the rest of the ceiling space and walls, or it can be decked out with a decorative painting. It may even include a skylight or stained glass to add more dimension to the room.

5. Vaulted/Cathedral Ceilings

Vaulted ceilings are sloped upwards towards the roofline, creating an upside-down “V” shape of varying degrees. Cathedral ceilings are very similar, except that they feature two equal sides that follow the roof’s pitch. While vaulted ceilings may sometimes run with the pitch of the roof, they usually don’t and feature different slopes depending on what homeowners choose.

What these types of ceilings have in common is the grandiose feel that they provide to a home, adding height and making a room feel bigger, brighter, and more dramatic.

6. Cove Ceilings

Cove ceilings add extra height to a room by curving slightly upwards towards the roof to create an arch. They are more commonly seen in hallways and front entrances of homes to add more visual space and make the area appear larger.

7. Conventional Ceilings

While there are all sorts of different ways to play around with your ceiling, there’s nothing wrong with a traditional surface. Conventional ceilings are usually 8 or 9 feet high and can be made smooth or textured using compound material.

The Bottom Line

While there’s certainly nothing wrong with conventional flat, smooth ceilings, you might still want to mull over some other possibilities for this often-ignored element. Depending on your particular style and your budget, your ceiling can provide you with the perfect blank canvas upon which to create something really spectacular to give your home an instant boost.

6 Home Loan Tips For First-Time Buyers

Buying your first home is an incredibly exciting time, but it can also be a frightening one, especially when considering the cost associated with such a purchase. But before you apply for a mortgage, there are a few things you should know first. Understanding the process will help you make a more informed decision and get the most out of your mortgage.

Here are a few mortgage tips that all first-timers should know.

1. Don’t Take Out the Amount You’re Approved For

The amount that a lender agrees to loan you isn’t necessarily the amount you should agree to take out. Just because you’ve been granted approval for a certain amount of money doesn’t mean you should take it. In fact, you’d be wise not to. Instead, you might only want to take out a fraction of what you’ve been approved for.

If you spend the limit of what a lender is willing to loan out to you, it’s very possible that you may find yourself with a very tight budget to balance. And if you experience any negative financial circumstances in the near future, you could find yourself in a tough spot.

Lenders use your gross income and debts to assess how much you would be approved for, but they don’t factor in your lifestyle and spending habits. There are a ton of other expenses to cover that aren’t necessarily accounted for in the financial documents that you provide to your lender, such as travel, entertainment, daycare, extracurricular activities for the kids, and so forth. Your lender won’t take all of these extra costs into account when determining how much to lend you.

Stay well below your mortgage approval limit to give you a financial cushion to fall back on and to avoid maxing out on your ability to pay all of life’s expenses.

2. Save Up a 20% Down Payment to Avoid Extra Fees

Homes are incredibly expensive these days, so saving up for a down payment that’s 20% of the purchase price can be a tall order. But it’s not impossible, and the benefits of spending the time saving up for a hefty down payment are well worth it.

Putting down 20% means you’ll avoid having to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI). This policy is meant to protect your lender, not you, but you’ll still be paying the fee anyway. The lower the down payment amount, the higher the perceived risk to lenders. As such, an insured mortgage is meant to protect lenders in case borrowers default on their mortgages.

Unfortunately, you’re the one stuck with this fee until you’ve managed to pay down your mortgage balance to 80% of the property’s original appraised value. Until then, you’ll be paying anywhere between 0.5% to 1% of the loan amount on a yearly basis. On a $500,000 mortgage, for instance, you would be paying $5,000 per year based on a 1% PMI rate. That’s a lot of money that you could have otherwise sent elsewhere.

If possible, try your best to save up as much money as you can to be put towards a down payment. This will help you avoid throwing your money away on these extra insurance fees.

3. Take Measures to Boost Your Credit Score

Your credit score plays a key role in the interest rate that your lender is willing to offer you. The higher the rate, the more you’ll be paying. Even just a half of a percentage point on the interest rate can save you a ton of money.

For instance, a $100,000 fixed-rate mortgage on a 5-year term would cost you $53,405 in interest over the life of the loan base don a 3.7% rate. Slightly lowering the rate to 3.0% would cut down on interest to $42,250 over the life of the mortgage. That’s $11,155 in savings.

Besides paying less in interest, borrowers with a higher credit score have a better chance of getting approved for a mortgage. Generally speaking, lenders are seldom willing to approve borrowers who have a credit score of less than 620. If your score is currently less than that, now is the time to take steps to improve it.

Be sure to pay all of your creditors on time and in full, every month. Pay down as much of your credit card balance as you can instead of just making the minimum payments. And don’t take out any new debt, which will only increase your debt load and potentially have a negative effect on your score.

Making an effort to increase your credit score will help improve the odds of mortgage approval at a lower interest rate.

4. Budget For More Than Just Your Mortgage Payments

Your mortgage payments will probably be one of your biggest bills to pay every month, but they won’t be the only ones. Owning a home is an expensive endeavor that involves a lot more than just paying your mortgage. There are a few other costs associated with running a home that you should budget for.

Utility bills, new furniture, repairs, maintenance, and other costs will need to be covered. For this reason, it would be wise to come up with a workable budget that factors in all the fees associated with operating your home. Make sure you’re comfortably able to cover these extra costs in addition to making your mortgage payments every month.

5. Get a Mortgage Pre-Approval

Don’t start looking for a home until you’ve spoken with a mortgage broker and have been pre-approved for a mortgage. Doing so will help you identify how much you’ll be able to afford, which can help you narrow your focus on properties that fit your budget. Otherwise, you could be wasting your time looking at homes that are a lot more than you can realistically afford.

In addition, having a pre-approval letter in hand will show sellers that you’re a serious buyer and are financially capable of securing financing to make a home purchase. Sellers don’t want to take a chance on a buyer who may or may not be able to get a mortgage to close a deal. Those who are pre-approved stand a better chance of mortgage approval.

6. Shop Around

Consumers tend to look around and comparison shop before they make a purchase. After all, they want to make sure they’re not spending any more for a particular item than necessary. The same can be said for mortgages: by shopping around, you’ll be able to find the right lender who will offer you the right home loan package best suited for you.

Failure to shop around for a home loan can cost you. Without considering different interest rates, terms, and fee structures from different lenders, you could be missing out on significant savings. As mentioned earlier, a slightly lower rate can mean the difference of thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. That’s why it’s so important to scope out several lenders and see what they have to offer before settling on a deal.

The Bottom Line

As a first-time homebuyer, you’ll most likely need a mortgage to help you finance a home purchase. But you shouldn’t go into the process blindly. Instead, get acquainted with the mortgage process in order to take the right steps and make the best decision regarding your financing. Long before you start house hunting, speak with a mortgage specialist in depth to find out what you can do to put your best foot forward and set yourself up for success.