Halloween decorated front door with various size and shape pumpkins and skeletons

Unique Fall Decorating Ideas That Won’t Cost a Fortune

Halloween decorated front door with various size and shape pumpkins and skeletons

Once the kids are back in school and the long summer days began to grow shorter and shorter, homeowners begin thinking about fall. First comes the change in leaves that completely alters the landscape, followed soon after by Halloween. The next month brings Thanksgiving, which often involves visiting relatives. All of this activity usually inspires homeowners to invest in décor specific to the season.

However, redoing your house for one season can be expensive. You can add a few things, then store them the same way you store your Christmas decorations, but new welcome mats, centerpieces, and knickknacks can be expensive. Here are a few ideas that can add an autumnal touch to your home without stretching your budget to its limit.

Use Pumpkins

As fall begins, you’ll see stacks of pumpkins on sale everywhere. They’re available at the grocery store and local farmer’s markets, as well as at pumpkin patches on farms in rural areas. Traditionally, homeowners carved pumpkins for decorations but over time, people have come up with a variety of other creative ways to decorate with them. You can use them for your centerpieces, mantel decorations, or set them up on your front porch.

Go Grocery Shopping

Sometimes great decorations start with a visit to the produce section of your grocery store. Certain items have become synonymous with fall, making them ideal for jazzing up your home for parties and weekend visitors. You can get creative with apples or dried corncobs at minimal cost and create a unique look. You can also use squash, gourds, and red onions to create stunning displays.

Buy Hay Bales

You can stop by a local hardware store or farm supply for a couple of hay bales to spice up your outdoor décor. If you have farms nearby, you may even find hay bales for sale at a fraction of the price of what you’d pay at a hardware store. Check sites like Craigslist to see if someone in your area is offering hay bales for sale. There are a variety of ways you can decorate with hay bales, including stacking them and accenting them with other decorations or giving them a fun Halloween theme.

Decorate with Candy

Halloween has become known as a holiday that revolves around candy. You can go with that theme and use candy corn to spice up your centerpieces and other decorations. If you have kids around the house, they’ll likely have fun helping you with your DIY project, then feel a sense of accomplishment when the decorations are complete. Just make sure you buy extra candy corn to make up for the pieces you’ll consume while working on the project.

Bottom Line

One of the best things about these options is that they’re perishable, which means when the season is over, you’ll have nothing to store. With a little creativity, you can spice up your décor on a budget, impressing your friends and neighbors with your inventiveness. Best of all, you’ll have fun thinking of new ways to use everyday objects in your fall-themed decorating.

Image of a living area with a side table, rug, and no sofa

5 Reasons Why Not Staging Your Vacant Home is a Mistake

Image of a living area with a side table, rug, and no sofa

The goal of every seller is to sell their home quickly, and for top dollar. Nobody wants to have to pay carrying costs while waiting for the right buyer to come along. The home has to be presented in the most attractive light possible, which is why home staging can work wonders. But a vacant home will do little to showcase the house in a positive light. And the less interest it garners, the longer it will linger on the market.

Here are 5 reasons why leaving your home vacant without having it staged before it hits the market can be a costly mistake.

1. There is Zero Emotional Connection With the Home

An empty house seems cold and barren. It’s not welcoming and inviting in the way that fully furnished and decorated homes are. It echoes, and can even give off a creepy feeling, especially if all the walls are white.

People aren’t just looking for a house – they’re buying into a lifestyle. Buying real estate is most likely the biggest expense anyone will ever make in life. It’s a huge decision that people won’t just jump into right away without some careful thought and consideration. It’s got to feel right to them; they need to essentially fall in love with the house, which is precisely what the goal of home staging is.

It’s crucial for sellers to get the buyers to establish an emotional connection with the home to boost their motivation to buy. A vacant house just doesn’t do that. It’s lifeless and dull, and does nothing to tap into a buyer’s emotions.

2. The Imperfections of the Home Are Magnified 

Furniture and decor have an amazing way of covering up or distracting attention away from any flaws of a home. These decorative elements keep the buyer’s eyes too busy to catch any defects that might exist. When a home is furnished, buyers will able to focus on the positive features of the home and visualize how they can use the space. If all they’re able to look at is bare walls, floors and ceilings, any flaws will actually be magnified instead of camouflaged.

Any scuff marks on the wall, stains on the carpet, scratches on the hardwood floor, outdated light fixtures, gaps between floor tiles, and even ugly switch plates will be noticed. In addition, all the rooms in the house can appear smaller than they actually are without the presence of properly positioned furniture to show how to maximize the space.

3. Buyers Won’t Have a Clear Vision for the Space

Most buyers aren’t able to visualize how a space can be used without it being presented to them on a silver platter. Having a vacant home on the market leaves you with a lot of potential interest lost. If the home isn’t furnished to show exactly what each room’s purpose is, buyers will more likely go home and totally forget whether or not the house had all the specific rooms they need (a third bedroom, a den, a dining room, a home office, etc), or if the home had the necessary amount of space needed for all their furniture and belongings.

It can take a lot longer to sell a vacant home because buyers are often unsure if they can perform their regular routines and activities in the house. This problem is even further magnified if the house is small or has awkward layouts that make furnishing more challenging. Without furniture and decor, buyers will not be able to visualize how the space can work for them.

4. Buyers Can’t Judge the Room’s Size Without Furniture

Buyers will only be able to get a sense of the size of the space if the rooms are furnished. Otherwise, they’ll just be asking themselves a bunch of questions that should have already been answered for them through the home’s furniture arrangement.

Where will the TV go? Will our corner sofa fit in here? Where is the dining area? Is this a bedroom or an office? Buyers will be asking themselves these questions – and more – when they’re staring at vacant rooms. Instead, when the home is properly staged, these queries won’t have to be pondered.

5. The House Won’t Show Well in Photos

One of the most important factors that go into effectively marketing a home for sale is the appeal of the photos. After all, photos online or in print are often the first visual that buyers will get of your home, so you want to make a good first impression to get them to actually book a showing.

But a vacant home doesn’t show nearly as well in photos compared to homes that are staged. You have to make your home stand out and shine. You’ve got to give it a nice packaging to catch a buyer’s attention. Otherwise, you risk having your home linger on the market with minimal interest, while other homes in the area that are staged and furnished get snatched up.

Bottom Line

The longer your home sits on the market, the more carrying costs you’ll have to flip the bill for. And the longer it lingers, the more ‘stale’ the listing will get. If your home is vacant, do yourself a favor and speak with a realtor who can recommend a reputable and professional home stager who can temporarily furnish the place to make it look as visually appealing as possible, and thereby attract the masses.

Stats have proven that staged homes sell faster and for more money, so why wouldn’t you want to benefit from that yourself?

Woman hand holding credit cards and using smartphone for shopping online with payment on internet banking

No Credit? How to Build it From the Ground Up

Woman hand holding credit cards and using smartphone for shopping online with payment on internet banking

Having poor credit isn’t a good thing, but neither is having no credit at all. Getting approved for a mortgage – or any other type of loan, for that matter – is pretty much an impossible feat if the lender has nothing to go on. How will your lender know if you’ll be good for the money if you don’t have a history of responsible repayment? While you may be avoiding debt like the plague, you’re also failing to build up any sort of credit whatsoever.

If you currently have no credit, here are a few ways to build it up from scratch.

Apply For a Secured Credit Card

You may have been paying for everything in cash up to now, but it’s time to get some credit on the books, and you can easily start by applying for a secured credit card. These types of credit cards are backed by a cash deposit that you make upfront, which essentially acts as your credit limit. That means you must have money in your account equivalent to your credit line. If you want to spend $500 on your card, for example, you need $500 in your account to cover that amount.

Like a typical credit card, monthly payments are made, and interest is incurred if you don’t pay your balance off in full and on time. Every purchase you make with the card is deducted from your remaining balance. That initial $500 stays as is, and is used as collateral if you don’t make your payments.

Using a secured credit card will help you build up enough credit to be eligible for a traditional credit card.

Take Out a Loan With a Credible Co-Signer

You likely won’t be approved for a loan on your own without any credit, but you have a good chance of approval if you can get a co-signer on your loan application. The key is to make sure that the co-signer already has excellent credit. Basically, the co-signer agrees to cover the loan amount in the event that you don’t make your payments. That’s the guarantee that a lender would get with a co-signer.

By taking out a small loan in this manner, you’ll have an opportunity to prove your ability to make regular payments in full and on time. Just make sure you’ve got the income and the discipline necessary to comfortably make your loan payments, or you’ll be putting your co-signer in a very precarious position.

Add Yourself as an Authorized User on Another Person’s Credit Card

Ask a close friend or family member if they would be willing to allow you to be added as an authorized user on his or her credit card. This will allow you to use that person’s credit card without being legally responsible to pay for the charges, and you’ll be building credit at the same time. The other person really needs to have full trust in you, so make sure you’re up for the task before you ask and agree to put your name down as an authorized user.

Before you take this route, however, you should first make sure that the credit card company sends authorized user activity information to the credit bureaus. If it doesn’t, there’s no point continuing with this option.

Apply For a Credit Builder Loan

This type of loan is specifically designed to help people build credit, as all payment activity is reported to the credit bureaus. They are small loans made by some credit unions and community banks which basically act as a type of forced savings.

The money borrowed is deposited in a savings account by the lender, and can’t be accessed until you fully repay the loan. Once the loan term expires, you get the money, as well as a good credit score.

The Bottom Line

The key here is to make sure the credit you build is a good one. Be sure to make all payments on time and in full, and keep your credit card debt low. Don’t open too many accounts within a short period of time, and get a copy of your credit report once a year to see if there are any mistakes or discrepancies on there that could be bringing you credit score down. There’s no point in trying to build credit if you’re just going to be irresponsible with your efforts. A bad credit score is just as bad as no credit at all.

Kitchen in newly constructed luxury home

These Features Will Help Your Home Sell Faster

Kitchen in newly constructed luxury home

If you’re planning on selling your home and moving some time in the near future, you should think about the features in your house, and whether or not buyers want what you’ve got. Yet a lot of home buyers might be hesitant to blow money on upgrades if they don’t plan on taking advantage of them for long.

Think about it, the cost you incur to make these upgrades might be a lot less compared to the loss you’ll take upon the sale of your home if you don’t include certain features that buyers in your area desire. It really can mean the difference between getting the price you want, and letting the listing go stale.

Here are a few popular features that will most likely help you sell your home faster.

Gourmet Kitchen

The kitchen is always a huge selling point for homes. Buyers love it when they walk into a home and see a kitchen masterfully outfitted with updated features and appliances. Kitchen makeovers are always at the top of the list when it comes to the biggest ROI.

What exactly sets a typical kitchen update apart from a gourmet kitchen?

Three features are a part of this equation:

1) Cutting-edge appliances

2) Gorgeous surfaces

3) Tons of storage

You can’t call a kitchen ‘gourmet’ if it’s not equipped with a top-of-the-line gas range and deep refrigerator. Don’t forget the convection double oven, warming oven, and microwave drawer – gourmet cooks appreciate having these features in their kitchens. At the very least, consider installing stainless steel appliances, which are always sharp-looking and make a statement.

When it comes to the surface that cooks like to work on, consider stainless steel or stone counters. If these aren’t in the budget, you can mimic the look with a laminate. People who watch all those home improvement or cooking shows expect kitchen to look like the ones on TV.

Potential buyers will definitely be going through all the drawers and cabinets in the kitchen. Those with ample space will always score big points.

Energy Efficient Appliances, Windows and HVAC Systems

Buyers are savvy these days, and they are increasingly expecting homes to feature energy-efficient windows and appliances to help shave the cost off their monthly utility bills.

Energy Star windows come with an invisible glass coating, vacuum-sealed gaps with inert gaps, durable weather stripping, and high quality framing materials – all of which can help to cut down energy costs by as much as 15%.

‘Green’ HVAC systems can cut 20% off your annual utility bills, and can provide efficiency even in extreme hot or cold weather conditions. The cutting-edge technology used to adjust heating or cooling can manage the air temperature in the home for the ultimate in comfort, while using the least amount of energy possible.

Refrigerators, stoves, washers and dryers are all energy-suckers, which is why making the switch to energy-efficient models makes sense. You can save a few hundred bucks at the end of the year by opting for appliances that use less energy to complete the same tasks as their non-energy-efficient counterparts. And the government might even pitch in with incentives if you choose to make the switch.

Knowing that your home is easy on the environment and affordable to operate is a huge feature that buyers look for.

Backyard Deck

After checking out all the rooms in the home, buyers love ending off their tour by walking out to an expansive and well maintained deck in the backyard. Millennials in particular have come to expect this feature, so give them what they want and build one if you haven’t already got one.

Even if you’ve got a teeny tiny yard, that doesn’t mean you can’t install one. A deck that fits a couple of chairs and a little table is just enough to provide an outdoor living space. Aside from pressure-treated pine (which is a common material used in building home decks), there are other materials you can consider using, including concrete or composite materials that require less maintenance than wood.

Throw in a few built-in pot lights and you’ll thoroughly impress buyers.

Open Concept

Plenty of homeowners with a separate formal dining room rarely use the space. Actually, scratch that. It is used, but more often for storing junk than for actual sit-down dinners.

These days, millennials prefer an open floor plan with minimal walls that cut off the space. Instead of a separate dining room, living room and kitchen, consider knocking down a few walls to open up the space and bring in more light.

Not only is an open floor plan brighter and more functional, it’s also more conducive to interaction among everyone in the home. Parents can keep tabs on their kids better, and guests can socialize amongst each other regardless if one is in the kitchen and the other is in the living room.

Storage Space in the Garage

Garages aren’t just for storing vehicles – they’re also hugely depended on by homeowners to store things. This is especially true for young couples with growing families. In addition to the basement, the garage tends to be depended on to store all those big items, like strollers, bikes, patio chairs, boxes of old toys, and other things that you’d rather not lug up the stairs from the basement.

Additional storage in the garage allows homeowners to ensure that the inside of their homes is not cluttered and much more organized. After all, the less stuff you have in the house, the less organizing and tidying up is necessary.

Adding this extra storage is easy, and you don’t need a massive garage to make it happen either. All you need is some cabinetry, a peg wallboard to hang your tools, and some lighting to make finding your items a cinch.

Not only should you eliminate features in your home that are considered outdated and unattractive (popcorn ceilings and peeling vinyl floor tiles, that means you!), you should seriously consider incorporating some of the above features to attract the masses of buyers. In addition to these features, there are plenty others that can do the trick to bring in the offers. Consult with your real estate agent for more tips and ideas to get your home sold quickly.

Caucasian female students unpacking in students room

Dorm Room Design on a Budget

Caucasian female students unpacking in students room

It’s that time of year again. High school graduates across the country are packing their belongings into boxes and making the drive to the college campus they’ll call home for the next few years. Many of them will spend at least the first year in an on-campus dormitory, sharing a small space with a roommate.

Whether you’re a college student or the parent of one, you’re likely already contemplating how to make that small space a little warmer. Often dorm rooms are equipped with only a couple of beds, a desk, a vanity, and a closet. Often with plain walls and outdated floors and furniture, dorm rooms can easily seem cold and bleak. Here are a few personal touches you can add that will make your dorm room feel more like home.

Area Rugs

Rugs can make a big difference in the look of a room, whether your flooring is tile or carpet. You can find inexpensive dorm room rugs online through sites like Dormco or eBay. You can also shop garage sales, thrift stores, and discount shops to find inexpensive rugs that will look great in a dorm room. Longevity and durability aren’t a primary factor, since many students will change their minds from one year to the next. Some students move into apartments and off-campus housing with friends after logging a year or two in dorms, so the dormitory furnishings bought today only need to last a short period of time.


Paintings and framed portraits may be ideal for decorating a house, but dorm room wall space is often limited. It can even sometimes be made of material like painted brick. Posters can be a much more affordable way to add character to a room without needing to drill holes in the wall. Posters can express a person’s favorite movies or music acts or provide inspirational reminders to help with those long nights of studying. Some campuses have strict rules about wall damage, however, so make sure all wall art is hung in a way that doesn’t damage the paint.

Get Creative

If you’re feeling artistic, turn your dorm decorating task into a creative endeavor. You can gain inspiration from sites like this one, putting together high-quality decorations using inexpensive items you may already have around the house. Best of all, the room will have a unique look, especially when compared to all of the other rooms in the building that have standard dorm room decorations. As you’re choosing projects, consider functionality. This do-it-yourself laundry bag can be great for toting laundry to the shared laundry room, while these creative storage boxes provide a great way to tuck items away when friends come to visit.

Being away from home for the first time can be unsettling and stressful. But with a few personal touches, a student’s dorm room can quickly begin to feel like home, providing a comfortable place to study, rest, and make great memories with friends. Even if you’re on a budget, you can make your dorm room stand out from the rest with a little creativity and resourcefulness.

Wooden kitchen counter with cooking accessories and stovetop

10 Easy Kitchen Projects to Enhance Your Space

Wooden kitchen counter with cooking accessories and stovetop

The kitchen is the place where we cook, entertain, do homework, and even surf the web. We want it to be functional, but we also want it to be stylish, too. Luckily there are some easy ways to tweak your kitchen to breathe new life into it. Consider the following simple projects to enhance your kitchen space.

1. Reface the Kitchen Cabinets

Building new cabinets from can be an expensive and labor-intensive endeavor. You can make just as much of a difference by sanding and repainting the surface of your cabinets to breathe new life into them.

2. Change the Cabinet Hardware

Replace all those dated knobs and pulls with brand new ones. There are so many variations on the market these days that you can create a completely unique look to your kitchen with the simple change of your cabinets’ hardware.

3. Install a Backsplash

You don’t have to be an expert to have an amazing backsplash. Consider peel-and-stick variations, or simply paint the space to change up the look.

4. Add Storage to the Backsplash

If you don’t like the thought of leaving your backsplash bare, consider using that valuable space for storage. Add a system that allows you to hang your pots, pans and utensils to maximize your wall space and expand your storage options. 

5. Choose a New Kitchen Sink

Out of all the components in the kitchen, your sink is likely used the most. There are so many options available as far as style, size, width, depth, color, and material.

6. Swap the Kitchen Faucet

A faucet is very practical in nature, but it can also work wonders at enhancing the esthetics of your kitchen. Modern faucets have more features that make washing the dishes a lot more efficient while improving the looks of the space at the same time.

7. Change the Countertops

Granite, marble, laminate, concrete, quartz, butcher block . . . the options are vast. A new countertop can make a huge difference.

8. Install New Lighting

Hang pendant lamps over an island, line the cabinets with under-mounted LED light strips, and swap old fixtures with more impressive ones.

9. Add Seating

If you’ve got an island or a ‘peninsula’ in your kitchen, add some bar stools if space permits. It’ll make a great place for quick snacks and great conversations.

10. Create Charging Station

Everyone in the home has their own digital device these days. Instead of leaving a tangled mess of wires in the corner, come up with a creative way to house your devices while hiding their associated wires for a cleaner, clutter-free look.

Kitchen sink detail shot in a modern, renovated kitchen with black window frames, a dark faucet, white cabinets, farmhouse sink, and cozy decor

Things You Should Never Pour Down the Drain in Your Home

Kitchen sink detail shot in a modern, renovated kitchen with black window frames, a dark faucet, white cabinets, farmhouse sink, and cozy decor

Just because you pour something down the drain doesn’t necessarily mean that it will magically disappear through the pipes. Sure, you can expect most liquids and a few tiny solids to make their way through the plumbing with little issue, but there are plenty of other items that can wreak havoc if you try to pour them down the drain.

To avoid the messy job of having to clear the pipes in your home, make sure none of the following items are ever sent down the drain. 

1. Grease

One of the most deceiving items that clog your pipes is grease. After frying up a pan of bacon or other fatty meats, all the fat at the bottom of the pan will be in liquid form, but not for long. Once it starts to cool off, it turns into solid.

Imagine pouring that hot liquid grease down the drain. At some point, it’ll start to turn to sludge as it cools, which can block the drain. The best thing you can do to dispose of this type of grease is to pour it into a separate bowl and allow it to cool, then throw it in the trash.

2. Baby Wipes

The only thing that should be flushed down a toilet is toilet paper that has been designed specifically to break apart easily when wet. Baby wipes are much thicker and are not made to break down the way toilet paper does. If the toilet gets clogged as a result, a plunger likely won’t do much. Instead, you’ll probably have to call in a plumber to clean the mess. Even if these wipes manage to actually pass the drainage system in your home, they’ll continue to do damage to the municipal sewage system.

3. Starchy Food

Any food scraps should be wiped off of plates and sent straight into the garbage can. However, it’s typical for small food particles to make it into the sink. Certain types of foods can be more damaging to pipes than others, including starchy foods such as potatoes, corn, pasta, rice, and onions skins. These fibrous foods can expand when they’re in the pipes and clog them right up. Even if you have a garbage disposal installed, these types of foods can damage the motor. While handy, garbage disposals are truly only meant for crumbs, not larger food peels or other scraps.

4. Coffee Grinds

The fine grinds of coffee may deceive homeowners into thinking that they’ll pose no problem when washed down the drain. However, coffee grounds can easily stick to any items that have already made their way into the pipes, creating a blockage. In fact, coffee grounds are one of the biggest culprits in clogged drains.

5. Dental Floss

It’s probably no surprise that the accumulation of hair can clog pipes. The same sort of principle applies with dental floss, which is similar in size and shape. Floss may be very thin, but that doesn’t mean it will necessarily slide easily through the pipes. Instead, it can easily clump into balls of knots, creating a blockage that will warrant a call to the plumber.

6. Cat Litter

Don’t be fooled by the tiny pebbles of cat litter products. Cat litter should never be flushed down the toilet or poured down sink drains. Traditional cat litter is made of clay, sand, and silica, which are made to absorb moisture. This, in turn, results in clumps that will easily clog your plumbing.

7. Medications

Tiny pills may be able to easily make it through the pipes with little issue, but they can cause trouble for our natural waterways. While it may have once been recommended to flush medications down the toilet in order to safely dispose of them and keep them out of the hands of others, it is now suggested that unconsumed medications be brought to a pharmacist for proper disposal.

8. Conventional Cleaning Solutions

Like medications, cleaning products that are found on grocery store shelves should not be poured down the drain because they can harm the water’s ecosystem. Instead, try using natural or home-made solutions that still work to clean but do not contain any agents that would cause harm to the environment.

The Bottom Line

The pipes in your home were not designed as trash cans. Many items can cause major blockage in your plumbing system that will result in the need to manually extract them, which is not a pretty job. To prevent any blockages to the pipes or harm to our natural waterways, make sure none of the above items ever make their way to your home’s plumbing system.

Lovely young woman putting soft pillows and plaid on comfy sofa, making her home cozy and warm

7 Affordable Ways to Give Your Home a Luxurious Feel

Lovely young woman putting soft pillows and plaid on comfy sofa, making her home cozy and warm

Just because you’re not filthy rich, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to have a home that you can call “luxurious.” Sure, celebrities may spend over seven figures building and designing homes that are over the top, but there are plenty of subtle ways that you can achieve a sense of opulence in your home, affordably.

1. Add Molding and Trim

One of the most effective ways to add a classy and sophisticated feel to a space the affordable way is by adding molding and trim around the room. These elements provide an esthetically appealing framework for any space, and show that every detail has been taken into consideration throughout the decorating process.

You can add trim and molding in a variety of ways, including:

Baseboards – These begin at the floor and extend around the room’s perimeter.

Crown molding – This runs along the ceiling of a room, and should roughly be about one inch thicker than the baseboards.

Casing – This is found around widows and doorways, and is usually added to provide a transitional cue from one room to the next.

Be sure to take proper measurements, and use matching paint or stain on all of your molding and trim to get a united look.

2. Layer Your Floor Coverings

To add a charming and cozy feeling to your rooms, make sure not to skimp on the floor layering. Not only will layering your floor coverings provide more comfort as you walk around the space, it also adds a sense of luxury to the room.

Start off with a basic layer – hardwood is usually your best bet when it comes to adding a rich flavor to the room. Wood – or faux wood – complements a number of colors and textures quite nicely. Then add your personal touch with area rugs. While you can add just about any color or pattern you like to suit your tastes, Oriental designs have a natural capacity to add a luxurious feel to a room.

3. Create Ambience With Lighting

The ambience of a room can often be achieved with small elements, such as light fixtures. Rather than adding only one type of lighting to a room, consider adding a variety of types of fixtures to the space.

Lighting is key to creating a classic and comfortable ambience. Mix it up with pot lights, table lamps, wall sconces and pendant lighting with bulbs that are soft and diffused. You can even mix soft colors for added effect – for instance, white and pink complement each other well to create a subtle hue. For overhead light fixtures, install dimmer switches so you can control their brightness.

4. Add an Antique Element to the Space

Nothing adds more grandiosity to a room more than antique pieces. While filling the space with such decor can be expensive, sometimes all you need is one antique piece. Adding elements like these can provide visual interest while still keeping the space modern with more conventional pieces.

Antique mirrors are a great choice, as they will add depth and weight to any room. You can even anchor the room with an armchair or armoire. Sometimes even a decorative antique vase or lamp can do the trick if you’re a little hesitant about going the antique route.

5. Add Warm Colors to the Space

All luxurious spaces have one thing in common – they offer a welcoming and cozy aura. And one of the most effective and easiest ways to achieve this feeling is with the use of warm color palettes. There’s something to be said about using the right paint color.

For decades, psychologists have studied how specific colors evoke certain feelings and emotions in people, so there’s a real science to it. To create a luxurious feel in your home, stick to warm colors like yellow, orange and red, which are typically perceived as cozy and intimate. Tan hues also serve as an excellent neutral base that can help you build brighter, bolder colors.

6. Add a Focal Point

Every room that evokes a sense of grandeur has a focal point – be it a fireplace, a great piece of art work, or even a table and chair set. With a clearly defined focal point, everyone who walks in the room will immediately be drawn to that element.

The best way to choose your room’s focal point is to highlight an existing detail. If you’ve got a gorgeous, old fireplace, for instance, use that. You can add a new mantle to revamp it and add more character to it.

If the room has an oversized window that allows a ton of natural light in, you could effectively use that as a focal point too. Simply add a decorative chair under it to emphasize its magnificence.

7. Add Plush Throw Pillows

It’s impossible to envision a luxurious home without visualizing plush, comfortable seating in the space. But rather than splurge on a completely new set of extra cushiony sofas and chairs, just adding a few plush throw pillows into the mix can be enough to achieve that feeling.

Opt for rich fabrics and gorgeous colors to maximize this effect, and use textures and patterns that will bring more depth into the space. No matter what your style is, include pillows in various sizes and colors to add depth.

Who wouldn’t want to live in a home that looks and feels like it could be featured in a magazine? The good news is, you don’t have to break the bank to achieve this look. With a few simple and creative touches, you can effectively create a luxurious feel in your home that you and your guests will adore.

Happy family celebrating moving day, playful young couple having fun at home, funny activity, laughing husband pushing excited wife sitting in cardboard box

6 Signs That You’re Ready to Be a Homeowner

Happy family celebrating moving day, playful young couple having fun at home, funny activity, laughing husband pushing excited wife sitting in cardboard box

Ready to buy your first home? Join the millions of others out there who are navigating the waters of real estate for the first time.

It’s exciting, yet it’s completely intimidating at the same time, and for good reason. Your home is most likely the most expensive purchase you will ever make, so it’s not something you want to jump into without making sure you’re emotionally and financially ready.

Are you truly prepared for homeownership? Here are a few signs that’ll tell you that you’re primed to become a homeowner.

1. You’ve Got Your Overall Debt Load Under Control

It’s important to be realistic about your state of affairs when it comes to your money. If you have mounting debt from credit cards, auto loans, student loans, and other personal debt, you should probably straighten these out before you add more debt to the pile. Including another payment will just send you spiraling deeper into debt.

On the other hand, if your debt is under control, you’re probably able to comfortably handle monthly mortgage payments. You can easily find this out by calculating your debt-to-income ratio, which represents the percentage of your monthly income that is dedicated to paying off your debts. If a huge chunk of your income is dedicated to paying debt, you might find it difficult to meet additional monthly mortgage payments. Not only that, lenders might not approve you for a mortgage either. 

Generally speaking, a debt-to-income ratio of 36% or less is usually considered doable. Anything over this percentage means you’ll probably be biting off more than you can chew. The lower the number, the more likely you’ll be comfortable making your monthly mortgage payments in full and on time each month.

2. Your Credit is Decent

Not only does your debt-to-income ratio affect your ability to secure a mortgage, so does your credit score. Do you even know what yours is? If not, it’s time to find out. Luckily, you can quickly discover what your credit score is by requesting a report from any one of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. It’s free to get this report once a year, so there’s no cost to you.

Lenders will look at your credit score to help determine how likely you’ll be able to meet your payments, versus default on them. The higher your score, the better. If your credit score is at least 620, you stand a much better chance at getting approved for a conventional mortgage. You may be able to secure an FHA-backed home loan with a score of at least 580. However, your ability to be approved for a home loan will depend on other factors well, including the following.

3. You’ve Saved Up For a Sizeable Down Payment

Not only will a decent-sized down payment help your lender look favorably on you, it will also impress the seller. A bigger down payment means you will owe less on the principal amount of your mortgage. It will also help increase the odds of getting approved for a home loan, and score a better rate.

Depending on the type of mortgage you are applying for, you might be able to get approved for a mortgage with a down payment of 5% of the purchase price of the home. However, if there are some questionable factors in your financial history, such as dings on your credit report, you could be asked to come up with more.

There are actually some home loan programs that allow as little as 3.5% or even zero percent down payment, but specific guidelines will need to be met in order to qualify. Just keep in mind that anything less than 20% on a conventional mortgage will mean you’ll be paying extra for Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), which basically protects the lender should you default on your loan. The more money you’re able to put towards your down payment, the less you’ll owe on your mortgage.

4. You’re Planning on Sticking Around

If your intentions are to settle down for a few years, then you’re probably emotionally ready to make the commitment. It’s important to keep in mind that the selling prices can be an expensive and lengthy one.

Selling your home in less than two years after buying it can potentially wipe out any real estate profits. You’ll also be slapped with tax implications from selling too quickly. The IRS allows as much as $500,000 in profits from the sale of a property to be exempted from capital gains on tax returns that are filed jointly, or $250,000 for single-person filings. But you’ll need to show proof that the home was your primary residence for at least two of the last five years in order to make sure that money is exempt.

If you’re not sure if you want to stick around for long, you may want to rent first. If, on the other hand, you have intentions of sticking around for the long haul, that’s a good sign that you’re ready for homeownership.

5. You Want to Start Building Equity

Think of your home as investment. In actuality, it is. You’re not only buying a home to live in, you’re also building wealth over time. Every payment you make towards paying down your principal every month and appreciation in value over time both contribute to growing your home equity. In fact, one of the biggest benefits of homeownership is the equity that you can build as time goes on.

Having a lot of built-up equity in your home can give you a lot of options. It’s somewhat like a forced savings account that just gets bigger over time. You can eventually use the equity to fund some of life’s major expenses, such as a college education, major home renovations, or even a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. Borrowing against the equity in your home affords you with a financial safety net. If you’ve got your eye on building equity, then homeownership is likely for you.

6. You Have a Reserve Fund Stashed Away

When it comes to owning a home, it’s not just your mortgage payments that you need to worry about. Along with homeownership comes all sorts of other expenses, many of which can pop up unexpectedly. It’s important to ensure that you’ve got a reserve fund on the side, preferably at least 6 months’ worth to cover the cost of your mortgage, utilities, insurance payments, credit cards, and other debt obligations. If you’ve got this money built up, you’re in a much better position to buy a home.

The Bottom Line

It’s much better to take the time to determine if you’re ready to buy a house before you seal the deal. Even though it might be frustrating to hold off on the big purchase as you answer these questions, you’ll be in a much better position to buy knowing that you’re fully ready to take the plunge.

Happy smiling couple greeting broker with handshake at home

Don’t Do These Things Before Closing on a Home

Happy smiling couple greeting broker with handshake at home

You’ve found the home of your dreams, put in an offer, and the sellers accepted.

The agreement to purchase is signed, and the closing date is set. You’re ready to crack open that bottle of champagne to celebrate. Then you make a questionable move that could potentially steer the process of closing right off its tracks.

Even if closing day is just around the corner, you’re not exactly out of the woods quite yet. There are a number of blunders that you can make that will put finalizing the transaction at grave risk.

Quitting or Changing Jobs

Some clients will actually call their agents in the middle of escrow to tell them that they’ve either changed jobs, or quit their jobs altogether. And all the agent can do is cringe.

That’s the last thing you want to do if you’re depending on a lender to approve your mortgage. Being unemployed for any period of time or giving up a secure job in favor of becoming self-employed will only make your lender more uneasy about loaning you any money.

Lenders would much rather see a borrower with a steady job history. If you decide to make a job switch right before the house closes, it could put everything in limbo while your lender takes a second look at your current financial position.

Blowing Cash on Big Expenses

If you’re patiently waiting for closing day to come and go, do yourself a favor and resist the urge to make a huge expenditure – forget the new car, new appliances, or new furniture until after closing. This is especially true if you’ll need to put the purchase on credit or take out a loan to finance this expense.

Big expenditures like these that are on credit will do nothing but pile on your debt, which will have a negative impact on your debt-to-income ratio (a calculation that measures how much of your monthly income is dedicated to paying debts). This ratio plays a huge role in helping the lender determine if your mortgage will be approved or not.

Even if you pay these items in cash, you could still find yourself in hot water. Lenders look to see how much cash reserves you have when considering a mortgage approval. Instead, keep your credit card balances low and don’t tack on any new debt to your books while you’re still being considered for mortgage financing.

Opening New Credit Card Accounts and Closing Old Ones

Opening up new credit cards just before closing on your new house could have a negative effect on your credit score. This will make it look like you need additional credit to pay off future big expenses, or that you have intentions on adding further credit debt to your books.

If you’ve got old accounts that you never use, don’t close them. Having “old” debt can actually be a good thing – it helps to build your credit history which is exactly what lenders want to investigate when they consider you for a mortgage.

To reiterate here, don’t make any financial moves that will compromise your financial health until after you’ve secured a mortgage.

Making Late Bill Payments

This is a huge no-no for anyone, whether or not a new home purchase is in the works. If you’re waiting for your home purchase to close, make sure you stay on top of your bill payments.

Whether it’s a bill to the utility company, cable company, or anything else you’re responsible for making regular payments for, and be sure to make the payments on time and in full every single month. Making even one late payment can wreak havoc on your credit score, which will do nothing to win you points in the eyes of your lender.

Don’t make any moves (financially speaking) while you’re waiting to get the keys to a home you just agreed to buy. Even one slip up can cost you the home of your dreams. Speak with a licensed mortgage specialist or real estate agent to find out what you should – and shouldn’t – be doing while you’re waiting in escrow to ensure you’ll be drinking that champagne on the designated closing day.